Friday, 17 November 2017

Frenchman in German Hands

The belligerents in WWII had to improvise time and time again. Obsolete weapons, no longer suitable for their initial purpose, found surprising new applications. One of the most notable examples of such a "second life" is the German conversion of the French 75 mm Mle. 1897 field gun, as a result of which the 19th century weapon became an effective anti-tank gun.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Molotov Cocktails

If you ask people that know next to nothing of history, they will tell you that Molotov Cocktails are a Russian invention. People that know a little bit more will tell you that they are a Finnish invention. Keep going further, and you will be told that the original use of petrol bombs dates back to the Spanish Civil War.

Turns out, the first group was correct. However, these bombs came around long before Molotov accomplished anything of value, and didn't even have a proper name. In late May of 1915, Stavka's General on Duty wrote to the head of the Chief Military-Technical Directorate:

"The High Command Headquarters received several proposals for measures of repressing the enemy in response to their use of poisonous gases. These measures consist of burning the crops that are currently growing in Germany and Austria. In order to achieve this, we require widespread manufacture of incendiary devices of various weights..."

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

How Myths Are Born

I already discussed how, due to a mistake, the Light Tank M2A4 was "spotted" in the ranks of the Red Army. Since serial numbers were present in the listing, it was fairly easy to figure out that these were actually fairly common Light Tanks M3. 

Let's take a look at a similar situation. Once in a while, you can see rumours of the Medium Tank M2 being supplied via Lend Lease. It's not hard to be confused when you see something like this:

In this document the 201st Tank Brigade is complaining about all of the equipment that it's lacking. There is a shortage of every kind of staff, no artillery, hardly any machineguns, only one APC, and no heavy or light tanks. Instead of 20 T-34s, they received 22 "M-2" tanks. Makes sense, one medium tank replaces another, case closed.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Canadian Super-Tank

Most of my readers have probably heard of the Super Heavy Tank T28, a four-tracked 86 ton assault SPG that the Americans designed to bust through the defenses of the Siegfried Line. Interestingly enough, across the Atlantic Ocean, the British had a similar idea, but cranked up to 11.

Considering that the 80 ton T28 only managed a top speed of 8 mph, even 5-6 mph would be an optimistic estimate for this 150 (at best) monster. Thankfully, Gatehouse was right about one thing: experienced officers know what they're talking about, and Barnes managed to talk him out of the idea.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Lend-Lease Deficiencies and Spares

It's no small secret that a great number of vehicles ordered by the USSR through the Lend Lease program. Most of the issues with missing gear were solved very quickly, or so I thought. This table shows that missing weapons continued to be an issue until the end of the war. The number listed in the numerator is for weapons that were supposed to arrive, the number listed in the denominator is for weapons that actually arrived, split up by year. The second last column shows the total number of the weapon that was ordered and that arrived. The last column sums up the difference.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Adventures of the Centurion in Scandinavia

Despite Sweden's goals to arm itself with domestic designs, foreign tanks in the Swedish army were not a rare sight. In cases when their industry was too slow or designers put out unsatisfactory results, the Swedish military made up the shortfall with foreign purchases. Recall that the Strv m/37, Sweden's most numerous tank at the start of WWII, was actually the CKD AH-IV-Sv tankette. Later, the Swedes acquired the Strv m/41, a licensed copy of another Czechoslovak vehicle, the LT vz. 38. A similar story happened again after WWII. Tired of waiting while domestic designers, the military purchased British Centurion tanks, which ended up being the most numerous tanks with a classical layout in the Swedish post-war army.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

The Swedish Army's Tough Choice

The time between the World Wars was that of rapid technical progress. Even tanks, a relatively new invention, could become obsolete quickly. Even though only several wealthy countries could afford a large number of the newest tanks for their armies, experimental vehicles and small batches cropped up in many nations. Sweden, who managed to retain neutrality during WWI, was among them. Its army was engaged in a lengthy and difficult search for a suitable tank. The search ended with the acceptance of the Strv m/31, or L-10, which begat a whole family of armoured vehicles.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Taubin's Automatic Grenade Launcher

In the mid 1930s, an automatic grenade launcher made by engineer Taubin was tested in the USSR. There were some good things about it, like a satisfactory shrapnel radius for grenades and a high rate of fire: 436 RPM! However, there were also many problems. It jammed a lot (7.2% of the shots), and the extractor had to be replaced 30 times over 587 shots. The precision, especially on the horizontal axis, was unsatisfactory.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

U-20 Requirements

"Tactical-technical characteristics for the development of an experimental prototype of the oscillating part of the 85 mm AA gun on a T-34 tank chassis to create a self propelled anti-tank gun

