ARMOURED VEHICLES PART 5

 

 

CAPTURED T-26 TANKS

 

 

Soviet T-26 tank

Year 1930 Soviet Union bought 15 Vickers Type E Alt A (aka Vickers 6 ton tank Alt A) tanks from British company Vickers Armstrong Ltd. These Vickers tanks proved successful in tests, so the Soviets acquired a manufacturing license for them. The Soviet license manufactured version was named as T-26 and its first version (model 1931) was designed by design teams lead by G. Barykov and S. Ginzberg. While T-26 model 1931 was very similar to Vickers Type E Alt A, the two tanks had also notable differences. While the British tank for obvious reason had been build in inch-pattern, the Soviet version for equally obvious reason was metric-pattern. Hence the spare parts or even bolts used in the two tank designs were not usually interchangeable. However likely the largest visible differences between the two are in turret designs and armament. T-26 model 1931 started with two small machinegun turrets as the Vickers design, to which it was based, but starting from T-26 model 1933 these were replaced with one larger turret that contained 45-mm tank gun and 1 - 3 7.62-mm DT machineguns. Other notable practical mechanical differences can be found in engines, since while their GAZ T-26 engine was a near copy of Armstrong-Siddeley Puma, it wasn't an exact copy. The differences showed for example with lubrication of valves, for which Puma engine had a pressure-lubrication, but GAZ T-26 required them be manually lubricated every now and then. T-26 was adopted among weaponry of Soviet Red Army in February of 1931, before the mass-production had even started. Red Army designated T-26 tanks as infantry support tanks. They were manufactured in several factories, first of which was Bolshevik in Leningrad, which started its manufacturing in autumn of 1931. Later the part the of this factory manufacturing T-26 tanks was separated as a factory on its own and named as Factory of K.E. Voroshilov number 174. This factory was the manufacturer of T-26 and manufactured over 10,000 of these tanks in 1931 - 1941. The other factory that manufactured T-26 tank was STZ (Stalingrad Tractor Factory), which manufactured them 1933 - 1940. Soviet T-26 tanks are usually divided into three main variants:

During its active use in Red Army T-26 tank was further developed and these developments were implemented resulting constant small developments of manufacturing versions. Their estimated total production was about 12,000 tanks - making T-26 the most numerous tank manufactured anywhere by year 1941. However the Soviets also lost huge number of them that year, when Germany launched its offensive to Soviet Union. Even with most of T-26 tanks lost that year, they remained in Soviet use in some areas (like Far East and Finnish front) until end of World War 2. Besides serving Soviet Red Army in massive numbers, the Soviets also exported T-26 tanks to republican Spain, China, Turkey and Afghanistan. Even if the Germans captured T-26 tanks in huge numbers, they apparently expressed limited interest towards these tanks. Due to this T-26 tanks saw relatively little German use and when in German use, where apparently mostly used for policing the occupied areas and for training.

German naming system for captured T-26 tanks:

It's worth noting that Finnish naming system for T-26 tanks was very similar to German one, but there is no certainty if the two are directly related.

Finnish naming system for captured T-26 tanks:

PICTURE: Wartime photo showing T-26B tank converted from OT-130 flamethrower tank in Finnish use. The tank has nationality markings used by Finnish Army in its armoured vehicles in 1941 - 1945 - a black hakaristi (swastika) with white highlights - the insignia was non-nazi related and originated from year 1918. Two Finnish soldiers are with the tank. The text written (likely with chalk) on side of the vehicle KUNNOSSA translated as in running order). (Photo property of Jaeger Platoon Website). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (77 KB).

 

T-26 in Finnish Use

Finnish Army however had totally different view concerning captured T-26 tanks. Finnish Army had very little tanks to begin with and as mentioned T-26 was very similar to Vickers 6 ton tank, which the Finns had selected as their new standard tank model in year 1936. Finnish military captured T-26 in large numbers during Finnish - Soviet Winter War (1939 – 1940) and Continuation War (1941 - 1944). Captured T-26 tanks were repaired and re-issued by Finnish Army in large numbers. During World War 2 captured Soviet T-26 tanks became the most common tank type in Finnish use. During Continuation War (1941 - 1944), along T-26E tanks, they served as de facto standard tank model for only tank unit of real size of Finnish Army - Panssaripataljoona (Tank Battalion) expanded as Panssariprikaati (Tank Brigade) in year 1942. While some captured T-26 tanks were issued to companies of Tank Battalion already during Winter War, apparently none saw combat use with Finnish troops yet at that time. By the time Continuation War started in June of 1941, Tank Battalion had received 34 of these captured tanks, which now went to battle against their former owners. When Tank Battalion was mobilised in June of 1941, each of its tank companies were equipped about half-and-half with captured T-26 (m 1933 and m 1938) tanks and T-26E tanks, with in addition two or three T-26 m 1931 in each tank company.

