Armored trains in the Caucasus
At the end of 1914, the construction of four armored trains for the Caucasian army began in the Tiflis workshops. Each of them consisted of a semi-armored steam locomotive, two four-axle armored cars and an armored car for ammunition. Between themselves, they had a number of differences in the type of armor. By order of the command, the armament of these armored trains was supposed to be able to be used in the field, so the guns and machine guns were installed on conventional machines without any alterations.
In the front of each armored car, one 76, 2-mm mountain cannon of the 1904 model was installed with an angle of fire on the horizon of 110 degrees. In addition, there were two Maxim machine guns (one per side), and if necessary, their number could be increased to six. To increase firepower, loopholes were cut in the sides for rifle shooting. At the tender of the steam locomotive, an observation post of the head of the train was installed.
The production of the trains ended at the beginning of 1915 and they were distributed to the following stations: No. 1 - Kare, No. 2 - Aleksan-dropole, No. 3 - Nakhichevan and No. 4 - Tiflis. They were served by the 1st Separate Caucasian Railway Brigade. Their main tasks, according to the developed "instructions to the chiefs of armored trains", were as follows:
"a). Protection of railways in areas exposed to attacks by the enemy or hostile population.
b). For convoying trains in especially dangerous areas.
v). For the production of small repair work on the railway near the enemy.
G). To cover workers' detachments carrying out significant work on the railroad near the enemy.
e). To participate in the hostilities of the troops at the direction of the closest chief of the detachment.
Armored trains are provided with armor only against the action of rifle and shrapnel bullets. These trains are not protected against the impact of artillery shells."
The command of the Caucasian army tried to form permanent teams for their armored trains, but this required the permission of the Headquarters. Therefore, Lieutenant General of the SV. Volsky (Chief Chief of the Caucasian Military District. - Author's note) on July 6, 1915, sent the following telegram to Headquarters:
“There are 4 armored trains equipped for the Caucasian army, each armed with two mountain cannons mod. 1904, equipped with rotating recoilless installations, and four machine guns. If necessary, the number of machine guns can be increased to 12.
One of these trains must be kept in constant combat readiness, for which it must be equipped with a special full-time team, consisting of 3 chief officers and 82 lower ranks for one armored train, worked out and approved by the Commander-in-Chief. I ask your consent to submit the state for approval to the Supreme Commander-in-Chief."
The crew of the armored train number 3 with the command of His Majesty's own railway regiment at the train. Summer 1916. A tower with a 76, 2-mm mountain cannon of the 1904 model is clearly visible at the tender, and on the locomotive booth there is a white sign of the regiment - the combined monograms of Emperors Alexander III and Nicholas II with a crown on top (photo from S. Romadin's archive).
The answer from the general on duty under the Supreme Commander-in-Chief Lieutenant General P. K. Kondzerovsky was received quite quickly:
“Please submit [state] for approval. There are no fundamental objections if all formations, both in terms of materiel and personnel, can be carried out by means of the district."
However, in the future, the head of the VOSO department of the Headquarters, Ronzhin, spoke out against the permanent command on the armored trains of the Caucasian army. On August 19, 1915, he sent a note to General Kondzerovsky, in which he wrote:
"Returning this correspondence on affiliation, I inform you that I cannot agree to the formation of a special team for the Caucasian armored trains, since the short-term service of armored trains can be carried by units of special forces assigned for this."
The author was unable to find data on the combat use of armored trains built in the Caucasus. Subsequently, armored trains were used by the national armies of the Transcaucasus. In particular, the composition No. 4 in 1918 was used by the Georgian army, and No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, by the Armenian and Azerbaijani.
During the capture of Przemysl in the spring of 1915, Russian troops captured at least two Austrian armored trains. Moreover, the author could not find any data on these trains in Western sources devoted to the history of armored trains of the Austro-Hungarian army. According to the documents of the Southwestern Front, one of the armored trains was the following:
“Two Austrian semi-platforms, each 5, 25 x 3 meters, were used to equip the armored cars. In this small area, one gun and three machine guns were installed. During the capture of Przemysl, we got the armored train, and was slightly repaired by the 6th railway battalion."
The armament had rather limited firing angles: the cannon in the first car could fire forward and in the direction of the right, and in the second car - back and in the direction of the left. Thus, the shelling of a target located on the side of the train simultaneously from two guns was impossible. In addition, the small size of the cars and their unsuccessful armor made the work of the calculations very difficult. The armament was 80-mm Austrian field guns M5 on special column mounts and 8-mm Austrian machine guns "Schwarzlose". In addition to two armored cars, the armored train included an Austrian armored steam locomotive.
