Churchill in Russia

Churchill in Russia
On the use of armored vehicles obtained during the war years, quite contradictory information is found in the literature. Our today's tale of the only heavy tank Allies, which used the Red Army in 1942-1944.

The work on Churchill began in September 1939 of the year at the firm Garland and Woolf in Belfast. The first 14 production tanks were manufactured in June 1941. These tanks were produced with 2-pound (40 mm) cannons in the turret and 3-inch (76 mm) CS howitzers in the front of the hull next to the driver's seat.

In March, the 1942 of the year began the production of 6-pounder (57 mm) Mk.III 43 guns of caliber. According to English data, the armor-piercing projectile pierced 81-mm armor at a distance of 500 yards (457 m) at an angle 30 ° to the normal. A projectile to the 6-pound gun was created in England only in the 1944 year and was not supplied to the USSR. The Churchill tank with the 6-pound cannon received the index Mk.III.

At the end of 1941 - the beginning of 1942 of the year, the British demonstrated the tank “Churchill” to the lieutenant colonel Kovalev, a member of the USSR Military Mission in England. According to his report in March 1942 of the year, the Soviet government agreed to supply 50 units of Churchill tanks on account of the supply of the English tank Matilda. In addition, the British themselves offered another 25 tank "Churchill" for testing with the condition that they provide the results of these tests.

19 of May of the same year issued a special decree of Glavlit: “To forbid the press to publish any data and information about the Churchill British tanks”.

As of November 9 1942, the Churchill 84 arrived in the USSR. In total, in the 1942 – 1943 years, England delivered the 301 tank Mk.III and Mk.IV to the Soviet Union. A few dozen tanks died on the way to Russia. So, on the famous convoy PQ-17 on the vessel "Empaster Byron" went 30 tanks "Churchill". However, on July 4 1942, the ship was sunk by a U-703 submarine, and the captain of the engineering troops, John Remington, who accompanied the tanks and had to train Russian crews, was raised from a lifeboat aboard the U-703.
The first samples of the tank "Churchill" have been tested at the site in Kubinka. The findings are reflected in the test report from 16 September 1942. It notes that the Mk.IV is inferior to the KV-1 and KV-1 C tanks in terms of the power of cannon armament, but it has advantages in armor protection. Ammunition for machine-gun armament tank Mk.IV has three times more compared with KV tanks. The 57-mm cannon-armored grenade mounted on the Mk.IV tank penetrates the armor of the two sides of the German medium tank T-III with a total thickness of 60 mm from the 950 distance m. The Mk.IV tank has a significantly lower power density and, as a result, less speed. Despite this, the tank Mk.IV is not inferior in average speeds of movement tanks KV-1 and KV-1 C.

The English heavy tank Mk.IV possesses insufficient reliability in the operation of individual units and is a machine that is not fully known, both constructively and industrially.

Tank Mk.IV badly overcomes slopes when moving with a roll due to dropping caterpillars. Fuel costs are quite normal in all road conditions.

There are some additional points to make. The metal tracks of bobbin fastening on the Churchill tank were slipping into thaw and ice. Therefore, domestic craftsmen inserted special steel “spurs” into them, which made it difficult for the tracks to creep.

Inside the “Churchill” was much more spacious than in Soviet tanks, which greatly facilitated the work of the crew.
At one time, Winston Churchill told reporters: "The Churchill tank has more flaws than I do." But it was an ordinary political PR. The machine in general, for an infantry tank was not bad.
The fact is that in the 1942 – 1943 years for a variety of reasons in the USSR there were interruptions in the production of heavy tanks, although in just these two years about 5 thousands of units were fired.

Heavy tanks were literally worth their weight in gold. If before the war, our KV and T-35 were sent in bulk to mechanized corps, by October 1942, all the heavy tanks were put into separate heavy breakout tank regiments (OTTPP), which were in the reserve of the High Command. They were sent exclusively to the most dangerous sectors of the front.

In October 1942, Stalin ordered Churchill tanks to create four OTTPPs as part of the 21 tanks and assign them the name of the Guards. The crews of the Churchill tanks, as well as the KV, on the special instructions of Stalin in the year 1942 were staffed exclusively by officers. At the end of 1942, two regiments equipped with Churchill tanks were sent to the front south and north to test tanks in different climatic conditions.

