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The 35(t)


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The_Chieftain #1 Posted Mar 14 2013 - 19:18

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Sitting way down at Tier II on the German line is a little tank which a lot of people seem to generally blow through on the hunt for something a little cooler. Like a cat. So why not take a second look at it here?

In this segment of Operation Think Tank, Steve Zaloga made the comment that what would become the PzKpfw 35(t) was basically a copy of the Vickers 6-ton. This caused a little bit of consternation over on the Czech sub-forum over on the EU server, they didn’t seem so keen on that statement. However, one probably has to start back at the Vickers anyway, to decide for yourself.

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Vickers was doing moderately well in the tank scene in the 1920s, being the primary producer of tanks for the British Army. In the mid 1920s, they decided to try branching out into the commercial marketplace. The Mark A and B, of which I cannot find a picture after a cursory search, were described by Fletcher as being “bulky designs, even when compared with the British service mediums, and unlikely to appeal to any potential customer.” The Mark C, pictured above, did a little better, being sold to Japan and Ireland (Mark D). Japan didn’t think too much of it in the end, but there is a startling similarity between the Mark C and the Type 89 which they did produce domestically. Coincidence? Who knows…

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The revolution came in 1928 with the appearance of the Mark E, the prototype of which is pictured above. (Note the high engine deck). Now, there’s going to be a little bit of form following function here. We have a small little tank, with a long-ish glacis, front-drive/rear engine, and (in the single-turret model), a fairly well-sized turret with a two-man crew. The nature of the bogie cluster suspension was a bit more unique though. This vehicle wasn’t half bad by the standards of the time, and as Mr Zaloga says, it became the most influential design of the inter-war period.

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Skoda hadn’t started building armoured full-tracked vehicles by then, it wasn’t until the early 1930s that the MU and MUV (Malay Utocny Vuz: Small Attack Vehicle) series started appearing. The MUV-4 above of 1934 was a tankette of a whopping 2.5ton. By 1934, though the Czechs had decided to stop mucking around in the kiddie pool and build themselves a proper battle tank. The result of Skoda’s efforts was the SU.

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Now, though the Czech Ministry of Defense had put a 15 ton cap on the weight limit of their battle tanks, Skoda’s SU was all of about 7.5 ton. If you wanted to make a 7.5 ton designed tank with a central turret, it is probably going to look a bit like the British 6-ton design (which usually weighed in at about 7-8 tons) simply by its nature. The two significant differences were that the driver was placed a little more forward than in the 6-ton, and the sprocket wheel was at the rear. The suspension is the grouped bogie pair type.

This was improved upon by the production in June 1935 of the first of the S-II-a tanks. (Skoda, light, cavalry), which would eventually be known as the LT Vz 35. (Light tank, model 1935). Now, there is nothing in the records that I’ve seen to state that this was a deliberate offshoot of the Vickers Mark E, but it is also highly unlikely that the Skoda designers weren’t looking at it. Indeed, Spielberger describes the suspension as “the running gear adopted from Vickers in Britain” with improvements (Most specifically, an extra wheel between the idler and first roadwheel). The 6-speed gearbox was also British, built under license from Wilson. Copy of the 6-ton? No, obviously not, but I think one would have to give Vickers a little credit in the inspiration.

Now they were getting somewhere, but still 675 improvements had to be made in the design before it could properly be built by CKD and Skoda.

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In any case, it was a fairly impressive design, and proved almost invulnerable to the problem of throwing track. On the downside, it was maintenance intensive, and suffered from having a one-man turret. 298 were delivered to the Czech Army, where most of them were promptly ended up being pressed into German service (Two ended up in Hungarian possession somehow, and some 50-70 were to the Slovak Free State). Of the 240 or so left over, most of them hadn’t yet had the reliability modifications applied by the factory, and some were just completely broken down and off the books. An improved version with independent suspension had also entered production, so the 35 was already obsolescent.

Still, they were 200 or so tanks left over which were reasonably well regarded by their former owners, so the Germans gave ‘em a bit of a try at the Milowitz training base. Not bad, but definitely in need of some tweaking.

