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Polish improvised armoured trains of the SOK (Railway Protection Service)

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  © Michal Derela, 2002 Updated - 09. 04. 2002 - separated and enhanced draisines

History and organization - Nr. 1 "Szczecin" - Nr 2. "Grom" - Nr. 3 "Huragan" - Nr. 4 "Błyskawica" | Draisines

The improvised armoured trains of the Railway Protection Service (Służba Ochrony Kolei - SOK) are one of the most obscure parts of the history of the Polish Armour. Unfortunately, most of the information and data are only approximate ones, because of very scarce sources. The only few available and published photos are of very poor quality. Most of the information below are taken from the pioneering research by Janusz Magnuski, but we have also tried to identify or correct some of the wagons of German origin.

The origin of SOK armoured trains

After the World War II had ended, the warfare lasted still in the south eastern areas of Poland. Polish units of the Army, Internal Security Corps (KBW) and Citizen Militia (Milicja Obywatelska, MO - the name of Polish Police in 1944-89) were still fighting with Ukrainian nationalist partisans of the UPA - Ukrainian Insurgent Army. The UPA partisans were murding and terrorizing Polish inhabitants of these areas and fighting against Polish authorities, finding some support in inhabitants of Ukrainian nationality. At that time, the masses of people of Ukrainian nationality were being moved to Soviet Ukraine, while people of Polish nationality were being moved from Soviet area. Among others, UPA partisans were attacking the railways, stations, bridges and the transports of people. In order to protect the railways, the new armed security formation was created: Służba Ochrony Kolei (SOK) - the Railway Protection Service, subordinated to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, not the Army (Ministry of Defence). To carry out its duties more efficiently, in the autumn of 1945 the SOK HQ started forming of the improvised armoured trains, with the Army's help. They were meant to patrol the tracks, and protect the transport trains on dangerous areas. Their crews were formed from the volunteers of SOK, as well as soldiers, officers and NCO's.

However the forming of the crews was not a problem, but the completing of the equipment was not so easy. Unfortunately, despite numerous armoured trains took part in the heavy warfare on Polish territory in 1939 and 1944-45, and the Germans had even an armoured trains' training base in Rembertowo near Warsaw, yet not much of the armoured rolling stock survived in Poland after the war. Most ex-German armoured wagons and locomotives were immediately carried away by the Soviet Army as a booty. Only few of armoured rolling stock survived, usually damaged or destroyed. After the repairing in railway workshops, they were used to create a few improvised trains. Some freight wagons were fitted with an improvised cover, like the concrete (like in the trains of 1918-20...). The forming of the new trains took place in Warsaw and Cracov mainly, most of them were sent to the south-east of Poland then.

Armoured train nr 2
Armoured train nr. 2 - the 76.2mm wz.43 gun on a flatcar

The first armoured train, nr. 1 "Szczecin", was formed probably in the end of 1945. In October 1945 the train nr. 2 was formed, probably bearing the name "Grom" later. A year later, in October 1946, another train nr. 3 "Huragan" went into service, and in December 1946 the last train nr. 4 "Błyskawica" was formed. In 1946-47 years, these trains were known by the numbers mainly, the names were officially given later. In the later period the names were used first of all. The armoured trains were re-organized during the service, and their composition was changing. Unfortunately, the information below as for the trains' composition and service is very partial and incomplete.

In the early 1947 the existing four armoured trains formed the SOK armoured train unit (dywizjon pociagów pancernych SOK), commanded by Cpt. Marian Jarosz. The unit's base was a small railway station in Zagórz near Sanok town (south-east of Poland). The unit took part in combat against UPA in Bieszczady Mountains. Later the unit received also one or two armoured draisines. In April 1947 the unit was subordinated to Gen. Stefan Mossor, a commander of a newly-created Operational Group "Wisła" (Vistula). The armoured train unit, along with Group's units, took part in the Operation "Wisła", which aimed to displace all the inhabitants from Bieszczady Mountains and their neighbourhood to other parts of Poland, in order to cut UPA partisans off of supplies or shelter. It was a brutal mean, but it put an end to a terror of UPA partisans in Poland (in the Soviet Ukraine the fight of communist government with UPA lasted till the sixties). (It must be noted by the way, that Bieszczady Mountains are currently one of the most beautiful places in Poland). The Operational Group was disbanded on 31 July 1947, the armoured train unit was as well. Two armoured trains (probably Nos. 1 and 2) were moved to the Military District V HQ (DOK V - Cracov), and the other two (probably Nos. 3 and 4) were moved to the Military District VII HQ (DOK VII - Lublin). These Districts carried out further combat with the remainder of UPA, until 1948. The armoured trains were probably used in this further combat as well. Some of these armoured trains existed in SOK up to the late 40's. Due to the lack of serious threats of the railway transport, they were used mainly for training of the SOK guards. From time to time, however, they were used in raids against ...the thefts of a coal on stations. Most likely the armoured trains of the SOK were liquidated in the 50's.

