Sunday, July 8

TMN on Tour: Bovington Tank Museum Tiger Collection Walkaround.

Our trip to Bovington in the UK last week saw us at the special "Tankfest" event - a yearly showcase of the museum's exhibits along with a gathering of vehicles from private collections and loans from other museums. Before we show you that we thought we might ease you in with a little of the current "star" exhibit of the Bovington museum, the Tiger Collection exhibition, & a detailed walkaround of the Tigers on show...

TMN On Tour:
Where: The Tiger Collection 
Bovington Tank Museum
When: Now until the 28th of October 2018
Admission: Part of your museum ticket:
Adult £14 / Children (5-16) £9 / 2 Adults & 2 Children £39 / 1 Adults & 3 Children £35
Children (Under 5) Free!
Information on the Bovington Tank Museum Website
In something of a world first in 2017, The Tank Museum at Bovington has brought every member of the Tiger Tank family together in one display. Ina full visual, audio and computer generated experience the Tiger Collections presents veteran stories, supporting artefacts, unseen imagery and the stories unique to the vehicles on display, the exhibition will showcase the Museum’s collection of what was arguably the most feared and famous tanks of the Second World War. In a collection of five vehicles, you can now see the Tiger I, King Tiger Prototype, King Tiger Production Variant, the Jagdtiger and the Elefant all in the one space.
The exhibit is contained within the Tank Museum at Bovington and entry is part of your admission for the museum visit. The space is confined by four metre high walls where all five tanks and supporting material is enclosed.  A plan of the museum floor in CAD for you is below.
On entering on Friday it was our pleasant surprise to see Nicholas Moran AKA "The Chieftain" - Wargaming America's resident tanker and vehicle historian. We was there looking around and making videos for his excellent youtube channel - recommended for tank lovers and a lovely bloke to boot!
The smart cookies amongst you will notice straight away that one tank from the tiger family is missing - the Sturmtiger that would naturally make up the sixth type of Tiger is not here - well not in the flesh anyway. Due to the fact that only two of this rare vehicle is left in existence, the museum was not able to secure one in the flesh. However, this vehicle is displayed in virtual reality! Whut?

The Sturmtiger:
The official German designation was Sturmmörserwagen 606/4 mit 38 cm RW 61. Its primary task was to provide heavy fire support for infantry units fighting in urban areas. 
There were plans to complete the line up with a Sturmtiger but this did not come to fruition. Although there is a 380 mm Raketen-Werfer (rocket launcher) in the collection of the Bovington Tank Museum. the real thing had to come from a virtual source. Step in Wargaming, the people behind "World of Tanks"
There is a space free for the Sturmtiger before it comes out of virtual reality into your view...
With co-operation with the museum, Wargaming used an HD game model of the Sturmtiger to present an encounter with the tank - showing it advance - fire it's rocket and then retreat back to unload. Using a tablet-like device and headphones, you hear the narrator talks about the Sturmtiger and its history while the tablet simulates the display in a 3D fashion - you can walk around and to the side of the Sturmtiger as it appears on the screen in front of you - amazing really - I know it is a shame there isn't a real tank there but this is as close as you can get!

A short Video from Wargaming showing the whole presentation
Although the Sturmtiger is not there in person - I think you will agree this is the next best thing...

