Overlord'S Blog: Help me write this Story.
Today I need your help.
Those of you who know me, know that I love weird vehicles, especially captured or really out of place oddities. Well 8 months ago I found out about a battle with four tanks, and have been trying to track the details down. I'm certain there's a story there. But after 8 months I can't find anything from English sources. So its over to you, can you find out anything about this Battle past what I detail below?
During the post World War One period, much of Eastern Europe became a mass of conflicting ideals and political groups and fighting. In most cases each country had its war of independence during the time. However the wider period is sometimes, inaccurately, called the Russian Civil War. Where White and Red Russians fought each other. The Whites and the nationalists were often supported by the west. Equally the differing groups were armed and equipped by the west.
The British had a tank training school in what would become Estonia. The school had six World war one era MKV Hermaphrodite tanks. "Hermaphrodites" were MKV tanks with one female and one male sponson. Four of these tanks were transferred to the new Estonian Army when they won independence. Named Uku, Vahtula, Valdaja and Päälik, the tanks were never retired. In 1939 despite these four vehicles being Estonia's only armour they don't seem to have been deployed against the Soviet invasion. Possibly because the supply of rounds for the 6 Pounder gun was poor. After the Russian victory the tanks, along with other pieces of hardware, were warehoused.
During the next two years the Russian Baltic Fleet moved into Tallinn and set up a major fleet base there. Then came Operation Barbarossa. The Germans stormed across the Soviet captured territory and the Red Army threw everything into the fight. At Tallinn the Red Navy converted two of the captured Estonian Styer 640 trucks into armoured cars and issued them to the Russian Naval infantry.
Equally the Estonian MKV tanks were re-armed with a 45mm gun and either DT or Maxim Machine guns (pictures show both). The four tanks were then brought into action in the defence of Tallinn. The MKV's were called "Rikardo's", this is a Russian translation of the "Ricardo". Sir Harry Ricardo was the British engineer who designed and built the Engines powering the MKV. That the tanks where used is confirmed as we have lots of pictures of them taken by a German Army photographer who followed the attacking German Infantry.
And that's where the hard detailed information ends. I know nothing more that I consider good evidence. I have some single unsourced claims, and I can make some guesses though. I suspect it was the Naval infantry whom used them, although it could easily have been the Red Army. Some sources claim all were mobile. Others only two, and the other two were used as bunkers. One source claims they took part in the fighting at a cross roads. Another says they were part of the "Rae" defensive line, but I can't find any other mention of that position.
I can make a good guess what happened after the Germans knocked them out as well. MKV tanks appear in Berlin at the end of the war. These were immobile and used as air-raid shelters. Up until then they had been sitting in the Lustgarten. In World War One Germany never captured a MKV tank, and as the tanks seen in Berlin at the end of World War Two are MKV's there's only a tiny number of places they could have come from, Estonia is one.
So can anyone help? I feel there is a story here, but I can only know half of it. I'd love to fill in the blanks and tell the entire story. But there doesn't seem to be enough information held in English sources.
(Apologies for both the short article and being late today. I'm currently moving house so the Internet connection, and my book collection are limited and patchy.)