However, first - a brief reference to the armored forces of the parties that converged in a hot fight on the snowy and icy expanses from the Karelian Isthmus to the Barents Sea.
In the Red Army. For offensive operations, the Soviet command attracted a very impressive grouping of tank units and formations.
Only in the 7 Army, advancing on the Karelian Isthmus - the hottest direction of the Winter War - did the 10 tank corps and the 20 heavy tank brigade, which was originally planned to be used as independent operational units, as well as three tank brigades and ten separate tank battalions distributed to support rifle divisions.
Soviet T-26 light tanks are being promoted to combat positions during the Soviet-Finnish war:
The 8 Army, which operated north of Lake Ladoga, was included in the 34 Army, and, moreover, up to seventeen separate tank battalions accounted for the 8, 9 and 14 army.
In total, at the beginning of hostilities in the troops of the Red Army in the Soviet-Finnish theater there were more than two thousand tanks (data from various sources are somewhat different - 2 019, 2 289 and even 2 998). In this case, the tank park was very diverse. Heavy tank units were equipped with three-turret medium tanks T-28 and heavy five-turret T-35.
Medium tanks T-28 20 of the heavy tank brigade on the march to the front, November 1939 g .:
The tank brigades and battalions had light tanks BT-7 and BT-5 of various modifications. The most common Soviet tank of this company was the lightweight T-26, also in a wide variety of variations. In addition, the troops initially had a large number of small amphibious tanks T-37 and T-38. The combat use of the excellent KV-1 heavy tank (the question of participation in the Finnish War KV-2 remains open) and a number of other prototypes was limited and essentially experimental, although it caused a shock and awe at the enemy (and Finnish guys "are not really shy!).
"Three tank crews, three funny friends, the crew of a combat vehicle" BT-7 from the 13 of the small-tank brigade. Karelian Isthmus, December 1939
The saturation of the tanks of the Soviet rifle divisions of the Red Army, which were to attack the well-equipped defensive positions of the Finns, was quite high. For each division as of November 30, 1939 was supposed to have a tank battalion as part of 54 (according to other data - 57) machines. According to the experience of the fighting, which showed low efficiency in winter conditions of small amphibious tanks T-37 and T-38 (which accounted for up to two companies for the “divisional” tank battalion), a directive of the Main Military Council of the Red Army from 1 in January 1940 in rifle divisions it was found to have a battalion of X-NUMX light tanks T-54, incl. 26 company "chemical", i.e. flamethrower tanks (1 machines). The rifle regiment had a company of X-NUMX T-15 tanks.
However, in view of the losses and the inadequate nedokomplekt inevitable in front-line conditions, this requirement was not always fulfilled. For example, the two rifle divisions of the Soviet 14 Army fighting in the Arctic Circle at the beginning of the war accounted for all 38 tanks.
Small amphibious tank T-38 in the captured village on the Karelian Isthmus, February 1940 g .:
The flamethrower tank T-26 leads the battle:
The most common combat task of the Soviet tankers in the Winter War was the escort and fire support of the advancing infantry, with the inevitable overcoming of the barrage of engineering structures of the Finns under fire. During the battles, the Soviet tankers fought bravely and courageously (as in all their other campaigns - otherwise they simply did not know how!), Often showed a good level of professional training, although they also had regrettable "shoals".
Light tanks T-26 of the 35-th light-tank brigade in all the variety of modifications:
Assisting a wounded Soviet tanker, the first day of the war - November 30 1939 on the Karelian Isthmus:
Losses in technology and in personnel in the Soviet armored units were very large — probably more than 3 000 vehicles. Soviet tanks broke down from aimed fire of Finnish artillery along pre-adjusted approaches to fortified areas and positions, were undermined in minefields ... The Finnish infantry cold-blooded, armed with an anti-tank grenade or a bottle of "Molotov cocktail" was in danger (by the way) , it is believed that this name came into use during the Winter War with the help of Finnish army wits).
