THE DRIVER AND HIS CONTROLS
The driving compartment was separated from the engine by the tank's single bulkhead. The driver sat on the left front of the hull with a large, one-piece hatch that hinged forward to allow access. It mounted the observation periscopes. The driver steered the tank through the use of a clutch-and-brake system, and this was controlled by two steering levers and gear-change lever and a manual clutch pedal and foot brakes. The controls were linked to the transmission at the rear by metal rods which ran along the tank's floor. They required more strength to operate than Western tanks, where the transmission and gearbox were positioned close together.
There was no power-assisted control gear, T-34 drivers often had a mailer to use on the controls if they seized up. The four-speed gearbox was replaced by a five-speed type on the last 100 Medium Tank T-34 Model 1934s, making it easier to change gear and increasing the tank speed. There was a fuel-injection pedal on the floor with the clutch and brake pedals. In a position ar the bottom of the hull was another pedal (often referred to as the Desantov) which immobilized the tank. There were also two compressed-air bottles for cold-weather starts.
THE GUNNER / RADIO OPERATOR
The hull gunner/ radio operator sat in the from right of the hull, with an escape hatch in the floor in front of him. In combat he operated the ball-mounted Degtyarev DT 7,62mm (0,3 in) machine gun with a 24-degree horizontal fire arc and elevation of between -6 degrees and +12 degrees. The machine gun which was fitted into the Model 1942 tanks had an armoured (forces) sleeve.
Although early in the war many T-34 s lacked radios - and during some of the Red Army's acute manpower crises, this position was occasionally left unfilled as the war progressed - the proportion of radio-equipped tanks grew steadily. In 1941 the company commander's tank was usually equipped with a 71-TK-3 radio, and efforts were made to extend the available sets to platoon leaders. In the first two years of the conflict the Soviets also used the 71-TK-I. The situation improved, with the widespread intoduction of the 9-R, radio ill late 1942. Although technically the 9-R's range was 24 km (15 miles), on the move it was effectively 8 km (5 miles).
The Germans, who attached considerable importance to the universal provision of radios to their tank crews, noted the poor tactical cooperation of Soviet tank. In the absence of radios, the Soviets relied on flag signals. There was even a special hatch in the main turret hatch for signals even when it was closed down. This proved impractical in action, as the platoon commander had enough to deal with controlling his own tank and aiming its gun. Often he would simply tell the other crews to follow his lead. The situation improved as radio production increased, and by the summer of 1943 around 75-80 percent of all tanks were radio equipped. Inside the tank T-34 the crew communicated through the TUP interphone system. The crew's Tankobyi Shlem (padded cloth helmets) had builtin earphones and a throat microphone.
The turret on all models was low. Although a low silhouette is useful in combat, it restricted the depression of the main and auxiliary armament, particularly on the reverse slope or at close range. The low turret also made the interior cramped, as did the small size of the turret ring. As th ere was no turret basket, the driving compartment led directly into the turret's fighting compartment at any position of traverse. On later models. grab rails were welded to the turret and hull for tank-borne infantry.
THE COMMANDER AND LOADER
The most serious flaw of the whole T-34 was poor ergonomic design of the turret. German tank (arm) turrets had a three-man crew: gunner, loader and the commander who was responsible for observing the terrain, directing the crew and coordinating the tank with the rest of the unit. The situation was different in the cramped confines of the two-man turret of the T-34 The commander had the same tasks, but in addition he also had to aim and fire the main gun, which was a task enough in itself, and a very serious distraction from his main command functions in anion.
Loading was also a full-time role, and despite its demands, there was a brief and naturally unsuccessful experiment at giving the responsibility of loading the gun rather than firing it to the commander. As there was no turret basket. the turret crew sat on stools which were suspended from the turret ring. The commander sat to the left of the gun, and the loader, who was also tasked with firing the co-axial machine gun, sat on the right of the gun.
The T-34 is optical devices were poorer than the German equivalents. The main x2,5 telescopic sight on earlier models, the TOD-6, was replaced by the TMFD, In 1942 T-34s from the Stalingrad tractor plant were often driven straight off the production line and into (deep) battle. They lacked gun sights and could only be aimed at almost point-blank range by the loader peering down the barrel.
For general viewing the commander and loader both used the PT-6 periscope, Later tanks were fitted with the PT-4-7 and PT-5. Wartime shortages often meant the loader's periscope was deleted. These provided a very narrow field of vision, and this was not much improved by the provision of armoured viewing ports at shoulder level for the loader and commander. There were pistol ports below these and also one in the rear, although these were sometimes omitted on later models tank T-34 of the tank.
Many German (soviet) tank commanders liked to fight with their heads out of the turret for a 360-degree view. If the T-34 commander attempted this, his view was severely curtailed by the large, forward-opening one-piece hatch. He was obliged to sit on the turret roof, risking not only enemy fire, but also injury from the extremely heavy hatch. Such was its size tha to pening it also exposed the loader. The T-34 Model 1943 introduced separate hatches for the commander and loader, but only on the final models was a 360-degree commander's cupola fitted.
The turret itself was originally made of rolled plate with the gun in a cast-contoured cradle. On the Model 1941 the cast gun-cradle was replaced by an angular bolted type. During the production run of the Model 1942. a second version entered service with a 52mm (2in) cast turret, although it was virtually the same as the original rolled turret.
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