ARMOURED VEHICLES PART 9

 

 

KV-1 AND PzKw IVJ TANKS

 

 

This page tells a story of a two tank designs which saw use with Finnish Army during World War 2, but played only quite a small role in Finnish military history. Soviet KV-1 tanks did not play any significant in Finnish mainly due to their small number (two) and being captured so late, that the only battles in which took part were in summer of 1944 and even then the previously mentioned problems limited their use. German Panzerkampfwagen IVJ (PzKwfw IVJ / PzKw IVJ) tanks were notably more numerous in Finnish use, but arrived so late in the war, that basically they didn’t see any real combat use.

For those unfamiliar with how Finnish Tank forces were organized it might be worth noting that for duration of Winter War (November 1939 - March 1940) and early Continuation War (June 1941 - September 1944) the sole Finnish tank unit of any real size was Tank Battalion (Panssaripataljoona). All medium and heavy tanks had been concentrated to Heavy Tank Platoon (Raskas Panssarijoukkue) of this battalion and once the number of these tanks increased the platoon was expanded becoming a company, which was aptly named as Heavy Tank Company (Raskas Panssarikomppania). This company was also the unit to that first received the two captured KV-1 tanks, but with more captured tanks becoming available the organization was to change soon. March of 1942 as part of creating Armor Division (Panssaridivisioona) Tank Battalion was expanded becoming Tank Brigade (Panssariprikaati), which now was to contain two tank battalions. As part of the process for creating Tank Brigade, the existing Heavy Tank Company was disbanded with its vehicles and crews divided in between the two tank battalions (each containing three tank companies). Both KV-1 heavy tanks and four T-28 medium tanks went to 6th Tank Company (part of 2nd Tank Battalion). By the time KV-1 tanks arrived Finnish offensive of year 1941 had already ended and the Finnish - Soviet front had stagnated into trench warfare. Hence only time that the two KV-1 tanks actually saw combat with Finnish crews was after the Soviets launched their offensive in June of 1941.

PICTURE: Photo showing KV-1B (KV-1E model 1940) and two BT-5 tanks. All suggests that this photo was taken in Solomanni / Solomennoye in autumn of 1941 and the KV-1 in the photo is the R-170 / Ps. 272-1 shown here before salvaged by Finnish armored vehicle recovery teams. Photo property of Jaeger Platoon Website. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (80 KB).

July of 1944 Armor Division was in reserve and its equipment getting reorganized and re-equipped - T-26, T-28 and BT-42 were all declared obsolete and remaining useful tanks (basically KV-1, T-34/76 and T-34/85) transferred to 1st Battalion. This was because 2nd Battalion, which had been withdrawn and sent to town of Lappeenranta, was about to be re-equipped with German PzKw IVJ tanks. At that time the plan was to equip also two of the three tank companies of 1st Tank Battalion and its battalion HQ with PzKw IVJ tanks. Totally completion this plan would have required getting delivery of 70 PzKw IVJ, from which 40 tanks were going to 2nd Tank Battalion, but this was never to happen. Due to Finnish - Soviet armistice in September of 1944 Germany stopped deliveries of weapons to Finland after arrival of only 15 of the 40 PzKw IVJ tanks, which the Germans had already agreed to deliver.

Both battalions of Tanks Brigade took part to Finnish - German Lapland War (September 1944 - April 1945), but neither KV-1 or PzKw IVJ saw real combat use in this war. With its massive swamps and forests combined with very limited road network thoroughly demolished and mined by the retreating Germans, using of tanks proved more than difficult. So most Finnish tank units didn't see combat in that war.

 

KV-1 "Klimi"

KV-1E model 1940 / KV-1B:

PICTURE: KV-1B (KV-1E model 1940) heavy tank R-170 / Ps. 272-1. Notice applique armor in turret and front hull. (Photo taken in Panssarimuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (162 KB).

