PIBWL presents:

Vickers Mark E (6-Ton) light tank

International service

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  © Michał Derela, 2003-2010 Updated: 27. 1. 2010 (ammended 3.2.2010)

Part I: development history and construction
Part II: international service
Part III: Polish service



Chinese tank Vickers Mk.E, with radio
The Chinese Vickers Mk.E Type B with radio

Poland - Finland - China - Siam - USSR - Bulgaria - Great Britain - Bolivia - Others -- Models

This page describes export and international service of the Vickers Mk.E (6-Ton) light tanks. A development history, technical description, armament, armour and specifications are in part I. Details about the Polish service and combat use of Vickers Mk.E tanks are in part III.

The countries are listed in order of Mark E tanks quantity.


Poland

Single-turret Vickers Mk. E, with Polish modifications, in a standard late Polish camouflage. [1]

Poland was the biggest user of Vickers Mk. E tanks. As early as in September 1931 Poland ordered 38 twin-turret tanks Vickers Mk. E Type A, delivered in 1932-33 (nos. VAE 408 - 445). Just in 1934, the tanks were modified by adding large air intakes behind the crew compartment, which improved engine cooling. It was a significant feature of the Polish Vickers tanks only. Also in 1934, 22 tanks were rebuilt to single-turret Type B standard, using the turrets bought in Great Britain, the rest 16 tanks remained twin-turret. Apart from the air intakes, Polish twin-turret tanks differed from other Vickers Mk.E Type A tanks having box magazine covers upon turrets' roofs. Their armament was changing during service, and a final variant was two Polish water-cooled 7.92 mm wz.30 machine guns (it was also a secondary armament of single-turret tanks). All Polish Vickers Mk.E tanks fought and were lost in the Polish September Campaign 1939.

Apart from the tanks, Poland bought a manufacturing licence. However, Poland did not start production of the Vickers Mk. E, because Polish designers seriously improved its design, creating the 7TP tank.

Details on the page about Polish Vickers Mk.E tanks.



Finland

The Finnish Vickers with a provisional 37mm SA-18 gun, 1939.
Abandoned Finnish Vickers Mk.E with 37mm Bofors gun, examined by the Soviet soldiers. The Finnish tanks in the Winter War had white-blue-white belts painted on a turret. [P1]
T-26E tanks of the 3rd Company, September 1941.
T-26E in Viipuri, 19 June 1944. A radio aerial is visible.

Finland bought the first tank Vickers Mk.E Type B for testing on 6 July 1933 (no. VAE 546). It was in a standard configuration - with a single turret on the left, armed with 47mm Vickers gun. Following the tests, only on 20 July 1936 the Finns decided to order a series of 32 tanks, for £4500 per tank. The tanks were to be delivered between July 1937 and January 1939, but there were delays, and only 26 tanks were delivered between July 1938 and 1939, while the remaining 6 were delivered only after the Winter War. Therefore, Finland had 33 tanks Vickers Mk. E in total (not at one time, though). The newly acquired tanks Mark E had new Mark F hulls and turrets on the right. According to the Soviet tests, their hull armour was up to 17.5 mm - more, than on standard ealier Mark E tanks. Their turrets had a rear niche for a radio, but the radios and part of other equipment weren't bought in order to lower costs. The tanks were also bought without any armament, because the original 47mm gun was considered as not satisfactory. It was decided to arm these tanks with the Swedish anti-tank gun 37mm Bofors L/45, produced in Finland, designated 37 Psv.K/36 (a data of similar Polish gun).

