Thursday, April 7, 2011

Do not forget about the "twenty-sixth"

by  Michael Baryatinskiy

Russian Broken Translation; made understandable by GarryB

The story of Soviet tanks of World would be incomplete without mentioning the war machines of the prewar period, formed the basis of the Red Army tank fleet in 1941.The most massive of them was a light tank T-26.

28 May 1930 the Soviet Purchasing Commission, headed by IA Halepskim, head of the newly established Office of mechanization and motorization (UMM) Red Army, which signed a contract with the British firm Vickers on production for the Soviet Union in 1915 two-towered tanks Vickers Mk.E mod.A. Their assembly was attended by our experts.

Each machine purchased in the UK has cost the Soviet Union in the 42 thousand rubles. For comparison: built in the USSR in August 1931 the main tank T-19 maintenance cost over 96 thousand rubles. In addition, "the Briton, won in our country designation B-26 was easier to manufacture and operation, and have better mobility. All these circumstances and the predetermined choice of UMM. Work on the T-19 turned and threw all the forces on the development of mass production of the B-26.

Ten-year improvements

February 13, 1931 decision of the Revolutionary Military Council of the USSR tank Vickers-26 "took the Red Army under the T-26. Design work on the preparation of production (as, indeed, to upgrade the tank later) were conducted under the supervision of SA Ginzburg. Assembling the first ten vehicles of the T-26 type vehicles the manufacturing team with the basic structure shell of steel for armoured vehicles was completed in the summer of 1931 at the Leningrad plant “Bolshevik”. Unreleased since 1931, two-towered version of the T-26 differed little from the British prototype. Riveted hull of the tank had a box section. On the turret box with a vertical front plate on ball bearings housed the twin towers of the cylindrical form. In each of them provides a place for a crew member. The driver was placed in front of the right. Perhaps the only difference between the first production T-26 from the British machine is that their towers were designed for installation machine-guns.

The tank was equipped with the carbureted four-cylinder air-cooled T-26 power of 90 horsepower - a copy of the English engine Armstrong Siddeley. Manual transmission consisted of a single-disk clutch of the main dry friction, drive shaft, five-speed gearbox, steering clutches, final drives and tape brake, located on the hulls of steering clutches. Means of external communication on line tanks were missing. For negotiations between the commander and the driver was initially used "tube sound", later replaced by light signaling devices.

In early 1932 there was a question of strengthening the T-26 weapons, as machine-gun machines could not "destroy the enemy pillboxes at a great distance and defend themselves from attack by enemy tanks, fighter planes". Therefore, the right machine-gun turret T-26 began to mount 37-mm cannon PS-1 (or "Hotchkiss-PS). Total guns PS-1 added a two-towered about 450 tanks in 1627, issued in 1931-1933, respectively.

In 1932 the Red Army adopted a 45-mm tank gun 20K. In December 1932 the Committee of Defense ordered the release of T-26 with this tool. Under this gun paired with DT machine-gun was designed a new tower. Firing tests showed complete reliability.

Since 1935 the hull and turret are made using welding. In 1936 introduced a removable rubber band on the rollers, changed the tensioning mechanism and a recess of the turret installed a second machine-guns. In this case, ammunition gun fell from 136 to 102 shots (on the tanks without radios), and the weight of the tank had risen to 9.65 tonnes. In 1937 parts of the machines have become anti-aircraft guns mounted on turrets DT. On the gun put two lights, spotlights the so-called battle of the world. Engine is accelerated and its maximum power increased from 90 to 95 horsepower.

In 1938, a cylindrical tower on the T-26 was replaced by cone-shaped tower with a 45-mm cannon model 1934. In the instruments of production in 1937 and 1938 appeared an electric gate, but produces a shot percussion method and using electric shocks. These guns were equipped with telescopic sights TOP-1 (from 1938 - TOC), stable in the vertical plane. Unlike previous editions of tanks that had a 182-liter fuel tank, the car set up two of the tank capacity of 110 and 180 liters, which increased the reserve. Combat weight amounted to 10.28 tons.

