ARMOURED CARS PART 2

 

 

Armoured Cars of Finnish Army in World War 2

 

 

Soviet development of armoured cars from 1917 to 1939:

When it comes to armoured cars used by Finnish Army in World War 2, almost all of them were captured Soviet vehicles. Hence I will start their story by telling little about their origin. As already mentioned in this website, armoured cars that the Bolsheviks took over and captured during Russian Civil War (1917 1923) served Soviet Red Army until early 1930's. Since armoured cars had played important role in Russian Civil War, it was only natural that the Red Army wished them to be replaced with new and more modern designs. Imperial Russia had possessed only limited manufacturing capacity for manufacturing of armoured cars during World War 1 and while Soviet Union was rapidly industrialised in 1920's, acquiring the know-how for mass-producing motor vehicles and building the industrial base required for this took its time. Maybe the most important single factor in this was the contract, in which the Soviets entered with Ford Motor Company in May of 1929. As a result of that contract Soviet industry received blueprints for Ford-A, Ford-AA and Ford-Timken trucks. These became the truck models, with which the Soviet automobile industry was basically started. Production of these trucks was started already year 1930 in two factories - Gudok Oktyabrya (in Nizhny Novgorod) and KIM factory (Moscow Auto Zavod in Moscow). Ford Corporation build also the Soviets a new factory named NAZ (Nizhny Novgorod Auto Zavod) in Nizhny Novgorod (soon to be renamed Gorkiy), which also started manufacturing Ford trucks in year 1932. Godok Oktyabrya and NAZ were merged as a single factory, which was renamed as GAZ (Gorkiy Auto Zavod) in mid 1930's. While these factories provided chassis and engine, also armoured hulls were needed for manufacturing armoured cars. These armoured hulls were provided by Vyksinskiy and Izhorskiy plants, which had designed and manufactured such hulls already during World War 1. These two plants also took care in assembling of the armoured cars.

It must be noted that after the 1929 treaty Soviet armoured development went into two distinctly separate lines - light armoured cars designed mainly for reconnaissance work and heavy armoured cars, which suited well also for combat use. The first Soviet light armoured cars used modified GAZ-A (Ford-A) chassis. These included non-turreted D-8 and D-12, which were followed by the first turreted Soviet light armoured car - FAI. All the armoured cars introduced after FAI - FAI-M, BA-20, BA-20M and BA-64 all used new Soviet-designed stronger chassis designs. With the heavy armoured cars BA-I, BA-3, BA-6 and BA-10 they were the main armoured car types used by Soviet Red Army during World War 2. In addition some of them were used in Spanish Civil War and Soviet - Japanese battles around Khalkhin Gol in 1939. Captured vehicles of these types saw some use with German military during World War 2 and with Finnish Army both during and after World War 2.

 

Finnish use of armoured cars in World War 2:

When World War 2 started Finnish Army had only one armoured car - Landsverk 182. This was also the only armoured car used in combat by Finnish military during Winter War and even it saw very little fighting. During Winter War (Nov 1939 - March 1940) Finnish Army captured 21 Soviet armoured cars, this seems to have included all models of Soviet armoured cars, which are listed in these pages. Some of the captured vehicles also apparently saw use with Finnish troops already during Winter War, but it seems that they didn't see much combat use with Finnish military yet at that time. Apparently at least one captured armoured car may have been used in battle in Suomussalmi area. Most of the captured armoured vehicles taken to Finnish use required repairs before being issued to Finnish units. So the number of vehicles that could be immediately issued wasn't anywhere as large as after the repairs. During Winter War the area of Hyökkäysvaunukeskuskorjaamo (Tank Centre Repair Shop soon to be renamed as Panssarikeskuskorjaamo / Armour Centre Repair Shop) was filled with captured Soviet armoured vehicles, that had suffered varying level of damage. Even with the repairs generally starting from the least damaged vehicles, getting the captured vehicles back to operational condition took time - too much time for them to get issued for Finnish units in any real numbers until Winter War had already ended.

After Winter War captured armoured cars were concentrated to Tank Battalion (Panssaripataljoona), which also used some of them during Continuation War, but it wasn't their main user during first year of Continuation War. When Continuation War started in June of 1941 Finnish Army issued to many of its army corps and divisions reinforcements in form of separate tank and armoured car platoons. Three of these platoon-size armoured units were armoured car platoons (Panssariautojoukkue) created by Tank Battalion. Two of these three platoons (2nd and 7th Armoured Car Platoons) were equipped with heavy BAF armoured cars (Soviet BA-series heavy armoured cars), took part in combat in year 1941 and lost three of their vehicles. The third one (5th Armoured Car Platoon) was equipped with BAB armoured cars (light Soviet armoured cars), but suffered repeated technical problems first with them and later with amphibious tanks, which were issued to this unit as their replacements. 2nd Armoured Car Platoon served early on II Army Corps and later its 2nd Division. 5th Armoured Car Platoon was first with Group O and 7th Armoured Car Platoon was given to VII Army Corps. All three platoons were disbanded in January - February 1942. Once this had happened, their armoured cars were transferred to Armour Division (Panssaridivisioona), which was created from expanded Tank Battalion, 1st Jaeger Brigade and other units. Armour Division used them mainly as liaison/dispatch vehicles used by headquarters of tank battalions, tank companies and jaeger battalions. Some were also used as command and radio vehicles. Being fast on the roads and having enough armour to provide adequate protection against shrapnel, they proved highly successful in this role. Occasionally they were also used for transporting of wounded soldiers and supplies (like ammunition). Two other armoured car platoons created for Continuation War and used as reinforcements of Army Corps were short-lived 1st Armoured Car Platoon and probably notably more long-lasting 4th Armoured Car Platoon. 1st Armoured Car Platoon belonging to 4th Division (part of IV Army Corps), had three armoured cars and was disbanded already in mid June of 1941. 4th Armoured Car Platoon serving VI Army Corps likely wasn't disbanded until year 1942. Also armoured cars of these two platoons were likely transferred to Tank Battalion / Armour Division after the platoons had been disbanded.

