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The World War II German Heavy (Tiger) Tank Battalions

The Tiger Tank was the most powerful armoured fighting vehicle when it was first introduced in 1942. Its 100mm thick frontal armour was impenetrable to all known anti-tank weapons of the time. It can knock out any enemy tank with its powerful L/56 88mm main gun before it could get within range. However, Tiger tanks were very expensive and difficult to produce and they were deployed to maximum effect within Heavy Tank Battalions or Schwere Panzer-Abteilung (SPz-Abt) by the German High Command to where they were needed most. These battalions were supplemented with Panzer III tanks until there was sufficient Tigers to bring them to full strength. This page summarises the service history of these independent Heavy Tank Battalions and their adopted emblems where known.

Initially it was intended that every panzer regiment will have its own company of about a dozen Tigers. The Army High Command later decided that the Tigers were better deployed in independent Heavy Tank Battalions of some 45 Tigers each, to be deployed en masse for decisive shock action. These Heavy Tank Battalions would be assigned to Panzer Corps for specific operations. However, the Waffen-SS Leibstandarte, Das Reich and Totenkopf Divisions, as well as the Army's elite Gross Deutschland, have already formed their own Tiger companies before this decision.

See other sections on Army Panzer Divisions and SS Panzer Divisions. Recreate your own Heavy Tiger Tank Battalions with our Tiger and Panzer III Tanks and Decal Sheet

Placement of emblem on a Tiger Tank
Service History Summary
sPz-Abt 501
Formed in the summer of 1942, It was shipped to Tunisia in December 1942. Saw action at Tebourba, Hamra and most notably Kasserine in February 1943. Surrendered with rest of Axis forces in May 1943 after fierce fighting in the Medjerda Valley. Battalion reformed around the companies that has remained in Europe in occupied France. Full battalion then sent to Eastern Front in November 1943 and fought in Vitebsk and Gorodok. It was decimated in the Soviet offensive that destroyed Army Group Centre in July 1944. After being reformed and refitted with King Tigers, it was sent to the Eastern Front again as the redesignated 424 Battalion. Fought in retreat to Germany through Poland and saw action in the Ardennes and Hungary. Battalion finally disbanded in February 1945.
sPz-Abt 502
This was the first heavy tank battalion to be formed during the Summer 1942. It was also the first unit to see action on the Eastern Front at Leningrad in August 1942. It was an inaudacious start. Many broke down or got bogged down in marshy terrain. Several were captured by the Soviets infantry due to lack of support from their own infantry. During the great Soviet counter-offensive of 1944, it withdrew into Kurland and fought defensively around Memel and Konigsberg. Saw action in Normandy from July 1944 onwards. Reformed in early 1945 as sPz-Abt 511 and refitted with King Tigers. Surrendered to Soviets on May 1945. By that time, this battalion has recorded some 2,000 Soviet armoured vehicles destroyed.
sPz-Abt 503
Formed in Spring 1942. First saw action on Eastern Front in January 1943. Spearheaded the German winter counteroffensive. Took part in the great tank battles at Kursk in July 1943 and the retreat to the Dneiper as part of III Panzer Corp. In January 1944, it was grouped with a Panther battalion to form Heavy Panzer Regiment Bake. Fought in battles around Cherkassy where it destroyed 267 Soviet armoured vehicles in one action over 5 days.
Withdrew to the West in April 1944 and refitted with King Tigers. Fought in Normandy after D-day where it suffered heavy losses to enemy fighter-bombers and naval gunfire. Fully refitted in September 1944 and despatched again to Hungary on the Eastern Front. Renamed as sPz-Abt 'Feldherrnhalle' and attached to the Panzer Grenadier Division of that name. The entire division was trapped in Budapest in January 1945 by the Soviet winter offensive and was detroyed in the final battles on the Eastern Front. This was perhaps the most effective Tiger battalion of the war.
Click here for formation of Heavy Tank Battalion 503 at September 1944.

Formation of Heavy Tank Battalion 503 at September 1944
sPz-Abt 504
Formed in January 1943, most of this unit was sent to Tunisia where it was nearly destroyed. Saw action around Maknassy and Medjerda. The rest of the battalion was sent to Sicily but withdrew to the Italian mainland after resisting the Allied Sicily landings. Returned to Holland to refit but sent back to Italy to resist the Allied beachhead at Anzio as part of the Hermann Goering Panzergrenadier Division. Fought in the defence of the Gothic Line. Surrendered in May 1945.
sPz-Abt 505
Formed in January 1943, attached to the 9th Army, Army Group Centre and first saw action in the battle of Kursk in July of that year around Smolensk. Formed the spearhead of the northern front of the Kursk Salient. It remain in this sector until the following summer when it was almost destroyed during the Soviet summer offensive. Refitted with King Tiger Late Summer 1944, it fought in defensive battles in East Prussia supporting the 24 and 25 Panzer Divisions - heavily involved in the defence of the Narev Brideghead. Remained in East Prussia until the end of the war in 1945. Most recognisable of the heavy Tank Battalions with its distinct emblem.
sPz-Abt 506
Formed in July 1943, first fought in the defensive battles along the Dneiper River as part of Army Group South. Saw action at Lemburg, Tarna and Krivoi-Rog in the Ukraine until the summer of 1944. Withdrawn from the front to Germany in August 1944 and refitted with King Tigers. Sent to help defeat the Allied airborne landings at Arnhem in September 1944. In November, this battalion received a 4th company - 3 plus one HQ company is more usual. Assigned to I SS Panzer Corp. Saw action in the Ardennes winter offensive, Hungary and defence of the Ruhr. Encircled and forced to surrender to US forces in April 1945.

