ARMOURED VEHICLES PART 8

 

 

T-28 AND T-34 TANKS

 

 

This webpage goes through the history of T-28 and T-34 tanks in Finnish use. While these two tanks are typically considered as medium tanks, in World War 2 era Finnish Army nomenclature for most of the war they were listed as heavy tanks and this shows in named used for some of the tank units to which they were issued. This may seem peculiar, but considering that at that time Finnish Army listed to its most commonly used tank T-26 was categorised simply as "tank", it makes sense. This system changed when by 1944 Finnish Army re-categorising its tanks according the usual international standards light tanks, medium tanks and heavy tanks. Once this had happened Finnish military listed both T-28 and T-34 tanks as medium tanks. Almost all T-28 and T-34 tanks that saw Finnish use had been captured from Soviet Red Army. While the number of these tanks was not large in Finnish use and the whole tank arm of Finnish Army was quite small, they still managed to make impact in some of the most important battles fought by Finnish tank units.

At least for me these two tanks also form an interesting pair, since they showcase a totally different approach to tank design and as a result even if developed less than a decade apart in a same country, were extremely different and also ended up with very different fates. One of them proving most manufactured sample of a dead-end design and another became the 2nd most manufactured tank in a world, which is still seeing use even today in some 3rd world countries.

When Finnish - Soviet Winter War started in November of 1939 Finnish Army did not have any medium or heavy tanks - only tanks in its disposal were already obsolete Renault FT-17 and recently acquired Vickers 6 ton tanks, which were in middle of being equipped with cannons. Finnish Army acquired its first heavier tanks by capturing two T-28 tanks during Winter War. When Finnish Army was mobilised for Continuation War in June of 1941, one of the units mobilised at that time was Tank Battalion (Panssaripataljoona). This "armoured fist of Finnish Army" was the unit to which the armoured vehicles acquired before Winter War and Soviet tanks captured during it had been concentrated. Among smallest units of this battalion was Heavy Tank Platoon (Raskas Panssarijoukkue), which was equipped with the earlier mentioned two captured T-28 tanks, which were the only medium or heavy tanks in Finnish use at that time. While being called platoon, early on this small tank unit consisted only one officer (Lieutenant Räsänen), four non-coms and 5 men - in other words just the tanks crews needed for the two tanks. Bit later also some mechanics were added. Only after Continuation War had already begun this unit was to expand to real platoon size with captured BT-5 and BT-7 tanks added. Along BT-5 and BT-7 tanks the platoon received not only their tank crews, but also additional mechanics and technicians. When Tank Battalion faced battle the first time in Continuation War, in its first battle in Tuullos 4th of September 1941, Heavy Tank Platoon contained already two T-28 tanks, three BT-5 tanks, two BT-7 tanks, four trucks (repair truck, ammunition truck, fuel and oil truck and supplies truck) and passenger car. Two BT-7 and three BT-5 tanks formed Christie Detachment (Christie Osasto) inside the Heavy Tank Platoon. While this detachment proved very short-lived due to all BT-tanks getting destroyed or falling apart in less in two weeks, Heavy Tank Platoon soon received reinforcements in form of additional captured T-28 tanks and first captured T-34 tank taken to Finnish use.

PICTURE: Photo showing recently captured T-28E tank with some Finnish soldiers who are taking a closer look inside it. Considering that this seems to be T-28E, it may be the same individual tank which later served Finnish Army as R-152 and provided the pattern for up-armoring Finnish used T-28 tanks. Photo property of Jaeger Platoon Website. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (74 KB).

Due to this number of tanks and men belonging to it, in February of 1942 Heavy Tank Platoon was renamed as Heavy Tank Company (Raskas Panssarikomppania). At that time this unit had one T-34 tank and six T-28 tanks. In the following months size of Heavy Tank Company expanded with additional captured tanks being introduced to Finnish use - two KV-1 tanks and two additional T-34 tanks. When in its largest, Heavy Tank Company had three T-34 tanks, two KV-1 tanks, seven T-28 tanks and one T-50 tank - however it must be noted that due to maintenance requirements all of these tanks were not really operational simultaneously at any given time.

Heavy Tank Company proved to be quite short-living unit. With forming of Armour Division (Panssaridivisioona) in June of 1942 Tank Battalion was expanded to Tank Brigade (Panssariprikaati) containing two tank battalions. This also proved to be becoming of an end for Heavy Tank Company. There were not enough heavy tanks for equipping two heavy tank companies and if remaining as one heavy tank company, both battalion commanders would have obviously wanted it to be part of their tank battalion. In addition putting all these tanks to one battalion would have left the other battalion notably weaker, which would have made little sense. The solution to the problem was dividing tanks of Heavy Tank Company into two, with each tank battalion getting their share that they used to create tank company, which contained two small platoons of heavy/medium tanks and one platoon of T-26 tanks.

Both tank battalion commanders (Captain Lumme and Major Paavola) knew well that T-34 was the most advanced of tanks existing in Finnish use at that time, so both of them for their battalion. Decision about which battalion would receive the share of Heavy Tank Company containing all three T-34 was decided with a clip of a coin - which ended to benefit of 1st Tank Battalion commanded by Captain Lumme. Hence 3rd Tank Company belonging to his battalion received three T-34 and three T-28 tanks, while 6th Tank Company (part of 2nd Tank Battalion) got two KV-1 tanks and four T-28 tanks. Later on this clip of a coin proved rather decisive for development of these units, since year 1944 Finnish military succeeded buying and capturing numerous T-34 tanks, but no additional KV-1 were ever taken to Finnish use.

 

T-28 "Postivaunu / Postijuna"

PICTURE: Side view of T-28E Ps. 241-4. Flexible ball mounts used for DT-machineguns have been removed from smaller turrets and some of the appliqué armoured is missing. (Photo taken in Panssarimuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (165 KB).

Weight:

27.8 tons (T-28) / 32.0 tons (T-28E)

Length:

7.44 meters

Width:

2.87 meters

Height:

2.82 meters

Max. Speed:

45 km/h on road (T-28) / 33 km/h on road (T-28E)

20 km/h off-road (T-28)

Engine:

500hp M17T 12-cylinder gasoline engine (*)

Armour:

10 - 30 mm (T-28) / 10 - 80 mm (T-28E)

- Turret front

20 mm (T-28) / 80 mm (T-28E)

- Turret sides

20 mm (T-28) / 80 mm (T-28E)

- Turret rear

20 mm (T-28) / 40 mm (T-28E)

- Turret top

20 mm (rear) / 25 mm (front)

- Hull front

T-28: 15 mm (upper part), 30 mm (lower part)

T-28E: 58 mm (upper part), 30 mm (lower part), 80 mm (driver front)

- Hull sides

20 mm (T-28) / 40 mm (T-28E)

- Hull rear

20 mm (upper part), 18 mm (lower part)

- Hull top

15 mm (front part), 10 mm (rear part)

- Hull bottom

18 mm (front part), 15 mm (rear part)

- Machinegun turrets

T-28: 22 mm (front), 20 mm (sides), 10 mm (top)

T-28E: 32 mm (front), 30 mm (sides), 10 mm (top)

Ground Clearance:

60 cm

Ground Pressure:

0.72 kg/square cm (T-28) / 0.77 kg/square cm (T-28E)

Gradient:

45 degrees (T-28) / 40 degrees (T-28E)

Trench:

3.50 m

Fording:

1.0 m

Range:

T28: 220 km on road / 110 km off-road

T-28E: 180 km on road / 90 km off-road

Weapons:

76 mm L-10 (L/26) tank gun (70 rounds) (**)

4 x 7.62 mm DT machinegun (7,938 rounds)

Crew:

6 men

Country of Origin:

Soviet Union

Production:

1932 - 1941, total number manufactured 503 tanks. (***)

(*) Originally M-17T engine produced 450 hp, but improvements increased its power to 500 hp.

(**) According Finnish sources, the exact number of machinegun-magazines seems to have somewhat varied from one individual tank to another.

(***) Includes only tanks manufactured during mass-production, not prototypes.

Finnish use: Two tanks captured during Winter War and five more tanks captured in 1941 - 1942. Even if considered obsolete they remained in combat use until 1944 and the last of them were not removed from Finnish inventory until year 1951.

