One of the most interesting armoured vehicles of the First World War was Russian armoured car Jeffery, also known as Jeffery-Poplavko or just Poplavko for its designer. Basing upon US Jeffery truck chassis (not to misspell "Jeffrey"), it was one of the first all-terrain armoured cars. It was designed in a similar purpose, as tanks of the western allies.
Note: W marks external links to Wikipedia articles.
|Two Jeffery-Poplavko (right) and one Austin 2nd series armoured cars captured by the Germans, in ZolochivW (the place has been mistakenly described as TernopilW). On the left, apparently original Jeffery Quad truck.|
One of the most successful trucks of World War I period, and arguably the most interesting design, was Jeffery Quad model 4017, produced from 1913 by Thomas Jeffery Co, Kenosha, Wisconsin. It was one of the first all-terrain vehicles with four-wheel drive. Apart from four-wheel drive, that was present also in other designs, like FWD trucks, all wheels of the Jeffery Quad were steered and fitted with brakes. With big longitudinal clearance, the car had excellent off-road capabilities. These trucks were bought by the US Army and other armies, among others: British, French, Canadian, Russian, Argentinian and Spanish. A basic variant was an all-terrain truck, but there were also special variants, like a mobile workshop, an ambulance and an ammunition carrier. Thanks to good and modern design, they were still produced after the War (from 1917 as Nash Quad, after the company had been bought by Nash Motors in July 1916). By 1918, there were 11,490 built (or 21,490? - publications differ). The whole production reached above 41,000.
In the USA there were also designed armoured cars upon Jeffery Quad chassis. The single experimental "Armored Car No.1"W, built in 1915 at Rock Island Arsenal, was the first armoured car built for the US Army. It had two MG turrets: on top and at the rear, armour up to 5 mm, and was considered as top-heavy. A series of approximately 50 similar single-turret cars were built at the same time for Canada; part of them (or all) were made in Canada and known as Russell or Jeffery-Russell armoured cars. They were later used by the British from 1917 in India, and in 1919 in Ireland, for internal security.
At least a dozen or so Jeffery trucks were used from 1919 by Polish Army, mainly in a workshop variant. In 1936 there were still at least 9 workshop Jeffery Quads in motor units. Possibly some survived until World War II in 1939.
Notice: Russian dates are given according to old style calendar.
|Armoured cars Jeffery during trials in October 1916, apparently equippped with wider rims. Cpt. Poplavko is entering the vehicle (note relatively small door). |
|...Sometimes even Jeffery got stuck. |
In initial period of World War I, the Russian Army also bought a number of Jeffery Quad trucks. One of these cars was assigned to the 26th armoured car platoon (avtopulyemyetnyj vzvod) equipped with two armoured cars Austin and one Garford, commanded by Shtabs-captain Victor Poplavko (Ukrainian), which departed to the front on 9 November 1915. This car was next rebuilt according to Poplavko's idea to a semi-armoured maintenance vehicle. Its purpose was to provide platoon's armoured cars with fuel and ammunition and to recover damaged cars. It was fitted with partial armour of an engine and driver's cab from the front and sides. The car was named "Charodyey" (Wizard - the platoon's armoured cars also had names beginning with: "Ch": "Chyort", "Chyornomor" and Garford "Chudovishche"). Soon it showed, that off-road capabilities of the Wizard are much better, than of platoon's armoured cars, which had rear axle driven only. Seeing this, Poplavko decided to test the Wizard's usefulness as a clearing engineering vehicle. The car was equipped with a winch, two ropes with anchors and light folding assault bridge. During tests in January 1916, the "Charodyey", using a winch, negotiated four rows of entanglements made of wood and barbed wire, breaking or pulling out wooden poles. There are no photos known of this machine.