Anti-tank weapons manufactured by the Finnish industry during the Winter War:
Burnt down Soviet medium tank T-28 on the Karelian Isthmus:
Two-towered T-26 killed in a minefield:
Somewhat less than half of all losses brought technical failures and emergency situations not related to the combat impact of the enemy. However, well-established evacuation and repair measures in the Red Army allowed us to pull out to the rear in time, restore and return most of the lost vehicles to the system. For example, in the 20 heavy tank brigade during the fighting, only 482 that had been burned out on the battlefield and 30 captured by the Finns were irretrievably lost from 2.
Tractor "Comintern" pulls out of the battlefield broken tanks. Karelian Isthmus, February 1940 g .:
In the Finnish Armed Forces. The President of the Finnish State Defense Committee (from 1931) and the Supreme Commander (from 30.11.1939) Carl Gustav Mannerheim, the former guard of the Russian Life Guards and the aide-de-camp of Nicholas II, military to the core and mustache roots, cannot be neglected in defiance of the defensive construction . However, in 1920-30-xx. The government and the majority of deputies of the Seimas (Parliament) of Finland systematically disrupted defense financing programs, and Mannerheim had to develop the country's armed forces on the basis of the sad principle: "defense capability is cheap."
The armored vehicles of Finland were the brainchild, or rather, the victim of just such a state of affairs.
In 1919, when the bloody civil war between the local red and white (White won) was just over in Finland and the country was still at war with Soviet Russia, cavalry general Mannerheim, commanding the young Finnish army, initiated an order for 32 light tanks in France Renault FT-17 and FT-18. By July of the same year, the "French" were delivered to Finland - 14 in the gun version and 18 in the machine gun. For its time, these were good infantry support fighting vehicles, tested by the fire of the First World War. They proved their amazing strength in the Finnish service, in which they had the opportunity to consist until the Winter War.
Light tanks "Renault" in the service in the Finnish army at its best in the 1920-s.:
During this time, the tank regiment originally formed (in 1919) was for the sake of cost savings, first rolled into a battalion (1925), then into a separate company (1927). The training of tank crews was reduced accordingly. Occasionally, cars went to trainings, more often - at parades, and most of the time they rusted in the hangars, without even receiving proper maintenance.
Mannerheim managed to “push through” a relatively adequate program of building armored troops only in 1938 (according to some data a year earlier) when the famous British company Vikkers-Armstrong ordered 38 (according to other sources - 33) Vickers light tanks 6-tons, the most "trendy" in the 1930-s. in countries that did not have their own tank building machines.
Retrofit and arm "Vickers" was supposed to be in Finland. Thirty-three 37 X-NUMX guns of Bofors obr. (Manufactured in Finland under license) for tanks were ordered at the VTT state artillery plant, Zeiss TZF sights and surveillance devices were to be purchased in Germany, and Marconi SB-1936a for command vehicles - in Italy.
One of the Vickers staged in Finland during the tests. The tool is not yet installed:
However, fatal bad luck continued to pursue this program. Due to delays in the production of machines and guns to them, as well as the cancellation by Germany of the contract for the supply of tank optics from 28 "English boxes" that reached Finland to the beginning of the hostilities of the Soviet-Finnish war, only 10 were in combat readiness and were tested.
6-ton "Vikkers" in standard color (on the tower - the identification mark, white and blue stripe of national colors) in the exposition of the military museum, Finland:
The situation with the training of tank crews and subunits was no better. Only in October, the X-NUMX of the armored personnel of the armed forces was reformed into an armored battalion consisting of five companies. But the staff was sorely lacking, and the 1939 company was formed only on December 1 5, when fighting with the USSR was already going. In addition, she received the 1939 old Renault tanks because only Finnish tankers managed to master them well. The 14 Company also consisted of 2 antique "French".
According to rather fragmentary data, confirmed, nevertheless, by photographic materials of the Soviet-Finnish war, these companies were thrown on the defense of the so-called. Mannerheim Line on the Karelian Isthmus. There, the old Finnish FT-17 and FT-18 were used primarily as fixed firing points and, most likely, soon almost all were destroyed or captured by the Red Army. In any case, the Soviet propaganda photographs captured victorious Red Army men inspecting the captured Renault, while an unknown Finnish photographer captured almost a whole FT-17 in the first post-war summer, thrown in the forest and surrounded by lush greenery ...
