Inside a T34/85.

Writing up the latest modern NUTS! game reminded me that a few years ago I met a veteran of the wars in the former Yugoslavia (and World War 2 too), so I dug out the pictures and thought I’d share them here.

My friend Simon’s wife, Susan, her boss bought a T34/85 as a restoration project and I was fortunate to be taken up to his farm on the surrounding hills to see it.

crop

The tank chassis was built in 1944 and the turret in 1945 according to the various manufacturing markings he found. After service in WW2 it was sold to the Yugoslavians and he believes to fought on the Bosnian side in the wars there in the 1990s. It is a runner though was having gearbox trouble whilst I was there so sadly I didn’t see it on the move. Also a lot of the ‘furniture’ inside such as seats were missing, though this did me more room to move about inside it.

Your blogger attempting a passable tank commander impression.

Your blogger attempting a passable tank commander impression.

Whilst everybody know what a T34 looks like from the outside I thought I’d show you some shots I took of the interior.

The gunner's sight.

The gunner’s sight.

Radio in the rear of the turret.

Radio in the rear of the turret.

A vision slit.

A vision slit.

The 'dashboard'.

The ‘dashboard’.

Your blogger in the driver's position.

Your blogger in the driver’s position.

Some more gubbins; whose exact purpose I forgotten.

Some more gubbins; whose exact purpose I forgotten.

Two things struck me whilst I was in the tank, firstly ergonomics. Inside is very cramped, I couldn’t stand up straight in the turret whilst standing on the floor (I’m 6 foot), with 2 other people in there and the breach at the horizontal (the barrel had been pointed skyward to give us more room) and all the ammo I doubt I would have fitted at all. I did manage to crawl under the gun and through the bow gunner’s position and into the driver’s seat without getting too oily. The bow gunner seemed to have a fair bit of room if you don’t mind having a machine gun straight in front of you, no hatches to get out of and very little view. The driver’s front hatch gives a fair view but trying to get into a position where you could look out and reach all the controls and not cripple your back by being in an awkward position was impossible for me. I know the Russians like their tankies small so hopefully it is a better fit for shorter people. Even though I’m fairly fat I could climb out the big front hatch with not too much trouble at all. So it would be fairly easy to exit it in an emergency although you’d be exiting straight towards the enemy’s guns.

Secondly vision from with in the tank is atrocious. Given that all decent wargame rule sets give a penalty for spotting from a buttoned up tank I can definitely agree with that design decision, I’d even go as far to say that they aren’t restrictive enough. The driver, with the big hatch shot only has a single vision slit, like the one pictured above, to see out of. The bow gunner has one slit forward directly above the MG and on to the right, these are the only views to the outside you have in that position. The gunner, in the left of the turret, has the telescopic sight that is also pictured above which gives a nice clear view but only where the gun is pointing. The loader, sat in the right of the turret, only has a single vision slit in the right of the turret to see out of. The commander, who sits behind the gunner, does get a cupola with multiple vision slits and a periscope with a 360 degree view. In combat you really need your commander to be able to spot threats soon, especially infantry as once you get in close there are many blind spots that in close terrain the enemy could exploit.

Getting to crawl all over a real WW2 veteran was a real treat. Also very eye opening, given the discomfort, lack of vision and claustrophobia you have when everything is closed up. I hope my picture and commentary are useful to you, certainly gave me something to think about whilst I was pushing my model tanks around the next game I had.

Cheers,

Pete.

21 comments on “Inside a T34/85.

  1. No someplace you’d want to spend a lot of time, is it?

  2. tankguy1 says:

    Pete. I have been in a T34/85, Panther turret, T28 ? SPG, M551, M1 Abrams, M1A1 Abrams, M113A1, M577A1, M88A1 during service and at Ft Knox.

    Visibility is bad from all of them with the T34 the worst. Modern vehicles are better but as you said lots of blind spots. Germans issued in WW2 cards and papers for AT units not only showing where weak points were on enemy tanks but ranges German guns could penetrate and locations. They also showed blind spots of enemy tanks.
    T34/85 bad. T34/76 worse. 43 model might have a cupola but gunner TC could either look out cupola our his gun Sight, not both. 42 and earlier version limited to one view slit, gun sight, and 1 periscope. That is why German and western TC fought tank with hatch open. Open T34 hatch and it blocked view to front.
    Arc of Fire rules covers well. Spotting hidden infantry to front cut 1/2 buttoned up. Spot to side cut 1/2 again. Mike Reese

    • Pete S/ SP says:

      Given all the blind-spots I can definitely see why the Soviet Army had so many tank riders, On anything over than the steppe you’d really need that cooperation with the infantry.

