PIBWL presents:

Polish tankettes TK-3 and TKS

Part VI: Foreign service

PIBWL Polish Armour page [ Main page ] [ Polish armour / tanks ] [ Polish armoured units ] [ Steel Panthers ] [ Links ]Po polsku
© Michal Derela, 2009 Updated: 21. 04. 2010 - supplemented Soviet service


Part I: Development history & production --- Part II: Camouflage, description, specifications, modeling
Part III: Service with photo gallery --- Part IV: Tankettes with 20 mm cannons --- Self propelled guns
Part V: Experimental tankettes & special equipment --- Part VI: Foreign service of TK/TKS --- TKS gallery

A freshly captured TKS, with hand painted German 1939 recognition crosses.

This page is devoted to a foreign service of the Polish tankettes TK (TK-3) and TKS (TK-S). Although their only foreign customer was Estonia, but many captured tankettes were used by the Germans during World War II, and in lesser numbers, by their allies. For their development, production, technical description, specifications and modeling - see Part I and Part II.

The photos come from different sources, mostly private collections, taken by anonymous German soldiers. They are published in an educational and research purpose only. Quality of many photos is mediocre, but they are mostly unique ones. We are still looking for new photos, or existing ones in a better quality!


Estonia

In 1935, a platoon of 6 tankettes TKS was sold to Estonia, as a result of a promotional visit of the Polish tankette platoon in August 1934 (a price was 300.654 zloty for a platoon, plus 37.535 zloty for spare parts). In addition, one motorcycle was presented by the Poles (presumably CWS M-111 Sokół 1000). In spite of their limited combat value, they were the only modern Estonian tanks in the second part of 1930s. They were painted in the Polish early camouflage (so-called in Poland: the "Japanese-style"), consisting of patches of light blue-gray, yellowish sand and olive green, separated with thin black stripes. They were next seized by the Soviets incorporating Estonia. A similar promotional visit in Romania did not bring an effect.

Presentation of the Polish TKS in Estonia, 1934. On the left, CWS M-111 (Sokół 1000) motorcycle.Estonian TKS on parade, 24 February 1937.
Polish TKS in Estonia - on the right there is the Estonian chief of staff, Gen. Reek, on the left - Col. Spałek (Polish). Note Estonian tank helmet.Estonian TKS tankette, no. 158.
Another photo of the tankette in Estonia (probably Polish - it has Estonian crew and it is surrounded by the Estonian and Latvian officers).
The TKS platoon in Estonia (likely the Polish one, considering a Polish truck Polski Fiat PF-621L on the right). In a background, Estonian Crossley M1927/28 armoured cars.

Spain

During the Spanish Civil War, the Spanish Republican government was interested in buying 80 tankettes, but a deal was not made due to Poland's official policy of non-intervention, supported by the League of Nations. There was some Polish intelligence information from 1937 claiming, that the Republicans had a party of the Polish tankettes, but it is almost certainly just a rumour (adding to a fact, that there is no trace of deal concerning tankettes, it is unlikely, that they would not have been noticed by the Spanish Civil War researchers so far). In spite of the non-intervention policy, Poland unofficially delivered some weapons to the Republican side during the conflict, among others a party of obsolete FT-17 tanks, guns and small arms. On the other hand, it delivered obsolete fighter aircraft PWS-10 to Franco.


On both photos: freshly-captured TKS with provisional hand-applied recognition markings (additionally WH for Wehrmacht). Upper photo probably shows a tankette of the Warsaw Armoured-Motorized Brigade's reconnaissance unit, lost in Lipsko on 8. 09. 1939.

Germany

The Germans captured a majority of the Polish tankettes after the invasion on Poland in 1939; only a fraction was withdrawn to Hungary or seized by the Soviets. Part of the captured tankettes were destroyed ones, but many were only damaged, broken down or even intact. Apparently some were pressed into service as auxiliary vehicles at once. Later their usage became more organized and from late 1940 until 1941 the tankettes were repaired in workshops in Łódź (then: Litzmannstadt). Exact numbers of vehicles repaired and used by the Germans are not known (an educated guess would be between 50 and 100 tankettes)1. Most numerous model in the German service was TKS, designated: le.PzKpfw TKS(p) (p for Polish). They were used as auxiliary vehicles - mainly light armoured artillery tractors, or for security and anti-partisan duties. A number of TKS were also used by the Luftwaffe for airfield protection. Much rarer in the German service were older TK-3, designated: le.PzKpfw TK(p). As light tractors, the tankettes served until the end of the war in some German units, especially in Norway. They could be also found in Finland and France.

