German heavy tank battalion

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German heavy tank battalions (German: schwere Panzerabteilungen), were elite battalion-sized World War II tank units, equipped with Tiger I, and later Tiger II, heavy tanks. Originally intended to fight on the offensive during breakthrough operations, the German late-war realities required them to be used in a defensive posture by providing heavy fire support and counter-attacking enemy armored breakthroughs, often organised into ad hoc Kampfgruppen. These panzer detachments were considered elite units.

A Waffen-SS Tiger I in France.

Formation[edit]

Early formation units experimented to find the correct combination of heavy Tiger tanks supported by either medium Panzer III tanks or scout elements. In 1942 this consisted of 20 Tigers and 16 Panzer IIIs,[verification needed] composed of two companies, each with four platoons of two Tigers and two Panzer IIIs. Each company commander would have an additional Tiger, and battalion command would have another two.[1]

Later formations had a standard organization of 45 Tiger Tanks, composed of 3 companies of 14 Tigers each, plus 3 command vehicles. Maintenance troubles and the mechanical unreliability of the Tigers posed a continuous problem, so often the units would field a smaller number of combat-ready tanks.[1]

The limited number of these heavy tanks, plus their specialized role in either offensive or defensive missions, meant they were rarely permanently assigned to a single division or corps; but shuffled around according to war circumstances.

In addition to tanks, each battalion planned to include the following:[2]
Description vehicle type 1 July 1943 1 January 1945
Flakpanzer IV Self-propelled anti-aircraft gun 0 8
Sd.Kfz. 7/1 8 ton 4 x 2 cm Flak Self-propelled anti-aircraft gun 6 3
Sd.Kfz. 251 Schützenpanzerwagen Armoured half-track 10 11
Bergepanther Armoured recovery vehicle 0 5
Sd.Kfz. 9 18 ton Zugkraftwagen Half-track prime mover 8 7
Sd.Kfz. 10 1 ton Zugkraftwagen Light half-track 8 13
Sd.Kfz. 2 Kettenkrad Gun tractor 0 14
Beiwagenkrad Motorcycle with sidecar, e.g. BMW R75 25 0
Solokrad Motorcycle 17 6
Kübelwagen Personenkraftwagen Staff car 64 38
Personenkraftwagen, zivil Civilian car 2 1
Lastkraftwagen Truck, e.g. Opel Blitz 111 84
Lastkraftwagen, zivil Civilian truck 24 34
Maultier Half-track 0 6
Kran-Kraftfahrzeug Mobile crane 3 3
Total 278 233

Army units[edit]

By the end of the war, the following heavy panzer detachments had been created. Early units were re-built several times by the end of the war.

Independent units attached to the German Army (Heer) were:

The only battalion permanently attached to a division:

SS units[edit]

Units attached to the Waffen-SS were:

Combat performance[edit]

Kill and Loss Ratio of the Tiger Battalions (1942–1945):[5]
Unit Losses Destroyed Ratio
501st Heavy Panzer Battalion 120 450 3.75
502nd Heavy Panzer Battalion 107 1,400 13.08
503rd Heavy Panzer Battalion 252 1,700 6.75
504th Heavy Panzer Battalion 109 250 2.29
505th Heavy Panzer Battalion 126 900 7.14
506th Heavy Panzer Battalion 179 400 2.23
507th Heavy Panzer Battalion 104 600 5.77
508th Heavy Panzer Battalion 78 100 1.28
509th Heavy Panzer Battalion 120 500 4.17
510th Heavy Panzer Battalion 65 200 3.08
13./Panzer-Regiment Großdeutschland 6 100 16.67
III./Panzer-Regiment Großdeutschland 98 500 5.10
13./SS-Panzer-Regiment 1 42 400 9.52
8./SS-Panzer-Regiment 2 31 250 8.06
9./SS-Panzer-Regiment 3 56 500 8.93
101st SS Heavy Panzer Battalion 107 500 4.67
102nd SS Heavy Panzer Battalion 76 600 7.89
103rd SS Heavy Panzer Battalion 39 500 12.82
TOTAL: 1,715 9,850 5.74

Tank losses include losses inflicted other than by enemy tanks. Also, many tanks were abandoned by their crews due to a lack of fuel, ammunition or breakdown, especially at the end of war.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Schneider 2000, pp. 3–4.
  2. ^ Schneider 2000, p. 2.
  3. ^ Jentz, pp. 195, 265
  4. ^ Olsson, Thorleif. "Borgward IV- SdKfz. 301". Achtung Panzer!. 
  5. ^ "Tiger Tank Battalions during WWII - Page 2". The Armor Site!. citing http://www.alanhamby.com/tiger.html which itself cites Tigers in Combat I by Wolfgang Schneider, Tigers in Combat II by Wolfgang Schneider, Red Army Handbook by Steven Zaloga 

References[edit]

  • Jentz, Thomas (1996). Panzertruppen 2: The Complete Guide to the Creation & Combat Employment of Germany's Tank Force 1943-1945. Schiffer. ISBN 978-0-7643-0080-6. 
  • Schneider, Wolfgang (2000). Tigers in Combat I. Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books. ISBN 978-0-8117-3171-3. 
  • Wilbeck, Christopher (2004). Sledgehammers: Strengths and Flaws of Tiger Tank Battalions in World War II. Bedford: Aberjona Press. OCLC 200489614. 

External links[edit]