heavytanks-logo.jpg (7110 bytes)

Char 1A
Char A, 1B, 1A Heavy Tank

By July 1916, a team headed by Messrs Jammy and Savatier undertook studies for a heavy "break-through" tank, or Char Lourd. The FCM establishment of La Seyne, near Toulon, was selected to undertake building the tank. A pilot model was ordered on 20 December 1916. Two alternative types of transmission werre planned, mechanical, and electric. The pilot model was not ready until December 1917. On trials the tank performed well, but turning was difficult. Because of this, development was not continued and interest switched to the Char 2C. The Char A and 1B were prototype tanks that were followed by the Char 1A then finally, by the Char 2C.

Weight 41 tons
Crew 7
Armor ?
Performance ?
Armament 105mm, 2 x 8mm MG
Engine Renault V12, 240hp
Length 27.34'
Height 9.33'
Width 6.5'

The photo above is from Time-Life. They say this is a photo of a Mk V deployed in 1939 or 1940, not a monument.---------
The British Mark V* Heavy Tank

Because of a shortage of skilled manpower and materials, the French tank program proceeded much too slowly for the war to permit. 90 British Mark V* (star) tanks were obtained to fill the French need for a heavy battle tank. Remarkably, these tanks (and there is some reason to believe that France obtained a few more as you can read next) were active in the French army right up to 1930. In the 1930, the political climate did not favor tank development in France (or Europe for that matter). The "Disarmament Conferences" in Geneva condemned heavy tanks as "offensive weapons". In 1930 France "sacrificed" her 90 remaining Mark V* tanks at Geneva. France, generally speaking, stuck faithful to it's policy of limiting the role of tanks to infantry support from this point onward. The Great Depression further assisted the lack of tank development. Perhaps it can be said that these conferences were the root to the Fall of France in 1940. The photo above is from Time-Life. They say this is a photo of a Mk V deployed in 1939 or 1940, not a monument.

Char 2C Heavy Tank---Char 2C Heavy Tank---Char 2C Heavy Tank

Char 2C Heavy Tank---Char 2C Heavy Tank---Char 2C Heavy Tank

Char 2C-bis Heavy Tank - The Char 2C bis was built in 1926 by FCM. FCM modified a standard Char 2C by fitting it with a 155mm main gun, increasing armor protection, and fitting new twin 250hp Sautter-Harie gasoline engines. All other details of the tank remained the same.---Fra-Char2C-1940.JPG (122831 bytes)---Char2C destroyed before having a chance to fight.---#91- Provence

Char 2C Heavy Tank

The FCM Char 2C was developed as a heavy breakthrough vehicle in WW1. The order called for a vehicle that would span all German trenches. Two prototypes were built in 1917 and a series of ten vehicles was begun in 1918. By 1921, all ten were built. Initially numbered 1 to 10, they were later numbered and named as follows: #90 Poitou, #91 Provence, #92 Picardie, #93 Alsace, #94 Bretagne, #95 Touraine, #96 Anjou, #97 Lorraine (later renamed Normandie), #98 Berry, #99 Champagne. Originally, 300 tanks of this type were supposed to be built. In 1940, numbers 92 & 95 were out of service and were scuttled on 12 June. The remaining eight tanks, assigned to the 51st French Tank Battalion, were immobilized or destroyed while being transported, on their special railroad cars, to the front on 15 June by the German air force. six of these tanks were ready for service with the 51st French Tank Battalion, and were sent to the front. But the tanks, loaded onto special railroad cars, were attacked by the German Luftwaffe and diabled or destroyed. #99 was captured intact by the Germans and brought back to Berlin. In 1942 it was seen in France at the Renault plant being overhauled. Brought back to Germany, the tank was captured by the USSR and was last seen in 1948 in East Germany (there are reports of photographic evidence to support this claim). If you know any further detail on this tank in modern times, please email me.

