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David Willey, The Tank Museum Curator, presents the thirty-sixth Tank Chat about the Tiger 131, the most famous tank in The Tank Museum's collection and arguably the most famous tank in the world. 

Tiger 131 is a German Tiger I Heavy tank captured by the British 48th Royal Tank Regiment in Tunisia during World War II. The tank was assigned to No. 3 Platoon in No. 1 Company of the 504th Schwere Heerespanzerabteilung (German heavy tank battalion) in Tunisia during the North African Campaign bearing the turret number 131 by which it has come to be known.

Aftter being captured by Britishs, the Tiger 131 was repaired and inspected to judge its performance. Later, the tank was sent to England in October 1943 where it was displayed as a trophy at various locations to raise wartime morale before it was subjected to extensive testing and evaluation by the School of Tank Technology who produced detailed reports on its construction. In 1951 the captured tank was transferred to The Tank Museum.

An important restauration was made by The Tank Museum and Army Base Repair Organisation in 1990. It was removed from display at the museum for it. Two significant alterations were made: to add Maybach HL230 engine from the museum's Tiger II and add a modern fire-suppressant system to the engine compartment.

In December 2003, Tiger 131 returned to the museum with a working engine. Further work and repainting in period colours completed the restoration in 2012. This tank was used in the 2014 film Fury, the first time a real Tiger has appeared in a feature film since Theirs Is the Glory in 1946 and They Were Not Divided (1950).

Preserved at The Tank Museum in Bovington, England, it is the only operating Tiger tank in the world. Tiger I had the best kill ratio of World War II. Tiger I is still a monument to the skill of the engineers that designed it.

Here curator David Willey discusses the history of Tiger 131, it’s current place and importance in the collection, and its future.


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