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Siberia and the Railways, 1918-1920




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Armoured Trains Estonia

r0v" series armored locomotive, armored train No. 49, Sormowo Works, Nizhny Novgorod, 1919. The "O" stood for osnovnoy or 'primary," but was known unofficially as ovyechka or the "lamb," hence "Ov." These reliable locomotives were built at the BNIZ Works in Bryansk. The "Ov" (19m long, 3,2m wide, 4.72m high, 115 tons) had a two-cylinder compound, saturated steam, 600hp engine capable of 45km/pti, (Kolomiets)

r0v" series armored locomotive, armored train No. 49, Sormowo Works, Nizhny Novgorod, 1919. The "O" stood for osnovnoy or 'primary," but was known unofficially as ovyechka or the "lamb," hence "Ov." These reliable locomotives were built at the BNIZ Works in Bryansk. The "Ov" (19m long, 3,2m wide, 4.72m high, 115 tons) had a two-cylinder compound, saturated steam, 600hp engine capable of 45km/pti, (Kolomiets)

retreats along the railways upon which most major actions occurred.

The Reds compiled quarterly reports attempting to catalog the number of their armored trains. However, these figures never completely matched the total amount in their inventory because the number under formation, under repair, or lost in battle constantly changed. For example, 23 armored trains were registered on 1 October 1918, but 43 were actually at the front.

During the White offensive for Moscow between 1 July and 1 October 1919, the Reds recorded 101 armored trains at the start and 71 at the end, but in reality possessed 73. On 1 July 1920, the official registry reached 110, although only 88 were at the fronts. After the most severe fighting with Poland in July-September, Red figures totaled 103 officially and 74 in reality. In February 1921, shortly after the main operations of the civil war had ceased, the official count reached 122.

These "official" armored trains were the iron and steel behemoths of legend. In addition, an undetermined number of semi-armored or blindirov trains existed: at least 100, and some sources indicate well over 200. These hastily improvised trains consisted of rail wagons with wooden sides strengthened by bricks or sandbags and a complement of guns and machine guns.

Arms on Red trains were considerably more standardized than aims on White trains because the Bolsheviks inherited the stockpiles of Russian weapons lefi over from the Imperial and Provisional Governmental periods. Given a potent mix oi'guns and machine guns, an armored train could equal a batten' of artillery as well as match the machine-gun firepower of a rifle regiment.

Most armored trains had a maximum speed of 45km/hr. The core components of die majority of armored configurations (two wagons, armored engine and lender) reached 30m in length, 3,2m in width and 4.5m in height. Trains were restricted in range due to consumption of fuel and water. An armored train could only travel 25km before having to take on a new supply of water for the engine, or perhaps 300km if carrying an adequate supply of its own in attached wagons. Stocks of coal had become so depleted by 1918 that trains normally had to carry and burn wood, a condition that limited the efficiency of the engines (see New Vanguard 83; A rmored Units of the Russian Civil War: White and Allied for additional considerations).

Management of Armored Cars and Trains

The Central Council for Control of Auto-Armored Units of the Republic, Tsenlrobron, hereafter referred to as the Central Armor Directorate, had been established on 21 January 1918 10 oversee the construction and administration of armored cars and the political indoctrination and technical training of the crews. The Directorate additionally assumed responsibility for managing armored trains in April 1918.

On 3 January 1919 the Central Armor Directorate merged with other administrative echelons to become the Chief Armor Directorate. This latter directorate, in turn, was dissolved on paper on 20 August. Staff and additional specialists recalled from the fronts were reassigned into the new Armor Department under the Chief Military Engineering Directorate by 1 October.

Construction and Repair

The construction of armored trains required considerable natural resources, technical expertise and human sweat Each train needed approximately 67 tons of metal to armor and about 640 tons ofcrude oil to produce. Factories constructing armored trains were placed high on the supply priority list and raw materials and metal scrap flowed in from outlying parts of Russia to augment production.

