Making the Diorama
Kurt Knispel - King Tiger Commander
a diorama by Bjørn Jacobsen
This is a follow-up on the previous diorama (page 39) - which also is dedicated to Kurt Knispel.
In the previous diorama, Knispel was the gunner and therefore
hidden in the tank during the battle.
I think he deserves to be seen, and in this diorama, I have placed
him as commander in the turret of his King Tiger, some place in
France in 1944
He is without question, the greatest tank ace of all time with 168
confirmed destroyed enemy tanks (126 as a Gunner and 42 as a
Commander), but his actually score was much larger, probably as
high as around 200.
He was a soldier in a war, led by one of the worst regime
ever, but he was not a Nazi, far from it.
He was as anti-Nazi as it was possible to be without being
executed or transferred to a penal battalion.
His behaviour was far from the Nazi-standard and he cared
far more for his mates than for the Nazi system:
Long hair, goatee- beard (he frequently told his commander
he had no time for shaving), unwillingness to obey orders
he disagreed with was one thing, refusing to take part in
attacks on civilians was another. He even attacked a soldier
when he saw him mistreating a soviet POW, punched him in
the face and broke his gun! That was the kind of guy he was!
No wonder he never was promoted beyond Feldwebel (Sergeant).
He could have been one of the most famous German propaganda heros -
if he wanted - which he did not.
He remained an anonymous soldier in the German Heer till his tragic death
only a week before the end of World War 2
He spent all his military career in a tank, and ended up (autumn1944) as
a commander of the most fearsome tank in WWII, the famous King Tiger.
There are not many pictures of Knispel, these are some of the very few,
Panzerkampfwagen VI Sd.Kfz 182,
Also known as Tiger 2, Köningstiger, King Tiger or Tiger Royal
The King Tiger was officially designated Panzerkampfwagen
VI Sd.Kfz 182, and was placed into service early 1944.
It served in the western and eastern front notably in the battle
of Normandy, operation "Market Garden" in Holland, and the
offensive in Ardennes. It also served in various other
operations in Poland, Hungary, Minsk and a small number
also defended Berlin in April and May 1945.
With its great firepower and thick armour, it proved to be more
than an opponent for any tank the allied forces could field.
The sight of a King Tiger on the battlefield was terrifying and
did great physical and morale 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.
Report by tank commander Sergeant Clyde D. Brunson,
2nd Armoured Division, 1945.
"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."
The armour on the King Tiger was so thick that there is no
evidence that the front armour was ever penetrated during
The tank housed a crew of five. The main gun was a variation
of the 88mm anti-aircraft gun, capable of destroying enemy
tanks from a great distance. The velocity of the gun was
about 1000m a second when firing an amour piercing round.
The gun’s accuracy allowed it to pierce 150mm of metal
armour even if the tank’s position was more than 2 kilometres
away from the intended target. The shell’s ability to travel at
about 2200m in an estimated 2,2 seconds (and sometimes
even faster) meant this tank had the capability to destroy enemy
tanks from a distance, keeping the Tiger out of enemy range.
However, the King Tiger Tank was not without its problems. Underpowered like many of the World War II heavy tanks, the engines consumed a lot of fuel at a time when it was in short supply for the Germans due to allies’ bombing. The fuel consumption problem was exacerbated at the Battle of the Bulge. Here, the Tigers first appeared to do quite well, but subsequently, they literally ran out of fuel. Soldiers were forced to abandon their tanks and walk back to their lines.
The King Tiger
I used the Tamyia 1:35 King Tiger.
The Kit was a real pleasure to build and I did not use any aftermarket stuff, just what was in the box.
The lower hull begins with the road wheels, drive sprockets and return wheels.
The tracks were not what I expected: It was in one piece made of soft plastic (I would have wished for harder plastic), but it was easy to mount and easy to paint and in the end it looked better than expected.
The drive sprockets and return wheels have poly caps so it could be put on later with the treads.
There was no problem building the cannon and the turret
The road wheels would be difficult to paint after the treads and fenders was in place so it was the first to be painted: Muddy and dirty.
The track and the lower hull were painted in the same mud and dirty colours and the rim of the tracks was brushed with steel colour.
If you look at pictures of the King Tiger at the battlefield, you will see that some had removed the side fenders entirely, others have part of then ripped off, and some had all the fenders intact.
Knispels tank was in the front of the battle almost all the time and had a lot of damages.
One time he counted 28 hits by enemy grenades after a battle.
I therefore made several grenade damages on the hull and turret and ripped off some of the side fenders for good measures.
To make the bended fenders more believable, I put in some thin metal sheet instead of the “thick” plastic parts.
I decided to paint the tank in a three colour scheme; Dark Yellow, Dark green and Red/Brown with mottling of the same colours.
The weathering is rather extensive because this is a fighting vehicle in a muddy and dirty battlefield.
The figure of Kurt Knispel
I wanted Kurt Knipsel to be seen in the commander hatch and used one of the figures from Dragon ‘39-‘45 Series to make a look-a-like figure of Knispel.
He was famous (at least after the war) for his un-military rebel hair and goatee (see picture).
Of course he was ordered to shave from time to time and it is no proof that he had the goatee as a Tank Commander. But the jagged appearance is the “picture” most of us have of him, and that’s what I tried to create.
I was thinking of a diorama where there is lull in the fighting and the tank crew and the passing soldiers had a friendly chat after refuelling their tank.
I therefore made the tank crew and some soldiers to give the diorama s human touch.
The base is 35 x 45 cm (14” x 18”) plywood on which I glued some Polyurethane to make the terrain I wanted. Then I covered the whole with Papier Mache, put some stones in what I hoped should be a small creek and painted everything with acryl.
The next step was to put on some grass, bushes a log and last, but not least: some water in the creek (Woodland Realistic Water)
Then it was time to place the tank, the crew, the soldiers and some fuel containers.
And this is the result:
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