The tank being prepared for transport and, eventually, rebuilding. On top of their new charge, members of the Northern Carelia Weapons History Guild.
The Scaup Tank...
Continued: Part 2/2
Text and photography: J. Hartikka
English edition by Eero Juhola (See home pages: Finnish Weapons)
Wearing hearing protectors I crawl onto the driver's seat from the fighting compartment and lift up the back rest. The gear selector, operated with the right hand, is located far enough so that I have to lean forwards, towards it when shifting. There is a reverse gear and five gears forward, the two first of which are for low-speed, cross-country use. "The gears are a bit confusing", the more experienced driver explains, "I don't always remember how they go either". At the end of the selector is a lever not unlike that used to operate a motorcycle's clutch. This contols a wire locking the gears on so that they do not disengage on their own.
If Starting Up Is A Liturgy, Then Driving Is an Orgy !
.Because to clutch, steering sticks, brakes and all other steering equipment are manually operated, one would expect driving the T-34 to be a body-building enthusiast's dream workout. But as I step on the clutch pedal it sinks in surprisingly easily and I remember driving family cars with stiffer clutch pedals. Pressed down as far as it will go, the pedal vibrates under the sole of my boot and the low whine of the pressure bearing can be heard from the rear of the vehicle. I reach out for the gear selector and switch into third gear which is suitable for getting the tank moving on level ground. The gearbox lets out an unsynchronized growl "CRRunn-Ch-Klack" affirming my gear selection. As I give it a little gas the engine roars, gaining revolutions. I raise my foot off the clutch. The engine stalls!
Come to think of it, it is only logical. While the tank's five hundred horsepower may seem impressive at first, they have to move the vehicle's thirty tons mass. In fact we only have one tenth of the horsepower per kilogram of weight available to a modern motor car.
A look down from the
turret: people from a local radio station are interviewing the tankers.
Because the engine is warm and lubricated I again step on the clutch and press on the start button without first using the oil pump. The engine starts immediately. I give it a lot of gas and further increase revolutions as I lift the clutch. The Scaup surges forward, the tracks rattling softly!
Driving at speed I try pulling the right hand side steering stick. The clutch is released and the Scaup seems at first to be considering turning to the right but then decides against it. I pull further, wondering whether the strength of one arm is sufficient to turn such a lump of steel as this tank. The stick is now far back, the brake engages and the Scaup turns softly towards the right. I pull a bit more still and the tank turns tighter, the tracks churning the icy ground. I release the stick and the tank immediately straightens out from the turn, continuing directly ahead. I test the steering sticks some more. Their travel is long but using them is rather light work. There is no need to use two hands - the T-34 turns nicely with just two fingers !
We continue the test drive on a snow-covered field. The ride is loud but does not shake your teeth loose, as one would expect. The huge weight on spring-suspended tracks dampens the bumps and the resulting ride is actually rather smooth. Going over a ditch the Scaup sways gently, letting out a derogatory puff of blue smoke from the exhausts, and continues onward - with the large-caliber gun proudly pointed up and forwards - trailing a cloud of snow flakes behind it.
When you step on the gas pedal the engine gobbles copious amounts of fuel - it burns through 250 liters of domestic heating fuel or diesel per hour. Driving to the local gas station and telling them to "fill 'er up" will cost you the equivalent of 360 US Dollars in this country. For the investment you do get a wide rut in the snow bank as you drive. The tracks have no problem reaching the dirt of the field and the Scaup sails onward, shiplike, softly swaying as it plows through the sea of snow. When the sharp nose of the tank plunges into a particularly high snow bank a bucketful or two of snow falls onto my lap through the open driver's hatch.
I drive on, towards a high mound of dirt. I remember to warn our almost blind passengers in the fighting compartment to hang on to something. The terrain in front is not really visible to anyone except the driver and, if he looks out from the turret hatch, the commander. Our tank climbs up the mound like a tug boat would climb atop a large wave. All I can see out my hatch is the cloudy sky. We did not drive up to the very highest point of the mound. "Hey, no problem," the Scaup seems to be saying, slowly listing to the left and then sliding sideways for a bit. Then she brings her nose down and begins the sharp descent downwards.
Veikko Kosonen hangs onto the gunner's seat in order to stay upright. He is wearing the "sausage hat", the tankers' helmet, and stands right below the turret, where the rear seat would be located if the Scaup were a motor car. Behind him is the loud engine, above hangs the cannon and in front are the turret's electrical wires.
