Third Czechoslovak Republic (1945-1948)

Vehicles of the Third Czechoslovak Republic (1945-1948)

Background: The First Czechoslovak Republic

The history of independent Czechoslovakia traces back to October 28th, 1918, when the Czechoslovak National Council in Prague declared independence from the Habsburg Austro-Hungarian Empire. Consequently, the First Czechoslovak Republic, commonly known as Czechoslovakia, emerged on the European map.

From 1933 onwards, Czechoslovakia remained the sole functioning democracy (a parliamentary republic) in Central Europe. However, on October 1st, 1938, Czechoslovakian Sudetenland was handed over to the German Reich as per the Munich Agreement (also termed the Munich Betrayal, as France breached agreements previously made with the Little Entente in 1921 and the Locarno Treaties of 1925). Subsequently, the First Czechoslovak Republic ceased to exist.

Edvard Beneš (1884 – 1948)
Czechoslovakia during the Interwar and WWII

Edward Beneš was born on 28th May 1884 near the town of Rakovník in the Bohemia region, into a humble peasant family. In 1904, he enrolled at the Free School of Political and Social Sciences at the Sorbonne in Paris, France. Beneš pursued studies in Berlin and earned his Doctor of Laws degree in 1908 at Dijon. A year later, in Prague, he successfully defended his dissertation to achieve the Doctor of Philosophy degree.

Edvard Beneš (1884 – 1948) in 1919. He was an outstanding Czechoslovak politician: fought against Central Powers in WWI, served as country’s Foreign Affairs Minister for 17 years in 1918 – 1935, and as President in 1935 – 1938 and 1939 – 1948 (1939 – 1945 in exile).
Source: Library of Congress, digital ID cph.3a42286;

Throughout World War I, Beneš played a significant role in orchestrating an independent Czechoslovakia from overseas. He established a covert resistance movement named Maffia, advocating for independence while opposing Austrian rule. In September 1915, he went into exile in Paris, where he diligently engaged in diplomatic endeavors to secure recognition for Czechoslovak independence from France and the United Kingdom. Between 1916 and 1918, he held the position of Secretary of the Czechoslovak National Council in Paris and served as Minister of the Interior and Foreign Affairs in the Provisional Czechoslovak Government.

In May 1917, Beneš, alongside Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk and Milan Rastislav Štefánik, began organizing the Czechoslovak Legion to fight for the Western Allies in France and Italy. The Legion sought recruits among Czechs and Slovaks for frontline duty, as well as from the substantial expatriate population in the United States, which numbered over 1,500,000 at the time.

Between 1918 and 1935, Beneš served as the first Foreign Minister of Czechoslovakia, becoming the longest-serving minister in its history. He represented Czechoslovakia at the 1919 peace conference in Paris, culminating in the Versailles Treaty. From 1923 to 1927, he held membership in the League of Nations Council and chaired its committee from 1927 to 1928. He played a prominent and influential role in international conferences, notably those convened in Genoa in 1922, Locarno in 1925, The Hague in 1930, and Lausanne in 1932.

Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk (1850 – 1937), the first President of the independent Czechoslovakia.
Source: Library of Congress, digital ID ggbain.36618;

In 1935, following the retirement of the first President Tomáš Masaryk (1850 – 1937), Beneš assumed his position. Three years later, in 1938, he opposed Nazi Germany’s demand for the German-speaking Sudetenland. The crisis commenced on April 24th, 1938, when Konrad Henlein (1898 – 1945), leader of the Czechoslovak Sudeten German Party (SGP), unveiled the 8-point ‘Karlsbad Program’ during the party congress in Karlovy Vary. The program insisted on autonomy for the Sudetenland. Beneš declined the Karlsbad Program but proposed the ‘Third Plan’ in May 1938, outlining 20 cantons with substantial autonomy in the Sudetenland, which was subsequently rejected by Henlein.

In London, in May 1938, Beneš faced diplomatic pressure from the British Government to accept the Karlsbad program, which he initially refused. The British perceived the Sudetenland crisis as a domestic issue within Czechoslovakia but with international implications, whereas Beneš regarded it as a matter between Czechoslovakia and Germany.