3-I and 5-I companies were actually training and had at one time one - 2-3 Vickers tanks without weapons, the other - 12-16 "Vickers" in the same state. The only relatively combat-ready subunit was the 4 Company, staffed by the best crews and, as of 22 in January, 1940 had 6 armed with Vickers tanks. As the weapons were upgraded, the combat vehicles were transferred to the 4 company. By 10 february1940 the company had already received 16 armed vehicles and, at the very least, had finished combat coordination.
There is no reason to question the personal courage of the Finnish tank crews (“Yes, the enemy was brave. All the more our glory!” K. Simonov). However, it is obvious that their tactical and technical training, conducted in a hurry against the background of developing military operations, left much to be desired, to say the least.
26 February tank battle 1940
At the end of February 1940, the Finnish 4 tank company, under the command of Captain I. Kunnas, finally received an order to advance to the front. In position on the Karelian Isthmus, she arrived as part of the 13 light Vickers tanks.
Finnish "Vikkers" in camouflage white color of the Winter War. This is what the 4 Company tanks looked like with the Red Army tankers on the battlefield:
The first combat task of the company was set up by 26 February 1940 - to support the counterattack of parts of the 23 infantry division in the direction of the Hankaniemi (now Lebedevka) squadron stationed by the troops of the Soviet 123-th infantry division with the support of the 112-35 -th tank-yan-yan-th-infantry division, X-NUMX-X tank division battalion unit X-NUMX-Infantry Division. Eight Vickers tanks advanced to execute the order, but two of them fell behind due to technical malfunctions and did not participate in the battle.
The remaining six marched forward, but for some reason the Finnish infantry did not follow them. Either she did not have time to receive the appropriate order, or, untrained in interacting with such a rare “beast” in the ranks of the country's army of Suomi, she simply “braked”.
The Vickers crews, most likely, did not focus on the terrain, did not have intelligence on the enemy’s position and actually moved at random.
T-26 35 tanks of the Red Army light-tank brigade on positions, February 1940 g .:
In this chaotic onslaught, they unexpectedly bumped into three Soviet T-26 tanks, at which the commanders of the 112-Tank Battalion commanded for reconnaissance. Opponents were at a very close distance from each other and, probably, at first they took the enemy tanks for their own - the T-26 and the Finnish 6-ton Vickers are really very similar. The first were able to assess the situation of the Soviet tankers, who took the fight and in a matter of minutes, shot all six Finnish tanks from their 45-mm guns.
Only one of the damaged cars was later evacuated by the Finns, but it was no longer subject to restoration and went for spare parts.
Finnish tanks "Vikkers", shot down in a battle at the station of Honkaniemi 26 February 1940 g .:
It is impossible to completely eliminate the luck factor, but this clash revealed a significant advantage of experienced Soviet combat crews, headed by besides, were personnel commanders (three company commanders for three tanks!) Over unexpired and under-educated Finnish tankers. The two-time numerical advantage of the Finns was negated by the decisive actions of the Red Army soldiers.
However, according to the memoirs of a participant in that fight, art. Lieutenant V.S. Arkhipov (then - the commander of the 112 company and 35, and later - twice Hero of the Soviet Union, Colonel-General), much more Soviet crews could participate in the collision of tanks at the station.
VS Arkhipov - at the end of 1930's. and in the postwar years:
These are the memories that contain a very interesting, albeit controversial, story about the events described:
“On February 25, the avant-garde of the 245 regiment — the 1 th battalion of captain A. Makarov with our tank company assigned to him — moving along the railway to Vyborg, captured Kämäri station, and by the end of the day, Hankaniemi station and the nearby village of Urkhala.
The infantrymen dug trenches in the snow and rested in shifts. We spent the night right in the tanks, in the forest. They were on guard duty, camouflaging cars on the glade. The night passed quietly, and when the tank platoon of Lieutenant I.I. Sachkov went on duty and it became light, a nap came over me. I sit in the car, in my usual place, at the cannon, and I don’t understand, either in a dream or in reality, I think that we have escaped far ahead, there is no connection with the neighbor on the right. And what is there? There is a good position: on the left of the lowland - a swamp under the snow or a swampy lake, and on the right a railway embankment and a few behind us, near polustanka, moving. There the battalion’s rear units are a medical unit, a field kitchen ... The engine of the tank operated at low speed, suddenly I stopped hearing it. I fell asleep! With an effort I open my eyes, and the roar of a tank engine rushes into my ears. No, not ours. It's nearby. And at this moment, our tank strongly twitched ...
