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WW2 Soviet Other Vehicles

Pre-war Soviet BOT Tanks

USSR (1941) Improvised Fortifications (Unknown built)

Forts and Fortifications

Fortifications of one type or another have been around since warfare began. Whether they were meant to defend a homestead, town or military target, traditionally, these fortifications were large walled structures. Blockhouses were smaller fortified buildings that allowed for defenders to fire from multiple angles, and be a threat to an army without siege weapons.

With the advent of mobile warfare in the 19th century, forts became less important to warfare. However, the blockhouse and its cousin, the bunker, became ever more important as defensive positions on a battlefield. The main difference between a blockhouse and a bunker is typically that a bunker is mostly underground, typically with an above ground firing slit or, in some cases, an armored turret with a fixed machine gun.

During the First World War, blockhouses and bunkers were formidable obstacles to infantry, and when the first tanks were developed, the armaments of many tanks were focused on dealing with these bunkers and blockhouses.

Tanks as forts

It took almost two decades for the notion of turning a tank into a bunker to be brought up. Primarily, this was done in British territory before the Second World War began. The most famous case is that of Medium Mark II tanks being buried up to their turrets in Egypt. However, there was a surprising lack of dug-in tanks used as bunkers in the interwar period.

During the Second World War, the Soviet Union, Germany, Finland, and, to a far lesser extent, Great Britain used tanks in a dug-in position as improvised bunkers. However, what was more common was a bunker that mounted a tank turret.

Germany was the country that fielded the most bunkers with tank turrets mounted onto them. The two most common were Panther turrets built into small bunkers used in Italy and captured French tank turrets on the Atlantic Wall.

The Soviet Union, however, was much more meticulous with its tank bunkers and generally fielded bunkers known as BOTs.

The Soviet BOT

BOT (БОТ) stands for “armored firing point” (бронированная Oгневая Tочка) and, more generally, was an armored shield that was placed above a firing pit. Thousands of these simple defenses were constructed along the Stalin Line. However, upon the Soviet invasion of Poland, many fell into disrepair. Thousands more would be manufactured during the war as small one or two-man armored firing points.

Towards the end of the 1930s, the USSR began to utilize their obsolete tanks as BOTs. The first tanks converted were T-18 light tanks. However, the BOT treatment was given to multiple Soviet tanks, including T-26s, T-28s, BT tanks and even tanks like the T-46, Medium Mark IIs and T-24s.

Soviet BOTs were varied and, depending on their conversion, either a full conversion to an immobile bunker or a quick entrenchment to become a firing position. These BOTs were mainly in use between June 1941 and early 1942. However, BOTs would be in active use on the Leningrad front until mid-1944.

A traditional BOT. This was a simple armored firing position that would be lowered onto a hole to create a buried armored point of firing. Thousands were manufactured during the war. This one was lost on the Steppe before Stalingrad in June 1942. Source: Francis Pulham Collection.
All Soviet BOT tanks differed from dug-in tanks in that they were never meant to run again. The engines and transmissions were removed, and extra ammunition racks were often added into the interior. More extensive conversions were also done, which added new guns, extra armor and new firing points onto the chassis. With this, the running gear was also removed, but often the road wheels remained, so as to be more easily dragged into the hole dug for the BOT.

T-18 BOT

The T-18 was the Soviet Union’s first domestic tank. It was superficially similar to the Renault FT and the Fiat 3000. The tank was powered by a four-cylinder carburetor engine and weighed 5.3 tonnes. The suspension consisted of three vertical springs, with a suspension bogie equipped with twin pairs of road wheels. On the forwardmost suspension spring casing, a hydraulic third road wheel was attached to the chassis.

The T-18 was issued from 1927 with a 37 mm PS-1 gun in the left face of the hexagonal turret, and a ball-mounted DT-29 (after 1929) in the right face. The turret was manufactured from six symmetrical plates in a hexagonal pattern, with a large dome-type hatch for the commander. In 1930, a bustle (rear turret overhang) was implemented onto the turret to allow for greater turret space. Minor changes were made to the tracks and drivetrain.

98 of the “1927” turrets were manufactured, and 861 of the “Model 1930” turrets were manufactured. Pre-war, the vast majority of these tanks operated in the training role. However, a handful were used in the brief Soviet-Japanese border conflict of 1931.

Towards the end of the decade, in January 1938, only 862 of the T-18s were still in service with the Red Army. 196 tanks were in tank schools, at factories being repaired, or at the Polygon (the Soviet testing ground at Kubinka). The rest of the tanks were at the military district level, mostly weaponless and in storage.

On March 2nd, 1938, the People’s Commissariat of Armament ordered that these obsolete tanks would be modernized, and converted into BOT tanks. All disarmed tanks would be equipped with 45 mm K20 guns in new mantlets that would be attached to the turret. The engines (if still in the tanks) would be removed, and extra ammunition racks would be added. The 45 mm gun could only be added to the turret of the “Model 1930” standard.

Some T-18 tanks had already been converted into some form of BOT tanks. In fact, the practice had taken place as early as 1934. This, however, was the first time a major order was issued. The order also covered the conversion of the T-24 tanks.