Konrad Ernst Eduard Henlein (1898 – 1945) was a chairman of the SGP in 1933 – 1938, and later the Gauleiter of Reichsgau Sudetenland (1938 – 1945). He was responsible for mass deportations to death camps.

On September 4th, 1938, Beneš proposed the ‘Fourth Plan’, intending to restructure Czechoslovakia into a federation, granting extensive autonomy to the Sudetenland. However, Henlein rejected the Fourth Plan and incited a rebellion in the Sudetenland, which ultimately proved unsuccessful. On September 12th, 1938, during his keynote speech at the Nuremberg rally, Adolf Hitler demanded the annexation of the Sudetenland into Germany. Subsequently, on September 30th, 1938, Germany, Italy, France, and the United Kingdom signed the Munich Agreement, permitting the annexation and military occupation of the Sudetenland by Germany, without consulting Czechoslovakia.

Beneš reluctantly agreed, facing opposition within his country, following warnings from France and the United Kingdom that they would adopt a neutral stance in a conflict between Germany and Czechoslovakia, despite their prior guarantees to the contrary. Under German pressure, Beneš resigned on October 5th, 1938, and was succeeded by JUDr. Emil Hácha (1872 – 1945). During Hácha’s leadership, Czechoslovakia ceded additional territory to Hungary in the First Vienna Award the following month.

JUDr. Emil Hácha (1872 – 1945). The short period of his presidency is known as the Second Czechoslovak Republic, leading a rump and puppet state. Source:

On October 22nd, 1938, Beneš went into exile in Putney, London. Czechoslovakia’s intelligence service, led by František Moravec, remained loyal to Beneš, giving him a valuable bargaining chip in his dealings with the British.

The Munich Agreement was soon followed by the First Vienna Award on November 2nd, 1938, which separated largely Hungarian-inhabited territories in southern Slovakia and southern Podkarpatska Rus’ from Czechoslovakia. On November 30th, 1938, Poland annexed small patches of land in the Spiš and Orava regions.

In March 1939, Hitler coerced Hácha into ceding the remnants of Czechoslovakia to Germany. Consequently, the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (alongside the puppet state of the First Slovak Republic) was established. Hácha, while retaining his office as President de jure, was compelled to swear an oath to Hitler. Konstantin von Neurath was appointed as the Protector of Bohemia and Moravia by Hitler. During the German occupation, the parliament was dissolved, and anti-Semitic laws, akin to those in Nuremberg, were enforced. Subsequently, Germany gained complete control of Czechoslovakia, including its substantial military arsenal, which played a crucial role in Germany’s invasions of Poland and France.

The First Slovak Republic remained de jure independent until April 4th, 1945. However, a substantial portion of its territory (specifically, the remainder of Podkarpatska Rus’) was annexed by Hungary on March 14th, 1939.

By July 1939, the crisis in Danzig had brought Britain to the brink of war with Germany. Beneš perceived it as the sole means to restore Czechoslovakia. In October 1939, he founded the Czechoslovak National Liberation Committee, which promptly declared itself the Provisional Government of Czechoslovakia. While Britain and France refrained from full recognition, unofficial contacts were allowed. A significant point of contention in wartime relations between Britain and Czechoslovakia was the Munich Agreement, which the British still upheld, and which Beneš urged them to revoke. As long as the British continued to regard the Munich Agreement as valid, they acknowledged the Sudetenland as part of Germany.

Partition of Czechoslovakia in 1938 – 1939. Source:

Beneš’s relations with the Polish government-in-exile, led by General Władysław Sikorski, were strained due to the Teschen dispute. General Sikorski pressed for claiming the region for Poland, while Beneš argued it should be returned to Czechoslovakia after the war. Despite this contention, Beneš recognised the necessity for a Polish-Czechoslovak alliance to counter Germany post-war. He contemplated a Polish-Czechoslovak federation as the optimal resolution for the Teschen dispute. In November 1940, Beneš and Sikorski signed a tentative agreement for a federation, though tension arose between Beneš and Slovak members of the government-in-exile due to his reluctance to recognise the Slovaks as a distinct nation and Slovakia as a full federation member.

