Only 202 of the Hungarian 38M Toldi Light Tanks were produced and many saw failed action against Soviet T-34s in the latter war years.
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The Hungarian Toldi Light Tank was born from the Swedish AB Landsverk L-60 Light Tank, a tracked, turreted, armored fighting vehicle appearing with Swedish military forces beginning in 1934. The type was also operated under the Irish Army banner for a time. The L-60 appeared in four major production marks (L-60A, L-60B, L-60C and L-60D) for the Swedes of which the Toldi was based on the L-60B model. For the Hungarians, the L-60B was licensed-produced as the "38M Toldi" and informally (and simply) recognized as the "Toldi Tank". State facilities produced the Toldi from 1939 into 1942 and these tanks saw combat action for the Hungarian Army during its willing participation as an arm of the Axis powers.
The Toldi tank was produced in a handful of variants beginning with the initial Toldi I (A20). These were completed with a 20mm main armament and 80 of its kind were ultimately produced. Following this production mark was the Toldi II (B20) which brought with it an increase in frontal armor protection (up to 35mm from 20mm). Some 110 of this mark were completed. The next production mark - more precisely a standardization of previous production variants - was the Toldi IIa (B40) which incorporated a 40mm main gun into its design and first appeared in 1942. At least 80 existing Toldi tanks were brought up to this wartime standard. The Toldi III (C40) was the last notable Toldi production variant and appeared as an "improved" form of the line, though in just 12 total examples. All told, the Toldi existed in 202 production examples during her operational tenure.
Toldi Light Tanks appeared very similar to their original Swedish L-60 forms. The design was rather conventional in nature and consisted mainly of a tracked hull with a traversing turret emplacement. The hull contained the engine, driver compartment, fighting compartment fuel and ammunition stores and sat atop a suspended wheeled tracked system. There were five road wheels to a track side with the drive sprocket at the front and the track idler at the rear - the track supported along the top by two return rollers. There was a short and shallow glacis plate ahead of the driver's position which was to the front left of the vehicle. A short superstructure was designed under the turret to provide for the necessary internal volume needed for the crew, systems and ammunition storage. The Toldi was crewed by three personnel made up of the driver, commander and gunner - the commander doubling as the loader for the main gun. Armor protection ranged from 20mm in thickness on the Toldi I production mark to 35mm in thickness for the Toldi II production mark and beyond.
The Toldi tank was powered by a single Bussing-Nag 8-cylinder gasoline-fueled engine developing 155 horsepower. This provided the vehicle with a top road speed of 29 miles per hour and a maximum range of 124 miles. Dimensionally, the Toldi measured a running length of 15 feet, 7 inches with a width of 7 feet and a height of 6 feet, 2 inches.
Armament of the Toldi Light Tank series varied by production model variant. The Toldi I and Toldi II variants featured a 20mm main gun while the Toldi IIa and Toldi III variants were completed with a 40mm main gun. Both fittings were, however, outmoded by the then-modern tank gun standards, particularly heading into 1942, leading to tactical limitations when using the tank in frontline action. Self-defense was through a single 8mm Model 34/37 machine gun fitted coaxially in the turret and operated by the gunner.
The first Toldi Light Tanks entered operational service with the Hungarian ranks in 1940. Their first combat actions were recorded in April of 1941 during the Axis invasion of Yugoslavia spearheaded by the German Army. The resulting action - involving German, Italian, Hungarian, Bulgarian and Romanian elements - produced the Independent State of Croatia and the surrender of the Yugoslavian Army to the Axis powers. The operation lasted a relatively short time - from April 6th to April 17th.
From then on, Toldi Light Tanks were fielded in Hungarian units against the might of the Red Army after the German invasion of the Soviet Union through "Operation Barbarossa" in June of 1941. However, by this time, the Red Army has begun fielding their war-winning T-34 Medium Tanks in conjunction with their KV heavy tanks, posing formidable problems for light tank systems such as the Toldi. As expected, armor protection and firepower lacked against such opponents and Toldi tanks could therefore be easily dispatched by these enemies. For the duration of its participation in the war, the Toldi was utilized as a fast armored reconnaissance vehicle, utilizing her radio equipment to relay pertinent enemy movements and positions back to the main force.
The Toldi Light Tank received its name from Miklos Toldi, a Hungarian knight, nobleman and national hero of the Kingdom of Hungary from the 14th Century.