Panzerwrecks 01: German Armour 1944-1945
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With its new tanks, s. This was to be the first combat for the unit since being reestablished as s. It did not start well. The attack started slowly, as a delay in the cooperation between the infantry and Panzer advances had not been adequately coordinated. Nonetheless, not long after leaving the departure point, 2nd Company s. Abt had penetrated the lead enemy line of defense, but the overall attack had petered out as the inexperienced infantry were not exploiting the breach made by the tanks and several vehicles became disabled.
Poor positioning of the vehicles with the tanks parked too tightly together also left them more vulnerable to artillery fire and 4 of the precious tanks were subsequently damaged along with 2 of the highly important Bergepanther recovery vehicles. Without those, the unit would not be able to recover broken down or crippled tanks as easily. By the end of March , the unit had achieved very little except for continually being stuck in the mud or immobilized by accurate Soviet fire and were down to just 13 operational tanks.
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The offensive had been an unmitigated failure of poor planning, inadequate coordination, and incompetent execution but, thankfully for s. Abt , the Soviets do not seem to have capitalized on this dysfunction and allowed the unit to withdraw back to Diedersdorf-Liezen for resupply. By the first week in April , s.
By the time of the Soviet offensive on 16th April, 29 tanks were fit for service, spread between Petershagen-Sieversdorf 1st and 3rd Companies , and Dolgekin 2nd Company. Poor tactical use once more hamstrung the effectiveness of the tanks and the slope of the ground created a large dead-spot for the Soviets, in which the guns of the Tiger II could not depress.
More problems followed on the 18th, when, after repelling a Soviet attack the day before, one Tiger II accidentally engaged the commander of 2nd Company. Despite being relieved of his command for this near-fratricidal incident, the commander of the vehicle had to be reinstated the following day as there were simply not enough officers. Heavy Soviet attacks on the 19th led to a withdrawal to Berkenbruck for 2nd Company, where it was engaged by Soviet forces 3 days later. Here, with tanks from 3rd Company the unit engaged in one of the few recorded instances of anti-infantry shelling, where they fired on Soviet infantry moving from Dolgelin to Heinersdorf about 3, m away from them.
Pushed back once more towards Wilmersdorf, the unit finally found some palatable success for itself with the destruction of about 15 Soviet tanks by 3rd Company as the whole unit moved back to Bad Saarow by 25th April and then onto the forestry building at Hammer by 27th April.
Several vehicles were lost during these weeks of withdrawal due to mechanical failure or lack of fuel and were blown up, leaving just 14 Tiger IIs across 1st and 2nd Companies. Two more instances of the low quality of training of some of the crews occurred.
A Tiger II tank crashed into a wheeled vehicle leading to an uncontrolled fire that lead to both vehicles being destroyed. More chaotic withdrawal followed which, along with combat, contributed to numerous serious mechanical failures on the tanks, causing the crews to blow them up. By 1st May , just 2 operational Tiger IIs remained, although every member of the crews was wounded in some way and the unit was devoid of any wheeled vehicles all non-combat-essential wheeled vehicles were ordered blown up on 25th April and all remaining wheeled vehicles defueled on 28th April.
One of these was knocked out by a Panzerfaust and the final vehicle ran out of fuel and was abandoned near the town of Elshotz. At that point, the unit effectively ceased to exist and remaining troops tried to cross the Elbe to surrender to US forces. Three Tiger IIs had actually been delivered on 30th January but were taken away from them shipped off to s.
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Abt since 31st January The next Tiger IIs for the unit came in the form of 7 vehicles which were actually taken directly from the Henschel factory at Kassel and took part in combat in that area. The unit was finally disbanded on 19th April When being equipped with Tiger IIs in November , s. Abt was renamed s. Abt and , which were renamed and , respectively. The first 4 Tiger IIs for the unit had been received a month earlier, in October , with further deliveries arriving from December through January In a hint of the sort of dysfunction which hindered s.
The first contact between this unit and the Soviets was also a disaster. Instead, the commander kept them on the train and at Stolzenberg they were ambushed by Soviet tanks and all captured without having managed to fire a shot in anger. The remaining elements of 1st Company met with more success with an attack in the area of Regentin on 31st January, although several tanks were badly damaged by Soviet anti-tank gunfire, with one vehicle counting no less than 22 separate hits on its armor.
By the start of February, 2nd Company s. Once more, though, the combat was dominated by tanks being crippled by accurate anti-tank gunfire breaking tracks and drive sprockets. Seven tanks were engaged in the defense of Arnswalde despite encirclement of the town by the Soviets. They were to face repeated Soviet attacks for over a week before a breakout and relief force rescued all of the tanks although only 4 were operational on 17th February.
