Panzerkampfwagen 35(t)

Development
Description
German Changes
Combat
Eastern Front
Stats

The Panzerkampfwagen 35(t) began life as the Czechoslovak LT-35, but was taken over by the German army and was used with some success in Poland and France, before being phased out in the face of superior Soviet armour during 1942. It survived for a little longer in the armies of Germany's allies on the Eastern Front, and some were still in use during the Stalingrad campaign. Although it is normally described as a light tank, the PzKpfw 35(t) was as well armed and armoured as the earlier versions of the German Panzer III and Panzer IV, and in 1939-40 would be better seen as a medium tank.

Development

The LT-35 emerged from a contest between the two main Czechoslovak arms firms, Skoda and CKD. CKD had won the first round of this contest and in 1933 received an order for fifty LT vz.34 light tanks. This had been developed as the private venture P-II, carried a 3.7cm tank gun and had 15mm of armour.

After receiving the LT-34 the Czech army issued specifications for light and medium tanks. CKD produced the P-II-a and Skoda the S-II-a. After trials in the summer of 1935 the Skoda design was judged to be the winner, and in October 1935 an order was placed for 160 tanks, with the designation LT vz.35. A further twelve tanks were ordered in May 1936 and 106 in June 1936.

Before the trials Skoda and CKD had agreed to split production of whichever vehicle won. As a result production of the LT-35 was split between the two, with Skoda delivering its tanks between December 1936 and April 1938 and CKD delivering all of its tanks during 1937.

Description

The PzKpfw 35(t) was a conventional looking tank. The engine and drive wheels were both at the rear, freeing up space within the fighting compartment. The turret was just forward of the centre of the tank. The front and side armour was vertical, while the turret sides were ever so slightly sloped. The main gun was mounted centrally, with the turret machine gun to the right. The turret was partly circular, with a flat front and rear-extension. The front idler wheel was mounted higher than the rear drive wheel, so the tank appeared to gain in height towards the front.

The PzKpfw 35(t) had sixteen road wheels per side, each with a rubber tyre. The wheels were mounted side by side, so eight were visible from the side. They were carried on two central frames, each of which was attached to the tank via a pair of parallel leaf springs. Two pairs of wheels were linked by a horizontal bar, to form a four-wheel bogie. Two bogies were attached to each central frame, one at the front and one at the rear. There was also one extra pair of wheels mounted between the front road wheel and the main idler, used to set the tension in the tracks. There were four small return rollers on the upper part of the track. The track itself had 107 links and was 27.2cm wide.

The driver sat at the front right, with the radio operator at the front left. The driver had a visor with 50mm of bulletproof glass. The radio operator had a 7.9mm machine gun that he could fire over open sights or via a telescope in his visor. The gun could also be fixed and fired remotely by wires.

The LT-35 was armed with a 3.7cm vz.34 gun, based on the Skoda A3 37mm anti tank gun. The two 7.92mm machine guns (one in the front of the fuselage, one coaxial gun in the turret) were designed by Ceska Zbrojovka of Brno. The same belt-felt air-cooled gun was licensed to BSA in Birmingham, where it was developed into the BESA machine gun, using in most British tanks of the Second World War. The 3.7cm gun has a semi-automatic breach mechanism and could fire 15rpm. It could penetrate 45mm of contemporary vertical armour at 500 meters and 25mm sloped at thirty degrees. In Czech service the tank had a telegraphic radio set.

The LT-35 had 25mm frontal armour and 15mm side armour, better than on the early versions of either the Panzer III or Panzer IV.

In Czech service the LT-35 had a crew of three, with the driver and radio operator/ gunner sitting in the front of the fuselage and the commander/ gunner in the turret.

For a machine designed in the late 1930s the LT-35 was a good but somewhat over-complex tank, with a powerful main gun and better than average armour. When it first entered service with the Czech army the LT-35 suffered from a number of reliability problems. These dented its reputation and led to the development of the LT-38 (PzKpfw 38(t) in German service), which was eventually produced in much larger numbers. Once these problems had been sorted out the LT-35/ PzKpfw 35(t) became popular with its users but it had limited potential for future development, and wasn't produced after the German occupation of Czechoslovakia.

German Changes

In German service room was found in the turret for a fourth crewman, a loader. This required a modification of the ammunition stowage. The Germans also added a Fu5 voice radio and intercom, a Notek light and a Bosch magneto.

A small number of tanks were converted into the Panzerbefehlswagen 35(t), with extra radios and a collapsible frame aerial. These command tanks saw service during the Polish campaign of 1939.

