PIBWL presents:

Polish armoured car wz. 29 "Ursus"

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  © Michal Derela, 1998 Updated: 8. 10. 2006 - re-written and improved, with better photos


History
Combat use
Description
Camouflage
Data
Models
    Part II:

Gallery
updated 8.10.2006
Wz.29 armoured car on parade. Armoured car wz. 29 on parade. [2]

Armoured car wz. 29, commonly known as Ursus, was the heavier type of Polish pre-war armoured car, used in only one out of 11 reconnaissance armoured units. Despite being obsolete in 1939, a handful of these cars acted in combat surprisingly well, serving in the 11th armoured unit (battalion) of the Mazowiecka Cavalry Brigade.


History

In early 1929, the Polish Main Staff, being not quite satisfied with the new halftrack armoured car wz. 28, ordered to develop a new armoured car for the Cavalry. The new car was designed in Wojskowy Instytut Badań Inżynierii (WIBI, Military Engineers' Research Institute) by a team directed by Lt. Rudolf Gundlach (R. Gundlach became later known as the inventor of a reversible tank periscope, sold to Vickers-Armstrong, and then popularized to all the world as Vickers Tank Periscope MkIV).

The armoured car wz.29 prototype, with early rejected model of turret, with both machineguns opposite to a gun. Note also differencies in hatches. The car has old four-color camouflage, used in 1928-32, consisting of patches of dark green, dark brown, greyish sand and blue-gray. [AJ]

It was decided to use modified and strengthened commercial chassis of Ursus A 2-ton truck, which originally was the Italian truck S.P.A. 25C, built under licence from 1928 in "Ursus" Mechanical Works in Warsaw, Poland, and further developed there. The first prototype of armoured car, built of mild iron, was completed and tested just in June 1929. During trials, changes were applied mostly to a turret. The car was accepted in November 1929, with an Army designation: samochód pancerny wzór 29 (in short: wz. 29) - armoured car 1929 Pattern, but it was commonly called "Ursus" or "CWS".

The design was fairly typical for the twenties, it had rear-drive only, a crew of 4 and was armed with 37 mm Puteaux low-velocity gun and 2 to 3 machineguns. It was influenced by some features of British/Russian armoured cars Austin (second rear driver post) and French cars White TBC / White-Laffly (a turret with two weapons in opposite sides). An arrangement of armament helped avoid problems with turret balance, and was a bit better, than in the French car (weapons were placed at angle of 120° to each other), but it made difficult shooting both weapons at one target alternately, anyway (the first vehicle with coaxial weapons was Vickers Mk.E Type B). Initially, wz.29 cars had also an anti-aircraft machine gun in the turret, but they proved ineffective and were dismounted in mid-1930s (it was hard to track fast and low flying targets with a weapon in ball mounting). Tests of the prototype revealed, that despite car's advantages, like relatively strong armament, sufficient armour and rear driver post, making easier driving backwards, it had drawbacks, like low speed and manoeuvrability. Usage of truck chassises was typical in armoured cars of that time and made easier constructing and maintenance, but a consequence was lack of all-wheel drive, which resulted in lack of abilities of riding off-road. Despite quite big silhouette, there was not much room inside, due to a high chassis frame (height of a crew compartment was only up to 1.1 m - 3.6 ft). Both weapons and their arrangement became quickly obsolete. It all caused, that the design could not be called a modern one at a time of entering service. Assessing the design further, the backward driver post was a good idea, but the car lacked a reverse mechanism to ride backward with top speed, also the engine was old design and had low power output. Other obvious drawback was a lack of radio (the engine electric wiring was not screened).

Early photo of the wz.29 car - note early tyres, lack of camouflage, CWS badge and a headlight. [AJ]

Because of these facts, only 10 cars were ordered. They were manufactured on Ursus chassises in CWS (Central Car Workshops in Warsaw, later a part of PZInż national concern), and the whole series was completed by 1931. The number of wz.29 cars built is not sure, though. According to Jan Magnuski [1], 10 cars is the most probable number (plus an iron prototype), but in some earlier publications a number of 13 cars can be found (according to the source [4]: 8 cars fit to combat and 5 fit to training in July 1939). The official report from 1934 counted 10 cars, anyway. Only some of their military registration numbers are known: 6608, 6628, 6753 and 6755.

