The Vimoutiers Tiger


The date is August 21st,1944.The place is east of the town of Vimoutiers, in Southern Normandy. A group of German troops and several tanks, Panzer III & IV's,Tigers and Panthers are heading for a fuel dump at nearby Chateau de l'Horloge.

Both Men and vehicles are weary following the continuous fighting in the area after the Allied invasion of the Normandy coast. A Tiger 1,(no.231 *) of 2nd Kompanie of the s.SS.Pz.Abt 102, grinds to a halt in the middle of the N179, straddling the road after exhausting the last fuel vapour in its massive tanks. The commander makes the decision to abandon their vehicle and disable it.The crew start unloading all the ammunition and distributing it to the other vehicles in their company.

Then they remove their personal gear and negotiate a ride with their still, mobile comrades....... Making a hurried attempt at demolition, two charges are placed in the tank,one inside the turret, the other on the engine....The fuses are lit.......... They jump to the ground and walk slowly away, looking behind them at their mighty beast of war,soon to be destroyed by their own hands.

How long the Tiger remained there until the American engineers pushed it off the road down a bank into the trees, is unknown..........

      

A local scrapman, Ms Morat, was not long in making a claim on the wreck and,once the purchase went through, did nothing about it apart from removing the turret and lifting out the gearbox.There it sat, half under the trees for 30 years, every loose fitting inside removed by souvenir hunters, when Ms Morat died,his sister sold the tank to a scrapyard in Caen.
The new owners wasted no time and soon arrived to cut up the Tiger ! they started the cutting torch on the turret top. The work was discovered by M.Michel Dufresne on her way home after shopping.Her husband contacted the Mayor of Vimoutiers straight away!The local town council soon heard about this, and rushed to the scene where they confronted the new owners saying this was "their" Tiger........

After much haggling and a telephone call by Mr Eddy Florentin, a historian, to the Ministry of War in Paris, on the Mayor's authority,the villagers paid the scrap dealer 6000 Francs (600) and secured it's future!


Fortunes were made from the scrap of war, here are some pictures of vehicle dumps in and around the area. Just to illustrate, remember all these vehicles where on "somebodys" land after all. The victors took the cream of this crop and left the farmers and land owners the rest.




In May,1975 After The Battle magazine did a feature on The Falaise battle (issue 8) and pictured the tank on the cover. Now that the tank had widespread publicity,the feeling of the townspeople was that the tank should be removed from its resting place and restored and re-painted...The job of its recovery was given to Alain Roudeix, an ex-Maquis collector-extraordinaire, who had taken part in clearing much of the local battlefields just after the war.
In October,1975 the project began.....
A concrete plinth was made ready, in a lay by in the bend of the road, then the turret was lifted off to reduce the weight, and the hull was dragged up onto the road by two bulldozers...It was a struggle as you can see, as one of them goes "airborne"!

The turret was replaced and the next thing was to weld thin plates to cover the apertures where the hatches had been blown off. The removal of the torsion bars had collapsed the suspension so, a concrete support was made under the front and rear of the hull, so the tank would "sit" right.The wartime damage and more recent weld cuts were made good and then the tank was re-painted desert sand colour, the camoflage pattern was added with reference to armour plate still in M.Roudeix's collection.The tank has the serial no. 251 113, and the Tiger in Saumur is 251 114, which is known to belong to s.SS.Pz.Abt.102, so it is a good assumption that this Tiger belonged to the same group!. * Turret/Tank no. 231 reference is from the sites visitor information sign!*.


Permission to reproduce some Photos kindly granted by Winston G.Ramsey of "After the Battle" magazine


Click here to read about "After the Battle" magazine and it's History


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These are the pictures of our visit.

Click on the road sign below