Finnish Armoured Trains 1918 - 1940
As told in previous parts the Civil War lasting from January to May in year 1918 was the high point for use of armoured trains in Finland. During the Civil War Finnish Reds had armoured 8 or 9 locomotives and 14 - 15 artillery wagons. In addition Russian Bolsheviks had supplied them Russian heavy armoured train. During the war Finnish White Army had build only somewhat proper armoured train - Antrea armoured train commonly known as Saviour of Carelia. Finnish White Army who won this war captured almost all armoured trains, which had been used by the Reds in Finland. However when it came to the shape of the armoured trains, thickness of their armour and which kind of weaponry was used in them, the variation was considerable. In this situation the best wagons and locomotives were selected from the captured armoured trains and used to equip two armoured trains, which were given in use of the German troops, which had remained in Finland from the Civil War. Those locomotives and wagons of armoured trains, which were not selected to these two trains, were all scrapped. As an exception some parts of the two captured Russian armoured trains (mainly 2nd artillery wagons) not in active use remained warehoused and were not scrapped until mid- or late 1920's.
With the simple systematic naming method typical to both German and Finnish Armies the two armoured trains given to German use in Finland were simply named Panssarijuna 1 (Armoured Train 1) and Panssarijuna 2 (Armoured Train 2). Both of these trains had very similar Mogul-series steam locomotives previously armoured by the Finnish Reds - G5 series locomotive number 191 and G10 series locomotive number 336. Artillery wagons used in these trains originated from the captured Russian heavy armoured train. The machinegun-wagons used in them had been build from previous artillery wagons, which Fredriksberg Works had build for the Reds during Civil War. The main modification made for these previous open-top artillery wagons was building them roofs made from wood and bituminized paper. While these roofs did not provide any real protection against bullets, they offered the crew some protection against elements. In addition of armoured wagons these armoured trains contained also some normal two-axle box-cars equipped with portholes. These box-cars were presumably used as living quarters for the crews. Artillery wagons originating from Russian heavy armoured train were equipped with observation turrets build on their roofs. New or at least partly new artillery wagon added to these two armoured trains in 1918 included mountain gun wagon, which had been armed with German 75 VK L14 mountain gun. To indicate nationality of their user the artillery wagons of these two trains had their sides marked with large black balkenkreuz, crosses with white frames - the standard German military nationality marking of that time. During those few months of 1918 in German use the two trains spent most of their time guarding the Finnish part of Viipuri/Wiborg - Petrograd railway.
When World War 1 ended November 1918, it also marked the end for the presence of German troops in Finland. German troops left back home and returned the two armoured trains to the Finns, who early on had trouble deciding, which troops to issue them. The first one to try were engineers, whom because of their technological know-how were considered fit to effectively use equipment as technical as armoured train. The Germans had returned the armoured trains to 2nd (Infantry) Division of Finnish Army, from which they were transferred to Pioniiripataljoona (Engineer Battalion) in November of 1918. May of 1919 they were transferred to Pioniiriosasto Viipuri (Engineer Unit Viipuri) as the Engineer Battalion was disbanded. However there was no real change of personnel in this as Pioniiriosasto Viipuri was basically same as the part of Pioniiripataljoona, which had operated the armoured trains earlier.
PICTURE: One of the two armoured trains of Finnish Army presumably with its crew. Details
and uniform items suggest that the photograph is probably from circa 1919 - 1920. When Finnish armoured trains
had been operated by the Germans in 1918 they had been marked with German balkenkreuz insignia painted on
side of the train. In this photo the train already has Finnish Army swastika markings which replaced balkenkreuz,
but otherwise the train does not seem to have been repainted yet. Photograph provided by Sotamuseo via KUMEPA.
CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (98 KB).
PICTURE: One of the two armoured trains of Finnish Army presumably with its crew. Details and uniform items suggest that the photograph is probably from circa 1919 - 1920. When Finnish armoured trains had been operated by the Germans in 1918 they had been marked with German balkenkreuz insignia painted on side of the train. In this photo the train already has Finnish Army swastika markings which replaced balkenkreuz, but otherwise the train does not seem to have been repainted yet. Photograph provided by Sotamuseo via KUMEPA. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (98 KB).
