THE HUNGARIAN TURAN TANK AND ITS VARIATIONS by J. C. M. Probst From the January 1977 issue of AFV NEWS
Despite the little interest hitherto bestowed upon the Hungarian Turan tank by AFV historians, this tank served as the main battle tank of the Hungarian armored divisions in the latter part of WW2, and was used in quite considerable numbers. The Turan tanks and their assault howitzer derivation, the Zrinyi vehicles, bore the brunt of the fighting of Hungarian armored formations in the fatal years of 1944. SKODA LICENCE In 1939 Hungary looked for a medium tank suitable for licencing. In the Czech Army's 1938 trials for a medium tank there had been two contenders, the CKD (Praga) V-8-H and the Sloda S-III. Since the V-8-H was selected by the Czech Army as their ST-39 medium tank, the Skoda designers began working on other construction, the S-IIc, which they developed from their LT-35 light tank (Skoda S-IIa) for export applications. The S-IIc was offered to Hungary by Skoda, and the V-8-H was offered by CKD. In 1940 the designation S-IIc was changed to Skoda T-21, and an improved up-armored version, the T-22 was made. The T-22 was shown to a Hungarian commission in Pilsen in May of 1940, and it was demostrated in Hungary during June and July 1940. The V-8-H was evaluated also, but a licencing agreement was signed for the Skoda T-22 medium tank in August 1940.
Before production the Czech tank was modified on a number of points; a 3-man turret was substituted for the original 2-man turret, and a 260 HP V-8 engine designed by the Hungarian company Manfred Weisz was installed. Armament was of Hungarian design as well. This new tank was dubbed Turan.
THE 40mm 41M L/51 TANK GUN
A special tank-mounted version of the standard Hungarian 40mm 40M towed anti-tank gun (derived from the German Rheinmetall-Borsig 3,7cm Pak 35/36, which was used by Hungarian troops as the 37mm 36M anti-tank gun) was developed by MAVAG. In addition, in November 1940 a licence was obtained for the Skoda 40mm type A17 tank gun developed from the A7 gun used in the LT-38 tanks. It appears that the tank mount of this gun was mated to the Hungarian 40mm 40M gun and the result was the 40mm 41M tank gun of the Turan tank. This gun fired the same ammunition as the 40mm 37M Bofors anti-aircraft gun, which was also made by MAVAG. The Turan carried 101 rounds of ammunition. Machineguns were the 8mm 34/40M air-cooled belt-fed tank MG derived from the Czech Brno Z830 and made under licence by Danuvia. The first prototype of the Turan tank was finished by August 1941, and production began in October. The Hungarian service designation of the tank was 40M Turan I medium tank (kozepes harckocsi), which in 1944 was changed to 40M Turan 40 medium tank. The name Turan comes from Hungarian prehistoric legend, according to which the Turans were an ancient Asian people, from which the Hungarian people originated.
TURAN I PRODUCTION
An initial order of 190, later raised to 230 tanks, was placed by the Hungarian government in October 1941, and 70 tanks were built at the Manfred Weisz plant at Csepel, 50 at Ganz of Budapest, 70 at MVG of Gyor, and 40 at MAVAG of Budapest. Guns were produced at MAVAG Dios-Gyor and likewise most other components for these vehicles were produced by Hungarian industry. Engine production was distributed among Manfred Weisz, MVG and MAVAG.
The initial order in 1942 for 70 more tanks, of which 24 were eventually built by Ganz, 12 by MVG and 19 by MAVAG Budapest. With deliveries to the troops starting in the beginning of 1942, a grand total of 285 Turan tanks had been produced when war events brought production to a halt in 1944. Production of the Turan U in 1942 was a major effort for Hungarian industry and the tanks were used to equip the 1. and 2. Armored divisions, and 1. Cavalry division in 1942-43. However, the disaster of the 2. Hungarian Army on the Don in January 1943 (where no Turan tanks participated) suddenly made it clear to everbody that the Turan I was obsolete, compared to Soviet tanks, and that a gun calibre of 75mm was the minimum acceptable for a modern tank.
THE 75mm 41M L/25 TANK GUN
Development of a version of the Turan with a short 75mm gun had started in 1941. It was seen as a heavy support vehicle to supplement the medium Turan I main battle tank in armored divisions. The gun was developed by MAVAG from the Austro-Hungarian Bohler 76.5mm 18M field gun, and as the 75mm 41M tank gun it was produced by MAVAG Dios-Gyor. The gun had some armor-percing capability, but could not stop a T-34 at any reasonable distance. It carried 52 rounds of ammunition. The Hungarian service designation of the Turan version with this gun was 41M Turan II heavy tank (nehez harckocsi), which in 1944 was changed to 41M Turan 75 rovid (short) heavy tank. Even with its short gun the Turan II was suddenly the only usable tank available to Hungarian troops in 1943, and it still had to be produced in quantity. An order for Turan II tanks had been placed in 1942 and the first 3 Turan IIs were delivered to the troops on May 13-15, 1943.
