Armored car "Peugeot" overcomes the river on the pontoon bridge.
Focusing on the French military school, during the interwar period, the military command of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (abbreviated as SKhS; from 1929 - Yugoslavia) adopted to designate armored vehicles an analogue of the French term "char de combat" - "combat vehicle" (born kola). Well aware of the prospects of this kind weapons, the Yugoslav generals with 1919 conducted very intensive negotiations with the French side on the supply of tanks and training of personnel. As a result, already in 1920, the first group of Yugoslav military personnel received training as part of the 303 tank company of the 17 French colonial division, stationed in Istanbul occupied by the Entente, and up to 1930, several groups of officers and noncommissioned soldiers were sent to France officers.
In 1920-24 The army of the Kingdom of the United States of America has received from the French as part of a military loan, and also donated several batches of used Renault FT17 light tanks, both with machine guns (the so-called "female" version) and with guns (the so-called "men's") option . Serbian military historian Dusan Babac estimates the total number of tanks in the 21 car, his colleague Dalibor Denda believes that there were several fewer. In any case, FT17 was received in separate batches, was not in the best technical condition and was used mainly for training in the interests of the planned deployment of armored units. The first experience of creating a separate unit was undertaken in 1931, when 10 tanks remaining “on the move” were consolidated into the “Company of Combat Machines” (Ceta bornih kola) deployed in the historical center of the Serbian military industry Kragujevac. However, deterioration of equipment, especially tracks and running gear, in the absence of spare parts led to the fact that in July of the same year the company was disbanded, and combat vehicles were transferred to the infantry and artillery school in Kalinovik. The rest rusted sadly in warehouses until they were dismantled for spare parts for new tanks that appeared in the Yugoslav military in the 1932-40 years.
Tank "Renault" FT17 in Yugoslavia.
In 1932, on the basis of a military agreement, Poland transferred 7 light tanks FT17 to Yugoslavia and a batch of spare parts, which fell to the dilapidated Kingdom fleet of tanks very opportunely. Continuing intensive negotiations with France on the provision of gratuitous military assistance to the “Balkan ally”, the Yugoslav government managed in 1935 to conclude an agreement on the supply of 20 FT17, including and an upgraded version of the M28 Renault Kegres, which was made by the French side before 1936. Provided that the cost of even such a deserved veteran as Renault FT17 on the European market for armored vehicles of that time exceeded 150 thousand francs, the susceptible Yugoslavs have turned a very good deal!
Equipped with the Renault 18 four-cylinder engine, the two-seater lightweight FT17 tanks could reach the cross-country speed up to 2,5 km / h (М28 - twice as much) and had 6-22 mm armor protection. Approximately 2 / 3 of them were armed with 37-mm SA18 guns, the rest carried machinegun armament - 8-mm "Gochkos". Of course, in the conditions of the modern war, they were, to put it mildly, ineffective, and they were suitable only to support the infantry against the enemy without heavy weapons (partisans, etc.). However, in the second half of 1930, when Yugoslavia considered Hungary as its main potential opponent (against which King Alexander Karageorgievich actively formed a military-political alliance known as the “Small Antanta”), and such combat vehicles could seem quite adequate: a fleet of Magyar armored vehicles was not much better.
The Yugoslav FT17 had a standard French dark green color, and only a few of the M28 received the “Minor Entente” tricolor camouflage - green, “chocolate brown” and “ocher-yellow” spots.
An increase in the number of tanks in 1936 allowed the formation of a "Battalion of combat vehicles" (Bataljon bornih kola) in the army of Yugoslavia, organized according to the "triple" principle - three tank companies (the fourth - "park", i.e. auxiliary), each with three platoons three tanks in each. The third platoon of each company were advanced FT17 M28. One tank platoon was also assigned to headquarters, one to a "park" company, and each tank company had a "reserve" tank. Captain D. Zobenitz (later the battalion commander), B. Nebreklievich and L. Terzich were appointed commanders of companies in France who had passed tank training in France. In total, the battalion numbered 354 human personnel and officers, 36 tanks, 7 cars and 34 trucks and special vehicles, and 14 motorcycles with wheelchairs.
The “battalion of combat vehicles” was directly at the disposal of the War Department (in wartime — the High Command of the Yugoslav Army), but its units were scattered throughout the kingdom: headquarters, 1 and park companies in Belgrade, 2-company — in Zagreb (Croatia) and the 3 Company in Sarajevo (Bosnia). There were no special regulations for tank forces in Yugoslavia, combat training was conducted according to French instructions and regularly - only in the 1-th company. Tanks were supposed to be used exclusively for “escorting infantry”, than their combat role was deliberately limited - a common misconception in the European armies of the pre-war period! However, in September, 1936, when the battalion was shown to the public and foreign observers at a military parade in Belgrade, he, according to the memoirs of contemporaries, "caused a stir."