On July 18th, 1941, the Soviet Union and the UK formally recognised the government-in-exile led by Beneš, pledging non-interference in Czechoslovakia’s internal affairs. Additionally, they authorized the government-in-exile to raise an army to actively support the Red Army on the Eastern Front. Crucially, both the UK and the Soviet Union acknowledged Czechoslovakia’s pre-Munich Agreement borders, a vital point for Beneš. The British government’s continued adherence to the Munich Agreement, viewing the Sudetenland as part of Germany, added to its significance. Even the previously neutral United States cautiously referred to the government-in-exile as a ‘transitional’ government and broadly indicated that determining Czechoslovakia’s borders would occur post-war, potentially leaving the Sudetenland under German control. In 1942, Beneš eventually persuaded the Foreign Office to declare that Britain had revoked the Munich Agreement and supported the return of the Sudetenland to Czechoslovakia.

Beneš maintained a cordial relationship with Joseph Stalin. Believing Czechoslovakia would benefit more from aligning with the Soviet Union than Poland, he halted plans for a Polish-Czechoslovak confederation and, in 1943, signed an entente with the Soviets. Beneš envisioned and trusted that the wartime alliance of the ‘Big Three’ – the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States – would persist post-war, cooperating within an international system to restrain Germany. While Beneš did not attend the Tehran Conference himself, news of the harmonious atmosphere among the American, Soviet, and British delegations at Tehran solidified his confidence in the ‘Big Three’ alliance.
In April 1945, Beneš flew from London to Košice in eastern Slovakia, already captured by the Red Army, becoming Czechoslovakia’s temporary capital. He formed a coalition government known as the National Front, with Communist Party leader Klement Gottwald as Prime Minister.

Creation of the Independent State – Košice Program

In the final phases of World War II, discussions unfolded between President Edvard Beneš, the head of the Czechoslovak Government-in-Exile based in London, and the Moscow leadership of the Communist Party, headed by Klement Gottwald, to deliberate on the establishment of a post-war government. The rendezvous transpired in the city of Košice, which had already been liberated by the Red Army. On April 5th, 1945, a program document outlining the principles of future policy was endorsed.

The Košice Program. Source: Radio Prague (

In compliance with the agreement, all sanctioned political parties were to function within a coalition known as the National Front of Czechs and Slovaks, thereby excluding and prohibiting opposition. Collective responsibility for the division of Czechoslovakia and collaboration with the Nazis by right-wing parties, along with the German and Hungarian populations, was proclaimed, and the expulsion of the latter from Czechoslovakia was promised. The concept of Czechoslovakism was abandoned, acknowledging self-governance for Slovaks. The establishment of the Slovak National Council (Slovak: Slovenská národná rada) occurred. The one-sided alignment towards the Soviet Union was modified concerning foreign, security, and defense policies. Socialist reforms were initiated, including limitations on private ownership and the nationalization of major companies.

Nationalization affected approximately 80% of the economy and, alongside the planned economy, resulted in significant short-term economic issues, encompassing production problems and inefficiencies. All these occurrences and the new political system were the outcomes of a considerably longer restructuring process following the Munich Agreement of 1938. The belief that Czechoslovakia should align with the USSR was then embraced as an established and favorable arrangement. The mindset of politicians and citizens was shaped by the recent Munich Agreement, viewed as a betrayal of their country and indicative of the West’s weakness. The disappointment with the Western powers overshadowed existing sympathies for left-wing policies. Eventually, President Beneš, who played a pivotal role in the exile government, also acknowledged that democracy could, and indeed should, integrate certain social policies implemented in the Soviet Union.

A government of the National Front of Czechs and Slovaks was formed on 4th April, 1945, with the Social Democratic Party chairman Zdeněk Fierlinger as the Prime Minister.

