The 1st Rohamtűzer Osztaly (1st RO) was the 1st Assault Artillery Unit raised and enlisted by the Honvéd.
At the end of 1942, the Hungarian Chief of Staff made the decision to incorporate into the Hungarian Army the same weapon that the wehrmacht had proven successful during the French campaign in 1940.
At the end of February 1943, three officers were chosen by the Hungarian Artillery Inspectorate after a six week training course in Jüterborg near Berlin at the instruction center of the Sturmartillerie (VI. / Artillerie-Lehr-Regiment (mot.) 2). The commander of the small group was Százados (Captain) József Barankay, the founder of the Hungarian Assault Artillery. On his return to Hungary, the captain was surrounded by a team of young enthusiastic officers which he became passionately devoted to preparing training courses for the first volunteers. His instruction methods, largely inspired from modern German methods, contributed to the formation of a true espirt de corps.
October 1st 1943 began the official formation of seven new RO. Manfred Weiss was the only Hungarian manufacturing plant capable of equipping the first seven RO. It became clear Manfred Weiss would not be capable of supporting an 8th RO, already in formation. At this point, the German allies assured Hungary that they would provide Sturmgeshütze for new RO provided personnel could be raised for the units. The 1st RO was equipped exclusively with Zrínyi and the support elements consisted of a great deal of German produced equipment including Opel Blitz, Krupp Protze and R75 BMW motorcycles.
The 1st Hungarian Army was mobilized on January 6th 1944 and the Hungarian government planned to use the 1st Hungarian Army for the defense of the national borders in the North-eastern Carpathains. However the German High Command would not allow this and directed use of the 1st Hungarian Army in Polish Galacia to fill a gap in the front line between the Carpathians and the Dniester. This ‘hole’ was located between the 1st German Panzer Army on the right flank of Heeresgruppe Nordukraine and the 8th German Army on the left flank of Heeresgruppe Südukraine. The 1st RO arrived in Galacia on the evening of the attack began by the 1st Hungarian Army. The Army, commanded by General Lakatos, had limited objectives set by the Germans. The objectives were to advance the Army to the Kolomea-Obertyn-Ottynia-Stanislau line to re-establish contact between the Heeresgruppe Norukraine and Südukraine and establish a continual frontline.
By April 12th 1944, three rail convoys respectively, transported the 2nd and 3rd Üteg and also the HQ elements of the 1st RO, commanded by Major József Barankay, departed for the Galacian Front. Prior to arrival in Galacia, in May 1944 they participated in a combined demonstration exercise in front of the Artillery Inspector and Regent Horthy, where the 1st Üteg remained stationed in Hajmáskér. It joined the rest of the RO two months later during June 1944.
The Assault Howitzers of the 2nd Üteg were temporarily commanded by 1st Lieutenant Röder. The actual commander, 1st Lieutenant Kulifay, recuperating at the time, moved off from the Stanislau plateau on the evening of the 16th of April (now called Ivano-Frankousk) where the RO commander set up his HQ. The 3rd Üteg arrived in Stanislau three days later.
The Zrínyi of the 1st RO were engaged in combat in Galacia for more than three months with the 1st Hungarian Army commanded by Heeresgruppe Nordukraine.
An attack ensued between the Pruth and the Dneister on April 17th 1944 at 14:00hrs, on the left flank of the Army. The VIIth Hungarian Corps (16th and 18th Infantry Divisions) were given the objective of capturing the towns of Ottynia and Obertyn. By the evening of April 20th the 16th Infantry Division had seized Ottynia with negligible losses, however Soviet resistance hardened quickly and by April 22nd the 16th Infantry Division reported the first counter attacks.
Soon after his arrival in Stanislau, Ornagy Barankay contacted the 301st Sturmgeschütz-Brigade that was operating in the sector. He followed on foot with some of his subordinates to observe the Sturmgeschütz-Brigade tactics and unit operations during engagement.
The Assault Howitzers of the 1st RO received their baptism of fire on April 21st 1944 in the Bohorodyczyn sector on the left flank of the 16th Infantry Division. Only the 2nd Üteg took part in this engagement with infantry support from the 18th Hungarian Infantry Division tasked with capturing the town of Bohorodyczyn where the Soviets were entrenched. Because the Soviets had concentrated a great deal of men and material in the area and the terrain was in the Soviets favor, the town could not be taken on the first day by the Hungarians but several anti-tank guns and a dug-in T-34 were destroyed by Zrínyi. During the fighting, two of the three platoon commanders were seriously injured and their vehicles damaged. On April 23rd 1944 the 101st Jäger Division moved to the offensive on the left flank of the 18th Infantry Division. Again they met fierce enemy resistance. Supported by Sturmgeshütze of the 301st Sturmgeschütz-Brigade and a combat group from the 16th Panzer Division, they managed to progress a few kilometers. On April 28th 1944, the combined efforts of the Hungarians and Germans allowed the 2nd Üteg to capture Bohorodyczyn. Several Soviet Anti-tank guns were captured intact with their American made M3 half-tracks by the surprise flank attack.
