Finally, a proper historical article!
In the 30s of the 20th century Hungary took it’s time choosing tanks for its army. At first, Italy was supplying the kingdom with light tankettes L3/L5. Afterwards, the Hungarians started thinking about producing an ideal vehicle for production in their own country, as the industrial capacity of the country would allow such a project. Like many European countries, Hungary at first wanted to build an “convertible tank” (TN: tracks can be taken off to continue driving on wheels), but after trials in 1936 the Swedish light tank Landsverk L-60 was chosen.
At the moment of the trials the L-60 was one of the best tanks in the world. Quite fast, comfortable for the crew, technologically advanced, this tank, designed by German engineer Otto Merker, was ahead of its contestants. The easiest example of its technical superiority was the first use of a torsion bar suspension. The L-60 was at first armed with the 20-mm automatic Madsen cannon.
In Hungary, the L-60 recieved the designation 38M. Toldi I or Toldi A20. At the beginning of serial production in 1940 its configuration was changed: the Swedish engine was replaced for an German “Büssing” and the autocannon was replaced by the 36M anti-tank rifle. Later on, after being trialed, the 37-mm Bofors cannon was installed. The first contract of 80 tanks was split between Ganz and MAVAG. The second series consisted of 110 tanks, recieving the index 38M. Toldi II, also known as Toldi B20. They had thicker armor, wider usage of Hungarian modules and a new radio station.
But the times were changing fast, and with them the requirements for tanks and tank combat. In the summer of 1941 the Hungarians were already met with significant problems.
The L-60 was created to fight light tanks from the late 30s, which had an armor thickness of about 20mm. The automatic cannon could handle these. Meeting the Soviet tanks however, which consisted of T-34 and KV-1, the 20-mm anti-tank round of the Toldi became powerless. Moreover, it couldn’t even handle the light T-60 and T-70, whereas the 45-mm gun of the T-70 knocked out the Toldi easily.
The military started to think about the armament in the beginning of 1942. This task was faciliated by the release of the new 40M. Turan medium tank. Its 40mm cannon was redesigned, shortening it and installing a muzzle brake. Thus, the 38M. Toldi IIA was born. It was not released separately, but applied as an upgrade to already existing tanks. A total of 80 vehicles were upgraded to this modification.
But this was a half-measure, not a solution. More so because the Hungarian army was losing many tanks on the Eastern front – not only a modification, but a replacement was needed.
In 1943 the Hungarian engineers developed a tank which should take the place of the new standard light tank. Its designation was 43M. Toldi III (Toldi C40). The armor remained at the same level as the previous model, but could potentially be upgraded with armor screens which were tested on the Toldi IIA, providing protection against anti-tank rifle fire.
43M. Toldi III was to be produced by the Ganz factories. Production started in 1944, but only 12 tanks of this series ever left the factory halls. On the 2nd July 1944, Budapest was struck by massive aerial bombardement, destroying all industrial capacities of Ganz, which ended the story of the Hungarian light armor.
But even if the bombs wouldn’t have interrupted the story of the Toldi III, it would not have been effective against any Soviet armor at the time it was released. The engineers developing the Toldi III were just 2 years too late with their creation.
- A Magyar Királyi Honvédség fegyverzete, Bonhardt Attila, Winkler László, Sárhidai Gyula, Zrínyi Katonai Könyv- és Lapkiadó, 1992.
- Central Archive of the Russian Ministry of Defence
Author: Yuri Pasholok