Friday, February 20, 2015

The Zrinyi II 40/43M L20.5

The Zrinyi II 40/43M L20.5 had a 105 mm Howitzer. 60 were built by Weiss Manfred Factory and probably 6 more by Ganz Mavag. Several were available during the Battle for Budapest unfortunately not enough. The last one was blown up by its crew (24th. AG Batt.) in early May in Bratislava.

Following the disaster of the 2. Hungarian Army on the Don in January 1943 and under influence of the German success with assault guns on the Eastern Front, the Hungarians decided in April 1943 to build assault artillery vehicles and gave that task very high priority. Two versions were planned to equip the assault artillery battalions of the new assault artillery troops: Zrinyi I with a long 76mm anti-tank gun, and Zrinyi II with a l05mm howitzer. A total of 8 assault artillery battalions were planned, each with 30 vehicles, to be used as independent army or corps troops for the support of infantry divisions.

The 105 mm 40/43M L/20.5 Howitzer
In December 1942 the Manfred Weisz company had already finished a prototype Zrinyi II with a 105mm 40/43M howitzer made by MAVAG Dios-Gyor. This howitzer was a modified version of the MAVAG developed 105mm 40M towed field howitzer, 236 of which were built during the war. The maximum range of this weapon was 10.4km. The Zrinyi II used the chassis of the Turan tank, which had been widened by .45m to make room for the weapon. The engine was identical to the Turan. The Zrinyi II prototype was taken to the artillery training range at Hajmasker in Western Hungary and tested between Dec. 12/42 and Jan. 28/43. As a result, this vehicle was accepted for production and designated 43M Zrinyi II assault howitzer (rohamtarack), later to be changed to 43M Zrinyi 105 assault howitzer. The Zrinyi I used the same chassis and engine, but mounted the MAVAG Diosgyor developed 75mm 43M L/43 anti-tank gun of the Turan III tank. Development was initiated in May 1943, but a prototype was not completed until the winter of 1943/44 and production was planned for June 1944 at Manfred Weisz and Ganz. Service designation of the vehicle was 44M Zrinyi I assault gun (rohamagyu). The name Zrinyi comes from Nikolaus Graf Zrinyi, a Hungarian hero who fought the Turks, and was killed in the battle of Szigetvar in 1566.

Zrinyi II Production
As a consequence of the decision of April 1943 a contract was immediately placed at Manfred Weisz for 40 Zrinyi vehicles. The number was later raised to 104 vehicles to be built by Manfed Weisz and Ganz (54 each in 1943, and 50 in 1944). To save time, training of the first assault artillery troops began in July 1943 at Hajmasker using 10 Turan II and 10 Toldi IIA light tanks, but in August 1943 the first 5 Zrinyi IIs arrived. (1. Assault Artillery Bn.). A total of 60 Zrinyi II vehicles were completed by Manfred Weisz when production stopped in July 1944, and it is possible, but not confirmed, that Ganz completed a further 6 in August and Sept/1944. These vehicles were used to equip the 1. and 10. Assault Artillery Bn., whereas other Hungarian assault artillery bns were equipped with the German StuG. III and Hetzers. Production of the Zrinyi I was never initiated, and the single prototype was used for trials only. Thus in Nov. 1944 it underwent trials with six 152mm rocket launchers mounted, at Hajmasker.

The Zrinyi II in Battle
The Zrinyi II went to war with the 1. Assault Artillery Bn. in April 1944 in Galizia, and its first recorded use was July 14, 1944 at Ottynia, eastern Galizia. The vehicles fared well during the subsequent fighting, but they lacked a real anti-tank capacity. In Sept./44 the Zrinyi IIs of the 10. Assault Artillery Bn. took part in the battle of Torda on Hungary`s southern border, and later, Zrinyi vehicles saw action at various places in Hungary proper. Zrinyi II can be considered the most successful Hungarian AFV of WW2. Zrinyi II vehicles were fitted with radios (probably R/5a type) and in the latter part of 1944 most vehicles were fitted with German type skirt plates. It carried 52 rounds of ammunition. The war production plan for 1944/45 was for 240 Zrinyi vehicles.

By J.C.M. Probst
From the January 1977 issue of AFV NEWS

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating article about an Axis AFV that I was unaware of.