Categories
WW2 Soviet Prototypes

Dyrenkovs Armored Tractors (D-10, D-11, D-14)

USSR (1931) Armored Tractors – 1 prototype of each built

At the beginning of the 1930s in the USSR, several global interrelated processes were going on. These parallel processes had a severe impact on military effort and procurement.
Firstly, there was a need to re-equip and reform the army, in particular, the armored forces. The armored forces of the USSR mainly consisted of outdated tanks and armored cars, such as the British Mark V and Medium Mark A Whippet tanks or Garford-Putilov armored cars captured during the Civil War, and T-18 (MS-1, Maly Soprovozhdenya) tanks. These vehicles no longer met the needs of the tank units, The Red Army wanted a tank with a more powerful engine, better speed, maneuverability, ergonomics, and installed radios.
Secondly, the country’s leadership realized a serious setback in the industrial field. On July 15, 1929, the program of mechanization and motorization of the Red Army for the next 5 years was approved. By 1933, it was planned to have 3,500 active tanks in the army and another 2,000 in the mobilization reserve. At the same time, the RVS (Revolutsionniy Voenniy Sovet – Revolutionary Military Council, the supreme military authority of the Soviet Union) adopted a new system of auto-armor-tank-tractor armament, which was based on the modern requirements of combat and tactics.
When trying to implement the adopted plans for the development and production of new weapons and military equipment, the industry faced “enormous difficulties.”
Thirdly, both the production and the army suffered from a shortage of qualified personnel. New cadres (specially trained professionals) were not yet ready and did not have enough experience, and a significant part of the old and experienced specialists, for political reasons, were “cut off” from military service and leadership positions.
There were many different causes for rejecting specialists or young recruits “for reasons of political and moral inferiority”, such as affiliation to the “wrong ”class (bourgeoisie, clergy etc.) or professional backgrounds — service in the White Army or administration of the Russian Empire.
The military leadership, however, followed the global trends in the field of armaments and tactics and tried to keep up with them. At this time, new military theories were actively developed.
One of these theories was developed by the Soviet military theoretician and Marshal of the Soviet Union Mikhail Nikolayevich Tukhachevsky. According to that theory, simple and cheap armored tractors could be used as tanks of the 2nd and 3rd echelons (troops and armor of the 2nd and 3rd lines in a formation), even at the expense of reducing important combat characteristics.

“… we need to strive to have military tanks in numbers up to about one-third of the total, to perform special tasks, fight against anti-tank artillery, etc. The remaining tanks, usually advancing in the 2nd and 3rd echelons, can have somewhat lower speed, larger size, etc. And this means that such a tank can be an armored tractor, just as we have armored cars, trains and railcars, which will allow us to field armored tractors in huge masses.”

The Red Army required a large number of inexpensive, easy to manufacture and operate combat vehicles. The latter was especially important due to the acute personnel shortage – Soviet military theorists understood that the skills of the available manpower were not sufficient in the early 30s, and in the event of a major war, they would not have time to train qualified soldiers to man complex military equipment.
The Experimental Design Office of the Department of Mechanization and Motorization of the RKKA (UMM RKKA – Department of Mechanization and Motorization, Upravlenie Mekhanizacii I Motorizacii) was instructed to develop a “tractor tank”, like the American dual-purpose machine, the six-ton tractor Disston.
Most likely, the information about the Disston tanks was obtained from mass-media or during the so-called “Khalepsky Commission” visit to the USA. At that time, Nikolai Ivanovich Dyrenkov, a talented and extremely ambitious self-taught engineer, headed the Department of Mechanization and Motorization of the Red Army. Under his leadership, at the end of 1930, the development of so-called “surrogate tanks,” an infantry transporter and a number of other vehicles, began.

Development

The “Kommunar” tractor, a licensed version of the German tractor Hanomag WD50, was taken as the basis for the D-10 and D-14, and the American Caterpillar-60 tractor was taken as the basis for D-11.
The production of “Caterpillar-60” was planned to start in Chelyabinsk (a city east of the Ural Mountains, which became a very important transport hub and industrial center during 1930s). “Kommunars” were already in production in Kharkov.
The Department of Mechanization and Motorization of the Red Army was charged with building prototypes of so-called “surrogate tanks”: D-10, D-11, APC D-14 (“desantniy tank”). In Russian, the word “desant” is often used for troops which ride into the battle on top or inside the armored vehicles. Thus – “desantniy tank”. The same word is used for airborne troops – “vozdushno desantniye voyska”) and the D-15 “chemical tank”. All vehicles were created in the Moscow MOZEREZ plant (Moscow Railway Repair Plant, Moskovsky Zheleznodorozhny Remontny Zavod). By February 1931, they were ready.