While old-fashioned and obviously out-gunned against latest Soviet tank designs like T-34 and KV-1 year 1941 these tanks were very useful for Finnish Army. This was because at that time grand majority of the Soviet Red Army tanks used in Finnish front were still T-26 and other comparable tank models like BT-5 and BT-7. The total number of captured T-26 tanks to serve with Finnish Army in World War 2 was 114 tanks. While the great majority of T-26 was obviously captured during Winter War and first year of Continuation War (1941), but the last T-26 was captured as late as 26th of August 1944 in Ilomantsi. Even if the swift tank development resulted them becoming outdated, even in summer of 1944 still 77 of these tanks remained in use of Tank Brigade and many more in training use. While T-26 tanks were officially declared obsolete in 7th of July 1944 (likely at least partly due to plans of replacing them with more modern tanks to be acquired from Germany), they still remained in use. They had no real fighting change against modern Soviet medium and heavy tanks, so their use had been as much as possible limited to areas where the Soviets didn't have tanks. But the combat use of T-26 tanks in Finnish use didn't end even to ending of Continuation War. Lapland War against the Germans begun in September of 1944. The real shooting war in Lapland begun at full swing when Finnish troops landed to Tornio 1st of October 1944. Among the troops shipped to Tornio then was 1st Tank Company of Tank Brigade, which was equipped with T-26 tanks. The company took part in heavy fighting around Tornio in the following days, with their tanks seeing plenty of combat action. During these battles one of its tanks knocked out unspecified German light tank, but on the other hand German 75-mm gun scored hit to sprocket wheel of T-26B Ps. 163-42, which had be towed from the battlefield. One might wonder why these tanks, which had already been declared obsolete, where still taken to combat in a new war. Two likely reasons exist for this unusual situation:

1. German troops in Finnish Lapland had little tanks and even the ones they had were about equally old. By that time captured French Somua and Hotchkiss tanks used by the Germans in Lapland were about as equally obsolete as T-26.

2. As mentioned the particular tank company was transported to Tornio by ship. The ships used for the purpose were normal cargo ships. Both ships and cranes used in harbours had limited capacity, hence they may have not allowed shipping heavier armoured vehicles.

After battle of Tornio 1st Tank company of Tank Brigade was sent towards Rovaniemi, from where it was sent back south 21st of October and ended its participation to Lapland War.

Captured T-26 tanks repaired and ready for Finnish use by January of 1941:

tank model:

how many:

T-26A

5

T-26B and T-26C

42

Total

47

Captured T-26 tanks issued to Tank Battalion in June of 1941:

tank model:

how many:

T-26A (m 1931)

10

T-26B (m 1933)

20

T-26C (m 1937)

4

Total

34

 

The Post-War Use

After the World War remaining T-26 tanks were reserved as training vehicles, apparently used mainly for driver training and some of them remained in training use until 1959 - 1960. Their use in this role saved engines of better tanks for the day, in which they might have been needed in battlefield, but luckily that day never came.

Still, even the post-war years didn't go without losses. 19th of February 1947 fire (at that time suspected as sabotage) broke out in Sotatekninen varikko (Military-technical Depot), where large number of tanks had been placed in safekeeping. Among the tanks destroyed beyond repair in this fire were nine captured T-26 tanks. Year 1952 two written off T-26 tanks were converted as teaching props. Last T-26 tanks were removed from Finnish Defence Forces inventory in year 1961. Everything suggests that Finland was the last country in world to use T-26 tanks, so apparently this was the last time they were still used anywhere.

 

