The origins of the T-34 medium tank date back to 1938, when the USSR State Defence Committee, having analysed experiences from the Spanish Civil War, resolved to construct a successor of the BT-7 ‘convertible tank’ (tracks could be removed and a chain drive to the road wheels engaged, allowing the tank to travel at high speeds on roads).
The first prototype, designated A-20, retained the wheel/track configuration of the BT series. It was followed by the second, prototype A-32, in which the wheel/track feature was abandoned. The work on prototypes commenced in early 1940 and from February to May they were extensively tested in the field. The A-32 proved more universal.
Its refined version was designated T-34 and accepted for serial production, which started in mid-1940 at the Plant No. 183 in Kharkov. Several teething problems, discovered during exploitation of the first specimen, were to be rectified in the modernised T‑34M variant. Nevertheless, the imminent war with Germany led to cancellation of the T-34M project.
Refinements and upgrades had to be successively introduced to the basic T-34 design as its mass production continued. First T-34s were armed with the 76.2 mm L-11 gun, replaced in early 1941 by the F-34 gun of the same calibre but better parameters. The simultaneous production of the T-34 by many various plants resulted in many derivative variations of the basic design. They differed in turrets, road wheels, drive sprockets and idler wheels, as well as tracks, redesigned driver’s hatch, the method of connecting the glacis plates and others.
Beginning with 1942, a new, more spacious and simplified turret was installed. In 1943 the power transmission system was redesigned with a new gearbox and more efficient air filters installed. Between 1940 and 1944 the Soviet industry managed to turn out over 34,000 vehicles of this type. Starting with 1944, the T-34 armed with 76.2 mm gun phased out in favour of the upgunned and modernised T-34 fitted with a powerful 85 mm gun.
The Polish People’s Army received its first T-34s on 8th July 1943. These were 32 machines manufactured in the No. 112 Plant in Gorky. As the Polish armoured forces expanded, many more came along. Between July 1943 and January 1945 the Polish People’s Army was issued with a total of 118 T-34s, armed with 76.2 mm guns, of various sub-variants.
Only a few of them survived in Poland until present day. Both vehicles presented in this book can be found in the city of Poznan. The first is housed at the Armoured Forces Museum of the Stefan Czarnecki Military Academy and the other in the Museum of Armaments at the Poznan Citadel.