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WW2 Soviet Prototypes

SMK

USSR (1939) Heavy Tank – 1 Prototype Built

The More Turrets, the Merrier?

Right from the very beginning of the development of the tank concept, the idea that tanks could have multiple turrets to do multiple tasks at the same time was one that was very popular. Japan, Germany, the USA, and Poland all experimented with multi-turreted tanks, but none so much as the USSR and Great Britain. In the early 1930s, the UK produced the A1E1 Independent, Medium Mark III, Vickers 6 ton, and A.9 Cruiser multi-turreted tanks. The Soviet Union had produced the T-26 (a Vickers 6-ton copy), T-28 (based from the Medium Mark III), and the T-35A multi-turreted heavy tank, perhaps the most impressive multi-turreted vehicle to be manufactured in the Soviet Union.

T-35A chassis number 196-94, after being captured by German forces on June 24th, 1941. This vehicle was a prototype that was given some ‘updates’ to try to improve the longevity of the T-35 series. Source: Francis Pulham Collection.
The T-35A was, on paper, an impressive vehicle, but in reality, the vehicle was seriously flawed. It was too long, leading to major structural and mechanical problems, especially when turning, also being too tall and therefore dangerously overbalanced (during WWII, two T-35s would topple over due to the high center of gravity), and too many turrets which left the commander unable to adequately control the numerous crewmen and guns. It became clear that the T-35A was in desperate need of modernizing. T-35A chassis number 183-5 (the twenty-sixth T-35A manufactured) was taken to the testing grounds at Kubinka, near Moscow in 1936 and extensively trialed. After a year of these trials, it was decided that the T-35A was generally unfit for service. In the short term, the T-35A was moderately ‘updated’, but design bureaus were soon busily at work drawing up the Soviet Union’s new multi-turreted heavy tank.

Shaking up the Red Army

Dmitry Grigoryevich Pavlov was the Soviet commander in Spain during the Spanish Civil War during 1936 and 1937, and his experience fighting the Nationalist forces there had quickly seen him gain power within the Red Army. Eventually, in 1937, he found himself in charge of the ABTU (Armor and Automobile Management Bureau). Pavlov was very important in establishing the groundwork for a total overhaul of the Red Army’s tanks, some of which he had seen to perform poorly during the Spanish Civil War. While the main Soviet tank sent to Spain, the T-26, was highly regarded, it was often knocked out by light guns due to the thickness of its armor. The T-26’s armor plates were no thicker than 12 mm, almost no better than the tanks of World War One. This proved to be a major flaw with not only Soviet tanks but tanks all over the world.
In 1937, Resolution 94ss was passed. This was a general order from Pavlov for a total review of the entirety of Red Army stocks. Factory KhPZ 183 (Kharkov Locomotive and Tractor Works) was ordered to begin prototyping for a new multi-turreted heavy tank to replace the T-35A, and a new fast convertible tank to replace the BT-7. Despite this, KhPZ 183 found itself out of its depth developing two new tanks and was busily focusing on the BT tank replacements, the eventual A-20 and A-32, which led to the T-34.
Due to KhPZ 183’s inability to begin designing a new heavy tank, the project was partly handed over to Factory 185. After this, the Kirov Works was also invited to design a new multi-turreted heavy tank for the Red Army. On paper, three factories were now designing a multi-turreted heavy tank, these being KhPZ 183 (which had still technically had not pulled out of this race), Factory 185, and the Kirov Works.
By May 1939, Factory 185 had drawn up the T-100 heavy tank, and the Kirov Works had named their vehicle the SMK, after Sergey Mironovich Kirov, the short-lived chairmen of the CPSU (Communist Party of the Soviet Union) in 1934, who was assassinated not too long after. Much can be said on the death of Kirov, such as whether it was under the orders of Stalin himself, but nevertheless, after his death, Kirov became a much-celebrated figure in Soviet mythology. KhPZ 183’s project had not begun, and therefore at this stage, it became a two-horse race.

‘We are building a tank, not a department store!’

The SMK was originally designed with the T-35’s suspension, but this was deemed inadequate. Therefore, testing was conducted with a T-28 that had its suspension replaced by torsion bars. While not a total success, the potential was not lost on the engineers, and it was decided to implement this into the design.
There were now two tanks on the table, and both vehicles had a very similar internal layout. At first glance, the T-100 and SMK looked similar, but there were very different vehicles. The T-100 had coil spring suspension with rubber-tired road wheels, a different engine, turret shape and design, armor thickness, and even main armament in the shape of the L-10 76.2 mm gun.
Both the SMK and T-100 had three turrets. The SMK prototype originally had two small turrets, one forward and one behind a central pedestal. The main turret was perched upon this central pedestal. The smaller turrets had a 45 mm Model 1934 gun, capable of semi-automatic fire (the breach automatically locked when a shell was inserted, and the spent shell casing was automatically ejected once fired) when shooting armor-piercing projectiles, and quarter automatic fire (the breach automatically locked when a shell was inserted, but the spent shell casing had to be manually removed) when firing High Explosive projectiles. The main turret was equipped with an L-11 76.2 mm gun. The three guns were accompanied by coaxial 7.62 mm DT-29 machine guns, and the main turret had a rear ball mount that was given a 12.7 mm DShK machine gun.
The chassis of the original SMK prototype was octagonal, with a substantial overhang of the upper hull over the tracks and running gear, much like the earlier T-24 tank. The forward turret was placed off-center to the right, whereas the rear turret was off-center to the left, with a large armored radiator intake to the right of the rearmost turret.
The tank was powered by an 850 hp GAM-34T liquid-cooled diesel engine housed in the rear portion of the tank. The drive sprocket was also to the rear. The prototype, on paper, had eight road wheels and four return rollers.

Prototype drawings of the three turreted version of the SMK, with the top image featuring T-35 suspension, and the lower depicting torsion bar suspension. Interestingly, the torsion bar version still retains a track tensioning wheel between the idler and the first road wheel, something not seen on the prototype. Source: https://www.dieselpunks.org
On 9th December 1938, the two prototypes were presented to the ABTU, with wooden mock-ups of the two vehicles. Both prototypes were approved, but the design of both vehicles was requested to change, and the rearmost turret was to be removed from both tanks, reducing the turrets to two, one turret with a 76.2 mm weapon, and one with a 45 mm weapon. Some sources claim that Stalin himself requested this, and the mythology of the incident describes Stalin inspecting one of the two wooden mock-ups, and snapping off one of the sub turrets, exclaiming ‘We are trying to build a tank, not a department store!’ This is not verified anywhere and is highly apocryphal of Soviet doctrine at the time. As it was, the Kirov Works was well aware of the limitations of multi-turreted tanks and was already designing a single-turreted version of the SMK.

Prototypes

From this point, the prototype was approved for production. The tank was now to only have two turrets, instead of three, and due to the weight saved from this, the desired 70 mm thick glacis was able to be introduced into the design.
Now that the chassis was shorter, the prototype was given eight cast road wheels with internal shock absorbers and four rubber-rimmed return rollers. An adjustable front idler wheel was provided for the tank.
The frontal armor was 70 mm thick, and the sides and rear plates were 60 mm thick. The floor plate was 30 mm thick, and the hull and turret roofs were 20 mm thick. The hull no longer extended over the tracks, and therefore a fender was placed along the length of the chassis.

The SMK was an imposing tank, however, the design had some flaws, including a dangerously high and exposed turret ring, a flaw that was exploited during the combat trials in Finland. Source: TSAMO via Maxim Kolomiets
The hull was split into three compartments, not including the main turret. These were the forward fighting compartment, the central fighting compartment, and the engine/ transmission compartment. The crew consisted of seven men: driver, engineer/ radio operator, 45mm gunner, 45mm loader, main turret gunner, main turret loader, and, finally, a commander.
The main turret was given a P-40 anti-aircraft mount with a station for a DT-29 7.62 mm machine gun. The radio in the hull was a TK-71-3, standard in all Soviet heavy tanks. This radio had a rage of 15 km on the move, and 30 km when stopped.
The prototype entered the construction stage in spring 1939, but the design team at the Kirov Works was not happy with the outcome. Engineers knew that the tank was too heavy, limiting its combat capability. Due to the height and weight of the SMK, the vehicle was too cumbersome to be an effective fighting machine. Ultimately, the engineers knew that the multi-turreted tank concept was fundamentally flawed. Therefore, under their own initiative, they began working on a single-turreted version of the SMK.

A cutaway of the SMK prototype as produced. The turret displays features of the vehicle when it was deployed in Finland, the rear turret-mounted DsHK 12.7 mm gun has been replaced with a DT-29 7.62 mm machine gun. Source: vesna-info.ru

Kliment Voroshilov

The Kirov Works began to design a new single-turreted version of the SMK, and the tank they designed was similar to the SMK. Instead of two turrets, the smaller turret was removed from the design, and therefore there was no need for a turret pedestal. The turret ring was now flush with the hull roof plate. The new main turret was similar to that of the SMK, with an L-11 76.2 mm gun, but this prototype, named KV-U0, was given a coaxial 45 mm gun, so as not to reduce the firepower compared to the SMK. The engine of this prototype was a 500 hp V2 diesel that had been designed for the BT series. In this case, it was supercharged. The engine was also used in the T-34, known as the V-2-34, and the version used on the KV series was known as the V-2K. The V-2K was seriously strained when powering the KV-1, but it was completely overworked when powering the KV-2, with its much larger and heavier turret.
The new tank was named after Kliment Voroshilov, who at the time was a prominent figure in the Soviet Union, being one of the five Marshals of the Soviet Union. This new KV (Kliment Voroshilov) tank was submitted with the SMK for trials at Kubinka in the late summer of 1939.

The first KV tank prototype, KV-U0 during WWII. The similarities to the SMK are striking, with the main obvious differences being the lack of the smaller turret with a 45 mm gun. Other differences include a shorter chassis, thicker armor and a different engine. Source: Francis Pulham Collection.

Kubinka trials

The T-100, SMK, and KV tanks were all taken to the Kubinka training ground to conduct trials. The SMK had an advantage over the T-100, being three tonnes lighter than the T-100, and having better cross-country capabilities, but itself was at a disadvantage to the KV tank, the surprise entry for the new role.

Front view of the SMK. Notice the off-centered front 45 mm gun turret. This was to allow for an escape hatch for the driver on the hull roof. Notice the fabric on the front fenders hanging down almost to the tracks. This was likely some measure to curb debris being kicked up. Source: TSAMO via Maxim Kolomiets

The rear view of the SMK during Kubinka trials. The engine deck was very high from the ground, with a large air intake hidden under the upper portion of the hull. At the rear of the turret is a 12.7 mm DShK machine gun. During the combat trials in Finland in 1940, this gun was replaced with the standard 7.62 mm DT-29 machine gun. Source: TSAMO via Maxim Kolomiets
The trials did not go smoothly for either the SMK or the T-100. The SMK suffered from transmission failures during the trials, which were one of the major issues that were desired to be eliminated when replacing the T-35A. It did, however, perform marginally better than the T-100. The vehicle was able to ascend an escarpment of 37 degrees and travel at 35.5 km/h.
The tank that performed best during the trials was the KV. The weight and length saved by removing the secondary turret proved most advantageous. Additionally, the commander had a much easier time controlling the actions of the tank. The KV did not completely win over the crowd, however. The V2K engine (the name for the new V2 engine) was working at its absolute limit, and the vehicle had serious trouble crossing a moat.
This testing was done in early September 1939. This was too late for combat trials in Poland, but for the Soviet Union, another conflict was on the horizon that was a prime testing ground for the new vehicles.

The left side of the SMK at Kubinka trials. The swing arms for the road wheels can be clearly seen and was one of the major improvements over earlier Soviet heavy tank designs. The two turrets are conical in shape, with the main turret consisting of four main plates, and a pressed and shaped roof to maximize space inside. Source: TSAMO via Maxim Kolomiets

Opportunity in Finland

The Winter War was a major conflict between the USSR and Finland. The war was caused by Soviet expansionism, as the USSR wanted a bigger land buffer between Leningrad and the Finnish border 20 km to the north. Initially, a peaceful territory renegotiation was held in Moscow, but Finnish diplomats were understandably unwilling to give away Finnish land in exchange for less strategic positions.
Hostilities opened on 30th November 1939, when forces of the USSR began an invasion of Finland across the entire border. However, the greatest concentration was on the Karelian Isthmus, north of Leningrad. Molotov had promised that a peace settlement between the USSR and Finland would be complete by Stalin’s birthday, 12th December. However, this did not happen, as the Finnish defenses and defensive strategy were highly effective against a Red Army that had suffered greatly from the Purges.
As the war dragged on, it became apparent that the new prototype tanks could be used in real combat situations, a real trial by fire. The three tanks, T-100, SMK, and KV, were given to a special experimental tank unit, the 91st Tank Battalion of the 20th Heavy Tank Brigade.
This unit, despite being a heavy tank brigade, was primarily made up of T-28 tanks, with 105 T-28s (which was one-fifth of the total number of T-28s manufactured), but also 21 BT-7 tanks and 8 BT-5 tanks. Additionally, 11 BMH-3 experimental flame-throwing T-26 tanks were deployed with the unit. The BMH-3 was a conversion for a regular T-26 with two turrets, converted to shoot fire from one or both turrets. It had two tanks of kerosene and compressed gas placed onto the engine deck.
The SMK arrived with the brigade after a major overhaul. One of the minor changes was that the rear-mounted DShK was replaced with a DT-29 machine gun.
The crew of the tank was mostly made up of very experienced members. The commander of the SMK was Senior Lieutenant Petin, the main turret gunner was Senior Lieutenant Mogilchenko, and other members were taken from the Kirov Works, and were generally veterans of driving and operating heavy machinery. The driver was I. Ignatiev, the mechanic was A. Kunitsyn, and the transmission specialist attached to the repair team was A. Teterev. The radio operator in the hull was pulled from regular tank units and is not named in sources.
As can be seen, the crew was a very serious roster, all being high ranking or experienced enough to be mentioned in testing reports.

Combat Trials

The 20th Heavy Tank Brigade was deployed on the Karelian Isthmus, which was the most hotly contested portion of the Soviet-Finnish frontline. This piece of land was the primary concession requested by the Soviet government, as they felt that the Finnish border was too close to the strategic port and major industrial hub of Leningrad (nowadays Saint Petersburg). It was on the Karelian Isthmus that the strongest Finnish defenses were organized, which included the famous Mannerheim Line.
The Mannerheim Line was a cleverly designed series of limited fortifications that used the harsh terrain of the Isthmus to force Soviet forces to rely on the few poor roads throughout Karelia. Anti-tank and anti-personnel traps were interwoven with trenches, pillboxes, small forts, and even deep covered ditches to trap tanks trying to cross.
One of these concrete forts was known by the Soviets as ‘Giant’ and, on 17th December, the 91st Tank Battalion, along with other battalions of the 20th Tank Brigade, were committed to the attack.


The only known photographs of the SMK during operations in Finland are these stills from a Soviet propaganda film. The SMK is moving at speed towards the front. Notice that the tank is still 4BO green, but it has had snowfall accumulate on the nose of the tank. Source: Youtube.com
‘Giant’ was in a stony wooded sector of the front, quite unsuited to tank warfare, but the tanks committed themselves to the assault nonetheless. Contrary to standard practice, the KV was separated from the SMK and the T-100, and was assisting a company of T-28 tanks in the assault, following a tree line to the bunker. The T-100 and SMK were ordered to assist the infantry in crossing the stony open ground.
This attack did not go according to plan, and the T-100 and SMK were forced to call off the attack. Conflicting reports claim that the SMK did or did not get hit that first day. One account states that the vehicles were under intense machine-gun fire while supporting the attack, but remarkably did not suffer any hits. Finnish machine gunners were very well trained, and were likely concentrating their fire on the massed infantry accompanying the SMK.
Another combat report from AP Kunitsyn reads: ‘To test the fighting qualities of the new tanks, a rather difficult sector of the front was chosen. The front lines were between Summajärvi Lake and the non-freezing Sunasuo swamp. On the left of the height was an enemy camouflaged pillbox armed with 37-mm Bofors guns and machine guns. BOT (Armored Firing Points) covered two trenches, an anti-tank ditch and several rows of wire obstacles. Granite anti-tank racks stood in four rows. Together with the T-100 and KV tank, the SMK was to attack the enemy fortifications and capture the height at which the observation tower of the ‘Giant’ sat, which apparently served as a command and observation post. The actions of the three experimental tanks were observed by the commander of the North-West Front, commander of the 1st rank, S. K. Tymoshenko, commander of the Leningrad Military District, commander of the 2nd rank, K.A.
The hour of the attack arrived. A series of red rockets soared into the sky. The artillery preparatory bombardment was carried out in such a way as to not only suppress enemy defences, but also to break through passages in anti-tank barriers and minefields. With the last volleys of the artillery, the infantry went on the attack, and soon the tanks received orders to start moving forward. The commander of the SMK and the whole group, Senior Lieutenant Petin, buttoned down the hatch of the turret and, through an intercom, gave a command to the crew: “Forward!”
Ignatiev, the driver, clearly distinguished the road through the viewing gap. The tank, crushing trees and sprawling debris from thick, specially felled trunks, moved forward. Then, it broke through a number of wire barriers, crawled across the ditch and went to the granite dragon teeth.
With slow movements from side to side, Ignatiev began to swing and push the massive granite teeth. Finns methodically fired from anti-tank guns. Inside the tank was a terrible roar. The shells hit the armor with a terribly loud and painful noise, but the crew did not find any holes. The enemy intensified the fire, but not a single shell could penetrate the body of the vehicle.
It was extremely difficult for the commander and driver to control the tank under fire on such a difficult road. Smoke from firing the gun irritated the throats and eyes of the crewmen. But the crew continued to fight and boldly led the tank straight to the height of the enemy pillbox. Using the two turret guns, tankers fired at embrasures, and fired from machine guns.
Mechanic, AP P. Kunitsyn, one of the crew of the SMK recalled ‘The battle was terrible. Our tank, so thick-skinned, completely impenetrable. But we received a dozen and a half slug hits from the bunker, mostly small-caliber artillery.’
The two combat reports suggest that the SMK did in fact see intense action on the first day of fighting, but more was still to come.
The next day, 18th December 1939, the SMK, T-100, and KV were involved in still heavier fighting. This time, however, the SMK was involved in direct fighting. The three vehicles advanced down a road towards the bunker and were engaged directly with Finnish 37 mm Bofors guns. The SMK was hit at least a dozen times by 37 mm rounds, and successfully engaged Finnish positions, firing its main guns in anger. This, however, did not last long, as a shot from one of the 37mm guns jammed the main turret of the SMK, causing the crew of the main turret to become preoccupied with fixing this problem rather than fighting.
As the SMK traveled down the road, what the crew thought to be Finnish stores were stacked to one side of the road, and the SMK proceeded to roll over this equipment. It is claimed by the driver that he did not notice this debris, but the boxes and stores were hiding a Finnish anti-tank mine.
The mine detonated on the tank’s forward left track. The explosion was enormous, and ripped apart the SMK’s track, buckled the chassis, and broke the torsion bar suspension. The blast had also damaged the transmission, shut off electrics to the tank, and part of the floor plate had been knocked downwards.
One crewman, the driver, I.I. Ignatiev, was knocked unconscious by the blast, but was not seriously wounded.
In the T-100, EI Roshchin, a tester from the Kirov Plant, recalled that: ‘Going to the damaged SMK, our tanks (T-100 and KV) covered him with their armor. The T-100 stood in front and to the right, a KV was also in front, but a little to the left, so a triangular armored fortress was formed from three cars. In this configuration, we not only lasted for several hours, but also tried to put the SMK on the course, connecting the broken tracks. We were well-dressed in new coats, felt boots, fur helmets, mittens and the severe frost was easily tolerated, but the damage was too great – except for the tracks, the rollers suffered and the heavy machine could not be moved.’
Attempts were made to recover the SMK, but the track of the T-100 and SMK slipped on the heavy snow, and therefore the vehicle had to be abandoned. The crew of the SMK were evacuated by the T-100, which had more than enough room to accommodate the now 15 strong group in the tank.
Interestingly, D.A. Pavlov had been observing this engagement unfold. Upon the return of the SMK crew, they were personally de-briefed by Pavlov, and were given awards. But the question remained what to do with the wrecked SMK? The Soviets could not simply allow the Finns to capture the USSR’s newest heavy tank prototype.

Fate and Cancelation

On 20th December 1939, special orders were given by Pavlov to remove the SMK, and recover it to the Soviet lines. Seven T-28 tanks, two 45 mm guns, and an infantry battalion were given the task of recovering the SMK. This, however, was not successful. One T-28 was knocked out by artillery fire near the SMK, 43 infantrymen were injured, and two killed. Therefore, the SMK sat in the snow. Soviet crews had left many hatches open to the elements, and snow and water got inside the tank, further damaging the vehicle.
The vehicle sat where it was lost until February 1940. The Finns had shown little interest in the behemoth, though the vehicle was photographed. The T-28 lost near the SMK was harvested for spares, as the Finns had captured a number of T-28s in working condition, and were in the midst of pressing them into Finnish service.
While this was happening, the ABTU was finishing up the job of choosing a successor to the T-35. This was given to the KV tank, which had proved the best of the three vehicles tested. The designers of the T-100, Factory 185, tried for a while longer to have their design accepted, but to no avail. A second KV prototype was ordered in December, and KV-U0 returned to Kirov to have a new, ‘big turret’ fitted to hold a direct fire 152 mm support weapon.
As for the SMK prototype, the vehicle was cut up and scrapped after February 1940. Interestingly, the crew who served in the SMK were very fond of the vehicle, and spoke warmly of its survivability.

