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Tiger II Fgst.Nr. 280 009 or 280 012 Revisited

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Haustenbeck's Heritage

When Henschel’s tank proving ground at Haustenbeck became part of the British zone, a number of interesting armoured fighting vehicles fell right into their lap, some of which were transported back to the UK for detailed study. Prime examples are the second built Tiger II ‘V2’ and a Porsche suspension Jagdtiger, which are now in the Tank Museum’s collection. Others, like the chassis of the super-heavy E-100 tank, and a Tiger equipped for wading were also taken, but were later scrapped.

It now appears even more vehicles made their way to the British Isles than was thought. An unpublished anti-tank trial report by the Fighting Vehicles Proving Establishment shows that yet another Tiger II was brought along. In this article, we take a closer look at the vehicle and its appearance. For much more about Henschel’s proving ground and its vehicles, I recommend you have a look at the previous parts in the Haustenbeck’s Heritage series.

Featured image: Tiger II Fgst.Nr. 280 009 or 280 012 at Haustenbeck 1945. In the background a Panther and one of the VK 30.01 (H) prototypes

Table of Contents

Back to Haustenbeck

Before we continue, let’s briefly head back to where it all began: Haustenbeck. It was here that two early model Tiger II tanks were found. One of these was ‘V2’ which, at the time of writing, is exhibited at Arsenalen in Sweden. The other King Tiger, the subject of this article, is a bit of an oddball. As a matter of fact, the initial reports on the Panzerversuchsstation 96 at Haustenbeck dating from April and May 1945 don’t even make any mention of this tank.

It is only later that year, when a delegation of the Ministry of Supply visits the proving ground, that we first hear about a second “Royal Tiger” with a spiked gun. The photos taken at this time show a Tiger II cladded with Zimmerit paste and fitted with Krupp’s pre-production turret. Apart from a destroyed gun, it is in rather good condition, and the tank can be seen driving in a number of videos.

The precise Fahrgestellnummer (chassis no.) of this tank is not know, but though to be either 280 009 or 280 012, which makes this an early production vehicle. For much more about how this tank was found at Haustenbeck, click here.

Arnoldt Kurt in front of a Tiger II at Haustenbeck
Director of the Henschel proving ground, Kurt Arnoldt, next to Tiger II Chassis no. 280 009 or 280 012 in 1945

Anti-tank trials

Thanks to a video published on the Armoured Archives channel earlier this year, a new chapter can now be added to the history of Tiger II Fgst.Nr. 280 009 or 280 012. New evidence shows this tank was also shipped to the UK. It remains unknown whether this tank was transported together with other vehicles from Haustenbeck in early 1946. Based on the tank’s FVDD inventory number, which is now known to be 3529, it may have arrived in the UK later than Tiger II V2, which was has inventory number 3234.

The photos in Armoured Archives’ video originate from a report drawn up by Fighting Vehicles Proving Establishment (FVPE) Immunity Wing. The subject of the report is a series of firing tests with the 6.5″ squash head (AVRE) shell conducted in August 1947 with the goal to determine the effect of said projectile on the Royal Tiger and its crew. The gun firing this projectile would eventually wind up in the Churchill AVRE 6.5 inch, which went into service in the 50s.

The condition of the Tiger in late 1947 contrasts heavily against how it was initially found at the proving ground in 1945. By now, the tank was classified as ‘non-runner’, for its final drive and gearbox were absent, as well as some other ‘auxiliaries’. The engine was still installed, only to be completely destroyed during last attack in the trial.

Identification

Based on a number of features, the Tiger II in the 1947 trial report can be identified as “280 009 or 280 012”. Easily recognizable are the darkened horizontal Zimmerit patch on the left hull side and damage to the headlight cover. Notable as well is the lack of a protective ring around the turret, a sign that this is an early King Tiger. Also note the lack of the exhaust pipes, which is precisely how this tank was found at Haustenbeck.

A statement in the report also points to the fact that the vehicle was never used operationally;

“Due to a modification or redesign of the operating mechanism of the driver’s and co-driver’s hatch doors, however, it was not possible to get these rounds into the rack and from an examination of the catches it was obvious they had never been used.”

280009 12 haustenbeck trial comparison
Comparison of the vehicle at Haustenbeck (left) and photos of the trial report (right). Much of the Zimmerit coating was already missing at the start of the trail, but some distinguishable features remain.

It is remarkable that the presence of the main armament is confirmed in the report, because the many photos taken at Haustenbeck clearly show it was heavily damaged – certainly, a missing chunk of the barrel would be worth noting? However, it is conspicuous that not a single photo in the report shows the entire length of the gun.

Borrowed Plumes

Speaking of V2, it appears we see its tracks mounted to 280 009 or 280 012. It has been long known that the unique single link Kgs tracks of the latter were mounted to V2 in England at some point. It was assumed V2’s tracks had been lost through time, but these newly discovered photos provide proof V2’s tracks were actually mounted to 280 009 or 280 012 before the HESH anti-trank trials began. This can be said with a great deal of certainty, because the photos show what are very early Gg 24/800/300 tracks, recognizable by their forged bridge link segments. Due to a change to cast bridge links in May 1944, only very few of the forged tracks made it to combat troops. The photos in the report show some bridge links were replaced with later cast specimens, which have a waffle-like pattern on their surface.

Tiger II V2 1947 2
King Tiger V2 in England, with its original Gg 24/800/300 tracks. The surface of the bridge links is smooth because they are forged rather than cast.
Jagdtiger 305004 tracks
The tracks of the Jagdtiger with Porsche suspension had their inner guide horn cut-off because they interfered with the suspension.

Another accessory worth mentioning is the segment of spare track hung from the left turret side. On closer inspection, the track appears to be of the type used on the Jagdtiger with Porsche suspension – which has only one guide tooth per link, instead of two. These tracks almost certainly were taken from Jagdtiger chassis no. 305 004, also captured at Haustenbeck and shipped to the UK.

The skirting (track guards), on the vehicle’s side is also noteworthy, and appears a jumbled mess. The report states that: “although these were Royal Tiger plates some of them were odd ones from the opposite side, changed over to form a complete set on the offside of the hull.”

The observant viewer will notice that at least two segments are covered in Zimmerit. Most likely these were also taken from the Jagdtiger already mentioned above, as these were missing when it entered the Tank Museum’s collection, and still are today together with the spare tracks. It is interesting to think that we now finally have found a ‘backstory’ to how these items were lost.

Tiger II v HESH (video)

I have linked the original by Armoured Archives below, which provides a more detailed description of the trials that were performed on this King Tiger tank.

Bibliography

Archives, Armoured. ‘Tiger II Versus HESH – Tank Testing’. Armoured Archives, May 2022. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2h_M87V4XSY.
BIOS. ‘The Henschel Panzerversuchsstation, Haustenbeck, Paderborn’. Investigations in Germany by Tank Armament Research, Ministry of Supply. British Intelligence Objectives Sub-Committee, 1946.
Wing, FVPE Immunity. ‘6.5″ Squash Head (A.V.R.E) Shell versus Royal Tiger’, 1947.

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