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Bergepanzer Tiger I

DML 1/72 Bergepanzer Tiger I, sPzAbt 508 Italy 1944 Kit First Look

By Cookie Sewell

Date of Review July 2004 Manufacturer DML
Subject Bergepanzer Tiger I, sPzAbt 508 Italy 1944 Scale 1/72
Kit Number 7210 Primary Media 67 parts (62 in grey styrene, 2 in black vinyl, 2 in etched brass, 1 section of wire)
Pros "Out of the box" kit of this vehicle in this scale, nice details like zimmerit molded on and brass exhaust guards Cons NOT a Bergetiger!
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $8.95

First Look

I know from hard experience when one is around noted German armor expert Tom Jentz and makes a faux pas, such as calling a Tiger II Ausf. B a "Royal Tiger" or a "Henschel Tiger" the eyerolling is enough to make Groucho Marx swoon in envy. This is one of those vehicles which will cause Tom eyestrain, but at least he has done some research and exposed the myth of this tank.

In 1944, the Germans in Italy were having a problem clearing mine fields. The problem was that they were using explosives to clearing them but none of the other tanks were sturdy enough to both close with mines and withstand the shock of detonation when an antitank mine detonated. The solution as taken by schwerer Panzerabteilung 508 was to use a Tiger I and dismount the main gun from the tank. On the back of the turret, the Germans fitted a manual winch and hoist that could be used to lower the explosive charge into place; the Tiger was more than up to the blast of the charge when detonated (this assumes that the brave engineers got inside the tank BEFORE they detonated the charge, though!)

The name, according to Tom, that the Germans applied to this tank was "Umgebaute Tiger I fuer Minenraeumen" or "Converted Tiger I for Mine Clearing." Further, only one of the tanks was reportedly thus converted (other reports earlier mentioned three, but considering they needed every tank this doesn't seem quite right when only 1,385 Tiger Is were built and it was the only tank that could assuredly kill any Allied vehicle in Italy).

When discovered, none of the US or Commonwealth forces quite understood what it was for (one humorous photo even showed a pair of soldiers recovering a bicycle with the hoist) and so it passed on into legend as the "Bergepanzer Tiger." Considering that it could not have done much more than pull the engine hatch off a fellow Tiger, that always seemed a bit farfetched, and with Tom's additional research it should put paid to the myth.

On the other hand, it has always been a popular conversion subject for modelers, and now DML has released a version of it in 1/72 with their new Tiger I with zimmerit chassis. The complete zimmerit tank kit comes in the box, with the only addition of a new "B" sprue with the winch and hoist components as well as the blanked-off mantelet.

One interesting twist is that there were some complaints with the original release of the Tiger I kit about the fit of the road wheels on the suspension. In response, DML has added a set of pre-interleaved road wheels to the kit! These consist of two parts, the "inners" and the "outers," molded in interconnected sets and provided in the kit partially assembled. Likewise, the kit's drivers come completely assembled as well. All the modeler has to do is slide them onto the axles (that part has not changed, but as they are molded onto the lower hull they are all pre-aligned). Unless you are still into "carpet crawlers" this isn't such a bad idea in this scale, as it makes life easier and still permits the modeler to paint the parts relatively easily before installation.

Decals are provided for the one known example of the vehicle.

Overall, this should be popular with "Tiger fans," but hopefully that silly myth gets put to rest for once and for all as to what it is!

Thanks to DML for the review sample.