The last photograph of the SMK known to have been taken by Finnish authorities. A T-28 can be seen in front of the SMK, one of the vehicles sent to help recover it. Source: Aviarmor.com
The SMK was a vehicle too late to be practical, as its replacement was essentially designed in tandem with it. The flaws in multi-turreted tanks had been adequately displayed. Despite this, the SMK was a fine vehicle, being heavily armed and armored. Strictly following the ABTU’s specifications for a new multi-turreted heavy tank, the SMK was the vehicle the Red Army was looking for, but not the one it actually needed. However, the single-turreted version of the SMK, the KV, became one of the most important and influential vehicles in the history of armored warfare.
Interestingly, despite the flaws in multi-turreted tanks, engineers at the Kirov Plant drew up plans for a future KV tank with multiple turrets. This was the KV-5, with a 107 mm gun in a main turret, and a small sub-turret equipped with a DT-29 machine gun. This vehicle never left the drawing stage.
While the SMK was scrapped, the T-100 was converted into a heavy assault gun and renamed the T-100Y. This vehicle has survived to the present day, and resides at Patriot Park in Moscow. The KV prototype, KV-U0, was deployed on the Western Front (from the Soviet perspective) when the German attack came on 22nd June 1941, and was captured intact by German forces. It was likely scrapped by the Germans.
The Finns took at least one official photograph of the SMK, and handed it over to their allies. One such ally was Germany, which was busy categorizing Soviet tanks (both before and during WWII). The Germans were well aware of the T-35A. German categorisation called the cylindrical-turreted tanks T-35A, the conical-turreted tanks T-35B (though the Soviet T-35B was an entirely different product) and, interestingly, they called the SMK the ‘T-35C’. Despite the tanks having little in common beyond having more than one turret, the Germans thought that there was enough of a similarity to call it a T-35.
The official name for all T-35s was T-35A. This includes conical-turreted tanks. The T-35B was a version of the T-35 with a V2 diesel engine, which was planned but not produced.

The right side view of the SMK. The chassis has eight road wheels and four return rollers. This would be cut down two six road wheels and three return rollers on the KV tank. This was ultimately more successful and less cumbersome than the SMK’s layout. Source: TSAMO via Maxim Kolomiets

Sources

Tanks of the Winter War – Maxim Kolomiets
T-35 Heavy Tank. Land Dreadnought of the Red Army – Maxim Kolomiets
Aviarmor.com

SMK specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 8.75 x 3.4 x 3.25 m (28.7 x 11.1 x 10.9 ft)
Total weight, battle-ready 55 tons
Crew 7 – driver, engineer, 45 mm gunner, 45 mm loader, 76.2 mm gunner, 76.2 mm loader, commander
Propulsion GAM-34BT (ГАМ-34БТ) V-shaped 12-cylinder engine, 850 [email protected] rpm
Speed 35.5 km/h (22 mph)
Range 725 km
Armament 76.2 mm L-11 gun
Model 1934 45 mm gun
4 х 7.62 mm DT machine guns
12.7 mm DsHK model of 1938
Armor Frontal: 75 mm (2.95 in)
Side and rear: 55-60 mm (2.16- 2.3 in)
Turret side: 30 mm (1.81 in)
Bottom: 30 mm (1.81 in)
Top: 20 mm (0.7 in)
Production 1 prototype made


Illustration of the SMK Heavy Tank Prototype by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.

Tanks Encyclopedia Magazine, #2

Tanks Encyclopedia Magazine, #2


The second issue of the Tank Encyclopedia magazine covers the fascinating history of armored fighting vehicles from their beginnings before the First World War up to this day! This issue covers vehicles such as the awe-inspiring rocket-firing German Sturmtiger, the Soviet SMK Heavy Tank, the construction of a replica Italian Fiat 2000 heavy tank and many more. It also contains a modeling section and a feature article from our friends at Plane Encyclopedia cover the Arado Ar 233 amphibious transport plane! All the articles are well researched by our excellent team of writers and are accompanied by beautiful illustrations and period photos. If you love tanks, this is the magazine for you!
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Categories
German tactics Soviet tactics

The Soviet Counter-Attack at Verba

30th of June 1941

Operation Barbarossa

On the 22nd of June 1941, the Soviet Union was attacked by the armed forces of Germany and its allies. From the Baltic sea in the north, to the Black Sea in the south, three German army groups, comprising about 3,000 tanks, 5,000 planes, and nearly 3,000,000 men, attacked the Soviet Union with the aim of total domination of the lands of the USSR for Leibensraum “living space”.
Army Group North was to capture the Baltic states and Leningrad, Army Group Centre was to strike at Moscow, and Army Group South was to capture Kiev. Army Group South was first to strike from Poland and capture the frontier cities such as Lvov and Zhytomir.
While Operation Barbarossa would eventually stall out just short of reaching Moscow the Germans were successfully repulsed from the capital by Soviet counterattacks, the cost to the Red Army was immense. According to Soviet sources, the Red Army lost more than 800,000 soldiers killed, 1.2 million wounded or sick and more than 2.3 million captured. Sources claim that, during 1941, the Soviets lost around 6.29 million small arms, 101,000 guns, 10,600 aircraft, 325 ships, 20,500 tanks, 3,000 armored cars and 159,000 other vehicles (trucks, tractors, cars). While there is generally no consensus on these numbers, what is accepted is that the Soviet losses were extremely high and would have broken any other army of the time.
These huge losses also lead to the effective removal of certain older and out of production models of tanks from the Red Army, including the gargantuan T-35A. Almost all were lost by the end of 1941, most from drivetrain problems. However, some T-35s did fight back, counter-attacking the Germans at Verba, in north-western Ukraine. But, in what seems to be a recurring situation for the Soviet Armored forces during those desperate days, the assault consisted solely of tanks, with no infantry, artillery or aircraft support.

T-35A in the fight

Of the forty-eight T-35A tanks deployed in the 8th Mechanised Corps, all were lost by the 6th of July, just 15 days after the fighting started. Fortunately, the documentation from the 67th and 68th Tank Regiments survived, and provide valuable insight into the combat performance of the T-35A.
Of the 48 T-35A’s that were deployed in the 8th Mechanized Corps, all tanks were lost in the withdrawal from their garrisons east of Lvov to Zhitomir.
Some T-35As were driven to Zhitomir from Dubno, originally deployed between Lvov and Przemysl, being chased all the way by the German front line. Most T-35As were lost on this march rather than in combat due to mechanical issues.
The T-35As were slowly being picked off either though breakdowns or the occasional enemy engagement, while on the march from their bases to the east of Lvov. A few tanks turned around and fought back, inflicting some casualties onto the Germans.

Counterattack

There was only one real documented engagement in which the T-35A tank was used, destroyed in combat, and later photographed. On the 24th of June 1941, two days after the invasion of the USSR, the German Army found a gap between the Soviet 5th and 6th Armies. This was exploited to create a corridor lead by the XXXXVIII Motorized Corps, which included the 11th Panzer Division and the 16th Panzer Division.
The Red Army was not unaware that the German Army (Panzergruppe 1) had found this gap, and moved to meet the Germans on their flanks. The Soviet 8th, 9th, 15th and 19th Mechanized Corps were ordered to meet the Germans and engage them.
The bulk of the fighting that involved the T-35A was between Dubno (which was recaptured on 28 June by the 8th Mechanized Corps) and Brody, which was never liberated in the counterattack. It was between these two towns that a handful of T-35s engaged the enemy. According to the records of the men of the 16th Panzer Division and the records of the losses of the 34th Tank Division, four T-35As, two BT-7s, two T-26s and a KV-1 attacked the German flank at Verba. This was where elements the 16th Panzer Division were laid up – this village had previously been captured on June 27th.
The attack was conducted without infantry support and did not have any main goals other than driving the enemy out of Verba. There was no Soviet artillery support or air support. The Germans, on the other hand, had access to air support.
It is reported that the Soviets achieved cutting the communications between the 16th Panzer Division and the 6th Army. However, all of the attacking Soviet tanks were lost in the engagement.

Verba

The village of Verba is located in western Ukraine, is situated between the towns of Dubno and Brody. To the north-east was the village of Pitch’ye, and to the south-west lay Hranivka. These three villages were on a major road that ran north-east from Lvov to the city of Rivne.

A map of Verba (Werba) and Dubno from 1936. Before 1939, this area belonged to Poland, hence the Polish names. One can see the main road and railway line from Lvov to Kiev. Sorce: https://igrek.amzp.pl/
The village of Verba sat on a corner of the road as it changed direction from east to northeast, with the road not actually going through Verba, rather passing to the north of the village. Verba also sits on the northern bank of the Ikva River, which had a rather large floodplain roughly a kilometer either side of the river. Verba is positioned on the hill on the northern side of this river basin.
The village of Verba was very typical of Ukraine, with an Orthodox church and perhaps no more than twenty houses at that time of the war. The Lvov-Kiev railway passes through Verba, which has a small station.
The main road to the north of Verba was a dirt road, which had a smaller dirt support road. Between these roads was a small drainage ditch that varied in height. The road was straight as it approached Verba, however it curved to the north as it passed Verba. Where the road curved, the road went down the side of the Ikva river flood basin banks. As it curved the road dropped by about 10 meters, with a steep bank on the river side of the road and a small hill to the north of the road.

A 1931 map of Verba or, as it was known then, Werba. The junction at the center left of the map is the described curve in the road, with the village to the south of the road, along with the Ikva floodplain. Source: https://igrek.amzp.pl/
On the curve in the road was a small junction to enter Verba from the east, and posts were placed every meter to indicate to traffic the drop on the other side of the road. After this curve north, the road flattens, with a small drop to the south where the river floodplain was, and a small hill to the north. The road was straight from there to Pich’ya.

Prelude to Battle

The village of Verba was once Polish territory and in September 1939 was captured from Poland and given to Ukraine, to whom the Lviv Oblast now belongs. On September 19th, 1939, Polish Cavalry units attacked a Soviet force of BA-10 armored cars at Verba, losing 50 men in this attack.
Between the wars, Verba was another quiet village, until the Germans attacked the USSR on 22 June 1941.
The village of Verba was captured by German forces on 27 June 1941. It is not known exactly how the road was captured, however, photographic evidence from Verba shows that a Soviet truck, likely a ZiS-5, was lost on the road, and a Panzer II turret has been found in the ditch between the two roads on the northern side.
From the 26th of June 1941, the Soviet counter-attack against Panzergruppe 1 began. This huge battle is often called “The Battle of Brody” or “The Bloody Triangle”. Some historians have suggested that it was this battle that should be called the biggest tank battle in history, not Kursk.

A map of the German assault on Ukraine. One can see that the XXXXVIII Mot Assault between Dubno and Brody. Some notes on the names on the map, before the Soviet occupation of the area, the City of Lviv was called Lwow. Under the Soviet occupation, Lwow became Lvov. Then, the German name for the city was Lemberg. Finally, after the fall of the USSR, Lvov was renamed Lviv and is currently Ukrainian territory. Source: Panzer Archive
The Village of Verba had seen some more action on June 29th, 1941, during a night attack, the Soviet infantry had successfully engaged and captured some Panzer III tanks from the 16th Panzer Division. Some speculation is that perhaps the Panzer III seen at Verba might have been previously involved in the fighting during the night before the main Soviet counter attack.
The Battle for Brody lasted for four days, from 26 June to 30 June 1941 and involved 585 German tanks and 3,046 Soviet tanks. Therefore, a total of 3,631 tanks were involved in this titanic battle.
After the battle of Brody, which included the Battle of Verba, 408 German and every single Soviet tank was destroyed. The counter-attack almost crippled Army Group South, however, left no enemy for this battered force to face, as everything in their way had been used and destroyed.
The Battle of Verba was perhaps the last engagement of the Soviet Counter-attack. After the previous three days of battle, Verba had elements of the 16th Panzer Division and the XXXXVIII Motorized Division positioned in and around the village.
The Soviets were positioned at Pich’ye and were poised to make a last-ditch attempt to breakout west. The assaulting force consisted of four T-35As (chassis numbers 148-30, 220-25, 988-16 and 0200-0), two BT-7 tanks, two T-26 tanks and a single KV-1.
By June 30th, the fourth day of the Soviet attempted counter-attack, both the Soviet and German units were exhausted from constant attack and counter-attack. However, the Germans were certainly fairing better, even though the odds were still numerically against them.
On the night off June 29th, a German reconnaissance flight picked up over 100 Soviet tanks between Dubno and Pitch’ye. Some of the tanks were noted to be heavy multi-turreted tanks. The bulk of this force moved east to clear German bridgeheads at Zaslaw, south-east of Verba. However, a small group of vehicles drove south-west to attack the Germans at Verba.
These vehicles advanced southwest down the two roads towards the village of Verba. Currently, it is hypothesized from the photographic evidence that on the left-hand main road was T-35 0200-0, T-35 220-25, the two T-26 tanks and the KV-1. It is theorized that T-35 148-39, T-35 988-16, and the two BT-7s were on the right-hand support road.

Vehicles involved

Soviet side

T-35A 0200-0
T-35A 0200-0 was manufactured in 1938 and was equipped with an anti-aircraft gun in a P-40 rotating mount. The tank had no clothesline antenna and notable features include amplified machine gun turret faces and the late type interior exhaust. All of the T-35s in the battle were from the 68th Tank Regiment. The regiment was ordered to paint two shirt white lines on the turret side to denote this regiment, and all T-35s in the battle were equipped with this mark.

T-35A 220-25
220-25 was manufactured in 1936 and had early features like the single turret escape hatch. However, due to the combat damage, the least is known about this tank’s features. Only recently has evidence of the turret come to light.
The chassis displays signs of heavy modification. The front idler wheels of the tank were replaced with stamped wheels without the usual holes of the cast spider type wheels. The driver’s hatch was replaced with the “BT” type driver’s hatch. This hatch is known as the “BT” type due to its resemblance to the BT-7 conical turreted tank’s escape hatches. The exhaust was also the interior type exhaust.
T-35A 148-39
Originating from the first production batch of T-35s, T-35A 148-39 was an early type tank that had been updated during the pre-war years. As it was from the first production batch, the clothesline antenna only had six arms to attach it to the turret. This had been totally removed pre-war and only the six square feet remained. The tank had been modernized with an internal exhaust system.
T-35A 988-16
The last T-35 at Verba, 988-16 was manufactured in 1938 and displayed a mixture of early and late features. The exhaust was the early exterior type, and the driver’s vision hatch was also an early version. The tank also had the clothesline antenna intact.
KV-1
A single KV-1 was present, likely a part of the 34th Tank Division and probably the 67th Tank Regiment, however, this is not known for sure. It was likely a part of this division, as the vehicle was painted with white air identification triangles, which was common for the 8th Mechanized Corps, and specifically the 34th Tank Division.
The KV in question was manufactured between April and May 1941 due to the technical features of the tank, which include a bolted rear turret ball mount and the placement of the turret handrail between the turret periscopes rather than behind the rearmost turret side periscope.
BT-7
Two BT-7 fast tanks were present at the battle. Each machine was equipped with a cylindrical turret and both machines were equipped with the K-20 45mm gun rather than the Model 1934 45mm gun. The exterior distinguishing feature of the K20 gun was the welded construction of the mantlet, whereas the Model 1934s mantlet was pressed into shape, giving it a rounded appearance.
At least one BT-7 was painted with white air identification triangles on the turret side, placed over a serial number “434”. The second BT was too badly burned to make out the turret markings, however, it likely had a similar scheme.
T-26
One, but possibly two T-26 tanks were deployed at Verba. Both tanks found are commonly called the “Model 1940” standard of T-26, although this is incorrect as the machine was introduced in 1939. The tanks both had a conical turret and both machines were equipped with the 20mm upper hall armor that was angled. Both tanks were also painted with white air identification triangles, however at least one T-26 had this re-painted green, and a simple line divisional marking was painted onto the turret side. This marking has been identified as that of the 67th Tank Regiment, which also fielded T-35A tanks, however, these were not present at Verba, nor did any T-35 get painted with the 67th Tank Regiments divisional marking.

German side

Not much is known about the German side of the Battle of Verba. What is known is that at least two Panzer III Tanks were present from the 16th Panzer Division, and men of the XXXXVIII Motorized Division were present. An 88mm Flak gun was deployed in a defensive position to the east of Verba, and support vehicles, likely also from the 16th Panzer Division, were present.
One Panzer III was an Ausf.G variant, with a short 50mm gun and exterior brackets for the extra jerry can stowage, whereas the other machine was a Panzer III Ausf J, which was also equipped with a short 50mm gun and extra jerry can stowage. These Panzer IIIs were photographed far less than the T-35s, however, a single turret digit has been found on the Panzer III G, the number being “2XX”

The battle

The left-side group

It should be noted that both columns of tanks attacked at the same time, and worked somewhat together. The divide between two columns was less than three meters, and the two columns were only separated by a drainage ditch between the two roads.
The left-hand group consisted of two T-35As, the two T-26 tanks, and the KV-1 heavy tank. On 30 June, while attacking the 16th Panzer Division, these vehicles were driving south-west down the Verba road on the left-hand road. This placed the drainage ditch between the roads on the right of the vehicles
It is thought that T-35A 0200-0 was in front of the line of tanks on the left road. Spearheading this column, the tank took heavy fire from the front and the sides. The village of Verba was to the south off the road and was occupied by the Germans. A railway line crossed the field to the south of Verba.
0200-0 appears to have been an early casualty. Likely due to track damage or even the death of the driver, the tank crashed into the ditch between the two roads. The front right idler wheel sunk into the soft ground and 0200-0 was firmly stuck. The tank likely fought on in this position, as the rear turret was facing the Germans. The barrel of this 45mm gun was actually hit and put out of action.

Moments after the guns fell silent, 0200-0 lays in the ditch between the two main roads, Only minutes passed before the T-26 would be moved into the ditch between the roads. Source: “Fallen Giants: The Combat Debut of the T-35A Tank” by Francis Pulham, Francis Pulham Collection.
The main turret’s P-40aa mount was equipped with its 7.62mm DT-29 machine gun and it was likely engaging German infantry. No bodies of the crew have been found in the photographic evidence, however it is almost certain that there were casualties.

Perhaps July 1st or 2nd, 0200-9 and the T-26 are now nothing more than photograph opportunities for German soldiers. Source: “Fallen Giants: The Combat Debut of the T-35A Tank” by Francis Pulham, Francis Pulham Collection.
A T-26 model 1940 belonging to the 34th Tank Division was lost next to 0200-0. It likely reversed into the wreck of 0200-0 judging by the photographic evidence. The tank was originally lost on the road, however it was swiftly pushed into the drainage ditch that 0200-0 had fallen into.
The T-26 displays no obvious damage other than a single hit to the front left-hand fender. It is likely that the tank reversed into 0200-0 after the destruction of 148-39. 148-39 was destroyed by air attack, and blew up in spectacular fashion, therefore it is not difficult to speculate that the crew of the T-26 did not want to share the same fate.

The T-26 lost with T-35A 0200-0. Notice the minor damage that includes a small penetration to the front fender, and the missing gun-shield. Source: “Fallen Giants: The Combat Debut of the T-35A Tank” by Francis Pulham, Francis Pulham Collection.
220-25 was likely behind 0200-0, but in front of the lighter tanks on that day. The tank made it past the wreck of 0200-0 and was likely responsible for the few German tank casualties of that day. The Verba road gradually increased in gradient and then curved to the right. A road crossed this north to south.

This photograph was taken on June 30th, 1941, by a man of the 16th Panzer Division. Other photographs from this collection indicate that the man was present at the battle of Verba. Here, 220-25 after suffering a direct bomb hit. Source: Francis Pulham Collection
It was here that T-35A 220-25 was bombed by a Ju-87 dive bomber. The tank was torn in half by the impact and subsequent bomb detonation.
The main turret was thrown from the hull by the explosion and landed in the main road (from where it was very quickly removed after the battle). The rear turrets stayed in place, however, the front 45mm gun turret was blown sky high, to land in front of the tank. The rear pedestal remained intact, but the front portion was obliterated. The hull was cut in two behind the front suspension bogie on the right-hand side of the tank.

220-25 once again. In the background, smoke can be seen around 148-39. This photograph was also from the 16th Panzer Division. Source: Francis Pulham Collection
The wreck was left in place until 1942, when it was moved off the road, when the front portion completely fell off.
The KV-1, also from the 34th Tank Division of the 8th Mechanized Corps, was knocked out east of 0200-0. It seems that this vehicle was retreating, as it faced eastward, with the tank’s rear facing the Germans. The turret was turned around, probably trying to engage the enemy.
The KV displays multiple penetrations and ricochets to the turret sides and rear, with the most noticeable damage being the dislodging of the transmission, discernible by the shifting of the drivetrain to the right which removed the drive wheel’s hubcap.
The earliest photographs show the KV-1 still on the roadside, but it appears that within the hour of the battle ending, the KV-1 and the T-26 were pushed to the roadside into the ditch between the two roads.

This KV-1 was also lost at Verba. 0200-0 can be seen on the right. Source: “Fallen Giants: The Combat Debut of the T-35A Tank” by Francis Pulham, Francis Pulham Collection.
The last vehicle in the group, another T-26 Model 1940, made it the furthest east of all the tanks, finally being lost near T-35A 988-16 from the right side group. However, not much is known about this tank, as the Germans preferred to photograph the T-35s.

The right side group

Speculations place two T-35s and the two BT-7s on the right hand support road. On 30 June, this group advanced south west down the Verba road in the right hand lane, with the drainage ditch between the roads on the left of the vehicles.
The T-35A 148-39 was likely first in the column of tanks on the right-hand road. This tank drove past the point where 0200-0 was lost. To the tank’s left was the drainage ditch in which 0200-0 had fallen and on the right was a steep hillside, with a wooded area and a building on top of this hill. Past this was a flat piece of land, level with the road that 148-39 was driving on.

148-39 dates from the first batch of T-35s. It was also one of the more heavily damaged tanks. The two BT-7s can be seen in this photograph, although the rear tank, number “434” has been moved forward of its original resting place. Source: “Fallen Giants: The Combat Debut of the T-35A Tank” by Francis Pulham, Francis Pulham Collection.
It is thought that when the tank reached 0200-0, the Soviets were attacked by Ju-87 dive bombers. The tank turned to the right and had nearly completely exited the road, however the dive bombers could not miss such an open target.
148-38 blew up in a spectacular explosion. The entire upper structure of the tank was opened like a can, with the main turret, turret pedestal and all of the sub turrets being blown off the tank.

The main turret of 148-39, along with other debris. One can clearly see the three-foot plates where the antenna used to be attached to. This is a clear indicator that the machine is a 148 chassis number. Source: “Fallen Giants: The Combat Debut of the T-35A Tank” by Francis Pulham, Francis Pulham Collection.
The main turret landed on the road that 148-39 was advancing up. The forward 45mm turret landed on the hill to the right of this flattened area. The rear MG turret landed in the drainage ditch between the roads. The rear 45mm gun turret landed back onto the destroyed hull of 148-39.