Year 1921 the armoured trains changed hands again, when they were transferred as property of Rautatiehallitus (Railway administration). But as Railway administration was civilian organisation it was unable to offer the crews needed for using these weapons of war. This situation lead to development in which the responsibilities concerning the armoured trains were dispersed to a trinity of sort. January of 1921 Finnish Army decided that Raskas Tykistörykmentti (Heavy Artillery Regiment) would organise crews for the existing two armoured trains, while 2nd Division was responsible for guarding them. So, while Railway Administration had ownership of the armoured trains, it was the Heavy Field Artillery Regiment that supposed to use them and 2nd Division was the one which would have taken care of guarding them during peacetime. At the time Commander of 2nd Division was General Martin Wetzer, whose troops had fought against armoured trains in Pohjanmaa railway during Civil War. Since he had seen what the armoured trains could do to infantry it was not surprising that he now wanted them to his division. Wetzer also received support for this from General HQ, so in November of 1921 the existing two Finnish armoured trains were transferred to 2nd Division. However the situation was not as easy as it might have seen - there was not decision about to which unit of 2nd Division the armoured trains would be issued.
The natural decision would have been to transfer them from one artillery unit (Heavy Artillery Regiment) to another (Field Artillery Regiment 2 belonging to 2nd Division), but Commander of Field Artillery Regiment 2 reported that his unit did not have resources needed for training personnel to use armoured trains. As Field Artillery Regiment 2 was the only artillery unit of 2nd Division, this created a real problem. Finnish military considered even establishing new unit especially for armoured trains or issuing them to Hyökkäysvaunu Rykmentti (Tank Regiment) or Rautatie Pataljoona (Railway Battalion), but neither of these units had the needed resources either and the personnel needed for new unit would have been hard to find. Finally it was decided that 3rd and 4th Separate Machinegun Company belonging to 2nd Division (and located to Viipuri) would take care of training crews for the armoured trains. Often dispersion of responsibility and moving material repeatedly from one unit to another in this manner creates poor results as finally none of the parties is willing to take full responsibility - which seems to be what happened in this particular case. The armoured trains had not been exactly in best of shape to begin with, but by year 1926 their condition had deteriorated to such level that the Army was quite willing to dump them to Suojeluskunta (Finnish Civil Guard).
PICTURE: Photograph of Finnish Army 2nd Lieutenant about to climb into a armoured
train. Details visible in the photograph suggest that it from 1920's. The officer is wearing
military uniform M/22 with officer's leather belt M/22 and
field cap M/22. Photograph provided by Sotamuseo via KUMEPA. CLICK
THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (102 KB).
PICTURE: Photograph of Finnish Army 2nd Lieutenant about to climb into a armoured train. Details visible in the photograph suggest that it from 1920's. The officer is wearing military uniform M/22 with officer's leather belt M/22 and field cap M/22. Photograph provided by Sotamuseo via KUMEPA. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (102 KB).
However the rather poor condition of the two existing armoured trains does not seem to have been the only reason for this transfer from Army to Civil Guard. The decision made for issuing the armoured trains to 3rd and 4th Separate Machinegun Companies (belonging to 2nd Division) proved very much to be only temporary solution. When these two companies were transferred to Bicycle Troops finding Army unit willing to take the task of training crews proved at least as difficult as before. Martin Wetzer had retired from Finnish Army and the new commander of 2nd Division did not see as much use for armoured trains. In fact he had tried finding suitable role for armoured trains and ended up considering them suitable only for beginning of the war and for mobile warfare. He had also reported that his Division lacked personel resources needed for gaining technical know-how about armoured trains and the capacity of training soldiers for their effective use. In fact he suggested that Civil Guard might be more suitable alternative, which could better take care of training crews for the trains. This was because he considered that crews needed for the armoured trains would require long experience to learn using them effectively. General Nenonen ("father of Finnish field artillery" as he is known) was Inspector of Artillery at that time and had notably negative point of view when it came to armoured trains. Basically he considered them insignificant and had supported transferring them from the Army to Civil Guard already in year 1922.
Personnel per train according official table of organisation and equipment 14th of June 1919:
Lieutenants / 2nd Lieutenants (**)
Sergeant Majors (***)
Enlisted men (privates)
Railroad civilian personnel
Total crew size:
NOTE: (*) Commander of the train, (**) Artillery officer of the train, (***) Gun- and machinegun officers, (****) Engineer NCO
However in reality it seems that Finnish Army did not maintain crews this large for the armoured trains at least early on. Actual reported crew sizes for the two armoured trains 15th of January 1920 were:
June of 1921 Inspector of Artillery (General Nenonen) introduced new organisation for armoured trains. According it crew of each armoured train was to contain 4 officers + 21 NCO + 55 enlisted men. The increased number of officers and high number of NCO might be linked to problems that Army was experiencing in training crew of armoured trains at that time and a possible try of fixing the problems with increasing the number of non-coms.
