Tigers in Normandy
By Wolfgang Schneider
Pen and Sword (www.pen-and-sword.co.uk)
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One of the most iconic symbols of the Third Reich was the Tiger tank - it instilled fear and dread to anyone encountering it. It was an efficient and highly engineered armoured vehicle and most allied tanks could not tackle Tigers in a one to one situation. The Tigers tended to be impervious to many attacks by Allied tanks. Although it had its weak spots these could only be taken advantage off at close range.
During the post D-Day Normandy campaign the Germans employed Tigers in limited numbers. Despite their small numbers the Tigers fought bravely during the campaign and delivered formidable blows to Allied armour and infantry. Tigers fought throughout this campaign and this interesting book reveals much about their activities.
In this volume the expert author illustrates and details the combat history of the Tigers operating in the Normandy campaign. His work starts with the post D-Day environment and concludes with the breakthrough to Falaise.
The first version of the Tiger, the Tiger I, was an expert killing machine. Engineering improvements enabled the next version, the Tiger II, to be even more efficient at this task. Both the Tiger I and II weighed over sixty tons which was twice the weight of the standard Allied tank the Sherman. Despite the Tiger’s weight and size they still possessed considerable manoeuvrability. The Tigers were more thickly armoured than the Allied tanks and their 88 mm gun had a most powerful punch which outmatched the majority of Allied tanks. The author describes how during the Normandy campaign only the British Sherman Firefly with a 17 pounder gun was able (at typical combat ranges) to defeat a Tiger.
The book shows how the hedgerows in western Normandy caused manoeuvrability difficulties for both Allied and German tanks and how they impacted on the campaign. However, as the campaign moved from western Normandy to eastern Normandy the terrain became more suited to armoured warfare. The Tiger made its debut at Villers-Bocage in the British / Canadian sector a week after D-Day. This infamous action is expertly recited and the activities of the well-known panzer ace Michael Wittmann are presented.
The author gives an eloquent discussion of the continuous two month battle of Tiger operations in Normandy. They saw action in a number of British operations (e.g. Epsom, Jupiter, Goodwood, Bluecoat to name but a few) and their activities are well described. Although the Tigers were formidable fighting machines they could not be deployed as effectively as they could have been and their losses were not replaced. This deficiency was due to the deteriorating situation of the German forces in Normandy. The book concludes on how the few remaining Tigers in the battered German army escaped through the Falaise Gap in August 1944.
This book is definitely the standard reference volume on the activities of Tigers in this campaign. As well as having an excellent text it also offers orders of battle, tank inventories, maps, period and contemporary photos. In terms of excellence this work cannot be bettered and the author’s work has been exceptional.