Design

The design of all three vehicles was approximately the same: an engine was located in the front and, behind it, in the middle and aft part of the hull, there was a crew compartment, combined with a fighting compartment or compartment for troops. A fuel tank was also at the back.
On the roof of the fighting compartment there was a fixed commander’s cupola with viewing slots. Neither of the three vehicles had a rotating turret.

Armament

The D-10 and D-11 surrogate tanks were equipped with a 76.2 mm cannon on a pedestal mount as a primary weapon and two 7.62mm DT (Degtyaryov Tankovy) machine guns in the front and aft armor plates, as an auxiliary armament. Two more spare DT machine guns were stowed in the fighting compartment. There were two ball mounts for additional machine guns on each side armor plate. Worth noting is that the main gun mount was placed in the aft of the tank. In fact, this solution was the same as that of the Garford Putilov armored vehicles.
In the case of the Garford-Putilov, this decision was reasonable because the armored car had two driver positions and often went into battle ‘backwards’, but it was a significant flaw for the armored tractor, since it has to be turned around to fire the main gun.
According to some records, the ammunition did not fit into the tank and it was supposed to be carried on a towed trailer, but there is no information about the trailer itself. The D-14 APC was armed with two DT machine guns – one in the bow and one in the aft ball mounts.

Crew

The D-10 and D-11 tanks had a crew of 3 men – commander, driver, and gunner. D-14 APC had a crew of 2 men – driver and commander.
It is difficult to imagine how the engineers behind the design saw the distribution of crew duties between just two people. It can be assumed that firing was possible only after the vehicle stopped, so the driver or commander could take gunner positions.

Armored Hull

All three vehicles had riveted hulls made of rolled armor plates. The D-14 had three doors on each side of the hull used for the entrance and exit of the crew and dismounts. The D-10 had one door on each side; on the left side, the door was closer to the stern, on the right, to the aft. The D-11 had one door in the middle of each side.
A distinctive feature of all three armored vehicles was a massive armored engine in the front, which blocked visibility for the driver and made it difficult to fire a machine gun.

Engine

Propulsion was provided by a water-cooled four-cylinder, four-stroke engine with a carburetor and a vertical arrangement of cylinders. Kommunar 9GU and Kommunar 9EU had a 75 hp (55 kW) 4-cylinder petrol engine, and Caterpillar-60 had a 60 hp (45 kW) 4-cylinder gasoline engine.

Chassis and Suspension

All 3 vehicles used reinforced tractor chassis’ used as a basis with minimal changes. Transmissions were the same as on the original tractors. The D-10 and D-14 had a spring suspension with two springs for each bogie. The D-11 had a semi-rigid suspension.

Trials and Results

In 1931, all three vehicles were tested at the NIABT Test Site (Nauchno Ispytatelny Avtobronetankovy Poligon, Scientific armored vehicle proving ground in Kubinka, also NIABP). Most likely, the tests of all three vehicles (D-10, D-11 and D-14) were conducted in May-June 1931. This fact is confirmed by the document with the preliminary test results dated July 1931.
On July 18, 1931, the Scientific-Technical Committee of the UMM RKKA considered a report on the testing of three vehicles: a “Kommunar 9GU” armored tractor (D-10 tank), a “Kommunar 9EU” armored tractor-infantry carrier (D-14 APC) and an armored tractor “Caterpillar 60” (D-11 tank).

D-10 Tank

The total weight of the tank exceeded by 1.5 tonnes the original projection. As a result, the average speed and mobility decreased. Instead of the estimated speed of 7-8.5 km/h on roads and 5-6 km/h off-road, the tractor-tank showed 6-6.2 km/h on roads and only 3.2 km/h off-road. When the outside air temperature was above 15 °C and the radiator was closed, the water boiled after 1-1.5 hours of the engine being in use.
Obstacle overcoming tests were unsatisfactory. The tractor-tank coped with a 1.25 m wide and 1 m deep trench dug in sandy soil, which was no worse than MS-1 tank. But the vehicle did not cope with a 1.5 m wide trench. D-10 could cross, tear or crush barbed wire barriers only if the stakes did not fall between the tracks, because the bottom of the tank was not protected by armor.
The report also mentioned the fact that the engine could not be started from inside the tank and the absence of a vacuum apparatus for supplying fuel, both considered to be further negative aspects of the armored tractor. The D-10 had a ‘gravity fuel feed’, so if the tank got in an unfavorable position, for example, when crossing the trench, the fuel supply to the engine would be interrupted and the armored tractor would stop. It should be noted that the problem was old, and known since the days of the British Mark I Tank.
The following two problems were distinctive for most Soviet armored vehicles of the 1930s-40s. First, the tests showed difficulties with visibility due to the inconvenient location of the viewing slits. This applied, in particular, to the driver’s position. Secondly, it was noted that there was a lack of ventilation in the crew compartment.