Weight:

47.0 tons

Length:

6.75 meters

Width:

3.32 meters

Height:

2.71 meters

Max. Speed:

34 - 35 km/h

16 km/h off road

Engine:

600hp V-2K 12-cylinder diesel engine

Armor:

30 - 125 mm (*)

- Turret front

75 mm + 50 mm (**)

- Turret sides

75 mm + 35 mm (**)

- Turret rear

75 mm

- Gun mantle

90 mm

- Turret top

40 mm

- Hull front

75 mm + 35 mm (**)

- Hull sides

75 mm + 35 mm (front), 75 mm (rear) (**)

- Hull top

30 mm

- Hull rear

60 mm (top), 70 mm (low)

- Hull bottom

40 mm (front), 30 mm (rear)

Ground Clearance:

45.0 cm

Ground Pressure:

0.77 kg/square cm

Gradient:

35 degrees

Trench:

2.70 m

Fording:

1.6 m

Range:

180 km

Weapons:

76 mm F-32 (L/31.5) tank gun (111 rounds)

3 x 7.62 mm DT machinegun (3,000 rounds)

Crew:

5 men

Country of Origin:

Soviet Union

Production:

1941

(*) Appliqué armor included to maximum armor thickness.

(**) Basic armor + appliqué armor bolted on top of it.

(***) Production time for KV-1E model 1941 only. Since the whole "year-model" system for KV-1 tanks is later development it is impossible to separate production numbers for KV-1 models 1939, 1940, 1941 and 1942. The total production for all these versions was about 3,000 tanks.

 

KV-1 model 1942 / KV-1A:

PICTURE: KV-1A (KV-1 model 1942) heavy tank R-100 / Ps. 271-1. The damage marked with red paint is from 25th of June 1944, when this tank lead the attack of Finnish heavy and medium tanks towards Portinhoikka crossroads. Soviet T-34/85 hit this tank with its main gun, but the reinforced front hull armor proved so strong, that that the 85-mm shell bounced from it and tank crew survived the hit. (Photo taken in Panssarimuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (175 KB).

Weight:

47.0 tons

Length:

6.75 meters

Width:

3.32 meters

Height:

2.71 meters

Max. Speed:

34 - 35 km/h

16 km/h off road

Engine:

600hp V-2K 12-cylinder diesel engine

Armor:

30 - 120 mm

- Turret front

120 mm

- Turret sides

120 mm

- Turret rear

90 mm

- Gun mantle

90 mm

- Turret top

40 mm

- Hull front

75 mm + 25 mm (*)

- Hull sides

75 mm

- Hull top

30 mm

- Hull rear

60 mm (top), 70 mm (low)

- Hull bottom

40 mm (front), 30 mm (rear)

Ground Clearance:

45.0 cm

Ground Pressure:

0.77 kg/square cm

Gradient:

35 degrees

Trench:

2.70 m

Fording:

1.6 m

Range:

180 km

Weapons:

76 mm ZiS-5 (L/41.6) tank gun (114 rounds)

3 x 7.62 mm DT machinegun (3,074 rounds)

Crew:

5 men

Country of Origin:

Soviet Union

Production:

1942 (**)

(*) Basic armor + additional armor plate welded on top of it.

(**) Production time for KV-1E model 1941 only. Since the whole "year-model" system for KV-1 tanks is later development it is impossible to separate production numbers for KV-1 models 1940, 1941 and 1942. The total production for all these versions was about 2,900 tanks.

Finnish use: Two captured KV-1 tanks were taken to Finnish use - KV-1B (KV-1E model 1940) and KV-1A (KV-1 model 1942). Both of them were introduced to Finnish use in year 1942. They remained in combat use until end of World War 2.

Around year 1937 Soviet leadership decided to launch development work for new heavy tank intended to be used as a breakthrough tank. Their existing T-35 multi-turret heavy tanks had proved unsatisfactory mainly due to poor mobility. Also experiences that the Soviets had gathered from Spanish Civil War (1936 – 1939) proved them that there was an obvious need for more heavily armored heavy tank.

Hence they found need to develop a new heavy tank with heavier armor protection that made it less vulnerable to antitank-gun and field artillery fire. The specifications for the new tank were still made for multi-turret tank. The resulting development work produced three heavy tank prototypes, SMK, T-100 and KV, which had been named after Soviet Commissar of Defense (Minister of Defense) Klimenti Voroshilov, who at that time was Stalin's favorite. From these three prototypes SMK and T-100 each had to two turrets while KV had single turret and due to this was notably lighter than its two competitors. The Soviets tested these three prototype designs in autumn of 1939 with KV prototype proving to be the most successful. Due to this December of 1939 KV heavy tank was officially approved as weaponry of Soviet Red Army. Just days before this the Soviets also field-tested all three prototype designs, two KV-1 among them. Summa at Mannerheim-line become the place the place where they were tested in 17th of December 1939, this first brush that Finnish Army got with KV tanks was no to be the last.