The 48 heavy breakout tank regiment as part of the 21 Army from January 21 to February 2 1943 operated in the Gumrak village north-west of Stalingrad. In the composition of the regiment was 21 tank "Churchill".

During the time from the end of the formation of the regiment until its withdrawal from the battles (March 20), the tanks worked an average of 480 hours (1000 kilometers of run).

The technical condition of the tanks on 20 February was as follows: on the move - 4 tank; affected by artillery fire: in the undercarriage - 6 tanks, in the hull - 3 tank; hydraulic control drive defective - for 8 tanks.
The 50 th breakout armored tank regiment (Churchill 21 tank) was sent to military trials on the Volkhov front, where he fought with 17 in operational control of the 1943 Army in March 8. Here, this part, in cooperation with other units, was to act in accordance with the tactical purpose — to break through the enemy’s multi-defense long-term zone.

The operations in the 8 Army seemed to be thoroughly prepared: a reconnaissance of the area was made and column ways were created to advance to the enemy’s trenches, because the 35 – 40 height of the shrub had to be attacked. But in the 50 breakthrough regiment that arrived just day before the onset, did not have time to do so. March 19 tanks went on the attack at the site of the cannon mount Gunner, interacting with parts of the 374 th infantry division. From the 21 tank, which participated in the attack, 12 were stuck in the swamp and hit by mines, and two were hit by artillery fire. The seven remaining vehicles broke into German positions, but did not support the infantry, and the tanks, having fired the ammunition, returned to their original position.

On March 22, five Churchill tanks, commanded by Captain Belogub, guards, according to orders from the 374 Infantry Division headquarters, attacked the enemy in the direction of the 400 junction east of Beloye Lake. By order of the headquarters, the attack was assigned to 8.30. The signal for the attack of the infantry was to be the beginning of the movement of tanks through its battle formations. At the appointed time, the Churchillies went on the attack, but the infantry did not move forward, as the command of the 374 Infantry Division canceled the operation, but the tank crews were not informed about this. Tanks broke into the German positions, where four cars were hit by artillery, and only one returned to the starting position.

From 11 hours 22 March to 25 March 1943, the tanks were in the area - the crews were sitting in tanks and firing from the spot. Every night, the gunmen of the 50 th Panzer Breakthrough Regiment delivered tankers with ammunition and food, and left before dawn.
During this time, Churchilli destroyed an artillery battery, four bunkers, a warehouse with ammunition and up to two infantry platoons. Captain Belogub’s tank guard held the enemy’s 105-mm battery under fire and did not allow it to be moved to another location.

Despite repeated requests from the commander of the 50 tank breakout regiment, the headquarters of the 374 rifle division did not advance infantry to the line occupied by tanks. The Germans repeatedly offered tank crews to surrender, to which the tank crews responded with fire. Due to the fact that radio communication between tankmen and infantry was conducted in clear, the Germans became aware that the group of tanks was commanded by the guard, Captain Belogub. 25 March, they offered him to throw tanks and move away to their own. Belogub refused. Then a white cross was displayed in front of his tank - a sign that German soldiers would bury the Soviet commander.

After that, strong artillery fire was opened on the tanks, then the infantry went on the attack. Tankers fought back for several hours. When the shells and ammunition ran out, they fought off grenades, throwing them through the left side hatch. Guard captain Whitebub called fire on his tanks to remove the attacking infantry of the enemy, but even the 374 Infantry Division could not make the artillery - the missiles did not lift in time! At this time, two Churchill came to the rescue of tankmen, repaired by the forces of the 50 th breakout regiment, and a squad of infantry of the 374 rifle division. They managed to hook the tractor Belogub with a tractor and evacuate it to the rear (the crews of three other wrecked tanks withdrew with the infantry).

Not appreciating the tactical literacy of the battle, we can say that the life of the tank crews (and the crews who spent three days in the tanks did not lose a single person killed) it was Churchill’s armor that the German artillery could not penetrate for three days.

On August 3, Lieutenant-General Martel, head of the British military mission in the USSR, asked the Soviet side about the experience of using Churchill tanks. He was sent a certificate from Colonel Zayev, the chief of staff of the armored and mechanized troops of the Red Army: “When breaking through the strong fortifications of the Germans, the heavy tanks KV and Churchill completely coped with the role of the breakthrough tanks, reinforcing the attacking infantry, completely justified themselves.”