Further tests were so promising, that Poplavko proposed the Army HQ to rebuild Jeffery trucks to armoured cars with increased capability of negotiating heavy terrain. They would break across the front, crossing trenches and barbed wire. According to original idea of Poplavko, they were meant to be the first armoured personnel carriers, giving shelter to 10-men assault squads, armed with: "kinzhalsW, Mauser pistolsW and hand grenades", that would clear trenches and put assault bridges so that armoured cars could move farther. Poplavko called his idea the "Hannibal's elephant".
After Army trials of the "Charodyey" in Petersburg, on 8 August 1916 the Committee for armoured cars ordered 30 armoured cars on Jeffery chassis in Izhorsk Factory. They differed from original Poplavko idea, as they were not fitted for carrying soldiers (if necessary, several soldiers could have been carried in low rear cargo compartment). A profile of their underside made easier overcoming terrain obstacles and breaking wire entanglements and poles. All series of 30 cars were completed by end of September 1916. They apparently had no official designation and are usually known as Jeffery-Poplavko or Poplavko-Jeffery, but also as just Jeffery or Poplavko armoured cars.
In January 1917, Russian staff decided to order further 90 Jeffery armoured cars with improved armour. However, due to revolutionary events, only one car of this batch was completed, sent on 16 June 1917 to reserve armoured battalion. There are no details given in available sources, but there is one photo known of a vehicle with a machine gun turret (possibly taken from unaccepted Sheffield-Simplex armoured car), rounded rear wall of combat compartment, and lower profile of a rear part with low gable roof.
|Two Jeffery armoured cars captured by the Germans, gathered in Zolochiv, with Lanchester armoured car. |
When Jeffery armoured cars entered service, they formed the Special Purpose Armoured Car Unit (Bronyevoi avtomobilnyi divizyon Osobogo naznachenya). The unit counted all 30 Jeffery armoured cars, 4 trucks, 4 passenger cars, 4 tankers, 1 workshop car and 9 motorcycles. It consisted of 3 companies (otdyelenye) with 10 armoured cars each; the company consisted of 3 troops of 3 cars. The unit's commander became Poplavko, promoted to full Captain.
The unit was sent to the 11th Army of the Southwestern FrontW on 16 October 1916. It was meant to break through German positions during prepared Russian offensive, so new cars were kept in secret until spring of 1917. In December 1916 the armoured cars were tested against old trenches entangled with barbed wire, and the test came out well. However, when Brusilov offensiveW started at last on 16 June 1917, Jeffery cars were not used in accordance with their purpose. They did a good service as ordinary armoured cars, though.
The special unit distinguished itself, covering a retreat of the 17th Army Corps during German breakthrough towards Tarnopol (now Ternopil, Ukraine)W. On 7 and 8 July, the cars were active in retreat combat, delaying an advance of German infantry. They were also used to evacuate injuries and haul out abandoned military equipment. Two cars were destroyed by the artillery, further three were damaged and then reportedly blown up by their crews. Five cars were captured by the Germans (a number suggests the same vehicles?). It should be noted, that there exist many photographs of the same two captured Jefferies, gathered in Zlochov (now Zolochiv)W, one of which has a big hole in a rear plate, probably from artillery shell. On 18 July, the 1st company's cars supported units of the 122nd Infantry Division, capturing Grzymalow townW.
The combat service confirmed excellent off-road capabilities of Jeffery cars. It was especially evident on 7 and 8 July, when dirt roads became difficult for ordinary cars to pass due to rains. There appeared also car's faults, first of all, a placement of armament. Two machine guns had a horizontal angle of fire only about 15° towards each side. The engine was not separated from a crew compartment, what made its maintenance easier, but also caused overheating of the crew compartment. The car's maintenance and repairs were also more complicated, then of other cars. A maximum speed on roads was rather low. On 2 October 1917 it was decided to change purpose of the Jefferies, from special vehicles to ordinary armoured cars.