As noted KV-1 tank had been designed to be basically immune to 37-mm antitank-guns and field artillery. Due to its heavy weight it had very wide (70-cm) tracks, which Finnish Army found quite resilient against antitank-mines M/36 and M/39 used at that time due to their explosive charge proving too weak against it. The solutions for this were stacking up several mines or adding additional explosive charges under the antitank-mines. Later factory-made additional explosive charges were introduced for this purpose. Once KV-1 had been demobilised with antitank-mines, it was vulnerable and could be blown up with large satchel charge or demolition charge. Needless to say, tanks blown up in this way suffered too much damage to be repaired, which may partially explain why so few of the Soviet KV-1 tanks faced by Finnish Army in 1941 ended up to Finnish tank inventory.

This tank one of the first Soviet tank designs to be equipped with diesel engine. The engine design increased survivability of the tank, since diesel in case of fuel tank getting hit, diesel was notably less flammable than gasoline used in earlier Soviet tanks. Liquid-cooled 12-cylinder (V12) 600-hp V-2K diesel engine used in it was variant of V-2 diesel engine, which proved highly successful and became de facto the standard engine for Soviet medium and heavy armor manufactured during World War 2. The tank had torsion bar suspension, which apparently proved rather successful. Originally KV-1 had been intended to be armed with 76-mm F-32 tank gun, but since it didn't come available in time, early production was equipped with L-11 tank guns. Later production KV-1 variants were equipped with F-34 or ZiS-5 tank guns. KV-2 was equipped with 152-mm howitzer and KV-85 with 85-mm tank gun. In addition to 76-mm main gun KV-1 tank typically had three DT-machineguns - coaxial machinegun next to main gun, rear turret machinegun and front hull machinegun.

KV heavy tank was designed and built in Kirov Works in Leningrad, during the war the factory was partially evacuated to Chelyabinsk, but apparently only the part of factory that manufactured this tank remained in Leningrad. When Germany invaded Soviet Union in June of 1941 Soviet Red Army had 508 KV tanks, which proved quite a nasty shock for the Germans, since these tanks were practically immune to German tank guns and antitank-guns existing at that time. While KV-1 and KV-2 did play important part in delaying German advance in some well publicized battles in 1941, technical issues combined with poor training, poor availability of spare parts and problems with fuel supply apparently caused large number to fall into German hands during first months of the war.

PICTURE: Only known surviving KV-2 heavy tank. (Photo taken in Central Museum of Russian Armed Forces, Moscow Russia). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (226 KB).

Production versions:

As the war went on also Soviet Red Army started to notice that in many ways T-34 was more practical tank than slow and heavy KV-1. September 1942 General (later: Marshal) Mikhail Katukov (commander of 1st Guard Tank Army of Red Army at that time) complained to Stalin about poor mobility and heavy weight of KV tanks and noted that even with all these issues it equipped with just the same gun as much more practical and mobile T-34. First try for trying to solve the problem was attempt of trying to improve mobility of KV-1 by reducing its weight by decreasing thickness of armor. This modernization was planned by design team lead by N.F. Shashmurin resulted into development of KV-1S, which was introduced in production in autumn of 1942. Due to its thinner armor KV-1S weight only 42.5 tons and was able to reach maximum road speed of 42 km/h. Other notable improvements included adding commander’s cupola on top of turret and improved transmission and cooling systems which made the tank mechanics-wise more reliable. The last production version of KV tanks proved to a stop-gap version KV-85, which had a new 85-mm D-5T and was manufactured in small numbers starting autumn of 1943. Only about 130 KV-85 were manufactured before new IS heavy tanks replaced it in production. Also flame tank version of KV-1 version did exist, this tank was referred as KV-8.

