Recall that in March 1921, a plebiscite took place, with the help of which it was supposed to determine who the disputed territories would go to. The majority voted for the transfer of Upper Silesia to German ownership, but a significant part of the population wanted to join Poland. The situation quickly deteriorated and led to the beginning of an open armed conflict. To more effectively counter the enemy, the Polish troops decided to acquire their own armored vehicles.
The Korfanty armored car and its crew. Photo Bronpancernafb.wordpress.com
The first battles in the framework of the Third Uprising took place at the very beginning of May. Understanding the prospects of the Polish detachments in their current state, enthusiasts suggested building up their own armored vehicles. It is not known exactly who made such a proposal, but Lieutenant Robert Oshek was responsible for its implementation. He was previously an Kaiser officer. fleet, and then joined the ranks of the Polish assault motorized company. It was this unit that took up the construction of armored cars to fight for Upper Silesia.
Work on the creation and assembly of new armored cars were conducted in the city of Sosnowiec. There was a small car base, which had some of the former German technology. It is the existing machines that were proposed for use in the construction of military equipment. According to various sources, at least three available trucks passed the restructuring according to original designs.
The first combat vehicle designed by R. Oshek was named Korfanty. She was named after Wojciech Corfanta, a Polish politician and one of the leaders of the uprising. After the assembly was completed, the name was written in large letters on the sides of the hull. In addition, a skull and bones were drawn on the frontal and stern details. The own flag of the armored car had similar symbolism.
The project was of a handicraft nature, which imposed certain restrictions. Thus, the basis for the new armored vehicle could only be affordable truck car chassis. Much more serious problems arose with the booking. The builders did not have access to armor steel, which is why in the first project they had to use structural. However, in the present situation it was not necessary to choose, and the armed forces needed at least some combat vehicles as soon as possible.
According to some versions, the Magirus lorry became the basis for the Korfanty armored car. Apparently, in its original form, this machine had a frame structure with a front engine, covered with a light hood. Given the range of products of the German Automobile Plant, it can be assumed that the truck was equipped with a gasoline engine with a capacity of no more than 35-40 HP. and was completed with a mechanical transmission. It also had to have front steering and rear driving axles. The bridges were probably hung on leaf springs.
R. Oshek proposed a rather simple design of an “armored hull” capable of solving part of the assigned tasks. At the same time, however, even relatively thick sheets of structural steel provided very limited protection and could not save the crew from rifle-and-machine-gun fire. From this point of view, the materials used in a noticeable way lost normal armor. The body was assembled from flat or curved panels of relatively simple shapes. Using bolts and rivets, they were mounted on a frame of the required configuration.
Side view of the car. Figure Weu1918-1939.pl
The engine compartment was formed by a curved frontal sheet and vertical sides. On top of the latter, a rounded unit was assembled, forming a cover and a pair of side screens. The latter were at some distance from the main sides, and their lower part covered the front wheels. A significant portion of the frontal sheet could recline to the left, opening access to the engine. It could also be used for more efficient cooling of the radiator in a non-combat environment.
Immediately behind this hood was a vertical frontal sheet of the habitable compartment. Vertical sides assembled with it, assembled from five relatively small panels. There is reason to believe that the bottom of the new hull was located directly above the chassis frame, because of which the sides could not cover it. To protect the frame and chassis under the main sides placed additional rectangular screens.
The aft part of the conditionally protected hull differed in its complex shape. Vertical straight sides sharply turned into a pair of rounded sponsons. Between the upper parts of the sponsons was a vertical sheet of small height. Below provided a unit of complex shape. It consisted of a box-like device, a continuation of the side screens, and was also equipped with an inclined top cover. It can be assumed that this form of the stern was due to the desire to reduce the size and weight of the hull without reworking the rear of the chassis.
The crew protected the roof from possible shelling from above, grenades and other threats. It was made in the form of a large curved-shaped team panel. The central part was placed just above the side elements. Thus, the objects thrown from above should roll down. However, the lack of a full reservation did not allow to realize the full potential of such a roof.
The weapons installations of the Korfanty armored car were designed to use four or five water-cooled barrel machine guns. According to various sources, this machine was equipped with German-made MG 08 or Schwarzlose machine guns. The installations were placed in such a way that they allowed simultaneously to fire at several sectors in different directions. At the same time, however, rather large dead zones remained.
The fodder sponsons of the hull had large horizontal openings, the height of which corresponded to the dimensions of the covers of the existing machine guns. Mounts for weapons placed near the center of the cylindrical unit and allowed to direct weapons within a wide angle. Thus, each of the onboard machine guns could fire at targets in wide areas of the side and rear hemisphere. The surviving photo shows that one sponson could be completed with a pair of machine guns. There is reason to doubt the convenience of using two machine guns in a confined space. Two sponson installations were supplemented with a frontal one placed at the left side. The barrel of the machine gun was brought out through a wide embrasure slot.
