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Tiger I in Combat (Hitler's War Machine), by Bob Carruthers

Book Review by Andy Mills

Grumpy Grog says: A decent read, but it leaves real treadheads feeling under-gunned!

Tiger I in CombatThe Tiger (I) tank was one of the most feared weapons fielded by the Germans in World War II. Despite its fearsome reputation and superb kill to loss ratio, it was not a complete success. Hindered by high production costs, chronic mechanical problems and mobility issues, this behemoth was (thankfully) not able to achieve its full potential on the battlefield.

In the e-book the Tiger I in Combat (Hitler's War Machine), historian, Bob Carruthers, attempts to provide the reader with an overview of perhaps the most famous tank of WWII. Carruthers does provide a significant insight into the Tiger Tank, but weaknesses in detail, along with some annoying redundancies, detract from what might have been an otherwise excellent book.


The book is made up of 27 major topics, which may translate into chapters in the hard copy. Each of these sections varies in length and works to provide the reader with a cumulative history of the Tiger I. Topics include, but are not limited to, Design, Production, and the Mechanics of the Tiger I, Getting to the Battlefield, Mobility, Color Schemes and Tactical Organization. The key areas of Armament and Armor are also discussed in reasonable detail for the real tread heads and technical buffs.

Carruthers includes a number of photos and diagrams in his e-book. While there are battlefield shots of the tank, there is also a rare picture taken inside a Tiger I production facility. A number of diagrams are also included which illustrate initial design concepts, road wheel arrangements and the targeting information provided to Allied troops.

Excerpts from a number of historical sources are used throughout the book to create a sense of how the Tiger 1 was perceived by Allied soldiers. These accounts included a number of accurate facts along with a number of popular misconceptions due to imperfect intelligence and the fog of war. Excerpts from the Tigerfibel (the Tiger I Crew Manual) are one of the most interesting aspects of this book. This manual was a very unorthodox document for a professional military which had such rigid traditions. The Tigerfibel featured risqué sketches, humorous comments and a very informal writing style that must have been a considerable departure from other military operating manuals issued during this era.


There is a lot of information for the Tiger fan to drool over in this book. Carruthers starts with the production stats which indicated that 1347 Tiger I’s were put into action while 492 Tiger II’s were fielded by the Germans during the course of WWII. Compare these small numbers to the 58,000 Shermans or 36,000 T-34s the Allies produced during the conflict and you can appreciate the massive impact the Tiger had on the battlefield. The Tiger I had a kill ratio of 1:5 which resulted not only from the advanced nature of the Tiger I, but also reflected the high quality of Wehrmacht tank crews.

Early in the book Carruthers covers the rivalry between Henschel and Porsche to produce a heavy tank that could effectively counter the Russian T-34 medium and KV-1 heavy tank. The use of slave labor to produce the Tiger I is also covered in minor detail.

Carruthers provides a great deal of information about how the rushed deployment of the Tiger I in unsuitable terrain, the flawed gearbox and a lack of forethought into tank recovery contributed to the lack of success experienced by the tank in the early going of WW II. One of the most interesting sections is on how recovery of the tank required 3 heavy recovery tractors or 2 other Tigers. In most of the latter cases, the Tigers used in the recovery role often broke down leading to a far more grave set of circumstances. These situations led to the often ignored Wehrmacht directive not to use Tigers to recover Tigers.

Tigerphobia, which the book defines as the psychological phenomenon whereby the sight of the tank itself caused panic among Allied troops, is explored to some degree. Some reports included in the book speak of Russian tanks retreating at even the sighting of a Tiger I on the battlefield.


This book has several strengths, such as the balanced perspective Carruthers brings displays in his writing. While he does cover the positive attributes of the Tiger I, Carruthers also shows that it was not a “super tank.” He covers a number of approaches the Allies used to prey on the weaknesses of the tank over the course of the war. The book is a quick reference piece that has a very direct “meat and potatoes” approach. There are several tables that outline critical stats, including a listing of the Tiger Aces, which show Kurt Knispel, not Michael Wittman, as the top commander. Carruthers also touches on topics that may not be as sexy as those covered in other books, but are important to tread heads and combat simmers, such as gun mantle thickness, details of transport to the front and road marches.


There are a few issues with the book that keep it from being an excellent resource on the Tiger I. While the book is quickly accessible, it does lack in-depth detail in several key sections. Carruthers provides enough details to draw readers in, but then quickly moves on to the next topic. This is a puzzling approach given the target audience of such a publication. It provides more detail than the casual reader would want, but it is too light for those with a burning interest in the Tiger I. For example, the demise of the Tiger I is not documented in any substantive matter. This is a shame because after being provided with an overview of the tank’s design and deployment history there is no mention of what happened to them post war. Were they all destroyed? Were they sold off? Were they all scrapped? Were there any alternate roles for the remaining Tigers, such as with Sherman tanks (that were used by civilian contractors)? Any detail here would have helped build a more well-rounded account of the Tiger I for the reader. His extensive use of excerpts from other publications, while useful in some cases, becomes distracting later in the book. Making matters worse is that a number of the excerpts share a significant amount of redundant material which wastes critical space (that could have been used for more valuable details) and serves to annoy the reader. Lastly, some of the formatting in book is “rough.” Some words are combined and evident typos have been missed.


Overall, the book does provide the reader with a useful insight into the Tiger I and touches on several key areas of the tanks design, operation and deployment. For some, the list of Tiger Aces alone may be worth the price of admission. Unfortunately, the lack of in-depth detail, redundancy and unpolished presentation keeps the book from being a classic work on the Tiger I. These deficiencies aside, I suspect any amour fan will want to add this e-book to their collection, especially at a price of $2.99 USD. The hard copy lists for $20.99 and can also be found at

If you are looking for a more detailed account of Tiger I operations during WWII, you may want to take a look at Jean Restayn’s Books entitled Tiger I: On the Eastern Front and Tiger I: On the Western Front.


  • Format: Kindle Edition – Paper Edition out of print.
  • File Size: 2642 KB
  • Publisher: Coda Books Ltd (July 7, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005BTQLK8
  • Price $2.99
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