TURAN II PRODUCTION
A total of 139 Turan II tanks were produced, mainly in 1943 and the beginning of 1944, against a total of 322, which should have been completed by 1945. Of these, 54 were produced by Manfred Weisz of Csepel, 36 by Canz of Budapest, and 39 by MVG of Gyor. In mid-August 1943 a total of 49 Turan II tanks had been delivered and in October another 66. They were allocated to the 2. Armored Division and the 1. Cavalry Division, and 24 went to the new Assault Artillery Battalions, which needed them as a stoppage until delivery of the Zrinyi vehicles. Later the 1. Armored Division received its share of Turan II tanks as well. Since no better vehicles were available the Turan II became the main battle tank of Hungarian troops in 1943 and it bore the brunt of the fighting in 1944.
THE 75mm 43M L/43 TANK GUN
In April 1943 it was decided that a modern tank needed a 75mm long anti-tank gun. MAVAG developed a special Hungarian version of the German 7.5cm KwK 40 tank gun which fired both standard German and special Hungarian ammunition. This gun, which alledgedly differed considerably from the German model, became the 75mm 43M tank gun. Plans were drawn up so all Turan tanks could be modernized on the following points from mid-1944 onwards: retrofit with a 75mm 43M gun; additonal armor to be fitted; skirt plates to be fitted; and work on a prrrototype vehicle was to be initiated. In the winter of 1943/44 the prototype was completed as the 43M Turan II heavy tank, and was called the 43M Turan 75 hasszu (long) heavy tank from early 1944. It mounted the 75mm 43M gun in a modified turret and had thicker armor, but was otherwise similar to Turan I and II. It carried 32 rounds of ammunition. Production of the Turan II or modification of existing Turan tanks was not initiated for political and military reasons, and Hungarian AFV production came to almost a complete halt following German occupation on March 19, 1944. The modification plan however, explains the continued Turan I production into 1944. The only Turan III modification actually undertaken was the fitting of skirt plates over the suspension and around the turrets of some Turan I and II in the second half of 1944. This gave the Turans an appearance very similar to the late German Pz. III tanks with skirt plates.
THE TURANS IN BATTLE
Hungarian tank regiments in 1944 had an equal number of Turan I and II tanks, even if the Turan I was obsolete. Some of the Turan I were equipped as command tanks. These had an R/4T radio set instead of the left side ammo boxes. They were called 40M Turan 40 pk. medium tanks. The command tanks were used by battalion and regimental commanders. All Turan tanks, including command models, had an R/5a radio set installed for communication. The Turan was first committed to battle on April 17, 1944, in Galizia, when the 2. Armored Division launched a counterattack from Solotwina toward Kolomea. This was in a wooded and mountainous region with many rivers, which were a great problem because of the spring melt-off at the time. With all this against them, the force was stopped by small Soviet T-34 forces without ever reaching Kolomea. The attack was called off on April 26, 1944. Thirty Turan I and II were lost. That was 26% of the initial tank strength of the division. From June to September 1944 the 1. Cavalry Division, with a battalion of Turan I and II tanks, fought in Eastern Poland and around Warsaw, and from Sept. 1944 onward both this division and the 1. and 2. Armored Divisions were engaged in heavy fighting in Hungary proper. Only a few German tanks were given to Hungarian units in 1944, and since the inferiority of the Turans compared with the Russian tanks was realized by Hungarian commanders, the Hungarian armored formations were committed to battle somewhat reluctantly in the latter part of 1944.
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 protoype 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.
THE "TAS" TANK AND TANK DESTROYER
As successor to the Turan and Zrinyi series it was decided in the spring of 1943 to develop a modern heavy tank and tank destroyer on the same chassis. These vehicles were named the Tas tank and tank destroyer after a Hungarian chieftain of the 9th century. Development of the vehicles should have been completed in 1945. The development of both vehicles was entrusted to the Manfred Weisz company, which built a mild steel prototype of the tank and started to build the tank destroyer prototype, when the war prevented further work. The tank prototype was completely destroyed by an American bombing raid on July 27, 1944. The Tas chassis had 6 roadwheels on semi-eliptical springs, a drive wheel at front and idler at rear. It used twin 260 HP Turan engines each with a dry coupling. The road wheels were suspended in pairs. As armament for the Tas the 75mm KwK 42 L/70 of the German Panther was foreseen, and negotiations were initiated with Germany for the purchase of this gun, complete with mount. For the Tas tank destroyer, which was similar in layout to the German Jagdpanther, the German 88mm KwK 36 L/56 gun of the Tiger was planned.