A typical armored train of Lieutenant Krapivnikov from the 1st Zaamur railway battalion, broken at the Rudochka station in September 1916, front view. The photo was taken in the summer of 1916 (photo from S. Romadin's archive).
The same wrecked Krapivnikov armored train, left side view. Summer 1916. The rear armored platform was evacuated in January 1916. Numerous shell holes in the armored platform and the armored locomotive are clearly visible (photo from S. Romadin's archive).
However, the 6th railway battalion failed to use the armored train in battles - the unit was transferred from Przemysl to another sector of the front. But on May 10, 1915, General Tikhmenev sent the following telegram to General Ronzhin:
"I have already ordered, in view of the departure of the 6th railway battalion from Przemysl, to transfer the armored train to the 2nd Siberian railway battalion for the lead detachments."
Despite the rather primitive design, this squad acted very successfully already in the first battles.
So, in a battle near the village of Kholupki near Krasnoye, on the night of June 11-12, 1915, the commander of an armored train of the 2nd Siberian railway battalion, Staff Captain Nikolai Kandyrin, “boldly put it forward under disastrous artillery and rifle fire, into the rear of the enemy” … Opening fire from all types of weapons, the composition provided the preparation for the attack of the infantry regiment "and, creating confusion in the enemy ranks with its fire, enabled the regiment to occupy enemy trenches almost without loss and capture 6 officers and about 600 lower ranks."
The next day, the division commander, General Bulatov, reported:
"The offensive of the division in connection with the operation of the armored train is proceeding successfully, the train operates brilliantly."
In the fall of 1915, the armored train was put on repair. At the same time, in parallel with the correction of armored cars, a special armored cellar car was made for the transport of shells and cartridges. In addition, the Austrian-made armored locomotive was replaced with a Russian series Ov, booked in Odessa according to the project of armored trains of the 2nd Zaamur railway brigade. The locomotive entered the armored train in the spring of 1916.
In 1916, during the summer offensive of the Southwestern Front, the armored train was part of the 9th Army. By this time, in connection with the introduction of the numbering of armored trains, he received number 7. But due to the severe destruction of railways by the retreating Austrians, his actions in the 1916 campaign were not very active.
Armored train # 3 with the command of His Majesty's own railway regiment at the front. Summer 1916. It is clearly seen that the tower with the 76, 2-mm mountain cannon at the tender had armored doors of significant dimensions at the back. Pay attention to the spare rails fixed at the bottom of the armored car (ASKM).
By its design, the armored train of the 2nd Siberian Zhelbat was the most unsuccessful of the trains of the Southwestern Front. Therefore, its commanders have repeatedly raised questions about the modernization of the composition. For example, on June 8, 1917, its chief, Captain Zhaboklitsky, sent a report "On the combat and technical imperfection of armored cars of armored train No. 7" to the VOSO department of the Southwestern Front, in which he reported the following:
“The main defects of armored cars are as follows:
1). Due to the small size, technical imperfection of the cars and not rational arrangement of loopholes, armored train No. 7 is extremely poorly equipped with machine guns, having only 6, which is a disadvantage compared to other armored trains with 18-24 machine guns.
The presence of guns and machine guns, and not delimited ones, in a small room of the carriage, extremely hinders the work of both artillerymen and machine gunners during a battle.
2). With a concussion with each cannon shot, the machine guns jam, cartridges fall out of the belts, which causes minute delays in the action of the machine guns.
3). When the gun is positioned along the axis of the carriage, machine gun No. 3 cannot work at all due to its proximity to the gun's trunk. If you move machine gun No. 3 to the front loophole, then in car No. 1 machine gun No. 1 will not be able to shoot together with machine guns No. 3 due to the small distance between them, and in car No. 1 the right side, and in car No. 2 the left side will be completely without machine guns.
4). When the gun is positioned along the transverse axis of the carriage, the action of machine gun No. 2 is extremely hampered by the work of the gunners at the gun. Thus, due to the technical imperfection of the cars and the irrational arrangement of loopholes, the joint action of all six machine guns at the same time is extremely difficult.
5). In the absence of a special room for artillery shells, those are stacked in the rear of car No. 1 and front car No. 2, which makes it extremely difficult for both artillery and machine guns to work.
6). The location of the guns provides an angle of fire of only 110 degrees, and both guns cannot fire at the same target.