Front view of a D-10 with the D-11 in the background. Source: RGVA

Right side view of the D-10. Source: Domestic armored vehicles. XX century

Left side of the D-10. Source: Domestic armored vehicles. XX century

D-14 Troop Carrier

The weight of the tank, as in the case of the D-10, was exceeded, this time by 2 tonnes. Due to the increased length of the hull, the load on the rear bogies was also increased; as a result, these bogies collapsed during the tests. Problems with the visibility and fuel supply were similar to those of the D-10.
There was also a problem with ventilation, although, in the case of an infantry carrier, it was more acute. According to the designer’s idea, the transporter was supposed to fit 18 riflemen (dismounts) with weapons, plus the crew, since the compartments for crew and dismounts were combined.
Poor ventilation made the conditions inside the APC such that after a few hours of being inside the vehicle, the soldiers and crew would be unable to perform their duties due to heat, cramped space and noise.
The engineer who designed the D-14 placed the doors for entering and exiting the armored tractor on the sides of the hull, with 3 on each side. The doors opened backward in relation to the nose of the vehicle. There were no hatches or doors in the stern. This decision made exiting the vehicle quite dangerous, as soldiers could not hide behind either the doors or the hull of the APC and would be exposed to enemy fire.
Subsequently, the number of troops carried decreased. Later Soviet experimental armored personnel carriers were designed for 14 (TR-1) and 15 riflemen (TR-4). For comparison, the crew of the French Lorraine 38L consisted of 12; driver, commander and 10 infantrymen – four in the troop compartment and another 6 in the armored trailer. It is noteworthy that the exit of the troops through the side hatches or doors returned to the Soviet APCs in the 60-70s, namely the BTR-60P and BTR-70.

Front view of the D-14. Source: Domestic armored vehicles. XX century

D-14 Prototype. Side doors and engine starting handle are clearly visible. Source: RGVA

Rear view of the D-14. Source: Domestic armored vehicles. XX century


Illustration of the D-10 Tank (armored tractor) based on the “Kommunar 9GU” tractor.


Illustration of the D-11 Tank (armored tractor) based on the “Caterpillar 60” tractor.


Illustration of the D-14 Troop Carrier (armored tractor) based on the “Kommunar 9EU” tractor.

These illustrations were produced by Andrei ‘Octo10’ Kirushkin, funded by our Patreon Campaign


D-11 Tank

As in the case with the D-10 and D-14, the weight of the vehicle was exceeded by 2.7 tonnes with similar consequences. The speed dropped to 4.7 km/h on roads and 3.9 km/h off-road. In addition to the familiar problems of D-10 and D-14 with fuel supply and engine overheating, the D-11 had its own unique ones.
According to test engineers, the armored hull was attached to the chassis extremely poorly. Firstly, the hull blocked access to the most important parts of the tractor, such as rear axle and gearbox. Secondly, during the tests, the armored hull of the tank tore off the bolts that attached it to the tractor and fell on the tracks.
Additional problems were reported: poor ventilation – during movement, “dust filled the crew compartment”. When trying to cross a trench, the tractor-tank “sticks the nose into the ground”.
It is not known whether this was a distinctive feature of this particular machine (which was the one based on the Caterpillar 60), or if it was also the case on the machines based on the “Kommunars”. In addition, D-11 has a reduced off-road capability in comparison with D-10 and D-14, because of the shorter base. The report noted a reduced cross-country capability and reduced mobility of this vehicle compared to the D-10 and D-14.

