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The Schwere Panzer-Abteilung 503 was originally planned for North Africa but was sent to the Eastern front. It fought in southern Russia, taking part in the Don campaign and the withdrawal from Stalingrad. It fought at Kursk and was later attached to Schweres Panzer-Regiment Bäke in August 1943. This unit fought near Cherkassy and 503 remained a assigned to it until April 1944 when it was sent to the west.

The 1st Kp. was refitted with 12 Tiger II (together with 2 Tiger I) in Ohrdruf while 2. and 3.Kp. got Tiger I. 3. Kp. was requipped with Tiger II in the Maly le Camp in the End of July 1944.
It fought the Allies in Normandy inflicting heavy losses but also sustained heavy losses of their own, not least due to the air attacks.

After refitting in Sennelager it was sent to Hungary in October 1944 where it took part in Operation Panzerfaust to arrest the Hungarian government.
It was redesignated Schwere Panzer-Abteilung Feldherrnhalle on 21 December 1944.

Commanders

Oberstleutnant Post (4 May 1942 - 28 Jan 1943)
Oberstleutnant Erich Hoheisel (29 Jan 1943 - ? Apr 1943)
Hauptmann Clemens-Heinrich Graf von Kageneck (? May 1943 - ? July 1943) (WIA July 43 during op. "Zitadelle")
Hauptmann Hans-Jürgen Burmester [m.d.F.b.] (22 July 1943 - 24 Oct 1943)
Hauptmann Clemens-Heinrich Graf von Kageneck (24 Oct 1943 - ? Dec 1943) (WIA)
Hauptmann Hans-Jürgen Burmester [m.d.F.b.] (3 Dec 1943 - 8 Jan 1944)
Hauptmann Clemens-Heinrich Graf von Kageneck (8 Jan - 23 Jan 1944) (?)
Abt. part of Schweres Panzer-Regiment Bäke (23 Jan 1944 - 25 Feb 1944)
Hauptmann Clemens-Heinrich Graf von Kageneck (23 Jan 1944 - 30 Jan 1944) (WIA)
Hauptmann d.R. (1.2.44) Walter Scherf [Fhr.] (30 Jan 1944 - 25 Feb 1944)
Abt. dissolved / Neuaufstellung (Tiger II) at Ohrdruf (Apr 1944 - June 1944)
Hauptmann Rolf Fromme (since Feb 1944 ? / ? June 1944 - ? Dec 1944)
Hauptmann Dr. Nordewin von Diest-Koerber (? Dec 1944 - 21 Dec 1944)

Area of operations

Eastern front (Nov 1942 - Apr 1944)
France (Apr 1944 - Sep 1944)
Hungary (Sep 1944 - Jan 1945)

Campaign New issue Tranfers in Transfer out Combat loss Type of tank
Eastern Front 134 17 24 127 Tiger I
Western Front 33 0 3 30 Tiger I
Eastern Front 50 2 2 50 Tiger II
Western Front 26 0 2 24 Tiger II