The Elefant:
The US Army Ordnance Training and Heritage Center have loaned the Museum their Elefant (based on the rejected Porsche Tiger chassis) for the exhibition. This tank has a real war pedigree and is a survivor of the Battle of Kursk in 1943.
This tank has had an arduous journey to get here - Fahrgestell (chassis) number 150071 and Wanne (hull) number #150040 was built in April 1943 and issued to Heavy Tank Destroyer Battalion 654 in May. The third vehicle in 3rd Platoon, 6th Company; its tactical number was 633. It survived the fighting at Kursk and was one of the 50 vehicles returned to the Nibelungenwerke in December 1943 for modification. 
It was one of the first 11 completed and one of the 11 Elefants sent to Italy with 1st Company, Heavy Tank Destroyer Battalion 653. Its new tactical number, 102, tells us it was assigned to Company Headquarters. The ‘U’ on the rear refers to Hauptmann Ulbricht, the Company Commander. It is believed that this vehicle suffered an engine fire in late May. It could not be recovered and was abandoned, later being captured by American forces. Shipped to the United States for analysis and testing, it was displayed outdoors at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland for decades. In 2008 the vehicle received a cosmetic repair and repainting. Combat damage was not repaired. The Aberdeen Proving Ground Museum closed in 2009 and the Elefant was moved to Fort Lee, Virginia. In 2016 it was loaned to the Tank Museum for the Tiger Collection Exhibition. It was shipped to the UK aboard the Tamerlane. After a 5400 mile, 35 day journey, it arrived at Bovington on the 15th December 2016.
A walk around of the massive restored Elefant

Known variously as the Tiger Ausf. B, Tiger II or Königstiger (the British also referred to it as the `Royal Tiger’)
This Tiger II was the second prototype of three built by Henschel, with the Chassis Number V2 (Versuchs-Fahrgestell No. V2 (Trial Chassis V2)), and completed in January 1944. It was not issued to a combat unit, remaining with Henschel were it was used for various trials. It was later captured by the British at the Henschel testing area in Haustenbeck, Germany at the end of the War. It is still fitted with a modified exhaust pipe that Henschel was using to test exhaust pressure.
The turret rear was designed to be removable to allow the removal and refitting of the 8.8 cm KwK 43 gun. On this particular tank the rear wall was removed and lost at some time Post-War and it has been replaced with a wooden panel. Also lost, presumably at the same time, was the commander’s cupola.
After its capture the vehicle had its original tracks replaced with a set of Kgs 73/800/152 single link cross-country tracks removed from a second Tiger Ausf. B (Chassis Number 280009 or 280012) that was also on site at Haustenbeck. These tracks had only been introduced in March 1945.
A walk around of the freshly painted "Dunklegelb" 2nd Prototype Tiger II.

Known variously as the Tiger Ausf. B, Tiger II or Königstiger (the British also referred to it as the `Royal Tiger’), 489 Tiger IIs were produced at the Henschel assembly plant, between January 1944 and March 1945. 
The Tiger II with Production turret on display in the Tiger Collection was built in July 1944 by Henschel and given Fahrgestell Nummer (chassis number) 280093.  At the beginning of August, it was one of 14 Tiger IIs issued to the 1st Company of SS Heavy Panzer Battalion 101 at Sennelager in Germany. Its turret number, 104, tells us it was one of two assigned to Company Headquarters, rather than being in one of the three Platoons of 4 tanks. 
The tank was commanded by Oberscharfuhrer Sepp Franzl, the Kompanietruppfuhrer (Company Headquarters Section Leader). As well as serving as a tank commander he led the small administration element that supported the Company. The Company travelled by rail into France and saw their first combat on the 23rd, counterattacking Allied forces that had begun to cross the River Seine. After just 14 days in action, the Company would have only one tank left.