So, from the incident, the first and last battle with the enemy tanks began. Remembering him today, I come to the conclusion that he was equally unexpected for us and for the enemy. For us, because until that day, before February 26, we didn’t meet enemy tanks or even hear about them. This is the first. And the second - the tanks appeared in the rear, from the side of the crossing, and Lieutenant Sachkov took them for his, for the company of Kulabukhov. Yes, and it was not surprising to confuse, since the light English tank "Vickers" was externally similar to the T-26, like a twin. Only we have a gun stronger - 45-mm, and the "Vickers" -37-mm.
As far as the enemy is concerned, as it turned out soon, intelligence did not work well for him. The command of the enemy, of course, knew that yesterday we captured the station. Not only did it know, it was preparing a counterattack at the station and, as a starting position, it marked a grove between the lowland and the railway embankment, that is, the place where we, the tankers and the arrows of Captain Makarov, spent that night. Enemy reconnaissance examined the fact that after the capture of Honkaniemi, we placed the battalion headquarters and up to a hundred infantrymen on the armor, at dusk we had already advanced a kilo-and-a-half to the north of Honkaniemi.
So, our tank jerked a blow from the outside. I threw back the hatch and leaned out of it. I heard Sergeant Box below expressing his opinion about the driver-mechanic of the tank that had hurt us:
- Here is a hat! Well, I told him! ..
- Not our car company! No, not ours! ”Said the radio operator Dmitriev confidently.
The tank, which hit our caterpillar with its own (our car was on the side of a clearing disguised by spruce forest), was removed. And although I knew that this could only be a tank from the Kulabukhov company, anxiety seemed to prick my heart. Why - I figured it out later. And then I saw around the morning grove, frost was falling, and, as always, when it suddenly got warmer, the trees stood in snow lace - in a smoker, as they say in the Urals. And then, at the crossing, in the morning fog a group of infantrymen could be seen. Gosom, dressed in coats and boots, they walked to the woods with kettles in their hands. “Kulabuhov!”, I thought, examining the tanks that appeared at the crossing and began to slowly overtake the infantry. One of the shooters, having contrived, put the pot on the armor of the tank, on the engine, and hurried alongside, shouting something to his comrades. Peaceful morning picture. And suddenly I understood the reason for my alarm: there was a blue stripe on the tower of the tank moving away from us. The Soviet tanks had no such identification marks. And the guns on the tanks were different - shorter and thinner.
- Sachkov, enemy tanks! - I shouted into the microphone. - On the tanks - the fire! Armor piercing! - I ordered Dmitriev and heard the click of the closed gun shutter.
The turret of the tank, the first to overtake our infantrymen, turned slightly, the machine-gun fire ran through the forest, through the nearby bushes, hit the roof of my turret hatch. Small fragments cut my hands and face, but at that moment I did not feel it. Diving down, fell to the sight. I see infantrymen in optics. Tearing from behind the rifle, they rush into the snow. They figured out on whose motors the kettles were heated. I catch a Vickers starboard in the crosshair. Shot, still shot!
- Lit! - shouts Box.
The shots of Sachkov’s tanks are thundering alongside. Soon they are joined by others. So, Naplavkov's platoon entered into business. The tank that hit us, got up, downed. The rest of the enemy vehicles lost their line and, as it were, dispersed. Of course, it’s impossible to say about tanks that they panic; the crews panic. But we see only the cars that rush to that, then to the other side. The fire! The fire!
In total, on this day in the area of the station of Honkaniemi, Finnish tanks of English production were destroyed by 14, and we captured three machines in good condition and, by order of the command, sent them by rail to Leningrad. "
(VS Arkhipov. Time of tank attacks. M., 2009)
The author shows the number of destroyed Finnish tanks much more than Honkaniemi left standing in the snow. However, it cannot be ruled out that in the heat of battle the Soviet tankmen "hit" each of the Finnish tanks several times.
