Wednesday 25 December 2013

Ferdinand Losses

The Battle of Kursk is, perhaps, the most famous tank battle in history. In that battle, the Ferdinand assault gun was introduced, seemingly invincible, with the most powerful tank gun fielded by the Wehrmacht to date. Due to the relatively few numbers of Ferdinands manufactured, it is possible to account for nearly all of them.

Ferdinands from s.PJA. 654 were sent to the railroad station of Ponyri, and many of them met their end there. has a list of the damaged tanks, and Photo-war has pictures of some of them.

Here is the translated list:
  • I-02 hit a mine, lost its left track and a road wheel, and caught fire. The vehicle burned up.
  • II-01 was hit by an incendiary bottle and burned up.
  • II-02 hit a mine, lost its right track and road wheels. It was later hit by an incendiary bottle, and burned up.
  • II-03 was hit by a shell, and subsequently an incendiary bottle. The vehicle burned up. Edward Yermolayev helpfully identified it as a Ferdinand that appeared in other articles.
  • #501 hit a mine and lost a track. It was repaired and tested at NIBT.
  • #502 lost an idler from explosives. This vehicle was subsequently used for penetration testing. 
  • #514 hit a mine, lost its track and suffered a damaged road wheel. The vehicle burned up.
  • #522 was destroyed by explosives, track and road wheels destroyed. The fuel ignited. The vehicle burned up.
  • #523 was destroyed by explosives, lost a track, and some road wheels. The vehicle was burned by its crew.
  • #524 hit a mine, lost a track, and was set on fire.
  • #601 lost its right track from a shell hit. The vehicle was ignited externally and burned up.
  • #602 was penetrated by a 76 mm shell in the left side. The gas tank ignited and the vehicle burned up.
  • #734 was destroyed by explosives, lost a track. The fuel ignited, the vehicle burned up.
  • #712 was hit by a shell, and its right leading wheel was destroyed. The crew bailed out. 
  • #713 lost both idlers from shells and caught fire. The vehicle burned up.
  • #723 took shots to the suspension and gun mantlet, the gun was jammed, and track destroyed.
  • #732 was hit by a shell, and had its third bogey destroyed. The vehicle was set on fire.
  • 150061 lost its idler and gun to artillery fire. The crew was captured.
  • 150090 hit a mine, track destroyed. Vehicle was repaired and sent to Moscow to an exhibition of captured vehicles.
  • An unknown Ferdinand was destroyed completely by a direct hit from a Petlyakov bomber.
This site also has photos of the Ferdinands that met their end in the North half of Kursk. Here are the translations, with the exception of exact matches with vehicles above:
  • #111 caught fire due to an overheated engine while climbing a hill.
  • #112 caught fire for an unknown reason, perhaps due to a faulty fuel system.
  • #113 hit a mine.
  • #122 was lost at Ponyri (very likely that it is serial number 150090).
  • #132: unknown, no photos of this Ferdinand destroyed.
  • #134 was mistaken for an enemy tank, had its track damaged by German artillery, and was abandoned.
  • #232: unknown, no photos of this Ferdinand destroyed.
  • #311 was, most likely, disassembled for parts.
  • #323 likely hit a mine and was immobilized, destroyed by crew.
  • #331 was stuck in soft ground. A Soviet infantry attack prevented the crew from destroying it.
  • #333 was captured at Podmaslovka.
  • #IN1: unknown, no photos of this Ferdinand.
  • #IN2 was destroyed at Ponyri. Photograph shows two road wheels on the left side destroyed.
  • #II-03 and #732 were destroyed right next to each other at Ponyri, facing away at a 90 degree angle.
  • #531 was destroyed, towed, and used for spare parts.
  • #602 was lost at Ponyri. Cause is unknown, no photos exist.
  • #614: unknown, no photos of this Ferdinand destroyed.
  • #623 was lost while trying to tow #634. A shell went through the open driver's hatch and hit the driver.
  • #624 got stuck on soft ground and was captured.
  • #634 sank into the ground. In an attempt by two other Ferdinands to pull it out, #623 was lost.
  • #654 was lost at Ponyri. Cause is unknown, no photos exist.
  • #711: unknown. There is no caption, and photographs do not show any obvious damage.
  • #731 was destroyed by heavy howitzer fire.
  • #733 was captured at a repair facility.
  • #734 was lost at Ponyri. Cause is unknown, no photos exist.
There is also a list of Ferdinands that are either not identified or might be an already mentioned Ferdinand.
  • A vehicle from s.PJA.653. Broken down, the Germans attempted to tow it, but failed. Potentially #111.
  • A vehicle from s.PJA.653 was captured at the Orel railroad station.
  • Unknown vehicle, likely from s.PJA.653, was destroyed next to #731. There exists a theory that it is #614.
Ferdinands weren't only deployed at Kursk. Some were deployed, and lost, in Italy.
  • #101: unknown.
  • #102 had an engine fire, and was abandoned by its crew. 
  • #111 was destroyed by a mine, and towed away.
  • #112 was destroyed by its own crew due to mechanical problems.
  • #113 had its tracks damaged by artillery, and abandoned by its crew. The loader was killed.
  • #114 got stuck on soft ground and destroyed by its crew.
  • #121 went over a bridge, which collapsed. The tank was destroyed by its crew.
  • #122 caught fire after being strafed by American ground attack planes.
  • #123 was destroyed by American ground attack planes.
  • #124 was abandoned due to mechanical problems.
  • #131 got stuck on soft ground and destroyed by its crew.
That's a total of 54-57 Ferdinands accounted for, out of 91 built. As you can see, quite a number of them were taken out by infantry or explosives, instead of other tanks, serving as an example that tanks do not exist in a vacuum with other tanks, and any tank needs good infantry cover. A number of the tanks suffered mechanical failure or were lost after getting stuck, showing that armour and armament, while important, are no good to you if your tank is its own worst enemy. 


  1. Lost to Explosives - could that also include destruction by the crew? A company was also deployed to Sxxxx bridgehead (site of the largest dam in the USSR). That company became an independent company and still had some Elephants operational in Berlin in April 45. That is 14 more vehicles. The Regiment was also engaged after Kursk north versus the Soviet offensive that occurred at the end of Zitadelle. Some had to be lost. Those were Ferdinands. The BN (BN of Ferdinands and BN of Brumbaer) were sent for full refit. 1st Elephant Coy back to Russia. Second to Italy. 3rd to Russia.

  2. Any idea what happened to 621?