By mid-January 1945 Germany was being pressured on all sides by Allied forces. Hitler’s much-vaunted Ardennes Offense had been thrown back with appalling losses, the Soviet Red Army had invaded German soil, and the Hungarian capital of Budapest had been besieged for weeks. Alongside German troops fought soldiers and airmen from Hungary, Germany’s sole remaining ally in Europe.
Like all combatants, the Royal Hungarian Army, known as the Honved in its native tongue, possessed an armored force. But, by this time, all Hungarian units with armored components had been severely depleted by constant fighting against a numerically and materially superior foe.
To give their ally a chance in combat against the armored forces of the Soviet and Romanian armies, Germany sold and loaned tanks to the Hungarians. At this stage of the war, these included the Panzerkampfwagen (Pzkpfw) IV, the Pzkpfw V Panther, and even the Pzkpfw VI Tiger I. For a brief time these German machines fought alongside a Hungarian-built tank—the Turan.
Though built by Hungary, the Turan was based on the Škoda T-21 medium tank prototype from the former Czechoslovakia. Even before the hard experience suffered by its Second Army on the Eastern Front, Hungarian officials realized the tankettes and light tanks, such as its own 38M Toldi, were completely unsuitable as the main battle tanks of its armored forces.
While its mobile contingents were being overwhelmed far from home on the Don River in late 1942 and early 1943, the Hungarians had been designing, testing, and building the first version of the Turan, known as the 40M Turan, whose origins can be traced to late 1939.