Left side view of the D-11. Source: Domestic armored vehicles. XX century

Test Results and Recommendations

On August 6, 1931, the test results were confirmed in another document, where conclusions and recommendations were presented.
General conclusions were as follows:

  1. “Surrogate tanks” were not suitable for clearing barbed wire fences due to unarmored bottom. Adding armor to the bottom meant increasing the weight, which means a decrease in the combat performance of already heavy and slow vehicles. In the second document, the general conclusion was much harsher: “nullifies the combat use of this type of armored vehicle”;
  2. The speed and maneuverability were considered insufficient, even for tanks of the 2nd to 3rd echelons. The chairman of the Scientific and Technological Committee UMM, Ivan Andrianovich Lebedev, noted that the average speed being “less than 4 km/h”;
  3. Suspension elements were destroyed or worn out due to the excessive weight of the vehicles;
  4. The artillery armament with which it was equipped was deemed unsatisfactory;

There was another important point that influenced the decision. It was considered that the “Kommunar” tractors surpassed the “Caterpillar-60” capabilities. But, firstly, “Kommunars” were produced by the KhPZ factory (Kharkov Locomotive Factory) in quantities that barely met the needs of the army in tractors for towage of artillery and other weapons. Secondly, the production at KhPZ was, in fact, custom-made. There was no exchangeability of parts even within the same series of machines.
The conclusion for Dyrenkov was disappointing: according to Lebedev, the main purpose of these tractors was towing artillery, therefore it was recommended to remove the armored hulls and convert the surrogate tanks D-10 and D-11 into self-propelled guns and test them.
In the case of the infantry transporter D-14, the UMM committee decided to retest it in order to “obtain more detailed data, both from the technical and from the tactical side.” Alterations included reduction of the troop compartment to 12 soldiers instead of 18. The rear part of the armored hull had to be partly cut off in order to reduce the load on the rear rollers.
In general, it was recommended to reduce the weight of the machine to 10 tons. To achieve this, it was proposed to remove or lighten individual armor plates. And, finally, to install an additional fuel tank, with the ability to pump fuel from the main fuel tank. Lebedev noted that “it is not possible to get a surrogate tank, even with reduced combat capabilities, without a major overhaul of the design.” In fact, it was easier to design a new tank.

Conclusion

Dyrenkov managed to create in 1931 armored vehicles that had the flaws of tanks of the Great War. The Red Army quit experiments with armored tractors but returned to them as an emergency measure in early 1941.
There was a plan to charge the faculty of mechanization and motorization of the Red Army to develop a personnel carrier on the chassis of the tank MM-1 (aka TMM-1, based on the Vickers Mk. E), as it was one of the most robust and common tanks of the Red Army. Further experiments with armored personnel carriers continued and the next attempt was the TR-1 (TR-26) transporter based on the T-26 tank. Nevertheless, the Red Army entered World War Two without any indigenous APC.
As for Dyrenkov and Tukhachevsky, they were both arrested and executed in 1937 during the “Great Purge”.

Specifications (D-10)

Total weight, battle ready ~ 12,000 Kg
Crew 3
Propulsion 4-cyl petrol, 75 hp (55 kW)
Maximum speed 6-6.2 km/h forward, 3.2 km/h reverse
Range 120 km on road
Armament 1 x 76-mm gun M1913 on Garford mount;
1 x 7.62-mm DT machine gun
Armor Front – 16 mm; Back – 16 mm; Sides – 11 mm, Top – 6 mm
Production 1

Specifications (D-14)

Total weight, battle ready ~ 12,500 Kg
Crew 2 + 18 passengers
Propulsion 75 hp (55 kW) engine
Maximum speed 6 km/h forward
Range 120 km on road
Armament 2 x 7.62-mm DT machine gun
Armor Front – 11 mm; Back – 11 mm; Sides – 11 mm, Top – 6 mm
Production 1

Specifications (D-11)

Total weight, battle ready ~ 13,250 Kg
Crew 3
Propulsion 60 hp engine
Maximum speed 4.7 km/h forward, 3.9 km/h background
Range 100 km on road
Armament 1 x 76-mm gun M1913 on Garford mount;
2 x 7.62-mm DT machine gun
Armor Front – 16 mm; Back – 11 mm; Sides – 11 mm, Top – 6 mm
Production 1

Sources

RGVA f. 31811 (Russian State Military Archive (Rossiiskii Gosudarstvenni Voennyi Arkhiv- RGVA)
Domestic armored vehicles. XX century: Scientific publication: In 4 volumes / Solyankin A.G., Pavlov M.V., Pavlov I.V., Zheltov I.G. / Vol 1. Domestic armored vehicles. 1905-1941 – M .: Exprint Publishing Center, LLC, 2002. – 344 pp. Ill., P. 61, pp. 88-89
Domestic Armored Vehicles 20th Century Vol 1 1905-1941 (Solyankin 2002)
Tukhachevsky / Boris Sokolov. – M: Molodaya Gvardiya, 2008. – 447 [1] s: il. – (Life of remarkable people: ser. Biogr .; issue. 1104)
Kirindas A.M. “Artillery tractor“ Comintern””, – Moscow: Yauza-Catalog, 2017
A.Bezugolny. “The Source of additional power of the Red Army …”, Moscow: ROSSPEN, 2016

