Wednesday 4 September 2013

"Obsolete" Light Tanks

T-26, BT, Valentine. Those are all light tanks, nearly obsolete as soon as the war started. However, a tank is a tank, and nobody is going to say no to a perfectly functional gun on tracks during a war as brutal as WWII. Even after the appearance of such fearsome beasts as Panthers, Tigers, and ISes, these older models don't go anywhere.

In the early war, the Germans readily used "inferior" Soviet armour. In a report from Zhukov to Stalin (CAMD RF 208-2511-26) on the destruction of the enemy at Skirmanovo, Zhukov writes: "By preliminary counts, in these battles we have captured 28 prisoners, 30 tanks, including 10 Soviet BT-7s, one long-range gun, 6 AT guns, motorcycles, cars, and other military items." The battles occurred on November 12-13 of 1941.

In 1942, the need for captured tanks didn't go anywhere. CAMD RF 38-11355-644 says: "Elements of the 22nd army re-captured 5 T-26es and 2 T-34s from the enemy. The tanks are functional, but lack telescopic sights. Please indicate where to receive 5 T-26 TOPs and 2 T-34 TOPs. Additionally, please advise on the procedure for receiving telescopic sights, both for domestic and captured German vehicles."

Of course, these tanks also appear in Soviet records in the late war.

From the records of the 49th Guards Heavy Tank Regiment: "25.01.44. 23 BT-5 and 3 BT-7 received from the 12th OUTP of the Leningrad front."

From the records of the 82nd Independent Tank Regiment: "At the end of 15.06.44, we received five T-26 tanks, sent from the #4 repair factory in Leningrad.
Condition of our material resources:
Assigned: 10
Combat-ready: 6
Undergoing repairs: 290th repair base: 3 49th repair base: 3"

However, these tanks did decrease in effectiveness, and were gradually transferred to less critical theaters. A list of equipment transferred to the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Army on February 10th, 1944, contains 13 BT-7s with 71TK radios and 12 BT-7s with no radios.

The British realized the same thing with their tanks. On April 12th, 1944, 90 Valentines in Iraq were transferred from British service to the Soviet Independent Maritime Army.

By November of 1944, it seems that these old tanks are still in service, although the M3 Lees and Stuarts are thinning out.

This table shows the amounts of foreign tanks at repair base #82. By November 1st, the repair base is in possession of 193 MK-3 tanks (Valentine), 130 MK-2 tanks (Matilda), and 175 M4A2 tanks. No M3 Light (Stuart) or M3 Medium (Lee) were present at the beginning of October, and none were brought in for repairs that month.


  1. Interesting about the BTs. I have always been interested in them, but so little information about them is available in English, especially about their combat records during Khalkin Gol, the Great Patriotic War, and the Manchurian Stretegic Offensive. The best resource I have is a book by Mikhail Baryatinskiy, which lumps them together with the other Soviet light tanks.

  2. The Valentine wasn't a light tank, it was originally classified as an Infantry Tank.
    At some 16 tons, it was about 50% heavier than the BT5, and 3 tons or so more than the Stuart.
    Later models having either a 6pdr (57mm) or 75mm gun, it also outgunned the other two, with their 37-45mm guns and it's 65mm frontal armour was substantially more than the others.

    1. Far slower than the others, too, including medium tanks with similar armor and guns. Though for how low its mass was, it was a rather efficient tank.

  3. M3 Grants were sent to the Burma, China, and New Guinea theaters. Obsolete as battle tanks in the ETO (some chassis were re-purposed as the M7 Priest 105mm howtizer), they served right to war's end against the Japanese, as they vastly superior to all their tanks save for the Type 97 medium (which a Grant was no worse than on par).