The forward interior of 148-39. The machine gun turret ring is on the left, and the 45mm gun turret’s position is on the right. One can see the 45mm ammunition stowage in the forward wall. Source: Francis Pulham Collection

The rear interior of 148-39. Notice the rear gun removal access door for the 45mm gun in the turret. Source: “Fallen Giants: The Combat Debut of the T-35A Tank” by Francis Pulham, Francis Pulham Collection.
Some of the bombs aimed at 148-39 missed, creating deep craters to the east of the wreck. No crew survived this incident.
Between 0200-0 and 148-39, two BT-7s tanks were lost. The westernmost tank had burned out, whereas the second vehicle seems to lack any damage. It is possible that the first BT-7 was destroyed by enemy aircraft, however no apparent damage other than the burned surface can be found, no penetrations or bomb damage.

A view of the Verba road. T-35A 0200-0 would be behind the camera. T-35A 148-39 sits on the roadside, and one can see T-35 220-25 up the road. Source: “Fallen Giants: The Combat Debut of the T-35A Tank” by Francis Pulham, Francis Pulham Collection.
As for the second BT-7, it is possible that it either suffered a mechanical breakdown or that the crew panicked when the German planes attacked (or when they took out the two T-35As) and abandoned the vehicle.

The two BT-7s lost at Verba. These were the original positions of the tanks before the rearmost vehicle was moved forward next to the front tank. Source: Francis Pulham Collection
The last Soviet vehicle in the battle, T-35A 988-16, was likely situated in the right-hand lane, however, this is the most uncertain position, as the tank could have crossed from one side of the road to the other.
988-16 successfully passed the wrecks of 0200-0, 148-39 and 220-25, before cresting the hill at Verba, with the village to the south of the tank. 988-16 passed the village itself, and drove another 50 meters west.
The tank took a hail of fire, to the front of the hull and turrets. Upon reaching this long straight road west of the battle, the tank met a well hidden FlaK 37 88mm anti-aircraft gun.

988-16 made it furthest east of any T-35 during the battle. This photograph was taken shortly after the battle. A dead crewman can be seen in the ditch, partially covered by the watermark. The damage that 988-16 took was great. Source: Francis Pulham Collection
The thin frontal armor of the T-35 was little match for the heavy shell of the FlaK gun and a hit, likely to the front machine gun turret, was enough to stop the monster in its tracks. The face of the front machine gun turret was blown completely off and many other items were shot off or damaged.

T-35A 988-16 shortly after the battle. The photographer has kindly annotated the image to reveal the location of the 88mm Flak gun. Source: “Fallen Giants: The Combat Debut of the T-35A Tank” by Francis Pulham, Francis Pulham Collection.
The KT-28 main gun was shot out of its cradle, the turret cheek MG mount was blown out of its ball, the front 45mm gun turret’s periscope was shot away, the clothesline antenna was damaged, and many other items were removed. Apart from a single T-26, this was the furthest point for the Soviet counter-attack at Verba.

A close inspection of the nose of 988-16 reveals the large number of hits the tank took before being stopped. One headlight is missing, there are many penetrations to the hull and turrets, the KT-28 gun has taken hits, and the ball mount is maying on the floor in front of 988-16, however new photographic evidence suggests this was placed there by German soldiers, as it originally lay on the front 45m turret. Source: “Fallen Giants: The Combat Debut of the T-35A Tank” by Francis Pulham, Francis Pulham Collection.

It is unknown whether this T-26 was lost in the fighting on June 30th 1941. This tank was lost close to 988-16, with the row of trees concealing the Flak 88 being in this frame. Reasons for this tank not being in this battle is the fact that the tank is facing east, implying it had to turn around; however another clue that this T-26 was indeed involved in the fighting, is that it has the turret markings that match with the T-26 lost next to 0200-0. Unfortunately, of all of the tanks at Verba, this humble T-26 is by far the rarest to find photographically, as the Germans preferred to photograph the T-35s that were less than 30 meters east of this machine. Source: Francis Pulham Collection.

German casualties

The Russians did not have the monopoly on casualties; at least two German Panzer III tanks were knocked out of action, along with about three German trucks.
The Panzer III Ausf J was on the left-hand side of the road and likely took hits to the tank’s left side, as this was facing the Soviet columns. The tank’s road wheels seem to have dug into the mud of the roadside.

A View of the Verba road from the photographic record of a man from the 16th Panzer Division. Smoke still billows from 220-25 and 148-39. A Panzer III Ausf.J can be seen on the left. A second tank was knocked out behind the camera. Source: Francis Pulham Collection

The same Panzer III as in the previous photograph. While no damage can be seen from this side, the exposed left side likely took a battering from the hail of fire from up to four T-35s. Source: Francis Pulham Collection

The Panzer III Ausf J after tracks had been removed. Unfortunately, photographs of these tanks are rare, as German soldiers preferred to photograph the T-35s. Source: Francis Pulham Collection

A rare view of the rear of the Panzer III Ausf J, to T-35A 220-25. The damage to the Panzer III is clear, however compared to the T-35, minor. Source: Francis Pulham Collection.
The Panzer III Ausf G was lost 25 meters in front of 220-25, in the drainage ditch between the two roads. One 45mm gun penetration can be found on the tank’s left side, likely not the shot that disabled the tank, as the front right drive wheel was totally removed from the tank, also taking off the track. The rear right idler wheel was also removed from the tank.

The Panzer III Ausf G. T-35A 220-25 was positioned in front and to the left of this tank. Notice the 45mm penetration to the hull side. Source: Francis Pulham Collection

A general map of the battle of Verba. One can see the large scattering of vehicles. From right to left: Green represents the KV-1. Next, T-35A 0200-0 (red) and the T-26 (Orange). Next the two BT-7 tanks (Yellow), and T-35A 148-39 (red). The next three tanks are the two Panzer III tanks (grey), and T-35A 220-25 (red). The Panzer III J is north of 220-25, and the Panzer III G is east of 220-25. Next, unmarked on the map was a small collection of destroyed trucks. The last red square is T-35A 988-16. The green ‘X’ Represents the 88mm Flak gun and, finally, the T-26 (orange). Source: Fallen Giants: The Combat Debut of the T-35A Tank.

Post-battle

The village of Verba was scattered with vehicles and, throughout the duration of the war, the Germans slowly dismantled the vehicles left, and moved them to the roadside. After the war, the Soviets dismantled what was left, thereby leaving no physical survivors.
During the postwar era, the main road from Brody to Dubno was redirected north of Verba and was renamed the E40 highway. Verba itself has been greatly built upon, with much of the new village being extended north of the old major road.
A gas station has now additionally been built roughly where the KV-1 was lost. The wartime main road is still in use today, and thanks to google earth you can now virtually visit the battlefield.

Sources

Most of the information about the battle action was inferred by post-combat photographs and the information given in the documented losses of the T-35s. However, one actual combat photograph exists, whereas all other photographs known to experts are post-combat photographs, and have been brought to light through painstaking photographic research.
In January 2018, fresh evidence was found from a soldier of the 16th Panzer Division in the form of his photo album, that detailed elements of the battle. The photographs are presented above, and are now a part of the extensive “Francis Pulham Collection”. More information is required to fully trace this epic battle, however, only time will reveal more information.
Fallen Giants: The Combat Debut of the T-35A Tank – Francis Pulham
T-34 Medium Tank- Mikhail Baryatinsky, chapter “First Combat”, pages 68-72
Private conversations with Sergey Lotarev
Private conversations with Mikko Heikkinen
Soviet Casualties and Combat Losses in the Twentieth Century, Col.Gen.G.F.Krivosheev, ISBN 978-1853672804
www.t35incombat.narod.ru – Sergey Lotarev
www.axishistory.com

Categories
WW2 Soviet Prototypes

T-35 Prototypes

USSR (1932)
Heavy Tank – 2 Prototype

The T-35A tank is one of history’s strangest tanks – often seen crawling across the Soviet inter-war era parade squares. This tank grabbed the hearts, souls, and imaginations of the Soviet people and foreign military attachés alike. It was one of the many proud achievements of Soviet industrialisation – its image appeared on posters, films, and even medals and awards!

Prototypes

In the late 1920s and early 1930s, the USSR was desperate for a modern army. After hard fighting during the Civil War (1918-1920), the vehicles of the Red Army were worn out and obsolete. These consisted mostly of obsolete Mark V heavy tanks and Medium Mark A Whippets.
Designing and mass-producing a new vehicle would help the fledgling Red Army set foot on the international stage again. It would also give Soviet engineering a fantastic opportunity to put its skills to the test, which were comparatively primitive to those of the USA and Great Britain in the late 1920s.
However, as Soviet engineering was still in its early stages of modernization, and as Soviet engineers had little to no experience designing tanks, it was decided to outsource Soviet tank designing to foreign sources. This came in three different types. The USSR would either pay for engineers to come to the Soviet Union and help build tanks, buy blueprints from foreign powers and visit tank factories or outright purchase foreign tanks wholesale and begin local manufacture.
In the heavy tank department, the German engineer Ernst Grotte was brought in from Germany, a country banned from tank development. Between 1929 and 1931, his design team came up with the TG tank. Grotte was assigned to the Leningrad AVO-5 design bureau.

TG Tank

The TG tank was a large tank with two independent tiers of armament. The lower elliptical turret was equipped with an A-19 76.2mm (3 inch) gun, and a rotating turret mounted on top of the first one which was fitted with a 37mm (1.46 inch) PS-2 gun. The suspension consisted of coiled springs, and each side of the vehicle had five large diameter road wheels.
The TG tank also had three water-cooled 7.62mm (0.3 inches) Maxim machine guns, one on either side of the hull and one at the rear of the machine. The vehicle weighed 20 tonnes, The tank was powered by the M-6 Aero-engine and could reach a maximum of 35 kilometers per hour (22 mph). The TG had a crew of 5.
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The TG Tank during trials. The turret ring for the main turret broke, therefore tests were conducted with the turret permanently facing forward. Source: Military Images
The vehicle was tested in April 1931 and was quite successful, displaying good cross-country capabilities, relatively good speed, and reliability. A noted flaw though, was that the fighting compartment of the vehicle was very cramped.
However, the TG project was dropped, not due to the vehicle’s performance, as this was better than other Soviet prototypes at the same time, but rather due to costs. It would cost almost 1,500,000 roubles to manufacture a single such tank, money better spent on manufacturing up to twenty-five BT-2 fast tanks.
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The TG tank incorporated many modern ideas, however, it was an inherently flawed vehicle. Source: panzernet
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The TG tank in 1940. Nothing more than a display piece at the Polygon near moscow. Source: panzernet

Unrelated to the Independent

Some allege that the T-35 was inspired by the British A1E1 Independent tank, but Soviet-era sources claim that the A1E1 had no influence on the design, despite Soviet knowledge of the vehicle. Indeed, apart from the layout of the turrets, the T-35 and A1E1 are very different machines.

The British A1E1 independent tank. Even a quick inspection will reveal that the machine is vastly different to even the prototype T-35-1 and T-35-2. Illustration by David Bocquelet.
Soviet engineers were given the opportunity to inspect the A1E1 Independent tank when advisors from the USSR visited the Vickers factory in 1930. However, they found the same flaws in the machine as the British did, i.e. that the tank was too long and too thin, and the tank’s sides were prone to warping under the tension of the tracks.

T-35 specification

Dimensions (L-w-h) Unknown
Total weight, battle ready 35 Tons
Crew 9
Propulsion M-6/ M-17L Aero engine
Armament 1x Ps-3 76.2mm, 2x Ps-1 37mm, 4x 7.62mm
Total production 2

Links, Resources & Further Reading

Fallen Giants: The Combat Debut of the T-35A Tank – Francis Pulham
Land Battleship: The Russian T-35 Heavy Tank – Maxim Kolomiets & Jim Kinnear
aviarmour.ru
ww2 soviet armour
ww2 Soviet Tanks Poster

T-35-1 and T-35-2

A new heavy tank prototype was designed in early 1932, designated ‘T-35-1’. It was produced at the Kharkov Locomotive and Tractor Works (KhTZ). This first prototype had six pairs of road wheels arranged with two pairs of road wheels per bogie. Each bogie was fitted with coiled spring suspension comprised of two pairs of springs. The name T-35 comes from the Red Army requirement for a 35-ton tank.
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Both the T-35-1 and T-35-2 were paraded in 1933 on palace square. Notice the round turret roof of the T-35-1. Source: pinimg.com
All the sub-turrets of the prototype were of the same design and shape regardless of armaments. Two of the turrets were equipped with the 37 mm PS-2 guns and the other two having DT-29 machine guns. When facing forward and aft of the tank, the 37 mm turrets were on the right, while the machine gun turrets were on the left. The main turret was fitted with a 76.2 mm PS-3 gun and another machine-gun in a ball-mount to the right of the gun. It was welded with distinctive curved roof and rested on an armored pedestal.
The tank had two armored skirts on either side to protect the suspension. However, rather foolishly, the skirts of the first prototype had no access ports and there was no way to access the suspension without pulling the skirts apart. The tank was powered by the M-6 aircraft engine, with the drive wheel at the rear. The tracks ran on top of 6 return rollers that were almost two meters above the ground.
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The T-35-1 turret was removed at some point when the tank was dismantled. Here it sits at the Polygon in 1940. Source: Sergey Lotarev
The prototypes had crews of 9, a driver, engineer/ hull machine gunner, a single crew member in each of the four small turrets, and three crew in the main turret. The driver and engineer were equipped with dome-type escape hatches on the front hull roof.
This prototype was evaluated in mid-1932 before a second prototype was ordered. The second prototype was outwardly similar, with the exception of the addition of access ports in the skirts. These were square shaped and gave all-important access to the bogies for maintenance. In addition, the main turret relinquished the round roof.
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The T-35-2 can be harder to distinguish from production T-35s, however inspection of the drivers compartment with the hull machine gun and the escape hatches clearly reveals its origin. Source: www.battlefield.ru
The powerplant of the second prototype was changed to the new M-17L Aero Engine. This was the Soviet copy of the BMW VI Aero engine. Accordingly, this prototype was called the ‘T-35-2’.
These T-35 prototypes were both evaluated but were not accepted for Red Army service. This was due to a new design buro designing a similar, yet superior machine.
The OKMO of Kharkov, in parallel with the T-35-2, had designed the T-35A prototype. Similarly to how the T-37 and T-37A were different vehicles with similar names, the two tanks shared similarities but were, by and large, different vehicles.

Visual Identification Guide

The two T-35 prototypes are discernable from production T-35A tanks through a multitude of factors. The main way of identification is by the placement of the exhaust pipes lengthwise on the rearmost fenders. Production T-35As had their exhaust lying sideways on the central hull, and in later tanks, this was moved under armor.
The turrets too are different. The main turret of the T-35-1 had a distinctive round roof, and the T-35-2 is missing much of the exterior detail that production T-35As had. The main gun in the main turret was also a PS-3 76.2mm gun rather than the KT-28 76.2mm gun of production tanks.
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The front of the T-35-1. Notice the two driver’s positions. Source: Land Battleship T-35
The sub turrets on the two prototype tanks were all identical to each other, whereas production T-35s 45mm gun turrets were larger than the machine gun turrets, and were cylindrical in shape.
Hulls too were very different, with the prototype T-35-1 and T-35-2 having only six road wheels per side, whereas production tanks had eight road wheels. The entire nose of the vehicle was different, with the two prototypes having round bulbous escape hatches for the driver and engineer. Additionally, there was a hull-mounted machine gun position on the prototypes absent from production tanks.
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One of the production T-35A’s. Notice the vast differences between this machine and the prototypes. Source: Land Battleship T-35

Conclusion

The two T-35 prototypes, while sharing the name and basic layout with the T-35A, was, in reality, an entirely different machine. It is clear inspecting the dimensions and the armaments that the prototypes were inferior in almost every way to the production T-35As.
While a useful jumping-off point, these prototypes were technical failures. The production tanks heavily differed from these prototypes, so much so that pre-Glasnost western sources called these prototypes “T-32”. This is, of course, wrong.


T-22 Tank Grotte prototype


T-35-1 prototype
Both Illustrations by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet

Combat Debut T35A
Fallen Giants: The Combat Debut of the T-35A Tank

By Francis Pulham

The Soviet T-35A is the only five-turreted tank in history to enter production. With a long and proud service history on Soviet parade grounds, the T-35A was forced to adapt to the modern battlefield when the Second World War broke out. Outclassed and outdated, the T-35A tried to hold its own against the German invaders to no avail. For the first time, actual battlefield photographs have been cross-referenced with maps and documents to bring about the most complete look at the T-35A in the Second World War to date.

Buy this book on Amazon!

Categories
WWII Soviet Heavy Tanks

T-35A Heavy Tank

Soviet Union (1934)
Heavy tank – 61 built

The Eastern Behemoth

The T-35A tank is one of history’s strangest tanks – often seen crawling across the Soviet inter-war era parade squares. This tank grabbed the hearts, souls, and imaginations of the Soviet people and foreign military attachés alike. It was one of the many proud achievements of Soviet industrialisation – its image appeared on posters, films, and even medals and awards.

Prototyping

The initial T-35-1 and T-35-2 prototypes were both evaluated by the Red Army, but were not accepted for service. This was due to a new design buro designing a similar, yet superior machine. The OKMO (Opytniy Konstruktorsko-Mekhanicheskiy Otdel, ‘Experimental Design Mechanical Department’) bureau of Kharkov, in parallel with the T-35-2, had designed the T-35A prototype. Similarly to how the T-37 and T-37A were different vehicles with similar names, the two tanks shared similarities but were, by and large, different vehicles.
A part of the reason for this change was the Soviet leader, Stalin himself becoming interested in the project and decreeing that the new T-35 and T-28 medium tank should share as many parts as possible.

An early production T-28 tank lost in the opening days of Barbarossa. The main turret and machine gun turrets were all borrowed from the T-28 and implemented onto the T-35. Source: Francis Pulham Collection.
The new tank was longer, which required the addition of an extra suspension bogie. The turrets were also redesigned. The 45-mm gun turrets were now round with room for two crewmen to operate a more potent K-20 gun, replacing the previous PS-3 37mm gun. The machine gun turrets were very similar to the secondary turrets on the T-28 medium tank. These turrets were originally produced in Leningrad, and copied for the T-35A tank.
The exhausts were moved from the fenders to the main body of the tank. This was done to protect the exhaust from damage. Finally, the main turret was now elliptical. It was identical to the main turret of the new T-28 tank. It featured a 76.2-mm KT-28 gun, an electrically powered turret traverse system, and complex electronics that indicated to the commander a number of turret positions. In addition, a 71-KT- 1 radio, with distinctive ‘clothesline’ antenna was added around the turret.
A T-35A before the addition of the P-40 AA mount. This scheme is from the 1936 summer maneuvers.
A T-35A before the addition of the P-40 AA mount. This scheme is from the 1936 summer maneuvers.

Production T-35s

The T-35A (that is often just called the T-35) did not have an official prototype, and production began in August 1933. This, however, did not go ahead as planned, as the T-35 was a very complex machine to manufacture.
The tank was assembled from nine separate pre-made frames and assembled on a jig. The original plan was to manufacture the first machine by the 1st of November 1933, however, the first production machine (chassis number 148-11) did not roll off the production line until January 1934.

Description of the T-35

The T-35 tank was 9.72 metres long by 3.2 metres wide by 3.43 metres high, and weighed 54 tonnes. The tank was powered by the M-17L aero engine that had an output of 580 hp, able to propel the tank at speeds up to 28 km/h on roads and 14 km/h off road. The hull was manufactured from plates that were 20 mm thick on the sides, 10 mm on the roof and floor and 30 mm on the glacis and nose. The hull sides had four hard points for the bogies of the tank, and a drive sprocket at the rear.
The running gear consisted of four bogies. Each bogie was made up of four coiled spring suspension arms in two pairs, with two pairs of road wheels in between them. There was a drive sprocket at the rear of the tank, and 6 return rollers, which were the same as the T-28’s road wheels. The track consisted of 135 links that were 526 mm wide.

A factory photograph of the T-35A’s running gear. Source: Land Battleship: The Russian T-35 Heavy Tank
In between the bogies were supporting brackets that attached to a skirt of metal that was on the exterior of the hull. These skirts were made from 5 plates, 10 mm thick, and attached to the bogie and the return roller support. This skirt was attached to a frame on the inside, and individual skirt parts could be removed. The skirt was attached to the fender, which ran from the front of the tank to the rear of the tank, and was where all of the equipment for the tank was stowed.
The engine deck consisted of a central hatch to access the engine, with two air intakes for the radiators either side of the engine access hatch. Behind this was the exhaust, which was originally an exterior exhaust with an armored cover for the front and sides. The rear of the tank sloped downwards, where a huge fan was located. This fan had a cover, which was attached to the tank by hinges, and has vertical slats on it to allow for air flow. Below this were two rear transmission hatches.

T-35A 288-43 exposing the engine deck. Notice the central hatch, flanked with two radiator air intakes. To the rear is the fan and fan cover. The slats could be opened or closed to allow for better airflow. Source: Francis Pulham Collection.
The tank had five turrets in the front two-thirds of the tank. These were arranged around a central turret pedestal. 45 mm turrets were placed in the front right and rear left, with MG turrets on the front left and rear right. The MG turrets were redesigned MG turrets from the T-28 tank, and were equipped with a ball mounted DT-29 machine gun. This turret had a single hatch, and a single vision port to the left.
The 45 mm gun turret was round, with a 45 mm K20 gun. The armor was 20 mm thick, and on the turret interior walls was 45 mm gun ammunition. Three racks were carried, one between the two vision ports on the right, one against the rear wall of the turret and one on the right wall. The rear ammunition rack could be removed, exposing a door at the rear of the turret that allowed for gun removal and maintenance.

