“Catch me a Tiger!”

That was the sentence delivered to a young military engineer of the REME, Major Douglas Liddermore, by the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill.

The British fear of the Tiger tank was a very real thing, Churchill knew that if he could get one then the information his experts could learn from it will help defeat them.

With that sentence began a tale of untold heroism danger and secrecy that not so many people know about it. Douglas arrived in Tunisia in February 1943 with 3 hand picked men to begin his mission. 6-8 weeks pass and his frustration grows as day after day he and his men risk their lives but to no avail, either the Tigers were too damaged or the damage was self inflicted by their own crews to render them useless to the enemy.

In April, his chance comes. The British have nearly driven the Afrika Korp into the sea and were ready to finish the job when the Germans mount a surprise attack against them. Douglas and his men climbed into their Churchill tank to go ‘tank hunting’ and head off to the battle ground.

Almost right away they saw their prey, a single Tiger, Tiger 131, with its hatch open and a soldier examining the tank. Its turret had become jammed during the battle rendering it useless to continue fighting. Douglas and his men chased down toward the tank and were spotted at close quarters by the Germans. The Germans began to open fire with handguns and machine guns but were soon overcome. Moments later, Douglas had his Tiger. As the British crew sat on top of the Tiger, Douglas raised his water bottle in a toast “to the capture of the Tiger, Hitler’s favourite toy!”

In May, Douglas received an order…….Churchill arriving tomorrow. Will want to see Tiger. Probably have a drive.

As Churchill appeared, Douglas offered a salute but Churchill waved it away, “I’d much rather shake your hand Mr Lidderdale”

The next VIP visitor was King George VI, it was the furthest he had come from the UK since before the Blitz.

Churchill ordered Douglas and his men to silence over their venture and told him, “one day, everyone will know what you have done”

Next, Douglas had to get his Tiger back to the UK but the Germans knew a British officer had captured a Tiger and were determined to stop him. Even as the Tiger sat on the deck of SS Candida, they came under attack from a Uboat. At this point, Douglas jumped into the turret of the Tiger and began firing on the Uboat but even though he missed his target, the Uboat retreated. He eventually got the Tiger to Glasgow in October 1943 and a removal firm were tasked with bringing it to Whitehall.

When they got there, they were greeted by Churchill himself and Churchill said to Douglas ” Mr Schicklgruber (Hilter) and his Huns will be crying themselves to sleep tonight. Thankyou Colonel!”

To which Douglas replied “Thankyou Sir, but if I may so, with respect, I’m only a Major”

Churchill raised his head and replied ” with respect, I think you can call yourself Colonel after this!”

Tiger 131 is still working and can be seen in Bovington Tank Museum.

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