German Tiger Tanks
Panzerkampfwagen VI - probably the most famous tank of World War II
models and diorama by Bjørn Jacobsen
Building the Tiger 1.
The tank needed some battle damages, and I changed the plastic side shirt with thin metal sheets which could be more easily bent than the plastic.
Several scars and wounds after engagements with enemy forces were done, and the tank was painted yellow/brown.
Later the winter camo was done. This time the crew chose to make white bands and not paint the whole tank.
Germany's Tiger is arguably the most
famous tank of World War II.
Its real name was Panzerkampfwagen VI
Tiger Ausf. E, but is best known as Tiger 1.
With its thick armour and devastating 88-
millimetre gun, it soon earned a devastating
reputation on the battlefield.
The sixty-ton Tiger 1 seemed to have it all:
firepower, armour and agility.
With its square, castle-like shape and long
cannon, the Tiger I even looked deadly.
The combination of superior armour and
firepower allowed the Tiger 1 to dominate
the battlefield where it could outgun any
allied tank of its time.
The success of the Tiger was so profound
that no allied tank dared to engage it in
The Tiger got an aura of invincibility, and
this psychological fear soon became to be
known as "Tigerphobia".
To prevent further damage to allied morale,
General Montgomery banned all reports
mentioning the Tiger's prowess in battle.
The general notion was that it would take
five Shermans to destroy a cornered Tiger
and even then, only one Sherman would
But Hitler's generals and weapons
designers were not satisfied.
With Germanic perfectionism, they
complained that the Tiger I's KwK 36 gun
was not the most powerful version of the
88-millimetre cannon (not that Allied
tankers would have noticed the difference).
Even before the Tiger I debuted on the
battlefield, work had begun on a successor.
The result was the Panzerkampfwagen VI
Sd.Kfz 182, also known as Tiger 2,
Köningstiger, King Tiger or Tiger Royal.
At seventy-five tons, it was bigger than its
predecessor. Its longer-barreled (and thus
higher velocity) KwK 43 88-millimetre
cannon could penetrate five inches of
armour at a range of two kilometres
(1.2 miles). With Sherman and T-34 crews
having about two inches of frontal armour
between them and eternity, no wonder a
supersized Tiger must have seemed the
devil on treads.
The Tiger 2 also featured numerous
improvements over the Tiger 1.
The original Tiger had vertical armour,
rather than the more effective sloped
armour which effectively increasing armour
thicknesses. The King Tiger armour was six inches thick on the front hull. Its turret could traverse 360 degrees in nineteen seconds and was far more agile than it looked.
The sight of a King Tiger on the battlefield was terrifying and did great physical and moral damage to the enemy. This fame and almost mystical fascination helped it earn its reputation as the most feared weapon of World War 2.
For the German forces, it was the hallmark of German armoured might and restored morale even in the last days of the war. Due to the havoc it wreaked during the Ardennes offensive, the allies advancing into Berlin would fear the King Tiger up to the very last day of the war.
Here is a report by tank commander Sergeant Clyde D. Brunson, 2nd Armoured Division, 1945, describing his meeting with the King Tiger.
"One day a Tiger Royal tank got within 150 yards of my tank and knocked me out. Five of our tanks opened up on him from ranges of 200 to 600 yards and got five or six hits on the front of the Tiger. They all just glanced off and the Tiger backed off and got away. If we had a tank like Tiger, we would all be home today."
I happened to have three Tiger Tanks in my inventory, and I decided to give them a new life in a diorama.
The time will be late winter/early spring, and enemy forces were not close.
The snow is melting, and the roads and terrain are turning into mud.
The battle-worn Tigers, still in winter camo are trying to cross a small river and one of the Tiger 1 is stuck in the muddy water.
It needs help to get out and its big brother, the King Tiger, is helping.
Standard order to German tank crews is not to help other tanks in a situation like this. The protocol says that they should wait for recovery vehicles, but this order was often ignored.
The possibility of damaging the Tiger 2’s transmission and final drives when pulling the tank out were present, and it would require a skilled driver and a bit of luck to get the Tiger 1 out of the river.
But leaving the tank behind was not an alternative to the tank commanders.
Building the Tigers
Building the King Tiger.
The first coat of paint was airbrushed (yellow), the other colours (dark green, brown/red and mottling with the same colours) were hand painted. In the end, everything was painted with thin white/grey.
