'Zitadelle' - the last big German offensive
5th July 1943: A Red Army gun crews holds their fire as they wait to allow a Tiger to come within range
Around 280 miles south west of Moscow the Germans finally launched their major offensive for 1943. The battlefield was enormous, stretching out for hundreds of miles. Nearly a million German troops faced over twice as many from the Red Army. This was to be a tank battle like no other - around 3,000 German panzers faced over 5,000 Soviet tanks - they were placing their faith in the new Tiger heavy tank to outgun the opposition.
Yet the Red Army had had ample warning. They had built extensive defences in depth, successive lines of trenches, minefields and tank traps that extended in depth for dozens of miles in places. Furthermore, they had had time to train and prepare their troops. The Germans were facing a completely different army from 1941.
We now could clearly see through the periscope and gunsights as the Tigers advanced, slightly weaving as they prowled through the wheat field, their menacing gun muzzles swinging back and forth as they scanned our positions for targets.