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Firstly, the one-man turret had to go. Or at least, somehow find a way of squeezing a second man in there. As a result, they threw a loader in there anyway (no seat, of course), to reduce a little of the TC’s workload. He could also operate the turret machinegun. (This was a selctable ball mount, not just a coaxial, and could be independently aimed). Another problem in the turret was communications: When built, the Vz 35s had none. The Germans installed an intercom system, which included long cables which ran from the hull into the turret as the turret had no commutator ring. One can imagine the problems. Newer, more powerful radios were installed in the hull as well, with some tanks even being fitted out as Befehlswagen (command tanks).

With these modifications made, the Vz 35 entered Wehrmacht service as the le. Tank Skoda Modell 35. (Or for short, L.T. Sk.M.35) and the Panzerkampfwagen (3.7cm) “L.T.Sk.35” depending on who you asked. By 1940, however, an official decree standardized it as the Panzerkampfwagen 35(t). Still, units often referred to them as Pz.Kpfw. Skoda, or even Pz.Kpfw. III(t). This latter because they were issued as equivalents (and replacements) for the Pz.Kpfw. III, even though the latter was far superior. 6th PzDiv got the lion’s share.

In any case, when it became time to go squash Poland, the German inventory officially held 202 L.T.Sk.35s. Their reliability rates were pretty horrible, with their breaking down substantially more frequently than the Pz IIs and Pz IVs which accompanied them. Still, they were tough enough to resist the small (2cm and less) anti-tank fire usually aimed at them, and only seven had been removed from the inventory  after the campaign. After giving the Bulgarians a couple of dozen, and pulling another couple of dozen out for major repair work, 143 were still on the books to invade France with. Again, reliability appeared to be an Achilles’ heel, with Pz Rgt 11’s 76 35(t)s being repaired 383 times by the company workshops (Figure from Panzer Tracts). This didn’t count those which had to be sent to the rear for major repair works. With insufficient rail transport available, replacement 35(t)s were not dispatched by the depots as they didn’t believe the tanks were capable of getting to where they needed to on their own without breaking down. 62 35(t)s were written off in the campaign in the West.

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The last hurrah for the 35(t)s came against the Soviets in June 1941. 6 Pz Div had 160 on strength when they started. They didn’t last too long. By the end of November, not a single 35(t) tank was operational (A couple of Befelhswagen were still running). No repair parts were being manufactured, and cannibilisation could only go so far. They were certainly still around, the Germans reported owning 187 of them in June 1942, but none were in active use.

And so thus ends the story of the 35(t). If you want to see one of your own, there are still a few out there, but you’ve got to go to Europe (More specifically, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria or the Czech Republic). There was one skulking in Aberdeen, MD until recently, but I’m not sure where it is at this second or if it’s on public display. As for Vickers, well, you have to give them some credit for helping the design along, but we’ll return to the Vickers story later.

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Daigensui #2 Posted Mar 16 2013 - 17:32

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Nice article as usual.


In the end, everyone took something from elsewhere, that's how technology developed.


View PostThe_Chieftain, on Mar 14 2013 - 19:18, said:

Japan didn’t think too much of it in the end, but there is a startling similarity between the Mark C and the Type 89 which they did produce domestically. Coincidence? Who knows…

Actually, Japan did model the Type 89 on the Mark C. The reason why Japan didn't think too much of the Mark C was because one of them caught fire during a trial and exploded, wounding two Vickers engineers. This was the reason why Japan was the first to adopted diesel engines.

Spanisharmada #3 Posted Mar 16 2013 - 17:50

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Then where did the Mark 1 come from  :Smile-hiding:


nice article, Chieftain. Was the 38t still being used after 1941?

anonym_3N1sLJ1Nfj7v #4 Posted Mar 16 2013 - 17:58

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excellent article, nice pictures, the people give a real perspective of just how small it was

Xlucine #5 Posted Mar 16 2013 - 18:07

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View PostSpanisharmada, on Mar 16 2013 - 17:50, said:

Then where did the Mark 1 come from  :Smile-hiding:

Tractors

Aldershot_II #6 Posted Mar 16 2013 - 18:40

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Very good article and also very nice to see something other than the top tier machinery being spotlighted.

munich22 #7 Posted Mar 16 2013 - 20:35

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now we have a new tech tree

Falworth #8 Posted Mar 16 2013 - 21:25

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"There was one skulking in Aberdeen, MD until recently, but I’m not sure where it is at this second or if it’s on public display."

The_Chieftain the tanks at Aberdeen Proving Grounds are being relocated to FT Lee where the new home for the Ordinance Museum now resides.
Respectfully

karnage666 #9 Posted Mar 16 2013 - 22:03

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Wow .. Quite informative .

