Last time we left the Toldi tank when first 80 pieces of Toldi I were manufactured. Toldi I was basically the original Toldi design, based on the Landsverk light tank, armed with a modified 20mm AT rifle. These 80 Toldi vehicles had serial numbers H301 to H380. After that, the type was redesigned to Toldi II.
Toldi II tanks were practically identical to the late Toldi I series. The main difference however was the fact that unlike Toldi I, Toldi II tanks were built from parts, manufactured exclusively in Hungary. That finally solved the issues with German supply chain to Hungarian army’s satisfaction. Another change was the upgrade of the radio from type R-5 to R-5a. These vehicles were manufactured partially in parallel to the older Toldi I model (using German parts) roughly from March 1941 to the end of 1941. 110 Toldi II tanks were manufactured, 68 of which were made by Ganz (H423-H490) and 42 by MÁVAG (H381-H422). By the end of 1941, the Hungarian army owned 190 Toldi I and Toldi II tanks in total – because of the continuous upgrades with locally-built parts, later on these tanks were practically identical (the only way how to distinguish them was the old frame antenna of the Toldi I tank and the new straight antenna of Toldi II, but both models were soon upgraded to the R-5a standard and this feature disappeared).
Here, a Toldi II (possibly in Russia):
Technically, the first combat use of Toldi tanks happened when Hungary invaded the Romanian territory of Northern Transylvania. On 5.9.1940, Hungarian units crossed the border and advanced into the heart of the former Romanian territory, transferred to Hungary in the Second Vienna Award. While no real combat happened (Romania was basically strongarmed by Italy and Germany to back off), for Toldi tanks it was a disaster. The region was important politically, but its infrastructure was (literally) medieval. The tanks had huge issues traversing the broken and unkept roads and trails: the German engines proved to be completely unreliable and were breaking down all the time, the torsion bars were breaking down and the fact the Hungarian tank drivers were green did not help either. Losses mounted and the Hungarian army command was silently *facepalming*, when reading the reports. Some of the tank breakdowns were also quite pointless, caused by the fact that in the confusion, the maintenance crews filled the tanks with winter oil instead of the summer one, causing them to overheat and in some cases seize altogether.
As a result of this failure, the army units were reorganized in October 1940. Each motorized division was now to have a tank batallion, but the upgrade plans (everything was to be read in May 1941) proved to be not realistic and arrangements had to be made (such as reducing the number of Toldi tanks in cavalry divisions etc.). In April 1941, 54 Toldi I tanks were used in aggression against Yugoslavia. They faced little resistance (as Yugoslavia had very few real anti-tank weapons) and there were no losses amongst the Toldis or crews (the only armored losses were a couple of Csaba armored cars, shot up by Yugoslavian 37mm AT guns), but the operation showed two things:
- the issue with the supply chain chaos did not disappear, although it was reduced somewhat. There still were issues with German parts breaking down, this was only fixed by the end of 1941 when they were replaced for Hungarian ones
- the armor of the tanks was proved to be too thin and could be damaged even by machinegun gun fire. The fact that no Toldi tank was lost was a mixed blessing. On one hand, all the crewmen survived. On the other hand, the voices pointing out the insufficient armor were dismissed – and those, who realized the future of armored combat watched in fear as the two most powerful armies in the world clashed in a titanic struggle, that would reshape the face of the world forever.
Hungarian forces were committed to Operation Barbarossa on 28.6.1941. Some time before however, an army unit called “Carpathian group” was formed in Hungary under the command of Lt.Gen. Ferenc Szombathelyi, consisting of two Corps-level units (VIII.Corps and “Mobile Corps”). The Mobile Corps, commanded by Maj.Gen. Béla Miklós had 81 Toldi tanks, 84 Csaba armored cars and 60 CV-35 tankettes.
As soon as the Hungarian forces crossed the borders, the supply chain and breakdown issues appeared yet again and a portion of Toldi tanks was not available yet again. From 9.7.1941, the Mobile Corps was officially a part of the German Gruppe Süd. The advance was not easy and the Hungarian soldiers were harassed by Soviet ambushes all the time and losses mounted. The terrain was also harsh, forcing the command to supply some of the units via air, because the trucks couldn’t get thru. Even the Toldi tanks finally met their match. On 13.7.1941, the 3rd Company of 9th Tank Batallion (1st Motorized Infantry Brigade) got into a nasty fight with the Red Army near Antonovka. Unit commander Tibor Karpathy’s Toldi was hit by an AT gun, killing the driver and forcing other tanks to come out and attempt to rescue it. In the ensuing melee, six Toldi tanks were hit and eight of their crewmen were killed, an ominous sign of things to come.