The international interest for multi-turret tanks had been sparked by Vickers A1E1 "Independent" heavy tank prototype, which British Army had ordered in year 1924. This interest resulted to Britain, Germany and Soviet Union developing multi-turret tanks in late 1920's and early 1930's. It is worth noting that from these multi-turret tank designs only Soviet T-28 and T-35 got beyond prototype stage and were actually manufactured in reasonable numbers in 1930's. Design-wise multi-turret tank proved to be a complete dead-end. Multi-turret tanks required large tank crews, due to their size were technically complicated, difficult to equip with good armour and demanded very powerful engines to achieve decent mobility. Due to this also the Soviets developed new single-turret medium and heavy tanks, which replaced T-28 and T-35 in manufacturing, but these multi-turret tanks still remained in Soviet use for the early part of World War 2.

PICTURE: T-28 model 1934, notice notably shorter KT-28 main gun. While one of the machinegun-turrets has its machinegun-attachment closed with a metal plate, the another one has the flexible ball mount used with DT-machinegun still in it, showing how the machinegun-turret without appliqué armoured looked like. Also notice that this is not one of the Finnish-captured tanks. (Photo taken in Central Museum of Russian Armed Forces, Moscow Russia). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (175 KB).

Soviet T-28 medium tank was developed by design team of Bolshevik plant (later Factory of K.E. Voroshilov number 174) containing engineers S. Ginzburg, V. Zaslavsky, O. Ivanov and A. Gakkel. The inspiration for developing T-28 medium tank came from Vickers A6 medium tank prototypes, from which the Soviets had learned year 1930. Apparently they attempted buying one of the prototypes, but the British refused to sell it. Hence they decided to develop their own multi-turret tanks. Development work of T-28 was completed already year 1931, but since Bolshevik plant had already been dedicated for manufacturing of T-26 tanks, manufacturing of new T-28 tank became responsibility of another factory. That factory was Red Putilovits plant (Krasny Putilovets Zavod), which was renamed as Kivov Factory number 100 (Kirovsky Zavod) in year 1934. This factory that was in Leningrad started manufacturing T-28 tanks year 1932 and first dozen tanks were completed by May of 1933. T-28 medium tank was officially approved in use of Soviet Red Army in August of 1933. Mass-production continued from year 1933 to year 1941 and resulted to manufacturing total of 503 tanks.

Four main versions of T-28 medium tank existed:

  1. T-28 model 1934: Early main production version. Tank turrets to those used in T-35 heavy tank and equipped with 76-mm KT-28 (L/16) tank gun.
  2. T-28 model 1938: Late main production version. Tank turrets similar to earlier version but equipped with more powerful 76-mm L-10 (L/26) tank gun and improved engine.
  3. T-28E: T-28 model 1934 or 1938 tank equipped year 1940 with additional appliqué armour due to combat experience during Winter War.
  4. T-28 model 1940: Late production series of 12 tanks equipped with new conical tank turrets similar to ones used in late version of T-35 heavy tank.

Yearly production of T-28 medium tanks:

year:

tanks:

1933

41

1934

50

1935

32

1936

101

1937

39

1938

96

1939

131

1940

13

total

503

(Source: Russian Battlefield website).

As usual in addition manufacturing versions also had number of small improvements, which were introduced during manufacturing. These improvements included replacing 71-TK-1 radio with newer 71-TK-3 and adding 7.62-mm DT machinegun installed to P-40 anti-aircraft mount placed on top of the turret. In some extent the same components (such as turrets) used for manufacturing T-28 were used also in T-35 heavy tanks. When first introduced weaponry-wise T-28 medium tank was heavily armed by standards of the time - it had 76-mm main gun and four or five 7.62-mm DT machineguns placed in three turrets. As mentioned in some ways the design was highly developed if compared to other tanks introduced in 1930's. The main turret was electrically rotated with manual backup system and three of the crew-members sitting inside turret. Unlike with many tanks of 1930's, commander of T-28 was not burdened with other duties than commanding the tank (and possibly using front turret machinegun when needed) and all T-28 tanks were equipped with radio and TPU interphone system. Early on hull had been assembled with rivets, but starting year 1936 it was welded construction. Main turret full rotation time for full circle when rotated electronically was 23 seconds, while rotating it manually (with fast gear setting) took about four minutes. Rotating turret full circle with slow turret setting took six minutes. Main turret was also equipped with electric fans, which vented out some of the propellant gases produced by the main gun. Two smaller turrets, each of which had one machinegun, were manually rotated and rotated about 165 degrees. The tank had crew of six men, from which three men were inside main turret basket that rotated with turret - gunner sitting left of the main gun, tank commander sitting right of the main gun and loader working on back of the turret. Gunner was operating the 76-mm main gun and had his own periscope with 2.5X magnification and capable rotating 360-degrees. Tank commander, who was commanding the tank and used coaxial machinegun, had other periscope. Loader took care of loading the main gun and when needed used the rear turret machinegun and operated tank radio. Driver was sitting in middle of the front hull and each small turret had its own machinegunner. But while those details are impressive, the design also featured considerable technical problems. Clutch-brake steering system was poorly suited for tank this large and due its massive length of T-28 medium tank it was very heavy and difficult to drive. Suspension and track system build with 12 road wheels, six twin bogies, four double return rollers and plunger springs provided smooth ride, but also suffered from problems which suggest that T-28 was too heavy for this sort of suspension. Tracks were 39-cm long, 5.35-meters long and contained 76 track shoes. Tank engine was 500-horsepower water-cooled M-17T 12-cylinder gasoline engine, which was Soviet development based to German BMW V1 aircraft engine. It had rear sprocket drive and unsynchronised gearbox with six gears - five forward gears and reverse. Engine was also equipped with electrical starter and backup-system, which used compressed air. Fuel-tank capacity was 650 litres, but due to large fuel consumption (estimated 295-litres/100 km on road, 590 - 885 litres/100 km off road) operational range was still quite limited. The off-road mobility was reasonably good. Thanks to its length T-28 was capable crossing wide antitank-trenches and due to its heavy weight capable falling down trees less than 40-cm thick.

Before Finnish-Soviet Winter War Soviet Red Army issued T-28 tanks to separate Heavy Tank Brigades. During Winter War 20th Heavy Tank Brigade of Soviet Red Army operated T-28 tanks in Carelian Isthmus. It was the only Soviet tank unit equipped with T-28 tanks that took part in Finnish - Soviet Winter War. The total number of T-28 tanks in its use was 172 tanks. Due to nearby Kirov Factory number 100 and basic structural design that proved surprisingly tenacious, when Finnish troops knocked out these tanks, the Soviets were repeatedly able to return them back to battle after swift repairs. Combat-related losses of T-28 tanks for this unit were no less than 285 tanks and technical losses 197 tanks, but from these 371 were repaired already during the war and only 32 tanks were listed as non-restorable losses. During the war the Soviets learned the hard way that armour protection of T-28 was not able to protect it effectively from Finnish 37-mm antitank-guns, so they added appliqué armour to large number of their existing T-28 tanks. The resulting version was known as T-28E (with letter "E" coming from "ekranirovannij", reinforced). During Winter War the Soviets equipped 108 T-28 tanks with complete package of reinforced armour and 28 tanks were equipped with partially reinforced armour.

Combat-related losses of Soviet 20th Heavy Tank Brigade in Winter War:

Lost how:

How many:

artillery fire

155

landmines

77

fire

30

sunk in water

21

captured by Finnish Army

2

total:

285

(Source: Tanks in Winter War by Maksim Kolomiec).

T-28 medium tank remained in Soviet use after Winter War, but battles following German invasion of Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa) in June of 1941 resulted heavy losses in matter of months and by end of the year this tank had become rare in Soviet use. Due to its complicated design this tank was too difficult and expensive to manufacture and development-wise was a dead end, so developing of T-28 medium tank ended in year 1940, with new T-34 medium tank replacing it in production.

The Germans took only very small number of T-28 tanks in their own use and named them Panzerkampfwagen T-28 746(r).

