Well Traveled – The Soviet T-26 Fought Nearly Everywhere – (25 PHOTOS)

This light tank became famous for being the most mass military produced machine of the Red Army before the Great Patriotic War. Over the years of production 1931-1941, more than 11,000 T-26 tanks were made. Despite numerous shortcomings, this tank continued to be used until 1960. Often, tactics and numerical superiority compensated for weak points.

The T-26 was based on the English tank Vickers Mk.E, which the USSR acquired in 1930. The main advantage of this tank was its low weight, ease of maintenance and cheapness in production. During the year, Soviet specialists developed the technology of production and in February 1931 began mass production.

1933 T-26 model at the museum “Breaching of the Leningrad Blockade” near Kirovsk, Leningrad Oblast. This tank was raised from a river bottom at Nevsky Pyatachok in May 2003.
1933 T-26 model at the museum “Breaching of the Leningrad Blockade” near Kirovsk, Leningrad Oblast. This tank was raised from a river bottom at Nevsky Pyatachok in May 2003.

During the existence of the T-26, many times it was changed and modified. As a result, several variants of this tank were created. The first tanks had two towers.

It should be noted that the two-tower version of the T-26 had a significant disadvantage. The fact is that during battle the barrels of the 37 mm cannon of the right tower and the machine gun DT-29 of the left towers often prevented each other from firing. This contributed to the appearance of single-tower modifications. In addition, the first modifications did not have a radio link. The basic means of external communication on the T-26 was flag signaling.

Before the Great Patriotic War, the T-26 was one of the main tanks of the Soviet Army. However, it became easy prey because of the lack of radio and slow speed.

A column of T-26 mod. 1939 and T-26 mod. 1933 light tanks from the 20th Tank Brigade move towards a front line. The Western Front, Battle of Moscow. December 1941.
A column of T-26 mod. 1939 and T-26 mod. 1933 light tanks from the 20th Tank Brigade move towards a front line. The Western Front, Battle of Moscow. December 1941.

After the appearance of anti-tank rifles, the thin armored T-26 completely lost its effectiveness. This contributed to the creation of the last version with additional armor. One of the small advantages of the T-26 was the rear location of the fuel tank and engine.

In 1936, 281 T-26 tanks were sent to Spain to participate in the civil war. However, the most intensive use of the T-26 occurred during the Soviet-Finnish war and at the very beginning of the Great Patriotic War. At that time, the T-26 was the most numerous tank of the Red Army.

A T-26 operated by Republican forces during the Battle of Brunete in 1937.
A T-26 operated by Republican forces during the Battle of Brunete in 1937.

In 1941, the T-26 could effectively fight only with lightweight Wehrmacht tanks. Basically, this list included light tanks that did not have any serious weapons. In June 1941, the T-26 had excellent results in battles against tanks like the Pz.I, Pz.II, Pz.35 (t) and Pz.38 (t), as well as medium tanks Pz.III. Another minor advantage of the T-26 was its large storage of ammunition and provided decent infantry support.

Despite this, during the first months of the Great Patriotic War, many of these tanks were lost. In particular, this was due to the fact that most of the T-26s were in poor condition.

On October 28, 1941, at the disposal of the Red Army, there were only 50 serviceable T-26 tanks. Soon it was decided to replace it with modern tanks. The last time the T-26 was used was 1945 in Manchuria, against the Kwantung Army.

British soldiers curiously inspecting a T-26 battle tank of the Soviet occupation forces after their rendezvous in Iran. Sunday, August 31, 1941.
British soldiers curiously inspecting a T-26 battle tank of the Soviet occupation forces after their rendezvous in Iran. Sunday, August 31, 1941.

 

Finnish soldiers, some in snow camouflage, inspecting an abondoned Soviet T-26 tank after the Battle of Raate road during the Winter War.
Finnish soldiers, some in snow camouflage, inspecting an abondoned Soviet T-26 tank after the Battle of Raate road during the Winter War.

 

Maintenance of the T-26 mod. 1931 (with riveted hull and turrets). This tank was produced in the first half of 1932—the exhaust silencer is mounted with two clamps and the cover over the air outlet window. The Moscow Military District. Mid-1934.
Maintenance of the T-26 mod. 1931 (with riveted hull and turrets). This tank was produced in the first half of 1932—the exhaust silencer is mounted with two clamps and the cover over the air outlet window. The Moscow Military District. Mid-1934.

 

Soviet light infantry tank T-26 captured by German Wehrmacht.Photo BreTho CC BY-SA 4.0
Soviet light infantry tank T-26 captured by German Wehrmacht.Photo BreTho CC BY-SA 4.0

 

Soviet produced T-26 light tank captured and used by the Finnish.Photo thy CC BY 2.0
Soviet produced T-26 light tank captured and used by the Finnish.Photo thy CC BY 2.0

 

Soviet T-26 light tanks and GAZ-A trucks of the Soviet 7th Army during its advance on the Karelian Isthmus, December 2, 1939.
Soviet T-26 light tanks and GAZ-A trucks of the Soviet 7th Army during its advance on the Karelian Isthmus, December 2, 1939.

