The first medium tanks in Red Army service were captured examples of the British-designed and built Mark A ‘Whippet’ that came from the White Army inventory. This vehicle had first appeared in British army service in early 1918 and was intended for exploitation purposes, pushing behind enemy lines, attacking artillery positions and command posts. The 31,360-lb (14.225mt) vehicle had a three-man crew and was armed with four 7.7mm machine guns. Maximum armour thickness on the Whippet’s front hull was 14mm.
In Red Army service the Whippet was known as the Tyeilor after the two Taylor gasoline engines that powered the vehicle. The Whippets would last in Red Army service until a shortage of spare parts rendered them immobile by the early 1920s.
The first medium tanks in the Red Army inventory were captured examples of the British-designed and built Mark A Whippet. The vehicle was armed only with machine guns. This particular example of the Whippet belongs to the United States Army Ordnance Museum collection. (Michael Green)
Exiting a building during a public ceremony in Russia during their Civil War (1917–22) is a Mark A Whippet medium tank. British tankers had arrived with the Whippets to teach the anti-Bolshevik White Army how to operate the vehicle. This training process met with little success. (Tank Museum)
A medium tank acquired by the Red Army in the 1930s for consideration and testing was the British-designed and built Mark II medium tank. This 30,128-lb (13.666mt) vehicle had entered British army service in 1926 and was protected by a maximum armour thickness of 12mm on the front of its turret. With a five-man crew, the Mark II was armed with a turret-mounted 47mm main gun and three 7.7mm machine guns. The Red Army was not impressed with the Mark II and never sought to copy it.
In what turned out to be a design dead end, the Red Army had looked at an up-scaled T-18 light tank that could fulfil the role of medium tank. That vehicle was designated the T-12 medium tank and it was originally conceived that thirty would be built. Sadly, the design proved badly flawed and only one was built. In its place an improved version designated the T-24 medium tank was approved. A prototype of the vehicle appeared in 1931 with twenty-four additional units built shortly thereafter, eventually armed with a 45mm main gun. In service the T-24 proved a disappointment and was soon employed strictly for training duties.
Likely inspired by multi-turreted British tank prototypes built in the late 1920s, the Red Army began developmental work on its first indigenous-built medium tank. The fruits of that labour eventually appeared in prototype form in 1932, with the first production units of a multi-turreted vehicle rolling off the factory floor in 1933 with the designation T-28 Model 1934 Medium Tank. The gasoline-engine-powered vehicle had a crew of six men who were protected by a maximum armour thickness of 30mm on the front of the turret.
The armament of the 61,728-lb (28mt) T-28 Model 1934 Medium Tank was located in three different turrets. The uppermost turret had 360 degrees of traverse and was armed with a short-barrelled 76.2mm main gun. Instead of a coaxial machine gun, the right front of the turret featured a ball-mounted 7.62mm machine gun. The turret was almost identical to the one mounted on the Red Army T-35 heavy tank series.
Among the British-designed and built tanks acquired by the Red Army in the 1930s for technical evaluation was the Mark II medium tank seen here belonging to the Tank Museum at Bovington, England. (Tank Museum)
At the Central Armed Forces Museum in Moscow, Russia is a T-28 medium tank accepted into Red Army service in 1933. It was fitted with three turrets: a large upper turret armed with a 76.2mm main gun that traversed 360 degrees, and two lower 7.62mm machine-gun-armed sub-turrets with much more limited traverse. (Vladimir Yakubov)
Located in the front hull and below the main turret of the T-28 were two small one-man sub-turrets with limited traverse, each armed with a single 7.62mm machine gun. These sub-turrets were also copied from the ones used on the T-35 heavy tank series. With the introduction of a modernized version of the vehicle, designated T-28 Model 1938 Medium Tank, the 76.2mm main gun was replaced by a longer-barrelled 76.2mm gun that offered superior armour penetration abilities. Some T-28s had additional machine guns mounted in the rear and top of the turret, bringing the total armament up to one 76.2mm cannon and five machine guns.
