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Sturgeon's House

Czechoslovak interwar bits


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Hello guys,

I think that possibly some of you might be interested in our interwar Czechoslovak stuff. For starter I've decided to share with you a wonderful online document about our fortification system. At the very beginning I'd like to say that I have nothing common with its creators. It's just an incredible gem that deserves to be shared with you. If you know it, sorry for that, nevertheless I think most of you don't. Since I am new here I will not waste your time debating what if scenarios. Don't worry.  


Well, enough of talking. What I want to share with you is a massive interactive map of our fortification system containing nearly 11 thousand objects with information about every single one of them. You can switch on even such crazy details like cable networks or construction facilities used for building of the fortifications. The map is directly linked with an online database of the fortification buildings where more than 2000 objects are listed with detailed description (plans, 3D models, photos, weapons, crew, important dates, recent state etc.). Unfortunately this database is only in Czech language but it can be a great source of information for you anyway (especially when linked with the map). The good thing is that the map alone supports other languages and you can easily switch them.  


This is the base view where I have already switched on all objects. You can change background map type, information etc. on the left side and visualise everything what You want to see on the right side. eJ2yjdu.jpg


Let's zoom in a little bit. Here You can see one of the strongest fortified places - a valey at Králíky in north-east Czechia. As you can see the object marks have different shapes, colours etc. The shape is matching the menu on the right side. Triangles are concrete pillboxes vz. (mark) 36. Small circles are pillboxes vz. 37. The letter inside means type of the object (with one firing post, two on each side, angled one etc.). The color can be decoded from the information table in the bottom right corner. Basically it shows whether the object was actually built, if it was later destroyed or the works were only started or even not so. The heavy objects are the large circles. The numbers have also a meaning. It's a resistance class (1 -> 2 -> I -> IV from the lowest to the most resistant). 



You can switch on also the ground plans of the artilery groups (fortresses with underground network between the casemates). You can see it here (fortress Hůrka). 



You can also switch on the firing lines. Here You can see heavy artilery coverage of the most fortified section of the line (the sad thing is that no heavy artilery pieces were installed by the time of Münich crisis - but lets leave such details aside for now). 



You can switch on the firing lines even for the pillboxes as you can see here on the example from the souther border. Nearly all Czechoslovak objects were built for side fire having superheavy resistance frontal walls with stone and earth covers. 



If You zoom even more and switch for satelite map you get something like this. In this case the red color shows anti tank 47 mm guns and the blue color is 7,92 mm (sometimes double) heavy machine guns of a heavy separated casemate (possible use of light machine guns in observation cupolas is not marked). The grey color shows vz.26 light machine guns of the neighbouring pillbox. 



You can click on every single object and you get available details. The first icon shows detailed lines of fire including realistic range. Bellow the L: L1 M ZN 3-4 means: Left side: L1 = 47 mm anti tank gun with 7,92 mm coaxial heavy MG; M = twin 7,92 heavy MG; ZN is I think type of the cupola but I'm not actually sure about it. The codes for the weapons are shown at the table in the lower right corner (you need to keep the cursor on the question mark). 



The Second icon leads to a database of objects which is unfortunately only in our weird language. Anyway you can dig a lot of information from it as well (drawings, recent state, photos, exact location etc.).




The best thing is that most of the objects still exist till today (all of those heavy ones). The Germans managed to destroy roughly 2000 light objects (and gain some 11000 tons of steels from them). They managed to damage also many heavy ones when they were testing weapons and tactics for the future use duirng the WW2. They even moved some cupolas (and of course the famous hedgehogs) to other fortifications along the Atlantic wall or elsewhere. Many of them are made into better or worse museums today (large quantity is private now). Huge number of them is just left alone and freely accessible for anyone. If you are more interested I can give you tips which ones to visit. On the Czech map portal You can use a mode panorama which is basically the same thing as Google street view but it's much more up to date and it's nearly everywhere where they got at least with a motorbike. Since the fortifications are also visible there, you check where they are for easier access. 





If you are interested I can continue the fortification topic with some other information (I'm no historian but I have visited quite many of the objects myself and read some books about them). 


OK, so this was my first post on the forum. I hope you find it interesting and maybe for some of you it can be a reason for a trip, who knows :-) 





Edited by Beer
I have just deleted some unnecessary stuff from one picture.
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Few photos (from my phone so pardon for the quality). I will add some more later. 


Artilery casemate R-S-79 of Hanička fortress (north-east Czechia). It shall have been armed with three 100 mm rapid firing howitzers which were never installed (plus several MGs and granade tubes). This type of objects was the largest in the whole fortification system. It is made of 5600 tons of reinforced concrete and the walls and roof are up to 3,5 meters thick (same for all object of artilery fortresses). By the late 1938 neiter Wehrmacht nor Luftwaffe had any weapon capable of guaranteed penetration. You can see damage caused by German tests. They achieved some penetrations only when firing salvos point blank from the rearward side. Hanička fortres was used for development of special Röchling bunker-penetrating shells and hand-held cumulative bombs. I am not able to recognize damage potentially caused by them. For sure one Röchling shell is displayed (badly corroded) in the fortress. 



Infantry casemate R-S-78 of fortress Hanička. It was one of the object used to defend the main artilery object. Its main armament was a cupola armed with heavy twin MG (plus several other MGs and grenade tubes). Unfortunately what You see is only an observation cupola (light MG could have been fired from it) not the heavy MG one. As You can see all weapons were installed behind a deep moat with grenade tubes and covered by a thick roof from the top. Generally the heavy Czechoslovak fortresses were similar to the French ones but as I don't know those very well I can't tell you how exactly they differed. In the war the object would have a camouflage coloring and net. 



Stand-alone infantry casemate R-S-87 covering a road over a mountain ridge. It's main armament is a 90 mm mortar installed in the moat. Also 47 mm anti-tank gun and two twin heavy MGs and several light MGs. Its walls are up to 1,75 meters thick and it's therefore one of the less resistant heavy objects however it is placed in difficult terrain. The bunker is private and the chimney is of course not original. 



Here would be the mortar.



Twin heavy MG and a light MG on the left side of it. The firing posts are not original as those were removed probably for Atlantic Wall. 



Famous hedgehog and behind it you can see the anti-tank gun in a spherical armoured post.  



47 mm AT gun.



Stand-alone heavy infantry casemate R-S-81 after German tests (with armored firing posts taken to Atlantic Wall I believe). This object was built in the same resistance class as the one upon. Since it is one of the lightests heavy objetcs the results of the artilery tests on the normally inaccessible walls are not very impressive. 



An exampe of anti-infantry obstacles with a light object vz.37 in the background (this time from the southern border with Austria). Where armor attack was expcected the obstacles were made of mixture of concrete moats and steel or older concrete hedgehogs. The firing lines were of course free of trees which was advantage and disadvantage in the same time. Large majority of Czech border areas is hills, mountains and forests. That made it much more difficult for attackers but on the other hand the free of trees firing lines were clearly visible from the air.  



This is how the pillbox looks from the side of the enemy. Even these light pillboxes had walls up to 80 cm (120 cm for less common but still widely used reinforced variant). Together with stones and earth on the front side they are claimed to be capable to withstand 88 mm Flak fire (per German tests) or 105 mm howitzer hits (150 mm for the reinforced variant). The crew of max. seven men (depending on the type) had light MGs, grenade tubes and personal weapons. 



Detail of the firing post for the vz.26 light MG (sometimes also old heavy MG vz.24 was used I think - the MG vz.24 was rechambered Schwarzlose for 8 mm Mauser ammo). You can see how the firing post is covered by the  shielding wall from the fire coming from the enemy. These pillboxes covered basically all enemy borders (except extremely difficult terrain where only field fortifications weere used) and usually in several lines. Nearly 10000 of them were finished. Unlike in France there was nowhere to pass around. At the end of the war there was a skirmish between Wehrmacht and US army where German soldiers tried to use these pillboxes. They could however use them basically only as a shelter because at that time the fans were removed and when someone fired from inside the pillbox was immediately full of exhaust gasses. 



