The Tiger II, a Giant of World War II

by | 25 Jun 2024 | Vehicles

On the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the Normandy landings, the Normandy Victory Museum showcased a legendary tank, the only operational Tiger II in the world, thanks to the restoration efforts of the Saumur Armoured Museum. This highlight attracted history enthusiasts and military vehicle fans, as well as a broad audience eager to discover this iconic World War II tank. During this event, the armoured museum unveiled a new camouflage to the visitors, faithful to that used in the battles of Normandy

Tiger II on display at the Normandy Victory Museum
Weighing in at almost 70 tonnes, the Tiger II, also known as the Royal Tiger, was the heaviest armoured vehicle ever mass-produced by the German army, which built 489 of them during the Second World War. Intended to replace the Tiger I, its design was launched in May 1941 and the first units were delivered in early 1944. Its impressive mass was due to thick sloping armour, particularly at the front, with 18.5cm on the turret and 15cm on the body.

A powerful tank with limited mobility

The Tiger II was a heavy tank designed to break through a well-defended front and dominate the battlefield. Its firepower set it apart from other armoured vehicles of the time. It is powered by a 700bhp HL 230 P30 V12 petrol engine designed by Maybach, the same engine that powered the Panther and Tiger I tanks. However, while this engine was sufficient for the Panther and Tiger I models, it was not for the Tiger II, whose heavy weight would affect both its mobility and, above all, its reliability.

Its range, too often misinterpreted, turns out to be reasonable for a 70-tonne tank. It consumes 505 litres per 100 km on the road. Its 860-litre fuel tank gives it 170km on the road and 110 to 120km off-road, or 60 to 80 litres per hour, whereas a modest 32-tonne Sherman M4 can gobble up 120 litres per hour and consume 450 litres per 100km.

On the other hand, it was clear that the HL230P30 engine was not powerful enough, and despite its high torque of 1850n/m, the 70 tonnes were too much to bear, especially on heavy terrain. The Germans gave it the nickname “Die Schnecke” (The Slug), as the Tiger II could hardly travel at more than 15km/h over heavy terrain.

Offensive and protected, the Tiger II is a formidable armoured vehicle

The Tiger II is armed with a formidable gun, the 8.8 cm KwK 43 L/71, 6.30 m long and capable of hitting its target from several kilometres away. This cannon strikes terror into Allied troops because it is capable of piercing any armoured vehicle less than 4500m away.

Operation Goodwood

Myths and reality

An easy-to-drive armoured vehicle

Surprisingly, despite weighing 70 tonnes, the Tiger II is disconcertingly easy to fly. Unlike the American Sherman, it is driven by a Henschel L 801 hydraulic-assisted steering wheel with double differential, which enables the Tiger II to turn 360° more quickly and to have two types of radius of curvature (one large and one small), as on the Tiger I.

Its pre-selector gearbox, produced by Maybach Olvar, is an EG 40 12 16 B type with 12 gears (8 forward and 4 reverse), allowing the driver to move up and down the gears without clutching. This modern technology makes it easy to drive for a driver trained in its use.

The truth about turrets

Many myths live on in the world of tanks, and the Tiger II is no exception. Indeed, it’s common to hear it referred to as a “Porsche” or “Henschel” turret. As it happens, these designations are incorrect. In fact, the Henschel and Porsche companies were competing for the armoured vehicle chassis during the design phase. However, both turrets were designed by Krupp.

The confusion may have arisen from the fact that the first 50 turrets were to be fitted to Porsche’s tank, which had got a little carried away with its chances of victory. But it was Henschel who won the contract, and this first type of turret was fitted to its chassis. A second type of turret, better protected and simpler to produce, would equip the majority of Tigers II. Krupp called it the “production turret”, and it is the turret on the tank on display at the Musée des blindés in Saumur.

Zimmerit: a unique form of protection

A recurring question among armour enthusiasts concerns the special texture of German tanks, which were coated with Zimmerit from December 1943. This special coating, applied in the form of striations, was intended to prevent the magnetic mines used only by the German infantry from sticking, for fear that this technology would be copied by the Allies.

Although the Zimmerit was not anti-magnetic, it created a barrier that prevented explosives from sticking directly to the steel of the tank, causing them to fall instead of exploding. This innovation represented a significant advance in armour protection.

The Zimmerit coating

Restoration of the Tiger II by the Musée des blindés de Saumur

The tank presented at the 80th anniversary of D-Day by the Armoured Museum is a post-war assembly of two Tiger IIs, combining the turret and mechanical parts of Tiger II No. 300 and the chassis of Tiger II No. 123. This assembly was used to carry out a series of tests for the French army.

The Tiger II arrived in Saumur in February 1975, and it was not until 1983, when the armoured museum was opened to the public, that visitors were able to see it. At the time, it wore a two-tone camouflage and the No. 233 by which it is known to this day.

When the Tiger II 233 became the Tiger II 300

After several years of research and to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Normandy landings, the armoured museum had prepared a nice surprise for us with a brand new camouflage and number. For example, Tiger II no. 233 now bears Hauptmann Scherf’s number 300 and wears the exact camouflage it wore during the Normandy battles mentioned earlier in this article.

Tiger II 300 camouflage

Technical specifications of the Tiger II

  • Technical designation: PzKpfw VI Königstiger – SdKfz 182

Overview

  • Length: 10.28 m
  • Width: 3.65 m
  • Height: 3.09 m
  • Weight: 69,800 kg
  • Crew: 5 (tank commander, pilot, co-pilot/gunner, loader, gunner)

Motorisation

  • Engine: Maybach HL 230 P30, 12-cylinder V-twin, petrol, 700 hp
  • Maximum speed: 38 km/h
  • Fuel consumption: 380 to 505 litres per 100 km on the road and 650 to 800 litres per 100 km in extreme terrain
  • Fuel tank: 860 litres (petrol)
  • Range: 170 km on road – 110/120 km off-road

Armour

  • Front armour: 150 mm (body), 185 mm (turret)
  • Side armour: 80 mm

Armament

  • Main armament: 8.8 cm KwK 43 L/71 cannon
  • Secondary armament: two MG 34 T 7.92 mm machine guns

… In the same category

Push open the doors of history

Visit the Normandy Victory Museum Museum of the Battle of the Hedges. We are in Normandy, Manche dpt, France