Once the armoured trains were transferred to Civil Guard om year 1926, General Headquarters of Civil Guards decided to issue them to Viipurin Suojeluskunta (Civil Guard in city of Viipuri/Wiborg), which had already prepared for this by establishing itself new unit called Panssarijuna and moottoriosasto (Armoured Train and Motor Unit). This unit later renamed simply as Panssarijuna osasto (Armoured Train Unit) trained crews for the armoured trains until World War 2. It started accepting volunteers to its ranks starting November of 1925. It seems that the members of Viipuri Civil Guard were rather enthusiastic about possibility of getting trained as crew-members of armoured trains. While at end of 1925 the unit had only 30 men, just year later it had already 77 men and by end of year 1928 the number of its men had climbed to 112. The transfer from Army to Civil Guard also seems to have reflected well when it comes to capabilities of their crews. General Wetzer had reported in early 1920ís that crew training for armoured trains was in poor and especially results of their shooting tests (done with weapons of the armoured train with train was moving) were at alarmingly poor. But that had been with the Army. In just a few years Civil Guard trained crews achieved much higher level of training and their shooting results in similar tests proved considerably better.
PICTURE: Guardsmen of Civil Guard pose in front of Armoured train in year 1937. It
is quite likely that the guardsmen seen here served in crew of the armoured train. Notice 76 VK/04 mountain gun.
Photographed by Aulis Saarinen. Photo source Finna.fi - original photo owned by Suomen Rautatiemuseo (Finnish
Railway Museum), CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 Creative Commons
license. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (82 KB).
PICTURE: Guardsmen of Civil Guard pose in front of Armoured train in year 1937. It is quite likely that the guardsmen seen here served in crew of the armoured train. Notice 76 VK/04 mountain gun. Photographed by Aulis Saarinen. Photo source Finna.fi - original photo owned by Suomen Rautatiemuseo (Finnish Railway Museum), CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 Creative Commons license. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (82 KB).
However, both of the armoured trains continued to be in such a poor shape, that using them was slowly becoming basically impossible and due to negative attitudes among senior officers financing their repairs was uncertain. The salvation for this came in form of Colonel Huuri (Head of Defence Ministry's Ordnance Department in those days), who considered armoured trains still useful for early part of the war and who after noting their poor condition took getting them repaired as his task in year 1928. When Technical Department responsible for armoured trains did not have finances needed for the repairs, he even arranged that the trains were transferred to Ordnance Department, which then took care that they received extensive repairs.
MODIFICATIONS OF ARMOURED TRAINS 1919 - 1939
Those long needed extensive repairs finally started year 1931. The place where they were made was Pasila Engineering Works (previously called Fredriksberg Engineering Works). The repairs were first started with Armoured Train number 1 and once it was finished it was turn of Armoured Train number 2 to receive the same treatment. Some parts of the trains received additional repairs around 1937 - 1938. The works done in Pasila Engineering Works included following repairs:
Besides repairs the modifications included also following improvements:
As part of these repairs also weaponry of the trains was modified. This included replacing 76 K/02 field guns and 37-mm Maxim automatic-guns with 76 VK/04 mountain guns. The mountain guns were set in the same turrets, in which the field guns and automatic guns had earlier been. Armoured Train number 1 went through repairs in Pasila Engineering Works 1931 - 1932. By the time its repairs were completed in year 1932, the train's guns had already been replaced. But it seems that the process took much more time with Armoured Train number 2, as while its 76 K/02 field gun had been removed it had not received its mountain guns even by year 1937. While the sources do not mention this also the machineguns of armoured trains seem to have been replaced in early 1930ís. At that time Finnish military was getting rid of German Maxim MG-08 machineguns because they were chambered to 7.92 mm x 57 JS cartridge (which was non-standard to Finnish military). These machineguns were replaced with 7.62-mm Maxim machineguns, which fired the standard 7.62 mm x 54R) Finnish military cartridge of the time. Year 1937 weaponry of each armoured train contained also one 81-mm Stokes-Brandt mortar and in addition one of the two trains had been equipped with 7.62 ItKk/31 anti-aircraft machinegun. However it seems that at least the mortars were removed from their weapons inventory before Winter War. Anyway, both of the trains had gone through the repairs and also Armoured Train number 2 had received all its new weapons by year 1939.