When Finnish - Soviet Continuation War begun in June of 1941, Finnish Army faced KV-tanks the second time. While the Germans had found that 88-mm anti-aircraft guns and 105-mm field guns to be only artillery weapons in their inventory to be effective against these tanks, the Finns had neither and therefore needed to rely in more improvised means. Still, Finnish troops succeeded destroying several KV-1 tanks during first months of the war - almost all of them with satchel charges or antitank-mines. Luckily for the Finns, year 1941 KV-1 was still quite rare in Finnish front, so shortage of effective long range antitank-weapons did not lead to disaster. One KV-1 was also knocked out by incredibly lucky shot with 45-mm antitank-gun in Valkeasaari and only KV-2 known to have operated in Finnish front in 1941 was completely destroyed when blown up in Alakurtti with demolition charge after first being demobilized by antitank-mines. Period photos suggest that year 1941 the Soviets operated small number of KV-1, mostly KV-1E model 1940, both in Carelian Isthmus and areas north of Lake Ladoga. With the Soviet retreat in 1941, grand majority of these knocked out tanks ended up to hands of advancing Finnish troops.

PICTURE: Rear view of KV-1B (KV-1E model 1940) heavy tank R-170 / Ps. 272-1. Notice the applique armor attached with large bolts, rear turret machinegun placement and numerous periscopes on turret. The pain scheme in this tank is Continuation War era three color camo. (Photo taken in Panssarimuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (159 KB).

From these captured KV-1 tanks only two were repaired and taken to Finnish use. The first of these was KV-1E model 1940 captured in Solomanni / Solomennoye Peninsula (nowadays part of city of Petrozavodsk) by 2nd Battalion of Infantry Regiment 8. While the Soviets had retreated from this area already in autumn of 1941, sources suggest that the Finns did not evacuate the particular tank to Armor Centre Repair to be repaired until spring of 1942. As with many Soviet armor vehicles of that time, Finnish Army came with its system for naming versions of captured armored vehicles. Finnish named KV-1E model 1940 tank model as KV-1B and gave the individual tank armor R-number R-170 and later registry number Ps. 272-1. Another KV-1 taken to Finnish use was KV-1 model 1942, which was captured in bridgehead south of River Syväri /Svir near the powerplant in spring of 1942. Lauri Heino (later: Knight of Mannerheim Cross), who had already earlier evacuated the first Finnish issued T-34 tank R-105 lead also the recovery-team which evacuated the KV-1 model 1942. Apparently from that tank the Finns also found complete Soviet manual for KV-tanks, with must have proved useful to its new owners. Finnish Army named KV-1 model 1942 as KV-1A and gave the individual tank first R-number R-100 and later armored vehicle registry number Ps. 271-1. Most commonly used Finnish nickname for KV-series tanks was "Klimi", which was a simple variation of their original name.

 

Tank type:

Finnish type:

R-number:

Ps-number

Captured where:

KV-1E model 1940

KV-1B

R-170

Ps. 272-1

Solomanni / Solomennoye

KV-1 model 1942

KV-1A

R-100

Ps. 271-1

River Syväri / Svir

Notice: During World War 2 Finnish Army had two armor registry number systems for identifying individual armored vehicles, which were in its inventory. Basically the idea for these numbers was quite similar to license plates, but painted directly on armored vehicles. The earlier of these two systems was R-number system, which in summer of 1943 was officially replaced with Ps. number system.

Both of these captured KV-1 tanks started their career in Finnish use in spring of 1942. While they at belonged among the few modern tanks in Finnish inventory during that time, they were far from perfect. Tank crews had only poor visibility outside and numerous technical problems plaguing the design made them unreliable, which combined with Finnish shortage of spare-parts resulted them spending long stretches of time under repair. Clutch-brake steering system used in KV-tanks was a poor choice for tanks this heavy, made steering of the tank difficult and proved to be one source for the constant technical problems. Another weak point was gearbox, which had five forward gears and reverse, but also some mechanical weaknesses, which the Soviets apparently succeeded reducing in later versions. KV-1 had five-man crew, from which driver and hull machinegunner sit inside front hull of the vehicle, with three other crewmembers located inside turret ring. It had no real turret basket, but the seats of crewmembers inside the turret seem to have been attached to turret and rotated with it. Both driver and tank commander had poor visibility to events outside the tank, although this may have actually been made worse by Finnish crew arrangement. Typically KV-1 turret had two rotating periscopes going through front part of top turret, in Soviet crew arrangement gunner and tank commander/loader were using these, while machinegunner responsible using the turret rear machinegun was in rear turret. Finnish documents suggest that Finnish crew arrangement inside turret seated gunner and loader to front turret, while tank commander was sitting in rear turret and had no periscope to see outside without pushing his head outside turret hatch. Needless to mention these two tanks lacked tank commanders cupola.

