|© Michal Derela, 2000||Amended: 08. 09. 2003 .|
During the Polish-Soviet war in 1919 and 1920, the Polish forces captured many Soviet broad-gauge armoured trains. Several of them were modern ones, better armed and armoured than contemporary Polish partially improvised trains. One of such captured trains had probably the most interesting and longest life of all the armoured trains in the world. Its artillery wagons were serving for 25 years in different armies: Soviet, white Russian, Polish and finally German. In the Polish Army they served for 19 years, firing their guns in three campaigns.
Despite there were doubts in a literature about the exact origin of the train, now it is known, that the wagons of "Pierwszy Marszalek" came from the Soviet train: "Imeni Shaumyana i Dzhaparidze", or: "Tov. Shaumyan i Dzhaparidze", captured in Ukraine (sources:  & ). The train was built in 1919 and used by the Soviets in the southern front. There it was captured by the "white" forces of Gen. Denikin volunteer army and then used against the Soviets with the name: "Dobrovolets" (the Volunteer). Then, the train fell into the Soviet hands again and was named in honour of communist leaders from Baku - comrades ('tovarishchi') Shaumyan and Dzhaparidze, who were shot by the British intervents.
In 1920, the train was used in a war against Poland. During the Polish Kiev Offensive, on 28 April 1920 near village Kotyuzhyntse, after being shot by the Polish 1st Battery of the 13th Kresowy field artillery regiment, the train was abandoned and captured by the Polish troops of the 50th Kresowy Rifle Regiment. After repairs, it was manned by the Polish crew (coming among others from "Zagonczyk" train) and entered service as: "Strzelec Kresowy", assigned initially to the 13th Infantry Division.
|An artillery wagon of "Strzelec Kresowy" with an inscription: 'the 13th Infantry Division' [source 7]|
In May 1920, "Strzelec Kresowy" served in Ukraine near Kiev, supporting the units of the Polish 2nd and 3rd Armies against pressing Soviet units. After launching of the Soviet counter-offensive, "Strzelec Kresowy" took part in almost 2-month retreat fights, among other against Budyonny's cavalry, trying to cut off Polish units. Finally, it was evacuated to Deblin in central Poland, still acting as a broad gauge (1524mm) train.
In July 1920, the train was renamed to "Pierwszy Marszalek" ('The First Marshal') - in honour of Marshal Józef Pilsudski (it was sometimes written in short as: "I Marszalek", or just "Marszalek"). After being repaired and converted to the standard gauge (1435mm), the train entered service again on 16 August 1920, taking part in the great Warsaw Battle. It was supporting an attack of the 1st podhalanskich rifle regiment from the direction of Kock to Sokolow. Until the end of war, the train stayed in Lithuania, partly occupied by the Poles. It seems, that during all this early period of service, the train retained its original Soviet composition of only two artillery wagons "Krasnoye Sormovo" type and O class armoured locomotive.
|"Pierwszy Marszalek" in the twenties - an excellent view of both artillery wagons together. It might be the Warsaw Battle|
Contrary to information in some publications (eg. source ), "Pierwszy Marszalek" wasn't created of the Lithuanian train "Gedyminas", captured on 3 October 1920 in Vilnius, nor it incorporated "Gedyminas" rolling stock.
In September 1920, "I Marszalek" was given a number P.P. 21 (Pociag pancerny - Armoured Train nr. 21) - earlier probably it had no number. After 1920, when the war was over, "I Marszalek" was assigned for further service, among the 12 most modern trains, with the new number P.P. 3. In the winter of 1923/24 most of Polish armoured trains were demobilized and stored, among them was also "I Marszalek". In the late twenties or early thirties it was brought back to service and assigned to the 2nd Armoured Trains' Unit (dywizjon pociagow pancernych) in Cracov - Niepolomice, created in 1928. During the next years it was used intensively for training there.
In the early thirties the train and its wagons underwent some modernization. The locomotive was changed to the standard type Ti3, replacing Soviet O series locomotive. The train's armament was standardized (75mm wz.02/26 guns and wz.08 MG's) and AA machine guns were added. The train also received radio and signal equipment then.
In 1939, during the mobilization, the 2nd Armoured Train Unit in Niepolomice mobilized five trains, and among them armoured train nr. 51 - former "I Marszalek" (the names were not used anymore officially).
"Strzelec Kresowy" means: "The Rifleman of Kresy". Kresy was the name of former (XVI c.- 1939) Polish eastern border territories, now: western Ukraine and Belarus. It's pronounced like: [St-SHEL-lets cre-so-vee].
