Danuta class (1919)

Poland 1919-1939: Two Armoured Trains: Danuta(11), Poznańczyk(12)

Historical Context

The early Days of Polish independence after such a long time under Russian yoke were harrowing: If relations with the provisional post-Tsarist Republic was good, it plumetted as the Bolsheviks took power. It even down to war. The Soviet counter offensive in the summer of 1920 (1919-21 Polish-Soviet war) saw the Poles fighting with their cavalry, infantry, some tanks from France and Britain, as well as eight armoured trains. Replenishing their losses meant Poland decided to create no less than fifteen new armoured trains, now having a clue of how huseful they had been.

The task as given to Cegielski Works located in Poznań, and until then not engaged in military production. The general staff created the "Armoured Trains Construction Management" (KBPP) to design such new armoured trains and it was also located in Poznan under supervision of Captain Stanislaw Czerepiński. The first and only "Generał Sosnkowski" was assimilated to the "type I" design train, and resembled to the Soviet artillery wagons, probably at the tome of their game at the time. They had four-axle bogie to support the weight and two artillery turrets, plus superior armour.

Bundesarchiv, color

With the victory at Warsaw by August 1920, the whole program of 15 new armoured trains was cancelled and "Generał Sosnkowski" became the sold result of the KBPP in wartime. Instead, with all what was set in place it was decided to capitalize on this and just create a few armoured wagons to modernize extant armoured trains. These became the "type 1 artillery wagons". Their production was limited as a new design was to be produced based on Cegielski, the "type II" wagon.

Design of the Type II artillerie wagons

The new Type II had reworked artillery turrets now capable of a true 360° traverse. The armour in addition was now rounded to better deflect fire. Cegielski Works made five of these Type II by early 1921. Four were used tomodernized "Danuta" and "Poznańczyk" which were near twin. That's why the article is named "Danuta class". Only different was in their assault wagons (carrying troops) which differes in size and design. The fifth of these Type II wagons was placed in reserve vehicle. The Type II was itself superseded by the "type III" wagons that went in the "Smialy" and "Pilsudczyk" armoured trains.


One of original 1918 cars of the first Poznańczyk is preserved in Poznań as a monument

"Poznańczyk" was built in December 1918 in Warsaw and attributed the nr.11, and comprised several partially armoured freight wagons (sandbags and concrete). Poznańczyk was first used with the Polish insurgents at Wielkopolskie Uprising fighting until February 1919, near Poznań, against German occupation. By January 1919 it was instrumental in the recapture of Krotoszyn and Ostrów Wielkopolski. Its best artillery wagon had armour plates and a rotating turret.

As for "Danuta", It was created in Poznań by 29 May 1919 and for some sources used elements of the captured Panzerzug 22 on 17 February, the remainder being used on "Goplana". But sources diverged on this. It was part of three trains in the 2nd Wielkopolski Unit and

Train Compositions and early action

Danuta's composition resembled that of "Poznańczyk" with mostly improvised protection on freight wagons, few metal plates. By August 1920 its main artillery wagon had a (fixed?) 75mm gun, 37mm gun and up to ten machine guns or even twice as many guns. The 37mm were likely naval ex-Russian revolver guns. It fought as N°9 at Warsaw in August 1920 with the 1st unit, supporting the 15th Division, took part in the Minsk Mazowiecki attack with the "Msciciel" and "Paderewski". She was assigned to the 5th army, Nowicki group, liberating Mlawa.

Poznańczyk's composition varied and by December 1919 in the Polish-Soviet war it fought on the Lithuanian-Belarussian front with a single artillery wagon, a locomotive and tender, and then several troop semi-armored wagons. By May 1920 converted to narrowed Russian gauge (1524 mm (5ft) versus 1435 mm in the Lviv workshops. It was upgraded with a new type "O" locomotive from the disbanded "Smialy-szeroki" armoured train and by August 1920 it took part in the Warsaw Battle notably supporting the 1st Legion Infantry Division, 3rd Army, including repelling without support waves of attacks at Kuznica, Bialystok, stuck due to the bridge being cut behind. It also took part late in the Niemen Battle, with the 2nd Army.