PICTURE: Rear view of KV-1A (KV-1 model 1942) heavy tank R-100 / Ps. 271-1. Notice turret shape, rear turret machinegun placement and numerous periscopes on turret. The black swastika highlighted with with white was Finnish Continuation War era standard nationality marking for armored vehicles. (Photo taken in Panssarimuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (152 KB).

Basically the only areas in which KV-1 excelled when introduced were armor protection and main gun - which had been excellent by year 1941 standards. But by year 1944 they has lost much of their best edge - while their 76-mm tank guns were still useful even at that time, they were no longer terribly effective against T-34/85, not to mention IS-2 heavy tank. Early KV-tanks had welded turrets, but starting KV-1 model 1941 this was replaced by cast turret designs. KV-1 was also demanding maintenance and fuel expenditure wise. Finnish experience was that KV-1 required extensive overhaul after every 200 hours of use, which was notably less than its obvious main competitor to T-34, for which overhaul for every 300 hours of use was enough. Diesel consumption of KV-1 was also remarkably high - 70 liters per hour compared to only 30 liters per hour for T-34/76. While many of the KV-1 tanks were equipped with 10R radios and TP-4-Bis intercom system, the lack of antennas in period photos suggest that the two Finnish used tanks most likely had not radios.

As mentioned both KV-1 tanks served most of the time in 6th Company of Tank Brigade. When 2nd Battalion was transferred to Lappeenranta for being re-equipped with Pz IVJ, this resulted also KV-1 tanks being transferred to 1st Tank Battalion. KV-1B Ps 272-1, which had spent 4th - 10th of June in Armor Centre got transferred to 3rd Company belonging to 1st Battalion in 5th of July 1944. KV-1A Ps. 271-1 had returned from its latest trip to Armor Centre 18th of June and had gotten transferred to 3rd Company already at that time. After short but relatively uneventful service in Lapland War, both tanks were transferred to Training Battalion (Koulutuspataljoona) of Tank Brigade in 31st of October 1944. Apparently they didn't see much of post-war use, even if they remained in inventory until year 1955. Both KV-1 tanks used by Finnish Army have survived to this day and are now in Parola Tank Museum.

 

PzKw IVJ "Nelonen"

(Sd. Kfz. 161/2 - Ausf. J)

PICTURE: PzKw IVJ medium tank Ps. 221-3. The nationality markings in this tank are post-war. Ball-mount used with DT hull-machinegun is missing. When photo was taken this tank was still marked with wrong Ps-number (Ps. 221-1). (Photo taken in Panssarimuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (149 KB).

Weight:

25.5 tons

Length:

7.02 meters

Width:

2.88 meters (3.33 m with skirts)

Height:

2.68 meters

Max. Speed:

40 km/h

20 km/h off road

Engine:

300hp HL 120 TRM 12-cylinder gasoline engine

Armor:

10 - 80 mm

- Turret front

80 mm

- Turret sides

30 mm

- Turret rear

30 mm

- Gun mantle

50 mm

- Turret top

10 mm

- Hull front

80 mm

- Hull sides

30 mm

- Hull rear

20 mm

- Hull top

10mm, 12 mm

- Hull bottom

10 mm, 12 mm

Ground Clearance:

? cm

Ground Pressure:

0.89 kg/square cm

Gradient:

30 degrees

Trench:

2.20 m

Fording:

1.2 m

Range:

320 km

Weapons:

75 mm KwK 40 (L/48) tank gun (87 rounds)

2 x 7.92 mm MG-34 machinegun, coaxial and hull (3,150 rounds) (*)

Crew:

5 men

Country of Origin:

Germany

Production:

1944 - 1945, total number manufactured 1,758 tanks. (**)

(*) MG-34 machineguns were replaced with DT-machineguns year 1951.

(*) Total number of manufactured tanks and time of production for KwPzfw IVJ only. Total PzKpfw IV production was about 8,500 tanks and covered 1936 - 1945.

