An overview to Finnish armored vehicles 1939-1944


From the early 30s to the Interim peace

In the beginning of the 1930s it was clear that the old Renault F.T. Modèle 17 tanks were getting outdated so trials for purchasing new equipments were started. The Ministry of Defence ordered three different tanks from Great Britain on July 6th 1933: 

  • Vickers-Carden-Loyd Mk VI* (prod. nr V.A.E.115)
  • Vickers-Armstrongs 6 Ton Tank Alternative B (prod. nr V.A.E.546)
  • Vickers-Carden-Loyd model 1933 (prod. nr V.A.E.503). 

The manufacturer also sent an amphibian Vickers-Carden-Loyd model 1931 to Finland, but it was soon found unsuitable for Finnish conditions.

After several tests, the Vickers 6 Ton Tank was recommended to be purchased.

On July 20th 1936 the Ministry of Defence  ordered 32 Vickers-Armstrongs 6 Ton Tank Alternative B tanks. Their shipment dates were supposed to be:

  • July 20th 1937, 11 tanks
  • April 1st 1938, 10 tanks
  • January 1st 1939 11 tanks

The purchase order didn't include guns, optics or communication equipments. However, the shipments were late and by the July 1938 there were no tanks arrived. In February 1939, 33 of 37 mm guns for tanks were ordered from VTT (Valtion tykkitehdas, State gun factory). Optics for the guns were ordered  from Germany, but the shipments were cancelled. Due the VTT's production problems, delays in the shipments of the tanks and cancellation of the shipments of the optics only 10 tanks were produced by the end of 1939.

Before getting the VTT's 37 mm guns, the 37 mm Puteaux cannons moved from Renaults were installed in V-A tanks. First Vickers-tanks with VTT's 37 mm gun participated in the first battle of Finnish armored forces  on February 26th 1940 in Honkaniemi. 7 tanks were lost in Honkaniemi and in following smaller fights. The 8th, damaged one was able to get back, but it was never repaired.
During the Interim peace the 37 mm guns were replaced with Russian 45 mm tank cannons because of compatibility reasons. Also Russian 7,62 mm DT machine gun became as co-axial weapon and the sighting optics were replaced with Russian ones too. By these changes the designation was changed to T-26E.

The two companies equipped with Renault F.T. Modèle 17 tanks were used to collecting war booty material and to dig the tanks into fixed strongpoints. The latter one was made to carry out only partially at Näykkijärvi and Taipale areas and all equipments except four tanks were lost to the Red Army.

War booty in Winter war

The Winter war was very important for the armor equipments in the form of war booty materials. In all, a 167 different armored cars, tanks and armored tractors were collected and repaired. The war booty included:

  • mainly light T-26 (and its flamethrower version OT-26 and OT-130) tanks
  • 2 medium T-28 tanks
  • light amphibian T-37A and T-38 tanks
  • T-20 Komsomolets armored tractors (6 of them were already lost back to Soviet troops in Winter war)
  • 21 of 7 different models of armored cars

The fast and common BT-5 and BT-7 tanks were also captured but none were evacuated in time before the lines moved and the war ended. 

War booty in Continuation war

Right after the attack started in the beginning of Continuation war, several BT-5 and BT-7 tanks were captured and taken in use. They were used until early 1942. The captured material made possible to expand the Armored Battalion to a Armored Brigade consisting two battalions on February 10th 1942. The first new tanks for armored troops were T-34s captured in the autumn 1941 and also more of T-28 were got as a war booty forming the equipment of the Heavy Armored Company of the II Battalion. During 1942 also two KV-1s were added  to the company.

In June-July 1944 Finns captured 2 T-34 and 9 T-34-85 of which 7 were able to be taken in use. On June 25th 1944 in Portinhoikka, Finns captured two ISU-152 assault guns. Four days after repairs one of them was lost in the Köhli area and the another one was evacuated and modified to a towing tank.

On July 7th 1944 the HQ gave an order to remove the T-26, T-28 and BT-42 tanks from use as invalid equipment for combat.