Pillbox vz.37 from the rear (friendly) side. The biggest problem of these bunkers was absence of any anti-tank weapons but by the time of Münich no fielded German tank had more than 14,5 armour and even the MGs could be dangerous for them since the gaps between the bunkers were usually short. Of course AT guns could and would be used in field positions to support the lines of bunkers. Another issue was with the ammo. It was simply not possible to store much ammo inside therefore the bunkers needed ammo supplies (unlike large fortresses with underground warehouses and even own water wells). 



Part of the pillboxes on the iron curtain were in use by the army till 1990' and are therefore in good condition. They have however often different firing posts (for UK vz.59) and often more stone and earth cover (officially to prevent overturning them by nuclear explosion). Normally the pillbox has some 2 meters of concrete undeground. 








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Possibly last post dedicated to the fortification but a very long one dedicated to the heavy fortifications. I hope that a lot of those peculiar details are new for you. Most of the info comes from very knowledgeable staff of heavy infantry casemate N-S-82. If you ever want to visit some object of Czechoslovak fortification system you must not miss this one because this is the only one fully equipped as it shall have been (in fact it's a bit better equipped than in September 1938 then it was not totally finished inside). All photos are from my phone (it's allowed to take photos inside). 


N-S-82 is a stand alone infantry casemate located in a line on a slope upon the border crossing Náchod-Běloves. It was built in 1938 in a resistance class II. Which means that it had 2,25 m thick frontal wall (with a stones and earth cover). The roof was 2 m thick and the side and rear facing walls were 1 m thick. The border crossing is down bellow while roughly 1,5 km away on the hill there is an artillery fortress Dobrošov. It was guaranteed to withstand 240 mm artillery shells and 250 kg bombs (according to many authors Luftwaffe had no 500 kg bombs fielded at September 1938 yet) however during weapon testing on a casemate Jordán (experimental one used for fortification and weapon development) which had same resistance class even 305 mm heavy mortar hit didn't penetrate the roof (there were volunteers inside during the test fire!). It is said that there was some damage to the equipment but I don't know more details. 


On the same picture you can see also a combined anti-tank/infantry obstacle made of steel U-shape profiles welded together and stuck in a concrete base. Behind them there is anti-infantry barbed wire and a line of steel hedgehogs. Anti-infantry barbed wire could have been placed also in front of those rods. At certain place with high danger of tank attacks concrete anti-tank moats wete built too (sometime they can still be found). 



In 1938 you could find also these older concrete hedgehogs in the area. Those were used only earlier because they had two importnat drawbacks. The first one was that they offered better cover for the attacking infantry and the second was that their large area made them easier to move by shockwaves from artilery. 



A historical image showing how such line looked like in the September 1938 (where it was finished). This picture shows a heavy object K-S-35. 



N-S-82 was armed with one 47 mm AT gun, 5 HMG and 5-6 LMG. AT gun with coaxial HMG and a twin HMG were pointing down the valey towards the border crossing. On the opposite side (uphill) there were two single HMGs. LMG were used only in observation cupolas and for close defence of the object (normally the priority was to defend the neighbouring object with primary weapons). 



Let's go inside. There are three door covered by 2 LMG fire posts and one fire post for personal weapons directly in the entrance which alone had S-shape to prevent any direct fire into the object and on the main door. The first cage door are 200 kg heavy and on the left side behind them there is a fresh-air intake. On the right side there is armored door 600 kg heavy. Behind another corner there is third presurrized door 450 kg heavy. Both heavy door had emergency hatches in them so that the crew could get out if the door were deformed and stuck. 



The casemate has two floor. The top floor is combat and the bottom one is technical and living one. Every single heavy object had its own water source which must have been able to deliver at least 1,5 litres per minute. In this particular case it was around 4 litres per minute.



This is the electric generator which was pretty noisy. It's in fully working state. It's cooling was used for heating the interior but even in summer the inner temperature didn't get upon 17°C and the soldiers often suffered from respiratory or rheumatic issues. 



This is the filtering and air venting room. On the left side there is the ventilator with back-up handles for manual operation (I tried it myself and it's quite tough). On the right side there are filters which were used only in case of gas attack. The whole object had an overpressure in it which was used also for extracting the fumes from gunnery rooms. 



This particular object had 32 men crew (only the commander was an officer). The soldiers had one bedroom (see bellow). The sub-officers had their own room with own bed for each one and the commander had also his own room but located on the combat floor. Only Czech or Slovak nationals were allowed to serve in the permanent boarder units manning the heavy fortifications (no German, Poles or Hungarians because low loyality was expected with them). 



This is part of the bathroom (it's difficult to take some photos inside because it's quite cramped and I don't want to post gazillion of photos, rather only millions). The lavatories had a water filtration station used to prevent pollution of the main water source and a ventilation preventing methane acumulation). 



Down bellow there was also a food storage, hand granade storage (275 pieces) and a telephone room (on the picture). The bunker had several external telephone lines leading to the neighbouring objects and to the sector command post. As a backup a ground telegraph was used with cable antenas dug underground. Depending on the particular soil composition it was capable of morse communication to the range of 5-10 km. Ground radio antenas for voice communication were not installed by September 1938 (the radio was developed and tested but not fielded). 



Here you can see some internal communication means in the gunnery room. A simple speaking tube and a telephone. 



There was another way how to communicate between the observation cupolas and the gunnery rooms and that was a color code (in case of big noise from bombardning for example). 



With that we got onto the combat floor. This is the LMG firing post for the defence of the rear side. You can see observation insert on the left side which was interchangeable with the LMG. The LMG is vz.26 which I don't need to introduce to you for sure. There were 120 ready-to-fire magazines for each LMG in the object! 



Here is similar firing post with the observation insert mounted and a removable periscope to the right side of it. That was used to observe the close surroundings and the moats at the weapons. Under the periscope there is a tube for hand grenades used for close defence. 



A view inside the observation cupola from bellow. The very peculiar thing here is that the floor worked similarly to the office chair and the soldier could very simply adjust the floor position to his height. The middle column was also used for evacuation of spent cartridges. The cupola is made of 200 mm thick cast steel and the inner diameter is 1,35 m. 



This is a periscoipe which could have been errected through the cupola roof for 360° observation.



A simple lift was used to transport LMG mags to the cupola.



Some more details before we get to the main weaponry. These are JIGs for MG loading. Top is belt-loading JIG for HMG vz.37 and bellow is a one for mag loading of LMG vz.26.



This is the kitchen, gentelmen. Yes, for 32 people! The bunker had food reserves for 14 days but I can hardly imagine to fight 2 weeks inside without getting crazy. 



This is one very peculiar detail. When the bunker was bombarded by heavy weapons the ceiling could elastically deform. To prevent internal much thinner walls from collapsing they had on top of them a cork layer which worked like a spring reducing the pressure on the walls.



Except for the grenades all ammo was stored in the combat department close to the weapons. The capacity of this object was 600 47 mm shells and 600 thousand 7,92x57 rounds. Now imagine that 263 heavy and nearly 10000 light objects were actually built before Münich. What an insane amount of ammo stored in the fortification system!  In reality around 3/4 of the ammo was delivered at 28th September but I would say that it's still huge achievement of the army logistics. On the picture you can see AP and HE-FRAG round of the AT gun (from later war production). A third anti-infantry round was being developed but wasn't fielded. I don't know how it's called in English when the round is filled with steel balls. Can you help me?  



This is the right gunnery room with two single HMG vz.37 and one LMG vz.26 for close defence. Notice that all frontal and side walls and also the ceiling had metalic anti-spall and anti-vibration layer.



All main weapons (AT gun and the HMGs) had sights with 2x zoom (upon the gun there is a drawing of the surroundings). Unfortunately not a single original support for the single HMG was preserved and the plans shall be dug somewhere in the German archives. Therefore these are just approximate replicas. The HMG vz.37 (ZB-53) alone is basically what the Brits know as BESA (rechambered to 0.303). Each single HMG had 2 men crew, the shooter and the loader. 



This is one of only three preserved heavy barrels for the HMG vz.37 in Czechia. This barrel would be used exclusively in fortifications. 



This is a view into the left gunnery room with an AT gun with coaxial HMG and a twin HMG. Both weapons and supports are original. 



Both the HMGs and the AT gun could have been quickly aimed by the body force alone without using elevation and traverse screws (that was also a possibility). The twin HMG vz.37 on the picture had a crew of three (one shooter and two loaders). 