Categories
Hungarian tanks

Tiger in Hungarian service

Co-Author Alex Tarasov

Hungary WW2Hungary, 1944, Heavy Tank – Up to 15 received

During WWII, Hungary was one of Germany’s allies with a significant domestic production of armored vehicles. While these locally produced vehicles were fine by the standards of the early war, unfortunately for the Hungarians, by the time these were fielded in larger numbers, they were already obsolete. To bolster their ally’s firepower, during the war, the Germans supplied the Hungarians with a selection of armored vehicles, including a small number of the famed Tiger tanks in 1944.

The formidable Tiger tank in Hungarian hands. Source: Magyar Pancel

History

By 1944, it was obvious that the Axis were on the losing side of the war, and due to the huge losses sustained while fighting on the Eastern Front, the overall military and political situation for Hungry was dire. In an attempt to leave the war, the Hungarian Regent Vice-Admiral Miklós Horthy secretly began negotiations with the Allies. It seems that this was not kept a secret, as the Germans found out about it and launched the Margarethe Operation. This was the German secret contention plan to deal with Hungary in the case its government attempted to change sides during the war. Horty was arrested and a puppet government was formed under the leadership of Dome Sztojay instead. This way, the Germans managed to force Hungarians to stay active on the Eastern Front.

The Hungarians deployed their 1st Army in support of the German front line in eastern Galicia. The 2nd Armored Division (which was part of the 1st Army) was equipped with obsolete Hungarian-built vehicles such as the Turan I and II tanks. During its first engagement with the Soviet Armor, the Turan II tanks claimed to have destroyed two T-34/85 tanks. During a short Axis offensive in this area in April, despite having a disadvantage in armor and firepower, the Hungarian tanks claimed to have destroyed 27 Soviet tanks (26 T-34/85 and 1 Sherman) with the loss of 22 of their own vehicles (8 Turan I, 9 Turan II, 4 Nimrods, 1 Toldi, and 1 Csaba armored car).

It appears that the bravery of the Hungarian tank crews was noted by the Germans. By the direct orders of General Walter Model, the Hungarian 2nd Armored Division was to be reinforced with 10 to 12 (depending on the source) Panzer IV Ausf. H, a smaller number of StuG III and even with a group of Tiger tanks.

Panzerkampfwagen ‘Tiger’ Ausf. E

The German Tiger tank is one of the most iconic tanks in history. While the development of a heavy tank began in Germany prior to the war, only after encountering the advanced Soviet tanks in 1941 was the whole program sped up. Two firms, Porsche and Henschel, were involved in designing the chassis of the new heavy tank, with Krupp being responsible for the turret and gun. While the Porsche design was favored, in the end, due to mechanical problems, the Henschel design would be adopted. The heavy tank that would be known as the Tiger was an immense vehicle, armed with the deadly 8.8 cm gun and well protected by a 100 mm thick frontal and 80 mm side armor. With its weight of 57 tonnes, it was also a fairly mobile vehicle thanks to its strong 650 hp engine and wide tracks. By the time of its introduction in 1942, few enemy weapons were able to do anything against it and, with its gun, it could efficiently destroy any enemy tank type. Its production began in August 1942 and ended in August 1944. By that time, only slightly more than 1,340 vehicles had been built.

The Panzerkampfwagen Ausf. E ‘Tiger’ Tank. Source: Wiki

While certainly a terrifying tank to be encountered on the battlefields, it was far from perfect and was plagued with many problems. The cost to build one was significant and this was one of the reasons why only small numbers were built. As there were never enough of them, they were allocated to separate special units that would be, depending on the need, attached to other units. The maintenance of these vehicles was time-consuming. The suspension system, while providing good drive, was overly complicated. Despite these issues, the Tiger tanks remained a potent threat to Allied tanks right up to the war’s end. Due to the small numbers available, they were regarded as elite vehicles reserved only for the German Panzerwaffe, but surprisingly few would be supplied to Germany’s allies.

