The perspective of a Tiger tank commander at the Battle of Kursk, eighty years ago this weekend
Richard von Rosen did not attempt to write his memoirs until 2013. But using a combination of diaries and letters written home, he was able to produce a remarkably detailed account of his service - first as a panzer gun layer, eventually as a senior lieutenant in command of a King Tiger. Panzer Ace: The Memoirs of an Iron Cross Panzer Commander from Barbarossa to Normandy also contains over four hundred contemporary images of the tanks he fought in and the comrades he served with.
von Rosen devotes a chapter to describing the Battle of Kursk, painting a very clear picture of the conditions in which his company of Tiger tanks fought. He celebrated his 21st birthday as the battle began.
Nothing was to be seen. We continued forward and then suddenly there was a flash. For a fraction of a second I could see the shell heading directly for me.
The following excerpt covers the 7th-10th July 1943:
On the third day of the attack, 7 July, I took up my former position as ‘can-opener’ with my four Tigers leading. I thought it was unlikely to be any more difficult than the previous day. Soon after setting out in the early morning we came across another Russian defensive line, much weaker than expected and without any depth, and broke through it relatively quickly. On that day I don’t remember that we had any stronger resistance than that to break down.