News, WWII

King Tiger Tank under French road now insured for £2 Million

Experts have confirmed that the famous “lost” King Tiger Tank No 124 is to be insured for £2 million by Lloyds of London it can be revealed.

Following a final decision by the French courts in 2021 the ownership of the 65 ton WW2 monster has been resolved and the new owners have an obligation to make sure that the tank is fully insured.

This has involved having it officially valued for £2 million, and even now that figure may increase as more valuations are discussed.

The tank in question is WW2 King Tiger tank No 124 which was lost in combat in August 1944 during the retreat towards Paris. The Tiger II model SdKfz 182 belonged to the 101st SS Heavy Panzer Battalion, a unit who were at the forefront of the fighting to hold the advancing Allied forces back.

Some of the most famous tank battles in Normandy involved the 101st Panzer Battalion, including the famous battle for Villiers-Bocage undertaken almost single-handedly by tank ace Michael Wittmann. An action which resulted in him being awarded the Knight’s Cross which was presented to him, personally, by Adolf Hitler.

Whilst in combat near the French town of Fontenay St. Pere, King Tiger No 124, commanded by Fritz Zahnner, was advancing into a wooded area along a road when the tank came under attack by US fighter-bombers. Although not hit, the King Tiger tank fell into a shell crater where the crew bailed out, leaving the tank to be disabled later by Allied soldiers.

The turret and barrel of Tiger 124 were removed to make it safe – but the army left the tank in the road and the turret in a ditch nearby.

The turret remnants were recovered around twenty years ago, but, sadly, they were not looked after. Following a publicity stunt all the original camouflage Zimmeritt coating was removed; the turret was sandblasted clean and then the bare metal was painted yellow.  Nobody can explain why this was done, but it has left historians and tank experts astonished at the lack of interest and care shown to it by anyone.

The location of the turret is now unknown but the exact spot where Tiger 124 lies has been recorded during a detailed survey undertaken by a team from the University of Paris.

The owners spokesman, Neil Ford, confirmed that the insurance has to be in place as part of the change of ownership and the value was reached following consultation with insurance industry experts, world renowned vehicle collectors and WW2 museum valuers.

Neil said “For example…Tiger No 131 in the UK is reported to be insured for £20 million. The experts had to look at rarity, desirability and, above all, the unique history of this particular vehicle.  King Tiger tank No 124 is a one-off with a well-known combat history. It fought during the battle of Normandy and it cannot be replaced.” 

World recognised WW2 German tank expert Kevin Wheatcroft, owner of The Wheatcroft Collection confirmed this sentiment and he added “Personally I am surprised that the insurance valuation is not higher… there are around 10 original King Tigers in the world and with the known combat history of No 124 I am sure it would fetch five times that amount if it was put on the open market”

The Wheatcroft Collection are currently restoring a number of Tigers – including two Tiger 1s and two Tiger IIs and they own dozens of other WW2 German tanks which have been restored. They know better than anyone the insurance values and costs involved in this type of work.

Musée des Blindés – The French tank museum at Saumur – were allegedly offered King Tiger tank No 124 on long term loan to help the museum boosts its funds. However, it appears they declined the offer. The recovery team are now in discussion with another museum in France and an announcement will be made in the near future.

Neil Ford again – once Tiger 124 is recovered the aim has always been to put it on display to the public in France and that has never changed. It is bizarre if the Tank Museum in Saumur did turn down this opportunity, but they must have had their reasons.”

A number of individuals and groups have tried to stop the recovery over the last few years. It appears that some people would prefer to see the tank left in the ground.

Author and historian Gary Sterne added “Historical items like Tiger 124 are not preserved by leaving them to rot in the ground. In the future the rarer items from WW2 will be treated with the same respect that Napoleonic artefacts are today. Knowing that in advance – we should do all we can to preserve them now.”

As this project moves towards a conclusion there is a queue of historians, restorers, model makers and collectors; not to mention film directors, lining up to take a look at this long-lost beast.  The next part of the story of King Tiger tank No 124 is just beginning and we will be following it closely.

Read More: Zimmerit: What is the Rough Texture on German Tanks?