“Tiger” by Thomas Anderson

The very word “Tiger” petrified them! Thousands of Allied soldiers who had to face the German Panzerkampfwagen Tiger tank in battle in different sectors of the Second World War experienced what came to be known simply as  “tank shock.”

Described as being “one of the most feared weapons of World War II,”  the Tiger tank was a beast of a machine which dominated the battlefields of Europe with its astonishing size, speed and firepower. Over 70 years have gone by since the Tiger made its sinister presence felt on the battlefields but it is still spoken of with awe.

World War aficionados will find Thomas Anderson’s “Tiger,” which is about the development  and use of the Tiger, of considerable interest. From the desert sands of Africa  to the icy steppes of Russia, various models of the Tiger added significant punch to the Panzer Armies. The Germans, you will recall, were the first to capitalize on mobile warfare and changed the rules of the game with the blitzkrieg. This took the Allies, till then grounded in their defensive mind sets, totally by surprise.

Anderson’s access to German documents of those times brings you authentic accounts of the role the Tiger played, staring from how it was conceived to how successful models were developed to meet new demands of the battle field. He steers you from how the Tiger was developed, to how the battle formations were organized, describing what gave it its fearsome mobility and firepower. You see the Tiger in combat and understand how they were maintained despite terrific odds.  Anderson writes, ” 1943 was the year of the Tiger. When the PzKpfw VI entered service it appeared to fulfill the dreams of any tank crew. Virtually indestructible and mounting the astonishingly deadly 8.8 cm cannon, a scenario which the Nazi propaganda machine found irresistible.”

The photographs alone make the book a good buy. They are amazing and you live out the battles of those far away days when you see brilliant pictures of the Tiger at war in its different forms.  You see the Tiger in action with the pride of Germany of those times such as the SS Panzer Regiments “Liebstandarte Adolf Hitler” and “Grossdeutschland” as well as with Rommel’s famed Afrika Korps. I remember reading elsewhere how they set out to battle with ” Wir werden Sieger, durch unseren Tiger” ( “We will be victorious, thanks to our Tigers”) on their lips.

There are readers and then there are readers. Some, like me, who enjoy reading about strategy and tactics of battle, could find there is too much information of the technical aspects of the Tiger. While one does wish to know what made it a stand out weapon, I felt there was far too much of technical detail by way of specifications. There was also some amount of back and forth as far as regards the time periods as Anderson describes the evolution of different versions of the Tiger. The book ends with a list of places where you can still see the Tiger. In museums, of course.

As one who enjoys a good read about the Second World war, I found the story of the Tiger by Anderson to be quite fascinating. It brought back memories of scenes in the war movies which resounded with the cry, “Achtung! Panzer.”

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