7TP was a Polish light tank, designed in early Thirties and used in September Campaign of 1939.
After WWI Poland became the 4th armoured might in the world, with over 120 FT-17 tank brought by gen. Haller from France. But these tanks quickly became outdated and Polish designers started to look for better option. It was very important for a country locked between Nazi Germany and Soviet Union, both of which looking at Poland with pure hatred (Germany for loosing large parts of once occupied land, USSR for stopping its march toward Europe in 1920).
The tank that became a foundation of 7TP's design was british Vicker Mk. E, at the time an export hit (the second most common tank of the Interbellum period, next to FT-17) used by Finland, China, Great Britain, USSR (as a base for T-26 tank) and Poland. It was designed by John Carden and Vivian Loyd. An innovation of this design was that cannon and machine gun were placed in the same turret, allowing to aim targets with the same optical equippment, depending on what the target was (enemy tank or infantry).
Polish designers took the chassis of Vicker Mk. E and seriously re-designed the hull. The engine's compartement was given higher walls to accomodate bigger engine. As the first tank in the world, 7TP used Diesel engine instead of petrol one. This was a serious step forward, because Diesel engine was less prone to burst into flames when hit with enemy's shell. Moreover, the turret was given a Gundlach periscope - an innovative design which allowed the commander to look behind the tank without changing position (which was very hard in small and cramped turrets of early tanks). After the 1939 this was copied into other tanks all over the world, including T-34, T-70, all Axis APCs and even some Allied vehicles (Cromwell tank, Sherman tank etc.).
The first 7TP went into service in 1936. They were used by: 1st and 2nd Light Tank Battalions (Bataliony Czołgów Lekkich), 1st and 2nd Light Tank Companies of Warsaw Defence Command (Kompanie Czołgów Lekkich Dowództwa Obrony Warszawy) and Warsaw Armour-Mechanised Brigade (Warszawska Brygada Pancerno-Motorowa).
A shameful card in history of 7TPs was the annexion of Zaolzie. This piece of lands is placed near current border of Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia. It was mostly inhabited by Poles, but after the WWI it became a part of Czechoslovakia. When Hitler demanded a large part of Czechoslovakia, Sudetenland, to be incorporated into III Reich, the Polish goverment saw it as a chance to retrieve the Zaolzie. They sent an ultimatum to Czechoslovakian politics, demanding them to give Zaolzie back to Poland. Surrounded by enemies, Czechoslovakia agreed and Zaolzie became a part of Poland. Polish 7TP and 35.000 Polish soldiers entered it greeted by Polish majority living on these terrains. While it could be understandable that Poland saw Zaolzie as its own terrain (due to the Polish majority), threating Czechoslovakia when it was in trouble was later seen as dirty trick and for some time Poland was seen as Hitler's ally. At least to September 1st 1939.
Despite being in the same class of tanks as Panzer I and II, 7TP was actualy more a medium tank. Its 37 mm anti-tank gun was an excellent weapon, able to knock out any tank in the world except for the heaviest (like the Soviet T-28), which of course Germany did not have in 1939. Unlike Panzer I and II, machine gun was not a primary, but secondary weapon used against infantry. 7TP could easily destroy said German light tanks and even posed a threat to early versions of Panzer III and IV. Their short-barelled guns were not designed to fire armour-piercing rounds, leaving them helpless against 7TPs fighting from long distance.
However, with German numerial superiority, Poland could do little in face of invasion. Germany had more than 3000 tanks (most of them light PzKpfw I and II, and only as little as 200 PzKpfw IV), while Poland - only about 880 (139 7TPs, 16 of them twin-turreted, the rest being TK-3 and TKS tankettes, French R-35s (less than 60 of them) and some Vickers Mk E). Moreover the 7TP were scattered along Polish border, insted being located in places they could be more useful (i.e. over natural obstacles lines, like rivers or forrests). Nevertheless in combat they proved their worth, destroying hundreds of German tanks.
As a last ditch effort to stop German assault on Warsaw, the 2 Company unleashed the newest version of the tank, sometimes called "9TP" (9 Tonowy Piechoty - 9-tonn [of] Infantry). It was an up-armoured version of 7TP with welded hull, wider tracks and different (lighter) engine. However only 11 9TPs were produced, so they could do little against advancing Wehrmacht. German soldiers at first mistook them for normal 7TPs, only later they discovered the differences between the tanks.
Germans appreciated the might of 7TPs and incorporated them into their ranks even during September Campaign. There is a of photo of 7TP with hastily painted crosses and German description saying it was captured by German soldiers and later destroyed by 37 mm Bofors AT-guns. 7TPs, renamed PzKpfw 731(p) were incorporated to 203. Panzerbatallion and used during Norway and French campaigns.
No 7TP has survived the war. There are only pieces of them scattered in museum throughout Poland (i.e. Polish Army Museum keeps fragments of hull and turret, while Poznan Armament Museum has one track link in its collection). Since 2006 a group of enthusiast, supported by Polish Presidential Chancellery begun works to create a working replica of 7TP. In 2010 the hull and chassis were more or less complete, while the turret still needed some work (photos: [link]
). It is expected to be complete in 2011.
Found in one of Poznan's model shops in very attractive price.
The build is actualy no different from the 7TPdw which I have built before, except for one thing: the turret and the upper hull. There is only one, bigger turret with 37 mm cannon and machine gun, and there's only one turret ring.
Painting? It has a "pain" in it. I didn't like the original, pale yellow colour suggested by the instruction, so I used the darker one. The secondary camo should have blurred edges, but I don't have an airbrush, so I had to to with normal brush. Weathering was done with revell's panzergrau, some metallic and Tamiya Weathering Set D.
Many small details are missing because I've abandoned it for a long time and when I was in Poznan my family kept putting and taking things on my desk, therefore loosing parts like hooks, support beams or toolboxes.
Model: Mirage Hobby
Paints: All Humbrol
Time: I don't know, I was assembling it in two-days mode (arriving home on Friday evening, leaving on Sunday evening)