Polish Armor 1939 – 7TP / 7-Tonowy Polski Light Tank


7TP / 7-Tonowy Polski
Light Tank

7TPjw
7TPjw

In 1928, British Vickers-Armstrong designed the 6ton Tank Mark E and of which in 1931, Poland purchased 50 examples. 6ton Mark E was not accepted by the British Army but Vickers sold it along with a licence (in some cases) to Bolivia, Bulgaria, China, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Japan, Portugal, Romania, Russia (T-26 series) and Thailand (Siam).  Two types Mark A and Mark B were purchased along with the licence. 16 Model A and 22 B were delived in 1932 and 1933, while the rest remained as payment for the licence or were delivered as spare parts.  The twin turret Mark A was armed with two 7.92mm Hotchkiss wz.25 and in late 1930s rearmed with 7.92mm Browning wz.30 machine guns.  Single turret Mark B was armed with 47mm Vickers-Armstrong gun and 7.92mm wz.30 machine gun. The main problem with 6ton Vickers was its Siddeley engine, which easily overheated.  After examination in Poland, it was decided to modify Mark E and start the development of their own light tank by improving Mark E. New tank development program was designated as VAU-33 (Vickers-Armstrong-Ursus 33), either jw (single turret) or dw (twin turret).

7TPjws on production line at Ursus PZInz. in 1939
7TPjws on production line at Ursus PZInz. in 1939

7TPjws on production line at Ursus PZInz. in 1939.

Polish designers attempted to modify original Vickers tanks as late as 1936, including various armament configurations in twin turret models.  Polish designers also worked on replacing original Armstrong-Siddeley engine with licensed built Swiss Sauer diesel engine as well as on improving its armor protection.  Experience gained during the work was used in the development of new Polish tank and Vickers tanks remained in service to the outbreak of war without major modifications(e.g. cooling system was improved). In 1934, the development of domestic light tank designated 7TP (PZInz.220) based on Vickers Mark E started. In Spring of 1935, it was accepted for production and production of first 7TPdw with two small turrets, each armed with 7.92mm Browning wz.30 machine gun started. Other alternate armament was 13.2mm Browning wz.30 heavy machine gun mounted in one turret and 7.92mm Browning wz.30 machine gun in the other.  Also considered wasconfiguration with 37mm Puteaux SA 1918 gun in one of the turrets.  7TPdw was considered to be the temporary solution and only some 24 were produced, while the rest was finished as 7TPjw tanks.   Early 7TPdw were mounted with turrets removed from 22 Vickers tanks in 1934, which were converted to single turret model.

Next variant was to be armed with a single turret armed with a heavier gun. Various designs and prototypes were presented and armaments included: 20mm, 40mm, 47mm and 55mm guns.  In late 1936, second variant 7TPjw was ready and entered production in late 1937.  It mounted a single turret manufactured by Swedish Bofors, armed with 37mm Bofors anti-tank gun and one 7.92mm Browning machine gun.  Vehicles produced from late 1938, were fitted with turret mountedstorage bins to mount 2N/C radio equipment.  Original 7TPdw were slowly being converted to jw variant and by September of 1939, only 16-24 were in service.  All 16-24 were at the training centre near Warsaw and in September of 1939, took part in the defence of the city.  In 1938/39, work on new 7TP started and two designs were made for new tank designated as 9TP Both variants were to have modified 7TPjw’s turret, a new engine (Saurer CT1D / PZInz.155 diesel engine), strengthened suspension and wider tracks along with improved armor protection.  First variant was to be uparmormed (up to 40mm) version of 7TP, while second had more angled front armor.  Outbreak of war stopped any futher development of 7TP and 9TP.

In January 1937, Sweden became interested in purchasing or renting of single 7TPjw for testing purposes along with a purchase of 20 to 60 unarmed tanks and C7P tractors, but Polish side was not interested.  In April of 1937, Bulgaria and Estonia were interested in purchasing 7TPjw tanks.  Estonia wanted to buy 4 tanks, but Poland was willing to sell only 7TPdw tanks and it was planned to create a hybrid of 7TPjw hull mounted with Vickers turret armed with cannon.  In November of 1937, Holand was interested in 7TP, but also no transaction took place.In 1938, technical documentation for 7TPjw was send to Turkey in preparation for the transaction, which never took place.  At the same time, Poland considered exporting 36 7TPjw tanks and Yugoslavia and Greece were both interested, but the transaction never took place.

7TPjws
7TPjws

7TPjw from 1st Company’s 1st Platoon of 3rd Light Tank Battalion
in the area of Cieszyn, 1938.

Overall from 1935 to 1939, 7TP was built by Panstwowe Zaklady Inzynierii (National Engineering Works) at Ursus near Warsaw, in only two main variants – jw (single turret) and dw (twin turret).  Polish designers also developed light (artillery) tractor / troop carrier based on 7TP’s chassis designated C7P. Production started in 1935 and first units received tractors in the same year.  In 1937, plans were also made to produce self-propelled anti-aircraft tank based on 7TP armed with two 20mm FK-A wz.38 L/73.5 automatic cannons (used to rearm TKS tankettes). The entire project was cancelled in 1938 and all efforts were concentrated on production and modernization of Polish armored fighting vehicles. Also few special rail transport cars were made especially for 7TP tanks (similar to those made for Polish Renault FT-17 light tanks) to allow them to travel as part of armored trains.

In September of 1939, Polish Army had only 136 7TPs (24 dw, 97 jw and 11 jw produced in September of 1939 along with 4 prototypes made of regular plate), which equipped two Polish light tank battalions (each with 49 tanks) and other units. During Polish Campaign, 7TP proved to be a match for any German Panzer.  Some captured 7TPs were painted in Panzergrau with German markings and were presented during the victory parade in Warsaw on October 8, 1939.  Later on captured 7TPs were used for internal policing duties and later on as artillery tractors.Number of captured 7TP tanks, especially jw variants was tested by the Soviets at Kubinka in 1939/40. Today, parts of 7TPjw light tank can seen in the Museum of Polish Armored Forces in Warsaw, Poland. Currently, there is a replica being build in Poland.

7TPjws
7TPjws

7TPjw Light Tanks from 3rd Tank Battalion in Warsaw, 1938/39.
Specifications for 7TPjw

Weight: 9900kg
Crew: 3 men
Engine: Sauer VBLDb Diesel / 6-cylinder / 110hp
Speed: 32-37km/h
Range: Road: 150km
Cross-Country: 130km
Lenght: 4.75m
Width: 2.40m
Height: 2.27m
Armament: 1 x 37mm Bofors wz.36 L/45 anti-tank gun
1 x 7.92mm Browning machine gun wz.33
Ammunition: 37mm – 80 rounds
7.92mm – 3960 rounds
Armor: Front: 17mm
Side / Rear of the Engine Compartment: 13mm
Top / Lower Hull: 10mm
Bottom: 9.5mm
Top of the Engine Compartment: 5mm
Turret: 15mm
Turret Top: 10mm
German Tanks vs. 7TP Penetration of Frontal Armor at Penetration of Frontal Armor at 7TP vs. German Tanks
PzKpfw I 

0m 

1800m 

7TP

PzKpfw II 

250m 

1500m 

7TP

PzKpfw 35(t) 

2000m 

1000m 

7TP

PzKpfw 38(t) 

2000m 

1000m 

7TP

PzKpfw III Ausf D 

1500m 

1700m 

7TP

PzKpfw IV Ausf B/C/D 

2500m 

400m 

7TP

C7P
C7P

Light tractor & troop carrier C7P


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