Categories
WW2 Polish Armored Cars

Ford FT-B

Poland (1920)
Armoured Car – 17 built

Based on the Ford T

The Ford TF-B was one of the more successful armored cars designed after the end of WW1, and the first locally-built Polish armored vehicle. It is also called Tf-c or simply “model 1920”. Until the arrival of the Blue Army in Poland (which introduced a dozen of Renault FT tanks), there were no armored vehicles in service.
It was Tadeusz Tański, inventor and member of the Ministry of Military Affairs, that introduced the idea of converting the Ford T chassis (then largely available). During the battle of Warsaw, the only armored cars in Polish service were captured Austin-Putilovs, and there was a need for a light and fast recce vehicle. The Ford appeared as a perfect fit.

Design

The prototype was built in only two weeks at the Gerlach i Pulsing works in Warsaw. Tests were performed, and the vehicle proved successful. A quick production run of 16 or 17 vehicles followed, immediately dispatched to front-line units. The Ford FT-B was a fairly small vehicle, and the chassis and levers had to be significantly reinforced, whereas the fuel tanks were moved to the rear.
The front starting crank was extended in order to pass through the armored calender and the dashboard was modified. The whole armor (590 kgs) was handmade out of scrapped German armored trench shields, bolted to the chassis. It provided all around protection against small arms fire (3 mm/0.18 in on vertical surfaces, to 8 mm/0.31 in on the sides). The driver could see through a folding slit, and two pistol ports were positioned on each side. Access was granted by small side hatches.
The biggest advantage of this model was its fully traversing one-man turret, housing a 1 x 7.92 mm (0.31 in) Maxim 08/15 liquid-cooled machine gun, with 1,250 rounds in store. 25 hand grenades were also stored inside. Mobility was excellent. The original vehicles already had rugged suspensions, well suited for bad roads and the countryside back in the US. The Ford F-TB proved very fast (for armoured cars) at 50 km/h (31 mph) on flat ground.
It was propelled by a 4-cylinder 2.9 L water-cooled gasoline engine which developed 22.5 hp. The power/weight ratio was 16.6 hp/t. The engine was connected to a planetary gearbox with two forward gears and one reverse (rear axle drive). The suspensions comprised transversely mounted semi-elliptical springs for each of the axles. Autonomy provided a comfortable 250 km (155 mi) range. Another advantage was their small size, making them less conspicuous targets. Maintenance and repair were also simplified. Light, they were able to cross weakened or even hastily built wooden bridges.

The Fort FT-B in action

These vehicles took part in the later stage of the Polish-Soviet war, in July and August 1920. They fought in the battles along the Wkra river and in the battle of Warsaw, with the 8th Cavalry Brigade of the 1st Army. The FT-B also participated in the battle of Kowel and many other engagements. The last ones joined the 1st Light Armoured Car Column, part of the 5th Army of Gen. Władysław Sikorski. But the most successful engagement was the raid on Kovel (Ukraine), 11-12 September 1920, going nearly 100 km (60 mi) deep in enemy territory, capturing a large railroad junction and tonnes of materials and supplies. The 2nd Light Armoured Car Column was active until the fall of 1920 on the northern part of the front, at Białystok and Suwałki, against the Lithuanians.
Some issues existed however with the Ford: The interior was so cramped that the driver had to steer in an uncomfortable squatting position, tiring quickly on the long run. During long cross-country drives, the engine overheated rapidly. However, most of its off-road qualities came from a high ground clearance and “gusmatic” type bulletproof tires.
The weight of the armor put a strain on the suspension springs. At the end of the war, another series of 30 improved vehicles was rejected. Nevertheless, the 12 surviving Ford FT-Bs served until 1927, being withdrawn by 1931. According to photos, three at least were named by their crews, “Osa” (wasp), “Mucha” (fly), and “Komar” (mosquito). These were in minority compared to the 40 or so captured Soviet armored cars.

Links

Ford FT-B
The FT-B on derela.republika

Ford FT-B specifications

Dimensions 3.25 x 1.55 x 1.73 m (128 x 61 x 68 in)
Total weight, battle ready 1.350 tons
Crew 2 (driver, gunner)
Propulsion Ford 4-cyl 2.9 L inline water-cooled gasoline 20.5 hp
Suspension Coil springs
Speed (road) 50 km/h (31 mph)
Range 250 km (155 mi)
Armament 0.303 in (7.92 mm) Maxim 08/15
Armor 3 to 8 mm (0.10-0.30 in)
Total production 17 in 1920

Ford-FTB
Typical FT-B in the summer of 1920.

Gallery


Model kit of the FT-B

Another photo, showing the extremely small size of the vehicle
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The Ford T chassis.

