Hobby Boss Soviet T-26 Light Infantry Tank Mod.1931 REVIEW

Winter Watch on the Karelian Isthmus.

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Hobby Boss Soviet T-26 Light Infantry Tank Mod.1931

Kit: HB82494 1:35 T-26 Light Infantry Tank Mod.1931.

Price: £23.99 available from Hannants UK

Decals: Two Options.

Notes: Multimedia kit with photo etched parts.

After Market Decals : Bison Decals 35208 Finnish Tank Mix #6 .

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History

The T-26 tank was a Soviet light infantry tank used during many conflicts of the 1930s as well as during World War II. It was a development of the British Vickers-Armstrong 6-Ton tank and is widely considered one of the most successful tank designs of the 1930s until its light armor became vulnerable to newer anti-tank guns. The model B of the 6-Ton tank was tested in 1933, this tank was found acceptable by the Finns and more were purchased.

Approximately thirty two Vickers-Armstrong Six-ton tanks used in the Winter War. The tanks were ordered unarmed from Vickers. The hulls were sent to Germany for fitting with optics. This took much longer than planned and that by the time the Winter War broke out, only ten were fully operational. These tanks were fitted with the Finnish-built 37mm At-guns (37 psvk 36) – they were also armed with MG and excellent 9mm Suomi SMG, which had a sufficient efficiency and accuracy at most combat ranges.

One Vickers company took part in the first Finnish tank battle at Honkaniemi in February 1940 – because of technical problems and inexperienced crews, the Vickers company suffered heavy losses – 7 tanks were destroyed and one was disabled. During the Winter War, an abundance of Soviet T-26 tanks and equipment were captured. These tanks were the very similar to the Vickers design. The surviving twenty-three were refitted with captured Soviet equipment. The Soviet 45mm (high-velocity antitank) guns and Degtyarev Tankoviy coaxial MG’s were removed from knocked out T-26 tanks and installed into the Vickers tanks. Over 2000 Soviet tanks were knocked out in the short war. The Vickers tanks were redesigned as the model T-26E. About 30 vehicles started the Continuation War in 1941, by 1945 only nineteen were still in service.

The Vickers 6-ton light tank was the most produced tank in Finland, more than 11,000 Armstrong-Vickers 6-ton light tanks tanks were produced during the Second world War. During the 1930s, the USSR developed a record number of 53 variants of the T-26, including different combat vehicles based on its chassis (flame-throwing tanks, combat engineer vehicles, remotely controlled tanks, self-propelled guns, artillery tractors and armoured carriers). Twenty-three of these were series-produced, others were experimental models.

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The T-26 together with the BT was the main tank of the Red Army‘s armored forces during the interwar period. Though nearly obsolete by the beginning of World War II, the T-26 was the most important tank of the Spanish Civil War and played a significant role during the Battle of Lake Khasan in 1938 as well as in the Winter War in 1939–40. The T-26 was the most numerous tank in the Red Army’s armored force during the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. The T-26 participated in combats with the Germans and their allies during the Battle of Moscow in winter 1941/1942, the Battle of Stalingrad and the Battle of the Caucasus in 1942–1943; some tank units of the Leningrad Front used their T-26s until 1944. The Soviet T-26 light tanks last saw use in August 1945, during the defeat of the Japanese Kwantung Army in Manchuria.

The T-26 was exported and used extensively in the armies of Spain, China and Turkey. In addition, captured T-26 light tanks were used by the Finnish, German, Romanian and Hungarian armies. It was reliable and simple to maintain, and its design was continually modernised between 1931 and 1941. However, no new models of the T-26 were developed after 1940.

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The T-26 during the Winter War

Soviet T-26 light tanks (mod. 1939 and mod. 1933), GAZ-M1 car and GAZ-AA trucks of the 7th Army began their advance on the Karelian Isthmus on the 2nd December 1939.

The following tank units, equipped mainly with the T-26, participated in the war with Finland: the 35th, the 39th and the 40th Light Tank Brigades, eight separate tank battalions (OTBs) of rifle divisions of the 8th and the 14th Armies. In the course of the war, the 29th Light Tank Brigade, tank units of the 28th Rifle Corps (four tank regiments, a dozen OTBs of rifle divisions, six separate tank companies of rifle regiments), and five OTBs included into the 9th Army arrived to the front.