The Finnish tanks were much rebuilt during their service. Since it took a time to manufacture the guns in newly-built VTT factory, the tanks were unarmed for the first period of their service. Only several tanks were temporarily fitted with one air-cooled 7.62 mm M/09-31 MG in a turret. A few others were provisionally fitted with old 37mm SA-18 Puteaux guns, taken from Renault FT-17 tanks, but due to a weak mounting, they could fire blanks only, for exercise purpose. In a front plate of a combat compartment, on the left, a mounting for a special tank variant of 9mm Suomi SMG was made, with a roof raised above the gunner's head. All tanks with F hull were fitted with such SMG, manned by an additional fourth crewman. Between December 1939 and February 1940, part of tanks were finally fitted with 37mm Bofors gun and a coaxial MG - a modified belt-fed 7.62mm Maxim M/09-31 (despite the cover's look, the MG was air-cooled). The mounting of guns, with a common shield, was designed by Bofors and was very similar to a mounting designed for the Polish 7TP tank (despite similarity, their turrets were quite different, for the Finnish turrets were modified Vickers ones, while the Polish ones were specially designed). However, the Finnish tanks had only simple colimator gun sights, because the Germans failed to deliver ordered special Zeiss sights. Only one tank was ready in December 1939, 7 in January 1940 and 10 in February - 18 in total, by the end of the Winter War.

During the Winter War, the Finns captured a great number of Soviet T-26 tanks (developed from Vickers Mk.E), which were next put into the Finnish service. In order to make easier maintenance, the Finns decided to rearm Vickers Mk.E tanks with Soviet long-barrel 45mm 20K tank guns, used in T-26. Complete 45mm gun mountings, with coaxial 7.62 mm DT machine guns and sights, dismounted from destroyed T-26 tanks, were mounted in Vickers turrets, in a place of 37mm gun mountings. Also, some other parts were taken from T-26. Some of them were later fitted with radios. The Finns redesignated rebuilt Vickers Mk.E tanks as the T-26E ("E" for 'English').

Combat use:

The only Finnish Vickers unit formed during the Finnish-Soviet Winter War (30.11.1939 - 13.03.1940) was the 4th Tank Company (4./Pans.P), with 13 Vickers Mk.E tanks armed with 37mm Bofors guns (it should have 16 tanks). The company made a combat debute supporting infantry in an attack on Honkaniemi, 26 February 1940. The Soviet units were supported by T-26 and T-28 tanks of the 112th Tank Battalion of the 35th Light Tank Brigade and AT guns. The attack was a complete fail. 5 Finnish tanks didn't take part in combat at all due to bad fuel quality, another one was immobilized in a ditch. From the remaining 7 tanks, 5 were destroyed, and one damaged. Despite a lack of experience and poor sights, the Finnish tankers hit at least 3 Soviet tanks. On 29 February the Finnish tanks were delaying a Soviet advance, losing 1 Vickers tank, but destroying 4 enemy tanks. One more Vickers was destroyed by the crew on 6 March 1940, after being stuck on rocks. Total losses in the Winter War were 7 Vickers tanks lost and 1 damaged (not repaired).

Vickers Mk.E tanks, which remained after the Winter War, were rebuilt to T-26E standard, and then used with captured T-26 tanks in the Continuation War against the Soviets (1941-44). Both types were most numerous Finnish tanks at that time. In 1945, Finland had 19 tanks T-26E left, which were used for training until 1959. Two T-26E tanks and one Vickers in 1940 standard, are preserved in museums.


Related links:
VICKERS 6 TON AND T-26E TANKS - Finnish Vickers tanks at Jaeger Platoon website
The Battle of Honkaniemi in The Battles of the Winter War site
www.andreaslarka.net - photos of museal Vickers tanks.



The Finnish Vickers Mk.E in a configuration from the Winter War, in Tank Museum Parola (photo courtesy of Jaeger Platoon).The T-26E in Tank Museum Parola (photo by Balcer under cc-by-sa3.0 licence - see in a better quality at Wikimedia Commons).



The Chinese Vickers Mk.E Type B tank with a radio, in a four-colour camouflage (factory one?). Note a form of headlights.

