Hello everyone, it was in 1944, when Germany released the last of its Big Cats, the mighty Tiger Ausf.B, otherwise known as the Tiger II or the Königstiger, and threw it on the front to stop the tidal wave of the allied onslaught. At 70 tons, it was a real monster, carrying the powerful 88mm L/71 gun, but it came too late and too few (less than 500) were made to make any serious difference in the war. It was also very expensive to produce, resource-requiring and it was plagued by mechanical issues. Nevertheless, the King Tiger remains one of the symbols of the German tank power of WW2. During the last days of the war, King Tigers were still active outside of Germany and today, I’m going to write about those, that were active in Czechoslovakia. The Königstigers were usually organized in heavy tank batallions (schwere Panzerabteilung, sPzAbt), each consisting nominally of 45 vehicles – those were further split into companies, each company was then split into three platoons, each with four tanks. The rest of the vehicles of the batallion were command tanks of the company and batallion leaders and their deputies. The batallion was also supplemented with AA tanks (Flakpanzers), ARV’s (Bergepanzers), APC’s, trucks, cars and so on. These numbers were however purely theoretical, as late in the war, full state was practically never achieved and it was common for tank batallions to be at half strength or even less. In the end, it was even decided to nominally reduce the amount of companies per batallion to two. When it comes to Czechoslovakia, three sPzAbt units were located on its territory by the end of the war – specifically sPzAbt 503, 507 and 509 (all of them army units, not Waffen SS). sPzAbt 507 arrived in Czechoslovakia after being practically annihilated on the eastern front – it lost all of its heavy Tiger tanks and was supposed to be armed only with a Flakpanzer company (“Ostwind” 37mm Flakpanzer on Pz.IV chassis) and with some Jagdpanzers 38t from Kampfgruppe Milowitz (Milowitz – or Milovice – was a large training ground for Waffen SS units). sPzAbt 507 was headed to Prague to crush the May uprising, but its main motivation now to surrender to the Americans rather than Soviets – ultimately, it was unsuccessful. sPzAbt 509 also only passed through Czechoslovakia. In December 1944, it was re-armed with brand new King Tigers and took part in heavy fighting in Hungary as a part of the VI.SS Panzer Corps around Budapest and then during the delaying actions, when the Germans were retreating to Austria. The retreat made the unit cross the borders to Czechoslovakia and when it was ordered to surrender on 8th of May 1945, the crews destroyed their remaining nine King Tigers (most of which broke down at that point) south of Znojmo (south-east Moravia) and by the time sPzAbt 509 surrendered to American units, all that remained of the heavy tank batallion vehicles were two personal cars and one truck. sPzAbt 503 spent the longest time in Czechoslovakia. It was one of the oldest heavy tank batallions. Formed in May 1942, it fought both on eastern and western front (including the legendary battle of Kursk). It was practically annihilated several times (including the Falaise gap) and reformed, its last notable heavy fighting taking place in Hungary near Budapest and . Perhaps its most notable member was Kurt Knispel, a Sudetendeutsche known for his conflicts with nazi authorities and possibly the best tank ace in history. In December 1944, the unit, after losing practically all of its armor near Budapest, was renamed to sPzAbt “Feldherrnhalle” and was attached to an army corps of the same name. After the defeat in Hungary, the unit was moved to Slovakia (crossing the border on 13.2.1945), where it successfully crushed the Soviet bridgehead at Hron in Slovakia on along with the 44th Infantry division on 25.2.1945 (at that point, it had 21 Tiger II tanks, only 11 of which were operational). Later found itself in Moravia, fighting around the city of Břeclav. Near the town of Lanžhot, the unit lost one Tiger II on 11.4.1945. Thirteen of the unit’s operational Tiger II tanks assaulted the town, destroying 20 Russian tanks and self-propelled guns while losing one Tiger II. Further fighting around Břeclav did cost the unit two more Tiger II tanks, the Soviets however lost 16 tanks to the guns of the Tigers. Around 21st of April 1945, the remaining units of sPzAbt 503 were assigned the the armored division Feldherrnhalle-2, that was created by uniting the remnants of the 13th Tank Division (destroyed near Budapest) and several other units. These tanks then reinforced its defensive positions near Drholec and Nový Přerov. On 7th of May 1945, the entire 8th Army was ordered to retreat to Třeboň (Wittingau) and then, further, to České Budějovice (Budweis). In the night between 9.5.and 10.5.1945, last larger battle that involved tanks took place in this region (near the village of Majdalena near Třeboň). The retreating FHH units were surrounded here and waited for the nightfall. Around 23:00, the Germans, supported by 10 tanks, managed to capture the important crossroads near the Majdalena train station and they continued to retreat to Třeboň. Třeboň however was liberated by that time by the Red Army and the access roads were covered by Soviet AT guns. Around 1 AM on 10.5., the German tanks charged the Soviet positions, but one Königstiger (command variant – only 25 were made, designated with roman I (black with white trim)- detachment commander’s vehicle) got stuck in the muddy field and the attack was not able to penetrate the AT position near Kopeček. Older sources state that it was knocked out by an AT gun. Seeing the tough resistance by the Red Army, German units, now in full retreat, tried to get to the west using other ways. Another Tiger II was seen retreating near Jindřichův Hradec (Neuhaus) and one was “lost” near Suchdol nad Lužnicí, where its crew, learning that the Red Army is already in Budějovice, decided to destroy the tank rather than let it fall into enemy hands – they wanted to drown it in a local lake, but the tank got stuck in mud (muddy meadow) on its way to the body of water and was abandoned. This tank was torn to pieces by explosives after the war and its remnants were melted down for scrap. Two more King Tigers (numbers 30/K and 774/V) were found abandoned in Nová Ves nad Lužnicí, these were moved from there by the army engineers aftger the war. Otherwise, the numbers and accounts about the Tigers Continue reading →

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