Part I: Development, history & production --- Part II: Camouflage, description, specifications & modeling
Part III: Service with photo gallery --- Part IV: Tankettes with 20 mm cannons --- Self propelled guns
Part V: Experimental tankettes --- Part VI: Foreign service of TK/TKS --- Part VII: Auxiliary equipment --- TKS gallery
|The TKS on the 'autotransport' chassis, in an early camouflage, 1934-36.|
In a background are Vickers E tanks. The motorcycle is CWS M-111 (Sokół 1000).
This article is a supplement to the Polish tankettes TK-3 (TK) and TKS, presenting their auxiliary equipment – the trailers dedicated for tankettes, and means of transport. This page has been excluded from the page on experimental tankettes TKW and TKS-B.
|TKS platoon, with an accompanying trailer, in pre-1936 camouflage. Noteworthy is a range of a drawbar's movement. [AJ]|
|The TK-3 with the trailer, with tracks removed, before the war. A spring hook is visible. The tankettes have an unidentified spades unit sign.|
Along with ten Carden-Loyd Mk.VI tankettes, in 1929, Poland bought five dedicated tracked trailers. Basing on the British design, a tracked two-axle universal trailer for tankettes was developed in Poland as well, probably in 1932. It was known as an accompanying trailer (przyczepka towarzysząca), and produced from 1933 at least. Comparing with the British pattern, the Polish trailer was a bit higher, and had bigger shelves above the tracks, probably containing closed drawers. It was covered with a canvas top as a standard, mostly for dust protection.
The trailer was towed by a repair patrol tankette, which was included into a platoon as the sixth tankette, and followed behind combat tankettes in platoon actions. The trailer carried a set of spare parts (among others a carburettor, a fuel pump, a battery, brake shoes, bogie springs, road wheels), tools, additional ammuniton (3600 rounds) and some fuel. It should be noted, that only first 100 TK-3 tankettes were fitted with a special spring towing hook; later tankettes TK-3 and TKS probably could have been fitted with a special crossbar for trailer towing. The trailer had two big rubber-rimmed wheels on each side, suspended on a semi-elliptic spring, pivoting on a central axle. However, it was found, that the track drive was not successful – unpowered tracks generated drag, while they did not help much in off-road riding, apart from a soft terrain. That is why sometimes they were used without tracks, and also two-wheel trackless trailers were tested in 1936 (one of variants had a suspension with torsion bars). By 1939, the wheeled trailer design was ready, and it was encouraged to convert the tracked trailers in unit workshops, but it is not known, if any were actually converted. The details about its layout are not clear.
There are no specifications available, only it is known, that the British trailer had a capacity of 500 kg. There is no information either on how many trailers were produced. In wartime organization tables, there should be one tankette with the trailer in each six-tankette platoon (two in a company or a squadron), so at least 60 were needed. However, it is quite strange, that there are no photographs of tankettes with trailers abandoned in September 1939 known at all (we suspect, that the repair patrol tankettes could have been used to supplement first losses in combat vehicles, leaving their trailers – the regulation did not envisage a way of supplementing losses, while there were no reserve tanks in combat units).
It might be noted, that similar tracked trailers, but longer, were developed and used in France for Renault UE tractors. In Great Britain also an open trailer transporting four soldiers was tested.
|← The TK-3 with the tracked transport trailer (a canvas is in atypical too low position) 
↓ The TK-3 with the fuel trailer 
The tankettes could also tow a typical Polish fuel trailer, with three 200 l fuel barrels and two 50 l oil barrels, normally towed by trucks in armoured units. However, its usage seems rather experimental, or in emergency. It seems, that it was not well balanced for the small tankette.
|Armoured personnel-ammunition trailer. |
Little known design was a prototype armoured personnel-ammunition trailer for 37 mm wz.36 Bofors anti-tank gun, developed in 1936 by the Armoured Weapons Technical Research Bureau (BBT Br.Panc.). It was meant to carry three crewmen and 80 rounds in sixteen crates. Its origin was connected with an idea of motorization of Polish anti-tank artillery, using ordinary tankettes towing such trailers and guns. The prototype was built in August 1936 in the PZInż. workshops, then an improved model was built in December 1936. The two-wheel trailer had wheels 70 cm diameter, with solid rubber tires with torsion bars. The trailer was armoured with 8 mm sides and 3-4 mm bottom. Empty weight was 630 kg, combat weight – 1100 kg.
The trailer was evaluated in winter 1937, then the idea was apparently abandoned as impractical. In some publications this trailer is erroneously regarded as an ammunition trailer for the TKS-D tank destroyer/artillery tractor, but the TKS-D had a pure ammunition trailer for 120 rounds (there was no need to carry the crew in a trailer).
The tankettes were also seen towing a two-axle articulated trailer for Polish RKD divisional level radio set and its four-men crew. A standard horse-drawn trailer had wooden wheels, but in 1930s some were modified with rubber tires. The radio had maximum range 70 km (Morse code), with extended pole aerial. There is no precise information, but it was apparently used in 1930s in peacetime armoured companies, to communicate with big units. There are known several photographs of the tankettes towing RKD radio trailers with rubber tires on parades, but it is not known, if the tankettes were their typical tractors, or rather used for parade purposes only. During World War II, no tankettes were assigned to tow radio trailers in wartime units, especially, that in 1938 there started a withdrawal of RKD radios, and their replacement with N1 radios on radio cars, becoming a standard in armoured companies.
|Right: The TK-3 with the RKD radio trailer of the 5th Armoured Battalion in Cracov, 1938.  →|
|The TK-3 with RKB/C radio.|
The new, unique usage of tankettes, conceived in Poland, was employing them as armoured draisines – reconnaissance rail vehicles, used in armoured trains. For this purpose, they used special rail runners – frame-shaped two-axle carriages. The tankette mounted on the rail runner drove on rails using own tracks. The rail runner had a hydraulic mechanism to lift the tankette, and a ramp to unload it. The tankette could mount and dismount without the crew leaving the vehicle. By 1939 there were approximately 50 rail runners manufactured. Part of TK and TKS tankettes (at least 20) used as armoured draisines were equipped with a short-range radio RKB/C. They differed in having two additional boxes with equipment on front or rear fenders, a long pole folding aerial on a right side and some minor changes in external and internal equipment.
