CORGI COR CC51606 'BEUTEPANZER' (TROPHY TANK) CAPTURED SOVIET T34/76 MODEL 1943, TURRET NO.222, PANZERJAGER ABTEILUNG 128, 23RD PANZER DIVISION, EASTERN FRONT, UKRAINE, 1943 DIECAST 1:50 SCALE
As German armed forces rolled across Europe during the early months of the Second World War, they had already displayed their willingness to deploy captured tanks as part of their powerful panzer force. Initially fielding large numbers of Panzer 35(t) and 38(t) tanks acquired following the occupation of Czechoslovakia, victories over Holland, Belgium and France brought a further supply of captured armour, with those not destroyed or classed as unserviceable pressed into service for their new owners. Operation Barbarossa and the strike East brought new pressures on the available panzer forces, especially when they came across a new Soviet tank design, the T-34. Extremely mobile, with good armour protection and a capable main gun, the T-34 was more than a match for anything the Germans had in service at that time, yet mechanical problems and poor battlefield organisation reduced the effectiveness of this excellent machine. The Germans were so impressed with the T-34 that they tried to get their hands on as many serviceable examples as they could and even considered starting general production of the tank at factories which had been captured by advancing Wehrmacht troops. The machine modelled here went on to see service against its former owners with the 23rd Panzer Division in 1943 and is finished in a field applied disruptive camouflage scheme intended to help the tank blend into the surrounding countryside where combat was taking place. Although the operation of captured enemy tanks proved a welcome addition to the ranks of depleted Wehrmacht Panzer units, their use did come with a number of specific and potentially disastrous difficulties. Even if adequate supplies of fuel, lubricants, spare parts and ammunition could be secured, crews operating captured enemy tanks were in real da of being fired upon by both sides during any combat engagement and were therefore mainly used in supporting role behind the main advance. The importance of applying oversized and highly visible national insignia helped to avoid the possibility of coming under fire by friendly units, but also made the tank an even more tempting target for enemy units frustrated by its capture. Significantly, during the melee of combat, the unmistakable profile of a Soviet T-34 could cause a twitchy German tank commander to fire upon the approaching machine, whether he noticed the Balkenkreuz painted on the turret or not. The Soviet T-34 has to be considered one of the most important tanks of the Second World War and for the Russian people, came to symbolise their defiance in the face of Nazi aggression and determination to fight for total victory. During its impressive wartime production run, the T-34 would double the thickness of its armour, double the penetrating power of its gun and halve its initial production costs. At their peak production, Soviet manufacturing plants were producing around 1,200 of these excellent tanks every month, significantly more than were being produced by their German invaders.