Tuesday 27 February 2024

Foreign Tanks in Winter

 "Report on the tactical use of English made MK-2 and MK-3 tanks as well as domestic T-60 tanks in combat

1. The 23rd Tank Brigade was engaged in nonstop fighting from December 16th to December 31st, 1941, and has experience in using MK-2, MK-3, and T-60 tanks in battle.

2. Driving in a tank column made of MK-2, MK-3, and T-60 tanks on a road does not pose a problem if the road was previously used by horse-drawn transport. If the road was not used, the MK-2 and MK-3 can push their way through 40-45 cm deep snow losing speed (the MK-2 can drive well in 3rd gear, the MK-3 in 1st or 2nd gear). The T-60 can't drive in snow this deep without following a path made by horse-drawn transport or medium tanks. It is impossible to drive individual tank columns made only of T-60 tanks in snow this deep. 

There is no particular difficulty when tanks of these types drive on country roads, the specifics of their driving remain the same. 

Cross-country driving with icy slopes 20-25 degrees steep is difficult for MK-2 and MK-3 tanks due to a lack of grousers on tracks links. The T-60 needs to be towed up these slopes. 

Off roads, in 40-45 cm deep snow, the mobility of MK-2 and MK-3 tanks decreases to:

  • 5-6 kph on level ground.
  • almost unusable on uneven ground, as confirmed in battle near the Radenki village.
T-60 tanks lose almost all mobility even on level ground and cannot be used in battle, as confirmed in battle near Vorobyevo village.

3. When tanks operate away from paved roads, the main ways of supplying them with fuel and ammunition is as follows:

  1. If dirt roads covered in up to 15-20 cm of snow are available, ZIS-32 or GAZ-AA trucks with chains or spurs can be used.
  2. If there are no roads or if the snow cover is deeper, it's possible to transport supplies using horse-drawn sleds, as done while the 2nd Tank Battalion was operating separately near Smakhtino village.
  3. Tanks with nonfunctional running gear placed in ambush can be supplied by hand-pulled sleds or by other tanks.
4. It is best to gather the tanks at the initial positions for an attack 1.5-2 hours before starting, as lengthy stops require the tanks to be warmed up every 1.5-2 hours, which can reveal their position and attract enemy artillery.

5. Moving through forests has an advantage, as the trees act as a natural defense from snow. The depth of snow banks in forests is much less than on roads or tracks in the open. Marches conducted by the 2nd Tank Battalion in forests were completed without issue, as the depth of snow cover was no more than 25-30 cm, compared to the 40-50 cm deep snow in the open on routes from Iskanskoye to Petrishevo, Petrishevo to Verkhovye, Verkhovye to Smakhtino.

6. Practice in crossing the Oka river showed that the T-60 can cross 20 cm thick ice even if there are holes in the ice within 20 m of the router. An important factor in crossing rivers is the preparation of the slopes, as the opposite bank can be no more than 15-20 degrees steep. If the tank descends in zig-zags, it can go down a 30-35 degree slope.

7. As a rule, the enemy's rear guard mines defilades and roads leading to villages, as discovered during the advance on Lgovo village and on the forest road near point 225.8 that's near the fork in the road near Titovo. Engineering reconnaissance is mandatory in order to mark the minefields, find a way around, and remove the mines if possible before tanks can be used.

8. One of the way that crews stay warm when camping outside of settlements is a canvas tent with a metal oven. Each vehicle should be equipped with a tent and an oven. If those are not available, crews can warm up on the engine grille, which was done by the 2nd Tank Battalion. 

9. New types of tanks (T-60 and T-30) need to be prepared for battle by disassembling the gun breech and clearing it of thick grease, clearing the elevation and traverse mechanisms, and oiling the automatic mechanism.
Before shooting, work the mechanism several times by hand without loading ammunition. Then load 11 shots into the drum to warm up the mechanism, and only then load the belt. Periodically clean fouling from the automatic mechanism and gas system to prevent jamming.
The guns on the MK-2 and MK-3 tanks work flawlessly, but the lack of HE shells prevents them from being used against enemy artillery. As for the machine guns, the belt jams often. To prevent this, it is desirable to have a roller on the right side to feed the belt.

10. The enemy had a negligible amount of tanks in the brigade's sector and generally fought from ambushes set up in forests or settlements. The enemy used tanks in the rear guards of retreating forces.

11. Each settlement is transformed into a stronghold with anti-tank defenses. As a rule, the guns are dialled in on all the roads leading to the village. Until the guns are suppressed, it is impossible to use tanks that have low off-road mobility and must drive on roads in winter.
Tanks with good off-road mobility must drive around the roads. Before the tanks attack, reconnaissance must be conducted by the combined arms HQ to discover the enemy's anti-tank defenses. This is often not done, which leads to excessive loss of tanks.
If the enemy is bound to roads, one way to use the tanks is to maneuver these tanks around them and set up tank ambushes, as was done by the 2nd Tank Battalion at Smakhtino. Tanks can also be used to cover the flanks of rifle units in the enemy rear, which was done on December 30th, 1941, when accompanying elements of the 5th Guards Rifle Division from Potapkino to Smakhtino.

12. All tanks need to run the engine for 4-5 hours a day to warm up if tank heaters are not available. This consumes the following amount of fuel:
  • MK-2 tanks: 100-120 L per day
  • MK-3 tanks: 80-90 L per day
  • T-60 tanks: 70-80 L per day
13. Repairs were done in low temperatures (-25 to -30 degrees) in either settlements or in the field. As a rule, components were replaced whole in order to put the tanks back into action as soon as possible. 

It takes a lot longer to repair tanks in the winter than in the summer. Repairs of English MK-2 and MK-3 tanks are complicated by the fact that there are no manuals and no experience in repairing them. The need to run the engine in order to warm up the tank quickly wears out English diesel engines. It is impossible for the engine to work reliably without heaters and antifreeze. The hoses, drain pipes, and radiators were insulated with felt. Diesel engines of English tanks worked flawlessly on domestic diesel fuel and M3S oil.

Commander of the 23rd Tank Brigade, Colonel Belov
Military Commissar of the 23rd Tank Brigade, Regimental Commissar Gavrilov
Chief of Staff of the 23rd Tank Brigade, Lieutenant-Colonel Klimenko"

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