PIBWL presents:

Polish Armoured Train "Generał Dowbór"

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  Text © Waldemar Mroczek, 2004 (redaction: Michal Derela)

History:

Among numerous armoured trains in the Polish service, there were only two typical First World War designs. Apart from well-known Austro-Hungarian train, which wagons were used in Polish armoured trains: "Piłsudczyk", "Śmiały" (Smialy) and "Śmierć" (Smierc), the Poles used also temporarily one of four built Russian standard First World War armoured trains Hunhuz type.


In the Russian and Ukrainian service:

The first armoured train in Russia, during the First World War, was built as soon as in August 1914. Soon it was followed by several more, but they all were half-improvised units, differing from each other. Russian armoured trains appeared quite succesfull on the front, so it was decided to build more of them and develop a typical model. A new armoured train, that was to be built in a series of four, was designed in late June 1915 in the 2nd Zaamurskaya (="behind the Amur") Railway Brigade, commanded by General-major Mikhail Kolobov. It consisted of an armoured locomotive and two artillery wagons, armed with one 3-inch gun in a revolving turret and 12 machineguns each. All four trains were built by the 4th Company of the 2nd Railway Brigade, in the main workshops of the Southern-Western Railways in Kiev. The first train was completed by September 1, 1915 (all dates up to 1917 are possibly given according to an old calendar). The train was given a name: "Hunhuz" (Chunchuz / Khunkhuz), which became also known as a type designation. It was assigned to the 1st Zaamurskiy railway battalion and sent to the front. "Hunhuz" was then destroyed in a bold action against Austrian troops on September 24, 1915.

Chunchuz
The Russian armoured train "Hunhuz" (the first of the type), 1915. [3]

The second completed armoured train was given to the 3rd Zaamurskiy railway battalion on September 28. It was next designated as the armoured train no. 5. The other two Hunhuz-type trains were assigned to the 2nd Zaamurskiy and 2nd Siberian railway battalions, receiving numbers 2 and 3 respectively. In June 1916, these trains took part in a Russian offensive. At night on July 14/15, the armoured train no. 5 supported the 11th Pskov infantry regiment of the 3rd infantry division. Thanks to this action, the regiment quickly took enemy lines.
 After 1916, there was a year lasting break in trains' actions. They were only rarely used as a mobile artillery. During the communist revolution in November 1917, the train no. 5 was in Odessa, where it was probably seized by the Bolcheviks.

According to one Polish report, the train no. 5 was used by the Bolsheviks with a name "Tovarishch Voroshilov", which was reportedly still visible on wagons when it was captured by the Poles, but there is no information about such Bolshevik train in available Russian publications. Anyway, in 1918 the armoured train no. 5 was found in the Ukrainian service, with a name "Sichevik" (or, according to Polish reports, "Sichovyi").
 (Sichevik = a member of Ukrainian Sich Riflemen units, the Sich was a historical Cossack camp).

The Ukrainian armoured train "Sichevik" took part in a subsequent Polish-Ukrainian war. In late May 1919 it operated on Brody - Dubno - Zdolbunow (Zdolbuniv) line. At that time, the Polish 1st Krechowieckich uhlans (cavalry) regiment had a task to capture Radziwillow and Brody railway junctions. The regiment, in a vanguard of other Polish forces, took Brody and Radziwillow on May 22, 1919. At the same time, Soviet Bolsheviks approached Zdolbunow. Encircled Ukrainians withdrew south, while the armoured train tried to break through Radziwillow and Krasne towards Zloczow. On May 24 it rode through Radziwillow, shooting at the station, then it moved towards Brody, shooting at the town, but did not pass it. The 1st squadron of the Polish 1st uhlan regiment cut the train's way and destroyed the track between Radziwillow and Zdolbunow. The train moved back to Radziwillow, where it was next captured by the uhlans of the 2nd squadron on May 24, 1920.

The train captured by the Poles, with the name "Krechowiak" [source - "O Niepodległość i Granice", Editions Spotkania 1990]

In the Polish service:

Just after being captured by the Poles, the train was first named "Krechowiak", in a favour of its seizers (Krechowiak = a member of the Krechowieckich uhlans regiment, named after a charge on Krechowce). The train was then moved to Brody, and officially renamed: "Generał Dowbór" (in a favour of Gen. Jozef Dowbor-Musnicki). There it was manned by a Polish crew. The temporary commander became Waclaw Komorowski of the 1st uhlans regiment, machine gunners were also taken from this regiment, supplemented by artillery gunners of the 2nd mounted artillery unit. In early June, uhlans returned to their regiment, and the train was taken over by a professional crew, commanded by Cpt. Michal Golikow, later by Lt. Kowalewski. The train was given a Polish number 20 (Pociąg Pancerny nr 20 - PP 20).