Combat

At the start of the Polish campaign 164 PzKpfw 35(t)s had been issued to the field army. This made it the fourth most numerous tank in German service, after the Panzer II, Panzer I and early model Panzer IV.

By September 1939 both the 11th Panzer Regiment and 65th Panzer Detachment were equipped with the PzKpfw 35(t), forming the 1st Leichte Division. The division also ahd a smaller number of Panzer IIs and their heavy companies used the Panzer IV.

The 1st Leichte Division fought in the Polish campaign. Only seven of its PzKpfw 35(t)s were lost to Polish action, and of those tanks only one was declared a total loss. However a total of 77 tanks were reported as lost to all causes during the campaign, with seventy of these being mechanical problems that couldn't be repaired in the field, so in the course of the short campaign the division had lost half of its vehicles.

Early in 1940 about fifty of the PzKpfw 35(t)s were withdrawn from the inventory, leaving the Panzer troops with 143 on the inventory on 1 May 1940. Many of these tanks were later repaired, and as late as June 1941 there were still 170 on the German inventory.

On 12 September 1939 the 1st Leichte Division was renamed as the 6th Panzer Division. On 10 May the division had 118 PzKpfw 35(t)s, fourteen PzBef 35(t)s, 60 Panzer IIs and thirty one Panzer IVs. It was part of XLI Corps, in von Kleist's Army Group A. The division crossed the Luxembourg border on 12 May and on 15 May crossed the River Meuse. From the 16th it took part in the exploitation of the gap in the French line, reaching the River Oise, then Guise and Cambrai before reaching Cassel on 29 May.

Forty five PzKpfw 35(t)s were lost during May 1940 and another seventeen in June. The division had thus lost a third of its tanks in a single month of campaigning. As with the tanks withdrawn earlier in the year most of these tanks were later repaired and returned to service. In return 35 replacement tanks were issued on 3 June.

Early June XLI Panzer Corps, which contained the 6th Division, joined Panzergruppe Guderian. The division moved south to cross the Aisne and attack the French on the southern Marne river. The division's campaign ended with the capture of Fort Epinal on the Rosel River in mid June.

Eastern Front

In June 1941 the 6th Panzer Division still contained the 11th Panzer Regiment, equipped with the PzKpfw 35(t). It was part of Panzer Group 4, Army Group North, which had the task of capturing Leningrad. At the start of the invasion of the Soviet Union the division crossed the border near Telsit and advanced into the north of Latvia. By 14 July it had reached Panetschje on the Luga River, and for the rest of July the division advanced towards Leningrad.

On 10 September 1941 the division still had 102 operational Pz.35(t)s, although of the 55 tanks lost during the campaign so far only eight were judged to be repairable. The attack on Leningrad began on 9 September, but 6th Panzer only stopped with it until 2 October. In a sign of the confusion that marked the later stages of the German campaign in 1941 the division was withdrawn from the Leningrad front on 2 October and ordered south to join the drive on Moscow.

By 31 October the division only had 34 Pz 35(t)s operational. As time went on the supply of spare parts ran out. As the tank was no longer being produced, no more spares were being built and the only way to repair damaged tanks was to take parts from other Pz 35(t)s. This inevitably meant that they would have to be phased out and the 6th Panzer had its Pz.35(t)s replaced early in 1942.

The PzKpfw 35(t) also served with the Romanian 1st Royal Armoured Division, the Slovak Fast Division and the Bulgarian army. A number of them were still in use with these German allies during the Stalingrad campaign, by which time they were almost entirely obsolete, with thin armour and guns that were unable to threaten the Soviet T-34.

Names
Panzerkampfwagen 35(t)
S-IIa
T-11

Stats
Production: 424 from 1935 to 1938, 219 taken by Germany
Hull Length: 4.9m/ 16.07ft
Hull Width: 2.1m/ 6.89ft
Height: 2.35m/ 7.68ft
Crew: 4
Weight: 10.5 tons
Engine: Skoda T11 (120hp)
Max Speed: 35km/ hr (21.7mph)
Max Range: 190km/ 118 miles
Armament: One 3.7cm KwK34(t) L/40, two 7.92mm MG37(t) machine guns

Armour



Armour

Front

Side

Rear

Top/ Bottom

Turret

25mm

15mm

15mm

8mm

Superstructure

25mm

16mm

15mm

8mm

Hull

25mm

16mm

16mm

8mm

Gun mantlet

25mm

 

 

 

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (23 July 2013), Panzerkampfwagen 35(t) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_panzerkampfwagen_35t.html

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