      I may well add extra penalties to games of NUTS!- see if my players find it too restrictive though….?

      Cheers,

      Pete.

  3. Mike P says:

    Very interesting post, Pete, thanks for sharing. Also thanks Tankguy1 for your helpful comments. I will remember all this the next time there are tanks on the gaming table.
    Mike

    • Pete S/ SP says:

      Thanks Mike. Definitely an eye opener. Spotting at a distance of say 20m away from the tank was OK ish from the cupola but under that distance you could very easily walk up the the tank completely unnoticed.

      Cheers,

      Pete.

  4. tankguy1 says:

    Arc of Fire again. Soviet attack on German Infantry Company holding a village (note: German company strength was 17 men). Soviets had 3 T34/76, 3 T34/85, 2 SU122 and a platoon of SMG infantry. Normal distance to spot hidden infantry is 20″ (all large scale for 28mm) but you had to successfully roll a D10 vs Troop quality or that visibility distance number was cut in half (20″ to 10″). German platoon (4 men with LMG, 1 panzerfaust, 1 grenade cluster and small arms) dug in at edge of a cemetery. Germans could see a tank in the open at 160″, again 1/2 of that if their Troop Quality roll wasn’t made (80″).
    Soviets had choice of day or night attack plus, unknown to the Soviet player it was going to be snowing, regardless.
    Soviet choice was a night attack; Surprise -in a snow storm!
    Germans could see tanks at 160″/80″. Night penalty 1/2 distance 80/40″. Snow penalty 1/2 distance (40/20″). (Soviet Infantry seen at 80″/40 to 40/20 to 20/10″ at night in the snow)
    Soviets could see concealed Germans at 20″/10″. From a buttoned up tank 10/5″ to front, 5/2.5″ to side and rear. (Infantry in concealment if camouflaged as well modified distance by 1/2 again or 2.5/1.25″). Unbuttoned tank TC could see concealed Germans at 20/10″, night 10/5″, snow 5/2.5″. Buttoned up the distances were to the front 10/5″, night 5/2.5″, snow 2.5/1.25″ and if trying to look to the side or rear buttoned up 1.25″/.75″. Soviet armor buttoned up in dark in a snowstorm was blind. These were 1/48 models.
    The Soviet T34/85 platoon came in with all TC unbuttoned. Firing multiplies the distance seen x2. Soviet tanker couldn’t see concealed infantry at more than 5″, 10″ if the Germans had fired a weapon . German LMG could see a tank at 20″ even if they failed their die roll, and did see the T34/85. The LMG fired on the TC who was up taking him out. That tank pulled back. Other two buttoned up and advanced. Distance they could see was 2.5/1.25 x 2 (target fired) or 5/2.5″. Still couldn’t see the Germans at all and stopped. The Germans fired their panzerfaust.killing another T34/85.
    The German platoon leader let the SU-122 pass by and then assaulted one from the rear destroying it with his grenade bundle, then went after the second one. A case of the rules allowing infantry to hunt AFV in the snowy dark of night. I always allowed Germans to know AFV was in front or to side due to fact the infantry could hear the tank engines, while a tanker is deaf as well as blind under those conditions. Soviet SMG infantry assaulted and took out another German platoon (5 men) in a church after the loss of their supporting armor, then left the building into a LMG kill zone. Nasty game for the Soviets who were thrown back with over half their troops and AFV gone. German losses were 5 men although they did have to retreat..

    • Pete S/ SP says:

      Sounds like a good game. Had similar experiences myself with Arc of Fire. Have you tried playing many scenarios with both rule systems to see how they compare?

      Cheers,

      Pete.

      • tankguy1 says:

        M557A1 my track 72-74. 2nd ACR in Bamberg, West Germany. Died in it every field exercise. We all died in every exercise.

        Rode in a M1, M1A1, can’t remember if I rode in a M1A2 or A2 SEP. Rode in a M114, M113, M551, M557, C130, UH-1, M3 half-track. Been in a T28 SPG Assault tank. You get to ride more being in the Army and in the Cav..

        Always interested in military and military history. Took European tour two years ago of Normandy to Amsterdamn. Good tour. Samurai tank museum, Normandy coast and all the invasion beaches, Loon battlefield, Pegasus bridge and Arnhem bridge, AFV meet. Samur’s operational Tiger II was there. Dunkirk.

        Found the bikes for a German infantry squad fascinating. FUSILIER BN in German infantry division had at least one company riding bikes.

        Hope to go back.

      • Pete S/ SP says:

        Battlefield tours are fantastic. I’ve only done one trip to Normandy but would love to go back.

        Having never had the privilige to serve my actual hands on experience in armour is rather limited hence why things like this are such good oppertunities.