From 1934 until 1940 there were 503 units built of the T-28 series. They would first see service during the Red Army invasion of Poland. Combat experience gained in the Russo-Finnish War quickly highlighted the fact that the vehicle was under-armoured which resulted in a number of the T-28 tanks having applique armour added. The add-on armour boosted the maximum armour thickness of the tank to 80mm and pushed the vehicle’s weight up to 70,547lb (32mt). The last twelve units of the T-28 series were designated the T-28 Medium Tank 1940 and featured the same turrets with sloped armour fitted to the last production run of the T-35 heavy tank series.
This German wartime picture of a captured Red Army T-28 medium tank lists the thickness of the vehicle’s armour at various locations on both the hull and turrets. Between the two sub-turrets is the driver’s position with his hatch in the open position. (Patton Museum)
On display at the Armoured Vehicle Museum at Parola, Finland is this Red Army T-28 medium tank captured by the Finnish army during the Russo-Finnish War which lasted from 1939 until 1940. Combat experience gained during the conflict resulted in the vehicle being up-armoured. (Andreas Kirchhoff)
Those T-28 series tanks that survived the Russo-Finnish War would face the German army in the summer of 1941. The majority of the T-28 series tanks were quickly lost to non-combat causes such as mechanical failure or lack of fuel. A few survived to see service during the defence of Moscow and Leningrad until the end of the blockade in 1944.
Always attempting to improve its tank inventory, the Red Army had instigated the development of a possible replacement medium tank for the T-28 series. The only vehicle that showed any promise at that time was a 39,682-lb (18mt) medium tank design designated the A-20 that was intended as a replacement for the BT series. Work on the A-20 was initiated in November 1937. The main gun on the proposed A-20 was to be the same 45mm main gun mounted in the BT-5 and BT-7. Maximum armour thickness on the A-20 was to be 22mm on the front of the turret.
The A-20 design featured two big innovations for the Red Army’s tank inventory. The first was its use of highly-sloped armour on its hull and turret that greatly improved the vehicle’s ability to resist a wide range of battlefield projectiles. The second was its planned use of a newly-developed diesel-powered engine, referred to as the V-2. The new 12-cylinder engine would increase the vehicle’s operational range and also make it far less vulnerable to enemy antitank weapons. The first V-2 engine came off the production line in September 1939 and was originally used in the BT-7M.
A motorcycle messenger is pictured delivering orders to the commander of a T-28 medium tank during a pre-Second World War training manoeuvre. Instead of a coaxial machine gun mounted alongside the vehicle’s main gun, there was a separate ball mount for a 7.62mm machine gun fitted on the right side of the tank turret as shown. (Patton Museum)
By the summer of 1938 it was determined that the proposed A-20 might be insufficiently armed and armoured for the medium tank role. The Red Army therefore decided it would need another proposed medium tank design that would be designated the A-32 and have a maximum armour thickness on the front of the turret of 32mm. It would be armed with a short-barrelled 76.2mm main gun.
By May 1939 it was decided to thicken the maximum armour on the front of the A-32 turret to 45mm. This up-armoured version of the vehicle was designated the A-34 in the summer of 1939. In August 1939 the Red Army decided to adopt the A-34; a decision concurred with by Joseph Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union, in December 1939. The first A-34 prototype appeared in January 1940, with the second prototype rolling off the factory floor the following month.
Looking into the turret of a six-man T-28 medium tank, the breech of the vehicle’s 76.2mm main gun is visible. The T-28 was 24ft 5in (7.44m) long, had a width of 9ft 5in (2.87m), was 9ft 3in (2.81m) tall and had a maximum operational range of 135 miles (217km) on level roads. (Bob Fleming)
To prove the reliability of the A-34 prototype tanks before submitting them for the final approval of the Red Army, a demonstration run that would encompass a distance of 1,800 miles (2,897km) during the winter months of February and March 1940 was arranged. On 17 March 1940, the two A-34 prototypes arrived in Moscow for a personal inspection by Stalin and other high-ranking members of the government and military élite. Despite the misgivings by some that the A-34 was not yet suitable for production, Stalin gave his blessing to the production of the vehicle once any design faults uncovered during testing by the Red Army were addressed.