In 1936, a document appeared that determined the further development of the armored forces of Yugoslavia - the Regulation on the Peace and Military Composition of the Army (Uredba o mirnodopskoj i ratnoj formaciji vojske). According to him, it was intended in the near future to form two battalions of medium tanks (total 66 machines), another light battalion and a squadron of "light cavalry tanks" from 8 machines. In 1938, it was planned to deploy already seven tank battalions (total 272 vehicles) - one for each army, and a battalion of heavy tanks (36 vehicles) under the command of the High Command. In the future, each tank battalion was to receive a fourth "supplementary" tank company.
As part of the project to transform one of the two Yugoslav cavalry divisions into a mechanized one in 1935, negotiations were started with Czechoslovakia (also a member of the “Little Entente”) about the supply of “light cavalry tanks” - in other words, tankettes. A loan agreement in the amount of 3 million dinars was signed with the Czech factory Škoda, as part of which 1937 Škoda ТХNUMX tanking shoes were delivered to Yugoslavia in 8. There is evidence that the capricious Yugoslavs demanded that the standard samples of this military equipment be modified specifically for them, the maximum armor protection increased to 32 mm, the armament was strengthened, etc., which was done by punctual Czechs. In 30, in Yugoslavia, tests of the T1938, which were officially named “speed cavalry combat vehicles” (brza konjicka borna kola), were conducted and they constituted a separate squadron subordinate directly to the command of the cavalry. Until February 32, he was stationed together with a tank battalion near Belgrade, and then was transferred to the cavalry school in Zemun. Completely modern for the end of the 1941's. Czech tankettes, who had good speed and carried weapons from 1930-mm guns Škoda A37 and 3 mm machine gun Zbroevka-Brno М7,92, were served by a crew of two people. All of them were painted in the "Little Entente" tricolor camouflage.
Yugoslav wedges "Skoda" T32.
In the army of Yugoslavia, the squadron of these light combat vehicles became, perhaps, the most prepared and widely used armored division in the pre-war years. Specially for T32, the General Staff of Yugoslavia published in 1938 a "Guide to the use of armor units in cavalry" (Uput za upotrebu oklopnih jedinica u konjice). This document, which in fact became the only purely “tank” charter in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, provided for the extensive use of tankettes. They could be used for reconnaissance and actions in the flank and rear of the enemy, capturing key points before the main forces approached, the vanguard patrol service (in the latter case, one platoon of two vehicles was sent forward, and the rest carried out military guard on the flanks or made fire reserves) . The frontal attack of the enemy was assumed only in the presence of a surprise factor. It was proposed to extract the maximum benefit from the low silhouette of the machines, their relatively light weight, high armor-piercing 37-mm A3 guns, etc. A squadron of tankettes, which could boast the most well-trained crews in the army, was involved in all the major maneuvers of Yugoslavia during the pre-war period. In particular, in September 1940 they were on pontoons forwarded across the Sava River at Ada Tsiganliya near Belgrade; these maneuvers were visited by the young king Peter II Karageorgievich, who personally tested military equipment on the go.
In 1938, the operational and tactical bases for the use of Yugoslav tank units were finally laid. Published by the General Staff "Guidelines for the use of armor units and defense against combat vehicles" (Uput za upotrebu oklopnih jedinica i odbranu od bornih kola), however, contained only 12 pages devoted to armored units, more than 100, but this was the beginning. Under the clear influence of the French military doctrine, a supporting role was assigned to the tanks in support of infantry and cavalry operations: escort and fire support, reconnaissance and pursuit of the retreating enemy, functions of fighting enemy combat vehicles, etc. The specifics of the Balkan theater of operations were also taken into account - a lot of attention was paid to the peculiarities of coordinating the actions of tanks and infantry in mountainous and wooded areas. In the offensive, the action of that part in two echelons was supposed, with the second having the function of a maneuverable reserve. Occasionally, the third echelon stood out for "ensuring the development of success." The infantry advancing in the direction of the main attack received tank support at the rate of one company of combat vehicles per battalion, and in the secondary directions the infantry battalion was instructed to attach a platoon of tanks.
The military authorities of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia on the eve of World War II were well aware of the insufficiency and imperfection of the armored vehicles at their disposal. In this regard, energetic attempts were made to obtain a batch of more modern tanks. By analogy with the main supplier of armored vehicles France, the choice was made in favor of the Renault R35, which came into service with the French forces instead of the outdated FT17. At the beginning of 1940, the Yugoslav military delegation, after lengthy altercations (it seems the main principle of the royal strategists was “defensively cheap”) managed to conclude an agreement to credit the party of Renault 54 R35, previously held in the armored reserve of the French armed forces. In April of the same year, the cars arrived in Yugoslavia. The fall of France under the blows of Nazi German troops freed the Yugoslavs from having to repay a loan; however, soon they themselves had to "pay the bills" of a completely different kind ...
Yugoslav tank "Renault" R35 and the emblem of the "First Battalion of combat vehicles."