Zdeněk Fierlinger (1891 – 1976) served as the Prime Minister of Czechoslovakia from 1944 to 1946. His Czech Social Democratic Party was merged with the Czechoslovak Communist Party after the communist coup in 1948. Source: Google Arts and Culture

The Government returned to Prague after its liberation on May 10th. Fierlinger flew into Prague on a Soviet plane and took part in the victory parade. He rode in a car ahead of Beneš, who received the loudest cheers from the city’s people.

The Soviet Union began pursuing its interests from the first days of Czechoslovakia’s liberation. President Beneš faced pressure from the Soviet Union to cede the Carpathian Ruthenia territory as a form of war reparation, leading to a treaty signed on June 29th, 1945, annexing it to the Ukrainian SSR of the Soviet Union. Shortly after the dropping of atomic bombs on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on August 6th, 1945, followed by Nagasaki on August 9th, a delegation of Soviet geologists and Red Army officers displayed keen interest in the uranium mine at Jáchymov in the Sudetenland. The Soviets had effectively taken control of the mine in September, prompting Prime Minister Fierlinger to advise the local authorities to take no action.

“With Thunderous Applause…”

On May 26th, 1946, parliamentary elections were conducted in Czechoslovakia. These marked the first elections since 1935, and, coincidentally, were the last that were deemed free and fair until 1990. Moreover, the 1946 Czechoslovak parliamentary elections were one of only two free nationwide elections held in the Eastern Bloc, with the other occurring in Hungary a year earlier.

A new electoral system was implemented, dividing the country into 28 multi-member constituencies. From these divisions, 150 members were elected from Bohemia, 81 from Moravia and Silesia, and 69 from Slovakia. The voting age was reduced to 18, and only Slavs (Czechs, Slovaks, etc.) were eligible to register and vote.

The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia emerged as the largest party, securing 38% of the vote and winning 114 of the 300 seats (93 for the main party and 21 for its Slovak branch). This share was higher than in any previous Czechoslovak parliamentary election, as no party had previously garnered more than 25% of the vote. Voter turnout was 94%.

The Czechoslovak National Social Party, led by Petr Zenkl, of which E. Beneš was a member, secured second place with 18.37% of the votes. The Czechoslovak Social Democracy (Czech: Československá Sociální Demokracie), led by Zdeněk Fierlinger, attained fifth place with only 12.1% of the votes.

The parliamentary elections in 1946 led to significant representation for leftist and communist parties in the new constituent assembly, prompting Beneš to form a coalition with these parties in his administration. The election results determined the composition of the Slovak National Council and local committees. Subsequently, the Communists began gradually consolidating their control over the country.

1948 Coup d’Etat

American officials harbored concerns about the Soviet Communist influence within the nation. Their dismay escalated notably when Beneš’ government vehemently opposed any proposals for the political rehabilitation and potential rearmament of Germany. In retaliation, the United States halted a substantial loan to Czechoslovakia. Consequently, the national economy began to spiral out of control, enabling significant electoral gains by the communists in the country. Moderate and conservative parties in Czechoslovakia were incensed, asserting that the US’ action was pushing their nation into the clutches of communism.

As moderate factions within the Czech Government broached the possibility of the nation participating in the US Marshall Plan, the Communists orchestrated strikes, protests, and intensified suppression of opposition parties. Despite Beneš’ desperate attempts to maintain unity within his nation, by February 1948, the Communists had ousted other coalition parties from the government.

Simultaneously, both in the cabinet and parliament, tensions between the Communists and their adversaries heightened, leading to increasingly acrimonious conflicts. In February 1948, Václav Nosek, the Minister of the Interior and a staunch Communist, unlawfully expanded his authority by attempting to purge remaining non-Communist elements from the National Police Force. This transformation of the security apparatus and police into instruments of the KSČ jeopardized fundamental civic freedoms.

