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|© Michał Derela, 2011||Updated: 17. 11. 2011 - minor improvements.|
|← The Czechoslovak draisine in the 1930s. |
This page is devoted to Czechoslovak-built armoured draisines Tatra T18, of which Poland was a main user. They were the first armoured drasines of the Polish Army, used also during World War II, and also by the Germans. You can read more on armoured draisines' purpose and their development in Poland on Polish armoured draisines page.
|Polish Tatra named "Żuk" in late 1920s.|
|Tatra of the 2nd Armoured Train Unit in 1930s. Visible is a crank of a jack in a rear armour.|
|Polish Tatra in a camouflage from late 1930s, with Polish State Railways (PKP) eagle emblem visible.|
|Polish Tatra from the rear. Note a way of carrying a turntable, and a crank of a jack.|
|Czechoslovak draisine in early camouflage, being switched to another track (note headlights' covers). |
|Draisine Nr. 102 after factory shooting trials. Note short rails on a side and marks of bullets. |
The armoured draisine Tatra T18 was designed in 1925 in Czechoslovakia, in Ringhoffer-Tatra works, basing upon a chassis of a cargo draisine T14. The armoured draisine was probably developed specially for Poland, on initiative of the Polish Tatra division. On 5 September 1925 Poland ordered 6 such vehicles, straight from a drawing board. The vehicles were delivered in November 1926, and sent to Armoured Trains' Training Battalion in Jablonna near Warsaw. In Poland they were known simply as "Tatra" armoured draisine (drezyna pancerna). Only in December 1926, the Czechoslovak army ordered one armoured draisine (pancéřová drezina), built in 1927 (stock number D2.001). They were the only complete T18 draisines built.
The vehicles did not fulfil the expectations of the Polish Army, however. Their engines were found too weak, and their mobility was evaluated low, with slow acceleration. Nevertheless, chassises for further 9 vehicles were ordered on 4 April 1927, without armoured bodies (one chassis costed $1980). The armoured bodies were to be assembled in Poland by CWS workshops. Armoured plates were first ordered from Italian Ansaldo works, but it was cancelled due to inaccuracies of the first batch. Then, they were ordered from an iron works in Sosnowiec, Poland, but it is not known, if any draisines were eventually armoured in Poland. Quite rare photos suggest rather small number of Polish Tatras, and there is a lack of reports on combat usage of more, than 4-6 draisines. There were plans to strengthen the armament of Tatras, using the same turret as in wz. 29 armoured car (with one 37mm SA-18 Puteaux gun; one machine gun wz. 25 and optionally an anti-aircraft MG wz. 25), but it was not proceeded, because Tatra draisines were considered obsolete by that time and were to be replaced with R and TK draisines.
Tatra draisines were used in the 1930s for training, in both Polish armoured train units. During factory trials they carried numbers 101-106, but later these were removed. Some of them had own names painted in late 1920s, such as "Osa" (Wasp) and "Żuk" (Beetle). From about 1936 they were camouflaged in a standard three-colour pattern of Polish vehicles, with irregular big patches of greyish sand and dark brown upon a basic olive green colour. In 1939 they carried no markings, apart from Polish State Railways (PKP) eagle on a plate on side doors.
In 1939, they were used only with armoured trains Nr. 15 ("Śmierć") and Nr. 13 ("Generał Sosnkowski"). Each of them had a platoon of two Tatras (Nr. 13 train also had two R draisines). J. Magnuski suggested, that the draisines used in 1939 were fitted with a short-range radio N2/c , but there is no evidence to support this theory, and there are no aerials visible on photos. One draisine of Nr. 15 train was destroyed by anti-tank guns near Nasielsk on 5 September 1939. The rest were apparently abandoned, possibly in a damaged condition. It is possible, that two remaining draisines Tatra were included in the training armoured train of the 1st Armoured Train Unit, which was bombed and abandoned in a big railway jam near Siedlce on 10 September 1939.
The only Czechoslovak draisine was used by the Czechoslovak Army for exercises before the war. During the German annexation of Czechoslovakia, it was captured on 15 March 1939 in a base in Milovice. From the 1930s it was camouflaged in an interesting five-colour pattern of green, brown, ochre, grey and black, with sharp straight edges. Black and brown were used mainly for thick straight lines separating other colours (title photo).
Armoured draisine Tatra T18 was two-axle. A chassis frame was seated upon axles with helical springs. In a middle of the frame, there was an air-cooled flat boxer engine, with a mechanical gearbox (2 gears in both directions). Only one (rear) axle was driven by a chain gear (Polish sources claimed, that both axles were driven, what contradicts with the Czech sources and plans). In the frame there were also sandboxes, operated by drivers.
Upon the chassis, there was an armoured body, made of armour sheets, riveted to a frame. On a roof, there was a cylindrical turret, 115 cm internal diameter. In both hull sides there were rectangular entrance hatches, and a small round hatch was in a turret's roof. The draisine had doubled driver stations, on both ends. Each driver had only one vision slot before him, covered with an armoured hatch. There were no other vision devices in the hull, and none for side observation. Only in the turret, there were four vision slots all around, covered with hatches. The draisine was equipped with two significant Bosch headlights on each end (the Czechoslovak one had headlights covered with armoured flaps). As a standard, it was not fitted with a radio. The draisine could be coupled with other rail vehicles, using a coupling rod.
Crew was 3-5 soldiers, including a commander-gunner and two drivers. There is no information on regular crew in the Polish service (probably 3). It should be noted, that places next to drivers (on their left side) were a bit cramped and lacked observation devices, so a crew of 3 would be most practical.