Two-thirds of all armor engineering took place in the factories of Petrograd, Moscow, Nizfany Novgorod, Kolumna and Bryansk. However, the following cities are also known to have repaired and/or constructed Red armored trains during the civil war: Ekaterinodar, Ekaterinoslav, Gorlovka, Kamensk, Kharkov, Kiev, Kolomensk, Kramatorsk, Lugansk, Melitopol, Nikolaev. Odessa, Omsk, Perm, Saratov, Sevastopol, Sinelnikov, Taganrog, Tambov, Tsaritsyn and Voronezh.

The first armored trains had been created by whatever means available. Standardized patterns began to emerge in autumn 1918, From September 1918 to February 1919, the Tsaritsyn Gun Works produced several Khlebnikov pattern trains with 24mm armored cylindrical turrets, two to a gun wagon, housing 76.2mm, Model 1902 pieces of artillery. The turrets, with a traverse of 270 degrees, revolved on iron plates. The armored walls had a svstem of springs between two sheets of iron and steel to maximize defenses against enemy artillery. Given a weight of 80 tons per wagon, however, these trains could only tise certain bridges and railways.

The Bryansk Works produced numerous armored trains with two gun wagons, each with two turrets with a 360-degree traverse, earning either the 76.2mm Model 1902 or 107mm (42-line) pieces. Armoring consisted of two 20—24mm plates with a 20mm space of air in between. Two machine guns resided in each wagon side, with an additional one at each end and in eacli turret. The wagons weighed 64 tons.

The Sormovo Works (Nizimy Novgorod) constructed 15 armored trains (15 armored engines and 30 armored gun wagons) from August 1918. These featured two turrets to a gun wagon with a 360-degree traverse, housing 76.2mm Model 1902 guns or 76.2mm anti-aircraft pieces or naval guns of a similar caliber. Two machine guns resided in each turret with four further machine guns nestled along the walls of the wagon, sometimes with retractable window housings.

The armored walls consisted of two sheets of metal, 16-20mm, with concrete filling in-between. The arrangement of armaments ensured that the train could not be approached through any blind spots. Weighing in at 56-64 tons per wagon, the Sormovo armored trains could negotiate nearly all bridges and railways. Trains fitting this pattern included No. 10, In Honor of Rosa Luxemburg; No. 12, In Honor of Comrade L. Trotsky, and No. 15, In Honor of Lieutenant Schmidt.

Improvised Command Car
Votga Front, 1918. Early improvisation with 76.2mm, Model 1902 field gun. (Deryabin)

Personnel and Training, Armored Cars and Trains

All of the armored units suffered from a lack of experienced personnel. The high rate of illiteracy in the Red Army and general unfamiliarity with these new weapons of war necessitated a rigorous training regime that was often impossible to achieve. Former railway and armored car troops were pressed into service alongside promising revolutionary soldiers and the most prized personnel of all for die technical arms, the Baltic and Black Sea sailors.

Recruits for the armored units received more than the usual dose of political indoctrination. Commissars ensured that those in the armored farces were politically reliable and that morale remained "high." Indeed, some 50-100% of graduates for all the armored forces were Communist Party members, a statistic allowing the armored units to be classed as "elite."

Personnel Training Command for Armored Forces began to offer instructional courses in die Garage for Armored Cars in Moscow in April 1918. A formal Armor Academy develojied out of this facility in early 1919. In Feb man 1920, this Garage expanded into a Reserve Brigade dedicated to forming detachments with trained crew.

Similarly, an Armored Tiain Depot had been established in Nizhny Novgorod early in 1918. Here, training courses took one month. In February 1920 an Armored Train Reserve Brigade at Bryansk supplemented the training of crews along similar lines. Local commanders frustrated by the sluggish flow of competent recruits coming from tiiese centers set up their own training courses, at regional army headquarters.

. 36 Comrade Lenin e Plate F1). (Deryabin)

. 36 Comrade Lenin e Plate F1). (Deryabin)

Soviet Armored Train Foto

Combat Configurations

Conceptually, the Red Army viewed armored trains in two broad categories. The first, the bwnyepcyezd or BEPO fully armored train, provided "shock" for the forces in the field during operations. The second, the bronyofratoreyo or BP armored train, generally had larger caliber guns and functioned its mobile artillery.