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Light tank brigades in the Winter War were equipped a variety of T-26 tanks, including both twin and single-turreted tanks produced from 1931 to 1939. Separate tank battalions of rifle divisions had old tanks mainly, produced in 1931–1936. But some tank units were equipped with new T-26 mod. 1939. A total of 848 T-26s were in tank units of the Leningrad Military District by the beginning of the war. Together with the BT and T-28, the T-26 was part of the main strike force during the breakthrough of the Mannerheim Line, in which tanks shelled antitank teeth, Finnish pillboxes, machine-gun nests, and other fortifications.

The war experience forced change in the structure of Soviet tank units. T-37 and T-38 amphibious tanks proved to be useless under the conditions found in the northern theatre of operations. In accordance to the letter order of the General Military Council of the RKKA from 1 January 1940, each rifle division should have a tank battalion consisting of 54 T-26 tanks (including 15 flame-throwing tanks) and a rifle regiment should have a tank company of 17 T-26s. The organization of seven tank regiments (164 T-26s in each) for motor rifle and light motorized divisions began at that time also, but only two light motorized (motor cavalry) divisions were formed – the 24th and the 25th.

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Old, twin-turreted T-26 tanks were also used during the Winter War, mainly in OTBs of rifle divisions. These tanks did not participate in active combat operations but were suitable for protecting communication lines and used in signal service. Nevertheless, some T-26 mod. 1931 tanks were used in combat on the Karelian Isthmus. For instance, the 377th OTB of the 97th Rifle Division arrived at the front on 28 January 1940 with 31 T-26s (including 11 twin-turreted) and 6 KhT-26 flame-throwing tanks.

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Among tank units, equipped with the T-26, the actions of the 35th Light Tank Brigade (commander – Colonel V.N. Kashuba, from January 1940 – colonel F.G. Anikushkin) were the most noteworthy. The brigade had 136 T-26 tanks of different models, 10 KhT-26 flame-throwing tanks and 3 ST-26 engineer tanks on 30 November 1939. In the beginning, the brigade was involved into combat for Kiviniemi and later it was redeployed to Hottinen area where its tanks, suffering high losses and shortage of repair facilities, supported the attacks of the 123rd and the 138th Rifle Divisions till the end of December. On 17 December 1939, Colonel V.N. Kashuba was heavily wounded while raised infantrymen hitting the dirt during the attack of Finnish defense line. In January tankers of the 35th Brigade evacuated and repaired their T-26s, practiced in cooperation with artillery, engineer and rifle units (the last ones often retreated under enemy fire and left tanks alone), manufactured wooden fascines for trench crossing which were placed in special towed sleds. By the breakthrough of the main defensive positions of the Mannerheim Line, battalions of the brigade were attached to the 100th, the 113rd and the 123rd Rifle Divisions.

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On 26 February 1940, six Finnish Vickers 6-Ton tanks (armed with 37 mm 37 psvk 36 gun) from the 4th Tank Company (4./Pans.P) suddenly met with three T-26 mod. 1933 tanks from the 35th Light Tank Brigade (these were tanks of the 112th Battalion’s company commanders going on the reconnaissance) and vanguard of Soviet rifle battalion near Honkaniemi. As the result of the combat, one Finnish tank was damaged by hand grenades and evacuated by the Finns soon whereas five others were knocked out by T-26s, which suffered no losses in fact (the Finns claimed that three from dozens of Soviet tanks were hit in combat). The T-26 of Captain V.S. Arkhipov knocked out three Vickers tanks from these five, and was lightly damaged in combat (Finnish shell from Vickers No. 667 hit the main fuel tank but Soviet tank driver switched to the small fuel tank).

