Thursday, September 1, 2011

Tiger Tank - Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger I Ausf.E

My first encounter with the German Tiger I was on 21 April, 1943, when, as a young commander of a Churchill tank troop in A Squadron, 48th Battalion Royal Tank Regiment, I was one of two troop leaders leading a counter-attack against a German defensive position in two hills near Medjez-el-Bab, Tunisia. This was the Battalion's first action since landing in North Africa and was part of the First and Eighth Armies' final push to clear Tunisia of Axis troops and to take Tunis. We had, of course, heard mention of the Tiger, but very little had penetrated down the food chain to troop leader level; about the dreaded '88' gun, however, we had not only heard a lot but had also seen its effect on the Churchill tank when we arrived at the railhead and saw the stacked hulks of the tanks from 25 Army Tank Brigade with large holes punched through even their thickest armour. As we advanced towards our objectives we could see no sign of enemy, but suddenly my fellow troop leader's tank erupted in an enormous explosion, blowing the turret crew out of the turret and setting the tank on fire. Before I had time to locate the source of this shot my own tank was hit by an 8.8cm shot which passed through the front plate right down the length of the tank and into the engine, setting it on fire. I and my crew were luckier than my colleague's as we all managed to bail out with only minor injuries.