The latest news about T-34.|
Have successfully started the diesel engine not replacing any spare part.
Have replaced only bearings on skating rolls.
Assembly of the tank will soon come to the end and it will be ready to trial runs.
It is planned in the following season to carry on tourists and to show it as a working exhibit of our museum.
The detailed information about T-34.
Germans have driven this tank in lake when fuel was terminated at deviation in 1944.
It laid on depth of 12 meters. Above it there were 6 meters of peat and silt. During two weeks divers of club washed away silt above the tank. Any traces of solar oil or oil on water was not. Has found the tank Igor Sedunov on memoirs of local residents. A technical condition of the tank ideal. Fuel in tanks was not, and oil did not leave the engine.
T-34 BEUTEPANZER RECOVERED IN ESTONIA
Articl from magazin AFTER THE BATTLE, November, No. 136
In September 2000 a truly remarkable recovery took place near Johvi in north-eastern Estonia when a complete and practically intact Soviet T-34/76 tank was pulled from the bottom of a lake where it had lain for 56 years. The recovery was all the more extraordinary because the vehicle, on surfacing from the muddy water, turned out to be fitted with German crosses on its turret and hull which showed that it was a ‘Beutepanzer’, a tank captured and taken into service by the Germans.
The T-34 was pulled out of Lake Kurtna Matasjarv (known as Konna-See on wartime Wehrmacht maps), a small pond deep in the woods and swamps some ten kilometres south-east of Johvi – an area heavily fought over in September 1944. The fighting in this area occurred in the later stages of the larger battles on the so-called Narva front. This was for possession of a narrow sector in north-eastern Estonia, an area only 50 kilometres wide, but one that formed a vital east-west land-bridge between the Gulf of Finland in the north and Lake Peipus in the south. Between February and September 1944, with the German 18. Armee having been pushed back from Leningrad, a newly created Armeeabteilung Narva (led by General der Infanterie Johannes Friessner) fought to hold the Narva river-line position, first clinging on to a bridgehead on the east bank around the border town of the same name, and, after this had been given up in July, taking up position along a new defensive line set up through the Sinimaed (Blue Mountains) in the Vaivara district further west. In late July the Russian 2nd Shock Army tried to break through these hill positions but, despite a three to one superiority, was repeatedly thrown back by Armeeabteilung Narva, which included the multinational III. (Germanische) SS-Panzerkorps (comprising units of Danish, Norwegian and Dutch SS volunteers) and a large complement of Estonian volunteer troops. Over 100,000 men were killed and 300,000 men were wounded fighting in this narrow sector of the front (see After the Battle No. 127).
It was probably sometime during the ferocious combat in the Blue Mountains that German troops captured the Soviet tank and turned it against its former owner. On September 19, 1944, with the Russian 8th Army having renewed the offensive from Narva and with encirclement by the 2nd Shock Army threatening from the south, Armeeabteilung Narva began an organised retreat all along the front and it was during this final stage of the battle that the tank ended up in Lake Kurtna Matasjarv and was abandoned. The question whether it was driven into the water deliberately or whether it slid or rolled in by accident is open to surmise, but it is most likely that it was driven in on purpose, the simple reason being that it had run out of fuel (on recovery, the vehicle was found to have no diesel left in its fuel tanks). Also, it is difficult to see why the Germans would give up a perfectly intact tank, except for lack of fuel.
Shortly after the Germans had pulled out, a local boy walking by the lake noticed tank tracks leading into the water, but not emerging anywhere. For the next two months he saw air bubbles coming out of the water and he realised that there must be some sort of armoured vehicle lying on the bottom of the pond.
Over 50 years later, by now an old man, he recounted his memories of 1944 to Igor Sedunov, the leader of a local war history club named Otsing (Search). Sedunov and his fellow-enthusiasts specialise in exploring the Narva battlefields and keeping the memory of the battles of 1944 alive. The club has two sections: one specialising in overland searches and one of trained scuba divers specialising in underwater explorations and recoveries. The latter section is led by Mihail Zenov.
Intrigued by what his witness had told him, Sedunov in 1999 hatched a plan to explore the bottom of the lake. Enlisting the help of the colleague divers of the Ikthiandr diving club, a systematic search of the lake was begun. Although there was no trace of any oil or lubricant floating on the water to betray the presence of a sunken vehicle below the surface, after several attempts the divers hit gold, discovering what was quickly identified as a Soviet T-34 tank. The vehicle was lying at seven metres depth and was covered by three metres of peat and silt. Excited by their find, and exhilarated by the prospect of obtaining what appeared to be a virtually undamaged original wartime tank, Sedunov and the other members of the club decided to recover the vehicle from the water.
