Emageeman's Corner: V21N6

By Robert G. Segel

Russia maintained the largest force of armored cars of any of the allies in World War I. A typical armored car platoon consisted of two or three twin-turreted cars, such as Austins, Fiats and other makes armed with Maxim or Colt automatic guns, and one or two armored trucks mounting short-barreled 75mm guns. American-made Indian motorcycles provided communications, and some had machine guns mounted to give anti-aircraft cover. By November 1917, over 200 armored cars were in service. The insignia for the Motor Transport Service features two winged wheels and a steering wheel. The addition of a Maxim gun to the top of the steering wheel specifically identifies the Armored Car Service. The armored cars were totally encased in armor plate, as were the machine gun turrets.

I. Russian headquarters banner for the 20th Automobile Machine Gun Platoon. The use of the red background, made of thick velvet material, indicates that this banner was created after the February 1917 Revolution. Onto this background is stitched white cotton linen in the shapes of the number, Cyrillic letter abbreviations and aforementioned insignia for the Armored Car Service. The banner measures approximately 35 x 21 inches.

II. Imperial Russian Army uniform shoulder boards. This pair is for a 7th Siberian Automobile Machine Gun Platoon armored car driver. The branch insignia “7Sb Shifrovka” indicates the 7th Siberian Rifle Regiment. The red stripe and single star indicate the rank of junior officer in the reserves. Silver-plated buttons depict the Russian twin-headed Imperial Eagles.

III. German soldiers in World War I check out a captured or disabled Russian armored car. Note the insignia of the wheeled and winged Maxim machine gun, denoting the Automobile Machine Gun units, painted on the side and rear of the vehicle.

IV. Profile photograph of a Russian armored car. Note the Automobile Machine Gun Armored Car Service insignia with the horizontal Maxim gun on the winged wheels painted on the side.

The Russians had another very similar insignia for armored mobile anti-aircraft units that consisted of a single wheel with wings and a Maxim machine gun pointed upwards. By order N105 Military Department from 1916, the single wheel, winged insignia with the upraised Maxim machine gun became the insignia for mobile armored air defense machine gun units of the Motor Transport Division. These armored cars generally had open tops to allow the machine gun 360-degree vertical access for anti-aircraft work.

A. Russian soldier’s shoulder boards for the 1st Special Armored Automobile Air Defense. The shoulder boards are red with brass buttons depicting the Tsarist double-headed Imperial Eagle, and they also show the insignia of the upraised Maxim gun atop a steering wheel joined to a single, winged wheel. Below this insignia is the number “1.”

B. Breast badge worn on the coat or tunic of a Russian commander in an anti-aircraft armored car unit. Post-revolution due to the red star at the top of the wreath. Screw back.

C. Russian (Red) Army machine gun qualification sleeve badge for the mobile armored anti-aircraft Motor Transport Division. Heavy bullion embroidery on a black wool background.

D. Two armored cars of the Motor Transport Division attached to the mobile armored anti-aircraft infantry company. Note the white guidon flag with the insignia of the single wheel, wings and upraised Maxim machine gun. Close inspection reveals that the armored car in the background also has the insignia painted on the door.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V21N6 (July 2017)
and was posted online on May 19, 2017


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