Tiger Tank Battalion 509
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Tiger Tank Battalion 509 German Cross

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Panzer Feldwebel belonging to the 509th Heavy Panzer Battalion. He has been awarded the German Cross in Gold, EK I, EK II, Silver Tank Assault badge and Silver wound badge.

The 509th Heavy Panzer Battalion was a German heavy panzer abteilung equipped with Tiger I and later Tiger II Königstiger tanks. The 509th saw action on the Eastern Front during the Second World War.

The 509th was ordered formed on 9 September 1943, taking most of its personnel from Panzer-Regiment 204 of the disbanded 22. Panzer-Division. The battalion was initially issued with forty-five Tiger Is. It was committed to action in Ukraine as a part of Army Group South. Reaching the Front in October 1943, the 509th saw action near Kirovograd and Krivoi Rog, falling back as a part of the overall withdrawal of the front. In early November, the third company was detached and attached to the 2. SS-Panzer-Division Das Reich.

In early 1944, the 509th was involved in the Second Battle of Kiev and was heavily engaged in fighting for the city. After the defeat at Kiev, the detachment saw action at Pavlova during the withdrawal. In late May, the exhausted and severely depleted 509th was pulled back for refitting. After receiving a full complement of Tiger 1s, the detachment was sent back to the front on 1 June 1944.

On 22 June 1944, the Soviets launched Operation Bagration, and the 509th, attached to Army Group Centre, was in their line of advance. The 509th saw heavy fighting at Novosselki, Shitomir and Chelmik. On 8 September 1944, the detachment lost sixteen Tigers in under 24 hours near Kielce, Poland.

In late September the remnants of the detachment were pulled back to Senneläger to be rebuilt and equipped with the new model Tiger IIs. Due to severe disruption in production, Henschel was unable to deliver the new panzers until December 1944. After it had received forty-five new Tiger IIs, the detachment was sent to join SS-Obergruppenführer Herbert Otto Gille’s IV. SS-Panzerkorps, which was preparing an attempt to relieve the encircled garrison of Budapest. The operation, codenamed Konrad III, was launched on 18 January 1945. The 509th had to change its attack plans once the assault was in progress after a major bridge over the Vali River collapsed.

The horrible conditions coupled with a ferocious Soviet defence and a solid Pakfront resulted in the failure of Konrad III. During the operation, the 509th had lost forty of its forty-five Tiger IIs, however many were able to be repaired and put back into action relatively quickly, with only ten being total losses. On 15 February 1945, the battalion was mentioned in an army report as having destroyed 203 Soviet tanks, 145 Soviet guns and 5 Soviet aircraft with the total loss of 10 Tiger IIs in the period from 18 January 1945 to 8 February 1945.

The 509th was transferred to III. Panzerkorps, where it took part in the fighting supporting Operation Frühlingserwachen in March, and falling back towards Vienna. It took part in the Battle of Vienna in April, before making a breakout towards the American lines. On 8 May 1945, the 509th destroyed its remaining nine Tiger IIs and the next day surrendered to the Americans near Linz.