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Russian armoured car Jeffery-Poplavko

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  © Michał Derela, 2004 Updated: 4. 1. 2010 - added photo, text improved


History & development
Combat use
Construction
Camouflage
Specifications
Models
Russian armoured car Jeffery

Jeffery-Poplavko, June 1917. [1]

History and development

One of the most interesting armoured vehicles of the First World War was the Russian armoured car Jeffery, also known as Jeffery-Poplavko for its designer. Basing upon an US Jeffery truck chassis (not to misspell "Jeffrey"), it was the first all-terrain armoured car. It was designed in a similar purpose, as tanks of the western allies.


Jeffery Quad all-terrain truck

Two Jeffery-Poplavko and one Austin armoured cars captured in Tarnopol
Two Jeffery-Poplavko (right) and one Austin 2nd series armoured cars captured by the Germans in Tarnopol. On the left, most probably original Jeffery Quad truck.
One of the most succesfull trucks of the First World War period, and arguably the most interesting one, was Jeffery Quad 4017, produced from 1913 by Thomas Jeffery Co, Kenosha, Wisconsin. Jeffery Quad was one of the first all-terrain vehicles with 4-wheel drive. Moreover, all wheels were steering and fitted with brakes. With big longitudinal clearance, the car had excellent off-road capabilities. These trucks were bought by the US Army, and by other armies, among others: British, French, Canadian, Russian, Argentinian and Spanish. The basic variant was an all-terrain truck, but there were also special variants, like a mobile workshop, an ambulance and an ammunition carrier. Thanks to good and modern design, they were still produced after the War (from 1917 as Nash Quad, after the company was bought by Nash Motors). By 1918, there were 11,490 built (or 21,490? - the sources differ). The whole production reached above 41,000.

In the USA, there was also built a short series of armoured cars upon Jeffery chassis. They were next used by the British (possibly in India).

At least a dozen or so Jeffery trucks were used from 1919 in the Polish Army, mainly in a workshop variant. In 1936 there were still at least 9 workshop Jefferys in motor units. Possibly some were used in World War II in 1939.

Armoured car Jeffery-Poplavko

Notice: the Russian dates are according to the old calendar.

In the initial period of the World War I, the Russian Army also bought a number of Jeffery Quad trucks. One of these cars was assigned to the 26th armoured car platoon (avtopulyemyetnyj vzvod) equipped with armoured cars Austin and Garford, commanded by Staff Cpt. Victor Poplavko, which departed to the front on 9 November 1915. This car was next rebuilt according to V. Poplavko conception to a semi-armoured maintenance vehicle. Its purpose was to provide platoon's armoured cars with fuel and ammunition and to recovery damaged cars. It was fitted with a partial armour of an engine and driver's cab from the front and sides. The car was named "Charodyey" (Wizard - the platoon's armoured cars also had names beginning with: "Ch"). Soon it showed, that the off-road capabilities of the Wizard are much better, than of platoon's armoured cars, having only rear axle driven. Seeing this, Poplavko decided to test the Wizard's usefulness as a clearing engineer vehicle. The car was equipped with a winch, two ropes with anchors and light folding assault bridge. During tests in January 1916, the "Charodyey", using a winch, drove through 4 rows of entanglements made of wood and barbed wire, breaking or pulling out wooden poles. There are no photos known of this machine.

Russian armoured car Jeffery
Armoured car Jeffery during trials in October 1916. Poplavko is standing on a fender. [1]

Further tests were so promising, that Poplavko proposed the Army HQ to rebuild Jeffery trucks to armoured cars with increased heavy-terrain capability. They would break across the front, crossing trenches and barbed wire. According to an original conception of Poplavko, they were meant to be the first armoured personnel carriers, giving shelter to 10-men assault squad, armed with: "kinjal sabres, Mauser pistols and hand grenades", that would clear trenches and put assault bridges so that the armoured cars could move farther. Poplavko called his idea a "Hannibal's elephant".

