today, we have a nice guest article by Captain Nemo about the real vehicle project, that is in game known as the GW Tiger. I was actually quite impressed by the level of detail Nemo managed to get. Enjoy!
I knew starting off that doing a “short” article on this subject would be hell and thought I might be well prepared for it. I was wrong on that account as even now I am dragging narrow snippits out of the mud and half-mentioned “in-passing-references” which various authors never knew would be important to somebody in the future. I would like to thank Senior Engineer Arnoldt, leader of the Henschel firm’s Haustenbeck Experimental Department at the tank test station for providing key information that the British thankfully recorded in their reports on technical equipment. Without the obscure information I would have a had much bigger black hole then I already have. Although I have yet to find a record of Mr. Arnoldt’s first name. In any case thank you Mr. Arnoldt for the records.
On the 6th of May 1942, Krupp presented the first proposals for an armored self-propelled carriage (gepanzerte Selbstfahrlafette) for mounting either a 17cm Kannone K72 (Sf) L/50 or a 21cm Mörser 18/1 L/31 (some sources say L/30, L/31, or L/32 but it’s all about where you measure from and I use L/31 here). The recoil system was to be the same double recoil system used by towed artillery (not sure 100% if this includes the not so towed artillery that had to be broken down into loads but I suspect it is) such as the upper limit on towed artillery, the 21 cm Mörser 18 L/31, which still had to be split into two loads to be moved.
Now to make the best use of this new SPG it was decided that the vehicle would lower a base plate off the back of the vehicle and the gun removed from the vehicle to allow for all around 360° fire on what was essentially a pedestal mount up front under the front of the gun and a manoeuvrable rear rest. This would allow the rear of the gun to be quickly swung into any direction since most of the weight of the gun was supported on the base place. The base plate was to be carried/hanged off the back of the vehicle. The reasoning behind this was mandated so that the GW Tiger could be used in the costal defense role and having the base plate would allow for clear firing in all directions which was not a new idea. (It had been used on rail guns on rails and rail guns transferred to concrete fixed emplacements) but what was new was putting such a large gun on a tracked vehicle, giving it the ability to move reasonably well, and then setup to fire on a 360° mounting without the extensive amounts of time previously needed with railways guns, of such large calibers and power, to setup and prepare the mounting or be restricted by the limitations of a railway network.
I mention the date at the start of the article because it is mentioned in what little source material there is for the GW Tiger. What is not always mentioned is the poor state of development (mechanically) that the Tiger tank was in at the time of the rather ambitious proposal from Krupp. In May on 1942 the engines were hardly working on the test stands, hulls were mostly on schedule as were the turrets but production was halted several times to adding modifications to the design and the first completed vehicle was tested in April. Such production plans incudes the sudden shift from a 50/50 split of hull production of hydraulic and electric transmission hulls to a nearly all electric transmission hulls which annoyed the hell out of Krupp on top of a laundry list of changes from Porsche for both turrets and hulls. Krupp was informed of this lovely change on the 8th of May just 2 days after his proposal. Krupp had set up his production line for the hulls to conform to the original 50/50 split of hydraulic and electrical transmissions which used slightly different configurations in the hull to fit the components.
With all of this going on the proposed SPG was ordered to be done by November. But even Krupps planned production of hulls all to the electric transmission design never took off with production grinding to a halt in July of 1942. It is all the more remarkable that any of the Tiger (P)’s made it to testing grounds at all on top of the remarkable plans to rush 10 Tiger (P)’s to North Africa to support and reinforce Erwin Rommel. Ironically theses Tiger(P)’s would have made it to North Africa if not for mechanical problems occurring in the transmission. Contracts were issued for the 17cm Kannone K72 (Sf) L/50 in August of 1942.
In November of 1942 it was decided to use SM-Stahl (carbon steel) in the construction of self-propelled guns in general and that armor plate in the construction of the Versuchsfahrzeug (experimental vehicle) chassis. It was also decided that the front plate of the GW Tiger would be changed from 30mm of Armor plate to 50mm of carbon steel which added 1.5 metric tons to the weight of the SPG and the sides would be 30mm of carbon steel.
And then, after November 1942, the trail of information about the GW Tiger ends for an entire year when it was decided that instead of using the Tiger I’s engines, suspension, steering, and transmission for the GW Tiger, the GW Tiger would use the upcoming and more advanced Tiger II’s components. (Not 100% sure if it used the Tiger II’s chassis I am looking at photos to confirm.)
The components were scheduled for delivery by January 1944 and like all German delivery schedules tended to slip towards the end of the war but were surprisingly able to be maintained for the most part. It would not be uncommon to have badly needed parts for projects like the GW Tiger be redirected to the frontline repair depots and thus put the project further behind schedule simply (most likely) because of its lack of a high priority.
