The King Tiger was the largest and most feared German tank of World War II. © Bovington Tank Museum
A rare German tank - a veteran from the Normandy campaign of World War Two - has gone on public display at the Tank Museum in Bovington for the first time since its capture.
The German King Tiger (Sd Kfz 182 Tiger II) was captured after a tank battle in Nothern France in August 1944 and has been temporarily added to the museum’s collection from the Defence Academy at Shrivenham where it has only been seen by a select few.
“This King Tiger was brought to the museum ahead of our Tankfest event on June 25 2006, where it will line up amongst some of its German contemporaries,” said museum spokesman Nick Wyness.
The King Tiger was issued to SS Panzer Battalion 101 in the summer of 1944. © Tank Museum
“Visitors will have an opportunity to take a close look at this vehicle – which most people will never have seen before.”
One of the largest tanks to see action with the German Army in World War II, the King Tiger was introduced in 1944 and first saw action against Allied troops in Normandy.
It soon gained a fearsome reputation as a formidable opponent. Mounting an 88mm gun and with virtually impenetrable armour to its front it has since become recognised as the most powerful tank of the war.
Luckily for the Allies, less than 500 of these mechanical beasts were produced and those that did see action were hampered by poor maneuverability, excessive fuel consumption and high break down rates.
Staff at Bovington now hope the tank will remain at the museum. © Tank Museum
Unlike the other King Tiger at the museum King Tiger number 280093 saw active service. It was issued to 1 Kompanie of SS Panzer Battalion 101 in the summer of 1944 and was commanded by SS Obersharfuhrer Sepp Franzl.
On August 29 1944 it was in action against British Sherman tanks to the west of Magny-en-Vexin and after suffering track damage it left the road and limped into a beet field where it proceeded to shell a British-held farmhouse.
However, after the driver made a violent swing and damaged the final drive, the crew bailed out, set off charges in an attempt to destroy the tank before capture, and fled. French Resistance Fighters subsequently killed two of the crew.
Next upon the scene was a Sherman tank of A Squadron, 23rd Hussars, 11th Armoured Division and, on the principle of being better safe rather than sorry, its commander, Sergeant Roberts, put a couple of rounds through the right side of the German tank to finish it off.
The tank arrived in Britain for evaluation in January 1945. © Tank Museum
The Tank then remained in the field for some months before the Ministry of Defence took it back to Britain for evaluation in January 1945. Now the Tank Museum is hopeful that the return of the vehicle will be become permanent.
“This King Tiger actually belongs to The Tank Museum but it has been held by the Defence Academy since then, where it has been used for teaching purposes,” said Nick. “We hope that we are able to keep hold of this historically important vehicle, as it would be of great benefit to put it on permanent public display.”
- Update: TSd Kfz 182 Panzerkampfwagen VI Ausf B (E1994.81) has since gone on public display at the Tank Museum and can be seen in the World War Two Hall. See the Tank Museum website for more details.
- Tank Fest is the Tank Museum’s biennial event and features seven hours of mobile tank displays, re-enactments, encampments and static displays. For more information on Tank Fest visit the Tank Museum website