Two T-18 tanks in a state of disrepair somewhere in the Ukrainian SSR. These vehicles were likely in the process of being converted into BOTs, although they may also have been destined for the scrap heap. Source: Francis Pulham Collection.

Not all tanks were converted the same. Some conversions were as simple as the installation of the 45 mm guns. However, other tanks had more extreme makeovers. T-18 tanks of the Leningrad Military District not only had the 45 mm guns installed, but at least two tanks had their suspension removed, and in its place, two BT tank wheels were placed on each side of the vehicle. It is unknown if this was meant to make deployment easier.

Even though most BOTs began conversion in 1938, most were incomplete by 1941. The overwhelming majority of tanks were abandoned only partially completed.

A small number of T-18 BOTs were deployed, most notably around Leningrad. Photographic evidence suggests two methods of burial. The simplest type was when the tank was buried up to the turret ring. Evidence suggests that the track and running gear of the tank was removed, leaving just the hull and turret. This has been observed with both the Model 1927 turret and the Model 1930 turret tanks.

Three T-18s that have almost completed the conversion to BOTs. Notice that all have the K20 45 mm gun and the foremost left tank has no engine. Only the tank on the right retains its tracks. Source: Francis Pulham Collection.

One known T-18 BOT lacked a 45 mm gun, and in its place there was a Da-2 mount taken from a BT-2. This vehicle is thought to have survived to modernity, as one T-18 rebuild displays this Da-2 mount.

This BOT T-18 has had the 37 mm gun replaced with the Da-2 machine-gun set-up of a BT-2 tank. Evidence suggests that this vehicle has survived into modernity, being on display, rebuilt with a 37 mm gun in the DT-29 ball mount. Incorrectly, of course. Source: Francis Pulham Collection.

The second method was digging a small trench for the tank to be placed in, and the tank was not covered by earth. The crew could enter through the regular driver’s hatch. Evidence suggests that the track and running gear were left intact. This was the more uncommon method of burial.

T-18 BOT tanks were ordered and distributed throughout the Red Army, however, the vast majority of the known tanks were situated in the recently annexed Baltic states and the Leningrad Military District.

In June 1941, there were approximately 450 T-18s being converted into BOT tanks, and a further 150 tanks were in a condition to be refurbished into operational tanks. Some BOT tanks were already dug in and ready, but this was a handful, with the majority in a state of partial readiness.

This BOT T-18 has not been covered up with soil. Instead, it has been left bare in its pit. The 45 mm gun mounting can be clearly seen. Source: Francis Pulham Collection.

Both BOT T-18s and regular T-18s were in combat from June 22nd, 1941. Perhaps the most famous use of the BOT T-18 was on June 23rd, 1941. Several BOT tanks were dug in around the Minsk area. These included BOT T-26 and BOT T-18 tanks. Two T-18 BOT tanks were notable for their actions.

The T-18 BOTs of Sergeant Gvozdev and Private Lupov successfully engaged tanks approaching the Drut River. Between the two BOTs, three German tanks were claimed as knocked out, along with an APC, and several soft targets. The BOTs in this area successfully delayed the German actions for a day. For doing so, the crews received the Order of the Red Banner of Battle.

Other BOTs were deployed near Leningrad, however, their performance is unknown. More still were dug in around Moscow, and both BOT tanks and regular T-18s were listed in use until November 1942.

All of these T-18 BOTs were lost by 1942. All T-18 tanks that are still around today are actually recovered BOTs, hence why all have very poor renditions of the original suspension.

T-26 BOT

The T-26 was the license-built Soviet copy of the Vickers 6 Ton Tank. The vehicle was manufactured from 1931 until 1940, with almost 11,000 individual examples being manufactured in a series of sub-variants and specialized vehicles.

The T-26 was initially a license-produced version of the Vickers 6-tonne, powered by an Armstrong Siddeley Puma 95 hp engine, with four axles connected to an arched bogie. A leaf-spring faced inwards on the arched bogie connecting a further bogie. Each bogie housed two pairs of rubber-rimmed road wheels. This allowed for eight pairs of road wheels per side of the tank. Finally, the tank was initially equipped with two turrets equipped with DT-29 machine guns. The vehicle was the backbone of the Red Army. The tank would see many updates throughout their service life, the most distinctive being the cylindrical turret with 45 mm gun in 1933, the conical turret in 1938 and the sloped hull in 1939.

A regular production T-26 manufactured in 1931 or 1932. These tanks were hopelessly outdated by the time of the Second World War, but many were fielded, such as this tank. T-26s like this were reported to have been converted into BOT tanks, though this one clearly was not. Source: Francis Pulham Collection.

The T-26 was deemed obsolete in 1937, but it took until 1941 to design the replacement. Many T-26s were in a state of disrepair at the outset of war. Throughout the years, as the tank was updated, it grew considerably in weight, from 6 tonnes to 11 tonnes, putting a strain on the engine and transmission.