The draisine was fitted with a special mechanical device to move the vehicle to a parallel track by the crew's means. It consisted of a screw jack under the engine, a revolving base plate and two rails (normally serving as side steps). The revolving base plate was put under the vehicle, which was next lifted by the jack. A crank of the jack stuck out from a rear armour. A rotating shaft moved two levers, through screw gears, so they were pushing a jack base under the engine downwards. When lifted, the vehicle was turned at 90 degrees and two rails were put under its wheels, to drive upon the parallel track. On the parallel track, the operation repeated in reversed order, and the draisine was lowered onto the track. Polish draisines were fitted initialy with short rails, carried on each side of the vehicle, then they were replaced with longer, two-piece rails, carried on both sides. In Polish draisines, the base plate was hung on one side during transport, next to rails; in the Czechoslovak one, it was carried upon a rear horizontal armour.
A standard armament in Polish service consisted of one air-cooled 7.92 mm wz. 25 Hotchkiss machine gun, mounted in one of two mountings in the turret's face. Two independent machine guns could be fitted (there is known an experimental configuration with one air-cooled 7.92 mm wz. 25 MG and one water-cooled 7.92 mm wz. 30 (Colt-Browning) MG), but such possibility wasn't used in Poland in practice. Apparently two gunners could be accommodated in the turret, but it does not seem practical. The single Czechoslovak draisine however was used with two water-cooled 7.92 mm machine guns Schwarzlose vz.24. The wz.25 Hotchkiss machine gun could theoretically be used for anti-aircraft fire, mounted on a special mount, firing through a round hatch in turret's roof, but it is doubtful if it showed any efficiency that way and if it was used in practice. It is not clear, if slots above gun mountings could be opened for higher elevation.
Armour, according to Czech data: hull 6 mm (immune to S rifle bullets from above 200 m), turret 8 mm (immune to S rifle bullets from above 100 m). During factory trials of the draisines, the first set of armour plates was pierced, and the factory had to look for a better supplier - Škoda works from Pilsen). A bottom probably wasn't armoured (contrary to some Polish publications).
weight (empty) - 3.7 t (Polish sources: 3.45 t); maximum weight - 5.27 t;
length /width /height - 3.675 / 1.75 / 2.1 m; wheelbase - 1.5 m (59 in); wheel diameter - 0.5 m.
engine - Tatra T12: power output 12HP (8.82 kW), capacity 1056 ccm, petrol, 4-stroke, 2-cylinder, boxer, air-cooled.
top speed - 50 km/h in both directions (Polish sources - 45 km/h), range - 700 km, fuel tank - 80 l; power-to-weight ratio - up to 3.2 HP/t.
|Draisines during factory trials (apparently some photo break...) |
|Tatra nr. 102 next to a small tank locomotive in Tatra works (Henschel, 1921, later no. 310.001)|
|Polish Tatra draisines captured by the Germans:|
Left: draisine of the train Nr. 15 destroyed and apparently burnt at Nasielsk on 5. 9. 1939.
Below right: the draisine along German Panzerzug 1 armoured train (note Polish camouflage with untypical wave pattern).
||← German-captured unit of the Tatra and R draisines - probably from armoured train Nr. 13. The one on the left above is possibly the same.|
At least one draisine Tatra was used in German Panzerzug 7 armoured train (in 1939-1940), then in Panzerzug 1 (until 1942). Details like covered headlights show, that it was most probably the Czechoslovak draisine, seized by the Germans during annexation of Czechoslovakia. In German service it had an additional applique armour, radio with clothes line aerial and no fixed weapons. In order to lighten it, track switching devices were removed, and side rails replaced with simple plank steps. Unclear photos suggest, that it was fitted with a heater, with a chimney in a roof.
|← The captured Tatra in German armoured train Panzerzug 1, probably in 1941. Note camouflage of branches and what appears to be a chimney. |
|The Tatra draisine cross-section.|
(Janusz Magnuski, "Pociag pancerny 'Danuta'", Typy Broni i Uzbrojenia (TBiU) Nr. 18; Warsaw 1972)
Models of Tatra armoured draisine:
- Part (A008-72) - Tatra - quite new (2001) excellent kit of a Polish producer, made of photoetched brass with resin supplements.
- VVV (MV 72013) - Tatra T18 Railcar - a resin model of a Czech defunct producer (see here)
- HR Model (HRM72520) - Tatra T 18 Drezina - simple Czech resin model + PE (former VVV kit?), in the Czechoslovak, Polish or German service.
- CZ-Kolinec (CZK35002) - "Tatra T18 Czech Army 1938, Poland Army 1938" - resin + photo-etched (see here)
- GPM - "Drezyna pancerna Tatra", Polish producer, short run from the early 90's, vacuform + metal, hard to obtain now.
- Hauler (HLR-87026) - "Tatra typ 18" - Czech producer, resin construction kit with photoetched parts.
- Hauler also offered two complete models of Tatra: of the Czech army (HLR-87023) and the German army (HLR-87024) (not in offer now)
- Artmaster (80114) - Draisine Tatra T 18 - German service - see here
- GPM (161) - Tatra - paper model of high quality (with interrior).
2. Janusz Magnuski, "Drezyna pancerna Tatra"; Nowa Technika Wojskowa 1/98
6. Pavel Lasek, Jan Vanek, "Obrnena drezina Tatra T18", Corona, 2002
External links: - "Tatra" at WEU MSWojsk. 1918-1939 page (in Polish, but there are more photos)
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Text copyright to Michal Derela © 2011