History of the Turán Medium and Heavy Tanks in World War II

History of the Turán Medium and Heavy Tanks in World War II

The Hungarian Army made serious efforts to build up an independent, national war industry, which able to supply the Army with modern armaments and equipment during the war.

Among the modern weaponry, the armoured vehicles were the top priority beside the aircrafts for the Hungarian chief of staff. The current war proved that the air force and the mechanised/armoured troops are the decisive tools of winning the war.
In 1939, the Hungarians had the FIAT Ansaldo tankettes and the 38M Toldi light tanks under production. However, neither armoured vehicles were up to the demands of this war. The war winning armoured vehicles of that time was the medium or heavy tanks. Of course, when the decision was made, that time the medium tanks were armed with 40-50mm guns and the heavy ones with 75mm.
Since the WWII broken up, it was clear that Hungary was unable to purchase updated weaponry from abroad. Germany concentrated on its own demands as prepared the large scale war and used the possibility of selling weapons for blackmailing his allies. The Italians and the neutral states simply could not produce modern weapons for Hungary.  The military carefully investigated available options.  The only solution seemed to be the former Czechoslovakian Skoda Company; with the permission of the Germans, a list of licences for sale was made available to Hungary in late 1939. The Hungarians had had good experiences with Czech military industry products during the k. und k. era.
On the list of available licences was the T-21 tank, which was seen as a possible solution as a medium tank for the Hungarian military. The upgraded, modified version of the T-21 was accepted by the Hungarian Army and the production is started.

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The Defence Industry in Hungary

Following the end of World War I, Hungarian military industry was in bad shape. The lost resources of her territories ceded to other nations, manpower losses caused by the war, and the limitations imposed by the Treaty of Trianon all played their part in this situation. During the late 1920s and early 1930s, the economic situation of the country began to improve. Hungary’s economy was essentially based on agriculture, and those industries which existed did so mainly to provide tools and equipment meant for use in agriculture.
However, a small number of famous heavy industrial companies which originated in the old k. und k. period played a very important role in the military industry. From the 1930s, the Manfred Weiss, FÉG, Diósgyőri State Weapon Factory, Ganz, MÁVAG, Magyar Vagon és Gépgyár (Rába), GAMMA, and Danuvia companies provided the backbone to the Hungarian military industry. Due to financial constraints, these companies initially focused on repairs and modifications to existing equipment, but later worked on production under license and independent developments.
The Manfred Weiss, Ganz, MAVAG, and Magyar Vagon és Gépgyár (Rába) factories were able to preserve and later expand their skills and capacities to produce armour for the Hungarian Army. Of course, in the early 1930s any work and development carried out had to be done in secret.

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Design and production of the Turán tank family

40M Turán Medium Tank

At the end of the 1930s it became obvious that the tankettes and light tanks used by the Hungarian Army were unsuitable as battle tanks. The question remained of where the Hungarians could purchase suitable medium or heavy tanks to equip the planned tank divisions. At that time Sweden and Italy had no suitable models, and the Germans rejected Hungarian proposals to purchase production licences.
In 1939, the MÁVAG and Ganz factories negotiated with Landsverk to purchase the licence to build the heavy LAGO tank (15 t, 47mm gun), but the negotiations were unsuccessful. The Italians also offered their M11/39 medium tanks.
The only solution seemed to be the former Czechoslovakian Skoda Company; a list of licences for sale was made available to Hungary in late 1939. The Hungarians had had good experiences with Czech military industry products during the k. und k. era.
Furthermore, in 1939 two Czech LT-35 tanks had been captured by Hungarian troops and handed over to the HTI for testing, with positive results. On the list of available licences was the T-21 tank, which was seen as a possible solution as a medium tank for the Hungarian military.
The T-21 tank was armed with a new 47mm Skoda A11 gun, had 16-30mm armour and a powerful 240HP eight-cylinder engine. It gave the 16,5 tons vehicle the speed of 50km/h on the road. The layout of the four man crew was standard; driver, radio operator, gunner and commander. The chassis was same design as the Lt vz. 35, it was only more robust due to the greater weight. The Skoda kept the pneumatic steering and its planetary gear-box too.  

