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Getting really sick of those tanks...

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Ok, I tried looking up exactly when the signal/flare hatch/port was introduced on the T-34, but without luck. However, I did get closer to an answer about flag signalling and the port in question.

There are early-war main hatch photos such as this museum one:


And this historical in-wartime one:


And in the corner of each you can see a small hatch within the main hatch, which is probably the thing we're looking for. But the problem with such pictures is they don't tell us whether these things were original 1940, or introduced in 1941/42 and possibly retro-fitted to earlier versions.

However, could the whole purpose of these hatches have been misconstrued? For some sources refer to these early-war features variously as "signal hatches", "signal ports", "flare ports", "signal/flare ports" or "signal/flare hatches", but never actually as "signal flag hatches". And so could people have mistakenly believed that by "signal" it meant that the platoon or company commander would stick his flags up through?? Whereas it may have just been for poking a signal flare through.

And here you can see early-war Soviet tankers using flags (albeit not on T-34):


As you can see, in the main photo the commander has two flags. I've read that they used a combination of two or three simple plain-colour flags, like blue, yellow, and red, to convey a simple range of commands (like: follow me, left, right, forward, fall back, etc). And in a side photo you can see the commander sat on a tank signalling with such a flag. On a T-34, it's possible trying to imagine a commander using one flag through the small signal port, but not really good for giving directions with combinations of two flags - as it'd be very difficult to keep the two flags separated for clarity, without being able to hold them apart with both arms (or being able to wave them so that he could be sure his comrades could see them clearly, if no breeze, or no breeze in the right direction, made them clear).

But it's probably all a very moot point because, as per my previous post, in combat such flares and flags were apparently rarely used, and no wonder: the small height of a small flag shoved through this hole could be very easily missed unless the commander unbuttoned and frantically waved his arms about too, and flags and flares quickly gave away the position of the command tank. Which explains the German accounts about early-war T-34s not using any various formations or tactics but just playing follow-the-leader or making massed rushes.

So perhaps the best CMBB modelling of this early-T34 battlefield reality would be as it already stands in the game, i.e. to effectively have no in-communication status when buttoned down.

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The pics you dug up (how I wish Russian Battlefiled's English side were back in its former glory) show exactly the item to which I referred. As you can see here, In the declassified and translated manual for the T-34 Tank Service Manual (1942), the main hatch has a specifically identified signal port, a term taken directly from the text.


The Turret

"The rear part of the turret roof is fitted with an access hatch on the top of which there is a signal port."

The sadly defunct site AFV Interiors had this to say of pic of a dead T-34/76 Model 1941 (pic 11)


"Notice that unlike the Model 1940 turret hatch, this one does not have the provision for a second gunner's periscope, but the small port for the use of signal flags or a flair gun is still present on the right side."

Similarly, Tanks of the Red Army specifically invokes flag signals as part of standard intertank communications before radios were fitted.



"Inter-tank communication is visual, by either arm-signals or flags."


"Inter-tank communication is by visual signal, while telephone and laryngophones are used."

Note that neither so much as mentions flares, after having first defined visual signals as flags or arm signals.

By contrast, the wavy bottom turret called the Formochka has no signal port, which would appear to support your radio argument. the other explanation may well be, though, that with the Mickey Mouse hatches, which aren't a huge portion of the turret roof like the one piece on earlier T-34s, the hatch over the TC will do the job without requiring another turret rof opening and manufacturing complexity.



John Kettler

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