These black and white pictures show this particular vehicle at the time of its capture in 1944
As Allied forces poured across the Seine in ever increasing numbers the Germans in this part of France were forced to retreat North-East towards the Belgian border. They launched frequent counterattacks, often inflicting casualties, but never succeeding in stopping the Allied advance. This meant tanks that were damaged, broken down or out of fuel had to be abandoned to the Allies.
That is seemingly what appears to have happened to this Tiger. It was abandoned on the 29th or 30th August. For many years this was believed to have occurred at Magny-en-Vexin roughly 8 miles North-East of the Seine. However recent study of wartime photographs of the tank and its surroundings by French historians has suggested that in fact it was abandoned at Aux Marais, a community on the outskirts of Beauvais around 15 miles further North-East. It has also long been believed that this tank was fired on, possibly after it was abandoned, by the Sherman commanded by Sergeant Roberts of 4 Troop, A Squadron, 23rd Hussars. 
What is clear is that tank 104 was shot at, although by whom is likely to remain unclear. There is damage on the right-hand side of the hull in two locations. This can be seen on wartime photographs taken at Aux Marais. The Tiger was facing roughly south, so shots from the west, where the 23rd Hussars were, would have hit that side of the tank.
Sergeant Roberts himself was unable to clarify matters. Sergeant 7907199 Thomas Roberts MM was killed on the 5th January 1945 when his tank was knocked out near Bure in Belgium. He was 27. 
After the battle, the Tiger was recovered by the Royal Engineers in January 1945 and brought back to the UK. It was kept at the Fighting Vehicle Proving Establishment at Chertsey, then the Royal Military College at Shrivenham before coming to the Tank Museum in 2006.

A walk around of this Tiger "Production Turret #104"

SD KFZ 186 JAGDTIGER (E1952.34)
The Jagdtiger was the heaviest and arguably the most powerful armoured fighting vehicle to see service during the Second World War. Although it was a formidable defensive weapon Allied bombing restricted production. Very few were built and they only saw combat in the final weeks of the war. The vehicle’s size, a shortage of fuel and poor crew training further limited its impact.
The Tank Museum’s Jagdtiger has chassis no. #305004. It was one of eleven (plus an unarmoured prototype) which were fitted with the Porsche suspension system. It was built in July 1944 and sent to the Sennelager testing ground just north of the city of Paderborn in August, where it was used for trials. It was never assigned to a combat unit. Towards the end of March 1945 units of the American XIX Corps were advancing towards Paderborn. The Germans assembled as many armoured units as they could to try and fend off their attack. One of these was an improvised unit called Panzergruppe Paderborn manned by instructors and equipped with an assortment of vehicles from test units, including Tiger Is, Tiger IIs, Panthers and even an old Panzer III. It is unclear whether the Jagdtiger was also a part of this force, or whether it took any part in the fighting.

These black and white pictures show the Jagdtiger at the time of its capture in WWII

Fighting around Paderborn and Sennelager continued for around a week. Although the German forces in and around the training area put up heavy resistance, most American units simply bypassed them to the north or south. By the 5th April, it was clear that the forces left had to withdraw or risk being cut off. The Museum’s Jagdtiger was abandoned and the next day it was captured by the Americans. It was photographed almost immediately afterwards by a photographer attached to XIX Corps. 

The Jagdtiger was tested at Sennelager with some of this captured on film as in this shot.

After the war, Sennelager became part of the British Zone of Occupation. Both the Jagdtiger and the Pre-production King Tiger now in the Tank Museum were seen at Haustenbeck by British Ministry of Supply Researchers on the 25th August 1945.

The Jagdtiger was tested at Sennelager (with some of this captured on film). It was then moved to the School of Tank Technology at Chertsey in the UK for further testing before arriving at the Tank Museum in 1952. During the 1960s and 1970s, a handrail was welded onto the roof and visitors could stand on top of the vehicle. This was later removed, but the mounting brackets were not. During November 2016 the vehicle was moved for the first time in as many as 50 years. In February 2017 it was repainted in the original Dunkelgelb paint scheme it wore when captured.

A picture of the Jagdtiger being moved to the exhibition in it's old (thank god that's gone) paint scheme...

It is missing its rear engine plate cover and the third left-hand suspension unit but still retains its original Zimmerit anti-magnetic mine paste.