On 25th September of 1944 Reichsminister Albert Speer ordered the demonstration to Hitler on 15 January 1945 as soon as the GW Tiger was completed at the end of the year. Serial production was to then start at the rate of two per month. But with all of the bombing going on in Essen, Krupp on 7th December 1944 reported that the GW Tiger was ready to be loaded onto a rail car for transportation from Essen to Paderborn. Assembly work continued at Henschel Panzerversuchsstation 96, Haustenbeck, near Paderborn where it was reported on 22nd December 1944 that many of the necessary components were still missing. (Cooling and fueling systems, tracks and hardened roadwheel arms.)
In early 1945 the OKH (Oberkommando des Heeres aka Supreme High Command of the German Army) decided that it would be a much better thing, considering the situation of the war, that they should reconsider the whole range of vehicles in development and cut those that would have little impact on the ongoing war.
In January 1945 plans were made to produce optional, 30.5cm caliber, smooth bore mortars with fin-stabilized projectiles due to the concerns over the length of time it took to produce normal artillery barrels in the 17cm Kannone K72 (Sf) L/50 or a 21cm Mörser 18/1 L/30. Krupp and Skoda both competed on this project with Skoda producing a 30.5 GrW L/16 prototype by April 1945. There was however an Skoda 30.5 cm Mörser 1911 L/10 later redesigned to a L/12 + lighter construction of the chassis during the First World War and a handful of these guns were used actively in combat during the Second World War. For Skoda to make it into a smooth bore in 1945 is not too unusual to believe. For them to win out between Krupp makes some sense when you consider that the original WW1 design was already well known. At least 29 of the Skoda 30.5 cm Mörser of all types ended up being used by the Germans during the war well into 1943.
In the end nothing would really come of all of this effort. The whole GW Tiger project would be cancelled on 20th February 1945. The uncompleted GW Tiger would be captured by the US 3rd Army at the Henschel Panzerversuchsstation 96, Haustenbeck, near Paderborn sometime between April 5th and April 7th. Exactly which unit and which day is unknown. The US 3rd however in getting to the area ran into some Jagdtiger’s with 12.8cm guns on the 5th and one from a training regiment also armed with Panthers and Tigers (SS Panzer Replacement and Training Center and the SS Reconnaissance Training Regiment) ,a majority of the unit being veteran soldiers from the Eastern Front, on March 30th. However, after the war, the tanks at the proving grounds were evaluated and examined on 25th August 1945 by the British and some of the tanks were in working order, or could be made to work, were tested. A film was made of the testing and can be found on Youtube.
(A future article will further cover the Haustenbeck area and the fighting in and around it.)
The Guns: 17cm, 21cm, and the 30.5cm. A 42cm mortar was also planned to be fitted but there is no real info on it (SS: actually, there is: I will post about it some day)
17cm Kannone K72 (Sf) L/50 by Krupp:
At least 1 produced before the end of the war and it was found at the Henschel proving grounds near the GW Tiger chassis. The GW Tiger would have carried 5 rounds plus propellant on board when equipped with this gun.
68 kg Sprenggranate(HE) with 29.15 kg of propellant to a range of 28,000 meters.
62.8 kg Sprenggranate(HE) with 30.5 kg of propellant to a range of 29,600 meters.
Elevation was to be -2° to 48°
Transverse was, by hand, to be 5° Left and 5° Right. Or 360° when moved off the chassis.
21cm Mörser 18/1 L/31 by Krupp:
The 21cm Mörser 18/1 L/31 was already in production and use by the Germans. It was produced to replace the much older 21cm Mörser 16 of 1916 vintage. The 21cm Mörser 18 replaced the 21cm Mörser 16 in front line service around 1940 with the older gun being relegated to secondary theaters and training units. 711+ 21cm Mörser 18 would be produced from 1939–45.The GW Tiger would have carried 3 rounds plus propellant on board when equipped with this gun.
113 kg Sprenggranate(HE) with 15.7 kg of propellant to a range of 16,700 meters.
Elevation was to be -2° to 48°
Transverse was, by hand, to be 5° Left and 5° Right. Or 360° when moved off the chassis.
30.5 GrW L/16 Prototype by Skoda:
Elevation was to be 40° to 75° and Transverse was, by hand, to be 5° Left and 5° Right. Or 360° when moved off the chassis. The gun would automatically return to 40° for reloading after fire which was a feature previously found on the Skoda 30.5 cm Mörser of 1911-18. The proposed 42cmGrW was also supposed to have this feature.
Range and shell weight of the 30.5 GrW L/16 Prototype by Skoda are unknown at the moment although I could take guesses off the original 30.5 cm Mörser of 1911-18 but it would only be a guess with no real backing. (I could do some engineering but that’s a lot of work)
A crew of 8, with hand loading and ramming was intended.(According to a British intelligence report from 1945 when they visited the proving grounds on August 25th) Doyle in Panzer Tracts 10 reports the crew as consisting of 8 members as well with the crew being the Commander, 6 Kanoniere’s and a Driver. I suspect that the driver and commander would sit in the front of the tank and the gunners would take the three seats on either side of the gun at the rear of the vehicle.