PICTURE: Two BAF C (BA-10) armoured cars in use of Finnish Army during Continuation War. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (54 KB).

However Armour Division wasn't the only unit of Finnish Army to use armoured cars after early 1942. In large forests north of Lake Laatokka/Ladoga, where Finnish 3rd Army Corps and 14th Division were located, Finnish supply routes were long, frontlines contained large poorly guarded areas and huge forests provided plenty of places for military units to move and hide without getting easily spotted. The Soviets didn't fail to use this opportunity frequently for sending units behind Finnish lines to attack these supply routes. For securing their transports these two Finnish Army formations created four separate armoured car platoons (Erillinen Panssariautojoukkue). First of these separate armoured car platoons was 21st Separate Armoured Car Platoon established by 3rd Army Corps in June of 1942 and equipped with four BAF armoured cars. January of 1943 this platoon was replaced with two new platoons - 7th and 9th Separate Armoured Car Platoons, which each had 3 armoured cars and were not disbanded until year 1944. 14th Division created 5th Separate Armoured Car Platoon in May of 1943, this platoon escorted transports, guarded important bridges and assisted antitank training until disbanded in October of 1944 after ending of the war. Also General Headquarters of Finnish Armed Forces created 1st Separate Armoured Car Platoon equipped with BAF armoured cars in January of 1943, this unit was first given to 7th Division, but was soon transferred to Lapland, where it patrolled important roads until disbanded in November of 1944. The last of Finnish official World War 2 era separate armoured car platoons was 3rd Armoured Car Platoon created by General Headquarters of Finnish Armed Forces in January of 1943. This platoon equipped with two BAF armoured cars had really existed until August of 1942, but now it was made official and took part in several battles until disbanded in October of 1944. In addition to these "official" armoured car platoons, some units of Finnish Army created some more or less semi-official small units equipped with tanks and armoured cars. The best known of these was Armoured Unit (Panssariosasto) of 1st Division, which was created in summer of 1941. This Armoured Unit had two platoons - Tank Platoon and Armoured Car Platoon. Its Armoured Car Platoon had two BAF C (BA-10) heavy armoured cars and one of a kind Landsverk 182 heavy armoured car. Lacking proper maintenance and repairs personnel and equipment Armoured Unit of 1st Division was disbanded in end of year 1941. Due to not having armoured car force before World War 2 the training level of Finnish armoured car crews varied and wasn't too good especially early on. Armoured car platoons of Continuation War typically contained men, who either had previous tank training (with Renault FT-17) or had no training or experience of armoured vehicles at all.

More Soviet armoured cars were captured during Continuation War. During it Finnish Army apparently also took into its own use 29 of the captured Soviet armoured cars. Most likely all of these were captured in year 1941, when Finnish offensive provided oppurtunities for capturing Soviet heavy weaponry. The high-water mark in Finnish use of captured armoured cars was around late 1943 - early 1944. Inventory of that time indicates that Finnish Army had 45 captured armoured cars in its use, 21 of these were light armoured cars and 24 were heavy armoured cars. With the long trench war in Finnish - Soviet front from December of 1941 to June of 1944, there were no losses or little chances of capturing additional armoured cars. During the heavy fighting started by Soviet offensive in June of 1944 Finnish Army retreated in most parts of the front until it succeeded halting Soviet advance. Five of the captured armoured cars were lost in those battles.

PICTURE: Armoured cars of 7th Armoured Car Platoon in city of Äänislinna / Petroskoi / Petrozavodsk in October of 1941. The vehicles in the photo are BAF C (BA-10M) R-22 and BAF A (BA-3) R-21. The third armoured car of this platoon had been lost in battle about two weeks earlier. (SA-kuva photo archive, photo number 56226). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (117 KB).