Finnish Experiences of T-26

Finnish experiences of captured T-26 tanks were versatile. Generally the steering of the tank was considered nimble, the road speed was reasonable and so was the terrain mobility. The suspension obviously made aiming while tank was moving difficult and even somewhat complicated spotting the enemy. The obvious tank designs to compare them against were British supplied Vickers-Armstrong 6 ton tank / T-26E and captured BT-5 and BT-7 tanks. Compared to BT-series tanks captured T-26 tanks proved much more practical and reliable design in Finnish conditions, but when compared to Vickers 6 ton tank and T-26E they were found to be technically less reliable. The main technical problems with captured T-26 tanks were related to their engines. The engine was 90-horsepower air-cooled 4-cylinder GAZ-26 gasoline engine, which as mentioned was Soviet-made near copy of Armstrong-Siddeley Puma engine. However manufacturing quality of this Soviet engine was nowhere as good as with the British original, while at the same time cooling problem inherited from the Puma engine had not gone anywhere. Because of this cooling problem the practical sustainable maximum road speed for all T-26 tanks was about 30 km/hour. Due to poorer manufacturing quality oil leaks and starting problems were more common in GAZ-manufactured engines. Average fuel consumption was estimated as about 20 liters per hour and average consumption of oil and grease as 1.4 liters per hour. Transmission of this engine had a single-disk main dry clutch. This main clutch was not as strong as in Vickers engines and because of this had some tendency to burn. Also likely due to poor manufacturing quality the Finns noted the service life of GAZ T-26 engine was remarkably short - it required extensive overhaul after every 250 hours of use. Since the Soviets had kept increasing weight of their T-26 tanks from one model to the next, the engine that had been somewhat underpowered from the start for running tanks weighting 7 - 9 tons, was even more heavily stressed when used in T-26C (model 1938) tanks weighting about 10.2 tons. This additional weight increased the cooling problems. As if these would not have been enough, GAZ T-26 engine had starting difficulties in cold weather. The main reason for these was the weak magneto that the Soviets used with GAZ T-26, it was found to be too weak to give a proper spark and therefore often failed starting the engine in cold weather. To fix the problem the Soviets had given driver a additional magneto, which could be used as it assist it, but the Finns found that even this solution was somewhat unreliable. While the Finns apparently failed to fix this issue, the problems with weak main clutch were solved, when Armour Centre Repair Shop (Panssarikeskuskorjaamo) in Varkaus modified them to make them more powerful. It must be noted, that during manufacturing of T-26 tanks, the Soviets had tried improving GAZ T-26 engine, to get more power out of it, but succeeded producing only few additional horsepower. During Continuation War Finnish Army considered replacing GAZ T-26 engines with some other more powerful engine design, but this didn't lead to anything further.

 

Technical Details

As mentioned the engine used by the Soviets in their T-26 tanks was GAZ T-26 and it was a near copy of Armstrong-Siddeley Puma engine, which was used in Type E tanks manufactured by Vickers Armstrong. This engine was a horizontal four-cylinder air-cooled gasoline engine placed in engine compartment in rear of the tank. The engine was capable producing about 90 horsepower / 66 kW of power at about 2400 rounds per minute. The transmission used with it had five gears - four forward gears, one (very slow) gear for difficult terrain and reverse. As mentioned the engine was usually started with magneto(s), but this was unreliable in cold weather. So in addition it could also be started with a winch. As was typical with World War 2 era tanks, also these tanks lacked built-in fire extinguisher system. Their equipment contained a manual fire extinguisher, but using that demanded crew member get outside the tank for using the fire extinguisher. The basic design of this engine and its cooling system made T-26 tanks especially vulnerable to attacks with molotov cocktails. The main weak point it was radiator located just above the engine and the engine dragged air through it, due to this rear deck on top of the armour compartment was armoured grill, which provided excellent and highly vulnerable target to weapon like molotov cocktail. Since the engine also took also air from the fighting compartment (were the tank crew was located), the two were partially connected and any fire on engine compartment was likely to spread very fast also to fighting compartment. The very late manufactured version had the radiator somewhat better protected. As usual to period tanks, T-26 lacked heating system of any kind. So in cold winter weather the combat compartment of T-26 tank was ice cold, and a side effect the engine pulling air created also a constant draft to that compartment, making it even more chilling for the crew.

 

Radio and Interphone

T-26 tanks were poorly equipped, when it came to radio sets used for communicating between tanks (and other units) and interphone used for communication between individual members of the tank crew. The first production model (m 1931) had no radios and as replacement of proper interphone system early on a speaking tube, which was replaced with signal lamps during manufacturing. Later T-26 tank models were sometimes equipped with radio, but these tanks were a minority of the manufactured tanks. The first radio that the Soviets used for equipping T-26 model 1933 tanks was 71-TK-1 and later production vehicles were equipped with 71-TK-3. Starting year 1937 they also equipped some T-26 tanks with TPU-3 interphone system. These radios were controlled by crystal and two radio frequencies could tuned into them. The frequency-range was 1300 - 200 kHz and the maximum ranges:

As mentioned in earlier with armoured cars and T-26E tanks, the Finnish experiences concerning captured 71-TK-1 and 71-TK-3 radios were not too positive. Before Continuation War these captured radios had been installed to T-26 tanks reserved for tank company and tank platoon commanders, but these radios proved unreliable. The original receiver used in them had a tendency of constantly more or less changing its frequency on its own, which made reception of radio transmissions uncertain. Finnish radio manufacturer Helvar had designed its own small short-range VHF-radio, which Finnish Army knew as P-12-12u, but once tested in T-26 tanks, it proved too large and didn't work properly due to their too primitive electrical system of these tanks. At least partial solution to this radio-problem were new Helvar-manufactured receivers, which were added to captured 71-TK-1 and 71-TK-3 radios around 1943. It remains debatable how much the Helvar-manufactured receiver actually improved this radio. Finnish Army routinely removed Soviet frame antennas from captured tanks and replaced them with whip antennas. Still, the grand majority of the captured T-26 tanks in Finnish use were never equipped with radios. Only interphone systems used by Finnish Army in these tanks were the TPU-3 systems originally installed by the Soviets to some of them.