Apart from tankettes distributed among different units, a security unit equipped exclusively with the Polish tankettes and 7TP tanks was created in Poland on 12 June 1940 - the Leichte Panzerkompanie Warschau (Warsaw Light Panzer Company), renamed on 3 September 1940 to the Leichte Panzerkompanie Ost (Light Panzer Company East). In February 1941 it was equipped with 10 TKS(p), and stationed in Radom at that time. There is no other information about the unit's fate.

Usually the German tankettes had their armament replaced with standard MG-15 or MG-34 7.92 mm machine guns, in original Polish ball mountings (in TKS). At least in one case the mounting was removed and replaced with a plate with a vision slot and a simple loop-hole. As a standard, they were also fitted with twin uncovered headlights on fenders (which is quite strange, because most of the German military vehicles had slotted covered headlights in order to make them inconspicuous from the air. Apparently the tankettes in the German service were first meant to operate in deep rear area only?). The photos show, that the German tankettes usually did not carry any tools on a front plate (originally there were a shovel and a crowbar).

The German tankettes were repainted in a standard dark gray (Panzergrau). After 1943 they could be camouflaged in a standard German camouflage or painted Wehrmacht Olive overall. In winter and in Scandinavia, white camouflage was used. They carried nationality recognition crosses of different sizes, and in different places. First in 1939 they carried full white crosses (often initially provisionally painted by hand), then black and white crosses, according to a change of the German markings in 1940.


Two TK-3s and a TKS with German modifications.A German TKS with new headlights, 1939 recognition cross and an unknown clubs marking (tactical?).
TKS and TK-3 in the German service, with German MGs. The TK-3 has a spades marking on a rear plate (possibly the TKS is the one with clubs marking?).Two TK-3s with German headlights, reportedly in Rzeszów. Machine guns seem to be original Hotchkiss wz.25.
Two photos of the German TKS named "Floh" (flea), with 1939 markings. It was probably seized by some armoured unit as a booty (interesting comparison of size with PzKpfw.IV).
Interesting rear view of two TKS with provisional markings.TKS tankettes of the Light Panzer Company East, 1940.
German TKS of the Light Panzer Company East on a victory anniversary parade in Warsaw on 6 October 1940. The German machine guns are visible. Note size of recognition markings.
Two photos of TKS in the German service - apparently after the invasion on the USSR, since there are captured Soviet trucks of GAZ-AA family on both photos, and the British Morris truck (CS 8?) on the right photo. The tankette on the left photo has a German machine gun. On the right photo, a triangle above the roof is a Polish signal flag, unusual for the German usage (note also, that a shovel is not an original one). A noteworthy individual detail is a horseshoe. Note also uncovered headlights.
The TKS of the Luftwaffe as a tractor for 37 mm Pak-35/36, in 1943/1944 in Norway. It could not offer much comfort for gun crew. Click for a wider scene. The German TKS in Norway. Note a simple loop-hole for a gun, and an original searchlight.
Left: the TKS in Norway - most probably this is a leading vehicle of a column on a photo above (other two vehicles were Scout and Bren Carriers). Some five soldiers ride on top of this tiny vehicle. Note slotted headlights.

Right: lunch break by a TKS in an unknown motor park.
Below: two TKS of the Luftwaffe, in Finland.
Right: a TKS in a forest, possibly in anti-partisan action.
An interesting conversion of the TK-3 to a light tractor role, with a simple windshield replacing an armoured superstructure. An unusual employment of the TKS, as a basis of a training mock-up of a T-34 tank, 5 November 1943 (Deutsches Bundesarchiv, released under cc-by-sa 3.0 licence, source: Bild 183-J08362).
The German TKS with provisional markings. This was a radio-equipped tankette from a Polish armoured train (note an additional battery box on a fender), still wearing Polish older camouflage pattern, with colors separated by lines. Behind it an Instandsetzungspanzer I. The German TKS examined by the US soldier near Bitsch in France, 17 March 1945 [source: 3] (in some sources it was described as Italy). The tankette is probably painted in ochre overall (Wehrmacht Olive).
Examples of camouflage and modifications of the German TKS, basing on photographs - courtesy of Thierry Vallet.
Copyright © Thierry Vallet - Kameleon Profils

See also other examples of the German usage in Part IV: Tankettes with 20 mm cannons.