The tactical organization of armored trains evolved by trial and error throughout 1918 and early 1919. Configurations generally included an armored steam engine and tender in the center, two armored wagons, one on each side of the engine, with 2-4 guns and 4-16 machine guns, and at least two control wagons. These control wagons were at the front and rear and were loaded with engineering materials and supplies. Theoretically, these expendable assets would be struck first by any booby trap or mine and presumably save the more precious wagons in the formation. Up to four armored wagons of various types and purposes could be found in these general formations, A supply train followed antl positioned itself in the siding of the nearest town or village as a base depot.

The first officially approved tactical system came in October 1918. This scheme envisaged an anno red locomotive, two armored wagons earning one gun and six machine guns each, and a crew of 95. Planners added a supporting supply train to the concept in December, raising the crew to 136, In retrospect, this official system seemed only to recognize, belatedly, actions that had already taken place in the field.

Armored trains were divided officially into "light" and "heavy" categories by March 1919. Light trains (with 3-in. guns) were to act in conjunction with troops in Lhe field while those classed as "heavy" (6-in. guns and higher) were to engage enemy trains and lay down artillery barrages. On the battlefield, one train of each class would work together in tandem, the heavy train covering the lighter one. A third train followed with supplies. This arrangement, however, did not always live up to expectations because commanders frequently dispatched the light and heavy trains on completely separate missions according to need.

Another configuration emerged in the second half of 1919. The Reds combined two heavy trains into one. No. 85, under Commander A. V. Polttpanov, and endowed this train with aircraft and balloon detachments and a company of infantry. Unfortunately, the large number of attached wagons made the train difficult to maneuver. Thirteenth Army gave No. 85 die primary mission of guarding ports along the southern coast in spring 1920 (see piate 02).

From 6 October 1919, ret rain armored trains were allotted a landing party of 160 infantry, a section of machine guns and 47 mounted soldiers. These personnel required the addition of 20-30 wagons.

Hie earlier system of light and heavy trains with all their variants theoretically came to a close on 5 August 1920 via Order No. 1561/313 which reorganized the armored train forces according to special purpose. Thereafter, an no red trains were divided into Type A, T\pe B and Type V, A separate Type M (monkery?) train existed independent of these army orders: this type consisted of heavier caliber railway guns guarding the coastlines.

The Type A came in two subcategories, A1 and A2, these theoretically comprising 75% of the total force. Both types possessed an armored locomotive, two or more control wagons and two gun wagons, each with two turrets housing 76.2mm Model 1902 field pieces and 5-8 Maxim machine guns in the casements. Both carried 1,200 gun shells and Up to 216,000 machine-gun rounds. The Type A provided immediate firepower and "shock" in support of ground operations.

Type A1 was die top-of-the-line assault armored train, fully prepared for battle with a crew of 162 and an additional landing party7 of 265 infantry, 35 mounted troopers and a detachment of two machine guns, A support train of 23 wagons usually followed, transporting engineering supplies, munitions, living quarters, a kitchen and even a jail for prisoners. Type A2 had a crew of 86 and a supply train of 12 wagons: effectively, this was a reduced strength A1 either awaiting reinforcement at base, or perhaps temporarily assigned to a secondary mission.

Type B consisted of an armored locomotive, two control wagons, one gun wagon of two pieces, generally a 107mm or 122mm, but by regulation under 152mm, four machine gnus and a crew of 57. This type carried 250 shells and 24,000 machine-gun rounds. The Type B, which provided artillery support to ground forces or supplemented the firepower of the Type A, could

The 2nd Siberian (four armored wagons, four 76,2mm, Model 1902 field pieces, 18 machine guns) fought in the Ukraine before defending Tsaritsyn in 1913. The White armored train Officer captured it on 12 April 1919, renaming it Glory to the Officer. (Kolomiets)

Baltic People Siberian WagonsPhoto German Armored Trains

Tr»fn from Commander F. N. JUyabaiev's armored train group, Tfcaritsyn, 10th Army, autumn 1918-spring 1919. (Deryabin)

be configured into six variants, R1 to BG. A support train of nine wagons normally followed.