China

In 1935, the Chinese government bought 16 single-turret tanks Vickers Mark E Type B, of a standard model. In the following year 4 more were bought, fitted with Marconi radios in a turret niche (contrary to commonly repeated information in publications, they weren't Mark F tanks, neither even had Mark F hulls, what is evident on photos).

Combat use:

The Chinese tanks Mark E were distributed between the 1st Armoured Battalion in Shanghai (3 tanks, with 29 amphibious tanks VCL Model 1931) and the 2nd Armoured Battalion in Shanghai (17 tanks Mk.E and 16 others). Both battalions were intensively used in fighting against the Japanese units in Shanghai, between 13 September and 9 November 1937. However, the tanks were ill-suited to urban fighting, and poorly trained Chinese tankers suffered big losses - about half of tanks were lost in total. The remaining tanks were probably gathered in one battalion and included into the 200th Mechanized Division, formed in 1938 of the Soviet equipment (T-26 tanks). This Division suffered heavy losses in a Nankin counteroffensive and in Kunlun pass in 1940, losing most of equipment. Detailed fate of Vickers Mk.E tanks is not known.

The Chinese Vickers Mk.E Type B destroyed in Shanghai and captured by the Japanese, with apparent bullet holes. This tank was fitted with a radio - an aerial base is visible on a turret.


Siam (since 1939: Thailand)

The Siamese Vickers Mk.E (first batch) in Bangkok, during the Bovaradet rebellion, 1933.
The Thai Vickers Mk.E from the second batch. A national roundel on a turret is red-white-blue-white-red.

On 17 November 1932, Siam bought 10 single-turret tanks Vickers Mk.E Type B, delivered in 1933. In 1938, further 12 tanks were ordered, but most probably only 8 tanks were delivered before the war, and the rest was taken by the British government. The tanks from this second batch had Mark F hulls with longer combat compartment, but turrets on the left. Siam also bought 26 self-propelled anti-aircraft guns on Mark E chassis (see here).

Combat use:

The Thai tanks were used in a war with France in Indochina (December 1940 - 28 January 1941). In January 1941, a land operation started, and on 16 January there was a battle of main forces at Yang Dam Koum in Battambang province. The French forces consisted of 4 infantry battalions, supported by the Detachement Motorise de Cochinchine (FT-17 tanks and trucks armed with 20mm guns), but there is no information, if the French armour was used in this battle. The Thai infantry was efficiently supported by some Vickers tanks, and the French had no anti-tank means at first. Finally, the battalion of the 5th Foreign Legion Regiment brought up two 25mm AT-guns and one 75mm field gun, and destroyed 3 tanks. The fighting was fierce and ended with the French withdrawal. In December 1941, Thailand fell under the Japanese control, and a further fate of Vickers tanks is not known. According to some information, one tank Vickers is preserved in Cavalry Museum in Saraburi (write if you have an information). At least one Vickers AA SP gun is preserved in Saraburi (according to some information, there are also four more preserved in Thailand).

The Siamese tanks on manouvres in early 1930s. Note a style of writing numbers.

Related links: Thai AFVs of the "Indochina War 1940-41" at Danny O'Hara's Weird Wars (currently inactive, you can find it in web.archive)



USSR

The Soviet Vickers Mk.E Type A in 1932. [5]
Soviet trials of the Vickers Mk.E Type A, January 1931. [5]