 

Soviet T-26 model 1933 tank, in Finnish markings, displayed in Finnish Tank Museum.Photo Balcer CC BY 2.5
Soviet T-26 model 1933 tank, in Finnish markings, displayed in Finnish Tank Museum.Photo Balcer CC BY 2.5

 

Soviet T-26 model 1933 tank.Photo Balcer CC BY 2.5
Soviet T-26 model 1933 tank.Photo Balcer CC BY 2.5

 

Soviet T-26 tank at Kollaanjoki in Winter War.
Soviet T-26 tank at Kollaanjoki in Winter War.

 

 

Soviet-type T-26 lightweight tank.Photo FORTEPAN CC BY-SA 3.0
Soviet-type T-26 lightweight tank.Photo FORTEPAN CC BY-SA 3.0

 

T-26 ‘3’ – Patriot Museum, Kubinka.Photo Alan Wilson CC BY-SA 2.0
T-26 ‘3’ – Patriot Museum, Kubinka.Photo Alan Wilson CC BY-SA 2.0

 

T-26 mod. 1931 with riveted hull and turrets. Central Museum of the Great Patriotic War in Moscow, Russia.
T-26 mod. 1931 with riveted hull and turrets. Central Museum of the Great Patriotic War in Moscow, Russia.

 

T-26 mod. 1931 with the A-43 welded turret developed by N. Dyrenkov. The ball mount for the DT tank machine gun is visible. Leningrad, 1933.
T-26 mod. 1931 with the A-43 welded turret developed by N. Dyrenkov. The ball mount for the DT tank machine gun is visible. Leningrad, 1933.

 

T-26 mod. 1933. El Goloso Museum in Madrid, Spain. Photo Catalan CC BY 3.0
T-26 mod. 1933. El Goloso Museum in Madrid, Spain. Photo Catalan CC BY 3.0

 

T-26 mod. 1933. Parola Tank Museum, Finland.Photo Balcer CC BY 2.5
T-26 mod. 1933. Parola Tank Museum, Finland.Photo Balcer CC BY 2.5

 

T-26 tanks of Chinese Nationalist Army during WW2
T-26 tanks of Chinese Nationalist Army during WW2

 

 

Twin-turreted T-26 (with the 37 mm Hotchkiss gun (PS-1) in the right turret), equipped with the radio station No. 7N and the hand-rail frame antenna on the hull. Military exercises. 1934.
Twin-turreted T-26 (with the 37 mm Hotchkiss gun (PS-1) in the right turret), equipped with the radio station No. 7N and the hand-rail frame antenna on the hull. Military exercises. 1934.

 

Twin-turreted T-26 mod. 1931 with riveted hull and turrets, armed with the 37 mm Hotchkiss gun (PS-1) in the right turret. Battle of Tolvajärvi. December 1939.
Twin-turreted T-26 mod. 1931 with riveted hull and turrets, armed with the 37 mm Hotchkiss gun (PS-1) in the right turret. Battle of Tolvajärvi. December 1939.

 

Finnish tank T-26 (in fact, a wartime modification of the Soviet flamethrowing tank KhT-26, with BT-5 tank turret, brought up to T-26 M.1933 standard), displayed in Finnish Tank Museum.Photo Balcer CC BY 2.5
Finnish tank T-26 (in fact, a wartime modification of the Soviet flamethrowing tank KhT-26, with BT-5 tank turret, brought up to T-26 M.1933 standard), displayed in Finnish Tank Museum.Photo Balcer CC BY 2.5

 

Interior of T-26 mod. 1933 turret, looking forward at the 45 mm 20K tank gun breech. The TOP-1 telescopic sight is to the left, and the coaxial DT tank machine gun and PT-K commander panoramic sight is to the right.Photo Balcer CC BY 2.5
Interior of T-26 mod. 1933 turret, looking forward at the 45 mm 20K tank gun breech. The TOP-1 telescopic sight is to the left, and the coaxial DT tank machine gun and PT-K commander panoramic sight is to the right.Photo Balcer CC BY 2.5

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Interior of T-26 mod. 1933 turret. Ammunition stowage is on the left side. The side observation device is visible, as is the revolver porthole, which is closed with a plug. Parola Tank Museum in Finland.Photo Balcer CC BY 2.5
Interior of T-26 mod. 1933 turret. Ammunition stowage is on the left side. The side observation device is visible, as is the revolver porthole, which is closed with a plug. Parola Tank Museum in Finland.Photo Balcer CC BY 2.5