Finnish use: Year 1944 PzKw IVJ was de facto intended standard tank for Tank Brigade. But only 15 were delivered before Continuation War ended and stopped deliveries from Germany. These tanks took part to Lapland War against the Germans but didn't see real combat use. The last of them were not removed from inventory until year 1962.

German Panzerkampfwagen IV (PzKwfw IV) was a medium tank originally designed as infantry support and to accompany for slightly smaller Panzerkampfwagen III (PzKwfw III) medium tank. PzKwfw III was equipped with 37-mm main gun, which fired notably smaller high-explosive shell than 75-mm main gun used in PzKwfw IV. When it came to characteristics of PzKwfw IV, concept-wise they had been laid down by General Heinz Guderian, who played a key role in developing German tank troops. Prototypes of this new tank design were ordered from Krupp, Rheinmetall-Borsig and Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nurnberg AG (MAN) as Betleitwagen (BW, escort vehicle). Testing done for these prototypes proved the Krupp prototype to be most successful and was approved to production in year 1936, but not without first incorporating to it some of the best features selected from other tank designs.

German industry continued manufacturing of PzKwfw IV tanks until end of World War 2. Total production for 1936 - 1945 was about 8,500 tanks. If all other armored vehicle designs using its chassis design are included the total number of manufactured armored vehicles with its hull reaches level of about 13,400 - 13,600 vehicles. These other German armored vehicle designs using PzKwfw chassis include:

The actual PzKwfw IV tank production went through following versions:

During its manufacturing PzKwfw went through large number of changes. These include change of main gun. IV Ausf A - Ausf F tanks had low-velocity 7.5 cm KwK 37 main gun with short L/24 barrel, which proved too ineffective against medium and heavy tanks. Hence Ausf F2 was equipped with new 7.5 cm KwK 40 L/43 main gun and later Ausf H and Ausf J tanks with 7.5 cm KwK 40 L/48 main gun. Only Ausf A was equipped with Maybach HL 108 TR, while all other versions were equipped with HL 120 TRM. The final version was Ausf J, which entered production in June of 1944. In a way Ausf J was a step back, since the Germans had continued to develop PzKwfw until late Ausf H, but now they had to start simplifying the design, which resulted Ausf J loosing some useful features used in earlier PzKwfw versions. Most notable thing to go was electric turret drive auxiliary generator system, which had allowed tank turret to traversed electronically, but which in Ausf J had to be rotated manually. The Germans used the space that had been vacated by this by installing additional fuel tank - which was rather ironic "improvement" considering Germany were to loose access to Romanian oil fields just weeks after after Ausf J entering into production and would suffer serious fuel shortage for rest of the war. The PzKw IVJ delivered to Finland were also lacking electrical system, which allowed tank commander to point targets for the gunner. They seem to have had Naehverteidigungswaffe smoke discharger, but since Finnish military did not use rifle grenades with flare guns like German military, this was not used as a close defense system. They also seem to have still had four return rollers, turret visor, and zimmerit paste coating, even if reportedly during production of PzKw IVJ production the number of return rollers was reduced to three and the other mentioned features were left out. Apparently some of the tanks delivered to Finland still had pistol ports, while they had already been left out from some. The reason for these characteristics is likely related to PzKw IVJ delivered to Finland being part of early production of Ausf J, since this would explain why they still have most features found in Ausf H, with only few being left out in manufacturing.

PzKwfw IVJ had a five-man crew. It included tank commander, gunner and loader inside turret (in a turret basket that rotated with turret), while driver and machinegunner/radio operator were sitting inside front hull. Unlike captured Soviet tanks, which the Finns were mostly operating, all PzKw IVJ were equipped with radio (Fu 2 or Fu 5) and interphone system. Tank commander was not burdened with any other tasks than commanding the vehicle and had on top of a turret a commanders cupola, which allowed him to see around without opening its hatch. Hence the tank crew had better visibility outside than with other tanks operated by Finnish Army during World War 2.

When Soviet offensive started in Finnish - Soviet front in June of 1944 the one and only Armor Division (Panssaridivisioona) of Finnish Army was still equipped mostly with now seriously outdated T-26 light tanks. Besides Stu 40G assault guns of Assault Gun Battalion basically the only modern tanks in Finnish inventory at that time were four captured T-34/76 and two KV-1 tanks. Hence Tank Brigade was badly needing more modern tanks. Only possible source for these tanks was Germany, which was already hard pressed at the time and not willing to sell just anything. Hence the tank that the Finns and the Germans agreed was be latest version of PzKw IV series - PzKw IVJ.