T-35A 220-28 displaying the interior of the rear 45mm gun turret. Notice the stowage for the 45mm ammunition. Source: “Fallen Giants: The Combat Debut of the T-35A Tank”, and the Francis Pulham Collection.
There was also a magazine rack in this turret with enough space for seven magazines of thirty MG? rounds, This gave a total of 210 rounds. This turret had a crew of two men, a gunner and a loader. The gunner was also equipped with a T-71-1 periscope. The turret roof also had a smoke extractor and two hatches for the crew.
The main turret sat on a pedestal that elevated it above the 45 mm gun turrets. The main turret was elliptical in shape, with a slightly off-set K-28 76.2 mm gun. To the gun’s right was a cheek-mounted DT-29 machine gun in a ball mount. To the left of the gun was the turret traverse mechanism.
The turret was connected to a rotating floor plate by five arms. On the rotating turret floor were two seats for the gunner and the loader, with stowage for six 76mm rounds underneath each seat. Directly underneath the KT-28 gun was an ammunition rack for DT-29 machine gun ammunition. On the rear arm that connected the turret to the rotating turret floor was a folding seat for the commander.

T-35A 0200-0 displaying the turret roof of the T-35.Notice the twin periscopes, the two hatches for the crew and just visible is the pressed star on the turret roof. Source: “Fallen Giants: The Combat Debut of the T-35A Tank”, and the Francis Pulham Collection.
The turret roof was equipped with two TP-1 periscopes for the gunner and the loader. The first tanks were issued with turrets with a single square turret hatch for the crew. The later tanks were issued with a second hatch for the loader, and a P-40aa mount for the commander/gunner hatch. The turret roof had a pressed star between the two periscopes. The roof also had small spring stoppers for the main hatches.
The walls of the pedestals were equipped with ammunition racks for the 76.2mm ammunition and 7.62mm DT-29 machine gun ammunition. Within the turret and pedestal was a 71-TK-1 radio set and the tanks were all issued with ‘clothes line’ antennas. Ninety-six rounds of 76.2mm ammunition were carried, and 226 rounds of 45 mm ammunition. In addition, 10,080 rounds of DT-29 ammunition were carried in 380 magazines. The rear of the main turret also had a port for a DT-29 machine gun, however, no ball mount was issued until production of conical T-35s began.
The tank had a crew of ten: three crewmen in the main turret (commander, gunner, and loader), two in the 45 mm gun turrets (gunner, loader), one crewman in each machine gun turret, and the driver.
There was a production issue in 1936 that meant a batch of hulls were issued with 23 mm plates; and it was not until 1938 that the thickness of the tanks armor was increased. The T-35 as described until now is sometimes known as the ‘Cylindrical Turreted T-35’. Later production T-35s were manufactured with conical shaped turrets, sometimes known as “Conical Turreted T-35”.

Year 1934 1935 1936 1937 1938 1939
Chassis numbers 148-11 339-30 220-25 0197-1 0197-2 744-62
148-19 339-48 220-27 0197-6 0197-7 744-63
148-22 339-75 220-28 0217-3 0200-0 744-64
148-25 399-79 220-29 196-94 0200-4 744-65
148-30 399-78 220-43 196-95 0200-8 744-66
148-31 288-11 288-43 196-96 0200-5 744-67
148-39 288-14 288-65 988-15 0200-9
148-40 288-41 288-74 988-16 234-34
148-41 183-3 988-17 234-35
148-50 183-5 988-18 234-42
183-7 744-61
537-70
537-80
537-90
715-61
715-62

The table of production of the T-35A.

Production of the T-35A 1934-1937

Production started in 1934 and, by 1939, sixty-one vehicles were produced, ten of which were conical turreted T-35s. Throughout production, improvements were constantly being made.
Each tank had a chassis number, and these were made in batches, often not exceeding 5 tanks. The batch number was always three numbers, a hyphen, then one or two numbers.
The first production machines were those of the ‘148’ chassis numbers, starting with ‘148-11’. These machines were mainly identifiable from other T-35s by the turrets. The turret was constructed with a single strip of strengthening armor on the turret side, and the clothesline antenna was equipped with six arms that attached the antenna ring to the turret.

T-35A 148-30 as seen in Kharkov on October 22nd, 1941. The tank has been moderately upgraded with the removal of the clothesline antenna. Before this, the tank was re-issued an eight armed antenna.
The next batch of tanks, ‘339’ chassis numbers, starting with ‘339-30’, differed by having eight antenna arms attaching the antenna ring to the turret.
There were no major changes noted between the ‘330’ and the ‘288’ chassis numbered T-35s, although the ‘220’ T-35s did differ from the earlier tanks. The main turret was now equipped with two strips of turret support. This was likely due to cracking of the turret armor during production and in the field.
The 1936 ‘288’ and ‘183’ numbered chassis tanks reverted back to one turret strip of support, however, the two strips returned in the ‘537’ chassis tanks.

T-35A 537-70 after abandonment and capture. The Germans have painted a white warning on the front fender, as this tank was abandoned on the roadside. White triangles for air identification were common in the 67th Tank Regiment.
In 1936, the first major changes occurred. The main single turret hatch was replaced with two hatches and a P-40 anti-aircraft gun mount was added. The first tanks equipped with the P-40 mount was the 615 chassis numbered T-35s.
‘0217-35’ has not been identified in the photographic record, so unfortunately no information can be presented on this single machine.
Chassis numbers starting with ‘148’, ‘339’, ‘288’, ‘220’, ‘228’, ‘183’, and ‘537’ all had a single turret hatch (a total of thirty-one tanks), while chassis numbers ‘715’, ‘0197’, 217’, ‘196’, ‘988’, and ‘0200’ all had P-40 AA mounts (a total of nineteen tanks).

A cylindrical T-35A being inspected by German troops after it was abandoned by its crew. Source: Bronson, British Collectors of Arms & Militaria Forum.

Experiments with ‘183-5’ 1937 and 1938

After the summer maneuvers of 1936, major complaints were made against the T-35. Crews were unhappy with how unreliable the tanks were, with problems affecting nearly every aspect of the T-35.
The tank’s engine and transmission were prone to breakdown, and overheating was a major issue. The tanks often accumulated mud and debris between the drive wheel and the side skirt, which led to drivetrain failure. The crews had issues communicating, and the commander’s task was almost impossible, as he had too many responsibilities.
Some of the issues were inherent to the T-35A’s design. As the tank was so large, with so many turrets, there was little Soviet engineers could do to fix crew issues. Engine problems and gearbox problems were also inherent to long thin tanks such as the T-35, however after the summer maneuvers of 1936, T-35A ‘183-5’ was returned to the KhPZ (Kharkov Locomotive and Tractor Works) for testing.
During the testing, many items were evaluated and changed, some only minor and some major. While testing was being conducted, tanks were still being manufactured, so it was not until the 196 chassis numbers were on the workbench did two of the three tanks get selected to be improved upon for experiments.
‘196-94’ and ‘196-95’ were not assembled as regular T-35As, and were issued with unique features to the other T-35s. The rear part of the side skirt was removed to prevent mud build up around the drive wheel – something which often caused major problems with the track during maneuvers. The skirts were now fitted with triangular inspection ports, and the smoke generators were made homogeneous with the sub turret structure. This was applied to chassis numbers ‘196-94’ and ‘196-95’. After twelve more tanks were produced to the previous specification, production modernised to the new standard.
T35A
196-95 as seen at the Gorodok Repair Centre in July 1941. Despite the huge opportunity to decorate the T-35 tanks, only 196-95 was done so. The smoke generators had a small brass Lenin plack, and the glacis plate had a small plate with “In honor of the XXth anniversary of the October Revolution” written onto it.
Along with the major changes, minor improvements were made. For example, the exhaust pipe was moved under the armor of the tank, the driver’s vision hatch was improved upon and enlarged. The armor on the machine gun turret faces was deemed inadequate, so a new circular piece of armor was placed over it, and a splash guard was placed onto the ball mount in the turret cheek of the tank.

T-35A 196-94 was one of the two prototype T-35s that incorporated the changes recommended upon testing of 183-5. Most noticeable is the hatches in the skirts, but there were other changes such as redesigned turret pedestal and transmission covers. Source: Francis Pulham Collection
These changes were also implemented onto the regular T-35s that were being produced, but not all tanks were issued the new pattern items.
Only ‘196-94’ and ‘196-95’ were issued the experimental hulls, and ‘196-96’ was a standard T-35.
The only chassis numbered T-35s of interest in this period of change was the ‘988’ chassis number series. These machines did not have any of the updates made to them at the other T-35s where issued with. The tanks still had an exterior exhaust muffler, and did not equip the new driver’s vision hatch or the amplified machine gun faces.

988-15 had no updates made to it. The early exhaust can be seen on the rear of the tank. 988-15 was also the only T-35 that had a tactical number painted onto it, this being “14”.
Note should be made that all T-35s needed overhauling at least once in their service careers. Upon returning to the factories, many tanks were repaired and updated to the new pattern of exhausts or driver’s hatches. All ‘148’ tanks either had their six armed antennas replaced with eight armed ones, or had them removed entirely.
Two ‘148’ tank were given a major overhaul. ‘148-22’ and ‘148-25’ both had a P-40aa mount equipped onto the turret, along with machine gun turret amplification, and the 1937 pattern of driver’s escape hatch. This hatch was two doors that were hinged together and collectively hinged to the left outwards, whereas the original hatch was two doors that were separate and when opened, the left door was free to move, but the right door interfered with the 45 mm gun turret
Almost every T-35 had some upgrades made to them. Only ‘220-28’ and the ‘988’ tanks, along with the conical turreted T-35s, did not get updated.
The 1939 pattern of updating the T-35s was more obvious, with the drivers hatch being replaced with the ‘BT’ type circular hatch, and the front idler wheel being replaced with a pressed wheel, rather than a cast wheel with spokes. ‘220-25’ and ‘537-70’ are both known to have had this update made.

Conical turreted T-35s

In 1938, the Red Army wanted to modernize many of the tanks on their production lines. The biggest flaw with the production T-35 by 1937 was that the armor was too thin. There was a myriad of other issues, however, the modernization of the T-35 would focus on this issue.
From mid-1938 to 1939, the last ten T-35 tanks were issued new hulls and new turrets. The hull of these new tanks was taken from the experimental chassis tanks, 196-94 and 196-95, that had side skirts which did not cover the drive wheel and triangular inspection ports in the skirts, five instead of six return rollers, an altered stowage layout, and a homogenous turret substructure.
Initially, there were mixed orders on how to modernize the T-35, with one directive requiring armor of 40-45mm on the hull and turrets, and 75mm thick armor on the nose of the tank. It was intended that the weight should be kept under 60 tons. However, this order was given regarding standard cylindrical turreted T-35s, and a second contradicting order was issued requiring conical turrets be manufactured along with the improvements recommended after the testing of T-35A 183-5. There was much confusion at the plant, and a moderate modernization was conducted to the T-35.
All of the hull changes improved the performance of the vehicle. Now mud and other debris could not build up between the skirt and the drive wheel (which in earlier machines lead to failures of the track and drivetrain), and the turret sub-structure contained fewer shot traps.
The nose armor of these tanks was additionally increased from 20 mm to 30 mm, which was considered to be the bare minimum that would stop a 45 mm shell from ranges over 1000 m. The turrets of the tanks were also redesigned. All of the turrets now had armor that was 30 mm thick and angled at a shallow gradient to improve the thickness and increase the chances of a ricochet.

T-35 234-42 was the third conical turreted tank. Notice that the turret rear has a ball mount for a machine gun, and the turret had an antenna.  Source: Francis Pulham Collection

234-42 once again from the same photographer. Notice the redesigned skirts on the tank. Source: Francis Pulham Collection
The first three conical T-35s, chassis numbers ‘234-34’, ‘234-35’ and ‘234-42’ were all issued the old clothesline style antennas. Subsequently, T-35s ‘744-61’ and ‘744-62’ dispensed with this in favor of a whip antenna.

234-42 was lost in the village of Zapytiv. Notice the turret has foot plates for an antenna. The hull was almost identical to that of 196-94 and 196-95.
T-35 ‘744-63’ took changes further, dispensing with the main turret rear machine gun ball mount and introducing the ‘BT’ type hatch on the machine gun turrets and on the main turret for the loader. This hatch is referenced as a ‘BT’ type hatch due to the similarity of it with the conical turreted BT-7 turret hatch.
T-35s ‘744-64’, ‘744-65’, ‘744-66’ and ‘744-67’ were the last four T-35s to be manufactured and were again very different machines to the previous tanks. Firstly, the skirts were re-designed to have square access hatches rather than triangular ones. The turret substructure now had angled sides to better deflect shots and, lastly, the driver’s hatch was changed to the BT type.

The foreground displays a final production T-35. T-35 744-64 was the first last production tank manufactured. Notice the angled smoke generator armor, square access hatches to the skirts, the “BT” style drivers hatch and the solid front idler wheel.  Source: Francis Pulham Collection
The T-35 was canceled, as the concept of multi-turreted tanks had proven to be a failure, however, for propaganda purposes, the T-35 sill held potential.

T-35B – Upgraded engine

In 1936, plans were drawn up to improve the engine of the T-35. Following a series of proposals including a BD-1 (400 hp) and a BD-2 (700 hp), BD-2A diesel engine rated at 600hp was decided for further testing. A single T-35A tank had its engine removed and awaited its replacement with the DB-2A. The new standard was known as the T-35B. However, no testing was done as the engine didn’t arrive and the tank sat idle for a year and a half before having the M-17 reinserted.

Parade life and early deployment

The T-35A tank is one of history’s strangest tanks – often seen crawling across the Soviet inter-war parade squares. This tank grabbed the hearts, souls, and imaginations of the Soviet people and foreign military attachés alike. It was one of the many proud achievements of Soviet industrialization – its image appeared on posters, films, and even medals and awards!
At any one time in the Red Square, up to 20 T-35s were paraded, and made great propaganda tools for the Soviet Union. While not a good fighting tank, they were symbols of the new industrial and military strength that the USSR had gained over the previous decade.
As for combat deployment, the T-35 was first assigned to the 5th Heavy Tank Regiment on the 12th of December 1935 when the regiment was reorganised into the 5th Independent Heavy Tank Brigade. In 1938, after the summer maneuvers, the brigade was transferred to the Kiev Special Military District where it was renamed the 14th Heavy Tank Brigade.
Forty-eight of the tanks were later transferred to the 8th Mechanized Corps, two were sent to the Moscow Military District and six were sent to the 2nd Saratov Tank School. In June 1941, on the eve of Operation Barbarossa, five tanks were going through capital repairs, i.e. they were being stripped of old or obsolete parts, to be replaced with fresh or modern parts, back in Kharkov. This is how the stage was set on the eve of what would become known in Russia as the Great Patriotic War.

Deployment in World War Two

The 48 T-35s that were in the 8th Mechanized Corps were deployed in the 67th and 68th Tank Regiments, of the 34th Tank Division. These tanks were deployed at their depots west of Lvov, with the 67th Tank Regiment deployed in the village of Gorodok, 20 km west of Lvov, while the 68th Tank Regiment was deployed at Sadowa Wisnia, 30 km west of Lvov.
One T-35 is listed as being present at the Poligon scrap yard ready for disposal, a second T-35 was in Moscow. Four T-35s are known to have been in Kharkov, and a fifth is unaccounted for. The remaining 6 were at Saratov.
After the German invasion on the 22nd of June 1941, all of the 34th Tank Divisions T-35s were lost between the 24th of June and the 5th of July. Some did fight, like at the Battle of Verba, however, most broke down.
A detailed examination of the T-35A in this period can be found in the book ‘Fallen Giants: The Combat Debut of the T-35A Tank’ by Francis Pulham.

German designations

Until this point, this article has used the Soviet designations for this heavy tank.
The Germans were well aware of the T-35A, and had some intelligence on it before the invasion. A German intelligence bulletin uses the T-35A designation for one of the vehicles that they identified, however, the shape is wrong. They picture a conical turret T-35 with no sub-turrets and a 45 mm gun mounted centrally in the forward hull.
The German document also identifies the SMK two-turreted heavy tank as the T-35C. While the T-35A and SMK were not related, given the mistake the Germans made about the T-35A, it is easy to understand the error.
Some online sources (including our previous article on the T-35) use the T-35B designation for the conical turret T-35A. There are no original sources known to us at this point that verify that the Germans used this designation for this variant. However, given that the Germans used the T-35A and T-35C designations, this seems plausible.
References

Sources

Fallen Giants: The Combat Debut of the T-35A Tank, Francis Pulham
Land Battleship T-35, Maxim Kolomiets
T35incombat.narod.ru, Sergey Lotarev
Aviarmor.net
Tank Archives on German ID of Soviet tanks
The original Germand Intelligence Bulletin

T-35A specifications

Dimensions 9.72 x 3.2 x 3.43
Total weight, battle ready 54 tons
Crew 9
Propulsion M-17 L Aero engine
Armament 76.2mm KT-28
2x 45mm K-20
6/7x 7.62mm DT-29 machine gun
For information about abbreviations check the Lexical Index

tanks posters - Soviet Armour 1941
The T-35A is featured on our Soviet Tanks in June 1941 (Operation Barbarossa) poster! Buy it on Pixels.com!

Combat Debut T35A
Fallen Giants: The Combat Debut of the T-35A Tank

By Francis Pulham

The Soviet T-35A is the only five-turreted tank in history to enter production. With a long and proud service history on Soviet parade grounds, the T-35A was forced to adapt to the modern battlefield when the Second World War broke out. Outclassed and outdated, the T-35A tried to hold its own against the German invaders to no avail. For the first time, actual battlefield photographs have been cross-referenced with maps and documents to bring about the most complete look at the T-35A in the Second World War to date.

Buy this book on Amazon!

Categories
German tactics Soviet tactics

The Soviet 21st Tank Brigade’s Assault On Kalinin

October 17th to October 20th, 1941

The Brigade of Heroes

One of the most discussed counterattacks ever conducted by the Red Army, the 21st Tank Brigade’s assault on the City of Kalinin (the modern day city of Tver, [Russia]), has gone down in Russian history as one of the defining moments of the ‘Great Patriotic War’.
However, even Russian sources fail to truly capture the scope of the battle, and the bravery of the men who conducted themselves in battle against a numerically superior German fighting force.
On the 17th of October 1941, the 21st Tank Brigade, unsupported by other units, air power or even artillery, succeeded in quickly advancing to the city of Kalinin and nearly captured the city. However, the unit suffered a tremendous loss of life, including two men who had previously been awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union distinction for their actions.

The greater Battle for Moscow

On the 22nd of June 1941, the Wehrmacht, along with their allies, invaded the USSR in Operation Barbarossa. From June to October, the Wehrmacht had advanced almost 1000 kilometers and destroyed nearly 15,000 tanks of the Red Army. Not only this, they had killed or captured nearly 3,000,000 Red Army soldiers and overrun the Soviet heartlands of Belarus, Ukraine and most of eastern Russia.
Operation Barbarossa was the German codename for the invasion of the USSR and, on the 2nd of October 1941, after the destruction of the Smolensk pocket, the order was given by Hitler to begin Operation Typhoon.
Operation Typhoon was the advance to Moscow. Early victories included the encirclement at Vyazma and the capture of Orel and Bryansk. These victories were swift and left open the road to Moscow.
The next major city the Germans had to take was Kalinin. This lay to the north-west of Moscow and was only 170 kilometers away from the capital. The city was taken with little resistance on October 13th/14th 1941.
The capture of the city left the highway to Moscow dangerously exposed. It was therefore decided by the Soviet High Command that the city should be re-taken.

Kalinin

Kalinin has been an important town since the 1300s and is the capital for the Kalinin Oblast. Originally called Novgorodian, it was named Tver in the 1300s. It was then renamed Kalinin in 1931 to honor communist party member Mikhail Kalinin. In 1991, the city was renamed Tver.

An annotated German aerial map of Kalinin. 1 is the eastern airfield, 2 is the western airfield, 3 is Kalinin station, 4 is the entrance to the Volokolamansk Highway, and 5 is the Turginovskoye highway. Source: Warfly.ru
The geography of the city is divided up by three rivers. The Volga river flows from west to east, with the majority of the city on the southern bank of the river. The Tversta river then splits the northern bank into two quarters. On the south bank the Tmaka river splits the southern bank into unequal quarters.
The city centre is made up of historical palaces and other typical Russian brick buildings of the 1700s, with the rest of the city being made up of wooden buildings and small to medium brick buildings, which is very typical of Russian towns and cities.

A typical building in central Kalinin. This photograph was taken after the assault on the city. Source: From the author’s collection
The city had two airfields. One aerodrome (an airfield without a runway allowing planes to take off from any direction) lay on the south eastern corner of the city. The second airfield with a concrete runway was situated to the north west of the city.

A typical outer Kalinin street. This photograph was likely taken to the north west, near the airfield. This photograph was taken in December, after the assault on Kalinin. Source: From the author’s collection

Prelude to Battle

On the 12th of October 1941, the 21 Tank Brigade was ordered to defend the city of Kalinin.
The commander of the brigade was Colonel Nikolai Stepanovich Skvortsov, and the deputy commander was Alexander Sergeevich Sergeyev. The brigade was formed from the Military school at Vladimir, situated to the east of Moscow.
The Brigade received tanks on the 5th of October, and was issued fresh T-34 tanks delivered from Factory 183 (KhPZ: Kharkov Locomotive and Tractor Works) and from Factory 112 (Krasnoye Sormovo). The brigade was listed as fielding 10 x T-34 tanks equipped with 76mm guns (delivered from Kharkov), 7 x T-34s with 76mm guns (delivered from Krasnoye Sormovo), 10 x T-34s equipped with the ZiS-4 57mm gun (also from Kharkov), two additional T-34s with 76mm guns equipped with flame throwers in the hull (also from Kharkov), 2 x HT-26s, 5 x BT-2 Tanks, 15 x BT-5s and BT-7s, 10 x T-60s, and 4 x ZiS-30 tank destroyers.
It should be noted that tanks from Krasnoye Sormovo (112) are only listed by one source, however, this source (https://tankfront.ru/ussr/tbr/tbr021.html) is by far the most detailed with their breakdown of the 21st Tank Brigade.
The 21st Tank Brigade was organised into three battalions, which primarily consisted of the 21st Tank Regiment, along with some other units. The first battalion comprised all of the T-34s that were issued to the unit. The second battalion was issued the light tanks, including the ZiS-30s. The unit is thought to have been the first to receive the T-60 tank from factory No.37.
A third battalion was a Motorized Rifle Battalion. This unit is thought to have been made up of 700 men, with an Anti-Tank company, an 82mm mortar company (12 mortars), along with a submachine gun platoon, sapper platoon, and the commander’s platoon.
The unit was unique amongst the Red Army by being mostly made up of veterans. Due to the unit being put together from the Tank School in Vladimir, experienced tank men were therefore available. Unfortunately, due to the severe losses earlier in the war, many more veterans had been killed in action. The tank commanders were generally experienced tankers who had fought in conflicts such as the 1939 Khalkhin-Gol battles, the Winter War, and the early stages of the ‘Great Patriotic War’ (WWII).