PICTURE: Civil Guard officers of Armoured Train unit of Viipuri Civil Guard pose in front of
Armoured train in 1937. Photographed by Aulis Saarinen. Photo source Finna.fi - original photo owned
by Suomen Rautatiemuseo (Finnish Railway Museum), CC
BY-NC-ND 4.0 Creative Commons license. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (117 KB).
PICTURE: Civil Guard officers of Armoured Train unit of Viipuri Civil Guard pose in front of Armoured train in 1937. Photographed by Aulis Saarinen. Photo source Finna.fi - original photo owned by Suomen Rautatiemuseo (Finnish Railway Museum), CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 Creative Commons license. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (117 KB).
Replacing 76 K/02 field guns with 76 VK/04 mountain guns caused some debate. Chief of Finnish Army General Headquarters would have preferred keeping weaponry of armoured trains as it was and wanted even old German 75-mm mountain guns to remain in use. His idea was to use Mountain Gun Wagon with 75-mm German gun as first wagon of the train, set two empty flatcars after it and 1st Artillery Wagon with 76 K/02 field gun after it. In a way his idea made sense - 76 VK/04 mountain gun had poor ballistics and having two guns in front of the train could have been useful if meeting enemy head on. Especially useful it would have been if facing enemy armoured train. At the time Soviet armoured trains had typically turrets rotating 360-degress armed either with 76 K/02 field guns (A-train) or even 107-mm guns or 122-mm howitzers (B-train). Hence Finnish armoured trains armed with their puny low-velocity 76 VK/04 mountain guns would have been seriously outgunned.
Year 1932 the two armoured trains were officially returned to Viipurin Suojeluskunta (Civil Guard in city of Viipuri/Wiborg), even if the Armoured Train number 2 seems to have been still going through repairs at that time. It is worth noting that this was the same Civil Guard unit, which had used them before the repairs. Also as mentioned this local Civil Guard had special unit called Panssarijuna Osasto (Armoured train unit), which trained volunteers as crews of these armoured trains.
PICTURE: Armoured Train 1 sometime in 1930's. Photographer unknown. Notice Maxim machine gun
on top of the wagon. Photo source Finna.fi - original photo owned by Suomen Rautatiemuseo (Finnish
Railway Museum), CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 Creative Commons
license. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (82 KB). STRUCTURE OF THE ARMOURED TRAINS 1919 - 1930
PICTURE: Armoured Train 1 sometime in 1930's. Photographer unknown. Notice Maxim machine gun on top of the wagon. Photo source Finna.fi - original photo owned by Suomen Rautatiemuseo (Finnish Railway Museum), CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 Creative Commons license. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (82 KB).
STRUCTURE OF THE ARMOURED TRAINS 1919 - 1930
Late April 1919 the two trains contained (combined) following wagons:
At the same time their weaponry (both trains combined) contained:
The machineguns listed above were located in artillery wagons, automatic gun wagons and Kitchen/machinegun wagons. Some may have also been in mountain gun wagon. Likely the Russian Maxim M/09 were located to artillery wagons, but exact locations for rest of the machineguns remain uncertain. The storage wagon included equipment for engineers, additional equipment for machineguns, telephones and other similar materials.
When Railway Administration took ownership of the existing two armoured trains in April of 1921, they contained following rolling stock:
In addition the trains contained:
Armour of the wagons varied between 15 - 20 mm. March of 1922 German 7.92-mm light machineguns (likely MG 08/15) and Russian 7.62-mm Maxim M/09 medium machineguns were removed from the trains and replaced with 20 German 7.92-mm Maxim MG-08 medium machineguns.