By mid July, 7 tanks were too heavily damaged for field repairs. The Italian CV-35 tankettes proved to be terribly obsolete. On 24.7.1941, the Hungarian army was assaulting Tulcsin. Its right flank was covered by Romanian troops, but a Soviet counterattack routed them, forcing the command to deploy two tankette companies to close the breach in lines. It was a disaster: the tankettes got stuck in the mud and their engines stalled, forcing the crews to dismount and handcrank them. In the end, only one platoon managed to retreat, other 18 crewmen were killed, their tankettes destroyed.
The biggest enemy the Toldi tanks faced in late 1941 were however not the Soviets, but their own repair possibilities. Only a month after the start of the operation, the repair units had to be significantly reinforced by sending skilled civillian workers from the factories to the front. The engines, unreliable even in best conditions, turned out to be a catastrophy on the front lines: within days, 41 Toldi tanks were listed as non-operational and only 10 of them were damaged by enemy fire, the rest was caused by engine breakdowns. The losses mounted despite the best efforts of the workers to keep the Toldi tanks running: on 5.8.1941, out of the original 81 tanks only 57 were in working condition, 14 could be repaired in the field, but the rest had to be sent back to Hungary for full factory refit. In late July, 14 new Toldi tanks were sent to the front, but because of the chaos in railway supply chain, they arrived at Krivoy Rog only 12.10.1941. The long trip took a toll on them too: two vehicles had to be sent straight back to the factory via the same train without even taking a shot at the enemy.
By the end of October, Hungarian forces suffered significant losses: 855 men fell, 2845 were wounded and 830 were either MIA or captured. 95 Toldi tanks (80 percent!) were not operational: 62 were later repaired, but 25 were completely destroyed. The losses of the CV tankettes were however almost 100 percent and by the end of 1941, the tankettes were officially removed from service. Facing such losses, Hungarian army (after German permission) pulled their armor units behind the lines for a refit in November.
What the army officers feared earlier had become true. The early months of Operation Barbarossa showed that the day of the light tank as a viable armored unit was over, its lacking armor and weak armament making it obsolete when facing a well-armored medium tank. Another huge issue for the Toldi I and II tanks were the unreliability of the engine.
In October 1941, the Hungarian armored forces were again reorganized to correspond to the German unit classification (Division system). Basically from the current brigade units, two armored divisions were formed: the 1st AD and 2nd AD. There was not enough armor to equip a full division though, so the Germans had to help by supplying the Hungarians with Panzer 38(t) and Panzer IV tanks, only 17 Toldi tanks were present. By that time, they were completely outclassed. The 30th Tank Regiment (a part of the 1st Division) was first used in combat again on 18.7.1942 near Uriv (Stalingrad theater of operations). The fighting around river Don was very tough, with the Hungarian army, facing the lack of pretty much everything being forced to use tanks less as the armored hammer the German doctrine intended and more for infantry support.
Within one month, only 5 combat-ready Toldi tanks remained. The 1st Division went thru some tough fighting in September and October 1942, it had to be pulled out in early December for refit and rest only to be practically annihilated during the January 1943 Soviet offensive – 147971 men were lost and 80 percent of vehicles and guns were destroyed, only three Toldi tanks returned to Hungary. The Hungarian army as an offensive force ceased to exist.
While the Hungarian army was fighting its last major battle in the east, it was clear to the Hungarian technicians (well, to pretty much everyone), that the Toldi as it was was completely obsolete and pretty much finished. That’s why they sought a way to improve its performance. There were actually two ways: to improve the armor and to improve the gun. Hungarians pursued the latter.
The new improved Toldi variant was called 42M Toldi IIA. The main reason for its existence was the fact the original Toldi was outclassed even by Soviet light tanks, that were resistant to its 20mm tank rifle. In order to improve that, the designers tried to replace the weapon with something more powerful. In 1942 a prototype was made, where the rifle was replaced by a 37/42M MÁVAG tank gun. It basically was a shorter version of the original 40mm 37M gun (you might remember it from the Straussler V-4), which in turn was a licensed 40mm Bofors. It was a 40mm L/45 with muzzle velocity of 800 m/s and the rate of fire 16 rounds per minute. The shell (originally meant for the Bofors AA guns) could penetrate 64mm of armor (30 deg slope) at 100 meters (in WoT terms it’s 74mm PEN) and 30mm of armor (same slope) at 1000m.
