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HEER & S.S. s.PANZER ABTEILUNG

by Mike Reese


Heavy Tank Battalion 1942-1943 and Heavy Tank Companies 1942-1943

February 1942

HEAVY TANK BATTALIONS

  • Bn HQ: 1 Pz IIIH-M
  • Recon Platoon: 1 Pz IIIH-M
  • 2 Panzer Companies each with:
    • 2 Tiger I, 2 Pz IIIH-M

note: Actual strength had 11 Tigers (2 BN HQ, 1 Company HQ, 2 Plt 4 each in Company) and 1 Pz III in BN HQ with 2 Pz III in each Company HQ for a total of 5 Pz III in HQ. Above organization gives you the 5 HQ Pz III in BN HQ, and 10 Tigers vs. 11 in the actual BN to give the closest Spearhead OB to the actual one. Units only had two companies due to a shortage of Tigers.

Battalion Assets:

  • Recon: 1 Recon Infantry Platoon in 251/1 or 250/1
  • 1 AA Platoon: 1 SP 20mm Quad or 37mm Vehicle
  • Engineer Platoon: 1 Engineer Stand (rifle/flamethrower) in 251/1 or 251/7
  • Recovery Platoon: 2 18 ton Sdkfz 9 halftracks

Other assets such as supply and the Workshop units are left out of this article. Actual strength [on paper] is 10 APC (assumed split between the engineers and recon, AA Platoon of 6 Sdz 7/1, Recovery Platoon of 8 ZgKw 18t halftracks)

HEAVY TANK COMPANIES

  • These had: 2 Tiger I and 2 Pz IIIH-M

4 of these were formed, units are given below.

UNITS FORMED:

Heavy Tank Battalions:

  • 501 10 May 42 (sent to Africa - 4 Tiger I, 2 Pz IIIJ & 2 Pz IIIN)
  • 502 25 May 42
  • 503 05 May 42
  • 504 18 Jan 43 (sent to Africa - 2 Tiger I & 3 Pz IIIL)
  • 505 18 Feb 43

Heavy Tank Companies:

  • 13th Company Grossdeutschland (GD) - Jan 43
  • 9th Company 1st SS Panzer Regiment(LAH)
  • 9th Company 2nd SS Panzer Regiment (Das Reich)
  • 9th Company 3rd SS Panzer regiment (Totenkopf)

Heavy Tank Battalions 1943-44

5 May 1943

  • BTN HQ: 1 Tiger I (note: this actually makes the BN 5 tanks (1 model) over strength.)
  • 3 Panzer Companies, each with:
    • 3 Tiger I

(Actual organization had 3 Tiger I in HQ (2 Command Tigers), and 3 Companies each 2 Tiger I Command tanks in Coy HQ, and three platoons each 4 Tiger I tanks. The older Tiger Battalions were either reorganized with this TO&E or equipped that way when reformed. Actual Tigers number 45 at full strength, which is exactly 9 models in Spearhead, but since the BN HQ tank can't be used as a combat vehicle this offsets the fact the Spearhead battalion depicted above actually shows 50 Tigers, with 10 models instead of with 9 models.)

Battalion Assets:

  • Recon: 1 Recon Infantry Platoon in 251/1 or 250/1
  • 1 AA Platoon: 1 SP 20mm Quad or 37mm Vehicle
  • Engineer Platoon: 1 Engineer Stand (rifle/flamethrower) in 251/1 or 251/7
  • Recovery Platoon: 2 18 ton Sdkfz 9 halftracks

Units formed were:

Tiger Battalions 501, 502, 503, 504 and 505 upgraded to this TO&E when reformed (for example, Tiger Battalion 504 is reformed in France by 1944 with 45 Tiger I)

GD 13th Tiger Company has 2 Companies added to it and becomes III Battalion Panzer Regiment Grossdeutschland.

Heavy Tiger Battalions formed using this organization:

  • 506 - 8 May 43
  • 509 - 9 Sep 43
  • 501 - 9 Sep 43 rebuilt
  • 507 - 23 Sep 43
  • 508 - 23 Sep 43
  • 504 - 18 Nov 43
  • 101 SS - Jul 43 (1st SS Pz Korps)
  • 102 SS - Jul 43 (2nd SS Pz Korps)

Heavy Tank Battalion 1944-45

1st November 1943.

New and reformed/rebuilt Heavy Tank battalions changed to have the 3rd Tiger I in the Battalion HQ made a Command tank rather than a standard combat tank (added radios. Less main gun ammo).

June 1944

Heavy Tank Battalion organization changed to allow for either Tiger I or Tiger II to be used as the Tiger tank.

  • Battalion HQ: 1 Tiger
  • 3 Panzer Companies, each with:
    • 3 Tiger

Battalion Assets:

  • Recon: 1 Recon Infantry Platoon in 251/1 or 250/1
  • 1 AA Platoon: 1 SP 20mm Quad or 37mm Vehicle
  • Engineer Platoon: 1 Engineer Stand (rifle/flamethrower) in 251/1 or 251/7
  • Recovery Platoon: 2 18 ton Sdkfz 9 halftracks (in some cases 1 18 ton Sdz 9 halftrack replaced with a Bergepanther recovery tank)

In January, 1945 the battalion was decreased in personnel strength, and the battalion assets were changed.