The 3rd Üteg destroyed two T-34’s during it’s first engagement and a few days later on the 27th–28th of April, the 3rd Üteg lost their commander, 1st Lieutenant Waczek, having sustained a fatal head wound. The commander of the second platoon was killed in this action as well. Ornagy Barankay assumed command of the Üteg until the successful finish of the engagement. 1st Lieutenant Rátz became the Üteg commander after the engagement.
On the 30th of April the 2nd Üteg received orders to withdraw to Stanislau. That same day General Lakatos gave the order to halt the advance of the Hungarian 1st Army before they could achieve all the campaign objectives which prevented the capture of Obertyn by the VIIth corps. The Hungarians and Germans instead prepared defensive positions inorder to stabilize the front on the Peczenyczyn-Kolomea line, located southwest of Ottynia and east of Tlumacz. Two months of relative calm followed in the sector for the VIIth corps after the Hungarian offensive was halted. On May 19th the 3rd Üteg was transferred south of Pruth, where it operated as an independent unit within the XIth corps, which was part of the 1st Hungarian Army. The 3rd Üteg was engaged for the first time on the 20th of May in the area of Peczenyczyn. Captain Barankay who took part in this engagement was forced back to Stanislau with his Zrínyi riddled with holes after the engagement. In mid June the 1st Üteg commanded by 1st Lieutenant Sandor, rejoined the RO at the front with 10 Zrínyi.
With Captain Barankay remaining with the 3rd Üteg, commanded by 1st Lieutenant Rátz, it was again involved in violent defensive actions on the 7-9th of July in the Peczenyczyn sector. On July 9th at the end of the engagement, a Zrínyi was abandoned after becoming stuck in an infantry trench. This same vehicle was later recovered on July 9-10th under enemy fire by 1st Lieutenant Rátz in which he received the Iron Cross IInd class on July 11th 1944 for this action.
The Soviet offensive broke through the lines of Heeresgruppe Mitte on June 22nd with only the Soviet 1st Ukrainian Front, led by Marshall Koniev, able to continue with the offensive. Opposing the 1st Ukrainian front were Heeresgruppe Nordukraine comprising of 4th Panzer Army on the left flank, 1st Panzer Army in the center and the 1st Hungarian Army on the right flank. 1st Lieutenant Rátz’s assault guns became engaged on several occasions south of the river Pruth holding its position until Soviet activity increased on July 13th 1944 in the sector of the 1st and 2nd Üteg.
As the Soviets advanced on Lemberg, which is present day L’vov, defended by the 1st Panzer Army, the OKH was forced to commit the German armored units to this new task leaving the Hungarian 1st Army without support. This tactical move left the VIIth Hungarian Corps exposed on its left flank although still supported by the German 1st Panzer Army on its right flank. On the morning of July 13th 1944, the Soviet activity intensifies and the 1st RO is placed on alert. Zrínyi of the 1st and 2nd Üteg prepared for combat east of Ottynia. On that day, aerial activity increased in the sector and during the move of the 1st Üteg towards Ottynia, the Üteg came under aerial attack where the commander of the 1st platoon became the first casualty. Once the Üteg was underway again it encountered the vehicle that was transporting the body of Ornagy Barankay commander of the 1st RO which had become a bombing raid casualty in the town of Targowica located behind the front lines. He had been following the engagements of the 2nd Üteg by radio from the town. Ten days later the left flank of the 1st Ukrainian Front, which was north of the 1st Guard Army and south of the 18th Army, joined in the conflict.
Captain Barankay was buried in the military cemetery in Stanislau between the first two men killed from his unit which he had reserved. Ornagy (Major) Doóry arrived from Hungary at the end of July to assume command of the 1st RO.
The Soviet offensive in the same sector of the VIIth Hungarian Corps concentrated all its efforts on Ottynia. The combined efforts of the 16th and 7th Infantry Divisions along with the Hungarian 2nd Páncéloshadosztály (2nd Armored Division) were unable to prevent a Soviet breakthrough and the Hungarians began a withdrawal to Carpathains. On July 23rd 1944, Ottynia was captured by the 18th Soviet Army who continued to advance on Nadvorna, threatening to overtake the VIIth Hungarian Corps’ retreat from the south. Nadvorna fell to the Soviets on July 25th 1944, thereby cutting off the VIIth Corps from the 1st Hungarian Army and the 1st RO from its 3rd Üteg.
During the retreat, the 1st and 2nd Üteg of the 1st RO fought a number of difficult rearguard battles in order to allow a number of units to retreat escaping complete destruction. The route followed by the 1st and 2nd Üteg began at Ottynia and proceeded to Winograd. On July 24th, in the area of Winograd, a reconnaissance patrol from the 2nd Üteg destroyed three T-34’s during an ambush. That same day 2nd Lieutenant Buszek, of the 2nd Üteg, led an action under his own initiative that liberated a unit of field artillery that had been surrounded by the Soviets. He later received the Iron Cross 2nd class for his actions when a German Hauptmann took notice and recorded the details and location of the event. The retreat continued to Lachowca, through Lukwa then to Krasna and further to Rozniatow, retreating again to Dolina and finally to Wygoda.
The combat elements of the 1st RO attached to the 2nd Páncéloshadosztály, were forced to stop their westward march on July 27th under orders from Major Doóry and 1st Lieutenant Kulifay. The only safe route of withdrawal was the valley of Lukwa, which was blocked by retreating forces under fire from the Soviets. The RO received the order to open the road at all costs forcing aside or destroying any obstacle in their path. The retreating Zrínyi became personnel carriers transporting approximately 10 wounded soldiers atop each of the vehicles because more than 2/3 of their assault howitzers were lost.
