A Tiger tank being pulled from the mud
As World War II progressed, tanks got bigger on all sides. But the bigger the tanks got, the more difficult it became to recover them after they became immobile either due to mechanical failure or getting stuck in the environment. In the German’s case, by 1943, it was even more important to salvage any immobile or malfunctioning tank since resources were becoming scarce, and their factories were being destroyed. Consequently, the Bergepanzer (or Bergepanther) was designed. This was basically a modified Panzer III or Panzer IV. They took off the turret and installed a 40-ton winch, which was the heart of this “Salvage Tank”. The Bergepanzer IV (displayed in this diorama) was also fitted with a 2-ton jib beam for field repairs, and a ground spade. Two square plates were welded to the bow, intended to push vehicles in combination with the “recovery timber”.
This diorama takes place on the Eastern front in late Fall of 1943. During a tank skirmish, this Tiger I went off the “beaten track” and ended up in a marsh. It didn’t take long for it to become bogged down in the deep mud. Luckily there was a maintenance company nearby outfitted with a Bergepanzer. Problem solved!
In the right foreground are a couple of German infantry soldiers taking their captive, a Russian tanker, to high command for “questioning”. Two of the Bergepanzer’s crew watch the scene with mild interest.
The two crewmen assigned to fitting the tow cables have the worst job. They had to dig out the U-hooks to fit on the towing hooks; a mucky job indeed! At least they were able to utilize the Bergepanzer’s wooden winch covers to make it easier walking on the spongy ground.
The Tiger’s commander has noticed something the Bergepanzer uncovered with its’ spade- a human skull and skeletal arm.
Lastly, I wanted to point out a known logistical problem with this diorama. In reality, the Bergepanzer would have been much further away from the vehicle being salvaged. Of course, you’d need at least a couple tank-lengths between the two vehicles to properly attach the winch to the tow cables and pull it out. To achieve this, I would have had to make the diorama at least 8 inches longer, thus creating a lot of “dead space” in between. So good old artistic license came to the rescue!