ARMOURED TRAINS

Part 3

Finnish Armoured Trains 1941 - 1944

 

 

INTERIM PEACE – TIME OF MODIFICATIONS

Winter War ended March of 1940 and Continuation War started June of 1941. This brief time of peace between the two wars that Finland got to enjoy is generally as interim peace in Finland. What made it very much "interim" was the fact that while there was officially peace the times were far from peaceful. Finnish training and tactics had proved efficient during Winter War, but units far too few in number and weaponry too weak. So Finnish Army used this short peacetime to re-equip and re-organise itself. At the time Finnish Army had two armoured trains simply named Panssarijuna 1 (Armoured Train 1) and Panssarijuna 2 (Armoured Train 2). As part of this large re-equipping effort also the two armoured trains went through large modifications. During Winter War the main handicap of these trains had proved to be their lack of effective anti-aircraft armament, but now that was to change along their main purpose. During Winter War they had still been used as fire support for the ground troops, but now they their new main task became to fight against aircraft. In many ways this change was quite smart and simple solution to several existing problems.

During Winter War the ability of armoured trains to operate in the frontline or even near it had been constantly challenged by Soviet aircraft and field artillery. While the ever more frequent aerial and artillery bombardment had failed destroying neither of the two armoured trains it had shown that the railway line, from which the train was dependent, was much easier target. Ultimately the repeated damage to railway-line had started demanding constant repairs of tracks damaged by aerial bombardment or artillery fire. In case of Armoured Train 1 the level of repairs needed had for all practical purposes slowed down movements of the train to the point, in which ability to continue operations was starting to be questionable. Few 7.62-mm machineguns and mix of small arms simply was not enough for these trains to effectively defend themselves against enemy aircraft. The fact that both trains had survived the constant attacks of hostile aircraft without major damage was for the large part result of good luck. Whole Finnish military transport system was also very much dependent on railways – in such a extent that one could call railways a skeleton, around which the whole body of military transport system had been built. Transporting large military formations or keeping them supplied without effective use of railway network simply would not have been possible. So definite need existed equipment intended to secure important railway transports and their loading/unloading areas. Re-equipping armoured trains with anti-aircraft guns was one of the solutions to these problems. For practical purposes armoured trains became anti-aircraft batteries on tracks and could be sent anywhere to secure important railway transports. Since they no longer operated in the frontline they were no longer under constant attacks and with their armour and new effective weaponry were now capable to fend off attacks of hostile aircraft.

As mentioned above the main physical modification to the two armoured trains was changing their armament. Mainly this happened by modifying the existing two gun turrets and replacing their old 76 VK/04 mountain guns with the best medium calibre anti-aircraft guns of World War Two – 40 mm Bofors. To be exact the Bofors-guns used for this was version called 40 ItK/39 B. Great Britain had originally ordered the particular 40-mm Bofors guns from Sweden, but agreed for them to be delivered to Finland. Unlike most other 40-mm Bofors guns in Finnish use these guns lacked gun-specific mechanical computers and relied to rather simple sights made in Finland. In addition to these new anti-aircraft guns weaponry of the trains armoured continued to contain variety of Maxim machineguns in 7.62 mm x 54R calibre. Summer of 1941 they received also some 7,62 ItKk/31 VKT anti-aircraft machineguns. For observing and measuring targets they had binoculars, scissor scopes and small stereoscopic rangefinders. Signal equipment of the both trains was updated by summer of 1941 by equipping them with Helvar C sender/receiver radios. Each armoured train had three of these radios - one in kitchen wagon and presumably the other two in artillery wagons. Largest visible modifications were made to previous automatic-gun wagon, which was modified to have two turrets instead of one. All modifications to artillery wagons and machinegun wagons and fitting of new weaponry was made in VTT (Valtion Tykkitehdas = State Artillery Factory) facility in town of Jyväskylä. The number of existing armoured locomotives went from two to three when Pasila Engineering Works (previous Fredriksberg Engineering Works) armour plated additional K 5 series steam locomotive, which could be used in place of the old and worn G 5 series number 191 and G 10 series number 336 armoured locomotives.

The two trains spent most of Interim Peace in Kouvola - crossroads station of Helsinki - Leningrad railway and Savo railway. Demobilisation of reservists belonging to their crews started already in April of 1940, so the remaining recruited personnel (officers + non-commissioned officers) were complemented with new recruits to give them complete crews. Naturally these new crews needed to be trained, which took much of the time. Since personnel of the armoured trains were unfamiliar with the new 40-mm Bofors guns they required outside training. This outside training they received in four week long courses held in Light Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion 2. Early on the task of training armoured train crews proved difficult as the trains were still missing much of the equipment, that they were to have before beginning of Continuation War. In fact since the equipment loaned to them for Winter War was returned for quite some time, for a while the trains were even more poorly armed than during Winter War. For example May of 1940 only remaining machineguns of Armoured Train 2 were old Maxim M/09-09 capable using only fabric ammunition belts - which were poorly suited for anti-aircraft use. Besides the above mentioned training duties Armoured Train 2 was also reserved for combat against possible landing of Soviet paratroopers to Utti area.

PICTURE: Armoured Train 2 somewhere out there. Photo provided by friendly private collector. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (102 KB).

 

ARMOURED TRAIN 1:

22nd of June 1941 Soviet Air Force started its attacks to Finnish territory. 25th of June 1941 Finnish Prime Minister noted that Finland was in state of war with Soviet Union. That same day Armoured Train 1 received orders and headed east from Kouvola towards Simola train station. Simola was the railway station closest to Vainikkala border station through which the railway connection both to city of Viipuri and Leningrad run. At that time the train crew included 4 officers, 21 non-coms and 101 men. The train was ordered to take part securing Simola station from hostile aircraft. 28th of June it was placed under command of 4th Division, which was preparing to advance from Vainikkala to Loukko and further to Nouni along the railway. At this time 4th Division was prepared to use the train not only for air-defence, but also against possible Soviet tank attack along the railway-line - something to which 40-mm Bofors guns were also quite capable. While the tank attack didn't happen Soviet Air Force provided Armour Train 1 plenty of targets while in Simola. 1st of July formation of ten SB-2 bombed Simola and train succeeded downing one of them. It succeeded damaging another SB-2 bomber 3rd of July and downing I-153 fighter aircraft 9th of July 1941. Both 30th - 31st of July and 6th of August formations of Soviet I-153 fighter aircraft tried attacking Simola railway station. During the first attack (30th of July) shell from 40-mm gun damaged one I-153 and during second attack (the next day) one of the machineguns succeeded damaging another I-153. The third attack (6th of August) ended with the train downing one the attacking I-153. In addition 7th of August the train succeeded damaging Soviet I-18. Also patrols, which the Soviets sent across the border to sabotage the railway, gave trouble in this area during July - August 1941. For example 6th of July three men belonging to 11-man strong patrol had demolished section of railway 4 kilometres from Simola towards Tani. Commander of Armoured Train 1 was ordered to organise guarding of railway-lines Simola - Pulsa (11 kilometres) and Simola - Hytti (7 kilometres). He selected to use both patrols guarding each bridge and small moving patrols using handcars. However other units provided the soldiers for this guard duty.

Weaponry of Armoured Train 1, April of 1941:

PICTURE: Operational area of Armoured Train 1 during year 1941. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (161 KB).

In this area Finnish troops crossed border in force 22nd of August. The troops attacking nearest the railway from Vainikkala were Infantry Regiments 25 (4th Division) and 45 (8th Division), while 3rd Battalion of Infantry Regiment 25 was the unit attacking along the railway-line. They run into Soviet position near Nurmi railway station and this stopped 1st phase of the attack. Armoured Train 1 took part in this action patrolling the Simola - Nurmi railway and giving fire-support in the frontline several times. The attack continued soon, but the Soviets had demolished railway from a section west of Nurmi railway station, so the armoured train could not follow it. The retreating Soviets also destroyed railway-bridges of Hietala and Sorvali. Crew of the train was ordered to repair the railway between Nurmi railway station and Tienhaara. Once this was finished the train moved to Tienhaara region and provided air-defence in there and guarded the railway with Platoon-size moving unit. 6th of October 1941 Armoured Train 1 was ordered move to Kanneljärvi station and provide additional air-defence for the area, which was focus point for supplies units of 12th Division. Soviet aircraft attacked area of Kanneljärvi station several times during this time. While in Kanneljärvi 16th of October 1941 weapons of the train damaged one of the strafing Soviet I-153 and 29th of October they succeeded driving off formation of six fighter aircraft. During October - November 1941 Armoured Train 1 visited also Perkjärvi railway station several times to help securing transports arriving or leaving by rail. The activity of Soviet aircraft was low in Finnish front at that time, so the train saw rather little action.

PICTURE: Operational area of Armoured Train 1 for most of year 1942. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (163 KB).

9th of April 1942 Armoured Train 1 and Armoured Train 2 switched their locomotives in Karhumäki. 21st of March 1942 orders for moving to Mustamäki station arrived. This time the train didn't just protect the particular railway station. Operating from Mustamäki station the train provided also air-defence for trains in Kuokkala - Tyrisevä and Tyrisevä - Jäppilä sections of Viipuri - Leningrad railway. The particular railway sections were both important and located close to the frontline and airfields around Leningrad. The train spent early April of 1941 in Kanneljärvi station. From mid-April to 9th of September 1942 Armoured Train was in stations of Raivola and Sahakylä (between Mustamäki and Tyrisevä). Activity-level of Soviet Air Force in Carelian Isthmus started decreasing after April of 1942, so the train saw much less action after it. Soviet SB-2 formations came within range of its guns a few times in April and PE-2 were spotted every now and then in Raivola - Sahakylä section of the railway, but weapons of the train failed achieving real results. The need for having armoured train in this part of the railway network was low for the moment, so Armoured Train 1 was pulled off from the Carelian Isthmus 9th of September 1942 and placed under command of Air Surveillance District 6 (Ilmavalvontapiiri 6). Air Surveillance District 6 ordered the train to city of Joensuu for securing Joensuu railway station and nearby bridges. In mid-October 1942 the train was transferred to Lieksa railway station. These stations far away from the frontline provided possibilities for much needed repairs and maintenance for the train and rest for the crew. After this Armoured Train 1 was transferred to area of Maaselkä Isthmus. 27th of November 1942 Finnish Armed Forces GHQ issued orders for decommissioning of Armoured Train 1.

 

1st RAILWAY ANTI-AIRCRAFT BATTERY:

Disbanding Armoured Train 1 not end of the story - far from it. For all practical purposes it was just a way of re-organising the unit. When Armoured Train 1 was decommissioned HQ of Finnish Air Force simultaneously created a new unit called 1. Rautatieilmatorjuntapatteri (1st Railway Anti-aircraft Artillery Battery), which received all personnel and equipment, that had belonged to the disbanded Armoured Train 1. So for all practical purposes this was case of renaming the unit and also verifying the change of intended use. Not only had the armoured trains de facto become mobile anti-aircraft artillery platforms, which were used for protecting railway transports. But instead of using the whole armoured train for this sort of work, it had become common to take just one of their wagons and temporarily assign to some normal train to provide it some protection against hostile aircraft. When it came to military actions the situation had also changed - while year 1941 had been year of mobile warfare for Finnish Army, the situation in frontlines had now slowed down to trench war. At the same time Finnish state railways was suffering shortage of locomotives and wagons. With their separate supplies trains the two armoured trains used large number of railway wagons and personnel. The whole deal with decommissioning armoured trains and forming railway anti-aircraft batteries allowed slimming down the organisation - separate supplies trains were removed from the equation. Removing supplies trains of armoured trains allowed returning of locomotives and wagons they had used to state railways and the same time also size of personnel was reduced.

19th of June 1943 1st Railway Anti-Aircraft Battery received orders for transfer from Maaselkä Isthmus back to Carelian Isthmus - to Viipuri. From Viipuri station it could effectively operate in railways of Carelian Isthmus. The trench war period in Carelian Isthmus continued almost a year until the Soviets launched their offensive 9th of June 1944. While this year long period had been relatively quiet also for 1st Railway Anti-Aircraft Battery starting of the Soviet offensive changed that. 14th of June 1944 Soviet Air units started targeting city of Viipuri big time - 39 aircraft attacked in the morning and 142 in the evening. That day 1st Railway Anti-Aircraft Battery was in the city and succeeded damaging one of the attacking PE-2 bombers. The next day (15th of June 1944) proved near fatal for the unit. Soviet bombing resulted to explosion of ammunition train in Maskola railway yard of Viipuri railway station - the same railway yard where the train of 1st Railway Anti-Aircraft Battery was located. The explosion damaged all wagons of the train seriously and two of the wagons were destroyed. While the two damaged wagons were replaced with new ones in September of 1944 this proved to be the swan song for this unit. 19th of June 1944 the seriously damaged train was moved to train station of Taavetti from where it was transferred to Simola station 26th of June 1944. While the unit was in Simola, 1st of July Simola station was attacked by 22 Soviet PE-2 bombers. The unit was transferred to Kouvola 22nd of September 1944. Thanks to repairs and new wagons the unit had survived Continuation War and still remained in operational condition after it. But as the war ended, so did the need for this type of military unit. 1st Railway Anti-Aircraft Battery was decommissioned and its personnel demobilised starting 18th of November 1944. Nowadays parts of the armoured train used by this unit remain in Finnish Armour Museum (Panssarimuseo) in Parola.

 

ARMOURED TRAIN 2:

While Finnish Armed Forces GHQ appointed Armoured Train 1 for Carelian Isthmus in beginning of Continuation War its sister unit Armoured Train 2 was reserved for railways in northern side of Lake Ladoga. Armoured Train 2 arrived to city of Joensuu 1st of July 1941. There it received orders for moving to Tohmajärvi area for co-operating with Railway Battery (Rautatiepatteri) to assist recapturing Värtsilä. This "pairing-up" wasn't an accident, but result of long term planning. These two units were placed under command of VII Army Corps and once they arrived to Tohmajärvi 5th of July they were placed on disposal for Detachment Korvenheimo. Värtsilä was municipality divided by 1940 peace treaty and the first centre of population along this railway behind the border. At the time Railway Battery was one of a kind unit for Finnish Army and equipped with two Finnish build 152-mm railway guns known as 152/45 CRaut. This railway gun combination of 152-mm Canet naval/coastal gun and modified flatcar provided rather effective artillery piece by Finnish standards of that time - heavy gun capable firing 6 shells per minute to maximum range of 20 kilometres. While the Railway Battery supported the attack to Värstilä with its guns the armoured train remained as reserve. For this operation Armoured Train 2 assumed code name Into, while its counterpart Railway Battery had code name Iivari. While in Tohmajärvi 7th of July 1941 formation of three Soviet bombers did a fly over which resulted the train downing one of them. That same day it received orders for moving to Kaurila, which was closer to border and where Soviet aircraft had bombed Finnish field artillery.

Weaponry of Armoured Train 2 for Värstilä operation:

The Soviets had build a defensive zone of mine fields, obstacles and bases close behind 1940 border. While this defensive zone was mostly comparatively weak as part of it they had also turned all villages in the border area as fortified strong points - and this included Värstilä. Finnish troops succeeded capturing Värstilä 11th of July 1941. For this operation the train received additional temporary boost to its firepower in form of 75 K/17 field gun. This field gun presumably loaned from Fortification Artillery Battalion 5 was placed to flatcar added in front of the train and protected with pulp bales. However Armoured Train 2 seemingly missed the chance for using this extra gun - strong field artillery support and flanking attacks resulted Finnish troops capturing Värtsilä, but neither Armoured Train 2 or Railway Artillery Battery had much of impact in this. While Railway Battery fired just 59 shells in this battle the armoured train remained in reserve and saw no action. The Soviets had succeeded demolishing Värstilä railway-bridge before their retreat. 17th of July the Soviets lost also Matkaselkä, which was the important railway crossroads further along this railway. That same day Armoured Train 2 and Railway Artillery Battery received orders to return Tohmajärvi since the demolished railway-bridge in Värstilä did not allow them to follow advancing Finnish troops. This bridge was not the only problem in their way - the Soviets had demolished the railways several places in this direction - for example between Kaurila and Matkaselkä they had demolished 22 kilometres of railway. While in Tohmajärvi Railway Artillery Battery received its third 152/45 CRaut railway gun.

PICTURE: Operational area of Armoured Train 2 during year 1941 - 1942. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (170 KB).

18th of July 1941 Armoured Train 2 and Railway Artillery Battery received orders for moving to Loimola once railway leading there from Matkaselkä would be repaired. Once they arrived there they would be placed under command of German 163rd Division. Finnish 1st Jaeger Brigade had captured Loimola already 14th of July and 25th of July German 163rd Division had reached Näätäoja. The armoured train and Railway Artillery Battery succeeded getting to Loimola in time for supporting the next attack of German 163rd Division starting 28th of July 1941. Railway Artillery Battery supported the attack from Mustakallio by shelling targets between Näätäoja and Papero. Armoured Train 2 supported attacking German infantry, but the attack failed. 30th of July Railway Artillery Battery received its fourth 152/45 CRaut railway gun and was now in full strength. After this the artillery battery moved from Mustakallio to Kollasjoki. Battles in Näätäoja continued and Armoured Train 2 moved to frontline for supporting the attack. As the intelligence data was sketchy at best the train advanced slowly with screen of supporting infantry on its sides. Soviet artillery FO-team spotted it and called artillery barrage, to which the train responded by firing around even if it lacked visible targets. After this it retreated backwards to avoid the next artillery barrage, but hit a damaged rail. Luckily the damaged part was too short to derail the train, so it got past it swinging. Under supporting fire of the train its crew repaired the damaged tracks and the train stormed attack firing with its weaponry - the classic attack method of armoured trains. This attack proved perfectly timed - the armoured train roared in middle of Soviet infantry regrouping for attack creating real havoc among their ranks.

PICTURE: Armoured Train 2 heading to battle in Näätäoja 8th of August 1941. This photo shows front of the train with flatcar loaded with equipment in front of artillery wagon, behind which are located machinegun/kitchen wagon and Tk3 locomotive.(SA-kuva photo archive, photo number 38263). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (160 KB).

1st - 2nd of August Armoured Train 2 took part in small-scale attack with Jaeger Platoon of Infantry Regiment 56 in Näätäoja area. Both the armoured train and Railway Artillery Battery in Kollasjoki railway station. 5th - 7th of August each day two Soviet bombers with escort fighters attacked this train station - the train returned fire, but without success. 8th of August formation of 11 Soviet aircraft attacked Kollasjoki railway station - this time the train succeeded damaging two of the attacking Soviet fighters. 21st of August arrived orders, which temporarily separated ways of Armoured Train 2 and Railway Artillery Battery. Railway Artillery Battery was sent to northern Carelian Isthmus, while Armoured Train 2 was sent to Rautalahti area (near Sortavala) to boost anti-aircraft capacity of 19th Division. In addition it received orders to assist stopping remains of Soviet 168th Division, which the Soviets were evacuating by Lake Ladoga from motti forming to Rautalahti area. For variety of reasons stopping this evacuation failed - while the Soviets had to leave much of their heavy weaponry behind they succeeded pulling off their troops. Railway Artillery Battery moved to Haukkavaara (near Hiitola) from where it shelled Soviet troops in Cape of Kilpola.

28th of August 1941 Armoured Train 2 and Railway Artillery Battery were returned to VII Army Corps. The attack towards city of Äänislinna / Petrozavodsk / Petroskoi had already advanced behind 1939 border and the Soviet defence-line along the railway run in isthmus between lakes Säämäjärvi and Sotjärvi. Soviets had finished this part of railway network, Suojärvi - Äänislinna railway during early months of 1940. In typical manner of flanking attacks favoured by Finnish Army 1st Battalion of Infantry Regiment 29 had also captured also 2.5 kilometre section of railway behind the Soviet defence line near village of Peski already week earlier. The same day three Soviet fighters attacked the armoured train and railway repairs train that it was escorting, in this battle Armoured Train 2 succeeded downing one of them. Finnish troops captured the railway up to Peski and it was repaired by 6th of September, at which point also Railway Artillery Battery moved there and the armoured train from there to Jessoila. At that time Jessoila became the main location for main supplies centre of VII Army Corps and railway to Suojärvi remained its main route of supplies. 14th of September Soviet aircraft attacked Jessoila, but suffered heavy losses as Finnish anti-aircraft units downed there 2 SB-series bombers and 5 fighter aircraft. While these 7 downed aircraft were all officially credited to Anti-aircraft Machinegun Company of VII Army Corps, it is more than likely that some would have belonged to Armoured Train 2. In addition while in Jessoila Armoured Train 2 presumably received its 76 ItK/02/34 heavy anti-aircraft gun. 21st of September 1941 Railway Artillery Battery was renamed as 2nd Railway Artillery Battery, the reason for this was forming of 1st Railway Artillery Battery armed with captured Soviet 180-mm railway guns.

PICTURE: Armoured Train 2 in Jessoila September of 1941. Photo used with permission of KevOs 4 website. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (64 KB).

Finnish troops captured city of Äänislinna / Petrozavodsk / Petroskoi 1st of October 1941, but the railway leading there had been heavily demolished and its repairs were not completed until 24th of October. Once this happened Armoured Train 2 was ordered to Äänislinna. 2nd Railway Artillery Battery left to Carelian Isthmus in early October, returned back to Äänislinna 1st of November, but was sent to River Syväri / Svir just few days later. In early days of December 1941 also Armoured Train 2 was ordered to River Syväri. 8th of January 1942 both the armoured train and 2nd Railway Artillery Battery received orders to return Äänislinna, from the artillery battery continued to Karhumäki while the armoured train was added to anti-aircraft defence of Äänislinna. Mid-February 1942 Armoured Train was sent to Karhumäki where it again met 2nd Railway Artillery Battery, which had recently found itself constantly targeted by Soviet aircraft due to its repeated and effective counter-artillery missions. Six kilometres long blind track leading from Vitska was selected as base of operations for the both units. However this new base of operations proved to be far from peaceful - during early hours of March 8th Soviet aircraft bombed Vitska not less than eight times and the bombing was repeated the next night. These bombardments both damaged the railway and the telephone connection. The armoured train and railway artillery battery transferred their base of operations to Karhumäki station. 2nd of April 1942 2nd Railway Artillery Battery was placed under command of Aunus Group, while the armoured train remained in Karhumäki. 9th of April 1942 Armoured Train 1 and Armoured Train 2 switched their locomotives in Karhumäki. From these two armoured steam locomotives K 5 number 884 that Armoured Train 2 received had just arrived from repairs in Engineer Works, while G10 number 346 transferred to Armoured Train 1 had not seen large-scale repairs for quite a while so it had a long list of minor problems.

2nd Railway Battery returned to Karhumäki (in Maaselkä isthmus) 24th of August 1942. After this building of a new base was to Malu was started. This base build to large hill contained fortified placements for all four railway guns and two placements for two wagons of armoured trains behind them, so they could offer anti-aircraft defence for the artillery battery while it was in this base. This base proved to be rather dangerous place - it mere 1.4 kilometres from the frontline, so the Soviets could not avoid noticing it and their counter-measures were to be expected. 15th of September 1942 the Soviets launched attacked in Krivi area (centre of Maaselkä isthmus). Following the initial attack were series of counter-attacks and attacks, which formed a battle lasting four days in this sector. During this battle Soviet aircraft were very active in Maaselkä isthmus as also the armoured train soon found out. Already the day that the attack started 13 fighter aircraft attacked the base of 2nd Railway Battery and Armoured Train 2 in Malu and Soviet artillery bombarded it repeatedly. The fighters repeated their attack the next day. 18th of September the base was attacked again, but this time armoured train succeeded downing two of the attacking I-153 fighters and damaging another two. Both commanders of the armoured train and railway battery had come to conclusion that this new base was too dangerous for long-time use and recommended transferring their units further from the frontline before their expensive equipment would be lost. The railway leading to the hill was dangerous and locomotive used by the railway battery, so moving the units from their base would be very difficult. The reply they received to this request was affirmative. Their new base was selected - so called "Sing-Sing" railway near Malu. But as the units left from their base in the hill for moving to this new location the downhill railway-section proved at least just as dangerous as suspected - what followed was a serious accident with wagons piling up. Several wagons were damaged in this accident - this included both of the artillery wagons belonging to Armoured Train 2.

PICTURE: Armoured Train 2, photo likely from winter of 1941 - 1942. Photo property of Jaeger Platoon Website. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (49 KB).

Due to Soviet activity 2nd Railway Artillery Battery was transferred to 25th of September 1942. Already the next day 26th of September 1942 artillery wagons of Armoured Train 2 were transferred to Karhumäki railway station, where they provided anti-aircraft defence. Few days later 30th of September the armoured train was transferred to Pindus - Vistka railway, where it spent most of its time in Pindus station. During October of 1942 it succeeded downing two Soviet U-2 reconnaissance/bomber aircraft. 27th of November 1942 the armoured train was ordered back to Karhumäki railway station, where it in its usual manner provided anti-aircraft defence. As with Armoured Train 1 in that same day Finnish Armed Forces GHQ issued orders for decommissioned Armoured Train 2.

 

2nd RAILWAY ANTI-AIRCRAFT BATTERY:

Just like with Armoured Train 1 / 1st Railway Anti-aircraft Battery also decommissioning of Armoured Train 2 was just way to open door for creating a new unit from it. 2. Rautatieilmatorjuntapatteri (2nd Railway Anti-aircraft Battery) was created 27th of November 1942. The reasons and developments were the same as with the another railway anti-aircraft battery. Shortage of railway stock and need to reduce amount of personnel. Also just like it's sister unit in this re-organising also this unit lost its supplies train previously used to service the armoured train. The new unit continued the same work as its predecessor and also remained in the same area.

24th of March one artillery wagon and one machinegun wagon belonging to 2nd Railway Anti-aircraft Battery were on temporary bases ordered to Karhumäki - Äänislinna railway, where they were used to provide anti-aircraft defence to ordinary trains, to which they were connected for this work. 5th of April the railway anti-aircraft battery was temporarily divided to two sections. The 1st Section moved to Pindus, from there it was ordered to Perälahti and about month later to Uunitsa railway-bridge. The 2nd Section moved to Malu and remained there until the 1st Section was transferred there 9th of July 1943. The same day 2nd Section was transferred from Malu to Karhumäki. The unit received also reinforcements in form of new Git-type non-armoured boxcars each armed with single 20-mm Madsen anti-aircraft gun in summer of 1943. Already starting 15th of May one of these Git anti-aircraft wagon belonging to 2nd Section had been connected to passenger trains moving in Karhumäki - Lisma section of Karhumäki - Äänislinna railway.

PICTURE: Operational area of 2nd Railway Anti-Aircraft Battery most of 1943 - 1944. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (171 KB).

9th of July 1943 1st Section was transferred to Malu and 2nd Section to Karhumäki. Starting 19th of August the sections were connected to troop transport trains moving in Karhumäki - Lisma section of Karhumäki - Äänislinna railway. The two sections were rotated in this duty. 24th of October 1943 Soviet aircraft attacked in Uunitsa, Finnish anti-aircraft units defending Uunitsa included 2nd Railway Anti-aircraft Battery and 42nd Anti-aircraft Battery. During this attack they downed two Il-2 ground attack aircraft and two Mig-3 fighters. 3rd of November the unit was defending Karhumäki, which also suffered attack of Soviet aircraft. 5th of December 1943 the 1st Section was transferred to Uunitsa, but it returned to Karhumäki already the next day. Starting from end of December 1943 wagons of the section were again attached to troop transport trains moving in this area.

Soviet offensive of summer 1944 effected profoundly to fate of 2nd Railway Anti-aircraft Battery. GHQ of Finnish Armed Forces transferred to Carelian Isthmus 11th Division, 17th Division and 20th Brigade from Syväri (River Svir) and from Maaselkä Isthmus 4th Division and 6th Division. While 2nd Railway Anti-aircraft Battery was not among the units heading to Carelian Isthmus this (by Finnish scale) massive transfer of troops needed to be secured against Soviet aircraft. For this task the unit was transferred to section of railway hugging the northern shores of Lake Ladoga. Mäkriä in eastern end of Mäkriä - Pitkäranta railway was the main area for leaving train transports of VI Army Corps and this was the place where the railway anti-aircraft battery was ordered. It's wagons travelled with trains transporting troops and equipment in Mäkriä - Pitkäranta section of the railway and provided them air-defence. 22nd of June 1944 they downed Il-2 ground attack aircraft, but also lost two men in battle against the attacking Soviet aircraft.

Due to large transfer of troops to Carelian Isthmus the Finnish troops remaining in River Syväri (River Svir) were much weaker and Soviet offensive was expected also there. Since the troops were too weak for breaking the offensive in their existing positions decision was made to retreat further back and wear and out the coming offensive. Soviet offensive in River Syväri started 20th of June 1944. By that time Finnish troops had already started their retreat to next prepared line of defence (PSS-position). The Soviets had also plans of their own and these included landing of 70th Marine Brigade behind Finnish defensive lines in Vitele (located north-east shore of Lake Ladoga). 23rd of June the Soviets made the landing, they succeeded surprising the Finns and creating a beachhead about 5 kilometres wide. Both railway and main highway from sector of VI Army Corps went through Vitele, so the landing succeeded cutting off them both. The landing operation was well-timed - the most unit that Finnish coastal artillery had in the area was 2nd Railway Artillery Battery with its 152-mm railway guns, but this unit had received orders for transfer to Carelian Isthmus and had left just before the landing. Luckily for the Finns they had build a new road deeper inland, but this road was still unfinished and close enough that the landing of Soviet marines was threatening it also. Finnish troops hastily moved to the area counter-attacked against the beachhead, but failed and the Soviets succeeded landing Vitele also 3rd Marine Brigade. Fighting against mud and Soviet attacks from the beach-head Finnish troops succeeded evacuating most of their equipment by using their newly build road, but the railway anti-aircraft battery needed railway to move and the only railway was going through the beach-head. The next day (24th of June) the Soviets succeeded breaching PSS-position and Finnish troops were ordered to retreat to level of Vitele. 2nd Railway Anti-aircraft Battery had no route of retreat left and advancing Soviet troops were closing in fast, so it had only one possibility - making sure that the enemy would not capture anything useful. Weapons were removed from the train and evacuated to Finland with trucks. The now unarmed wagons of the train were demolished before leaving and personnel of the unit split as reinforcements to various anti-aircraft units of VI Army Corps. What the Soviets did to demolished wreck of the armoured train left behind by 2nd Railway Anti-aircraft Battery is not known, but presumably they scrapped it.

 

STRUCTURE AND CHANGES IN ARMOURED TRAINS 1941 - 1944:

The basic structure of using trains seems to have remained for duration of the war - that is when the whole train was used in one place. Starting year 1942 attaching one or two wagons of armoured train to normal trains moving in dangerous areas for providing anti-aircraft defence on temporary bases became usual method of use and remained so until end of the war.

Usual structure for using whole armoured train:

Some of the wagons used in armoured train went through modifications during the war. The most modified wagons seem to have been four-axle artillery wagons (previous automatic-gun wagons). However the main modifications were weaponry. While 40-mm Bofors (40 ItK/39 B) was the main armament for the two Finnish armoured trains during Continuation War Armoured Train 2 received also 76-mm anti-aircraft gun in September of 1941 and likely this gun wasn't replaced with 40 ItK/39 B until spring of 1943. While each train started with two 40-mm Bofors guns Armoured Train 2 for most of the war had one 40-mm Bofors and 76-mm (76 ItK/02/34 OH) anti-aircraft gun. Year 1944 each train seems to have had three 40-mm Bofors. 76 ItK/02/34 OH was a poor anti-aircraft gun to begin with, but when we consider that instead of whole battery the armoured train had only one of these guns and no mechnical fire control computer or large rangefinder for it, the actual chances of hitting any aircraft with it must have been minimal. At best it could be useful for disturbing formation of enemy formation and it certainly packed useful punch against ground targets, but that's it. Due to its low rate of fire according surviving after action reports during the usual exchange of fire with enemy aircraft the gun succeeded firing usually just one or two shots before the aircraft were already gone. Machineguns of the train were another matter, but less effective than hoped in their own way also. Each of the two armoured trains retained number of 7.62-mm Maxim machineguns for possible needs of shooting ground targets and some of these were also used for anti-aircraft use. While some of the machinegun wagon / kitchen wagon had open turrets on their roofs for 7,62 ItKk/31 VKT anti-aircraft machineguns, this didn't include all. Even if 7,62 ItKk/31 VKT had served well its lack of effective range was noted already by 1942 and 20-mm anti-aircraft guns were suggested as replacement. However the 20-mm guns were never installed to machinegun wagon / kitchen wagon, but to new types of wagons. Along with 20-mm Madsen anti-aircraft guns was introduced with the last new wagon types used with armoured trains. Unlike their predecessors these wagons known as Git and Gbit were not armoured, but normal boxcars modified for this use by making opening to their roof and adding platform, to which the gun was bolted. These Git-type and Gbit-type wagons were not used only with 1st and 2nd Railway Anti-aircraft Batteries, but also with railway anti-aircraft machinegun companies. Version that had been build from flatcar and also armed with 20-mm Madsen anti-aircraft gun was known as Hit-type wagon. Also versions of Git and Gbit armed with 7.62-mm anti-aircraft machinegun existed, but records don't indicate their use with the railway anti-aircraft batteries.

PICTURE: Concept drawing showing the basic structure used in Git and Gbit wagons. The wagons used for this purpose were standard boxcars and remained non-armoured. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (26 KB).

 

Armament of Armoured Train 2 in 23rd of March 1942:

1st Railway Anti-Aircraft Battery in September of 1943:

PICTURE: Wartime photo showing 7,62 ItKk/31-40 anti-aircraft machinegun in a normal train boxcar modified as anti-aircraft wagon. Photo property of Jaeger Platoon Website. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (45 KB).

PICTURE: Normal train boxcar equipped with 20-mm Madsen anti-aircraft gun to provide anti-aircraft defense capability for this train. Photo taken in near Krivi during Continuation War. (SA-kuva photo archive, photo number 84672). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (102 KB).

 

SOVIET CONTRIBUTION

The Soviets operated several armoured trains against the Finns during Continuation War. Their use was heavily focused to year 1941. Mid-August 1941 small Soviet armoured train (flatcar + one artillery wagon + locomotive) was destroyed in Kiestinki - Louhi railway (located southern Lapland). First Finnish troops cut its route of retreat by demolishing section of tracks with satchel charges and then called in German Stuka dive-bombers, which destroyed the train. Soviet armoured train was captured 22nd of August 1941 in Peski by 2nd Company of Infantry Regiment 29 and antitank-gun from regimental (anti-tank) Gun Company. Apparently the antitank-gun succeeded damaging train which persuaded crew of the train to abandon it. According unverified story shell fired by antitank-gun hit box of hand grenades inside artillery wagon of the train and made them explode. It has been claimed that one of the two artillery wagons was captured relatively intact. While there is no certainty, this may have been the captured Soviet artillery wagon, which is now in Finnish Armour Museum in Parola. Soviet 7th Army had one or two armoured trains in Äänislinna / Petroskoi / Petrozavodsk area used them in battles of late September 1941. Soviet troops were retreating towards Äänislinna and used the armoured trains both as artillery support. 29th of September Finnish flanking manoeuvres already succeeded cutting off their route of retreat in train station of Orsega once, but with help of armoured train they succeeded breaking through towards Äänislinna. But once Finnish Jaeger Battalion 3 succeeded cutting their route of retreat against and they had no choice but to demolish their train(s) 1st of October 1941 near Orsega station.

PICTURE: Locomotive and one of the wagons belonging to Soviet armoured train captured in Käppaselkä (bit north of Uunitsa). Photo used with permission of KevOs 4 website. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (59 KB).

28th of October 1941 Finnish Army 1st Battalion of Infantry Regiment 45 captured Soviet armoured train in Käppäselkä near Uunitsa (north of Äänislinna / Petroskoi / Petrozavodsk). While the Soviets manufactured several somewhat standardised armoured train types like BP-35, OB-3, NKPS-42 and BP-43, this train doesn't seem to represent any of these standard armoured train types. Finnish troops had previously demolished section of tracks and the train did the mistake of driving on these demolished tracks, which resulted to it getting stuck. Most of the train's crew succeeded escaping thanks to fire-support given by their comrades that stayed behind in the train. Apparently this train contained one armoured locomotive and two armoured wagons, which didn't have any artillery armament. No evidence has been found about this train or any part of it seeing any Finnish use, so likely Finnish Army didn't use this train or any part of it.

PICTURE: Another photo of the Soviet armoured train that Finnish Army captured in Käppaselkä. Notice the wagon in the front. Obviously this is not the same artillery wagon, that is now in Finnish Armour Museum. Photo courtecy of T. Tuononen. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (109 KB).

In fact only one captured Soviet artillery wagon is known have seen Finnish use. There doesn't seem to be any certainty about where it was captured. What can be said for sure is that it must have been captured in year 1941 and originates from one the captured Soviet armoured trains. It may be from armoured train captured in Peski in August of 1941, but since there does not seem to be existing photos about that particular train, there is no certainty. On the other hand it also may originate from Soviet armoured train(s) demolished near Orsega in September of 1941. Since this artillery wagon is now in Finnish Armour Museum in Parola and wartime photos showing it being used as part of Finnish Armoured Train 2 exist, some conclusions can be made. This artillery wagon is obviously Soviet build PL-35 artillery wagon modernised to PL-37 standard in Soviet Union. Particular artillery wagons were build in Kraniy Profintern Plant in Bryarsk and it must have been build sometime in 1939 - 1941. The wagon has following weaponry: Two 76-mm field guns (76 K/02-30) and six 7.62-mm Maxim machineguns. The wagon has two turrets, each of which contains one of the 76-mm field guns (76 K/02-30) and one co-axial 7.62-mm Maxim machinegun. The remaining four 7.62-mm Maxim machineguns are located in socket mounts in both sides of the wagon - two on each side. When compared to other wagons of Finnish Armoured trains, this wagon was well-armoured, since it had 20-mm side armour and its 15-mm thick roof of armour. Typically PL-37 wagons were part of Soviet type BP-35 armoured train, which contained PR-35 armoured locomotive and two artillery wagons of either PL-35 or PL-37 type. Since BP-35 armoured train lacked anti-aircraft weapons, this captured artillery wagon was not very useful to Finnish Army. None of the 76-mm field guns and Maxim-machineguns used in it could be used against aircraft - and providing air defence was the main use of Finnish armoured trains at that time.

 

ARMOURED TRAIN TABLE OF ORGANISATION AND EQUIPMENT (sample)

23rd of March 1942

Officers:

NCO:

Men:

Total:

Combat train (proper armoured train):

- Commander of the train

1

- 2 x 40 ItK/39 B crews

1

4

8

13

- 76 ItK/02/34 OH crew

1

1

4

6

- 2 x 7,62 ItKk/31 VKT crews

2

4

6

- 21 x 7.62-mm Maxim crews

2

10

23

35

- 3 x Helvar C radio stations

1

3

4

8

- Signal personnel

1

4

5

- Engineer Squad

2

2

4

- Medical NCO

1

1

Total

6

23

50

79

Supplies train (normal train used for servicing the proper armoured train) :

- Sergeant Major

1

1

- Supplies NCO

1

1

- Weapons NCO + gunsmith

1

1

2

- Clerk

1

1

- Kitchen personnel

3

3

- Shoemaker

1

1

- Messenger

1

1

- Driver (for commanders car)

1

1

Total

5

6

11

- Traffic Squad

1

3

2

6

Total

7

31

58

96

 


SOURCES:

Paavo Tavio: Suomen Puolustusvoimain panssarijunat vuosina 1918 - 1939 ja niiden edeltäjät vapaussodassa in Sotahistoriallinen aikauskirja 4 (Armoured trains of Defence Forces 1918 - 1939 and their predecessors in War of Independence in Journal of Military History 4).

Paavo Tavio: Panssarijunat talvi- ja jatkosodan taisteluissa (Sotahistoriallinen aikakauskirja 5)

Armoured trains in Winter and Continuation Wars (Journal of Military History 5)

Itsenäisen Suomen ilmatorjuntatykit 1917 - 2000 by Raimo Vehviläinen, Ahti Lappi and Markku Palokangas. (The Anti-aircraft guns of Independent Finland 1917 - 2000).

Itsenäisen Suomen Rannikkotykit 1918 - 1998 by Ove Enqvist. (Coastal Guns in Finland 1918 - 1998)

Paul Malmassari: Les Trains Blindés 1826 – 1989.

Armored Trains by Steven J. Zaloga.

Yön yli päivään, Suomen Ilmatorjunnan vaiheita 1925 - 1990 by Pentti Palmu.

Ilmatorjuntajoukot 1925 - 1960.

Jyri Paulaharju: Suomen Kenttätykistön historia, osa 2.

Y.A. Järvinen: Jatkosodan taistelut.

Jatkosodan historia, osa 2.

Finnish Military Archives, archive folders T 9927/27 and T 9927/28

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

Special thanks to Panssarimuseo (Finnish Armour Museum), Parola.


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