R35, armed with 37-mm gun and 7,5-mm machine gun М1931 (ammunition - 100 shells and 2,4 thousand cartridges) and equipped with a four-cylinder engine "Renault", was a relatively good machine for its class: "light tank tracking." He could develop cross-country speed 4-6 km / h, and armor protection from 12 to 45 mm. was able to more or less successfully withstand the hit of 37-mm projectile - the main caliber of the then anti-tank artillery. The crew consisted of two people, and the difficulty was that the commander, who also had the functions of the gunner-gunner, the observer, and if the tank was radioed and the radio operator was supposed to be a universal specialist, at that time, as a driver, any civilian driver could be trained. However, the low maneuverability and small-caliber weapons made the R35 a deliberately weakest side in a duel with the German Pz.Kpfw.III and Pz.Kpfw.IV, carrying respectively 50-mm and 75-mm guns and having excellent road performance.
Officers at R35.
The new Renault became part of the Second Battalion of Combat Machines (Drugi bataljon bornih kola) of the army of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia formed in 1940, which was headed by one of the country's several professional tank officers, Major Danilo Zobenitsa. Already available battalion FT17 respectively received the name of "First" (Prvi bataljon bornih kola). Nevertheless, there was a certain confusion in the name of the battalions (the Serbian military historian Dusan Babac believes that by 1941 the R35 battalion received the number “First”), expressed, for example, in the fact that R35 received the onboard part emblem in the form of white flaming grenada ", in which the black number" 1 "was inscribed. In order to avoid misunderstanding, the Yugoslav military themselves preferred to call the tank battalions simply "Old" and "New." The "new" battalion was first used in 9 September 1940 garrison exercises at Torlak near Belgrade, during which a white horizontal identification strip was applied to the towers of its tanks. The Yugoslav tankers, who did not really have time to master their cars, acted quite cautiously on the maneuvers and, according to the testimony of a contemporary, "showed nothing much, but they did not screw it up."
King Peter II "circles" the novelty R35, September 1940.
In December, 1940 was "highest" approved by the new states of tank battalions, the same for both. The battalion now consisted of headquarters (51 soldiers and officers, 2 cars and 3 trucks, 3 motorcycles); three tank companies of four platoons, three tanks in the platoon plus one "reserve" for each company (in each 87 soldiers and officers, 13 tanks, 1 cars and 9 trucks and special vehicles, 3 motorcycle); one "auxiliary" company (143 soldiers and officers, 11 "reserve" tanks, 2 cars and 19 trucks and special vehicles, 5 motorcycles). The company’s side emblems in both battalions were painted in white paint for the 1, the square for the 2 and the triangle for the 3. The blue paint inscribed platoon emblems in these figures — a peak ace for 1, a ace of hearts — for 2, a diamonds ace — for 3, and a clubs ace — for 4. In general, it was very similar to the marking adopted in the French armored units. The photographs also contain ordinal numbers in white paint on the towers or on the frontal armor FT17 from the “Old” battalion and on the towers R35.
On March 27, 1941, the “New” tank battalion played an important role in the coup in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, which was carried out by a group of senior officers led by General D. Simovich. A pro-British and pro-Soviet part of the Yugoslav political elite came out under the broad Serb-supported slogan “Better war than pact” (Bolje rat njego pakt) against an alliance with Hitler's Third Reich and overthrew the pro-German government of Prince Regent Pavel and Prime Minister D. Tsvetkovich. R35 tanks, under the command of an active participant in the military conspiracy of Major Danilo Zobenitsa, entered Belgrade and established control over the area of buildings of the Ministry of Army and fleet and the General Staff, and also took under guard the residence of the Beli Dvor, who supported the coup of young Peter II. The photographic material of those days indicates that the patriotic mottos “For the King and the Fatherland” (FOR KRAЉA and OTABIN) were marked with chalk on the towers of the fighting vehicles of the battalion of Major Zobenitsa, which is indicative of the Cyrillic letters (Cyrillic was considered a distinctive feature of “Serbism” in Yugoslavia). After the coup, Major Zobenitsa “went on promotion” to King Peter’s adjutant wing, and the R35 battalion actually saw the beginning of the war “ownerless”.
R35 tanks in Belgrade during the March 27 coup 1941
Another unit of the military vehicles of the Army of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was a platoon of armored vehicles purchased in 1930 and attached to the cavalry school in Zemun. These machines, which probably accounted for only three (2 French "Berlie", modification unknown, and 1 Italian SPA), had in Yugoslavia the classification of "auto-machine gun" (automitraljez) and were intended for fire support and maintenance of cavalry units and carrying reconnaissance -sporting service.
The basis of the personnel and officers of the Yugoslav armored units were the soldiers of the "titular nation" of the kingdom - the Serbs. There were also Croats and Slovenes among the tankers - representatives of peoples with rich industrial and artisan traditions. Macedonians, Bosnians and Montenegrins, natives of the least technically developed territories of Yugoslavia, were rare.
