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|© Michal Derela, 1998-2010||Updated: 9. 3. 2010 - modernized, improved photos|
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Ford Tf-c or Tfc, also known as Ford FT-B or "model 1920", was the first armoured car constructed in Poland. At that moment, Poland was at war with the Soviet Russia W, and the Soviet army had just launched a major offensive, closing towards Warsaw. The car was designed by engineer Tadeusz Tański_W on his own initiative in June 1920. Its armoured body, made of steel infantry trench shields, left by the Germans, was built upon a well-known Ford T chassis_W. The result was a tiny armoured car, armed with one machinegun in a rotating turret. The design was accepted by the authorities at once, on 12 June 1920, and the prototype was completed in late June, in two weeks after designing. Trials came out well, and a series was ordered. Armoured Fords were built in Gerlach & Pulst factory in Warsaw, which was also building wagons for armoured trains. A total number of 17 (or 16 - it is not clear) cars were made. A meaning of both FT-B and Tf-c designations is not clear.
Their advantages were: good speed, manoeuvrability, and, thanks to Ford T simple construction, ease of maintenance and repair. They were quite silent and their armour was sufficient against rifle balls. Due to their lightness, they could cross weak bridges and poor roads. Despite armour weight, their off-road capabilities were quite good, although they did better on roads. And, of course, they were very small target - contemporary Soviet cars, like Austin-Putilov, were almost twice as big. On the other hand, these cars were very cramped inside, and a driver had to cringe on his post, while in combat. A field of observation was also limited. Engines were tending to overheat when riding with closed radiator hatch, or off-road. Despite being strengthened, rear springs and axles were still weak because of armour weight. The advantages were predominating, however, and the design was overally successful.
In 1921, Tański proposed to build another 30 cars of improved model (with higher crew compartment and bigger rounded turret - see a drawing). This idea was rejected, because the war was over by then.
Tadeusz Tański_W (1892-1941) was later a designer of the Polish modern passenger cars CWS; he was killed in 1941 in Auschwitz concentration camp, as a Pole.
Just as the first cars were produced, they were sent to combat at once. The Soviet army was just approaching Warsaw at that time, and every piece of armour was precious. The first two FT-B's were sent to the front in the beginning of July 1920, another four joined the platoon on 4 August 1920. All were assigned to the 8th Cavalry Brigade of the 1st Army, and were operating in the area of Ostrołęka_W and Pułtusk_W towns, covering the Polish retreat and acting in reconnaissance.
|Ford FT-B with its designer Tadeusz Tański. [2,4]|
The Polish Army had 120 Renault FT-17 tanks then (and it was enough to constitute the 4th biggest armoured power in the world at that time), but they obviously didn't fit best for manoeuvre operations. The Soviet armoured forces consisted of armoured cars, mostly MG-armed ones, with few tanks only. Ironically, apart from 16 Fords, all other Polish armoured cars (more than 40) were captured on the Soviets in 1919-1920 years. During the war, contrary to the Soviets, the Polish Army used their armoured cars in several full-scale mobile operations.
The last two cars from the first production batch joined the platoon on 14 August 1920. All eight Fords formed the 1st Light Armoured Car Column - they had numbers 101-108 (the 9th armoured car of that unit was Packard armoured truck with 76 mm gun, nr. 114). The column commander was 2nd Lt. Edward Karkoz (later one of TK tankette designers), then Lt. Felicjan Dzięcielewski. The column, with the 8th Cavalry Brigade, was assigned to the 5th Army of Gen. Władysław Sikorski_W. During the next few days it was employed in combat of the Wkra river, in Płońsk_W town area (a part of a decisive operation, known as the Warsaw Battle_W, 14-16 August 1920). On 15 August, the 1st Column was sent to the rear of the Soviet armies, in Drobin_W and Dzierzążnia_W area. It acted with good results there, causing a confusion, dispersing smaller units and supplies and fighting with elements of the Soviet 18th Rifle Division. On 19 August, two cars accidently supported an attack of the Polish cavalry on Góra, ended with a success. The car nr. 105 was damaged at that time, and Lt. Karkoz was injured. After a victory in combat of the Wkra river (and most important victory in the whole Warsaw Battle), the 5th Army was disbanded in the end of August, and the 1st Column was assigned to the 3rd Army of Gen. Sikorski, which was preparing to an offensive.
|One of rare shots, showing the 1st Armoured Car Column. The first four cars are armoured Fords. |
The most brilliant operation, in which Fords took part, was the raid on Kovel (now in Ukraine) - see the whole article.
