In the first of two articles marking the 80th anniversary of the capture of Tiger 131, Phil Loder traces the early years of the iconic tank
The Saturday in April 1943 when Tiger 131 was captured was part of a late Easter weekend. While in Britain some snatched a brief moment of rest, across the world the war was continuing.
General von Paulus’ German Sixth Army had recently been defeated at Stalingrad, the Americans and Australians were taking the fight to the Japanese in New Guinea, and a tipping point reached in the Battle of the Atlantic meant that German U-boats would shortly be ordered by Admiral Dönitz to withdraw from the main Allied convoy routes. At RAF Scamptontraces the early years of the iconic tank in Lincolnshire, 617 Squadron were three weeks away from delivering Operation Chastise and earning themselves the title of ‘The Dambusters’.
On Saturday April 24 in Tunisia, meanwhile, the tank that would become known as Tiger 131 was captured by British forces. It was not the first Tiger I, or Panzerkampfwagen (PzKpfw) Mark VI as it was known at this time, taken intact – one having been captured by Soviet forces near Leningrad three months earlier, but it was the first to be taken by British or American forces.