While looking up something or other on the net I came across this fascinating story on two World War II era Soviet tanks that were recovered from a Latvian bog seven years ago -
In August 1999 at the Kurland battlefield, Latvia, two Soviet tanks: a T-34/85 and a IS-2 of the 19th Tank Corps were extracted from the bog by a group of enthusiasts after being entombed for fifty five years. Incredible.
They'd sunk in the marsh without crews and any damage while attempting to break through the German defense lines.
The tanks were in good condition, particularly the T-34/85. After changing the engine-oil and some starter parts and refueling, the enthusiasts were able to start the engines and drive the tanks.
Presumably the 1944 Russian tankmen didn't notice the danger as the bog surface was covered with a thick layer of snow at the time. The tanks entered the bog at high speed, lost the ability to maneuver and quickly sank. Presumably after the crews had bailed out.
The 19th corps lost 46 tanks in that fight - some of them sinking in the bog.
The tanks were very well preserved, especially the T-34. Their battalion numbers, painted in white, were clearly visible: A-412 (T-34) and 304 (IS-2). The tanks were almost fully armed and equipped with spare parts and instruments sets. Both tanks were lying upside down in the bog.
The amazing thing is that the mixture of motor oil and leaked diesel fuel had perfectly preserved the tanks and their working parts. And the ammunition, after cleaning, was able to be fired - several bursts of machine-gun fire were made using ammunition taken from the same tanks.
The T-34 tank was designed and built in the Kharkiv Tractor Factory in the Ukraine and the first T-34 tank was tested by successfully driving it 1,000 miles from Kharkiv to Moscow and back. The great value of the T34 was its simple design which made it easy to manufacture and easy to repair. The T34 was also reasonably light while its water-cooled V12 diesel engine made an engine-fire rare and increased the distance at which it could operate. The speed of the T34 was also a major advantage over German tanks. The average top speed of German tanks was 25 mph while the T34 had a top speed of 32 mph. Its sloped armour also gave the T34 a very good defence against German shells. And its wide track made it suitable for rough ground. But not for bogs.
The Russians could afford to lose many T34’s in battle as their factory system allowed for the building of thousands of them. Whereas German factories were bombed by the Allies, the T34 factories based deep in the Ukraine, were relatively free from German bombing.
The T34 was later equipped with an 85 mm gun to allow it to compete with the Tiger tanks on the eastern front. Later versions were also given better armour. The T34/85 had a flatter turret, making a smaller target – an innovation that was copied in many tanks after the war.
After the Second World War the T-34 was widely exported and was still fighting in Africa in the 1980s. Then in the 1990s it saw action again in Europe during the Yugoslavian civil war - as a fifty year old design.
I want one. I can just see me parking it in the Paris streets where I live. No worries.
You can read about the biggest tank battle of World War II involving 1500 Soviet and German tanks at Kursk, here at the history learning site