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Tiger II Tank



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The Tiger was a powerful heavy tank, much feared by the Allies. It was, however, a stop gap solution to the problem posed on the Eastern Front by the superior Soviet T-34. No sooner was the Tiger in production than an order was issued for a new heavy tank. It was to incorporate the lessons learned from the T-34, in particular the use of sloped armour as had already been successfully introduced on the Panther tank.
In August 1942 the Heereswaffenamt issued the specification to Porsche and Henschel for a redesigned Tiger incorporating thicker, sloped armour and a larger gun. The first design from Porsche, known as the Type 180, was based on the Tiger (P) or VK4501(P) design. It had the turret mounted forward, and the engine at the rear, and was planned to carry either a 15cm L/37 or 10.5cm L/70 weapon. This was rejected in favour of a modified design, the VK4502(P). This had a larger turret armed with the 8.8cm L/71 and mounted at the front of a redesigned hull. Confidence in this design led to Wegmann AG starting the production of turrets for it. However, it retained many of the features of the VK4501(P) including the engines, electric transmission and suspension; this was its downfall. As with the VK4501(P) the electric transmission required large amounts of copper which was in very short supply. The project was cancelled, though not before fifty turrets and three hulls had been completed.
Meanwhile Henschel had not been idle and had produced two competitive designs. The first, the VK4502(H), had been modified from their Tiger design and was rejected. The second, the VK4503(H), was altogether superior and was accepted in January 1943. The first prototype did not appear, however, until October of that year; some three months behind schedule. This was due to the insistence by Waffenprüfamt 6 that, in the interests of standardisation, the vehicle should share as many components as possible with the projected MAN Panther II tank.
The first prototype of the Tiger Ausf B or Tiger II, vehicle V1, was produced in November 1943 at Kassel, on a parallel production line to the Tiger Ausf E. Prototypes V2 and V3 followed soon after. Production vehicles came off the lines from February 1944 and the first forty-seven (serial numbers 280001 to 280047), along with the prototypes, were fitted with the spare Porsche turrets. All subsequent vehicles carried the Henschel turret. Some 489 examples of the Tiger II or Königstiger (King Tiger), up to number 280489, plus the three prototypes, were produced in total.

Porsche Turret Model

Porsche turrets were distinguished by their curved front plate (100mm thick) and the cupola protruding into the turret side. They carried a one-piece ‘monobloc’ gun barrel whereas from May 1944 Henschel turrets had a two-piece gun barrel with a smaller muzzle brake. It should be noted, however, that at least a few Porsche turrets were fitted with the later type of barrel, probably through retrofitting. Apart from the prototypes, all Tiger IIs received a coating of Zimmerit anti-magnetic mine paste as standard until September 1944.
Early production Tiger II chassis, those mounting Porsche turrets, existed in a number of different variants. In particular, a monocular Turmzielfernrohr 9d sighting telescope replaced the previous 9b/1 from May 1944. The first vehicles produced, for example prototypes V1 and V8, had sprockets with 18 teeth per ring, the binocular gunner’s sight, and front towing lugs with straight edges. Some later vehicles retained the 18-tooth sprockets but had the monocular gunner’s sight and front towing lugs with concave edges. Other later vehicles had 9-tooth sprockets, the binocular gunner’s sight and front towing lugs with concave edges. Tiger IIs with Porsche turrets were also fitted with three different types of exhaust outlet. These were a vertical, flat-topped outlet inside curved shields, an inverted J-shaped simple outlet (from February 1944), and the J shaped outlet inside curved shields.
The 18-tooth sprockets of the early vehicles suffered from excessive wear of every second tooth, because of the uneven pitch of the double link track, and so the number of teeth was halved in the later vehicles. In May 1944 a new, improved double link track was introduced. The original track had guide teeth on every link whereas the new one was distinguished by having teeth only on every second link. The prototype vehicles had the original track but nearly all others had the second type of track. This included early vehicles built with 18 tooth sprockets, though this may have been due to refitting in the field.

Model Id:
390
Manufacture:Wegmann & Co, Kassel, Nordhessen, Germany (Porsche-designed turret manufacturer)
Henschel und Sohn, Kassel, Nordhessen, Germany (Chassis manufacturer and vehicle assembly 1943-4)


1) The Tank Museum - Public Areas, Bovington, Britain

Number of Photos:
15
Sample Photo from Album Number 214

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Unique ID: 214
Serial Number: V2.
Registration:
Name:
Other Identification: “300” painted in black on turret sides. German crosses painted on turret sides. Painted overall in a sand, green and brown camouflage scheme.