Danuta in 1939, composition

After being demobilized and stored in 1923/24, the two armoured trains, "Danuta" was quicky reassigned to the Armoured Train Training center of Jablonna, like "General Sosnkowski". The latter, like Danuta was given the new 'type II' artillery wagons but composition remains unsure and was at last standardized by 1929. By October 1927 this training unit became the "1st Armoured Train division" based on Legionowo in the subburbs of Warsaw. "Danuta" and "Poznanczyk" wereassigned together due to their compositions similaries. Both received two Type II artillery wagons each.

The 1930s saw some upgrades. "Poznańczyk" ("Poznanian") received a new standard locomotive type Ti3, which the "Danuta" already had. But both received an extensive armour protection. They also received an extra "assault wagon" (recoignisable to its numerous antenna masts) with powerful radio and signal equipment. The final armament comprised in each of the two artillery wagons, a 75mm gun and 100mm howitzer in turret as well as a single AA machine gun in another turret, and four or more posts for extra machine guns.

Ti3 armoured Locomotives

The final composition of each N°11 and 12 was the same on paper: Two utility flatcars, front and rear (protecting against mines/derailment and loaded with supplies fo the train), two Type II artillery wagons, one "assault" wagon used also for communication. The Locomotives were ex-german, as the Ti3s were former German G53 series (1903-06). Danuta's Ti3-12 was armoured both in 1920 and 1926. Armour scheme was the same but in details for both trains.

Type II artillery wagons

The KBPP Poznan designed, Cegielski Works built wagons were completed by 1921 on long four-axle bogie (German, possibly SS type flatcars) and by 1939 they had each a Czech 100mm wz. 14/19P howitzer built in Poland (lower turret) and single 75mm wz. 02/26 field gun in the upper one. These were Polish-modified ext Russian 76.2mm 3-inches Putilov guns. Both turrets were identical, open roof, with tall sides, and a base authorizing 360°. They remained light compared to Soviet turret tanks. These turrets also were used for the 'type III' which missed the observation cupolas.

Each wagon probably carried more than 250 rounds. The 100mm could hit a target at 9,800 m and fired at 8 rds/min, up to 48° elevation and had a crew of 8. The 75mm wz. 02/26 were capable of 10,700 m, fired at 10 rds/min, elevated only to 11° (crew 6), so they were best used for antitank purposes. This was rounded with eight 7.92mm wz. 08 Maxim MGs, four each side, two on each end in ball mounts, plus the rotating turret in the center which featured a 7.92mm wz. 08 anti-aircraft machine gun. Thus, the total crew was probably at least of 26 men and up to 35 including three officers. If all armed for a dismounted party, this would mean a small infantry unit of 70 men for these wagons alone.

The protection was double layered with thin armour plates separated by cushioning material to absorb hits, over the original oak planking. The interior was probably painted in the same coating used for tanks to avoid chards. Some of these plates were 25 mm thick, notably on the side, and were reduced to 12mm front, back, and roof whereas the floor was protected up to 8mm to cope with mines. There was a two-leaf door each side for access and each end had a single hatch enabling personal to moved from one wagon to another while underway.

Danuta class specs 1939

Dimensions (L-W-H)17.20 x 4.1 x 2 m (56 x 13.4 x 6.5 ft)
Weight50 t
Armament1x100mm, 1x75mm, 8x Maxim LMGs, 1x 7.92mm wz.08 AA

Assault wagons

Second component, was a unique, small two-axles "assault wagon" carrying a well trained assault platoon with grenades and automatic firearms. But they diverged between train. Thos one on "Danuta" was rectangular with rounded upper edge (10.6 m long) and the one on "Poznanczyk" was half-rounded, identical to the one on "Smialy" and "Bartosz Glowacki" and longer at 11.6 m. Both later received radio aerials (RKD/P 100km range, power generator and batteries) and were used for communication for the entire train. They were also armed with four 7.92mm wz.08 Maxim machine guns on either side and are assumed to have a thinner armour compared to the artillery wagons, single layer, but still carried a 32 men strong platoon for a total crew of 40. They had four doors, sides and ends plus bottom hatches in case of turning over.