About the reconnaissance of three Soviet company commanders on three T-26 in the text there is no word. On the contrary, the author writes that other units of his tank company participated in the battle.
And this is how the clash of 26 February 1940 was described in the operational report of the 35 light tank brigade:
"Two Vickers tanks with infantry came to the right flank of the 245 Infantry Regiment, but were shot down. Four Vickers came to the aid of their infantry and were destroyed by fire from three tanks of company commanders who went on reconnaissance."
In the brigade's warbook we find some other details of the events:
"February 26 The 112 Tank Battalion with parts of the 123 Infantry Division went into the Honkaniemi area, where the enemy put up stubborn resistance, repeatedly turning into counterattacks. Two Renault tanks and six Vickers were killed, of which 1 Renault and the Vickers 3 were evacuated and handed over to the 7 Army Headquarters. " It is mentioned here that not only the new Vickers were used in the battle by the Finns, but also the old Renault. Moreover, one of them appears in the list of trophies sent to army headquarters, which leaves no doubt as to the correctness of the enemy's assessment by the command of the 35 brigade.
It remains to find out in what capacity the Finnish Renault participated in the battle - as firing points or on the move. And by whom they were incapacitated. Alas, no answers yet.
Finnish Vickers, shot down under Honkaniemi, evacuated by Red Army soldiers from the battlefield:
Obsolete tank "Renault", used by the Finns as a fixed firing point, destroyed by Soviet troops:
Finnish sources paint a slightly different picture of the battle, embellished in their favor (it is understandable!), But they describe in detail the fate of each of the wounded Finnish crews.
"Vickers No. 644, commander corporal Rassi. The tank was stuck, the crew left it. Destroyed by Soviet artillery.
Vikkers No. 648, Commander Lieutenant Mikkola. Destroyed two enemy tanks until the tank caught fire from a direct hit. The commander was still alive.
Vikkers No. 655, Feldwebel Commander Julie-Heikkil. The tank was destroyed by the enemy's anti-tank gun, the crew was killed.
Vikkers No. 667, Commander Junior Sergeant Seppälä. He destroyed two enemy tanks until he was destroyed himself.
Vikkers No. 668, Commander and Senior Sergeant Pietil. A motor exploded from the hit of an anti-tank rifle, ordinary Saunio driver survived, the rest died.
Vikkers No. 670, Commander Junior Lieutenant Virnio. Destroyed one tank, the engine caught fire, the crew got to their ".
"The tank with the number R-648 was hit by several Soviet tanks and burned down. The tank commander was wounded, but managed to reach his own. Three other crew members were killed.
Vickers R-655, crossing the railway, was hit and left by the crew. This tank was evacuated, but it was not subject to recovery and was subsequently dismantled.
Vickers R-664 and R-667 received several hits and lost their turn. For some time they fired from a place, and then they were left by carriages.
Vickers R-668 was stuck trying to knock down a tree. Of the entire crew, only one survived, the rest died.
Vickers R-670 was also hit. "
And separately about the fate of the crew of "Vickers" R-668:
“One of the tanks with the tactical number R-668 lost its course by hitting a tree. Tankman junior sergeant Salo died with an ax in his hands, trying to cut the tree. Private Alto, who left the tank, was captured, and only the tank driver, Private Saunio, managed to get to his own. "
During the destruction of the crew of this tank, already according to Soviet data, Lieutenant Shabanov from the 1 Infantry Regiment of the 245 Infantry Regiment distinguished himself, putting one of the Finnish tank crews (probably the commander) in with a rifle fire and capturing another.
So, the Finnish version of events contains several interesting moments.
Firstly, the statement that part of the Vickers was hit by Soviet artillery and anti-tank guns suggests that Finnish tankers in February 26 1940 were completely disoriented and didn’t have time to figure out who they fought with.
Secondly, the behavior of the crew of the R-668, first trying to "cut down" from the tree with an ax, and then climbed "on foot" to the melee with the Soviet infantry, indicates reckless courage, but not high training.