Another upgrade T-26 passed in 1939. A design change was a box under the turret with angled armour plates. They removed a rear mounted machine gun (from the back of the turret) and instead of that machine gun they stored an additional 32 rounds of main gun ammo in the space freed up. The machine gun was likely a DT model, and the extra ammo would be 37mm. As a result of the ammunition in cars without radios increased up to 205 shots and 3654 (58 discs) rounds. Some alterations suffered engine (raised compression ratio), after which its power reached 97 horsepower, was improved and the chassis, particularly the efforts of suspension.

The last cycle of change tank design conducted in 1940. On the part of the tanks during the war with Finland set screens. Cemented armor turret box thickness of 15 millimeters were replaced by 20-mm homogeneous. They standardized the vision periscopes to see outside of the vehicle, added straps to the turret {presumably to carry more kit}, and introduced Bakelite coating to the fuel tanks.

Note the purpose of the Bakelite coating is to improve the protection of the fuel tanks in combat. Bakelite will not stop a bullet but a bullet penetrating a fuel tank with Bakelite lining, when the Bakelite is exposed to outside air it hardens and would reseal any hole in the fuel tank. This prevents fuel leaking all over the place, which is a fire risk and it also reduces the chance of an explosion within the tank by preventing air getting in... which is needed for a fire or explosion.

Based on T-26 produces a large number of military special-purpose machinery: flamethrower tanks HT-26, HT-130 HT-133, PT-26 launched bridges, tanks tele-mechanical TT-26 and TU-26, a self-propelled artillery units SU-5- 2, artillery trucks, armored personnel carriers, etc.

From Spain to Finland

Baptism of fire T-26 was in Spain, where 18 July 1936 mutiny against the government of the republic and the civil war began. The Soviet leadership has decided to sell the Spanish Republicans weapon and send him to military advisers.

September 26, 1936 at the port of Cartagena arrived first batch of T-26 - 15 cars, which are intended to be used for teaching Spanish soldiers. But the situation deteriorated, so the tanks went into the formation of the company, which took over command of Captain P. Arman WPRA. Already on October 29 division entered into the fray.

By the end of the Civil War, the Soviet Union put the Republican Spain 297 tanks T-26 (obsolete sample 1933). They have participated in virtually all Army operations and the Republicans have shown themselves to the good side. German and Italian Pz.I wedgies CV3/33 with machine-gun weapons were powerless against the Soviet machine. However, the fighting found the main disadvantage of the T-26 - the weakness of the defense. Even its frontal armor punctured easily by German and Italian anti-tank guns.

The Red Army first involved the "twenty-six" in the fighting during the conflict at Lake Hassan in July 1938. To defeat the Japanese group the Soviet High Command drew the 2 nd Mechanized Brigade, as well as 32 and 40-th separate tank battalions. They counted 257 tanks T-26, including 10 HT-26 and three bridge layer ST-26 (plus 81 BT-7, and 13 self-propelled SU-5-2). The storming of Japanese occupied the hills and pious Zaozernaya our tanks came across a well-organized anti-tank defenses. As a result, had lost 85 tanks T-26, 9 of them were burned.After the fighting ended in 1939 managed to repair the machines in the army, the rest - in the factories.

In the fighting in Khalkhin Gol mainly involved wheeled / tracked tank BT. On February 1, 1939 in the 57th special corps stationed in Mongolia, there were only 33, the twenty-sixth, 18 HT-26 and six trucks based on T-26. "Beteshek, for comparison, there were 219 units. Few things have changed in the future. So, on July 20, 1939 in parts of the 1st Army Group had 10 HT-26 (the 11th Tank Brigade) and 14 T-26 (in 82th Infantry Division). By August the number of fights, "the twenty-sixth, mainly chemicals, increased slightly, but they still accounted for a relatively small percentage of the total number of abandoned tanks against the Japanese.Nevertheless, these machines are used quite intensively.

On the eve of World War II T-26  were used mainly in large (256-267 vehicles) unwieldy formations of light tanks, or in small groups (10-15 machines) attached to rifle divisions as infantry support vehicles. As part of these formations and units of Twenty Six "took part in the march to Western Ukraine and Western Belorussia.

Note most did not have radios and responded either to signal flags... or simply followed the vehicle in front of them.

