Red Army Armoured Sleds Towed Behind AFVs

An ‘up-market’ version of the Infantry armoured sled being two T-60 light tank chassis modified on sleds and with hull apertures welded with protective armoured plate. Not the telephone cables from the tank to the two sleds.

Winter War 1940

Advancing 200 metres behind the creeping barrage was the first echelon of infantry and tanks, clearing a way through the defensive obstacles up to the DOTs.” In a doctrinal article published in Na Strazhe Rodiny on 6 January 1940, Talenskii explained to the rank-and-file that, although the Finns had constructed a complex system of fortified fire-points, they did not have enough forces to fill all the gaps in the front. The first echelon’s duty was to find these gaps and exploit them. Talenskii recommended that the first infantry echelon carry forward their own medium machine-guns, mortars and artillery, then verify communications with higher command staffs, dig in, and wait for the second echelon to destroy individual fire-points.”; Enemy machine-gun and mortar fire could be lethal even on a relatively undefended sector of the enemy’s front. In December, Red Army troops had responded to this problem by following in single file behind the infantry support tanks. When this proved equally disastrous the troops were ordered to ride in armoured sleds dragged behind the tanks.”

Soviet General F.D. Gorolenko’s 50th Rifle Corps having received armoured shields on skis (1000+ examples) and some armoured sleds to be towed behind tanks, “for the protection of sappers and infantry.” The deep snow led to the infantry slogging through it being slaughtered, so the Soviets took to towing them in sleds behind tanks.

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Here is a personal account from the “Kansa Taisteli” journal which features armoured sleds.

At 1100 hours the situation in the positions of the I and II Platoons was getting ever worse. The gap between the Platoons was widening slowly and the tanks were moving around us at will. The enemy infantry failed to break in our trench despite several attempts, even though the sand jammed our weapons every now and then. So the enemy tried a new trick. Four armoured sleds, pulled by tanks and mounting a platoon of men, approached the gap in our defences. This was a new experience for us that made our blood run cold. By now we were surrounded by more than sixty (60) tanks. Flamethrowers and tanks were roaming about constantly forcing us to keep our heads low. Three of our four LMGs had been crushed by tanks and the fourth was jammed. The surviving MG was full of dirt and sand.

At first it seemed certain that the tanks with their armoured sleds are going to cross our trench and unload behind us which would mean a certain and speedy death to all of us. Yet the first sled stopped 50m ahead of our trench and men carrying special equipment disembarked. Despite the tremendous flame thrower and tank fire at us we managed to shoot at the men being unloaded, and as our surviving LMG was usable again the first sled-full of men were eliminated. The LMG was hit very soon and totally wrecked. I must add that almost every rifleman had an armour plate, evacuated from the No man’s land, for cover in their foxholes. They fired in flank direction only and killed first the storming men and their leaders.

Scared by the fate of the first armoured sled the three others turned back to unload a little farther off. The sled nearest to us exposed its unprotected rear, and as our MG was functional again, I supported the gun on the back of a Sergeant and sent an angry burst at it. Another sled-full had been quickly eliminated accompanied by tremendous howling.

As we tried to get another exposed sled under fire the MG took a square hit and the Sergeant was wounded. Our last MG was lost, but the armoured sled attack that had seemed so dangerous had been repulsed.

Even though our situation at the Muolaa church was difficult and on the 16th Feb 1940 actually hopeless, nothing prevented us from shouting with joy at every little success. We did it many times, and again now as the armoured sleds were repelled. I am sure the enemy heard and remembered our yelling.

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