Václav Nosek (1892 – 1955) played a pivotal role in the 1948 Czechoslovak coup d’état. Despite a majority of the cabinet voting to instruct Nosek to cease the infiltration of the police force with Communists, Nosek disregarded the directive with the complete support of Prime Minister and Communist Party leader, Klement Gottwald.
Source: Moravská zemská knihovna v Brně, sign.: 2-0217.843

The non-Communists in the cabinet insisted on punitive measures against the offending Communists within the government, seeking an end to their alleged subversion. Nosek, Gottwald, and other Communists refused to concede. They threatened to use force and mobilized their supporters across the country to avoid defeat in parliament. On February 21st, twelve non-Communist ministers resigned in protest after Nosek refused to reinstate eight senior non-Communist police officers, despite a majority vote in favor of doing so by the cabinet. Most ministers, including Social Democrat leader Zdeněk Fierlinger, retained their positions, openly expressing their support for the Communists. The non-Communists expected Beneš to reject their resignations, thereby maintaining them in a caretaker government and, in the process, pressuring the Communists to yield.

Initially, Beneš insisted that any new government must include ministers from non-Communist parties. However, amidst escalating tension and widespread Communist-led demonstrations nationwide, Beneš chose to remain neutral on the issue, fearing that the Communist Party might incite an insurrection and give the Red Army a pretext to invade the country and ‘restore order’. Simultaneously, the non-Communist ministers appeared to treat the situation as a traditional pre-1939 governmental crisis. Unaware that the Communists were mobilizing to seize complete power, they remained unaware of the impending change. Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister Valerian Zorin, who had previously served as his country’s ambassador to Czechoslovakia from 1945 to 1947, returned to Prague to assist in finalizing the coup’s arrangements.

Armed militia and police took control of Prague, Communist demonstrations were orchestrated, and an anti-Communist student protest was forcefully dispersed. Ministries held by non-Communist ministers were occupied, civil servants were dismissed, and these ministers were barred from accessing their own ministries. The Army, under the direction of Defence Minister Ludvík Svoboda, who was formally non-partisan but had facilitated Communist infiltration into the officer corps, remained confined to barracks and did not intervene.

Addressing a crowd of 100,000 people, Klement Gottwald threatened a general strike unless Beneš agreed to establish a new government dominated by the Communists. Zorin, at one point, offered the assistance of the Red Army stationed on the country’s borders. However, Gottwald declined the offer, believing that the threat of violence combined with significant political pressure would suffice to compel Beneš to capitulate.

On February 25th, Beneš yielded to Communist demands, handing over his cabinet to the party. Rigged elections were held in May to validate the Communist victory, with Gottwald remaining as Prime Minister. Officially, the new government consisted of 25 members – 13 Communists and 12 non-Communists. In practice though, the new government was largely composed of either Communists or pro-Soviet Social Democrats.

The sole senior minister in the new government who was neither a Communist nor a sympathizer, Foreign Minister Jan Masaryk, died under highly suspicious circumstances. Some of his friends and admirers believed Masaryk had taken his own life out of despair, but persistent suspicions remain that he was actually thrown to his death. As of the investigation’s conclusion in 2021, murder, accident, or suicide all remain plausible theories.

Jan Garrigue Masaryk (1886 – 1948) served as the Foreign Minister of Czechoslovakia from 1940 until his death in 1948. On March 10th, 1948, Masaryk was found dead, attired only in his pajamas, in the courtyard of the Foreign Ministry (the Černín Palace in Prague), beneath his bathroom window. The Ministry of the Interior asserted that he had committed suicide by jumping out of the window. However, it was widely speculated at the time that he was murdered, potentially at the behest of the emerging Communist government.
Source: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Czechoslovakia transitioned into a single-party state. The Communists swiftly moved to consolidate their power. Thousands were dismissed from their positions, and hundreds were detained. Numerous individuals fled the country to evade living under the onset of Communism’s ‘brighter day.’ On May 9th, parliament approved a new constitution, declaring Czechoslovakia a ‘people’s democratic state.’ Although it did not entirely mirror Communist principles (for instance, the KSČ was not explicitly mentioned), it closely resembled the Soviet model to the extent that Beneš refused to endorse it.
During the elections on May 30th, voters were presented with a solitary list from the National Front, officially securing 89.2% of the vote. Within the National Front list, the Communists obtained an absolute majority of 214 seats (160 for the main party and 54 for the Slovak branch). This majority expanded further when the Social Democrats merged with the Communists later in the year. Nearly all non-Communist parties from the 1946 election were also represented within the National Front list, securing parliamentary seats. However, by this point, they had all aligned themselves as loyal partners of the Communists, and the few independent-minded members of those parties were either imprisoned or in exile.