Weight 69 (some sources say 68) tons
Crew 12 - 13
Armor 13 - 45mm
Performance 17 k/mh
Armament 75mm, 4 x MG
Engine 2 - 180hp Gasoline
Length 10.27m
Height 4.01m
Width 2.95m

Char d' Assaut St. Chammond---Char d' Assaut St. Chammond---

Char d' Assaut St. Chammond---Char d' Assaut St. Chammond---



St. Chamod Interior - Photo thanks to Ion fonosch.
Char d' Assaut St. Chammond

Colonel Jean Baptiste Estienne of the artillery wrote and met Marshal Joffre the CinC of the French Army in December 1915 about requirements for an armored vehicle based on the Holt 75 hp tractor which culminated in the Schneider. He bypassed normal channels, and General Mourret who commanded the Service Technique Automobile responsible for automotive development in the French Army ordered one of his engineers Colonel Rimailho to organize an "official" tank as soon as possible. Again based on the Holt, a prototype was assembled in Feb 1916 by the Compagnie des Forges et Aciéries de la Marine et d'Homécourt (FAMH) at St Chamond under the direction of Lieut. Foughé of the S.T.A. staff.

Designed by Colonel Rimailho, the first prototype was completed February of 1916. This design had a crew of 8 later upped to 9. The St Chamond had a Panhard 4 cylinder 90-hp motor and a Crochat-Collardeau electric drive with a dynamo driving two electric motors, one per track. This design would prove faulty in combat. The tank would often get stuck and the driver would often burn out the electric motors attempting to dislodge it. The prototype had a flat roof and armor down over the tracks, but this limited access for maintenance and became clogged with mud, so the side armor was cutaway to expose the tracks. Original units had 11.5mm of armor. Later units had 17mm of armor to counter the German "K" bullet. Later pitched roofs were added so that grenades would roll off. Track width increased on later models. The Hotchkiss 8-mm machine guns had 7488 rounds. Trench-crossing and parapet-climbing capabilities were 2.45 m (8 ft), 0.38 m (1.25 ft) respectively; gradient 57 degrees, ground clearance 0.33 m (13 in). Combat weight 22,000 kg (48,501 lb.)

While superior in some ways to Schneider e.g. armament disposition and longer tracks, it was top-heavy, unstable and had poor cross-country performance with tendency for nose or tail to catch on parapets or banks. The Germans increased width of their trenches and anti-tank ditches to strand a Schneider or St Chamond attempting to cross.

400 were ordered on April 8, 1916, last one delivered in March 1918. By the Armistice only 72 were serviceable of the 400 built. In 1918 some were converted to supply tank or "chars de ravitaillement" with 75-mm gun taken out and aperture plated over. In 1917 cupolas replaced by plain hatches, and top sloped down either side of centerline. Later a box-shaped cupola added in left front with vision slits and folding sides and a spotlight on front roof.

First used in action on May 5 1917, one company of 16 tanks and two Schneider companies supporting an infantry attack at Laffaulx Mill (Moule de Laffaulx) on 6th Army front, all but one St Chamond got stuck at first line German trench. The same happened in next big French tank attack on the following October when only the Schneiders got past the German trenches. Last big action was the 10th Army counterattack on Siossons-Rheims salient on July 18, 1918 with 216 Schneiders, 131 St Chamonds and 220 Renault FTs used. In the hard fighting of 1918 Schneiders were used in 473 different actions, St Chamonds in 375. The St. Chamond saw action in Russia after the revolution. A few were captured by Red forces and used.

Pictures: Top Row - early models. Bottom Row - Late models.

Crew 8 or 9 (depending on the source)
Weight 51,480lb
Dimensions length of gun 8.83m; length of hull 7.91m; width 2.67m; height 2.34m
Range 36.7 miles
Armor 11.5mm (early) 17mm (late)
Armament 75 mm gun for first 165 was Saint Chamond TR commercial gun, for last 235 was Model 1897(L/36) up to four Hotchkiss 8mm MGs.
Powerplant one 90hp Panhard four cylinder petrol engine powering a Crochat-Collardeau electric transmission.
Performance maximum road speed 5.3mph

Char D1---Char D1
Char D1

French plans to create new modern infantry support tanks led to the development of the Renault Char D1. 160 units were built between 1932 and 1935. Originally fitted with a FT17 turret, later models were fitted with the ST-1 turret. The ST-1 turret was armed with a 47mm SA 34 tank gun and a coaxial 7.5mm MG. The tank also carried a 7.5mm MG in the bow, operated by the driver.

