This is the last Tiger tank to be found in Normandy. Left behind by the retreating German Army this Panzer was found in Vimoutiers. It probably ran out of petrol so the crew was forced to leave it behind after an attempt to put it out of action. To achieve this, they placed explosives on the engine deck and next to the gun tower. In the Vimoutiers area a lot of Tigers and Panthers were left behind.
According to specialists this particular tank formed part of the 503rd SS Panzer Abteilung and it ran out of patrol on the 19th of August 1944 after the escape from the Falaise pocket. It is a late ‘E’ type tank with up to 40mm thick armour and, in those days, it was also equipped with the 'nahverteitigungswaffen', a machine gun that could rotate 360 degrees and was used for short distance firing. The machine gun was to prevent infantry from destroying the tank from short distance using anti-tank guns like the Bazooka.
The colour scheme in which the tank is painted was subject for many discussions over the years. Is it, or isn’t it, the famous ‘grun-dunkelgelb-rot’ (green, dark yellow and red). Whatever it may be, you probably would have never realised how huge a Tiger 1 tank was until you actually see one. It is no problem to climb or photograph this particular tank.
Years ago, the tank was already standing next to the road for ages, the plan was raised to sell the tank to the scrapheap. When some steel plates had already been cut off the local authorities finally intervened and the Tiger was bought by the village of Vimoutiers for 6,000 Francs. The dismantling of the tank was stopped and the cut off plates were again attached to the tank. Nowadays the Tiger stands on a platform near a special parking place near Vimoutiers.
At the parking place one can find information panels that give an account of this tanks life. The area is free approachable. It is really worth your time when you never saw a real Tiger 1 before.
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- Text: Don van den Bogert
- Photos: Jeroen Koppes (1) & Randy Brandt (2)