The Soviet Union was the first buyer of Vickers Mk.E tanks. As early as on 28 May 1930, the USSR bought 15 twin-turret tanks Vickers Mk.E Type A with a licence to manufacture. They were delivered between late 1930 and 1932 and were armed with original Vickers 7.71 mm MGs. The armament of the twin-turret variant was initially considered suitable for infantry support, which was the tank's projected use. Vickers tanks were known in the USSR as the V-26 (apparently V for Vickers). After trials in January 1931, in spite of some faults, the V-26 was evaluated as best of known foreign tank designs, in some ways better, than own T-19 design. Because of intelligence reports on the Polish plans to buy the Vickers and Christie tanks, fearing of alleged Polish superiority, on 13 February 1931 the Soviets accepted the tank as a standard infantry tank, under a designation T-26, and decided to quickly launch mass production.
    In July 1931 a production of the pre-series T-26 batch started. The Soviets started to produce twin-turret tanks with only small changes, most notably different turrets, but next they developed numerous other variants of the tank. The Soviet designers initially tried to create own improved tank, basing on Vickers Mk.E, with a water-cooled engine Hercules 95hp and additional hull machine gun, but two prototypes TMM-1 and TMM-2, tested in 1932, appeared unsatisfactory. There is no specific information on fate of original Soviet Vickers tanks. They were first used in factories as pattern tanks, later they were probably used for training and withdrawn before World War II, some being probably destroyed on proving grounds.

A long story of the T-26 is not a subject of this page, so we present its development only in short. The first series T-26 (model 1931) were twin-turret, armed with two DT 7.62 mm air-cooled machine guns. From 1932 some twin-turret tanks armed with 37 mm gun and a MG were made. In 1933, the Soviets started production of their own developed single-turret T-26 variant, with a long-barrel 45mm gun and a coaxial machine gun, in a big turret (so-called model 1933). It became a basic model of the T-26 family. Around this time, an armour was increased a bit (up to 15 mm). Since 1937/38, the tanks were produced wih a new, conical turret. The engine power increased a bit as well. In 1939, also the hull with lightly sloped sides, and thicker armour, was adapted. The T-26 was also a base to produce several variants of flamethrower tanks and other special vehicles, including remote-controlled tanks. Until 1941, about 12.000 of T-26 tanks and their special variants were made, mostly in the Bolshevik factory in Leningrad. They fought in all conflicts of the USSR, on some theatres even until 1945; they also fought in Sino-Japanese War and the Spanish Civil War (in the latter, on both sides).


Bulgaria

The Bulgarian tank Vickers Mk.E on manouvres. A camouflage is similar to one of the Chinese tanks.

On 16 September 1936 (other sources: 4 September 1934), Bulgaria bought 8 single-turret Vickers Mk.E Type B tanks, delivered in early 1937. Rare photos show, that they had late 'Mark F' hulls, with turrets on the left.

The Vickers tanks formed the 2nd Tank Company and remained best Bulgarian tanks for more than 2 years. In June 1941, Vickers Mk.E tanks were included into the Armoured Regiment, as a company of the 1st Armoured Unit of the regiment (two other companies of the 1st Unit consisted of PzKpfw-35(t) tanks, while the 2nd Unit consisted of Renault R-35 tanks). In September 1943, these vehicles, along with newer tanks, were included into the newly formed Armoured Brigade. Despite being a German ally, Bulgaria did not take part in war with the Soviet Union. In September 1944, Bulgaria entered the war on the Allied side, and the Brigade was used against the Germans in Serbia and Kosovo. The details about Vickers tanks' usage are not known, but by then these tanks were already obsolete and lacking spare parts and probably not used in cobat. It is known, that 3 tanks Mk.E were withdrawn from service in April 1945.



Great Britain

The British Vickers Mark E Type B. [MF]

The British Army tested the Vickers 6-Ton tank, but rejected it. However, after an outbreak of World War II, the British government took 4 tanks from the Thai order. All had Mark F hulls, with longer combat compartment, but single turret on the left side. They were used for training until the end of the war. One of them is preserved in the Tank Museum in Bovington. According to [2], also 6 tanks from the Finnish order were retained - for some time at least.



Bolivia & Paraguay

Bolivia was the smallest active user of Vickers Mk.E tanks, but the Bolivian tanks were first used in combat (it was also the first combat usage of tanks in Americas). On 12 October 1932, Bolivia ordered 3 tanks Vickers Mk. E. Older publications claim, that they were two twin-turret Type A tanks and one single-turret Type B. However, according to Vickers documents, one twin-turret tank Type A (no. VAE 532) and 2 single-turret tanks Type B (VAE 446 and 447) were bought (also in [2]). According to some information, they had 7.65mm machine guns.

