Despite the large numbers of tanks and other armoured vehicles that made up the Wehrmacht’s armoured divisions, the German Army also used armoured trains during World War II. In July 1939, the German High Command decided to set up seven of them, which where numbered from Nº1 to 7. They consisted of locomotives and cars of the track-guarding trains, plus the armoured trains that had just been seized in Czechoslovakia. Thus, the fighting strength of these early military trains was not very powerful as they were poorly armoured and armed with machine guns, 20mm AA guns, and 75mm howitzers, which could be used in direct fire. These guns were installed in casemates with limited arcs of aim. In early 1940, before the German invasions of France, three more improvised armoured trains would be put into service, Nº 23 to 25. In 1941, even more armoured trains, which had just been captured from the Russian Army, joined the German arsenal on tracks. Aside from the weapons mentioned above, they were also manned by infantrymen armed with all types of infantry weapons.

These early armoured trains would remain in service until 1944, when they would be replaced by the BP42 and BP44 types. These were based on broad-gauged railways cars, with improved armour, as they were upgunned  with German-made 10.5-cm (105mm), FH 18 field howitzers, replacing the Polish and Russian guns, and with the high-velocity 7.5-cm KwK L/48 anti-tank gun, which was mounted in the turret of the Panzer IV Ausf H, set up on an armoured platform on the “pursuit car”, which was hitched on at the end of the train. Every standard armoured train was also fitted with two Panhard 38(t) scout cars, whose rubber wheels had been removed and replaced by railway steel wheels; armed with one 25mm cannon and two 7.92mm machine guns, these were used as reconnaissance, independent vehicles, for they had their own engines.

To summarize, the armoured trains lacked the versatility, flexibility, and the type of mobility of the tanks and half-tracked armoured vehicles; thus, they were not effective fighting machines and could not be part of the German Blitzkrieg as they also lacked tactical use. As a result, the armoured trains had no effect on the outcome of the war. They were mainly used in the East as scorts to protect supply and troops transport trains and to guard strategic bridges and railway lines.

ww2_armoredTrains

Related posts:

Pilum
Borchardt C/93 Pistol
Kolibri Pistol