Before the red dawn of the Bolshevik October Revolution of 1917. only one other nation. Great Britain, possessed more armored cars than did Russia. The Russian Ministry of Defense had established its first armored car formation, the 1st Armored Automobile Company, on 19 August 1914, shortly after the outbreak of World War 1. By the end of summer 1917, the Russians had produced at least 201 armored cars and had imported over 34(i cars or chassis, mostly f rom Britain, France, the United States and Italy.
Most of these had fallen into the hands of the new Red Army by the end ol 1917. Consequently, (he White armies that began funning in the Kuban, the Don, in the north and along the Volga, either had to create makeshift armored cars, wait for Allied aid to arrive, or seize them from their Red opponents.
Don Cossack armored car Ataman Bogaevsky, Austin, third production series, in Rostov-on-Don, 1919. The car was named for the Cossack host leader who succeeded Ataman Krasnov early in 1919. General A.P. Bogaevsky fought alongside the Volunteer Army from the first campaign in the Kuban and remained, faithfully, to the last. His name appears in white below the turret and beneath that is the black triangle with black border and yellow field insignia of the Don Cossacks, which they painted on their armored cars, trains and aircraft. The Russian colors of blue, red and white are on the roundel in front and demonstrate the Don Cossacks' subordination to the Armed Forces of South Russia under General Denikin. A white stripe is to the rear. One searchlight is atop the turret opposite the driver. (Deryabin)
White Army orders of battle and memoirs ol the 1918-22 period record many makes and variants ol' armored cars. Additionally there were almost as many smaller modifications as the number of cars themselves, a fact dictated by local needs and creativity, lack of parts, battle damage and a lack of centralized coordination between the fronts. Most of the cars imported by the Whites during the Civil War came from Britain. There seems to have been no factory under White jurisdiction that specilicalh produced armored cars. Armored cars were repaired or modified according to local capabilities behind the disparate fronts.
Armored cars in the While armies included the Austin first, second and third series, each with Russian modifications made during World War I (described below), and several Russian makes that included: Russo-Balt (Tell made in 1914, three 7.02mm Maxim machine guns) Jeffrey-Poplavko (31 made in 1916, two 7.62mm machine guns) Filiatov (Ten made in 1916 with two 7.62mm machine guns, 20 with only one)
76mm gun, three 7.62mm Maxim machine guns) Packard (31 made in 1916, one auto 37mm gun) Fiat-I/horski (47 made in 1917, two 7.62mm machine guns) Russia also had access to numbers of Lanchester, Ben/, White, Peerless. Pierce-Arrow Naval, Armstrong-VMiitworth-Fiat, Armstrong-Whitworth-Jeflries and Fibra armored cars. Only a handful of each make (except lor the Austin series described below) could be found distributed amongst the various White forces scattered throughout the former Russian Empire. For this reason, a more thorough examination of Russia's production in World War I and subsequent Red capability will be given in the second part of this series, Armored Units of the Russian Civil War Red Army.
The best and most numerous armored car in the White inventor) was the Austin, especially the modified second and third series. In September 1914, the Russians had asked the Austin Motor Company Ltd., based in Birmingham, England, to build 18 armored cars with two turrets each carrying a single machine gun that could engage two targets simultaneously. The result was the 30-hp, rear axle driven Austin first series, Model 1914. After being tested in combat, however, the Russians had to completely refit the vehicles with thicker 7mm (0.28in.) plate armor at the I/horski Works.
The British-produced Austin second series, Model 1915, began arriving in Russia in August 1915. This variant maintained side-by-side turrets, but had a stronger 1.5-ton truck chassis, 50-hp engine and thicker 8mm (0.31 in.) armor (probably only 5mm/0.20in. on top); the same armor also featured on the third series. The roof above the driver had been slanted
lo allow bolter visibility, but the rear exit door had been removed. The Russians modified these 60 armored cars by adding machine-gun shields, a rear access door and !>v constructing a rear driver's post, allowing the vehicle to Ik- driven backwards. All British-produced Austin series sent to Russia had a lef t driver's side door. All series modified inside Russia had two 7.62mm Maxim water-cooled machine guns and preferably carried 6,000 rounds.