More at armoured draisines page.
|The TKS on a rail runner, used as an armoured draisine.|
|TKS (above) and TK-3 (belowe) on the autotransport. [AJ / 1]|
In order to avoid too much wear of tankettes' drive mechanism, another unique device was developed in Poland in early 1930s: a wheeled chassis called the "road autotransport" or "autotransporter". It was meant for transporting tankettes over longer distances, sparing more expensive trucks. It was a two-axle engineless chassis, basing on Ursus A 2-ton truck components. The tankette was riding onto the chassis through two rear ramps, then its crew was disconnecting tracks and chaining sprocket wheels with a gear driving rear wheels. Rear wheels were double. Front wheels were steered, connected with the tankette's steering wheel (the details are unknown; it might have demanded some modification to the tankette, but there is no closer information available). The empty chassis could have been towed by the tankette, steered by the commander, sitting on a folding seat. The chassis was fitted with twin headlamps, a spare wheel and lockers for tools.
Several dozen of "autotransport" chassises were manufactured and used in tankette units before the war, but there is no specific information about their production and years of service. Apparently they were mostly used in the first half of 1930s, judging from early camouflage on tankettes on most of the photographs. It seems, that they came out of use by late 1930s. There is no record in publications, if any were still used in 1939. There are not known photographs of abandoned vehicles either. Organization charts of mobilized wartime tankette units do not mention them, but they contain two transporter trucks instead.
Despite these vehicles seem quite well-known in Polish publications, but they had not been researched in detail so far. There is no closer information about their service, date of design, technical details, neither are known their closer specifications. Apparently they were rather impractical, because empty chassises demanded other vehicles to tow, while their use was rather limited to a safe area, without a danger of contact with the enemy. They were useless in case of the tankettes with broken engines or transmission as well.
|TKS tankettes in early camouflage embarking the autotransporters.|
|The TK-3 towing an empty autotransport chassis |
|Empty autotransporter – a folded steering wheel and the driver's seat are visible. |
More straightforward way of transporting the tankettes using special trucks, like elsewhere in the world, was adopted eventually. However, due to financial reasons, their numbers were very limited and they could be only used to transport some of broken down tankettes. There were used 4x2 medium trucks with a special platfom, ramps and a winch, that could transport only one tankette.
In 1935 there were 15 tank transporter trucks Ursus A30 in the Army (strenthened variant of 2-ton Ursus A), and two heavy Saurer 4BLD, for two tankettes. It is not known if all survived in service until the war (in 1936 there were only 14 Ursuses). By late 1930s, a number of newer standard Army Polski FIAT 621L 2.5-ton trucks were adapted for transporting of the tankettes. They are relatively little known in this role, but they were probably most numerous Polish tank transporters, judging from tables of organization of mobilized units, which demanded additional 30-40 tank transporters. The regulation from 1938 indicated Fiat 621 as a standard equipment in a reconnaissance tank company (there are specifications quoted: weight empty 2765 kg, loaded 5500 kg, speed 35 km/h). All these tank transporters were not numerous anyway, and could only transport some of damaged tankettes. According to tables of organization of mobilized units, there should be two tank transporters in a technical platoon of a tankette company or a squadron in reconnaissance units. It is not clear, how many tank transporters were in a tankette squadron of cavalry's armoured unit, but it may be assumed it was the same (older sources quoted only one such truck in a company or a squadron).
It might be interesting to note, that in case of a railway transport, one 13-metre Pdk flatcar could carry a whole platoon of six tankettes (placed transversally) and one motorcycle.
|The TK-3 being loaded upon the Ursus A, pre-war. [AJ].||An abandoned TK-3 on the Ursus A truck, examined by the German soldiers in September 1939 (the place is Przechowo, currently Świecie - identified at this site).|
|Two TK-3 upon one of two Saurer 4BLD transporters, nr. 7216, Poznań, early 1930s.||One of rare photographs of Polski Fiat 621L transporter with the TKS, withdrawn to Hungary in September 1939 (full photograph)|
More tankette-connected models and camouflage details are in Part II: Camouflage, Description & Modelling
1. Janusz Magnuski: Karaluchy przeciw panzerom; Pelta; Warsaw 1995
4. Michał Malec: Sprzęt towarzyszący czołgów rozpoznawczych, "Militaria i Fakty" Nr. 33 (2/2006)
6. Adam Jońca: Tankietki TK-3 i TKS, series: Wielki Leksykon Uzbrojenia Wrzesień 1939 No. 18, Warsaw: Edipresse Polska 2013
7. Jędrzej Korbal: Ciągnik C2P i wyposażenie, series: Wielki Leksykon Uzbrojenia - specil issue 1/2018, Warsaw: Edipresse Polska 2018
8. Roman Buja: Radiostacje polowe RKD, N2, N1, RKG/A, W1, series: Wielki Leksykon Uzbrojenia Wrzesień 1939 No. 40, Warsaw: Edipresse Polska 2014
AJ - photos from a collection of Adam Jońca
All photos and pictures remain the property of their owners, some are public domain. They are published in non-commercial educational and research purpose.
Text copyright to Michal Derela © 2019.