After the bolshevik October RevolutionW, equiment of the Special Purpose Armoured Car Unit found itself in newly raised Ukrainian forces. In Hetmanate periodW there were only two Jeffery cars in the 2nd Armoured Unit in Vinnytsia, but only one had been repaired by October 1918; further six were stored under German control. After German withdrawal and reestablishment of Ukrainian People's RepublicW, part of its units were taken over by different forces taking part in Russian civil war. Also Jeffery cars got scattered among different forces and fronts. Among others, four vehicles were the 1st Lutsk Armoured Unit of Ukrainian People's Republic. At least one, nicknamed "Slavnyi", was used by Gen. Denikin's "white" Volunteer ArmyW; there exist also color profiles of the other vehicle named "Zabiyaka".
|Jeffery-Poplavko in German service (note a headlight).|
|Czechoslovak Legion Jeffery "Janošík" from a rear, 1919.|
|Polish Jeffery "Wnuk". [2,6]|
The majority of Jeffery armoured cars were taken by the Soviets, along with some recaptured vehicles. From 1920 most were replaced with newer and more universal armoured cars Fiat-Izhorski and Austin, though. Judging from an existing photo, at least one vehicle was given to Mongolian Revolutionary Army in 1921, along with other armoured cars. In 1922, there still existed 13 Jeffery armoured cars in the Soviet Army, but a majority of them were non-operational.
It could be noted, that Victor Poplavko himself was appointed a member of the Central Council of UkraineW in 1917-1918. After the war he worked in the USRR, but during Stalinist repressions he was accused of counterrevolution, judged and shot on 20 January 1938.
Five armoured cars Jeffery were captured by the Germans in summer of 1917 in Tarnopol area (majority of photos show the same two vehicles, though). They were probably not introduced to German service in frontline units, but sent to the rear instead. Two of them were next used in street fighting in Berlin in 1919, by Freikorps unitsW, suppressing communist revolution. One vehicle captured near Tarnopol was taken over by Austro-Hungarian Army and sent to reserve store in Wien, where it was in 1918.
At least one Jeffery-Poplavko was used by the Czechoslovak LegionW during the civil war in Russia, named "Janošík" (after Slovak legendary highwaymanW). Among others, it supported operations of the 3rd Division against communist partisans in Siberia, south east of KrasnoyarskW in May-June 1919. Reportedly it was later recaptured by the Red Army.
The Polish Army used at least two Jeffery-Poplavko armoured cars, captured from the Soviets. The first was captured in KremenetsW on 8 August 1919, being partly disassembled. There is no firm information about the second one. After repair in Warsaw, one of these cars was directed to the Polish-Soviet frontW in late 1919 or early 1920 and included into Armoured Platoon "Dziadek" (Grandfather, which was also a nickname of Marshall Józef PiłsudskiW). Its core consisted of Garford heavy armoured car named "Dziadek". The Jeffery was given a name "Wnuk" (Grandson), and took part in the platoon's combat in 1920. Among others, the "Dziadek" platoon took part in a motorized raid to capture ZhytomyrW on 25-26 April 1920.
After the Polish-Soviet war, in March 1921, the Jeffery was still in "Dziadek" platoon, stationing in Cracov then, but there is no information about its further fate. It was surely withdrawn in early 1920s. There is no information about other Polish Jeffery armoured cars.
|Polish armoured cars Jeffery "Wnuk" and Garford "Dziadek", from the "Dziadek" platoon. Note a big size of Jeffery. It may be assumed, that the name "Wnuk" is painted on the front plate (photo quality does not allow to say for sure if there were names on sides as well). [3,6]|
Unfortunately, there are not known better copies of these photographs, apparently coming from newspapers of that period.
|Damaged Jeffery-Poplavko in Tarnopol area, 1917.|
|The same vehicle as above transported by rail by the Germans.||Jeffery-Poplavko in German service, used in street fighting in Berlin in January 1919.|
|Two Jeffery armoured cars captured by the Germans near Tarnopol (on the left, the one with a hole in the rear). Between them, Lanchester armoured car. |
Armoured car Jeffery was armed with two machineguns 7.62mm Maxim, water-cooled, model 1910 (m.10). These two guns could be mounted in four loop-holes in walls of the combat compartment. A horizontal angle of fire for each MG was only about 15°. They had quite big vertical angle of fire, so side MGs can fire downwards at trenches.