Text in original Preserved German Tanks publication:


This was the second prototype, vehicle V2, of the King Tiger. It has 18 tooth sprockets, early pattern track and no Zimmerit. The suspension on its left-hand side is incomplete. It was found by British Forces at Haustenbeck, near Sennelager, in 1945 and may never have been completed to service condition. It was found along with another Porsche Tiger II, a Porsche Jagdtiger, a Panther and a VK3001(H) test vehicle. The other Tiger II had a coat of Zimmerit and its gun had been destroyed by firing when the barrel was blocked.
This Porsche Tiger II was recovered to Britain in 1946 at the same time as the Jagdtiger tank destroyer and both went to the School of Tank Technology at Chertsey, Surrey, before being moved to Bovington. When it first arrived at the museum from the STT it was missing its gun and a spare one was fitted. It is now displayed carrying the turret number “300”. It is missing the commander’s cupola and crew hatches.

Text in Preserved German Tanks Update:


This Tiger II was in service with Heeres Waffenprufungamt (Army Ordnance Testing Department) at Sennelager. It was accepted for trials at Sennelager in January 1944 and was not intended to be issued to the troops. The gun that was fitted after it arrived in Britain is of a later type than would have been fitted originally. The tank was put on the museum books in 1952. Its suspension on its left-hand side is incomplete and it is missing its track guards.

Henschel Turret Model

By the time the Tiger II was produced with the Henschel turret the chassis and suspension had been standardised. All such vehicles had 9-tooth sprockets, the later track, a monocular gunner’s sight, front towing lugs with concave edges, and the J shaped simple exhaust outlet. However, early in 1945 18-tooth sprockets were reintroduced along with a new single link track.
The Tiger II was heavily armoured with a 185mm armour plate on the turret front (Henschel version) and 150mm armour on the glacis plate, and was armed with the 8.8cm L/71 gun. It was powered by the same HL 230 P30 engine used in late production Panthers and utilised the same radiators and engine deck fittings. Its suspension was similar to that of the Tiger and Panther tanks. However, it used overlapping roadwheels, as interleaved ones had been found to have a tendency to be jammed by snow and shingle. It could be fitted with narrower transport track without modification, unlike all but the late-production models of the Tiger.
The Tiger II first saw action on the Eastern Front in May 1944. It was encountered by the Allies in the West in August 1944 and became known as the ‘Royal Tiger’. It was unreliable, under powered and was produced in limited numbers, but was very successful in defence. It was the heaviest tank to see service in the Second World War and was greatly feared by all those who had to oppose it.

Model Id:
400
Manufacture:Wegmann & Co, Kassel, Nordhessen, Germany (Henschel-designed turret manufacturer)
Henschel und Sohn, Kassel, Nordhessen, Germany (Chassis manufacturer and vehicle assembly 1944-5)


2) The Tank Museum - Public Areas, Bovington, Britain

Number of Photos:
16
Sample Photo from Album Number 215

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Unique ID: 215
Serial Number: 280093.
Registration:
Name:
Other Identification: “104” painted in grey on turret sides. German crosses painted on turret sides. Painted overall in a sand, green and brown camouflage scheme.

Text in original Preserved German Tanks publication:


This King Tiger was one of the first to be encountered in France in 1944. It served with sSS-PzAbt 501 of the 1 SS PzKorps and was one of three from this unit knocked out near Beauvais (one of the others is now at the Munster Panzermuseum). It had the turret number “104” and is believed to have been knocked out by Sergeant Roberts of A Squadron, 23rd Hussars. A contemporary account states that it had disengaged from a running fight with Sherman tanks after receiving slight damage to the off-side suspension. When the driver made a sharp skid-turn in a sugar-beet field the off-side final drive smashed. All five of the crew climbed out, two of them were shot and the others surrendered. Contemporary photographs appear to show that it had a shell hole in its right hand side and it was not fitted with side-skirts.
A detachment composed of RE and REME personnel later recovered it from the field where it had sunk until it was completely bellied. It was transported to the coast by road on a Cranes heavy duty trailer designed for the British Tortoise heavy assault tank, and was then transferred from Calais to Dover on a train-ferry. It arrived at the Directorate of Tank Design (DTD), Chobham, Surrey, on 15 January 1945 and is believed to have arrived at RMCS in the late 1960s. It has an incomplete coating of Zimmerit anti-magnetic mine paste. It is currently missing its exhausts, and a pair of roadwheels at the front on its right-hand side, though it had all of these when it was recovered. It now has nearly a full complement of side-skirts; these obscure the area of the hull that appeared to have been holed.