July 1944 when General Major Lagus (commander of Armor Division) was making plans for replacing outdated tanks with more modern armored vehicles, the intention was to basically equip whole Tank Brigade with PzKw IV tanks, which would be bought from Germany. Tank Brigade had two tank battalions, which each had tank three companies. According plan in 1st battalion only 1st Company would have continued to use captured Soviet medium and heavy tanks, while 2nd and 3rd companies were to be equipped with PzKw IV. This would have required 30 PzKw IV tanks, which the Germans through their liaison officer Major Panze had already agreed to supply. If enough PzKw IV would not be available, rest of the battalion was to be equipped with Stu 40 G assault guns. Whole 2nd battalion was to equipped with 40 PzKw IV tanks, but at that time there was no certainty about receiving them, if getting them would prove impossible the plan to equip this battalion with captured T-34 tanks, number of which the Germans had also agreed to deliver.

German Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW, GHQ of German Army) issued orders according which in July - October 1944 Germany would deliver Finnish Army 10 PzKw IVJ tanks each month, with the total number of tanks delivered in those four months not exceeding 40 tanks. OKW also issued orders for delivering Finnish Army 15 Stu 40G assault guns per month until ordered otherwise. 7th of July 1944 GHQ of Finnish Armed Forces followed this plan by declaring T-26 light tanks, T-28 medium tanks and BT-42 assault guns obsolete due to no longer being considered fit for battle. 2nd Battalion of Tank Brigade was transferred to town of Lappeenranta, where its men were to receive training for the new tanks.

But as mentioned, due to change political situation German deliveries ended prematurely. Finland and Soviet Union signed an Armistice Treaty, which ended hostilities from Finnish side 4th of September and from Soviet side day later. Germany reacted to this treaty already few days earlier and starting 2nd of September stopped all their deliveries to Finland. Even the ships, which had already been loaded with cargo and issued with previous orders to head Finland, were stopped and had their cargo was disembarked. These ships included ships in Danzig harbor, which had among their cargo seven Stu 40G assault guns and nine German-repaired T-34/76 tanks. By that time only 15 out of 40 promised PzKw IVJ tanks had arrived to Finland and no further deliveries would happen. All 15 tanks had arrived to Finland by ship in between 26th of August - 1st of September 1944. Their price had been set at 250,000 reichsmarks (RM) per tank, which was equal of about 4.9 million Finnish marks at that time. Finnish Army issued these tanks Ps indentification number Ps. 221, which resulted individual PzKw IVJ tanks being given numbers from Ps. 221-1 to Ps. 221-15. Finnish soldiers gave these tanks several nicknames, from which likely the most common was simply "Nelonen" ("Four"), which was apparently referring to German name.

Sudden end of German deliveries obviously wrecked Finnish plans, since 15 tanks was nowhere enough for re-equipping even one of the two existing tank battalions. At the same time all hopes of receiving German instructors to provide PzKw IV training for key personnel of Tank Brigade had vaporized and Finnish troops now had to figure out on their own how to operate these new tanks. Finnish soldiers were lucky to already have some experience about certain key components (like engine and main gun) used in these tanks, since they were used also in Stu 40 G assault guns, first of which had been delivered in year 1943. All 15 tanks were first issued to 2nd Battalion of Tank Brigade, whose numbers were also boosted by providing it few Stu 40 G assault guns. As a result 2nd Battalion got enough modern armored vehicles for about two (mixed) tank companies. Due to their late arrival PzKw IVJ tanks of Finnish Army did not see any use in Continuation War and while 2nd Battalion did take part in Lapland War, apparently they did not see any real combat in it either.

PICTURE: Rear view of PzKw IVJ medium tank Ps. 221-6. This tank has been stripped clean to bare essensials - not only are all tools missing, but even rear mudguards have been removed along parts of post-war storage boxes. (Photo taken in Panssarimuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (149 KB).