"Pierwszy Marszalek" means: "the First Marshal" - Marshal Józef Pilsudski, 1867-1935, one of the founders of the independent Poland, Polish Head of State in 1918-22; later: the actual head of state in 1926-35, after his coup d'etat of 1926. The correct spelling with Polish characters is: "...Marszałek"
The armoured train nr. 51 (former "I Marszalek") was commanded by Cpt. Leon Cymborski, since 2.09.39 - Cpt. Zdzislaw Rokossowski.
|The artillery wagon of "I Marszalek" in 1937-39 camouflage. [source 4,10]|
The train was assigned to the "Kraków" (Cracov) Army - see a map.
On the 1st September 1939 the train was in Skawina railway station, south of Cracov. Just on that day it came into action, supporting with artillery fire the 1st Mountain Brigade, fighting in Beskidy Mountains. On 2 September the train was in Jordanów railway station. In the morning, the station was shelled by the enemy artillery, and Cpt. Cymborski was injured. The 2nd in command, Cpt. Rokossowski took over the command then. During the next several hours the train was bombarding the units of the German 2nd Panzer Division with an indirect fire, controled from the observation outpost. The train was cooperating with the 10th (Motorised) Cavalry Brigade - 10.BK then. In the afternoon, after the observation outpost was destroyed, the Poles tried to control a fire using armoured draisines. Finally, when the Polish units defending Jordanow withdrew at about 5 pm, the train was also withdrawn to Kalwaria Zebrzydowska.
In the next few days the train wasn't used in combat, only its draisines were acting in reconnaissance (on 5 September the draisine unit commander was injuried in a skirmish). On 8 September the train was on the way from Tarnow to Mielec and Tarnobrzeg. It came across a recce unit of the 2nd PzDiv (again!) and damaged enemy armoured car. The further line to Rozwadow was jammed with destroyed or abandoned evacuation trains, and the crew of "Marszalek" had to work all day, removing the wagons from the track with a crane. The train finally got to Rozwadów junction (near Stalowa Wola) on 10 September, and stayed there for the next few days. According to the source , on 10 September the armoured train carried the food and ammunition supplies for the units of Gen. Szyling, fighting still on the west bank of the Vistula. On 11 September, the crew found an abandoned 40mm Bofors wz.36 AA-gun in Stalowa Wola, which, after putting upon the flatcar, strengthened the train's AA defence. On 13 September, the train was protecting the bridge on the San. On 14 September, while covering the retreat of Polish forces near Zaklikow village, the train managed to delay the advance of the German 4th Infantry Division units until the next day and prevented Polish 94th Inf. Rgt. from being cut off of Polish main forces.
|The artillery wagon of "I Marszalek" in a camouflage from 1937-39. [source 10]|
Then, the train was withdrawn farther towards east, to Lublin, where it was decided to move the train to Lwow (Lviv, now in Ukraine). It had to be done roundabout, because the direct lines were just about to be captured. On 16 September 1939, the crew had to "chop" the way to Kovel (now in Belarus) across heavy railway jams, removing the jammed wagons of the track with a crane, and even to build new railway detours in order to pass destroyed and totally jammed stretches. The auxiliary section underwent an air raid, with a few injuries. During the previous days also the armoured section underwent several air raids, without major effects though.
On the 17th September 1939, the Soviet Union, fulfilling Ribbentrop-Molotov treaty, invaded eastern Poland. That day the train nr.51 was in Sarny and according to the source , was fighting with the Soviet air raids, shooting down one plane. On the next day in the morning, near Kostopol, the train met Soviet motorized column riding from Rowne. In a skirmish, the train supposedly destroyed 4 armoured cars "3-axle type" (BA-6), 3 artillery tractors and several trucks. Next, the train was patrolling in Sarny area, on occasion shooting at Soviet planes and cavalry units. On 20 September, the train was supporting Polish KOP (Border Protection Corps) soldiers with fire from Niemowice station. On the next day, it was protecting Polish soldiers' retreat.
The fate of the train is not clear yet. According to sources [2 & 8], on 22 September 1939 in the afternoon, the train was bombed by the Soviet planes. Both armoured section and auxiliary section were damaged, so Cpt. Rokossowski ordered to leave the train. However, according to the sources [4 & 7], the train was not bombed, but abandoned due to the advance of Soviet armoured units, cutting the line to Lviv. After leaving the train, some of the crew members joined Polish SGO (Independent Operational Group) "Polesie", which surrendered to the Germans after the Battle of Kock on the 5th October 1939, being the last Polish unit in the field.