Finnish Army appreciated T-28 somewhat more - likely due to experiences gained during Finnish - Soviet Winter War. Even with all it's shortcomings T-28 was undoubtedly the most effective tank used in real numbers during Winter War. During that war it had proved difficult customer for Finnish antitank-weapons. It had proved practically immune to molotov cocktails - probably at least partly due to large radiator and ventilator on rear deck. Antitank-guns were effective against it early on, but additional appliqué armour made it notably more difficult to destroy with these weapons. During Winter War Finnish Army captured two T-28 medium tanks. At that time Finnish military lacked vehicles capable towing off tanks this heavy, so Finnish troops were only to salvage only those T-28 tanks they could be drive off using their own engine. During the war separate small tank salvage units had been created from personnel of those Tank Battalion (Panssaripataljoona) tank companies, which had been equipped with obsolete Renault FT-17 tanks. These salvage-units succeeded evacuating the two T-28 tanks from Summa area. The two tanks were marked in armoured vehicle inventory of Finnish Army with registry numbers R-48 and R-49. Finnish soldiers also named T-28 tanks with nick-names "Postivaunu" (mail wagon / stagecoach) and "Postijuna" (mail train). What is known these nicknames originated from large size of this tank, the looks of its running gear with its multiple road wheels somewhat resembling steam locomotive and the fact that first Finnish-captured or knocked out T-28 tank contained lot of mail. Archive documents suggest that the Germans had apparently asked to get one of these two tanks (and some BT-series tanks) for testing just before Operation Barbarossa, since Foreign Office of Finnish Armed Forces Headquarters consulted Panssaripataljoona (Tank Battalion) on this matter asking its opinion in the matter. Tank Battalion replied 7th of June 1941 by telling that the two T-28 tanks were only tanks of Heavy Tank Platoon (Raskas Panssarijoukkue) and noted that keeping just one T-28 would be useless. Hence in such case that any would be delivered to Germany for testing, it would make more sense to try trade both of them with the Germans in exchange to three Panzer III or Panzer IV tanks. Both T-28 tanks remained in Finland, but it is likely that results of Finnish testing done with these tanks may have been delivered to the Germans.

When Finnish - Soviet Continuation War started in June of 1941 both Finnish T-28 tanks went to war with Heavy Tank Platoon of Tank Battalion, as planned. As mentioned at that time Heavy Tank Platoon commanded by Lieutenant Räsänen was the only unit of Finnish Army equipped with medium or heavy tanks. Early on Heavy Tank Platoon had also some T-26 tanks, which were replaced with Christie Detachment equipped with recently captured BT-5 and BT-7 tanks in August of 1941. This detachment was abolished already the next month, but since the platoon started receiving additional medium and heavy tanks already the next month, this was only a temporary loss.

PICTURE: T-28 tank R-48 (later Ps. 241-4) photographed with some of the crew. Photo taken in Lappee July of 1941. (SA-kuva photo archive, photo number 24415). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (198 KB).

Year 1941 Heavy Tank Platoon took part in major battles and the experiences support previous experiences of T-28 being surprisingly tenacious. In their first real battle in Tuullosjoki River 4th of September 1941 Heavy Tank Platoon fought against three field guns and armoured car. This battle ended to Finnish victory, but not without both T-28 tanks getting hit - driver of R-48 was killed in action while crew of R-49 suffered two wounded. After some field repairs both tanks were soon both back on the road. During the advance towards city of Äänislinna / Petrozavodsk in the next few weeks, R-48 and R-49 suffered technical issues, which required repairs several times and while crossing small river 28th of September R-48 ended into it upside down. Repairs caused only small delays and R-48 was fished out from the river already the next day. It might be worth noting, that commander of Heavy Tank Platoon, Lieutenant Albert Räsänen come to decision to lead his tank platoon from outside his tank, standing on its rear deck or running on side of the tank, noting that "blind man can not command a tank platoon". This highly unusual decision about leading a tanks from outside it might be at least partially explained by Finnish crew seating used with T-28 tanks, since some sources suggest that Finnish Army seated tank commander to the seat, which the Soviets had intended to loader. While sitting on loader's seat would have offered tank commander personal access to tank radio and overhead turret hatch for peaking out, it had its downsides. The particular seat in rear of the turret had no optical equipment, which would have allowed seeing outside while remaining inside the tank. However this was not necessarily much of loss since Finnish tank crews had already noted that the periscopes as the ones used in T-28 were poorly suited for getting clear picture of events around the tank and especially poorly suited for estimating distances. Hence, while commanding tank platoon from the outside of the tank has to be considered unusual, it may have actually made sense with T-28. Lieutenant Räsänen was awarded with highest Finnish military honour, Mannerheim Cross, for his part in battle of Tuullosjoki River. Next time that the two T-28 tanks played important role in battle was 30th of September, when they supported the attack of Jaeger Battalion 4 towards southern suburbs of Äänislinna / Petrozavodsk in brink of the city, destroying number of machinegun nests and bunkers. The next day Tank Battalion advanced to the city, which also marked stop for its operations for a moment.

In summer and autumn of 1941 the Soviets operated T-28 tanks in Finnish - Soviet front in area located in between Lake Laatokka / Ladoga and Lake Ääninen / Onega in Soviet Carelia. There Finnish troops succeeded capturing number of T-28 medium tanks. Two of these captured T-28 tanks were issued to Heavy Platoon in October of 1941 and were marked with registry numbers R-101 and R-102. From these two T-28 R-101 had been salvaged from Prääsä 4th of October and T-28 R-102 traded in exchange of two BT-5 tanks with Armour Detachment (Panssariosasto) of 1st(Infantry) Division. This tank traded from Armour Detachment of 1st Division had been originally captured 5th of September 1941 in Nuosjärvi and arrived to Heavy Tank Platoon 18th of October 1941. Heavy Tank Platoon was renamed as Heavy Tank Company and received two additional T-28 tanks (R-103 and R-104) in October - November of 1941. So by 5th of November 1941 Heavy Tank Battalion had received six T-28 tanks, but typically at any given time at least two or three of them were under repair or waiting for repairs.

In beginning of December 1941 Tank Battalion took part in Karhumäki - Poventsa offensive in extremely cold winter weather. Among its units that started their highway march from Äänislinna 29th of November was also Heavy Tank Company, which took part this operation with four T-28 tanks (R-48, R-49, R-101 and R-102) and its only T-34 (R-105). During this long road march in bitterly cold winter weather T-28 tanks suffered number of technical problems, but thanks to efforts of mechanics succeeded reaching their destination. The main battle of the offensive was fought in and around town of Karhumäki 5th of December 1941. There T-28 tanks run into two Soviet BT-7 tanks, in resulting tank-battle T-28 R-102 was hit twice with one crew-member being killed in action. The next morning the fuel pipes of T-28 R-49 and T-28E R-102 were found to be frozen and also R-101 failed to start, which left T-34 as the only tank of the company that was still still able to continue the attack, luckily that day also proved to be the last day of this offensive, with Finnish troops reaching their objective. This short offensive showcased once again the mechanical reliability problems of T-28 tanks - all four T-28 tanks that had taken part in offensive were once again in desperate need for extensive repairs.

The last of captured T-28 tanks taken to Finnish use during Continuation War was captured in Pyhäjärvi 20th of May 1942, it was sent to repairs and issued to Heavy Tank Company as T-28 R-152. This last T-28 tank taken to Finnish use was also the only Soviet-modified T-28E in Finnish inventory. It brought the total number of T-28 tanks taken to use of Finnish Army to seven. This was to be their final total number.

Finnish-captured T-28 tanks:

Tank:

Where:

When:

T-28 m 1938 R-48

Summa, Carelian Isthmus

Jan - Feb 1940

T-28 m 1938 R-49

Summa, Carelian Isthmus

Jan - Feb 1940

T-28 m 1938 R-101

Prääsä, Soviet Carelia

Sept - Oct 1941

T-28 m 1938 R-102

Nuosjärvi, Soviet Carelia

Sept 1941

T-28 m 1938 R-102

Soviet Carelia

Oct - Nov 1941

T-28 m 1938 R-104

Soviet Carelia

Oct - Nov 1941

T-28E R-152

Pyhäjärvi, Soviet Carelia

May 1942

T-28 and T-28E Finnish style:

All Finnish-used T-28 tanks had L-10 (76 Psv.K/27) main gun, which suggests that every single one of them was T-28 model 1938 version. As mentioned R-152 was the only of Finnish used tanks, which the Soviets had already modified as T-28E. Following its capture the Finns updated all T-28 tanks with additional appliqué armour in similar manner presumably still in year 1942, since period photos indicate that at least R-48 and R-49 had been modified as T-28E by summer of 1942. Besides their 76-mm main gun T-28 and T-28E tanks in Finnish use all had four DT-machineguns. All sources suggest that the Finns never used the fifth DT-machinegun on P-40 anti-aircraft machinegun mount, even if some of the T-28 tanks in their used had been equipped with these mounts and Finnish late-war photos suggest that the existing P-40 machinegun mounts were also removed at some point by year 1944.

