An anonymous donation has reunited The Tank Museum’s Tiger tank with an item that was pinched from within its turret by a young soldier forty years ago.
The apologetic letter which accompanied the mystery package on its arrival yesterday said;
“In the late sixties I was a member of the Junior Leaders Regt. RAC and remembered obtaining an instruction plaque from inside Tiger 131. Recently whilst clearing my loft I found the plaque… I collected cap badges and memorabilia whilst I was at Bovington and I bought this off one of the lads.”
The plaque, 25 x 20cm of embossed zinc alloy, is entitled “Bedienungsleiting für Turmabdichtung” and gives instructions for the waterproofing turret. Tiger Tanks had been designed to cross water obstacles like rivers by literally wading through them – and they could be prepared in such a way as to be completely immersed in water with the addition of a long snorkel (right)
Chris Copson, the Museum’s Education Officer, translated the plaque. He said; “The instructions run the crew through the process of preparing the tank for complete immersion in water, ensuring it is done in the right order.”
Back in the 1960’s the highly successful, but sadly now defunct Junior Leaders Regiment was based across the road from The Tank Museum, recruiting and training school-leavers prior to their joining the regular army as Non Commissioned Officers.
After hours, The Tank Museum was too much of a temptation amongst the bored teenagers, some of whom would illicitly gain access to cause a little mischief and, if possible, acquire the odd souvenir.
“So the story goes, it was a previous curator who invented the story of `Herman the German` - the ghost who haunted The Tiger tank – in order to keep the boys away from the museum at night,” said Chris. `Herman the German` has since become one of the most enduring myths associated with The Tank Museum but it evidently did not deter one young souvenir hunter, who according to the letter; “got into the tank as the top hatch grill had been left off.”
The letter concluded; “I hope you can re-install this item from where it came, or at least use it to understand how the waterproofing was carried out.”
The instructions guide the crew through securing the turret, removing the coaxial machine gun, retracting and locking the gun sight before insert sealing plugs and placing waterproof covers over air intakes. Finally, the instructions remind the crew to secure their hatch covers and vision slits to ensure that the Tiger’s wading exercise didn’t end unpleasantly.
“The whole procedure was evidently quite long-winded and not the thing to be doing or un-doing under fire,” said Chris. “Apparently in trials the system worked extremely well, although it is probably worth reflecting that getting it wrong once would probably be a terminal error. There is however no evidence that the deep wading system was ever used by crews in the field.”
“Whoever this donor is we are extremely grateful for his thought and kindness in returning it to us and can assure him that the plaque will soon be back in its rightful place,” he added.
The Tiger tank will be in action on Saturday 22nd September, taking part in the Museum’s inaugural Wartime Military Vehicle Show.
For more information about this event, click here.
Never Miss Out!
Sign up for monthly updates from The Tank Museum, including our Tank Times
Sign up now, and like The Tank Museum