Part 1: Tas 44M Part 2: Introduction and Straussler tanks Hello everyone, today, we are going to have a look at the main light tank and first modern armored vehicle of the Hungarian army: Toldi light tank. Hungary 1921-1938 First, let’s have a look at the background, that led to the purchase and manufacture of this light tank. For the whole duration of its inter-war existence, Hungary faced issues tied to the rise of extremism. This happened pretty much everywhere in Europe: communist activists on one side (lobbying for close relationships with the Soviet Union), fascist nad nazi sympathizer on the other, pushing for close relationship with Germany and Italy. The latter gained the upper hand in early 30′s, as in 1932, Gyula Gömbös (one of the prominent fascist sympathizers) became the prime minister of Hungary. Gömbös tried to bring Hungary closer to Nazi Germany, seeing it as an opportunity to get rid of the hated Trianon treaty and to gain some power at the same time. This was the beginning of the Germany-Hungary cooperation, that would end only when Hungary was effectively defeated by the Soviets. Gömbös died in 1936 and was replaced by more pragmatic politicians, but the course was set and there was no turning back. In the meanwhile, as we mentioned earlier, the army was also trying to get rid of the Trianon shackles. The Straussler tank program (described in part 1) was an important step, but it certainly was not the first one. The history of Hungarian armor started as early as in 1924, when an armored car section was estabilished as a part of the RUISK police academy. The first armored vehicles in Hungary were in fact converted trucks with armor plates added and equipped with primitive hand-cranked turrets. Combat value of these vehicles was zero, but it allowed the Hungarian officers to start developing first armor tactics and to train on them. It also served to prepare future armor drivers. The army however was still very oldschool (mixed infantry/bicycle units with cavalry and limited field artillery support) even after the 1921 reorganization. The armored car section grew during the twenties, growing in secret to avoid the attention of Allied forces inspectors, enforcing the Trianon treaty. Two Vickers-Armstrong armored cars were secretly purchased, along with a Krupp armored truck. Furthermore, two Crossley trucks were converted by adding armored plates. All in all, in 1929 RUISK had 7 armored cars, but their military value was extremely low and they were suited only for training or police duties. And so the officers trained hard. What however noone knew was one of the best-kept state secrets: in Spring 1920, Hungary managed to purchase 14 WW1 era LKII German light tanks and smuggle them disassembled into the country via ships on Danube. The vehicles came from the stocks of Imperial Mackensen’s army. The contract was camouflaged as a contract with Sweden (where LKII tanks were legally exported and later even manufactured under the name Strv M/21). Despite not being as good as the ubiquitous FT-17, these tanks still were a force to be reckoned with in 1920. However, this undertaking proved to be for naught. Simply put: these vehicles were such a tightly kept secret that they stayed disassembled for 7 long years until 1927, when 5 or 7 vehicles were put together and tested. Chosen reliable officers had the possibility to test a real tank for the first time and this experience also helped in developing new tactics for RUISK. On paper, the RUISK unit in 1930 had 5 LKII tanks, 8 armored cars and one command car (the Krupp one). Several more improvised armored cars were added (some with mock-up constructions to resemble training). As for the LKII tanks – sadly, pretty much all of them were scrapped before the war or used as live fire targets. By the end of the 20′s, Hungarian army command – not oblivious to the rapid development of armor in Czechoslovakia, Poland and Germany, did realize the need to upgrade its army with some serious armored units. The first idea was to acquire some light vehicles (light tanks or tankettes), but since Hungarian industry was in no shape to design, let alone mass-produce such vehicles, the army had to shop abroad. The first acquisitions in 1930 were five Italian Fiat 3000B tanks (practically a license-built FT-17 with some improvements). These vehicles were unarmed (although in one or two cases they were fitted with a Hungarian machinegun locally) and were kept around as training vehicles. They were removed from the training units in 1942 and ended their “career” as artillery practice targets. Here’s how it looked: In 1934, another deal with Italy was struck – this time to purchase a lot of tankettes: Fiat-Ansaldo CV-33 to be exact. In the end, 150 were delivered to Hungary under the designation “35M”. The difference between them and the original version was the fact that they were armed by twin 8mm Gebauer machineguns. In Hungarian service it looked like this: In 1935, one Panzer I Ausf.A was aquired for testing, but not much is known about it apart from the fact the Hungarians weren’t thrilled with it (the tank ended as a training vehicle and was probably later scrapped). By this time, the Straussler prototypes were also tested (unsuccessfully) – so the army had to look elsewhere. And – apart from the Czechoslovak T-21 – its eyes fell upon the Landsverk L-60 tank. Toldi The Landsverk L-60 tank was – in 1934, when it was designed – one of the most advanced tanks in the world and it was the pride of the Swedish industry. It was also available for export, but it wasn’t too successful (apart from Hungary, Ireland and Austria were also interested). First Hungarian contact with Landsverk happened in 1936 and in the following months, Hungarian company MÁVAG (“Magyar Királyi Államvasutak Gépgyára”, Royal Hungarian Railway Company) negotiated the purchase of a test vehicle and plans for building this tank. This resulted in the 1938 import of one L-60 to Hungary, where it was tested and compared to the locally designed Straussler V-4. As we know, the L-60 ended up as the winner of this. As I mentioned before, for its time, the L-60 was very modern. The armor was mostly welded (riveted at some points too) and it was also sloped, increasing its effectivity. The suspension however was the most significant improvement, as it used torsion bars, not the old leaf spring systems, installed on many of its contemporaries. It was powered by an 8-liter Bussing-NAG L8V/36TR 155hp engine, allowing it to go as fast as 50km/h (and this was still in Continue reading →

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