This was the end of "I Marszalek", but not the end of the train itself, though. The armoured train was captured by the Soviets, repaired and put into service as BEPO (Bronyepoyezd - armoured train) of the 77th NKVD Regiment from the 10th NKVD Division. The division was used in an occupation service in former eastern Polish territories, which had just became "Western Soviet Ukraine" at that time. In June 1941, the train was stationed in Ivano-Frankovsk (formerly Stanislawow), south-east of Lviv, commanded by Lt. I. D. Turganov (it is noteworthy, that former Polish train nr.53 "Smialy" was stationed nearby, as BEPO of the 75th Rgt. of the same division). The Soviet 12th Army of the South-West Front operated in that area. After German attack on 22 June 1941, the train was supporting the withdrawing 77th NKVD Regiment. On 5 July 1941, the train was fighting against German tanks, and according to Soviet sources, destroyed or immobilised a few. On the 7th July, the train, after running out of ammunition, was left and blown up by the crew.
The damages could not be severe, though, because after a few months the armoured train was repaired, rebuilt and put into the German service in December 1941. The Germans formed one strong armoured train, Panzerzug 10 of two Polish armoured trains, captured on the Soviets. Panzerzug 10 consisted of two independent parts: Kampfzug A (former train nr. 53 "Smialy"; BEPO of the 75th NKVD Rgt) and Kampfzug B (PZ 10b; former train nr. 51 "I Marszalek"; BEPO of the 77th Rgt). Panzerzug 10b had two original artillery wagons of "I Marszalek" and initially also the original armoured locomotive series Ti3. In June 1942 the train received new infantry wagons and German locomotive. During all the service, the train was used in the Eastern Front, and was damaged a few times.
On 31 July 1943 Panzerzug 10 was split into two separate units: Kampfzug A (former train nr.53) remained PZ 10, while Kampfzug B (former train nr.51) was designated Panzerzug 11. In summer of 1944, Panzerzug 11 took part in a retreat combat. Finally in the end of 1944, it was operating in south-eastern Poland, in Kielce area. Panzerzug 11, former Polish "Pierwszy Marszalek", ended its combat career on 13 January 1945 near Checiny (a small town near Kielce, with an interesting castle ruins), abandoned by the crew, when it could not retreat before advancing Soviets, due to a destroyed bridge over the Nida river.
The illustrated history of Panzerzug 10b (Panzerzug 11).
The armoured train nr. 51 consisted of:
The armoured train, as a military unit, consisted of: an armoured section, a platoon of armoured draisines and an unarmoured auxiliary section. The armoured section and armoured draisines were the combat section of the armoured train, while the auxiliary section was supporting the operation of the combat section from a logistical point of view and did not take part in combat duties directly. Sometimes, writing about "armoured train" I mean the armoured section (the strict meaning of "armoured train") or combat section only.
The standard locomotive for Polish armoured trains since 1927 was the armoured steam locomotive series Ti3 (former Prussian series G53, built in 1903-06, armoured in Poland). The locomotive used in "I Marszalek" was Ti3-2, former G53-4024 Danzig. It differed from the others, since it had a rotating turret from armoured car wz. 29 instead of a common observation cupola. Some sources suggest it could have one 7.92mm wz.25 AAMG, but this is not confirmed. See the details on a Ti3 page.
In the first years the train had the standard Soviet armoured locomotive "O"-series.
Armoured train nr.51 had two four-axle artillery wagons, of the standard Soviet type, recognized as "Krasnoye Sormovo" (possibly type S.30?). They were built in Krasnoye Sormovo works in Nizhny Novgorod (Gorki). Such wagons were typical for Soviet trains, built in a significant number, in several variants.
Each was armed with two 75mm wz. 02/26 (modified Russian "3in" Putilov) field guns in two artillery turrets. The turrets could rotate at 360°, the practical angle of fire was only a bit less.
|On the right: an interesting sequence of shooting 75mm wz.02/26 gun in the former wagon of "I Marszalek" in German Panzerzug 10b, 1943. On the second photo, the barrel is at full recoil. The wagon has German MG's.|
Other armament consisted of 2 x 7.92mm wz. 08 (Maxim) machine guns in each artillery turret (on either side of the gun) and 4 x wz.08 machine guns in wagon's sides. In the early thirties, each of the artillery wagons was fitted with one 7.92mm wz. 08 anti-aircraft machine gun in a small turret on the roof, with the maximum elevation of 90°, in a place of an earlier observation turret. The total for an artillery wagon was 8 wz.08 MG's and one AAMG. The ammunition was probably 3,750 rounds per each MG (in 250-round belts). Probably up to 120 artillery rounds per gun were carried in artillery wagons.
Initially, the wagons most likely had Russian 76.2mm M.02 (3in) guns and 7.62mm Maxim M.05 or M.10 HMG's.
The armour thickness was probably 8 - 12mm (it might have been covered with oak planks from the inside). The wagon had one door in each side. The crew of one wagon was about 35 men.
The gallery of "I Marszalek" wagons in Panzerzug 10b (Panzerzug 11).
