Peter Mujzer, The 38M Toldi Light Tank (Kagero, 2020)
The 38M Toldi was the only tracked armoured vehicle in the Hungarian Army in 1941, according to Peter Mujzer. This might not have been a significant problem but that was the year the Hungarians joined in the attack on the Soviet Union. They were nippy wee things, but they had to be because they were outgunned by almost every tank they came up against and paid the price. Nevertheless, the Hungarians used them until the end of the war. Mujzer takes us into the world of this little battler.
Mujzer starts at the end of the Great War in which the Hungarians did not fare well and were left severely depleted. It therefore took them a while to develop a serviceable tank. They secured some Italian tankettes and the Swedish L-60 tank, basing their own tanks on that design. Mujzer narrates that development then describes the design, production, and variants. When he brings them onto the battlefield, however, Mujzer is quick to highlight their weak guns and armour – the German style cross also proved a helpful target for enemy gunners. The way the tank was originally designed caused problems in improving the Toldi tanks and new uses were found for them, including as a medical carrier and ‘tank hunter’ based on the German Marder II.
Mujzer moves on to describe in detail the organization and training of the crews before narrating their operational history. This included recovering Transylvania in September 1940, taking part in the German attack on Yugoslavia in April 1941, and, of course, the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 where the Toldis took heavy casualties on front line assaults but served better as reconnaissance vehicles. In 1942, the Hungarians met the Soviets along the Don River and came out second-best again; snow, lack of fuel, and enemy action accounted for an almost complete wipe-out. Replenished and repaired, the Hungarian tanks again saw action against the Soviets in 1943 and 1944, but by the end the Toldis were very much reserved for rear area duties. Still the tanks fought on, but all in all the Eastern Front was not a happy one for Hungarian armour – an almost sad aside notes that only two Toldi tanks remain in museums. Mujzer concludes with an overview of tank markings and many individual vehicle histories.
The 38M Toldi Light Tank is perhaps surprisingly text heavy for a book of this nature. However, Mujzer goes into considerable detail on all aspects of the Toldi tanks and tank enthusiasts will find that quite immersive. Be warned though, that in some places the flawed translation irritates, and the book could have done with a thorough proofread in English before publishing. Mujzer’s text is well supported with many monochrome photographs, covering every inch of the tank. That and the technical drawings and colour plates, will make modelers and wargamers happy. Hungarian tanks are a niche topic but useful to learn about for students of the Eastern Front.