        Bikes were much used in Western Europe around WW2 the good metalled road network meant they were pretty useful. That a German infantry division was still using them in 1944 however says a lot abouty the paltry state of German motorisation and ttheir fuel situation.

        Cheers,

        Pete.

      • tankguy1 says:

        No. None of their WW2 tanks had heaters. Neither did ours or the British. Lots of clothes were worn. Gloves a must as the metal would be cold enough your skin would freeze to it; and in the desert it would be hot enough to burn, or cook eggs on it. MTLB is a 1970 vehicle if I remember it right. Designed for use in the Arctic as an APC but also used to tow guns and 120mm mortars. Considering where it was intended to be used a heater would seem appropriate. To be honest I don’t remember most books on Soviet armor addressing heaters. WWII definitely not.

      • Pete S/ SP says:

        Thanks for the info.

        As it happens I’ve just bought some Cromwell to do in a white wash scheme for Operation Blackcock games.

        Cheers,

        Pete.

  5. Ann says:

    Hey, this is very neat and cool that you had the chance to crawl over and inside the tank. I got to see one at a museum once, when I was in the Army, but I never got to touch it, much less crawl inside. I bet those things got cold in the winter!

    • tankguy1 says:

      Been in one at Ft Knox. T34/85. A long time ago – 1978 maybe.

      Our first air conditioned tank was the M1A2 SEP2. Had to keep the electronics cool. Driver and other crew members of the original M1A2 had a vest with air blown through it for cooling. No idea if it was used in the field.

      On Wed, Feb 26, 2020, 9:40 AM SP’s Projects Blog wrote:

      > Ann commented: “Hey, this is very neat and cool that you had the chance to > crawl over and inside the tank. I got to see one at a museum once, when I > was in the Army, but I never got to touch it, much less crawl inside. I bet > those things got cold in the winter!” >

      • Ann says:

        That’s neat. I was an office clerk in an armored division at Fort Hood and only got to ride inside a moving M1A1 once. It was pretty hot inside and the main thing I remember was that that gunner smashed the top of his head into the roof when the driver decided to start showing off and went really fast and jumped a sand dune, then ran over what was apparently the only tree out to the horizon. (This was at Fort Irwin.)

        The few times I went out into the field it was in an M577, which I even got to drive a few times, though mostly I just sat around and did odd jobs.

      • Pete S/ SP says:

        That is cool- looked up Fort Irwin, not many trees there from what I could see on street view. There is a great book called Dragons at War about the training an armour unit got at the NTC in the 80s. From reading it you can see why the Gulf War in 91 was so one sided. A fascinating read.

        Cheers,

        Pete.

      • Ann says:

        I only got a taste of the NTC, but I heard all sorts of stories from people, who were there for actual combat training, versus the combat-lite training I received, though even so I have a few stories too, lol.

        For the ’80’s I do remember it being quite cutting-edge with all of the laser/MILES stuff, and the realism and cross-training. I remember a story a guy told me (he was either a corporal or a buck sergeant, I forget) where the referee came up to him and told him everyone was dead and he was in charge of a tank company now and apparently he had to do his best in that role for almost two days under the theory that in real warfare things like that could easily happen so why not train for it? That impressed me a lot when I heard it, and I can only hope that we are doing the same kind of training now.

      • Pete S/ SP says:

        I find military training fascinating- hence the phd really. Would love to be an observer at such a place. I did read a few years ago about a few civilian military vehivcle owners being invited to a taining exercise to bring along their own vehicle, a BRDM2 I think. Must have been great for them.

        Cheers,

        Pete.

  6. tankguy1 says:

    Cold they do. The Germans added a crew heater ro the Panther – the box on the rear deck over a vent on late models. Have ro look up the date. Otherwise, I don’t think any of the WW2 tank’s heaters or air conditioners. They became pretty hot in North Africa and Pacific.

    • Pete S/ SP says:

      Not even the Russian tanks? I know that their latest (although knowing the Russians it might not be purchased) MTLB varient has an improved heater for Arctic conditions.

      Cheers,

      Pete.

  7. tankguy1 says:

    I have the Dragoons at War book. Reading it you can also see just how unprepared we were in Europe to fight the Russians. Their tactics matched their training although their training left a lot to be desired at least they appeared to teach recon and rapid movement as well as mass whereas I was used to no camo on the vehicles (like camo nets or brush), taking up defense positions with no covered avenue to retreat, and equipment not being designed for the way we should have been fighting. Like the radio mast on the 577 having to assembled and disassembled by hand (with the radio off or mast disconnected because the voltage was pretty hot) before being able to move. They have telescoping radio masts now – or at least the Germans did. You needed to hide under trees while moving often and the long range radio masts weren’t designed for doing that.

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