Planning

The order to attack was given to the 21st Tank Brigade from Lieutenant General Rokossovsky. His order read: “Immediately move to the offensive in the direction of Pushkino, Ivantsevo, Kalinin with the aim of blowing the flank and rear of the enemy to assist our troops in the destruction of the Kalinin group of troops.”
This was reinforced by orders from General K. Zhukov: “… to take possession of Turginovo, in the future the combined detachment to advance in the direction of Ilinskoe, Tsvetkovo, Negotino with the task of destroying the enemy grouping in the Kalinin region.”
This assault on Kalinin was unsupported by other units or aircraft, and the entire task of liberating the city was put onto the shoulders of the 21st Tank Brigade. This was an impossible task, and the order was given because the Soviet High Command had little actual knowledge of the full strength of the German forces at Kalinin and thought that the bulk of German forces in the area were further north.
The 21st Tank Brigade was made up of three battalions; however, the first two were re-organized into three fighting groups for the assault on Kalinin. The first group was commanded by Mikhail Pavlovich Agibalov, the second group by Mikhail Alekseevich Lukin, and the third group by Iosif Isaakovich Makovsky.

Group 1

The first group was commanded by Captain Mikhail Pavlovich Agibalov. Agibalov was an experienced soldier, and had risen through the ranks of the Red Army after joining in 1932. His combat experience included the war with Japan in 1939, and the Winter War with Finland in 1939. For his service in the Khalkhin-Gol battles, he was awarded the Order of Lenin (the USSR’s highest award), and was also awarded the title ‘Hero of the Soviet Union’.

Captain Mikhail Pavlovich Agibalov in 1940. Source: warheroes.ru
The assault of Kalinin was devised as a two-pronged assault. From the staging area at Turginovo, group one and group two would move west to capture Pushkino, then move north along the Volokolamansk highway to enter Kalinin on the eastern side of the city, and attack the airfield and the main station.
This would also involve the destruction of the forward command post of German forces in the area stationed at Pushkino. Once at Kalinin, the groups would split, with the first attacking the airfield, then moving into the city to help with its liberation. The second group was to move into the city centre and capture the station, them move into central city up to the Tver river.
The tanks of the first group were painted with white numbers on their hulls to help with friendly tank identification. Numbers 1, 3, 4 and 6 have been found, with M.P. Agibalov’s tank being number “1”.

Group 2

The second group was commanded by Major Mikhail Alekseevich Lukin. Lukin, just like Agibalov, was a veteran soldier. During the Khalkhin-Gol battles, he successfully led a raid that resulted in a large Japanese supply dump being totally destroyed, along with a large number of trucks and vehicles. He was also awarded the title ‘Hero of the Soviet Union’ and the Order of Lenin.

Major Mikhail Alekseevich Lukin in 1940. Source: warheroes.ru
Lukin was made commander of the 21st Tank Regiment of the 21st Tank Brigade, and therefore was in overall control of the battle. The second group was to also advance for the Volokolamansk highway, but to enter the highway south of Pushkino at Panigino. Here it would advance north at speed, linking with group 1, and attack Kalinin.
Lukin commanded a T-34 with a ZiS-4 57mm gun. This machine was painted with a white number ‘20’ onto the hull sides of his machine. His second-in-command of the 2nd group was equipped with a T-34/76 with a white number ‘21’ painted onto the right hull side, right turret side, and on the rear of the turret. It is thought that there might have been tanks numbered 20 to 25 in this group.

Group 3

The third group was commanded by Senior Lieutenant Iosif Isaakovich Makovsky. Makovsky was as well decorated as his comrades. He had received the title ‘Hero of the Soviet Union’ and an Order of Lenin for his actions during the Winter War.

Senior Lieutenant Iosif Isaakovich Makovsky post war. Source: warheroes.ru
The third group was to move directly north along the Turginovskoye highway and enter the city at a similar location to the first and second groups, as the two main roads almost linked up at Kalinin.
The Turginovskoye highway entered Kalinin to the east of the airfield, and the third group could either go south of the field into the micro-district of Yuzhny, or move further north to enter the city north of the station. Here they would link up with the first and second groups to capture more key objectives in the city itself. The plan was made flexible to allow for different tanks to attack different areas if one group suffered heavy losses.
The third group appears to have not adopted the numbering system on their tanks. However, no definitive pictures have surfaced of their tanks, therefore it is possible that tanks numbering from ‘31’ exist. The third group was also called the ‘Makovsky Shock Group’.
There is also some photographic evidence that some tanks from all three groups were not painted with any numbers at all.

Support from the Motorised Battalion

While the main attack was happening, the third battalion was to advance up the Turginovskoye highway and assist in occupying the villages to the south of Kalinin. It is thought that they were originally going to enter the city after it was recaptured, however, the course of events meant that this never happened.
In total, 27 T-34s and 8 T-60 tanks were available for the battle. These tanks were divided into their respective groups and prepared for the attack. In theory, this could mean there were 9 T-34s per group, two groups equipping 3 T-60s with a third with 2 T-60s. It is unknown at present how many tanks were in each group.

The attack plan for the 21st Tank Brigade. The blue line is the path of the first group. The yellow line is the break off path of group 2 and the red line is the path of group 3. Source: Created by the author

German Forces

Facing the Soviets were elements of the 1st Panzer Division, which had been ordered to move north to help in the Leningrad sector; and the 36th Motorised Division, plus a mixture of other German units.
In Kalinin itself was the German 660th Assault Gun Battery, which was resting there. Roughly 10,000 troops were stationed in the newly captured city. It is known that a day prior, on the 16th of October, two Panzer Battalions were stationed in the city, however, the exact battalions are unknown.

A Sturmgeschütz III Ausf.C of the 660th Assault Gun Battery, likely on the streets of Kalinin. Source: Author’s collection.
The 660th Assault Gun Battery was formed before the Battle of France, and received their first six Sturmgeschutz III Ausf.As just before the invasion of France. It is thought that the 660th would go on to receive StuG III Ausf B’s and C’s in 1940 and 1941.
The 660th Assault Gun Battery is known to have fielded a number of Sd.Kfz 252’s, which were the ammunition carrier variant of the Sd.Kfz 250 half track. There was a handful of these machines used in Russia.

A StuG III Ausf A used by the 660th Assault Gun Battery.
The 36th Motorised Division is known to have deployed 105mm heavy guns in the village of Troyanovo, to the south of Kalinin, and the trucks carrying personnel engaged by the Soviets were also likely from this division.
This force of Germans was not prepared or expecting a Soviet counterattack so shortly after taking Kalinin. However, fortifications had been made to the train station, and the airfield at Kalinin was already requisitioned by the Luftwaffe, which had Ju-52 transport aircraft parked about the field.

A Ju-52 3M g4e German transport plane flies into the aerodrome at Kalinin. Ominously, the plane flies over a Soviet 57mm Gun, similar to those fielded in 10 T-34s by the 21st Tank Brigade. Source: Author’s private collection.
Unfortunately, the German records of the Soviet counterattack are lacking greatly, with only a small combat report from the 36th Motorised Division mentioning the attack. Therefore, the only documentation to refer is that of Soviet origin. The Soviet documentation seems to be largely accurate, albeit with some typical wartime embellishment.

T-34 Tanks of the 21st Tank Brigade

The 21st Tank Brigade was issued factory-fresh T-34 tanks from Kharkov, Krasnoye Sormovo, and T-60s from Factory Number 37. The T-34s were a diverse mix of machines. Tanks equipped with the 76.2mm guns were examples of the last production Factory 183 (KhPZ) tanks. Some machines were issued hardpoints for mounting external fuel tanks, although most were not.
All tanks were issued the newly-implemented driver’s hatch with two forward-facing periscopes protected by armored lids. The tow hooks were also the newly-implemented ‘hook’ type, dispensing with the older ‘pin’ type. The turrets issued to these tanks were a mixture of cast turrets and the ‘simplified 8-bolt type welded’ turrets.

One of the T-34s from the 21st Tank Brigade. ‘4’ was lost on the Volokolamansk highway near the airfield. Notice the V type track, the simplified turret, the updated driver’s hatch, and the new tow hooks. The hull sides do not have hard points for fuel tanks, and there is a single jack block on the rear hull side. Source: Old Ebay listing.
Tanks were issued with a mixture of track types. The standard 550mm wide track was common, although several tanks were issued with the ‘V type’ (alternatively known as ‘A type’) track. The commonly thought of as the ‘waffle’ patterned 500mm wide track had not yet been introduced.
Approximately ten T-34s were issued with ZiS-4 57mm guns. These specially designed anti-tank weapons were installed onto a standard T-34, and the only two known examples are known to not have had hardpoints for external fuel tanks.

A T-34 with a ZiS-4 57mm gun. This is the machine of Maj. Gen Lukin.

‘6’ of the 21st Tank Brigade.
Two such T-34s with 57mm guns that are known today were issued as tank number ‘20’, commanded by Lukin, and a second machine was commanded by Sergey Mikhailovich Kireev, who was in the first group. This tank is thought to have been painted with the number ‘2’, however, the damage is too severe to properly tell based on the known photographic evidence.

Prelude to Battle

The unit had received its tanks from Kharkov fully replenished with ammunition and fuel, and the brigade arrived at Kursky Station in Moscow on the 14th of October 1941. On the 13th of October 1941 the Brigade was attached to the 16th Army on the western front, and upon arrival to the front on the 17th of October, the brigade was reassigned to the 30th Army.
From Kursky the unit was ordered to move into Klin Station, and from here it was to move to Kalinin. However, the Brigade was forced to unload at Zavidovo and Reshetnikovo due to the capture of Kalinin station.
After unloading, the Tank Brigade moved towards the village of Turginovo, capturing the village with the loss of one tank due to an accident on crossing a pontoon bridge. The commander of this tank was Issac Okrane, and his crew was killed in the accident.

The advance north by group one and two

On the morning of the 17th of October 1941, the attack began. From the village of Turginovo, the first and second group advanced west then north. Group one moved to capture the village of Panigino. Here, the main highway from Volokolamansk to Kalinin lay ahead.
The attack was signaled by three red flares fired into the air, and immediately after beginning the assault, the Soviet tank crews of group two struck upon luck. A large column of German trucks and personnel carriers was advancing north towards Kalinin that had not noticed the Soviet tanks joining the rear of the column. Lukin ordered his unit to not open fire until they were discovered or until the time was right.
The same luck could not be said for the first group. The column of tanks advanced towards Pushkino, and were due to break through to the highway at the village of Emelyantsevo. At this village, they were spotted, and German anti-tank guns opened fire.
The lead tank of the advanced guard was commanded by Lieutenant Kireev (thought to be Sergey Mikhailovich Kireev), but his tank was hit and exploded, killing the crew. It is thought his tank was number ‘2’.

What is likely tank ‘2’ commanded by S.M. Kireev. Source: Author’s collection
The second tank in the forward column was tank ‘3’ commanded by S.Kh. Gorobets. This tank would later become very famous in this battle for ramming a Panzer III and escaping the battle unharmed. At this time though, it engaged and dealt with the Germans, leading the first group to the Volokolamansk highway and linking with group two.

The weather was varied, and it would appear that the snow thawed briefly for one or two days, likely the 18th and 19th of October, allowing for some snow free photographs. Here, what is believed to be ‘2’ of Kireev in the village of Emelyantsevo. Source: As taken from World War 2 Bodong Blog.
The next major village north was Pushkino. This was being temporarily used as a headquarters for local German forces. As the column passed through the village the order to attack was given, and the Soviet tanks swiftly gained the advantage, destroying many German vehicles and it is reported that many German soldiers were routed. The village was taken and the headquarters was destroyed. The groups advanced north, taking Kvakshino before hitting the village of Troyanovo.
By this time, the news had spread that the Soviets were advancing up the highway, and Ju-87 dive bombers were dispatched to engage the tanks. The column was attacked from the air, however reports conflict on whether any tanks were lost due to bombing.

A bomb left unexploded on the Volokolamansk Highway. Source: Author’s collection
Troyanovo was more heavily defended by the German forces, and the two groups faced a heavy wall of German anti-tank fire. It is known that 105mm guns of the 611 Heavy Artillery Platoon engaged the Soviet force here. In this village, the tank of Maj. M. Lukin became disabled. The reports are unclear on whether his vehicle simply broke down or was shot at. Whatever the case, the left track broke and the vehicle ended up in a ditch to the left of the road, stuck in the river Kamenka.

Lukin’s T-34 on the 18th of October 1941. Notice the broken left track links. Source: An old EBay listing
It was later claimed by his crew that Lukin single handily covered the escape of his crew, operating the 57mm gun of his tank to cover the withdrawal of his crew. He was killed in his tank and no damage is observable on the tank from photographic evidence other than the broken track.

Lukin’s T-34 a week or so after the assault. Snow has fallen again. Source: https://panzerserra.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/t-3457-tank-destroyer-case-report.html
The groups moved on towards Kalinin, now under the command of the leader of the first group, Captain Mikhail Pavlovich Agibalov. The column broke through to the village of Naprudnoe, 16 kilometres from Kalinin. It was here that Agibalov was also killed.
The combat report tells a similar story to Lukin’s. Agibalov’s tank drove off the highway to the right. Here, he disabled a German fuel truck that blew up. His tank, now off the road and isolated, took heavy fire. The main gun of his tank was seen to have stopped firing, although the machine guns were still active. It is claimed that his crew bailed out and, to cover them, Agibalov stayed in the tank. The accounts of M.Ya. Maistrovsky claim that, after the machine gun fell silent, he was found in his tank with his pistol drawn, apparently having taken his own life.

Mikhail Pavlovich Agibalov’s T-34 on the 17th of October 1941. The combat report clearly states the gun was hit, and it can be clearly seen that the gun mantlet has been dislodged. Notice the number 1 on the hull side and also that the Germans have already painted a captured tank number on the rear left side. Source: Author’s collection

Group one and two in Kalinin

Upon reaching Kalinin, the first and second groups attacked the Kalinin airfield and the train station, which was also being engaged by group three. The group that attacked the Kalinin Station was commanded by Senior Lieutenant Iosif Isaakovich Makovsky (deputy commander of the 21st Tank Brigade), who was in command of the third group, and received help from the remnants the other two groups.

An annotated map of the eastern approaches to Kalinin. Source: warfly.ru
The airfield is thought to have been attacked mainly by the first group. This group had a bit more success than the ones attacking the station. One tank commanded by Senior Political Instructor G. M. Gnyry drove up theVolokolamansk highway with the main group of tanks, he destroyed some vehicles on the highway. He then broke into the Kalinin airfield on the right of the Volokolamansk highway inside the city limits. Here, supported externally by other tanks, he successfully engaged enemy aircraft in the field, approximately 50 aircraft were parked there.
It is said that his tank was number ‘31’, however, this would have put him in group three (if the numbering system theory is correct). If this is correct, indeed, it was therefore likely his machine came from the south of the airfield and then entered to Volokolamansk highway.
One of the tanks supporting him was commanded by Sergeant S. E. Rybakov. His tank drove into the micro-district of Yuzhny (the modern name for this location) and supported Gnyry. This is the southern road that connects the two highways south of the airfield. He was surrounded and captured by enemy forces. He later escaped.
Gnyry was not as lucky. Some reports claim that his tank was lost when aircraft that had managed to escape from the field attacked his vehicle, although he could also have been attacked by German AA guns positioned about the airfield. His tank was disabled and he was forced to abandon it.
This airfield at Kalinin was attacked by tanks of the first group and the third group. The airfield was situated to the east of the city. A second airfield was situated to the west of the city. This airfield was not attacked.
At the eastern airfield, at least 16 aircraft are known to have been shot at or ran over by Gnyry.

One of the aircraft attacked by Gnyry. Source: https://warspot.ru/5942-kalininskiy-reyd-geroev-halhin-gola

The same Ju-52 as from above. The engines have been removed, likely as the machine was to be cannibalized after the damage it sustained from the T-34 of Gynry. Source: Author’s private collection.
While the T-34 tanks of the first group were attacking the airfield at Kalinin, the unit was unexpectedly engaged by German assault guns of the 660th Assault Gun Battery. During this engagement, Tank number ‘4’ engaged a Sturmgeschütz III Ausf A. The StuG III was commanded by Lieutenant Tachinsky, and the T-34 was thought to be commanded by Lieutenant D. G. Lutsenko. Lutsenko, after sustaining damage to the gun barrel, rammed at speed the StuG of Tachinsky. This caused the StuG to ride up, and sit on top of the T-34.

An aerial map showing the assumed direction of the 660th Assault Gun Battery’s counter-attack on the T-34s of the 21st Tank Brigade. Source: warfly.ru
The ramming took place on the Volokolamansk highway itself, and this allowed for the withdrawal of the remaining T-34s. After the T-34 rammed the StuG, the Soviet tanks apparently made their escape, although number ‘4’ stayed in its position with the crew refusing to escape the tank. The crew was forcibly removed from the tank by Germans using crowbars. Some sources claim the commander was shot, although there are no contemporary sources for this.

Tank number ‘4’ shortly after ramming the StuG III Ausf A. Source: https://www.militarymodelling.com/forums/postings.asp?th=97705

Lutsenko being dragged out of the turret of the tank. Source: https://www.militarymodelling.com/forums/postings.asp?th=97705

Tank number ‘4’ and the StuG about three days to a week after the incident. This particular incident was very popular to photograph. Source: Author’s Collection.

The location where tank number ‘4’ rammed the StuG. Identification was made to this location by the surrounding buildings after the tank was moved to the roadside. Source: Warfly.ru
Elements of the first group are known to have assisted in the attack the central position of Kalinin. This was commanded by Staff Sergeant Stepan Khristoforovich Gorobets who commanded the third tank in the first group. His tank was painted with a white number ‘3’, but because his tank was not knocked out and later photographed by the Germans, it is unknown if his tank was a ‘57mm’ or a ‘76mm’ gunned tank (alternate sources claim it either way).

Staff Sergeant Stepan Khristoforovich Gorobets was very much idolised after the Kalinin battles. He was killed in combat in early 1942. Source: warheroes.ru
It is known that 8 tanks entered the city past the airfield into the suburbs. As some of the tanks headed towards the station, tank number ‘3’ of the first group, commanded by Staff Sergeant S. Kh. Gorobets drove with haste westwards past the station. He then took the tank north, crossing the railway lines far to the west of the action, then he turned north, almost making it to the Tver river. His tank then turned east, and with speed he drove the entire length of Kalinin. Along the way, he disabled guns and tanks, and successfully rammed a Panzer III. Here he exited the city on the eastern side unscathed.

The path of tank number ‘3’ though Kalinin. Source: Warfly.ru
Other tanks were less successful, with 7 machines being lost with their crews fighting in Kalinin itself. Most of the crews that made it into the city were lost fighting at the station. One of the confirmed tanks to be lost next to the station is tank number ‘21’. It is known to have fallen into a ditch somewhere around the station, but its exact location has not yet been ascertained.

Tank number ‘21’ likely around the Station. Source: Old Ebay listing

Tank number ‘21’ was an interesting machine, with the numbers “21” painted on the turret rear, and then on the hull and turret right side, no identification numbers appear to have been painted on the left side of the vehicle. Source: Marcel Polak.

Tank number ‘21’ again. Notice the jack block on the rear right side. Source: Author’s private collection.
Shpak’s tank is known to have driven to the station, and it is thought that his machine was destroyed. Other crews killed in Kalinin were those of Vorobyov and Maleev.
The attack was eventually broken off and the tanks of the first and second groups were forced to make their escape back down the Volokolamansk highway, and even back down the Turginovskoye highway, the road that the third group advanced up. It is unknown in what time frame the escape was made.

Tank number ‘6’ was lost on the Volokolamansk Highway. It is thought that this machine was lost on a farm about 1km south of Kalinin. Source: Author’s private collection

Tank number ‘6’ again on the 17th of October. Notice the snow that is very light. Source: Author’s private collection

Attack by Group 3

While the first and second groups advanced up the Volokolamansk highway, the third group advanced with haste up the Turginovskoye highway. Commanded by Iosif Isaakovich Makovsky, the group seems to have met little resistance until the village of Pokrovskoe. Here there was heavy resistance. Nonetheless, the group defeated the Germans and continued north to enter Kalinin.
Once in Kalinin the third group attempted to attack the main train station. It is known that some tanks assisted in the destruction of the airfield between the Volokolamansk and Turginovskoe highways. It is unknown from what direction the third group attacked the station, but it was likely from the north east as the Turginovskoe highway crosses the east-west railway lines.

The paths of group 1,2 and 3. From this aerial view it can be seen that the 21st Tank Brigade was attempting to envelop the station. Source: Warfly.ru
The train station was never successfully recaptured, as the location had been heavily fortified by the Germans. The third group is assumed to have received help from the remnants of the first and second groups, as some of their vehicles are known to have been lost near the station. Here the third group advanced no further.
Many tanks were lost, and the remnants of the third group were forced to withdraw back down the Turginovskoye highway.

Withdrawal

When it became clear that the battle was swinging in favor of the German units, Regimental Commander G. I. Zakalyukin organized and conducted the withdrawal of Soviet forces from the Kalinin area down the Turginovskoye highway. They set up positions at the village of Grishkino. Here the 21st Tank Brigade’s Motorised Rifle Battalion with light tank support was available to assist.

A T-34 with no obvious numbers that was lost near to tank number ‘6’ on the Volokolamansk Highway. This machine is slightly different to other tanks in the 21st Tank Brigade by having exterior fuel tanks. Other than this it is identical to other 21st Tank Brigade tanks. Source: Author’s private collection
Here, over the next two days, major fighting broke out between advancing German units and the Soviets who had survived the assault on Kalinin. Makovsky himself was seriously injured on the 19th of October. At that time, he had taken command of the motorized unit.