The 8th Army, which fought north of Lake Ladoga, had 125 T-26s in separate tank battalions (OTBs) of rifle divisions on 30 November 1939. Tank platoons suffered significant losses because of poor infantry reconnaissance of Finnish positions and ambushes, and absence of engineer support. For instance, on 19 December 1939 six T-26s with 50 infantrymen from the 75th Rifle Division were sent to attack the Finns, the tanks fell into a Finnish ambush on the road and were destroyed. The situation with arms cooperation became somewhat better toward the end of the war, nevertheless. But if the actions were planned well, tank attacks were often successful – for instance, the platoon of the 111th OTB broke through enemy defense and rescued the encircled infantry battalion without losses on 9 December 1939. The combat losses of the 8th Army included 65 T-26s during the war (56 tanks were lost to artillery fire and 9 – to landmines).

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The 9th Army (Repola, Kandalaksha and Suomussalmi area) received tank units, equipped with T-26s, in the course of the war only – for example, the 100th and the 97th OTBs had 47 T-26s each (including twin-turreted T-26 mod. 1931 armed with the 37 mm Hotchkiss gun for which there were no ammunition), the 302nd OTB was equipped with 7 twin-turreted T-26s. Despite inexperienced personnel and worn T-26s of old models tank battalions of the 9th Army fought very well. Thus, two tanks from the 100th OTB broke into Mjärkjärvi, pursuing retreating Finns, on 11 December 1939. The tank company from the 100th OTB together with infantry group crushed the Finnish ambush near Kuokojärvi on 8 December 1939, encircled and captured the town next day. The platoon from the 97th OTB destroyed Finnish firing-points between Alasenjärvi and Saunojärvi lakes, which helped Soviet rifle regiment to enter the last one.

The favorable experience of the 100th OTB which successfully performed independent missions cross-country was not taken into consideration, and many Soviet commanders believed till the end of the war that tanks could be used along the roads only. Poor reconnaissance and absence of artillery preparation often resulted in tragic circumstances – in such a way, the platoon of the 100th OTB lost five tanks to single Finnish anti-tank gun near Kursu (Lapland) on 14 December 1939, battalion executive officer was among 9 men killed in action. The combat losses of the 9th Army were 30 T-26s during the war.

In the polar Murmansk region, the 14th Army had the 411th OTB, equipped with 15 T-26 and 15 T-38 tanks from the Belorussian Military District, and the 349th OTB, equipped with 12 T-26 and 19 T-37/T-38 tanks from the Training Regiment of the Leningrad Armour Technical School. The narrow terrain only allowed the use of two or three T-26 tanks in co-operation with a rifle company or battalion. Tanks of 411th OTB attached to the 52nd Rifle Division were used the most actively. The 349th OTB concentrated in Petsamo on 13 December 1940 where it joined the 104th Rifle Division. The 14th Army lost three tanks to artillery fire, two to landmines, and two sank.

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At the Battle of Tolvajärvi and afterwards, the Finnish managed to capture or destroy nearly 12 T-26 tanks during the defeat of the 75th Rifle division. At the battles of Suomussalmi and Raate, the Soviet 44th Rifle Division was encircled and lost all armour of its 312th OTB, including 14 T-26s. Altogether, the Finns would capture almost 70 T-26 tanks of different models, including KhT-26 and KhT-130 flame-throwing tanks, during the Winter War, a number equal to the entire pre-war Finnish armoured force.

The combat and technical losses of the 7th Army in action on the Karelian Isthmus from 30 November 1939 to 13 March 1940 were 930 T-26 tanks of all variants, with 463 of these repaired during the war. All told, losses of T-26 tanks exceeded the number in inventory at the beginning of the war, but the number of T-26s at the front did not decrease due to reinforcements received from factory and tank workshops and new tank units arriving at the front. There were 1,331 T-26, BT and T-28 tanks at the Northwest Front in the beginning of February 1940, which increased to 1,740 tanks on 28 February 1940 when the breakthrough of the second Finnish line of defense began. For example, the 29th Light Tank Brigade (commander – brigade commander S. Krivoshein) with 256 T-26s was redeployed from Brest to the Karelian Isthmus in February 1940. The brigade played a key role in the assault of Vyborg on 12–13 March 1940.