Combat use:

The Bolivian Vickers Mk.E Type A as a monument in Asuncion.
Just in 1933, the Bolivian tanks were used in the Gran Chaco war with Paraguay (1932-35). The conditions of Gran Chaco were unfavourable for tanks - a terrain was difficult, and high temperatures made the tankers open all hatches. The Bolivian tank "corps" (including also 2 Carden-Loyd Mk.VIb tankettes) was commanded by the German "advisor" Cpt. von Krier. The most known battle in which the tanks were used, was the battle of Ayala (the second attack on Nanawa), 4-5 July 1933. Especially single-turret tanks appeared useful in fighting with MG-nests and wooden pillboxes. One single-turret tank VAE 447 was destroyed by a shot from 75mm field gun during the battle. Remaining single-turret and twin-turret tanks were used in following operations. Finally, both were captured by the Paraguayans on 10 December 1933, on the 22nd km of Zenteno - Saavedra way (on the eve of a surrender of two Bolivian divisions at Campo Via).

There is no information, if the two captured tanks were used in Paraguay. The captured twin-turret tank Mk.E Type A was finally put as a monument in Paraguay's capital Asuncion. In 1994 it was returned to Bolivia, as a sign of peace. It is currently exhibited at Military School in La Paz, along with a turret of a destroyed Type B tank. The captured single-turret tank (VAE 446) was sold to Spain in 1937, with a batch of guns and rifles. Older sources claim, that the captured twin-turret tank had a Bolivian name "Ina", but according to other information, it was a Paraguayan name given to this tank, or to the single-turret tank, sold to Spain (it needs clarification).

Related links:
- Armor of the Gran Chaco War at brushfirewars.org (currently inactive, you can find it in web.archive)
- photos of Bolivian tanks are at: Tanks! (sections: Bolivia and Paraguay)


The Vickers Mk.E Type B returned to Bolivia, in La Paz (it has a turret of a destroyed single-turret Vickers upon it).
Photos courtesy of Colonel Gustavo Tamano. Thanks to all, who contributed information.

Greece

Greece bought 2 tanks Vickers Mark E - a twin-turret Type A and a single-turret Type B, ordered on 20 November 1930, being their second buyer. We have no information about their turther fate. According to some information, Greece ordered 14 tanks Mk.E before the outbreak of the war, which were not delivered (according to other information, they were to be Somua S-35 tanks).


Portugal

Portugal bought 2 tanks Vickers Mark E - a twin-turret Type A and a single-turret Type B for tests before the war. They carried their names painted on hull sides - the twin-turret: "Portugal", and the single-turret: "Republica". There is no further information about them.

The Portuguese Vickers Mk.E Type A and B tanks. Both carry a sign of a trumpet and No.5 (unit's insignia?).
Photos from Tanks! page (see also additional ones there).

Spain

See: Bolivia. An ex-Bolivian single-turret Vickers Mk.E Type B tank (no. VAE 446), captured by Paraguay, was then sold to Spanish Republic in January 1937. The tank was sold with a batch of rifles and guns via Swiss trader, supposedly for a price of GBP 1,040. There is no information about its usage in Spain.


Others

Single tanks Mk.E were also tested (or bought?) by Japan, USA and Italy, possibly also by Romania, the Netherlands and Argentina. In the USA, there was designed an experimental tank T1E4, with a suspension modelled after Vickers Mk.E.



Models

Models of exclusively Polish Vickers Mk.E tanks are described separately.