Yugoslav tankers wore the standard army gray-green uniform M22. The headdress for the “service and everyday” uniform for the personnel was the traditional Serbian cap, “shaykach”, for officers there were options with a cap of characteristic shape (“kaseket”), cap and summer cap. The instrument color for tank-battalion servicemen was "combined-arms" red, for cavalry blue members for tankette and armored vehicles. In 1932, a distinctive badge was introduced for tankers to wear on shoulder straps in the form of a small silhouette of the FT17 tank, made of yellow metal for the lower ranks, and of white metal for officers. The working and marching uniform of the tankers was a gray-green jumpsuit and a tank version of a French helmet made by Adrian’s model M1919. With helmet wore special dust-proof glasses with leather rim.
The crew commander wedgy Skoda T32.
By the beginning of the aggression of Hitler's Germany against the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, the Yugoslav armed forces included 54 light tanks R35, 56 obsolete FT17 tanks and 8 ТХNUMX tanks. The “new” tank battalion (R32) was deployed in the city of Mladenovac, south of Belgrade, in the reserve of the High Command, except for the 35 company, which was transferred to Skopje (Macedonia) under the command of the Third Yugoslav Army. The "old" tank battalion (FT3) was dispersed throughout the country. The headquarters and the "auxiliary" company were located in Belgrade, and three tank companies were distributed between the Second, Third and Fourth Yugoslav armies in Sarajevo (Bosnia), Skopje (Macedonia) and Zagreb (Croatia), respectively. A tank squadron was deployed in Zemun, near Belgrade, with the task of antiamphibious defense of a military airfield there and covering the operational direction to Belgrade from Srem.
The combat readiness of armored units and the state of technology could hardly be considered satisfactory. The old equipment had long ago developed its resource, the new one was not yet properly mastered by the crews, the tactical training of the units left much to be desired, the provision of combat vehicles with fuel and ammunition during the fighting was not adjusted. The squadron of tanks Т32 showed the greatest combat readiness, however, by an evil twist of fate, throughout the entire fleet company he did not receive armor-piercing shells to his 37-mm guns.
6 April 1941 Nazi German troops launched an invasion of Yugoslavia, operating from Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania. In the following days, the allied Italian and Hungarian forces launched an offensive, and the Bulgarian army began to focus on the initial lines for entry into Macedonia. The Yugoslav monarchy, torn by national and social contradictions, was unable to withstand the blow and collapsed like a house of cards. The government lost control of the country, command - over the troops. The army of Yugoslavia, which was considered the most powerful in the Balkans, in a few days ceased to exist as an organized force. Repeatedly inferior to the enemy in terms of technical support and mobility, inadequately managed and demoralized, she suffered a monstrous defeat not only from the combat impact of the enemy, but also from her own problems. Soldiers and officers of Croatian, Macedonian and Slovenian origin have deserted the masses or passed on to the enemy; Serb soldiers, left to the mercy of the command, also went home or organized themselves into irregular detachments. It was over in 11 days ...
Against the background of the monstrous catastrophe of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, some of its armored units fell victim to general chaos and panic, but others demonstrated a strong will to resist, repeatedly engaged in battle with the superior forces of the invaders, and sometimes even achieved some success. After the fighter pilots of the Yugoslav Air Force, famous for their desperate bravery during these few tragic days, tankers can probably be considered the second weapon of the army of the kingdom, more or less adequately fulfilled their military duty in April 1941.
According to the Yugoslav military plan "R-41", the headquarters of the First ("Old") battalion of combat vehicles and an auxiliary company were to be redeployed from Belgrade to Velikaya Plana (central Serbia) with the start of hostilities and there wait for the approach of 2 and 3 -th tank battalion mouth. Fulfilling this order, the battalion commander, Major Stanimir Mišić, with his subordinate units arrived in the designated area. However, because none of the companies had appeared before 9 April, he decided to join the stream of retreating troops and refugees heading for Bosnia. On April 14, near the Serbian city of Užice, Major Mišić and his subordinates surrendered to the advanced parts of the German 41 mechanized corps.