May of 1922 Commander of 2
nd Division suggested following structure of armoured trains. The usual structure starting from front of the train:
1. M-Wagon (flatcar)
2. M-Wagon (flatcar)
3. O-Wagon (flatcar)
4. Armoured Wagon number 1: Artillery WagonMachinegun Wagon
6. Armoured Wagon number 3: Locomotive and tender
7. Armoured Wagon number 4: Wagon for transporting ammunition and supplies
8. Armoured Wagon number 5: Automatic-gun Wagon
9. H-Wagon: Boxcar containing materials for repairing railway tracks
In addition to actual armoured train the Commander suggested also separate train for supplies. This supplies train was to contain:
The plan mentioned above was accepted and from that on the armoured trains were divided into two parts: Actual armoured train that took part in combat and the supplies train, which transported its supplies and contained materials needed for servicing the actual armoured train and its crew.
The actual armoured trains. Structure starting from front of the train in year 1926:
1. M-Wagon (flatcar loaded with sand)
2. M-Wagon (flatcar loaded with sand)
5. Armoured Locomotive
6. Armoured Ammunition Wagon
8. M-Wagon (flatcar loaded with sand)
9. M-Wagon (flatcar loaded with sand)
Contents of supplies train in year 1926:
PICTURE: Armoured train in Perkjärvi training area in year 1937. Photographed by Aulis
Saarinen. Photo source Finna.fi - original photo owned by Suomen Rautatiemuseo (Finnish Railway Museum),
CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 Creative Commons license. CLICK
THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (64 KB).
PICTURE: Armoured train in Perkjärvi training area in year 1937. Photographed by Aulis Saarinen. Photo source Finna.fi - original photo owned by Suomen Rautatiemuseo (Finnish Railway Museum), CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 Creative Commons license. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (64 KB).
EXTRAORDINARY MANOEUVRES, OCTOBER - NOVEMBER 1939
When mobilisation of Finnish Armed Forces started in form of extraordinary manoeuvres (Ylimääräiset harjoitukset aka YH). Year 1939 Finnish mobilisation system was build as number of military districts, which with help of mobilisation organisation mobilised the pre-planned units from their area. As the two armoured trains were located to Viipuri in area of (Carelian) Ishtmus military district (Kannaksen sotilaspiiri) it was the task for HQ of this military district to mobilise them. The armoured trains had been designed as part of Suojajoukot (Protection Troops), whose mission in beginning of war if needed was to delay the enemy and buy time for full-scale mobilisation. In Finnish military thinking of that time armoured trains were included to inventory of (field) artillery weapons, so their main task was to provide artillery support. While many senior officers of Finnish Army considered armoured trains outdated and ineffective, Finnish Army was so short of modern artillery, that it had to reissue even Russian old model 1877 field guns for field artillery, this was not a time to be picky. While effeciency of 76 VK/04 mountain guns used as main weaponry of the armoured trains was limited by their small maximum range, they were still perfectly acceptable by Finnish standards of that day. Finnish armoured trains were mobilised for extraordinary manoeuvres 8th of October 1939. Their base was set in Säiniö in Carelian Isthmus and they practiced in Käkisalmi - Kiviniemi railway section. During extraordinary manoeuvres the armoured trains sometimes did reconnaissance in Viipuri - Valkjärvi railway section. These decisions probably reflecting that Soviet armoured trains were known to be based in Toksovo some 50 kilometres from Rautu.
When mobilised in October of 1939 crews of the armoured trains were:
- Armoured Train 1: 4 officers + 25 NCO + 50 enlisted (privates).
- Armoured Train 2: 3 officers + 22 NCO + 47 enlisted (privates).
These armoured trains being used by Armoured Train Unit of Viipuri Civil Guard since year 1926 effected very much to what kind of crews they got. For practical purposes it was the only unit with experience and knowledge needed or using armoured train. So crews of the both trains were created from Army reservists, large majority of whom had earlier served in Armoured Train Unit of Viipuri Civil Guard. This included also their officers and even their commanders, who during peace-time had been experienced members of this Civil Guard unit. Whole crew of Armoured Train 1 was from city of Viipuri, while crew of Armoured Train 2 contained reservists mobilised also from other parts of Karelian Isthmus.
During October - November 1939 the armoured trains got equipped and supplied ready for war. Also some repairs and improvements were made at this time. Apparently these modifications included also painting them white with whitewash. Once mobilised the weaponry of each armoured train contained the usual two 76 VK/04 mountain guns, 13 - 15 x 7.62 mm machineguns (most if not all 7.62 mm Maxim medium machineguns) and 4 light machineguns (7.62 mm Lahti-Saloranta M/26). Each Artillery Wagon had 76 mm mountain gun in its turret, 2 machineguns in side of the turrets and 3 - 4 machineguns in sides of the wagon. Machinegun Wagons had 6 - 8 machineguns in their sides. One of the two trains got also 5 submachineguns. In addition as usual the train crews had rifles and pistols as personals weapons.