Not much is known about the BOT conversion of T-26 tanks. However, it is known that it was done. A report from the 23rd of June 1941 in the Minsk area states that BOT T-26 tanks saw action while defending a river crossing. It would likely have been the same conversion that the T-18 tanks had undergone, with the engine and likely the tracks removed.

It is known that both the earlier twin turreted tanks and the later 45 mm gun equipped tanks were used as BOTs. Some photographs indicate that T-26 tanks of later vintage were also converted. Conical turreted T-26 tanks have been photographed dug in.

It is unknown if this T-26 was dug in by the Soviets or Germans. What can be seen is a T-26 that has been dug in, and a firing position built in front of the tank. The structure in the foreground is German in design, but it is unknown if this was built on top of a Soviet BOT. Source: Francis Pulham Collection.

T-26 turrets were used in more traditional bunkers. These units were classified as PTOT, anti-tank fire points. These took a far more common form of a concrete base with a turret ring mounted onto the top of the bunker. The most famous PTOT is №140, situated in the village of Lesiny near Polotsk, Belarus. Built in 1932, it was a part of the infamous ‘Stalin’s Line’.

The PTOT was likely not initially built with the turret of a T-26, as the turret dates from at least 1935. Despite being a very modern, almost Maginot-like bunker, there is no evidence it was used in action.

This PTOT is the bunker at Lesiny, Belurus. Notice the concrete base that the T-26 turret is sitting upon. The whole unit has been disguised as a house with push-out firing slits. Source: Francis Pulham Collection.

Unhelpfully, the Germans also used T-26 tanks in a similar role, dug in and used as tank bunkers. Some photographs from the Kursk area indicate that this was done around Orel.

The Finns also used T-26 tanks as bunkers. When the Mannerheim Line was reinforced during the Continuation War, and even after the conclusion of sed war, obsolete T-26 tanks were dug in and used as bunkers. The famous T-26 tank at Bovington Tank Museum was one of these Finnish BOT tanks, and inspection of the engine area will find no engine.

BT BOT

The BT tanks were the fast cavalry tanks of the Red Army. The design was initially a licensed copy of the Christie Model 1931/40 fast convertible tank, with an indigenously designed turret. Known as the BT-2, the vehicle was manufactured between 1932 and 1933. 620 BT-2s were manufactured before the tank was replaced.

The BT-2 differed greatly from the Christie tanks that had been delivered. While the hull was almost identical, small changes were made to the nose and rear. The nose that tapered on the Christie tank no longer came to a point and was squared off. The driver’s hatch was redesigned from a complex two-part hinged hatch, which opened horizontally, to a two-part hatch that was far simpler, with a protrusion from the hull that opened vertically.

A line of BT-2 tanks captured by German forces. These BTs were likely either waiting for conversion to BOT tanks, or were looking to be scrapped. The former is more likely due to the March 1938 order. Notice that two tanks have B-3 37 mm guns, while two have Da-2 mounts for twin machine guns. Source: Francis Pulham Collection.

Initially, the B-3 37 mm gun was installed into the turret, however, there were major issues with the gun’s production. In the early tanks, there was no mount for a DT-29 machine gun, however, in subsequent batches, a ball-mounted DT-29 was placed in the cheek. Due to issues with B-3 gun production, a twin DT-29 mount was designed for the turret, called the Da-2.

The BT-2 was replaced with the BT-5. This was a BT-2 chassis with minor improvements to the chassis, but with a newly designed turret that could accommodate a K20 45 mm gun. Initially, the turret designed for the BT-5 (and T-26) was cylindrical in shape, with a small box at the rear of the turret for stowage, and a K20 45 mm gun forward with a coaxial DT-29 machine gun.

Only 230 of the cylindrical turrets were issued before production switched to an elliptical turret, which had a turret bustle (rear turret overhang). This allowed for ammunition to be stowed in the rear of the turret as well as in the hull. In total, 1,946 BT-5s were manufactured between 1933 and 1934, before it was replaced with the BT-7.

A close-up view of a BOT BT-7. Notice that the tank has had an armor plate placed over the main gun and the turret sides to thicken the armor and improve protection. Source: Francis Pulham Collection.

The BT-7 was a total redesign of the BT tanks based on the Christie Model 1931/40, headed by engineer Afanasiy O. Firsov of the design team KB-T2K, who had been tinkering with the BT-2 since 1934. The vehicle was manufactured almost entirely from welded construction, compared to the riveted BT-2 and BT-5. The chassis was designed to accommodate an M-17T aero engine that also powered the T-35A and T-28 tanks. The transmission was redesigned, and the external steering was strengthened. The nose of the tank was rounded, rather than tapering to a point like earlier vehicles.

The original BT-7 was fitted with the same turret as the T-26, but in 1937, this was replaced with a conical turret to better deflect incoming shots.

Like the T-26 BOT tanks, there is not much known about the BT BOT tanks. The BT-2 tank was retired from Red Army service in 1940, and it is likely that some were turned into BOT tanks. There is evidence of BT-2 turrets being used on the Stalin Line in both BOTs and PTOTs.

