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  © Michał Derela, 2010

Polish improvised armoured car "Józef Piłsudski"

This most known photo of "Tank Piłsudskiego" is apparently retouched, but also other photos show a front axle under lacking front armour skirt section.

The "Józef Piłsudski", also known as "Tank Piłsudskiego" (Piłsudski's Tank) was the first armoured car constructed in Poland, before the officially acknowledged date of Poland's regaining of independence (11 November 1918). In spite of primitive design and all-casemate-mounted armament, its distinctively sloped armoured plates gave it quite modern and unusual appearance. It saw combat service in Polish Lviv defence against the Ukrainians.

Note: (W) marks external links to Wikipedia articles.

History and construction:

On upper photo, US flag above the car is visible.
Bottom photo reportedly shows the car on Krakowski Square on 22 November 1918.

In October-November 1918, the Great War was quickly coming to an end, while the Austro-Hungarian Empire was disintegrating, and new countries were born. Both Poland and West Ukraine (W) aimed at gaining control upon Eastern Galicia province (W), inhabited by both nations. The provincial capital was Lviv (W) (Polish: Lwów), where the Poles constituted a great majority. Early on 1 November the Ukrainian military organization took the city, and on this day there started fighting with the Poles (W).

A design of an improvised armoured car, to help the Polish units in street fighting, was conceived by Professor Antoni Markowski. It was accepted, and the car was instantly built in Lwów Railway Workshops, upon a chassis of an unidentified truck. It was named in a honour of Józef Piłsudski (W). The work was completed by 8 November 1918.

The "Piłsudski's Tank" weighted some 5 tons, its length was some 620 cm, and height some 220 cm. It was armed with 4 casemate-mounted machine guns[1], most probably Austrian Schwarzlose (according to other sources, 3 MGs[2]). A crew was 7-8. The car had massive rubber tyres.


The "Tank Piłsudskiego" belonged to the Technical Unit of the Main Headquarters of Lviv defence. It was the only armoured vehicle used by either side during fighting in Lviv. It was first used on 9 November, to support Polish attack through Jesuit Garden. The car drove on Mickiewicz Street towards Jagiellońska Street, but it had to stop before a barricade with dug out ditch, and then got under intense rifle fire. After experiencing jams of three out of its four machine guns, the car withdrew.

For unclear reasons, "Tank Piłsudskiego" was not used in further combat in Lviv, which lasted until the Ukrainian withdrawal in early morning of 22 November. Only later that day, the car was used during riots on Krakowski Square[2] (there is no closer information, but the car was presumably used in an effort to restore order, which was accomplished only by 24 November). Probably in following months it constituted an Armoured Car Unit, with another improvised car, "Kresowiec"[1]. Its further fate isn't known.

The car's color is not known. It wore a prominent detailed white crowned eagle painted on a front plate, probably upon a red shield or rectangle - a variation upon a historical Polish coat of arms(W). The car was often seen sporting United States flag - it is explained as a mark of American support for the Polish independence, expressed in Woodrow Wilson's 14 points (W).

First crew:

It is noteworthy, that also on 5 November in Lwów there was commenced the first combat flight of the Polish aircraft. "Tank Piłsudskiego" was the only armoured vehicle used by either side during November fighting in Lviv. The Poles also directed to Lviv a captured Austro-Hungarian armoured train, divided on two trains: Nr.1 "Piłsudczyk" and Nr.2 "Śmiały". The third armoured train Nr.3 "Lis-Kula" or "Pepetrójka" was built in Lviv workshops.

Sketch of the car.
Author: J. Magnuski [1]


1. Janusz Magnuski, "Samochody pancerne Wojska Polskiego 1918-1939", WiS; Warsaw 1993
2. Jan Tarczyński, K. Barbarski, A. Jońca, "Pojazdy w Wojsku Polskim - Polish Army Vehicles - 1918-1939"; Ajaks; Pruszków 1995.

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Text copyright to Michal Derela © 2010