Typical structure of the armoured train during this time was:
3. Machinegun Wagon or Locomotive
4. Locomotive or Machinegun Wagon
PICTURE: Map showing the railway sections where Finnish Armoured Trains mostly operated during Winter War. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (144 KB).
ARMOURED TRAIN 1 IN WINTER WAR
28th of November 1939 Armoured Train number 1 had been placed under command of IV Army Corps and had started its journey towards north-side of Lake Ladoga. There it was to support Finnish troops. For duration of this task the train received codename "Hyöky" (translates both as "tide" and "roller").
Structure of Armoured Train number 1 in November of 1939, starting from front of the train:
1. Flatcar, loaded with materials needed for repairing tracks.
2. Flatcar, loaded with materials needed for repairing tracks
4. Machinegun Wagon, contained following weaponry:
5. Armoured locomotive
6. Armoured Supplies Wagon (containing ammunition and other supplies)
8. Flatcar, loaded with materials needed for repairing tracks
9. Flatcar, loaded with materials needed for repairing tracks
Structure of the Armoured Train 1 when it arrived to Kollaanjoki battles in December 1939:
1. Flatcar (type H)
2. Flatcar (type O, contained materials for repairing the tracks)
4. Machinegun Wagon, contained following weaponry:
5. Armoured locomotive
7. Flatcar (type H)
Personnel of Armoured Train 1 early December 1939: 3 officers + 25 NCO + 42 men
Assisting Armoured Train 1 was its supplies train, which took care of keeping the actual armoured train supplied with ammunition, fuel, water, food and other necessities. Typically the two trains met in some suitable train station or train stop behind the frontline for re-supply. When it comes to Armoured Train number 1 the most common place for this seems to have been train station of Loimola. The supplies train contained normal (non-armoured) wagons and normal locomotive, so bringing it too close to frontline would have been risky at best. Usually these meetings between the two trains seem to have happened once per day and twice per day sometimes when lots of supplies had been spent. The supplies train of Armoured Train 1 contained steam locomotive and 16 wagons, most of them Ga-series boxcars.
The main task for Armoured Train number 1 in this area was securing Suojärvi-railway. In other words: Securing flank behind delay positions and acting as mobile artillery battery, which gave artillery support with its mountain guns. During Winter War the Commander of this train was Lieutenant of Reserve K. Järvinen. Artillery officer of the train was Lieutenant of Reserve M. Kokko and machinegun-officer 2nd Lieutenant of Reserve E. Tolvanen. Sergeant Major of the train was Sergeant Major (Vääpeli) A. Karvonen. The locomotive of this train had normal smokestack, which made the smoke coming from furnace of the steam engine go directly up, which caused serious problem during the war as it made spotting movements of the train easy for the enemy. Another serious problem, which became much too obvious during the war proved to be lack of effective anti-aircraft weaponry
As mentioned Armoured Train 1 operated in railway leading to Suojärvi (north of Lake Ladoga). The train arrived to this area 1st of December 1939. It took part in battles in Suvilahti, Piitsoinoja and Näätäoja. When the time for counter-attack came in these early days of the war too hasty demolition of railway bridges made it impossible to follow them. It also took part covering some retreats at that time and once Finnish troops retreated to Kollaanjoki river (where the frontline remained until end of the war in this area) the armoured train took part defending it. Another major task for it was securing railway connection behind the front and with ever increasing snowfall also keeping it open with snowplough for trains transporting supplies to the front and transporting wounded back to home front. Being one of its kind in this Armoured Train and easy to spot (partly due to its smokestack) Armoured Train 1 also got unfortunate role of priority target for the Soviet aircraft and artillery. By late January 1940 the Soviets had started targeting it almost daily. With anti-aircraft weaponry containing only some 7.62-mm automatic weapons its chances of fighting off ever more common attacking Soviet aircraft were not enviable. As the aircraft at that time carried usually just rifle-calibre machineguns their machinegun-fire was unable to penetrate its armour, but the bombs they dropped were constant threat. So even with the poor bombing accuracy that the Soviet pilots seemed to have, in the end them being able to hit armoured train with their bombs was just matter of time. Armoured Train 1 suffered its share of technical problems and other difficulties caused by constant battles - due to this reasons it was pulled off from the front twice for repairs. First time it went through repairs was 22nd - 24th of December in Sortavala and the second time 17th of February - 9th of March in Kuopio. By the time armoured train returned from its second repairs the situation had developed just impossible for it to function effectively anymore - when ever it tried closing frontline it found itself to be target of repeated attacks. With all the damage that the constant aerial bombardments and artillery barrages also the tracks were constantly damaged and just moving the armoured train from place demanded constant repairs of tracks, which limited its mobility close to nil. Also supplies train of Armoured Train 1 suffered very much the same hardships as the armoured train it was assisting - these included numerous and ever more frequent attacks of Soviet aircraft. As the supplies train did not have armour to deflect machinegun bullets it suffered more than its fair share of losses and damage.