 

Optics

By Finnish standards T-26 was considered to have rather poor optics, which limited visibility outside the tank. Generally speaking T-26A tanks had didn't have a periscope, while typically early T-26B tanks had periscope for loader and late T-26B and T-26C tanks usually had two periscopes - one for tank loader (tank commander) and another for gunner. The tank loader's periscope used in these tanks was PTK model 1933, which had 2.5X magnification. While PTK m/33 periscope allowed observing 360 degrees and had a reticle designed for range estimation, in reality it was poorly suited for spotting targets and estimating range to them. The gunner's periscope was PT-1 model 1932, which had aiming reticle for the 45-mm tank gun, but was quite poorly suited for shooting targets. The main gun sight model 1930 (m/Tol) was much more suited for this use and was used aiming for both the 45-mm tank gun and coaxial DT machinegun. In addition periscopes and gun sight the tank turret and combat compartment had few observation slots. Turrets were manually rotated. The turret rotation system used in T-26B and T-26C had two rotation speeds, with which each full circle of hand wheel rotating the turret either two or four degrees. Minimum and maximum elevation range possible for the main gun and coaxial machinegun in T-26B and T-26C tanks was from -6 degrees to +22 degrees.

 

 

T-26A

(T-26 model 1931)

PICTURE: T-26A model 1931 tank. Notice that this individual particular tank was never used by Finnish military, but it is exactly same version that saw Finnish use. (Photo taken in Victory Park, Moscow Russia). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (174 KB).

Weight:

8.4 tons

Length:

4.65 meters

Width:

2.44 meters

Height:

2.08 meters

Max. Speed:

35 km/h on road / 15 km/h off-road

Engine:

90 hp GAZ T-26 4-cylinder gasoline engine

Armour:

6 - 15 mm

- Hull front and sides

15 mm

- Turrets front

5 mm

- Turrets sides

6 mm

- Hull deck

10 mm

- Turret top

10 mm

Ground Clearance:

38.0 cm

Ground Pressure:

? kg/square cm

Gradient:

40 degrees

Trench:

2.0 m

Fording:

0.8 m

Range:

130 km on road / 70 km off-road

Weapons:

2 x 7.62 mm DT coaxial machinegun (6,489 rounds)

Crew:

3 men

Country of Origin:

Soviet Union

Production:

1931 - 1933, total number manufactured 1,032 tanks.

Finnish use: Finnish Army took 17 of these captured tanks to its use during World War 2. Ten of them had been captured during Winter War and seven during first year of Continuation War. They saw Finnish service from 1940 to year 1943, in which year at least eight T-26A tanks were converted as T-26B and T-26C tanks.

As mentioned, this was the first mass-produced version of Soviet T-26 tank. Like Vickers Type E Alt A tank, to which it was based, it had two small turrets each armed with one machinegun. These two machineguns used as its armament were both 7.62 mm DT machineguns, which for all practical purposes was the standard machinegun for Soviet tanks during World War 2. However this wasn't the only armament version used by the Soviets. Also version of this tank, which had 7.62 mm DT-machinegun in one turret and low-velocity 37-mm PS-1 tank gun in its right-hand turret, was common in Soviet use (450 manufactured). But since the Finns used only the version of this tank, which had been armed only with machineguns, this page will concentrate to that particular version. As mentioned T-26 model 1931 entered to production in year 1931 and by the time its manufacturing ended in year 1933, some 1,032 had been made. While not a poor design compared to other infantry support tanks of early 1930's, the weaponry of this version limited its usefulness in battlefield. 7.62-mm machinegun was obviously useless against other tanks or fortifications of any sort. Also the Soviet-used 37-mm PS-1 low velocity tank gun (named as 37 Psv.K/14 in Finnish documents) was a very poor weapon against hard targets. Firing sector of each turret covered about 265 degrees. Since tank commander had double-duties also as a machinegunner, he would be busy and had little change to concentrate commanding the tank during the battle, but then - he would not usually have any radio either. Gas-tank of 182 litres allowed operational range of about 130 kilometres on road and off-road mobility of this tank was fairly good. Just like Vickers Type E tanks, also T-26 model 1931 was early on assembled with rivets. But later during the manufacturing it became partially welded construction. Flame-thrower version of this tank was OT-26 (ChT-26 in some sources).

