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.

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8 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.

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