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Rare WWII Tiger Tank 131 Captured in Tunis Brought Back to Britain

Author: High FlightTime: 2024-01-24 22:20:00

Table of Contents

Background on Tiger Tank 131 and Its Capture

Tiger 131 is a German Tiger I heavy tank that was captured in Tunisia in April 1943 during World War 2. It was the first Tiger tank captured intact by the Western Allies. After being abandoned by its crew, the tank was inspected by Winston Churchill and then brought back to Britain for evaluation.

The battle in which Tiger 131 was knocked out was documented in a report written by British soldier Peter Gudgin. Ironically, Gudgin had been temporarily knocked unconscious by Tiger 131's cannon fire during the battle just before the crew abandoned the vehicle.

Tank Abandoned and Inspected by Churchill

After being damaged in the battle with British forces, the crew of Tiger 131 made the decision to abandon the stricken vehicle. This allowed British soldiers to safely approach and inspect the tank, marking the first time the Western Allies were able to examine an intact Tiger tank. Winston Churchill himself visited Tunisia around this time and took the opportunity to examine the captured Tiger tank up close. It provided valuable intelligence about the previously mysterious German heavy tank.

Report Written By Soldier Knocked Out by Tiger 131

A report documenting the capture and details of Tiger 131 was written by British soldier Peter Gudgin. In an incredible coincidence, Gudgin had actually been temporarily knocked unconscious earlier in the same battle when Tiger 131 scored a hit on his vehicle with its formidable 88mm cannon. Once the tank was brought back to Britain, Gudgin was able to extensively inspect the very vehicle that had nearly killed him just days earlier in Tunisia. His report provided invaluable data about the capabilities of the German Tiger, which had until then seemed almost an invincible monster.

Preserving and Operating Tiger Tank 131 Today

Today, Tiger 131 is preserved in working condition by the Tank Museum in Bovington, UK. It is still operated for occasional exhibitions and events, with strict limits placed on how often it is run to conserve the aging vehicle.

In 2014, Tiger 131 appeared alongside a Sherman tank from the museum's collection in the Hollywood movie Fury. It served to represent a German Tiger tank being ambushed by Allies in the film. This marked one of the rare occasions when the 73-year-old tank made a public appearance.

Comparison to Modern German Leopard 2 Tank

The Tank Museum sometimes displays Tiger 131 alongside modern tanks like Germany's Leopard 2 for comparison. The Leopard 2 is essentially the successor to earlier German tank designs like the Tiger I and Tiger II tanks of World War 2, incorporating lessons learned and more modern technology.

While the heavy Tiger I emphasized armor protection and firepower over mobility, the Leopard 2 has a blend of armor, armament, and speed. When viewed side-by-side, the contrasting tank designs reflect differences in the strategic thinking of German tank doctrine from World War 2 to the Cold War era.

Other Existing Tiger 1 Tanks Today

Aside from Tiger 131 in Bovington, several other examples of the Tiger 1 tank survive today, though they are non-operational. These include:

  • A reconstructed Tiger 1 using spare parts and components, now on display at the Munster Tank Museum in Germany

  • The wrecked remains of Tiger tanks destroyed during fighting in Normandy in 1944. These serve as memorials such as the one located at Vimoutiers, France.

  • Another destroyed Tiger hull on display at the French Tank Museum in Saumur, France

Tiger 1 Tank Characteristics and Mechanics

Weighing about 54 tonnes, the Tiger 1 tank was operated by a crew of 5-6 men. It was heavily armed with an 88mm KwK36 L/56 cannon as its main armament, along with two machine guns. The Tiger sported incredibly thick armor over 100mm on the front of the hull and turret.

The tank was powered by a Maybach HL210 P45 V-12 gasoline engine generating about 700 HP, with a top speed around 45 km/h. It had torsion bar suspension and steel roadwheels with center guide horns. The distinctive Feifel air filters installed on Tiger 131 in North Africa protected its engine from dust and debris.


Tiger 131 has special historical significance as the first Tiger I heavy tank captured intact by the Allies during World War 2. Its evaluation provided critical data on this deadly German weapon and marked a major propaganda coup. Preserved today in working condition, it provides a tangible link to wartime events. The aged Tiger offers an intriguing comparison to Germany's contemporary main battle tanks when displayed alongside modern vehicles like the Leopard 2.


Q: Where was Tiger 131 captured?
A: Tiger 131 was captured in Tunisia, North Africa during World War 2.

Q: Who inspected Tiger 131 after its capture?
A: Tiger 131 was inspected by Churchill after its capture in Tunisia.

Q: How often does Tiger 131 operate today?
A: Due to mileage conservation, Tiger 131 only operates about 3 times per year currently.

Q: What modern tank did the Dutch Army bring to compare to Tiger 131?
A: The Dutch Army brought a Leopard 2 tank to compare to the WWII-era Tiger 131 tank.

Q: Where are other existing Tiger 1 tanks located today?
A: Other Tiger 1 tanks exist today as memorials in Vimoutiers, France and at the French Tank Museum in Saumur.

Q: What type of engine powers Tiger 131?
A: Tiger 131 is powered by a Maybach petrol engine mounted in the rear.

Q: What provides suspension on Tiger 131?
A: Tiger 131 uses torsion bar suspension on its wheels to handle the heavy weight.

Q: Why does Tiger 131 have a specific air filter system?
A: Tiger 131 has a Feifel air filter system due to its North Africa combat origins, where sand intake was an issue.

Q: Is Tiger 131 the only operating Tiger 1 tank today?
A: Yes, Tiger 131 is currently the only original Tiger 1 tank still in operating condition globally.

Q: Will more Tiger 1 tanks operate in the future?
A: It's likely more Tiger 1 tanks will operate in the future as replicas or reconstructed from parts, due to interest in WWII German armor.