The 1 company deployed in Skopje (Macedonia) had the strongest resistance to the enemy from all divisions of the “Old” tank battalion. According to the plan of the command of the Third Yugoslav Army, the tanks and personnel of the company on the night of April 7 were loaded into the train echelon and transferred to the Strumitsa area. From there, under their own power, they moved to join up with units of the Shumadi Infantry Division, which was defensive in the vicinity of the village of Strumichko Pole. By 10.00 7 April, the company, having lost one tank on the march due to a technical malfunction, took up defense in the area of the villages of Pirovo and Stratsin near the Bulgarian border. The retreating units of the Shumadi division had by this time moved away from defensive positions on the surrounding hills, and the 12 of the obsolete FT17 tanks proved to be the only obstacle to the onset of the German 40 Army Corps. Around 13.00, the location of the Yugoslav tanks was discovered by reconnaissance patrols of the then Leibstandard-SS Adolf Hitler brigade (Leibstandarte-SS Adolf Hitler), but the company commander, clearly bewildered by the situation, gave the order not to open fire. Soon followed the attack of the German Ju-87 “Stukas” dive-bombers, during which the company suffered serious losses in equipment and manpower, and its commander was missing (according to some sources - ran). But then 27-year-old lieutenant Chadomir "Chad" Smiljanich, who, decisively acting by the surviving tanks and improvised infantry squad (composed of "horseless" tank crews, technical personnel of the company and a group of Serb soldiers who came to them from other parts), took command, entered into a firefight with the vanguard of the SS, advancing along the Vladanovo-Udovo road. Brave tank crews managed to delay the advance of a many-times superior enemy for several hours. However, their low-powered funds were hardly able to inflict significant damage on the Germans: the total losses of the Leibstandard-SS in the Yugoslav campaign did not exceed a few dozen people. In turn, the SS guards succeeded in destroying several more FT17, and their infantry and armored vehicles began to bypass the Yugoslav strongholds. Lieutenant Smiljanich was forced to order the retreat, perfect, to the credit of his subordinates, in perfect order.
8 April, moving in the columns of the defeated Yugoslav units, the remnants of the 1 company of the "Old" tank battalion crossed the Yugoslav-Greek border near the village of Kremenitsa. 9 April during the battle near the village of Lerin 4 of the surviving tank company, left without fuel, were dug in and used as fixed firing points. Probably, then they were all destroyed or captured by the Nazis. Lieutenant Smiljanich was taken prisoner and stayed in German camps until May 1945; according to some information, after the war he lived in the SFRY.
2-I tank company "Old" battalion, located in Zagreb (Croatia), during the war did not leave the place of deployment. When the 10 of April 1941 of the militant detachments of the Croatian right-wing nationalist organization Ustasha (Ustashi) with the approach of the Wehrmacht took control of the Croatian capital, the tank crews of the 2 Company, among whom there were many Croats and Slovenes, did not resist. They handed over their equipment to the German officers, after which the Croat soldiers transferred to the service of the Independent State of Croatia, formed under the patronage of the occupiers, the Slovenian military men went home, and the Serb military men became prisoners of war.
The 3rd company of FT17 tanks, deployed in Sarajevo (Bosnia), with the outbreak of war according to the R-41 plan, was sent by rail to central Serbia in the area of the city of Arangelovac, at the disposal of the Unskoy Infantry Division. Upon arrival at the venue on April 9, the company was dispersed to shelter from German attacks aviation in the area of the village of Orashets and for three days left to itself and the circulating panic rumors. Then the division commander ordered the tank crews to make a night march to the Arangelovac - Lazarevac region to cover the retreat of one of the infantry regiments. During the nomination, the tanks of the company “burned” almost all the fuel remaining in the tanks, and dawn found them in the area of the village of Rudnik, where they were forced to stop without contact with the infantry. The tank company commander requested refueling from the headquarters of the Unskoy division, but received an answer that all fuel and lubricants reserves were "already captured by the Germans." This was probably the last argument to break his will. There was an order to remove the locks from the tank guns, dismantle machine guns, fill trucks with the remnants of fuel and, leaving the fighting vehicles, retreat in the direction of the Bosnian border. There is a version that one of the tank platoons did not obey the defeatist order and, in the last liters of diesel fuel, moved towards the enemy. However, in the vicinity of the city of Topola, he was ambushed and shot by German anti-tank artillery. An indirect confirmation of this heroic, but useless gesture is the well-known photo from the time of the April war, depicting the burned FT17 tanks, frozen on the road in a marching order, on the bodies of which holes from armor-piercing shells are clearly visible ...
The April disaster 1941. The dead "For the king and the fatherland."
Retreating by truck, the remaining personnel of the company arrived at the station Brdjansk-Klisura, where he witnessed an impressive spectacle: that same fuel, which their tanks just lacked, merged from railway tanks, according to an eyewitness, "formed a whole lake, on the surface of which they sailed trash and miscellaneous items. " It is easy to imagine a strong Serbian battle, which followed at the address of the command! The remnants of discipline then finally collapsed, and the company commander soon dismissed his subordinates "home with personal weapons." The group of servicemen of the 3 Tank Company of the “Old” Battalion, led by field sergeant (narednik) Matovic, acting on foot, several times engaged in exchanges of fire with the advanced detachments of the Wehrmacht and, after the surrender of Yugoslavia, joined the Chetniks (Serbian partisans-monarchists).