At least one car wz. 29 was completed as unarmed propaganda or police car, with a loudspeaker in a turret, but there is not much information on it (it might have been two cars). It had number 6814. It is not known, if it was purposely built or rebuilt of an armoured car (possibly of the prototype). Its hull was significantly enlarged, especially in a rear part; most likely it was built of regular steel plates instead of armour. It was also distinguished by a grill in engine hood sides and front, instead of hatches and other details (see more in part II).

A successor upon Saurer 6x4 chassis was designed (drawing), but the project was canceled. The car wz.31 copied the composition of Ursus, offering greater speed and only slightly better off-road characteristics, for a bigger silhouette, the same obsolete armament, and much bigger price.

It is noteworthy, that the turret designed for the armoured car wz.29 (known as Ursus type turret), found much wider usage. Such turret was used in at least one armoured locomotive series Ti3 of the Polish armoured train "I Marszalek", as an observation and command turret, most likely unarmed. In a modified variant armed with 37mm gun in a rectangular mount and one MG (possibly lacking an anti-aircraft mounting), they were used on some Polish river crafts: 3 gunboats "Z" class, 1 heavy armed craft ORP "Nieuchwytny", 4 light armed crafts LKU 16-19, 5 light armed crafts LKU 25-29 and 3 river minesweepers T 1-3 (you can learn about Polish river flotilla on this page).

See also a supplement page with further photos of wz. 29 car. .



A platoon of cars wz.29, probably in 1934. Note an early camouflage. The platoon commander's vehicle has number 6628. A triangle on a front plate means the second platoon. [AJ, 1,3,4]

Combat use

Before the war:

The first three-car wz. 29 platoon was used in Cavalry manoeuvres in the summer of 1931 (along with 10 tankettes Carden-Loyd MkVI and 15 newest tankettes TK-3). During the thirties, the Polish armoured formations were being reorganized several times, and Ursus cars were deployed in turn in Lwow, from 1931 in Zurawica (2nd Armoured Regiment), from 1934 in Ponznań for a short time, then in Bydgoszcz (8th armoured battalion). Finally, since early 1936, all 10 cars wz.29 were found in Armoured Units Training Centre (CWBrPanc) in Modlin, north of Warsaw. They were used for training there, in the 11th experimental armoured battalion (batalion pancerny - not to confuse those big, peacetime units with later wartime mobilized units of battalion size, with the same English name).

In the late August 1939, during a mobilization, 8 cars were included into the newly formed 11th armoured unit (battalion) (dywizjon pancerny), assigned to Mazowiecka Cavalry Brigade of the Army "Modlin", as its reconnaissance unit. Seven cars formed unit's armoured car squadron, the eighth car was the unit's commander's, who was Maj. Stefan Majewski. The armoured car squadron commander was Lt. Mirosław Jarociński, armoured car troops' commanders were Lt. Michał Nahorski (first troop) and WO Stefan Wojcieszak (second troop) (see a map for an initial deployment).

September 1939:

Just from the first day of the war with Germany, cars (and tankettes) of the 11th armoured unit were intensively used for reconnaissance and patrolling, bringing information about the enemy. Soon their main task became acting in delay and securing a retreat of the Polish units from predominating and encircling enemy, and in several cases they supported attacks on the enemy. The combat track of those few obsolete machines was relatively succesfull, mostly due to their cannon armament. Here are main episodes of the combat track of the 11th unit's armoured car squadron:

On 1 September 1939, at the outbreak of war, two armoured car troops were assigned to outposts of Mazowiecka Brigade, before defence lines, by the border with East Prussia. From the first hours of war, the 2nd troop was firing at advancing Germans from road ambushes. In the evening, it laid an ambush near Krzynowłoga Mała village, and destroyed all three German light armoured cars of a reconnaissance unit of the 12th Infantry Division. Two Ursuses were damaged and WO Wojcieszak was hurt in a head, but continued combat service.