Subsequently, the Russians ordered 60 Austin third series. Model 1916, armored cars and these arrived in the spring and summer of 1917. The third series featured diagonally positioned turrets that allowed lor a slimmer hull, and had been fitted with bulletproof glass in the front driver position. The second and third series Austin could attain speeds of 30-H8mph (50-60ktn/hr) and carried a crew of five: two drivers (front and rear), two machine-gunners and a commander.
From 1916, most armored cars, including the Austin, had been manufactured or modified with pneumatic tires Filled with a special bulletproof mass. Theoretically, all armored cars had felt-lined interiors to protect the crew against metal splinters. There were two other Austin variants, the "Russian Austin" and the Austin-Kegresse half-track, but these were manufactured under the auspices of the Red Army and were onlv available to the Whites as prizes of war.
On the battlefield, armored cars made their greatest contribution in psychological terms. Their arrival could cause panic in the enemy cavalry and infantry and immediately improve friendly morale, similar to the arrival of armored knights amidst foot soldiers in earlier centuries. In this new civil war of shock and mobility, armored cars maneuvered and emitted high rates of machine-gun fire at close distances. Opponents had to rely on their own artillery to drive the steel intruders from the field.
Moreover, armored cars frequently supported the advance of the numerous and often elite White cavalry, particularly in the southern ihetiter which had relatively solid and flat terrain. They could maneuver and anchor flanks or punch frontally, thereby multiplying the shock effect of the cavalry. Their turrets could rotate in nearly all directions, making them a superior fire platform to the famous tachanka, or Maxim machine-gun carl used by all sides, but especially by the Red Army, in the Civil War. Armored cars could provide a rallying point for further action or hold back an enemy advance during a retreat. For a brief period of lime they could secure a fixed point; and indefinitely, given infantry and artillery support and if properly resupplied.
Armored cars had several operational drawbacks, however. Roads in Russia were sparse and in bad repair. The inevitable bouncing that occurred on irregular roads or terrain naturally contributed to a wide
Austin armored car third production series Petliura in the Ukraine, winter 1919. So named for the dedicated Ukrainian nationalist, S.V. Petliura, who had ousted Hetman Skoropadsky's pro-German government and established the Directory early in 1919. The armored car stands on a jack in the rear for repairs. The roundel that appears below the turret and in the rear is in the Ukrainian national colors of light blue (center) and yellow. The name is in yellow or possibly white. Approximately 56 armored cars fell into the hands of the fractious Ukranian forces at the end of 1917. These fought the Reds, Whites, Greens, Blacks and sometimes each other. (Deryabin)
scatter pattern of fire and, consequently, great inaccuracy if firing on the move. Most machine-gun armored cars carried 12-20 belts while most gun vehicles contained 60 artillery rounds. This provision only allowed for perhaps a half-hour of combat before replenishment.
Further, the ranges of armored cars were from a low of 50 to a high of 150 miles (80-250ktn), the British-produced Austin series coming in at approximately 150 miles. Operational planning and provision for additional fuel could make the difference between an effective combat vehicle and an immobile one, vulnerable to capture. Above all, a simple muddy road or a destroyed bridge could be- the dividing line between success or an aborted deployment.
Finally, conditions inside an armored car were not optimal. Temperatures reached 120-140 degrees Fahrenheit (50-60°C); therefore, hatches had to be kepi open until actually under fire. Utile could be heard by the crew inside due to the chatter of machine guns and roaring of the engine.
Mark V composite tank No. 9085 with British crew at Archangel, North Russian Tank Detachment, late summer 1919. Note white-red-white stripes on the front side. The sponson has been retracted either for ease of movement through the streets or simply to appear less threatening to the local populace. (Tank Museum)
Armored cars in the North and Northwest
A few armored cars served with the Whites on the Northern Front, but severe weather, sparse roads and marshy ground confined these to patrols around Archangel. Only one of these, photographed in fall 1919, is known; an Austin third series called United Russia.
