Chinese Nationalist Armour in World War II

Flag of Nationalist China
Flag of Nationalist China

It was the Chinese Warlord Chang Tsolin who first introduced tanks to China. Surprised during the North Offensive by the Chiang Kai Shek army, he bought several Renault FT Tanks (M1918) from France in 1927. It is uncertain how these tanks were used in combat, but they were eventually captured by the Japanese and the Chinese Nationalists. The tanks captured by the Japanese army were deployed in the Kwangtung Army and later used during the Manchurian Incident. The Nationalists in the meantime also bought 36 Renault FT tanks. However, they were not used in action but were used mainly for training.

Vickers 6-ton Tank

Influenced by the Japanese tank performance during the Shanghai Incident, the Chinese Nationalist government started the mechanization of the army in 1933 by buying 24 Carden Loyd Mk VI Tankettes. Later they bought about 20 Vickers 6-ton Tanks between 1935-1936. They also bought some Vickers Amphibious Tanks, which were developed in 1932 and not introduced in the United Kingdom.

Carden Loyd Mk VI Tankette
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After 1930 the Nationalists hired several German military advisers. Though the German advisers were not particulary eager to teach the Chinese, they convinced the Nationalists to purchase many European weapons through a German company with which the German advisers conspired. The Nationalists bought Italian L.3/35, German Pz-I A and British 12-ton tanks. The exact name of the British 12-ton Tank is unkown.

With these newly purchased tanks the Nationalists organized three tank battalions in 1936. The 1st Battalion in Shanghai had 32 Vickers Amphibious Tanks and some Vickers 6-ton Tanks, and the 2nd Battalion also in Shanghai had 20 Vickers 6-ton Tanks, 4 VCL (M1936) Light Tanks and VCL carriers. The 3rd Battalion in Nanking had 10 German Pz-I A tanks, 20 Italian L.3/35 tankettes and some German SdKfz 221 and 222 Armoured Cars. When the China Incident ocurred, these battalions participated in the battle of Shanghai and Nanking and were more or less destroyed by the Japanese forces.

In early 1938, the Japanese government strongly demanded that the German government evacuate the German advisers from China. Hitler agreed with the Japanese demand and the German advisers soon left China.

After the Germans left China, the Soviet Union started to support the Nationalists. Soviet advisers and Soviet tanks arrived in China for the first time in March 1938. The Soviet advisers organized a mechanized unit in China. It was named the 200th Mechanized Division, which consisted of one tank regiment and one motorized infantry regiment. The tank regiment consisted of four tank battalions. Each tank battalion had three tank companies. The tank regiments had approximately 200 AFVs. The Nationalist government bought 88 T-26 tanks and BA-10 & BA-20 armoured cars. These AFVs and the remaining German AFVs were deployed in the 200th Mechanized Division and the division was finally created in 1939.

T26 Tanks

In December 1939 the 200th Mechanized Division was used for the counter-attack against the Japanese in the battle of Nanking and the division was destroyed by the Japanese forces. After this defeat Chiang Kai Shek never used his tanks in battle until the Americans organized the new Chinese units in the last period of World War II.

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Copyright Akira Takizawa 1999-2000