The query posed:
I had always been under the assumption that all Tigers that came to North Africa were Initial production variants. I saw several photos of a 504 Tiger which was captured in Tunisia by a unit from the British First Army. These photos appear in the Squadron/Signal publication "Tiger in Action". This particular unit has the loading/escape hatch and the exhaust shrouds clearly are those of the late early production or early mid production phase. Could these be replacements for lost units? I'm no great expert on North Africa, but I had never heard of either the 501 or 504 receiving replacements. Any information you could share about Tigers in North Africa would be appreciated. I am in the process of building a diorama with Tigers, but determining the accurate vehicles to model is a bit difficult as model companies often use a great deal of license when creating their products.
1Kp./schwere Panzer Abteilung 504… are you referring to the Tiger I that is currently on display at Bovington now?
Next, currently I have a 645 page book on Tigers in AFRIKA at the publishers for printing release in October… but it appears to be expanded to some 700 pages before publication with additional illustrations / line drawings / color plates and photos.
Let me give you some specifics in another eMail if this is OK as I just returned home? OK?
Thanks for your inquiry,
B. G. Eady
Caption says it's turret number 131, and it has British 1st Army shield painted on left rear mud guard.
Reply at your convenience.
The two photographs from Squadron Signal Armor #27 on the Tiger I in Action (These are actually my copies of the ones in the Squadron In Action on the Tiger I and might be a little bit clearer?)
Myself and the AANA members can add to the bit of information I'll post below... but only the first company of schwere Panzer Abteilung 504 was sent to Africa... these were not replacements but another group of Tiger I's that were added to support operations in Tunisia.
131 is a 1.Kp. of schwere Panzer Abteilung 504 Tiger I that is now the single most visited exhibit at Bovington Tank Museum in England and it was restored over the course of several years and unveiled back in operating/running condition a few years back...
British Bovington Tank Museum Tiger I # 131
Before Renovation Color Photo:
History of Tiger I #131
The world's best known Tiger I tank (vehicle number 131) resides at the British Army Tank Museum, located in the beautiful rolling countryside of Southern England. Much of the information and many of the pictures in this book and others are based on wartime research done on this single vehicle.
George Forty, ex-director of the British Army Tank Museum discussed the history and future plans for their vehicle:
This famous example of the Tiger tank, production number 250112, was completed by the Henschel plant at Kassel in February 1943. It was issued to 504 Heavy Tank Battalion which it served in Third Platoon of number 1 Company.
It was captured, in Tunisia, on 21 April 1943 following an action with 48th Royal Tank Regiment. It would seem that the Churchill tanks of 4 Troop, A Squadron 48RTR were not aware of a Tiger in the vicinity during this action at Medjez-elBab and the shots that put the German tank out of action were entirely fortuitous. One round from a Churchill's six pounder gun struck the underside of the Tiger's 88mm gun. Deflected downwards, it chipped a groove in the bottom ofthe mantlet and buried itself in the turret ring, causing the turret to be jammed in the forward position. Incidentally, the blow seems also to have wrecked the tank's radio.
A second round fired by this Churchill struck the boss ofthe mantlet pivot on the left side ofthe turret. It carved a big chunk out of it and then ricocheted upward, taking off the top smoke discharger pot and whistling past the commander's hatch. There is no reason to suspect any more damage to the tank, which was still in running order, yet the crew immediately abandoned their tank and made off. At the same time, the crews from some German tanks in the vicinity also made their escape.
For a while the tank remained where it had been abandoned, acting as the focal point for a collection of captured equipment, but in due course it was removed to Tunis, tidied up in First Army workshops and even painted with the appropriate British markings.
This is the front detail marking...
Here it was inspected by the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill and King George VI during their visits to the area following the Allied victory. Later the tank was brought back to Britain on the merchant ship SS Ocean Strength. It was exhibited to the public on Horse Guards Parade in London and then despatched to the School of Tank Technology at Chertsey where it was subjected to Armored Corps Gunnery School at Lulworth, presumably undergoing firing trials, which resulted in the famous, and oft quoted report. Unfortunately, this activity caused damage and loss to many components, while the engine itself was cut open for instructional purposes.
After the war the School of Tank Technology was transferred to the RAC Centre at Bovi ngton Camp and its collection of enemy tanks, including the Tiger, was incorporated into the Tank Museum collection then being re-established after its wartime suppression.
As an exhibit, the Tiger has always been 'most' popular as more visitors come to look at it than any other single exhibit and there were even stories of it being haunted by the spectre of Herman the German.