I believe the most interesting thing is the AT gun Škoda vz.36. This particular gun was moved to Atlantic Wall in Norway and in 2002 returned back into N-S-82 and moreover with a spare barrel. There are only around ten of such guns preserved worldwide and very few spare barrels (only one or two in Czechia) and these two have matching serial numbers (173 + 2173; 2173 means second barrel for 173) and moreover they originally belonged to this particular bunker!


The gun was capable of very rapid fire. Normally 20-30 aimed shots per mimute (depending on the skill of the crew) or up to 40 rounds per minute in autofire mode. That meant that it fired automatically once it was loaded (this was possible max. for 3 minutes and after a water cooling up to 6 minutes long was needed). The shooter could fire both the AT gun and the HMG by the same hand and he could use his second hand and his body to aim like with a gigantic rifle in a ball joint without using traverse and elevation screws. The gun had three loaders - two for the AT gun and one for the HMG. The gun penetration values vary in sources I saw but it shall be around 50 mm of cemented steel at 500 meters and 30°, i.e. more than enough for 1938. Later in the war special ammo with claimed double penetration values was developed by Škoda but I don't know if ever used anywhere.  




Well, that was N-S-82. Now some more peculiar things from other objects. This is a 15 cm Röchling shell still being stuck in a frontal wall of N-S-91. This object was built in class III therefore the wall on the picture is 2,75 meters thick and if the object was fully completed it would be covered by stones and earth (those would have likely little effect against the Röchling anyway). The wall was not penetrated. Czech fortifications were used for Röchling development just like later also the Belgian ones. However there is an important difference. I believe there is no Röchling hit in the roof in any Czech object while in Belgium the Germans tried the indirect fire and they achieved some very spectacular penetrations. The direct fire used against Czech fortifications was much less effective in terms of penetration but with the indirect fire it was close to impossible to actually hit something. 



I believe that this is another Röchling hit in the wall of N-S-49. Maybe a larger calibre for 21 cm guns, honestly I can't recognize. This is an object of an unfinished artilery fortress Skutina and the wall is 3,5 meters thick. It was too high to actually see inside and the object is not accesible from inside for public but it looked like it's not a penetration. Fun fact about this unfinished fortress. The guys who take care of it plan to connect the underground corridor betwen the existing objects where 27 meters were missing by the time when it was abandoned. 



Last thing is a replica of .380 ACP SMG vz.38 which was never fielded (on display in the object N-S-84). The SMG was basically developed in one month! It had two magazines, straight for 24 and drum for 96 rounds. 3500 pieces were ordered by the fortification command to be used to protect the entry door or in some light objects which were close to each other in difficult terrain instead of the LMG. The SMG was roughly 4x cheaper than the LMG. Only 15 were made before the order was canceled after Münich. Strangely Czechoslovakia which was very successful in small arms development never fielded an SMG in the interwar period. When the army realised it would be good to actually have one it was too late and moreover it had no money for it (at least the cavalery and artilery wanted it). 


Under the SMG You can also see Czechoslovak handgrenades from 1930'. 









Edited by Beer
Only some typo and grammar fixing...
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5 hours ago, Beer said:

I don't know how it's called in English when the round is filled with steel balls. Can you help me?  

Canister, or shrapnel if it's a time fuzed shell which ejects the balls after a short flight.

Also I really appreciate this thread!


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  • 2 weeks later...

Let's move from the fortification system to the something a lot less bright... the airforce. The airforce was quite clearly the weakest point of the Czechoslovak army mostly due to the too conservative approach of the MOD. Nevertheless some interesting designs saw the daylight. Here are couple of those not very well known... 


Aero A-102. This plane was originally a bi-plane similar to Polikarpov i-15 (top wings connected directly with the fuselage) and one of the competitors to the Avia B-34. It was never built and lost the bid already in paper phase. Nevertheless Aero redesigned the plane to a braced low-wing. It was year 1934 and the MOD was rather conservative and refused such design. A new itteration came in summer 1934 with a shoulder wing configuration similar to Polish PZL P.11 but more aerodynamically clean, better armed and with much stronger engine. Despite the plane had weaker engine than Avia B-534, it was much faster simply because it was no bi-plane. The top speed with locally produced 800 Hp Gnome Rhone Mistral Major 14 Kfs engine was 430 km/h (B-534 had locally produced 860 Hp Hispano Suiza 12Ybrs but the license owner Avia, part of Škoda company, was doing everything it could to prevent other companies to use it). The armament was made of four 7,92 mm MGs vz.30 in the wings and optionally with light bombs. The plane actually flew and went through extensive testing and showed very good haracteristics However in the end it was rejected due to too high landing speed because it had no flaps (140 km/h). That was a real pity because otherwise it was clearly superior design to bi-plane Avia B-534. 




Avia B-35. OK, not that unknown but neverthless interesting. Czechoslovakia found late that the speed will be crucial in the future air battles. It tried to obtain Hurricanes from GB but the negotiations were not successful. The prototyp of the modern B-35 first flew on 28th September 1938 which is basically all you need to know about the future fate of it. Aside of that the plane was up to date. It had an eliptic wing made of wooden structure with an "armoured plywood" panels (plywood with 0,2 mm aluminium layer). The fuselage was made of steel tubes covered by magnesium-aluminium alloy panels. The engine was supposed to be 1000 Hp Hispano Suiza 12Y-1000C, three-blade adjustable propeller, retractable gear and flaps. The armament was made of one 20 mm Hispano 404 canon and two 7,92 mm MGs vz.30. The theoretical top speed was around 570 km/h. However the first prototype had fixed gear, two-blade wooden propeler and 860 Hp 12Ydrs engine. Despite it had the same engine as the B-534 and not yet the retractable gear it was roughly 100 km/h faster than the B-534 (485 km/h was achieved already in the very first flights). After the occupation the development went pretty slow and in the end 12 B-135 planes were delivered to Bulgaria in 1942 when they were already obsolete. B-135 had the retractable gear but it still had the old 860 Hp engine and the wooden two blade propeler (it achieved 550 km/h with it), moreover the canon was never installed in them. Despite that there are records that on 30th March 1944 one B-135 shot down a Liberator during an atack on Ploesti. 



Aero A-300. The funy thing about Czechoslovak air force is that in the fall of 1938 it was about to go in the war with Germany with its fastest planes being bombers. The airforce had roughly 60 fast Soviet Tupolev SB-2 bombers eqiped with Czech-made Hispano engines) and a licence production was just starting in the Avia factory with a name Avia B-71. Except that the rest of the bomber air force isn't worth talking about as it was hopelessly obsolete. The MOD knew that and tried to obtain a locally produced modern plane heavier than the Tupolev. The Aero A-300 first flew in spring 1938 but the testing was not finished until after Münich when it was officially adopted without the production ever started. It was a very fast (450-460 km/h) low-wing twin engine bomber with a capacity of up to 1000 kg of bombs. The crew of four had three 7,92 mm MGs (retractable dorsal,  and belly posts plus one in the glass front). The engines were 830 Hp Bristol Mercury IX with De Havilland-Hamilton adjustable three-blade propellers. The fuselage was made of steel tubes with aluminium and textile cover. The wings were wooden and the plane had retractable gear and flaps. 




Letov Š-50. A recon and light bomber plane (with tasks similar to FW-189). Due to some issues in the development it first flew only in September 1938 and shortly after that the development was stopped. The plane had again tubular fuselage structure with aluminium cover but this time even thew wings were of steel tubular design. The engines were 420 Hp Avia Rk-17 equipped with two blade adjustable Hamilton propellers. The gear was fixed. The crew of three had three 7,92 mm vz.30 MGs (one in the Armstrong Withworth turret, one in the belly firing post and one forward firing in the wing). The plane could carry various photocameras, radio station and up to 600 kg of bombs. 



Aero A-304. This plane was originally a passenger plane ordered by Czechoslovak Airlines but they didn't want to wait and bought Airspeed Envoy isntead. The airforce liked the plane and let it be modified to a recon/light bomber plane. Nineteen were ordered and few of them were probably delivered before Münich (only one confirmed). Luftwaffe used them later as training planes. The fuselage was made of steel tubes covered by plywood and textile. The wings were wooden with plywood cover. The engines 430 Hp Walter Super Castor worked with wooden two blade propellers and the plane could reach 325 km/h with them. The gear was retractable. The crew had three 7,92 mm vz.30 MGs (one in the dorsal turret, one in the belly and one in the frontal post). It could carry 300 kg of bombs. 



