Saturday, 26 December 2015

Flames of War: Polish Armoured Forces 1. TKS's, 7TP's (jw&dw) & FT-17's

One of the commonly held views concerning the Polish army of 1939 is that they had no tanks (or at least very few), this wasn't quite the case, and whilst the country was heavily outnumbered by Nazi Germany with regards to tanks and absolutely and utterly swamped by the disparity of the number of tanks that the Soviet Union had, Poland did in fact have a tank force of which at least a couple of hundred of them were some of the best tanks in the world at the time.

The least of them however were the TK's, TK3's and TKS's which were tankettes. Very little armour and typically only armed with a Hotchkiss Heavy Machine Gun, by 1938 the Poles had worked out that they could mount a 20mm Autocannon in the hull and these weapons were more than capable of penetrating the armour of almost any tank that the Nazis could field. Sadly by September 1939 the refits hadn't been completed BUT the ones that had been refitted gave a surprisingly good account of themselves.

3 full platoons of TKS's with a variety of armaments

A TKS armed with a 20mm Autocannon... a very dangerous cockroach as they were nicknamed by the Nazi's

A TKS equipped with only a Hotchkiss Heavy Machine Gun...

One particular person who experienced a considerable degree of success was Cadet Roman Edmund Orlik who was a platoon leader in the reconnaissance company of the Wielkopolska Cavalry Brigade. In a series of ambushes he destroyed a total of 13 Nazi tanks also killing a member of the Prussian Military aristocracy (Prince Victor Albrecht von Ratibor IV)

Cadet Roman Orlik in his 20mm Autocannon armed TKS

The best of the armoured vehicles that the Poles had at their disposal was a redesign of the Vickers E 6 ton tank which was developed by Vickers in the United Kingdom and sold all around the world. On receipt of the Vickers E's that Poland had ordered there were numerous serious faults found with the design as well as the build quality and so Poland undertook a process of redeveloping and refining the design.

They came up with the 7TP (7 Ton Polish tank) which mounted the excellent Bofors 37mm Anti Tank Gun which the Poles were manufacturing under license as well as an excellent engine and a vehicle that demonstrated good reliability over extended operations. The armour was comparable to other similar vehicles of the time... and of course the European central powers had not yet had the opportunity to find out the fault with riveted armour plates.

In combat the two tank battalions that were equipped with the 7TP jw. (1st and 2nd Light Tank Battalions) gave a good account of themselves but were ultimately completely destroyed by overwhelming odds and unfavourable conditions...

Two complete platoons of 7TP jw's with the company commander at the back

The company commander for the 7TP jw platoons.

A platoon commanders vehicle for the 7TP jw platoons

At the time that Poland was buying the Vickers E 6 ton tank from Great Britain it was common practise to have tanks armed solely with machine guns in order to support infantry attacks. This policy was still being followed in Poland when the 7TP was being developed from the Vickers E.

It became apparent to Polish military thinkers however that the single turret gun armed tanks would become the mainstay of any military force in the field and as a result of this decision the twin turreted 7TP tanks that had already rolled off of the production line were kept in the strategic reserve ultimately finding their way into the Warsaw Defence Force.

A complete platoon of 7TP dw's

The Platoon Commanders Vehicle for the 7TP dw platoon.

Poland also had stocks of World War 1 vintage tanks that were pressed into service at the start of the war as well. This wasnt as unusual as it sounds however with both Germany, France, the U.K and the Soviet Union all deploying vintage vehicles into the front line as and when it became necessary.

Following Polands defeat of the Soviet Union in 1921 they were still in possession of a great number of Renault FT-17 tanks that had been provided to Poland by France. These were maintained through the twenties and thirties and owing to the lack of available armoured vehicles in Poland and the difficulty of getting France to complete delivery of a large number of Renault R-35 tanks in time for the outbreak of war the Polish high command decided to equip three tank battalions with the aged FT-17's. These were the 111th, 112th and 113th Light Tank Company's, again held with the strategic reserve. The 111th abandoned almost all of their tanks due to lack of fuel after their train transport was destroyed by German aircraft on the way to their assembly area whilst the 112th and 113th Light Tank Companys were totally destroyed in the defence of the Fortress and Town of Brest Litovsk on the Bug river. They did not give a particularly good account of themselves but did manage to block the entrance to the fortress with their hulls...

Two complete platoons of Renault FT-17's in Polish service

A platoon of Renault FT-17 tanks showing the variety of armament which the tanks in a platoon would carry

A close up look at a single Renault FT-17 tank armed with a Hotchkiss Heavy Machine Gun

So there you have it. In the near future I will do a blog post looking at the Renault R-35's, the Hotchkiss H-39's and the Vickers E tanks that Poland also had but this post shows the majority of the armoured forces that Poland had available to it...


  1. Hi!. I've now had the pleasure of looking through all your Poland 1939 posts, and I salute your efforts. You're obviously a rather better modeller than me - the armoured train is particularly impressive.

    Am I right in assuming that the C2P tractors you have are the ones from Quality Castings? I think these are the only 15mm models of these vehicles available. I hope to convert one of these into a TKS-D with 37mm gun at some point.

  2. Hey Keith.
    Your bang on the money. They are indeed Quality Castings ones. The tracks are a little too high but whats six inches between friends right? LOL. I got myself 6 of them so that I could also do a pair of 10th BK conversions for a TKS-D and a TKD BUT, and here is the problem; what I didn't realise is that the arrangement of the internal stuff on the C2P is the mirror image of where the stuff is in the TKS-D so you can either model a mirror image (which I have serious doubts as to whether anybody would even notice) OR you can use the track arrangements and build the chassis out of plastic card and stuff... I haven't decided which route Im going to go for yet but knowing myself well I will probably go for the lazy option! :D Glad you like the stuff though. Thanks for the compliments.