November 7th, 1941
  1. The oscillating part of the 85 mm mod. 1939 AA gun will be installed on a T-34 tank chassis (with engine) without changes.
  2. The gun mount must meet the following requirements:
    1. Horizontal arc: 360 degrees
    2. Vertical range: from -8 to +30 degrees
    3. Aiming speed from one turn of the flywheel:
      1. Vertical: 1.2 degrees
      2. Horizontal: 3 and 7 degrees

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Light SPGs

"Decision of the meeting held by the Deputy People's Commissar of Defense, Marshall of the Soviet Union, comrade Kulik
May 23rd, 1941

1. It is necessary to have four kinds of SPGs:
  1. SPAAGs
  2. Assault guns
  3. Tank destroyers
  4. Bunker busters

Monday, 6 November 2017

17-pounder vs. 17-pounder

The CACRU (Canadian Armoured Corps Reinforcement Unit) ordered a few 17-pounders for training. A 17-pounder is a 17-pounder, right? Well, it turns out, not so much.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

British Tank for Soviet Infantry

On September 29th, 1941, the first regular Arctic convoy departed from Britain to the USSR. It was indexed PQ-1. On October 11th, 11 transport ships arrived at Arkhangelsk, where they delivered 193 Hawker Hurricane fighters and other military cargo. Among it were 20 Matilda III and Valentine II tanks. So began the delivery of the Valentine tank, which became the most numerous British tank in the Red Army. 

Friday, 3 November 2017

Infantry Sweet Spot

The Valentine infantry tank was the most common British tank of WWII. Like the Matilda, it didn't last long as a front line tank in the British army, but commander versions and SPGs on the chassis made it to Germany. Its career in other countries was even more eventful. The Red Army used them until the end of the war, and they were widely used in the Pacific theater of war. In some nations, these tanks served as training tanks until the 1950s. What was the history of the creation of this extraordinary tank, and how did the first modifications of the Valentine serve?

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Foreign Aid

A lot of attention is aimed at the numbers for Lend-Lease aid received by the USSR in WWII, but what about the aid received by the Russian Empire during WWI? Despite being a much less discussed topic, the numbers are, in some cases, much greater than the LL ones. RGAE-413-12-8605 has the info we need.

Import to Russia
Import to the USSR

  1. Aircraft (various)

  1. Aircraft motors

  • 76 mm cannons
  • Cannons of all calibers

  1. Bomb launchers and mortars

  • Machineguns (various)
  • AA machineguns


  • Rifles (various)
  • Submachineguns (various) and AT rifles

  1. Shells (various)

  1. Cartridges (various)

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Tiger vs IS

I've had so many articles about IS-2s shooting up Tigers, it's only fair to do one on the other way around. This IS-2 was lost by the 72nd Independent Guards Heavy Tank Regiment on May 1st, in Khotymyr. Judging by the amount of impacts on its armour, it didn't give up without a fight.

From the front, we see three hits: two nonpenetrating hits to the hull, one from 1200 meters and one from 1100 meters. A hit to the front of the turret penetrated.

This side shows only one impact: a nonpenetrating hit on the upper side from 1100 meters. The hole in the turret is a pistol port, not a breach.

A closer look at the 1100 m ricochet and a penetrating shot to the side of the turret from 200 meters. The performance of the armour is pretty good. No cracking, the breaches are clean, and, most importantly, the Tigers could only make a kill from suicidally close range. Even at the range where the Tigers were bouncing off the IS-2's armour, the D-25T could literally rip their turrets off

Monday, 30 October 2017

Pak 40 Discovery

"To the Deputy People's Commissar of Defense, Lieutenant General of the Tank Forces, comrade Fedorenko
August 18th, 1942

I report that, according to documents, the German army possesses 7.5 cm mod. 1940 anti-tank guns.

The gun fires regular 7.5 cm mod. 1939 armour piercing rounds, 7.5 cm mod. 1938 HEAT rounds, special 7.5 cm mod. 1940 armour piercing rounds (with a hardened core), and 7.5 cm mod. 1934 HE rounds.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Multiturreted Independence

Towards the end of WWI, the French reached first place in the heavy tank development race. A little longer, and the FCM 2C would have seen combat. The French created the first breakthrough tank in the world, which combined powerful armament with armour that, at the time, could be considered shellproof. In addition, the French vehicle became the first multiturreted tank in the world, and its main turret was large enough for three men.

In Britain, the runner up trendsetter, took a different path in the creation of heavy tanks: improvement of the tried and true "rhombus" design. It was soon obvious that this path led to a dead end. The next British heavy tank, the A1E1 Independent, gained not just a turret, but five of them.