One curiosity at the end. Have you known that interwar Czechoslovakia was using special fuel to decrease the dependence on oil import? It used a fuel called Bi-Bo-Li which had two variants - aviation and vehicle one. The aviation one was made of 44% ethanol, 44% benzene and 12% of kerossene. The vehicle one was made of 50% ethanol, 30% benzene and 20% petrol. The Czechoslovak army and the airforce collected rather large fuel and ammo supplies, in fact reasonably larger than Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe had in late 1938 (not in overall volume but in the time it could use them). 

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A bit about the God of War. With Czechoslovak artillery it was exactly opposite than with the airforce. The artillery was very strong and had many very potent weapons, nearly all of them were local design and production. The guns were also widely exported. The field army had some 80 artillery regiments with over 2200 pieces (not counting any fortification guns or auxilliary units). As with most of other weapons large part of them (plus huge ammo stocks - and actually also hundreds of thousands Sudeten Deutsche soldaten) sadly presented a massive gift for the Wehrmacht. A bitter aftermath of Münich. 


10 cm Light howitzer vz.14/19 (towed by horses). Very well known weapon used by nearly everyone in the central Europe and during WW2 by Wehrmacht and Italy. In 1938 Czechoslovakia had around 600 pieces. Wehrmacht got 400+, Slovakia 180+. Together with Polish and Austrian ones Wehrmacht later had around 1000 pieces. 



10 cm light howitzer vz.30 (for motorized units and so called fast divisions). Very modern weapon for its time based on export Yugoslav model but widely modified for domestic use (not always in the better way due to various compromises such as necessity to allow use of older ammo for vz.14/19). 160+ guns were available in 1938. It was later successfully used by Wehrmacht and Slovakia. The only preserved piece is in USA.  



10 cm light howitzer vz.38 (for mechanized units). This modern weapon was never fielded despite it was addopted but too late - the complete order (260 pieces) was canceled after Münich. As with the previous gun it was again based on successful export models F and H (Yugoslavia, Romania, Iran, Latvia, Afghanistan). Germany took 84 guns made for Latvia and sold 57 to Romania and 27 to Finland. Those 27 Finnish guns officially fired 75 thousand rounds during the war and served successfully till 1970'. The prototype of the Czechoslovak version (H3) is on display in Lešany museum near Prague together with one Finnish piece (a place sure worth visiting). 



15 cm heavy howitzer vz.15 (usually towed by heavy tractors). This gun was already rather obsolete by 1938 but 40+ pieces were still used. The guns were taken over by Wehrmacht and used on the western front and a half was later sold to Finland. It's on display in Lešany. 



15 cm heavy howitzer vz.14/16 (for horse traction). Well known weapon of the WW1. Czechoslovakia used some 180 pieces built after WW1 and they were used till Münich. Hundreds of these guns were used by Italy, others by Austria, Romania, Greece etc. Wehrmacht took around 100 pieces and used most of them in Austrian units which were used to the same weapon. The gun is preserved in Lešany. 



15 cm heavy howitzer vz.25 (for horse traction). Czechoslovak army had 340 pieces of this rather light and potent weapon (still pretty good by late 30'). Werhmacht and Slovakia successfully used them till the end of war. You can see this gun in Lešany as well. 



155 mm heavy howitzer vz.15/17. This well known French gun was a stop-gap solution in 1919 when the army badly needed whatever it could get to fight the so-called Hungarian Soviet Republic (which was defeated by Romanian and Czechoslovak forces and ceased to exist the same year). Czechoslovakia had 50 pieces but all of them were retired by 1937. Maybe Wehrmacht got them from some storage but there is no record about that. Anyway it used plenty of these guns from French and Polish stocks. 



15 cm heavy howitzer vz.37. This weapon was arguably the best of its class by late 30' but as with many other weapons of Czechoslovak production it was largely exported (series K) but not used by the Czechoslovak army itself. When the army decided to addopt this weapon used already by Turkey, Romania or Yugoslavia it was hesitating that long about its modifications (for example whether it prefers a variant for motorized or horse traction) that the first guns were delivered only after Münich. Wehrmacht took a whole batch of 110+ pieces and used them till the end of war. Some sources say that Germany originally signed an order for another production but a lobby from German companies led to its cancelation. The Czechoslovak variant of the gun is on display in Lešany museum.  



10 cm mountain howitzer vz.16/19. This weapon was successfully used during the WW1 and extensively modernized by Czechoslovakia in 1920'. It was being transported disassembled into three pieces and with the overall weight 1350 kg it could fire to nearly 10 km distance (the modernized version). It was widely used by Italy, Austria (later Wehrmacht) and in small numbers also by Slovakia and Greece. Czechoslovakia had 66 pieces of which 44 were modernized and dislocated mostly in the mountains of Slovakia. This gun is on display in Lešany. 



That's it for howitzers. I have omitted many prorotypes, some of which are on display in Lešany as well. Let's continue later with field guns. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Some curiosity related to the fortifications again. 


The MOD is selling another batch of 30 bunkers to private owners. Currently there is already around 1500 privately owned ones! Since these are mostly useless for anyone who isn't a history fan it's clear that there is a lot of such people. And the price? Pretty cheap. Starting from some 600 Euro for a pillbox vz.37... 

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Let's continue about the artillery. Now about the field guns of the pre-WW2 Czechoslovak army. 


7,5 cm light gun vz.1897. This legendary French gun was still in reserve by the fall of 1938 (38 pieces). They were bought in 1919 as a stop-gap during the war with Hungarian Soviet Republic. I think that this gun was on display in the military museum in Prague Vítkov but I'm not sure (the museum is closed now due to ongoing reconstruction). 



8 cm ligh gun vz.5/8. These Škoda guns fired the first salvos of the WW1. First series still had brass barrel, later production after 1916 was all steel already. Most of the guns in Czechoslovak army was of post war production, but not all. Even though the gun was old in 1938 it was very light and used in higly mobile cavalry units and on armoured trains. 86 pieces were in service in 1938 (part in reserve). You can see it in Lešany museum. There is one peculiar thing about this gun. Small number of them was converted into anti-aircraft guns and a battery of four guns was still in service in Prague in 1938.   



8 cm light gun vz.17. Another škoda gun which was used in the late months of the WW1 on the Italian front. The Czechoslovak guns were from post-war production running till 1937 (the first series was actually originally ordered by Austro-Hungarian army before the end of war). The army had nearly 300 of these guns and despite many discussions about replacing the 76,5 mm barrels by 83,5 mm it was never realized because the army decided that in the future it's wise to replace the light guns with howitzers. The interesting thing about this gun is it's transport. Originally it was towed by horses but later it was being carried on the truck (not behind because its chassis could not cope with speed higher than 10 km/h). 



8 cm light gun vz.30. This gun was a bit of cat-dog design. It had a light barrel but a heavy over-dimensioned support from the howitzer vz.30 which allowed high elevation (80°) for anti-aircraft fire (that was later found not very usable). Nevertheless it had a pretty good 13 km range for its time. Part of the 202 guns in the army was used in motorized units, part with horse traction. Wehrmacht completely missed this category of guns by 1938 and took around 120 pieces. The strange thing about that is that the guns were officially sold to Germany 4 days before the occupation on 11th March 1939 (Germany never paid of course). The government was trying to sell large parts of the military equipment after the Münich. The war preparations hit the economy hard because the army was absolutely enormous compared to the country's size (imagine that a country of 15 million managed to mobilize more than 1 million soldiers and give them equipment in September 1938) and after the Münich it was clear that no fight is possible on the rest of the country (for many reasons which may be discussed later). 



7,5 cm mountain light gun vz.15. This is maybe the most legendary weapon of Škoda production ever. Very widely used in the WW1 and after by many countries. The gun was very easy to transport disassembled to six pieces with weight of 150 kg. It was capable of fire to 7 km distance and its crews were even trained to fight tanks. This gun was used by Czechoslovakia in the short war with Poland in 1919 and Hungarian Soviet Republic in the same year. Overall Czechoslovakia had some 235 pieces and sometimes in very unusual installations (in armoured trains, on Danube boats or as provisional equipment of the artillery blockhouses of the border fortifications). Wehrmacht took them and some other from other states and used them through the whole was especially in Italy and Balcan. This gun is on display in Prague Vítkov muzeum. Muzeum in Lešany has a more modern variant for Yugoslavia from late 20'.   