The car was entirely armoured with 7mm-thick Cr-Ni armoured plates. Also wooden wheel discs were armoured.
Chassis – frame chassis. Suspension on semi-elliptic springs, rigid axles. All wheels could be steered. Wheels with full rubber tires, probably 36x6". Wheels could be fitted with widening rims to move in soft terrain, although photos suggest they were not used apart from trials.
Engine – Buda: petrol, 32 HP (24 kW), 4723 ccm; 4-cylinder inline, 4 stroke, water cooled.
A gearbox, placed centrally along with a transfer case, had 4 forward gears and 1 reverse. Both axles were driven through shafts, differentials and reduction gears on wheels (lack of differentials on axles increased a clearance). Drum brakes were on all wheels.
Body – made of armour plates, screwed to the body frame. In front - short engine compartment, not separated from the combat compartment. A radiator before the engine was protected with a hatch. There was only single door on the right side of the combat compartment. The compartment had 4 loop-holes for machineguns, one in each wall. The driver had a window in front wall, protected with a hatch, and covered vision slot in left wall. At the rear, there was low transport compartment, covered with a single hatch opening to the left (partial-length). It could have been used to carry spare parts, fuel, ammunition, or in emergency several men[1,4]. The car was initially equipped with an iron frame, fixed to the front and used for breaking wire entanglements, which was apparently removed during service. There was a single searchlight on the roof.
Crew consisted of four (commander, driver and 2 gunners).
Drawing: Maxim Kolomiets  (photos and different drawings however suggest shorter engine hood)
Russian armoured cars were usually painted in single color. There were used different shades of green (dark olive, dark green). Later, at the time of the Revolution and civil war, they were sometimes painted grey. There is no specific information on painting of Jeffery armoured cars.
In Tsarist service Jeffery cars are not known to carry individual names (on contrary to ordinary armoured cars), but in later service new owners often painted names, and sometimes recognition signs.
|Jeffery Quad truck||Jeffery-Poplavko armoured car|
|Weight, kg||3,555 kg||about 8,000 kg|
|Length||about 5 m||about 4.52 m|
|Width||about 1.85m||about 2 m|
|Height||?||about 2.14 m|
|Wheelbase||3.1 m||3.15 m|
|Max. speed||about 35 km/h||about 35 km/h|
1. Mikhail Bariatinski, Maksim Kolomiec: Bronyeavtomobili Russkoy Armii 1906-1917; Moscow 2000, ISBN 5-88879-029-x
2. Janusz Magnuski: Samochody pancerne Wojska Polskiego 1918-1939; Warszawa 1993
3. Jan Tarczyński, Krzysztof Barbarski, Adam Jońca: Pojazdy w Wojsku Polskim - Polish Army vehicles 1918-1939, Ajax, Pruszków 1995
4. Maksim Kolomiec: Bronya Russkoy Armii - bronyeavtomobili i bronyepoyezda w pyervoy mirovoy voynye; Moscow 2008, ISBN 978-5-699-27455-0
5. A. Solyankin, M. Pavlov, I. Pavlov, I. Zheltov: Otechestvennye bronyeavtomobili 1905-1941; Moscow 2007, ISBN 5-9771-0019-1
6. Krzysztof Margasiński: Samochody pancerne odrodzonej Polski 1918-1920; series: Wielki Leksykon Uzbrojenia - wydanie specjalne - tom 2, Warsaw 2014
7. Andrij Charuk: Pancerz hetmana. Samochody pancerne w armii Państwa Ukraińskiego, Militaria Nr. 3(84)/2018
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Text copyright © Michal Derela 2004-2018.