PICTURE: Yet another view of T-28E Ps. 241-4 (previous R-48). Notice rear turret machinegun, suspension, plus radiator and ventilator in the rear deck. (Photo taken in Panssarimuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (132 KB).

Experiences of Finnish tank crews:

Finnish tank crews came to conclusion that T-28 had variety of serious technical weaknesses, which made them mechanically unreliable and reduced number of tanks available for combat use at any given time due to technical issues causing need for immediate repairs. The tank was also clumsy and difficult to drive, for the large part due to shape and size of T-28 tank being too long and heavy for clutch-brake steering system used in it. Especially the version without additional appliqué armour was also considered relatively weakly armoured for tank of this size and weight. Even appliqué armour left the tank with some weakly armoured parts (such as vertical side hull armour) which combined with size and height of the tank made it an easy target. While additional armour used in T-28E also reduced maximum speed of the tank considerably, in reality this wasn't much a loss, since due to heavy and difficult steering tank drivers had found it impossible to drive these tanks fast in narrow winding roads. In fact driving T-28 proved on this sort of roads proved so hard work, that drivers had to take a break after every few hours due to shear exhaustion. Due to their technical complexity these tanks required basic repairs after only 150 hours of use and their engines needed complete overhaul after every 200 hours of use. To make things worse T-28 medium tank apparently wasn't easy to repair, which combined with limited capacity of Armour Centre (Finnish main repair facility for tanks) further delayed their return from repairs. When all earlier captured six T-28 tanks went through repairs in there in year 1942, the average time that each of these tanks spent undergoing repairs was no less than almost four months. As mentioned fuel-consumption wise T-28 was rather thirsty, which the Finnish crews also noted - on average it consumed about 50 litres of petrol per hour.

Obsolete tank in combat use:

While Finnish Army considered T-28 to be obsolete already in year 1942, the very limited number of medium and heavy tanks in Finnish use forced also these tanks to be kept in combat use. T-28E tanks that were in operational condition took part to some of the battles that Tank Brigade fought in summer of 1944, but due to their obvious weaknesses they were apparently often retained further back and used mainly as fire support for other more modern tanks and assault guns. But still, they were not outside danger zone. 25th of June during counter-attack operation in Portinhoikka area one of T-28E tanks was hit several times by Soviet antitank-rifles, but apparently suffered only minor damage. In the usual manner mechanical problems soon reduced number of T-28E tanks that were in operational condition.

Year 1944 Germany was to deliver medium tanks and assault guns needed for replacing much of the obsolete tanks still used by Finnish Army, but this plan was never completed. Preparations that Finnish Army made for delivery of these new medium tanks included declaring many of the old tank designs that were in use to be obsolete in 7th of July 1944 and T-28E tanks were among these. However arrival of armoured vehicles from Germany stopped in due to Finnish - Soviet armistice treaty in September of 1944, wrecking this plan. Hence tanks now once already declared obsolete had to be retained in use and many of them continued their career in Finnish use until 1950's. Unlike had been earlier planned, these tanks were not scrapped, but if damaged they were not extensively repaired either, which further reduced the number of T-28 remaining in working order. It must be noted that while Finnish-used T-28 tanks took hits and lost crew-members during the war, none of these tanks were lost in battle.

Finnish Army had also found other uses for T-28E tanks. Even year 1944 Finnish military did not have proper armoured recovery vehicles. Two Sdkfz 9 heavy half-tracks bought from Germany were suitable for recovering tanks, but had no armour protection necessary for using them in the frontline. Often lack of armoured recovery vehicles made recovery of captured Soviet tanks impossible and therefore reduced the number of Soviet tanks that the Finns were able to take to their own use and also made recovering own heavy armoured vehicles from the frontline difficult. Hence 9th of August 1944 decision was made to modify two T-28E tanks as armoured recovery vehicles, which could be used for this purpose. However ending of Continuation War in September of 1944 changed also these plans - only one T-28E (R-104) was modified as armoured recovery vehicle and work for modifying the second vehicle apparently never begun. This one of its kind armoured recovery vehicle was named as T-28V Ps. 735-1. As part of modification work for making T-28V recovery vehicle the main turret was removed and three sides (front and both sides) on top of the vehicle were equipped with railing. Small machinegun turrets were retained in this modification work and front hull covered with three rows of spare tank track links to provide some extra protection. Weapons-wise only equipment of T-28V was two DT-machineguns, one in each small turret. Other six T-28E tanks saw very little post-war use, but remained in Finnish inventory until 30th of November 1951. That day all remaining T-28E tanks and the single T-28V recovery vehicle were removed from Finnish Army armoured vehicles inventory, ending their career in Finland.

Nowadays there are only two or three T-28E remaining in Finland - depending what one considers to be proper tank. The most easily accessible of those three is T-28 R-48 / Ps. 241-4, which is in outdoor exhibition of Parola Tank Museum (Panssarimuseo). Tank hulk of T-28 R-152 is stored to depot or Parola Tank Museum for possible restoration and not usually available to public. The third unspecified T-28 tank was for a long time used as monument for Savo Infantry Brigade in Mikkeli and has presumably since been also turned over to Parola Tank Museum, but is not its exhibition at the moment.

 

 

T-34

T-34/76 "Sotka"

PICTURE: T-34 model 1941 Ps. 231-1. This was the first T-34/76 named registered with Ps-number and also the same one, which fell through weak bridge to Saimaa channel in Juustila in June of 1944. Notice "pepper pot"-type muzzle brake in its F-34 main gun, this experimental Finnish muzzle brake was installed in 1943 and it was not used in any other T-34 tank. (Photo taken in Panssarimuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (160 KB).

Weight:

28.5 tons (m 1941) / 30.9 tons (m 1942) / 31.0 tons (m 1943) (*)

Length:

6.10 meters (6.58 meters with gun)

Width:

3.00 meters

Height:

2.45 meters / 2.70 meters (depending turret)

Max. Speed:

55 km/h on road

25 km/h off road

Engine:

500hp V-2 12-cylinder diesel engine

Armour:

20 - 70 mm (***)

- Turret front

70 mm

- Turret sides and rear

52 mm

- Turret rear

52 mm

- Turret top

20 mm (rear) / 25 mm (front)

- Hull front

45 mm

- Hull sides

40 mm

- Hull top

20 mm

- Hull bottom

20 mm

Ground Clearance:

40.0 cm

Ground Pressure:

0.72 kg/square cm (m 1941)

Gradient:

35 degrees

Trench:

2.50 m

Fording:

1.3 m

Range:

250 km

Weapons:

76 mm F-34 (L/41.6) tank gun (77 or 100 rounds) (**)

2 x 7.62 mm DT machinegun, coaxial and hull (2,898 or 3,150 rounds)

Crew:

4 men

Country of Origin:

Soviet Union

Production:

1940 - 1944, total number manufactured about 34,780 tanks.

(*) Combat weight with ammunition, fuel and crew.

(**) Depending turret. Turret used in m 1941 and early m 1942 allowed carrying maximum of 77 main gun rounds. Larger cast turrets used in late m 1942 and all m 1943 allowed 100 main rounds to be routinely carried with-in vehicle.

(**) Again depending turret. Larger cast turret allowed more ammunition be carried. Also, T-34 model 1940 was equipped with L-11 gun, but there was no T-34 model 1940 tank in Finnish use.

Finnish use: Seven tanks taken to Finnish use during Continuation War. First T-34/76 was taken to Finnish use in October of 1941. The last of these tanks remained in Finnish use until year 1961.