Reconnaissance and auxiliary support

Both armoured train were deployed with a platoon of armoured draisines which acted as reconnaissance vehicles, generally two "R" type armoured draisines (FT-17 based) and four "TK" armoured draisines (same with TK tankettes) in a "TK-R-TK" scheme, which had the preculiarity of being detached from their chassis for proper in-land reconnaissance. They will be treated in a standalone article. To this, was added an auxiliary, logistics and supply train (skład gospodarczy), which was far larger and could comprise up to 30 wagons, (locomotive, coaches, supply, ambulance, kitchen, workshop, coal, water plus supply flatcars and other carrying vehicles for their own inland reconnaissance with two wz.34 half-tracked trucks, a Poslki FIAT 618 truck, screened by four armed CWS M-111 sidecars.

Combat Use

"Danuta" was still used for training when the Germans attacked in September 1939, whereas "Poznanczyk" was kept in mobilization reserve and fully activated and crewed. As part of the 1st Unit (Trains N°11-15) now unnamed but as "Pociąg pancerny" N°11(Danuta) and 12 (Poznanczyk).

Danuta (N°11) in action

Commanded by Cpt. Bolesław Korobowicz it was assigned to the 26th Infantry Division and after patrol duties, covering infantry in the area of Kcynia and to the Noteć River it was caught by the Luftwaffe on 4 September in Szubin, but damage was light. It was moved to the 15th Infantry Division ("Pomorze") fighting at Bydgoszcz. On 6-7 September it was assigned to General J. Drapellan covering ther retreat from Inowrocław and on the 9th arrived at the Kutno railway but lost contact with the auxiliary train, albeit meeting N°14.

Danut met its end at the battle of the Bzura river counter-offensive. Its teamed repaired the tracks in order to reach Łowicz, and saw action on the 14th loosing all its reconnaissance draisines. Some of the crew later manned abandoned 75mm field guns in an evacuation train and they managed with the trainto repel the German 24th Infantry Division. It was next assigned to the Polish 16th Infantry Division fighting until the 16th this time against the German 31st. Infantry regiment, halting their adance for hours, but the trai, always moving, still received hits.

Eventually a platoon of PAK-36 antitank guns were deployed in force and managed to hit the locomotive and disable one artillery turret. Running out of ammunition, Captain Korobowicz ordered to scuttle the train and evacuate. They were taken prisoner a day later and those who escaped joined one of the last improvised armoured train. The German captured the assault wagon and later pressed it into their Panzerzug 21.

Poznanczyk (N°12) in action

N°12 under command of Captain K. Majewski was deployed on 31 August 1939 with N°12(Danuta) to the 56th Infantry Regiment near Krotoszyn on the border and the following day took part in its defence. On the 2th it was assigned to the Wielkopolska Cavalry Brigade for patrols and on the 5th proceeded to Warsaw through damaged lines that needed repairs and caution. On the 7th it became stuck at Sochaczew and fought on the 9th, the 24th Infantry Division trying to cross the Bzura River in Sochaczew. N°11 managed with its artillery to disable or destroy 7 vehicles but was soon taken under heavy artillery fire, loosing one wagon and being forced to retreat to Blonie. The line was captured later by the 4th Panzerdivision and the way to Warsaw was over. Capitain Majewski ordered to abandon and scuttle the train and most of the crew made it to Warsaw.


Type II Artillery Wagon

Ti3 Armoured Locomotive

Pociąg pancerny "Danuta" by Mińsk Mazowiecki, 4 July 1935

Danuta loco in 1919

Bundesarchiv, color

Possibly N°12

Ti3 Locomotive


Another showing N°52 and 55 with the Type III artillery wagons.


On derela.pl
on flamesofwar.com
Poznancyk wiki
Danuta wikipedia
Another HD depiction, Poznancyk

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