The Tank Museum | E1951.23

Sd Kfz 181 Panzerkampfwagen VI Ausf E (E1951.23)

Sd Kfz 181 Panzerkampfwagen VI Ausf E
Sd Kfz 181 Panzerkampfwagen VI Ausf E
Sd Kfz 181 Panzerkampfwagen VI Ausf E
Sd Kfz 181 Panzerkampfwagen VI Ausf E
Sd Kfz 181 Panzerkampfwagen VI Ausf E
Sd Kfz 181 Panzerkampfwagen VI Ausf E
Sd Kfz 181 Panzerkampfwagen VI Ausf E
vehicle info
Precise Name
Sd Kfz 181 Panzerkampfwagen VI Ausf E
Other Name
Tiger 1; VK4501(H); Pz Kpfw VI Ausf E; Tiger 131
Main Utility Type
Country of Use
1943, Henschel & Sohn, Germany
World War 2
location in the museum
North Africa
Design and development The requirement for a 45 ton tank was issued in May 1941, although the new project incorporated 30-ton projects dating back to 1935, which briefly overlapped a 36-ton project earlier in 1941. Bids were invited from Dr. Ferdinand Porsche and Henschel & Company. Trials of prototypes in April 1942 revealed that the Henschel design was best across country and less risky (due to Porsche's electric transmission). The design was modified in detail, although the armour and armament never changed. The most significant upgrade was to a slightly more powerful engine, which went through some detail changes to improve reliability. The major visible changes included a new cast commander’s cupola in place of the original dustbin shape in July 1943 and the use of steel tyred rubber cushioned road wheels from February 1944. The features for submerged driving were were deleted to simplify production, as were the Feifel air cleaners. Production The first complete Tiger (V1) was accepted on 15 April 1942, although mass production did not start until August 1942. Production ran out in August 1944, in favour of the Tiger 2, after 1,354 Tiger 1s. Some Tigers were completed as command tanks, of which some were converted to the standard fighting version. Eighteen damaged hulls were rebuilt as Assault Rocket Mortar carriers, the Sturmmorser Tiger. The barrel of a rocket launching mortar is displayed in the Museum.
The Tiger combined a tank version of the 88mm L56 anti-aircraft/-tank gun, armour up to 100 mm thick (with overlapping parts of the mantlet and turret front for effective thicknesses twice as thick), a roomy interior, a semi-automatic gearbox, controlled differential steering, wide tracks and interleaved wheels for low peak ground pressure, a powerful engine, and superior sights. The Tiger was assembled from welded armour plate. The 8.8cm KwK36 gun, 56 calibres long and with a muzzle velocity of 930 metres/second, could penetrate 132mm of armour inclined at 30 degrees at 1,000 metres. It was rated as perfectly accurate up to that range. The gun threatened any current enemy tanks at ranges that its own armour was proof against enemy tank guns. Every contemporary Allied tank was vulnerable to the Tiger I at 2,000 metres; in contrast most Allied tanks had to close to within hundreds of meters of the sides to stand any chance of damaging the Tiger. The only British tank gun that could penetrate the Tiger’s frontal armour was the 17pdr, only available in small numbers until the last few months of the war, mounted on the Sherman Firefly and some M10 Tank destroyers. A Maybach V12 petrol engine was mounted in the rear of the hull and drove the tracks via a Maybach Olvar gearbox, steering unit, and final drives towards the front. The engine and transmission proved reliable in experienced hands. By interleaving the wheels, the hull was carried on 16 large wheels on each side (or 24 if you separate the wheels that were fixed to each other in tight pairs). More wheels and larger wheels reduce peaks of pressure. The width of the track further distributed the weight. Each wheel unit was mounted on a torsion bar. This running gear gave the Tiger exceptional soil flotation, not surpassed for its class except by the Panther.