September 17, 1939 Soviet-Polish border crossing 878 tanks T-26 and 797 of the Belarusian - Ukrainian fronts. Loss during this operation were very low: only 15 of the twenty-sixth, but due to various technical problems during the marches out of order 302 machines. Two months later, on November 30, 1939 the USSR launched a war against Finland. Suomi moved to 10 Panzer Corps, 20 th Heavy, 34, 35, 39 and 40 I legkotankovye brigades, 20 independent tank battalions of infantry divisions.

Park T-26 used during the "winter" campaign, was very colorful. In the teams that took on armed combat vehicles of this type, there were also two-towered, and obsolete tanks of different years of release (from 1931 to 1939). In the tank battalions of infantry divisions, as a rule, there were cars produced in 1931-1936, respectively. But some parts were completed brand new T-26, straight from the factory. All in all, the beginning of the fighting in involved in them, there were 848 Soviet troops "twenty-six."

Like the armored vehicles of other brands, T-26 tanks were used as the main strike force at break of the Mannerheim Line. They are mostly employed for the destruction of fortifications: from the shooting of anti-tank obstacles to direct fire on the embrasures bunkers. It should be stressed that the Finnish anti-tank defenses proved quite effective, as eloquently illustrated by the following figures.

From 30 November 1939 to 13 March 1940 on the Karelian Isthmus, the Red Army had lost 3,178 tanks: 1903 cars entered in the list of combat deaths, 1275 cars dropped down for technical reasons. Damage to tanks T-26 all variants reached about 1000 units, ie, exceeded the number "twenty-six" at the beginning of the war. However, during the fighting at the front of the tanks came as a plant, and as part of reinforcements.

Final - Far East

On June 1, 1941 the Red Army possessed 10,268 tanks T-26 of all modifications, including special (39,5 per cent of the total Red Army tank park). With regard to the five western military districts, in which there were approximately 3100-3200 technically serviceable, "the twenty-sixth, and machines based on them (about 40 percent of the armored vehicles in these SBs) - slightly smaller than the number of German tanks intended for the invasion of the USSR.

In the early months of World War II, most T-26 was lost mainly as a result of artillery fire and air strikes of the enemy. A lot of machines out of order for technical reasons, but they could not be repaired due to lack of supply of military units by means of evacuation and lack of spare parts. When retreating even tanks with minor breakdowns had to blow up or burn.

By the autumn of 1941 the number of T-26 decreased markedly, but this tank is still one of the main armored vehicles of the Red Army. So, on October 1, 1941 on the western front, there were 475 tanks, including 298 "twenty-sixth (62 per cent of the total).

However, the technical condition of many T-26 left much to be desired. That being said, for example, "Report of the hostilities the 20 th Panzer Brigade", which received a score of "twenty-six" on the way to the front at the beginning of October 41th: "T-26 tank, arrived with a Repair Base, make difficult with a tow, and 14 units would not start completely. Apparently was the case in many other formations and units. In any case, this situation only contributed to the rapid loss of combat vehicles of this type.

Nevertheless, T-26 continued to be used in battles in the entire Soviet-German front, and throughout 1942. True, in much smaller numbers than in 1941. Recent major operations of the Great Patriotic War, which was attended by tanks T-26, were the battles of Stalingrad and in the Caucasus.

In 1943, most sectors of the Soviet-German front, T-26 tank has been used. They survived only where the front was quite stable and long periods of time was carried out active combat operations. In connection with this should call 151-Panzer Brigade. She was armed with 24 T-26 tank and 19 British light tanks Mk.VII «Tetrarch". Until January 1943 compound guarded by the border of the USSR with Iran until it was transferred to Tuapse available to 47th army.

Quite a long time T-26 held out at the Leningrad front. For example, 1, 220 Tank Brigade to the beginning of the operation to lift the blockade of the northern capital of Russia in January 1944, there were 32 "twenty-six."

In the Soviet troops in Karelia and the Murmansk towards the T-26 consisted in service even longer - until the summer of 1944.

In the Far East by 1945, survived a lot of armored vehicles, old ones, especially the T-26 and BT-7. They were equipped with several armored brigades that the whole World War II were on the Manchurian border. In order to enhance the combat capabilities of these compounds in the summer of 1945, with the plants received 670 tanks T-34-85, which manned the first battalion.Adopted as the second and third battalions were T-26 or BT-7, which again had a chance to fight the Japanese.


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