open heart tiger
RESTORATION AND EVOLVING EXHIBITION 04/02/2023
Follow every step of the restoration of an iconic WWII German tank, recovered by the French army in 1944.
Of these giants of 56 tons of steel launched in 1942 on the battlefields by the Third Reich, only 6 complete machines remain today. That of the Armored Museum in Saumur is the only one to still retain all of its original parts. The terrible reputation of the Tiger has consecrated it as the mythical tank of the Second World War, but every machine has its weaknesses... Deployed by the Germans during the Battle of Normandy, this Tiger broke down, was abandoned by its German crew in 1944 , then recovered and repaired by French resistance fighters and finally engaged in the fights for the liberation of France, in particular the liberation of Saint-Nazaire. Integrated into the French army in occupation in Germany, it was then transferred to a technical studies section and then joined the collection of the Armored Museum of which it is a key piece. On the eve of the commemorations of the 80th anniversary of the Liberation, the museum wishes to restore this Tiger tank for dynamic exhibitions, which involves restarting the vehicle with its original engine and repainting the exterior in the colors vehicle history. A large-scale project that the public will be able to enjoy thanks to the evolving exhibition “The Tiger with an open heart”.
The events organized in 2014 for the 70th anniversary of the Liberation aroused real enthusiasm among the French population and particularly among young people. The future commemorations of 2024 or 2025 will be as many opportunities to welcome enthusiasts but also to explain and illustrate to all audiences the major battles fought by the Allies. During these events, the demonstrations of the Tiger I in motion will allow the various spectators to grasp the tactical challenge that such a concentration of steel and firepower represented for the Allies. To do this, the Association of Friends of the Armored and Cavalry Museum is committed to restoring the Tiger I, running with its original engine, in its Besnier livery from the Saint-Nazaire parade, exterior completely repainted and equipped , interior preserved in the current state, cleaned and stabilized. The objective is to present a tank made up of its original parts as much as possible.
The evolving exhibition
The Armored Museum is embarking on a restoration campaign lasting almost two years. The engine of the Tiger I is entrusted to a specialized company, all the rest of the tank will be restored by the workshops of the museum. In order to allow visitors to follow this historic restoration, certain parts of the tank will be exhibited as they are processed! A protected space accommodates the spare parts of the Tiger for its “open heart operation”. The museum's social networks will regularly relay the progress of the various works.
The fundraising campaign
The cost of this restoration is estimated at 220 euros. The contribution of the Association of Friends of the Armored and Cavalry Museum will have to be supplemented by donations: a fundraising campaign will be launched soon.
All donations will be subject to a tax receipt, and compensation will be offered to generous donors. All tank enthusiasts of this historical period and/or heritage are invited to support this restoration!
The Tiger tank
Conceived as early as 1937, the first sd.kfz 181 tanks were sent to the front in 1942 to fight in the Leningrad sector, where in 1943 it underwent its baptism of fire and received its name TIGER.
Very advanced technically, armed with a powerful 88 mm gun, the Tiger I tank also has significant armor (between 80 and 100 mm thick) protecting it against the vast majority of anti-tank weapons of the time. On the battlefield, it largely dominates the American Sherman as well as its British and Soviet equivalents.
Overwhelmed by the Allies during the Normandy landings, the 45 Tiger tanks fielded by the Germans were not enough. But certain actions, such as those carried out by Michael Wittmann on his Tiger I, complete the reputation of this tank, considered as one of the best armored vehicles of the entire Second World War.
The Tiger tank at the Armored Museum
The museum's Tiger was engaged in Normandy from July 7, 1944. It fought the English in the areas of Vire, then Falaise and Vimoutiers. During the night of August 19 to 20, the Tiger tries to force the encirclement in which the German forces are. It's a fail. The crew is captured and the tank abandoned. Cavalry Lieutenant Guy Besnier of the French Forces of the Interior (FFI), of the first Mobile Reconnaissance Group (1er GMR), recovers the Tiger at the beginning of 1945. Along with 14 other tanks abandoned by the Germans, the Tiger is restored to working order by the mechanics of the 1er GMR and the whole constitutes a complete squadron. Baptized "Brittany", the Tiger tank can now serve France.er GMR becomes the autonomous squadron of Besnier tanks. This squadron participates with thffiability to reduce the Saint-Nazaire pocket, alongside other infantry and artillery units, all from the FFI. On June 8, 1945, the squadron was affected at 6nd regiment of cuirassiers, leaving for garrison in Germany, the Tiger was renamed "Colmar" on this occasion. The Tiger ended its military career in the 1950s, carrying out technical evaluations at Satory. In 1968, it was added to the collection of the Musée des Blindés de Saumur without ever having undergone reconstruction or major repairs, which makes it the most authentic Tiger tank known in the world.
Practical information :
The evolving exhibition is to be seen during museum opening hours.