Ursus destroyed on September 3, 1939 near Chojnów.

On 3 September one car was lost in a skirmish with a reconnaissance unit of SS "Der Führer regiment of "Kempf" Armoured Division near Chojnów village (between Przasnysz and Grudusk), when a troop was sent to make liaison with the 8th Infantry Division. Later that day, all the armoured car squadron supported the 11th Ulan (lancer) regiment, repelling attacks of the 3rd battalion of SS "Deutschland" motorized regiment in a forest near Przasnysz.
   On 4 September, the 1st troop supported the 7th Ulan regiment in a skirmish of Szczuki village (near Przasnysz). The Polish cars destroyed two tanks PzKpfw-I of a German platoon, trying to go round Polish ulans' positions. Around 3 pm, Lt. Nahorski destroyed enemy staff car with a gun shot, capturing maps and documents.
   On 7 September, Ursus cars, supporting the attack of the 7th ulan regiment at Długosiodło village (near Ostrów Mazowiecka), destroyed another two enemy armoured cars of the 1st Cavalry Brigade (losing one car, according to the source [4], though source [3] do not confirm this). The unit went to Brigade reserve for a few days then.

On 12 September, the armoured unit was moving to join its cavalry brigade. In the morning, it incorporated two armoured cars wz.34, separated from the 61st armoured unit. After 9 am, behind a small town of Seroczyn (south-east of Warsaw), the 1st armoured car troop, moving in a vanguard, encountered a vanguard unit of Kampfgruppe "Steiner", detached from Kempf Armoured Division. The German unit consisted of a motorcycle company, with an armoured car troop, 4 AT guns and 4 infantry guns. In a short skirmish two enemy armoured cars were destroyed, but one Ursus was also lost (hit by an AT gun), and the Polish unit withdrew to the town. Soon the enemy deployed its forces, and entered the town, rejecting the Poles behind the Swider river.

Destroyed Ursus (location not identified).

In the second stage of the meeting engagement, Maj. Majewski formed a group of his armoured unit, all the loose soldiers gathered nearby, an artillery battery found in a forest without horses, and also newly arrived 62nd independent reconnaissance tank company (TKS tankettes). The Polish launched an attack across the river, but it failed. Armoured cars attacked straight through the bridge, but the first car, that crossed the bridge, was hit by an AT gun, while the tankettes on the right wing stuck on boggy meadows. Then, the main forces of the Kampfgruppe, with tanks of the 6th company of the 7th regiment, supported by artillery, forced weaker Polish unit to withdraw towards Garwolin around 13 pm. The Polish losses in all that engagement were two wz.29 cars, one (or two) wz.34 cars, and several tankettes. The Germans suffered some losses as well, and their advance towards the Vistula was halted for some time (enabling a cavalry group of Gen. Władysław Anders to withdraw through a "hole").
 In the evening, the 11th armoured unit, moving towards Dęblin, had a skirmish with a reconnaissance unit of the 1st Infantry Division, on a crossroad near Gończyce village. The Germans were rejected, but the Poles lost the commanders' armoured car, that was put on a fire (the crew bailed out).

At last, weakened armoured unit joined units of the Army "Lublin" in Lublin (and the armoured core of the Polish concentration there - Warsaw Armoured-Motorized Brigade - WBP-M). Unfortunately, last armoured cars had to be destroyed on 16 September near Zwierzyniec (south of Zamosc), because they could not move farther through sandy and rough forest roads to the south-east of Lublin (reportedly they were "sinking in sand to the axles". The second thing was, that the Polish tanks needed all the fuel left for the last battle of Tomaszów Lubelski, on 18 September).

Some cars wz.29 were possibly repaired by the Germans and could be used by the German police in an occupied Poland, but there is no such evidence. None of cars wz.29 survived the war.

