After the division had assembled in the Innsbruck area, OKH ordered the formation of a Kampfgruppe under command of General der Gebirgstruppen Feuerstein. This battlegroup consisted of elements of the Reichsgrenadier Division 'Hoch- und Deutschmeister', Gebirgsjäger Schule Mittenwald, nine* Tiger Tanks (for information on Tigergruppe Meyer see further below) and a Flak battalion and they were tasked with keeping the Brenner Pass open for the German Army. On the 1 August 1943 "Marschgrüppe Boelke" (Kdr R Gren Rgt HuD), made up of parts of Grenadier Regiment 132, Reichsgrenadier Regiment 'Hoch- und Deutschmeister' and 1/Panzerjäger Abteilung 46 marched on the Brenner Pass.
(Picture above shows Officers & men of 5. and 6. Kp RGrenRgt HuD crossing the border at the Brenner Pass into Italy, 1 August 1943).
This was followed by "Marschgrüppe Harrer" (Kdr 2/Artillerie Regiment 96), containing the rest of Grenadier Regiment 132. The remaining parts of the Division were moved by rail to the Bolzano area.
Movement through Italy was only achieved after vigorous negotiations with the Italian authorities. The security area for the division now extended from the Brenner right to Trient. The troops, either billeted in towns or camping in the field, were warmly welcomed and well treated by the people of South Tyrol which was former Austrian territory annexed by the Italians in 1919.
The time spent in South Tyrol was utilised to catch up on outstanding tasks and to conduct further training. Because of the warmer climate the troops were issued with Tropical uniforms. The smallest pleasures in the lives of the Landser’s were not neglected. At the same time the Italian High Command's elite troops relocated to the South Tyrol region, the camaraderie with the Italians was good at this time. All this was changed with the capitulation of Italy on the 8 September 1943. German High Command had already prepared for this situation and instantly put into action the necessary countermeasures to disarm the Italian Armed Forces (Fall Achse). Within the area of the Reichsgrenadier Division disarmament began throughout the night of 8-9 September 1943 with the issue of the codeword “Rosenmontag”, although on occasions the Italians offered fierce resistance. The Division disarmed the XXV & XXXV Italian Army Corps, taking into custody 18 Generals, 1783 Officers and over 50,000 NCO’s and enlisted men and also acquired a large booty of war material.
After the disarmament of the Italian Forces, the division conducted a foot march to Verona. From there, either by truck or by rail transport, 1/Artillerie Regiment 96 and reinforced Grenadier Regiment 131 was transported to Venice to conduct coastal security duties with the remainder of the division transported to the area of Gorizia-Laibach were they were assigned anti-partisan duties. The troops assigned this duty had to scour the areas both to the north and south to systematically destroy the various Italian, Croatian and Slovenian partisan units. Moving through the rough terrain was extremely difficult for the troops and the partisans were extremely elusive and the steep, narrow, hilly and winding roads put huge demands on the Division's truck drivers, the mule columns and the horse drawn vehicles. With the partisan threat finally eliminated in November 1943 the division moved into quarters in Ljubljana.
The Allied landing in Sicily on the 10 July 1943 and further landings on the Italian mainland at Taranto and Salerno in September meant that the division was needed urgently elsewhere and therefore preparations were made to transfer the division south.
Before the loss of Sicily, eight* Tigers were shipped from the ordnance depot on 28 July 1943, to outfit an independent unit destined for Italy. Known as Tigergruppe Meyer, this small unit with its eight Tigers was attached to Pz. Jg. Abt. 46 (of the 'Hoch- und Deutschmeister' Division) between August and November 1943. By the 4 February 1944, then renamed as Tigergruppe Schwebbach it was attached to the LXXVI (76) Panzer Korps to attack the bridgehead created by the Allied landing at Anzio. None of the Tigers remained operational on 12 February 1944 but seven of the eight were available again by 15 February 1944 for the planned attacks. On 11 March 1944, the surviving crews and Tigers of Tigergruppe Schwebbach were incorporated into sPzAbt. 508.
This picture shows one of the eight Tigergruppe Meyer's Tigers in August 1943. It is a Panzerkampfwagen VI, Ausf.E and it was given the nickname of "Strolch" (Rascal) by its crew. Note that the Tiger appears to have been given a camouflage paint scheme to match the local conditions (over the dark yellow base paint it appears to have been camouflaged with olive green and, most likely, with red/brown stripes included).
Unlike other panzer units, the Tigers incorporated in this small combat unit (two Zugs with four Tigers each) used only a single digit numbering system & not the usual three-digit numbering system normally used in Panzer units.
Note that the front glacis plate of this Tiger sports what appears to be a unit emblem similar to that used by the 'Hoch- und Deutschmeister' Division emblazoned on it. This has not been officially verified but it would certainly match the period when Tigergruppe Meyer was attached to the 'Hoch- und Deutschmeister' Division as described above.
* Differing sources state that there was nine Tigers, whilst other sources state that there was eight Tigers.