A rare beast on any account, this particular Jagdtiger is unique in being the only surviving specimen featuring Porsche’s alternative suspension design. How did this vehicle make its way from a small town in Austria to Henschel’s proving ground in Senne to finally arrive at its final destination: the Bovington Tank Museum in the UK? In this part of the Haustenbeck’s Heritage series we follow Jagdtiger Fahrgestellnummer 305 004 on its journey to and from Haustenbeck, where it was initially found by the Allies.
Featured image: Jagdtiger at Haustenbeck 1945. In the background Kurt Arnoldt’s office and staff/guest quarters. Source: IWM (STT 9110)
Table of Contents
- Porsche, the Bogie Man
- Haustenbeck: Trials and Tribulations
- The Curious Case of Panzer Kompanie “Kummersdorf”
- Last Stand
- On the Road
- Arrival at RAC Tank Museum, Bovington
The journey begins in July 1944 when the fourth production Jagdtiger chassis No. 305 004 rolls off the production line at Nibelungenwerk. Although assembly of the Jagdtiger was initially planned to start at Henschel & Sohn in Kassel, it was shifted to Nibelungenwerk, St Valentin in Austria. Henschel was unhappy with delivery schedule for the Tiger H2 and Jagdtiger, which required new assembly lines to be set up simultaneously. In addition, Henschel did not have the necessary cranes to move the about 34 tonnes armoured hull of the Jagdtiger1. A suggestion was made to make the casemate detachable, but this was rejected on grounds of dust and waterproofing as well as the required extra manufacturing effort2.
Nibelungerwerk, the Reichs’ largest “panzer factory” already had experience building Krupp’s Panzer IV as well as Porsche’s Type 100 and, Ferdinand tank destroyer3. Their gantry cranes, capable of lifting 60 tonnes, were more than able of dealing with the Jagdtiger hulls. The first Jagdtiger was ordered to be ready in December 1943, but assembly started off slow and the first vehicles were assembled the next month.
Jagdtiger No. 4 was sent to the state proving ground at Kummersdorf in August. In February 1944, the two earliest Jagdtiger, chassis No. 305 001 and 305 002, had already been sent there for comparative tests. The latter had the Porsche running gear, while the former had that of Henschel as it was used on their Tiger II. During tests in May, number 1 sustained serious damage to the gun. Because on-site repairs proved impossible, number 1 was sent back to Nibelungenwerk at the end of July. So number 4 was sent and used in the absence of number 1. While here, its chassis and trial-vehicle number 253 were stencilled onto the glacis.
Porsche, the Bogie Man
Jagdtiger 305 001 through 305 012, with the exception of 305 002, sported an alternative suspension arrangement by the Porsche firm. This suspension, Typ 168, consisted of four externally mounted bogie units or Federstab Rollenwagen on either side of the hull, each sporting a 1075 mm longitudinal torsion spring. It had originally been designed for Porsche’s Type 180 which did not make it into production. The idea was reinvigorated for the Jagdtiger when Porsche had successfully convinced Hitler of this cost-saving measure by January 1944. Said adaptation of Typ 180’s Rollenwagen to the Jagdtiger’s Henschel-Kette is already shown in Porsche drawing K 3760 from 18 November 19434.
Porsche’s suspension would forego the time consuming process of precision boring holes for the transverse torsion bars and swing arms, part of the Schachtellaufwerk. The bogie units already had had their fair share of success on the Ferdinand where they positively stood out with the crews because of their maintenance friendliness.
Since the bulk of the torsion bar suspension was normally located in the lower hull, in theory the Jagdtiger’s silhouette could have been lowered when using the Porsche suspension. Instead, implemented using the original hull design, the Porsche-Jagdtiger had become 10 cm higher than its Henschel counterpart.
During the aforementioned testing of the first Jagdtiger (305 001), Wa Prüf 6 discovered intolerable vertical oscillations when driving at low speeds. While these oscillations existed to a lesser extend on the Henschel-Jagdtiger too, they were exacerbated by Porsche’s stiff springing and reduced suspension travel (91 mm instead of 170 mm).
To remedy the problem, experiments were conducted using the Ferdinand’s more finely pitched tracks of type Kgs 62/640/130. Although now deemed tolerable, the heavy oscillations persisted and the Heereswaffenamt voted against adoption of the Porsche suspension. This news must not have reached Arnoldt as he still believed the Porsche suspension was scheduled for mass production5.
Number 4 retained the original Gg 24/800/300 tracks having the second, now redundant, row of guide horns cut off as they were found to jam up on each other. An Allied report from May 24, 1945 makes note of the peculiar tracks in Section C on the “12.8 cm Jagdtiger”:
“The Jagdtiger was fitted with normal tracks on which the inner guide horns had been cut off leaving only the outer horns to guide the track. Other sections of similar track were found in the area.”ETOUSA, “Preliminary Report on Henschel Tank Proving Ground.”