Additional testing of the A-34 prototypes led to the conclusion that the vehicle was superior to any other tank then in Red Army service, and by the end of March 1940 the tank was approved for production as the T-34. Besides a short-barrelled 76.2mm main gun, the T-34 would also be armed with a coaxial 7.62mm machine gun and another 7.62mm machine gun in the front hull. The first 150 units of the T-34 also featured a 7.62mm machine gun in a ball mount in the rear of the turret.
Following the T-28 medium tank into service was the innovative four-man T-34 medium tank. The example pictured was designated as the T-34 Model 1940. It was armed with the 76.2mm L-11 main gun and can be readily identified by the oddly-shaped gun shield. The driver’s hatch had a single forward-facing periscope. (Patton Museum)
Despite production of the four-man T-34 being approved, there were still some hurdles that had to be overcome. One of the original requirements called for the vehicle to operate over 1,864 miles (3,000km) without a major breakdown. A mileage test done in April 1940 showed that the tank could not meet this requirement. However, this was soon dropped to 621 miles (1,000km). The Red Army went ahead and placed an order with two factories for 600 T-34s to be built starting in June 1940. They also placed a production order for 2,800 units of the T-34 for 1941.
Some within the Red Army who opposed the production of the T-34 proposed an upgraded version, designated the T-34M. Among its many features it would have a larger three-man turret, allowing the vehicle commander to concentrate on directing his crew rather than doing double duty as the tank’s gunner as was the arrangement in the T-34. In addition, the Christie suspension system would be replaced on the T-34M with a torsion bar version. With these improvements, plans were put forward to replace the T-34 on the production lines with the T-34M in the autumn of 1941. The German invasion of the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941 quickly resulted in this project being terminated as the Red Army could ill afford any disruption in the production of the T-34 for fear it could not replace its battlefield losses.
The first production unit of the Red Army’s new 58,912-lb (29mt) medium tank rolled off the production line in September 1940. This vehicle is now commonly referred to as the T-34 Model 1940. By the time the German army invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, 1,225 units of the T-34 Model 1940 were in service, of which 967 had been delivered to field units. Maximum armour thickness on the front of the vehicle’s turret was 45mm.
Initial German army encounters with the T-34 Model 1940 raised a great deal of alarm among both their infantry and armour branches. Their existing anti-tank weapons proved unable to penetrate the thick, well-sloped armour on the T-34, and the vehicle’s 76.2mm main gun easily penetrated the armour on the German Panzer III and Panzer IV medium tanks it encountered. This would eventually lead to the up-gunning and up-armouring of the existing German medium tanks, and the development of the German Panther medium tank series and Tiger E heavy tank as a counter to the T-34.
This early T-34 Model 1940 tank can be identified by the twin front hull headlights and the bottom of the glacis plate bolted to the lower front hull plate. It also has two small periscopes just above the driver’s hatch facing sideways and early-style tow shackles. (Patton Museum)
The follow-on to the T-34 Model 1940 was the T-34 Model 1941 seen here. It was armed with a longer-barrelled 76.2mm main gun designated the F-34. Notice the serrated and pierced rubber-rimmed road wheels that lasted in service till the end of the Second World War. (Michael Green)
The Red Army early war battlefield technical superiority in medium tanks was offset by the fact that the T-34 Model 1940 was just entering service and their crews often had little training in the use of their new tanks. Compounding the problem was the fact that most of the tanks did not have radios. There were also shortages of everything from main gun ammunition to fuel and spare parts for the T-34-equipped units confronting the Germans, and these factors allowed their army to easily prevail over the Red Army during the early phase of their invasion of the Soviet Union.
The 76.2mm main gun initially selected for use by the Red Army on the T-34 Model 1940 was designated the L-11. It was not the desired weapon in the opinion of the vehicle’s designers due to its relatively low muzzle velocity and hence poor armour penetration ability. Due to almost everybody’s unhappiness with the L-11, other weapons were considered for the T-34 Model 1940, including the ZiS-4 57mm anti-tank gun. A few of these were actually mounted in the vehicle to test their effectiveness.