Two armored cars participated in General Nikolai Nikolaevich Yudenich's offensive on St. Petersburg in October 1919 (known as Petrograd to the Red Army and later Leningrad). The first car, Russia, a Fiat, with large, white equal-sided crosses on the front and sides, had captured the second car from the Reds in July. These were attached to the 5th Livenski Rifle Division, 1st Rille Corps. According to White artillery officer A.S. Gershelman, the cars performed excellently on the relatively good road system near St. Petersburg.
The White Western Army, commanded by Colonel Prince Bermondt-Avalov, owned 10 armored cars of various Russian and German makes. The Western Army, being heavily supplied by Germany, became involved in the geopolitical struggle for the Baltic states rather than supporting Yudenich. The Western Army cooperated with the German Iron Division and the Freikorps, units that possessed ai least two more armored cars and two armored trains.
The Estonian Republic emerged as a new stale in November 1918, after the collapse of the Russian Empire. By July 1919 the Estonians possessed two armored cars, Toonela and Estonia. Three more, including a Garford, were captured from the Reds during the Yudenich offensive that fall. In December, after the collapse of the White Northwestern Army, the Estonians merged their live armored cars into their divizion of armored trains.
Generals L.G. Kornilov, M.V. Alekseev and A.I. Denikin formed the Volunteer Army, a small band of elite volunteers, at Rostov-on-Don in the winter of 1917-1918. Forced into the Kuban by large numbers of Red Guards, the volunteers embarked on one of the most remarkable and heroic chapters of military history. These Whites owned no armor during their desperate encounters with Red Guards in the First Kuban Campaign or Ire March. However, Colonel M.C. Drozdovsky's volunteers arrived as reinforcements in May with the armored car Verni (Peerless truck chassis, one gun, three machine guns, eight crew).
The Volunteer Army deployed one armored car divizion (a divizion being two or more detachments of armored cars) with six vehicles during the second Kuban campaign in the summer and fall of 1918: Verni, Komilovels, Partium, Kubanets, General Markov and Dolmrvelets, most having been captured from the Reds. During the campaign, the Kornilov Shock Regiment captured an armored car, renamed the Korn Havels, and the Vityaz ("Knight") joined the Volunteers. During hard lighting, the crew of the Vityaz blew themselves up with their vehicle rather than be captured. In honor of this deed, the Volunteers named a new car Pamyat Vityaz (meaning "In Memory of the Knight").
The Armored Car Divizion absorbed more casualties, but continued to grow. The General Markov inflicted large losses on the enemy in July at Krylovskaia before being destroyed by artillery in August. That fall the railway workshops at Tikhoretskaia produced three cars, the General Alekseev, Russia And Diktator, built on Burford, Jeffries and White truck chassis. Additional armored cars captured from the Reds at Vladikavkaz in Januar)' 1919 brought the total number to 16.
These went through a series of reorganizations as a response to the formation of the Armed Forces of South Russia (AFSR) in February 1919 and ongoing military operations. After shattering the southern front of the Red Army in the spring. Denikin ordered the advance on Moscow. The Volunteer Army moved along the rails, taking Kharkov, Kursk and finally Orel while the Caucasian Army seized Tsaritsyn (later Stalingrad) and the Don Army moved to Voronezh. The left flank of the Volunteers secured Kiev and moved north.