On the 28th of July the 1st and 2nd Üteg along with the RO commander crossed the Hungarian border by the Toronya pass in the northeastern Carpathians. The RO established itself at Felsöveresmo, near Hust where the Hungarian 1st Army Chief of Staff had previously arrived. The RO remained until there until the end of September 1944.
The 3rd Üteg commanded by 1st Lieutenant Rátz, was operating in a less exposed sector and returned to Hungary with all of his Zrínyi by means of the pass at Tatŕr. The support vehicles of the Üteg were able to cross the River Pruth by the bridge of Deatyn but the tracked vehicles had to ford the river further south. On arrival in Hungary, the Üteg was stationed at Korosme.
Following the failure of the Romanians to hold the Soviets on August 23rd, a breach opened in Translavania on the right flank of the Heersegruppe Südukraine. At this time the Romanians surrendered and became allied with the Soviets. On September 13th 1944 the 3rd Hungarian Army launched a general offensive against the 1st Romanian Army to partially close the breach. Transported by rail until Nagyvárad (Today Oradea in Romania), the 3rd Battery of 1st Lieutenant Rátz was engaged around mid September on the left flank of the 3rd Hungarian Army with the VIIth Corps. The intervention of the 3rd Üteg forced the Romanians from the town of Belenyes, where the Zrínyi of 1st Lieutenant Rátz, fell victim to a mine in front of Belenyes, leaving the vehicle irrepairable and abandoned. The Üteg withdrew from the front after releasing all its equipment to a Üteg from the 10th RO who was also in Transalvania at the time. At the end of September 1944, the RO was embarked for Hajmáskér, after the 3rd Üteg was involved in the last engagement in Transylvania.
After two weeks of rest, the 1st RO was again placed on alert at Hajmáskér to defend Budapest, which was threatened by the Soviet advance. Again after disposing of a battery of equipment the Rátz Üteg rearmed and joined ‘Csoport Billnitzer, which essentially became assault artillery fighting on foot.
During the months of November and December 1944 the assault gunners of the 1st RO engaged the enemy on foot in the area of Vecsés-Maglad-Ecser around Pest, joined by the 1st Hungarian Armored Division. Ornagy Doóry was assigned to another position and replaced by 1st Lieutenant Wáczek after recovering from his wounds. He was gravely wounded again on November 19th North of Vecsés during a reconnaissance mission, 1st Lieutenant Sándor who was the last commander of the RO replaced him.
On December 4th 1944, the Soviets achieved a foothold on the west shore of the Danube coming from the island of Csepel with the intention of rapidly breaking through the Margarete line to take Budapest from behind. They threw themselves against the defenses of the 271st Volksgrenadier Division and of the 239th Sturmartillerie-Brigade. At sunrise on December 5th, 1st Lieutenant Rátz led his Üteg out of the sector he was assigned to join with the 10th RO (commanded by Százados (Captain) Sándor Hanák) at Székesfehérvár without receiving orders to do so. This unconventional initiative provoked the wrath of the General-Major Billnitzer, however no charges were brought against 1st Lieutenant Rátz.
On December 8th 1944, the 10th RO attached to the 271st Volksgrenadier Division, were engaged south of Baracsta with the Üteg of 1st Lieutenant Rátz. In all 10 Zrínyi took part in the engagement. The close protection of the assault howitzers was provided by the 10th Motorized Assault Company of Lieutenant Harkay which was a special unit of the 10th RO mostly constituted of soldiers from destroyed or routed units armed with sub machine guns and German ground forces. That evening the Soviets sustained heavy losses. The RO with Captain Hanák as commander returned to Martonvásár where the RO and German Divisional headquarters were located with several prisoners and considerable amounts of captured material. No less than seven 76.2mm antitank guns were captured and one heavy howitzer, six 76.2mm antitank guns and an antitank gun of inferior caliber were destroyed. The officers were commended by the commander of the 271st Volksgrenadier Division, some receiving the Iron Cross for their actions.
On the same day the 8th Panzer Division was engaged in the Martonvásár area carrying out a counter attack which failed its objectives. The following day with 65 armored vehicles, the 8th Panzer Division was again denied its’ objectives. On December 11th 1944 the Üteg of 1st Lieutenant Rátz and the 10th RO were again engaged in the streets of the town of Erd, southwest of Budapest. The Zrínyi of the commander of the 2nd platoon of Rátz’s Battery was hit and destroyed by an antitank gun hidden in the higher parts of the town, Erd was cleared and the Soviets lost several heavy weapons including antitank guns, which had been crewed by women.
On December 26th the 1st RO found themselves as well as other units of the 1st Hungarian Army and IX SS Gebirgskorps, trapped in Budapest by the Soviet concentration of the 2nd and 3rd Ukrainian fronts in the area of Esztergom. This date marked the beginning of the siege of Budapest, which was to last more than 6 weeks. Around the turn of the New Year, 1st Lieutenant Kulifay, commander of the 2nd Üteg which was partially re-equipped with Turan 41M died in his command tank after being hit by an antitank gun. The 1st RO was finally destroyed in street fighting in Budapest January-February 1945.
