Pen & Sword - Images of War - Hitler's Heavy Tiger Tank Battalions 1942 - 45
Author: Ian Baxter
Format: Paperback, 128 pages with 169 black and white photos
NOTE: Because of how the pandemic has affected postal services, the review "book" is actually a PDF, but the book is available in both paperback and e-book format from a major e-tailer. I have to admit, looking at the pictures and font enlarged on a computer screen instead of the standard book is a nice treat for my aging eyes.
In movies like "Saving Private Ryan" and "Fury", the German Tiger I tank, or the Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger Ausf. E, to give it the official name, has been portrayed as a huge, fire-spitting beast that easily destroyed Allied tanks on the battlefield and shrugged off return fire. I may be the only AMPS member who has never built a Tiger, but after reading this terrific book, I can understand why so many modelers do build the Tiger I and II. As I build up my reference library on WW II Allied and Axis, and Cold War NATO and Warsaw Pact armor and softskins, I have bought six other Images of War books, and find them all to be well-researched and comprehensive in both text and photos. This PDF version is likewise very well put together, and as a non-Tiger fan/builder, I found it a very good introduction to the history, organization, deployment, and Tiger variants over the course of World War II. Mr. Baxter has written over 50 other publications, at least half dealing with WW II German armor, battles. generals, and even submarines! If his other works are as well done as this one, I will definitely be adding to my Images of War library.
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
A Brief History of the Panzerwaffe (1941–42) . . . . . . . . . 6
The Tiger Tank Enters Service . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Eastern Front and North Africa (1942–43) . . . . . . . . . . 11
Sicily and Eastern Front (1943) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
Eastern and Western Front (1944) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69
Last Year of War (1944–45) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 97
Tiger Profiles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 117
Tiger Tank Battalion History . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 119
Tiger Tank Battalion Markings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 123
Tiger Tank Battalion Equipment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 124
Organisational Structure of Heavy Panzer . . . . . . . . . . . 125
Tiger Tank II Battalion (1944) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 126
Using rare and unpublished photographs, Hitler’s Heavy Tiger Tank Battalions is an illustrated record of German heavy tank battalions or Schwere Panzer Abteilungen during operations on the Eastern, Western and Italian fronts between 1942 and 1945. It represents a visual account of the various elite battalion-sized tank units of the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS equipped with the Tiger I and later Tiger II heavy tanks.
A Brief History of the Panzerwaffe (1941–42)
In this two-page section, Mr. Baxter describes the organization and numbers of German divisions involved in the invasion of the Soviet Union, Operation Barbarossa, and continues with the initial successes until the Autumn weather, followed by General Winter, slowed and then stopped cold the German advances. He also describes the realization by German leaders that a heavier tank would be needed to defeat the T-34 and KV-1 that caused so much havoc when encountered by under-gunned and under-armored German tanks.
The Tiger Tank Enters Service
Initial Tiger I
In this section, we learn that in April 1942 the German company Henschel & Son was given the task of producing the Tiger I on a large scale, followed by a brief description of the Tiger's weight, armor plate thickness, armament, and engine. Mr. Baxter also touches on the production costs per unit, compared to the Pz.Kpfw. IV and Stug III, maintenance issues, lack of trained crews that resulted in mechanical problems, and the gradual change from its initial purpose of offensive operations to defensive operations.
Chapter One: Eastern Front and North Africa (1942–43)
This chapter starts out with a brief recap of the situation in Russia - German units are at a standstill on the Northern and Central fronts, while forces were being concentrated in the Southern Front and heading to their doom in Stalingrad, then changes focus to North Africa and Rommel's success up to the capture of Tobruk. Instead of following up on North Africa, the chapter returns to the initial deployment of 1.Kompanie of Schwere Heeres Panzer Abteilung 502 to the Leningrad Front. If there is a nit to pick here, it is the author jumping back and forth in the space of three paragraphs from Russia to North Africa and back. Some readers won't be bothered by this, but I found it distracting. The chapter continues with a brief synopsis of Schwere Panzerabteilung 503 arriving in the Southern Front too late to participate in Stalingrad. Interestingly, both units suffered breakdowns from transmission and overheating problems, a forerunner of problems to come. Turning back to North Africa, we learn that three Tiger Is and sixteen Pz.Kpfw. IIIs of Schwere Panzerabteilung 501 arrive, with the numbers in the Tunisian area of operations over time growing to 24 Tiger Is. Eventually, as the tide of battle turned and the Germans began retreating, a call for reinforcements resulted in the deployment of Schwere Heeres Panzer Abteilung 504 to North Africa. It consisted of eighteen Tigers, twenty-five Pz.Kpfw.IIIs, and two Befehl-Tigers. The chapter concludes with a brief wrap-up of the defeat of German forces in Tunisia and the evacuation of an unspecified number of Tigers to Sicily.