These extraordinary advances took a heavy toll on the armored cat's and many were under repair by the fall. On the other hand, the AFSR acquired new vehicles and had formed additional armored car divizions by September-October 1919 (see also Don Cossack armored cars section below): Volunteer Army (General Mai-Maevsky) Assigned to Headquarters: Artillerist 1st Armored Car Divizion
Kornilovets, one Fiat, one Düsseldorf, I Ac hoi (all under repair, waiting assignment) 1st Armored Car Detachment (with elite 1st Corps): Dobrovolets (under repair), General Drozdovsks, Kubauets
3rd Armored Car Detachment (1st Corps): Hero (under repair), Slavni, General Kornilov 4th Armored Car Detachment: General Slikuro (under repair) Caucasian Army (General Wrangel) 2nd Armored ()ar Divizion All cars undergoing various repairs)
White Russian band entertains Americans at Archangel, 1918-19. The Austin third series armored car is the United Russia (white letters). (National Archives)
The Medium B also had maximum %in. armor arid a crew of four. The first prototype of this new medium tank had only been seen in September 1918. The cab had been placed up front, the opposite of the Whippet. The B model stood 8ft 6in. (2.59m), had a length of 22ft 9in. (6.94m) and a width of 8ft 10in. (2.69m). Clocking in at 18 tons, the tank had a maximum speed of 6.1mph (9.8km/hr) with its Ricardo-designed 100hp engine. Seven machine-gun stations could be configured: five in the superstructure and two in the small sponsons on each side that also served as doors. The B had a maximum range of 65 miles (104km). This photo shows White Army personnel of the North Russian Tank Corps, commanded by Colonel Kenotkenich, in mixed British-Russian uniform, Solombala, near Archangel, September 1919. Ten officers and 24 enlisted men comprised the Corps. The tank in the foreground is No. 1613, one of the two Medium B tanks sent out with the British North Russia Tank Detachment. One Medium B and one Mark V were left behind for the North Russian Tank Corps when the British evacuated Archangel on 27 September 1919. British white-red-white Royal Tank Corps stripes are on the front side. (Tank Museum)
1st Armored Car Detachment: Nadezhni, Khrabryi, Steregushchi 2nd Armored Car Detachment: Vigilant, Brave, Miglily (all Austin third series)
3rd Armored Car Detachment: MstiteL, General Markov (11), Doblestnyi Labinets, General Ulagai (latter two armored tractors) Independent Forces of Novorossisk Region (region included northern shore of Sea of Azov) 3rd Armored Car Divizion
1st Armored Car Detachment: Grornoboi, Ilya Mouromets, Krechet 2nd Armored Car Detachment: General Slmchex), Orlenok, Redki 3rd Armored Car Detachment: Diktator, Krymets (under repair) Independent Forces of Kiev Region
2nd Armored Car Detachment: General Alekseev, Silni, Russia (gun car) Reserve Armored Car Divizion AFSR Headquarters, Taganrog
Also separate detachment operating in North Caucasus, including the Pamyat Vityaz.
Each divizion had mobile workshops and tanker and cargo trucks at base headquarters. Whenever possible, cargo trucks, light automobiles and motorcycles accompanied each detachment. A fourth operational divizion began forming at Kiev in October, but probably did not reach full establishment before the general retreat.
The decisive battles in the campaign for Moscow occurred from Orel to Voronezh in October-November 1919. Over-extended and facing a far more numerous and well-supplied enemy, the elite Volunteers fought valiantly for six weeks at Orel. The defeat of the Cossacks at Voronezh and Kastornaia caused the Volunteers to withdraw in good fighting order along the railway to Kursk, Kharkov, Rostov and finally to Novorossisk. Volunteer units in the Ukraine attempted to retreat to the Crimea. The majority of the armored cars had been lost in action or captured by April 1920.
After the defeat of the AFSR and the evacuation to the Crimea, supreme command devolved on General Baron l'.N. Wrangel, who capably set about re-forming the army and restoring morale in April 1920. Wrangel established the Reserve Armored Car and Tank Divizion, which became responsible for training, repair and supply. Two armored car divizions had formed by May at Perekop. 1st Armored Car Divizion 1st Detachment: IvanSusanin (four machine guns, four officers, three soldiers), Krelchel (three machine guns, five officers, two soldiers), Ilya Mouromets (five machine guns, five officers, one soldier), Grornoboi (37mm Hotchkiss gun. 3in. mountain gun, two machine guns, four officers, six soldiers). 3rd Detachment: Krymets (three machine guns, four officers, two soldiers), Diktator (four machine guns, four officers, two soldiers).
2nd Armored Car Divizion
4ili Detachment: Derzki (one gun, one machine gnn, three officers, two soldiers), X'itytu (two machine guns, three olficers, two soldiers). 2nd Detachment (being formed).