An official offer came from the Skoda Factory to the Hungarian Ministry of Defence on October 1939. The Technical Director of Skoda Factory, dr. Vacláv Fiegl handed over the list of the licenses approved by the Germans for sale, among them, the documentation of the T-21 tank to the Hungarian Military Technical Institute (HTI). During the negotiation between the HTI and Skoda Factory, they agreed on a test trial of the T-21 tank in Hungary in early 1940. Theoretically the Hungarians could choose between the Swedish, Italian and Czech medium tanks. However, the Italian tanks were inferior to the Czech design, the developing war made Sweden a distant player, and the Skoda Factory was well known and trusted since the Monarchy.


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The Weis Manfred Factory on behalf of the other factories involved in the project (Magyar Waggon, Ganz and MÁVAG Factories) and the HTI visited the Skoda Factory in the spring of 1940 to discuss the licence production of the T-21. In the same time a military delegation also visited Pilsen led by Colonel Emanuel Czaykowski, accompanied with János Korbuly the chief engineer of the WM Factory. The Skoda offered the technical documentation of the T-21 tank with the licence rights to the Hungarians for 1.5 million Pengő, an enormous amount of money. Finally the Skoda agreed on the next terms and conditions of the licences agreement of the T-21/Turán tank as 1.184.200 Pengő for unlimited internal production in summer of 1940.  
After a three weeks long complex test trials in Hajmáskér, May 1940, the Hungarians requested some modifications:
- increasing the armour to 35mm,
- replacing the command cupola by a fixed one,
- replacing the electrical equipment with Bosch products,
- mounting a 40mm gun instead of 47mm.
The Turán’s hull was made in riveted and bolted version for the Turán family. The length of the body, the driven chain elements, the power transmission systems, the controls and the suspension, as well as the production technology remained the same for the Turán tank family.
The well-proven 43M rotatable periscope was installed on the turret and on the main body.
The two batteries, the air filter and the engine oil tank have been in the main compartment. The power plant of the tank was a 260 horsepower 4-stroke, water-cooled, 8-cylinder Turán petrol engine with could move the 18,7-19,2 tons (with skirt plates) vehicle at a maximum speed of 43 km/h.
The vehicle’s transmission system worked with compressed air, with 6 forward and 6 reverse gears and equipped with steering wheel brakes. Driving the vehicle was simple: the driver pulled the lever in the direction of rotation by breaking the side chain.
When the lever was fully pulled, the Turán could turn around on the spot. The vehicle was able to move along a 45 ° slope in good terrain with good lateral stability.  Its maximum speed reached 47 km/h (on a slight slope on concrete). The braking distance was then 200-250 m.

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The belly of the armour hull was horizontal, at the end, a 45° armoured steel plate joined to it. There was a 40 ° sloping flange at the front and a 60 ° lower front panel closed the hull, which was also equipped with 1-1 drawbar hooks. An emergency exit was also found on the belly of the armoured hull where the crew could escape quickly from the vehicle. 
At the height of the upper edge of the hull, mudguards were mounted above the chassis, which slid backwards at 3°. The headlamps that had been blinded due to the requirements of the combat experiences were shielded from the 1944s and protected by a slim metal panel. The fire extinguisher positioned behind the left headlamp and the right side the loudspeaker of the horn was attached.
On the inside of the front mudguards there were additional tools: on the left wire cutter and a special tool for replacing the track on the right a hammer for bolt pinching. In front of the headlamps, 2-2 thick wooden blocks for the jacks in case of lifting the vehicle, served as ground leveller and balance for weight distribution.
The armour hull joined by the superstructure, the side walls of which were tilted 80° inwards. The structure accommodated further attached tools; to the left, a field shovel, jimmy, pick axe, and a large hammer for mud shredding, a tow cable from the steel to the right. These side armour plates have an angle of 60 ° with the front armour plates and an angle of 30 ° with the side panels fitted to them. After the fighting compartment, the side walls continued with a small fracture toward the tail armour. In the lower part of the engine compartment, there is a bullet-proof grille that can be locked from inside with 4-4 shuttering louvers. There was also a similarly opening hatch on the back side of the armour body under the mufflers. Side panels parallel to the sides of the armour are raised at an angle of 4°.