As usual T-34 medium tank was based to earlier tanks. The driving gear used in it originated from the Christie design earlier used in series of BT fast tanks, but had now matured as much more reliable design. Another piece to puzzle was BT-IS prototype build year in 1937. It was the first Soviet design with sloped armour design, which became other main important feature for T-34. The third main feature that T-34 was V-2 diesel engine, which the Soviets started using in prototypes in year 1938. The actual development prototypes leading to T-34 were A-20 and A-32. From these two prototype designs A-20 has four road wheels and was still capable to be driven on road wheels, while A-30 had five road wheels, capable to be used only with tracks and had bigger main gun (45-mm vs. 76-mm). Summer of 1939 Red Army was testing these two prototypes against each other, but made no decision, which of them it preferred. At the mean while further A-34 prototype based to A-32 was developed and two A-34 prototypes completed in January - February of 1940, but for it to gain access to official demonstration a test run of 2,000 kilometers was first required.

The tank design team behind A-20 and A-32 was new design team of Kharkov Locomotive Factory (KhPZ) lead by engineer M.I. Koshkin. Determined to get A-34 prototypes approved for official demonstration, he decided in middle of winter to take two existing A-34 prototypes to over 2,000 kilometre test run from Kharkov to Moscow, from Moscow to Carelian Isthmus (where they were tested against Finnish fortifications from recently ended Winter War) and back to Kharkov via Minsk and Kiev. While this test run was a success and gained the prototype approval for getting into production in 31st of March 1940, it also proved fateful to Koshkin, who few months later died to pneumonia made worse by the lengthy test drive in cold weather. A.A Morozov took over leadership of the design team, which continued to further develop T-34, to which A-34 had now been renamed.

T-34 had been intended to replace earlier T-26 infantry support tanks, BT-series fast tanks and T-28 medium tanks in Soviet use and proved capable doing this in admirable manner. When Germany invaded Soviet Union in June of 1941, German military was completely unaware about recent introduction of T-34 medium tank. This proved be a particularly nasty surprise for them, since this tank proved superior to everything in their tank inventory in areas of firepower, armour protection and off-road mobility. With exception of 88-mm anti-aircraft guns and limited number of 50-mm anti-tank guns everything else in their inventory was inadequate of penetrating well-sloped T-34 armour from reasonable distances, while 76-mm tank guns used in T-34 had no problem penetrating frontal armour of any German tank from normal combat distances. Lucky for the Germans only about 1,300 of these tanks had been manufactured by that time and the Soviets were still rather green, when it came to using them. Still, T-34 medium tank and KV-1 heavy tank proved a formidable threat, which forced Germany to concentrate huge resources in developing more powerful antitank-weapons and tanks and lead to arms-race in developing ever better tanks and antitank-weapons in the East Front.

T-34 production:

Since T-34 proved superior to all tanks that the Germans had in 1941, the Soviets concentrated huge efforts in mass-producing it in massive numbers and with some help from their Allies, their industry proved capable manufacturing such a massive numbers of armoured vehicles, that they ultimately out-produced German industry by considerable margin. First factory to start manufacturing of T-34 had started was Kharkov Locomotive Factory (KhPZ), which started its production in 1940. While the second original manufacturer of T-34 tanks, Dzerzhinsniy Stalingrad Tractor Factory (STZ) in Stalingrad, did not complete its first T-34 tanks until next year. Starting of German - Soviet war in summer of 1941 and following rapid German advance changed existing Soviet plans in drastic manner. Production was expanded to new factories and several existing factories with their workers were evacuated to the Urals and merged as giant tank factories. KhPZ was evacuated in year 1941 and large part of STZ in year 1942. New massive Ural Tank Factory 183 in Nizhny Tagil created from KhPZ and Dzerzhinsky Ural Railroad Car Works (UVZ) and tank factories manufactured almost half of all T-34 tanks manufactured in Soviet Union in 1940 - 1945. New manufacturers that joined the production in 1941 - 1942 included Krasnoye Sormovo Factory No. 112 in Gorki, Chelyabinsk Kirov Narkomtankprom Plant (ChKZ) and Ordzhonikidze Ural Heavy Machine Building Plant (UZTM) in Sverdlosk. From all about 58,000 tanks T-34 manufactured in Soviet Union by end of World War 2, about 35,000 were T-34/76 and some 23,000 later version T-34/85.

Production of T-34 tanks in Soviet Union 1941 - 1945:

Factory:

1940

1941

1942

1943

1944

1945

total:

KhPZ (Kharkov)

117

1560

0

0

0

0

1677

Factory 183 (Nizhny Tagil)

0

25

5684

7466

8421

7356

28952

Factory 112 (Gorki)

0

173

2584

2962

3619

3255

12593

Factory 174 (Omsk)

0

0

417

1347

2163

1940

5867

STZ (Stalingrad)

0

1256

2520

0

0

0

3776

CzKZ (Chelyabinsk)

0

0

1055

3594

445

0

5094

UZTM (Sverdlosk)

0

0

267

464

0

0

731

total:

117

3014

12527

15833

14648

12551

58690

(Source: Mostly based to Russian Battlefield website). Notice: Contains production of both T-34/76 and T-34/85 tanks.

Large-scale production of T-34/85 continued in Soviet Union did not end until year 1946 with 2,701 tanks manufactured that year, while small-scale manufacturing continued until year 1950. Even after this manufacturing of T-34/85 continued in other countries. Poland manufactured 1,380 T-34/85 tanks in 1951 - 1955 and Czechoslovakia 3,185 tanks in 1951 - 1958. In 1960's much of the T-34/85 tanks remaining in inventory of Warsaw Pact countries were modernised. China manufactured copy of T-34/85 as Type 58. In addition of tanks Soviet-build also assault guns SU-85, SU-100 and SU-122 on T-34 chassis.

PICTURE: T-34 model 1942 tank R-155 / Ps. 231-4 photographed during tests of tank obstacles. Photo taken in Äänislinna / Petroskoi / Petrozavodsk July of 1943. (SA-kuva photo archive, photo number 132732). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (123 KB).

Naming systems for T-34 versions:

The Soviets did not originally create specific system for separating various manufacturing versions of T-34 medium tank and ultimately ended with system roughly based to year of manufacture. During the war manufacturing as many tanks as possible was far more important to the Soviets than manufacturing of precisely similar T-34 tanks, so production included quite large number of more or less mixed versions and some factories also build their own slightly varying versions. During World War 2 the Germans developed their own naming system for manufacturing versions of T-34 tanks, the way they divided these tanks to versions was rather similar to the Soviet one, but alphabets were used instead of years of manufacture and the Germans paid more attention to detail in that sense that divided T-34 tanks into more numerous versions than the Soviets.

Soviet system:

German system:

T-34 model 1940 (*)

T-34A

T-34 model 1941

T-34B

T-34 model 1942

T-34C

"

T-34D

T-34 model 1943

T-34E

"

T-34F

T-34-85

T-34/85 (**)

(*) Referred T-34 model 1939 in some sources.

(*) Early on the Germans referred this version as T-43, this same wrong marking appears also sometimes in Finnish wartime documentation.

During World War 2 T-34 was the most common tank in Soviet use and saw also use with German military, that called it Panzerkampfwagen T-34 747(r). The Germans set up repair facility in Riga to repair captured T-34 and KV-1 tanks, with Daimler-Benz factory and Wumag in Görlitz also repairing small number of these tanks for German military. Despite the huge number of tanks that the Germans captured in Soviet Union, at any given time the number of captured T-34 tanks in German military does not seem to have surpassed few dozen. After the war Soviet Union supplied T-34 tanks to its allies and export customers. The list of post World War 2 users contains some forty countries, with these tanks seeing combat use in Korean War, Middle East and number of smaller conflicts. Large number countries still had T-34/85 tanks in their inventory even in 1990's and some African countries have used these tanks to this day.

Technical aspects:

While T-34/76 was in 1941 many ways best tank in the world, it had also its own share of problems. Mechanical reliability and durability were problematic especially early. The most common of these mechanical problems were related to transmission and clutch-brake steering systems. Other major issue with this tank was poor visibility that the tank crew had outside their tank, until model 1943 it lacked commander's cupola and the optics still somewhat lacking, even if better than in earlier Soviet tanks. The poor visibility was such a notable issue that the Germans simply noted T-34 to be blind. In typical Soviet manner, not all tanks were equipped with radios, which made commanding units equipped with them challenging and reduced their effectiveness in battle. The Soviets equipped these tanks with variety of radios, including 71-TK-3, R9 and R9M. In addition these tanks had interphone systems, for which the Soviets used TPU-2, TPU-3 and TPU-3bisF. Early on gearbox used in T-34 had four forward gears and reverse, with later gearbox version having five forward gears and reverse, this change may have happened due to large gap in between first and second gear in early gearbox. Tank hull was welded construction, while turrets depending manufacturing version of the tank and manufacturer were either cast, welded or pressed.