After Army trials of the 'Charodyey' in Petersburg, on 8 August 1916, the Committee for armoured cars ordered 30 armoured cars on Jeffery chassis in Izhorsk Factory. They differed from original Poplavko idea, for they were not fitted for carrying soldiers (if necessary, a few soldiers could be carried in a low cargo compartment). The profile of their lower body part made easier overcoming terrain obstacles and breaking wire entanglements and poles. All series of 30 cars were completed by the end of Spetember 1916.

In January 1917, the Russian staff decided to order further 90 armoured cars Jeffery with improved armour. However, due to revolutionary events, only one car of this batch was completed, given on 16 June 1917 to the reserve armoured battalion.



Combat use of Jeffery-Poplavko:

In Russia:

When Jeffery armoured cars entered service, they formed the Special Purpose Armoured Car Unit ("Bronyevoi avtomobilnyi divizyon Osobogo naznachenya"). The unit counted all 30 Jeffery armoured cars, 4 trucks, 4 passenger cars, 4 tankers, 1 workshop car and 9 motorcycles. It consisted of 3 companies ("otdyelenye") with 10 armoured cars, the company consisted of 3 troops with 3 cars. Its commander became Cpt. Poplavko.

Jeffery armoured cars captured in Tarnopol
Two Jeffery armoured cars captured by the Germans near Tarnopol. Between them, the Lanchester armoured car. [1]

The unit was sent to the 11th Army of the South-Western Front on 16 October 1916. It was meant to break through the German positions during an expected Russian offensive, so new cars were kept in secret until spring of 1917. In December 1916 the armoured cars were tested against old trenches entangled with barbed wire, and the test came out well. However, when the 11th Army started offensive at last on 16 June 1917, the Jeffery cars were not used according to their purpose. They did a good job acting like ordinary armoured cars, though.

The special unit distinguished itself, covering a retreat of the 17th Army Corps during the German breakthrough towards Tarnopol (now Ternopil, Ukraine). On July 7 and 8, the cars were active in retreat combat, delaying an advance of the German infantry. They were also used to evacuate the injuries and haul out abandoned military equipment. Two cars were destroyed by the artillery then, further three were damaged and then blown up by their crews. Five cars were captured by the Germans (a number suggest the same vehicles?). On 18 July, the 1st company's cars supported units of the 122nd Infantry Division, capturing Grzymalow town.


Russian armoured car Jeffery during trials
Sometimes even the Jeffery got stuck - here the car during trials in October 1916, pulled by another one. [1]

The combat service confirmed excellent off-road capabilities of Jeffery cars. It was especially visible on July 7 and 8, when dirt roads became difficult to pass for ordinary cars due to rains. There appeared also faults of the car, first of all, a placement of armament: two machine guns had a horizontal angle of fire only about 15° towards each side. The engine was not separated from a crew compartment, what made its maintenance easier, but also caused overheating of the crew compartment. The car's maintenance and repairs were also more complicated, then other cars. On 2 October 1917 it was decided to change purpose of the Jefferies, from special armoured vehicles to ordinary armoured cars.

After the October Revolution in Russia, the Special Purpose AC Unit was found in newly raised Ukrainian forces. A power of the Ukrainian Central Board was however weak, and its units were quickly scattered and taken over by different forces of the Russian Civil War. The Jeffery cars were also scattered among different forces and fronts. The majority were taken by the Soviets, but from 1920 most were replaced with newer armoured cars Fiat and Austin. In 1922, in the Soviet Army there were still 13 Jeffery armoured cars, but the majority were unable to service.

In Germany:

Five armoured cars Jeffery were captured by the Germans in summer of 1917 in Tarnopol area. Two of them were next used in street fighting in Berlin in 1919, by the Freikorps units, suppressing communist revolution.