Finnish Army armoured cars seriously damaged or lost due to battle damage during World War 2:

lost vehicle:

When:

unit to which it belonged:

lost how:

BAF armoured car

7th of July 1941

2nd Armoured Car Platoon

handgrenade hit (*)

BAF armoured car

7th of July 1941

2nd Armoured Car Platoon

armour piercing bullets (*)

BAF armoured car

25th of Sept. 1941

2nd Co/Tank Battalion

antitank-mine

BAF armoured car

28th of Sept. 1941

7th Armoured Car Platoon

aa-gun hit, burned

BAB armoured car

14th of June 1944

Jaeger Battalion 3

antitank-mine

BAB armoured car

15th of June 1944

3rd Co/Tank Brigade

got stuck to a crater

BAB armoured car

17th of June 1944

2nd Co/Assault Gun Battalion

mobility kill due to hit(s)

BAF armoured car

27th of June 1944

2nd Battalion/Tank Brigade

antitank-mine

BAF armoured car

18th of July 1944

7th Sep. Armoured Car Plt

damaged by antitank-mine

BAF armoured car

21st of July 1944

7th Sep. Armoured Car Plt

damaged by antitank-mine

(*) These two armoured cars were later repaired and returned to use.

Once Continuation War ended in September of 1944, with it ended also the immediate need for armoured car platoons. After Armour Division had been disbanded Finnish Army found little use for light armoured cars. Hence 27th of December 1944 the remaining 18 light armoured cars were transferred to various police departments of Finnish Police. Law enforcement didn't find much of use for them either, so those 18 light armoured cars were returned back to Finnish Defence Forces in May of 1946. Finnish military kept the last 16 remaining captured light armoured cars warehoused until they were declared obsolete 30th of November 1951. The captured heavy armoured cars remained bit longer in Finnish use, with last of them being removed from military use not until year 1959. Sadly, at that time historical value of these vehicles was not understood, so besides one BA-20M and one BA-10M now residing in Finnish Armour Museum in Parola, all other captured armoured cars were scrapped.

Unfortunately the number of all captured Soviet armoured car models repaired and re-issued by Finnish Army can't be determined for certain. This is due to wartime Finnish Army naming and inventory systems. These knew most of captured light Soviet armoured cars (FAI, FAI-M, BA-20 and BA-20M) simply as BAB armoured cars and heavy captured Soviet armoured cars (BA-3, BA-6, BA-10 and BA-10M) simply as BAF armoured cars. Shortly said Finnish Army inventories of armoured cars made before year 1944 didn't specify number of other armoured cars more accurately and nowadays it is impossible to determine for sure, how many of each light armoured car model saw Finnish use. However, when it comes to the heavy armoured cars the inventory lists of 1944 provide a rough number of about how many were in Finnish use and this information has been used in following pages.

Soviet and Finnish naming system for armoured cars:

Soviet:

Finnish:

FAI

BAB A

FAI-M

BAB B

BA-20

BAB B

BA-20M

BAB B

BA-3

BAF A

BA-6

BAF B

BA-10/BA-10M

BAF C

 

How good were they?

It must be noted that while Soviet heavy armoured cars of 1930's had excellent weaponry by standards of that time. The Soviet 45-mm tank gun used in captured heavy armoured cars was one of the best tank guns of 1930's, but was soon outclassed as an antitank-weapon by the ever heavier armour introduced during World War 2. Yet due to its effective high explosive shell, these guns remained useful against soft targets.

When it comes to their armour protection, these vehicles were not quite as spectacular. Soviet heavy armoured cars quite lightly armoured and the light armoured cars had even thinner armour. Finnish wartime antitank-manuals suggest that both could be destroyed with standard Finnish 7.62 mm x 54R ammunition loaded with armour-piercing bullets (7.62 kiv. D-ps pv i. sid) loaded with armour-piercing bullets from maximum shooting distances of:

Also practically any weapon above rifle caliber could destroy these vehicles. There is reason to suspect that Finnish Army may have equipped the armoured cars used as radio vehicles with new radios. Finnish experiences of the original Soviet 71-TK-1 and 71-TK-3 radios were far from positive. Typical fault was that their receivers failed keeping the correct frequency, which made their use unreliable. The problems with captured 71-TK-1 and 71-TK-3 radios were at least partly solved by adding a new Finnish-made receiver to many of these radios. There may have been also another radio model used in the captured armoured cars. Finnish radio manufacturer Helvar had designed its own small short-range VHF-radio, which Finnish Army knew as P-12-12u, while it didn't work properly in T-26 tanks due to too primitive electrical system, it may have been used in some of the captured armoured cars. Finnish military routine replaced old Soviet frame radio antennas with new whip antennas.

PICTURE: VRKH P-12-12u radio also known with nickaname "Kukkopilli". Finnish Army installed this radio to some armoured vehicles during Continuation War. Photo taken in Viestimuseo (Signal Museum, Riihimäki). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (135 KB).

The naming system of each vehicle used in the following pages is combination of the Finnish and Soviet one. The name used first is what the Finnish Army used for them and the more accurate Soviet name marked after it put in brackets.

 

Sources used for making this page are listed in Armoured Cars part 4.


Last updated 20th of June 2013
Webmaster: JTV jtvalias@hotmail.com
Copyrights (pictures, text and graphics): Jaeger Platoon Website.