5th and 6th Detachments (all 6th Detachment cars had 37mm Hotchkiss guns) were eventually established and other armored cars joined (Informations: for example, the Mstitel, Albion, EkatrrinosUiwts and Gundonwets. In total, 24 armored cars supported the breakout from the (Mmea into the Tauride in June. These participated in all subsequent major operations in the southern Ukraine, including the crossing of the Dnieper and the final retreat back into the Crimea in October.
A colorful example of White ingenuity took place on 2 November against the pursuing regiments of S.M. Budenny's Konarmiya (Horse Armv). Budenny's orders were to cut the Russian National Army in half, thereby preventing its rallying on the defenses at Perekop. Accompanied by several squadrons of cavalry, 20 White vehicles suddenly appeared in the ranks of the Red cavalry, attacking them in line formation. According to the testimony of one White officer, S. Mamontov, these gray-painted vehicles were improvised mobile fire platforms consisting of three-quarter ton American Ford light trucks, hastily constructed flatbed timber defenses and three machine guns each. These tore a swathe through the enemy ranks, butchering the Reds until evening when the trucks ran out of fuel. No doubt they had played a singular and heroic role in staring off disaster.
In the final days, however, several White armored cars were put out of action, destroyed by their owners or captured. The remaining 17 cars were handed over to the victorious Reds near Kerch by surviving members of the armored car divisions.
Mark V composite tanks of the British Northwest Russian Tank Detachment on the quay at Reval, Estonia, 6 August 1919. Commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel E. Hope-Carson, the detachment arrived to support General Yudenich's Northwestern Army. The almost indecipherable numbers on the tank in the foreground appear to indicate 9018. The Royal Tank Corps white-red-white stripes are barely distinguishable on the side to the front. Due to the angle of the sun, these markings are more readily apparent on the center Mark V. (Tank Museum)
Don armored car units began forming on paper in May 1918 under Atafnan I'.N. Krasnov. Two vehicles were captured from the Reds and repaired at the Don capital in Novocherkassk in August, not an easy-task since, according to army commander S.V. Denisov, all necessary parts and skilled workers were absent. The Don Armored Car Divi/.ion possessed six operational vehicles in April 1919, after Ataman A. Bogaevsky assumed leadership of the Don Host. The Don Armored Car Division had emerged by September: 1st Armored Car Detachment: Ust-Medvedilsa (altered Austin first series, two machine guns, seven crew), Ataman Kaledin, Steregushchi. 2nd Armored Car Detachment: Sokol (Fiat, two machine guns), I'ecfwneg (Fiat, two machine guns), ColonelBezmolitvenni (one gun, six machine guns, 14 crew)
Mark V composite tank No. 9261 having returned from operations against Petrograd, Estonia, late October 1919. White General Yudenich named the tank First Aid in August and the name appears in Russian in white letters on the side in front of the male sponson. The Russian national colors of red, blue and white appear vertically on the front side. The tank rests on a bed of logs, shaved flat on both sides to prevent slippage during transit. Due to the vast distances covered by many military operations and the limited effective range of the tanks, they were normally transported by rail. (Tank Museum)
3rd Armored Car Detachment: Lugano-Mityakinets (Austin, two machine guns), UstrBelokalitvinets, Parlaan (Austin, two machine guns, eight crew, lost shortly thereafter at Berdiansk).
Additional cars: Kazakh (Austin, two machine guns, eight crew), Spolokh (Lanchester, one gun, one machine gun, eight crew), Ust-Belokalityinets (Austin, two machine guns, seven crew), one armored tractor.
Two more were captured from the Reds in October, the General Kelchevsky (Austin, two machine guns) and the General Sidorm (Garford, 76.2mm mountain gun, two machine guns). A third, the Ataman Bogaevsky (Austin third series), may have been a gift from Denikin or the British.
All participated in the advance on Moscow. The Ataman Bogaevsky and General Kelchevsky, attached to General A.G. Shkuro's 3rd I lorse Corps, frequently penetrated Red lines and scattered the cavalry of Budenny's Konarmiya. All Don armored cars were lost during the long retreat to Novorossisk.