Modifications during Continuation war

The modifications during the Continuation war produced several tank models that were only used in Finland. The flamethrower versions of T-26 (OT-26, OT-130 and OT-133) and the twin turret version, only with machine guns armed T-26 model 1931 were considered useless other than for driving training and were decided to be modified as cannon-armed tanks during 1942 and 1943. Only OT-26 and T-26T tanks stayed unmodified.

In spring 1942, VTT began to design an assault gun on the chassis of a BT-7 model 1937. This new type got the designation of BT-42. The turret was constructed on the base of the original turret's lower part and armed with British Q.F. 4.5 inch howitzer Mark II (114 mm). Muzzle brakes for the guns were fitted in Finland. First tanks were given to the Assault gun Battalion on February 26th 1943. The last of the batch oh 18 tanks were delivered in late autumn 1943.
The construction wasn't very successful and the battalion gave all BT-42s to a Separate Armored Company on December 7th 1943 after receiving German Stu 40 assault guns since September 1943.

In spring 1943 a suggestion was made about building armored personnel carriers from the BT- tanks. One specimen was made with designation BT-43 and was given for tests.

Number of armored vehicles in 1941-1944

This table gives only guidelines as the numbers show the situation only on certain dates. It does not tell the whole numbers of armored vehicles in use.

In 1944 the Armored Brigade was mainly equipped with T-26, T-34, T-28 and KV-1 tanks. On July 7th 1944 an order was given to remove T-26 and T-28 -tanks from use.

Make & model 31.5.
Renault F.T. Modèle 1917 1) 4 4      
Vickers-Carden-Loyd Mk VI*  (never used in combat) 1        
Vickers-Carden-Loyd Model 1933 (never used in combat) 1 1      
Landsverk 182 1        
Vickers-Armstrongs 6 Ton Tank (Mk E) 2) 27 24 22 22 19
T-26 m 1931 10 12 8 2 1
OT-26 2 2 1 1 1
T-26 m 1933 20 53 58 63 47
OT-130 4 3      
T-26 m 1937, 1939 4 29 32 36 31
OT-133   3      
T-26T   1 1 2 2
D-8 1 1 1    
FAI 3 3 3
FAI-M, BA-20, BA-20M 10 11 18 18 15
BA-3 1 1
BA-6 10 10
BA-10 10 23 24 13 12
T-37A 29 21      
T-38, T-38M-2 13 12 19 19 3
T-38-34         9
T-38-KV         3
T-20 Komsomolets m 1937 33
T-20 Komsomolets m 1938, 1939 56 98 184 182 101
T-28 m 1938, T-28E 2 7 7 7 7
BT-7 m 1935, 1937   53 3) 23 3) 23 3)  
BT-42     13 18 10
BT-43       1 1
T-34   3 4 4 9
T-34-85         9
T-50   1 1 1 1
KV-1E m 1941     1 1 1
KV-1 m 1942   1 1 1 1
Landsverk Anti II   6 6 6 6
Sturmgeschütz III Ausf. G (StuG III)       30 46
Sturmgeschütz 40K (Stu 40) 4)         1
Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf. J         14
ISU-152V         1


195 369 427 464 398

1) Renaults were became obsolete by the time of Winter War. They were mainly used for collecting war booty material and they were also dug into fixed strongpoints (only at the areas of Näykkijärvi and Taipale). All but four were lost to Soviet troops.
Armament first changed to 37 mm Puteaux gun from Renaults, then to 37 mm Bofors and during Interim peace to Russian 45 mm 20K gun. The designation also changed to T-26E after this.
3) Repairable. BT-5 and BT-7 were in use until the beginning of 1942.
4) 45 of Stu 40 Ausf. G -assault guns were ordered in 1943 and 30 of them arrived in mid 1943. They were delivered to the front by the Sep. 2nd 1943. Why they are missing from the table above, I don't know.
Included in the sum below

Source: Suomalaiset panssarivaunut 1918-1997 (The Finnish armored vehicles); Esa Muikku & Jukka Purhonen

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