Canada in the Second World War

Arms & Weapons

German Tanks

Captured German Pz. Kpfw. V Panther tank, Wyler, Germany, 9 February 1945.

Captured German Pz. Kpfw. V Panther tank, Wyler, Germany, 9 February 1945.
Photo by Michael M. Dean. Department of National Defence / National Archives of Canada PA-115487.

After the Great War, neither Great Britain nor the United States of America devoted as much attention to the problems of tank development as did the German Wehrmacht, with a resulting lag in progressive designs. By 1944, German tanks like the Panther and the Tiger were technologically superior to those of the Western Allies, especially the Sherman tank.

Panzerkampfwagen V (Panther) Ausf D

Development of the Panther was prompted by the introduction of the new Russian T-34 tankin late 1941. The first Panthers saw battle at Kursk on the Eastern front in July 1943. The Panzer V was widely considered to be the finest tank of its kind produced during the Second World War, featuring sloped armour and an excellent long 75-mm main armament. According to one historian, “Allied tank crews worked on the assumption that three of their tanks would be knocked out before a Panther could be outflanked and destroyed.” (Simon Dunstan, Great Battle Tanks, 1979, p. 60)

Panzerkampfwagen V (Panther) Ausf D
Crew 5 (driver, gunner, loader, commander, and radio-operator)
Dimensions Length 6.88 m
Height 3.1 m
Width 3.43 m
Weight 46.2 tonnes
Armour Front up to 100 mm
Side 45 mm
Armament 75 mm KwK (Kampfwagenkanon) 42 L/70 (79 rounds)
three 7.92-mm machine-guns (4200 rounds)
Engine 12-cylinder gasoline Maybach HL 230, 700 hp
Maximum Speed 45 kph
Pz. Kpfw. VI Tiger II tank of the Wehrmacht near Vimoutiers, France, 1944.

Pz. Kpfw. VI Tiger II tank of the Wehrmacht near Vimoutiers, France, 1944.
National Archives of Canada, PA-115746.

With its heavy armour and big 88-mm gun-the famous “88”-the Tiger was the most feared German tank of the Second World War. Fortunately for the Allies, the Germans maintained relatively few of them in the field, and the engine was prone to breakdowns. Its reputation compensated for these limitations, however, thus adding a psychological dimension to an already formidable weapon. In June of 1944, the Tiger’s potential impact was demonstrated at Villers Bocage in Normandy, when German tank ace Michael Wittman single-handedly destroyed approximately 20 tanks of the British 7th Armoured Division, stopping their advance cold.

Panzerkampfwagen VI (Tiger) Ausf E
Crew 5 (driver, gunner, loader, commander, and radio-operator)
Dimensions Length 6.3 m
Height 2.9 m
Width 3.8 m
Weight 55.8 tonnes
Armour Front up to 100 mm
Side 80 mm
Armament 88 mm KwK 36 (92 rounds)
two 7.92-mm machine-guns (3920 rounds)
Engine Maybach HL 230, 694 hp
Maximum Speed 38 kph

Suggested Reading:

  • Chris Ellis, Tanks of World War 2 (London: Octopus, 1981).
  • Simon Dunstan, Great Battle Tanks (London: Ian Allen, 1979).