Origin of the Hungarian Tigers

It is common to find information that the supplied Tiger tanks belonged to the 503rd Heavy Panzer Battalion (schwere Panzerabteilung, s.Pz.Abt. 503). The 503rd Heavy Panzer Battalion was created in late 1942 and was initially equipped with 20 Tigers and 25 Panzer III Ausf. N. From early 1943 until April 1944, this unit was mainly engaged on the Eastern Front. Then, it was transferred to France for recuperation and conversion to Tiger II tanks. By that time, only 12 Tiger IIs were available for this unit. In order to fully equip it, 33 additional Tiger Is were allocated to this unit.

Tiger tanks belong to the 503rd Heavy Panzer Battalion. Source: https://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/germany

According to T. Jentz and H. Doyle (Tiger I Heavy Tank 1942-45), three Tiger tanks from the ordnance depot were delivered to the Hungarian Army on 22nd July 1944. In addition, an unknown number of Tigers were acquired from the 503rd and 509th Heavy Panzer Battalion. The 509th Heavy Panzer Battalion was formed in September 1943 and had 45 Tiger tanks. It was engaged on the Eastern Front up to September 1944, before being sent back to Germany to be reequipped with the Tiger II.

Number supplied

The total number of supplied tanks is not clear, but most sources give a number of around 10 vehicles. For example, authors C. Bescze (Magyar Steel, Hungarian Armour in WWII) and S.J.Zaloga (Tanks of Hitler’s Eastern Allies 1941-45) mention that 10 vehicles were supplied.

But, according to Dr. M. Durden (Leopard’s guide: The Tiger I tank), between 6 and 12 Tigers were used by the Hungarians. Authors C. K. Kliment and D. Bernard (Maďarská armáda 1919-1945) note that up to 15 Tiger were supplied.

To complicate matters more, authors F.W. Lochmann, R. Freiherr Von Rosen and A. Runnel (The Combat History of German Tiger Tank Battalion 503 in World War II) noted that no Tigers were ever supplied to the Hungarians! They also state that the 503rd Heavy Panzer Battalion gave all its surviving Tiger tanks to the 509th Heavy Panzer Battalion on 14th May 1944. While they state that Hungarian crew members were trained, due to a shortage of tanks, no Tigers were given to the Hungarians. They were instead issued with Panzer IV vehicles.

Interestingly, author G. Finizio (Wheels and Tracks No.27) suggests the possibility that some Hungarian tank crews operated Tiger tanks but in German units. This significant disagreement between different authors shows how difficult finding accurate and precise information can be.

Another issue is which type of Tigers were provided by the Germans. As it was late in the war, we can assume that any Tiger that was available was used for this purpose. So it would not be a surprise if this was a mix of early to late production types.

Training

Regardless of how many vehicles were supplied by the Germans, it was essential for the Hungarian crews to receive necessary training before they could even see combat. For this reason, some members of the 503rd Heavy Panzer Battalion served as instructors for their allies. While the majority of the 503rd Heavy Panzer Battalion was repositioned in France, the 3rd Company was chosen for this task.

Hungarian crew members beside their German instructors. Source: Magyar Pancel

What was available of the 503rd Heavy Panzer Battalion’s vehicles and equipment (including the 3rd Company) was therefore renamed to the 1st Tiger Demonstration Company of the 1st Panzer Demonstration Group North Ukraine. The main base of this unit was Nadworna near Stanislau in South Poland. The Hungarians provided a group of tank crew members to be trained there. The training only lasted from 6th to 14th May 1944, before the unit was disbanded. Interestingly, while it appears that during this occasion, the Hungarians did not receive any Tigers, their High Command awarded several German instructors with high military recommendations. These include Feldwebels Fritz Großmann and Herbert Schünrock, Obergefreiters Ernst Reinhardt, Gotthold Wunderlichn and Gefreiter Hans Bartels. Ironically, while the information about these recommendations was found in Hungarian archives, these awards were never actually given to the Germans instructors due to political machinations.

The Germans provide the Hungarian tankers with training in the proper use of these heavy vehicles. Here, Unteroffizier Gartner gives instructions about all the parts of the turret to his Hungarian tanker group. This turret is actually detached from the hull and is suspended in the air by a crane. Source: https://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/germany

In combat

The Hungarian Tigers, alongside the remaining German supplied vehicles, were allocated to the 2nd Armored Division, 3rd Battalion. They were divided into two Tank Squadrons. The 2nd Tank Squadron was commanded by First Lieutenant Ervin Tarszay, probably the most famous Hungarian tank commander, and the 3rd by Captain Janos Verdess. Besides the German vehicles, the 2nd Armored Division also had some 40 Turan I and 20 Turan II tanks.