Text in Preserved German Tanks Update:


This Tiger II was commanded by an officer named Sepp Franzl when it was abandoned. It was put on the Bovington Museum books in 1994 and was transported on a low loader from Shrivenham to Bovington on 18 May 2006. It was a static display at Tankfest 2006.

3) Museé Des Blindés, Saumur, France

Number of Photos:
9
Sample Photo from Album Number 216

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Unique ID: 216
Serial Number:
Registration:
Name:
Other Identification: “233” and German crosses painted on turret sides.

This King Tiger is believed to be the only one in the world in running order. It carries the turret number “233” and has taken part in some ‘Carrousel’ dynamic displays. It is coated with Zimmerit anti-magnetic mine paste. It was restored using parts from a number of other vehicles, and its batteries were generously provided by Varta. [Preserved Tanks in France: Number 75].

4) Panzermuseum, Munster, Germany

Number of Photos:
1
Sample Photo from Album Number 217

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Unique ID: 217
Serial Number:
Registration:
Name:
Other Identification:

This King Tiger was manufactured in July 1944. It has the chassis number 280101 and the turret number 280110. It originally belonged to sSS PzAbt 501 (previously sSS PzAbt 101) of the 1 SS PzKorps, as did the King Tigers at Shrivenham and La Gleize, and carried the turret number “121”. It ran out of petrol at La Capelle while withdrawing from Guise, near St Quentin. The crew disabled the gun and engine and left it blocking the road, which was on an embankment. An American engineer detachment bulldozed it off the road in September 1944 and it rolled down the embankment. It landed upside down in the field below, as a result of which the gun barrel broke off near the muzzle brake.
In December 1944 it was righted and recovered by the REME and towed into the village square at La Capelle. There it was loaded onto a Cranes trailer and driven to Le Havre where it was handed over to American forces. The Americans then shipped it to the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland while the REME team returned to recover the King Tiger that was to go to Shrivenham. This example was on display at the Ordnance Museum in APG for many years before being presented to the General of Combat Troops, General-Major Munzel, in Munster in December 1960. It was restored to running order in 1982 with the assistance of the Wegmann company at Kassel. It is fitted with fake mudguards and muzzle brake, and now carries the turret number “321”.

5) Solitary Vehicle, La Gleize, Belgium

Number of Photos:
1
Sample Photo from Album Number 218

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Unique ID: 218
Serial Number:
Registration:
Name:
Other Identification:

During the Battle of the Bulge sSS PzAbt 501, to which this King Tiger belonged, formed the armour constituent of the battlegroup known as Kampfgruppe Peiper. Kampfgruppe Peiper was the spearhead of 1 SS Panzer Division which, with 12 SS PzDiv, made up 1 SS Panzer Korps. By the end of December 1944 this battlegroup was surrounded without fuel around the town of La Gleize. When it withdrew it left behind six King Tigers. Two were on roads outside the town, including “334” covering the northern approach road, and one was abandoned within the town. Three were abandoned in fields around the town; this one, “213”, and “221” were abandoned near the Wérimont Farm, with “204” left nearby. An attempt was made by US forces to recover “204” but it failed, and “332” at Coo was taken instead (see below).
King Tiger “213”, previously commanded by SS-Obersturmführer Rudolf Dollinger, was planned to be removed by American soldiers in July 1945. However, it was saved by the intervention of a local woman and was instead towed to the village square. It was moved in August 1951 by the Belgian Army to its present position in a cul-de-sac off the main road (N33), near the churchyard. It shows evidence of battle damage, particularly shell strikes on the glacis. Some restoration work was done in 1972 and its muzzle-brake, destroyed by American engineers late in 1944, was replaced by a Panther one — it is of interest to note that this Panther muzzle-brake was from one of the Skorzeny M10 Panthers. It was repainted in 1981. Its chassis number is 280273 and it was built in October 1944.
Nearby is the Museum ’44 which includes a Goliath demolition vehicle among its exhibits. The museum is owned by M. Gérard Grégoire who was instrumental in restoring the King Tiger.