More detailed history of Armoured Train 1 in Winter War can be found the next page
PICTURE: Armoured Train 1 in Sortavala train station 1st of January 1940. The gun visible in the gun turret of artillery wagon is 76 VK/04 mountain gun. (SA-kuva photo archive, photo number 3948). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (160 KB).
ARMOURED TRAIN 2 IN WINTER WAR
When Winter War started Armoured Train 2 was heading towards border in Karelian Isthmus. 29th of November 1939 it had been order to do reconnaissance in Finnish part of Viipuri - Leningrad railway line. The train stopped for a night in Terijoki and the next morning (30th of November) found itself in middle of Soviet artillery preparation, which started Soviet attack in Karelian Isthmus. In these first hours of the war crew of the armoured train found themselves quite unexpectedly being in the frontline. However as the train had several railway-bridges destined for demolition behind it there was little chance for staying and fighting where it was. If even one of these bridges had been destroyed it would have cut the only possible route of retreat. So the train returned to railway station of Säiniö, which had been the base for Finnish armoured trains before the war. For the next couple of days the train took part in anti-aircraft defence in Viipuri - Säiniö railway section and at that time succeeded damaging one enemy aircraft which crash-landed near Pien-Pero. After this the train was ordered to Valkjärvi, but arrived there too late for battle. After this it was commanded to railway station of Kylä-Paakkola, where it continued taking part in anti-aircraft defence. One source claims that the train might have succeeded downing three Soviet aircraft while in Kylä-Paakkola, but this lacks verification. In mid-December part of the trains crew visited helping infantry with two machineguns loaned from the train to infantry for battles of Salmenkaita - Muolainen area. The train itself stayed in Valkjärvi-railway until end of January 1940.
Headquarters 4th Army Corps had requested armoured train as its support. How important they considered getting armoured train shows the fact that when their reply had not been answered promptly they had already started building armoured train of their own. However this armoured train project of 4th Army Corps did not have to continue long. 23rd of January Armoured Train 2 was sent as their support to Ladoga Carelia (area northeast of Lake Laatokka / Ladoga). For these battles the train was named with codename "Armas" (fairly common Finnish first name for males, which also translates as "beloved"). While in Ladoga Karelia the train mostly operated in Kitilä - Impilahti railway section, where its main function was shelling Kitilä motti (pocket) with its mountain guns when needed. However the train had to avoid return fire of Soviet heavy weapons in this motti its attacks tended to be brief. First operation that Armoured Train 2 took part in this area was fire support mission for 2nd Battalion of Infantry Regiment 35 it accomplished the same day that it arrived this area (23rd of January). This first operation was the typical "fire-strike" mission - the train moved to no-mans land where it shelled and machinegun the enemy for a while before heading back. However the first operation came very close becoming to disaster - while the train was in no-mans land Soviet artillery damaged tracks on opening of Kitilä village behind it. With the damaged tracks behind it the armoured train was without route of retreat and stuck in the no-mans land. It had no choice than stay there until the repairs locomotive and rail repair crew arrived the next night and fixed the damaged tracks.
PICTURE: Armoured Train 2 in Impilahti (north of Lake Laatokka / Ladoga) in February of 1940.
For camouflate purposes the whole train has been painted white with whitewash. Photographer unknown. Photo
source Finna.fi - original photo owned by Suomen Rautatiemuseo (Finnish Railway Museum),
CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 Creative Commons license.
CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (79 KB).