Finnish Army named T-26 model 1931 tank simply as T-26A. In the usual Finnish manner captured T-26 tanks soon got several nicknames from which Vickers and Viku seem to have been the most common. Apparently Finnish Army took to its use 10 of these tanks captured during Winter War and 7 captured during Continuation War. They were issued in same companies and platoons mixed among the other T-26 tank models and saw active frontline use with Panssaripataljoona (Tank Battalion) in 1941 - 1943. Due to their armament they had less practical value than other T-26 tanks, so a decision was made to modify them so they would have the larger turret used in later Soviet T-26 variations. Apparently also turrets taken captured from BT-5 and BT-7 tanks were used for this purpose - basically converting them into T-26B or T-26C. October of 1942 decision was made to convert twelve T-26 in this way. Seven of the T-26A tanks to be converted were repaired tanks held as reserve in Armour Centre and the other five T-26 to be converted were the ones in use of Tank Battalion at that time. However this plan was not completely followed, since apparently only eight T-26A were converted - all them by Lokomo Works (Lokomon Konepaja) in year 1943. In this conversion their small turrets were removed and hull deck armoured replaced with one taken from captured T-26 model 1933 tanks that had been damaged beyond repair. On this new hull deck armour Lokomo Works installed turret ring and turret taken from another T-26 model 1933 or model 1938 tank, that was also otherwise damaged beyond repair. Hence this resulting Finnish tank version had m 1931 hull with T-26B (m 1933) hull deck armour, and either T-26B (m 1933) or T-26C (m 1938) turret with usual 45-mm tank gun and coaxial DT-machinegun. Finnish military called the resulting tank due the turret shape either T-26B or T-26C.

The eight T-26A tanks converted in Lokomo Works included:

Registry numbers of the four T-26 converted in Armour Repair Centre are not known at this time.

However not all T-26A were converted. Some remained in training use to later date. Apparently at least one captured T-26A (Ps 162-2) in home front remained in its original form until scrapped in year 1945. This was a shame, since none of the captured T-26A tanks with original turrets have survived to this day.

 

 

T-26B

(T-26 model 1933)

PICTURE: T-26B tank Ps. 163-28 in Finnish Finnish Armour Museum. This tank seems to be rather good example of typical T-26B (aka T-26 model 1933) tank. (Photo taken in Panssarimuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (171 KB).

Weight:

9.4 - 9.8 tons

Length:

4.65 meters

Width:

2.44 meters

Height:

2.08 meters

Max. Speed:

35 km/h on road / 15 km/h off-road

Engine:

90 hp GAZ T-26 4-cylinder gasoline engine

Armour:

6 - 15 mm

- Hull front and sides

15 mm

- Turret front

15 mm

- Turret sides

15 mm

- Hull deck

6 mm

- Turret top

10 mm

Ground Clearence:

38.0 cm

Ground Pressure:

0.61 kg/square cm

Gradient:

40 degrees

Trench:

2.0 m

Fording:

0.8 m

Range:

130 km on road / 70 km off-road (with one fuel tank)

220 km on road / 130 km off-road (with two fuel tanks)

Weapons:

45 mm Soviet (L/45) tank gun (107 or 147 rounds) (*)

7.62 mm DT coaxial machinegun (3,087 rounds)

(7.62 mm DT hull machinegun) (**)

Crew:

3 men (4 men) (***)

Country of Origin:

Soviet Union

Production:

1933 - 1937, total number manufactured about 5,500 tanks.

(*) Depending if equipped with radio or not, radio took some space otherwise used for ammunition.

(**) This hull-machinegun existed only in some of those T-26B tanks, which had been converted as gun-tanks from captured OT-130 and OT-133 flame-thrower tanks. Along this machinegun these converted tanks also received a four-man crew, since additional machinegunner was needed for this hull machinegun. Normal T-26B tanks, which were the large majority in Finnish use, had three-man crew and no hull-machinegun.

Finnish use: The most common captured T-26 tank in Finnish use. Saw extensive combat use with Finnish Army during Continuation War (1941 - 1944) and some use also during Lapland War (1944 - 1945).

Year 1933 the Soviets introduced new version of T-26 tank equipped with single larger cylindrical turret, that was equipped with new 45-mm tank gun and coaxial 7.62-mm DT-machinegun. This tank model is usually referred as T-26 model 1933 or model 1933-37. Before this they had already tested T-26 model 1931 tank, which had their right side turret equipped with 37-mm BS3 tank gun based to German 37-mm antitank gun, but this design proved unsatisfactory. When introduced T-26 m 1933 was one of the best tank designs and during manufacturing went through series of improvements, but during World War 2 the fast development soon made it obsolete. Early model 1933 tanks were still partially assembled with rivets, but starting year 1935 they had welded turret and hull. Other notably visible improvements included adding rear turret machinegun in year 1936 and anti-aircraft machinegun in year 1937. Also shape of turret hatches changed during manufacturing. Model 1933 version became the T-26 tank variant manufactured in largest numbers - between 1933 and 1937 some 5,500 tanks were built. Like earlier model 1931 also this tank had crew of three men, but now they were driver, gunner and tank commander/loader. This meant that the tank commander was still loading the main gun in addition of leading the tank. Usually only tanks of battalion and company commanders were equipped with radios and these tanks could be identified from frame antennas attached on rear of turret. Radio was in the turret bustle. Early version of this tank was equipped with one periscope, while later production tanks were usually equipped with two. Flame-thrower version of this tank was OT-130 (ChT-130 in some sources).