Wz.29 cars on parade in Warsaw (note a rear stowage) [AJ, 2,4]

Technical description

Armament

Polish armoured car wz.29 in 1932-1935 camouflage (so-called "Japanese-style" one). Wheels are painted white for parade purpose. [4]

The main armament was the French 37mm wz.18 (SA-18) Puteaux L/21 low-velocity gun in the turret. In spite of its WWI-origin, it was a simple, reliable and quite accurate weapon, but its primary purpose was to fight infantry and MG emplacements. 96 rounds were stowed, in 24-round boxes. The gun was mounted in the Polish-designed universal ball mounting. It had a 1.5x telescopic sight and was aimed using a shoulder butt. Armour penetration was poor - 12 mm at 0 meters, but it showed enough to fight contemporary light armoured vehicles at close ranges. The range of HE round was about 2.5 km. It could fire up 10 times per minute.

Secondary weapons were French 7.92mm wz. 25 Hotchkiss machine guns in universal ball mountings. One MG was placed in the left rear side of the turret, at 120° angle to the gun (it was not possible for the commander to shoot both weapons together). The second MG was in the rear plate, on the left side, manned by the rear gunner. In the beginning of a service, the vehicles also had third, anti-aircraft MG in the right upper side of the turret, at 120° to the gun and other MG; but they were ineffective and became dismounted in the mid-thirties (they were not used in 1939 anymore, although it was possible to mount the other MG in anti-aircraft mount and use it, for example, in street fighting). The ammunition for machineguns was 4032 rounds (16 x 252-round belts). Machineguns had telescopic sights.

Armour

The armoured body was riveted of rolled face-hardened steel plates, of Cr-Ni steel. Its shape was quite well sloped. The armour thickness was 4 - 10mm:

Front and rear view. The car has practice markings of 1st troop commander (disc with a belt). [AJ, 4]

Armour protected against armour piercing rifle bullets from a distance above 300m, and against ordinary rifle bullets and splinters from all distances.

Construction:

The body riveted of armour plates on a frame, had an access door on each side. The left door was opening forward, the right door - backwards. In walls there were five small windows, covered with hatches (two per each side and one on the left of the front plate). Two bigger windows, protected by hatches with periscopes, were in front and rear, before both drivers' posts. Before the crew compartment there was engine compartment, separated by an internal wall. A radiator in front was protected with an armoured hatch, opening upwards (operated from a driver's place). Under this hatch, before the radiator, there was a single headlight. Below the hatch there was a hole for a starting crank (the crank normally was fastened to the front plate, to the right of the hatch). Tools: shovel, pickaxe and crowbar were fastened outside the car on the left side, a 5-ton jack (railway-type) and 7-m towing rope were carried on the rear bottom plate, along with two toolboxes. A single rear light was on the left of a rear bottom plate, below a toolbox. The crew compartment was equipped with a ventilator in a floor.

The turret was octagonal, with the gun in front, the MG on the left side and the mounting for an AAMG in the upper right side. In the sides, there were 11 vision slots with bolts, and a two-part hatch was in the roof, with a hole for signal flags. The car was not equipped with a radio, the signalling was carried out with color flags.

The crew consisted of four: commander-gunner, driver, rear driver and rear gunner. The driver sat on the right in front. The commander occupied a seat to the left of the driver, or manned the turret weapons standing. He could also sit in a turret hatch, on a leather belt. In rear there were seats of the rear driver and rear gunner (rear gunner's seat was lower and there was a hole in floor for him to keep legs, protected with a box below a floor).

Chassis - rectangular frame, suspension on semi-elliptic springs. Tyre dimension was initially 835x135mm, since 1934 changed to 32x6" (812x152mm), so-called "baloon" ones, with better off-road characteristics. Double wheels at the rear.

Engine: Ursus-2A: petrol, 4-cylinder, 4-stroke, water cooled, 2873 ccm, 35 HP at 2600 rpm (it was a licensed version of the engine SPA of 1913). The fuel tank was 105 liter, placed in the rear part of a chassis frame.
Transmission: Dry multi-disc main clutch. Mechanical gearbox: 4 gears forward, 1 reverse. Rear axle driven only. The car had additional backward-driver post, with doubled main steering devices, connected with shafts and wires. Mechanical drum brakes on the rear wheels, auxiliary brake on the main shaft. Electric installation - single-wire 12 V.



Camouflage:

Initially, before 1932, armoured cars wz.29 were probably dark green or olive green. Between 1932 and 1936 there was a standard camouflage scheme used, also called the "Japanese-style" one. It consisted of rather regular patches of bright yellowish sand, dark green and dark brown, separated with thin black stripes. In winter, the cars were painted in white.

From 1936-1937, there was a new standard three-colour camouflage scheme introduced, of irregular patches of greyish sand and dark brown (sepia) over a base colour of olive green (in fact it was brown-green shade). Patches were airbrushed, with soft transitions, their shapes were mainly horizontal. There was not any standard pattern of patches.

The interior was light olive (up to windows' level) and sand-grey (above windows' level), although according to an instruction of 1938 it should be all sand-grey. According to this instruction, the chassis was olive-green, but chassis parts, fuel tanks, mufflers, exhaust pipes etc. were painted black.


An unique 1939 photo of the armoured car wz. 29 in a standard camouflage, captured by the Germans and gathered along with other Polish equipment (possibly in Modlin). A gun mounting in a turret is visible. Note: colours might be distorted (especially olive green).
(photo: Hugo Jaeger).

In 1939, the cars wore no insignia at all. Only before the war, the cars carried tactical marks for training purposes - they were attached light blue-gray disc (the 1st platoon), triangles (the 2nd) or squares (the 3rd). Registration numbers were painted on the front plate, only until 1937.

Wz.29 - sideview
Drawings by Adam Jońca [AJ, 2].


Part II: A gallery with additional photos and information on armoured car wz. 29



Data:

Crew 4
Combat weight 4,800 kg
Length / without MG 5.49 / 5.15 m (216 / 203 in)
Width 1.85 m (72 in)
Height 2.48 m (97.4 in)
Wheelbase 3.5 m (137.8 in)
Ground clearance 35 cm (13.7 in)
Max. road speed 35 km/h (22 mph)
Road / dirt road range 380 /250 km
Power / weight ratio: 7.3 HP/ton
Wading depth 35 cm
Max. steepness 10°
Fuel consumption 36 litres /100 km

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Models:

wz.29 in older painting - 1/72 card model, author: Michal Derela
Here's my old 1/72 scratchbuilt paper model of the armoured car wz. 29 (in old camouflage scheme). Author: Michal Derela.

1/72 [1/76]:
-
Part (A001-72) - excellent Polish hi quality model of photoetched brass and resin (1999) (see a gallery at producer's page - section: Modele - Kits)
- Wild Hogs' Models (WH 72001) - new (2010) Polish resin + metal model, average quality
- Modell Trans (MT72003) - German resin model, average quality.
- Fine Scale Factory - FSF (WZ06) - old resin model (producer non existing anymore).
- Ahketon - old metal model, mediocre quality (see it at Patrick Storto's AFV Museum)
- [1/76] SHQ (PT5) - lead crude 20 mm wargamer model

1/35:
- GPM - Polish producer, short run from early 90s, vacuform + metal, hard to obtain now.
- Armo (35016) - Polish high quality resin model (distributor's page).


Part II: A gallery with additional photos and information on armoured car wz. 29

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Sources:
1. Janusz Magnuski: "Samochody pancerne Wojska Polskiego 1918-1939"; WiS; Warsaw 1993
2. A. Jońca, R. Szubański, J. Tarczyński: "Wrzesień 1939 - Pojazdy Wojska Polskiego - Barwa i broń"; WKŁ; Warsaw 1990.
3. Rajmund Szubański: "Polska broń pancerna 1939"; Warsaw 1989
4. Witold Jeleń, Rajmund Szubański: "Samochód pancerny wz.29", TBiU nr 84; Wyd. MON, Warsaw 1983.
5. Jan Tarczyński, K. Barbarski, A. Jońca, "Pojazdy w Wojsku Polskim - Polish Army Vehicles - 1918-1939"; Ajaks; Pruszków 1995.
AJ - photos courtesy of Adam Jońca, from his collection



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All photos and pictures remain the property of their owners. They are published in non-commercial educational and research purpose.
Text copyright Michal Derela.