The machinegun was also replaced by a later model belt-fed Gebauer 34/40A.M. Since the new gun took a lot of space in the turret, the designers moved the radio station to the box behind the turret. The designers also thought about making the armor thicker, but in the end decided against it, because the vehicle was unreliable as it was and the worn-out engines couldn’t handle additional weight. However, some vehicles did carry additional side armor, the so-called “Schurzen”.
Despite the prototype being available in 1942, the conversion process was incredibly slow. 80 vehicles were converted (mostly from Toldi II tanks) to carry the new gun, but due to unexplicable delays, the whole program was really slow – the conversion started in early 1943, but ended as late as 1944. Why was it so slow when the army desperately needed tanks and took everything it had at that point, we have no idea.
After the 1st Division was wiped out at Stalingrad, a new 1st Division was formed back in Hungary, with three tank batallions. This division was deployed in Hungary with its command structure being in Budapest. 2nd Division was also formed (deployed in Kecskemet, with its elements being also deployed in Slovakia). Both divisions formed 1st Armored Corps. The Toldi tanks (both II and IIA) were deployed as parts of medium and heavy tank companies. However, the units suffered from lack of training – the high command allowed only a limited number of Toldi tanks to be used as training vehicles, the rest had to be preserved for frontline use. While this tactic seemed suicidal, the Germans were facing similiar problems and had similiar orders in place. In April 1944, the 2nd Division was deployed to East Galicia to fight the advancing Red Army and suffered heavy losses. When it was deployed, it had 83 Toldi tanks of all versions. By the end of the operation, only 14 remained. 1st Divison fought the Russians in Poland (near Warsaw) and lost all of its 5 Toldi tanks. In mid June 1944, the army had 66 Toldi I, Toldi II and 63 IIA tanks. From September, these units were used to defend Hungary from the enemy. By that time, even the modernized Toldi IIA had no chance whatsovever against the newest medium and light tanks. They were decimated in droves and in December 1944, the 2nd Division in Budapest only had 5 Toldi tanks left. Toldi tanks appeared sporadically on front lines until the end of the war in single pieces.
After the war was over, the Soviets captured the few remaining pieces and took them to Kubinka for testing. One of them remains there to this day.
Characteristics – Toldi IIA
Weight: 9.35 tons
Engine: Büssing NAG L8V/36 TR 152hp
Maximum speed: 48km/h
Armor (hull): 13/13/6
Armor (turret): 13/13/6
Armament: 40mm 37/42M gun, 8mm Gebauer MG
The ultimate evolution of the Toldi tank was the Toldi III. It was an attempt to increase the armor of the Toldi tank as an answer to the battle needs of the Hungarian army.
However, the designers were severly limited in the attempt to increase the protection by two factors. First was obviously the weight (as in the Toldi IIA case, there was only so much the engine and final drive could handle). Second was the ground pressure – Toldi had relatively thin tracks and if too heavy, the terrain passability would suffer too much. Ganz company proposed a Toldi variant compromise with the increased armor: 35mm in the front (both turret and hull), 25mm turret sides and 20mm hull sides. Apart from the fact the armor was now thicker, the turret (armed with the same gun as Toldi IIA) was made longer. The army was not satisfied, but despite the refusal, Ganz privately built two prototypes in Spring 1942 (or rather converted them from exiting Toldi IIA tanks). Between June 1942 and March 1943, the prototypes were tested. Ganz was ready to produce 40 vehicles of this type, but the army approved only twelve, that ended up in various states of assembly. Here’s where the literature on this type varies. Some sources state that all 12 were finished, while other sources (mostly Hungarian themselves) state only 3 were ever finished from September 1943 to 1944. What is clear however is that the project had lower priority than the Toldi IIA conversions. It is unclear, whether Toldi III ever saw action.
Characteristics – Toldi III
Weight: 9.45 tons
Engine: Büssing NAG L8V/36 TR 152hp
Maximum speed: 47km/h
Armor (hull): 35/20/10
Armor (turret): 35/25/6
Armament: 40mm 37/42M gun, 8mm Gebauer MG
In World of Tanks
I think it’s pretty clear how Toldi might appear in WoT. Toldi I/II/IIA might appear as a tier 2 light tank with the Toldi III might appear as tier 3. It would seem logical for Toldi III to appear as an optional hull for the Toldi tank (when such feature is implemented), but the problem is, if that happens – there will be a gap on tier 3 with nothing to fill it, as the Turán tank (Turán I anyway) is more like tier 4 material by itself. Either way, since reliability plays little role in World of Tanks, with 18 hp/t it should be a fairly agile and fast vehicle.