The National Front transformed into a broad patriotic organization dominated by the Communists, with no political group outside it permitted to exist.

Following this, President Beneš resigned on June 2nd and was succeeded by Gottwald twelve days later. Beneš passed away in September, signifying a symbolic conclusion to the sequence of events. His burial took place before an immense and silent gathering, who came to mourn the loss of a beloved leader and the demise of the democracy he had come to symbolize.

Main Czechoslovak Designs of the Third Republic Period

In 1938, the 1,500,000-strong Czechoslovak Army was among the largest in Europe and was fairly well-equipped with modern weapons, including locally produced tanks and aircraft. On November 1st, 1938, German troops entered the Sudetenland area of Czechoslovakia, occupying the entire region with almost no resistance from the Czech forces – only the 3rd Battalion of the 8th Border Regiment briefly resisted advancing German troops before being ordered to lay down their weapons by the Czech High Command. The Czechoslovak Army was formally disbanded after the German occupation, but still had plenty of army personnel that wanted to continue to fight the Germans. Despite feeling betrayed by the Allies, the only option was to volunteer to fight in one of the Allied armies at the time. Thus, many Czechs made their way to Romania and Poland before borders were closed completely, intending eventually to make their way west to France or the UK.

During the war, Czechoslovak territory became a major strategic location, not only for the production of numerous vehicles such as Jagdpanzer 38t and its variants, Marder, Grille, Sturmpanzer IV, and others, but also for repair. Therefore, after the war, large amounts of German vehicles were available for the Third Republic, either in a state of repair from various workshops or scattered around the countryside. Exact numbers of those are not known yet. The army got rid of some tanks, such as the Tiger and Tiger II, immediately, because keeping them would be pointless due to their weight, unreliability, and lack of spare parts. With some others, such as the Panther, the army did not really know what to do. The rest, Panzer IVs, Hummels, Jagdpanzer 38ts, and others in limited numbers, were pressed into service or exported.

Challenger Mk.I from the 1st Company of the 1st Tank Battalion. The camouflage of the cannon barrel is well visible. Hlávkuv most 30 May 1945. Source:

Another rather significant part of vehicles in service of the Third Czechoslovak Republic’s Army were received from the Allies – either inherited from Czechoslovak brigades that fought within the Western armies during World War II or bought after. These included up to 190 Cromwells and 22 A.30 Challengers, a certain number of Sherman Fireflies, Crusaders, and Churchills. All of those served until the early 1950s after which they were put in reserve. All Western-made vehicles were scrapped by the 1960s. No modifications for them were ever considered.

“We have Operation Tannenbaum at Home”

At the end of World War II, the Swiss Army conducted a series of tests on various German armored vehicles, including a ‘Hetzer’. In mid-1946, it was suggested that Switzerland acquire the last batch of 100 G-13 tanks initially built for the Germans by the Czech Skoda factory. The Swiss Army decided to procure them to equip several tank destroyer units. In December 1946, the first batch of eight arrived in Switzerland, with the main batch of 100 arriving in 1947. To meet the Swiss Army’s needs, another 50 were purchased in 1947, with the last ones being delivered in 1949. These last 50 vehicles were newly manufactured by Skoda. The Swiss Army retained the G-13 in service until the 1970s.

A G-13 in Tank Museum Thun, Switzerland.
Source: Wikimedia Commons, photo by Sandstein (a.k.a. TheBernFiles)

Recycling the Obsolete

After the conclusion of World War II, several Czechoslovak projects were developed based on refined production vehicles, including the Škoda T-22 and Turán medium tanks, LT vz. 38 light tank (Panzer 38(t)), and the ST-I tank destroyer (Jagdpanzer 38(t)), along with the Panzer V ‘Panther’.

