The unit was created on May 4, 1942 in Neuruppin, Germany and at the time of formation it boasted a main compliment of 45 Tiger I Ausf. E "Heavy Tanks". Although originally designated for service in North Africa, the 503d found itself assigned to Von Manstein's Army Group Don and fought at Kharkov with 20 Tiger I's as well as it's 31 PzKpfw. Ausf. N's in support. Upon the 503's arrival on January 1, 1943, it immediately took up a defensive position in support of Heeresgruppe A's withdrawal and the unit saw it's first action around Stawropol on January 4th, repelling a Soviet assault and claiming their first 18 kills from the advancing Russian armor. In the days that followed, the schwere Panzerabteilung 503 fought in the army's withdrawal to Rostov where, they were joined by the 2nd Company Tiger I's of schwere Panzerabteilung 502, this unit eventually being absorbed into the 503 as their 3rd Company. On February 11, 1943 the 503 was transferred to Kharkov where it claimed several more kills during massive Soviet assaults that culminated in the veritable destruction of the Russian's "Mobile Group Popov".
Schwere Panzerabteilung 503 also participated in "Operation Citadel" in July 1943 with great result and spent the remainder of that year on the Eastern Front, assigned to various locations in a defensive role as well as participating in "Local" counterattacks as the opportunity arose. The 503 performed admirably during the "Kursk Offensive" losing only three Tigers during the main assault with five more lost during the withdrawal. From July 5 through August 17, the 503 claimed kills on 385 tanks, 4 assault guns and 265 anti-tank guns.
In January, 1944 the Abteilung, along with several other units comprised "Panzer Regiment Bake" and assisted in the assault on Korsun, the infamous "Breakout from the Korsun Pocket", later fighting in the relief of the "Cherkassy Pocket" as well. At this time the 503 had 34 tanks classified as "Operational" and despite the fierce fighting in and around the pocket, lost only seven Tigers, one was destroyed by the enemy, another was destroyed by a Panther of the 1st SS in a "Friendly Fire" incident and the remaining five were abandoned by their crews after they they had become either immobilized by the mud or by mechanical failures. From January 24 to the end of April, schwere Panzerabteilung claimed over 500 kills on enemy armor and ended it's first deployment with only seven Tigers remaining operational, the remainder being lost in the fierce fighting they were almost continually engaged in. In late April "Panzer Regiment Bake" was disbanded and by early May, 1944 the remaining members of schwere Panzerabteilung 503 turned over their remaining Tiger I's to schwere Panzerabteilung 509 and returned to Ohrdruf, Germany for a well deserved rest and refitting.
During May and June 1944 schwere Panzerabteilung 503 refilled it's ranks and received 45 brand new Tigers, including 12 of the new Tiger II Ausf. B's. These were assigned to the 1st Company, which is the subject of this build.....
Members of the 503rd in France, 1944
I have chosen Tamiya's 1/35 version of this great AFV for two reasons: 1) - Tamiya's ability to precisely recreate details through molding versus Dragon's method of achieving detail through virtually twice as many pieces .... this leads us to reason number 2) - "Build-ability" .... the construction of Tamiya's sub-assemblies are by far, in my opinion, both less time consuming and as stated earlier, more precise - offering better fitting components and far less molding seam / flash removal. For this build I will be using the Tamiya MM 169 #35169 - "Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf.B / SdKfz.182 / Porsche Turm" ©1993.
I have purchased several aftermarket "Enhancements" for this build and they are as follows:
1/35 RB Model 8.8cm KwK 43/2 L/71 King Tiger B (Porsche Turm) Barrel -
1/35 Griffon Model #L35017 WWII German King Tiger (Porsche & Henschel Turret) for Dragon and Tamiya -
1/35 Eduard #35564 Zimmerit King Tiger Porsche Turret for Tamiya -
1/35 Archer Transfers #AR35266 German Fire Extinguisher Placards -
1/35 Dragon Figure Set #6191 "Achtung Jabo!" Panzer Crew -
1/35 MiniArt #35010 German Tank Crew at Work - (I selected both figure sets for their "Reed Green Panzer Uniform, Drill")
I have also purchased various Hornet Headsets, some of which will be used for this build. I am still undecided about replacing the stock Tamiya track, it is well cast and very detailed but the urge is to upgrade to Friulmodel metal track but that would add at least another $40.00 to the project. I think that I will see what I can do with the Tamiya "Rubber Band" track before I make any more investments!
I commenced this build by gluing the suspension arms to the hull and followed by assembling the road wheels and rear return rollers - the upper and lower hull sections aren't attached to sprue and are very clean and devoid of any casting evidence -
Here is a shot with the road wheels "Dry Fitted" in position. Note the two hubs, there are a total of 18, one for each road wheel -
Despite Tamiya's best efforts towards low tolerances, I'll have to do some minor filling on the front end of the hull side in the area where the sprocket assembly attaches. Although virtually unseen once the sprocket assembly, track and fenders are attached, I can't, in good conscience let this pass -
I put together the turret top and bottom pieces today and got the RB Model 8.8cm KwK 43/2 L/71 as well. The Tamiya gun collar did require a small amount of "Dremel Routing" to gain the proper fit.
That's one fine looking gun!
With the gun fitted, the need for some filling and shaping of the gun collar has become apparent.
As is my usual practice, I will work in "Sub Assemblies" on this project, starting with the turret. I will complete the entire turret, except for the painting and weathering (which will be done once all of the sub assemblies are finished and the entire kit has been completed), including the Griffon Photo Etch Detail Set and the Eduard Photo Etch Zimmerit.
Reed Green Denim Drill Panzer Uniform
There are several photos of 503rd soldiers wearing the Reed Green Denim Panzer Uniform. Here is a picture of an original tunic - Note the collar patches and epaulettes.
Picked back up on the turret work today. Added the Eduard PE Zimmerit with great results!
Next on the build agenda is to start adding the Griffon PE parts to the turret .......
Posted by Razorboy. Posted In : Build Log