A T-34 lost on the Turginovskoye highway. Again, this machine has no numbers, but evidence suggests that not every machine was equipped with painted numbers. Source: Author’s private collection

The recently discovered ’24’, likely from the 21st Tank Brigade. This machine shared technical features with that of ’21’, lost in Kalinin itself. As the turret graffiti suggests, the tank was lost on October 25th 1941, which means that this tank survived the assault, and was lost on the defensive. Source: Francis Pulham Collection.
The entire area was recaptured by the Germans, and fighting involving the 21st Tank Brigade in this sector ended on the 19th of October 1941. Troyanovo, where Maj. Gen Lukin’s body was, was likely recaptured on the 17th of October; but fighting continued around to the east. Lukin’s body remained in the tank, and German soldiers looted the Order of Lenin that he had received during the Khalkin Gol battles in 1939.

Tank number ‘20’ after heavy snow. Source: T-34 The Complete Encyclopedia, M. Kolomiets.
His body was recovered by four boys from the village of Troyanovo, and buried in a small wooded area. His body was later reburied in Kalinin in 1942.
In total, the brigade lost 21 x T-34 tanks, 3 x BT tanks, and a single T-60 tank. The combat records of the 21st Tank Brigade list enemy casualties as 38 tanks, 200 motor vehicles, 82 motorcycles, 70 guns and mortars, 12 fuel trucks, and a large number of soldiers.
The 21st Tank Brigade continued to fight over the winter months, but it was later brought into reserve on the 5th January 1942.

The Traveling Palace in Kalinin was used by the Germans as the grave site for their fallen comrades. All of these graves belong to the men the 21st Tank Brigade killed. Source: Author’s private collection
Kalinin was recaptured during the massive Soviet counterattack in December 1941. During the German occupation, war graves were erected outside of the main church in Kalinin. The two airfields had been requisitioned from the Soviets. Much of the city was destroyed, and Kalinin was the first major city liberated from the Germans.
Kalinin gave the name to the Soviet Kalinin front, which was active from the 17th of October 1941 until the middle of 1943 when the German forces were pushed far away from Moscow.

Conclusion

From the outset, the cards were stacked against the men of the 21st Tank Brigade. Many people have made the case that the Soviet Union needlessly lost two experienced tank commanders and ‘Heroes of the Soviet Union’.
The attack, however, did tie down units that otherwise could have been used further afield. It is also true that the units attacked were severely shaken by the incident. It is quite possible that by sheer numbers, this was one of the most successful Soviet counterattacks conducted to date at that point of the war.
For the first time in the ‘Great Patriotic War’, a coherent brigade assault had been conducted where experienced tank crews assaulted German positions. Not only did they destroy more vehicles than were lost, but they also effectively exploited weak areas, and used teamwork to take out the enemy.
It should not be forgotten, however, that the primary objective was never completed. Soviet High Command had not correctly briefed the crews on the size of the force at Kalinin, and underestimated the numbers of troops here. Not only this, but the attack was conducted with minimal infantry support.
Some sources claim that tank riders were present on a hand full of vehicles at Pushkino, but there is no contemporary evidence for this.
It can also be stated that the T-34s with 57mm guns were not used in an effective role. The 57mm gun was specially designed for tank hunting, and during this battle, the Soviet crews mostly fought guns and trucks, far more suited to a low caliber heavy round such as the 76.2mm round of the F-34 guns of regular T-34s.
The assault was ultimately a failure with regards to its original objective, although schools have been named after members of the 21st Tank Brigade, and statues erected in their honor. It was not so much a physical victory, but it was certainly a victory for morale and of legends.
 
Sources
https://tankfront.ru/ussr/tbr/tbr021.html
https://warfly.ru
https://warspot.ru/5942-kalininskiy-reyd-geroev-halhin-gola
https://obd-memorial.ru/Image2/imagelink?path=89544595-0e86-48af-895f-fc3444c7dc6c
https://mikhaelkatz.livejournal.com/56836.html
https://www.poisk-pobeda.ru/forum/index.php?topic=1636.0
https://obd-memorial.ru/html/info.htm?id=2942165&page=1
https://www.network54.com/Forum/47207/message/1322129472

Private conversations with Pavel Olegovich Varfolomeyev (Russian Army from 1999-2001 and past resident of Tver)
Categories
WWII Soviet Armored Cars

Izhorsk Improvised Armored Vehicles

Soviet Tanks Soviet Union (1941)
Improvised Armored Vehicles – Estimated 100 built

It is hard to stress how dire the situation was for the Red Army  in the summer of 1941. In as little as two months, 10,000 tanks had been lost to the German Army and her allies. Therefore, factories across the Soviet Union began to produce a myriad of improvised tanks and armored cars. The Izhorsky plant in Leningrad was one such producer, however, rather than up-armoring tanks like most other factories, Izhorsky up-armored and militarized trucks for combat, equipping some machines with a 45mm gun, and even going as far as creating a crude turreted armored car.

Izhorskiye pre-war

The Izhorskiye Zavod (Izhora Plant) was established in 1722 in Saint Petersburg under the orders of Tsar Peter I, to manufacture items for the Russian Navy. The plant had a long career manufacturing naval goods including armor plates for their ironclad and pre-dreadnought ships. In 1906, the plant was awarded its own flag. Some time in the early 1900s, the plant moved onto vehicle manufacture.
Before the war, the Izhorskiye (Iszhorky) plant was one of Leningrad’s largest producers of vehicles. Izhorsky manufactured such iconic vehicles as the FAI, BA-I, BA-3 and BA-6. Izhorsky also manufactured armor plates for tank production, these plates were mostly used in the T-37A, T-38 and T-40 tanks. Izhorsky had a long and proud history of manufacturing armored vehicles, and on the eve of WWII, the plant was producing armor plates for the T-40 amphibious tank, as well as military and commercial trucks.

Desperate measures

After Germany invaded the Soviet Union on the 22nd of June 1941, scores of Soviet tanks were lost. The Soviet Union was in desperate need for any armored vehicles that could stem the tide of the German invasion. On the 20th of July 1941, resolution 219ss was passed. This was a resolution for factories across the Soviet Union to begin manufacture of ‘bronetraktors’ (i.e. improvised tanks), and to up-armor tanks such as the T-26. This resolution did not specify that trucks should also be up-armored, however, Izhorsky proceeded with the implementation of armor on trucks.

A GAZ AA Truck. The key way to identify this truck over the ZIS-5, is the rear suspension. Notice the leaf suspension that looks as though it should have a second road wheel.
Other plants went down different routes, with the HTZ plant in Kharkov manufacturing HTZ-16 tanks on modified SkHTZ-NATI chassis (the civilian version of the STZ-3). The Odessa Ship works manufactured the ‘NI’ Odessa Tank on the STZ-5 chassis too. Other experiments were conducted in Stalingrad on another tractor tank based on the STZ-3, however these were never fully completed.

IZ trucks

On July 8th 1941, Decree of the Military Council of the Northern Front 53ss was passed. This decree was for the Izshorsky plant to manufacture 20 ZIS-5 trucks with a 45mm field gun placed on the rear of the truck with a partially armoured cab and engine compartment.
As it was, three different chassis were available for these improvised armored trucks, the GAZ-AA, the ZIS-5 and the ZIS-6. The GAZ-AA and ZIS-5 trucks were equipped with plates that are reported to have been between 3-10 mm thick, that covered the engine and crew compartments. The driver of the truck was situated on the left hand side, with a vision slit cut into the armor. To the right of the driver was a machine gun, which was most likely a DP-28 or DT-29.
The engine compartment was completely sealed in, with two small access hatches either side of the engine, along with two armored air intakes over the front grille of the truck. The suspension was unchanged despite the weight increase.

The most common variant of the IZ armored truck, with a 45mm gun placed on the stowage compartment of the truck.
The rear of the truck was built up with armored sides, however, still had an open rear and roof. The cargo portion of the truck was left unarmored, with this new armored structure placed on top of the folding wooden sides. According to the surviving records and photographs, these trucks were armed with either a 45mm gun, a quad maxim gun mount, or nothing at all, functioning more as an armored personnel carrier. The 45mm gun, when placed onto the truck, used the gun shield as part of the armor at the front of the new fighting compartment, with the gun facing forward, and the barrel extending over the engine deck. Wheels were retained on the gun.

An IZ captured by Finnish forces. This truck has had the 45mm gun removed.
These vehicles were called  “IZ”, as the factory that produced them was the Izhorsky factory. It is agreed that, after the initial 20 vehicles with 45mm guns were produced, the plant continued to manufacture armoured trucks in the layouts already described. Roughly 100 of these vehicles were produced from August until December 1941. There was little variation from vehicle to vehicle other than armament. Due to the thin armor of the IZ trucks, performance was not hindered greatly, however the weight of the truck was increased.

An IZ that was built and used as an APC. This machine was never equipped with a gun on the rear, however retained the benches on the stowage compartment. This machine has been captured by the Germans, and a division marking drawn on the cab.

ZIS-6 armoured car and other conversions

Izhorsky also briefly experimented with the manufacture of an improvised armored car based on the ZIS-6 chassis. The rear of the truck was converted into a fully fledged armored car. This had a box created on the rear of the truck, that on the top had a BA-6 turret. The engine deck was covered in the same pattern armor that the IZ trucks were plated with. It is thought to be a BA-6 turret rather than a T-26 turret due to the weight differences between the BA turrets and the T-26 turret. The thickness of the armor on a BA turret was 9mm thick, whereas a T-26 turret was 13mm thick. Only one ZIS-6 armored car seems to have been manufactured, and appears in one photograph.

In the foreground a BA-10, and behind this the Izhorsky ZIS-6 truck converted into an armored car.
In addition to the creation of a new armored car, Izhorsky also took back armored cars for repair. Some of these vehicles were themselves modified. One such conversion was done to a BA-10. After being returned to the Izhorsky plant, the car was cut down in size. The rear portion of the car, including the rear most drive wheel, was removed. In its place a simple armored cab was placed with a command cupola from what appears to be a BA-27. This vehicle was now an ambulance. It was captured intact, and actually pressed into German service as an ambulance.


Izhorsk improvized armoured car, illustration by David Bocquelet

Combat deployment

The first of these “IZ” were delivered to the defenders of Leningrad on the 15th of July 1941. It is unknown when the last example was manufactured. Estimates range from as low as 25 produced to upward of 100. These trucks were reported to have been used on the western front until early 1943. They were only issued to the Leningrad People’s Militia. Several of these vehicles fell into German hands. However, only one is known to have served in the Wehrmacht.
A still greater operator of these trucks was Finland. As these vehicles were manufactured in Leningrad, they were only available here during the siege. Large attempts were made by the Red Army to push back the Finnish forces to the north, to allow for some much needed breathing space around Leningrad. Early actions from September to November allowed a small number of IZ’s to fall into Finnish hands, who pressed them into service.
It is undeniable that these vehicles were a product of desperation. These vehicles likely performed poorly, as expectantly the trucks with 45mm guns would have been very top heavy. It is far to say that the APC version of these trucks would have been moderately more successful, however their true combat effectiveness is a mystery.
 

An APC version of an IZ being operated by the Finnish army. Notice that the door for the gunner and driver is open.

Another IZ in Finnish service. Likely the same vehicle as above.

An IZ that has been abandoned. This vehicle is likely based off the ZIS-5 chassis, as the armored cab is different to that of other IZ’s.

What is thought to be a ZIS-6 APC IZ. This photograph of the vehicle is the only known example.

IZ also experimented with a BA-10 that was cut down and converted into an ambulance. as this picture illustrates, the car was captured by the Germans and pressed into service.

Links, Resources & Further Reading

M. Kolomiets. “Armor on wheels. History of Soviet armored cars 1925-1945”
Private Conversation with M.Kolomiets
The vehicles on aviarmor.net

Categories
WWII Soviet SPGs

SU-26

USSR Soviet Union (1941-1944)
Assault Gun – 14 built

Mobile Fire Support

World War I led to the creation of a myriad of new weapon platforms, which include the Self Propelled Gun (SPG) and Assault Gun types. These vehicles had to provide direct or indirect fire support, while also having decent mobility and light armor protection. An Assault guns job was generally as a direct fire support weapon which means that a heavy gun was used to directly fire in line of sight at a target. A Self Propelled Gun was used for indirect fire support, this is where direct line of sight is not the means of aiming the weapon, and is generally a mobile artillery piece. World War II saw the implementation of the widest array of such vehicles, including the StuG III (Assault Gun), M7 Priest (SPG) and SU-76 (Both an SPG and Assault Gun).

Early T-26 Gun Platforms

The T-26 tank was, at its core, a Soviet manufactured copy of the Vickers 6 Ton tank. As soon as it was introduced into Red Army service in 1931, methods of converting the tank into an assault gun or SPG began to be explored.

SU-1

The first attempt at such a vehicle on the T-26 chassis was the SU-1. SU comes from Самоходная установка, Samokhodnaya Ustanovka, which means self-propelled gun in Russian. This was a very early attempt at an assault gun, being manufactured in 1931. It had a simple superstructure that held a KT-28 gun. The superstructure was similar to that of the production T-26, but it was taller and had a commander’s cupola. However, it did not enter production as it was deemed that the T-26-4 prototype would render the SU-1 redundant. In addition, shortly before cancellation, the interior was deemed inadequate for the crew to operate effectively, this was due to the interior being too small to effectively operate the gun and stow ammunition. The basic layout of this machine was used for the AT-1 prototype.
The SU-1 prototype, Notice the 76.2 mm (3 in) KT-28 gun in the hull, with the gun recuperator system exposed.
The SU-1 prototype, Notice the 76.2 mm (3 in) KT-28 gun in the hull, with the gun recuperator system exposed.

AT-1

The AT-1 is perhaps the best known Assault Gun of the pre-war Red Army. This was a modified SU-1, with the KT-28 gun replaced by a PS-3 76.2 mm (3 in) gun. The vehicle was tested and it was found that the interior of the tank was insufficiently large. However, before the problems could be ironed out, the designer, P.N.Syachintova, was arrested and the project subsequently shelved.
The AT-1 prototype. Notice the similarities to the SU-1, with the exceptions of the gun and subtle superstructure changes.
The AT-1 prototype. Notice the similarities to the SU-1, with the exceptions of the gun and subtle superstructure changes.

SU-5

Later, in 1933, a new self-propelled gun was developed on the aforementioned T-26 chassis. This time, two guns were trialed: a 122 mm (4.8 in) howitzer and a 76.2 mm (3 in) Model 1902/1930 gun. The upper hull of the regular T-26 was relatively unchanged. However, instead of the turret ring, a hatch that allowed access to the internal ammunition stowage was installed. At the rear of the tank, over the engine compartment, were placed the gun mount, the crew positions, a small gun shield and two deployable legs for firing the gun. This self-propelled gun was known as the SU-5. This weapon platform would be an SPG rather than an Assault Gun due to the nature of the 122mm Howitzer and the maximum angle of the main armaments.
The SU-5-1 equipped with a Model 1902/1930 76.2 mm (3 in) gun.
The SU-5-1 equipped with a Model 1902/1930 76.2 mm (3 in) gun.
The SU-5-1 was equipped with the 76 mm (3 in) gun or the 122 mm (4.8 in) gun, whereas  the SU-5-2 was only equipped with the 122 mm (4.8 in) howitzer. The SU-5-2 differed slightly, with a strengthened hull and suspension. SU-5-1s were manufactured in 1936 in a small batch of 23 machines. Shortly thereafter, the Su-5-2 was accepted for production. However, only 20 production vehicles were manufactured. Of these machines, only 18 were still in service in June 1941.
The only surviving report of the SU-5-2 is from the 67th Tank Regiment, where they were used alongside T-35 heavy tanks. These machines were lost during the opening days of the war, with one of the production tanks being reported to have been lost in the village of Gorodok (modern day Horodok) in the Lviv Oblast, where the repair center for the 67th Tank Regiment was based. A second machine was sent to Lviv for repair, however its fate is unknown. Other Su-5s were mostly deployed in the Far East and therefore survived the war to be scrapped.
The SU-5-2  equipped with the 122 mm (4.8 in) howitzer. Notice that the exhaust has been moved to the left side of the vehicle, and two legs have been added.
The SU-5-2 equipped with the 122 mm (4.8 in) howitzer. Notice that the exhaust has been moved to the left side of the vehicle, and two legs have been added.

SU-6

From 1928 to 1941, the Soviet Union also looked into self-propelled heavy Anti Aircraft (AA) guns. One such prototype was the SU-6. This was a heavily redesigned T-26 hull, with a collapsible superstructure and a 3K 76.2 mm (3 in) AA gun. The collapsible superstructure allowed for maximum space for the crew while operating the gun, however allowed the tank to stay the same dimensions as a regular T-26 when in travel mode. This tank was trialed in 1936, but the project was dropped. 7 hulls had been manufactured, and mass production was about to begin. However, all of the hulls were seized due to the designer’s, P.N.Syachintova’s, arrest and subsequent execution on Stalin’s orders.
The SU-6 prototype. Notice the collapsible sides with supporting and levering arms under the sides. This machine could have been a potent weapon.
The SU-6 prototype. Notice the collapsible sides with supporting and levering arms under the sides. This machine could have been a potent weapon.

The Disaster Of Barbarossa

None of the mentioned self propelled guns were successful or produced in high numbers. Therefore, there were few direct or indirect fire support vehicles ready for front line service in June 1941. Several tank variants could provide this assistance, but their numbers were low, they were required to do other jobs such as be a main battle tank, or they were entirely obsolete. Such examples include the KV-2 with a 152 mm (6 in) howitzer, the T-28, T-35 and the BT-7 Artillery version, all having the KT-28 gun. While these tanks were not inadequate, many designs dated back to the early 1930s, or were mechanically unreliable.
While not a must-have weapon, self-propelled guns could have provided a mobile mean of light direct or indirect fire to harass approaching enemy units, to set up mobile defensive points, or simply for mobile anti-tank duties. There are obvious advantages over a typical Field Gun, as the resources needed for towing and deploying it vastly outnumber the resources needed for a typical Assault Gun. The majority of Field Guns of 1941 were horse drawn, with crews numbering upwards of 8 or 9 men. In addition the ammunition for such guns had to be transported separately, these issued are solved in an Assault Gun.
In the subsequent months after Operation Barbarossa, The German invasion of the Soviet Union, scores of T-26 tanks were lost either due to combat, breakdown, or lack of fuel or ammunition. Between June and October 1941, 10,000 Soviet tanks were lost. The obsolescence of the T-26 Model 1931 and 1932 in particular were clear to the red army in 1941. There was still 450 such machines in the Red Army in June 1941, 87 of which were in the Leningrad Military District. Even before the war, it was discussed what should be done with the machine?  The Subsequent invasion of the Soviet Union, and impending arrival of German troops at Leningrad gave the Soviet engineers at Factory 174 within Leningrad a myriad of vehicles on which to experiment. One such experiment was a small, mobile self-propelled gun meant to assist the defenders.
A propaganda photograph of Plant 174 with SU-26s being manufactured. Notice that the axis point for the gun shield is being lifted onto the hull of the foremost vehicle.
A propaganda photograph of Plant 174 with SU-26s being manufactured. Notice that the axis point for the gun shield is being lifted onto the hull of the foremost vehicle.

A SU-26 in winter camouflage.
A SU-26 in winter camouflage. 
A SU-26 in the olive 4BO green that they would have been given as a base camouflage. It is known that some tanks were painted three tone, and others were given divisional numbers on the gun shield.
A SU-26 in the olive 4BO green that they would have been given as a base camouflage. It is known that some tanks were painted three tone, and others were given divisional numbers on the gun shield.
Once German troops approached Leningrad in Late September 1941, the question of obsolete tanks in operation was discussed once again, therefore on August the 5th 1941, Plant 174 presented a new Assault Gun to The Military Council Of The Leningrad Military District. This machine was called the T-26-6. This was done because the need for a direct fire support weapon was high, as troops needed more direct medium or heavy fire support weapons, and it was a useful way of utilizing obsolete types of T-26 tanks.On August 11th, the project was given the green light by the Leningrad Military Council, however two of the 24 hulls earmarked for converting had already been worked on. This new Assault Gun was armed with a 76.2 mm (3 in) KT-28 gun, However two 37 mm (1.46 in) guns were also mounted according to the documentation. The hull and engine deck were redesigned to create a flat platform. A traversable mount was added onto the tank, with a large gun shield, large enough to protect the crew crouching. The gun was mounted in the center of the shield. The original driver’s compartment was kept, but the rest of the superstructure was eliminated to make way for the gun and its mounting.
Another view inside the plant, this time from the opposite end of the floor. Notice that the KT-28 gun is missing the recuperator system armor.
Another view inside the plant, this time from the opposite end of the floor. Notice that the KT-28 gun is missing the recuperator system armor.
The gun shield had a hole for the KT-28 gun in the center, with two small ports on either side of it, in which two DT-29 machine guns could be mounted. Normal operation of the mount was with the gun facing to the rear of the machine to allow for greater crew mobility. However, the vehicle could also operate with the gun firing forwards.
Shortly after production began however, it was decided that some of the chassis would remain as T-26 tanks as stocks of the tanks began to run short. Therefore, only 14 SU-26s were manufactured, with other chassis going towards Flame Throwing Tanks (8), and the retention of 4 twin turreted T-26s. It is likely that less twin turreted tanks were manufactured, as 24 chassis divided between the numbers provided leaves -2 tanks (it is also possible that the two 37mm equipped Su-26s are actually simply T-26s Model 1932s that were retained in the paperwork).
A SU-26 in a static defense position. Notice how the crew compartment has been cut out from the original superstructure. Two DT-29s can be seen on either side of the gun
A SU-26 in a static defense position. Notice how the crew compartment has been cut out from the original superstructure. Two DT-29s can be seen on either side of the gun.
These machines were known as the SU-T-26s, T-26-SU or, more commonly, SU-26 and SU-76. SU-76 was the more common name in the records of the Red Army. However, it was changed to SU-76P (Regimental), after the introduction of the T-70 based SU-76. This was due to the KT-28 being a Regimental Gun, whereas the T-70 Su-76 was fielded with a 76.2mm Zis-3 Anti Tank Gun.
A blown up SU-26. Notice that the engine deck is still accessible
A blown up SU-26. Notice that the engine deck is still accessible.
It is known that the 124th Armored Brigade was issued the two 37 mm gunned versions, and three 76.2 mm (3 in) gunned tanks were reported as being lost in combat with that unit. Another unit that used these machines was the 220th Tank Brigade, which was issued four 76 mm gunned vehicles. In early 1942, an indipendant Anti Tank Battalion was created, namely the 122th Tank Brigade. This fielded Su-26s. Interestingly, these machines are supposed to have been operational up until 1944 in the Leningrad pocket. It is fair to suggest that these machines were true desperation weapons, with a poorly designed exposed gun platform. As only 14 were manufactured, too few Su-26s were manufactured to adequately analyze the effectiveness of the machine.
A propaganda photograph of a SU-26 on the advance.
A propaganda photograph of a SU-26 on the advance. 
The same propaganda film as above. Notice how the fenders have been lifted to allow for a flat platform for the crew.
The same propaganda film as above. Notice how the fenders have been lifted to allow for a flat platform for the crew.