In the end, the Winter War proved that the T-26 was obsolete and its design reserve was totally depleted. Finnish anti-tank guns easily penetrated T-26’s thin anti-bullet armour, and its cross-country ability in the rough terrain, covered with deep snow, was mediocre because of low-powered engine. It was decided to withdraw the outdated T-26 from production in 1940 and replace it with a completely new model, the T-50 light tank.

The Finns captured and evacuated nearly 70 T-26 tanks of different models (including KhT-26 and KhT-130 flame-throwing tanks) during the Winter War. Of these, 10 T-26 mod. 1931, 20 T-26 mod. 1933, 2 T-26 mod. 1938/1939, 2 KhT-26 and 4 KhT-130 were repaired at the Varkaus Tank Workshop and put into service until June 1941. The Finns also rearmed their Vickers 6-Ton tanks with the Soviet 45 mm 20K gun and the coaxial DT tank machine gun for ammunition standardization with captured T-26s. These modified Vickers tanks under designator T-26E were used by the Finnish Army during the Continuation War for infantry support.

During the offensive phase of the Continuation War in summer and autumn of 1941, the Finns captured more than 100 T-26s of different models (including several tanks with applique armour). Of these, 35 were fully repaired and sent to the Armoured Battalion, 21 were stored for later refurbishment, and the remainder were scrapped. There were 102 T-26s in the Finnish Army on 1 January 1942 (twin-turreted and flame-throwing tanks were used as training vehicles). The Armoured Battalion was reorganized into the Armoured Brigade (consisting of two battalions) on 10 February 1942.

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The Finns modernized their T-26s in 1942–1943. Eight T-26 mod. 1931 tanks received turrets from the single-turreted T-26 or BT tanks. Additionally, turrets from irreparable T-26s or BTs of different models were mounted on KhT-26s, KhT-130s and KhT-133s, which had flame-throwing equipment removed. A ball mount for the DT tank machine gun was installed on some of these tanks in the front armoured plate of the under turret box. In addition, some Finnish T-26s had a modified driver’s hatch opened to the left as well as a different kit of spare parts tools, and many tanks were equipped with a special rear beam for towing guns and damaged vehicles.

The T-26 remained the main tank of the Finnish Armoured Division throughout the war, although the German StuG III began to replace it in 1943. Peak numbers in Finnish service occurred during the summer of 1944, when the Finns kept up to 126 various T-26 tanks, including 22 rebuilt Vickers 6-Ton (T-26E), 2 T-26 mod. 1931, 1 KhT-26, 63 T-26 mod. 1933, 36 T-26 mod. 1938/1939, and 2 T-26T artillery tractors. About 75 T-26s and 19 T-26Es continued in service after the end of the World War II. Some of these tanks were kept as training vehicles until 1960, when they were finally phased out and replaced by newer British and Soviet tanks. In January 1960, the Finnish Army still had 21 T-26 tanks of various types in service, and the last Finnish T-26 was officially retired in 1961.

The Kit:

The kit consists of 9 sprues, which include 120 individual track links, 24 main armament shells, one transparent sprue for the lamp cover, the lower hull, two frets of PE, a decal sheet, a 12 page instruction manual and a full colour painting guide printed on glossy paper.

Construction:

The instructions consist of 14 steps which are well laid out and easy to follow. A jig for the track links is supplied, more about this later. Stages 1 and 2 concern themselves with the assembly of the sprocket and idler wheels and the road wheels and bogies. Correct alignment is critical at this stage to ensure that the tracks align themselves correctly to the wheel assembly.

Stages 3 to 5 are concerned with fitting the bogies and rod wheels. Stage 6 is where the fun begins, the construction of the hull. The hull assembly is straight-forward and the fit is very good. Seeing the T-26 come together begins to bring this interesting little tank to life.

Stage 7 involves the construction of the tracks. Each individual link has to be pressed firmly in place on the jig, prized off with a sharp knife and given a great deal of luck a decent length of track will result. In practice, this was rarely the case. This section of the build was quite frustrating. However, with patience and time, the tracks were eventually fitted to the wheels.

Stages 8 to 11 involve ‘dressing the hull with the exhaust assembly, engine grills in plastic and Photo Etch, crew access hatches and ammunition boxes.