Categories
WW2 Polish Armored Cars

wz.34

Poland (1934)
Armored car – 90 converted

Origins

The Samochód Pancerny wzór 28 (“armored car model 28”) was born from a 1926 specification. It was based on the Citröen-Kégresse half-track system, of which 135 had been purchased previously. 90 such chassis were converted into armored cars at the CWS workshops. These entered service between 1929-31. By 1934 they formed the 2nd and 4th Battalions and an independent armored car company in Bydgoszcz. However, there had been many reports about their insufficient speed and off-road qualities, high center of gravity compromising sharp turns and other issues related to the tires. Because of this an order was issued in 1933 for a conversion into fully wheeled versions, becoming the wzór 34 (wz.34) armored cars. The conversion was performed between 1934-35.

Characteristics

The conversion was executed by the Armored Weapons’ Technical Research Bureau (BBT BP) using commercial truck components. Although their general appearance seems barely changed, the conversion was not limited to the drive train. The hull was slightly lightened at the top while the lower hull received reinforcements which lowered the center of gravity. The broader track of the rear axle (taken from the Fiat-614 light truck) double tire made it more stable. The prototype was tested between April and July 1934 and, although the off-road capabilities were not improved, the stability and road speed were way better and these characteristics were judged satisfactory enough to order a full conversion.
They were accepted in service on the 4th of June, 1935 as the wzór 34 (model 1934). Many conversions were performed in individual workshops, on BBT BP specifications. Final models differed considerably, although two main types were known. The wz.34-I, based on the early hull type with vertical rear back plates, and the wz.34-II with sloped back plates, a greater wheelbase and the turret shifted to the front. About 1/3 of these vehicles (often platoon leaders) were armed with the standard Puteaux SP-18/21 37 mm (1.46 in) gun with 96 rounds, while the others received a 7.92 mm (0.3 in) Hotchkiss wz.25 machine-gun with 2000 rounds.

The wz.34-I

For the early (I) version, the rear superstructure formed two sponsons above the rear mudguards. The turret was placed at the rear end of the fighting compartment and the driver had two vision hatches. The engine hood differed also, some featuring the front hood fixed and a later model with a fully opening hood. Perhaps 27 of the entire lot were of this version.

The wz.34-II

For the late (II) version the rear superstructure had flat sides, sloped rear. The turret was moved forward. The bottom was now straight. The driver had a single vision hatch, the engine was a more modern Fiat-108-III and the rear axle came from the Polski Fiat-618. Hydraulic brakes and better electric wiring were also fitted. The wz.34-II were the most numerous conversion, perhaps 60 in all. Minor modifications by local workshops and the lack of reliable plans made it very difficult to have a clear picture of the characteristics of these versions.

War operations

The vehicles were grouped into formations of nine, called “dywizjon” (sub-division), comprising three platoons of three vehicles. They were spread out with the 1st Armored Battalion in Poznań, 4th in Brest-Litovsk, 5th in Cracov, 8th in Bydgoszcz, 12th in Luck, but also extended units in the 6th at Lviv (17 vehicles) and 7th at Grodno (25 vehicles). During mobilization, in 1939, ten armored units (battalions) were constituted and performed various reconnaissance missions just before the attack. During the first week of engagement, most were destroyed in hopeless engagements despite the crew’s individual bravery, due to their lack of armor and poor armament. The low-velocity SA-18 37 mm (1.46 in) was never intended for antitank combat. By 23 September only a handful had survived. Detailed reports show that 55% were combat losses, 35% broke down and 10% were abandoned due to lack of fuel. That means that only 10-20% were captured in relatively serviceable conditions and used by the Germans for local police operations. Some sources suggest that one unit of 18 vehicles was sent to the Croats for anti-partisan warfare in the Balkans.

Links

A complete overview of the wz.34

wz.34-II specifications

Dimensions 3.5 x 1.4 x 2.1 m (11.48 x 4.59 x 6.88 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 2.3 tons
Crew 3
Propulsion Polski-Fiat 108-III 4-cyl, 30 bhp
Maximum speed 55 km/h (34 mph)
Operational range 200-270 km (124-168 mi)
Armament 37 mm (1.46 in) wz. 18 low velocity gun or
Hotchkiss wz.25 7.92 mm (0.3 in) machine-gun
Armor From 3 to 8 mm (0.11-0.31 in)
Total conversion 89

wz.34-I
wz.34-I or “early type”, with the early 1935 spotted pattern.
Gun armed wz.34-II
wz.34-II or “late type”, gun armed version, in practice often used by the platoon commander. It sports a “checkerboard” blended pattern, made of large roughly horizontal spots.
wz.34-II
wz.34-II in September 1939 with the late camouflage pattern made of horizontal blended bands. In some cases the bands were even smaller in width, with four stacks of three gradients rather than three as seen here.