It was immediately clear that they would need heavy equipment with significant muscle to achieve their goal: a T-34 weighs 27 tons and lugging a probably mud-filled specimen from the water and up the incline of the hill that surrounds the lake would require a strong machine with sufficient horse power to do the job and enough weight to prevent shoe-slip. In August 2000 they turned to Mr Aleksander Borovkov, the manager of the Narva open mining pit of the stock company AS Eesti Polevkivi, to rent the company's Komatsu D375A-2 bulldozer. At 68 tonnes and with a 525 horse-power engine, the Komatsu semi-U-tiltdozer filled all the requirements. Manufactured in 1995, the company’s Komatsu had 19,000 operating hours without major repairs. Borovkov agreed to rent out the machine for the recovery undertaking.
To prepare the ground for the pull-out operation, the Otsing and Ikthiandr club divers spent three weeks in the lake removing the thick layer of peat and washing away the silt from on top of the tank, thus lessening the weight of the load to be dragged out. To give the bulldozer a firm platform from which to operate, a number of tall trees were felled to create a path from the edge of the lake to the top of the incline leading up from it. By mid-September everything was ready for the recovery itself.
September 14, 2000, was the big day. The pulling operation began at 0900 hours. The Komatsu dozer was positioned at the top of the hill, its rear facing the water, and several thick steel cables were hooked onto it and led some 60 metres down the incline to the water. Divers affixed the cables’ other ends to the submerged tank and with everything in place the pulling started. Numerous villagers had come out to the lake to watch the proceedings. There were a few technical breaks but in general the recovery went without a hitch, the D375A-2 handling the operation beautifully. Inch by inch the tank was pulled from its watery grave. Once it gave way from the bog where it had sat stuck for over five decades, the vehicle started moving towards the bank more quickly. What then slowly emerged from the water did not look like a tank but more like a giant mass of mud accumulating on the edge of the lake. It was only when a powerful water hose was directed onto the muddy form and washed away the muck and silt that the steel vehicle contained within became visible.
The tank was coming out of the water backside first. As the hose cleared off the mud, the tank’s turret came into view. It had Russian tactical markings and slogans painted on both sides but, to the great excitement of everyone, it also showed two black-and-white German crosses, one on each side of the turret; there was another German cross on the rear side of the hull – unmistakable evidence that this was a T-34 that had been captured and taken into use by the Germans.
The final part of the pull, up the steeper incline of the lake’s bank, went surprisingly easy. At 1440 hours, with black water gushing out of its open driver’s hatch, the T-34 slid out of the lake and a few metres up the hill, its unmoving caterpillar tracks pushing aside the log road and ploughing deep furrows in the mud.
As it came to a standstill, everyone around marvelled at the sight of the impressive steel monster, looking so complete and whole with its 76.2mm main gun and outer fixtures all intact. There was a further German cross on the hull’s front. A first inspection of the tank’s interior showed that its ammunition racks were still full. Altogether, 116 shells were found on board. They were carefully lifted out and laid out on the grass. The tracks and wheels were hosed down to clear the mud from them and, to everyone’s delight, when the tank was then pulled further up the incline the tracks and wheels began turning. The Komatsu dozer then towed the tank on through the forest and to the nearest surfaced road. By 1800 hours the recovery operation was completed.
The following morning a powerful crane lifted the tank on to a low-loader which then transported it to the recovery group’s base at Gorodenko, where it was temporarily put on a plinth for display. On September 21, Lennart Meri, the President of Estonia, came to admire the historic vehicle.
Following the recovery, Igor Sedunov, Mihail Zenov and the other members of Otsing began a thorough cleaning and overhauling of the vehicle. The main gun was removed from the turret, and the turret lifted off the hull. The men found the T-34 in amazingly good condition, with no rust, and all systems except the engine in working condition. The layer of peat and the high acidity of the marshy lake had created a kind of protective cocoon around the tank, sealing it off from corrosion and preserving it through 56 years under water. To the team’s delight, nearly every part and mechanism proved to be in perfect working order after cleaning. The fuel tanks were found to be empty, confirming the assumption that the tank had been abandoned and dumped in the lake due to shortage of fuel. The diesel engine had leaked no oil. Astoundingly, without replacing any spare part, the team managed to start up the Diesel engine. One of the few things that needed replacing were the bearings of the skating rolls. After nearly two years of restoration work, the tank had essentially reached the stage where trial runs could be made.
Ever since it had been pulled from the lake, the intention had been to display the T-34 as a working exhibit at the club’s war history museum to be founded at Gorodenko village. One reason that has delayed full use of the tank was that, under Estonian laws, the recovery group was obliged to wait five years to enter full possession of the tank. This period expired in October 2006 and the Otsing club and museum is now the full legal owner of the tank.
The restoration and overhaul of the T-34’s parts and components have been completed and the vehicle is now at the club’s workshop in the tractor park near the village of Sirgala (in the woods about halfway between Narva and Johvi), awaiting final re-assembly. The Estonians hope to achieve this in 2007, and finally realise their dream of being able to offer visitors to the museum a ride on a historic T-34 – and a turncoat one at that.