Among these projects developed during the era of the Third Republic were the Útočna Houfnice 15 cm StuH 43 na podvozku ST-I and the Lehká Polní Houfnice 10.5 cm vzor 18 na podvozku ST-I.

The first proposal was an assault version of the ST-I, equipped with the German StuH 43, requiring minimal alterations to the original tank destroyer’s layout. The primary adjustment involved modifying the gun mount to accommodate a substantial 15 cm howitzer, managing its recoil in addition to the existing weaponry. The ÚH-ST-I with StuH 43 encountered significant shortcomings, rendering it impractical for production, notably the insufficient ammunition and restricted elevation and horizontal arcs.

External appearance reconstruction of the ÚH-ST-I (StuH 43) assault SPG, based on the original Zb 16050-P blueprint.
Source: Zinoviy Alexeev Design Bureau, drawn by Andrej Sinyukovich.

The second proposal demanded more significant modifications to the original vehicle. The gun mount and casemate’s roof had to be dismantled and replaced with the 10.5 cm vzor 18 howitzer mount.

The Lehká Polní Houfnice 10.5 cm vzor 18 na podvozku ST-I, redrawn from the original Zb 16064-P blueprint.
Source: Martin Dubánek, ‘Od bodáku po tryskáče: Nedokončené Československé zbrojní projekty 1945–1955’.

The 10.5 cm vzor 18 howitzer seems to have been the most popular choice for the Czechoslovak Third Republic self-propelled guns, as it was also proposed to be mounted on the hulls of Czechoslovak Škoda T-22 and captured Hungarian Turán medium tanks in 1947.

The Lehká Polní Houfnice 10.5 cm vzor 18 na podvozku Turán MAVAG (top) and Lehká Polní Houfnice 10.5 cm vzor 18 na podvozku Škoda T-22 (bottom), redrawn from the original blueprints.
Source: Martin Dubánek, ‘Od bodáku po tryskáče: Nedokončené Československé zbrojní projekty 1945–1955’.

There also were proposals for long-range artillery of larger calibers. For example, in 1946, German 15 cm sFH 18 howitzer (known in Czechoslovakia as 15 cm těžká houfnice vz. 18N) was proposed to be mounted on the Škoda T-22 medium tank hull, and the Panther was to be armed with either 152,4 mm houfnice vzor 18/47 or an incredible 305 mm Škoda B20 mortar. Nevertheless, all these projects never went farther than blueprints.

The Těžká Polní Houfnice 15 cm vzor 18 na podvozku Škoda T-22 (top), 152,4 mm houfnice vz. 18/47 na podvozku Panter (middle) and 30.5 cm Minomet na podvozku Panter, redrawn from the original blueprints Zb 10404-P and Zb 16053-P respectively.
Source: Martin Dubánek, ‘Od bodáku po tryskáče: Nedokončené Československé zbrojní projekty 1945–1955’.

Third (after the Char B1 and FV201) European Main Battle Tank Ever

On October 17th, 1945, a decision by the General Staff initiated the development of a new medium tank for the Czechoslovak Army, intended to have firepower comparable to modern foreign combat vehicles. The technical specifications for the new vehicle received approval from the Chief of the General Staff, Divisional General Bohumil Boček. The project was designated Tank všeobecného použití (TVP) (Czech for main battle tank). The Military Technical Institute (Vojenský technický ústav (VTU)), situated in Prague, served as the development site. VTU primarily engaged in conceptual development. The Institute’s staff was tasked with establishing the general concept of the new tank, following which the design bureaus of the manufacturing plants took over.

The TVP VTU, as it was in March 1946. This iteration contains more German specifics rather than Soviet. For instance, the main gun is the ’88 mm N. vzor 36′, a Czechoslovak version of the German KwK 36, which served as the primary armament of the Panzer VI Tiger I heavy tank.
Source: VHU Prahan (Vojenský historický archív)

The Czechoslovak military chose the Soviet T-34/85 medium tank as the basis for developing the TVP. This is evident from the Czechoslovak military’s requirement to install hull plates at an angle, specifically citing the Soviet tank as a model. However, by this stage, the armor had already differed: the glacis was intended to be 60 mm thick, and the sides were to be 40 mm thick. Weighing between 30 to 33 tonnes, the TVP’s maximum speed was estimated at 50 km/h. Although the engine specifications were not detailed, it was stressed that it should be diesel-powered, aiming for a specific power of 20 hp per tonne for the tank.

