Tiger Battalion 507
Heavy Tank Battalion 507, or schweres Panzer Abteilung 507 to give it it’s proper Wehrmacht designation, was formed in October 1943 with a nucleus of personnel from Panzer Regiment 4 along with its Reserve and Training Battalion, plus further men from Reserve Battalion 500 at Paderborn. The battalion was initially mustered in Vienna but subsequently moved to the Wezep training depot near Zwolle in Holland, where it received its complement of 45 Tiger Is.
The battalion served on the Eastern Front from March 1944 until March 1945 when it lost its last Tigers in action near Paderborn, having seen combat in Ukraine, Poland and East Prussia. The unit was equipped with Tiger Is until February 1945 when 2/ and 3/ companies were re-equipped with Tiger IIs. 1/ company’s return from the Eastern Front was delayed due to the chaotic transportation situation at the time, and the company did not reach Germany in time to be re-equipped before the war ended.
This book was first published in 2016 in German as Erinnerungen an das Panzerregiment 4 und die Tigerabteilung 507 (Memories of Panzer Regiment 4 and Tiger Battalion 507). It was subsequently translated into English and published by Greenhill Publishing/Pen & Sword in 2020. The book is comprised mostly of calendar and diary entries, Soldbuch entries and first-hand accounts by members of the unit. Helmut Schneider is therefore credited as the editor, rather than author, of the book. Schneider was a Leutnant who served as commander of 1/ company.
Many books that deal with first-hand accounts provide interesting insights into the life of soldiers in combat, but lack a strategic or historical background for the events described. Other books deal with the strategic and historical aspects, but are often filled with dates and maps while lacking a 'human' context. This book provides a refreshing combination of both aspects, and even includes descriptions of the same events from multiple veterans of the unit, thereby adding additional perspective.
The original German text was translated into English by Geoffrey Brooks at Greenhill Books, who has done an exemplary job. Books translated into English are frequently awkward in grammar and phrasing. This is definitely not the case here. The translation, editing and production quality are all excellent.
The book is divided into nine chapters, and organized chronologically, beginning with the unit's formation and proceeding through its various operations on the Eastern Front to its final actions near Paderborn in 1945. Each chapter provides a brief historical overview of the action in the battalion's area of operations at the time, followed by calendar and diary entries, and personal accounts of events both in combat and in the rear.
The accounts provide interesting insights into the operation of the Tigers, and is candid about their strengths and weaknesses. There are also descriptions of the day-to-day life of the unit's members in combat as well as between actions. Taken in a historical context, the accounts also offer a glimpse into the strange world of Nazi Germany in the later stages of the war. For example, 1/ and 2/ companies were pulled back for retraining and reorganization at Paderborn in February 1945, even though they had numerous combat-worthy Tigers on strength which were handed over to an unnamed SS unit. One Feldwebel was even pulled out of the unit and sent to Officer Candidate School in March 1945.
Only one error jumped out at me. The caption to a photo on p111 describes a Strabokran as capable of lifting '216 tons'. Its actual capacity was 16 metric tons.
The book is well illustrated with battle maps and period photographs. One or two of the photographs were familiar to me, but most have come from veterans of s.Pz.Abt.507 and are therefore new.
Highly Recommended for fans of WW2 German armor, and for anyone interested in the operation of tanks in the field.
Thanks goes out to Casemate Publishing for the PDF review sample.
Reviewed by Neil Stokes
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