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Heavy Panzer Battalion 503

Formed in April 1942 specifically to operate the new generation of heavy tanks Schwere Panzerabteilung 503 was equipped with Tiger I and despatched to the Eastern Front in January 1943.

Tank Museum photo No. 2402/C/6 Tank Museum photo No. 2402/C/6

In May 1944 the battalion hands over its tanks and prepares to move west. It is in Paris by the end of June and Normandy early in July. At this stage 1st Company is equipped with Tiger II, the other two companies with Tiger I. At the end of July 3rd Company returns to Mailly-le Camp to receive 14 Tiger II.

Tank Museum photo No. 2405/B/4 Tank Museum photo No. 2405/B/4

Despite impressive firepower the battalion suffers continual losses, from breakdowns, from enemy action and attack from the air. This Tiger II was abandoned, after an internal explosion, in Le Plessis Grimoult on 7 August.

Tank Museum photo No. 2402/D/6 Tank Museum photo No. 2402/D/6

Under constant pressure the battalion continues to retreat, shedding tanks as it goes. This one ended up in a field near Vimoutiers.

Tank Museum photo No. 2402/E/4 Tank Museum photo No. 2402/E/4

While this one, which we have seen before, ran out of fuel and was abandoned at St Pol-en-Ternoise near Amiens. By the end of August almost every tank is gone and the battalion's personnel are withdrawn to Germany. By the end of September, once again equipped with Tiger II tanks, the battalion is on the move - heading east.

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