Maybe the most successful part of T-34 design turned out to be the 500-horsepower V-2 diesel engine. This liquid-cooled direct-injection V-12 diesel proved so highly successful that the Soviets used it also in KV- and JS-series heavy tanks and variety of assault guns. The engine proved surprisingly reliable to be relatively early diesel engine and besides electric start it could be started with pressurised air, which improved changes of it starting in cold weather. Christie-suspension worked well allowing quite a smooth ride even at high speeds, even if it was lacking shock absorption system. Track and suspension systems proved good and durable, allowing Soviet manufacturing moving into use of roadwheels which had no rubber rimming. However it must be noted that with the size and weight of T-34, the Christie-suspension used in it was close its maximum limit. The tank had four-man crew. Two crew members sitting inside the turret ring included tank commander working also as gunner (responsible shooting with the main gun and coaxial DT-machinegun) and loader, who's responsibility was to reload the main gun. Two other crew members were inside front hull of the vehicle, these were driver and radio driver, who also took used hull machinegun. The two-man turret and this crew arrangement was less then ideal in that sense, that complicated work of tank commander burdening him also with task of gunner. While T-34 lacked proper turret basket which would have allowed whole space with-in turret to rotate with it, the seats used by the members of crew located inside turret rotated with it.

First Finnish-captured T-34 tanks:

Year 1941 grand majority of Soviet tanks in Finnish - Soviet front was still older tanks with very few T-34 among them. Apparently troops of 2nd Army Corps were the first to fight to against T-34 tanks in Finnish front, they destroyed two T-34 tanks in August of 1941 in Carelian Isthmus - first near Ojajärvi train station and second one in road between villages Kaukola and Räisälä. Just like the third T-34 captured in Carelian Isthmus these two tanks were damaged beyond repair. First T-34 tank that Finnish troops took to their own use was captured 2nd of October 1941 near Syväri / Svir power plant, where at that day T-34 apparently made its first appearance en mass in Finnish - Soviet front. Following unsuccessful attack made four T-34 tanks, the Soviets launched another attempt with no less than 18 T-34 tanks. Due to earlier attack Finnish troops were prepared and waiting, so this second attack turned into disaster for the Soviets with Finnish troops knocking out five of the attacking tanks with satchel charges and antitank-mines. This first captured T-34 had been abandoned by its Soviet crew after getting stuck on two tree stumps, from which Finnish soldiers got rid of with a saw and little bit of explosives. This tank that Finnish Army registered as R-105 was factory-new STZ-manufactured T-34 model 1941 which was completely intact with only four shells missing from ammunition racks. Often this tank is also referred as "Heino's T-34" after Private (later Staff Sergeant and Knight of Mannerheim Cross) Lauri Heino who drove it from the frontline when captured and served long as driver of this particular T-34. Also another T-34 had become stuck near the powerplant that day, but since it's crew refused to leave the tank or surrender, Finnish infantry finally destroyed the tank by simply blowing it up, in the process damaging the vehicle beyond repair.

Finnish troops captured also second T-34 in autumn of 1941, but this tank registered as R-111, did not apparently enter into use of Tank Battalion until February or March of 1942. This T-34 model 1941 manufactured by KhPZ had still many features of T-34 model 1940, but had already been equipped with F-34 main gun. Third T-34 taken to Finnish use was T-34 model 1942 captured near Syväri / Svir power plant in spring of 1942. Finnish Army registered this Factory 183 build T-34 model 1942 as R-155. Forth T-34 medium tank taken to Finnish use was T-34 model 1941 captured near Lake Seesjärvi / Segozero in September of 1943 and was registered as Ps. 231-1. Finnish Army had introduced new marking system for identifying individual armoured vehicles in its use in spring of 1943, but this new Ps. number system did not completely replace earlier R-number system used for the same purpose until 1945. Finnish Army reserved Ps. 231 number for T-34/76 tanks. Since being captured in September of that year, Ps. 231-1 became the first T-34 named with Ps-number in 231-series. Earlier captured T-34 tanks were among the ones to receive also new Ps-numbers, but these were not used in wartime documentation. Ps-numbers given to those T-34 tanks earlier taken to Finnish use:

Finnish soldiers gave already first captured T-34 tank a nickname "Sotka" (pochard) and this nickname spread becoming a commonly used nick-name for all T-34/76 tanks. Several more or less varying stories exist about origin of this nickname, but most seem to have that in common, that apparently the inspiration for it originated from a steamboat with that name.

Finnish estimates and experiences:

Early Finnish estimate of T-34 tank: "Armour quite adequate, diesel-engine works reliably even in winter, speed quite adequate - apparently the tank has a good off-road mobility. Our troops have succeeded destroying these tanks with satchel charges thrown to rear deck. Tank crew has poor visibility outside, tank tracks can be broken with satchel charges, antitank-mines or with 37-mm antitank-guns. 45-mm antitank-gun can penetrate lower side hull armour between road-wheels or if the tank is tilted suitably (turning sloped side hull armour into vertical position) it can penetrate also higher side armour."

With hindsight it can be noted that this particular early estimate was rather optimistic considering effectiveness of 37-mm and 45-mm antitank-guns against T-34. Its tank tracks were far from easy to break with 37-mm antitank-gun and chances of 45-mm antitank-gun successfully penetrating its armour were marginal at best, even against hull side armour. There were cases in which 45-mm antitank-guns succeeded knocking out T-34, but these cases were rare. Before small number of 50 PstK/38 antitank-guns were acquired from Germany in summer of 1942, Finnish Army lacked antitank-gun that could have been considered effective against T-34 medium tank. Due to its structural design and diesel engine T-34 was basically immune to molotov cocktails, unless one was thrown in from an open hatch.

PICTURE: T-34 model 1943 Ps. 231-7. This is only known survivor of the three T-34/76 tanks, which Finland bought from Germany in 1944. Notice commander's cupola. Both T-34 model 1943 tanks bought from Germany were the version equipped with commander's cupola. (Photo taken in Panssarimuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (159 KB).

Three additional T-34 tanks were bought from Germany in summer of 1944. They were first delivery of the nine T-34 tanks that the Germans had promised to deliver Finland, but deliveries stopped short due to Finnish - Soviet armistice treaty in September of 1944 and six of the promised tanks were never delivered. These three tanks that the Germans delivered, arrived to Finland on S/S Hugo Stiennes 2nd of July 1944 and were registered as Ps. 231-5, Ps. 231-6 and Ps. 231-7. They were delivered to Tank Brigade in Lappeenranta 5th of July. Model-wise Ps. 231-5 was T-34 model 1943, Ps. 231-6 was T-34 model 1942 and Ps. 231-7 was T-34 model 1943. The price for the three T-34/76 bought from Germany in 1944 had been set at 200,000 reichsmark (RM) per tank. Two additional T-34/76 tanks captured in Nietjärvi were also taken to Finnish use, but these tanks salvaged in 30th of August - 1st of September 1944, were introduced to Finnish use so late, that they did not see any with Finnish troops in World War 2.

Finnish-used T-34/76 tanks:

Ps-number

Tank model:

Other:

Ps. 231-1

T-34/76 model 1941

-

Ps. 231-2

T-34/76 model 1941

earlier R-105

Ps. 231-3

T-34/76 model 1941

earlier R-111

Ps. 231-4

T-34/76 model 1942

earlier R-155

Ps. 231-5

T-34/76 model 1943

Bought from Germany in 1944

Ps. 231-6

T-34/76 model 1942

Bought from Germany in 1944

Ps. 231-7

T-34/76 model 1943

Bought from Germany in 1944

(*) Notice that two more T-34/76 tanks appear to Finnish armor vehicle inventory in 1944, even if they didn't apparently serve anything more than spare parts for the other seven tanks.