Following the disaster of the 2nd Hungarian Army on the Don, in January 1943 and under influence of the German success with assault guns on the Eastern Front, the Hungarians decided in April 1943 to build assault artillery vehicles and gave that task very high priority. Two versions were planned to equip the assault artillery battalions of the new assault artillery troops: Zrínyi I with a long 75mm anti-tank gun, and Zrínyi II with a l05mm howitzer. A total of 8 assault artillery battalions were planned, each with 30 vehicles, to be used as independent army or corps troops for the support of infantry divisions.
ZRÍNYI I PRODUCTION
There were four distinct versions of Zrinyi II, not including hybrid variations and one version of the Zrinyi I. The Zrínyi I used the same chassis and engine as the Zrínyi II, but mounted the MAVAG Dios-Gyor developed 75mm 43M L/43 anti-tank gun used for the Turan III tank design. Development was initiated in May 1943, and a prototype model was constructed and completed in February 1944. Production for the Zrínyi I was planned for June 1944 at Manfred Weisz and Ganz but beyond four confirmed prototypes, full production was never realized. Service designation of the 75mm equipped vehicle was officially the 44M Zrínyi I assault gun (rohamagyu). At least one prototype was used for trials and in November 1944 it underwent trials with six 152mm rocket launchers mounted, at Hajmasker. These four prototype series production Zrínyi fitted with 75mm guns most likely fought and became destroyed in Budapest during the siege. The attempt to create the anti-tank SAU Zrínyi I, armed with the 75mm gun 43Ě, inspired the same gun design for the Turan III to be undertaken.
ORIGINS OF THE 105 mm 40/43M L/20.5 HOWITZER
In December 1942 the Manfred Weisz company had already finished a prototype Zrínyi II with a 105mm 40/43M howitzer made by MAVAG Dios-Gyor.Enro Kovácsházy was the chief design engineer of the Zrinyi I, Zrinyi II assault guns and the Tas heavy cruiser tank among others in the Weiss Manfred Heavy Industrial Factory. This howitzer was a modified version of the MAVAG developed 105mm 40M towed field howitzer, which 236 were built during the war. The maximum range of this weapon was 10.4km. The Zrínyi II used the chassis of the Turan tank, which had been widened by 450mm to make room for the weapon. The engine was identical to the Turan. The Zrínyi II prototype was taken to the artillery training range at Hajmasker in Western Hungary and tested between December 12th 1942 and January 28th 1943. As a result, this vehicle was accepted for production and designated 43M Zrínyi II assault howitzer (rohamtarack), later to be changed to 43M Zrínyi 105 assault howitzer. The name Zrínyi comes from Nikolaus Graf Zrínyi, a Hungarian hero who fought the Turks, and was killed in the battle of Szigetvar in 1566.
ZRÍNYI II PRODUCTION
There were four distinct versions of Zrinyi II, not including hybrid variations and one version of the Zrinyi I. As a consequence of the decision of April 1943 a contract was immediately placed at Manfred Weisz for 40 Zrínyi vehicles. The number was later raised to 104 vehicles to be built by Manfed Weisz and Ganz (54 each in 1943, and 50 in 1944). To save time, training of the first assault artillery troops began in July 1943 at Hajmasker using 10 Turan II and 10 Toldi IIA light tanks, until the first 5 Zrínyi II’s arrived in August 1943. This formed the 1st Assault Artillery Battalion. A total of 60 Zrínyi II vehicles were completed by Manfred Weisz when production stopped in July 1944, and it is possible, but not confirmed, that Ganz completed a further 6 during August and September 1944. These vehicles were used to equip the 1st and 10th Assault Artillery Battalion. Each Üteg used a slightly different style of marking and color scheme. Other Hungarian assault artillery battalions were equipped with the German StuG III and Hetzers.
THE ZRÍNYI II IN BATTLE
The Zrínyi II went to war with the 1st Assault Artillery Battalion in April 1944 in Galacia, and its first recorded use was July 14th 1944 at Ottynia, eastern Galacia. The vehicles fared well during the subsequent fighting, but they lacked a real anti-tank capacity. In September 1944, the Zrínyi II’s of the 10th Assault Artillery Battalion took part in the battle of Torda on Hungary's southern border, and later, Zrínyi vehicles saw action at various places in Hungary proper. The Zrínyi II can be considered the most successful Hungarian AFV of World War II. Zrínyi II vehicles were fitted with radios (probably R/5a type) and in the latter part of 1944 most vehicles were fitted with German type skirt plates or köténylemez (the Hungarian term for Schürzen). It carried 52 rounds of ammunition. The war production plan for 1944/45 was for 240 Zrínyi vehicles.
DRAWINGS AND TECHNICAL VEHICLE DETAIL
The Haditechnika drawings for this model were by Bajtos Ivan (deceased) from circa 1985. They tend to be reproduced for everything on the Zrínyi. They are missing a couple of details when compared to photographs. There are some other scale plans by G. Lacey in the UK and G. Bradford and E. Scott in the USA. There is a set of inaccurate plans in C. Kliment's book on Czech AFVS 1918-1948 (Hardback) by H. Doyle from 1979.