Of the known BOT BT tanks, BT-5 tanks are known to have been dug in and had their engines removed. Some known tanks have the early cylindrical turrets, which are from the first 250 tanks manufactured.

A BT-7 BOT tank was dug in around Kyiv, and in addition to being dug in, the vehicle was given an additional armor plate over the gun mantlet. A hole for the gunsight was cut out, though a hole for a DT-29 is thought not to have been cut.

A BOT BT-7 tank near Kiev. Notice that the tank has had an armor piece placed over the main gun to thicken the armor and improve protection. Interestingly, the tank has been painted with whitewash, but the tank was not deployed in winter. It is likely that it was painted white to match local geology, as the tank appears to have been dug-in near a quarry. Source: Francis Pulham Collection.

It is impossible to discuss each individual vehicle, but the photographs provided should give the best idea on how most BT BOT tanks looked during their brief service. Perhaps the most famous BOT BT tank is that of German deployment. A BT-7 tank was recaptured by Soviet forces in 1943, converted as a BOT tank near Orel.

A BT-7 with a cylindrical turret that was used as a BOT sometime in 1941. Tanks that are as new as this are good evidence that, to a certain degree, it did not matter the condition of the tank overall to be considered for conversion. Perhaps this tank had a failure that did not warrant rebuilding. Source: Francis Pulham Collection.

T-46 BOT

The T-46 was a relatively successful attempt at improving some of the faults with the T-26. This was done by utilizing as much of the T-26 as possible to design a new vehicle. To do this, the basic chassis of the T-26 was largely unchanged, however, the suspension and drive wheels changed. The original suspension was dispensed with, and in its place a vertical spring-type suspension was used, just like on the BT tanks. Four large-diameter road wheels were placed instead of eight pairs of road wheels.

Just like the BT tanks, the drive wheel could also drive the rear-most road wheel. The return rollers were reduced to just two. The track was widened and had exterior “teeth” that enveloped the wheels and drive wheels, rather than running through a central gap between pairs of wheels.

The front two road wheels could be steered to allow for non-tracked turning. Unlike the BT tanks, the design chosen allowed for a full-width nose on the tank and did not taper like the BT tanks. Unlike the earlier BT tanks, this new prototype could change from tracked mode to wheeled mode without the crew having to exit the vehicle.

The upper hull was redesigned to overhang the track, similar to the T-18 or T-24. The turret chosen was a modified KT-26 turret (an experimental T-26 with 76.2 mm gun), which dispensed with the cheek ball mount, but kept in its place, on some versions, a mount for a flamethrower. The engine intended for the machine was a DT-4 Diesel engine, or an MT-4 Gasoline engine.

The first prototype was issued a K-20 45 mm anti-tank gun. The turret roof had two standard T-26 escape hatches. This tank was also issued with a clothesline antenna and was manufactured from riveted construction, as the Voroshilovets plant had not quite mastered welding construction.

The first prototype was sent to the NIIBT testing range in 1935, where it did not cause any major issues other than a gearbox failure due to the tank’s increased weight of 14 tons. It should be noted that the armor thickness of the T-46 and these prototypes was not more than the T-26’s, at 13 mm.

Further prototypes were constructed and tested, these being the T-46-1/2/3/etc. The T-46 was accepted into the Red Army, with the first deliveries expected in 1937. It was expected to replace T-26 production at factory number 174 in Leningrad.

The production tanks were to be equipped with the Model 1934 45 mm gun, a coaxial 7.62 mm DT-29 machine gun, a rear ball mounted DT-29 machine gun, and a KS-24 flame unit in the right cheek of the turret. It was theorized that the KT-26 gun designed for the T-26-4, or a Ps-3 76.2 mm gun could also be housed in the turret of the T-46.

The production of the T-46 was swift. The production T-46-1s (as they were called by the Red Army) consisted of a grand total of four tanks. This was simply due to the fact that the T-46 was expensive to mass-produce. It cost the Red Army the same amount to produce a T-46 as it did a T-28 three turreted medium tank. Therefore, the T-26 was returned to the factory floor.

This T-46 BOT is a classic example of what happened to a tank when it became a BOT. The vehicle has no engine or suspension, and all that is left is the basic armored turret and chassis. The engine compartment was likely used as the entrance to the BOT as well. Source: Francis Pulham Collection

The T-46s that were manufactured and the prototypes were sent to the NIBT range to be “disposed of”. One further prototype was designed, the T-46-5, which would be renamed T-111, and played a role in later medium tank development.

This would have normally been the end of the T-46 story. However, with the advent of war, the surviving machines were recovered from the scrapyards and re-purposed as bunkers.

The method for turning the T-46 into a BOT was very much the same as any other tank. T-46s had their suspension and running gear removed, along with engine and gearbox. In their place, extra ammunition was stowed. The tanks were given 45 mm Model 1934 guns, but did not have the KS-24 flamethrower, as designed.

Another T-46 BOT. This vehicle is a bit more dug in than the vehicle above. It is likely that the engine access hatch has also become the main entrance to the vehicle. One thing to note in the photographs for this article is the poor positioning of many of the BOTs, often in the open without cover. Source: Francis Pulham Collection.