All the units of the New Tank Battalion, equipped with Renault combat vehicles R35, put up stubborn resistance to the Nazis. With the beginning of the war, 37-year-old Major Dusan Radovich, a brilliant cavalry officer who had previously served in the horse guards, was appointed commander of the battalion. A courageous and decisive officer, Radovich had versatile military skills - he was an excellent rider, artilleryman and driver, and, moreover, a talented military journalist. However, the future military events of April 1941 showed that the major was more like a first-class tank commander than a tank commander ...
Before Major Radovich managed to take command of his unit, the 1-I and 2-I tank companies of the New Battalion on the night of April 6 1941 were loaded into railway trains and sent to Srem, a region on the border of Croatia and Vojvodina near Hungarian the territory at the disposal of the headquarters of the 2 group of armies of the armed forces of Yugoslavia. Because of the Luftwaffe air raids and the chaos that prevailed on the railways at the beginning of the war, tank companies were able to unload at the point of initial destination of the city of Slavonski Brod when the German units of the 46 mechanized corps were already on the way, and the Yugoslav Slavonsky and Osieksky infantry divisions, along with who were supposed to act as tankers, were crushed and in fact ceased to exist as organized formations.
The headquarters of the Second Yugoslav Army, with which it was possible to establish radio communications, ordered the commanders of tank companies to retreat southwards in their direction towards Doboj (Bosnia). In full order, having made a march in this direction, both tank companies soon accepted their first battle ... However, not with the Germans, but with a detachment of Croatian Ustashes who attacked the marching columns of tankers with the aim of seizing their combat equipment. According to Croatian data, the Ustashs, to the side of which a number of servicemen of tank companies, Croats and Slovenes, had moved, were able to seize several combat vehicles and vehicles. However, in general, the attack was not crowned with success, and in a battle with the tank crews in the Doboj area, 13 ustashis were killed.
Having repelled the attack, both companies of R35 tanks took up positions in the valley of the Bosna River and engaged in combat with the advancing units of the German 14 Panzer Division (14.Panzer-Division), supported by Luftwaffe aircraft. In turn, together with the Yugoslav R35, an infantry squad made up of retreating soldiers, gendarmes and volunteers from the local Serb population, who spontaneously gathered around the center of resistance, fought. Acting in a maneuverable defense, the Yugoslav tankers managed to hold out almost until the very end of the war - until April 15. In any case, when the 1 and 2 companies of the New Tank Battalion received an order to retreat to the Sarajevo area, the organized resistance of the Yugoslav troops almost everywhere ceased, and the tank crews were among the last to continue to fight. According to the information of the Serbian military historian Dalibor Denda, in these battles they lost up to 20 tanks Renault R35 - both for combat and for technical reasons. There is no German data loss.
The remaining 5-6 tanks and a group of personnel began to retreat along the Bosna River, but were soon overtaken and surrounded by the advance units of the enemy's 14 Panzer Division. Having almost exhausted the reserves of fuel and ammunition, the Yugoslav tankers were forced to surrender after a short battle. It is significant that the commander of the German division, Major General Friedrich Kuhn (Friedrich Kuhn) before sending the captured soldiers and officers of the 1 th and 2 th mouth of the "New" Tank Battalion to the assembly point of prisoners of war through his adjutant gave them "congratulations on the brave defenses." According to the Serbian military-historical tradition, one of the young tankman second lieutenants said in response to these "expressions of the Teutonic knighthood" filled with bitterness, but a fair phrase: "Bravery without victory is worth nothing!" (Hrabrost bez pobede ne valja).
The 3 company of the R35 tanks, fought on the territory of Macedonia and attached to the Third Yugoslav Army, courageously fought. On April 6, with the start of hostilities, the company left its permanent deployment in Skopje, and skillfully hiding from German air raids in forests, by the beginning of April 7 arrived at the disposal of the headquarters of the Bregalnitskaya Infantry Division in the area of the city Shtip. The division commander sent tankers to reinforce the 23 Infantry Regiment, which defended the Ezevo Polje area. With the dawn of 7 April, a fierce battle began with the advancing units of the Leib Shtandart-SS Adolf Hitler brigade. By noon, when the Nazis engaged the Ju-87 Stukas dive bombers and brought in a significant number of armored vehicles, the Yugoslav 23 Infantry Regiment began to retreat in the direction of Veles. 3-I tank company was in the rearguard, covering his departure. Constantly entering into fire contact with the enemy, she retreated to new positions in the area of the village of Oluich, where she gave her last fight. Surprisingly, the Yugoslav tank crews were dealt a death blow not by the Stukas and the German Panzer, who could not break their resistance, but by a company of SS 47-mm anti-tank guns PAK-37 (T). Taking advantage of the combat situation, the German artillerymen managed to take a vantage point, from which the Yugoslav R35 was literally shot. 12-40-mm armor "Reno" was ineffective even against such a small caliber. The armored vehicles and infantry of the Leibstandard completed the rest, and by the night of April 7 the 3-I company of the New Tank Battalion had ceased to exist. The surviving tank crews, incl. their commander, were captured.