There are several subtle differences between the prototypes, mild steel and series production vehicles but all were used in combat. The differences are in the front plate layout, driver’s vision port style and periscope layout. A true 40/43M series production Zrínyi (with present info available) will have the internally hinged drivers vision port cover, four rotating periscopes and the retractable oblong periscope (right side) and the 'split' spare link retaining system.
The spare link holder on a series production should be split, however this method of attachment is also seen on the mild steel vehicles, the prototype had the single length retaining bar as did a hybrid with the five periscopes, circular hatch right side and internally hinged drivers vision port.
There is a mud/debris-clearing device between the last rear track return roller and the toothed drive sprocket. It is not easy to see in photos as it is usually covered in mud.
There appears to be a system to swing the sprocket forward and back, notice the ‘bolt channel’ to the rear and another system on the singled double road wheel which may actually adjust the wheel medially/laterally, this would fit with the purpose of the wheel to aid track alignment. The Turan transmission was rear drive and front idler and similarly the transmission system for the Zrínyi.
HUNGARY AFV DEVELOPMENTAL HISTORY 1938-1945 (FROM THE TOLDI TO THE ZRINYI)
In 1938 the Hungarian government accepted a 5-year plan for modernization and development of the armed forces. The plan’s main purpose was creation of bronetankovyh armies. Despite Hungarian industry was able to manufacture modern AFV’s, there were no programs in place for armor research and development. Therefore it was necessary to get licenses abroad. In February, 1939, in cooperation with the Swedish firm Landsverk AB, Hungary began manufacture of the tank 38Ě or Toldi. Hungary’s pursual of more advanced tank designs proved more difficult in obtaining business contracts. Hungary’s own tank designs like the Shtrausslera V-3 and V-4 were far behind in development, and attempts to purchase AFV’s abroad like the LAGO tank from the Landsverk company, the Italian Ě11/39 and German PzKfw. IV terminated in failure.
The Hungarian developers became interested in the S-2c (T-21 from Czechoslovak company Skoda) in early 1940. The Hungarians had previous experiences as early as March 1939 with the S-2a (LT-35) by Skoda in which the T-21 experts of Institute of Military Technics found this to be the most accessible design. These tank designs did not interest the Germans and so the technology was willingly passed to the Hungarians. On June 3rd 1940 the first T-21 was sent to Budapest, and on June 10th it arrived at the Central proving ground Honvedshega, which is the official name of the Hungarian armed forces.
In Hajmashkeri, the T-21 passed tests without mechanical failures after clocking over 800 km. Thereafter the parties signed the license contract on August 7th 1940. On September 3rd the tank was incorporated into the Hungarian army under the name Turan. The name Turan was given from the historical ancestral home the Magyar in Central Asia, whence in the VI century they began the resettlement to Europe. Soon after the tank was incorporated it received an index 40Ě. Before the first production batch, the initial Czech design underwent some modernization changes. Having established a Hungarian manufacturer, the engine, periscopes and radio were replaced with other parts. This work was performed under the direction of the manufacturing company Manfred Weiss in which chief engineer was Janosha Korbulja. The first order was for 230 AFV’s, ordered by the Ministry of Defense on September 19th 1940 and divided between four companies: Manfred Weiss (ordered to produce 70 vehicles), Magyar Vagon (ordered to produce 70 vehicles), MAVAG (ordered to produce 40 vehicles) and Ganz (ordered to produce 50 vehicles). The production began while the engineered drawings were incomplete and only by the last drawings being obtained from Skoda in March, 1941, were the first production vehicles completed. The drawing specifications of performance were modernized to a higher standard at this time. The resulting first prototypes of Turan were made of soft steel and left the factory on July 8th 1941. New AFV’s began arriving to the armies in May 1942. In total 285 tanks were supplied with the designation Turan I.
Construction and design of the hull and the turret and its attachment by rivets was referenced from a skeleton vehicle from Ugolkov, which was similar to the Czech prototype. The engine consisted of an 8-cylinder carbureted V-shaped manufactured by Manfred Weiss-Z, delivering 265 horse power at 2200 rpm. This power plant allowed a 18.2 ton tank to achieve a maximum road speed of 47 km/h. Capacity of fuel tanks was 265 liters and ranged 165 km on road. The transmission of the Turan consisted of a multi-disk main dry friction clutch controlling a planetary 6-speed (3+3) gearbox. Transmission control was accomplished with the assistance of a pneumatic servo-driver along with a duplicating mechanical drive. Having a power to weight ratio of 14.5 horsepower per ton, the Turan possessed quite good mobility and maneuverability. Mechanical controls were convenient and easy to operate.
The running gear as a whole was similar to that of the Czechoslovak tank LT-35. Each side consisting of eight road-wheels set in the basic dual bogie-wheel style blocked in pairs on two carriages, each of which was suspended on two leaf sheet springs. Between the front toothed idler and the road-wheel was a single directing dual road-wheel which aided the tank in overcoming vertical obstacles. The tank was rear drive with drive sprocket set in the rear. The caterpillar track was supported on five dual track return rollers. The design of the suspension dampened strong vertical fluctuations.