As there was a new 76.2mm main gun with a longer barrel, and hence better armour penetration abilities, being developed for the KV-1 heavy tank designated the F-32, work was begun in early 1940 to modify it for mounting in the T-34 Model 1940. The new tank gun was designated the F-34 and had a slightly longer barrel than the F-32. It first appeared on some T-34 Model 1940 tanks in February 1941. Vehicles so equipped were designated the T-34 Model 1941. Due to temporary shortages, some T-34 Model 1941 tanks would be armed with the F-32 76.2mm tank gun in place of the F-34. Maximum armour thickness on the turret front of the T-34 Model 1941 was 52mm.
An external feature common to all T-34 series tanks armed with the 76.2mm F-34 main gun was the bolted armoured housing that extended out from the gun shield partially over the rear portion of the weapon’s barrel as seen in this picture. Its job was to protect the weapon’s hydro-pneumatic recuperator. (Chris Hughes)
Additional improvements to the T-34 series resulted in the redesign of some components to increase the vehicle’s combat effectiveness. Vehicles so modified were designated the T-34 Model 1942. The maximum armour thickness on the turret front of the vehicle was now 65mm. An internal change was an increase in armour protection on the sides of the T-34 Model 1942 hull from 40mm to 45mm.
The most noticeable external changes to the T-34 Model 1942 were the replacement of the original rectangular transmission access hatch with a new oval hatch, as well as a new driver’s hatch with two periscopes instead of the single periscope on earlier vehicles. Some factories building the T-34 series tank would incorporate features of the T-34 Model 1941 and the T-34 Model 1942 on the same vehicle, resulting in the designation T-34 Model 1941/42.
Following the T-34 Model 1942 into production was the T-34 Model 1943. It can be readily identified by its new hexagonal-shaped turret that was borrowed from the never-built T-34M. Maximum armour protection on the turret front of the T-34 Model 1943 was 70mm. Besides the new turret design, the T-34 Model 1943 featured a number of drivetrain improvements.
Despite the new turret on the T-34 Model 1943 being larger and having more room than the turrets seen on earlier versions of the T-34 series, the two-man turret crew was retained on this latest model. To improve visibility, the turret was eventually fitted with an overhead cupola for the vehicle commander, which could only have been used when he was not engaged in aiming and firing the tank’s main gun.
Unlike contemporary tanks of the day that had their transmissions mounted in the front hull, the transmission of the T-34 series tanks was mounted in the rear hull. Early production T-34 series tanks, including the T-34 Model 1941 tank seen here, featured a rectangular transmission access hatch in the rear hull. (Patton Museum)
With the introduction of the T-34 Model 1942 tank a number of changes occurred, including the replacement of the original rectangular transmission access hatch in the rear hull with a circular example as pictured here. On either side of the transmission access hatch are the cast homogenous armour (CHA) housings for the exhaust mufflers. (Patton Museum)
To improve the operational range of the T-34 Model 1943, a pair of large boxlike external fuel tanks were devised that attached to the rear of the vehicle’s hull. These first appeared during the summer of 1942. They were later replaced by three large cylindrical external fuel canisters in early 1943, with two located on the right side of the upper rear hull and the other one being located on the left side of the upper hull. The external fuel tanks did not connect to the vehicle’s interior fuel tanks. To move fuel from the external tanks to the vehicle’s internal tanks required a fuel pump.
The power for the entire T-34 series of medium tanks was a very compact, water-cooled V-12 four-stroke diesel engine with twelve cylinders arranged at an angle of 60 degrees in two banks. The engine produced 500hp and could propel the vehicle to a maximum road speed of 34 mph (55 kph). (Vladimir Yakubov)
By the time production of the T-34 Model 1943 ended in 1944, approximately 35,000 units had been built of the T-34 series armed with the 76.2mm main gun.
In January 1943 the Red Army began looking at the concept of a universal tank that could replace the existing T-34 series and the KV-1 series heavy tanks. One of the prototype vehicles was designated the T-43; another one was KV-13, a smaller lighter version of the KV-1S heavy tank. It would be similar to the cancelled T-34M project as it was envisioned that it would have a new three-man turret (retaining the F-34 76.2mm main gun) and run on a torsion bar suspension system. It differed from the proposed T-34M due to its increased emphasis on armour protection, with a maximum armour on the turret front of 90mm compared to 70mm on the turret front of the T-34M.
