There are countless books on the Tiger tank, but this one takes an unusual approach to the subject. The majority of the text is based around contemporary German documents - mainly combat reports but also more general unit reports and the documents issued to the tank crews. These include some fascinating diagrams showing the vulnerable points on most Allied tanks (just about the entire vehicle in most cases) and a Soviet document that gave details on how to damage a Tiger (hit the tracks, aim for the fuel tanks or try and hit the gun or the vision slots).
There are a number of surprises to be found here, including the early use of the Tiger in mixed tank formations, with lighter tanks acting as 'destroyers' to the Tiger's 'cruiser'. The earliest reports include an impressive list of flaws including a cabin heating system that managed to both leak carbon monoxide and fail to provide enough head, bendy torsion bars for the suspension that allowed the outer road wheels to bend onto the inner wheels, and problems with the attachment points for towing (it was later discovered that the attachment points didn't match the equipment on existing towing vehicles), but many of these were a result of the vehicle's rushed development and were soon corrected.
A more serious problem that often emerges was a lack of numbers - there were rarely enough Tigers for them to have a really significant impact on the battlefield. The vehicle's size also caused problems - narrower tracks had to be fitted before it could travel by train and there are examples given of bridges breaking under a fast moving Tiger. The effort required to tow a Tiger out of swampy ground, river beds or other obstacles is also rather impressive - in one example four towing vehicles anchored by two tanks were needed to retrieve a single Tiger stuck in a riverbed,
Despite these flaws a picture emerges of a very impressive fighting machine that was very popular with its crews and that in the right circumstances could achieve great things on the battlefield. The Tiger was found to be manoeuvrable, fast enough, capable of crossing quite difficult country (although not soft ground), with reassuringly thick armour (some of the sources include examples of the distance various enemy anti-tank shells could penetrate and how much armour was left intact) and with a gun that could eliminate just about every enemy vehicle on every front.
This is a splendid addition to the already extensive literature on the Tiger and Tiger II, based on detailed evidence from contemporary sources. The format means that it isn't always the easiest of reads (the reports were designed to be informative rather than readable), but the result is a valuable source for the history of the Tiger.
1 - Development
2 - Organization
3 - Mobility
4 - Firepower
5 - Armour
6 - Combat
7 - Maintenance
8 - Under Fire
9 - Conclusion
Author: Thomas Anderson