1945 Battalion Assets:

  • Recon: 1 Recon Infantry Platoon in 251/1 or 250/1 (11 vehicles actual strength instead of 10 split between recon and engineers.)
  • 2 AA Platoons, each: 1 1 Flakpanzer IV Westwind (Quad 20mm) or Eastwind (37mm) (8 actual vehicles).
  • Engineer Platoon: 1 Engineer Stand (rifle/flamethrower) in 251/7
  • Recovery Platoon: 1 Bergepanther, 2 18 ton Sdz 9 (actual 5 Bergepanthers and 7 18 ton halftracks)

NOTE: all the Tiger units did not have (especially in 1943 and 45) their full battalion assets. Notably, they appeared to be short recon units and recovery assets. Part of the problems were lack of vehicles when formed (especially Bergepanthers and halftracks), splitting of the battalion into separate companies and dispersing it preventing adequate use to be made of the recovery assets present, and losses en route to the front (N. Africa and Russia).

Tiger II's.

The following units were equipped with Tiger II tanks.

Heavy Tank Battalions with Tiger II tanks

  • 501st BTN - Jun 44
  • 503rd BTN - Aug 44, 3rd Company only
  • 101st SS - Aug 44, 1st Company only
  • 503rd BTN - Sep 44
  • 505th BTN - Sep 44
  • 506th BTN - Sep 44
  • 101st SS - Dec 44 as the 501st SS Heavy Tank Battalion

Heavy Tank Battalions renamed were:

  • 101st SS to 501st SS
  • 102nd SS to 502nd SS
  • 103rd SS to 503rd SS

then

  • 501st SS to 424th - Nov 44
  • 502nd SS to 511th - Jan 45
  • 503rd SS to FHH - Dec 44

Tiger Radio Control Units.

These Tiger units, along with the StuG III units, were equipped with radio controls in the Tigers to operate the BIV Sprengstofftrager Sd. Kfz 301 radio controlled demolition vehicle.

Radio Control Tiger Units (use of and listing of Radio Controlled Demolition Units (Fkl) is given in detail in a separate article titled "The B IV Schwerer Ladungstrager (Sd Kfz 301) Ausf A & B").

  • Kompany 313 (Fkl). 3 Tiger I, 8 B1V (1 Tiger and 2 B1V per platoon, with 2 B1V in reserve). 313 (Fkl) Kompany was 3rd Kompany of Heavy Tank Battalion 508.
  • Kompany 314 (Fkl). 3 Tiger I, 8 B1V (1 Tiger and 2 B1V per platoon, with 2 B1V in reserve). 314 (Fkl) Kompany was 3rd Kompany of Heavy Tank Battalion 504 (1943/44 rebuild).
  • Kompany 316 (Fkl) - 1 Tiger I, 1 Tiger II, 3 BIV (note: Tiger II were never in combat because they were the first five production vehicles with Porsche turrets and were not combat ready - transmission problems among other things - and were blown up.)
  • Heavy Tank Battalion 301 (Fkl) was organized in May 44 - Oct 44 and sent to the Western Front. It had 31 Tigers organized for Spearhead as having: 1 Tiger I in BN HQ, 3 Tank companies each: 2 Tiger I tanks, and 4 BIV demolition vehicles, plus a reserve for a total of 11 BIV. The Battalion assets consisted of 1 251/7 Engineer halftrack with engineer stand, 1 Sdkfz 7/1 Quad 20mm Flak, and 1 18 ton Sdkfz 9 recovery platoon. Note that the actual number of 251/7 and Sdz 7/1 was 3 each, and the 18 ton halftracks were 4 each.

FINAL WORD.
Two notes on the Tiger battalions. First of all, vehicle availability was about the same or better then the Mark IV, and better then the Panther. This was a bit above 50%. From my reading, a battalion would start at 45 Tiger I or II tanks and within a week, each company would be operating 3-4 Tigers, (1 model) so the battalion would go from 10 Tiger models (9 combat vehicles + BC) to 2-3 Tiger models (10-15 combat vehicles including the BC). The main reasons were the tanks needed one day of maintenance for every three days of operations, and didn't get it, plus they were heavily damaged in combat - mines mostly plus accumulated non-penetrating hits - but rarely knocked out. Most of the vehicles weren't lost, just in the repair shops. Losses often occurred because the front line moved back and the Tigers couldn't be withdrawn from the shops. Until that time, they would manage to fix enough to keep the numbers constant. If combat stopped the numbers went up fairly rapidly.

Second. German operational doctrine was, "Do not split up a Tiger battalion - use it's three companies together as a decisive force in an antitank role." Actual operations apparently varied from this quite a bit, with most units the Tigers were attached to, especially the infantry units, both splitting up the Tiger Companies (and remember, after a week, they are splitting up units of 4-5 tanks) into separate units, and then splitting the companies again. Sometimes 1-2 Tigers would be assigned to cover a sector for an Infantry Regiment. This also prevented the Battalion workshop/maintenance section from working on the Tigers, and made recovery very difficult. So much for superior German tactical doctrine. Of course, part of the problem was by 1944 the Infantry divisions just didn't have any fighting power left.


German Heavy Tank Battalions 1942-45 - an Update

Original table from http://www.mcs.drexel.edu/~ujkimmel/tigers.html

These tables are suitable for use with the Spearhead rules.

Reference:
Germany's Tiger Tanks - Tiger I & II Combat Tactics - by Thomas L. Jentz
Tigers in Combat I - by Wolfgang Schneider

Recommended reading;
books by Thomas L. Jentz.
- Panzertruppen 1933-1942
- Panzertruppen 1943-1945
- Germany's Panther Tank - The Quest for Combat Supremacy
(all are available from Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 77 Lower Valley Road, Atglen, PA 19310.)


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