The T-46 was not a common bunker, but several have been photographed, and even recovered. T-46 BOTs were deployed around Leningrad, on the Karelian Isthmus, and also likely in the Greater Moscow area. Two T-46s have been recovered from their bunker duties. One is at the Patriot Park Tank Museum on display, and the second at the Poklonnaya Museum.

T-24 BOT

The Soviet T-24 medium tank was the second medium tank indigenously designed by the USSR, and the first medium tank to reach mass production. The tank was essentially an enlarged T-18 light tank, which had two turrets stacked upon each other, housing a 45 mm gun in the main turret and a DT-29 in the top turret.

The suspension consisted of eight vertical exterior coiled springs, each with a bogie with two pairs of road wheels. There was an escape hatch between the first and second vertical springs. The hull was made of riveted construction and, in the front hull, were a driver’s position and a DT-29 machine gun position.

300 T-24 tanks were ordered in 1931. However, the same year, a new tank prototype was fielded, this being the T-28 tank. This was a far superior design and, therefore, after only 25 machines were manufactured, the contract was prematurely terminated. This was also partly due to the KhPZ production lines being prioritized for the new BT-2 tank.

The 25 T-24 tanks were sent to training units throughout the 1930s, and it took until 1932 for the tanks to be issued with 45 mm guns. Towards the end of the 1930s, however, the tanks were outdated, and superior tanks were available for training. 18 tanks were in the Kharkov Military District (HVO), a single tank was in Moscow, and a further 5 tanks were at the Tank and Artillery Proving Grounds (the Polygon).

On March 28th, 1938, The People’s Commissariat of Armaments ordered that the remaining T-24 tanks in Red Army stocks be converted into BOTs. It was ordered that 12 tanks would be delivered to the HVO, and a further 10 tanks would be sent to the Belarusian Military District.

Not much is known about where these tanks were subsequently sent, however, it is agreed to have been to the Leningrad Military District. At an army depot, the tanks were assembled, and the conversion process began.

Of the 22 tanks organized for conversion, only two were actually given any form of conversion, and all but one tank had their 45 mm gun removed in preparation for conversion.

A collection point for T-24 tanks. These vehicles have been earmarked for conversion into BOTs. Only one T-24 has a 45 mm gun, with all the other vehicles lacking any armament. Source: Francis Pulham Collection.

The two tanks that were converted initially had their engines removed. The track was removed, but the running gear and road wheels were left intact. To the rear of the hull, a door was added, and 10 mm plates were added onto the hull sides. The front of the tanks was removed, and in its place, a new fire pit was placed. Two water-cooled Maxim machine guns were placed facing forward, with another two water-cooled Maxim guns placed on either side of the engine compartment.

The turret had the machine gun turret removed and, in its place, a simple hatch was placed. The main 45 mm gun was removed and an L-10 76.2 mm gun was placed there instead. An additional armor plate was placed on the turret face of the tank, which was likely upwards of 50 mm thick. The turret also had a water-cooled Maxim machine gun on the right of the turret.

It is thought that the BOT would have been rolled into a pre-dug pit, and buried up until the upper hull, hiding the running gear. The crew could have accessed the tank via a door in the rear or in the turret. The BOT would have likely have had a small trench at the rear to allow for better access.

One of the T-24 tanks converted into BOTs. Notice that water-cooled Maxim machine guns have been placed onto the side of the engine deck. Additionally, the main gun is an L-10 76.2 mm gun, with a ball-mounted water-cooled Maxim gun placed next to it. Source: Francis Pulham Collection.

It took three years for just two T-24 tanks to be almost fully converted into BOT tanks, however, it was too little too late. In late summer of 1941, the T-24 and T-18 tanks at the Leningrad repair center were abandoned and subsequently captured by the Germans.

Of the 22 tanks thought to have been ready for conversion, photographically, 9 tanks can be found unconverted in a courtyard, and a further two are converted. This still leaves 11 tanks unaccounted for, not to mention the three tanks not ordered for conversion. It is known that one tank was used as a range target, with a single photograph of this. The second known tank is listed as being complete in Moscow, and it is listed as being sent to the front in December 1941.

Another view of the T-24 tanks that had almost made it through the conversion process. The tank closest to us illustrates the full extent to which the tank’s front was converted. Two ball-mounted water-cooled Maxim machine guns have been placed on an armored plate. The entire front of the tank was replaced. The turret also had similar updates, with an L-10 76.2 mm gun with a ball-mounted Maxim gun. Source: Francis Pulham Collection.

Medium Mark II BOT

The Medium Mark II was a British tank that dated from the mid-1920s. Before the Soviet Union began to design their own medium tanks, a number of Mark IIs were purchased for evaluation. The tanks sent were mostly made from spares made for Australian-operated Mark IIs, and therefore had a flatter turret than those used on British tanks.

The USSR was not satisfied with the ‘English Workman’, as they were known in the Red Army, and therefore licenses for production were not pursued. Despite this, Medium Mark IIs were used by the Red Army in the training role. They were used in this role until 1938 when the order was given to convert them into BOTs.