From the front, a 15° sloping front panel was attached to the bottom flange of the hull. On the sloping front panel there is a circular mounting window for maintenance purposes and there are two iron straps that clamp the replacement track parts. The drivers’ observation panel is located on the frontal armour plate, right to the machine gunner position.
The turret was hexagonal shaped, with fixed – non movable commander cupola, its accommodate the main armament, the gun and the coaxial machine gun and the three men out of the five crew; gun layer, loader and commander. The driver and radioman /machine gunner seated in the frontal space of the body.
The 5 man crew had small arms for self-protection; each crew member had a 9mm service pistol, plus three sub-machineguns (SMG), eight hand grenades and one flare pistol belonged to the weaponary.

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The selected primary weapon of the 40M Turán medium tank was the 40mm gun instead of the original Czech 47mm. The reason for reducing the gun calibre was that the new Hungarian 40mm gun had a muzzle velocity of 820 m/s instead of 590 m/s for the 47mm gun. It also fired the 36M 40mm shell, which was used for the Bofors. The modification of the gun was ordered from Skoda Factory too. The licence right of this 40mm tank gun was purchased by the HTI , it was called 40mm 41M tank gun.
The secondary weapons of the tank were two Hungarian designed and made 34/40AM 8mm Gebauer machine-guns. One was a coaxial machine gun built next to the main gun, the other situated next to the driver position operated by the radioman.
The licence was sold to Hungary in July 1940. Hungary agreed to manufacture the Turán tanks only for her own use and not for export. The Turán program was farmed out to four companies: Manfred Weiss, MÁVAG, Ganz and Győri Magyar Wagon és Gépgyár. The plan was to produce 230 medium 40M Turán tanks for the two divisions that were being created.
The 40M Turán was produced in two versions, a command version with one R-5 and two R-4 radios, and the combat version with just one R-5 and one R-4 radio. Of course the command version had reduced ammunition capacity. The organisation of the joint manufacturing program was very complicated and very slow. During the initial stages of mass production, about 200 different modifications were done to the original plans because the original prototype was found to be flawed. The first prototype Turán was finished in June 1941. During testing of the iron prototype new problems arose: the engine overheated, and additional problems were found with the gearbox and chassis. A new radiator was designed by Manfred Weiss which overcame the problems.

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Another problem was the armour plating. Until the manufacturing of the Turán tanks the Hungarian steel mills had manufactured armour plating only up to a thickness of 13mm. Besides, Hungary had problems with obtaining certain additives, like vanadium and nickel. Before the war Hungary was unable to collect enough vanadium, nickel and other metals important for war industry. The Steel Mill in Diósgyőr developed a new type MESTER plate and Magyar Wagon és Gépgyár also developed the AJAX plate; which did not contain any nickel. However its disadvantage was that below 20mm was difficult to make in thickness. Magyar Wagon és Gépgyár developed an improved AJAX plate, which was comparable to Mester plate, but could have been manufactured in any thickness. Both plates were resistant to penetration, but were somewhat brittle. The frontal armour was increased to 50mm, but because of the lack of proper plates this was achieved by combining a 25mm and 35mm plate.
Because of all these problems, the first vehicles did not leave the factories until the summer of 1942.  A combination of badly-trained drivers, insufficient maintenance and the short training program created a lot of problems for this first Turán series.
The R5/a and R-4 type radios were installed in the vehicle. The crew wore 39M crash helmet with a well-insulated headset in the vehicle. They could talk to each other on a loudspeaker microphone. The commander directed the vehicle’s main armament by commands or due to the combat noise with conventional signals.
The crew of a Turán tank consisted of five men:
1. The commander: whose task was to lead the armoured vehicle, keep up the communications and order and control the fire fight of the tank. Usually he led the Turán from his commander cupola with open hatch – just like the German AFV commanders. In this case he could navigate better, but was more vulnerable to the enemy fire.
2. The gun layer: whose task was to operate the main weapon, the 40 or 75mm gun. With his monocular optic he could aim the weapon.
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Versions armed with a 37 mm gun