This T-26 version was also the most common T-26 tank variant in Finnish use. Finnish Army named it simply as T-26B. Finnish Army took into its own use 42 tanks of T-26 model (apparently flame-thrower tanks included) captured during Winter War. At least 20 of these 42 tanks were T-26B. From tanks captured during Continuation War and taken to Finnish use 65 were apparently T-26B tanks. These tanks saw extensive combat use with Finnish Army in 1941 - 1945. As to be expected they served in only Finnish Army tank unit of any real size at that time - Panssaripataljoona (Tank Battalion), which was expanded as Panssariprikaati (Tank Brigade) in year 1942. Expanding of this unit became possible due to large number of Soviet tanks captured in 1941 and now getting reissued to Finnish use - the great majority of them T-26. Even if already declared obsolete once in 7th of July 1944, Tank Brigade still mostly equipped with T-26 tanks was sent to Lapland War against the Germans. In end of year 1945 there were still as many as 42 T-26B tanks in inventory of Finnish Army. With their numbers declining slowly but certain in 1950's, there were still 13 left even in year 1958.

PICTURE: Ps.163-16 T-26B tank in Finnish Finnish Armour Museum. This is early version of T-26B tank with riveted hull and turret. Its turret is also with smaller real overhang and resemble the turret design that the Soviets later used in BT-5 tanks. (Photo taken in Panssarimuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (181 KB).

During World War 2 Finnish military did some simple changes to equipment of these tanks - most notable of which involved removing pieces of equipment that were not considered necessary. The equipment removed by the Finns included rear turret machineguns, anti-aircraft machineguns and Soviet frame antenna, which was replaced with new Finnish-installed whip-antenna in tanks equipped with radio. Since the captured tanks put to Finnish use were routinely repaired by using parts salvaged from other captured tanks, that had been damaged beyond repair, the equipment in Finnish issued captured tanks could vary a bit. One thing in which this might be found are the Soviet 45-mm tank guns used in captured T-26B tanks. There were three variations of this tank gun and apparently all of them were used in T-26B tanks used by Finnish army. The obviously most common tank gun model used in them was 45 Pst.K/34, but maybe about quarter of them were older 45 Psv.K/32 and there were also some 45 Psv.K/38 in use.

Not all T-26B tanks in Finnish use had been captured as they were. There was usual amount of mix and match involved for repairing damaged captured armoured vehicles to operational condition by cannibalising parts from other vehicles. But in addition to this the Finns come up with some special versions of T-26 tank. Six captured T-26A tanks were converted by Lokomon Konepaja (Lokomo Works) as T-26B tanks in year 1942 - 1943. Around the same time also Panssarikeskuskorjaamo (Armour Centre Repair Shop) and Lokomo Works converted several captured OT-130 flame tanks as T-26B. These T-26B tanks build from OT-130 were unusual, since their turret was on the other side of hull as in normal T-26B, some of them had additional 7.62 mm DT-machinegun located in left side of front hull and fourth crew-member for that machinegun.

 

 

T-26C

(T-26 model 1938)

PICTURE: This T-26C (aka T-26 model 1938) tank was captured but never repaired or issued to Finnish use. (Photo taken in Panssarimuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (170 KB).

Weight:

10.2 tons

Length:

4.65 meters

Width:

2.44 meters

Height:

2.08 meters

Max. Speed:

35 km/h on road / 15 km/h off-road

Engine:

90 hp GAZ T-26 4-cylinder gasoline engine

Armour:

6 - 15 mm

- Hull front and sides

15 mm

- Turret front

15 mm

- Turret sides

15 mm

- Hull deck

10 mm

- Turret top

10 mm

Ground Clearence:

38.0 cm

Ground Pressure:

0.61 kg/square cm

Gradient:

40 degrees

Trench:

2.0 m

Fording:

0.8 m

Range:

220 km on road / 130 km off-road

Weapons:

45 mm Soviet (L/45) tank gun (165 or 205 rounds) (*)

7.62 mm DT coaxial machinegun (3,654 or 3,213 rounds) (*)

(7.62 mm DT hull machinegun) (**)

Crew:

3 men (4 men) (**)

Country of Origin:

Soviet Union

Production:

1937 - 1941, total number manufactured about 4,800 tanks.

(*) Depending if equipped with radio or not, radio took some space otherwise used for ammunition.