The kits were 1/35 from Italeri (Tiger 1), Academy (Tiger 1) and Tamiya (King Tiger 2)
I made the tanks with summer camouflage and battle damages.
The white winter camo on the tanks was often painted by the crew when the snow made the white camo necessary.
When possible, they used paint which could be removed by high-pressure water when it no longer was needed.
I did the same to the Tigers and hand brushed light grey/white acrylic paint on top of the summer camouflage. The white paint would have been both dirty and worn when the winter ended, and that’s why I mixed grey in the white paint.
I cut off part of the underside and wheels of the Tiger which would be in the river. By doing this, I could reduce the depth of muddy water in the river.
You will notice that one of the Tigers has white bands on the cannon barrel. These bands show the “kills” done by the tank. Some tank commanders use this marking, but many commanders did not bother with this. Normally, a wide band indicated five kills, while a narrow band was one kill.
Building the Tiger 1
in the river.
I made several battle damages on this Tiger, especially on the side shirt and the exhaust protection
on the rear.
The camouflage was yellow, dark green and brown/red (more or less like the camo on the King Tiger).
Then the whole tank was painted in winter camo.
To make room for the tank in the river, the underside front and some of the wheels were cut off.
These parts will be buried in the muddy river and will not be seen anyway.
And this is how the Tigers look before they enter the diorama:
Building the Base
The base was a 37 x 60 x 10 cm
(15 x 24 x 4 inches) Styrofoam plate.
I used a sharp knife to carve out the riverbed in which one of the Tiger 1 was stuck in the mud and added some Styrofoam to the terrain above the river.
All the surfaces were covered with Papier Mache.
A piece of plastic was used to make tracks in the “Paper Mache mud”.
A blown up wooden bridge was next to the tanks. This was made of wooden sticks.
The only vegetation was withered straws along the riverbed. This was made by cutting a brush and glueing the straws to the base with clear glue.
Wooden sticks and shrubbery were placed in the river.
The base was painted with acrylic colours, and Realistic Water (Woodland) was used to make the water.
Several layers of the artificial water were used to make the river. Each layer not more than 3-4 mm thick.
To make the water look muddy, some brown acrylic colour was added to the some of the layers of water.
If you are making anything like this diorama, it’s very important to seal all the surfaces where you are pouring the artificial water. It is liquid and if it is a small opening someplace, be sure that the “water” will find it!
The water level was 2-3cm (one inch) above the river bottom and to prevent the artificial water from pouring out; cardboard was glued to each end of the river.
The cardboard was cut down to the water level when the last layer of artificial water was hardened.
The Realistic Water was also used for making the ground look wet and muddy and for making the patches of snow look like snow and not matt acrylic paint.
Above left: Testing the Styrofoam plate with the two Tigers and the bridge. To the right: The base is covered with paper Mache.
Below: Building of the ruined wooden bridge. The bridge is painted with acrylic colours and placed in the river bed. The straw growing by the river is made of straws from an old brush, cut with a scissor and glued with clear glue
Below: Pouring artificial water in the riverbed, not more than 3-4mm at a time. Cardboard conceals the water in each end. When the water has stiffen, the cardboard is removed with a scalpel. If the water had been clear, I would have used clear plastic sheets. With the muddy water, that was not necessary.
Pulling the Tiger
It was a risky business to try to pull the Tiger 1 out of the muddy water.
The possibility of damaging the Tiger 2’s transmission was present, and it would require a skilled driver and a bit of luck to get the Tiger 1 out of the river.
But leaving the tank behind was not an alternative to the tank commanders.
The pulling was done by using two tow cables arranged in an X.
This was the safest way to get equal pulling force on each of the attachment points.
Towing cables for Pz.Kpfw.VI from Karya was used.
The figures (1/35) are partly from MB Models and partly from my scrap box.
Some were painted with winter clothes and some with the regular black uniform of the panzer units.
The paint is acrylic.
Each of the Tigers had a crew of five.
I painted the background on a foam-board (90 x 60 cm /
36 x 24 inches).
A little too big for the diorama, but that was the size of the foam-board, and I would not crop it.
I addition, I mounted some
trees on a piece of Styrofoam.
These was to be placed
between the diorama and the
backdrop when (or if) needed
to give more depth to the
And here is the Tiger Tank Diorama:
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