Unfortunately, information about the Hungarian Tigers’ performance in combat is hard to find. The following information is from C. Bescze (Magyar Steel Hungarian Armour in WWII) supplemented with Russian archive documents. The Hungarian Tigers’ first combat engagement took place on 26th July 1944 near Nadvornaya. It was a triumph. A single Hungarian Tiger ambushed a Soviet armored column, destroying 8 Soviet tanks, several guns, and several transport trucks. For this successful action, the Tiger’s gunner, Istvan Lavrencsik, was awarded with the Gold Medal for Bravery.

The position of the Hungarian 2nd Armored Division near Nadvornaya during late July 1944. Source: TsAMO

According to Russian archive sources, elements of the 1448th self-propelled artillery regiment (Samokhodno-Artilleriyskiy Polk) were caught in this ambush. A group of 5 self-propelled guns, which was supported with a reconnaissance detachment of the 985th Infantry Regiment, after leaving Nadvornaya, were on 26th July advancing toward Bogorodchany.

The Hungarians forces prepare an ambush just before the position recorded as Hill 386. After letting the infantry support pass by, they waited for the advance of the Soviet armor. When the advancing Soviet armored vehicles approached at a distance of about 200 m, the Hungarian tanks opened fire. In the ensuing engagement, the Soviets lost 2 self-propelled guns which were burned, and 2 which were knocked out, with the loss of 4 men dead and 5 more wounded. The fate of the fifth Soviet self-propelled vehicle is not clear. It could have already passed by with the reconnaissance detachment of the 985th Infantry Regiment or was left behind for some reason, but these are only speculation.

The war diary of the 1448th self-propelled artillery regiment mentioned that there were 5 enemy tanks (3 of them were Tigers) supported by an infantry company. The precise type of the Soviet vehicles participating in this encounter is not clear, but it is likely that these were the SU-122, as the Hungarians could easily misidentified them as T-34 tanks (the SU-122 was based on the T-34 chassis).

1 – Hill 386.0; 2 – the approximate place of the ambush; 3 – Ostre, where the counterattack took place. Source: TsAMO

The Hungarians attempted a counterattack against the Soviets near the Ostre region. The counterattack failed and the Hungarians were forced to abandon two Tigers and one Turan II tanks at the intersection of the road in Lyakhovitsa. In total, the Soviets reported to have lost 4 self-propelled guns with 4 men dead and 8 wounded. The Soviets also reported to have burned down two enemy tanks in the Banya district. In addition, they captured 4 enemy tanks, with one Panzer IV in working condition (which was used against the enemy), destroyed 12 machine guns and 3 mortars, killed up to 150 soldiers and officers, and captured 75 enemy soldiers.

The question remains which sources to trust. For both sides it was in their interest to falsify the data for propaganda reasons.

The Hungarians Tigers are also claimed to have managed, during a 30-minute long fight, to take out around 14 Soviet tanks near “Hill 514” (possibly near Dolina), but the precise location and date of this action are not specified in the source, unfortunately. If these numbers of destroyed tanks were real or exaggerated for propaganda purposes is almost impossible to tell.

In the following days, despite these short term successes, the few Tigers could not change the overall war situation for the Hungarians. By the middle of August 1944, the Axis forces, including the Hungarian 1st Army, were pushed back to the Carpathian Mountains. It seems that, by this time, the Hungarians had lost at least 7 Tigers. While not all were combat losses, some were lost due to a general lack of fuel and spare parts. The Hungarians did not have any kind of towing vehicle capable of moving the huge Tigers, which also presented a problem with recovering any damaged vehicle. From this point on, it seems that the surviving Tiger were probably pulled back to Hungary. They may have been also returned to the Germans as author Dr. M. Durden (Leopard’s guide: The Tiger I tank) suggests, but once again the sources are conflicting.

In late August 1944, the Romanians changed sides and joined the Soviet Union and almost immediately engaged with the Hungarians in combat. The 2nd Armored Division was part of the Hungarian offensive toward Romania. If the Tigers were used there is unknown, but it is unlikely. Due to the increasing presence of the Soviet Army, the Hungarians were beaten back.

The 2nd Armored Division would be reinforced with new German vehicles, including Panther tanks. The Panthers were used by the 2nd Tank Squadron commanded by First Lieutenant Ervin Tarszay. The majority of the 2nd Armored Division would be destroyed during the siege of Budapest. The few elements that avoided destruction managed to reach Slovakia, where the last armored vehicles were blown up by their crews.