7). The device of the loopholes is such that when the guns are positioned along the axis of the car, the range of the battle is 5 versts, and when the position is across - 2 versts.
eight). The height of the cars only in the middle part is 2.25 m, while at the walls it is 1.25 m, which, given the extremely small size of the cars, hinders the action of the command.
nine). In the current position of the guns, all the recoil force and all the powder gases, and the concussion of the air are obtained inside the carriage, which adversely affects the health of the team, some people have damaged eardrums.
Since 1915, all the indicated defects in the cars of armored train No. 7 prompted train managers to repeatedly apply for replacement of cars with better ones, but due to the frequent change of train managers and other reasons, these requests have not yet been satisfied."
The issue of modernizing the armored train of the 2nd Siberian Zhelbat was also raised at the June 1917 congress of the railway workers of the South-Western Front and was discussed in the section of armored trains. As a result, as a temporary measure, it was decided to transfer to armored train No. 7 the "armored carriage from the wrecked train", which was located in Kiev. This was the site of a typical armored train of the 2nd Zaamur Railway Brigade, which died at the front in October 1915. But they did not have time to fulfill this decision.
Typical armored train number 5 of the 3rd Zaamursky Zalbat at the front. Winter 1916. Despite the low quality of the photo, the artillery casemate and the front machine-gun mount of the armored car are clearly visible. Note how carefully the composition is masked by branches (photo provided by S. Zaloga).
In June 1917, armored train No. 7 supported its units during the onset of the offensive of the Southwestern Front. On June 22, 1917, the commander of the armored train, Captain Zhaboklitsky, reported to the headquarters of the 7th Railway Brigade (the 2nd Siberian Zhelbat was part of it):
“According to the order received from Nashtakor, the 41st armored train of the 2nd Siberian Railway Battalion No. 7 was called up to the combat area of the 74th division, and on the 17th of this month entered a combat position.
On 18 [June] an order was received to begin shelling the targets indicated by the 74th division's commanders. The shelling began at 9.15, ended at 21.35. 620 shells were fired, and during the shelling was fired upon by enemy artillery. On the 19th, the train left, but due to the created situation, it did not take part in the artillery. On the 20th I stood in position and fired at targets for 3 hours at the direction of Chief Division 74.
However, as you know, the offensive failed due to a catastrophic fall in discipline in the Russian troops, and on July 6, 1917, the Germans launched a counterblow. The Russian units, which had lost their combat capability, began to roll back. Their retreat was covered by separate units that retained their combat effectiveness, "death" units, Cossacks, armored cars, armored trains. Among the latter was armored train No. 7. Here is what the commander of the 2nd Siberian Zhelbat reported to the VOSO administration of the Southwestern Front in a report dated July 29, 1917:
“I am reporting that, according to the order of the Chief of Staff of the 41st Corps, armored train No. 7 on the night of July 9 of this year. spoke with Art. Sloboda at st. Denisovo to clarify the situation in view of the enemy's offensive …
On reconnaissance it turned out that Art. Denisovo was already occupied by the enemy, and it was not possible to pass due to damage to the weekend arrows. Fire was opened on the armored train, and for 2 versts the train was subjected to heavy shelling. From the train they responded with machine-gun and cannon fire, and thanks to this, the enemy's offensive was somewhat delayed.
When moving to Art. Sloboda on the stretch, due to the movement of trains in batches, a crash happened, and drive to the station. Sloboda was not allowed. In view of the offensive of the enemy, the locomotive of the armored train was damaged, the sights and locks from the guns, the butt plates and some other parts were removed from the machine guns.
Armored train number 3 with the command of His Majesty's own railway regiment at the front. Summer 1916. The design of the installation of the front machine guns, changed in comparison with the Hunhuz, is clearly visible (photo provided by S. Zaloga).
At about 3 o'clock on July 9, the armored train was abandoned, and the team retreated on foot in the direction of Mikulinets."
The armored train went to the Germans; the author has no information about its further fate.
Armored train of the Ust-Dvinskaya fortress
The construction of this armored train began in June 1915 by the forces of the 5th Siberian railway battalion that arrived at the front near Riga. Moreover, this composition was originally intended to cover the repair work on the railway. So, in the report on the work of the 5th Siberian trench there is such an entry:
“The 4th company has begun construction of an armored carriage for a working train. A working train consisting of: one armored car, two platforms with rails, three with sleepers, a car with bridge beams and four cars with cobblestones designed to fill the ryazh.
But soon a full-fledged armored train was also built, for the manufacture of which they used three biaxial metal gondola cars and a semi-armored steam locomotive Ov. The composition was included in the garrison of the Ust-Dvinsk fortress near Riga, where it operated until the summer of 1917.
