04 January 2012

Polish Armored train nr.53 "Smialy" 1918-44

I got this amazing magazine from a fellow local gamer, Axel, and I just had to share some of the contents because it is so damn cool and the information of this magazine can be used for everything from Back of Beyond to WW2 gaming ranging from Early to Late war if you want to use Flames of War terminology.

The magazine is part of a series on "tanks in war" ("Czolgi w Boju" in Polish) and had in previous issues focused on Polish tankettes, and the Soviet Josef Stalin tank. The magazine was printed in 1996 so I don't know if you can still get it, if you can this is really a must have if the subject interests you. It is almost completely in Polish, it does however contain a summary of the history of the armored train nr.53 in English - it has been attached to this post for the broader audience.

The 52 pages retell the complete history of this train, I think it is a rare thing for a machine being so deeply rooted in its contemporary history. The train was seized by the Polish in 1918 in the Cracow area and divided into the very first two armored trains in Polish service. One named after the Polish leader Jozef Pilsudski - the other was named "Smialy" ("Brave" - though I think "Bold" is more accurate translation). The two trains were fighting to secure Polish independence in 1918, continued their war against the Soviets in the Polish-Bolshevik war and was refitted and upgraded multiple times up to the start of the second world war.

The story of armored train nr.53 did not end with the capturing of it by Soviet forces in September 1939 - it was pressed into service by the Soviet army and used by the NKVD to patrol railway lines in the newly seized territory. Designated "BP.75". During the German attack on the Soviet union in 1941 the train was withdrawing along with other Soviet forces when it was damaged and had to be abandoned. The Germans found the train and apparently thought it was an interesting enough machine to keep around - so they repaired it and designated it PzZug.10. The Germans used the train in the fighting on the eastern front in 1942 /43 in Byelorussia, Ukraine and in the Stalingrad area. Just like the Polish had divided the original train to form two separate one's in 1918 the Germans too divided the train and formed two trains. PzZug 10 and 11. One being used to patrol railway lines fighting partisans in eastern Poland.

In the Soviet offensive of 1944 the PzZug 10 was fighting near Kowel where it was damaged in the siege - when the siege lifted - the Germans once again thought it was worth keeping around so they brought the surviving cars to Warsaw. As the Soviet push continued the train was withdrawn towards a town in today’s Czech republic - where it disappeared and the ultimate fate of the train remains unknown.
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The battle of Mokra
There is also a great section on the battle of Mokra, told by  both crewmen off the train and other eye witnesses of the battle. It gives a better picture of the battle than most other online sources which I used for my fan made campaign book. The train which was stationed near the town of Mokra became like many other Polish units aware of the German full frontal assault across the Polish border at 04.45am September 1st. The train was given the order to move towards Mokra where a spearhead of 300 German tanks and armored vehicles was fighting with Polish units of the Volhynian cavalry brigade.

As the train appeared out of the forest it caught the Germans just as they were crossing the railway lines and also using the area in front of the tracks as a refueling station. Catching the Germans by surprise the train opened fire, shelling the Germans with around 90 artillery grenades. Blowing up tanks, armored vehicles, canisters with gas took fire and the fire spread to parked vehicles. Germans tanks that were manned started withdrawing and the field in front of the tracks was a pandemonium of artillery and machinegun fire. The train passed back and forth at a slow pace and the fighting lasted for 20-30 minutes. The Germans regrouped and attacked with tanks, anti tank guns and their own infantry. A Polish crewman on the train counted 80 dents made from machinegun fire and 4 from artillery on the outside of the train where he was stationed. The Germans also scored a penetrating hit to one of the artillery turrets rendering it useless - meanwhile German engineer troops began to damage to traintracks to prevent the train for escape.

One of the artillery cars was also hit several times with armor piercing ammunition which punched holes straight through the train. Furthermore, the flat dresines stocked with spare ammunition caught fire and the ammunition started to explode. The captain of the Polish train decided to pull out of the fight and moved the train to relative safety in a nearby ravine. Here they met with another Polish train, the "Pilsudczyk" on its way to Liswart.  Around 17.00 the Polish commander Malinowski got news about German forces threatening to cut the train off - communications with high command had also gone completely dead so Malinowski decided to leave in the direction of Liswart, it also destroyed the bridge it had passed over the river Warta during its withdrawal.

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In Soviet and German service

According to historical sources the Soviets left the train as it was - except for removing all the Polish plaques and replacing them with a red star. When the Germans captured the train they too seem to have left it with its original armament, 2 100mm Howitzers and 2 75mm artillery guns. The only apparent modification done by the Germans was to install a heater in the train cars and adding flat cars with AA guns mounted on them. The Germans also attached some car from a Soviet train and judging by the pictures I think it was another assault car in order to carry more infantry.

As for how the train was painted. This picture shows the camo of 1921 when the train was still in Polish interwar service. The next picture shows a very dirty 1939 camo pattern - the Soviets did not bother to repaint it - just added a red star to the side. Last two pictures show how the Germans painted the train - replacing the red star with the balkenkreuz.

Other than that, it would be safe to use the Polish armored train from Battlefront throughout the 3 stages of the war if played with the Flames of War rules.

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The pictures atteched to this post depict the various stages of the Polish armored train nr.53 from 1918 to 1944. I think the interwar madness had the coolest looking design.

Also make sure to check out my other post on Polish armored trains in general http://anatolisgameroom.blogspot.com/2011/08/polish-armored-train-53-smiay-finished.html if you want to know more about specific details on camouflage, artillery cars, assault car functions etc.

4 comments:

  1. A great lesson in history to be learnt from this one!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sorry for the comment on such an old post but I have to thank you for this fine write up. I am starting my own polish train and this post as well as the others relating to the train are excellent and highly appreciated.

    ReplyDelete
  3. No problem Matt D, glad you liked the post :-)

    ReplyDelete

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