1Forces of Valor FOV912042B German Initial Production Sd. Kfz. 181 PzKpfw VI Tiger I Ausf. E Heavy Tank - Hauptmann Herbert Oehme, "White 100", schwere Panzerabteilung 502, Leningrad, Russia, February 1943 [Bonus Maybach HL 210 TRM P45 Engine] (1:32 Scale)
"The gun and armor of the Tiger were superb, making it in many ways the most formidable tank in service. Even so, it was poor in maneuver, it was slow, and its turret was a slow traverser in action. It was a tank which was, at its best, immobile in ambush, when its killing power was very frightening."
- Douglas Orgill, "German Armor"
The German Waffenamt issued an order to design the VK4501(H) (as the PzKpfw VI Ausf. E was then known) in May 1941, just one month prior to the commencement of Operation Barbarossa. Interestingly, Henschel und Sohn of Kassel was charged with building the heavily armored chassis while Krupp, by far the largest munitionwerks in Germany, was given the task of developing the turret. The PzKpfw VI Ausfuhrung E (type E) was one of the first German tanks to feature a torsion bar with eight interleaved wheels, which was designed to support the weight of the mammoth 57-ton tank. The Ausf. E mounted a huge 8.8cm KwK36 L/56 cannon and featured two MG34 machine guns for close support against enemy infantry. By war's end, 1,354 vehicles had been produced, some rolling off the Wegmann assembly line.
The Tiger differed from earlier German tanks principally in its design philosophy. Its predecessors balanced mobility, armor and firepower and were sometimes outgunned by their opponents.
While heavy, this tank was not slower than the best of its opponents. However, at over 50 tonnes dead weight, the suspension, gearboxes, and other such items had clearly reached their design limits and breakdowns were frequent if regular maintenance was not undertaken.
Although the general design and layout were broadly similar to the previous medium tank, the Panzer IV, the Tiger weighed more than twice as much. This was due to its substantially thicker armor, the larger main gun, greater volume of fuel and ammunition storage, larger engine, and a more solidly built transmission and suspension.
Pictured here is a 1:32 scale replica of an initial production German Sd. Kfz. 181 PzKpfw VI Tiger I Ausf. E heavy tank that was commanded by Hauptmann Herbert Oehme who was attached to schwere Panzerabteilung 502, then deployed to Leningrad, Russia, during February 1943. Comes with bonus Maybach HL 210 TRM P45 engine.
Release Date: September 2022
Historical Account: "Panzers on the Neva" - The area around Leningrad is one of the most geographically diverse in the world, situated in the southern sub zone of the taiga - a snow covered forest found in the cold subarctic. The subarctic is an area of the Northern Hemisphere that lies just south of the Arctic Circle where forests occupy about 40% of the territory, and swamps a further 10%. There are cliffs in the Gulf of Vyborg and to the north of Lake Ladoga, huge swampy areas to the south, marshy valleys with granite boulders on the Karelian Isthmus, canyons and waterfalls, plains and hills to the south of Neva. By any military measure, the region was not known as ideal "tank country," yet it nevertheless served as the backdrop for the first actions of the Tiger I heavy tank, an ill-suited baptism of fire its designers, the architects of the Blitzkrieg and troops picked to employ it would just as soon prefer to forget.
Schwere Panzerabteilung 502 took the Tiger I into combat for the first time south of Lake Ladoga near Leningrad on September 16th, 1942. On September 22nd, after crossing a causeway, one Tiger became bogged down in the mud, thereby living up to its iconic unit heraldry of an elephant blindly on the march. After several unsuccessful attempts to recover it, the vehicle had to be abandoned, fierce enemy fire deterring the crew from reaching the vehicle. To prevent its capture, a decision was eventually made to destroy the vehicle, which was carried out on September 25th. All in all, a rather ignominious start for what was hoped to be a miracle weapon.
On that same day several new Tigers as well as Panzer IIIs arrived at the front, thereby bringing the unit up to its full armored complement. On January 14th, 1943, Soviet troops disabled and captured one of the battalion's Tiger tanks near Leningrad during Operation Spark. A second vehicle was captured several days later. Both Tigers were quickly brought to the Kubinka experimental armor facility where they were thoroughly analyzed for strengths and weaknesses. Efforts were then made to develop and organize strategies to counter the tank.
A handful of additional Tiger Is were issued to the unit in February 1943, replacing several vehicles lost in combat. On April 1st, 1943, a second and third company were formed. Thirty one Tigers were shipped to the unit in mid to late May 1943, which brought the battalion up to full strength. In June 1943, due to a change in the organization of heavy tank battalions, the 1st company was completely outfitted with Tiger Is, rather than a mix of Tigers and Panzer IIIs.
The battalion participated in engagements on the Eastern Front during 1943 and 1944. The unit operated around Lake Ladoga from July to September 1943 and Newel, near Belarus during November and December 1943 covering the retreat of German forces from the Leningrad area. The 502nd held Narva, Estonia from February to April 1944. The 502nd fought in Pleskau in April and May 1944, then around Dunaburg, Latvia in July.
The battalion only received a few Tiger IIs. The last 13 Tiger IIs built were picked up directly at the factory by crews of the 3rd Company of the 510th and the 3rd company of the 502nd on March 31st, 1945.The 502nd received the lion's share of the final batch produced - eight vehicles it then took into combat on April 1st, 1945. In hindsight, schwere Panzerabteilung 502 was both one of the first and, as it turns out, one of the very last heavy tank battalions formed during the second world war to take the Tigerwaffe into battle.