Tiger I in Russia undergoing maintenance
The crew of a Tiger I can be seen resting in the desert watching a Tunisian man with his camel passing by
Chapter Two: Sicily and Eastern Front (1943)
This chapter briefly describes the Allied invasion of Sicily on 10 July 1943, and the loss in three days of fighting of 10 of the 17 Tigers attached to the Hermann Goering Division. The author's focus shifts back to Russia where the Germans, after recapturing Kharkov, were planning Operation Zitadelle. During the battle the 503rd Heavy Tiger Tank Battalion (45 Tigers) was deployed in the South, the 505th (11 Tigers) in the North (both losing four Tigers); also participating in the battle were 13.Kompanie/Panzer Regiment Großdeutschland's 15 Tigers (no losses), and the 1.SS-Panzer Korps with 35 Tigers. The chapter continues with information on the 503rd, 505th, 506th, 507th, 508th and 509th heavy Tiger tank battalions receiving additional Tigers on the Eastern Front; 1.SS-Panzer Korps, and III Abteilung/Panzer Regiment Großdeutschland, and the number of Tigers each received.
Tiger I from Schwere Panzer Abteilung 504 rolling through a Sicilian town
Japanese officers inspect a Tiger I at the Henschel Works in Kassel in July 1943
Chapter Three: Eastern and Western Front (1944)
This chapter covers the deteriorating situation on the Eastern Front, despite the steady production of Tiger Is for units in Russia, Italy, and northern France (Normandy). Despite the Tiger's many strengths, overwhelming Russian strength and numbers steadily whittled the German forces down, forcing them ever backwards. Likewise, in France, the Allies destroyed Tigers almost as quickly as they could deploy. The author notes that several units received Tiger IIs, or were withdrawn to be refitted with them, but does not provide any photos of them; however, there are several good photos of flak units, maintenance crews, supply troops, Tigers on railcars, light and heavy half-tracks, and even smaller vehicles, such as the Kettenkrad and Schwimmwagen.
Panzergrenadiers supported by a whitewashed Tiger I during a mission in the snow
Tiger 323 from the 3./s.SS Panzer Abteilung 101 makes its way to the front in Normandy on 7 June 1944
Chapter Four: Last Year of War (1944–45)
By June 1944 the German army was fighting a war on three fronts: France, Russia, and Italy. Other than some limited and localized successes, German forces were losing everywhere, and losing badly. The author touches briefly on Operation Market Garden, and the Battle of the Bulge, and the results of those battles. Mr. Baxter ends the chapter, and the book, somewhat abruptly with a couple of sentences describing the failed German effort to relieve Budapest, Hungary, and the crushing of Army Group North in the Baltics, and then this last paragraph:
"In early 1945 few reinforcements were reaching the front lines, and understrength Panzer divisions were combined ad hoc to form new units with a handful of tanks and Panzergrenadiers. Among these ad hoc units were the Pz.Abt.500 ‘Paderborn’, named after the training grounds from which its vehicles had come; it had seventeen Tigers and was put into line in Russia on 21 October 1944. At the end of January 1945 the ‘Ersatz Brigade’ Großdeutschland fought with two Tigers. On 23 February 1945, Panzer Abteilung ‘Kummersdorf’ received the last 5 Tiger Is and joined an ad hoc unit known as Panzer Division ‘Muncheberg’. Apart from its Tigers, ‘Kummersdorf’ possessed two Pz.Kpfw.IVs, one Pz.Kpfw.III, one Nashorn, two captured M4 Shermans, four Sd.Kfz.233 and 231 other vehicles including one Elefant, Jagdtigers, and an Italian P-40 tank, and a number of Sd.Kfz.251 halftracks."
There is no mention or photos of Tigers in the Battle of Berlin, which I found surprising, as there were several Tiger I and Tiger II fighting during that battle. However, there are photos of Tiger IIs in the Ardennes, the Eastern Front, and Budapest, and even a captured Panzerjager Tiger Ausf.B in this chapter, so that sort of makes up for the lack of Berlin photos.
Highly Recommended for fans of the Tiger I. Beginner to Advanced modelers will find inspiration for dioramas, vignettes, and even stand-alone builds of the Tiger I in this excellent book. There are a few photos of the Tiger II, but they provide limited details.
Thanks goes out to Pen & Sword and Casemate Publishing for this review PDF.
Reviewed by Joseph "Mac" McDaniel
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