A Walk around of the freshly repainted Jagdtiger in the exhibit

SD KFZ 181 PANZERKAMPFWAGEN VI AUSF E (E1951.23) or Tiger 1; VK4501(H) Pz Kpfw VI Ausf E; "Tiger 131"
The Tiger has attained almost mythical status: it is the one German tank that nearly everyone recognises. This is due in part to its’ psychological dominance of the battlefield – at one time every enemy tank was a ‘Tiger’ to its opponents – reinforced by the exploits of ‘tank aces’ like Michael Wittman and Otto Carius, heavily publicised by German propaganda. We have even made the model based on this very tank here on the news last year...
The black and white pictures here are the shot of this vehicle upon its capture and before final restoration

The Tank Museum’s Tiger is unique: it is the only one of the six surviving Tiger I tanks that is capable of running. It was the first Tiger to be captured relatively intact by either the British or the Americans. It was manufactured in February 1943: its’ chassis number is 250112. It was sent to Tunisia at some time between March 22nd and April 16th 1943 and was issued to the 3rd Platoon, 1st Kompanie, Schwere Panzer Abteilung 504 of the German Army. It was involved in an action with 4 Troop, A Squadron, 48th Royal Tank Regiment on 21 April 1943. The fighting was at Djebel Djaffa near Medjez el Bab.
The Tiger knocked out two British Churchill tanks but was then engaged by a third. The crew of this Churchill hit the gun mantlet of the Tiger with a 6pdr (57mm) shot and although this failed to penetrate it jammed the turret and wounded the Tiger’s commander. Damage from 6pdr hits is still visible on the front of the superstructure, the gun mantlet and the turret lifting boss. The German crew abandoned the Tiger without destroying it and it was captured by 48 RTR. It was subsequently recovered and refurbished using parts from other destroyed Tigers.
Prime Minister Churchill and His Majesty King George VI inspected the captured Tiger in Tunis. In October 1943 it was sent to the United Kingdom and displayed on Horse Guards Parade in London. It was then passed to the School of Tank Technology at Chertsey during November 1944 where a thorough technical evaluation was carried out. The Tiger was given to the Tank Museum after the war.
The Tiger I was issued first to the 502nd Heavy Tank Battalion of the German Army and made its combat debut on the Leningrad front in August 1942. It subsequently served with 9 other Army Heavy Tank Battalions; the 3rd Battalion of the Army’s Gross Deutschland Panzer Regiment, a number of ad hoc Army units and three SS Divisions.
The Tiger I fought on the Eastern front, in North Africa, Italy and Western Europe until the end of the war. It achieved a combat reputation that was totally disproportionate to the small number produced. Its heavy armour and powerful gun were well suited to the type of defensive fighting that the German Army was engaged in during the later years of the war.

The tank at the museum after its trials
A painstaking restoration of the Tiger was started in the 1990s which was eventually completed with help from the National Heritage Lottery Fund. Great care was taken to recreate the original camouflage and markings. The Tiger ran under its’ own power for the first time in 2004.

A picture of the Tiger 131 before its current restoration
..And after restoration in its current state
A walk around the Tiger 131 in this current exhibit...

This collection is on display until October this year (2018). You can see Tiger 131 after that time as it will be back in The Tank Story Hall and Cold War Hall for Tiger Day X (ten) which is on the 15th of September 2018. Tiger Day X is advance tickets only. There will not be any tickets available to buy on the day. Buy your admission tickets here.

Something you all might be interested in also the forthcoming South-West Model Show on the 13th October 2018 - 14th October 2018. In the October Half Term for The South West Model Show (Autumn Edition) Over two days, view a large selection of exhibitors from across the modelling spectrum ranging from boats, planes, motor racing cars and of course militaria and armoured warfare models. A number of traders and stockists will be situated throughout the Museum.
Standard museum admission applies.  However, each visitor receives an annual pass, which means that they can revisit the museum for an unlimited number of times within a 12 month calendar period (excluding special events) – including both model shows.
You can buy tickets in advance at this link.

Lastly, Can we thank the people at the Bovington Tank Museum for having us at the exhibit and the "Tankfest" show on the weekend - It is a great museum to visit on a non - show day - but this events just make the visit all that more attractive  If you are in the UK you should visit this place!