Saturday 21 September 2013

KV-1 vs Tiger

Fans of comparing tanks and counting numbers should be interested in this episode of the Leningrad Front, when elements of the Independent Guards Breakthrough Tank Regiment engaged the 502nd German Heavy Tank Battalion on the Leningrad Front, between July 22nd, 1943 and August 24th, 1943. For those that believe the KV was worthless at that point, prepare to be shocked and amazed.

CAMD RF 3722-95328-2

Part 1 of the first page shows the various dates and how many tanks were available. The first column is the amount of tanks that participated in battle, and the second is how many tanks were available for battle.

Part 2 of the first page shows the accomplishments of the regiment in that time. Total destroyed:
Tiger tanks: 9
PzIII tanks: 2
PzIV tanks: 3
Pillboxes: 39
AT guns: 13
105 mm guns: 4
Mortars: 15
Machine guns: 28
Ammunition depots: 2
Soldiers: about 700

After that, the report gets more in-depth.

"3. 4 Tigers tanks were destroyed with AP shells from 300-400 meters. Five Tiger tanks were destroyed with subcaliber shells. PzIII and PzIV tanks were destroyed with AP shells. Destroyed enemy tanks that were examined by our staff have penetrations in the turret and sides. One tank, knocked out on August 22nd, has a breach next to the driver's hatch made by an armour piercing shell.

4. The regiment lost 44 tanks in combat, out of those:
  • 8 were destroyed by artillery fire
  • 29 were immobilized by artillery and tank fire
  • 7 were immobilized by mines and explosives
5. Co-operation between tanks and artillery was achieved by having a special radio station in the artillery battery dedicated to communicating with the tanks. The tanks had a map of artillery coordinates. Artillery fire was called in by radio. This tactic was effective when deflecting enemy counterattacks. Tanks could call artillery fire in a timely manner. A forward observer was not assigned to the tank regiment, as one was unavailable at the time. The tank crews were responsible for correcting fire."

However, these weren't just simple KVs. Avid readers of my blog may remember the 31st for a certain special tank they were issued. 

Another interesting fact is that even though the Tiger's gun was very capable of destroying a KV, most of the "casualties" were just damage to the suspension. On average, each tank was "knocked out" more than twice (20 tanks vs 44 casualties). However, once you apply German metrics for losses to both sides, the picture becomes completely different: 8 "obsolete" KVs lost, compared to 9 Tigers, and with a nice bonus of 5 lesser German tanks. If you look at the report more closely, the famous Tigers have a pretty abysmal kill ratio: all 8 are credited to anti-tank artillery. 

One final note on Soviet actions in this battle: out of the 44 tanks "destroyed", only six crew members died. That's pretty good survivability, especially if you notice the machine guns and pillboxes that, no doubt, would not let the crewmen evacuate safely.

Now, on to the German side. Thankfully, Schneider reproduces the German combat diaries in Tigers in Combat, so it is not difficult to search for them. Unfortunately, the diary is not as detailed as I would like it to be (there is not even any mention of KV tanks), but it does confirm that the 502nd s.Pz.Abt took a heavy pounding at Leningrad in this time. 44 tanks are in possession of the battalion at the beginning of the period in question, down to 6 towards the end. 

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