This Tiger served in Tunisia, was captured by the Allies, was long displayed at Aberdeen Proving Ground, and is currently at Fort Benning undergoing restoration. Details of its service history were unknown until recently, when comprehensive studies of its unit brought some facts to light.
It belonged to s.Pz.Abt. 501, the first Tiger battalion in Africa, a part of Panzerarmee 5 (not the Afrikakorps). Its original tactical number was "21", i.e. it was the company command tank for the 2nd company. This battalion had two companies in Tunisia. Tiger "21" must have arrived there in early January 1943. The 2nd company was the reserve and saw little action, so it missed some famous battles (including Sidi bou Zid).
In February 1943 the battalion was incorporated into Panzer Regiment 7. Tiger "21" was renumbered as "81". It then participated in the disatrous Operation Ochsenkopf. This Tiger did not fight at Sidi N'Sir but it was presumably active at Kzar Mezouar, where four Tigers were lost from the 2nd company alone.
The battalion's survivors then reorganised into a single company. Tiger "81" was demoted and renumbered as "712". The company was attached to the newly arriving s.Pz.Abt.504 and immediately went south to defend a weak position near Maknassy. The U.S. 9th Armoured Division tried to break through it, and Tiger "712" was among the handful of tanks that stopped them. We have no reports to confirm that it was operational and actually fought there, but we can see that it had no battle damage immediately before this action, and had a badly damaged (and repaired) turret at a later date.
The next record of "712" is Allied photographs showing it in a German repair yard in an olive grove. Every tank there seems to be comprehensively demolished, including two other Tigers, but "712" is in good shape. The German army was under strict orders to abandon no Tigers intact, so this calls for an explanation.
The most likely scenario is that "712" is the Tiger captured at Djebel Jaffa on 21 April by British forces. It could have been moved to the workshop by the Allies for repair. The other Tigers there would provide parts. That would explain why it was not demolished with the rest of them.
Tiger "712" was an "initial" Tiger, i.e. it had no turret side hatch, and it was fitted with the newly designed wide folding mudflaps. It was customised like other Tigers of the 2nd company : spare tracks were added to the upper and lower front, including some Pz.3 links; and tool holders were added to the right hull side.
"712" was tested by the American military at Aberdeen Proving Ground. Some of its external equipment was discarded for these tests, including the turret bin. Some small chunks of its armour were cut out to reveal the weld structure. The tank was then put on outdoor display. Large portions of its left side armour were removed to reveal the insides. During the many years of its exposure to the elements, some external features either rusted away or were stolen. The tank eventually spent some time in Germany and then in the UK, and on its return to the USA some more parts had disappeared. The current restoration project is intended to make it a static display, not capable of moving. The intent is to repaint it in its correct "712" scheme.
|Hub of the sprocket wheels||Central dome is small|
|Alignment of bolts on the sprockets||Bolts aligned with arms|
|Tow cable direction||32mm cable with the ends to the front|
|Tool holders on glacis plate||Custom tools in a nonstandard layout|
|Toolbox at rear left||Supported perpendicular to the wall|
|Mudguard type||Wide, folding mudguards|
|Thick area on mantlet||Flat with 2 small holes|
|Headlight arrangement||Two headlights on the hull roof|
|Turret bin type||Wide 1.4m bin with 2 latches|