Thirdly, it is not clear where the captain of Kunnas, the commander of the 4 of the Finnish tank company, was located when his subordinates fought and died under Honkaniemi. Among the names of the tank commanders who participated in that battle, he is not.
And finally, the statement of the Finnish side about the destruction of five Soviet tanks, most likely, is based either on the reports of the surviving crews (which in the confusion of the battle really could have seemed to have killed someone), or simply on the desire to present a fiasco of their tank crews in catastrophic light.
All the tanks of the Red Army out of this battle unharmed. Most likely, the only Soviet loss was Lieutenant V.S. Arkhipov, who was easily wounded by a machine-gun burst from a Finnish tank, when carelessly popped out of the hatch.
The commanders of the Red Army inspect the captured Finnish tank Vikkers, February 1940 g:
The fate of the three Finnish Vickers, evacuated by the Red Army from the battlefield as trophies, is interesting.
It is known that one of them after the end of the Winter War was transported to Moscow and became an exhibit of the Museum of the Red Army, and two were exhibited in the Leningrad Museum of the Revolution at the exhibition "The rout of the White Finns."
Vickers with the tactical number R-668 subsequently passed tests at the tank ground in Kubinka. It is logical to assume that this was exactly the "Moscow" museum exhibit.
The R-668 trophy Vickers tested at the Kubinka training ground, taken from different angles:
Much more dramatic was the fate of the "Leningrad" Vickers. About this we meet the story again in the memoirs of V. S. Arkhipov:
“Then I saw them - they stood in the courtyard of the Leningrad Museum of the Revolution as exhibits. And after World War II I didn’t find“ Vickers ”there. The Museum staff said that in the autumn of 1941, when the fascist blockade of the city began, the tanks were repaired and sent with the crews to the front. "
It is known that one of them entered the 377-th separate tank battalion, which had been active since the spring of 1942 on the Karelian front.
29 February tank battle 1940
Remaining in the ranks after the defeat of the 4 of the Finnish tank company "Vikkersy" for the next three days continued to fight, supporting their infantry.
29 February 1940 during the fierce fighting for the Perot station occurred the second and last known clashes of Soviet and Finnish tanks in the Winter War. Two Vickers - R-672 and R-666 - were abandoned by the Finnish command to support the counterattack infantry. During the attack, they suddenly went out to meet the Soviet tanks 91-th tank battalion 20-th heavy tank brigade and were shot down by fire from the course.
Finnish Vikkers tanks, shot down at the Perot 29 station in February of 1940. In the background is the seedent Soviet T-28:
The 91 tb log of the 20-th ttbr log shows:
"During the attack on Perot Station, one kilometer north-west of Värakoski, two Vickers tanks were shot from the course."
The report of the commander of the Finnish 4 tank company about this fight, in turn, reads as follows:
"29.02 40. In 14.00, the Russians, with the support of tanks, launched an attack on Perot station (now Perovo - MK). In this area, the 2 platoon was composed of two tanks. From the Soviet side, BT tanks fired in this battle "7. At a critical moment, the tank sergeant Lauril's caterpillar was slaughtered. The crew defended the tank from the Russians, but then left it. Only Sergeant Laurilo went to her, the other three went missing."
It seems that the Finnish tankers again had a problem with the identification of the enemy (if they ever saw him): as part of the 91 Tank Battalion of the Red Army, medium-sized T-28 tanks operated in this battle, the 76-mm guns of which were separated from the Vickers.
We add that the crew of the second stricken Vickers managed to leave the car in full force and escaped.
Tankers 91-th tank battalion of the Red Army consider the Finnish tank helmet after the battle at the station Perot:
The battle at Perot station only confirms all the conclusions that can be drawn from the more famous clash of Honkaniemi. The higher professionalism of the tank crews of the Red Army in the Soviet-Finnish war 1939-40. when meeting with Finnish tanks literally did not leave the last chance.
Unfortunately, there were few such episodes, and the share of Soviet tank crews was mostly dangerous and ungrateful daily combat work in breaking through the strong Finnish defense "in that war unmarked."
Mannerheim anti-tank lines: