My Soviet forces needed a bit of armoured support. I’d come at the collection from an odd angle, the first two infantry platoons being a Fortified Region and some Partisans, but I’ve recently been adding the bits required to field a regular infantry platoon. So when Warlord recently offered a good deal on this iconic Soviet vehicle of the late war I found one fell into my shopping cart…

 

The T-34/85

Along with the Tiger and the Sherman, this is probably one of the most famous tanks of the war, so I won’t go into great detail about a vehicle with which everyone is familiar. Actually a late 30s design, Soviet tank design had been stuck in the same rut as many others of the time, producing specialised tanks in various roles (eg: “assault/breakthrough” and “cavalry/exploitation”) but managed to produce a remarkably forward-thinking “universal tank” design in the T-34. This was based on combat experience against the Japanese at Khalkhin Gol and the T-34 could arguably be described as a kind of proto-MBT (the new generation of post-war tanks such as the Centurion).

The Soviets designers resisted the “bigger is better” concept that the Germans allowed themselves to be misled by and designed a tank that’s actually remarkably small. I used to live around the corner from the Bermondsey Tank in London, and every time I walked past it I was always surprised just how small they were. Inside that small chassis were packed a fairly standard five-man crew, and the ergonomic conditions for them were less than ideal. Lacking refinements like a turret basket, the T-34 was a difficult and uncomfortable machine to operate. For example, the floor was used as ammunition storage, meaning that the crew were literally picking up boxes they were standing on, and meaning that they didn’t necessarily have an even surface under foot. Driving the vehicle was physically exhausting, and observation was difficult, especially since Soviet doctrine as to button up at all times in combat. Soviet tank commanders were only ever head out when on the march.

Much however is made of the T-34’s wide tracks, sloped armour and big gun. Those are all true, and shows that for every little thing that was wrong about the T-34 design it arguably made up for all of that by getting it right were it counted. Throughout the mid-war period the vehicle was well-enough armoured to scare the Germans, and the 85mm gun was lethal to any German vehicle as well as having a useful HE capability, something which many western late-war tanks lacked. The Soviets though were extremely pragmatic about the life expectency of a T-34 in action. Turnover was so high on the Eastern Front that they tank’s designers literally didn’t bother making a tank that could reliably last more than a few months in action, because so few of them did. The T-34 has the dubious distinction of being the most-destroyed tank in history, with nearly 45,000 lost during the four years of action. The key was though, that a staggering 84,000 T-34s were produced (plus another 5,000 or so based on the same chassis). The Germans only produced 50,000 tanks of all models throughout, and that fundamentally shows why they lost the war.

The T-34 was in many ways a really bad tank. Uncomfortable, unreliable and difficult to operate it nevertheless was available in huge numbers and had a genuinely good gun, tough armour and was small and highly mobile. The “best” tank of the war it most certainly wasn’t, but WW2 was a war of attrition and Soviet industry could crank out T-34s and the Red Army could train up crews for them faster than the Germans could destroy them.

For fans of the T-34 in video form, watching the lanky Nicholas “The Chieftan” Moran try to insert himself into a T-34/85 is worth a watch:

The Warlord model

Honestly, I feel like there’s not much to write here! The kit is so simple that you’ll be done before you know it. The turret is four pieces and the hull is just a top and bottom with the tracks. There are a few extra tool boxes, some smoke canisters and aux fuel drums and a single headlight to attach. True to Warlord style the tracks are separate from the road wheels. While this means you do have to assemble them (and therefore have to faff around making sure you don’t get gaps) I don’t mind as it saves time on painting. You can leave the upper and lower hull loose, spray that green and leave the track parts on the sprue and just spray those black before drybrushing them your favourite track colour.

I’ve nicked those sprue pics from Sigur’s excellent review of the same kit here, go read it, his stuff is always great and he’s a much better painter than me.

Options in the kit include an open or closed commander’s hatch, and you do get a crew figure. Soviet doctrine was to fight strictly buttoned up, so I’ve gone for closed hatch. You can also switch between the hull MG and the projector for the flamethrower, so this kit can actually build the OT-34 flamethrower tank, something which I didn’t realise. The aux fuel tanks could also be left off if you want.

There are two decal sheets, including insignia for some oddball stuff like Czechs, and you get several handwritten slogans for the turret. Curious as to what these actually meant I got stuck in to Google and as far as I can make out the meanings are:

Apart from that: it’s a very straightforward easy-to-build kit. The parts all fitted well, the only part that required any attention was quite a noticeable seam where the upper and lower turret attached. The tracks went together very neatly though with no gap. All up, nearly flawless stuff so top marks Warlord!

Paint wise the Soviet vehicles are really very easy being flat colours with pretty much every part of the tank and all its gear painted the same green. For the tracks I went for Vallejo’s “track primer” as a base, then a black ink wash and highlighted in their nice “oily steel”.

Those Soviet tank slogans are great fun, so I decided to add: “To Victory”. That’s a pretty good thing to have on the side of the tank, and it avoids me having to put anything celebrating any murderous dictators on there. Although of course bigging up Stalin is perfectly acceptable as it’s historically accurate if you give me another option I’m going to take it.

I actually didn’t go too nuts weathering this vehicle, keeping the wear and chipping pretty light. This was a late-model vehicle only seen in 44-45 and many of the ones in action would have been fairly fresh from the factories. This model only served through one winter and to be honest few T-34s really lasted long enough to get a lot of wear and tear.