sPz-Abt 507
Formed in September 1943, first fought on the Eastern Front in the defence of Tarnpol, Vitebsk and the Narev River front during January 1944. Served there until February 1945. Refitted with King Tigers while still in the line, it fought in the defence of Czechoslovakia in the closing months of the war where it lost all its Tigers in action.
sPz-Abt 508
Formed in August 1943 and sent to Italy in January 1944. Spearheaded the German offebsive against the Allied bridgehead at Anzio and fought at Nettuno where it suffered heavy casualties and during retreat through Italy. Re-equipped with King Tigers early 1945, it was sent to fight on the Western Front. It was disbanded in February 1945 after all its tanks were either destroyed or disabled and the personnel reallocated to other units.
sPz-Abt 509
Formed in September 1943, first fought on the Eastern Front where it saw heavy action at Kirovograd, Zhitomir and Kiev. Briefly attached to the 2 SS Panzer Division 'Das reich' in late 1943 and fought at Kaminets-podosk. In 1944, it was committed heavily to defensive action after the great Soviet counter-offensive in the Southern sector. In late 1944, it returned to Germany where it was refitted with King Tigers. In January 1945, it was sent to Hungary as part of IV SS Panzer Korps. Eventually surrendered to US forces in Austria after losing all its tanks in action.
Not Known
sPz-Abt 510
Formed in June 1944. One of the last Tiger I battalions. It was rushed to the Eastern Front in the northern sector to try to halt the Soviet summer offensive in the central sector. In East Prussia, the battalion was divided into two parts. One part supported 30 Infantry Division. The other part supported 14 Panzer Division and saw heavy action in the Kurland Peninsula in early 1945. In March, two companies were withdrawn to Kassel in Germany. 13 Tigers remained with 14 Panzer Division. The last tiger were lost on 8th May and the battalion surrendered along with the other survivors after the fierce Kurland battles. This is the only tiger battalion never to have been equipped with King Tigers, all of its tanks being late model Tiger 1s.
sPz-Abt 512
Battalion created for Jagdtiger Tank Destroyers.
Not Known
sPz-Abt 301
Formed in the summer of 1944, this unit was equipped with Tiger 1s and the BIV remote-controlled demolition robot vehicles. Sent to the Western Front in November 1944, it saw action during the Ardennes Offensive, where it was all but destroyed.
Not Known
Formed as a scratch unit in February 1945 to defend Berlin, It went into action with the Munchenberg Panzer Division the following April and was destroyed as Soviet troops swept into Berlin.
Not Known
Heavy Tank Companies
The Leibstandarte, Totenkopf and Das reich Divisions were all provided with Tiger 1 companies in late 1942. They saw action on the Eastren Front during the following year.
Not Known
101 SS
Heavy Tank Battalion
Formed from the Leibstandarte'ds Tiger company in the autumn of 1943 as the heavy battalion assigned to the newly formed I SS Panzer Corp. It was sent to fight in Normany in June 1944. Michael Wittmann eventually commended the unit until he was killed in action near Caen. It was later re-equipped with King Tigers and saw action in the Ardennes and Humgary. Front during the following year. (later redesignated 501)
Click here for formation of Heavy Tank Battalion 101 at August 1944.
102 SS
Heavy Tank Battalion
Formed to support II SS Panzer Corp. It was sent to fight in Normany from June 1944 onwards. It was re-equipped with King Tigers towards the end of 1944. (Later redesignated 502)
103 SS
Heavy Tank Battalion
Formed in 1943 with Tiger 1s, it never saw action and was later re-equipped with King Tigers and sent to fight on the Eastern Front.
Not Known
653 & 654
Panzerjager Battalions
Formed to use the 90 Elefant and later Ferdinand heavy self-propelled guns in early 1943, they first saw action on the northern wing of the Kursk offensive. They suffered heavy losses due to the lack of a hull machine gun for close defense against Soviet infantry attacks. The remaining Elefants were withdrawn to Italy and fought at Anzio. The 653 was later re-equipped with the Jagdtiger for the Ardennes offensive. Two other Jagdtiger battalions were formed in early 1945. They fought in the West until the end of the war.
Not Known

We supply 1/144 scale decal sets to help you recreate an entire Heavy Tiger Tank Battalion in miniature.
Click here for detail.

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See also: WW II German Tanks WW II German Tanks WW II Allies Tanks WW II German Tanks Heavy Tank Battalions Dragon 1/144 Can.Do Tanks SS Panzer Divisions SS Panzer Divisions Army Panzer Divisions WW II German Tanks German Tank Useful Information WW II German Tanks

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