Tiger F02, an early model Tiger I commanded by Unteroffizier Franzen was in action against the British 11th Armored Division, 3 RTR and 4 KSLI near Essel in April 1945.
The last known position of ‘F02’ (Commander Uffz Frieling) was in the Ostenholzer Moor/Heide Kröppke area. This unit was Tiger-Gruppe Fehrmann, which consisted of 5 Panthers and 6 Tiger I’s under the command of Oberleutnant Fehrmann. These vehicles had come from a school and the unit fought April 6-13, 1945 in the Ruhr Pocket. The unit was drawn from rebuilt hybrid Tigers from the Lehr school at Fallingbostel and they were Dunkelgrau in color. The 5 Panthers of KG Schulze/Aufstellungstab Lehrtruppe operating with the Tigergruppe of Lt. Fehrmann's 6 hybrid Tiger I’s were also supposedly IR-equipped but no known pictures show this fitted.
The unit was commanded by Major Paul Schulze and lost in a daylight attack on the eastern outskirts of the town of Bückeburg, near Bad Eilsen - about 65km northeast of the Paderborn training grounds. They were trapped between lead elements of the 5th Armored Division and US 8th Corps of the Ninth Army on April 8-11, 1945. The first Tiger however, was lost on April 5, 1945 with gearbox problems near Rethem. The group moved to the woods near Wiedensahl on the 8th and launched an attack against the British bridgehead on the Weser near Wietersheim and lost 4 of the 5 Panthers in the process with only Schulze's vehicle remaining by noon (call sign red stylized "S").
Along with Fehrmann's 5 remaining Tigers, he repeated the attack but met elements of the British 6th Airborne Division dug into roadside trenches. A PIAT shell hit the turret of Fehrmann's ‘F01’ and damaged the traversing gear while 2 other Tigers moved up to flank it, allowing ‘F01’ to retreat to a nearby hill. The 5 Tigers later returned to Frille with around 30 POWs.
Tiger ‘F01’ returned to Fallingbostel for repairs, while the remaining 4 Tigers and Schulze's Panther again clashed with lead elements of US 5th Armored Division near Bückeburg on the 11th losing 2 Tigers, Schulze's Panther and 2 halftracks in the process. Schulze escaped and jumped into one of the 2 surviving Tigers but Fehrmann was captured. Soon after, another Tiger (Fwb. Bellof's) was KO'd.
"Schulze's Tiger" now the last remaining (apart from "F01" back at Fallingbostel), was still behind US lines now retreating to Achum and became engaged in another firefight with more US 5th Armored Division armor, KOing 3 tanks and an A/C (armored carrier) though sustaining numerous hits and in the process slightly wounding the gunner. Finding a map in a US tanker truck, he set out for German lines breaking a US roadblock and KOing more US armor while releasing 200 German POWs, some of whom joined him in US trucks in an effort to get back. However, he ran out of fuel near Bad-Nennoff, where he set a charge, and destroyed the Tiger.
Franzen's ‘F01’ which had earlier returned to Fallingbostel with the damaged turret gear was ready to go again on April 12 and cobbled into the hastily formed "Kampfgruppe Grossan" along with a couple of other Tigers. It advanced toward the British near the Essel Forest after crossing the Drebber stream, encountering 3 Comets of 1st Troop, A Squadron, 3rd Battalion and 3 RTR/11th Armored Division in a firefight destroying 1 of them and an armored car. Both sides withdrew for the night but the next morning the Tiger took out an APC and drew a barrage of fire, so it snuck into the woods. Creeping back on to the road again to feel out the British tanks, ‘F01’ received a hit in the left rear side from about 100 yards by the Comet of Sergeant Harding of C Squadron who had moved into flanking position in the trees and was later to receive the Military Medal for this action. Comets of 3RTR carried the number '52' and the 'Charging Bull' emblem. The Bull meant 11th Armoured Division and '52' meant the 2nd Regiment in the Brigade, in this case 3RTR. As the Tiger began to cook off, the crew all managed to bail out safely, though each with minor burns, and made their way back to Fallingbostel.
All 6 Tiger I’s in Tiger-Gruppe Fehrmann were basically rebuilt Earlies with steel wheels some with zimmerit and 5 Panthers supposedly equipped with IR in Kampf Gruppe Schulze. All production steel wheel Tigers had zimmerit. There were no examples to show otherwise, however 'technically' there were some hybrid steel wheelers with early production hulls/turrets that had no zimmerit which were rebuilt examples and in no way were representative of the production batch.
’F01’ of Tigergruppe "Fehrmann" initially belonging to KG "Schulze" (then KG "Grossan") and KO'd by a British Comet on 13th of April 1945 is an Early/late cross. Its one of the handful of rebuilt/cobbled together Tigers from the Truppeschule near Paderborn at war's end. It wears zimmerit on the hull and turret and has late wheels and tracks.
Tiger ‘F13’ was painted overall dark panzer grey and the numbers were hand painted red with a white outline. This tank had the old dish type road wheels. Tiger ‘F13’ had zimmerit on the hull and turret.
These are the only 2 early Tiger I's in existance with zimmerit as evidenced in photos.
All steelwheel Tigers had factory zimmerit and most mid (cupola) Tigers had zimmerit. There was about a month when mids did not get zimmerit. These only went to a couple of units (506). There are even a few earlies seen with zim (502). These undoubtly had been returned to the factory for a major rebuild, as zimmerit application was a major undertaking. I've never seen anything that points to "field" application. The hybrid/wierd late war Tigers could have a variety of features and combinations. But this is a very select group. So check your references carefully.
"Tigers in Combat 2" pp. 404-408
"Tiger Tanks" by Michael Green
AFV News issue Jan-April '91 (Vol.26/1) by Giuseppe Finizio pp.2-5.
Guiseppe Finizio’s self-published book entitled "Krieg in der Heimat" distributed by Ulrich Saft. In it was a chapter entitled "The Story of Tiger F02".
Southeast Armored Division
Tiger I "F02" History