A Su-26 that likely served in the 122th Tank Brigade. Notice the interesting camouflage exhibited on this machine, with a base coat of white (over olive) with further olive painted on lines over the white.

Su-26 specifications

Total weight, battle ready 12 tonnes
Crew 4 (Driver, Commander, Gunner, Loader)
Propulsion T-26 Carburetor, 4 Cylinder, 90 hp
Suspension 4x pivot bogie pairs
Armament 37 mm (1.46 in) or 76.2 mm (3 in) KT-28
2x DT-29
Armor 10-20 mm (0.39-0.79 in)
Total production 14

Sources
The SU-1 on Aviarmor
The SU-5 on Aviarmor
The SU-6 on Aviarmor
The SU-26 on Aviarmor
The SU-26 on Warspot.ru
tanks posters - Soviet Armour 1941
Soviet Tanks in June 1941 (Operation Barbarossa)

Categories
WWII Soviet Other Vehicles

T-26 Chemical Tanks

Soviet Union (1933-1945)
Chemical Weapons Platform – 1,218 built

Breathing Fire

Throughout the history of warfare, fire has always been used as a weapon to put fear into the hearts of men. During the early 1900s, flame-throwing weapons were developed, and almost as soon as automobiles were invented, methods of attaching these weapons to them were explored. In the early 1930s, the Soviet Union was interested in equipping a standard T-26 tank with a flame unit. These tanks were produced in their thousands and became much feared weapons.

HT-26 Chemical Tank

From the beginning of T-26 production, methods of converting them into support vehicles were explored, and one of the most favorable redesigns was that of a flame-throwing tank. Russian interest in flame throwing tanks began as early as 1914. However, due to technological restraints, this could not be followed.
During the interwar years, the opportunity arose again to explore the possibility of flame-throwing tanks. In 1931, the T-26 tank was chosen as the basis for this new design. The Bolshevik plant, later renamed Factory 174, was ordered to develop a compressor system for a “chemical” weapon. It was decided to call this vehicle the BCM-3. However, the simpler name of HT-26 was more frequently used.
A pre-production HT-26. Notice that the KS-24 flamethrower was mounted where the ball mounted DT-29 was usually situated.
A pre-production HT-26. Notice that the KS-24 flamethrower was attached to where the ball mounted DT-29 was usually situated.
These tanks have been called a variety of things, from KhT-26 to OT-26.  HT-26 is the proper name, as the Russian word for chemical (химическая) begins with an “H”. However, OT-26 could also be correct, as the Russian word for flamethrower (огнемет) begins with an “O”.
The “chemical” T-26 was designed by engineer G.E.Shmidtom, using the hull of a twin-turreted T-26. The left turret was completely removed, and a container was placed below its position, with a capacity of 400 liters, along with three 13.5L cylinders with compressed air, a high-pressure manifold, gearbox and a diffuser. The right-hand turret was retained, and a KS-24 flamethrower was installed into the cheek of the turret, just before the gun mantlet. Due to the risk of damaging and knotting the flexible hose inside the tank’s turret, it could only traverse 270 degrees.
At the rear of the tank, there was a combat refueling port with an armored cover. Often not discussed is the fact that the flame-throwing tanks could also carry other materials, hence the name “Chemical” tanks, rather than “Flame-Throwing” tanks. Chemicals to discharge smoke, or other toxic materials could be carried and interestingly cleaning equipment could be mounted for decontamination. Even water could be carried in the canister for basic decontamination tasks.
One of the initial production HT-26s. Notice that the flame unit is placed in the cheek of the turret.
One of the initial production HT-26 tanks. Notice that the flame unit is placed in the cheek of the turret. A large armored plug with a refueling cap is situated where the left-hand turret was.
The prototype HT-26 was tested from June 1st to July 15th, 1932 at the Scientific Chemical test range, and was received well. It was found that the maximum range of the flame was 35 m, and short bursts of 5 seconds produced the highest efficiency rate.
The HT-26 entered production shortly thereafter, and between 552 and 615 vehicles were manufactured. However, a new turret was actually designed for these production tanks, along with alterations to the hull. The original T-26 turret’s mantlet was widened to be as wide as the turret. The flamethrower muzzle was attached to the mantlet by a ball mount. A DT-29 7.62 mm (3 in) machine gun was placed to its right. The hull originally had a large armored cap in order to cover the hole from the removed left turret. This was replaced in production tanks with a single plate, with two hatches for refueling the tanks.

HT-130 Chemical Tank

As T-26 production continued, avenues into improving the support vehicles of the Red Army were explored. When the T-26 Model 1933 was introduced, Factory 174 immediately started to explore new avenues on converting the tanks into chemical warfare tanks. A prototype T-26 Model 1933 was taken, its 45 mm (1.77 in) gun was removed and a KS-25 flamethrower was installed in its place in the mantlet, which itself was redesigned.

A HT-130’s turret mantlet. Notice the KS-25 flamethrower on the left hand of the mantlet, and a ball mounted DT-29 machine gun on the right. Also notice the armored caps for the refueling of the main weapon on the left hand of the tank’s hull.
On the left-hand side of the tank, two canisters with a combined capacity of 360L were situated, with a mixture of kerosene and oil, with two armored caps on the hull roof for refueling. The maximum range of this flame unit was reduced to 25 m. However, 40 shots could be fired in 5-second bursts.
A combat photograph of a HT-130 discharging a wall of flame. This is likely a propaganda photograph, and not likely to be a picture of ah HT-130 in combat.
A combat photograph of a HT-130 discharging a wall of flame. This is likely a propaganda photograph, and not likely to be a picture of a HT-130 in combat.
HT-130 production began in 1936 and ended in 1939 after 401 units were manufactured. Radio controlled versions of these tanks were experimentally tested during the late 1930s that culminated in live fire trials of radio controlled HT-130 tanks engaging Finnish forces during the Winter War.
At least one example of a standard T-26 upgraded to HT-130 standard exists. The tank in question was a Model 1935 with softer edges on the gun mantlet. The tank evidently was used in the radio controlled experiments, as it has two radio ports in the turret. The 45 mm gun was removed from the turret, leaving just the external gun sleeve. In its place, a KS-24 from an HT-26 was placed in the turret. This tank was lost in Ukraine along with other radio controlled tanks.

The T-26 in the foreground had, in fact, been upgraded to the HT-130 standard by removing the 45 mm gun and putting the KS-24 flamethrower in its place. Notice that all of these tanks have two radio antenna ports for radio controlled tanks. These tanks are a mixture of HT-130s and T-26s.

HT-133 Chemical Tank

The HT-130 was manufactured from 1936 to 1939, however, as with the last T-26 upgrade, avenues into modernizing the chemical tanks were explored. The implementation of the T-26 Model 1939 gave Soviet engineers a new hull and turret to work with. Therefore, two experimental tanks were designed, namely the HT-131 and HT-132.
The HT-131 appeared in the beginning of 1939. This tank retained the new 20 mm (0.79 in) hull plates of the Model 1939 T-26, along with a turret with a 45 mm gun. The KH-25 flamethrower was installed in the mantlet, next to the 45 mm gun. The combat effectiveness of this new machine was impressive, however, it was found that the turret was too cramped, and the crew had too many jobs inside the turret to cope properly.
The HT-132 was an improved version of the HT-131, in which the 45 mm gun was removed. The KS-25 flamethrower was installed in the mantlet with a coaxial DT-29. The HT-132 was tested in the autumn of 1939 and was accepted for production, with some minor alterations, as the HT-133.
A HT-133. Notice that unlike a regular production T-26, the turret is on the right side of the hull, and on the left, two armored refueling caps are situated.
A HT-133. Notice that unlike a regular production T-26, the turret is on the right side of the hull, and on the left, two armored refueling caps are situated.
Despite being structurally similar to a regular T-26 Model 1939, production of the HT-133 was very slow. This was actually due to the many small changes to the turret, that meant that a standard T-26 turret could not be used, and fresh turrets had to be manufactured. By January 1940, these teething problems were ironed out, and full production commenced. The last tank left Factory 174 in the second quarter of 1941, just in time to see action in the war with Germany. By this time, an additional 265 HT-133s had been manufactured. Factory 174 then commenced production of the new T-50 tank.

HT-134 Chemical Tank

The HT-134 was a private venture from Factory 174 to design a flame-throwing T-26 that still retained the 45 mm gun. The designers placed the flame nozzle in the hull, next to the driver. The turret was still on the right side with the flame fuel in the left. Two prototypes were manufactured.
Before the HT-134 tanks were sent to the Finnish front, they were up-armored using bolted armor plates of 10 mm (0.39 in) thickness. This increased the thickness of the turret and hull armor to 30 mm (1.18 in), allowing for some much-needed protection against the Finnish 37 mm (1.46 in) guns.
A HT-134 before being sent to the Finnish front. Notice the bolted armor on the turret to give the tank some much needed protection
An HT-134 before being sent to the Finnish front. Notice the bolted armor on the turret to give the tank some much-needed protection.

Trial by fire: Khalkhin Gol

The first use in action of the chemical T-26 tanks was during the bloody war with Japan in Manchuria and Khalkhin Gol. Just before the conflict, there were only 10 HT-26s attached with the 11th Tank Battalion of the 57th Special Corps. However, this number was increased to 18 just prior to the start of the conflict. The often disastrous supply of ammunition was also a worry, as each tank only had enough spare fuel for 7 refills.

Interestingly, the HT-26 tanks are recorded to have been highly effectively in the opening engagements with Japanese troops. On the 27th and 28th of May 1939, “ognemёtnye” (flamethrower) tanks attacked and successfully defeated troops under the command of Colonel Yamagata. Later, HT-26 tanks engaged a reconnaissance battalion numbering 220 men under Lieutenant Colonel Azuma, which were “successfully dealt with”.

However, a week later, the situation changed drastically. The Japanese penetrated the rear of the Soviet positions, and a large number of Soviet men and machines were lost. The largest battle took place at mount Bain-Cagan. This started poorly for the Red Army, as the Japanese were attempting to cross the Khalkhin-Gol river. Therefore, the 2nd battalion of the 11th Tank Battalion was ordered to engage the enemy. The battle took place on July 5th and involved 15 BT-7s and 5 HT-26. This disastrous attack on the Japanese 70th Infantry Regiment resulted in the complete destruction of every Soviet vehicle, as these tanks had no infantry support and were under direct heavy artillery fire.
Japanese soldiers had such a dislike for these tanks, that they often proved to be more useful as a morale weapon more than a flame-throwing tank. Reports of Japanese soldiers fleeing when an HT-26 approached is a testament to the fear that these tanks produced. However, due to this fierce dislike of the tanks, crews were often very poorly treated and often killed on the spot.
The good performance of the HT-26 tanks is a testament to the primal fear of fire, and how chemical weapon tanks could be successfully fielded. This was not always the case, as with the battle on July 5th that cost the Red Army 5 valuable vehicles. In total, 10 of the 18 HT-26 tanks were lost in the fighting.

Out of the frying pan: Finland

During the Winter War from the 30th November 1939 to March 13th 1940, 5 Special Chemical Battalions were organized to field exclusively flame throwing T-26 tanks. These brigades were in the 30th and 36th Tank Brigades and were the 201st, 204th, 210th, 217th and 218th Tank Battalions.
These tanks proved to be just as effective in Finland as in Manchuria. However, it was noted that loss rate was far greater than regular T-26 tanks. This is illustrated in a combat report from one of these Battalions: In comparison to standard T-26s, the percentage of chemical tanks put out of commission is significantly higher. According to reports, battle losses in connection to standard tanks, 34.3% of chemical tanks deployed were lost to 14.9% of regular tanks. The explanation of this was due to the inevitable ignition of the fuel for the flamethrower, tanks often burned for between 15 and 20 hours and were so hot that the hulls cracked and melted.” 
A HT-26 in Finland, captured by Finnish forces
A HT-26 in Finland, captured by Finnish forces.
It was this very reason that returning HT-133 tanks were upgraded with bolted armor to attempt to stop this issue. It was found that many tanks were also lost up to 100 m (110 yds) from the Finnish lines, which meant that they were totally ineffective. It was for this reason that factory 174 explored the HT-134.
During the conflict, 208 HT-26 and HT-130 tanks were fielded, and 165 HT-133 tanks were delivered from the Leningrad-based Factory 174. In addition, 70 HT-26 and HT-130 tanks were sent to the front, with a total number of 446 tanks fielded during the conflict. Of these, 124 tanks were knocked out, with 24 totally destroyed. Of these 59 vehicles were repaired, and 69 were removed from the battlefield.
It was during this conflict that radio controlled HT-130 tanks were experimentally fielded and used to attack Finnish forces. These tanks had a large and complex radio-controlled driving system, with two radio antenna ports in the roof. These were driven by a T-26 command tank that had no turret, and a large complex driving system. Unfortunately, the trials were unsuccessful.

Heat shielding: Additional Plates on the Tanks

During the Winter War with Finland, Russian forces increasingly found that their standard light tanks had armor that could be penetrated by any of the Finnish AT weapons. Therefore, early on into the conflict, it was decided to return a number of HT-133 tanks to the factory of origin (174 in Leningrad), to have bolted armor plates added onto the hulls and turrets of the tanks. These plates were 10 mm (0.39 in) thick and increased the thickness of the armor on the tanks to 30 mm. This was still not adequate to stop guns higher than 37 mm, however, against the Finnish guns, they were effective.
A HT-133 that had been screened. This tank was lost in early September 1941
An HT-133 that had been screened. This tank was lost in early September 1941.
It is unknown how many tanks were converted to this standard, however, it is known that both HT-133 and T-26 Model 1939 tanks were equipped with these plates. It should be noted that these tanks were NOT known as T-26Eh, as the term Ehkranami is actually a post-war name for tanks equipped with plates. In wartime Soviet documents, the tanks were listed as “T-26 with shields”, “T-26 screened” or “T-26 with plates”.

Specification

Dimensions (L-W-H) 4.55 m x 2.31 m x 2.30 m
(14ft 11in x 7ft 7in x 7ft 7in)
Total weight, battle ready 9.6 tons
Crew 3
Propulsion 4-cyl gas flat air cooled Armstrong-Siddeley, 90 bhp
Speed (road/off-road) 31/16 km/h (19.3/9.9 mph)
Range (road/off road) 240/140 km (150/87 mi)
Armament KS-24 flamethrower
Armor 6 to 15 mm (0.24-0.59 in)
Track width 28 cm (11 inches)
Track link length 12.5 cm (4.9 inches)
Total production 1,218

Sources

About the T-26 chemical tanks on Jaeger Platoon
Tanks in the Winter War- Maxim Kolomiets
The HT-26 on Aviarmor
The HT-134 on Aviarmor
The HT-130 on Aviarmor

HT26, 68th Regiment
HT-26, 68th Regiment
Finnish OT-130
Finnish OT-130
Improvized OT-130 with the barrel cut
Improvized OT-130 with the barrel cut
A KhT-26 (converted from a model 1931) of the 210th Separate Chemical Tank Battalion, Karelian Isthmus, January 1940. The tactical unit number is on the rear part of the turret.
A HT-26 of the 210th Separate Chemical Tank Battalion, Karelian Isthmus, January 1940. The tactical unit number is on the rear part of the turret.
A TT-25 remote controlled, radio guided version of the KhT-130 (OT-130) flame-thrower belonging to the 217th Separate Chemical Tank battalion, northern sector, Finland, January 1940.
A TT-26 remote controlled, radio guided version of the HT-130 flame-thrower belonging to the 217th Separate Chemical Tank battalion, northern sector, Finland, January 1940.
OT-133 (KhT-133), flame-thrower version of the T-26 model 1939. 37th Army independent Chemical Battalion, Kiev, September, 1941.
HT-133, flame-thrower version of the T-26 model 1939. 37th Army independent Chemical Battalion, Kiev, September, 1941.

Too hot to handle: Barbarossa

During the year between the end of the Winter War and the beginning of WWII, the Red Army began to undergo a major reorganization of its tank regiments. One of the greatest missteps was deciding to include flame-throwing tanks in the divisions with normal tanks. This not only complicated the logistics of maintaining the tanks, but the tanks were then deployed ineffectively in small packets.
This poor decision led to the major loss of all of the chemical tanks early in the war; tanks were poorly deployed when attacking German soldiers, and more often than not, broke down before engaging the Germans.
Three HT-133s lost in 1941. The turret markings indicate deployment in the Leningrad Military District
Three HT-133s lost in 1941. The turret markings indicate deployment in the Leningrad Military District.
A good example is the three HT-26 tanks that were deployed in the 68th Tank Regiment alongside T-35 heavy tanks. The regiment had to support no less than four types of tanks: T-35s, T-26s, BT-7s and HT-26s. Each vehicle required different fuels, ammunition, spares and recovery vehicles. During the panicked retreat from their bases east of Lvov, the vast majority of the tanks was lost due to breakdown. The three HT-26 tanks have been identified, two of which broke down, and the third showing signs of damage to the turret.
These flamethrowing tanks would survive until 1944 fighting the German forces on the Eastern Front, however, the last HT-26 tanks were used in 1942. The surviving HT-130 and 133 tanks were deployed in the Leningrad Military District and were used in the defense of Leningrad between 1941 and 1944.

Passing the torch

The flame-throwing tank idea was one that was very popular, and even though the tanks were vulnerable, the physiological effect of these weapons was undisputed. It was a fact that flame throwing weapons were highly effective against dug-in infantry targets, and were able to clear out hard points like no other weapon could do. Therefore, during the early stages of the war, experiments were conducted with flame throwing tanks.
The first attempt at a modern flame-throwing tank was the OKV-1, often misnamed as the KV-6. The tank does not have an official name, as only four prototype tanks were made sometime in September before the design was rejected. These tanks had a flame unit in the hull next to the driver. Each of the four prototypes was a different design, with slightly different flame units. Each one was fitted with the KS-25. All were fielded, and all were captured by the Germans. Two were in fact, pressed into German service!
One of the OKV-1s that was lost. Notice the distinct flame unit in the hull
One of the OKV-1s that was lost. Notice the distinct flame unit in the hull.
Next, OT-34 tanks were manufactured, with some of the earliest known examples being STZ (Stalingrad) manufactured tanks. However, UTZ (Uralmarch 183) tanks and Krasone Sormovo (112) tanks were also made. These were fielded very successfully up until 1945. This design also featured the KS-25 flame unit, this time on the hull gunner’s position.
An OT-34 manufactured at STZ in the spring of 1942. Notice the ball mount houses a KS-25 flame unit
An OT-34 manufactured at STZ in the spring of 1942. Notice the ball mount houses a KS-25 flame unit.
The most famous flamethrower KV tank was the KV-8. This replaced the 76.2 mm (3 in) ZiS-5 gun with a 45 mm Model 1942 gun, with a coaxial KS-25 flamethrower. These were manufactured in early 1942 and were moderately successful. The 45 mm gun was housed in a fake barrel to fool German gunners that the tank was equipped with a 76 mm gun. Arguably, these were the most famous flame-throwing tanks in the Red Army, even if they were produced in the smallest numbers.
A front view of the KV-8. Notice that the only difference between this tank and a standard tank is the gun mantlet.
A front view of the KV-8. Notice that the only difference between this tank and a standard tank is the gun mantlet. 

This HT-26 was employed with the 68th Tank Regiment and was deployed in the Lvov Oblast in June 1941. Notice the “=” mark on the turret that was far more common on the T-35s that served in the 68th Tank Regiment. A red star had been painted onto the rear of the upper hull. Notice the combat refueling system under the exhaust.
This HT-26 was captured by the Finnish army in 1940, with this picture taken from the repair center established for the renovation of Soviet vehicles
This HT-26 was captured by the Finnish army in 1940, with this picture taken from the repair center established for the renovation of Soviet vehicles.
An HT-26 at Smolensk in 1941.
An HT-26 at Smolensk in 1941.
An HT-130 during trials during the late 1930s. The tank is equipped with two radio antennas, indicating it was in fact radio controlled
An HT-130 during trials during the late 1930s. The tank is equipped with two radio antennas, indicating it was in fact radio controlled.
The same HT-130 as above. This view from above now clearly displays the two turret mounted antennas for the radio control system.
The same HT-130 as above. This view from above now clearly displays the two turret mounted antennas for the radio control system. These tanks were used in Finland in 1940, and de-equipped tanks with crews were used and lost in Ukraine in 1941.
An HT-130 that had been captured by Finnish forces and pressed into Finish army service
An HT-130 that had been captured by Finnish forces and pressed into Finish army service.

Radio controlled HT-130s lost in Ukraine in July 1941. Notice the tank in the foreground on the left has two turret mounted radio hard points. Almost all of these tanks were equipped with two radio antennas.
The HT-133 used the hull and turret of a standard T-26 Model 1939. Notice that the turret is on the right hand side of the hull, whereas the standard production tanks had the turrets on the left side
The HT-133 used the hull and turret of a standard T-26 Model 1939. Notice that the turret is on the right hand side of the hull, whereas the standard production tanks had the turrets on the left side.
With obvious shielding, this HT-133 sits abandoned in 1941
With obvious shielding, this HT-133 sits abandoned in 1941. Notice the extent of the plating, covering the entire tank.
ww2 soviet armour
ww2 Soviet Tanks Poster

David Lister General War Stories

By David Lister

A compilation of little known military history from the 20th century. Including tales of dashing heroes, astounding feats of valour, sheer outrageous luck and the experiences of the average soldier.