Initial requirements dated October 17th, 1945, stipulated the use of Soviet guns as the TVP’s armament: either the 85 mm ZiS-S-53 or the 100 mm D-10T, with plans also including the coaxial ZB vz. 37 machine gun. The ammunition loadout was intended to comprise 80 shells and 3,600 rounds. Nevertheless, Soviet weaponry only emerged at the project’s outset. A sketch from March 1946 showcased the 88 mm N. vzor 36 (Czechoslovak version of the German KwK 36 gun) as the tank’s primary armament.

The TVP VTU’s concept lasted only a few weeks after the sketch. On December 21st, 1945, a letter directed to the VTU instructed the Czechoslovak military to equip the prospective vehicle with a gun capable of penetrating a 100 mm armor plate from a distance of 3 km. The sole gun meeting this requirement was the 8.8 cm KwK 43 L/71, known in Czechoslovakia as the ‘8.8 cm kanon protiletadlový vzor 41’ (88 mm anti-aircraft gun mod. 1941), considered appropriate for the new tank. Another considered gun was the German 105 mm Flak 39 L/63 anti-aircraft gun. Both of these guns were highlighted by the designers on February 13th, 1946, a mere two weeks before the project was under consideration.

The development of the TVP’s design transitioned from VTU to the ČKD and Škoda factories. The response from ČKD remains unknown, and there are no known documents regarding the TVP’s further development in this context. Conversely, Škoda expressed interest in the project, and in early December 1946, the factory’s design bureau presented its vision of the main battle tank. The vehicle, named Škoda T-40, bore resemblance to the VTU’s development but was significantly better designed.

The Škoda T-40, as it was in December of 1946. The influence of German tank school, particularly of the Schmalturm turret, is clearly visible.
Source: VHU Prahan (Vojenský historický archív)

After a thorough assessment of the task, the engineers arrived at a disheartening conclusion. Adhering to the Army’s specified mass limit of 30-33 tonnes would not be feasible. Instead, the tank would have required a weight of around 40 tonnes. Engineers from Škoda re-engineered most of the vehicle’s components, such as the turret, suspension, and motor compartment. Although Škoda’s proposal might have been considered state-of-the-art in 1946, the arms race had rendered it obsolete by 1947.

Highlights of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic Combat Vehicles

Most of the aforementioned Czechoslovak proposals, which were based on foreign (mainly captured) designs, had come to nothing by 1948, being replaced by original concepts of various kinds – transformed TVP (which, by the early 1950s, had moved far away from German influence), light tanks (Škoda T-17 and TNH 57/900), tank destroyers, SPAAGs, and SPGs (all based on T-17 and TVP hulls). These designs, however, proved unnecessary, mainly because the production of licensed copies of Soviet vehicles (such as the T-34/85, T-54, and SU-100) was cheaper and easier. Czechoslovak engineers worked on several modifications and conversions of those, but none of them ever went further than a prototype.

The real breakthrough became the Samohybná kanónová houfnice vz. 77 DANA (DANA in Slovak stands for ‘Dělo Automobilní Nabíjené Automaticky’, or ‘automatically loaded gun on a truck’ in English), developed almost three decades after the Communist regime was established in Czechoslovakia, in the late 1970s. It was the first wheeled 152 mm self-propelled artillery gun to enter service. By 2024, in different versions, it is in service with Azerbaijan, the Czech Republic, Georgia, Poland, Slovakia, and Ukraine. DANAs also served in the army of the People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya until the 1990s.

Two Samohybná kanónová houfnice vz. 77 DANAs during a military exercise, November 21st, 2013.
Source: The Joint Multinational Training Command Public Affairs Office from Grafenwoehr, Germany


Martin Dubánek, ‘Od bodáku po tryskáče: Nedokončené Československé zbrojní projekty 1945–1955’

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *