A New Kind of Armoured Train
||A New Kind of Armoured Train:
German BP Armoured Trains on the Eastern Front
by Wayne Turner
Though the Germans were initially behind the Poles and Soviets in their use of Armoured Trains, they soon recognised their usefulness for rear area security. Armoured trains crossed with the invading forces into the Soviet Union at the very beginning of Operation Barbarossa. However, during the fighting of that early campaign Soviet armoured trains engaged the Germans all along the front, while the German trains remained mostly in the rear.
|Initially the German armoured trains were improvised affairs with loop-holed open topped infantry cars and some side armour. Captured Polish or Czech artillery cars were used and captured French tanks carried on flat cars designed to allow them to dismount, completed these early trains. As the eastern campaign went on, German trains added captured cars from Soviet BP-35 armoured trains as well as increasing the firepower of old trains with more Czech artillery cars.
Development of the BP series
The armoured trains came under the General of Panzer troops in 1941 and they remained mostly tied to security duties. However, by 1943 the armoured trains were increasingly engaged in frontline combat. This led to the development of the BP42 armoured train.
This design borrowed many of the concepts from the Polish train,
initially even having the same armament of two 7.62cm guns and two 10cm
howitzers. It included infantry cars for the train command and
supporting panzergrenadiers. Tanks and anti-aircraft were also included.
One modification made from Polish and Soviet practice was to separate the artillery guns so that each car only had
one weapon. With each gun in its own car, a hit on a car could only
knock out one weapon and not two like on the Polish and Soviet designs.
|The emphasis on artillery meant the role of the armoured train became
more that of mobile artillery, rather than of an armoured machine-gun
carrier. However, the addition of 2cm quadruple FlaK guns and various
passenger-fired machine-gun gave it plenty of anti-infantry firepower.
Two reliable Panzer 38(t) tanks were carried in their own cars at each
end of the train to give the train a dismountable
By 1944 new specifications had been issued for German armoured trains.
The BP44 was an up-armed version of the BP42. It replaced the older
Polish guns with 10.5cm leFH18/40 howitzers and added further anti-tank
weapons in the form of a Tank-hunter car at each end of the train. These
were armoured flat cars mounting Panzer IV turrets. The Tankhunter cars
were also added to the captured trains in German service. The
Tank-hunter cars first began entering service in mid-1944.
Due to the maximum weight that could be borne by the two-axle design of
the German cars, armour of the BP42/44 could be no more than 30mm all
round. While a multi-wheeled boggied design could have borne more
weight, the simple two-axle design was much easier to remount on the
track after a derailing.
Most of the BP42 trains that entered service in 1943 were upgraded
during 1944 as they returned to the workshops for repairs and
maintenance. Even the older designs and captured trains were generally
upgraded to the BP44 standard by the addition of Tank-hunter cars,
infantry cars and flak cars, but usually captured artillery cars were
retained, though often with BP type gun turrets.
Armoured Trains 61 to 72 were built as BP42 type trains and Armoured Trains 73 to 84 were built as BP44 type trains. A number of the BP42 trains were later upgraded to the BP44 standard during 1944. Many of these saw action on the Eastern Front during 1944 and 1945.
Army Group North
Armoured trains saw considerable action in Army Group North during 1944. In mid-January 1944 the Soviets launched an offensive towards Novgorod. Armoured Train 63 attacked from the Pskov, before conducting a fighting withdrawal along the Dno-Bateskaya rail line. It finally returned to Pskov where it was damaged by artillery on 31 March.
In February Armoured Train 61 fought south of this around Vitebsk, while Armoured Train 1 and 66 took part in battles to prevent the Soviets expanding the Dnepr bridgehead near Rogachev.
Between April and June 1944 the armoured trains of Army Group North were mostly involved in suppressing the ever-increasing partisan activity that foreshadowed the Soviet’s Operation Bagration.
With the launch of the Red Army’s assault the trains of Army Group North became involved immediately to the north of Army Group Centre, as well as the further north as pressure built in Estonia. Eventually the Soviets broke through to the Baltic Sea near Tukkum, Latvia and the armoured trains were used in August to reopen contact between Army Group North and Centre.
As the Soviets pushed the Germans back in the
north, armoured trains became involved in the fighting for the Courland
Pocket and during the final approaches to Berlin. Armoured Trains 65,
68, 72, 76, and 77 took part in this fighting.
|Below: The BP44 Armoured Train Locomotive.
|Army Group Centre
From December 1943 until April 1944 a number of German armoured trains, including 69 and 70, were engaged in the heavy fighting around Tarnopol. While much of the fighting for the Korsun and Podolsky Pockets was away from rail linea, armoured trains were able to secure supply and communications routes for the relief forces. A number of these trains were the new BP type.
Armoured Trains 62 and 70 were able to offer some support during the pocket fighting securing lines into the area. In March Armoured Train 62 was sent across the Dnestr River to aid a counterattack to cut off a Soviet pincer, but superior Soviet forces pushed them back towards Stanislau (Ivanov-Frankovsk) and back across the Dnestr, but they were able to secure the line for reinforcements coming from Lemberg.
During this period many of the armoured trains were ordered to help hold Hitler’s Festerplatz cities. Armoured Train 11 had to hold Brody, Armoured Train 10 was ordered to hold Kovel, where it was joined by Armoured Train 71 on 21 March 1944 to help keep the lines open to the city.
