On August 20th, 1932, assembly of the experimental five-turreted T-35-1 tank finished.
In 1931, a German engineer named Eduard Grotte worked in the USSR. Under his guidance, the design bureau of the Leningrad Bolshevik factory created a two-turreted TG-1 tank. Due to several reasons, the TG-1 didn't make it into production. Experience gained when building the TG-1 was applied to creating a heavy breakthrough tank, designated T-35. The first prototype was completed on August 20th, 1932.
The tank impressed the Red Army UMM, but trials revealed many weaknesses in the design. Work to remove them finished in April of 1933, resulting in T-35-2 and T-35A tanks. The T-35A entered production, and was later called simply T-35.
There is an opinion that the T-35 was inspired by the English A1E1 heavy tank. This opinion is not confirmed by archive documents. There is no evidence that the Soviet Union purchased any documentation regarding the tank. It is most likely that Soviet engineers came up with the idea of a five turreted tank independently.
The T-35 was very powerful for its time. It had no equal in firepower, as it was armed with three guns (one 76 mm and two 45 mm) and six machineguns. For a period of time, the enormous tank became a symbol of Soviet military might. Its crews were picked from the most experience tankers and it was serviced by the best mechanics.
When evaluating the tank objectively, one must admit that it had many weaknesses. Its mass meant that it had trouble with soft terrain. The driver had to apply a lot of force to drive the tank. The transmission and engine broke down frequently. If damaged in battle, the tank would be difficult to evacuate. The repairs were also very complicated, especially in the field.
The Spanish Civil War showed that the time of tanks with thin armour has passed, due to the abundance of anti-tank guns. Attempts to add appliqué armour to the tank failed. It was necessary to build tanks with anti-cannon protection from scratch, like the KV that replaced the T-35.
From 1933 to the start of the Great Patriotic War, T-35 tanks did not see combat. They were occasionally used in training exercises, but mostly the T-35 only participated in parades, inspiring respect for Soviet weapons with its fearsome look.
By June 22nd, 1941, the Red Army had 48 T-35 tanks in service in the Kiev Special Military District. All were lost at the beginning of the war, and only 7 in combat. 35 tanks broke down and were abandoned by their crews. 6 vehicles were undergoing repairs at the start of the war. These tanks last saw combat during the Battle for Moscow.
The Soviet medal "For Courage" depicts a stylized image of the T-35 heavy tank.
Original article available here.