This illustration shows the arrangement of the engine and the transmission in an early production T-34 series tank. Placing the transmission in the rear hull of the vehicle meant there was no drive train bisecting the lower hull as there was with tanks having a front-hull-mounted transmission, allowing the designers to lower the height of the T-34 tank compared to its western counterparts. (Patton Museum)
Testing in March 1943 of the T-43 showed that the extra weight of the increased armour protection greatly reduced its battlefield mobility compared to the T-34 series. The summer battles of 1943 highlighted the fact that it was not the armour protection levels of the T-34 series they needed to worry about as much as having a tank that mounted a main gun able to penetrate the armour of the German Panther medium tank and the Tiger E heavy tank. This realization pushed the Red Army to look for a larger, more powerful main gun for the T-34 series and cancel work on the T-43, whose introduction would have disrupted T-34 production.
The first appearance of the Tiger E heavy tank on the Eastern Front in August 1942 had made the Red Army aware of the fact that it needed to up-gun the T-34 series. In response it had tasked several design bureaus with the development of a suitable 85mm tank gun. However, as the number of German heavy tanks being encountered was low, the development of the 85mm gun languished. The many large tank battles of the summer of 1943 that saw the fielding and increasing number of German heavy tanks and the new Panther medium tank had quickly added a renewed sense of urgency to the development and fielding of an 85mm tank gun by the Red Army.
In spite of the fact that the design for the final version of a suitable 85mm tank gun and the vehicle itself were not yet finalized, Red Army testing of two 85mm gun-armed prototypes went so well that the vehicle was approved by Stalin and the Red Army for production as the T-34-85. Stalin wanted the tank in production by February 1944. The 85mm main gun finally selected for mounting in the T-34-85 was designated the ZiS-S-53. The tanks that were fitted with this new 85mm gun are now commonly referred to as the T-34-85 Model 1944. Due to delays in production of the ZiS-S-53 gun, the first 800 or so units were fitted with another 85mm main gun designated the D-5T and are sometimes called the T-34-85 Model 1943.
A key identifying feature of early production T-34 series tanks was the large one-piece hatch in the turret roof that hinged forward as is seen in this photograph of a crew cleaning the barrel of their main gun. The reason for this awkward arrangement is lost to history as it obstructed the forward vision of the vehicle commander when in the open position. (Patton Museum)
Maximum armour thickness on the front of the T-34-85 turret was 90mm. The thicker armour on the T-34-85 series and the larger turret brought the weight of the vehicle up to 70,547lb (32mt). This weight gain resulted in some minor loss in battlefield mobility for the T-34-85 compared to the original T-34 tank armed with the 76.2mm main gun.
The first T-34-85s began arriving in field units in March 1944, with élite armoured units getting priority on delivery. The arrival of the vehicle was a great morale-booster to Red Army tankers who had been fighting at a great disadvantage when dealing with late-war German tanks with the 76.2mm main gun on the T-34. The 85mm main gun on the T-34-85 imparted a degree of parity in fighting effectiveness between the two opponents’ tank units.
Total T-34-85 production between 1943 and 1945 was in the order of 23,000 units. Production of the vehicle would be continued in the Soviet Union after the Second World War with both the wartime production and post-war production vehicles going through two modernization programmes, one in 1960 and the second in 1969. Both Poland and Czechoslovakia received permission to build licence-produced versions of the T-34-85 beginning in the early 1950s, many of which were exported around the world to serve in a large number of foreign armies.
