Tigers in the Wood Part I – Julian Evan-Hart

Julian Evan-Hart has provided us a 6-part metal detecting story that will be released over the coming weeks. This is the first part of that story.

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-299-1805-12, Nordfrankreich, Panzer VI (Tiger I)

It was July 1944. The huge sun shone down upon fifty-six tonne Tiger 1 tanks grinding and smashing their way through the thin belt of damp, cool woodland. The smells of crushed bluebell bulbs, shredded and torn sap-rich bark from small trees, and other aromatic undergrowth even invaded into the interiors of the tanks’ massive turrets, somewhat softening the harsher but customary smells of oil, diesel, cordite and sweat.

The powerful Maybach HL 230 engines of the tanks blew bursts of blue-grey smoke from their exhausts as they ground on forwards, splintering any trees that stood defiantly in their way. The exhaust smoke drifted sideways into the woody glades where it enhanced the beams of sunlight poking through the dappled emerald green canopies above them. The tanks were surrounded by grimy faced infantry. Behind them came some smaller vehicles that followed in the tanks’ tracks.

Then everything and everyone slowly came to a halt. No way were they going to break cover from this safety without an assessment, and for the time being they would stay where they were. The tanks dipped down and dropped into a small ditch which was when the commander of the lead Tiger saw a horrific sight.

Just outside the wood some way down a small track a massive Sturmtiger assault tank had been blown onto its side. By the size of the adjacent crater, the cause had to have been an Allied aircraft bomb. Inside the shattered hulk, a fierce fire raged. Flames poured from several open access hatches as well as the huge stubby barrel. Once again there was that all too familiar stench of burning human flesh.

The surrounding dry grass had also caught fire and for about fifteen feet around the blazing wreck was a blackened burnt greasy patch. Trapped under the huge track links lay the totally severed torso of a crewman, whose tattered black uniform was still smouldering with thin breeze-blown wisps of creamy white smoke.

The Tiger crews hadn’t seen any combat for several hours now but the burning tank to their left indicated all too clearly how the Allied air forces had total supremacy in the skies above. It would pay to be cautious. Crossing the open fields ahead of them would make the column into sitting ducks.

Tank crews and infantrymen heard the ominous drone of aero engines echoing across the countryside some miles behind them. They were not friendly German ones either. High up in the blue sky were numerous thread-like white vapour trails, the American bombers once again heading deep into the Reich.

Suddenly a louder aero engine could be heard heading their way. Instantly, men ran back into the woodland or threw themselves to the ground. Suddenly, a Focke Wulf 190 roared over the treeline. At sight of a friendly aircraft, the infantrymen stood again and waved their caps

The dapple-grey painted little aircraft with yellow cowling and rudder banked sharply, dropped altitude and flitted at very low level over the farmland like a predatory sparrow hawk. From some distance over to the left came the rumble of intense artillery fire. Numerous black and dark grey columns of smoke could be seen rising hundreds of feet into the air.

About Julian Evan-Hart
Julian is from Hertfordshire, England and has always been interested in fossils and antiquities. Julian has written a number of books on metal detecting, and is an avid user of Minelab products.

One Response to Tigers in the Wood Part I – Julian Evan-Hart

  1. fraser says:

    ”The exhaust smoke drifted sideways into the woody glades where it enhanced the beams of sunlight poking through the dappled emerald green canopies above them.”
    No literary clichés left unturned here eh?

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