Aft of the armored car with a pair of sponsons for machine guns. Photo Aviarmor.net
The improvised Korfanty armored car needed a relatively large crew. In addition to the driver in the car should have been a few shooters, serving the existing machine guns. With additional crew members helping shooters, up to 7-8 people could drive the car.
The proposed design simplification has led to the use of appropriate review tools. Observation was offered only through small hatches and slots. Several openings of small size appeared in the front sheet and were intended for the driver. A pair of slots was provided in the center of the sides. The survey from the places of stern shooters was provided with large openings in the sponsons.
How exactly was proposed to get into the combat vehicle - is unknown. Apparently, low swing doors in the aft part of the hull, between sponsons, were intended for these purposes. At the same time, they should still be reached through a complex-shaped unit with an inclined top sheet. The surviving materials do not indicate the presence of any other hatches or doors.
Taking into account the characteristics of the trucks of that time, we can assume that the total length of the Korfanty armored car reached 6-6,5 m with a width of more than 2 m and height of the 2-2,5 m. The combat weight was 6,5-7 t. could show acceptable characteristics of mobility on the highway. On rough terrain, in turn, the car was expected by obvious problems.
Construction of the first armored car of the Silesian militia lasted only three days. Already in the first decade of May, the machine "Korfanty" went to the service. It was supposed to be used as a means of qualitatively strengthening the militia in various operations. Participation in open clashes with the enemy, as well as patrolling of certain areas, transportation of soldiers, etc. were envisaged.
In its first battle, the Korfanty armored car went along with several other vehicles available in Sosnowiec. In contrast, this technique did not receive any additional protection, although it could be equipped with weapons. A new type of combat vehicle began its service as an infantry fire support vehicle. In just a few days, the crew managed to take part in a series of battles for various small settlements. Considerable time was spent on moving to the site of a new battle.
In mid-May, the situation in Upper Silesia stabilized as the warring parties agreed to negotiations. For several days, the armored car Korfanty, and soon the new cars of Robert Oshek either stood idle or participated in patrolling. As far as is known, during this period the crews did not have to fight the enemy.
The fighters on the background of the armored car. Photo Aviarmor.net
21 May improvised armored car again had to participate in a real fight. The Germans launched an offensive in the area of the city of St. Anne, and the Polish formations organized the defense, which was supposed to be strengthened with the help of armored cars. Over the next few days, the vehicles again had to drive from place to place and literally plugging holes in the defense. The impossibility of simultaneous deployment of several armored vehicles on different parts of the front led to understandable consequences: German troops and armed formations got a chance to break through the defense of the Poles.
During the fighting, the crew of a hand-made combat vehicle constantly faced with serious risks. Not too thick structural steel used as armor did not give the desired level of protection. Some bullets could ricochet or get stuck in it, but some of the enemy's shots led to the appearance of holes and, at least, to the threat of the crew. Drivers, commanders and gunners were repeatedly injured. For example, as a result of one of these breakouts, R. Oshek was wounded in the arm. During one of the battles at the end of May, the enemy bullet flew through the inspection hatch and smashed the lieutenant’s binoculars. He received some injuries, but was able to continue the service.
The latest episode of the Korfanty machine combat biography is from 3 June 1921. In the command of the Polish formations, contradictions arose, and a group of officers demanded that Wojciech Korfanta be removed from command. He first agreed with this demand, but then he personally came to the "rebels" on R. Oshek's armored car and arrested them, retaining his post.
Being at the headquarters, the armored car could not support the troops at the front. The Germans managed to organize a breakthrough and take control of some territories. After that, the squadron of armored vehicles received orders for redeployment and preparation for returning to the front several times. All these processes continued until early July, when the parties to the conflict managed to return to the negotiations again. A few days later the Third Silesian Uprising was over. Further determination of the future of Upper Silesia was carried out with the participation of the League of Nations.
At the end of the fighting, several armored cars built under the direction of Lieutenant Robert Ošek were left without work. Not the best - even by the standards of their time - the equipment was written off as useless. After July 1921, traces of the Korfanty car are lost. Some sources mention that she was soon transferred to one of the museums of Krakow, where she remained for some time. When and under what circumstances the museum exhibit has ceased to exist - is unknown.
As the participants in the fighting in Upper Silesia later recalled, the Korfanty armored car and other R. Oshek vehicles had a very positive effect on the potential of the Polish detachments. The basis of the opposing armies were infantry units with small arms, and therefore even one carrier machine gun with not the most perfect protection could seriously affect the outcome of the battle. The completion of battles and the relatively peaceful settlement of disputes made improvised combat vehicles unnecessary.
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