Hello everyone, today we have another guest article, this time about Finnish armor. Enjoy! - SS Author: Juuso ‘Kantti’ Marttila Finland is one of the more obscure nations, when it comes to armored warfare in WW2. Although Finland’s success in stopping the Red Army in Winter War has gained nearly mythological proportions and international fame, only little is usually said about Finnish armored forces in World War 2. With mixed equipment and nearly as mixed reputation, they still form an interesting part of Finnish Army’s endeavors in WW2. Finnish armored forces got their first equipment from France in 1919-1921, when the newly independent state acquired 32 FT-17′s. Of these, 14 had 37mm Puteaux gun, rest were machine-gun versions. Some had original angular Renault turret, the rest had circular Berliet turret. As a curiosity, some of the Finnish tanks were lent to White Russians of North Western theatre of Russian Civil War. When the Winter War started in November 1939, these tanks still formed the core of Finnish armored forces (2 of 4 tank companies of Finnish Tank Battalion fielded FTs), but it was already clear that these tanks were completely obsolete and unable to engage any Russian armor (mainly BT-series, T-26, T-28 and some tankettes). Thus, these tanks were dug in as pillboxes, but most were left behind without a fight, when Soviet breakthroughs in other sectors forced the Finnish defenders to withdraw. Finnish FT-17s parading in front of Helsinki Central Railway station To replace their obsolete Renaults, Finnish army started to test four different British-made Vickers tanks in the 1930s. These were Vickers 6-ton (Vickers Mark E), Vickers Mk VI B, Vickers-Carden Loyd Light Tank m1933 and Vickers-Carden Loyd Light Amphibious tank m1931. In 1936, Finnish army placed an order for 32 Vickers 6-ton tanks, which were considered the most modern and most suitable for Finnish heavily forested environment. Unluckily for the Finnish Armored Forces, Finland couldn’t afford to buy the tanks with armament, but decided to arm the tanks themselves. Thus, most of the Vickers were still in process of being armed with 37mm guns and only one tank company was ready for action in late February, when the Winter War was already nearing its end. They were sporadically used as fire support for infantry and their only major armored clash against the Red Army was in Honkaniemi. There, Finnish troops were ordered to make a counter-attack against Soviet breakthrough near Lake Näykkijärvi. The 4th Armored company equipped with 15 Vickers was ordered to join the push. Inexperience of the newly-equipped company was seen clearly in that they managed to get only 8 tanks to the starting line of the attack and in the end, only 5 tanks managed to advance. The rest suffered from various mechanical failures in cold weather, especially of condensed water in fuel system. These five tanks engaged 20 “heavy” T-28 tanks of the 120th Armored Regiment of Red Army. In the following 40 minutes firefight, four Finnish and 8 Soviet tanks were knocked out. For the remainder of the Winter War, Finnish tanks evaded armored engagements as Vickers’ engines were deemed too unreliable, gun sights were poor and its penetration was found lacking even against the T-28. Finnish Vickers During the interim-peace (time between the Winter War and Continuation War, which started a couple of weeks after Operation Barbarossa), Finnish Army started to seriously develop their armed forces. Since money was lacking but captured Soviet equipment from the Winter War was plenty, most of these improvements were improvised. First, the Vickers received an upgrades as their 37mm guns were replaced by captured Soviet 45mm guns. After this modification, these Vickers were called T-26E (E= English to distinguish them from captured Soviet T-26s). Even though penetration of these two guns was rather similar, the effect of HE shell when supporting infantry was considerably better with the 45mm gun. Also, logistical constraints eased a bit, as Vickers used now the same ammunition as captured Soviet T-26s, that were pressed into service. Finnish repaired 47 (of which 34 were put in front line units) captured Soviet T-26 tanks during the short peace time and together with upgraded Vickers tanks,* these formed the core of the expanded Finnish Tank Battalion. These were considered far more suitable for Finnish environment than BT-series tanks, which were other major category of captured AFVs. Finnish converted many T-26A’s (T-26 M1931) by replacing their twin-turrets and arming them with the same 45mm gun mentioned above. Some T-26A’s were still retained in service, mostly as command vehicles. The same conversion was done to some flamethrower tanks (OT-26). Even if a couple of OT-130 and OT-26′s saw some limited service in 1941 in Finnish army, they were deemed unreliable, inefficient and a waste of precious fuel and soon withdrawn from service. A captured T-26 m1931 with Finnish markings (un-tilted swastika) Finnish T-26s attacking Of other Soviet vehicles captured in Winter War also a couple of BT-5s and BT-7s saw some service in the Heavy Tank Platoon, quite an ironic unit for such a tank. As mentioned above, these “Christie’s” proved unreliable and they were worn out during the Finnish attack phase of Continuation War. Some turrets from BT-series tanks were used as fortifications. Of bigger importance were 2 captured T-28s, which formed the core of the aforementioned Heavy Tank Platoon. They were surprisingly durable and despite their reputation of being unreliable and maintenance intensive, they worked like a charm against infantry and gun positions. After capturing a couple more T-28s in the 1941, the Finnish finally operated 7 T-28s and despite losing multiple crews, not a single vehicle was permanently knocked out. Captured BT-7 advancing with infantry Captured T-28 bearing Finnish markings. Finnish advances in Autumn 1941 saw plenty of new captured vehicles appearing in the table of organization and equipment of Finnish Armoured Forces, which were in early 1942 organized into the Armored Brigade. In June 1942, it was coupled with 1st Jaeger Brigade and formed Finland’s first and only Armored Division. Finnish forces captured (or bought from German captured supplies) and uses in total 7 T-34/76s and 2 KV-1s. These replaced the T-28s as the core of the heavy tank platoon and provided 2 armored battalions of the brigade with a true striking force. Some captured T-37 and T-38 amphibious tanks were also used. As a curiosity to WoT players, Finland also managed to capture a T-50, which was the up-armored version (making it in fact a T-50-2, which historically meant up-armored, not super speedster known to WoT players) and was used as a command vehicle. It has been preserved in Finnish Armored Museum in Parola and is suspected to be only one Continue reading →

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