10,5 cm heavy gun vz.13. This French gun was used after the creation of Czechoslovkia but none was in service in the fall of 1938. As other French weapons 13 pieces were bought during the war with Hungarian Soviet Republic in 1919. One piece is on display in Lešany. 



10,5 cm heavy gun vz.35. This Škoda piece was for sure the most modern gun in the army inventory and one of the most modern guns in the world of its time. It was capable to deliver 18 kg round to 18 km with its own weight just 4,2 tons. It was also designed to directly engage tanks if needed (that was of course a total overkill against Pz.I and II in 1938 but very useful in the future). The army managed to get 106 pieces before Münich. There was a lot of interest in the gun from abroad but due to the political situation most of the export orders were taken by Wehrmacht (Yugoslavia, Latvia, Netherlands). Even USSR decided to buy this weapon but the agreement was never signed due to the post-Münich situation. Wehrmacht used some 140 pieces, the rest was used by Slovakia. One of these guns is preserved in Lešany museum. 



Next time anti-tank guns. 



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Anti-tank guns will be rather short. The 4,7 cm gun used in the fortifications was already introduced. Here are the field ones. 


3,7 cm KPÚV vz.34 was the first serial purpose-built anti-tank gun of the army. It was produced by Škoda as all other guns. Some two hundred pieces were fielded. The gun was 270-300 kg heavy (per traction variant). With muzzle velocity 675 m/s it could penetrate 30 mm armor at 1000 meters in 1934 testing (but only 30 mm at 550 meters in 1937 when tested against new cemented armor). It was capable to follow a target moving at 40 km/h and fire up to 23 rounds per minute (12 aimed). This gun is most well known as a tank weapon. It was used in LT vz.34 and LT vz.35 (Pz.35(t) ) tanks which were sucessfully used by Wehrmacht, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania in the early stages of the war. One gun is on display in Prague Žižkov muzeum (currently closed due to ongoing reconstruction). 



3,7 cm KPÚV vz.37 was a new gun developed as a result of testing against new types of armor. This gun became the primary anti-tank weapon of the army (some 700 pieces were fielded at the fall of 1938). The gun had higher muzzle velocity (750 m/s) and an extreme rate of fire up to 40 rounds per minute. It used the same ammo with bigger propelant charges (or same). It managed to penetrate 32 mm at 1000 meters. It was heavier (around 370 kg) also due to the use of rubber wheels for motorized traction. In its time it was very powerful AT gun somewhat more powerful than the German PaK 35/36. Wehrmacht let the production run and in September 1939 had nearly 900 of these guns fielded (several hundreds were used by other countries such as Slovakia). Also this gun had its tank variant but this time rather different (shorter recoil etc.) even though the ballistic performance was nearly same. This gun was used in LT vz.38 (Pz.38(t) ) and some TNH-series export tanks. 



4,7 cm KPÚV vz.38 was a new gun which was not yet fielded by the fall of 1938 but I place it here because this gun became pretty well known during the WW2 as a primary armament of the first tank destroyer ever the Panzerjäger I. This 580 kg heavy gun could penetrate some 55 mm at 500 meters and 32 mm at 1500 meters in 1936 testing (the muzzle velocity was 775 m/s). Later in the war it used even more powerful ammo. the rate of fire was 12 aimed shots per minute. Till 1940 it was the most powerful AT gun in Wehrmacht posession. Unfortunately the whole first batch for the army went directly to Wehrmacht when it was produced in the second half of 1939. Meanwhile Yugoslavia got some 300 pieces and used them in the war against Germany. Wehrmacht captured most of the guns and used them as well. Altogether Wehrmacht had around 600 pieces and they served until they were replaced with PaK 40. Also this gun had a tank variant. It was supposed to be used in the medium tank ST vz.39 but only one armed piece was built I think. Wehrmacht didn't order this tank despite it was much better armed than Pz.III of that time. One piece of this gun is on display in Lešany muzeum. 




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Actually there were two vz.28 MGs. Both were used mostly in aircrafts and one was used in fixed and the other in movable installations during 1920'. The fixed one was a copy of Vickers and the movable a copy of Lewis. Some Lewis HMGs were used also in anti-aircraft role. Here You can see some photos of the preserved Lewis one: http://www.vhu.cz/exhibit/cs-letecky-kulomet-vz-l28/

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  • 2 months later...

Long time no see... Here something more again. This time something about the anti-aircraft stuff. 


I have already mentioned that by the time of Munich there was still one battery of four ancient 8 cm light guns vz.5/8 converted into the AA role located in Prague. Also at least in theory the already mentioned 8 cm light guns vz.30 could have been used in AA role too (202 pieces available). This is the provisional AA installation of the gun vz. 5/8. 



And this is the vz.30 light gun showing its possible AA use.



it's not very well known that Škoda Plzeň was one of the founders of the AA combat. Their first (truck-mounted!) 3,7 cm AA gun was built already in 1910 (it wasn't adopted by Austro-Hungarian army though). It's no suprise that most of the following guns are of Škoda origin. 


9 cm AA gun vz.12/20 was originally designed for Austro-Hunngarian navy as a dual purpose gun but it was never adopted. Several guns were built and stored until they were needed in the war with Hungarian Soviet Republic in 1919. All available guns (8 pieces) were moved to Slovakia along the Danube river to fight Hungarian river boats and maybe planes as well. At that time it was decided to restart the production of a modernized type. Twelve more guns were built. All 20 pieces were used up until the occupation and in 1943-1944 they were even taken by the Germans for the AA defence of the Third Reich. None of them is preserved. 



Shortly afterwards the Czechoslovak army started to get one of the best AA guns of that time the 8,35 cm gun vz.22. This gun could fire a 10 kg heavy round up to the altitude of 11 thousand meters. It was also one of the first designs intended for automotive traction. The carriage was pretty heavy because the MOD requested it to be able to fire directly from the transport carriage. Czechoslovakia had 144 pieces which served until the occupation and later with Slovak and German army. The Germans took 119 pieces which were used everywhere - for direct fire on the Maginotte line bunkers, defence of Baltic ports, later of Cherbourg, on the Atlantic wall etc. Several pieces were used by the Slovaks in the national uprising until it was defeated (they were used as a defence ofthe vital airfield Tri Duby near Zvolen (Sliač airbase today). 



Now again one sad story. The 7,5 cm light AA gun vz.37 was a pretty good design which due to the neverending MOD testing and overloaded manufacturer (and relocation of the Škoda production to much safer Dubnica nad Váhom in Slovakia) never made it to the army despite it was ordered already in March 1937 (108 pieces). Only one battery (used for testing) was in the army arsenal in the fall of 1938. This modern gun was intended for the defence of the field units. It was therefore very light (2,8 tons) and if it was actually finished it would alow also a direct fire which could have been deadly for every tank of that time (the sights for the direct fire were never produced despite being developed though). it could fire 25-30 11,5 kg heavy rounds per minute up to 9,2 km altitude. In the end the Germans let the production run and took the whole production intended for the Czechoslovak army. Another guns were produced for Romania, Finland, Yugoslavia (taken by Italy instead) and Netherlands (only 9 delivered before the occupation). the license was sold also to Soviet Union but it was likely never produced in any meaningfull numbers. The good thing about this gun is that one piece survived till today and you can find it in Lešany military muzeum near Prague. 



7,65 cm AA gun vz.37 was the gun which was given a priority in production and which actually was fielded. It was intended for the territorial defence and was heavier than the previous type (3,8 tons). 96 pieces were ordered but actually only 60 were delivered before Munich. This gun was the most modern AA piece which actually made to the units. It could fire 22-28 14,6 kg heavy rounds per minute up to 11 thousand meters altitude. It was used in fully motorized units and the actual transport speed with its dedicated towing truck was up to 60 km/h. In the end again the Germans took all the production and also guns intended for Yugoslavia (only a part of the order was delivered). The Germans used them through the whole war. One piece with ser.no.1 is preserved in Lešany muzeum. 