Finnish experiences about PzKw IVJ tanks proved less than spectacular, since this tank proved to have more than its fair share of technical problems. As noted, Finnish soldiers gave PzKw IVJ many nicknames, one of which was "ravistin" ("shaker") due to the tanks tendency to vibrate in such a manner that it even hampered accurately aiming the main gun. What exactly caused this vibration that gave PzKw IVJ so bad name among Finnish tank crews remains somewhat unclear, but suspension seems to be most likely suspect. PzKw IV had design-wise rather primitive leaf-spring double-bogie suspension, while the weight of this tank went from 18.4 tons of Ausf A to about 25 tons of Ausf J. Hence the increased weight may have well stressed the primitive suspension too much, especially so since much of the added weight concentrated on front part of suspension. Finnish tank crews also noted problem with structural design used for first road wheels - which when stressed sometimes broke off. Steering system proved also poor and had certain weak parts (like planet gear). On the other hand for example HL 120 TRM engines proved surprisingly durable and reliable. In addition when these tanks were acquired (year 1944) the 75 Psv.K/40 (7.5 cm KwK 40 L/48) main gun used in this tank was still quite capable knocking out medium tanks, although latest heavy tanks like Soviet IS-2 must have been difficult "customers". Original secondary armament of PzKw IVJ delivered to Finland was two 7.92-mm MG-34 machineguns, one of them as coaxial machinegun installed to turret next to the main gun, while the 2nd one was in right side of front hull and operated by machinegunner/radio operator.

After World War 2 PzKw IVJ tanks did a rather long career in Finnish use. Since there had been no combat use, there had been no combat losses of these tanks either. However accidents started to reduce their number already before the World War 2 even ended. The first to go was Ps. 221-4, whose engine got on fire 20th of September 1944. The damage proved so extensive that Ps. 221-4 was never repaired and was removed from inventory 24th of October 1944. February of 1947 fire at Military-technical Depot (Sotatekninen varikko), destroyed among other vehicles also four additional PzKw IVJ tanks (Ps. 221-7, Ps. 221-8, Ps. 221-9 and Ps. 221-14). The tanks destroyed in this fire were never repaired, but were not removed from inventory until year 1951. After the war Finnish Army was saving its best tanks by using T-26 light tanks for basic (driver) training, but starting year 1951 also remaining PzKw IVJ were placed in training use and remained in it, until the last nine tanks were removed from inventory in September of 1962.

During their career with Finnish Army, PzKw IVJ got modified several times. Mesh-wire side skirts were removed already during Lapland War because they proved impractical and reportedly failed to stay on while driving through bushes. Turret skirts were next to go, but apparently were not removed until sometime after Lapland War. Locally built tank-clearance equipment was tested with one of the PzKw IVJ tanks in 1950 - 1951, but the test results were unsuccessful. These tanks retained their original machineguns until year 1951, even if MG-34 were rare and ammunition-wise non-standard for Finnish Army. That year their MG-34 machineguns were replaced with DT-machineguns, which at that time was de facto standard machinegun for armored vehicles of Finnish Army. While replacement of coaxial turret machinegun was apparently quite successful, replacement of hull machinegun proved much more problematic. DT-machinegun installed to front hull with its ball mount was so close near the ceiling, that machinegunner operating it could not really aim the weapon accurately, because he was unable to use its sights.

PICTURE: PzKw IVJ tank Ps. 221-6 during Lapland War. Mesh-wire skirts have already been removed, but turret skirts are still on. Photo taken in Tornio November of 1944. (SA-kuva photo archive, photo number 167601). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (202 KB).

After being removed from armored vehicle many of the PzKw IVJ tanks were used as hard targets in live-fire training areas and once riddled with holes were sold as scrap metal. Hence there are only three known survivors of the original 15 tanks. These include Ps. 221-2 and Ps. 221-6 in Parola Tank Museum and Ps. 221-12 in Mikkeli, which may also end up to the same museum as the other two.

 


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

Stalin's Giants KV-I & KV-II by Horst Scheibert.

Panzer IV by Horst Scheibert.

Der Panzerkampfwagen IV und Seine Abarten by Walter J. Spielberger.

Panzerbuch der Tanks, Parts 1 – 3 by Fritz von Heigl.

Heigl’s Panzerbuck der tanks, Parts 1 – 3 by O.H. Hacker, R.J. Icks, O. Merker and G.P.v. Zezchwitz.

Russian Tanks 1900 – 1970 by John Milsom

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.

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.


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