In Poland:

Polish Jeffery armoured car
Polish Jeffery "Wnuk". [2]

The Polish Army used at least two Jeffery-Poplavko armoured cars, captured from the Soviets. The first was captured in Krzemieniec in summer 1919, being partly disassembled, the second was possibly captured in Zbaraż. After repair in Warsaw, one of these cars was directed to the Polish-Soviet front in late 1919 or early 1920 and included into the "Dziadek" ('Grandfather') armoured platoon. It was given a name "Wnuk" ('Grandson' - in this platoon, there was also a Garford armoured car named "Dziadek"). Jeffery "Wnuk" took part in the platoon's combat in 1920. Among others, the "Dziadek" platoon took part in a motorized raid on Żytomierz (Zhitomir) on 25-26 April 1920. After the Polish-Soviet war, in March 1921, the Jeffery was still in "Dziadek" platoon, stationing in Cracov then, but there is no information about its further fate. There is also no information about other Polish Jeffery armoured cars.


Polish armoured cars Jeffery "Wnuk" and Garford "Dziadek". Notice a big size of Jeffery. [3] Polish armoured cars Jeffery and Garford

Construction

Armament:
Armoured car Jeffery was armed with two machineguns
7.62mm Maxim, water-cooled, of model 1905 (m.05) or m.10. These two guns could be mounted in four loop-holes in walls of the combat compartment. A horizontal angle of fire for 1 MG was only about 15°.

Armour:
The car was entirely armoured with 7mm-thick armoured plates.

Technical description:
Chassis - frame chassis. Suspension on semi-elliptic springs, rigid axles. Wheels with full rubber tyres.

Engine - Buda: petrol, 32 HP, 4723 ccm; 4-cylinder inline, 4 stroke, water cooled.
The gearbox had 4 forward gears and 1 reverse. Both axles driven, drum brakes on all wheels.

Body - made of armour plates, screwed to the body frame. In front - short engine compartment, not separated from the combat compartment. A radiator before the engine was protected with a hatch. There was only a single door on the right side of the combat compartment. The compartment had 4 loop-holes for machineguns, one in each wall. In the wall before the driver there was a window with a hatch. In the rear, there was a low transport compartment, probably covered with hatches. It could be used to carry spare parts, fuel, ammunition and, in emergency, several men[1,4]. The car was initially equipped with an iron frame, fixed to the front and used for breaking wire entanglements, which was apparently removed during service. The car had a single searchlight on the roof.

Crew of 4 (commander, driver and 2 gunners).

Drawing: Maxim Kolomiets [1]


Camouflage:

Russian armoured cars were usually painted in single color. There were used different shades of green (dark olive, dark green). Later, at the time of the Revolution and civil war, they were sometimes painted grey. There are no specific information on painting of Jeffery armoured cars.


Specifications:

Jeffery Quad truckJeffery-Poplavko armoured car
Crew 14
Weight, kg 3,555 kg about 8,000 kg
Length about 5 mabout 4.52 m
Width about 1.85mabout 2 m
Height ?about 2.14 m
Wheelbase 3.1 m3.15m
Track: ??
Max. speed about 35 km/h about 35 km/h
Range ??m

Models of Jeffery-Poplavko

1/35:
- Major Models (N.04) - "Poplavko-Jeffrey" (misspelled name)
- resin and white metal simple model (external gallery).

Sources:


1. Mikhail Bariatinski, Maksim Kolomiec: "Bronyeavtomobili Russkoy Armii 1906-1917"; Moskva 2000, ISBN 5-88879-029-x
2. Janusz Magnuski: "Samochody pancerne Wojska Polskiego 1918-1939"; Warszawa 1993
3. Jan Tarczyński: "Pojazdy w Wojsku Polskim - Polish Army vehicles 1918-1939", Ajax, Pruszków 1995
4. Maksim Kolomiec: "Bronya Russkoy Armii - bronyeavtomobili i bronyepoyezda w pyervoy mirovoy voynye"; Moskva 2008, ISBN 978-5-699-27455-0


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Text copyright © Michal Derela 2004-2010.