In 1920' the Czechoslovak army tried several automatic small calibre AA guns but none of them was fielded. One of them, the Becker 2 cm gun is preserved in Prague but to be honest I don't remmeber whether it is in Kbely aircraft muzeum or in Žižkov muzeum (currently closed due to the reconstruction). The photo is not showing the Czechoslovak army despite the first helmets of the Czechoslovak army looked like the German WW1 ones.



2 cm heavy AA MG vz.36 was in fact the wonderful Oerlikon gun and the only foreign AA weapon which was fielded by the Czechoslovak army. It was used by the field units with 227 pieces actually fielded before Munich (another batch was never delivered due to the later situation). It was used with fully motorized units equipped with either Tatra 82 or Tatra 85 trucks. At that time it was a deadly weapon even for nearly all Wehrmacht tanks (except some 30 Pz.IV ausf.A only Pz.I and II were available for the war with Czechoslovakia and even the Pz.IV ausf.A had only 14,5 mm armor).  As usually the Germans took the weapons (167 pieces, the rest stayed with Slovak army). It was pretty convenient for them because they actually already used this type (mainly in Luftwaffe as Oerlikon FF). One of these guns is preserved in Lešany muzeum. 



As a last weapon we have here the large calibre machine gun ZB-60 (Zbrojovka Brno). This 15x104 mm potent weapon was widely exported but never fielded by the Czechoslovak army (mainly due to neverending trials, teething issues and changes of the MOD requirements). First it was actually ordered by the fortification command which wanted to use it instead of the expensive anti-tank guns in a terrain which didn't allow use of heavier tanks. In the end the order was canceled. After that it was chosen as a weapon for tankette Škoda Š-I-P which was again never produced. Meanwhile the weapon was supplied to Great Britain, Yugoslavia, Spain and Iran. The Brits bought the license and produced this gun as Besa 15 mm for light tanks Mk.VI and Humber scout cars. After all the Czechoslovak MOD ordered the gun but it was too late and the whole order went directly to German navy. Alltogether some 1100-1200 guns were produced. Thanks to the very high muzzle speed up to 970 m/s this 55 kg heavy weapon (with the carriage) could also penetrate up to 28 mm of steel at 50 meters or 16 mm at 350 meters (i.e. at around 400 meters it could penetrate all Wehrmacht tanks available for Fall Grün). The rate of fire was 420 rounds per minute. 



And I forgot one thing... Czechoslovakia bought a license for the famous 40 mm Bofors guns in the fall of 1938 but the production was never realized. The deliveries shall have started in 1939... 

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  • 4 months later...

Few photos from today's hiking in Orlické mountains, the most fortified zone of our border. Today it's bordering with Poland but till 1950 there was Germany on the other side. I was not specifically searching for fortifications objects today so it's just those I went around. 


The objects on the photos are these marked on the map.



First two are quite well preserved forward pillboxes vz.36B. These objects were the most simple and by far the cheapest part of the system. They were used for forward fire from LMG vz.26 or HMG vz.24 (rechambered Schwarzlose). Unlike the later much more advanced vz.37 these were usually not placed in lines and they were not intended to cover each other. They were used for direct fire into the valeys, to block roads and to support lines of vz.37 or heavy objects where needed. In this case the B subvariant means it had two firing posts and four men crew. The object could survive 75 mm artillery shell (in 1938) except direct hit into the firing posts and 81 mm mortar round. Thanks to its small size it could be easily masked. The firing posts were made of concrete and could be closed by 30 mm thick steel shutter. There were no MG carriages inside, just a wooden table to put the MG on. 




The other two are heavy infantry casemates N-S-43 and 44. They are heavily damaged by the Germans (the cupolas and steel firing posts were removed and takeen to the Atlantic wall). Today they are deserted and freely accessible to anyone. They were built in resistance class I which is a third from a scale of six. It meant the frontal wall was 2,25 meters thick with a stone and earth cover, the roof had 2 meters and the object shall survive 240 mm artillery shelling (if I am not mistaken Wehrmacht didn't have any bigger pieces in 1938 before it took them here in Czechoslovakia except maybe few from Austria). I wrote a lot about these objects before so just some short info and few photos.


N-S-44 had one 47 mm rapid-firing AT gun with coaxial HMG vz.37 (ZB53 and de facto BESA), one double HMG vz.37 and several LMGs vz.26 (plus grenade tubes for close defence). The crew was 22 men (with one officer). As any other heavy object it had its own water source. The earth work around the bunker was clearly never finished. Unfortunately it's in the forest and there's no way take a photo of the whole object. 



Maybe small particular detail here. This is a view to a moat preventing direct access to the main guns. You can see an exit hole for spent AT gun casings and a grenade tube to the left of it.



A concrete block which had the purpose to intiate the grenades used to defend the main entrance can be nicely seen here with the missing earth work. 




NS-43 is interesting by the fact that there is an original mortar firing post in the bottom floor. Normally it was covered with 40 mm thick balanced shutter (missing in the object now). The 9 cm mortar vz.38 was never installed in any object because the first five serial pieces were finished only in September 1938. The weapon was interesting in many ways. It had fixed elevation to 45° and there was a gas pressure regulation used for setting the range (300-4300 meters). The traverse was +/-22,5°. The round was 6,9 kg heavy with 1,25 kg explosives. Due to an unfinished eart work it's difficult to take the photo of the post from outside but you can find one copy here in this thread (object R-S-87). 



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If somebody is interested here are some photos of the current state of the underground of the Adam fortress which is till today used by our army for storrage purposes (together with the fortress Smolkov). There isn't much except the corridors on the photos (and the sad state of the objects above ground which were largely destroyed during German weapon testing). Probably nothing else was allowed to see for the journalists. What is interesting is that the railway is original 1930', so are the carriages (not the engine) and also the firing port and the grenade tube at the enrance. 


Two other fortresses were rebuilt during the Cold war into objects for survival of army and political leadership in case of a nuclear war and keeping the communication lines functional (Hanička and Dobrošov). Both of them are accessible for public today. In both cases basically only the underground was used. Large water and air filtering stations were added instead of original underground barracks and wearhouses (each fortress had own undeground water supply). New communication devices and hospitals were installed etc.  


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  • 1 month later...

Some footage of the only LT vz.35 tank in running condition. In fact it's Pz.35(t) - naturally - as can be seen from the fact that it has four men crew instead of original three (the German modification of original Czechoslovak tanks added fourth crew member) including some shooting. You can see a lot of machine gun scars on the tank. It was originally captured by US Army and displayed in Aberdeen before getting back to Czechia some ten years ago or so. 


More of LT-35 driving.


Here preserved and running original LT-38. 


Praga AH-IV tankette driving, this tankette was exported to Sweden, Iran and other countries before WW2. It was never used by Czechoslovak army. You can see that it was pretty fast and nimble machine (although its engine is a bit more powerful today when it runs on modern petrol). 


Nicely done replica of tankette vz.33 running. This rather useless thing (modification of Carden Lloyed Mk.VI tankette) was actually fielded with the border units and even saw some combat with Sudettendeutsche Freikorps before the WW2.


In this reanectment event you can see running an armoured car Austin from Czechoslovak legion (1919), replica of Renault FT, original LT-38, replica of tankette vz.33, replica of armoured car vz.30.


A running LTP tank. Despite it being in Czechoslovak camo it is in fact an export predecessor of the LT-38. This particular one served in the army of Peru and fought against Equador. It served well in the high mountains for some 30-40 years. 


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  • 1 month later...

Few of my photos from Czechoslovak interwar tanks from Lešany museum. Pardon the quality, my poor old phone has an issue with non ideal lighting conditions. What is important is that all these vehicles are in running condition. 