Note. This table covers both Schwere Panzer-Abteilung 503 and Feldherrnhalle

Holders of high awards

Holders of the Commendation Certificate of the Commander-in-Chief of the Army (1)
- Diest-Koerber von, Dr. agr. Ernst-Nordewin, 05.03.1945 (5640), Hauptmann, Fhr. s.Pz.Abt. 503
Holders of the German Cross in Gold (10)
- Burmester, Hans-Jürgen, 07.08.1943, Hauptmann, 1./s.Pz.Abt. 503
- Cüsow, Horst-Werner, 04.02.1944, Leutnant, 2./s.Pz.Abt. 503
- Fendesack, Hans, 07.10.1943, Oberfeldwebel, 1./s.Pz.Abt. 503
- Gärtner, Heinz, 20.06.1944, Unteroffizier, 3./s.Pz.Abt. 503
- Hoheisel, Erich, 16.04.1943, Oberstleutnant, Pz.Abt. 503
- Knispel, Kurt, 20.05.1944, Unteroffizier, 1./s.Pz.Abt. 503
- Rondorf, Heinrich, 20.05.1944, Oberfähnrich, 3./s.Pz.Abt. 503
- Scherf, Walter, 07.10.1943, Oberleutnant d.R., 3./s.Pz.Abt. 503
- Seidel, Hermann, 15.12.1944, Feldwebel, 3./s.Pz.Abt. 503
- Weinert, Konrad, 10.01.1944, Leutnant, 3./s.Pz.Abt. 503
Holders of the Honor Roll Clasp of the Heer (2)
- Fendesack, Hans, 27.03.1944, Oberfeldwebel, 1./s.Pz.Abt. 503
- Neste, Helmut, 27.11.1943, Oberfeldwebel d.R., Stabs.Kp./s.Pz.Abt. 503
Holders of the Knight's Cross (3) (2 RK + 1 EL)
- Kageneck Graf von, Clemens-Heinrich [513. EL] 26.06.1944 Hauptmann Kdr s.Pz.Abt 503
- Kageneck Graf von, Clemens-Heinrich 04.08.1943 Hauptmann Kdr s.Pz.Abt 503
- Scherf, Walter 23.02.1944 Oberleutnant d.R. Chef 3./s.Pz.Abt 503

Insignia

Personnel of this unit wore a semi-official badge, adopted in 1944, on the left side of the cap which took the form of a silhouette of a Königstiger tank.

Notable members

Heinz Gärtner (usually credited with 103 destroyed tanks but the exact number is unknown)
Kurt Knispel (usually credited with 168 destroyed tanks but the exact number is unknown)
Heinz Rondorf (usually credited with 106 destroyed tanks but the exact number is unknown)
Konrad Weinert (usually credited with 59 destroyed tanks but the exact number is unknown)

US forces passing a kocked-out Tiger II of 1./s.Pz.Abt.503 near Dasburg
spz-abt-503-dasburg
(Courtesy of USAAF Archives)

Tiger of Alfred Rubbel, 1./sPzAbt.503, during the fighting at Kursk
spz-abt-503-kursk-rubbel
(Courtesy of Bundesarchiv/Wikimedia, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Germany)

Tiger 332 of 3./503 being pulled free by another Tiger tank
spz-abt-503-stuck
(Courtesy of Bundesarchiv/Wikimedia, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Germany)

Tiger II with marching Arrow Cross soldiers in Budapest October 1944
spz-abt-503-budapest-arrowcross
(Courtesy of Bundesarchiv/Wikimedia, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Germany)

Tiger II 301 receiving its camouflage at the Ohrdruf Training Area in June 1944.
spz-abt-503-camoulage
(Courtesy of Bundesarchiv/Wikimedia, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3 0 Germany)

Sources used

Ron Klages - Trail of the Tigers
Wolfgang Schneider - Tigers in combat (2 vol)
Georg Tessin - Verbände und Truppen der deutschen Wehrmacht 1933-1945
Gordon Williamson - German Army Elite Units, 1939-45
Gordon Williamson - World War II German Battle Insignia

Reference material on this unit

Franz Kurowski - Feldwebel Kurt Knispel: Der erfolgreichste Panzerschütze und Panzerkommandant des 2. Weltkrieges
Dr. Franz-Wilhelm Lochmann, Alfred Rubbel & Richard Freiherr von Rosen - The Combat History of schwere Panzer-Abteilung 503: In Action in the East and West with the Tiger I and II
Franz W. Lochmann, Richard von Rosen, Alfred Rubbel & Rolf Sichel - Erinnerung an die Tiger-Abteilung 503: Die schwere Panzerabteilung 503 an den Brennpunkten der Front in Ost und West (Flechsig Verlag 2009)
Didier Lodieu - 45 Tiger en Normandie: La s.Pz.Abt. 503
Alfred Rubbel - Im Panzer IV und Tiger an der Ostfront: Das persönliche Kriegstagebuch des Alfred Rubbel Dezember 1939 - Mai 1945
Alfred Rubbel - Schwere Panzer (tiger) Abteilung 503

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