(**) This hull-machinegun existed only in some of those T-26B tanks, which had been converted as gun-tanks from captured OT-130 and OT-133 flame-thrower tanks. Along this machinegun these converted tanks also received a four-man crew, since additional machinegunner was needed for this hull machinegun. Normal T-26B tanks, which were the large majority in Finnish use, had three-man crew and no hull-machinegun.

Finnish use: Apparently only few captured in Winter War issued to Finnish use. Much larger number was captured in year 1941. The second most common T-26 model in use of Tank Battalion / Tank Brigade during Continuation War. These tanks saw plenty of combat use in Continuation War and some served also in Lapland War.

Year 1938 the Soviets replaced in manufacturing the earlier conical tank turret with a new turret model, which had sloped armour. Besides offering slightly better armour protection this new sloped turret allowed also increasing of already considerable amount of ammunition carried in the tank. They named this new version of T-26 tank as model 1938, but sometimes it is also referred as model 1937, model 1938-41 or T-26S. As with earlier versions of T-26 also this version was subject of further improvements during manufacturing, which lasted from 1938 to 1939. These were likely based to experiences that the Soviets had gained in battles against the Japanese in 1938 and in Spanish Civil War. Hull side armour had been vertical, but in year 1939 its upper part was changed as sloped to increase armour protection - sometimes this version is referred as model 1939. Same year modifications were also introduced to engine ventilation system to make the tank less vulnerable to molotov cocktails. During Winter War the Soviets also equipped some T-26 tanks with additional armour, but this version proved unsuccessful. While the additional 30 - 40 mm of armour provided rather good protection against 37 PstK/36 antitank-gun, weight of this armour overburdened the already heavily stressed engine and transmission allowing only at very slow speed. Some late production tanks also had gun-shield of main gun similar to one used in T-50 tank. Flame-thrower version of this tank was OT-133 (ChT-133 in some sources).

Finnish Army captured rather large number of these tanks during Winter War and early Continuation War and named this version of T-26 tank as T-26C. The exact number of these tanks captured in Winter War and taken to Finnish use is not known, but seems likely to have been rather small (just a few tanks). Much larger number was captured during early Continuation War. From those T-26C tanks captured during Continuation War, apparently 32 served with Finnish Army. As usual with T-26 tanks, also T-26C tanks were mainly issued to Panssaripataljoona (Tank Battalion), which was expanded as Panssariprikaati (Tank Brigade) in year 1942. This being the premier Finnish tank unit of Continuation War, the T-26C tanks in its use saw plenty of combat. However unlike what was common with T-26 tanks, apparently at least two of the captured T-26C tanks year 1941 served in Panssariosasto (Tank Detachment) created by 1st Division. Some evidence suggests that this version of T-26 was more commonly issued to platoon and company commanders, than the other two - this may likely be due to them being more commonly equipped for radios. In May of 1941 there were only four T-26C tanks in Finnish Army inventory, but July of 1941 their number had already increased to 29 tanks. Just before Soviet offensive in Karelian Isthmus begun in June of 1944, their number in Finnish use was as high as 36 tanks and this was the high point in their use in Finnish Army. Even if officially declared obsolete in 7th of June number of these tanks took part also to Lapland War in Tornio region.

As with T-26B tanks, the most notable Finnish modifications made for them included removal of equipment, which was considered unnecessary. These unnecessary items included:

Finnish Army used three models of captured Soviet 45-mm tank guns in captured T-26 tanks. When it comes to T-26C tanks, the mostly commonly used of these was apparently 45 Psv.K/34, but also newer 45 Psv.K/38 was very common and few were equipped with old 45 Psv.K/32 guns.

PICTURE: T-26C tank Ps. 164-7 / R-121 "Tuire" in Finnish Armour Museum. This tank has been converted from OT-133 flamethrower tank. Notice hull machinegun position added to it. (Photo taken in Panssarimuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (190 KB).

The Finns didn't just use captured T-26 tanks, but also modified them when needed. When it comes to T-26C tanks, there were several of them, which had been converted around 1942 - 1943 from other existing T-26 tank variations. These include two T-26C converted by Lokomon Konepaja (Lokomo Works) from captured T-26A tanks and several converted by Panssarikeskuskorjaamo (Armour Centre Repair Shop) and Lokomo Works from captured OT-133 flame tanks. Those T-26C tanks converted from OT-133 are rather usual and can be identified rather easily from two characteristics:

  1. The turret is on right side of hull, while the turret of normal T-26B is on the left side.
  2. Some of these tanks have additional 7.62-mm DT-machinegun in their left front hull. Also fourth crewmember was included to tank crew of these tanks, since a machinegun-gunner was needed for this weapon.