The Engine and Gearbox:
The Maybach HL230 P30 produced 650PS(641.10hp) although about 80hp was lost to belts, fans, auxiliaries leaving only about 560hp for moving what would be about a 58 metric ton vehicle(17cm gun fitted) and 60 tons combat loaded. Maximum speed was to be 45kph in top gear but this would have never been reached, not due to lack of trying, because of an Order from the General der Panzerkampfwagen (Inspector General of Tanks) limiting the maximum speeds for all tanks to 40kph, continuous speed to 30kph, and convoy speeds to 25kph although in practice the speeds were lower than these limits for a variety of reasons. To reduce wear on tracks, engine bearings, to reduce fuel consumption and noise. The engine in the GW Tiger was mid-mounted in the chassis to allow for the maximum amount of room for the large gun and space for the crew.
The transmission was a Maybach OG 40 12 16 B with 8 forward gears and 4 reverse gears. Top speed possible was 45kph with the sustained road speed of 30-35kph (depends on the source but 35kph is cited more often) and an off road speed of 18-20kph cross country. Reverse speed of 3.6kph in First gear. Range on road would have been 250km and range cross country would have been 150km. 1,000 liters of fuel were carried.
Haustenbeck is now an abandoned village in Germany. The Panderborn area would be hit with 1,200 tons of bombs leveling the area on 27th March 1945 in advanced of allied attacks by the US 3rd Army March 25th through April 7th. It would be the British that would discover the famous E-100 prototype tank in Haustenbeck. The 3rd Army’s history of the 3rd labeled the area the “Fort Knox of Germany”. The reason for the name comes from the fact that the area was used extensively in the training of armored units and as a rest area for these units as well as extensive testing ground of new and experimental equipment owned by the Henschel company and on loan to the German Army. As of a few years ago it is still a tank testing area where the British test their Challenger tanks on a 120km2 plot of land. There is still a local graveyard, which is maintained, and the foundations of the local church, built in 1659, they are all that remain of the village apart from the original cobbled streets. The rest is gone.
Authors note: There was going to be a discussion on other guns/platforms that were easily moved, were a similar caliber and were fully rotatable in a 360° arc that were produced before the GW Tiger during WW1 and between the wars but I snipped it out of the final copy since it would have confused even the well informed readers here on FTR News. I might use it in a future article though.
It is doubtful there is much more to be added to this article but every day extra I spend digging I find “Just a little more”. Overall I suspect that there is not much in the way of technical information to be added however I am more than sure that there is much more to be said about Henschel Panzerversuchsstation 96, Haustenbeck. Henschel Panzerversuchsstation 96 is probably one of the more interesting places I have heard of from World War Two and it is slowly revealing itself as I find all the information related to it.
Gw Tiger für 17 cm K 72 (Sf)
Gw Tiger für 21 cm M 18/1 (Sf)
Geschützwagen Tiger für 17 cm Kanone 72 schwere Feldhaubitze Selbstfahrlafette
Geschützwagen Tiger für 21 cm Mörser 18/1 schwere Feldhaubitze Selbstfahrlafette
Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two: (Revised 1993 Edition) by Peter Chamberlin and Hilary Doyle. Technical Editor Thomas Jentz. Published 1978, 1993.
German Jet Engine and Gas Turbine Development: 1930-1945 by Anthony Key. Published 2002.
German Self-Propelled Artillery in World War II: Bison and other 150mm Self-Propelled Guns by Joachim Engelmann. Published 1992.
Germany’s Tiger Tanks: D.W. to Tiger I, Design, Production & Modifications by Thomas Jentz and Hilary Doyle. Published 2000.
Investigations in Germany by Tank Armament Research Published by the British Intelligence Objectives Sub-Comimittee, Ministry of Supply. Published 1946.
The Long Patrol: The British in Germany Since 1945 By Roy Bainton. Published 2011.
Major General Maurice Rose: World War II’s Greatest Forgotten Commander. By Stephen L. Ossad, Don R. Marsh. Published 2006.
Panzer Tracts 10 0 Artillerie Selbstfahrlafetten: 15 cm s.I.G.33 auf Pz.Kpfw.I (ohne Aufbau) to Karl-Geraet (54 cm) by Thomas Jentz and Hilary Doyle. Published 2002.
Panzerkampfwagen VI P (Sd.Kfz.181): The History of the Porsche Typ 100 and 101 also known as the LEOPARD and TIGER P by Thomas Jentz and Hilary Doyle. Published 1997.
Spearhead in the west, 1941-45: the Third Armored Division by Frank Woolner and Murray H. Fowler. Published 1945. Chapter: Central Germany: March 22, 1945 – May 8, 1945. http://www.3ad.com/history/wwll/spearehead.west/chapters/central.germany.htm