There were emotional scenes as the veterans – all in their nineties – met each other more than 70 years after the end of the Second World War.
They shared memories about serving their countries in tanks and discussed their experiences.The veterans shook hands and embraced as they looked at the collection of Tiger tanks, which were a German invention that struck fear into the allies – and their reputation has endured.
The Tiger Tank Collection exhibition, supported by World of Tanks, includes the Museum’s own Tiger 1, its two King Tigers, and its Jagdtiger, along with the Elefant, which is back in Europe for the first time since 1945.
Never have these tanks been together at the same time before – not even during the Second World War.
The two Germans Veterans whose stories are told, Wilhelm Fischer and Waldemar Pliska, met British veterans Ken Tout and Ernest Slarks. Waldemar said: “I was grateful for the invitation and looked forward to meeting the other veterans.
“You have to remember that these tanks were killing machines. And it must never happen again; they must be a warning to others.”
Ernest said: “It is a strange feeling really, meeting each other – but also amazing. Time heals, of course, but we must never forget. “While the Germans don’t speak much English we discovered through interpreters and sign language that we have so much in common.”
David Willey, Curator of The Tank Museum, said: “Seeing the Tiger veterans and the British veterans meet was quite a moment. “From speaking to them it’s clear that they shared so many experiences and they were very much looking forward to meeting.
“To bring them together at the exhibition with these legendary Tiger Tanks was a wonderful way to bring attention to the stories of the tanks and the men who fought in them. “And these stories are powerful, as of course are the machines themselves.”
The new exhibition, supported by Wargaming, will feature the Museum’s Tiger I, two King Tigers, Jagdtiger and an Elefant tank on international loan – which will be going on public display in Europe for the first time since it was captured in 1944.
The Elefant has been lent to The Tank Museum by US Army Ordnance Training and Heritage Center at Fort Lee, VA, by The United States Army Centre of Military History and is one of just two surviving examples of the 91 Elefants that saw service with German forces. The one Tiger unable to be present – the Sturmtiger – will be represented using ground-breaking virtual technology, supplied by software developer Wargaming.
The new exhibition, which will be unveiled in April 2017, is aimed at enthusiasts of German armour and will feature new and previously unseen crew interviews and testimonies and account from those who faced them in action. The development and technology employed in these huge machines along with historical detail about the battles in which they were fought will aim to assess the extent to which these tanks deserve their mighty reputations.
David Willey, Curator of The Tank Museum, said: “Tigers are large and impressive by contemporary standards – but there is a moral responsibility to remember what they were used for and the regime who created them. “Representing less than seven per cent of their wartime tank production, Tiger tanks failed to have a real impact and our exhibition will be presenting a more balanced account of these vehicles.
“Importantly it will also be presenting the views of the veterans who fought in them; bringing the human stories of the German tank crews here for the first time.
“Hearing the voices of these veterans who are still with us today really helps us understand the war from both sides.
“As well as having our Tiger 131 – the most famous tank in the world that was captured in North Africa – on display we have our other three Tigers as well as the Elefant which was shipped over from the US.
“And using the latest digital technology, visitors will be able to see a full-sized Sturmtiger in the exhibition with the use of our Augmented Reality App.”
Make sure you get to see this exhibit as we doubt we will ever get to see such a collection of Tigers ever again here for tickets to the museum
With veteran stories, supporting artefacts, unseen imagery and the stories unique to the vehicles on display, the exhibition will showcase the Museum’s collection of what were arguably the most feared and famous tanks of the Second World War.