Yet the Tiger was wider than the railway loading gauge so usually the outer wheels were removed and a narrower track was fitted before travel by rail. In bad conditions the overlapping wheels trapped mud and ice sufficient to push off the tracks or damage the wheels, although some crews took to removing the frontmost outer wheel to relieve pressure on the drive sprocket. The engine and gearbox wore quickly with the long road marches forced on Tigers in the increasing emergencies on German fronts. Yet they were difficult to access: the crew had to lift the turret off to get at the gearbox, which required a substantial crane that was not always available in the hurry with which units were often deployed, although designers had neatly enabled the turret to be disconnected from the drive with one lever.
The Tiger's logistical challenges were related to its capabilities as a fighter. It saw action from September 1942 throughout the war, in Russia, Tunisia, Sicily, Italy and north west Europe. Some were even fighting in Berlin in the last days of April 1945. The Tiger I was issued first to the 502nd Heavy Tank Battalion of the German Army, of which just one platoon (four tanks) was rushed to combat on the Leningrad front in September 1942. It subsequently served with 14 Heavy Tank Battalions (11 Army, 3 Waffen-SS). It was feared by its enemies such that in its time of service the Allies reported more encounters with Tigers than any other German type. German crews accumulated great experience thanks to the Tiger's survivability, which gave the Panzer forces considerable pyschological and skill advantages. More Tigers were lost through mechanical failure than combat action, which is evidence for both logistical over-stretch and design trade-offs.
Tiger 131
Tiger 131 is numbered for 1st Company, 3 Platoon (or Troop), first tank of the platoon, 504th Heavy Tank Battalion (Schwere Panzer Abteilung 504). It was captured on 24th April 1943 on Point 174 on the way between Medjez el Bab and Montarnaud in Tunisia, by 142nd Battalion RAC and 2nd Sherwood Foresters, although from the 1970s to 2000s, the conventional story was that it was captured on a different hill (Jebel Jaffa, 10 miles away) on 21 April. Although the tank units involved recorded the capture of a Tiger on each day, nothing else is known about the Tiger involved on 21 April. Perhaps it was recovered by the Germans at a time when the British units were decimated and being amalgamated. Tiger 131 was correctly identified by the recovery officer, who correctly recorded the location anas Point 174, along with the vehicle's identification numbers. Photographs are consistent with the tank and the location. However, from the 1970s to the 2000s Peter Gudgin claimed that Tiger 131 was knocked out on 21 April by his squadron of 48th RTR. During that time, the recovery officer (Major Lidderdale) and the Tank Museum accepted his account as the only first-person account. However, in 2012 Dale Oscroft was reminded, during his visit to the museum, of a story his father (John Oscroft, of 2nd Sherwood Foresters) had told him, of knocking out a Tiger with a captured German anti-tank gun. Dale initiated research that confirmed Tiger's location. The Tank Museum confirmed his research in 2017.

This tank was the first complete Tiger to be captured intact by British or U.S. forces, although Tiger 231 had been knocked out on 31 January, demolished on 1 February, and subsequently examined by technicians. Another 7 demolished Tigers fell into Allied hands a month later at Hunt's Gap. Tiger 131 was one of the last arrivals in Tunisia - some time between 22nd March and 16th April 1943. It belonged to 504th Battalion from the start, unlike most of its tanks, which it inherited from 501st Battalion in mid-March. Tiger 131 had suffered considerable high-explosive blast damage to the turret front and hull front, sides, and rear, probably from the anti-tank gun that Oscroft recalled and which was photographed and reported by jounralists as the only weapon to knock out Tiger 131 (a 75-mm converted French gun). Yet Tiger 131 was also struck by at least two 57-mm six pounder shots: these are the shots that Gudgin always claimed were fired by his squadron, and were thus taken as disabling shots, before the tank was abandoned and struck by indirect artillery. However, possibly the six-pounder shots hit after the 75-mm shells. In any case, the six-pounder shots must have been fired by Churchill tanks, as no towed six-pounders were present. One shot ended up stuck between the gun mantlet and hull roof, cracking the hull roof and jamming the turret, although the turret was already damaged in other places, probably by blast. Another six-pounder shot carried away the upper part of the left-side (nearside) turret lifting boss. Damage is still visible on the mantlet, superstructure front plate and turret lifting boss. The crew abandoned the tank before it was captured. It was recovered by Lidderdale on 6 May; his team soon restored it to automotive running order and refurbished its damaged hatches using parts from other vehicles. In June, the Tiger was displayed in Tunis for separate visits by King George VI and Winston Churchill. In October 1943 it was sent to the School of Tank Technology for evaluation, which continued into spring 1944, when the engine was disabled. In 1951 it was transferred to the Tank Museum. A painstaking restoration of the Tiger was started in the 1990s which was eventually completed with help from the National Heritage Lottery Fund. Great care was taken to recreate the original camouflage and markings. The Tiger ran under its’ own power for the first time in 2004. It remains the only running Tiger in the world.

Precise Name: Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Aus E

Other Names: Pz Kpw VI, SdKfz 181, VK 4501(H), SdKfz 182, Tiger Aus H1

Period of Service : 1942-1945 Summary text: ; updated by Bruce Oliver Newsome, PhD, 2019
Full Tracked
Gun - KwK 36 L/56 8.8cm
Armament - Main Weapon Type
Additional Features
2 x 7.92mm MG34 machine guns
Armament - Secondary Weapon Type
Originally fitted with Maybach HL210P45 V12 water cooled aluminium block, 21.3 litres, 650 metric hp @3,000 rpm. Replaced with Maybach HL230 V-12 water cooled, cast-iron block, 23.88 litres developing 700 metric hp @ 3,000rpm
8 Forward, 4 Reverse
Torsion Bar
12.3 bhp/ton
Power to Weight Ratio
Vehicle Statistics
Number (Crew)
Weight (Overall)
Maximum (Speed - Road)
Power (Engine Output)
Volume (Fuel)
Radius (Range - Road)
Maximum (Armour Thickness)
Length (Overall - Gun Forward)
Width (Overall)
Height (Overall)
Type (Fuel)
Consumption (Fuel)
Number (Projectile)
Calibre (Main Gun)
Radius (Range - Cross Country)