Tvpe V (sometimes seen in records as Type C) was a one-gun (152mm, 203mm or higher caliber) heavy, "special purpose" train with a crew of 37 that could be configured in five variants, VI to V5, for a particular mission. This tvpe carried 160 shells and 6,000 machine-gun rounds. Seven supply wagons acted in support. The Type Valso generally supported the ground forces or the Tvpe A.

Tr»fn from Commander F. N. JUyabaiev's armored train group, Tfcaritsyn, 10th Army, autumn 1918-spring 1919. (Deryabin)

Operations, Eastern Front

Fifteen rail lines radiated from key cities along the Volga River into the strategic interior of European Russia. Consequently hard lighting transpired for control of the Volga region during autumn 1918 and spring 1919. The Reds positioned the following armies in the Eastern Army Group from north to south: 3rd, 2nd, 5th, 1st, 4th.

The anti-Bolshevik People's Army, or KOMUCH, seized control of the Volga River line in summer 1918. Elements of the Czech Legion and Colonel V. O. Kappel's elite officer companies captured Kazan on 7 August and subsequently destroyed one Red armored train. In response, Trotsky assembled his train retinue in Moscow and sped east toward Sviazhsk, 60 kilometers west of Kazan.

The Reds dug in at Sviazhsk and the battle for Kazan raged for a month, during which time die armored trains, armored cars, naval flotillas and aerial squadrons of both sides dueled. Kazan fell on 10 September to the more numerous Reds.

Further south, M. N. Tukacbevsky's 1st Army breached the outskirts of Simbirsk on 12 September. That night, a sudden combined arms assault carried the bridge over the Volga. First, a driverless locomotive sped across the kilometer-long bridge closely followed by armored train No. 1 Minsk Communist in Honor of Lenin and a brigade of supporting infantry. Disoriented, the KOMUCH defenders managed to damage part of the critical bridge before abandoning the city.

It was the beginning of the end. The Red tide surged into the KOMUCH capital at Samara the first week of October. However, Admiral A. V. Kolchak came to power at Omsk in Siberia on 18 November and heralded a new beginning for anti-Bolshevik resistance along the Volga.

Danish diplomat Henning Kehler had traveled aboard armored train No. 5 Karl Marx between Simbirsk and Sviagorod in July 1918, Kehler described this "impressive" train: "In front was an armored tower with a quick-firing cannon in a revolving turret and with slits in tfie sides from whose depths machine-gun barrels gleamed brassily. After this came the monster locomotive, monitor-grey like the rest. It was armored right down to the tracks. In organic composition with it was a long corridor car for riflemen, large enough to hold the entire crew of the armored train during combat. The rest of the train was composed of three elegant slender Pullman cars, four tjeplushkas, or box cars, with ammunition and baggage, and last of all a fiat freight car on which stood a black automobile and an airplane."

Largely unimpressed with the crew, which he described as "a choice selection of human scum," he was, however, won over bv tine engaging and handsome commander, a former Baltic sailor whom lie likened to a "hero in a boy's storv." The crew's red flag carried the golden letters Armored Train: Karl Marx,

Red armored trains also operated against koichak's Whites for the duration of die civil war. On I December 1918, blmdimv trains Nos, I and 2 attached to 3rd Army engaged General R. Gaida's Northern Army near Perm. Surrounded bv 2,000 Whites, No. 1 managed to escape but No. 2's crew had to blow themselves up with the train in order to elude capture* Six Red armored trains in all defended Perm thai month, only three remaining after the city fell to the Whites on 24 December,

Thirteen armored trains participated as battle groups with 2nd and 3rd Armies; in January 1919. Further south, seven armored trains joined the "Forces Group of the South Group East Front" between April and June of 1919, against General Khanzin's Western Army. Four of tbese. No. 18 Errnak Timofeevich, Commu nard. No. 10 Rosa Luxemburg and Comrade Nazarov, formed a batde group and were instrumental in the occupation of Buguruslan, Bugulma and Ufa in some of the campaign's fiercest fighting. In June, these trains were assigned ihe 12tli Aeronautical (observation balloon) Detachment during tlie crossing of the Belaia River and the critical battle of Ufa.