Located at Kubinka is this early production T-34 Model 1941 with twin headlights, a bolted glacis and an early-style driver’s hatch with a single forward-facing periscope. The majority of early production T-34 series tanks had a welded armour turret, as does this vehicle. (Vladimir Yakubov)
From a British army technical evaluation report done on the T-34 Model 1942 tank during the Second World War appears this line illustration identifying many of the vehicle’s components and parts. The vehicle was 22ft (6.7m) long, 9ft 6in (2.9m) wide and topped out at 8ft (2.4m) tall. (Patton Museum)
Some early production T-34 series tanks had a cast armour turret, as does the T-34 Model 1942 pictured here. The vehicle shown has the later production hammerhead towing shackles. The original twin front-hull-mounted headlights have been replaced by a single headlight on the left-hand side of the vehicle’s hull. (Patton Museum)
An interesting comparison photograph of a T-34 Model 1942 with a cast armour turret and a United States army M4A4 medium tank also fitted with a cast armour turret. Clearly the Soviet tank would be a much harder target to acquire and hit on the battlefield than the much taller American tank. (Patton Museum)
Pictured is a T-34 Model 1942. The external features that mark the vehicle include the new driver’s hatch, which now has two forward-facing periscopes with armoured covers instead of the original single forward-facing periscope seen on the T-34 Model 1940 and Model 1941. It also has a new gun shield fitted over the bow machine-gun port. (Patton Museum)
To build as many T-34 series tanks as quickly as possible, there was an interim version of the vehicle produced by the Stalingrad Tractor Plant designated the T-34 Model 41/42. An example is pictured here being examined by German soldiers. Distinguishing features of this vehicle are the chisel-shaped hydro-pneumatic recuperator housing and the all-steel road wheels. (Patton Museum)
This picture shows the twin hatches that appeared on the T-34 Model 1943 tank. These new hatches are also hinged to open forward instead of rearward as on western tanks. Notice the large mushroom-shaped armoured housing on the rear of the turret containing the upper portion of the electrically-operated ventilating blower. (Chris Hughes)
There was a great deal of unhappiness with the awkward single-piece hatch cover on early production T-34 series tanks. This led to the development of the T-34 Model 1943 seen here with separate overhead hatches for the loader and the vehicle commander/gunner and a new, roomier hexagonal-shaped turret. (Patton Museum)
A knocked-out T-34 Model 1943 lies halfway in a large shell-hole that is being occupied by a German army 81mm mortar team. The white marking on the turret roof is for aircraft recognition purposes to prevent fratricide. (Patton Museum)
Two T-34 Model 1943 tanks rush into battle. The vehicle in the foreground is fitted with box-shaped external fuel carriers on the rear hull. These came in two different versions with both eventually being replaced by three rounded fuel drums, one on the left rear hull side and two on the right rear hull side. (Patton Museum)
Pictured is this restored T-34 Model 1943 tank. Unlike earlier versions of the T-34 series that predominantly had welded armour turrets, the majority of turrets for the T-34 Model 1943 tank were made from cast armour. One of the three cylindrical fuel canisters fitted to this first-generation T-34 series tank can be seen on the rear of this vehicle’s hull. (Michael Green)
From the turret bustle looking forward inside a T-34 Model 1942 tank can be seen the breech end of the 76.2mm F-34 main gun along with the vehicle commander/gunner’s controls. The optical gun sights on Red Army tanks were of much poorer quality than those found on their German counterparts. (Patton Museum)
Looking into the turret of a T-34 Model 1942 tank from the left-hand side of the vehicle one can see the loader’s seat and backrest on the right as well as some ready rounds stored along the side of the hull. Extending from the rear of the breech is the recoil guard that doubled as a catch basin for the spent main gun cartridge cases. (Patton Museum)
Visible from the driver’s seat looking rearward into the hull of a T-34 Model 1942 tank is the vehicle commander/gunner’s seat on the right-hand side of the picture. The loader’s seat is seen on the left-hand side of the photograph. Unlike its German medium tank counterparts, the T-34 series did not have a turret basket. (Patton Museum)
The main gun ready rounds for T-34 series tanks were stored on the inside walls of the turret as seen in this interior picture of a T-34 Model 1942. The bulk of the main gun rounds were stored in metal boxes visible on the hull floor of the vehicle that were covered with rubber mats when not being accessed by the loader. (Patton Museum)