1/72:
- Mirage
New, excellent plastic injection kits of the Polish producer, with many details. Available among others here.
- Mirage (72621) - "Vickers E Mk.B" (incorrect name)
The Chinese Vickers Mk.E Type B (standard export model, single-turret, without radio niche). 2 sets of Chinese and 1 of Finnish markings (but only one such Finnish tank was used for tests). It can also represent Siamese (early), Bolivian, Greek or Portuguese tanks.
- Mirage (72604) - "Vickers E Mk.B" (incorrect name)
The Polish variant of the single-turret Vickers Mk.E Type B tank, but it can be made without Polish air intakes, as a standard model.

- UM (Ukrainian Models) Military Technics
Newest (2010) plastic injection kits of the Ukrainian producer, with many details (188 parts). Previews and comments are welcome.
- UM Military Technics (618) - "'Vickers' 6 Ton light tank Model 'E' (Version A)" (incorrect name)
Standard twin-turret variant, with water-cooled MGs.
- UM Military Technics (619) - "'Vickers' single turret tank Model 'E' (Version B)" (incorrect name)
Standard single-turret variant, standard hull.
1/76:
- Ostmodels (CH1) - "Vickers 6t E var B" - the Chinese Vickers Mk.E Type B. I have no closer information.
- Ostmodels (FI2) - "T26E Model 1939"
- Ostmodels (FI3) - "T26E Model 1940"
- Ostmodels (FI4) - "T26E Model 1941"
Resin models, I haven't seen them (you can write a comment!). Probably the first one is the Finnish Vickers Mk.E with some initial armament variant (but which?), the second is armed with 37mm Bofors gun, and only the third is T-26E with 45 mm gun?
- [20mm] SHQ (RV-6) - T26E - simple white metal model for wargemers
1/35:
- Mirage
Polish producer. Injection kits, basing partially on forms of old 7TP kit. Mediocre quality and accuracy, no interior, awful vinyl tracks.
- Mirage (35304) - "Vickers E Mk.B" (incorrect name)
The Polish variant of the Vickers Mk.E Type B tank, but it can be made without Polish air intakes.
- Mirage (35310) - "Vickers-Armstrong '6-ton' Mk.F/B" (wrong name!)
Vickers Mk.E Type B with new Mark F hull and a turret with 47 mm gun on the right (without a niche?). It has Bulgarian and Finnish markings, BUT the model is of non-existing tank variant, because Bulgaria had tanks with turret on the left (just as Siam), while the Finnish tanks with such hull had rear niche and never carried 47 mm gun.
- Mirage (35311) - "Vickers-Armstrong '6-ton' Mk.F/45" (wrong name!)
the Finnish tank modified to T-26E standard.

- RPM (35901) - separate track links for 7TP, T-26 and Vickers (Polish producer) - this kit is a must for the ones above.

Part I: Vickers Mk.E tank - history and construction

Part III: Vickers Mk.E tank in the Polish service


Main sources:
1. Janusz Magnuski: "Angielski lekki czołg Vickers Mark E w polskiej służbie"; Nowa Technika Wojskowa 5/99.
2. Mikhail Baryatinski:
"Niepriznanny 'Vikkers'"; Modelist-Konstruktor 11/92.
3. Tomasz Basarabowicz, Jarosław B. Garlicki: "Chiny cz.2. Leksykon Broni Pancernej 1920-45"; Militaria i Fakty 4/2001.
4. Dariusz Jędrzejewski: "Bułgaria. Leksykon Broni Pancernej 1920-45"; Militaria i Fakty 2/2003.
5. Maksim Kolomiets, Mikhail Svirin: "Legkiy tank T-26. 1931-1941", Frontline Illustration 1/2003
    Photo sources only:
P1 - E. Muikku and J. Purhonen; "Suomalaiset Panssarivaunut 1918 - 1997", Apali Oy
MF - Photo from Military Factory site (described as public domain)

Our thanks for:
- David Fletcher and the Tank Museum
- Jarkko Vihavainen



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Text copyright © Michal Derela, 2003-2010.