The_Chieftain #10 Posted Mar 17 2013 - 00:33

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View PostFalworth, on Mar 16 2013 - 21:25, said:

"There was one skulking in Aberdeen, MD until recently, but I’m not sure where it is at this second or if it’s on public display."

The_Chieftain the tanks at Aberdeen Proving Grounds are being relocated to FT Lee where the new home for the Ordinance Museum now resides.
Respectfully

Some of them are. Others are being diverted to Anniston, and a few even found their way to Ft Benning.

the_moidart #11 Posted Mar 17 2013 - 01:51

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The low quality tank books often claimed the 35t was more reliable then the Pz1 and 2 in Poland, so its funny that you emphasize its unreliability.
Am I confusing the 35t with the 38t? The 38t was clearly reliable enough to be adapted into the Hetzer, etc.

Incidentally according to wiki, there was a TD version of the 35t created by the Romanians
http://en.wikipedia....royer_Tacam_R-2

Daigensui #12 Posted Mar 17 2013 - 02:39

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View Postthe_moidart, on Mar 17 2013 - 01:51, said:

Am I confusing the 35t with the 38t?

That would be correct.

3BAC #13 Posted Mar 17 2013 - 02:40

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View PostThe_Chieftain, on Mar 17 2013 - 00:33, said:

Some of them are. Others are being diverted to Anniston, and a few even found their way to Ft Benning.
Here's a shot of the tank when it was in Aberdeen.

Silentstalker2 #14 Posted Mar 18 2013 - 15:17

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Just a few comments. I'll take it by sentences.
"...his caused a little bit of consternation over on the Czech sub-forum over on the EU server, they didn’t seem so keen on that statement."

Well, that would be me protesting that back then, I even argued with Tuccy a bit.

"Skoda hadn’t started building armoured full-tracked vehicles by then, it wasn’t until the early 1930s that the MU and MUV (Malay Utocny Vuz: Small Attack Vehicle) series started appearing. ..... By 1934, though the Czechs had decided to stop mucking around in the kiddie pool and build themselves a proper battle tank. The result of Skoda’s efforts was the SU."

Well... no. First and foremost, there was no MUV, all the Czech sources refer to the vehicles as "MÚ" (malý útočný, not malay). Alternative designation was Š-I or Š-1 (the historical sources are notoriously messy in this as various sources use various ways how the write the vehicle). A few words on nomenclature: roman I means tankette category, II means light tank class and III means a heavy breakthrough tank (yes, we had those projects too, they were really bad though).

Second, the wording "Czechs decide to stop mucking around..." implies there has been no Czech development-building of "proper" armored vehicles before 1934. That's not true. The demands for medium tanks were originally set in 1926 (they included for example a 75mm gun). The early tank development of heavier vehicles (not tankettes) started in early 1920's with the Kolohousenka projects - yes, it does look funny, but it actually worked - and with the Praga MT (malý tank) and Praga YNH projects from 1927 and 1930. MT weighted 4 tons, YNH 7 tons. Then there was the whole Praga series (including the infamous Tančík vzor 1933 tankette). The "heavy" breakthrough Škoda tank (Š-III) was also developed ever since the army laid down the demands for it in 1929 (the first stage of the project was ready in 1933) - yes, it was a terrible vehicle, but it existed. It's "sister" project from Tatra (T-III) was started by that time also. The development history of late 20's and early 30's in Czechoslovakia is very rich.

Now, though the Czech Ministry of Defense had put a 15 ton cap on the weight limit of their battle tanks

There was no "battle tank" concept in Czechoslovakia, the parameters mentioned were for vehicles called "útočná vozba", which means "assault vehicles" in english. Also, the original parameters were laid down by the order of Gen.Syrový from 22.6.1926 and mentioned (amongst others) the demand of 10 tons, not 15 (and recommended the weight between 6-8 tons) - that's why the vehicle was first developed so light.

If you wanted to make a 7.5 ton designed tank with a central turret, it is probably going to look a bit like the British 6-ton design (which usually weighed in at about 7-8 tons) simply by its nature.

