Schwere Panzer-Abteilung

A row of seven large tanks lined up with their long guns pointing up at an angle, as if saluting.

A German heavy tank battalion (German: “schwere Panzerabteilung“, short: “s PzAbt”) was an elite battalion-sized World War II tank unit of the German Army (1935–1945), equipped with Tiger I, and later Tiger II, heavy tanks. Originally intended to fight on the offensive during breakthrough operations, the German late-war realities required it to be used in a defensive posture by providing heavy fire support and counter-attacking enemy armored breakthroughs, often organised into ad hoc Kampfgruppen.

The German heavy tank battalions destroyed the total number of 9,850 enemy tanks for the loss of only 1,715 of their own, a kill/loss ratio of 5.74. The 1,715 German losses also include non-combat tank write-offs.

Tiger I in France.

Formation 

Early formation units experimented to find the correct combination of heavy Tiger tanks supported by either medium Panzer III tanks or reconnaissance elements. In 1942 this consisted of 20 Tigers and 16 Panzer IIIs, composed of two companies, each with four platoons of two Tigers and two Panzer IIIs. Each company commander would have an additional Tiger, and battalion command would have another two. 

Later formations had a standard organization of 45 Tiger Tanks, composed of three companies of 14 Tigers each, plus three command vehicles. Maintenance troubles and the mechanical unreliability of the Tigers posed a continuous problem, so often the units would field a smaller number of combat-ready tanks. 

The limited number of these heavy tanks, plus their specialized role in either offensive or defensive missions, meant they were rarely permanently assigned to a single division or corps, but shuffled around according to war circumstances.

In addition to tanks, each battalion planned to include the following: 
Description vehicle type 1 July 1943 1 January 1945
Flakpanzer IV Self-propelled anti-aircraft gun 0 8
Sd.Kfz. 7/1 8 ton 4 x 2 cm Flak Self-propelled anti-aircraft gun 6 3
Sd.Kfz. 251 Schützenpanzerwagen Armoured half-track 10 11
Bergepanther Armoured recovery vehicle 0 5
Sd.Kfz. 9 18 ton Zugkraftwagen
Half-track prime mover 8 7
Sd.Kfz. 10 1 ton Zugkraftwagen Light half-track 8 13
Sd.Kfz. 2 Kettenkrad Gun tractor 0 14
Beiwagenkrad Motorcycle with sidecar, e.g. BMW R75 25 0
Solokrad Motorcycle 17 6
Kübelwagen Personenkraftwagen Staff car 64 38
Personenkraftwagen, zivil Civilian car 2 1
Lastkraftwagen Truck, e.g. Opel Blitz 111 84
Lastkraftwagen, zivil Civilian truck 24 34
Maultier Half-track 0 6
Kran-Kraftfahrzeug Mobile crane 3 3
Total 278 233

Organisation structure 

The organisation structure of a German heavy Panzer battalion in 1943, on example of the schwere Panzerabteilung 508, was as follows. 

  • staff / GermanStab
  • staff company (three tanks) / Stabskompanie
  • 1st – 3rd Panzer company (14 tanks each) / 1. – 3. Panzerkompanie
    • company detachment (two tanks) / Kompanietrupp
    • 1st – 3rd Panzer platoon (four tanks each) / 1. – 3. Panzerzug
    • medical service / Sanitätsdienst
    • vehicle repair detachment / Kfz. Instandsetzungstrupp
    • combat train I / Gefechtstross I
    • combat train II / Gefechtstross II
    • baggage train / Gepäcktross
  • workshop company / Werkstattkompanie
    • 1st and 2nd workshop platoon / 1. and 2. Werkstattzug
    • recovery platoon / Bergezug
    • armorer detachment / Waffenmeisterei
    • communications detachment / Funkmeisterei
    • spare part detachment / Ersatzteiltrupp

Army units 

By the end of the war, the following heavy panzer detachments had been created. Early units were re-built several times by the end of the war.