Though Dr. Porsche sold his bogie design to Hitler as a severe cost- and time-saving measure, the author of a post-war analysis was not as easily taken in. The section of the CIOS report discussing the “Porsche Bogie Type Torsion Bar Tank Suspension” states:
“There is a great deal of accurate machining required on each bogie unit and notwithstanding the designer’s claim that it takes less material and less work to produce, it is questionable if the design is worthy of serious consideration.”CIOS, “The War-Time Activities of Dr.Ing. H.C.F. Porsche, K.G.”
Moreover, the report comments on an illustrated data sheet comparing manufacturing time, cost and material demand for both the Henschel and Porsche suspension units. The author states that the data given “is only a sales argument for the Porsche suspension and can be considered as pure propaganda.”6
The report goes on to mention some of the design weaknesses such as the limited suspension travel due to the second suspension arm being close to the track as well as the enormous loads the spindle carrying the bogie unit has to bear. We will soon see that the spindle was a vulnerable point indeed.
Haustenbeck: Trials and Tribulations
At the end of 1944 number 1 had been repaired and returned to Kummersdorf. After this, number 4 was released for further testing by Henschel at their Haustenbeck proving ground, where it arrived in the winter of 1944-45.
Number 4 would mainly serve as test bed for the installation of the Dräger air filtration system. Although installation of this system had already been considered since the Jagdtiger’s design stages, the placement and functioning still had to be tested in practice.
The first known recorded test with the Jagdtiger at Haustenbeck dates from approximately December 1944 entitled “Devices in the combat compartment of the Jagdtiger, in particular the Drägeranlage”. During trials with this system, various air leaks and placement problems came to light. In a future article we will take a more thorough look at all gas proofing and testing conducted at Haustenbeck.
On January 8 and 10, number 4 was used as a tug while testing towing equipment7. Photos show it towing Tiger II 280 354 and 280 356 through a snowy landscape. A new design ‘Dreierhaltern‘ towing shackle and relocated centrally positioned towing eye respectively were tested.
During a gas protection trial on 6 February, one of the left-hand side bogie units broke off1. The load on the spindle reached its breaking point, shearing off the bracket securing it to the hull. The bogie unit would never be reattached and the ‘damage’ can still be seen today.
After the war, Arnoldt remarked the following about his experience with the Jagdtiger:
“The suspension proved weak, the springing being too hard. The bogie-wheels were prone to falling off in open country. The gas proofing trials were successfully completed in February 1945.”GSI, “Interrogation of Herr Kurt Arnoldt, Chief Technical Engineer Henschel AFV Research and Experimental Establishment at Haustenbeck.”
The Curious Case of Panzer Kompanie “Kummersdorf”
Even though Jagdtiger number 4 was first and foremost a trial vehicle for the Waffenamt, it possibly saw limited combat use at the very end of the war. In his extensive work on the Jagdtiger, Devey claims that number 4 makes an appearance in the inventory of the Panzer Kompanie “Kummersdorf”8. This unit was ordered into existence during the Führervortrag on 31 March 19459. The minutes of this meeting describe the unit:
5.) Pz.Kp. “Kummersdorf”Aufstellung von Pz.-und Pz.Gren.Einheiten in “Notiz für Führervortrag am 31.3.45”. Translation: “made up out of Waffenamt proving battalion being established for static deployment.”
aus Vers.Abt Wa.A Kummersdorf in Aufstellung für bodenständingen Einsatz.
A Blitz telegram on the same day reads: “Oberbefehlshaber des Ersatzheeres is requested to establish on short notice Pz.Kp. “Kummersdorf” (bo) and Pz.Kp. “Berka” (bo) by using Versuchs-Pz.Fahrzeuge from the Waffenamt.”10
Although a Jagdtiger is indeed listed in the inventory, it is impossible to say whether this is 305 004. Unfortunately, Devey does not reveal how he came to this conclusion. Fleischer also briefly mentions the creation of the company “the vehicles were taken from those in the inventory for testing purposes stored in the garages”11 [translation by author].
Even if 305 004 was referred to in the original documents, this surely must have been a clerical mistake? The vehicle was no where near to Kummersdorf nor the Schweinfurt area, where Pz.Kp. “Kummersdorf” was ordered to on 4 April 194512.
Whether or not this Jagdtiger was employed in a combat, its capability to do so remains a questionable case anyway. Fröhlich mentions that, due to the lack of an external gun travel lock, the 12,8 cm PaK would be out of alignment in no time, rendering it worthless1.
The vehicle was photographed on 6 April 1945 by a photographer of the American XIX Corps13. These photographs show the vehicle in the woods surrounding the Senne training area where it might have been employed in a futile attempt to keep the invading US troops at bay.
After its capture, No. 4 was recovered back to the proving ground. Here it stood with other materiel at the collection point opposite the garages. The Allies showed great interest in the activities undertaken at Haustenbeck and decided to continue the proving ground’s operation. On 4 July 1945 the British shot a number of videos featuring, amongst others, the Jagdtiger manoeuvring around the area14.
Apparently at some point the engine hatch was taken off, which can be seen laying in the foreground in the photo below.
On the Road
Like many of the vehicles at Haustenbeck the Jagdtiger, too was shipped to the UK in 1946 to be studied at the School of Tank Technology, Chertsey. The 70 tonnes tank destroyer was transported to Bremen on a heavy-duty Culemeyer-Straßenroller railway trailer built by Gothaer Waggonfabrik. This 6-axle trailer with 24 wheels was rated for 60 tonnes, with a maximum capacity of 80.