Škoda LT vz.35 / Pz.35(t) / R2 (in Romania), the main Czechoslovak tank by the time of Münich with 298 pieces in service (actually more because some Romanian tanks were temporarily confiscated directly in the factory but after Münich they were delivered to Romania anyway). I'd say a very good tank for its time whose reputation suffered in Russia in 1941-42 but that was in conditions for which it was never designed and also one has to take into account that this is a 1935 vehicle and it doesn't need a genius to see that this tank shall not fight the T-34 or KV. It was never very reliable even in Czechoslovak service but which tank was in 1930'? The main issues with Czechoslovak army were with the electric systems, however in Russia the problems came from the pneumatic system which had a tendency to freeze. Other than that it was a small, well protected (for its time and class) vehicle with very strong armament. It was not very fast but not badly slow either. What is very interesting is that it had a semi-automatic pneumatically-operated planetary transmission with 6 speeds in both directions (!). With that it was a very easy tank to drive, one can say even luxurious for the drivers. The well designed commander cupola was another of the very modern features. All visors also had 50 mm thick armoured glass inserts which was no standard at all at that time. The biggest drawback was probably the one-man turret but that was pretty standard at its time (the Germans added a second crewman in the turret by reducing the ammo stowage). Another drawback was that the original Czechoslovak radio vz.35 worked only in morse code and had relatively short range 2+ km (the Germans replaced the radio with voice one Fu-2 or Fu-5). Still morse radio is much better than no radio. From other interesting features I'd mention the fact that the coaxial vz.37 MG could be aimed independently on the main gun. The last thing to say is that by the fall of 1938 this tank could destroy all existing German tanks from reasonable distance while it was better protected than nearly all of those which were available for Wehrmacht at that time. AFAIK no Pz.III was in the combat units intended for the Fall Grün and only two dozens or so of Pz.IV were, otherwise it was only legions of Pz.I and II. 



ČKD LT vz.38 / Pz.38(t). Pretty well known and successful tank, so I don't think I need to write about it a lot. It never made it to Czechoslovak service before Münich and actually all the initial series went directly to Wehrmacht in Spring 1939. Just like with the LT vz.35 the Germans added a second man into the turret. Maybe just in short what was was better with it compared to the LT vz.35 - it was faster, nimbler, much more reliable, more mechanically robust, better armed (it had a new powerful gun) and didn't have the complicated pneumatic system while still being easy tank to drive. Instead it used a semi-automatic Wilson planetary gearbox with five speeds forward and one backwards. In the end the best Czechoslovak tank was designed by Russian (Alexej Surin), it had Swedish engine (Scania Vabis), British gearbox (Wilson) and was used by Germany against it which was intended to be used... 


Variants of the tank were also exported to Iran (two are even on display in Tehran), Slovakia and licence-built in Sweden.




ČKD LTP - export tank to Peru. You can notice the older gun, simple cupola etc. These tanks were in use by Peruvian army till 1970' and in storage till 1990'. They were praised for reliability and good performance in the high mountains (for example in 1937 they measured the top speed 34 km/h at the altitude of 4200 meters ). Similar variant of the tank was also sold to Lithuania. 




ČKD LTH - export tank to Switzerland. Used till 1950. The most interesting on it is probably the 24 mm automatic gun (fed by 6-round magazines) and the water-cooled Maxim MGs.



ČKD AH-IV-S - export tankette for Sweden (1936). Crazy fast thing for its time. It was able to run 60 km/h with 15 mm armor and two HMGs. They were in use till 1953, I presume as scout vehicles. Different variants of this vehicle were used by Iran and Romania (with weaker engine) and funilly twenty were sold to Ethiopia even in 1950 (with diesel engine)! 



A short note about the strategy and tactics in which the tanks played a big role. The Czechoslovak defence strategy counted with the fortifications to slow down the advancing enemy for enough time to allow relatively highly mobile field units inside the territory to fight where it was necessary (mainly the four so called Fast Divisions with fully motorized artillery, tank regiments and cavalry). The ultimate goal was to defend for time long enough to allow France, Romania and Yugoslavia as the main allies to mobilize and start military operations against Germany (or possibly Hungary).


Ironically today when we know way more than what the polititians knew by that time and we can say that the plan would most likely work because Wehrmacht was unprepared for anything more than one-two weeks long campaign (one week long operation was even the plan), it had near undefended western border with France (7 divisions only), had no reasonable numerical advantage over Czechoslovakia (except for number of planes and tanks but those had their issues in that time too - for example Legion Condor with modern planes was still in Spain) - 38 against 36 divisions if I remember right and more of the Wehrmacht ones were incomplete compared to Czecholsovak ones, four of them were Austrian of questionable quality too. Germany counted with Hungary to attack Czechoslovakia but from the archives it seems that Hungary was too affraid of repeating 1919 defeat and would most likely opt to stay aside (in 1919 Romanian-Czechoslovak alliance defeated Hungary in a war for what is today south Slovakia). There was no element of surprise. Czecholsovakia managed to fully mobilize (unlike Poland) and distributed all supplies to field units. The German plans were somewhat different compared to the Czechoslovak anticipations but basically not in a way which would make things worse. Czechoslovak high command counted with two massive armoured assaults in north-south direction which would either force the army to retreat to Slovakia or surround it in central Bohemia (unlike most of French generals many Czechoslovak generals studied the Guderian's book Achtung Panzer! and were very enthusiastic about the mechanized warfare concept and tried to addapt it). The final German plan still counted with these two directions but with relatively limited forces (north was considred to be too heavily fortified and south too bad for logistics - not enough bridges and roads in Austria). As a result the German attack would come in six directions with relatively limited forces on each one moreover those would not get in the fight at once but would engage as they would get to the area (to create an element of surprise they were not concentrated near the front, however no element of surprise existed at that time). The advantage in airfoce was further reduced by the weather. The war was about to start on 1st October when it was foggy and rainy weather. At least half of the first day attack would be without any air support at all. The rest of the month was not very good for flying either. Part of the plan was a massive airdrop behind the fortification line in the northern sector. AFAIK this operation was executed in April 1939 as a training event and it went terribly wrong even without any opposition. The experience was not yet there. In the end the big question was the impact of the local Suddendeutsche Freikorps units in Czechoslovakia (roughly 40 thousand very lightly armed men whose target was to sabotage military traffic and commnucations and to create unrest, they had mostly only pistols, hunting rifles and explosives).


All in all we will never know what would happen but I'm fairly sure there was no blitzkieg to happen. The main reason being that the Wehrmacht didn't have the Czechoslovak manforce and weapons it had in Poland and the fact that the creation process of both the Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe was still far from being finished. Little known fact is that Wehrmacht rose by hundreds of thousands men when the Sudettenland was taken by Germany - men who went through Czechoslovak military service in 1918-1938 while Germany alone started the mandatory military service only in 1936 and therefore had massive men-shortage before Anschluss of Austria and Suddetenland. I think that the most famous "Czechoslovak German" soldier was the tank ace Kurt Knispel. I have not found the complete numbers but it's estimated that 300-500 thousands of Sudettendeutsche soldiers died in the war which is an absolutely enormous number considering the population of only 3,2 million (in fact 2,4 million of Germans were forced to leave Czechoslovakia in 1945 and of those missing 800 thousand majority probably died in the war and part fled already before the war ended).   

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It's not that much about emotions or blaming anyone after so much time (after all if things went different way that time I would never be born myself). To be very honest the state as created at the end of WW1 was hardly viable for a longer period of time and it would have to either transform itself into proper federation or disintegrate sooner or later anyway. However what keeps fascinating me is just how incredibly successful this German/Italian bluff resulting in Münich agreement was. In the end it resulted in a series of other events known as a WW2 which seen by today's optics could have been relatively easily prevented, but I guess it's like that with many historical events. 


Anyway I definitely recommend to visit Lešany especially if you are interested in artillery because there is a huge collection of mainly Škoda guns including dozens of prototypes which can not be seen anywhere else. 

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  • 5 months later...

On my trips around the country I found this perfectly preserved (although in strange camo colors) unusual light object which is AFAIK the only one of its type. Normally the light objects were all standardized in several types. It's part of the inner so-called Prague line near Kladno city, west of Prague. The object was placed under a road berm just behind a bridge over a small creek. 


Front side



Rear side



View towards the comming enemy. The road coppies a ridge on the right side (the defence line) and comes from a tight left-hand turn directly in front of the front fire port of this bunker (for LMG Vz.26). 



View from the enemy's point of view from a place where they could first see the bunker. 


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  • 4 weeks later...

Some recently uploaded very rare footage from Czech Institute of military history. It's Czechoslovak team from 1937 Zürich Air Show. Four Avia B-534 reached second place in all air racing disciplines behind Germany (Bf-109B) but ahead of other teams (France, Italy, UK, Belgium and maybe some more). One of the pilots was František Peřina who later became the first Czechoslovak fighter ace of WW2 flying as a number two of French squadron leader Jean Accart in the famous CG I/5 "Cigognes". He shot down up to 14 German planes (12 confirmed, 2 probable) before being badly injured over Paris (he managed to escape to GB where he joined Czechoslovak unit in RAF, shot down another German aircraft and became a shooting instructor). 


