This museum was established in 1996 in a former artillery barracks between the villages of Krhanice and Lešany in the Czech Republic. Since 2003, a 'Tank Day' had been held every year in the area of the museum, where many of the tanks and other military vehicles from the collection are presented in dynamic displays.
On arrival at the Museum a “pink” IS-2 stands guard. (below)
The general “theme” of the day was the 1938 Czechoslovak Mobilisation. Following the annexation of Austria, Hitler had his eye on the west of Czechoslovakia. Nazi Party members already had a firm foot in the political scene there, and in fact in May 1935, Heinlein’s “Sudetendeutsche Partei” managed to become the second largest political party in Czechoslovakia (Heinlein was a leading German politician in Czechoslovakia).The German propaganda machine realized the opportunity and Hitler’s ambitions sprang into action, falsely stating that in excess of three million ethnic Germans living in Czechoslovakia were being oppressed and demanded total control.
As a response, Czechoslovakia partially mobilised its military on 20th May 1938. Hitler's comment to this mobilisation -"It is my unalterable decision to smash Czechoslovakia by military action in the near future".
The star of Tank Day without doubt was the LT vz.35 (below) Pz.Kpfw.35(t) (German Designation).
The subject of the manufacture of this vehicle is ground for debate. Some sources refer to the manufacturer as jointly Skoda Plzen and CKD Companies, but the serial number indicates just CKD in 1937.
Only five remain in existence and the museum owns the only working example. The life of this particular vehicle is interesting. It was previously displayed at the US Army Ordnance Museum/ Aberdeen proving grounds (USA).
It now has its original Czech registration number 13.962. The tank was delivered to the Czech Army in 1937, and following the German occupation in 1939, it continued service (minus the turret) with the German Army. It received some combat damage and was sent to the Skoda factory for repairs, where it remained until the liberation of Czechoslovakia in May 1945.
|T72 M4CZ (right) There will be much more about this vehicle in an upcoming article, after I was fortunate enough to spend the day with the 73rd Tank Battalion of the Czech Army.|
|The_Challenger- squeezing into The T72M4CZ (Above) belonging to the 73rd Tank Battalion.|
Mass produced, simple and highly effective, all descriptors that suit the T34-85. This vehicle served with the Czechoslovak People’s Army (CSLA) and hosted a hoard of modifications and upgrades.
Following the defeat of Germany in WWII and the takeover of Czechoslovakia by the Soviets, all military development plans were transferred to Soviet Command.
The first of the “In House” T-34 Tanks used some parts that were imported from the Soviet Union, and following various trials, production began in February 1952. The first fully Czechoslovakian-made tank rolled out of the assembly line in the winter of 1952.
It is estimated that between 2736 and 3185 T-34/85 tanks were manufactured in Czechoslovakia. I have read numerous varying figures and it's likely this number included the VT-34 engineering vehicles, JT-34 crane vehicles, MT-34 bridge layer vehicles, PBCHT-34 NBC-proof recon vehicle and the PB-34 heavy bulldozer.
The initial vehicles were not great from a quality perspective, and numerous faults and poor builds were reported. However, this was improved, and by 1954 it was reported that the build was better than that of the Soviet Union. In addition, they were produced with numerous technical upgrades including an improved fuel feed system, fording equipment, bigger fuel capacity and an improved transmission.
|The beauty of the IS-3||The hangers at the museum are home to numerous interesting pieces.|
|Needs no introduction.||Cromwell IV|
Why the “Cromie”? Well, it saw service with Allied Units of the 1st Polish Armoured Division (10th Mounted Rifle Regiment) and the 1st Czech Armoured Brigade.
The 1st Czech Armoured Brigade arrived in the European theatre of war in late September 1944 and relieved the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division in the positions around Dunkirk.
In addition to the 3 Armoured Regiments, there was also: a Motor Battalion, Armoured Reconnaissance Squadron (Stuart VI, Cromwell’s and Humber Scout Cars), an Anti-Tank Troop (40mm Bofors), Engineer Company and a Field Artillery Regiment (towed 25pdrs).
The naming of tanks depended on individual battalions but a common trend was to name the tank with the first letter of the squadron's name. The yellow circle with the number on the front is the bridging classification. Cromwells and Sextons were 27, Shermans were 30 and the Churchill was 40 tons.
Bought by Czech armour-fans in 2007 from the Smrzovka Museum of Armoured Machinery, it was fully restored then sold to the museum.
Weathering has certainly done this no good (above), but it presents a powerful and stark image.
It was a wonderful day and a great museum to visit, and the limited space here just doesn’t do it justice. My huge thanks to all involved in the organisation, and the Community for making the day so special.
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