6) Schweizerische Militärmuseum, Full, Switzerland

Number of Photos:
25
Sample Photo from Album Number 219

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Unique ID: 219
Serial Number: “280215” - chassis number.
Registration:
Name:
Other Identification: “341” and German crosses painted on turret sides. Painted overall in a green, brown and yellow camouflage scheme.
In the 1980’s: “331” and German crosses painted on the turret sides. 1 SS Panzer Korps emblem painted on glacis. Painted overall in a dark green and yellow camouflage scheme.

Text in original Preserved German Tanks publication:


This King Tiger is missing its muzzle brake and the end of its gun barrel.

Text in Preserved German Tanks Update:


This King Tiger is fitted with a Henschel turret. It arrived on 14 September 2006 from Thun as a permanent loan. It is to be restored over some years from the ground up. The turret has been removed and is displayed separately on a stand, while the hull has been stripped of its tracks, engine and other components. Restoration began in November 2007 and it was found that the engine, transmission and steering systems were largely complete, though some parts such as the air filter and carburettor were missing, and the alternator and fans were in poor condition. Most sheet metals parts were rusted away, including the fuel tanks, fans, and covers. Where possible existing parts are being restored and reused, while missing or badly corroded parts are being replaced. Restoration work takes place in the main hall of the museum, where visitors can watch its progress.
In the years after World War II the French army gifted to Switzerland several German tanks. Some of these vehicles were subsequently used for experiments or for targets on firing ranges such as Hartziele. Some still survive in the outdoor display area of Thun museum, and over the intervening period they have been repainted a number of times so their original markings have been lost. The story of how this vehicle came from France to Switzerland is now shrouded in mystery, and today no documents can be found about how it came or by what route it reached Thun. It is not known where the tank served so the museum is now trying to clarify its history. From its chassis number ‘280215’ it is clear that it was manufactured and delivered in September 1944. Remains of Zimmerit anti-magnetic mine coating indicate that it was originally equipped with such a coating.
According to the Koenigstiger.ch website a recently discovered photograph shows the King Tiger after the war at a camp somewhere in France. At that time it was fitted with transport track but the muzzle damage and other details identify it as the same vehicle. Further it suggests that the chassis number and the timing of delivery imply that it served with Schwere Panzer Abteilung 506. However, sPzAbt 506 returned to Germany from the Eastern Front in August 1944, received its Tigers IIs during August and September, and deployed to Holland late in September. It is therefore unclear how a tank from that unit could have ended up in a camp in France at the end of the war. Nonetheless, the most likely alternative unit would probably have been sPzAbt 503 but it was mostly equipped with Tiger IIs fitted with Porsche turrets; it only received a handful of vehicles fitted with Henschel turrets, and in any case most of its tanks were abandoned or destroyed by their crews following the withdrawal through the Falaise gap at the end of August 1944. The origin of this vehicle therefore remains a mystery.

7) National Armor and Cavalry Museum, Fort Benning, USA

Number of Photos:
10
Sample Photo from Album Number 220

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Unique ID: 220
Serial Number:
Registration:
Name:
Other Identification: “332” painted on turret sides. Painted overall in a green, brown and sand camouflage scheme.

Text in original Preserved German Tanks publication:


This tank originally belonged to sPzAbt 509 but just before the Battle of the Bulge it was handed over to the third company of sSS PzAbt 501, part of Kampfgruppe Peiper, to make it up to strength. It carried the turret number “332” and was one of the eleven Tigers to reach the northern bank of the Amblève. Its chassis number is 280243 but it has a much earlier turret, number 280093, and it was completed on 8 September 1944. It was abandoned by its crew between Coo and Trois Ponts in Belgium on 26 December 1944. This followed the near miss of a smoke round from a Sherman of C Company, 740th US Tank Battalion. It was recovered from the side of the N33 by the 463rd Ordnance Evacuation Company and transported to Spa railway station. It was then moved to Antwerp before being shipped to America for evaluation. The left sides of its turret and hull were then cut open and subsequently patched up.
It was later put on display at the Ordnance Museum at Aberdeen Proving Ground. It retained its original paint work for some years, including its sSS PzAbt 501 blue turret numbers and original sPzAbt 509 unit markings, but was repainted in a gaudy fashion in the late 1970’s. Arrangements were made for it to be exchanged with the Patton Museum for an MBT-70 and it arrived at Fort Knox in September 1991. It then underwent restoration and repainting at the Boatwright Maintenance Facility. The plates used to patch up the turret and hull were removed and it is now on display with its interior open to view.

Text in Preserved German Tanks Update:


This Tiger II was moved by transporter from Fort Knox to Fort Benning on 14 December 2010, with wooden boards fixed over the open sides of the turret and hull.