Looking into the turret of a T-34 Model 1943 tank one can see the recoil guard for the 76.2mm main gun and the racks for the spare drum magazines for the 7.62mm machine guns mounted on the vehicle. (Chris Hughes)
From under the breech ring of a T-34 Model 1943 tank’s main gun looking forward, the driver’s seat is visible on the left and the radioman/machine-gunner’s seat on the right. Also visible are the vehicle’s radio on the right-hand side of the picture and the driver’s instrument panel on the left. (Chris Hughes)
Pictured is a knocked-out T-34 Model 1943 tank that has suffered a catastrophic main gun ammunition explosion which has forced the vehicle’s turret off the hull. The bottle-shaped object protruding from the front of the vehicle’s turret roof is the armoured housing for the vehicle commander/gunner’s overhead panoramic periscope sight. (Patton Museum)
Littering a battlefield is this knocked-out T-34 Model 1943 tank. Unlike the majority of T-34 Model 1943 tanks that had a cast armour hexagonal-shaped turret, this vehicle’s turret was made with a large hydraulic press whose use can be identified by the upper rounded edges of the turret. (Patton Museum)
Pictured at a Soviet factory is a line of T-34 Model 1943 tanks on the assembly line. The ability of Soviet industry to churn out thousands upon thousands of the T-34 series during the Second World War made up for their high battlefield losses. In 1942 the Red Army lost about 15,000 tanks, followed by approximately 22,400 more in 1943. (Patton Museum)
No doubt influenced by the vehicle commander cupolas seen on German medium tanks, the Red Army eventually adopted a similar component for their late production T-34 Model 1943 tanks as seen on this example on display at the Armoured Vehicle Museum at Parola, Finland. (Andreas Kirchhoff)
A line of captured T-34 Model 1943 tanks with the late production vehicle commander’s cupola are seen here with the German unit who captured them proudly announcing that fact with a hand-made sign on the vehicle in the foreground. Some German units – up to battalion size – would employ captured T-34 series tanks during the fighting on the Eastern Front. (Patton Museum)
Combat experience in the summer of 1943 demonstrated to the Red Army that the 76.2mm main gun on the first generation of T-34 series tanks was obsolete. To rectify the situation, the Red Army fielded a second-generation version of the vehicle referred to as the T-34-85 Model 1943. A number are seen here during a handing-over ceremony in March 1944. (Bob Fleming)
These early production T-34-85 Model 1943 tanks are armed with the D-5T 85mm main gun that can be identified by the distinctive thick circular bolted collar covering a portion of the gun where it protrudes out of its shield. This version of the T-34-85 series also featured the rounded front fenders inherited from the T-34 Model 1943 and a radio antenna in the right front hull. (Patton Museum)
Pictured is one of the first production units of the T-34-85 Model 1944 armed with the improved ZiS-S-53 85mm main gun. It can be identified by a new type of armoured collar covering a portion of the gun where it protrudes out of the shield. The T-34-85 Model 1944 retained rounded front fenders. (Patton Museum)
The turret on this destroyed T-34-85 tank has the inverted U-shaped turret-lifting hooks that identify it as a T-34-85 Model 1943 or an early production T-34-85 Model 1944 tank. As it lacks a radio antenna mount on the forward portion of the right hull it can be identified as a Model 1944 as the radio was moved inside the vehicle’s turret and the whip antenna relocated to the turret roof. (Bob Fleming)
A column of Red Army T-34-85 tanks moves through a damaged Eastern European city on the way to Berlin, the capital of Nazi Germany. The vehicle in the foreground can be identified as a T-34-85 Model 1944 tank by the rounded front fenders and the roof-mounted radio antenna that is hard to see in this photograph. (Patton Museum)
This picture shows a T-34-85 Model 1944 turret mounted on a rebuilt T-34 Model 1943 hull. The T-34 Model 1943 front lower hull can be identified by the section where the lower portion of the glacis plate joins with the rounded front portion of the hull floor plate. The turrets on the T-34-85 Model 1943 and Model 1944 could only be traversed manually. (Bob Fleming)
On display at Kubinka is this T-34-85 armed with a ZiS-S-53 85mm main gun. The vehicle can be identified as a T-34-85 Model 1945 by its squared front fenders. The standard production T-34-85 series tank glacis plate formed a sharp angle where it was welded to the lower front hull plate. (Vladimir Yakubov)