A few armored trains advanced to the Urals to Cheliabinsk, Omsk, and beyond, pursuing and engaging the Whites in their long and disastrous retreat across Siberia. Some, attached to 5th Army, battled lingering White forces in the Far East throughout 1921-22. One, the Comrade Blyukher; engaged the White train Vityaz, and was completely destroyed.

Maxim Machine Gun Revolution
Unknown armored train. Note Maxim machine guns (in wall, center turret of first wagon, top of second wagon). The front and rear guns are 76.2mm. Atop the first wagon is a 76.2mm anti-aircraft gun. (Deryabin)

Operations, Western Front

The Soviet Western Front followed the frontier with the Baltic States and Poland. Armored trains defended against General N. N. Yudenich's Northwestern Army during his offensive in May 1919. The Whites and Estonians destroyed 11 armored and blindirov trains in May, rendering most of Tcli Army's remaining assets impotent until the arrival of armored reinforcements. Seventh Army received armored trains No. (3, 43, 44, 49 with No. 45 as a reserve in June, while 15th Army to the south received Nos. 31 and 47 to anchor the left flank of beleaguered 7th Army. These participated in the connterofiensive that halted the White advance in June.

Three quarter of the armored forces on the Western Front concentrated against Yudenieh from September to November 1919. Red 7th and 15th Armies possessed 24 armored trains: No, 1 (name unknown), No. 4 Communard, No. 5, No. 6 Pulilovs in Honor of Comrade Lenin, No. 7 In Honor ofStenka Razin, No. 16, No. 17 Death or Victory, No. 19 Volunteer, No. 30, No. 38 Chemomanky, No. 41 Glorious Isader Egorov of the Red Army, No. 43, No. 44 In Honor oj'Volodarsky, No. 45 In Honor of ihe 3rd International No. -17, No. 60 In Honor of Karl Liebknecht, No. 67, No. 87 3rd International, No. 89 In Honor

S: 90 In Honor of Comrade - Each gun wagon had an rotating turrets and four «wchine guns. This train formed t. Bryansk in autumn 1919 and tsvght in 14th Army against the Poles in 1920. {Kolomiets)

of Trotsky and No, 93. Armored trains were instrumental in keeping the supply and reinforcement routes open and were quite necessary to duel the less numerous but more capable White armored assets to a standstill.

The threat from Yudenich ended in November and in 1920 the Red Army shifted assets on the Western Front to deal with the growing threat from Poland that had begun, sporadically, in spring 1919. Rumania also posed an occasional threat on this flank and the fractious Ukraine remained turbulent. The Poles invaded the western Ukraine on 25 April 1920 and took Kiev on 6 May, The ensuing Russo-Polish War lasted until the armistice on 12 October,

Two Red army groups responded. The first, the Southwest Army Group, commanded by A. 1. Egorov, counterattackcd in die western Ukraine with (from south to north) 14th Army, S. M. Budenny's Konarmiyu (Horse Army) , and the 12th Army. North of the Pripet Marshes stood the Western Army Group, consisting of (from south to north) the 16th, 3rd, 15th and 4Lb Annies under Tukachevsky. While Egorov concentrated on breaking the Polish line in the Ukraine and attempted to capture Lvov, Tukachevsky's group advanced against Warsaw.

Egotov's armies contained an impressive number of armored trains. Five groups were attached to Mih Army and three groups were in the 12th (16-24 armored trains). The Konarfliiya had another four. The Poles were well endowed with armored forces themselves, including armored car detachments, 120 Renault FT-17 tanks and approximately 50 armored trains.

