“Sturmtiger” in Warsaw

Prototype Sturmtiger was then transported on August 12th of 1944 to Pruszkow and then moved to Warsaw to take part in the German attempt to contain the Polish Home Army’s Uprising. One of the projectiles which failed to explode is still on the display in Museum Wojska Polskiego in Warsaw. On August 28th, after successful debut, it was brought back to Alkett plant in Berlin-Spandau. In the early September of 1944, newly formed PzStuMrKp 1000, equipped with two Sturmtigers arrived in Warsaw. 

A little-known episode from the fighting during the Warsaw Uprising in August and September 1944, involved the operations carried out by 1000. Sturmtiger-Kompanie. A prototype of the Sturmtiger was sent to Warsaw and off-loaded at the station in Pruszków on August 15, 1944. This station was prepared for receiving and handling heavy vehicles like the Sturmtiger, the mortar “Karl” Gerät, and possibly railed artillery, and was equipped with two railway cranes with huge lifting capacity. Similar equipment was available at the station in Nasielsk where the Tiger-Battalions Schwere-Abteilung 505 and 507 were also sent, in order to then be deployed at the front outside Narwia. A second such vehicle was off-loaded on August 18. The status report from the 9th Army on August 20 (Krannhal’s op.cit. p. 378) confirms that 1000. Sturmtiger-Kompanie with two Sturmtigers was included among the units which fought in Warsaw. It was the first prototype-vehicle to arrive in Poland’s capital city, together with another such vehicle, sent out before being manufactured on a series production line, with an iron or light steel superstructure. Just such a vehicle had already been produced toward the end of 1943. This fact is confirmed by the army group Centre’s report 65004/7, with a notation written by Colonel-General Guderian.

“To the Army Group, for the purpose of its being put to use in Warsaw: – on August 14, dispatched: one Tiger, with a 38 cm rocket firing ramp (test model), which is not suitable for use against anti-tank forces, as it is made of light steel.”

The heaviest assault guns of the Sturmtiger type were equipped with launch systems for firing 380mm calibre rockets; model Stu M RW 61, with a range of 3,600 – 4,600 metres. There were no Sturmtigers deployed along the first combat line, where these heavy vehicles weighing 65 tonnes risked falling into bomb craters, and moreover, where the use of their strong-points, or positive characteristics, was not suited to a destroyed city, with various areas often isolated by barricades. The Sturmtiger was stationed in the area around Ulica Sucha and Ulica 6 Sierpnia (now Ulica Nowowiejska), on Mokotów Field and possibly on Plac na Rozdrożu (Crossroad Square), as well.

It’s difficult to establish which targets they fired on because the heavy 380mm projectiles’ explosions have more than once been ascribed to bomb explosions resulting from railway gun shelling or, quite simply, to rocket projectiles of a different type, called Werfer – also known as “closets” or “choirs” by Warsaw’s inhabitants. At that time, the Sturmtiger was an entirely unknown entity, and the vehicles that were captured in 1945 came as a complete surprise to the allied troops.

At the end of August, a Sturmtiger, firing from the ghetto area or Kerceli Square, pounded, among other areas, Ulica Zakroczymska and the National Mint on Ulica Sanguszka in the Old Town. One other vehicle shelled resistance fighter positions in the suburb of Sadyba. On September 8-16, Sturmtigers fired on the area around Ulica Przemyslowa, Ulica Fabrycna and Ulica Naczna in Powisle. On September 8, Sturmtiger projectiles fell on insurgent positions at the Lazarus Hospital on Ulica Książęca. General von Vormann, commander of the 9th Army, made a memorably worded, harsh assessment of the Sturmtiger and its battle-fighting capabilities, “They have only factory personnel (von Vormann was referring to the first vehicle, delivered on August 15) who can’t shoot.”

Sturmtiger, designated 38 cm RW 61 Ausf Stu Mrs Tiger. This 65 ton vehicle consisted of a 38 cm Type 61 rocket projector or mortar mounted as an assault howitzer on a modified Tiger E chassis. The Raketenwerfer 61 L/54 was originally developed as an anti-submarine weapon for the German Navy

The idea for a heavy infantry support vehicle capable of demolishing heavily defended buildings or fortified areas with a single shot came out of the experiences of the heavy urban fighting in the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942.

At the time, the Wehrmacht had only the Sturm-Infanteriegeschütz 33B available for destroying buildings, a Sturmgeschütz III variant armed with a 15 cm sIG 33 heavy infantry gun. Twelve of them were lost in the fighting at Stalingrad. Its successor, the Sturmpanzer IV/Brummbär was in production from early 1943, but the Wehrmacht still saw a need for a similar, but heavier armoured and armed vehicle. Therefore a decision was made to create a new vehicle based on the Tiger tank and arm it with a 210 mm howitzer.

However, this weapon turned out not to be available at the time and was therefore replaced by a 380 mm rocket launcher, which was adapted from a Kriegsmarine depth charge launcher.

In September 1943 plans were made for Krupp to fabricate new Tiger I armored hulls for the Sturmtiger. The Tiger I hulls were to be sent to Henschel for chassis assembly and then to Alkett where the superstructures would be mounted. The first prototype was ready and presented to Adolf Hitler in October 1943. Delivery of the first hulls would occur in December 1943, with the first three Sturmtigers completed by Alkett by 20 February 1944.

Due to delays, Hitler did not request production of the weapon until 19 April 1944; 12 superstructures and weapons for the Sturmtiger would be prepared and mounted on rebuilt Tiger I chassis. The first three production series Sturmtigers were completed by Alkett in August 1944. Plans to complete an additional seven 38 cm Sturmtigers from 15 to 21 September 1944 were presented to Hitler in a conference on 18-20 August 1944. Ten Sturmtigers were produced in September, along with an additional five in December 1944.

Hitler had laid great importance on the special employment of the Sturmtiger and believed it would be necessary to produce at least 300 rounds of ammunition per month.

These vehicles were heavily armoured and were intended for mobile assault against troop concentrations and fortifications. A small crane was fitted to the rear of the vehicle to load the projectiles of which 13 were carried, including one on the loading tray of the projector. An MG 34 was ball-mounted in the offside of the superstructure front plate. Being slow, cumbersome, and of limited tactical value they played no significant part in the closing months of the war; they were to have been used in ones and twos only, and were swiftly immobilised and captured when they put in an appearance.

The original role of the Sturmtiger was intended to be as a heavy infantry support vehicle, to help with attacks on heavily fortified or built-up areas. By the time the first Sturmtigers were available however, the situation for Germany had changed for the worse, with the Wehrmacht being almost exclusively on the defensive rather than the offensive.

Three new Panzer companies were raised to operate the Sturmtiger: Panzer Sturmmörser Kompanien (PzStuMrKp) (Armored Assault Mortar Company) 1000, 1001 and 1002. These originally were supposed to be equipped with fourteen vehicles, but this figure was later reduced to four each, divided into two platoons.

PzStuMrKp 1000 was raised on 13 August 1944 and fought during the Warsaw Uprising with two vehicles, as did the prototype in a separate action, which may have been the only time the Sturmtiger was used in its intended role. PzStuMrKp 1001 (commanded by Captain von Gottberg) and 1002 (commanded by Lieutenant Zippel) followed in September and October. Both PzStuMrKp 1000 and 1001 served during the Ardennes Offensive, with a total of seven Sturmtigers.

After this offensive, the Sturmtigers were used in the defence of Germany proper, mainly on the Western front.

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