Military history

- Chapter 21 -

Inside the Tiger

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This photograph from a contemporary British report shows the driving position of the Tiger I.

The internal layout was typical of German tanks. Forward was an open crew compartment, with the driver and radio-operator seated at the front on either side of the gearbox. Behind them the turret floor was surrounded by panels forming a continuous level surface. This helped the loader to retrieve the ammunition, which was mostly stowed above the tracks. Two men were seated in the turret; the gunner to the left of the gun, and the commander behind him. There was also a folding seat on the right for the loader. The turret had a full circular floor and 157cm headroom.

The crews of the Tiger tank gained a feeling of invincibility and this mood of superiority on behalf of the German tank crews survived defeat and captivity as revealed by the interrogation of an veteran German tank gunner who had served in The Afrika Korps and in Italy and therefore could boast practical experience of both the Tiger and captured allied Sherman tanks.

THE CONTEMPORARY VIEW NO. 20

THE TIGER vs THE SHERMAN

The gun layer- an experienced tank man- was inclined to be very boastful where German tanks were concerned. He had landed in Africa in May 1941 and stayed in the desert for nearly two years (no home leave and only the rarest visits to towns). His memories of the campaign are chiefly a record of the numbers of British AFVs knocked out by the invincible Mk IIIs and IVs, tinged with a reluctant admission that the same tanks were matched in October 43 at Alamein by General Grants and General Shermans. He was critical of the fact that the employment of these AFVs had not been appreciated by the Germans and that the launching of the British push came as a surprise to the armoured Divs.

His confidence has been fully restored since he transferred to Tiger Tanks. On every occasion he stresses the great feeling of security which a crew has inside an AFV with such armour. Crews feel very certain of their ability to engage and destroy any target. He claims that he once ran into fire from the flank from seven 17 pdr A/Tk guns at close range and, having turned the hull of his tank so that a three quarter view was presented to the fire; proceeded to destroy five out of seven A/Tk guns with HE rounds. Several hits were registered on the frontal armour of the flaking from shell splinters.

The only situation in which he felt uncomfortable was to receive A/Tk gun fire from the flank and, having engaged the gun after having turned his AFV into the optimum position, to receive fire at right angles from an undetected A/Tk position in his rear. His reaction would then be to swing his turret as fast as possible and engage the more dangerous of the two targets.

The only time when a General Sherman stands a chance of knocking out a Tiger (in his opinion)is when it can close to less than 800 metres. He has observed that, even granted great superiority in numbers, Sherman tank crews do not venture willingly to close in, even on sides away from the principal preoccupation of the Tiger’s fire. He claims that 3 Sqn has accounted for 63 Shermans since arrival in this theatre, 17 of which fall to his account.

The general opinion of the Sherman for its class was high. PW was instrumental in capturing two on the beachhead (one with a radial engine and one with twin Diesel engines) and the Bn had ample time to acquaint itself with these AFVs before removing the turrets and passing them back to 4 (workshops) Sqn for use as recovery vehicles, less turrets. His biggest criticism of the Sherman is of the visibility afforded to the commander when his hatch is closed down. He regarded the periscope as extremely poor.

From Tigerfibel

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