Gallery

wz.34-II side profile
wz.34-iI – Credits: M. Derela, Republika
Modern reconstruction of a wz.34
Modern reconstruction of a wz.34 – Credits: odkrywca.pl
wz.34-II modern reconstruction
wz.34-II modern reconstruction during a reenactment
Artist impression, wz.34
Artist impression

Categories
WW2 Polish Armored Cars

wz.29 Ursus

Poland (1931)
Heavy armored car – 10 built

A new heavy armored car

In 1929, the Polish general staff, not satisfied with the wz.28 light half tracks, ordered the Wojskowy Instytut Badan Inzynierii (Institute of Military Engineers) to design a new model. The team was led by the famous engineer Lt. Rudolf Gundlach, who invented and sold the licence of the reversible tank periscope to Vickers, a worldwide instant success. A sturdy basis was chosen, the licence-built Ursus two ton truck, based on the Italian SPA 25C, already in production at “Ursus” Mechanical Works of Warsaw. The heavier, higher, stronger and more powerful vehicle was officially designated samochod pancerny wzor 29 (shorteneted as wz.29 and dubbed “Ursus”).

Characteristics

The wz.29 was based on a sturdy truck chassis, with an increase in armor and armament over previous models. As such, the “Ursus” was given no less than three machine guns and one low-velocity 37 mm (1.46 in) wz.18 L21 cannon, all of French origin. The 37 mm (1.46 in) was a classical SA 18 Puteaux gun built in mass for the army during the last stage of the First World War (used in many tanks, like the FT) and after. The machine guns were the wz.25, also a WWI classical model. These were reliable, but the rate of fire was limited and the turret mount could only be aimed alternatively.
This system was far less practical than having a coaxial machine gun and was the major drawback of this design. The heavier armor of the Ursus also resulted in poor speed and high consumption (thus relatively short range) and off-road capabilities were limited by the rear-drive transmission. A third machine gun was initially mounted on the top of the turret, but as it was not practical, from 1935, all were dismounted, leaving only the fixed one at the rear and the one in the turret. Motorization was assumed by the petrol Ursus-2A, a reliable 4-cylinder, 4-stroke, water cooled engine with 2873 cm3 and 35 hp at 2600 rpm, derived from the Italian SPA 1913 motor. With no modification, it had to carry nearly 5 tons in battle order.

The Ursus in action

Due to their low speed, high profile, limited internal space and soon obsolete gun arrangement, only ten (thirteen according to other sources) were ultimately built and commissioned in 1931. A successor, the wz.31, was designed, but rejected. These vehicles were deployed in three car platoons and given to the cavalry corp. They practiced daily maneuvers with the fast tankettes, through often changing affectations. In 1936, their AA machine-gun was dismounted and they received a new camouflage livery. In August 1939, eight Ursus were deployed in the newly formed 11th Armored Unit (dywizjon pancerny), Mazowiecka Cavalry Brigade, Army “Modlin”, for scout duties. They performed well, occasionally engaging light German infantry and motorized units without any casualties.
But on 12 September near Seroczyn, they encountered and skirmished with the vanguard Kampfgruppe “Steiner”. As two German vehicles were destroyed, one Ursus was shot and disabled by one of the German 37 mm (1.46 in) AT guns, and the entire unit retreated. The Germans ultimately pushed them across the Swider river. Regrouping, gathering other units including tankettes, gun and infantry support, commander Maj. Majewski, tried unsuccessfully to retake the village beyond the Swider. The commander car was lost due to heavy fire, as another leading car and two others were badly damaged. Most of the tankettes and two wz.34 cars were also lost. The depleted unit finally tried to join the Army “Lublin”, but the armored cars were caught in sandy terrain and bogged down. They were destroyed by their crews. It is doubtful that the Germans ever attempted to salvage and repair them for police duties.

Links

A complete overview of the wz.29 Ursus

wz.29 Ursus specifications

Dimensions 5.15 (5.49) x 1.85 x 2.48 m (16.9/18.01×6.07×8.14 ft)
Wheelbase 3.50 m (11.48 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 4.8 tons
Crew 4
Propulsion Ursus-2A petrol, 4-cyl., 35 hp, 7.3 hp/ton
Maximum speed 35 km/h (21.7 mph)
Range (road/off road) – consumption 380-250 km (236-155 mi) – 36 l/100 km
Armament 37 mm (1.46 in) wz.18 low velocity gun
3xHotchkiss wz.25 7.92 mm (0.3 in) machine-guns
Armor From 4 to 10 mm (0.16-0.39 in)
Total production 10 (13 ?)

wz.29 Ursus
A 1935 wz.29, seen in Bydgoszcz with the 8th Armored Battalion, showing the regular “Japanese style” camouflage, with bright yellowish sand, dark green and dark brown spots separated by black stripes. There were also many unit identification signs and symbols used for exercises in peacetime, all removed in July-August 1936. During winter they were painted with a washable white die.
wz.29 Ursus during the German invasion
A wz.29 armored car in September 1939. The new 1936 camouflage shows mostly blended horizontal patterns of less contrasted colors, grayish sand and dark brown (sepia) over a olive green base color. Interior was light olive and many lower parts, exhausts, etc. were painted black. All unit identification panels were removed.
wz.29 armored car
wz.29 armored car
wz.29 replica
Replica of an Ursus at the VIIth Aircraft Picnic reenactment in Krakow