Political rivalry plagued the Red offensives during the fluid months of campaign that followed and, consequently, the two army groups acted independently. The Poles were able to repel both groups at critical moments and achieve the "Miracle of the Vistula" before the gates of Warsaw.

Armored train operations on the Western Front were affected by a simple, practical fact. Russian rails were die wider 1,524mm gauge while die Polish tracks were the more narrow 1,435mm. Engineers of both sides had to keep pace with the shifting front lines.

Several trains exchanged hands during the Russo-Polish conllicts of 1919-20. Overall, the Poles lost at least eight to the Reds, but took several prizes themselves. One Red armored train fell at Lida in spring 1919. hi March 1920, the Polish train Grozny set a mine ahead on the tracks and captured Red train No, 56 Communard, Two of Budenny's trains were ambushed and taken on 2 June, No. 72 In Honor of Nikolai Rudnev and

Ukrainian Armored Train

No. 82 Death to the Dim lory. The Poles captured several more that summer, including No. 45 and No. 60 In Honor of Karl Liebknecht. Two were taken during their armored car raid on kovel, 12 September 1920.

It was not unusual for an armored train to serve several masters during the civil war period. For example. Red train Comrade Vomshikw had been taken by Ukrainian forces early in 1919 and dubbed the Sichavyi On 24 May, the Poles captured the train and renamed it the GeneralDowbor. Budenny's horse troops derailed this train on 23 June 1920 and slaughtered the crew; thereby reclaiming it for the Soviet Republic.

Operations, Northern Front

Sixth Army used two armored trains on the Archangel and Murmansk fronts from summer 1918. Two more armored trains arrived in summer 1919 to meet the Allied-White offensive that came just prior to the Allied evacuation in September. Two remained in October 1919 after assets from "secondary" fronts were transferred to face growing threats in the south and northwest. The number rose to four again in spring 1920 when 6th Army finished off the Whites in the north. No. 20 Sebezhsky and No. 37 served with 6th Army in 1919. No. 45 in Honor of the 3rd International, No. 53 Soviet Latvia and No. 93 Gandzya reinforced 6th Army in December for operations in 1920.

Operations, Southern Front

Several new: states emerged out of the ashes of the Russian Empire. The Central Rada took power in the Ukraine and declared independence in January 1918. Meanwhile, the Bolsheviks negotiated the terms of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with the Central Powers, signing on 3 March.

The Germans and their Austro-Hungarian allies surged across the Ukraine, reaching Rostov-on-Don on 8 May. On 29 April, Hetman Pavel Skoropadsky ousted the Rada and established the Director)', a political entity backed by the Germans. Simultaneously, the Don Cossacks under Ataman Petr Krasnov rose against the Bolsheviks and began accepting considerable German aid.

The Reds had used three armored trains against the Don Cossacks in January, but by early summer the majority of dieir armored strength was concentrated in die 10th Army for the defense of Tsaiitsyn (later Stalingrad, now Volgograd), I lere, Stalin, Budenny and Voroshilov began their long and legendary association. Commander F. N, Alyabaiev collected fifteen armored trains to oppose the Cossack advance, among them Artek, Artem, Bryansk, In Memory of Rudnev, Lenin, Lightning, No. 26 Bolshevik, No. 29 Communist, No. 38 Black Seaman, No. 42 3rd International, the 1st Don and the 2nd Siberian.