This, however, had not been started by 1941, and no Medium Mark II was dug in by their capture in August 1941. Only three Medium Mark IIs are known from photographic evidence and were abandoned in an open field somewhere in either the Baltic States or Belarus.

Medium Mark II tanks and T-18s awaiting conversion to BOT tanks, captured by German forces in September 1941. The T-18s are of note, as two of the tanks are from the earlier pattern of tanks, with the rearmost T-18 being an initial production T-18. Source: Francis Pulham Collection.

Interestingly, the British themselves would use Mark IIs in their defensive preparations of Alexandria in Egypt. 12 Medium IIs were dug into the sands around Alexandria as armored firing points in case Axis forces broke through El Alamein. This never happened and they were never used in combat. One was recovered in the 1980s and restored to running condition, now on display at the Bovington Tank Museum, Dorset.

A close-up of one of the captured Medium Mark II tanks captured by German troops. Notice that the fenders have been removed, along with all of the ball mounts for machine guns and the main gun. Source: Francis Pulham Collection.

T-28 BOT

The T-28 was the USSR’s first mass-produced medium tank. The vehicle was ostensibly a copy of the British Medium Mk III tank, which was illegally measured up by Soviet envoys at the Vickers factory in 1930. The vehicle was distinctive for having three turrets, two either side of the driver and a main turret above the hull. Armed initially with the powerful KT-28 76.2 mm gun, the T-28 was the most modern tank in the world when it was first produced in 1933.

Like the T-26, the tank was manufactured for almost a decade and, during this time, the design was modified and tweaked. New guns were implemented in 1938, namely the L-10 76.2 mm gun, and ten experimental conical turreted tanks were produced with 30 mm thick turret armor.

The T-28 was manufactured from 1933 until 1940, with 503 units manufactured. Like the T-26s, however, most tanks were in different stages of decay. However, unlike many of the other discussed vehicles, T-28 tanks had been carefully updated. Whenever a T-28 was returned to the factory, it was given a round of improvements to keep even the old tanks somewhat close to the latest standard. This included new guns, new turret roofs, new engine access hatches, exhausts, tool kits, drive wheels, road wheels, and even additional armor.

Very much like the T-26, relatively little is known about the T-28 BOT program. Official orders were given out on March 2nd, 1938, to convert all obsolete tanks into BOTs, and like the other tanks discussed, there was a handful of T-28s converted.

While the T-28 fleet was worn out in June 1941, due to the practice of regular returns to LKZ (Leningrad Kirov Zavod, the factory that manufactured the T-28) and the modernization of the fleet, most were at least able to run. Despite this, a handful of T-28s were converted into BOTs.

One of the few known BOT T-28 tanks. Interestingly, it is thought that this tank was dug in in the Russian SSR, unlike most other BOTs of the pre-war era. The tank has had some up-armoring done, but none of it is standard to the 1940 program. Notice that some of the plugs over the vision slits have been removed, leaving just the crude welds that held them in place. It is unknown what the armament of this tank would have been. Source: Francis Pulham Collection.

The wartime photographic record so far only supports two T-28 tanks being converted to a BOT, one pre-1941, and one during the war. The wartime tank was dug-in and turned into a BOT in the winter of 1941/42.

There is not any solid evidence that more were turned into BOTs beyond the mention of T-28 BOT tanks around Leningrad.

One of the few photographs of a BOT T-28 during wartime. This vehicle was dug in somewhere around Leningrad. Source: https://albumwar2.com/

Conclusion

The BOT program was an attempt to recycle old worn-out tanks and, in this regard, it was entirely successful. Scores of tanks that would have been sent to the scrapyard were used in combat to defend the Motherland. It should be stressed that a greater number never made it to the front lines due to poor progression on the BOT program pre-war.

It is easy to say that tanks such as the T-18, T-24, and Medium Mk.II would have been a pathetic prey to German tank crews in 1941. However, the ability for a handful of them to be more of a threat and even be successful is a testament to the merits of using tanks as an Armored Firing Point.

The BOT concept has been done in the post-war many times and is commonplace in many third world conflict zones as a means of recycling tanks. If it was not for the BOT process, many rare examples of these tanks would not be around today, as it was from recovered BOT tanks that today we have the T-18s and T-46s.

A T-24 BOT tank, as seen abandoned in September 1941. Notice the converted nose of the tank with two water-cooled Maxim machine guns, in conjunction with the L-10/L-11 gun in the turret.
A BT-5 BOT up-armored like those seen around Kiev. Notice the shield over the 45 mm gun.