Once the city of Kovel was relieved in April 1944, the armoured trains in the area were able to break off from the fighting and undergo repairs. In four months of fighting only two trains, 62 and 63, were still operational in the North Ukraine. Most of the remaining trains returned to anti-partisan duties.
|Below: The BP44 Armoured Train Infantry Car.
|When the Soviets launched Operation Bagration on
22 June 1944 the armoured trains were once more drawn into the fighting.
Armoured Trains 1 and 61 took part in the defence of Bobruisk, before
being captured with the encirclement of the city. On the
Baranovichi-Luninets line Armoured Train 68 attempted to keep it open. It was joined by Armoured Train 66, but they were unable to halt the Soviet advance and withdrew to Brest-Litovsk.
One of the shortest service records for a German armoured train belonged
to number 74. Armoured Train 74 was being assembled at the Armoured
Train Workshops at Rembertov, just east of Warsaw. When the workshop was threatened by the Soviet advance Armoured Trains 74 and 75 were
quickly rushed into action. Armoured Train 74 supported 73.
Infanteriedivision southeast of Warsaw. The train was pushed back at
Otvok on 27 July and finally destroyed by Soviet T-34 tanks on 29 July.
It had lasted just four days in action. However, Armoured Train 75
faired better, fighting both the Soviets and the Polish Uprising around
Warsaw until it withdrew to the Vistula River before the Narev
Bridgehead in October.
As the German defence re-established on the Vistula River, armoured
trains became involved in the fighting as the Soviet launched their
thrust towards Germany in December 1944.
|Below: The BP44 Armoured Train Anti-Aircraft Car.
|Army Group South
In the south the Soviet had been steadily pushing back Army Group South sincelate 1943. Of the new armoured trains, numbers 62 and 70 were involved in a fighting withdrawal across the Bug River in March as the Soviets thrust through the German lines. Armoured Train 62 was able to escape the Soviet forces, but Armoured Train 70 fought its way southeast through Slobodka into the area or the German Sixth Army. While the train was in Razdelnaya the Soviets assaulted the town and trapped Armoured Train 70. Its crew were forced to destroy their train and retreat on foot.
Armoured Train 71 arrived at the front in January on the Rovno-Shepetovka line. However, by February it had been withdrawn and was moved to anti-partisan duties.
Fighting around Tarnopol flared up again in July, this time involving Armoured Trains 63, which was called from antipartisan duties. On 17 July it was caught by a Soviet armoured attack at Kutkorz and destroyed. This left only the older captured Soviet Armoured Train 11 to fight its way out of encirclement by itself.
|Below: The BP44 Armoured Train Artillery Car.
|In May Armoured Train 71, after refitting,
returned to the front lines joining Army Group South Ukraine in Galați,
Romania. After the Soviets smashed through the front lines on 20 August,
Armoured Train 71 withdrew to the Ploesti oil fields. It was cut off
when it was diverted to pick up Luftwaffe staff, and was unable to
escape into Transylvania.
As the Germans began to withdraw into Slovakia and Hungary armoured trains also took part in actions against the Soviets as well as the Slovakian Uprising. Initially Armoured Train 62 was engaged against the Slovaks before it was replaced in November by Armoured Train 22, which had been transferred from France. Armoured Train 62 was then moved to Hungary where it took part in the fighting for Miskolc. It was damaged during the fighting and was sent to Poland for repairs.
By the beginning of 1945 Armoured Trains 64, 78 and 79 were operating in Hungary, fighting to hold back the Red Army in the west of the country. Their primary role was to defend the important Hungarian oil fields around Nagykanisza. All three trains were involved in fighting around the southwest corner of Late Balaton. The Soviets broke past the north flank of the lake in mid-march 1945 and out flanked Armoured Train 79 where it was destroyed on 27 March. The other two trains were able to withdraw into Austria, where they surrendered.
|Below: The Tank Hunter Car.
|In Flames Of War
You can field Battlefront’s new BP44 Armoured Train from Grey Wolf. An armoured train option can be taken in a number of forces as a support, usually as an alternative to fielding another form of artillery support.
The BP44 Armoured Train has options for a variety of weapons and cars to represent the trains in various stages of armament. You can field a half train of one Artillery Car and one Anti-aircraft Car or a full train with two of each.
Each Anti-aircraft car includes both an artillery
turret and an anti-aircraft gun, while the Artillery Car has a single
artillery turret. The artillery turrets of both cars are armed with
10.5cm leFH18/40 guns with an excellent artillery bombardment range. Due
to on-hand supplies of ammunition, artillery weapons of armoured trains
fire bombardments as two weapons, giving you an option for either a 4
or 8 gun battery.
|Click on the box covers below to learn more about each part of the Armoured Train...
|An Infantry Car with a Panzergrenadier Platoon is always part of the
train, a Staff Car can be added so you can repeat bombardments, and you
have options for two Panzer 38(t) tanks and up to two Tank-hunter cars
armed with Panzer IV H turrets. Your Anti-aircraft Cars can be armed
with either a 2cm FlaK(V) or 3.7 FlaK43 anti-aircraft gun.
A BP44 Armoured Train supplies a great deal of fire support for
whatever force you choose to field it with, whether it is a
Grenadierkompanie, Panzerkompanie, Gepanzerte Panzergrenadierkompanie,
Panzergrenadierkompanie, or Sicherungskompanie.
Last Updated On Tuesday, May 22, 2012 by Blake at Battlefront