by H.L. deZeng IV

The first measure to develop improvised (or provisional) armored trains stems from August or early September 1941. An improvised Croatian armored train is known to have been attached to the Croatian Bosanska Division and was operating along the tracks in the Maglaj – Doboj area in East Bosnia on 11 September 1941. It was still being used there during the second half of November 1941 in support of Croatian operations to encircle Partisan bands in the Ozren Mountains that lie between the Bosna River and Tuzla. On 28 January 1942 two Croatian armored trains are known to have been operating in the Doboj – Maglaj – Trbuk area under the control of 4th Infantry Division. During this early period, until approximately late spring 1942, the crew for the armored train(s) usually numbered about 30 men and were provided by the 800-man Croatian Railway Battalion (see under Technical Troops) located in Slavonski Brod. (1)

In April 1942 the Croatian Defense Ministry (MINDOM) ordered the railway car factory in Slavonski Brod to immediately establish a department for the construction and repair of armored railway cars. This was the first attempt to move from the improvisation of armored trains to the actual manufacturing of them, and in July 1942 the government placed an order with the factor for 20 armored railway cars.

Concurrently, MINDOM began forming armored train companies as special units within several of the infantry regiments. By 1943, the typical Croatian armored train had 4 to 7 armored railway cars crewed by a half-company of infantry, and was armed with two stationary Renault FT 17/18 tanks (each with a 3.7 cm gun), one medium mortar, two heavy machine guns and four light machine guns. The tanks were stationary in the sense that they could not be dismounted from the flatcars that carried them.

At first, the Croatians had total control over their armored trains, but when the Germans set up a special command – Railway Security Staff Croatia – in November/December 1942, this control was lost at the higher and tactical levels, although the Croatians continued to exercise administrative authority over their units.

By 1 September 1943 there were at least two armored train companies with a total strength of 364 officers and men operating 7 or 8 armored trains and provisional (improvised) armored trains. The number of companies and trains increased through 1944.


Footnotes

1. Colić, Mladen - Takozvana Nezavisna Država Hrvatska 1941 (Belgrade: Delta-pres, 1973); NARA WashDC: RG 242 (T-314 LXIX. AK order of battle charts); (T-315 roll 1554/470; roll 2265 and roll 2267).

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