Finnish tank crews found T-34/76 to obviously be a massive improvement over earlier tanks like T-26E and captured Soviet T-26. Not only was its 76-mm tank gun much more effective and armour protection useful against Soviet antitank-weapons, but thanks to wide tracks, powerful diesel engine and showed good mobility in typical Finnish terrain and also deep snow. Unlike with light tanks even individual tree or two were no real obstacle, since T-34 was found capable knocking down trees less than 80-cm thick. Since the number of captured T-34 tanks taken to Finnish use remained always very limited, it seems likely that most capable crews were handpicked for them. As mentioned the first three T-34 tanks taken to Finnish use were issued to Heavy Tank Company of Tank Battalion and when the Battalion was expanded to Brigade, they went to 3rd Tank Company (1st Battalion) of Tank Brigade. When additional T-34 tanks were received in summer of 1944 also they ended up to this tank company.

While Finnish tank crews were overjoyed if equipped with T-34 tank, they also got familiar with problems of these tanks. As typical to Soviet tanks of that time, setting range setting for the main gun was based to estimation made by the gunner. The V2 diesel engine itself was reliable, but other systems attached to it had often mechanical problems partly caused by wear and tear of long-term use and made worse by the shortage of available spare parts. The clutch-brake steering system was noted to be simple, but it had tendency to heat in devious roads and often had issues with plates of the clutch and its driving shaft, which caused problems with getting a gear on. Finnish experience showed that T-34 required extensive overhaul after every 300 hours and tank tracks for every 150 hours, but finding needed spare parts for replacing worn or broken parts even by buying them from Germany from proved problematic. Finnish tankers and mechanics gathered still useful parts from T-34 tanks that had been captured but were damaged beyond repair and in some cases even crawled to knocked-out tanks in no-man's land and back to scavenge spare parts. Fuel supply was also slightly more problematic than with armoured vehicles equipped with gasoline engineers. Consumption of T-34 tank was about 30 litres of diesel per hour, which wasn't too bad. But since Finnish Army didn't usually use trucks or any other vehicles running with diesel, captured Soviet tanks equipped with diesel-engines required their own separate fuel supply. While mobility of T-34 tank was good, T-34/76 was found to have better mobility than heavier T-34/85.

While in Finnish use captured T-34 tanks were apparently used with their original radios and interphone systems - when these had some. Exception to this were earlier mentioned three T-34/76 tanks bought from Germany, which the Germans had equipped with 10 WSc transmitter and UkwEe receiver - in other words the same radio equipment as used in German PzKw IVJ medium tanks.

Summer of 1944:

When Soviet offensive begun in Finnish front in June 1944, Armour Division was mainly equipped with now completely outdated T-26 light tanks. Only modern tanks in its use were four T-34/76 tanks, two KV-1 tanks and 30 Stu 40G assault guns. Sending T-26 light tanks against modern Soviet medium and heavy tanks would have been a suicidal, hence the actual combat force of Tank Brigade of Armour Division had been reduced very small. Finnish T-34/76 tanks saw battle in Tali-Ihantala in June - July of 1944. During these battles T-34/76 Ps. 231-1 fell through weak bridge to canal in Juustila 22nd of June 1944. The tank was salvaged from the canal in July of 1944, but not without loss of life. In addition of seven T-34/76 taken to Finnish use during Continuation War, two additional tanks captured in summer of 1944 were apparently never repaired and were probably used as spare parts, but they still appear in inventory of armored vehicles. In September of 1944 all operational T-34/76 tanks were issued to 3rd

After World War 2 T-34/76 tanks remained in Finnish use. However in 1950's their training use became quite limited due to tanks being so worn out and shortage of spare parts. Their post-war history with Finnish Army is explained with more detail below with T-34/85 tanks. Two of the T-34/76 tanks were removed from Finnish Army inventory of armoured vehicles year 1954, these were probably the ones had never been repaired and re-issued. The other seven T-34/76 tanks remaining in Finnish use until year 1961. Apparently five of the Finnish-used T-34/76 tanks have more or less survived to this day. From those five tanks T-34 model 1941 Ps. 231-1 and T-34 model 1943 Ps. 231-7 are can now be seen in Parola Tank Museum, while T-34 model 1942 Ps. 231-4 is stored in museum depot. Two tanks remaining outside the museum are T-34 model 1941 tanks Ps. 231-2 (R-105) in Mikkeli and Ps. 231-3 (R-111) in Kontioranta garrison.

 

T-34/85 "Pitkäputkinen Sotka"

PICTURE: T-34/85 Ps. 245-2. Unfortunately colours of the camo paint job are all wrong. (Photo taken in Panssarimuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (152 KB).

Weight:

32.0 tons

Length:

6.10 meters (about 7.5 meters with gun)

Width:

3.00 meters

Height:

2.60 meters

Max. Speed:

55 km/h on road

25 km/h off road

Engine:

500hp V-2 12-cylinder diesel engine

Armour:

20 - 75 mm (*)

- Turret front

75 mm (*)

- Turret sides

75 mm

- Turret rear

52 mm

- Turret top

20 mm (rear) / 25 mm (front)

- Hull front

45 mm

- Hull sides

45 mm

- Hull top

20 mm

- Hull bottom

20 mm

Ground Clearance:

40.0 cm

Ground Pressure:

0.85 kg/square cm

Gradient:

35 degrees

Trench:

2.50 m

Fording:

1.3 m

Range:

250 km

Weapons:

85 mm ZiS-S-53 (L/51.5) tank gun (56 rounds)

2 x 7.62 mm DT machinegun, coaxial and hull (1.827 rounds)

Crew:

5 men

Country of Origin:

Soviet Union

Production:

1943 - 1946, total number manufactured about 23,000 tanks. (**)

(*) Early T-34/85 had turret front armour that was 75-mm thick. This was increased to 90-mm in August of 1944, but it is unlikely that any T-34/85 manufactured that late was captured before Finnish - Soviet war ended in the next month.

(**) Only Soviet mass-production included.

Finnish use: Seven tanks captured in summer of 1944 taken to Finnish use. First of these tanks were captured in July of 1944 and the last of them remained in Finnish use until year 1962.

As mentioned T-34 started an arms race of tanks in German - Soviet front. German Tiger I and Panther tanks introduced in 1942 - 1943 as German countermove to T-34 and KV-1 proved very difficult to destroy with 76-mm F-34 tank gun used in T-34 tanks at that time. Hence the Soviets needed to find a more powerful tank gun and took their existing 85-mm anti-aircraft gun model 1939 (52-K) as a starting point. The development work resulted first to 85-mm D-5T tank gun, which was used in first production run of T-34/85 tanks manufactured in late 1943. After development of 85-mm ZiS-S-53 was completed, it was it was introduced to production with new larger improved three man turret in early 1944 and replaced in production earlier version equipped with D-5T. While ZiS-S-53 was not as effective against armour as German 7.5 cm KwK 42 L/70 (Panther) and 8.8 cm KwK 36 L/56 (Tiger I) tank guns, it was still an improvement and fired also very effective high explosive shells.

Another major improvements that one could have expected from the Soviets to T-34 design would have been heavier armour, but T-34/85 had armour protection not much heavier than what T-34/76 had already offered. The reason for this was Christie suspension system, for which T-34/85 was already in absolute upper limit as far as size and weight of the tank was concerned. The Soviets had experimented with T-43 prototype which had torsion beam suspension and because of this could be equipped with heavier armour, but this prototype also proved notably less mobile than T-34 and would have required large changes to production, which would undoubtedly effected to production numbers. Hence T-43 did not get beyond prototype stage and T-34/85 equipped with Christie suspension replaced earlier T-34/76 in production in winter of 1943 - 1944.

But other than that, many of the major shortcomings of earlier T-34/76 had been fixed in T-34/85. It had the larger three-man turret, which finally allowed tank commander (located in left side inside turret) to concentrate in commanding the tank instead of having other duties. This was possible because gunner (in left side in turret) would take care in using the main gun and its coaxial DT machinegun while loader (in right side of turret) would take care loading the main gun. The other two crew members (driver and machinegunner) remained in front hull as in earlier T-34. Since all T-34/85 were equipped with radios (usually type R-9 transmitter-receiver) and interphone systems commanding tank units equipped with T-34/85 was also notably easier for tank commander than with T-34/76, which often lacked radios. Early on radio was in front hull and used by machinegunner, but in March of 1944 it was transferred to turret to provide tank commander personal access to it. At the same time commander's cupola gave him much better view of events outside the tank and allowed him to have much more clear picture in situation around the vehicle. Late 1944 the Soviets added these tanks even smoke system, which with its two smoke canisters allowed them to provide mastirovka when needed. Tanks manufactured by early 1944 had manual turret traverse, while later manufactured T-34/85 tanks were equipped with electric turret traverse. Also location of main gun ammunition had been improved, which shows also in maximum rate of fire that could be achieved.