One notable part of the defense of this town was that the Tiger IIs used there ran out of ammunition for their 8. Tiger II of s. Several Ts were knocked out followed by efforts to relieve the siege at Arnswalde.
Strength at this time was just 14 operational tanks with 25 undergoing repairs. On 3rd March, another disaster struck the unit when the train with some of their damaged tanks onboard derailed. The unit tried to get back onto trains at Gollnow, having lost 9 tanks due to the derailment and a subsequent enemy attack forcing tanks to be blown up. Once on the train, the vehicles were loaded with their combat tracks, rather than the narrower transport tracks and this caused a lot of damage to passing trains on their way to Pasewalk.
Two suffered serious mechanical breakdowns, another hit a tree and broke down, and the fourth was mistakenly filled with engine coolant instead of petrol, meaning it had to be evacuated for repair. By the end of February, the unit was operating in the region of Dirschau. There, on 28th February, a Tiger II of 1st Company was hit by a shell on the ventilator on the turret roof, which penetrated the turret and killed the men inside. The driver and radio operator in the hull survived. Defensive actions continued through March, as the unit progressively fought a fighting retreat with intermittent contact with the Soviets up to the 21st and 22nd March, with the unit now in the city of Danzig.
The maintenance facility for s. That seventh tank was reused by German forces for a short period before being dumped in the harbor, but the reason for using it was obvious. April was chaotic, as some of the unit remained in Danzig and the rest was moved around in the hope of assisting in the defense of Berlin with its dozen or so remaining vehicles. Maintenance for these was hampered not only by the constant movement but also the incessant combat.
Whatever was being done was far too little far too late and the fall of Berlin was inevitable. A breakout was attempted on 2nd May, but it was a total shambles. The Soviet forces covered the roads and the tanks were the subject of vigorous artillery and anti-tank fire. The last Tiger II of s.
These tanks were progressively lost through combat and breakdown and by 24th August the unit was at Maastricht-Mersen, having fought its way through Seclin, Tournay, Leuze, Waterloo, Lowen, and Tirelmont to get there. It was then ordered back to Paderborn for reconstitution. Tiger IIs of 3rd Company s. Reorganised in September at Paderborn-Sennelager, s.
Following this, the unit was involved in combat east of Szolnok and then in the area to the east of Budapest against the oncoming Soviet forces. Tiger II belonging to 2nd Company s.
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On 20th October, 2nd Company and one platoon of 3rd company of s. The attack was successful with 36 enemy anti-tank guns destroyed but all but 3 of the German tanks were damaged. The attacks were all successful and pushed back the advancing Soviets. More combat followed through the end of October consisting mainly of counter-attacks against the relentless Soviet advance culminating in the relief of the 24th Panzer Division By this time though the constant battling had reduced the strength of s.
Throughout November , the battalion was engaged in almost daily combat with Soviet forces including some poorly directed actions conducted without infantry support or at night, but it still fought stubbornly against the advancing Soviet armor.
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During this time the unit claims to have destroyed dozens of Soviet tanks although the advancing Soviets would be able to recover any knocked out tanks. The Germans, on the retreat, were forced to blow up their own tanks which became stuck or otherwise immobilized, and by December they were down to 40 tanks. December was much the same as November: a string of counter-attacks to temporarily blunt the Soviet advance, followed by a withdrawal to a new position.
Crippled tanks were blown up and the strength of the battalion progressively dwindled with total disaster on 7th December when the repair depot got cut off and they had to blow up 8 of their own tanks. Despite its best efforts, there was no stopping the Soviet advance and the constant combat and withdrawal had depleted the battalion. By 10th May, the remaining strength of around men gathered together, destroyed their vehicles including their last two Tiger IIs, and surrendered to US forces, who later handed them over to the Soviets as prisoners.
Their unit diary claims more than 1, enemy tanks and 2, guns destroyed by the end of the war, more than any other Tiger battalion. Lieutenant Von Rosen conducts a pass-in-review of tanks from 1st and 3rd companies of s. The film was made at Camp Senne near Paderborn in September Film available here. The variation in camouflage is obvious. This view of the parade from the other side shows the variety of paint schemes used by the Tiger IIs of s.
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There, in August , the unit was brought back to full strength, now equipped with the Tiger II. Its first six Tiger IIs were delivered on 26th July, although 2 were immediately poached by s.