Besides changes in the linear tank dimensions and the cupola intended for commanders, the army simultaneously developed and commissioned a variant the Turan RK. This vehicle with the standard radio R/5a also included a second radio R/4T in which the aerial antennae was attached by a scrap piece of metal sheet fastened to the turret.
In May of 1941, before receipt of new tanks in the armies, the Hungarian Joint Staff realized the need to modernize the Turan with changing its main gun to a 75mm caliber, similar to the German PzKfw IV up-gunned 75mm. The up-gunned Hungarian vehicle received a designation of 41M Turan II, which was converted from a 41Ě with a main gun of 25mm and horizontal shutter. The turret was altered increasing its height by 45mm and the shape and size of the commanders’ cupola was changed. The ammunition carried was reduced to 56. The weight of the vehicle increased to 19.2 tons, whereby speed and range decreased slightly because of the upgrades. In May 1942, the Turan II design was approved and production began in 1943. By June of 1944, 139 units had been produced.
As the design proved unsuitable against tanks, the Institute of Military Technics was charged to work on the design of arming the Turan with a 75mm gun from the basic 43Ě. The frontal armor plate was planned in conjunction to increase in thickness to 80mm. The weight was expected to increase to 23 tons because of these changes. In December 1943, a prototype tank 44Ě Turan III was fabricated but production release was not realized for the lack of enough resources.
In 1944 the use of side skirts or köténylemez (the Hungarian term for Schürzen), on the Turan became standard as German tanks Panzer III and Panzer IV began to install Schürzen. The complete installation added 635 kg. to the vehicle weight.
The army’s use of the Turan began in May 1942 when the first 12 vehicles arrived at the tank training school in Estergome. By October 30th 1943, Honvedsheg had 242 tanks of this type. The 3rd filled its complement of this type vehicle, the 2nd tank division was fitted with 120 vehicles and the 1st tank division equipped with 61 Turan I. 56 more units were assigned within the 1st kavalerijskaja division. In addition two Turan were present in the 1st tank division as self-propelled artillery and three were used in training and testing.
In 1943 the Hungarians decided to pursue the assault gun by example of the German assault guns. A suitable base for the assault gun was the Turan chassis, which the width of the hull needed to be increased by 45 mm. A 75mm mantlet front armor would house the infantry howitzer made by MAVAG and altered in the 105mm of 40M with length of gun 20.5 calibers. The vehicle carried 52 rounds of ammunition for the main gun. The vehicle had no secondary armament or machine gun. The engine, transmission and running gear remained the same as the Turan tank design. A total of 66 units were produced receiving the designation 43Ě Zrínyi II. This vehicle was the most successful Hungarian AFV during the second half of WWII.
In an attempt to create the anti-tank SAU Zrínyi I, armed with the 75mm gun 43Ě, the same design was undertaken for the Turan III. Besides an operational prototype model constructed in February 1944, production was never realized. Beginning October 1st 1943, the Hungarian army formed battalions of assault artillery with 30 SAU Zrínyi II each in which infantry support was added alongside the vehicles similar to German assault batteries. By the beginning of 1945, all remaining SAU of this type were assigned to the 20th Egerskogo and 24th Koshitskogo battalions. The last vehicles armed the Zrinjami, which surrendered under specified conditions in Czechoslovakia.
Zrínyi became the standard Hungarian assault gun through the end of the war. Zrínyi were successful in accompaniment with attacking infantry fire and maneuvers, but did not fare well as an anti-tank gun against the Soviet tanks in 1944. The Germans also recognized the Soviet threat and converted StuG III main guns to function as anti-tank guns.
As previously noted, the Hungarian medium tank was constructed based on Czechoslovak design. The batch production of the Turan was targeted for 1941 to meet the need for defense against Soviet BT and T-26 tanks. By April of 1944 this design became obsolete. The Hungarians used the experiences of the Germans but by completion of the design phase, the enemy had outmatched the current design capability necessitating a new design which became the Turan II. The Turan II was equipped with a 75mm main gun in similar fashion as the German PzKfw IV.
The Hungarian armies began to use the Turan II in May 1943 and by the end of August 1943 the vehicle numbers totaled 49 and almost a year later in March 1944 the numbers were 107. The 2nd tank division was sent to the front in April 1944, equipped with 120 Turan I and 55 Turan II. The Hungarian army saw baptism by fire of these vehicles on April 17th when the division counterattacked Soviet forces under Kolomyej. The subsequent attack negotiating impassable woods and hilly terrain proved unsuccessful with the loss of 30 tanks halting the Hungarian armies by April 26th. The division participated in conflicts at Tordy, sustaining substantial losses later in September forcing a retreat.
The 1st Kavalerijskaja participated in heavy fighting east of Poland in the summer of 1944 while withdrawing to Warsaw. By September 1944 the armies lost all tanks forcing them back to Hungary. During this time the 1st tank division with 124 Turan, fought in Transylvania and by December the fighting had moved into Hungary near Debrecen and Nyiregyhaza encountering the 2nd tank and 1st Kavalerijskaja divisions.
Fighting in Budapest began on October 30th 1944 and continued for 4 months. The 2nd tank division fought in and around the city while the 1st tank and 1st Kavalerijskaja divisions battled to the north of the city. Severe fighting with the Soviet Army at lake Balaton from March to April 1945 eliminated the Hungarian tank armies. All the vehicles were destroyed or seized and this is where the last of the Turan existed.
