Between 1919-20 British tanks lumbered across the sun-baked steppes of southern Russia, flanked by Cossacks wielding lances and sabres
British tanks and guns were sent into the fray
“THEY STRUCK TERROR INTO ENEMIES, WHO BROKE AND RAN”
In 1916 the Russians had been considering importing tanks from the west. However, in the confusion following the revolution of March 1917, this plan lapsed, although a down payment was made by the Provisional Government. However, during 1919 a number of tanks were supplied directly to Denikin’s forces in southern Russia by the British. A dozen French Renaults were also provided but fell into Bolshevik hands. The British supplied small numbers of tanks to other antibolshevik groups. They also supplied other equipment in the hope of influencing the bitter civil war.
MARK V TANK
The bulk of the tanks supplied to Denikin’s forces from March 1919 were Mark V types: Male (two six-pounder guns, one on each side), Female (machine guns only, two on each side) and Hermaphrodites/composites (a six-pounder gun on one side and two machine guns on the other). All types also had machine guns between the tracks to the front and rear. Some of the British tanks supplied were captured by the Bolsheviks, including 50 or so Mark Vs.
The first 12 tanks (six Mark Vs and six
Medium As, known as ‘Whippets’) delivered were committed to action on 20 May 1919 northwest of Taganrog where they spearheaded an operation to clear an important railway line. They struck terror into enemies, who broke and ran. This reaction was to become common over the course of the next six months. In June a further 16 machines arrived. Two Mark Vs and two Whippets were dispatched to support the attack on the heavily fortified city of Tsaritsyn (later Stalingrad). The tanks, some with British crews, broke down barbed wire defences and on 30 June entered the city in triumph.
Denikin organised the 73 tanks he’d received by October 1919 into the First and Second Tank divisions. Repair and training facilities, supervised by members of the Royal Tank Corps, were located at Taganrog until late 1919, when the base was overrun by the Red Army.
A captured Mark V tank in use by Red Army troops