ARMOURED TRAINS

Part 1.2

Battles along the Railways in 1918

 

 

SAVO RAILWAY (SAVON RATA)

Even if the Whites were quite numerous and relatively well armed in direction of Pohjanmaa railway along the Savo railway the situation started much more difficult. Pretty much all weaponry that they had received from Germany before the war had been distributed to Pohjanmaa region and while the Suojeluskunta of Karelia were able to buy weapons in Viipuri and Petrograd the Suojeluskunta of Savo had neither source of weaponry. So acquiring the necessary weaponry for even the first moves was difficult. While disarming of Russian soldiers started in this area earlier than in Pohjanmaa region, Russian soldiers in small units that were disarmed were so few in number, so even disarming them didn't offer much of an improvement in weaponry-situation. The Reds had achieved popularity in this region mostly in the cities. These cities included especially the heavily industrialised Varkaus in middle of area supporting Whites, the city of Kuopio in the north and city of Kotka with its large harbour in southern end of the railway-line were their main areas of support. Red Guard in city of Mikkeli had rifles, but very little ammunition so it surrendered without a fight. The Red Guards in Kuopio and Varkaus on the other hand were not willing to give up that easily - White Army captured Kuopio only after battle and taking Varkaus demanded both battles and a siege.

PICTURE: Location of Savo front. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (130 KB).

Like elsewhere the first thing concerning railroads that the Whites did was destroying of selected railroad-bridges to stop possible troop transport trains of Russian Army. In this case they exploded two railway-bridges north of Kouvola (the railway crossroads station of Savo railway and Helsinki Petrograd railway). Three improvised armoured trains White Army used early on in this railway were small, very lightly armed and failed to make a difference, while the improvised armoured trains build by the Reds locally and the one which arrived with Latvians from Russia proved quite a difficult opponents to the Whites. However effectiveness of the "proper" Fredriksberg-build armoured train that the Reds got in beginning of March turned out be rather disappointing after its first success. After early success attacks of the Reds turned out to be like trying to get through stonewall by hitting it with head repeatedly - painful and bloody but with very little success. The frontline then calmed down and didn't move until the Reds decided to retreat in late April because their retreats in other fronts had created dangerous situation also in this front.

The three improvised armoured trains by the Whites early on each had just one flatcar with parapets build from sandbags in them and locomotive pushing that flatcar. Armament of these trains was also light to the extreme - two of them had only rifles and the third one had only one machinegun in addition of rifles. Improvised armoured train of the Latvians had two flatcars and locomotive in between them. These flatcars had chest-high sides with two layers of planks and sand between those layers. Also Finnish Reds build at least three improvised armoured trains, which they used in this railway. From these three trains one known as Voikoski armoured train was based to the train that the Latvians had used - it had similar chest-high sides build to flatcars from two layers of planks and sand in between them. The Voikoski armoured train was also quite well armed for being just improvised armoured train, as it had at least one artillery piece and several machineguns. This train proved serious trouble to the Whites after they had recaptured Mouhu - it made fast attacks and proved remarkably successful in staying outside effective range of White Army guns at the same time. Finally the Whites established listening post to one of the railway carriages in the station. With the early warning received from there White artillery was ready and waiting when the Voikoski train attacked next time and succeeded destroying it.

Beginning of March the Reds received their first real armoured train to Savo railway. This train made in Fredriksberg Works in Helsinki had the usual configuration of two flatcars with armoured sides and armoured locomotive in between them. As usual the sides and ends of these flatcars had riveted armour plating and each of the two carriages contained two naval/coastal guns and several machineguns. Company from Helsinki Red Guards served as crew of this train, while the infantry unit assisting the train was from Red Guard of Kouvola, where the train was also stationed.

PICTURE: Map of Savo front. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (55 KB).

Battles along Savo railway:

January

February

March

April


Last updated 5th of October 2008
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