Only one each of the Hungarian medium tanks Turan II (number 2H423) and Zrínyi II (number 3H022, "Irenke") can be seen on exposition today in Kubinka, Russia.
The Hungarian texts rarely mention German assistance and visa-versa, however they did cooperate together and coordinate operations. Most Hungarian forces were independent of German forces although they frequently coordinated with German operations in the area. Pictures do indicate spotted joint assistance was probable whereby a Turan and a German Panzer IV are depicted together as well as a Hungarian Panzer IV and German StuG together. Toward the end of the siege of Budapest, there were several German armored units trapped in the city with Hetzer and StuG and joint assistance is likely in this case.
The 3rd Harckocsiezred (3rd Tank Regiment (Hungarian)) operating around Stainslau in August-September 1944, had possession of a Tiger I and PzKpfw IV G/H.
ALLIES THE HUNGARIAN ARMY FACED:
The Hungarian army and RO faced Soviets, Romanians and possibly Slovaks. There is documented actions against the Romanians once they changed sides, allying with the Soviets after surrender. For example, the 1st and 10th RO were in action around the town of Torch and Ludas (Ludus) with Zrínyi supported by a photo of a 10th RO Zrínyi. There is also a supporting photo of a Zrínyi (perhaps 24th RO) in Bratislava (Slovakia) with a Lt 40 along side in which only the Slovaks used the Lt 40.
Post war use of Zrínyi was utilized by Czechoslovakia. Czechoslovakia used a couple of Zrínyi up until the late 1950’s. These vehicles were allocated Czech serial numbers and repainted in Czech colors.
HUNGARIAN ARMOR UNITS:
Below is a summary of military units by number of the Rohamtűzer Osztaly (RO), followed by the parent Infantry Divisions home garrison with vehicle allocation strength and brief accounting:
1st Budapest Rohamtüzer Osztály
Fully equipped with Zrínyi II in August 1943, in action in Galacia (Poland) during July 1944 and in
August-September 1944 the 3rd Üteg of the 1st RO transferred its remaining vehicles to the Üteg of the 10th Szigetvar RO 7 serviceable out of 9 available. All Üteg of the 1st RO surrendered or were destroyed in Budapest.
10th Szigetvar Rohamtüzer Osztály
Equipped with Zrínyi and a few StuG IIIG (StuG are possible when they were surrounded in Budapest and the RO that were encircled were transferring equipment to where needed etc.), saw action at Torda and Baracska in December 1944. The unit later surrendered or was destroyed in Budapest.
20th Eger Rohamtüzer Osztály
The 1st and 2nd Üteg used Zrínyi constructed between October 1944 and January 1945. Possibly the only Rohamtüzer Osztály to receive a full compliment of Jpz 38(t).
In action on the West bank of the Danube, December 24-25th with approximately 20 Jpz 38(t) on strength, The 20th lost one of its Üteg when Budapest fell in February 1945. Its remaining Üteg took part in the ‘Fruhlingserwachen’ (Spring Awakening) offensive with 15 Jpz 38(t). In February 1945, the unit was reformed into 3rd Üteg with 15 or 16 Jpz 38(t) between them and subordinated to the 25th Üteg Infantry Division. In late February 1945, the 23rd and 25th Üteg Infantry Regiments were supported by the 20th Rohamtüzer Osztály with two Üteg of Jpz 38(t) consisting of 8 vehicles and moved against the Soviet 299th Rifle Division in the area of Balatonbozsok-Alsótekeres. By March 8th 1945, the unit had 15 Jpz 38(t) on strength and was attached to the German 4th Cavalry Division with the Hungarian 25th Reconnaissance Battalion near Lake Balaton. Between March 9-11th the 25th Infantry Regiment recaptured Enying with support from the 20th Rohamtüzer Osztály. Then on March 13th the 26th Infantry Regiment supported by the 20th Rohamtüzer Osztály with 15 Jpz 38(t), broke through the lines of the Soviet 93rd Rifle Division at Siófok and later was withdrawn from the front line after the attack with 13 Jpz 38(t) remaining. (Hungarian language source ‘A Balationi csasta’)
24th Kassa Rohamtüzer Osztály
In action in Slovakia, destroyed its remaining Zrínyi in Bratislavia 1945 (numbers not known).
25th Kolozsvar Rohamtüzer Osztály
The unit had some Zrínyi and StuG IIIG initially with Jpz 38(t) issued late in 1944. The unit was in action between September and October 1944 at Del-Erdely near Torda having four Pak 40 on strength in October 1944. A strength report for this unit indicated 38 Assault guns of which six were operational on March 15th 1945, but German source documents do not indicate the type of assault gun at this point in time for Hungarian units.
Formed from the depleted 1st Budapest RO where Zrínyi crews fought on foot as infantry with the 1st Üteg of the 24th Kassa, the unit became trapped in Budapest during February 1945 where it surrendered.
The following RO were also encircled within Budapest in their entirety, the 1st Budapest, and the 10th Szigetvar. There were individual Üteg encircled within Budapest from the 7th Sümeg, 13th Csongradi, 16th Debrecen, 24th Kassa and the 25th Kolozsvar.