The assault wagon (Polish nomenclature) was intended for the transportation of an assault platoon. The two-axle wagon of "Pierwszy Marszalek", shown on the photo above, had number 393088 and was of the Austro-Hungarian origin, rebuilt in Poland. It was originally of the same type, as the wagon of train nr.15 "Smierc", probably acquired on the same occasion.
The assault wagon was initially armed with 4 MG's in side casemates. After the modernization in the thirties, it was armed with 4 x 7.92mm wz. 08 (Maxim) MG's in the side doors - they could be used to flank-fire along the train. The ammunition was probably 3,750 per MG (in 250-round belts). The armour was probably made of double layers of regular steel plates (12 mm and 9 mm), separated with 40 mm wooden layer. The wagon had two doors in each side, and doors in both ends, which (theoretically) enabled passing between wagons. It also had hatches in the bottom.
The assault platoon consisted of 32 men (1 officer, 7 NCO's, 24 soldiers, with 2 LMG's). The total wagon's crew was about 40 (with signalmen and stretcher-bearers).
Since the early thirties, the assault wagon was equipped with long-range radio RKD/P (range - up to 100km), placed in a separate radio cab in the middle of the wagon. The wagon was also fitted with a power generator, batteries and a large clothes line aerial on the roof. The significant feature was three rows of aerial masts, the middle row was higher.
The crew of the train's armoured section was about 120-130 men - the whole armoured train's crew (with an auxiliary section and draisines) was about 190.
On both ends of the armoured train, there were two flatcars. Their primary function was to protect the armoured train against mines or a derailment. They were also used to carry engineering materials (tools, rails and sleepers, logs, explosives etc.) and also bicycles and motorcycles (part of it was carried on the auxiliary train's flatcars).
Since 11 September 1939, train nr.51 probably was fitted with an additional 40mm wz.36 Bofors AA-gun, seated upon one of the flatcars (or maybe an additional flatcar).
The standard flatcar series Pdkz (type VIIIC) was two-axle. Weight - about 10 t, load capacity - 17.5 t, length - 13 m (511 in), wheelbase - 8 m (315 in).
Each armoured train, mobilized in 1939, had a platoon of armoured draisines (scout rail vehicles). Train nr. 51 had a standard armoured draisines platoon, consisting of:
- two "R" type armoured draisine (FT-17 tanks on rail chassis')
- four "TK" type armoured draisines (tankettes on rail chassis')
Draisines usually acted in two units, consisting of: one "R" and two "TK" draisines. All the tanks could be easily detached from their rail chassis' and then used for ground reconnaissance tasks. The fifth TK tankette was in reserve. See the details on armoured draisines page.
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 accommodation and logistics support. It was manned by a platoon consisting of 1 officer, 21 NCO's and 26 soldiers. The length of the auxiliary section of the train was about 250 m (820 ft).
It consisted of: a locomotive, coaches for officers (2), NCOs (2) and soldiers (8), supply wagons, an ambulance coach, a kitchen coach, a workshop wagon, a coal wagon, a water tanker and flatcars (5) - up to 30 carriages.
It also also should have two wz.34 half-tracked trucks, one light truck (Polski FIAT 618?) and four motorcycles with sidecars CWS M-111 - on three flatcars. Wz.34 half-tracks were from the repair patrol, and they could be equipped with a rail-riding device.
Top of the page
The gallery of "I Marszalek" wagons in Panzerzug 10b (Panzerzug 11).
1. Janusz Magnuski: "Pociag pancerny 'Danuta'", Typy Broni i Uzbrojenia (TBiU) No.18; Warsaw 1972
2. Rajmund Szubański: "Polska broń pancerna 1939"; Warsaw 1989 (the 'combat use' chapter)
3. Janusz Magnuski: "Pociag pancerny 'Smialy' w trzech wojnach"; Pelta; Warsaw 1996
4. Tadeusz Krawczak, Janusz Odziemkowski: "Polskie pociągi pancerne w wojnie 1939r."; Warsaw 1987
5. Paul Malmassari: "Les Trains Blindes 1826 - 1989"; Heimdal Editions, 1989
6. Halina & Waldemar Trojca: "Panzerzuge 1"; Militaria; Warsaw 1995
7. "Pociagi pancerne 1918-1943", Bialystok 1999
8. Zbigniew Damski: "Zapomnianym obrońcom 'osrodka warownego Sarny'"; Zolnierz Polski nr 37-39/90
9. Janusz Magnuski: "50 lat wrzesnia - Broń pancerna"; Wojskowy Przeglad Techniczny nr. 9/1989
10. Grzegorz Pomorski: "Pociag pancerny PP51 'Marszałek'"; Kartonowka nr 3-4(5)/2002 (H0 paper model)
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Text copyright to Michal Derela.