The First T-34. Birth of a Legend: The T-34 Model 1940
by Christian Mulsow with Jochen Vollert Archives
Reviewed by John Prigent
There have been books about the early T-34 before, but this hardcover one leaves them all in the shade. Christian Mulsow uses period photos from the Vollert archive and help from Russian experts to show exactly how this famous tank was developed. With 226 pages, 330 photographs, 110 drawings, 6 five-view 1/35 plans and 23 colour plates its coverage is exhaustive!
It begins with a look at the development of Russian armour from WWI to 1940, including of course the BT series with their Christie suspension and then the development of possible replacements with sloped armour. Here are the well-known A-2, A-32 and A-34, described in far more detail than in previous books. There’s enough information here, with a plan of the second A-34 prototype, to allow an interested modeller to build models of them.
The A-34 became the T-34 at the start of production, but improvements were still desirable and a 27-page chapter tells us about them. Another 84 pages go into detail of which ones were made, from the pre-series production batch until production ended in April 1941. Yes, of course the obvious switch from the L-11 main gin to the F-32 and F-34 is covered, with their differing mantlets, but there were far more less obvious changes. Just as examples, how many of us knew that the basic turret shape was altered early in production or that there were several changes to the driver’s hatch? They’re all set out here, and pinned to production periods whenever possible, so it’s possible to identify production batches by examining photos and include the appropriate features in a model.
Combat use and the German view of theT-34 is covered in another 2 chapters totalling 36 pages, and then there’s a detailed breakdown of the changes during production with enlarged photos showing exactly what each one looked like. Yes, even the changes to rear mudguards that most of us have never heard about.
Finally there’s the colour plate section, showing typical colours and markings and an overview of the five distinct turret types plus clear views of the different fastening systems of the two versions of front and rear mudguards.
This is a superb book, as well-detailed about the early T-34 as any of the Panzer Tracts are for German armour. If Soviet tanks are your interest you must get it! I bought my copy from Bookworld Wholesale Ltd at £54.74 but other suppliers also have it and you can order direct from Tankograd Publishing.