Tiger tanks versus Kiwi Shermans

Living History

Tank warfare in the Italian Theatre, especially in the last year of the war, was no less intense than those higher-profile (as far as the mainstream media were concerned) armour engagements west and east of Germany.

The 2nd NZ Division came up against its first Tiger tanks in July 1944, during the advance to Florence. These late-production Tiger Is were engaged not only by M4A2 Shermans, but by M10 Wolverines, artillery & Desert Air Force fighter-bombers. By late July the Kiwis had their first success when a Tiger withdrawing across open ground, in broad daylight, was knocked-out by a combination of armour and artillery fire.

However, such success came with a price. A Tiger (probably commanded by Leutnant Harder, 2nd Kompanie, s.H.Pz.Abt. 508) knocked-out a troop of Kiwi Shermans in less than five minutes at La Romola, on the Paula Line, that same summer. The Tiger was sited at a ninety-degree angle to the line of advance of the three Shermans, and apparently used the line of a straight road cutting through a valley, which provided a narrow – though excellent – arc of fire. The Tiger was possibly working in conjunction with infantry spotters. The three advancing Kiwi Shermans had only just pulled up (in line-abreast), near the watertable of this same road, and didn’t know what hit them. The Tiger withdrew unscathed and unseen, the German panzer crew having implemented a classic bushwhack.

Last year I published a novel called Greyhound and the story covers this incident, plus many other engagements and confrontations the Kiwis had; with not only German Tigers, paratroopers, SS; but also Tito’s Communist partisans…even after the official cessation of hostilities! Greyhound weaves fiction around little-known (but gripping) fact. To buy Greyhound check Amazon Kindle for the ebook (US$4.95, GBP3pound). Readers can also do a search on the net: Sid Marsh, Greyhound.

Kiwi Shermans came up against Tigers & Panthers with a vengeance, leading up to the advance on Venice, from April 1945. Three Kiwi Shermans liberated Venice (not forgetting the Italian partisans, of course), with the assistance of a mobile company of 22nd (NZ) Battalion. The troop of tanks engaged German armoured cars, artillery pieces, and panzer-grenadiers with panzershreks, in order to win the causeway to Venice proper. Over 300 German POWs were taken at the end of this action.

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