Sunday, September 13, 2015

PARTISANS WITH ARMOR


Allied Aid To Yugoslav Partisans British armored cars, American tanks, anti-tank guns, and other equipment suitable for mountainous warfare are being supplied to Marshal Tito's Yugoslav partisans for use against German forces trapped in Yugoslavia. Dec. 1944 Vehicle in the pic appears to be a re-badged Brit AEC Armoured Car.



The Yugoslav partisans, among their other distinctions, maintained some armored forces throughout their four-year battle for liberation. Guerrillas rarely operated tanks. For one thing, they had a hard time obtaining them. Moreover, tanks require a lot of maintenance, supply, and other support. Guerrillas keep moving and customarily travel light. But the Yugoslavs had two things going for them. First, for the initial two years of their war, the major occupation force consisted of Italians. Not very eager to battle partisans, the Italians often followed a "live and let live" policy. This allowed the partisans sufficient leeway to maintain those tanks they captured from the Italians.

Neither the Italians, nor later the Germans, sent much armor to Yugoslavia and most of what was used were light tanks captured earlier from the French. Italians also used their own light tanks, knowing these were not of much use against heavier British and Russian models in other areas where Italian units were in combat. By 1944, the partisans had over fifty captured tanks in running condition, organized into several "battalions." Later that year, the British supplied the partisans with a battalion of fifty-six light tanks and twenty-four armored cars. The crews for these vehicles were trained in Italy and landed (with their vehicles) in Yugoslavia in November 1944. The battalion then fought its way inland. The Russians equipped a partisan tank brigade (sixty-five T-34s) which then went to Yugoslavia and fought alongside other partisan units. Thus when the Germans finally evacuated Yugoslavia, they had to do so in great haste lest they be trapped by guerrilla armored units.

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Lot of captured tanks made it's way to Yugoslavia - R-35, H-35/39, Somua, Char-B1bis, etc... Also older German tanks were used - Pz-35/38, Pz-I/II/III, some of them rare models - Pz-If etc...

Yugoslavia in 1941 had 65 R-35, and M.28 (Reno-Kegresse - improved FT-17), FT-17. Only really capable vehicle was M.32 (Skoda S.I.D) armed with 37mm M.36 Gun (same gun as a German 37mm Pak) and ZB-30 coax, but there were only 8 of those. Later partisans captured some of German and Italian tanks (CV-33, L6, M13/39) and used it till Brits send M3 Stuarts and Russians send T-34/85. Some of Stuarts were modified with captured 75mm Pak guns (sort of Marder relative), and some got quad 20mm AA-guns. Pak version was used till 1951.

The German SOMUA used in anti-partisan operations in Yugoslavia were captured by partisan units and put into use, and at least one was used by the Yugoslav 1st Tank Brigade alongside its M3A3 Stuarts.

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