Armoured train nr. 1 "Szczecin"

This improvised armoured train was formed as the first one, probably in the end of 1945. Most crew was completed of the SOK guards from Szczecin (Stettin) - hence the later name of the train. The train was formed in Jaroslaw near Przemysl, under direction of SOK district chief T. Kulak. Initially, it was a wide track gauge train (a gauge of 1524mm, used in Russia). The train was operating on wide gauge tracks in the area of Medyka (on Polish-Soviet border) - Lubaczow - Rawa Ruska. Due to a reconstruction of the railways in Poland, the train was later converted to a standard gauge of 1435mm (most probably the locomotive was changed).
In March 1946 the train was took over by the crew formed in Warsaw, commanded by 2nd Lt. J. Steinbock. In November its crew went to the railway workshops in Ostrow Wielkopolski to take over the new train (
nr. 4 "Błyskawica"). The old train nr. 1, with a part of the crew, was handed over to Cpt. A. Wierzbicki.

Initial composition:

- unarmoured freight steam locomotive, 1524mm gauge, of Soviet series E (Rus: "Э"), the sub-series is not known. They were built in a few differing sub-series in 1916-36, an axle arrangement: E (0-5-0, wheel arrangement 0-10-0), 4-axle tender, power output - more than 1000 HP.
- three improvised armoured wagons (rebuilt freight wagons), protected with concrete.

There is no information as for the later composition, but it must have changed.

Armoured train nr. 2 "Grom"

The armoured train nr. 2 was formed in October 1945 in Warsaw. Soon after forming it was moved to Sanok and subordinated to the 8th Infantry Division. During the following months it cooperated with this division. The train was operating mainly on lines: Sanok - Łupków and Sanok - Ustianowa. It took part in a few skirmishes with UPA partisans, among others in Olszanica, Stefkowa, Komańcza and Osłanica stations. The first commander was Lt. Szumowski, the second: 2nd Lt. Marian Jarosz, the third: Lt. E. Tomalak. Most probably this train bore the name "Grom" (the Thunder) later.

The composition (approximate):

Armoured locomotive Tw1 (Br 57) - click to enlarge

Armoured train nr. 3 "Huragan"

Poor photo of armoured train nr. 3 - from the left: a flat car, the armoured wagon with Wirbelwind turret, a locomotive series Tw12 and two armoured wagons. The soldiers are armed with 7.62mm DP LMG's.

Armoured train nr. 3 was created in October 1946. Its commander was Lt. Władysław Indyk. In 1947, like other trains, it was based in Zagórz and used in combat against UPA. In 1948 the train was in the SOK Officer School in Toruń. The name "Huragan" means the Hurricane.

Initial composition (approximate):

Later composition:

Armoured train nr. 4 "Błyskawica"

Armoured train nr. 4 - ex-German command wagon.

The train was formed in December 1946 in Cracov. It utilized ex-German rolling stock repaired in railway workshops in Ostrow Wielkopolski. The commander was Lt. J. Steinbock, then Lt. C. Paczosa. The crew consisted partially of nr. 1 train's crew. Until June 1947 the train nr. 4 was stationed at Zagórz near Sanok. After the combat with UPA had eneded, it was moved to Zawada near Zamosc. It operated on lines: Zawada - Zwierzyniec - Bełżec and Zawada - Hrubieszów. The name "Blyskawica" means the Lightning.

A composition (approximate):

See armoured draisine of SOK here.

A sketch by J. Magnuski, showing the presumable look of Polish improvised armoured trains of SOK (Railway Protection Service). The wagon of train nr.3 is corrected by the PIBWL, according to the text.

Top of the page

1. Janusz Magnuski, "Wozy bojowe LWP 1943-1983"; Wydawnictwa MON, Warsaw 1985

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