Independent units attached to the German Army (Heer) were:

SS units 

Units attached to the Waffen-SS were:

Combat performance 

Kill and Loss Ratio of the Tiger Battalions (1942–1945): 
Unit Losses Destroyed Ratio
501st Heavy Panzer Battalion 120 450 3.75
502nd Heavy Panzer Battalion 107 1,400 13.08
503rd Heavy Panzer Battalion 252 1,700 6.75
504th Heavy Panzer Battalion 109 250 2.29
505th Heavy Panzer Battalion 126 900 7.14
506th Heavy Panzer Battalion 179 400 2.23
507th Heavy Panzer Battalion 104 600 5.77
508th Heavy Panzer Battalion 78 100 1.28
509th Heavy Panzer Battalion 120 500 4.17
510th Heavy Panzer Battalion 65 200 3.08
13./Panzer-Regiment Großdeutschland 6 100 16.67
III./Panzer-Regiment Großdeutschland 98 500 5.10
13./SS-Panzer-Regiment 1 42 400 9.52
8./SS-Panzer-Regiment 2 31 250 8.06
9./SS-Panzer-Regiment 3 56 500 8.93
101st SS Heavy Panzer Battalion 107 500 4.67
102nd SS Heavy Panzer Battalion 76 600 7.89
103rd SS Heavy Panzer Battalion 39 500 12.82
TOTAL: 1,715 9,850 5.74

Tank losses include losses inflicted other than by enemy tanks. Also, many tanks were abandoned by their crews due to a lack of fuel, ammunition or breakdown, especially at the end of war.

APP-6 Armored.svg

topographical map symbol
Active 1943
Country  Germany
Branch German Heer
Type Panzer
Role Armoured warfare
Size Battalion, up to 45 tanks
Part of Balkenkreuz.svg Wehrmacht
Engagements World War II

Source

Tiger I

Tiger II

King Tiger (Tiger II)

German Division (World War 2)

Organisation of a Panzer Division

German Army Ranks 1939-1945

German Ranks: What rank commanded which Unit?

Army hierarchy

Read about WWII here

Maus

1 Tiger Tank vs 50 T-34s – A True Story

The Tiger Tank That Wouldn’t Die

Panther Ambush – Normandy 1944

Panther vs Sherman – Operation Nordwind 1945

Jagdpanther vs. Churchill – Normandy 1944

Tiger Ambush – Normandy 1944

Jagdtiger Ambush – Ardennes 1944

Jagdtiger Ambush 1945!

SS King Tiger Last Stand: Berlin 1945

Tiger I and Stug III in the Battle of Narva (February, 1944)

About King Tiger (Tiger II)

How effective was the Tiger I and Tiger II really?

King Tiger: Why NO MG-42, but MG-34?

How to use a Sturmtiger

Panzer III vs. T-34

Panzer IV vs. S-35 Somua – Comparison in 1940

Panzer IV vs. Sherman

Nashorn vs Pershing, Germany 1945

The most underrated Panzer?

The German Panzer (WWII)

Development of the Panzer Arm to 1939

German Tank Production in World War 2

Did Speer kill the Panzerwaffe by cooking the Books? (feat. Dr. Töppel)

Entwicklung (Tank) Series

The King Tiger’s Big Brother – E-100 Mega Tank

WW2 German Tank Type and Size Comparison 3D

Panzers in Spain (1936-1939)

Panzer Tactics – “Blitzkrieg” Years – Platoon

German Panzer Tactics WW2 – Attack

Top 7 German Panzer aces

Top 10 German Tank Aces – The Masters of the Blitzkrieg

T-34/76 on the Eastern Front (1941)

Sturmgeschütz (StuG) – German Assault Artillery

StuG School October 1943

German Self-Propelled Artillery Vehicle Hummel (German: “bumblebee”)

Stripped & Scrapped – What Happened to WW2 German Armour

German Army Armoured Fighting Vehicle Uniforms 1934-1945

Why Halftracks? Why limited to WW2 only?

The Kettenkrad

Felix Steiner

The Life and Death of Michael Wittmann

Joachim Peiper

About Joachim Peiper I

About Joachim Peiper II

Kampfgruppe Peiper – Composition Schwere SS-Panzer Abteilung 501.

Kursk – The battle of Prokhorovka through the eyes of Panzer Ace Rudolf von Ribbentrop

Rest In Peace: Rudolf von Ribbentrop

Franz Bäke

Kurt Knispel

Guderian – Myth & Reality

Why is Rommel so complicated? – Erwin Rommel vs. Desert Fox

Why Ghost Division? What did Rommel do?

Watch videos about Rommel, Hitler and WWI

Erwin Rommel – Not a traitor

German Soldiers of World War II: Why They Were the Best, and Why They Still Lost

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