Russian Armored Trains in Chinese Civil War

Mikhail Blinov “White Russian Armored Trains in the Chinese Civil War 1924-1928″. History, description, photo gallery by archives in Paris, 2003-2023.

Russian armored trains in the Chinese army, Part 1.
During the second war of Zhang Zuoling against Wu Peifu, the fighting of the Russian detachment began with a campaign through the Jehol Mountains, bypassing the enemy through the Great Wall of China. Having successfully defeated the enemy, the Russian detachment went deep into the rear and occupied the Lanzhou railway station (see the area below Shanghaiguan on the map). As trophies, they got the railway platforms and the wagons. Since the time of the civil war in Russia, Russian officers have had extensive experience in building and using armored trains of various types, including home-made ones. During the day, the first two “armored trains” were built at the Lanzhou station for a further offensive from the rear to the important city of Shanghaiguan. Guns were installed on the railway platform, and the machine guns were placed in the wagons, strengthening them with bags of earth. A more correct name for the such trains is “protected”, and not armored. The first “armored train” went to Shanghai with a demand for the enemy to surrender and received the first combat experience. When approaching the station, someone ruined the railroad switches, and when the armored train was moving backwards, the rear platform jumped off the rails. However, Shanghai was taken without a fight, and the Russian detachment continued to advance first towards Tianjin, then further south towards Nanjing.
After the occupation of the city of Jinan, which for a long time became the base of the Russian detachment, real armored trains were already built. Since 1910, good workshops for the manufacture of railway equipment have been located in the city of Jinan, which made it possible to immediately make reservations for platforms and wagons in a short time. The armament of the first two trains was 1 gun, 4 machine guns and 1 bomber. The entire first series of armored trains was primitive, also called the “flat” or “box” type.

Russian armored trains in Chinese Civil War

The first armored trains of the early “box” type (? “Chang Cheng” = Great Wall) 1925 Tsinan depot (N301 P391)

In January 1925, the Russian detachment went on the offensive to the south and occupied the Pukou station near Nanjing. Two armored trains took part in these battles, one of which, the Chang Chen (Great Wall), reached Shanghai.

Russian armored trains in Chinese Civil War

The first “box” early type of armored trains before rebuilding, presumably “Henan” and the “Chang Cheng” (Great Wall), 1925 (N302 P506 fragment)

In the autumn of 1925, before the start of the campaign against Sung Chang Fang, the armored division was renamed the Special Armored Regiment under the command of Colonel Kostrov. Two divisions included 4 armored trains and worked in the area of ​​the Kaifeng station of the side “coal” railway line to the west of the highway to Nanjing – Shanghai.
Description of the battles and the first losses. In early November, three armored trains were ordered to load the Chinese regiment and move with it in the direction of Pukou until they came into contact with the enemy .. There were small villages on the sides of the path. When 2-3 stations passed, the locomotive broke down near the rear armored train and it began to give alarm horns. The front ones stopped, the middle one took the rear one in tow and everyone moved back, since two armored trains were no longer fit for battle. During the return movement at the Kuchen station, on the route of the armored trains on the railway line, a landmine exploded and the escape route was cut off. Simultaneously with the explosion, enemy chains appeared from the forest on both sides of the road, surrounding the armored trains and their shelling began. The Chinese regiment, without leaving the armored train, began to shoot at the enemy, and when the teams of armored trains jumped off and took up position around the armored trains, the Chinese opened “friendly” fire. The battle went on for 6 hours, the rifles had no bayonets. As a result, not seeing the opportunity to fight off a superior enemy, the Russians rushed to the attack and part (about 300 people) miraculously made their way under the command of Major Derektorsky. Later, Colonel Ganelin left the encirclement. The command of the armored trains was killed, including General Kostrov, Colonel Bukas and Captain Chernyavsky. At the same time, another, “rear” armored train (commander Captain Chernyavsky), received grenade hits, was sent to the north. On the way, the armored train flew into a dismantled bridge span and fell from a height. Crack, bursts of shells. Of the 100 people on the team, only 1 stoker escaped, and for the rest of his life he became abnormal, disabled. Probably partially damaged trains were later taken back by the Russians and used to restore or manufacture new armored trains built in late 1925 – early 1926.
After the death of these armored trains, by the beginning of 1926, 4 armored trains were built or restored at the factory in Jinan: “Shandong”, “Honan” and “Taishan” and “Changchen”. “Shandong” “Honan” were sent to the southern front.
With the beginning of the fighting against Fyn Yu-hsiang in February 1926, the Russian division plunged into echelons and moved to the northern front, along with the Shandong and Honan armored trains in front. Later, a third armored train joined them.
In early March, during the fighting near the canal, the enemy used aircraft in the area of ​​the railway station, and on that day they installed 75 mm on the armored train. a weapon for shooting at airplanes. In April, the armored trains took part in the fighting and the capture of Beijing, mainly in reconnaissance. After the victory on the northern front, the units returned to the base in Jinan, where new armored trains continued to be built.

The structure of the Russian division of armored trains for October 1926:
– 1 brigade (headed by Major General Chekhov):
— “Pekin” (“Beijing”), “Taishan”
– 2 Brigade (Chief General Liu Shian):
— “Henan” (or Honan, major-Repchansky), “Shandong”
-3 Brigade (General Yang Tayu):
— “Great Wall” (“Chan Chen” or Chángchéng), “Great River” (Chángjiāng)

In March 1927, an offensive began on Nanking, against the troops of Chiang Kai-shek, which was then considered communist and had Soviet instructors.
4 armored trains: “Taishan”, “Henan”, “Shandong” and “Chang-chen” advanced to the southern front with the final point of Pukou on the banks of the Yang-tse-pu near the city of Nanjing. The old dilapidated railway is the same as it used to be near Fulichi in 1925. The enemy retreated, dismantled the tracks, which the teams of armored trains were repairing. In the area of the canal “Taishan” successfully destroyed the enemy fortress, the artillery officer who distinguished himself personally received the next rank of captain and the Order of the Fat Ear from Zhang Zuchang. Armored train “Chan Chen” repairing the bridge.
On the banks of the Yangtze River is the city of Pukou, there is a large station and a pier. Chang-chen, being lighter, crossed over and is advancing on Shanghai. Chiang Kai Sheek concluded an agreement with Fyn-yu-hsiang against Shen-si, the “northern” group of Zhang Zuchang began to retreat. “Taishan” is guarding the Tupan armored train.
After 350 km. the retreat of the armored train went back to take Pukou, turned onto the branch line on Luoyang against Feng Yu Xiang. Here the tragedy of 1925 was repeated and the armored trains were destroyed.

to be continued soon..
The article by Mikhail Blinov uses the photographs from the the personal photo archive of the chief of staff of Russian armored trains, Colonel Boris Popov. After his dismissal from the Chinese service, Popov went to serve in the municipal police of the French concession in Shanghai. After the Second World War, in 1949-1951, Popov, along with refugees from China, lived in the DP camp on the island of Tubabao, Philippines. Then he moved to the USA, where he was the Chairman of the Society of Russian Veterans of the First World War in the city of San Francisco, California.