It appears that all remaining Zrínyi in the remaining RO’s were transferred to the 20th and 24th RO during January 1945. Whether any were operational at the time is questionable.
Rohamtüzer Osztály attachments.
1st RO April 1944 - during the remainder of 1944 the unit fought rearguard actions back to Budapest and was destroyed in Budapest.
05.10.44 Armeegruppe Wöhler Reserve (4 Assault Gun)
15.10.44 Agr Wöhler
20.10.44 Agr Wöhler
01.01.45 Agr. Balck
06.01.45 Agr. Balck
11.01.45 Agr. Balck
01.01.45 Agr. Balck
25.01.45 Agr. Balck
01.02.45 Agr. Balck
05.02.45 Agr. Balck
10.02.45 Agr. Balck
10th Received remaining armor from the 1st RO in mid September 1944
01.01.45 Agr. Balck
06.01.45 Agr. Balck
11.01.45 Agr. Balck
16.01.45 Agr. Balck
20.01.45 Agr. Balck
25.01.45 Agr. Balck
01.02.45 Agr. Balck
05.03.45 Agr. Balck
10.02.45 Agr. Balck
15.02.45 Agr. Balck (III.PzK)
21.02.45 Agr. Balck (III.PzK)
22.02.45 Agr. Balck (III.PzK)
26.02.45 Agr. Balck (III.PzK)
01.03.45 Agr. Balck (III.PzK)
07.03.45 Agr. Balck (III.PzK)
11.03.45 6. SS-Pz.Armee (I. KavK)
17.03.45 6. SS-Pz.Armee (I. KavK)
22.03.45 6. SS-Pz.Armee (I. KavK)
27.03.45 6. SS-Pz.Armee (IInd Hungarian Corps)(I. KavK)
01.04.45 2.Pz.Armee (II. Hungarian Corps)(I. KavK)
25.04.45 2.Pz.Armee (II. Hungarian Corps)(I. KavK)
24th RO 01/03/45 - 21/03/45 8th Armee Remnants of the 24th RO surrendered in Bratislavia (Slovakia) where some Zrínyi existed at this time.
25th RO On October 5th 1944 the Armeegruppe Wöhler Reserve remained with 14 StuG. No data is recorded between October 15th 1944 (2nd Üteg Army with only Pak 40) and March 15th 1945 (6. Pz.Armee with Jpz 38 & Pak 40).
The 1st Hungarian Assault Artillery Group (1943-1945) Translated by Andrew Telford from original French article by Andras Palasthy
French magazine 1939-1945 issue #56, an account of the actions of the 1st Rohamtűzer Osztaly during their time in Galacia between April and July of 1944 and subsequently their encirclement in Budapest.
Budapest, 100 days of Siege by Kristian Ungvar, several small accounts of the actions of elements of the 1st RO during the Budapest siege.
The Royal Hungarian Army 1920-1945 Hungarian Mobile Forces (CD ROM) by Dr Peter Mujzer, a couple of well published Zrínyi photos and some basic operational history. The CD-ROM has over 80 unseen photos, maps and OOB where the book has 18 well published shots.
The Royal Hungarian Army 1920-1945 Vol. II Hungarian Mobile Forces by Dr Peter Mujzer, Axis Europa publishing a couple of well published photos and some basic operational history.
Magyar Királyi Honvédség 1919-1945 by Dombrády-Tóth, 1987 Hungarian text with a small amount of technical and historical data on the Zrínyi.
40/43M Zrínyi rohamtarack kifejlesztése és használata Bíró: A, 3.rész, 1996/4-2-1, Hungarian language with technical and small operational information some photos not published elsewhere.
Czechoslovakian AFV’s 1918-1948 by Kliment-Francev, English text with some photos and a small amount of data but no operational history.
A Magyar Királyi Honvédség Fegyverzete 1919-45 part 1 by Bonhardt, Sárhidai and Winkler, 1992 Hungarian text with technical and small operational information and some photos not published elsewhere on the Zrínyi.
Balatoni Csata 1944/45, Veszprém Megyei kiadványok by Veress D, 1977 (Reprint in 2001) Hungarian text accounts of the Konrad operations, some information on RO, the reprint has the ‘Battle of Lake Balaton’ (and some not seen in the original BoLB) photos included - doctored without the soviet trophy numbers!
AFV News article by Giuseppe Finizio a small article on the subject.
Armor Modeling Japanese publication, a small translation in Japanese of the Haditecknika articles!
AFV News site Turán article by J. Probst, A very brief online source repeated on numerous websites that mention the Zrínyi.
Random Thoughts (Canadian IPMS magazine) Vol. 12 #6 A very old article on the Zrínyi, some photos, scale plans are incorrect!
AFV G2 Vol. 6 #4 has small amount of information.
Modell és Makett extra issues 2, 3 and 5, Hungarian magazine with a few pre and post war pictures.
Pro Modell Archiv No. 2, Hungarian magazine a few pre and post war pictures.
Pro Modell magazine 2003/3. Hungarian magazine a few pre and post war pictures.
Honvéd – Hungarian armed forces "the soldier who saves our country"
Rohamtűzer Osztaly - Abbreviated (RO), equivalent to Armor Unit.
Üteg – Battery
Rohamtarack - Assault howitzer
Southeast Armored Division