 

SPECIAL VERSIONS OF T-26 IN FINNISH USE:

T-26T / T-26K / T-26V: T-26T was a Soviet build armoured artillery tractor variant of T-26 tank. Two versions of this vehicle were developed by 1932 - open top version with canvas cabin and another version with armoured cabin. About 200 were manufactured in 1933 - 1936, additional 20 vehicles converted from tanks in 1937 - 1939 and about 50 T-26 model 1931 also converted in year 1941. These vehicles had lower part of armoured hull of T-26 tank without turret, the canvas cabin version had crew department with canvas walls and roof, while the armoured cabin version had crew department made from steel. Neither version had any vehicle-installed armament and both used the tracks, suspension, transmission and engine usual to T-26 tanks. The crew department had enough space for five men. Early version of this vehicle had a riveted hull, while late version was welded. The Soviets had originally intended them as towing vehicles for light and heavy howitzers, but they proved under-powered for heavy howitzers. Still, they were useful towing vehicles for lighter artillery weapons like light field guns and light howitzers, so they remained in Soviet use against the Germans at least until year 1942 and in Far-East some saw use against the Japanese still in 1945.

Finnish Army captured some T-26T armoured towing tractors and two of them (Ps. 608-1 and Ps. 608-2) were introduced to Finnish use. During Continuation War they were used for tank driver training. Around 1947 - 1952 five of the captured T-26 tanks were converted as similar vehicles, named as T-26K and used for driver training in similar manner. While T-26K somewhat resembles T-26T, its top hull structure is more box-shaped. During late Continuation War there were plans of possibly converting large number of already outdated T-26 tanks as T-26V armoured towing tractors, which would have been quite similar to these vehicles. These planned vehicles would have replaced captured A20 Komsomolets armoured towing tractors as towing vehicles of 75-mm antitank-guns, since Komsomolets had proved under-powered for this purpose. But this project apparently didn't get beyond prototype stage, since only three such vehicles were converted in year 1944.

PICTURE: Wartime photo showing one of the two captured T-26T armoured towing tractors. Finnish soldier standing on tank has an axe in his hand. (Photo property of Jaeger Platoon Website). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (68 KB).

 


SOURCES:

Kapteeni P. Hovilainen: Tankkirykmentistä Panssaripataljoonaan 1919 – 1949.

Pekka Kantakoski: Suomalaiset Panssarivaunujoukot 1919 – 1969.

Pekka Kantakoski: Punaiset Panssarit, Puna-armeijan panssarijoukot 1918 – 1945.

Pekka Kantakoski: Panssarimuseo.

Esa Muikku ja Jukka Purhonen: Suomalaiset Panssarivaunut 1918 – 1997, The Finnish Armoured Vehicles

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

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

Russian Tanks 1900 – 1970 by John Milsom

1. Divisioona, historia 1941 - 1944 by Kaino Tuokko.

TA Könönen: Lokomo 70 vuotta.

Article: Jatkosodan aikaiset erilliset panssarivaunuyksiköt by V. Kämäri in Panssari magazine vol. 1/1974.

Tanks in the Winter War 1939 - 1940 by Maksym Kolomyjec

Article: Suomen Sotilas koeajaa: T-26 by Marko Erikson in Nettisotilas web-publication of Suomen Sotilas magazine.

Article: T-26, Panssarijoukkojen työjuhta by Kari Kuusela in Ase magazine vol. 5/89.

Military manual: T-26 psv, Aseet ja optiset välineet by Puolustusvoimien Pääesikunta Taisteluvälineosasto (published 1952).

Military manual: Jalkaväen Ampumatarvikkeet I by Puolustusvoimien Pääesikunta Taisteluvälineosasto (printed 1941, updated until September 1944).

Finnish National Archives (Sörnäinen), archive folder T10908.

Finnish National Archives (Sörnäinen), archive folder T10910.

Finnish National Archives (Sörnäinen), archive folder T10911.

Finnish National Archives (Sörnäinen), archive folder T10924.

Finnish National Archives (Sörnäinen), archive folder T10929/20.

Finnish National Archives (Sörnäinen), archive folder T10929/21.

Finnish National Archives (Sörnäinen), archive folder T10929/23.

Finnish National Archives (Sörnäinen), archive folder T10929/24.

Finnish National Archives (Sörnäinen), archive folder T20208/F34.

Finnish National Archives (Sörnäinen), archive folder T20208/F37.

Finnish National Archives (Sörnäinen), archive folder T20209/F1.

War Diary of 1st Company / Tank Battalion 17th June 1941 - 26th of April 1942.

War Diary of 2nd Company / Tank Battalion 17th June 1941 - 8th of May 1942.

War Diary of 3rd Company/Tank Battalion 17th of June 1941 - 14th of January 1942.

Special thanks to Panssarimuseo (Finnish Armour Museum), Parola.

Special thanks to Sotamuseo (Finnish Military Museum), Helsinki.

The Russian Battlefield Good site about Soviet tanks.

 


Last updated 8th of July 2012
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