At one moment it's possible to see also acrobatic Avia Ba-122 which won the acrobatic contest both in single (František Novák) and group competition (ahead of Italian CR.32 team).   



Unfortunately not a single B-534, wchich became the last bi-plane aircraft in history to shot down another aircraft (in late 1944 Slovak national uprising), survived to these days however you can see a nice (although not airworthy) replica in Prague Kbely muzeum. There is also one 75% flying replica here in CZ which can be seen from time to time in airshows (it's ultralight plane in fact). The acrobatic Ba-122 is preserved in Kbely muzeum in its original state. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Extremely rare footage from testing of Persian (Iranian) export vehicles in ČKD. The footage is from national TV archive however when it was broadcasted the vehicles were wrongly identified, therefore don't take care about the commentary much. 


What you see on the video is TNH-P tank and AH-IV-P tankette (or a light tank if we consider Pz.I to be one ). The TNH-P is in fact sort of predecessor of the LT-38, it shares the distinct suspension and general layout but it has weaker engine, thinner armor and different turret with older gun. Anyway these vehicles served in Iran for a long time and they keep them on display in Tehran till today. The footage is most likely from 1935. 


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  • 2 weeks later...

When I made the post about anti-tank guns I omitted anti-tank rifles. Well, there was no anti-tank rifle fielded before the Münich treaty however there was a lot of experiemental work done and the development got to a rifle which was basically intended for production despite having some known issues (but the historical events were faster). For some reason the central Europe countries made their own development and got to a very similar result (different than others in the world) - small calibre extreme high velocity guns. The Germans had 7,92x94, the Poles 7,92x107 and our design lead to even more extreme 7,92x145 mm with a muzzle velocity of 1320 m/s!  


The experiemental work was done with rifles chambered 15x104 (known later to the Brits as BESA and used also by Yugoslavia), 12x165 up to 15x185. The two rifles ZK-382 (7,92x145) and ZK-384 (12x165) designed by Koucký brothers from Zbrojovka Brno are preserved till today and can be seen in Prague Žižkov military muzeum (when it will be reopened). 


Exhibits: ZK-382ZK-384


ZK-382, as you can see it's bullpup, the weight was 12,5 kg



In the end the ZK-382 was intended for production despite some unsolved issues (the war was too close), the particular issues were what you would probably expect - high barrel wear, relatively low accuracy and big bullet drop over longer distances. 


What is particularly curious about this rifle is that four pieces were (at least per official documents) delivered to Israel in 1948, likely as samples. What happened to them there is not known to me. 



The development slowly continues under German occupation and in the end there was a serial production of Zbrojovka Brno rifle called Pz. B. M. SS41 of which some 2000 pieces were taken by Waffen SS. This extremely peculiar weapon designed by famous Václav Holek (ZB-26/BREN, ZB-53/BESA) chambered in standard German 7,92x94 mm is nicely shown in one of Ian's videos on Forgotten Weapons. This weapon is also owned by Prague ŽIžkov military museum (exhibit). 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Two more of the interesting aircraft prototypes of the time. 


First one is Avia B-158, light bomber/recon aircraft. This plane flew for the first time in November 1937. It was full-metal plane with water-cooled locally produced Hispano-Suiza 12Ydrs engines (850 Hp max.) and Hispano-Hamilton variable-pitch 3-blade propellers. The top speed of the prototype was 435 km/h but the serialy produced planes shall have been faster (460 km/h was expected) because the surfaces of the prototype, especially rivets were not finished in production standard. The undercarriage was retractable. What was particularly interesting is the W-shape wings. The range of the recon variant was 1850 km, the bomber only 1000 km. The plane had 3-men crew in the bomber variant - pilot, observer/bomber/front gunner, dorsal gunner and 4-men crew in the recon version with additional belly gunner (each gunner had only a single 7,92 mm MG). The bomber could carry 1000 km of bombs. The bomb bay had 6 section for max. 500 kg and hardpoints under the fuselage could carry one 500 kg or two 200 kg bombs (500 kg bombs were not fielded by Czechoslovak airfoce by September 1938 but if I'm not mistaken Luftwaffe didn't have them as well at that time). The prototype was being tested and tested up to the occupation. After that it was again tested by Luftwaffe and likely scrapped. As you could see before there was a plane with better performance available for the same task, the Aero A-300 and if there was more time the one which would go into production would be most likely the Aero one. In fact I don't think that the B-158 was even better enough than the already produced B-71 (license copy of Tupolev SB-2) to start its production.  





The second one is Praga E-51, scout/recon plane. Somewhat similarly looking to Fokker G-1 this plane wasn't a fighter but basically an equivalent of the Fw-189. The fuselage was made of steel tubes with plywood cover, the eliptical (!) wings were mostly wooden. The engines were the biggest curiosity I guess because they were local air-colled V12 Walter Sagitta with max. power 560 Hp. The air cooling for such engine was problematic and the prototype often flew without aerodynamic covers on them. The propellers were 3-blade variable pitch Hispano ones. The plane had 3-men crew - pilot, observer/radio operator/bomber and rear gunner. The observer had movable photocamera which was able to take three partially overlapping photos at once to enhance his effectivness. The could also carry one 200 kg heavy bomb (semi-externally) or six smaller bombs up to 50 kg heavy (externally). There were only two 7,92 mm guns, one fixed in the left winf and one for the rear gunner. An option was considered to add second fixed MG to the right wing or/and 20 mm Oerlikon gun in a gunpod. The plane had a fix undercarriage with which it could reach 380 km/h (cruise speed was 330 km/h). The ceilling was 7000 meters and the range was 900 km. There was an option considered with a removable additional internal fuel tank which could enhance the range to some 1200-1300 km. 


The plane flew for the first time already in May 1936 but it was far from a serial one, in that time it had a gun turret and somewhat different fuselage shape. There were big problems with vibrations of the horizontal stabilizer, cooling of the engines etc. During the redesign the turret was removed, the fuselage and the tail wheel got diferent shapes. The rebuilt plane flew for the first time only in February 1939 (the work slowed down a lot after Münich when it was clear that there will be no government order). After the occupation the plane was tested also by Luftwaffe and probably scraped. 





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  • 3 weeks later...

One more aircraft - the failed fast bomber Aero A-42. There were only two pieces built and both were subjects of many changes through the development however in the end the plane was not ordered by the ministry of defence (well, it kinda was but the order was quickly canceled). The plane was partially a victim of a speedy development intended to win 1930 race around the so-called Little entente (Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Romania) and Poland. In the end the plane was indeed fast and rather powerful for its time (in 1930 it shortly held an international record at 1000 km with 1000 kg payload at an average speed 252 km/h) however it had so many other issues it never materialized into a useful bomber. The particular problems were inefficient rudder, vibrations of the rudder at high speed, long take-off run or inconvenient internal space (the navigator/bomber had to remove his parashute to get to the bombing sights where he had moreover no means to communicate with the pilot). The opened dorsal gun station was unusitable for use in higher speeds. The biggest issue however was that the plane was unable of any flat turn, i.e. it was impossible to make corrections of the couse by rudder alone. 


The plane had fuselage made of steel tubes covered by textile. The wings were wooden with plywood and textile cover. There was an intention to replace the wings with metalic ones but that never happened due to the cancelation of the project. The engine was Italian Isotta-Fraschini Asso wtih max. power 900 Hp. The empty weight was sligtly under 3 tons, the MTOW was slightly over 4,7 tons. The maximum speed was 270 km/h, cruise speed 250 km/h, range 1200 km and the ceiling was 7000 meters. The climb rate was 50 minutes to 5000 meters. It looks funny today but in 1930 it wasn't bad for a bomber. The crew was made of three (pilot, navigator/bomber and dorsal/belly gunner). The armament was one forward firing synchronized 7,92 mm MG, one double 7,92 mm MG in the dorsal firing post and one single 7,92 MG in a belly firing post. Maximum bombload was 960 kg (16x50 + 16x20 kg internally and 2x200 kg externally). 


Fun fact. Germany formally protested against the development of this plane in 1930.  



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