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Categories
WWII Soviet Tank Destroyers

T-34 with ZiS-4 57mm

Soviet Tanks ww2 Soviet Union (1941) Tank destroyer – 10 built

Upgrading a Legend

As early as 1940, the Red Army was searching for new and improved guns to install onto their latest tanks. The T-34 “Exterminator” (or T-34/57, both are common designations, but indeed, unofficial) was a standard T-34/76 chassis with the new and improved ZiS-4 57 mm (2.25 in) gun. However, it was not until the autumn of 1941 that this vehicle would see action, with small numbers of this tank defending the heart of the USSR – Moscow.
The prototype of the 57 mm ZiS-4 tank gun - Credits: Central Archive of the Russian Ministry of Defense
The prototype of the 57 mm ZiS-4 tank gun – Credits: Central Archive of the Russian Ministry of Defense

Design Process

In 1940, the standard 45 mm (1.77 in) K-20 and Model 1934 guns were deemed inadequate for modern anti-tank duties. Therefore, Factory Number 92 was ordered to begin work on a new gun with a caliber between 55 and 60 mm (2.17-2.36). It was meant for use as the latest standard anti-tank gun. On May 19th, 1941, testing began on the new 57 mm ZiS-4 anti-tank gun. This gun was designed by V.G Grabin, and was based on the ZiS-2 57 mm (2.25 in) gun. It could fire a 3.14 kg warhead. At a range of 1000 m (1100 yd), the ZiS-4 could penetrate 70 mm (2.76 in) of armor at a 30-degree angle. This gun was also to be modified for mounting on the new T-34.
A prototype T-34 was tested with this new gun installed. It was almost identical to a standard production Model 1941 tank, except with a longer barrel and a flat gun mantlet nose. The trial results were highly impressive. However, noticeable wear was spotted on the gun after only 100 rounds. In addition, the gun had very poor accuracy due to improper rifling on the barrel. This was rectified when the barrel rifling was re-bored. The 57 mm armed T-34 was tested again later and accepted for production in July 1941.
A right-side view of the T-34/57 prototype at the Artillery Research Testing Grounds in the spring of 1941. The gun is at maximum elevation - Credits: Central Archive of the Russian Ministry of Defense
A right-side view of the T-34/57 prototype at the Artillery Research Testing Grounds in the spring of 1941. The gun is at maximum elevation – Credits: Central Archive of the Russian Ministry of Defense
Production of this T-34 variant soon commenced, but ended in September, after 10 examples had been produced. The official name of these tanks in Soviet documents was simply “T-34 with ZiS-4”. However, post-war, these tanks gained the new name: Exterminator. While this can be used to name the tank, it is technically incorrect. These tanks are also sometimes called the “57” or “T-34/57”. The cancellation of the production run was due to may factors, including inadequate resources to manufacture the guns and the lack of AP shells for the 57 mm (2.25 in) ZiS-4. Most importantly, the RKKA did not want to disrupt production of a vital tank such as the T-34. After all, between June 1941 and September 1941, the USSR had lost 20,000 tanks. In October 1941, the number of Soviet tanks fell (for the first and only time) below that of the German army.
Another photograph of the first T-34/57 prototype. Note the flat recoil mechanism armor on the gun nose.
Another photograph of the first T-34/57 prototype. Note the flat recoil mechanism armor on the gun nose. On production vehicles, the gun mantlet would be identical to regular T-34/76 tanks, except for a small ring at the base of the gun.
However, the Red Army was still very interested in the installation of a 57 mm (2.25 in) gun onto T-34 tanks. In 1943, the project was restarted. This time, the ZiS-4M gun was installed in a T-34 model 1942/43 tank with the 6 sided “nut” turret. This tank was sent to the front on August 15th, 1943 with the “Special Tank Company 100”, but it did not see combat. After this, the 57 mm (2.25 in) gun concept was dropped, as the new D-5 85 mm (3.35 in) gun was already in production.
The only T-34 Model 1943 with a ZiS-4M gunThe only T-34 Model 1943 with a Zis-4M gun
The only T-34 Model 1943 with a ZiS-4M gun. These photographs were taken during the Kursk/Orel offensives. 

Chassis and Types

The basic prototype of the T-34 Exterminator was a standard Factory No.183 (Kharkov) tank. It had a welded turret, the early driver’s hatch and the Model 1940 POP periscope in the turret hatch.
A column of T-34/76 tanks produced at Kharkov
A column of T-34/76 tanks produced at Kharkov. Note the early pattern track, the cast turret and the early pattern driver’s hatch. 
Unfortunately, not much information exists of the individual tanks. However, some images of some of the used chassis have survived. The 57 mm (2.25 in) guns were sent to plants 183 (Kharkov) and 264 (STZ Stalingrad). The most famous and recognizable T-34 “Exterminator” was a late 1941 produced 183 tank, with the new driver hatch, a cast turret, simplified tow hard points and V-type 41 track. However, a supposed photo shows a tank with the welded model 1941 turret.
A standard T-34/76 produced at Stalingrad (STZ 264)
A standard T-34/76 produced at Stalingrad (STZ 264). This tank served with the 116th Tank Regiment in April 1942.

Killer on the prowl

T-34 Exterminator tanks were most notably fielded during the Battle of Moscow. The ten tanks, belonging to the 21st Tank Brigade, and were on the Kalinin front. On the 15th and 16th November 1941, this brigade claimed to have destroyed 18 enemy tanks in ambushes. In addition to this, on October 14, 1941, the 21st Brigade was deployed in the region of the Demidov rail station and a day later it was ordered to advance on Turchinovo-Pushkino-Troyanovo and make a flank strike on German troops deployed near Kalinin.
Senior Political Officer E.Gmurya drove his tank along the Volokolamsk highway and met a large column of German trucks. It is claimed that he single-handedly destroyed the whole column that stretched for 3 km (1.8 mi) in length. After that, he advanced with haste towards a recently captured German aerodrome and destroyed a bomber aircraft parked there. The tank was knocked out by German artillery and two crew members were killed. Politruk Gmyrya and Sergeant Ishenko escaped and rejoined the Red Army. It is unknown whether this tank was a “57”.
Strangely, 8 ammunition-less T-34 “Exterminators” were claimed to have been fielded with the 8th Tank Brigade on the Kalinin front on October 19th, 1941. This seems unlikely, given that ten T-34/57s were made.
After 4 days, the 21st Tank Brigade claimed to have killed about 1,000 soldiers, destroyed 34 tanks, 210 trucks and 31 guns. However, the brigade took heavy losses, including the Commander – Hero of the Soviet Union, Major Mikhail A. Lukin and the Commander of the 1st Battalion, Hero of the Soviet Union Captain M. P. Agibalov.
It is notable that one Soviet tank ace, Jr.Lt. Gorobetz S.H, was deployed with the 21st Tank Brigade and is credited with 7 kills. The most famous T-34 “Exterminator” is the so-called “white 20”, commanded by major Mikhail A. Lukin, and was lost at Troyanovo.
It would appear that no T-34 Exterminators survived the battles around Moscow. However, the tanks had made a name for themselves.
White 20 commanded by Major Mikhail A. Lukin
White 20 commanded by Major Mikhail A. Lukin. Notice the cast turret, the improved tow hard points and the V-type 41 track. This is by far the most famous Exterminator T-34 built.

Survivor?

There is one T-34 Exterminator on exhibit. However, this is a replica made from parts of real STZ T-34, a hull and wheels from an 183 T-34 and a dummy barrel. While not a poor replica, it does not accurately depict an Exterminator tank as it would have appeared in 1941.
museim peice with stz turret
The replica T-34 Exterminator is an interesting mix of parts, including an STZ turret and an 183 hull.

An article by Frankie Pulham

Sources

T-34 medium tank (1939-1943) – Mikhail Baryatinskiy
T-34: The First Complete Encyclopedia – Maxim Kolomiets
On Panzerserra
ww2 soviet armour
All ww2 Soviet Tanks Posters

Regular T-34 Exterminator in 1941, commanded by Major Mikhail A. Lukin
Regular T-34 with ZiS-4 in 1941, commanded by Major Mikhail A. Lukin.T-34 Exterminator model 1943. This prototype was sent to the front in August 1943, but never saw action due to the 85 mm (3.35 in) armed T-34/85 coming into service.
T-34 with ZiS-4, model 1943. This prototype was sent to the front in August 1943, but never saw action due to the 85 mm (3.35 in) armed T-34/85 coming into service.

Gallery

The famous White 20 T-34 Exterminator
The famous White 20. There is some speculation that the other tanks in this unit were labeled 20-29, but there is no evidence supporting this claim. This tank is the only known example of a T-34 Exterminator with the white divisional markings.
The earliest photo of White 20, before the snow started to fall
The earliest photo of White 20, before the snow started to fall. The V-type 41 track is very obvious in this photograph.
White 20, note the ring at the base of the gun
White 20, note the ring at the base of the gun.
Notice the standard T-34 vision hatch
White 20. Notice the standard T-34 vision hatch. 
Again White 20. This image indicates that there was a radio installed on the tan
Again White 20, after heavy snowfall. This image indicates that there was a radio installed on the tank. Only 1 in 5 tanks were equipped with a radio.
This T-34/57 candidate has been in the midst of a great deal of discussions.
The second confirmed T-34 with a 57mm gun, lost just after the first snows fell. This photograph is too blurry to make out the major details, however the long barrel can be clearly seen.

The same tank as previous. This angle, while blurry, shows that the turret is the Kharkov made “8 Bolt” simplified turret.
A subtly different type of T-34, with a welded turret, the early track and the early driver vision hatch
The same machine as previous, all be it with no snow. Some features can now be more easily seen, such as the strengthening patches below the vision ports on the turret. The track could either be the early 550mm track, or the V type 41 track. 
The T-34/57 prototype during obstacle trials. The gun, which very nearly touches the ground, is level with the tank, or a 0 elevation - Credits: Central Archive of the Russian Ministry of Defense
The T-34/57 prototype during obstacle trials. The gun, which very nearly touches the ground, is level with the tank, or at 0 elevation – Credits: Central Archive of the Russian Ministry of Defense

Sidenote: Other tank with 57 mm guns

The ZiS-2 57 mm gun was used on several vehicles, including as the famous ZiS-30 assault gun. This was simply a T-20 Komsomolets tractor with the ZiS-2 gun mounted on the rear. Roughly 130 of these little machines were converted, and were meant for nothing more than making the ZiS-2 mobile – their tactics reflected a field gun more than an AFV. The Komsomolets tractor was outclassed by 1941 and was only suited for artillery towing. While not ideal for the mobile artillery/anti-tank role, they served well. All but a hand full were lost in the battles at Moscow.
A ZiS-30 Assault Gun in action around Moscow.
A ZiS-30 Assault Gun in action around Moscow. Roughly 130 of these vehicles were made. Only a handful survived the battles.

Sidenote: Misidentified photos

This photograph is often presented as one of the T-34/57 prototype. However, comparison with the actual photos of the prototype reveals that the barrel is too short and too wide to be a 57 mm ZiS-4. It is in fact a photograph of the prototype of the T-34 fitted with the F-34 76 mm gun
This photograph is often presented as one of the T-34/57 prototype. However, comparison with the actual photos of the prototype reveals that the barrel is too short and too wide to be a 57 mm ZiS-4. It is in fact a photograph of the prototype of the T-34 fitted with the F-34 76 mm gun.
This T-34 is also often represented as being an Exterminator. However, the length and width of the barrel are not consistent with those of other T-34/57s on record. A circle on the mantlet seems to be visible, but due to the low-resolution of the image, it might very well be an illusion or a photoshop
This T-34 is also often represented as being an Exterminator. However, the length and width of the barrel are not consistent with those of other T-34/57s on record. A circle on the mantlet seems to be visible, but due to the low-resolution of the image, it might very well be an illusion or a photoshop.
This image seems to be of the same vehicle as the above. It is clearly a regular T-34/76. The white circle divisional marking is also visible in the above photo, as seems to be the 7 in T-17
This image seems to be of the same vehicle as the above. It is clearly a regular T-34/76. The white circle divisional marking is also visible in the above photo, as seems to be the “7” in “T-17” – Picture from Ebay.
A German soldier posing with an abandoned T-34 which might be an Exterminator
This tank has been quoted as a “57”, however it is clearly a 76mm gun. The barrel is too thick, there is no ring around the base of the barrel and the barrel on this tank has a buldge at the tip, which indicates this to be an F-34 gun.

T34/57

Categories
WWII Soviet Armored Cars

Soviet Navy Armored ADG Lorry

Soviet Union (1941) Improvised Armored Lorry – Estimated 3 built

Desperate Times

After the annexation of Estonia, the Red Army occupied the country and absorbed military equipment into the Red Army. After the bloody nose that the USSR was dealt by the Wehrmacht, the Army and Navy were desperate for armor. The Navy’s solution was to create an improvised armored lorry based on an Austrian ADG truck. It featured a large, armored crew compartment, and a small turret armed with a machine gun. Unfortunately, due to the nature of this conversion, there is very little documented evidence of its history. The vehicle doesn’t even have an official name. Some suggested are: “Soviet Naval ADG”, “ADG-R” (ADG-Russian), or perhaps simply Improvised ADG, however this article will refer it to as the “Armored ADG” for simplicity.

History of the ADG lorry

What is known about this truck however, is that it is of Austrian heritage. In 1911, the Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft absorbed the Austrian Motor company Osterreichishe Automobil Gesellschaft. Under this partnership, the company began to produce trucks for civilian use and Imperial Army use. In 1932, Austro-Daimler (AD) began work on a new 4×6 three axle design truck. This truck had many modern features including a longitudinal sprung rear suspension with two wishbones. this meant that the truck was very maneuverable over rough terrain. This new truck was powered by a 6-cylinder petrol engine that produced 65 hp, and boasted seven forward and three reverse gears.
An ADG truck. Note the placement of the spare tire with the arched cab side guard. This was a defining feature of the ADG series. Also note the single wheel per rear axle shaft. The ADGR had two wheels per axle shaft.
An ADG truck. Note the placement of the spare tire with the arched cab side guard. This was a defining feature of the ADG series. Also note the single wheel per rear axle shaft. The ADGR had two wheels per axle shaft.
It was called the ADG, however after 1936, the design was reworked slightly to become the ADGR. The ADGR is discernible by the twin sets of rear wheels, rather than one. Other variants include the ADGK and the ADGT, the latter being a fuel truck. In all, 185 ADGs and 361 ADGRs were built between 1932 and 1940. After the German occupation of Austria, the AD company was merged with Steyr. The Steyr variant of the ADG was called the Steyr-640. Photographs of this truck exist in operation with Wehrmacht units, mainly on the Russian front, and one survives today in the Austrian Military Museum.
ADGR with the protective tarpaulin deployed
ADGR with the protective tarpaulin deployed. 
Unfortunately this is where the the story becomes hard to trace. The only available records seem to show that the only foreign nation to purchase ADGs was Romania.

Context: Estonian SSR

After the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939, the USSR was given free reign to administer authority over Estonia, so the Soviets invaded on 16th June, 1940. Much of the Estonian military surrendered immediately and much of the Estonian military hardware was put into storage. Only the Estonian Independent Signal Battalion stationed in Tallinn at Raua Street were resistant.
The German invasion of the USSR a year later, on June 22nd 1941, was a massive surprise to the Red Army. Scores of vehicles were lost, all of which were needed desperately for defense. It was at this time that the Estonian people rose up against the NKVD, in an Estonian nationalist group known as “The Forest Brothers”.

Theory – Soviet Vehicle

One source claims that the “Zagradotryad” Shipyard in Tallinn created at least two “police” vehicles to suppress the uprising. It is likely that this vehicle is that police vehicle, seeing as though Russian letters can be seen on the side of the lorry. From the relevant photographs of this “Armored ADG” it can be seen that it was probably operated by Soviet Naval personnel – one photograph in particular appears to have dead naval troops hanging from the entry hatch of the vehicle, their black uniforms and helmets fairly clear. The vehicle is believed to have been operated in June, 1941.

Other Theories

In the writing of the article, two other theories have surfaced as to the vehicle’s origin. Originally, it was thought that this vehicle might belong to the Forest Brothers – partisans operating in Latvia and Estonia. The suggestion was that the German 18th Army, which fought alongside these partisans, might have donated the ADG truck to the partisans, who then armored it up.
Similarly, it was also thought that there is a possibility of the armored lorry belonging to the Estonian Independent Signal Battalion stationed in Tallinn at Raua Street. However, this particular theory was speculative at best.

Design of the improvised lorry

It is evident from the photos that the rear section of the truck was built up into an armored superstructure, probably about 7 mm (0.28 in) thick. The new superstructure also featured a four-six sided turret with a Maxim machine gun, of which there were two different shapes, tall and thin, or short and wide. It is unclear how many were produced, but according to photos, possibly two (or three). The suspension appears slightly stressed due to the new superstructure, but it may be the case that the superstructure was just poorly fitted to the chassis, thus giving the illusion of the broken suspension.

Possible Combat Performance

The “Armored ADG” seems to have been armed with a Maxim gun, with armor that was between 7-10 mm (0.28-0.4 in). If it was fighting against infantry, it is safe to assume that it would have performed relatively well, with “bullet proof” armor. It was armed with a machine gun, meaning this truck could have been an able opponent. However, against any form of tank or well-armed tankette, this machine would have been an abject failure because the armor would be insufficient against weapons of a caliber of 12.7 mm (0.5 in) or more. Indeed, one photograph of the “Armored ADG” appears to shows a penetration in the turret. The biggest drawback of this vehicle were its high silhouette, thin armor, and apparently crude construction. That being the case, it is safe to assume that this lorry was a true product of desperate times.
It has been suggested that at least one of the vehicles was destroyed on the Peterhof Highway. It is fair to surmise that perhaps one was able to retreat with other Red Army units before the encirclement of Tallinn.
It is reasonable to estimate that the truck would have been close to its load bearing capability with the additional armor and the improvised turret. Therefore, the “Armored ADG” would have been a very clumsy truck. While we have no definitive information on this improvisation, however the regular ADG’s were in themselves very good vehicles. With their double wishbone suspension, the rear drive wheels could move interdependently of each other, making terrain traversal very easy. It is unknown whether the extra armor on the side impeded the swing of each wheel arm, although it does look as though it was the case.

Links/sources

Forum.axishistory.com
Trucksplanet.com
aviarmor.net
Estonia in WWII on Wikipedia
“Improvised Tanks and Armored Cars of WW2”, a Youtube compilation video by user “jamntime”
krasnoselmuseum.narod.ru
Rare pictures from Tallinn
ww2 soviet armour
All ww2 Soviet Tanks Posters

The tall-turret Armored ADG Lorry
The tall-turret Armored ADG Lorry.
One of the Armored ADG lorries. This is not the official name as the truck conversion has no name
One of the “Armored ADG” lorries. This is not the official name as the truck conversion has no name. it is evident that the original chassis is under the armor plates. Note the curved pieces of armor that cover the tires, and the turret with four sides with a Maxim machine gun. Also note the two letters “дн” on the hull.
The same Armored ADG as in the previous photo. Note the German soldier who is probably from the 18th Army. Also visible is a coating of white paint around the top of the turret.
The same “Armored ADG” as in the previous photo. Note the German soldier who is probably from the 18th Army. Also visible is a coating of white paint around the top of the turret. This would have been applied as an identification with friendly Russian units. It is this “Armored ADG” that would appear to have been on the Peterhof Highway.
An Armored ADG with no turret. It is unclear whether the truck was issued without one or whether it was blown off. Note the driver's vision slit in the cab and the air intakes on the nose
 An “Armored ADG” with no turret. It is unclear whether the truck was issued without one or whether it was blown off. Note the driver’s vision slit in the cab and the air intakes on the nose.

Showing its improvisation, this “Armored ADG” differs from the other two photographed by having a far more squat turret with 5 sides. This photo also clearly demonstrates the type of access that the truck had. There is a door on the right side of the truck and one at the rear. It looks as though it was hit with at least three 37mm shells in the upper hull, and once or twice in the turret. It is likely that the lorry was set on fire, as the tires appear to have been burnt out, and the hull appears charred. In this photograph we can clearly see the Soviet Naval troops who have been killed. Source: Francis Pulham Collection
This Armored ADG is the same lorry as above. It is evident that this example was knocked out due to enemy action. Evident with corroboration with the above photograph that the hull suffered no less than three hits
This “Armored ADG” is the same lorry as above. It is evident that this example was knocked out due to enemy action. Evident with corroboration with the above photograph that the hull suffered no less than three hits. Also note the damage to the turret. The engine appears to have small hits too, possibly one 37mm hit, and some heavy machine gun fire. This photograph appears to show the above “Armored ADG” moved to the side of the road to allow traffic to pass.

Another photograph of the Styer/ ADGR conversion. Take note of the shape of the main turret. Source: Francis Pulham Collection.

Sidenote: Other Conversions in Estonia

In addition, there is some evidence to suggest that Red Army forces also improvised other vehicles in Tallinn, such as a tractor tank based on the STZ-5. However, its history remains as unclear as this armored lorry, as there are only two known photos.
A rear view of what appears to be a tractor tank based on an STZ-5 next to an Estonian Arsenal Crossley armored car. The Arsenal Crossely armored car was considered obsolete, but was possibly taken out of storage to fight in the war and was given to the Estonian 22nd Territorial Rifle Corps, and one was sent to storage in Dvinsk.
A rear view of what appears to be a tractor tank based on an STZ-5 next to an Estonian Arsenal Crossley armored car. The Arsenal Crossely armored car was considered obsolete, but was possibly taken out of storage to fight in the war and was given to the Estonian 22nd Territorial Rifle Corps, and one was sent to storage in Dvinsk. There are rumors of one serving at Leningrad. Seeing as though information is scarce, this leads only to speculation. It is rumored that this is a photo taken on Saaremaa Island, Estonian SSR, and a handful of improvised tanks based on the STZ-5 were built. It is also rumored that this photograph was taken at Leningrad. It is, however, much more likely that this was another policing vehicle made by the Soviet Navy at Tallinn and was deployed in the same manner to the Armored ADG. However, due to the lack of clear sources, none of the three claims mentioned can be totally substantiated.

Seemingly another Izhora Bronetraktor in the above photograph. It appears to have toppled over into a ditch and is being inspected by Germans and locals. The turret is facing the rear, and it is possible that it was trying to flee before it fell over.
Seemingly another tractor tank, as in the above photograph. As mentioned, this is more than likely a Soviet Navy policing vehicle in Tallinn. It appears to have toppled over into a ditch and is being inspected by Germans and locals. The turret is facing the rear, and it is possible that it was trying to flee before it fell over.