The Cossacks were numerically equal to the Red 8th, 9dt and 10th Armies facing them during their offensives in summer and autumn 1918, but they possessed less artillery and machine guns and only eight armored trains. The Reds defended Tsaiitsyn with trenches and barbed wire, their flanks along the Volga River being secured by gunboats. Alyabaiev"s armored trains used the rail network Servicing this critical city on three sides to confound

No. 27 Siorm, crew and flag, 13th Army, Southern Front, winter 1919-20. The train included two armored gun wagons, each with two revolving turrets (76.2mm field pieces) and six Maxims. Storm appears in "winter camouflage," probably shades of white and gray, and green conifer branches. (Koiomiets)

Red Army Latvia 1919 BudenovkaKiev Army Group Afsr

Armored train Communist, Commander F, N. Alyabaiev's group, 10th Army, Tsaritsyn, 191S-19. The front gun wagon carried the white inscription: 'Beware, Cadets, the Commune is Flying" (see last two words on front). This train, with red flags and white ribbons, has Maxim machine guns atop the turrets "on parade." The front gun is 76.2mm. (Deryabin)

Armored train Communist, Commander F, N. Alyabaiev's group, 10th Army, Tsaritsyn, 191S-19. The front gun wagon carried the white inscription: 'Beware, Cadets, the Commune is Flying" (see last two words on front). This train, with red flags and white ribbons, has Maxim machine guns atop the turrets "on parade." The front gun is 76.2mm. (Deryabin)

the Cossack advance. At one point in October, the 30 guns of the battle group secretly deployed and concentrated point-blank fire to drive the Cossacks from the suburbs. After months of trials, the "Red Verdun" held.

In November, one Red train, No. 1 Rifle Ri'gimenl in Honor of Karl Marx, seized the Cossack town of Liski by a coup de main. While the rifle regiment enveloped the environs, die train drove straight into the station and a landing party debouched in strength, capturing two armored trains.

Meanwhile, the southern flank of the Don Cossacks had been anchored by General Denikin's Volunteer Army, which battled Soviet 11th and 12th Armies in the Kuban and northern Caucasus throughout summer and autumn 1918. Commander S. M. Kirov repaired and constructed six armored trains in the workshops of Vladikavkaz in the northern Caucasus in 1918: No. 1 Istrebitel (Destroyer), For Power of Working People (later No. 1 Varangian), No. 2 Victory or Death (previously Put Hovels), No. 2 Bogatyr [Hero, later 3rd International), No. 3 Grozny (Threatening) and Uglekop (Coal Miner, later designated No. 66). Dentkin annihilated 11 th and 12th Armies between November 1918 and February 1919, capturing the Destroyer and Victory or Death in January.

The Cossacks, meanwhile, had been struggling against (from west to east) 13th, 8th, 9th, and 10th Armies and had failed in a third attack on Tsaritsyn in January, The Red Southern Army Group had almost brought the Cossacks to their knees. Consequently, Krasnov resigned and Ataman Bogaevsky took his place, uniting his command with Denikin into the new Armed Forces of South Russia (AFSR). The Volunteer Army moved to secure the Cossack western flank in the Don Basin while the Caucasian Army under P. N. Wrangel secured the eastern flank.

By May 1919, Southern Army Group possessed 35 armored trains, of which 27 were operational. These were distributed as follows: 13th Army (13), 8th Army (6). 9th Army (3) and 10th Army (5). A large number also existed in 14th Army and in the reconstituted 12th Army, both positioned in the Ukraine. During Denikin's Moscow offensive from July through September, 12th and 14th Armies alone lost between 37 and 40 armored trains. Thirteenth Army suffered similarly debilitating casualties.

Partially offsetting diese reverses, 14 trains from the reserve arrived in the southern sectors by October and a further six to Budenny's 1st Horse Army (Konarm'm) in December. The Konanniya, with 21 guns of 76.2mm to 120mm caliber and 60 machine guns, represented a powerful striking force during the long White retreat from November 1919 through to April 1920, The following armored trains look a notable part in this, operating in battle groups, and in the see-saw battles that transpired around Rostov and Bataisk in February and March 1920: Nos. 2, 3, 56, 63, 72, 73, 82 and 100.