In early June the train fought against Ukrainians, who attacked Radziwillow from Zloczow direction. As a result of an Ukrainian offensive, "Generał Dowbór" was forced to withdraw to Krasne. Supporting a Polish counteroffensive in late June, the train was moved to Brody, and reached Zdolbunow. In August, "Generał Dowbór" reached Slavuta, in September it reached Shepetivka. It stayed there for two months, patrolling the track towards Zwiahel (Novograd-Volynski) and Miropol (Myropil). During one patrol it destroyed Ukrainian unit's staff. Then, the train changed its base to Miropol. While patrolling from Myropil towards Romanov, "Generał Dowbór" had skirmishes with Bolsheviks. On March 2, the train was moved to Rowne (Rivne) for rest and repairs, passing its duties to armoured train PP 21 "Generał Listowski".

On May 28, 1920, there started a Polish offensive towards Kiev, against the Soviets. The train patrolled the line towards Pechenovka with the 57th infantry regiment, taking part in skirmishes with the Bolsheviks. Its crew was repairing damaged railway bridges and track there. On April 28, the train moved towards Kiev through Shepetivka, Zviahel, Zhitomir and Berdychiv, reaching Fastow (Fastiv) on the 31st. It was assigned to the 15th Infantry Division then. By May 4 the train stayed in Fastiv, patrolling the line. On May 5, it reached Kiev, as the first Polish armoured train. In Kiev it stayed until May 24, when it moved to Darnica (now a part of Kiev ?). On the line Darnica - Browary it often had skirmishes with Bolsheviks.

"Genarał Dowbór" (photo courtesy of Adam Jońca)

On June 6, the Soviet 2nd cavalry brigade of Siemion Budionny's 1st Mounted Army (Konarmya), took Popielnia station, where the train was. "Generał Dowbór" managed to flee towards Kozyatin, shooting back. The train entered Brovary station then, taken by Budionny's 14th Cavalry Division in a meantime. Bolsheviks did not expect armoured train, and "Generał Dowbór" managed to push them out of station. Its crew coupled a goods train, that was at the station, to the armoured train, and withdrew to Kozyatin. On June 10 it went back to Kiev, then Fastiv. There it patrolled a line to Bila Tserkva, taking part in skirmishes with the Red cavalry.

On June 23, 1920, at night, the train moved to Bila Tserkva. Then, the bolsheviks blew up a bridge behind the train, cutting off its withdrawal to Fastiv. Due to an artillery fire, the bridge could not be repaired, so the train tried to break aside towards Kozyatin and Berdychiv. According to reports, on the track between Kozyatin and Fastiv, the Bolsheviks drove a steam locomotive on a collision course with the train, causing its derailment. Part of the crew were injured, the rest defended themselves against Bolsheviks, until they run out of ammunition. After the survivors surrendered, the Bolsheviks murdered them. According to some sources, part of the crew were taken prisoners.

The surviving part of the crew, being in an auxiliary train at that time, was assigned to trains nr. 21 "General Listowski" and nr. 14 "Zagończyk". Derailed armoured wagons were repaired by Soviets, and fitted with high "dustbin" shape machine gun turrets above a roof, and two new side machine gun mountings, instead of existing loop-holes. Armoured wagons were assigned to the Soviet train BP nr. 112 then.

A map of "Generał Dowbór" operation area with current Ukrainian names and Polish names (by W. Mroczek).

Train composition:

At the time of entering the Russian service and being captured by the Poles, the armoured train "General Dowbor" (former Russian train nr. 5), consisted of an armoured locomotive and two artillery wagons of the Hunhuz type. In the Polish service it was strengthened with further two or more improvised armoured wagons. Because of lack of photographs, a sketch of the wagon below is only approximate.
Drawing: W. Mroczek
Drawing: Waldemar Mroczek
improvised artillery wagonartillery wagonarmoured locomotiveartillery wagon

The armoured train, as a military unit, consisted of an armoured section (the armoured train in a strict meaning), and an unarmoured auxiliary section. The auxiliary section was supporting the operation of the combat section in respect of logistics and accommodation, and did not take part in combat.