In addition to those that were part of the armored train, the 1st and 5th companies of the battalion had one two-axle metal gondola car with loopholes each. These wagons were used to cover the battalion's working parties who were rebuilding the railways on the front lines.
The composition and design of the armored train can be found in a report sent to the head of the military communications department of the Northern Front:
“The commission chaired by the commander of the 5th Siberian railway battalion on May 28, 1917 examined the present. Old Kemmern of the Riga-Orlovskaya railway armored train consisting of a steam locomotive, two carriages and one platform with a platform towering on it. Each of the armored carriages contains three machine guns, and in one of the carriages the loopholes for machine guns are made so low that it is possible to shoot from them lying down. One 3-inch is placed on the platform platform. a gun.
Polish armored train "General Dowbor", consisting of standard armored platforms of the 2nd Zaamur brigade and an armored locomotive of the former Russian armored train No. 4 (designed by engineer Ball). Summer 1919. Judging by the design of the front machine-gun installations, the armored platforms were previously part of the armored train No. 2 2- go of the Zaamurskiy gulbat (YM).
The armoring of cars and platforms consists of an outer sheet of iron - 4 mm, a wooden spacer 4 inches thick and an inner iron sheet 5 mm thick, the latter being sheathed with boards one inch thick. The rifle loopholes are covered with 5 mm iron sheets. The axle boxes are protected by iron sheets that cover slightly more than half the diameter of the wheels. The locomotive's armor is arranged in the same way as that of the carriages.
The platform area, on which the cannon is located, is approximately at the height of a normal covered wagon, has 4 sides and is completely open.
On the train from a distance of 35 steps, 10 rifle shots were fired into the lining of the side walls of the car …
The commission came to the conclusion that the side cladding of the car can be considered reliably protecting against bullets and shell fragments, as for the car roofs (slatted, upholstered with tar paper), they must also be booked or appropriate visors must be made to cover them from shrapnel and bullets. In addition, the sheets covering the axle boxes should be increased to the bottom to protect the carriage slopes in case of accidental hit by shell fragments.
Bearing in mind that the site with the weapon is perfectly open, it is advisable to arrange
a solid iron covering above it to protect the gun servants from shrapnel bullets and shrapnel, and to equip the gun with a shield. Installation of a gun on a field-type carriage is impractical; installation of a gun on a pedestal carriage with 360-degree firing is desirable.
For machine guns that have only side firing, it is necessary to cut through the corner loopholes with an angle of 90 degrees, which gives complete freedom of firing both during the attack and during the retreat.
All these works, except for the rebuilding of the gun, the battalion can carry out with its own means."
As of March 31, 1917, the command of the armored train (No. 1c, c - Northern Front) included 50 people, including 37 riflemen of the 51st Siberian Rifle Regiment, 6 artillerymen of the Ust-Dvinskaya fortress, 6 locomotive brigade of the 5th Siberian railway battalion - 7. It was armed with 6 Maxim machine guns, 76, 2-mm anti-assault gun of the 1914 model and rifles of the team.
Several attempts were made to improve the design of this composition, which, however, were unsuccessful. For example, on May 4, 1917, a special commission examined the armored train of the 5th Siberian Railway Battalion, and drew up a list of measures necessary to bring the train to a combat-ready state. First of all, it was supposed to additionally protect the axleboxes of the wheels of the locomotive and tender with armor, as well as the boiler of the locomotive from the front. Then replace 1, 5-mm armor on 10-mm cars, and also install a 4-pitched roof over the artillery car to protect the crew from precipitation.
Polish armored train "General Dowbor" - on the left is an armored locomotive of the former Russian armored train No. 4 (designed by engineer Ball), on the right is a typical armored platform of the 2nd Zaamur brigade. Summer 1919 (YAM).
By the summer, we managed to agree on all the issues related to the modernization of the train. On July 4, 1917, the head of the VOSO in the theater of operations sent a telegram to the headquarters of the Northern Front, in which he reported the following:
“The alteration of the armored train No. 1c can be carried out in Riga in the district workshops by the forces of the 5th Siberian railway battalion. The repair time is 2 weeks, which means that the train can be taken off the line and sent for alteration."
It is not known whether the armored train was sent for repairs, but in August 1917, during the capture of Riga and Ust-Dvinsk, the train fell into the hands of the Germans. Perhaps he did not have a steam locomotive that was being repaired, but it may simply have been abandoned due to the impossibility of retreating. In the Russian archives, the author was unable to find details about the loss of this armored train. Also, the author does not know whether this composition was used by the Germans or the Latvians.