ARMOURED TRAINS

Part 1.1

Battles along the Railways in 1918

 

 

POHJANMAA RAILWAY (POHJANMAAN RATA)

Here the frontline sector with the railway became known as "Vilppula front" after name of the closest village. Pohjanmaa railway was the most the main attack route for the Reds for rather obvious reasons - along it behind the White Army lines were both strategically important Haapamäki railways crossroads and in Pohjanmaa harbours, through which White Army received supplies from Germany. However, these were not the only tempting highly tempting military targets along Pohjanmaa railway. Behind line of the Red Guards was city of Tampere, the largest Finnish inland industrial concentration and strong support point for the Reds. Tampere had one of the three most important Reds Headquarters (HQ of Northern Front) and it was main place to the Reds for supplying and rallying troops in this front. Frontlines had a visible bulge around Tampere and as it was natural troops concentration for the Red Guards, so Tampere was tempting attack target for the White Army, even if early on it didn't have enough strength for much of anything besides defensive battles. This part of the frontlines could also be described as "psychologically and ideologically charged" - Tampere was the main inland strongpoint for the Red Guards and Pohjanmaa in the north the main support area for the White Army. Considering these factors the high activity of red armoured trains in this railroad cannot really be considered as much a surprise.

PICTURE: Location of Vilppula front. Photo from Suomen Vapaussota vuonna 1918. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (135 KB).

Early on the Reds had Russian armoured trains as their support in Pohjanmaa railway, but later three (all Fredriksberg made) armoured trains replaced them. One of them seems to have been Putilovian artillery wagon, which was later transferred to Karelian Railway. In this railway the Red armoured trains proved to be very difficult opponents to the Whites early on. However, once the Whites learned to secure their positions against armoured trains by breaking railway rails in front of their positions and by placing some field artillery at side of the railroad they succeeded greatly diminishing the effectiveness of armoured trains operated by their enemy. The situation changed again when the Whites started their main offensive towards Tampere in March - without safety of their static defences the Whites had to again face the enemy armoured trains in the open. When they at the same time often lacked the proper equipment (immediate support of artillery firing over open sights) to fight against them in these conditions the Red armoured trains again proved quite effective in many battles. Three Fredriksberg-made armoured trains (Armoured Trains 1 - 3) retreated to city of Tampere along the Red Guards and once White Army besieged the city the armoured trains had no longer any chance of escape. During battle of Tampere the armoured trains took part in battle until the Reds detonated one of them to avoid capture and the Whites succeeded capturing the other two. During the last few weeks of the war these two captured armoured trains saw use with White Army. Besides the "proper" armoured trains the Reds used also at least two improvised armoured trains in Pohjanmaa railway. White Army captured one of these improvised trains during its main offensive towards Tampere and once re-armed they introduced this train known as Lyly armoured train to their own use.

PICTURE: Offensive of White Army towards Tampere and landings of German troops to Hanko and Loviisa. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (135 KB).

PICTURE: Map of Vilppula front. Photo from "Suomen Vapaussota vuonna 1918" (published 1924). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (99 KB).

Battles along Pohjanmaa railway:

January:

February

March

April

May


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