Sources

Francis Pulham Collection
https://fotosergs.livejournal.com/101156.html
http://aviarmor.net/tww2/tanks/ussr/t-18.htm
Soviet Light Tanks: Mikhail Bariatinsky
https://karopka.ru/community/user/15617/?MODEL=456109

Categories
WW2 Soviet Other Vehicles

IT-28

USSR (1936-41)
Armored Bridge Layer – 1 Built

The origins of armored bridge laying vehicles can be traced back to the First World War, when fascines (bundles of wood) were used by Allied tanks to be able to cross trenches and German anti-tank ditches. After the war, the idea of trench crossing systems based on tank chassis settled and the Soviets started to develop such vehicles which led, for example, to the CT-26 (ST-26), a bridge-laying tank based upon the T-26 light tank. When the T-28 medium tank was taken into production in 1933, it also proved to be a valuable base to test new designs and technologies, like mine crawlers, but also bridge tanks, one of them being the ИТ-28 (Инженерный Танк: Engineering Tank IT-28).

A clear view of the IT-28. Source: panzer-ostfront.blogspot.com

Development

The development of the IT-28 was started in 1936 by the Научном авто-тракторном институте (abbreviated НАТИ, NATI: Scientific Auto-Tractor Institute). Work went slowly and it was 4 years later, in March 1940, that the tank could be equipped with the prototype bridging system. Only one T-28, carrying serial number 1638, was assigned to be converted. The conversion took place at the Kirov factory No. 100 located in Leningrad. The main and the two secondary turrets were replaced by an armored superstructure. After completion, it was sent to the testing range and designated IT-1.

The IT-28 beside the factory. These pictures provide a good comparison between the size of the tank and the bridge. Source: aviarmor.net

Design

The space freed by the removal of the two secondary turrets was used to enlarge the crew compartment. However, two machine guns were fitted in ball mounts in the hull, roughly on the same place as the original turrets. On top of the enlarged hull, two extensions were placed to which two arms were attached. The bridge was carried, raised, and lowered by these two arms. These arms could be turned backward in case the bridge was not attached. To do so, a power transmitter was placed between the engine and the arms. The two-track bridge had a length of 13.3 meters. Both tracks were attached together by steel beams and had a total width of 3.5 meters. The weight of both chassis and bridge combined was 29 metric tonnes which was one tonne heavier than a serial production T-28.

Note the spikes at the end of each track so it would have a better grip. Source: Eksmo Publishing

The main turret was replaced by an armored eight-sided superstructure and two winches were placed on top. The winches were attached to the back of the bridge via a pulley located near the arms. With these winches, the bridge could be pulled forward. After that, the arms could be pointed to the ground and, by loosening the winches, gravity pulled the bridge to the ground until the last bar rested on the slight slopes on the arms. At this point, the winches had to be detached by the crew. Then, the arms could be lowered more, the bridge would lay on the ground and the vehicle could drive backward removing the hooks from under the bridge. After that, the arms were turned backward to ease travel.
Picking up the bridge was a bit more difficult to perform. Although it was basically the reverse system, the winches could not pull the bridge further than the position of the pulleys. When the bridge reached that point, the arms were slightly raised, so the bridge could slide down by the force of gravity, while the winches would be slowly loosened again.

The front and the back of the vehicle. Source: en.valka.cz

Trials and Fate

The first trials took place during June 1940, on the NIBT proving grounds in Kubinka. These trials showed that it took between three to five minutes to lay the bridge. The bridge itself could sustain loads up to fifty tonnes. However, several major flaws were encountered, like how the bridge had to be picked up as mentioned earlier, but also the fact that some of the crew had to get out of the vehicle to attach and detach the winches, becoming very vulnerable to enemy fire.
Despite these flaws, the general results were relatively good, but the T-28 medium tank was planned to be taken out of production, so the project was canceled. However, the system and idea of the bridge laying tank lived on. It was planned at one point to mount the system upon a KV chassis, but this idea was never realised. The only IT-28 prototype was not scrapped and kept at the testing range.
During early October 1941, several vehicles from the testing range including the IT-28 were assigned to two armored companies, Semenov and Maksimenko, which were named after their commanders. Additional vehicles were urgently needed and the IT-28 was assigned to the company Maksimenko on the 8th of October. Some paperwork stated that the vehicle was armed with two DT machineguns. In red ink, ‘Kazan’ was written on the form too, which might mean that the IT-28 had to be sent to the city of Kazan, but in reality all traces of the vehicle were lost after it was assigned to the company. It is very likely that the vehicle was either captured and possibly used by the Germans or reclaimed by either side. Its fate is unknown.

The IT-28, driving over the bridge during trials at the NIBT testing site in June 1940. Photo: Eksmo Publishing

Other T-28 Based Bridging Vehicles

Beside the IT-28, several other vehicles were produced and tested. In 1936, the ДМТ-28 (DMT-28, with DM probably meaning деревянный мост, wooden bridge) was created. As the name suggests, it was basically a wooden bridge mounted on the T-28 chassis. The bridge could overcome ditches with a width of six meters and 2.3 meters wide eskers, ridges of stratified sand or gravel. Trials proved to be unsatisfying and further development was discontinued.
In the early months of 1940, another attempt was made to design a system to overcome ditches. It consisted of a metal bridge rigidly attached to a T-28 chassis with a removed main turret. This was done at the Kirov plant and specifically designed to overcome the anti-tank ditches of the Finnish Mannerheim Line. The philosophy was simple, just drive the tank into the ditch so other vehicles can cross over it. The idea is similar to that of the British Churchill ARK. One vehicle was converted, but the trials showed that the design was highly inefficient and the project was canceled. This may be to do with the end of the Winter War on the 13th of March 1940.

