Thursday 19 September 2013

T-35's Last Battles

The T-35 was a Soviet heavy tank that started development in 1932, and production in 1933. It was out of production in 1939, and was hopelessly obsolete in 1941, inferior in firepower not only to the heavy KV, but to the medium T-34, and even some models of the T-28. Nevertheless, a tank is a tank, and the USSR sent it into battle along with everything else they could.

On June 22nd, 1941, 59 T-35 tanks existed in the Red Army, distributed as follows:
  • 51 assigned to the 8th Mechanized Corps of the Kiev Special Military District.
    • 5 vehicles were in need of moderate repairs.
    • 4 vehicles were in need of major repairs, and 3 of those were sent to factory #183.
  • 2 assigned to the Military Academy of Motorization and Mechanization.
  • 6 assigned to the 2nd Saratov Tank School.
    • 2 vehicles were in need of major repairs, and sent to factory #183.
Up to this point, the T-35 participated in no wars. Its career was not going to be long. In the 34th Tank Division's journal, the T-35 pops up several times:

"...On June 22nd, 1941, the division possesses 7 KV, 38 T-35, 238 T-26, and 25 BT tanks... June 24th, when the division was at the forest Yavorov-Grudek-Yagellonskiy, about 17 T-35s remained...
...June 26th, 10 T-35s fell behind...
...June 27th, all remaining T-35s fell behind..."

It is no wonder that the massive T-35s were lost and left behind. The tank was large, with relatively weak armour. In 1941, when fuel and parts were scarce, it would be very reasonable to abandon such a wasteful tank as a T-35.

There is a more detailed list of how and where T-35s were lost:

67th Tank Regiment:

June 24th
  • #200-04, 196-94, 148-50 were left behind during repairs. Armament and optics removed, tanks were blown up.
  • #220-29, #213-35 got stuck in a swamp during retreat.
  • #220-27, #537-80 suffered mechanical failure at Grudek-Yagellonskiy. The vehicles were left behind, their machine guns and ammunition removed and buried.
June 26th
  • #200-08 suffered mechanical failure at Sudova Vishnya, armament and optics removed, tank was left behind.
June 28th
  • #288-14 disappeared along with its crew next to Zapit.
June 29th
  • #988-17, #183-16 require repairs, were left at Lvov without optics or armament.
  • #288-11 fell from a bridge and was lost with its crew.
  • #715-61 was left 15 km past Lvov due to mechanical failure, machine guns were removed.
  • #148-25 was left at Zapit due to a broken reduction gear.
  • #715-62 was left at L<illegible>e without machine guns due to a broken fan belt.
June 30th
  • #339-30, 744-61 were left behind due to mechanical failure, without armament or optics.
  • #200-09 was destroyed by enemy fire. Armament and optics removed.
  • #399-48 was lost at Belo-Kamenka.
  • #183-03's engine gave out, was abandoned at Belo-Kamenka. Armament and ammunition were removed and buried.
  • #148-39 was destroyed at Verbi.
  • #220-25 was destroyed at Ptichye.
  • #988-16 was destroyed at Ptichye during a counterattack.
  • #339-68 was destroyed at Brody.
  • #200-10 was destroyed at Ptichye during a counterattack.
July 1st
  • #988-16 broke down. It was left at Zolochuv. Armament, optics, and ammunition removed, and handed over to the Zolochuv warehouse.
  • #744-63 left on the road from Zolochuv to Tarnopol, machine guns were removed.
  • #288-74 suffered a failure of friction clutches. It was burned by its crew at Tarnopol.
  • #148-22 was left in the forest next to Sasovo, machine guns were removed, optics removed and buried.
July 2nd
  • #196-96 suffered a failure of a reduction gear. It was left at Tarnopol with no armament.
68th Tank Regiment:

June 25th
  • #197-01's main clutch burned, abandoned 20 km east of Grudek.
June 26th
  • #288-43's main clutch burned, abandoned at Grudek.
  • #744-62's main clutch burned. All ammunition was expended. Abandoned at Grudek.
June 29th
  • #183-16 was left 20 km from Lvov.
June 30th
  • #234-35 fell in a river close to Ivankovtsy.
  • #238-69 and #537-70 were left behind due to mechanical failure. The former was left between Busk and Krasne, the latter between Ozhidev and Olesko.
July 2nd
  • #744-67 was left at Zhidin due to mechanical failure.
July 3rd
  • #234-42 was left at Zapytov due to failure of the friction clutch.
July 8th
  • #200-05 was left at Zolovchuv due to mechanical failure.
July 9th
  • #744-65 was left between Tarnopol and Volochinsk due to mechanical failure.
  • #183-06 had its brakes fail, and was left at Volochinsk.
  • #744-66 suffered failure of the friction drive, and was left at Beo<illegible>
  • #196-75 suffered a failure of the friction drive, and had no batteries. Was left at De<illegible>
  • #744-64, #196-95, #330-75 were left at Grudek, needing moderate repairs.
But what about the five T-35s that were sent to factory #183 at Kharkov? Four of them were most likely never repaired. On August 21st, long after all other T-35s were lost, GABTU chief Fedorenko issued the following telegram: "The 4 T-35 tanks ## 148-30, 537-90, 220-28, and 197-02 are to be repaired until they are capable of independent movement, equipped with appropriate armament, and sent to GABTU KA. Inform me when they are ready." As you can see, one T-35 was repaired, and sent to battle.

Note: the document is fairly illegible. 238, 288, and 988 could all be 288. Also, #183-16 is present twice, due to poor legibility.

Original article available here.

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