PICTURE: T-34/85 Ps. 245-4. Notice the gun collar, which is non-standard model. The reason for this probably related Finnish Army using this individual tank for experimenting installing of German 75 mm Psv.K/40 (7.5 cm StuK 40 L/48). Once this experiment proved unsuccessful this tank was equipped with its original 85-mm ZiS-S-53 main gun, but apparently not with its original gun collar.(Photo taken in Panssarimuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (112 KB).

Finnish Army captures T-34/85 tanks:

When Soviet offensive in Finnish front begun in June 1944 Finnish Army found itself fighting against massive number of tanks - much of them T-34/85. First T-34/85 tanks taken to Finnish use were captured in Portinhoikka (part of Tali-Ihantala battlefield) 25th of June 1944 after large counter-attack made that day and were taken to Finnish use immediately after repainting them with Finnish nationality markings. Finnish Army took seven T-34/85 tanks to its own use, all of them were tanks captured in summer of 1944. When it came to Ps-number system, which Finnish Army use for identifying individual armoured vehicles, Ps. 245 was the number that was reserved for captured T-34/85 tanks. As noted the total number of T-34/85 tanks taken to Finnish use was seven. In addition of those seven tanks two more tanks were captured, one in Portinhoikka around 25th - 26th of June 1944 and another in Vuosalmi 31st of August 1944. Apparently these two additional tanks were included to inventory of armored vehicles, but never actually taken to Finnish use, even if at least the one captured in Vuosalmi (marked as "slightly burned") even got its own Ps-number - Ps. 245-9.

Finnish-used T-34/85 tanks, where and when they were captured:

Ps-number

Captured where:

Captured when:

Other:

Ps. 245-1

Portinhoikka

25th June 1944

Captured in driving condition

Ps. 245-2

Portinhoikka

25th June 1944

Captured in driving condition

Ps. 245-3

Vakkila

3rd - 4th July 1944

Captured in driving condition

Ps. 245-4

Vakkila

3rd - 4th July 1944

Captured in driving condition

Ps. 245-5

Vakkila

3rd - 4th July 1944

Captured in driving condition

Ps. 245-6

Portinhoikka

25th - 26 June 1944

Arrived 1st of September (*)

Ps. 245-7

Portinhoikka

25th - 26 June 1944

Arrived 21st of September (**)

Notice: Information gathered from variety of sources, which have some contradiction concerning exactly which T-34/85 was captured when.

(*) Repaired before being taken to use, arrived from Central Armour Repair 1st of September 1944.

(**) Repaired before being taken to use, arrived from Central Armour Repair 21st of September 1944.

As with T-34/76 tanks, in summer of 1944 also captured T-34/85 tanks were issued to 3rd Tank Company of Tank Brigade. Finnish-captured T-34/85 tanks saw only quite limited use during rest of Continuation War. One of the main reasons for this was probably the shortage of ammunition. Since the tank guns used in these tanks were the only 85-mm guns in Finnish use, only ammunition available for them was captured ammunition and number of captured 85-mm gun shells was rather small. Finnish T-34 tanks took also part of Finnish - German Lapland War, for which 2nd Tank Company of Tank Brigade was equipped with T-34/85 tanks and 3rd Tank Company of Tank Brigade with T-34/76 tanks. Due to thoroughly demolished roads, countless blown up bridges and massive number of landmines the role that they played in this war was rather minimal. During the long advance in route Oulu - Pudasjärvi - Ranua - Rovaniemi - Sodankylä the number of still operational T-34 became smaller one by one. After Pudasjärvi their most important role became transporting supplies to frontline and evacuating the wounded gathered to their decks from the frontline. As mentioned last three T-34/76 tanks of 3rd Tank Company got 159-km north of Rovaniemi before stopped by mechanical problems, 3rd Tank Company with its T-34/85 tanks wasn't much behind, since also it had advanced north of Sodankylä by the time it was called back. During Lapland War Finnish tank crews noted that good wading capability of T-34 proved highly useful with numerous shallow creeks and rivers so common in Finnish Lapland. None of the Finnish T-34/85 tanks was lost in war.

PICTURE: T-34/85 Ps. 245-1. This particular tank gives good idea what the typical Finnish-captured T-34/85 looked like in post World War 2 era. Notice that some of the road wheels have been changed. T-34/85 Ps. 245-3 on the background. (Photo taken at main gate of Parola garrison). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (160 KB).

Finnish soldiers had already earlier given T-34/76 tanks a popular nickname "Sotka" (pochard) and coming from this, they nicknamed T-34/85 simply as "Pitkäputkinen Sotka" (Sotka with a long gun-barrel).

Due to shortage of suitable main gun ammunition in February of 1945 Finnish Army experimented in Valtion Tykkitehdas (State Artillery Factory) with installing of German 75 mm Psv.K/40 (7.5 cm StuK 40 L/48) main gun to turret of T-34/85 Ps. 245-4, but this experiment proved unsuccessful. In 1950's Finnish Army tried to save its better remaining tanks (T-34 tanks included) by using obsolete T-26 tanks for early part of tank crew training. At that time Finnish mobilisation plans included one tank company equipped with T-34 tanks, but in reality even maintaining training with them proved complicated due to these tanks being so worn and shortage of suitable spare-parts. Their engines, transmissions, steering systems and tracks were all so worn, that removing them completely from training use was suggested already year 1949, but they remained also in this role in smaller numbers at least until year 1959. After World War 2 all T-34/85 tanks remained in Finnish Army inventory until one of them was removed from in 1949 and two more in 1954. These three tanks must have included the two neven repaired and taken to Finnish use. Last T-34/85 tanks were not removed from Finnish Army inventory until September of 1962. Five of the Finnish-used T-34/85 tanks have survived to this day. These include Ps. 245-1 and Ps. 245-3 just outside main gate of Parola garrison, Ps. 245-2 and Ps. 245-4 in Parola Tank Museum and Ps. 245-7 in Hennala garrison (in city of Lahti).

 


SOURCES:

Kapteeni P. Hovilainen: Tankkirykmentistä Panssaripataljoonaan 1919 1949.

Pekka Kantakoski: Suomalaiset Panssarivaunujoukot 1919 1969.

Pekka Kantakoski: Punaiset Panssarit, Puna-armeijan panssarijoukot 1918 1945.

Pekka Kantakoski: Panssarimuseo.

Esa Muikku ja Jukka Purhonen: Suomalaiset Panssarivaunut 1918 1997, The Finnish Armoured Vehicles 1918 - 1997.

Tanks in Winter War by Maksim Kolomiec.

Russian Tanks 1900 1970 by John Milsom

Russian T-34 battle tank by Horst Scheibert

Captured Tanks Under the German Flag, Russian Battle Tanks by Dr. Werner Regenberg and Horst Scheibert.

T-34-85 Medium tank 1944-94 by Steven J. Zaloga and Jim Kinnear.

Article: Postijuna oli talvisodan mahtavin ilmestys by Kari Kuusela in Ase magazine vol. 4/88.

Article: T-34, sukeltava sotka by Marko Erikson and Jaakko Puuperä in Suomen Sotilas magazine 5/2003.

Military manual: Opaskirjanen puna-armeijan tärkeimmistä panssarivaunutyypeistä ja niiden torjunnasta (1942).

Military Manual: Tietoja puna-armeijan aseista, Päämajan Tiedusteluosaston julkaisu (1944).

War Journal of 6th Company of Tank Brigade (Heavy Tank Company) 17th of June 1941 21st of March 1942, Finnish National Archives, T19178

War Journals of 3rd Tank Company of Tank Brigade 1st of January - 3rd of July 1944.

War Journal of 3rd Company of Tank Brigade 4th of July - 31st of July 1944.

War Journal of 1st Battalion of Tank Brigade 1st of January - 30th of June 1944.

War Journal of 1st Battalion of Tank Brigade 1st of July - 17th of June 1944.

Finnish National Archives, archive folder T10929/20.

Finnish National Archives, archive folders T10910.

Finnish National Archives, archive folder T10911.

Finnish National Archives, archive folder T10912.

T-28 m/1938 Medium Tank Webpage.


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