Not sure how much truth is in that (after all, I am not a tank designer), but Škoda SÚ was a direct reaction to the Praga P-II vehicle (later designated as LT-34), another 7,5 ton tank from 1931-1932 (more about it here at tier 2). P-II itself doesn't have much to do with Vickers - a Vickers gun was considered and rejected in favour of a local gun, there was the Praga Wilson part. There was a relationship here with Vickers, but not a direct one (Czech sources, namely I.Pejčoch suggest that the suspension was NOT a Vickers copy, but indigenously developed). SÚ was then "inspired" by P-II and Š-IIa in turn was the development of SÚ. Thus, the relationship with Vickers is only very, very thin and indirect (it most likely started in the early 20's, when Vickers guns were first considered for licensed FT-17 tanks, improved FT-17 proposed by Škoda and the Kolohousenka vehicles).

As for the rest:

The reliability was a problem in general, but P-IIa (the competing design) was simplier to maintain (had other faults but in general wasn't much worse). LT-35 was selected based on unknown circumstances (most likely corruption).

Two ended up in Hungarian possession somehow, and some 50-70 were to the Slovak Free State

One was captured by the Hungarians from the Czechoslovak army on 15.3.1939 during a counterattack at the village of Fenčíkovo (Subcarpathian Russia region) after it was knocked out by AT fire (a shell hit the engine) and one of its crewmembers was killed. The vehicle burned out. Second LT-35 was left damaged on 24.3.1939 on Slovak-Hungarian border after a skirmish between Slovak and Hungarian army and captured.
After pre-war Czechoslovakia broke up, Slovakia had 52 LT-35 in its possession.

so the Germans gave ‘em a bit of a try at the Milowitz training base

Milowitz is a nazi-forced German name. Proper Czech (and - according to wiki also English) name is Milovice. During the tests in March 1939, the Germans actually judged them to be really good, the only problematic part was deemed to be the riveted armor. Especially the steering mechanism was liked. A lot of vehicles got worn out during the testing however.

As a result, they threw a loader in there anyway (no seat, of course)

The turret actually recieved an extra seat for the loader (rarely used, though). That's nitpicking however.

The combat history section is fine IMHO. I'd just add that some Panzer 35t's also went to Waffen SS (where they generally didn't do very well, but then again, neither did the Waffen SS themselves). Some survived till 1942 as training vehicles in Bad Tölz (to train anti-tank combat) and one went to Munich for the new mechanics to train on.
The 35's also fought in Slovak service against Russians (until late 1941 presumably, they had heavy losses). However, the last combat hurrah happened in 1944 during the Slovak National Uprising, where 8 tanks from Slovak storages were repaired and used by the rebels. 4 were shortly after devastated in close combat with German Panzer IVs. Several more were repaired after or used as fixed positions. On 22.9.1944, 3 LT-35s were operational in the hands of the rebels. Several fierce battles followed (including a German ambush that decimated the rebel LT-38s) and the last LT-35 was lost on 27.10.1944. Romanians used theirs until 1943 or so.

The_Chieftain #15 Posted Mar 18 2013 - 16:07

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Interesting. I'll take a look in detail when I'm back in the office next week and will alter the article accordingly.

Silentstalker2 #16 Posted Mar 18 2013 - 16:10

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View PostThe_Chieftain, on Mar 18 2013 - 16:07, said:

Interesting. I'll take a look in detail when I'm back in the office next week and will alter the article accordingly.

Ok cheers :)

Vollketten #17 Posted Mar 18 2013 - 16:52

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I like the Chieftans article and the research that SS has done.
Frankly if the Czech engineers didn't at least see the Vickers design and incorporate the features they liked and not the ones they didn't then they wouldn't be the competant engineers we know they were.

There is a difference between slavishly copying (I don't think that the Chieftan was arguing that) and a "oh we like that bit and that bit, but not that bit" approach.

lostwingman #18 Posted Mar 18 2013 - 17:12

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Interesting, still can't wait for more Czech tanks.

Silentstalker2 #19 Posted Mar 18 2013 - 17:56

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Just to "warm up my soup", as the Czechs say:

Chieftain, have you seen my Czechoslovak tech tree proposal? Here's part 5 - summary (parts 1-4 dealing with LT, TD, SPG and MT branches are linked within). Any chance of something like that in the game?

http://ftr-wot.blogs...umssummary.html

Daigensui #20 Posted Mar 18 2013 - 18:01

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Only problem I see with a Czech tree: It'll basically eviscerate the majority of the European tree.




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