Now on display at The Tank Museum in Bovington is a very rare item from the German Maus Tank project. The optical gun sight of the heaviest tank ever built.
For many years, the item was in the archives of the Tank Museum as an unidentified optical sight, one that did not appear in any of the standard references. The sight came from a collection of German optics that had been returned to Britain after the Second World War and had ended up at The Tank Museum.
This sight is a very rare item and likely the only part of the original Maus tank programme to end up in Britain. The sight has the three-letter code blc which indicates Carl Zeiss. Zeiss is recorded as having delivered a model of the sight in June of 1943 to the Maus project for incorporation in the wooden turret mock-up.
Hitler saw the threat of the Russian tank design and wanted a super heavy tank that would get ahead of the enemy tank design with thicker armour and more firepower.
Allied bombing raids on the Krupp factory in 1943, led to the loss of the Maus production drawings and the wooden mock-up. As a direct result of the bombing, production was cancelled.
Two pre-production vehicles were however completed and sent to the testing grounds at Kummersdorf in late 1944. Both tanks were blown up by the advancing Russian forces in 1945.
The second Maus hull suffered more extensive damage as it had ammunition stowed in it. The Russian forces married the turret from the second tank with the hull from the first and took the vehicle to Moscow for evaluation. The hybrid tank is now on display at the Russian Tank Museum at Kubinka.
At the end of the war, the Allies conducted a search for information on weaponry, production techniques, and new technologies in Germany. This included interviewing German scientists and industrialists such as Ferdinand Porsche and taking away paperwork, designs, and examples of the materials and items captured. Some of these reports, including the Porsche material, are in The Tank Museum Archives, and the amount of material on the Maus project is considerable.
When and where the Maus sight was collected is currently unknown, but more information seems to surface over time, so there may well be more Maus tales in the future.
The Maus sight is now on display in the Museum along with the first round fired from a tank. To find out more, order our 100 objects book, written by David Willey.