The load is supported by a number of H-beams keeping the Jagdtiger from tipping off the narrow cargo bed. Some items have been stowed on the engine deck. One of the blurry shapes resembles that of a (disassembled) bogie unit. Maybe the broken off unit did make it to the UK?
Until recently I found myself unable to prove that Jagdtiger number 4 made the same journey as the other vehicles from Haustenbeck. As of late a photograph taken by an inhabitant of Nienburg has surfaced, showing the vehicle on its trailer near the Nienburg marshalling yard, confirming it was part of the same convoy making its way through the town on 5 January 1946. The images below, by the presence of harbour cranes, show the vehicle in Bremerhaven.
Arrival at RAC Tank Museum, Bovington
There is little evidence of the Jagdtiger’s presence in the UK until, in 1952, it was added to the collection of the Royal Armoured Corps Tanks Museum in Bovington, Dorset. It was placed next to Tiger II V2 which must also have just arrived from the STT. Both were placed in the central hangar (the current World War Two hall) near the sliding doors.
If the loose bogie unit made it to the UK at all, it was at least never reattached nor were the side fenders. Initially, only the right front fender was present.
The Engine Bay
Upon its arrival to Bovington the entire engine cover had long since ‘disappeared’ and the Jagdtiger was therefore displayed with the engine bay components in full view. The earliest known photos in the UK show the engine compartment in disarray (see above): coolant lines are disconnected and the water reservoir is dislocated. At some point it was tidied up as is visible in the image below.
According to Fröhlich the Jagdtiger’s HL 230 engine was used during the restoration of Tiger 131. Though possible, it seems more likely that singular parts were used and not the entire engine block. It is, at least, quite certain that after so many years the engine bay does not look as tidy as the photo above. Much of the tubing and wiring is now missing and the carburettors and magnetos were removed just before the Tiger Collection display.
At some point during the 1960s and 70s handrails were welded atop the Jagdtiger so visitors could stand on the roof15. Initially, it was displayed in a solid (yellow?) colour without front fenders, but these were later reattached.
No deliberate attempt has been made to remove the typical Zimmerit anti-magnetic paste and thus the original coating remains largely intact to this day. Until 2017 the Jagdtiger was repainted another three times: dark green, in a tricolour scheme and, grey with yellow splotches.
The Jagdtiger was moved on 3 November 2016 in preparation for the Tiger Collection. For the same exhibition the vehicle was repainted dark yellow in March 2017.
To make the tank look more authentic national insignia and trial-vehicle number were added. Unfortunately, the painted-on number is incorrect; it was originally 253, but today reads 263.
The Jagdtiger’s design retained the Tiger II’s 150 mm thick glacis, but the roof of the driver and radio operator’s compartment was lowered about 5 cm. Additionally, the armoured fan cover was moved to the right side of the compartment to allow greater gun depression. This allowed the gun to elevate from 15° to -7°.
On this early model, the 250 mm thick frontal casting of the casemate lacks the vertical ridge normally found on the bulging cast armour section.
The interior is still largely intact and features a modified Maybach Olvar transmission with added auxiliary driveshaft to power the Dräger filtration system. The colour of the breech is not authentic.
I will end this post with some more detail shots of number 4.
- Fröhlich, Schwere Panzer Der Wehrmacht : Von Der 12,8 Cm Flak Bis Zum Jagdtiger.
- Spielberger, Doyle, and Jentz, Schwere Jagdpanzer Entwicklung – Fertigung – Einsatz.
- Winninger, Das Nibelungenwerk : 1939 Bis 1945 Panzerfahrzeuge Aus St. Valentin.
- Fröhlich, Der Andere Tiger Der Panzerkampfwagen Porsche Typ 101.
- GSI, “Interrogation of Herr Kurt Arnoldt, Chief Technical Engineer Henschel AFV Research and Experimental Establishment at Haustenbeck.”
- CIOS, “The War-Time Activities of Dr.Ing. H.C.F. Porsche, K.G.”
- Jentz and Doyle, Germany’s Tiger Tanks VK45.02 to Tiger II.
- Devey, Jagdtiger Der Stärkste König ; Einsatz – Kampf – Technik.
- Der Generalinspekteur der Panzertruppen, “Notiz Für Führervortrag.”
- Der Generalinspekteur der Panzertruppen, “Aufstellung Pz.Abt. ‘Kummersdorf’ (Bo) Und Pz.Kp ‘Berka’ (Bo).”
- Fleischer, Die Heeresversuchstelle Kummersdorf.
- Führerhauptquartier, “Zur Verstärkung Der Abwehr Im Unmittelbaren Bereich Der Stadt Schweinwurt…”
- Skellorn, “Capturing the Jagdtiger.”
- CriticalPast, “German Jagdtiger Tank Destroyer Being Tested at the Henschel Tank Testing Grounds, Mittelfeld, near Kassel, Germany.”
- Hudson, “Sd Kfz 186 Jagdtiger (E1952.34).”