Locomotive:

Armoured locomotive Ov series of the "Generał Dowbór", with armour partially dismounted [photo - Mundur i Broń nr 8]

The "Generał Dowbór" had a standard Russian Ov series armoured locomotive with Hunhuz armour type (in Polish transcription: Ow series). The locomotive was all covered with armour 12 - 16 mm thick. On the locomotive there was a command post, with electric signalling (colour lights and bells in wagons) and voice pipes. There was also an additional electric generator in the driver cab, powered by a steam turbine.



Artillery wagons (Hunhuz type):

One of Hunhuz-type artillery wagons with "Generał Dowbor" name, 27 june 1919. Round loop-holes are visible on side and front walls.

The core of the "Generał Dowbór", just as the Russian no. 5 armoured train, were two two-axle Hunhuz-type artillery wagons, built upon a flatcar base. Their armour was 12 - 16 mm thick. An internal space was divided among machine gun compartment and a gun turret.

Each artillery wagon was initially armed with one Russian 76.2 mm mountain gun (3 in) model 1904, in a turret at wagon's end. Horizontal angle of fire was about 220°. Ammunition carried was originally 105 rounds (80 shrapnells and 25 grenades), later it could change. Probably Polish wagons had no guns or they were damaged, because in Polish reports these wagons are refered to as machine gun wagons.

In the other part of wagon there were mounted 12 Austrian 8mm Schwarzlose heavy machine guns, in round loop-holes: five in each side and two in front wall, beside an artillery turret, shooting towards train's front (or end). There was a central cooling system providing machine guns' radiators with cooling water from a tender. Ammunition was 1500 rounds per MG. According to reports, at the time of being captured, machineguns were damaged and they were quickly exchanged to new ones, found in captured magazines in Radziwiłłow.

Wagons had heaters made of pipes, laid on the floor along walls, supplied with hot water from a locomotive boiler. Wagon walls were covered with isolation of 20 mm cork layer and 6 mm plywood layer.

Other artillery wagons:

Apart from original Hunhuz-type rolling stock, "General Dowbor" also had other improvised armoured wagons. First was an artillery wagon, armed with the Russian 76.2 mm field gun (possibly model 1902; according to reports it was "8cm Russian gun"). Unfortunately, there are no known photos of this wagon. According to a report, it was closed goods wagon, provisionally armoured with Russian machine gun shields (they might be trench shields in fact). The gun was probably fixed in a front wall of the wagon, with small angle of fire, because it was often way of mounting guns in such improvised wagons. This wagon was built just in several days after capturing the train.

In June - July 1919, a four-axle flatcar was provisionally armoured in Zdolbunovo workshops and assigned to "General Dowbor". It was armed with some Russian 76.2 mm field gun (according to reports it was "8cm Russian gun"), and another Austrian gun of not known type. One of these guns might be turning.

Apart from these artillery wagons, the train was also equipped with provisionally protected goods wagon for ammunition carrying and a similar crew wagon.

Auxiliary train:

Each armoured train, considered as a military unit, also included an unarmoured auxiliary section. The auxiliary section accompanied the combat section in operational movements and provided it with an accomodation and logistics support. It should consist of coaches, supply wagons, an ambulance coach, a kitchen coach, workshop wagons, coal wagons, water tankers and others. There is no exact information about "General Dowbor" auxiliary train.


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All corrections and additional informations or pictures are most welcome!

Sources:
1. "Pociagi pancerne 1918-1943", Bialystok 1999
2. Maksym Kolomiyetz: "'Hunhuz' - pervyi bronyepoezd", Modelist Konstruktor nr. 8/1994
3. Maksym Kolomiyetz: "Pociagi Pancerne Armii Rosyjskiej 1914 - 1917", Militaria Vol.1 Nr 4 (1993)
4. Igor Drogowoz: "Kreposti na kolesach: Istoria bronepojezdov", Harvest 2002

Our thanks to Adam Jońca!



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All the photos and pictures remain the property of their owners. They are published in non-commercial educational and research purpose.
Text copyright to Waldemar Mroczek, translation and ammendments by Michal Derela, 2004.