The kit’s background
Tamiya’s Tiger kit #35227 addresses the tanks sent to Africa with the 501st Heavy Tank Battalion. These vehicles were built very early in the Tiger’s production run and they have unique features. A total of five other kits (some out of production) have represented the same subject in the same scale.
This kit was designed before the bulk of research into these Tigers was completed. As a result it does not accurately build any of them. Their unique mudflaps and skirting are provided in the kit, but the hull roof has the wrong layout of tools and parts. The hull shape at the front and the turret bin are visibly wrong.
The 501st heavy tank battalion was the second unit to be equipped with Tiger tanks. Its Tigers had prototype external fittings, giving them a unique appearance. The battalion was sent to General von Arnim’s 5th Panzer Army in Tunisia, starting its deployment there in November 1942.
At that time, American and British forces had landed to the west of the Axis zone while Rommel’s Afrika Korps was fighting to the east. The 5th Panzer Army was urgently shipped to Tunisia to defend against this new threat. The 501st was given all new Tigers as a priority until they had 20, organised into 2 companies. At that time, Tiger battalions mixed Tigers with equal numbers of the smaller, more agile Pz.3.
The 501st fought in several battles between December 1942 and March 1943. Its Tigers were the first ones ever encountered by British or American forces, at the battle of Tebourba. Of particular note is the battle of Sidi bou Zid where heavy losses were inflicted on American armour. However, General von Arnim refused to lend the Tigers to Rommel for his subsequent assault through the Kasserine Pass.
At the end of February 1943, the 501st was attached to the 7th Panzer Regiment and sent on von Arnim’s ill-planned mission to capture Beja. The mission ended with seven Tigers lost in the battle of Hunt’s Gap. The eleven remaining Tigers were attached to the newly arrived 504th Heavy Tank Battalion and continued fighting until the surrender of Tunisia.
Tamiya’s kit includes flexible tracks.There are 4 decal schemes, for tigers numbered 121, 131, 813 and 731. A tactical number beginning with 8 indicates that the Tiger is on the Beja mission; a number beginning with 7 indicates the tank is with the 504th battalion. Tiger 731 was in fact Tiger 131 renumbered.
Tamiya German Tiger I Initial Production
The kit’s background