Stages 12 to 14 concern the construction of the twin turrets. These are a combination of injection moulded plastic and PE and offer a choice of two 7.62mm machine guns, one in each turret,  or one 7.62mm situated in the port turret and a 37mm cannon in the starboard turret.

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Camouflage and Markings:

In keeping with the theme of this website, I purchased a set of 1/35 scale Bison Decals which offer a number of Finnish operated examples captured from the Soviets. The T-26 was airbrushed in Russian Tank Green from the White Ensign Colourcoats range and weathered using Windsor & Newton Burnt Umber and Yellow Ochre in combination and a separate wash of Ivory Black, the wash was thinned whilst on the T-26 using a flat brush and MIG Productions Thinners for Washes.

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Final Construction:

The T-26 was given a coat of Johnson’s Klear floor polish, allowed to dry for at least an hour before the decals were applied. The kit was then given one final coat of Burnt Umber and Yellow Ochre.

The snow effect was applied using white glue and stippled with a paint brush. Snow effect was then liberally applied using scenic snow flakes from Scenic Materials. All of the diorama materials were supplied by Spot-On Models and Games of Fleet Street Swindon.

Conclusion:

The 1931 model of the T-26 Light Tank makes for an interesting build. Its twin turrets are reminiscent of a time of innovation and invention. An enjoyable kit and recommended, but beware those single track-links!

Richard Reynolds.

 

REFERENCES

  • Baryatinskiy, Mikhail (2003). Legkiy tank T-26 (Light Tank      T-26). Modelist-Konstruktor. Special Issue No. 2 (in Russian). Moscow:      Modelist-Konstruktor. p. 64.       Subscription index in the Rospechat Catalogue 73474.
  • Andreas Larka www.andreaslarka.net (October 08th      2013); Light Tanks T-26 m 1931.
  •  Hughes-Wilson, John (2006). “Snow and Slaughter at      Suomussalmi” in Military History, 1 January 2006. ISSN      0889-7328.
  • Kantakoski, Pekka (1998). Punaiset panssarit – Puna-armeijan      panssarijoukot 1918–1945 (Red tanks – the Red Army’s armoured forces      1918–1945) (in Finnish). Hämeenlinna: Ilves-Paino Oy. p. 512. ISBN 951-98057-0-2.
  • Kolomiets, Maxim (2001). Tanki v Zimnei voine 1939–1940 (Tanks      during the Winter War 1939–1940). Frontline Illustration No. 3 (in      Russian). Moscow: Strategiya KM. p. 82. ISBN 978-5-699-20928-6.
  • Kolomiets, Maxim; Svirin Mikhail (2003). Legkiy tank T-26.      1931–1941 (The Light Tank T-26. 1931–1941). Frontline Illustration No. 1      (in Russian). Moscow: Strategiya KM. p. 79. ISBN 5-901266-01-3.
  • Kolomiets, Maxim (2007). T-26. Tyazhelaya sud’ba legkogo tanka      (T-26. The Heavy Fate of the Light Tank) (in Russian). Moscow: Yauza,      Strategiya KM, EKSMO. p. 128. ISBN 978-5-699-21871-4.
  • Muikku, Esa; Jukka Purhonen (1998). Suomalaiset Panssarivaunut      1918–1997 (The Finnish Armoured Vehicles 1918–1997) (in      Finnish/English). Jyväskylä: Apali. p. 208. ISBN 952-5026-09-4.
  • Svirin, Mikhail; Kolomiets Maxim (2000). Legkiy tank T-26 (Light      Tank T-26) ARMADA No. 20 (in Russian). Moscow: Exprint. p. 58. ISBN 5-94038-003-4.
  • Weeks, John (1975). Men Against Tanks: A History of Anti-Tank      Warfare. New York, United States of America: Mason Charter.      p. 189.
  • Zaloga, Steven J., James Grandsen (1984). Soviet Tanks and      Combat Vehicles of World War Two. London: Arms and Armour Press. ISBN      0-85368-606-8.

2 thoughts on “Hobby Boss Soviet T-26 Light Infantry Tank Mod.1931 REVIEW”

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