This overhead view shows the turret roof of a T-34-85 tank. It can be identified as a Model 1945 by the one-piece vehicle commander’s hatch and the rectangular bulge on the lower left-hand side of the turret that marks it as a vehicle with an electric turret-traversing system. The T-34-85 was 8ft 6in (2.59m) tall. (Chris Hughes)
Visible on this example of a T-34-85 Model 1945 are the squared fenders and the antenna mount on the left-hand side of the turret roof. This vehicle also features cast rubber-rimmed spoked road wheels constructed during the Second World War alongside the more common concave road wheels. (Andreas Kirchoff)
The rear vehicle in this column of tanks is a T-34-85 Model 1944. It has the original two-piece vehicle commander’s split overhead hatch that was replaced on the T-34-85 Model 1945 with a one-piece overhead version. The metal brackets located just above the rear fenders are for holding cylindrical TDP smoke canisters that are missing from the vehicle pictured. (Bob Fleming)
Two T-34-85 tanks, either Model 1944 or Model 1945, are seen in this picture with their crews and friends posing for the photographer. The main gun on the T-34-85 tank with its standard BR-365 AP round could deal with the majority of German medium tanks, self-propelled guns and tank destroyers it encountered in 1944 and 1945. (Bob Fleming)
A line-up of main gun rounds for the T-34-85 tank. On the far left is the standard high-explosive (HE) round designated the O-365 employed against non-armoured targets. The centre round is the standard BR-365 armour-piercing (AP) and the round on the far right is the far less common BR-365P AP round, the suffix ‘P’ standing for sub-calibre. (Patton Museum)
Looking up from the vehicle commander’s seat in a T-34-85 Model 1945 tank one can see the cupola with the one-piece overhead hatch. Mounted in the forward portion of the vehicle commander’s hatch is a 360-degree traversable periscope. Also visible are some of the vehicle commander’s vision blocks with rubber padding around them. (Chris Hughes)
A distinctive external feature found on T-34-85 tanks built during the Second World War was the two side-by-side mushroom-shaped armoured housings on the rear of the turret. They contained the upper portion of the two electrically-operated ventilating blowers in the rear of the turret bustle. (Chris Hughes)
Taken from the loader’s left-hand location in a T-34-85 Model 1945 tank is this view of the breech ring and breech block. Just behind and below the breech ring is the recoil guard. Notice the spare drum magazines stored in the upper part of the turret for the 7.62mm machine gun not mounted in this vehicle. (Chris Hughes)
A close-up view of the gunner’s position in a T-34-85 Model 1945 tank with the gunner’s seat folded up. Visible is the gunner’s TSh-16 articulated sighting telescope and his overhead traversable periscope. The manual turret-traverse handle is on the left of the picture and the elevation handle at the bottom. (Chris Hughes)
From the loader’s side of this T-34-85 Model 1945 tank is this view of the vehicle commander’s radio mounted against the side of the turret wall. To the left of the radio can be seen some of the main gun ammunition racks located in the rear of the vehicle’s turret. (Chris Hughes)
Taken from under the breech ring of the main gun in a T-34-85 Model 1945 tank is this forward-facing view of the driver/mechanic and machine-gunner’s position in the vehicle’s front hull. Visible mounted against the lower portion of the front hull are the drum magazines for the onboard machine guns. (Chris Hughes)
The T-34-85 pictured is taking part in the annual War and Peace show held in England. The smooth turret casting indicates a Polish or Czech post-war copy of the T-34-85. The tow cable stored on the left hull side of the vehicle just in front on the external fuel canister and the solid rubber road wheels also mark it as a post-war vehicle or rebuilt wartime T-34-85 tank. (Christophe Vallier)
Belonging to the collection of the Swiss Tank Museum located at Thun, Switzerland is this postwar Soviet-built T-34-85 Model 1946 tank. The key identifying feature of this vehicle is the relocation of one of the two electrically-operated ventilating blowers from the rear of the turret bustle to the front of the turret roof as seen in this picture. (Andreas Kirchhoff)
The planned wartime replacement for the T-34-85 in Red Army service was the T-44 medium tank. This particular vehicle is an upgraded post-war version designated the T-44M. It retained the T-34-85 gun but had a brand-new hull and turret design. Due to serious teething problems the T-44 was not placed into full-scale production during the Second World War. (Vladimir Yakubov)