Scale: 1 / 35
The kit's background
This 1994 release was Italeri's first Tiger tank model. The subject is a very early variant of the Tiger, which Italeri call "tropical" although neither its wartime owners nor modern historians use that designation.
The kit attempts to represent two Tigers from the 501st and 504th Heavy Tank Battalion respectively. However, this kit predates much of the research that eventually brought the details of these vehicles to light. The model contains some parts appropriate for a 501st Tiger and others for a 504th Tiger; they are not optional, and a correct Tiger cannot be built for either battalion. Other parts of the kit (including the tracks) are appropriate only for later models of Tiger.
The 501st heavy tank battalion was the second unit to be equipped with Tiger tanks. Its Tigers had prototype external fittings, giving them a unique appearance. The battalion was sent to General von Arnim's 5th Panzer Army in Tunisia, starting its deployment there in November 1942.
At that time, American and British forces had landed to the west of the Axis zone while Rommel's Afrika Korps was fighting to the east. The 5th Panzer Army was urgently shipped to Tunisia to defend against this new threat. The 501st was given all new Tigers as a priority until they had 20, organised into 2 companies. At that time, Tiger battalions mixed Tigers with equal numbers of the smaller, more agile Pz.3.
The 501st fought in several battles between December 1942 and March 1943. Its Tigers were the first ones ever encountered by British or American forces, at the battle of Tebourba. Of particular note is the battle of Sidi bou Zid where heavy losses were inflicted on American armour. However, General von Arnim refused to lend the Tigers to Rommel for his subsequent assault through the Kasserine Pass.
At the end of February 1943, the 501st was attached to the 7th Panzer Regiment and sent on von Arnim's ill-planned mission to capture Beja. The mission ended with seven Tigers lost in the battle of Hunt's Gap. The eleven remaining Tigers were attached to the newly arrived 504th Heavy Tank Battalion and continued fighting until the surrender of Tunisia.
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