Aspects of the event
The capture of Tiger 131 was wrongly reported for many years because it was confused with another Tiger. To confuse matters further, a pop-culture book presented a fantastical and almost completely falsified description of the capture.
Tiger 131 was captured on 24th April 1943 on a hill called Gueriat el Atach in Tunisia. It attempted to duel with British Churchill tanks but did not hit any of them. Major Douglas Lidderdale was not at the scene.
The hill, known to the British as "Point 174", is visible in this modern photo. We are looking southwest from Montarnaud, on the "German" side. The spot where Tiger 131 was abandoned, is marked on the photo.
The hill was held by German forces at the outset of this event. The 1st British Infantry Division attacked these hills on the 23rd April and again on the 24th. The 2nd Battalion Sherwood Foresters took the hill on the 24th after intense back-and-forth fighting against German infantry and Panzers, with the summit changing hands more than once. Two German medium tanks, a Pz.4 and a Pz.3, were reportedly immobilised and left on or near the hill.
The British infantry were supported by Churchill tanks firing from Point 151, eight hundred meters behind them. The support comprised "B" squadron 48 RTR and a squadron from 142 RAC. On the east side of the hill the Germans had about six Tigers. At one point in that day, Tiger 131 climbed the hill, risking attack by British infantry concealed there. Its intent is not recorded but it very probably wanted to engage the Churchills. They spotted its antenna and opened fire as soon as the tank began to appear. Tiger 131 retreated but tried again at another spot, and once again the Churchills fired on it. Further details are in the Tank Museum's article about Tiger 131.
The Tiger was hull-down (partially concealed by the hill) and facing its opponents, an optimal situation and one used often in Tunisia. It might have survived the hits and destroyed the Churchills, but the British were known for accurate fire and they hit the Tiger where it was vulnerable. Its crew had left the loader's hatch propped open, due to the heat of the day. A shot smashed the door, sending fragments down through the open hatch. Another good shot ricocheted off the bottom of the Tiger's gun sleeve and down into the hull roof, tearing open its central weld and smashing the tank's radio. The turret became jammed by steel fragments in its joint. The Tiger's crew bailed out, not waiting to destroy their tank as they were supposed to. The RTR diary states that the British infantry fired on them, but at least some of them are said to have survived the war, regarded by their comrades as an embarrassment.
Newsreel film and photographs were made on Point 174 two days later, and they show Tiger 131 sitting where its crew left it, while British troops watch the terrain from trenches. This modern photo shows that place; it's the high point of the road that crosses Point 174. We are looking east into German-held territory. Montarnaud is visible at the right.
The British were actively studying German tank design, and had gathered much information from an exploded Tiger near Robaa. Their Department of Tank Design had requested the Army to collect any intact Tigers or even just gearboxes. Therefore Tiger 131 was not left on the hillside. At some point it was moved a short distance down the hill; photographs of its new location were taken on the 6th of May. The next day, under the supervision of Major Douglas Lidderdale, a tractor towed Tiger 131 to a vehicle park south of Medjez el Bab.
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