Zaev also prepared some recommendations considering the increase in caliber and initial speed of anti-tank, self-propelled and tank artillery of the enemy used to fight the advancing tanks, the armor of the breakthrough tanks should be strengthened to 100 – 120 mm. Tank "Churchill" to the role of breakthrough tanks, to strengthen the infantry as a whole is suitable, but experience has once again confirmed the weakness of his cannon armament. Gasoline fuel tank significantly increases the risk of fire in comparison with diesel tanks KV. The main enemy of tanks in these operations was anti-tank self-propelled artillery and tanks. Minefields did much less harm. As for the irretrievable losses, they are completely insignificant in minefields, since most of the tanks remaining in the minefields are damaged only in the undercarriage and are quickly restored ...

A tank gun on a heavy tank should be a caliber from 75 to 100 mm and with a high initial velocity of the projectile, then this tank will be a breakthrough tank and a powerful anti-tank defense (like a German tiger tank) ...

It should be noted that other Lend-Lease tanks, such as Valentine, Matilda, M. 3 Stewart, had weak artillery weapons. In this regard, OKB-92 in Gorky in 1941 received an order for their re-equipment. In December, the Valentine tank was tested with the installation of a ZIS-1941 – 95-mm 45 K tank gun and a twin DT and Matilda machine gun with a ZIS-20 – 96-mm F-76 gun gun and a twin D-gun.

Both units were commissioned, and an order was issued for the first batch of the ZIS-100 units in 95. However, due to the acute need for X-NUMX-mm tank guns for T-45 tanks and 70-mm guns for T-76 and KV tanks, the ZIS-34 and ZIS-95 tanks did not go into the series.

The Main Armored Directorate thought to partially solve the problem by adopting our shotgun with steel grit grenade from the 2-pound (40-mm) British gun. Such a grenade was tested at the factory number 179 in March 1942. In the same year, Matilda CS tanks with an 76-mm gun were purchased in England.

And in the American light tanks M3 "Stewart" it was decided to replace the full-time 37-mm M5 cannon with the domestic 45-mm tank cannon. In mid-October, the 1943, a Stewart tank with an 45-mm gun, was tested at the Kubinka range. However, the matter did not come to the massive re-equipment of the M3 tanks.

From the beginning of April, the 1943 OTTPP successfully operated on the Leningrad front, including the Churchill 49 tank and the British Universal tracked armored personnel carrier 21.

On the Kursk Bulge, the 5 Guards Tank Corps had 21 tank Churchill, 106 T tanks 34 and 86 light tanks, and 2 Guards tank corps 17 tanks Churchill X-NET X-NUMX tanks X-NNXX-X-NNXX tanks X-NUMX and X-NUMX tanks X-NUMX and 90 X-NUMX tanks X-NUMX and 34 T-59 tanks and XNUMX X-NUMX tanks. light tanks.
It is curious that in the battle under Prokhorovka "Churchill" from the 15 tank regiment made a frontal ram "tiger". The entire crew of the tank, commanded by Lieutenant Smirnov, and the driver was Lieutenant A. F. Loginov, was not injured. After the battle of Prokhorovka, Lieutenant Loginov became the commander of the Churchill tank and participated in the battles for Kiev. Tank Loginova lined up the "tiger", having achieved the hit of an armor-piercing projectile between the armor of the tower and the hull. Loginov was awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union.

In June, the Churchill tanks from the 1944 of the OTTPP actively participated in street battles for the city of Vyborg.
Apparently, the last time “Churchill” was applied on the Eastern Front in September 1944 of the year as part of the 8 Army of the Leningrad Front during the liberation of Tallinn and Northern Estonia. The 82 OTTPP, which included the Churchill’s 10 and 11 XVUMX tanks, successfully operated there.

The main conclusion from the use of Churchill tanks in Russia is obvious: a tank that has design flaws in the hands of experienced and courageous people, and with proper tactical use, can cause serious damage to the enemy.

It remains to add that in the British army, Churchill was used sparingly, although 1942 units were made in 1944 – 5460. Churchill's first debut was 19 August 1942 of the year during the raid on Dieppe. Of the 30 tanks in operation, 27 was lost. According to one brigade of Churchill tanks, the British used in North Africa and Italy in the 1942 – 1943 years. Two brigades fought in France and Germany in the 1944 – 1945 years. The last military use of Churchill by the British occurred in Korea in 1951 – 1953. Over the next three years, the Churchill were decommissioned by the British army.

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