It was the action of a combined group, consisting of the 1st AC
Column and two inpromptu motorised infantry battalions of the 26th Inf. Rgt., loaded upon 54 trucks, with
two artillery batteries (eight 75mm guns, drawn by trucks) - a total of about 1000 men. The commander was Maj. Władysław Bochenek. The 1st Column was consisting of 7 Fords and two White "semi-armoured" cars by then. As the Polish main offensive from Chełm_W to Kovel_W started on 12 September, the "task force" was sent round about on 11 September, coming into action on 12 September at 2 a.m., surprising
Soviet units in villages on the way and forcing them to retreat.
On its way, the Polish group had to cross a burning bridge at full speed in one village and charge on the Soviet artillery emplacements in another. Before Kovel, the Polish group fought against two armoured trains - but the "motorised" artillery made them retreat to the town. At that time, the vanguard units already entered Kovel, capturing the railway station, while the main Soviet forces of the 12th Army were fighting to the west of the town, against Polish advancing infantry of the 7th and the 18th divisions. Finally, after 160-km raid (95 km on the enemy's ground), the main forces of Polish motorised group entered Kovel at 4 p.m., making Soviet 12th Army's staff and other forces retreat. The effect of the raid was a capture of the big railway junction with a mass of war material. The Polish motorised group had held the town, until the main force arrived next morning. Three Ford armoured cars got damaged during the raid.
In October the 1st Column was withdrawn to the rear.
|Poor quality photo of the Ford's column. A driver of the first car seems to drive with his head sticking out from a hatch. |
|Ford FT-B in the 1920s in the CWS workshops (probably no. 3832).|
12 cars survived the war. In the 1920s, most of them served in the 3rd armoured car battalion in Warsaw. Their withdrawal started about 1927, and the last was withdrawn in 1931 (according to some information, it existed until 1939).
In 2007, a modern replica of the Ford FT-B was built in Poland.
The armament was one water-cooled machine gun 7.92mm Maxim 08/15, or 05/s, with 1250 rounds, in a revolving turret. The crew should also have 25 hand grenades.
The armour thickness was 8mm (vertical plates) and 3mm (upper plates), the bottom was wooden. The armour was protecting against AP rifle bullets from 300m, against regular rifle bullets from all distances. Armour weight was about 590 kg.
The car had an Ford Model T chassis (on a photo), modified and strengthened in Poland. It had a rectangular frame and suspension on semi-elliptic transversal springs. The springs and a rear axle were additionally strengthened. A position of a fuel tank was changed from transversal to along one. The wheels were wooden, tyre dimension was 30x3.5", probably filled with a bulletproof porous pulp inside ("gusmatic").
Engine: Ford 22.5 HP, 2900 ccm, petrol, 4-cylinder inline, 4-stroke, water-cooled, starting with a crank.
Transmission: a planetary gearbox with two forward gears and one reverse. Rear axle was driven.
The body was made of armoured trench plates, mounted to a frame. It had one small rearward-opening hatch on each side. There was also a two-part hatch above the driver (it helped to drive in non-combat conditions). The radiator was protected with armoured doors. A spare wheel was carried inside, along a rear hull plate. Peculiar cars might differ in armour details. Cars had no headlights initially, later they were fitted with a single headlight before the driver's front plate.
The turret was pentagon shaped, narrowing in front, with a small hatch in an upper plate.
The crew consisted of two: driver and commander-gunner.
The cars were painted in a camouflage pattern of four colours: ochre, brown,
grey and olive-green patches, separated with thin black stripes. The Polish nationality sign in the mid- and late 1920s was the white and red shield, with slant division line; painted on the side (in the early 1920s, they had no nationality marks).
Some of the cars had their own names, like: "Osa" (Wasp), "Bąk" (Gadfly), "Mucha" (Fly), "Komar" (Gnat), but it is not clear, since when they were painted.
Color drawing and title drawing from source .
|Weight||about 1350 kg|
|Length||3.25 m (128 in)|
|Width||1.55 m (61 in)|
|Height||1.73 m (68 in)|
|Ground clearance||0.23 m (9 in)|
|Max. road speed||up to 50 km/h (31 mph)|
|Range||up to 250 km|
|Turn radius||4.1 m|
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RPM 72100 - "Ford Tfc" - very nice tiny vehicle. Injection kit. See previews at "On the way!" and "Landships" sites.
Note: the muffler should be attached to the right side, contrary to a plan.
RPM 35012 - "Ford Tc" - incorrect name. Quite good injection kit, no interior.
Tankomaster - "Ford T" - incorrect name. Resin Russian kit from early 1990s.
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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; Pruszkow 1995.
3. Piotr Zarzycki, "Improwizowany samochód pancerny FT-B Model 1920"; Mlody Technik 11/1988.
4. Janusz Magnuski, "Samochód pancerny Ford"; MMG, Warsaw 1990
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All the photos and pictures remain the property of their owners. They are published in non-commercial educational and research purpose. The photos presumably are public domain due to their age.
Text copyright to Michal Derela.