The final fate of the Hungarian Tigers is not clear. Author C. Bescze (Magyar Steel Hungarian Armour in WWII) notes that the last three vehicles were lost in Transylvania due to a lack of fuel and supplies.

Author G. Finizio (Wheels and Tracks No.27) claims that at least 4 Tigers were reported to be in repair in December 1944. By the end of January 1945, one Tiger was reported to be still operational.

A late production Tiger tank covered in Zimmerit, The commander of this vehicle (number 214) was Lieutenant Ervin Tarszay. Source: Magyar Pancel

Conclusion

The Tigers were the strongest armored vehicles that the Hungarian tank armored force operated during the war. While certainly deadly, it was supplied in too small numbers and too late to really have an influence on the war’s development. Despite fielding obsolete tanks, the Hungarians managed to destroy many Soviet tanks. This shows that, while the Hungarians lacked modern equipment, they did not lack effective tank crews. Had the Germans supplied them much earlier in the war with more modern equipment, the Hungarian tank force may have been a more important element in the war in the East.


Hungarian Ausf.E from the 3rd Regiment, Ukraine, near Nadvirna, May 1944

Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger Sd.Kfz.181, ‘Tiger I’ specifications

Dimensions Height: 8.45 m Long x 3.23 m Wide (rail transport) x 3.547 m Wide (normal tracks) x 3 m Height
Weight 54 tonnes (combat), 57 tonnes by February 1944
Crew 5 (commander, gunner, loader, driver, and radio operator)
Engine Maybach model HL 210 TRM P45 21-litre V-12 petrol engine producing 650 hp at 3000 rpm (early production vehicles), Maybach model HL 230 TRM P45 V-12 700 hp petrol engine (later production vehicles)
Ford 1.5 m without preparation – submersible to 4.5 m with preparation (vehicles prior to August 1942)
Performance 45 km/h (road max.), 30 km/h (road sustained), after February 1944 this was 40 km/h, 20-25 km/h (firm ground sustained)
Fuel 348 litres sufficient for a range of up to 120 km road, 85 km firm ground. Two spare 200-litre fuel drum could be carried on the back deck for long road marches.
Armament 8.8 cm Kw.K. 36 L/56 gun, coaxial 7.92 mm M.G. 34, hull mounted M.G. 34, roof mounted anti-aircraft M.G. 34
Ammunition 92 rounds 8.8 cm, ~4,500 – 4,800 rounds 7.92 mm ammunition
Armor Hull:
Driver’s plate 100mm @ 9º
Nose 100mm @ 25º
Glacis 60mm glacis @ 80º
Hull Sides Upper 80mm @ 0º
Hull Sides Lower 60mm @ 0º
Rear 80mm @ 9º
Roof and Belly, 25mm
Turret:
Mantlet 120mm @ 0º
Front 100mm @ 5º
Sides and Rear 80mm @ 0º

Sources

D. Nešić, (2008), Naoružanje Drugog Svetskog Rata-Nemačka, Beograd
C. Bescze (2007) Magyar Steel Hungarian Armour in WW II, STRATUS.
P. Chamberlain and H. Doyle (1978) Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two – Revised Edition, Arms and Armor press.
B. Adam, E. Miklos, S. Gyula (2006) A Magyar Királyi Honvédség külföldi gyártású páncélos harcjárművei 1920-1945, Petit Real
S.J.Zaloga (2013) Tanks of Hitler’s Eastern Allies 1941-45, New Vanguard.
N. Thomas and L. P. Szabo (2010) The Royal Hungarian Army in World War II, Osprey.
T. Jentz and H. Doyle, Tiger I Heavy Tank 1942-45, Osprey
T. Jentz and H. Doyle (2001) Panzer Tracts No.6 Schwere Panzerkampfwagen.
Dr. M. Durden Leopard’s guide: The Tiger I tank
C. K. Kliment and D. Bernard (2007) Maďarská armáda 1919-1945, Naše vojsko.
F.W. Lochmann, R. Freiherr Von Rosen and A. Runnel (2000) The Combat History of German Tiger Tank Battalion 503 in World War II, Stackpole Book.
G. Finizio (1989) Wheels and Tracks No.27, Battle of Britain prints.
War Diary of the 18A, 4th Ukrainian Front, 31.07.1944, TsAMO, F 244, O 3000, D 890, PP 1-72
War Diary of the 1448th self-propelled artillery regiment, TsAMO, F 4438, O 0445095с, D 0003, PP 19-30
TO&E of the 1448th self-propelled artillery regiment