However, the most legendary episode of the participation of the Yugoslav tankers in the April 1941 war fell to the lot of the commander of the "New" tank battalion of major Dusan Radovich. Without being able to lead the tank companies of his battalion to different parts of Yugoslavia, Major Radovic found himself with headquarters and an "auxiliary" company in the place of permanent deployment of Mladenovac. He threw all his energy into creating a combat-ready subunit from the 10-11 tanks R35 that had been at his disposal in a few days.
On April 10, the High Command gave Major Radovich and his tankmen orders to advance to the Kragujevac region (the village of Luzhnitsy) to cover the close approaches to Belgrade from the southeast from the forces of Colonel-General Evald Kond fon, Colonel-General Evald von Fon, fled to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, fronted by troops of Colonel-General Evald von Fon, fenced by Col. By the morning of the 1 aperle, moving in the marching column, the combat group of the “New” tank battalion reached the city of Topola and Mount Oplenac, where it stopped for refueling. On the slopes of Oplentz, the defense was occupied by a "tactical group" consisting of an anti-tank battery, a machine-gun company and a detachment of local volunteers under the command of the captain of the 11 class (kapetan I klasse) of the stock of Miodrag Milosevic, a brave veteran of World War I. From him, Major Radovic learned that the divisions of the Sixth Yugoslav Army, which had been assigned the task of defending Belgrade, retreated in disarray to Arandjelovac, and, apart from their improvised troops, there were no longer any serious obstacles to the rushing of Belgrade to the Nazis. At your own risk, Dusan Radovich made a decision to stop the execution of the task assigned to him and deployed his tanks and personnel into defensive orders on Oplentse.
Around 12.00 11, April, the Wehrmacht reconnaissance unit climbed Oplenac from the southeast side and suddenly attacked a Yugoslav platoon there. Taken aback, the Yugoslavs began to retreat, but the brave veteran captain Milosevic quickly organized a counterattack, in which dismounted tankers took part. The Serbs rushed to bayonets, and the German soldiers, having lost eight of them killed, including his commander (lieutenant), hastily retreated, leaving in the hands of the winners of six of his wounded comrades (released in the evening of the same day during the retreat of the Yugoslav units). However, the defenders of Oplentz had to pay a high price for this local victory: Captain Milosevic himself was killed in the battle, as well as three more servicemen and one civilian volunteer.
Major Dusan Radovic, who then took command of the tactical group, decided to reconnoitre the area in the direction of Kragujevac. In his inherent cavalry spirit, he personally led the reconnaissance team personally, which was undoubtedly a brave but not very far-sighted act. Sending forward a scout squad on motorcycles under the command of a non-commissioned officer (podnarednik) Slovenac, Radovic himself followed him on the commander's tank with the driver-mechanic corporal (kaplar) Samuel Shanis. To the east of Topola, at the crossroads, a dramatic collision of Major Radovich’s reconnaissance patrol with the advance team of the Wehrmacht 11 Panzer Division (11.Panzer-Division) occurred.
Noticing the approach of the German avant-garde patrol on motorcycles in time, the non-commissioned officer Slovenac deployed his scouts to battle formation and met the enemy with rifle-and-machine-gun fire. Having suffered serious losses, the Germans retreated.
At the same time, the commander tank R35, Major Dusan Radovich, took up a favorable firing position and met German combat vehicles approaching the battlefield with aimed fire of 37-mm guns. Apt shots Radovich managed to disable two light tanks Pz.Kpfw.II. While supporting their commander, other Yugoslav tanks and an anti-tank battery opened fire from Oplenac Mountain. Promotion of the vanguard of the German 11-th tank division was stopped. Upon learning of the formation of enemy tanks on the way of his offensive, the division commander, Lieutenant General Ludwig Crüwell, ordered the vanguard to immediately understand the situation and "clear the way." By coincidence, at the head of the German advanced detachment was also an officer, who, by the "cavalry" temperament, was very reminiscent of Major Dusan Radovich; Based on the loss lists of the 11 Tank Division in April 1941, it can be assumed that this was Major K. Kowalski. "Saddled over" to the commander's armored vehicle (probably Sd.Kfz.231), he rushed forward - and the deadly fire of Major Radovich's tank gun hit. The padded armored car immediately engulfed the flames, and the brave German officer died.
But then luck changed the Serbian major. The Germans pulled into the battlefield tanks Pz.Kpfw.IV, armed with powerful 75-mm guns, and when they tried to change the position of the Renault R35 commander of the "New" tank battalion was shot down. Major Radovich managed to get out of the burning car, but when he helped to leave the tank to the wounded by fragments of Corporal Shanis, they both went through the machine-gun fire. German soldiers captured Yugoslav tankers captured and taken to a field hospital, but the injuries of Dusan Radovich turned out to be fatal, and a few hours later the valiant officer died. Samuel Shanis was rescued by German military doctors, but as a Jew he was surely killed by Nazi captivity. And then the resourceful corporal, who was a native of Sarajevo, managed to impersonate a Bosnian Muslim, and Bosnian prisoners of war "played along" to him. As a result, in the autumn of 1941, the brave tanker was released from captivity as "a subject of the Independent State of Croatia". In 1943, he joined the communist partisan army of Josip Broz Tito, and after the war he continued to serve in the Yugoslav People's Army as an officer.
