Weapons of World War Two
Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger
It was approximately 9:30 of the 13th June 1944. A long column of armored vehicles from the 4th County of London Yeomanry meandered along the road of Villers-Bocage, important road junction south of Bayeux. The second chief of this group, which constituted the vanguard of the 22nd Brigade of the 7th Armored Division, scrutinized the surrounding field looking out from the turret of his Cromwell tank. Everything seemed quiet, but Commander Carr did not know that he was being observed. Looking through the eyeholes of the turret of his tank, Captain Michael Wittman mentally took note of the movements of the British. Wittman was alone with his tank against the entire column, but with him was his crew, always the same with which he had fought in Russia and, after barely nine months, destroyed 119 Russian tanks.
If Carr had imagined it, maybe he would have adopted a wiser tactic. On the contrary, the column, regularly spaced, continued the march along the road. Unexpectedly, the German tank rushed along a esplanade that ran parallely to the road. The first shot from the 88-millimeter cannon of the "Tiger" destroyed a half-track that preceded the march of the column, closing so the passing. Then it was the turn of a tank, then of a Bren Carrier... The only two tentatives that were made to stop that mechanical fury failed, and the catastrophe continued until the tank disappeared from the scene. But after few minutes, having replenished ammunitions, it came back and the hellish hammering started again. In few tens of minutes the lone "Tiger" had been able to destroy 20 tanks, four tank destroyers, one command tank, 14 troop transports and 14 Bren Carriers.
The Tiger, which would become the German tank par excellence, was born from a study started in 1937 by the Henschel company in prevision of an armored element that were able to replace, when needed, the Panzerkampfwagen IV which had just entered into service. At the beginning of the hostilities were intensified the studies to create this tank, and in the spring of 1942, among the diverse prototypes presented, it was preselected the one from Henschel regarding the hull, whereas for the turret it was preferred the model designed by Porsche and built by Krupp, by means of casting (limited to the side belt). The tank presented an interesting wheel arrangement with interspersed wheels, which supported tracks of 52 centimeters in width for road march, and of 72.5 for snow or soft grounds. The replacement of tracks could be made in about a quarter-hour.
The interior of the vehicle offered the maximum comfort that a tank could present. To drive, the driver used a normal steering wheel besides the two levers that are usual in tanks, and the instrumental was of the most complete and perfect existing then. The armament comprised a 88/56 cannon and two or three 7.92-millimeter machine guns. The Panzerkampfwagen VI, as it was officially called this exceptional armored element, debuted in the autumn of 1942 in the Russian front, to fight in every sector until the end of the war.
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