"BERGETIGER": WHAT IS IT?
by Gary Zimmer
Model by Matt Ward.
Model by Matt Ward.
Found on an Italian roadside, with terminal
engine problems, was a Tiger 1 with its gun removed and a simple
crane fitter to the turret roof. Allied examiners and many
post-war writers decided that the tank was a recovery vehicle,
an error that has persisted for fifty years.
CMK make a kit of this "Bergetiger", and their
box art shows the rediculous scenario of two crewmen using the
hand winch to unditch a vehicle. CMK states that 58 "Bergetiger"
were so modified. Encyc. of German Tanks claims 3 were built.
The photos are all of the one vehicle, it has every indication
of a lash- up done in the field and I believe that no other
Tigers were so modified.
Here are some of the suggested uses for this
vehicle and the case for and against.
ARMOURED RECOVERY VEHICLE (ARV)
Tanks modified in the field to ARVs usually have one thing in common: they lose their turrets. The British designated such vehicles of any type as ARV MkI or tug. I can think of a dozen examples.
2. Limit of cable tension:
Making some estimates of handle length, spool diameter and gear ratio, two strong lads on the winch could put about 3 tons of tension in the cable. This gives a lift at the boom end of six tons if a block is used (as CMK depicts.). This is totally inadequate for shifting any sort of large vehicle from a bog or ditch. ARV winches (Panther, Centurion, etc) are typically 40 tons capacity.
3. Cable diameter:
The cable appears to be no more than 15mm in diameter. Again, no way would this be strong enough to tow another tank.
4. Towing from the winch:
One suggestion was that the winch was for storing a tow cable. This cannot work as no ARV I know of tows from the turret, also attempting to use this winch to tow another tank would, if the cable survived (3 above) would be the end of the winch. This winch also appears to be pawl retained, and pawls are never used to hold heavy loads.
5. Boom bending stresses:
The crane is limited not by what the hernia-prone crewmen can exert, but the stress concentration where the boom (missing) fits into the tube assembly. We don't know what the boom was, it could have been high quality steel (an old gun tube) , mild steel pipe, or wood. Also the longer the boom is, the less it can lift. A boom of useful length could only lift about 2 tons for high quality steel, and probably as little as 200kg for a timber boom.
None of the normal ARV equipment, heavy chains, shackles, cables, drawbars, and timber blocks are apparent on the "Bergetiger".
Why (as CMK's box art suggests) bust a gut on a hand winch, when you could simply chain the vehicle being recovered to the tank and use first gear?
1. Limitations of boom:
To lift a tank engine the crane would be fairly marginal at best for reasons detailed above. To change a Tiger transmission the turret has to be lifted first, and this assembly is approximately 7 tons.
2. Height of crane:
The boom mechanism appears to have two positions only, horizontal and raised. In the raised position, the estimated maximum height of the crane precludes many normal field workshop tasks as detailed above.
3. Angle of rope:
The winch rope pulls back almost along the boom. It would thus be impossible to raise the boom using the winch rope, and this indicates that the purpose of the winch was to raise something up to the end of the boom. Therefore (as CMK suggests) a pulley should be on the tip of the (missing) boom. The mantlet mechanism appears to be the only means of raising the boom.
4. Boom structure:
The method of construction is not normal of a crane. Cranes are typically trussed structures, or in the case of a tubular boom supported by guys from a mast (Munitionspanzer fur Karlgerat).
Relying on a pawl (instead of a band brake) to hold a supported load is not typical of most cranes.
6. Why use a Tiger?
Many other less battleworthy tanks or half-tracks could be used as the basis of a workshop crane.
EXPLOSIVE ORDNANCE HANDLER
1. Crane limitations:
By 1944 the Allies were using some quite large bombs, and for reasons above, this crane could not be much use.
2. Lack of extra protection:
A vehicle designed to travel with an unexploded bomb dangling in front would I suspect be fitted with extra armour, concrete, sandbags, etc. None of this is evident on the "Bergetiger".
As above, you would expect visors and hull/turret gun ports to be covered and the crew to operate on periscopes only.
4. Retention of secondary armarment:
Not required for an EOD handler.
5. Winch operators:
The protection offeed by the Tiger would not be of any benefit to the poor crewmen standing, exposed, on the engine deck should the cargo decide to detonate.
6. Why a Tiger?
There is no reason why a less battleworthy tank could not be used instead of a Tiger. The protection required is for blast, not penetration, and applique solutions on a lesser vehicle would suffice.
DEMOLITION CHARGE LAYER
Phil Kangur is of the opinion this vehicle served with s.Pz.Abt. 508, a unit that used Borgward DCLs. It is only speculation, but maybe this unit were looking for a better protected DCL than their vulnerable B.IVs
2. The DCL theory is consistent with:
3. Removal of the main armament:
Consistent with the need to balance the turret, and to preclude interference with the gun tube.
4. Similarity to other vehicles in function:
e.g. Churchill AVRE. I am only speculating but I suspect that the charge was lifted to the boom end in a safe area where exposure of the crew is unimportant, driven up to the obstacle, and released from within the tank.
5. Boom elevation mechanism:
The two positions (up or horizontal) of the boom may be part of the charge dropping procedure.
6. Tube pull-out:
Again, only a guess, but this design may have been intentional to allow the inner (missing) boom to come out by reversing the tank if the boom becomes fouled.
Another source seems to think that a charge
suspended or dropped from the boom was used to detonate mines.
Most of the above points in favour of a DCL apply. However
having to withdraw and reload for each charge would make
clearance of a large field a slow process.
To say that this "Bergetiger" may have been used
to tow other tanks on odd ocasions is speculation, and in this
role it would be no more or less useful than any other gun tank.
Its intended function was never recovery, or any other crane use.
It definitely cannot be an ARV.
In my opinion the miss-named "Bergetiger"s
function was to place some sort of explosive charge, probably
while under fire, for the purpose of demolishing obstacles. In
the absence of any further information this is the best
explanation I can offer.
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