After the death of Major Radovich, the defense of the Yugoslav units on Oplenac, which began to fire at the German howitzer artillery, fell. The surviving R35 tanks left their positions and retreated in the direction of Krchevac, where the personnel were soon disbanded on all four sides, and the combat equipment partially decommissioned was abandoned. The remaining defenders of Oplenaz were also dispersed in small groups and singly - some home to house, some to continue the struggle with partisan methods. The first to join the battle department of the reconnaissance tank battalion out of him last. The road to Belgrade was now virtually open, and the capital of the Royal Yugoslavia surrendered to the Nazis on 13 in April.
The fate of the most "exemplary" of the Yugoslav armored divisions, the squadron of tannic tanks Т32, tragically took shape in the April war. With the beginning of the war, together with a platoon of armored vehicles, it was attached to the reserve Danube cavalry regiment that provided the antiamphibious defense of a military airfield in the suburb of Belgrade Zemun. The 6-9 of April tanket crews took an active part in repelling Luftwaffe air raids, firing low-flying enemy aircraft from the Zbroyevka-Brno machine guns removed from the machine guns and even arranging firing ambushes where, in their opinion, the German Stukasi had to leave the dive "and" Messerschmitt ". In connection with the invasion of German troops from the territory of Bulgaria, 10 April squadron was sent under its own power in the direction of the city of Niš (south of Serbia), where he was to receive a new operational submission and combat mission. The further combat path of the Yugoslav tankety was very reminiscent of the chaotic throwing along the roads of the war driven by refugees and retreating troops. On the same day, the squadron overtook the order to join the Sremsky division, and soon another one entered - to move in the direction of Topol-Mladenovac. In Mladenovac, combat vehicles were refueled with fuel, but they did not receive armor-piercing ammunition. In operational terms, T32 were now subordinated directly to the headquarters of the Sixth Yugoslav Army.
Earlier on the morning of April 11, a squadron met at the intersection of the Mladenovac-Topola and Mladenovac-Arandelovac roads. Not imagining the operational situation, the squadron commander (probably, the captain of the 1 class Milosavliyevich) about 10.00 sent two tankettes to explore the highway to Kragujevac. Soon, one of the cars fell behind due to a technical malfunction. The second continued movement and suddenly collided with a Wehrmacht mechanized column. After a short firefight, the wedge successfully left the battlefield and rushed over rough terrain to warn the main forces of the squadron that the enemy was approaching. However, here luck turned away from her crew, and he failed to overcome the irrigation canal. Desperate attempts to “free” the stuck T32 did not lead to anything, and the tankers did not have time to reach their feet. The advanced units of the German 11 Tank Division emerged from Topola completely unexpectedly for a squadron of Yugoslav tankettes. Most of the crews at that moment were out of their cars and, when they tried to take combat positions, were mowed down with machine gun fire from the Germans. Nevertheless, several Thnumx entered the battle, however, not having had time to take advantageous firing positions and not having anti-tank shells, they were soon destroyed. Getting out of the padded wedge, the squadron commander shot the pistol holder at the enemy and let the last cartridge in his temple ...
There is evidence that the platoon of Yugoslav armored cars 13 on April operated in the region of Gracanica (Bosnia) as part of the so-called "Flying Squad" created by the command of the Second Yugoslav Army to fight the Croatian Ustash (commander Colonel Dragoljub "Drazh" Mikhailovich, the future, will apply to the object. . On April 13, the detachment managed to clear the village of Bosanski Brod from the Ustashi, and on April X. near the village of Shevarliya fought a hard battle with the Germans for a whole day, but the role of combat vehicles in these clashes was not reported.
Yugoslav armored vehicles captured by the Germans in April 1941.
After the April War, the German command actively used captured Yugoslav armored vehicles in the anti-partisan struggle. Trophy FT17 made up to 6 "independent tank platoons" (Beute-Panzerkampfwagenzuge), from R35, who received the complex name Pz.Kpfw.35-R-731 / f /, made up the "Tank company of special purpose 12" (Panzer Kompanie Nurx). ). Of the T12 tankettes, only two were included in the occupying forces, renamed the Wehrmacht as Pz.Kpfw.32 / j /. All these units were disbanded by the beginning of 732, when tank losses, mainly due to technical malfunctions, reached 1942% in them. The remaining “non-working” equipment was subsequently transferred by the occupiers of the armored formations of the armed forces of the independent state of Croatia and the collaborationist Serb Volunteer Corps.
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