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