The horizon re-appears momentarily only to disappear somewhere upwards. What I see now is just the white snow. I brake with the engine. As it plunges into the snowbank the tank straightens out and the horizon complete with treeline confirms that we are headed in the right direction. I glance backwards and see the proud smile of our guide and the slightly nervous ones of our first-timer passengers. The Scaup has a way of getting to you - once again she has enlarged her fan club.
License to Bear Cannon
Riding in the turret of a tank is quite an experiance in itself. The gunner has his own collapsible, stool-sized set on the left side of the gun. All around the interior of the tank are switches and levers amidst which the four-man crew must find their own places. But there is one instrument which dominates the interior, the system around which the tank was built: the cannon.
Olli Suokas pushes in the blank round's covering. Kari Haantio watches from behind the table. About can's worth of powder mixture is used for every movie special effect round.
The long-barrelled 85mm gun is about a centimeter larger than the more common Scaup gun used on the Finnish front during the war. It automatically opens the lock and ejects the spent shell casing but of course requires someone to put in a new one. In its present use the gun does not work semiautomatically because the blank shots do not generate enough recoil.
The breech is opened by pulling the lever on its side of the cannon, on the right. A new round is then inserted into the gun.
.The tank has been granted an official "license to bear cannon" by the county administrative board. Despite this no one within gun range of Joensuu need worry about the gunner missing his mark - the gun can only be used to shoot blanks. For his purpose it has already been used on special occasions, for instance to mark General Ernrooth's birthday. The number of shots that can be fired is constrained by a shortage of suitable shell casings and the high price of powder - about 35 US Dollars worth of powder goes into every pyrotechnic round.
"Smoking it !" After the shot the spent shell casing falls out when the breech is opened. However the crew gets to inhale all the smoke that follows the cartridge.
But you do get your money's worth of bang per buck. The armor protects the occupants' hearing from most of the blast but still the gunner and commander have a tough time in the turret. When the breech is opened all the smoke left in the barrel is sucked into the turret, making the crew cough.
General Ernrooth's birthday salute was delivered in a snow storm.
- The engine leaks oil.
- The batteries are not being recharged.
- The electric pump does not raise pressure.
- A track greaser has become loose.
- Engine coolant seems to be leaking too.
- A track pin is broken.
- The oil cup has been broken in two.
The tank must be checked after each and every drive. Sometimes it seems as if every single part which can break has been broken. This green giant quickly teaches you the value of hard work for without long hours in the garage it will soon stop moving. The team sometimes labors without break through their spare time. A veritable ant army of mechanics can be seen crawling about on this mountain of steel, working inside it and crawling under it.
The Scaup's hood is open for repairs. In the middle is the gearbox surrounded by track brakes and clutches. Yellow color marks the fuel tank and the blue thing is the engine air intake. The starter motor is the surprisingly small black box on top of the gearbox. The large, round black piece of machinery is the flywheel.
It is not always clear how to go about fixing some part of the vehicle. Then the team gathers to think and discuss, and usually ends up simply trying something. Slowly, almost unnoticeably, one small lug at a time the tank sheds her unkempt appearance. Now retired from active duty, she will begin her life anew. Extra fuel tanks are bolted onto her sides, a new coat of paint is applied, shiny new headlights appear on her nose and many more bits and pieces are added - enough to make any tank proud !
"For once we get to touch a real tank !" The Scaup at a fair. The people are queuing for their turn slide down the hatch into the turret. A replica of the shell is atop the turret.
Rattling by she seems to be telling you her story... and watching her slow swaying your imagination is let loose: "Yes, I've taken part in all sorts of endeavors", she seems to be saying. "Mind you my heart wasn't always in it. But I always did my part the best I could". And we can figure out the ending of this Scaup's story by ourselves.
* * * The End * * *
The T-34 story above was previously published on the International Arms & Militaria Collector magazine, No. 19.
Collector magazine (cover beside) and a variety of collector's books are published by Ian Skennerton. The publisher has offices in Australia, America and Bangkok.
Arms & Militaria Press
P.O. Box 5659
Grants Pass OR 97527, USA
Ian Skennerton Publishing
P.O. Box 80
Labrador 4215, Australia
Phone: 07 5594 7911 Fax: 07 5594 7951
<< Part 1/2 Gunwriters Links
Gunwriters on the Web T-34 Tank, part 2: http://guns.connect.fi/gow/T34tank2.html