 

The Polish tankettes of the 10th Cavalry Brigade right after evacuation to Hungary, on 19 September 1939. Visible are two TKS with 20 mm cannons (left) and two TKF (right - note a shape of a front suspension connector, different from TK-3).
Three TKS in an unusual two-colour camouflage, with original machine guns. The photo is captioned as coming from a German propaganda film in [3], but sometimes it is described as Croatian tanks. Note a soldier in the Polish helmet in a background, what supports propaganda version. If you have more information - write.
Poor but interesting photo: it might be TKS in the Soviet service, captured by the Germans along with Soviet T-27 tankettes. On the left background there seems to be another TKS.

Hungary

Up to 20 Polish tankettes, among them 4 TKS armed with 20 mm guns, were withdrawn in September 1939 to Hungary, first of all, with the 10th Cavalry Brigade. They were interned there and next taken over by the Hungarian government. Finally, 9 TK-3 and 7 TKS were given to the Hungarian Army (part of TK-3s were actually TKF variant). They were used for auxiliary duties. No photos of the Hungarian vehicles are known.

The Hungarians assigned to them numbers from 1H-381 - 1H-399 range (in brackets, Polish registration numbers):

 

Croatia

A number of TK (TKF) and TKS were given by the Germans (or Hungarians) to the Independent State of Croatia, where they were used by the army and Ustashe units for anti-partisan duties in Yugoslavia, but details are not known (according to some information, 18 TK-3s were bought in 1941-1942, and known locally as Ursus tanks). There exists photos of the TKS in two-colour camouflage with sharp edges, believed by some to be Croatian (of Redarstvena straža unit)2, but according to description in German books, they were used in some German propaganda film3 (other photos feature also soldiers in the Polish uniforms). One TKF tankette survived in the military museum in Belgrad.

 

Soviet Union

The Soviet Union seized a number of the Polish tankettes, when it invaded Polish eastern territories on 17 September 1939, but details are not known (Janusz Magnuski estimated it as about 50 tankettes, on the other hand, Maxim Kolomiets estimates a number of all captured armoured vehicles as about 15). The Soviets also took the Estonian tankettes. According to some sources, the tankettes were used for training in newly-formed mechanized corpses, on Soviet western territories (for example, in the 12th Mechanized Corps there were 6 TKS and 17 tanks Vickers or 7TP)4. Some of them and ex-Estonian vehicles took part in combat in summer of 1941 - possibly among others in improvised units defending Kiev. One TKS is preserved at Kubinka armour museum.


Other parts:


Notes:
1. According to Hubert Michalski, the workshops were in Łódź and in April 1941 it reported, that 55 TKS tankettes are ready for conversion into light artillery tractors. W. Regeberger claims, that the workshops were in Warsaw and that they reported 55 TKS tankettees ready for service in March 1941.
2. Dariusz Jędrzejewski, Zbigniew Lalak: "Sojusznicy Panzerwaffe. Cz.1"
3. Werner Regenberg: "Captured Tanks in German service. Small Tanks and Armored Tractors" and Walter J. Spielberger: "Beute-Kraftfahrzeuge und -Panzer der deutschen Wehrmacht", 1992.
4. Vyacheslav Shpakovskyy, Sergey Saneev: "Bronyetehnika i tankovye voyska Polshi 1919-1939" in: Tankomaster nr. 6/2005, p.36.

Sources:
1. Janusz Magnuski, "Karaluchy przeciw panzerom"; Pelta; Warsaw 1995
2. Hubert Michalski, "Tankietki TK/TKS i czołgi lekkie 7TP w służbie niemieckiej" in:
Militaria XX wieku, nr. 3(24)/2008
3. Werner Regenberg, "Captured Tanks in German service. Small Tanks and Armored Tractors", Schiffer Publishing, 1998, ISBN 0-7643-0573-5.
4. Biro Adam, Eder Miklos, Sarhidai Gyula, "A Magyar Kiralyi Honvedseg kulfoldi gyartasu pancelos harcjarmuvei 1920-1945"; Petit Military, Budapest, 2006.

Update history:
21. 04. 2010 - supplemented Soviet service, added photo
1. 09. 2009 - supplemented Soviet service
8. 07. 2009 - added color profiles


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All photos and pictures remain the property of their owners, some are public domain. They are published in non-commercial educational and research purpose.
Text copyright to Michal Derela © 2009.