Aspects of the event
The book "Tigers in Combat 1" states that two Tigers were lost on 20 January 1943 in operation "Eilbote 1", but it is clear from many other sources that this really occurred on the 31st in operation "Eilbote 2". For example, this from the London Gazette of 6 November 1946:
"At the end of January the enemy attack on Robaa was renewed, "Tigers" again being used, this time against 36 Infantry Brigade. The 5 Buffs stood their ground, five tanks (including two "Tigers") being destroyed, and the enemy withdrew with heavy loss."
So, this is what happened : on 31 January 1943, Kampfgruppe Weber sent a battle group along Route P4 towards Robaa to establish a position on its west side. The group included 6 Tigers of 2/s.Pz.Abt.501 under Oberleutnant Löse. As the company commander, he would in theory have used Tiger 21, but we have no information to confirm that.
French forces were known to be holding this sector, and had been battled during "Eilbote 1", but the Germans were not aware that British gunners were now supporting them. Three kilometers before reaching the village, in an area of low hills, the 36 Infantry Brigade and 72nd Anti-Tank Regiment RA were emplaced on a slope. At 07:00 two Tigers and four Pz.3 revealed themselves and traded fire with the gun positions while advancing, but were stopped by a minefield. While engineers tried to clear the mines, the leading Tiger was badly damaged and two other Panzers were destroyed.
Artillery support was supposed to be provided by Italian forces, but wasn't. Air support was hours away. The terrain prevented the Panzers from leaving the road. Nevertheless, the second Tiger (231) and two Pz.3 raced forward. The British waited until the flank of these Panzers was exposed, then opened fire with 6-pounder guns and knocked out all three of them from ranges of over 500m. Tiger 231 caught fire, burning for over 3 hours.
The German attack was halted. An air attack at noon failed to dislodge the guns. The Germans fired on Tiger 231 and managed to tow away the damaged Tiger from behind it. The next day, a German detachment (including a Tiger) was sent to prevent access to Tiger 231, watching it from behind their own lines. The British therefore could not move it, but their experts managed to conduct destructive tests that left it as a pile of wreckage.
The defeat of a Tiger by ordinary field guns, for the first time on the Western front, was a boost to Allied morale in Tunisia.
This account of the battle requires registration for access; "Lt-Col Stanley Edwards MC -Tiger killer".
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