The AFSR lost nearly all its trains to the advancing Reds, including ten in the Orel-Kursk-Be I go rod sector, five at Bakhmut and 23 that were stranded in the Kuban and northern Caucasus. Noting the experiences of both sides, armored trains were very vulnerable during a major retreat

Armoured Train Trotsky

FAR LEFT Leon Trotsky as People's Commissar for Military and Naval Affairs, Petrograd Station, March 1921. The commander at right is in red leather from shoulder to foot, the budenovka helmet in red leather or felt with red button. A British officer captured in North Russia remembered Trotsky's special guard in Moscow in December 1919: "These were wild looking fellows dressed in all red uniform with strange looking double-pointed helmets made of red cloth.'' Trotsky desired his staff to wear leather, which, "always make men look heavily imposing." (Getty-Hulton)

LEFT Badge of Trotsky's staff and bodyguard. Trotsky recalled: "On the left arm, just below the shoulder, each wore a large metal badge ..." Colors: silver with red and white enamei inlays with the following inscriptions: (top) "Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic" or RSFSR, (center) "Chairman of Revolutionary Military Council," (bottom) "L. Trotsky." (Deryabin)

As Bolshevik attention turned to the unfolding Russo-Polish War, surviving Whites under General Wrangei formed a bastion Lit the Crimea and spread outward into the Tauride and along die Dnieper River and the Sea of Azov. The resurgent Whites captured 19 Red armored trains during engagements from June to October. Final Soviet operations against the Dnieper and then Perekop included 17 armored trains, six in Lhe 3rd Armored Train Group attached to 13th Army.

Never before or since did armored (rains play such a significant role in military history as in the Russian Civil War. A dispatch from Polish 3rd Army in 1920 stated: "Armored trains are the most serious and terrible opponent. They are well-designed, acting surprisingly desperately and decisively . .. our infantry is powerless against them." While enduring the siege at Tsarilsvn in October 1918, Voroshilov commented: "Armored trains fight bravely and desperately. If we could ever win this battle, it would be thanks to die armored trains."

Trotsky's Command Train

Trotsky made 36 tours of die front from 1918 to 1921 in what he referred to simply as "the train." Formed in Moscow on 7 August 1918 (two armored engines, 12 wagons), the train immediately reinforced the Volga Front with a shock force of Latvian Riflemen.

Eventually, there were several armored machine-gun wagons, a petrol tanker, flat beds for wheeled vehicles, a secretariat wagon, several supply wagons, a printing press, a telegraph station, an aerial antenna which could receive transmissions from thirteen foreign locations, a bath wagon, an electrical power station, a kitchen, a library, a musical band and two aircraft, Trotsky divided the train into two echelons during the second half of the civil war. According to eyewitness Victor Serge, the train had one gun and a separate train followed with 300 cavalry.

Personnel included an elite company of bodyguards, over 100 strong, two secretaries, cooks, a photographer, a film camera man, printing staff for the train's newspaper En Route, mechanics, rail engineers and communications technicians. Socially, the group contained workers, sailors, intellectuals, and several dozen political agiiators and communists, all armed with the best weapons. At first, the echelon had 250 personnel. 14 but this could have doubled over time.

Chinese Armored Train
(Jo. 19 Volunteer, 7th Army, near Petrograd, August-November 1919. Mote red flag, white letters "Armored Train No. 19." The revolving turret has a 76.2mm gun and Maxim machine gun {one Maxim on each side). {Deryabin)

On board were five automobiles appropriated from the Tsar's garage, one of tin em Trotsky's command car; a Rolls-Royce outfitted with two machine guns. Several light tnicks could detrain and cam7 emergency supplies to the front. Thirty sharpshooters accompanied the boss during his tight schedule of visitations at local headquarters, when haranguing the masses, or wherever an elite platoon could make a difference. According to Trotsky: 'The train linked the front with the base, solved urgent problems on the spot, educated, appealed, supplied, rewarded, and punished." Punishments included summary executions by firing squad. The train often traveled at 70km/hr for security. The Whites attacked several times with artillery and aircraft, but inflicted only 15 casualties (15 more listed as "missing"). The train received the "Order of the Red Banner1' for actions near Petrograd in 1919.

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  • Charlotte Williamson
    Where are omsk, petrograd, and moscow?
    9 years ago

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