Cossack Ataman G.M. Semenov opened the White struggle against the Bolsheviks in Manchuria in the winter of 1917-18. Semenov threw a collection of Cossacks, freebooters and Austrian prisoners of war into an armored car detachment. The largely home-made vehicles consisted of several Italian light truck chassis with Minerva engines. Semenov's brutal lieutenant, Kalmykov, had at least one armored car in his Independent Mixed Ussuri Ataman Kalmykov Division.
Other Cossacks rebelled against Red control. While the Orenburg Cossacks do not seem to have had any armored cars, the Ural Cossacks had several, including the V.mei Gorynych, destroyed by the Reds in June 1918. General Denikin reinforced them with several British-produced armored cars early in 1919.
The (avil War along the Volga began in the summer of 1918 when the People's Army or KOMUCH formed a new provisional government in order to oppose the Bolsheviks. Two groups of armored cars participated in the several battles and may have assisted in the capture and defense of Kazan with Colonel V.O. Kappel's elite officer companies and the Czechs. The first unit, the 1st Simbirsk Armored Platoon, consisted of four armored cars and 40 crew. 1 his platoon may have been included in the 1st Kazan Armored Divizion that formed on 27 August.
The first Mark V had arrived in France in January 1918. This heavy tank came with a maximum plate armor of '/>in., a crew of eight, stood 8ft 8in. (2.64m) high, with a length of 26ft 5in. (8.06m) and a width of 12ft 9in. (3.89m). Weighing 29 tons, it was only capable of 4.6mph (7.4km/hr). The Russians nicknamed the tank "Ricardo" after the maker of its 150hp engine. Most of the Mark Vs sent to Russia were composites; they carried one "male" sponson with a 6-pdr. gun on one side and a "female" sponson with two Hotchkiss machine guns on the other. Additional machine guns could be carried, one in front, one in the rear and one in the male sponson. In addition to the standard Hotchkiss machine gun, Whites on the Southern Front were known to mount the Russian Maxim, the British Vickers and even the British Lewis machine guns inside the Mark V. The tank could operate for 45 miles (72km) before refueling. This photo shows a Mark V composite tank No. 9417 of the South Russian Tank Detachment, Novorossisk, 1919. The logs, rail ties, skid and blocks have been configured to prevent undue transit movement and to distribute the enormous weight of the tank along the wagon to prevent sagging. These wagons also had to have reinforced springs. The best of these platforms had to be imported from the US. (Tank Museum)
Admiral A.V. Kolchak assumed power as Supreme Ruler of all the Russias in Siberia in November 1918. An armored car division entered the While order of battle in December, assigned to the Stavka (General Staff) headquartered in Omsk. Three armored cars served in the Ufa Group of General Khan/in's Western Army during the climactic battles for the Volga region in summer 1919. Another of Kolchak's generals, S.N. Rozanov, had one detachment of armored cars in Vladivostok that he used to smash a socialist revolt in the city in November 1919.
Several armored cars were attached to the Czech Legion from 1918—20. Three captured at Penza in May 1918 included the Grozny> (Garford) and the Adski (modified Austin first series). Subsequently, both vehicles served as gun platforms aboard armored trains before ending their careers in the Far East in 1920, once again as armored cars.
Several more were taken from the Red Army during the Czech Legion's anabasis across Siberia in 1918, including a No. 36 Fiat, an Armstrong-Whitworth Fiat, a Fiat-lzhorski, and the Venomous (type unknown). Other prizes fell to (1/ech units dispersed across thousands of miles: one at Kazan, three at Troitsk and an unusual, home-made three-wheeled vehicle in Omsk mounted on a Ben/ chassis that in turn had been mounted on an armored train.
The Czechs defended Ekaterinburg with several armored cars in September I91N during the period in which they were instrumental in holding the Ural Front. After Kolchak's assumption of power in November, however, the Legion gradually began to withdraw from the front lines. Throughout 1919 Czech detachments protected a 20-mile strip along the Trans-Siberian Railway from marauding Red and Green partisans. Several armored cars were transferred by the Legion to Kolchak's troops in the course of the year. One White report mentioned a Czech armored car detachment in September 1919 consisting of four vehicles, several motorcycles and one armored train.
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