A schematic drawing of a T-28 with an attached metal bridge, designed at the Kirov plant in 1940.

DFT-28

During 1939, another T-28 tank was equipped with wooden fascines. Trials showed that, with help of these fascines, trenches with a width up to six meters and a depth up to 2 meters could be crossed. The vehicle was called ДФТ-28 (DFT-28 with DF probably meaning деревянная фасция, wooden fascines). This project was discontinued as well. No photographs of this tank or its trials are known.

Conclusion

Although the IT-28 was original and worked relatively well, some major issues still had to be resolved, beside, the chassis was already obsolete in 1940-41. Maybe the most successful part of this project was the sustainability of the bridge itself, which could sustain every Soviet tank that was taken into serial production, not only at the time of construction, but also later tanks like the majority of the IS tanks. The IT-28 never went into production, but its legacy lived forth after World War II, with the MTU-12 ABVL based upon the T-54 tank chassis and resembling the IT-28 system.

T-28 specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 7.35 m x 2.77 m x 2.78 m (24ft 1in x 9ft 1in x 9ft 1in)
Propulsion 12 cyl 45L Mikulin M17, 500 bhp
Speed (road/off-road) 37/20 km/h (23/13 mph)
Range 220 km (140 mi)
Armor 20 to 30 mm (0.79-1.18 in)
Track width 41 cm (1ft 1 inch)
Track length 17 cm (6.7 inches)
Total production 1

Links, Resources & Further Reading

1941 Tanks in the Battle Of Moscow, Maksim Kolomiets.
Medium tank Т-28, Stalin’s three-headed monster, Maksim Kolomiets
“Frontovaya Illyustratsiya” issue No. 4-2000, RKK T-28 and T-28 Multi-turreted Tanks, Maksim Kolomiets.

Illustration of the ИТ-28 (Инженерный Танк: Engineering Tank IT-28) by Ardhya ‘Vesp’ Anargha, funded by our Patreon campaign

Red Army Auxiliary Armoured Vehicles, 1930–1945 (Images of War)

Red Army Auxiliary Armoured Vehicles, 1930–1945 (Images of War), by Alex Tarasov

If you ever wanted to learn about probably the most obscure parts of the Soviet tank forces during the Interwar and WW2 – this book is for you.

The book tells the story of the Soviet auxiliary armor, from the conceptual and doctrinal developments of the 1930s to the fierce battles of the Great Patriotic War.

The author not only pays attention to the technical side, but also examines organizational and doctrinal questions, as well as the role and place of the auxiliary armor, as it was seen by the Soviet pioneers of armored warfare Mikhail Tukhachevsky, Vladimir Triandafillov and Konstantin Kalinovsky.

A significant part of the book is dedicated to real battlefield experiences taken from Soviet combat reports. The author analyses the question of how the lack of auxiliary armor affected the combat efficacy of the Soviet tank troops during the most significant operations of the Great Patriotic War, including:

– the South-Western Front, January 1942
– the 3rd Guards Tank Army in the battles for Kharkov in December 1942–March 1943
– the 2nd Tank Army in January–February 1944, during the battles of the Zhitomir–Berdichev offensive
– the 6th Guards Tank Army in the Manchurian operation in August–September 1945

The book also explores the question of engineering support from 1930 to the Battle of Berlin. The research is based mainly on archival documents never published before and it will be very useful for scholars and researchers.
Buy this book on Amazon!


Categories
WW2 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.

Red Army Auxiliary Armoured Vehicles, 1930–1945 (Images of War)

Red Army Auxiliary Armoured Vehicles, 1930–1945 (Images of War), by Alex Tarasov

If you ever wanted to learn about probably the most obscure parts of the Soviet tank forces during the Interwar and WW2 – this book is for you.

The book tells the story of the Soviet auxiliary armor, from the conceptual and doctrinal developments of the 1930s to the fierce battles of the Great Patriotic War.

The author not only pays attention to the technical side, but also examines organizational and doctrinal questions, as well as the role and place of the auxiliary armor, as it was seen by the Soviet pioneers of armored warfare Mikhail Tukhachevsky, Vladimir Triandafillov and Konstantin Kalinovsky.

A significant part of the book is dedicated to real battlefield experiences taken from Soviet combat reports. The author analyses the question of how the lack of auxiliary armor affected the combat efficacy of the Soviet tank troops during the most significant operations of the Great Patriotic War, including:

– the South-Western Front, January 1942
– the 3rd Guards Tank Army in the battles for Kharkov in December 1942–March 1943
– the 2nd Tank Army in January–February 1944, during the battles of the Zhitomir–Berdichev offensive
– the 6th Guards Tank Army in the Manchurian operation in August–September 1945

The book also explores the question of engineering support from 1930 to the Battle of Berlin. The research is based mainly on archival documents never published before and it will be very useful for scholars and researchers.
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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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