PICTURE: Armoured Train 2 in Impilahti (north of Lake Laatokka / Ladoga) in February of 1940. For camouflate purposes the whole train has been painted white with whitewash. Photographer unknown. Photo source Finna.fi - original photo owned by Suomen Rautatiemuseo (Finnish Railway Museum), CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 Creative Commons license. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (79 KB).
8th of February 1940 Battle Detachment Castrén took responsibility of the sector that 2nd Battalion of Infantry Regiment 35 (which not headed to islands in northern parts of Lake Ladoga) had defended previously. While the infantry unit that the armoured train supported changed, its duties continued the same. The train assisted the Battle Detachment also by transferring it 3 machineguns and 2 light machineguns. Part of the train crew also took part in battles on islands in northern parts of Lake Ladoga as infantry and some of its men were transferred as infantry reinforcements in Kollaa. 19th of February Battle Detachment Castrén was disestablished and 25th of February the train received orders move to Elisenvaara railway station. Later the armoured train was ordered to Kalalampi area in sector of 1st Division and remained there until the war ended.
Beginning of Winter War weaponry of Armoured Train 2 included:
None of the machineguns mentioned were purpose-build anti-aircraft machineguns and the official weaponry of the train does not seem to have included any during this war. However its quite likely that some of the Maxim machineguns had been set for anti-aircraft use with more or less improvised arrangements. Also once the train moved from Karelian Isthmus to Ladoga Karelia (northeast of Lake Ladoga) two anti-aircraft machineguns were loaned to it and these seemed to have remained in it until end of Winter War. Other equipment used for observation and getting artillery properly aimed included one traversing dial, 2 scissor telescopes and 2 rangefinders. Only signal equipment in the train were ten old telephones (originally declared already once obsolete decade earlier but then recycled to this armoured train), which offered weak telephone connection between locomotive and various wagons of the train. According plans the train was supposed to have B-radio transmitter-receiver, but in reality none was issued to it.
BEGINNING OF INTERIM PEACE IN 1940
Once Winter War had ended 13th of March 1940 the two armoured train that the Finns had headed to western side of the new border. Armoured Train 1 suffered some damage during the war, but both of the armoured trains were still very much in operational condition. Kouvola became their new base of operations. This was quite a natural choice considering that it was now fairly close to border, but not too close and the due to being railway crossroads offered them easy access to several directions. Reservists of Finnish Army that had been mobilised for Winter War were sent back home, but Finland remained very much in wartime setting. What is known one of the reasons why they were located to Kouvola was also the possibility that the Soviets might try attacking the particular area by dropping paratroopers. The trains received the much needed repairs and maintenance. Their equipment were also improved - for example Armoured Train 1 finally received new locomotive, which had the much needed extra smokestack pipes, that guided the smoke coming from its steam engine under the train. This new armoured locomotive was manufactured in Pasila Engineering Works.
November of 1940 weaponry of Armoured Train 1 remained pretty much the same as it had been during Winter War: Two 76 VK/04 mountain guns and twenty 7.62 mm machineguns (most if not all of them Maxim medium machineguns), however this was to change soon.
Paul Malmassari: Les Trains Blindés 1826 - 1989.
Armoured Units of the Russian Civil War, White and Allied by D. Bullock and A. Deryabin
Article: Suomen puolustusvoimain panssarijunat vuosina 1918 - 1939 ja niiden edeltäjät vapaussodassa by Paavo Talvio in Sotahistoriallinen aikakauskirja 4. (1985)
Article: Panssarijunat talvi- ja jatkosodan taisteluissa in Sotahistoriallinen Aikakauskirja 5 (Armoured Trains in Winter and Continuation Wars in Journal of Military History 5) by Paavo Talvio.
Article: Panssarijunat Suomessa 1918 - 1944, part 1 by Kari Kuusela in Kansa Taisteli magazine vol. 2/1986.
Article: Panssarijunat Suomessa 1918 - 1944, part 2 by Kari Kuusela in Kansa Taisteli magazine vol. 3/1986
Article: Panssarijunakuvia vuodelta 1919 by Tuomo Schering in Resiina Magazine volume 4/1990
Article: Punaisten ja valkoisten panssarijunat 1918 by Paavo Talvio in Resiina Magazine volume 4/1994
Russian Armoured Trains website by Pavel Voylov, Edited by Ben Turner and Jeremy Mac Donald (website no longer active).
War Diary of Armoured Train 1 during Winter War (microfilmed version available in Finnish Military Archives).