Scale: 1 / 35
The kit's background
"Tiger 1 Initial Production" was the first kit from a new manufacturer, Rye Field Model. It represents a tank of the 501st Heavy Tank Battalion in Tunisia in 1942-43. It competes with "Tiger 1 Tunisian Initial" from Dragon, Tamiya's rather inaccurate "Tiger I Ausführung Afrika", and a very inaccurate kit "Tiger Ausf. E (tp)" from Italeri. There were also some limited-run kits.
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.
Some errors from other manufacturers' kits are repeated in the Rye Field Model kit (undersize turret bin, oversize cables). Some errors are new. But overall, it's a good representation of its subject. It has multi-part individual-link tracks, metal cables and photo-etch engine screens. The entire suspension is workable. Decals for many Tigers of the 501st are provided, but the external equipment in the kit is correct for only a few of them.
It has been reported that Rye Field will release a "Tiger I Interior Kit" as an accessory for this model. But their interior was based on a later-model Tiger (at Bovington) which is not accurate for this "initial" version. In particular, the inner turret walls of this kit have a framework of molded-on strips, but the real "initial" Tigers did not have such a framework. It would be difficult to scrape it off the kit's turret walls. Also, the "Initial" Tigers had most of their internal turret equipment moved, when compared to "early" Tigers. It's not clear whether Rye Field will support the "Initial" layout.
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