Crew 3
Armament 47mm, 2 x MG
Weight 14 tons
Performance 18 kph

Char D2---Char D2
Char D2

Even while the Char D1 was being produced, work was proceeding on the Renault Char D2. Prototypes were fitted with turrets of the Renault FT-17 during mock up. Production models were fitted with the APX-1 turret. This turret was armed with a 47mm SA34 tank gun and a coaxial 7.5mm MG. The tank also had a bow 7.5mm MG. A few were re-equipped with the long barreled SA35 47mm cannon. 100 of these tanks were produced.

Crew 3
Weight 20 tons
Performance 23 kph
Armament 47mm, 2 x MG

Char B---Char B

Char B1---Char B1

Char B1 bis---Char B1 bis

Char B1 ter---Char B1 ter---Char B1 ter
Char B, B1, B1-bis, B1-ter Heavy Tank

At the request of General Estienne and on the basis of previous studies worked out by Renault, Schneider, FAMH, FCM, and Delaunay-Belleville, a new battle tank was developed under the code designation of "Tractor 30". In 1929-30, three pilot models were built by Renault and FCM. These later became designated Char B. These three pilot models were extensively reworked and modified for tests. The first one, reengined and uparmored became the early prototype for the B1-ter in 1937. The Char B1 was the production version of the Char B. Production began in 1935. Only a small number were built before construction changed to the more powerful B1-bis. The B1-bis was the main battle tank of the French army in 1940. Considered one of the most powerful and advanced tanks in the world, it was hampered only by it's low speed and cost of production. The B1-ter did not go beyond protype stage. Studies started in 1935. Had the B1-bis been better employed, it would have easily defeated any invading German tank in 1940.

Pictures: Top Row - Char B, Second Row - Char B1, Third Row - Char B1 bis, Fourth Row - Char B1 ter

  Char B Char B1 Char B1-bis Char B1-ter
Crew 4 4 4 4
Engine 180hp 180hp 180hp 310hp
Weight 25 tons 30 tons 32 tons 36 tons
Performance 12.5 mph 17.2 mph 17.2 mph 16.5 mph
Length ? 20.92' 20.94' 20.8'
Width ? 8.17' 8.19' 8.94'
Height ? 9.2' 9.17' 9.5'
Range ? ? 93.15 miles ?
Armament 2 x 7.5mm MG, 75mm 1 x 7.5mm MG, 45mm, 75mm 1 x 7.5mm MG, 45mm, 75mm 1 x 7.5mm MG, 45mm, 75mm
Armor 40mm (max) 40mm (max) 60mm (max) 70mm (max)

Char Seam---Char Seam
Char Seam

Char Seam (Poniatowski-Petroleo-Electrique) was an experimental tank developed in 1940 by the Societe d'Etudes et d'Applications Mecaniques and fitted with a gasoline-electric transmission. Never armed.

ARL 44 Heavy Tank---ARL44---ARL44
ARL 44 Heavy Tank

The design of this tank started clandestinely when France was still under German occupation. After the Normandy landings, the French restarted their war industry. Production was carried out by both FAMH and Renault under the parentage of the ARL. Christened 'Char de Transition ARL-44', the ARL 44 was based largely on the pre-war Char B1 bis. The first unit became ready only after the war had ended in 1946. The new French heavy tank came equipped with a 90mm cannon housed in a Schneider turret powered by a Simca traversing gear. The ARL 44 used the same tracks as the Char B1 bis, but were protected by skirting plates. Only 60 units were ever produced. This tank made its one and only public appearance at the National Day Parade on 14 July 1951.

Weight 45 tons
Crew 5
Length 35.5'
Width 11.6'
Height 10.5'
Engine Maybach, gasoline
Performance 23.1 mph
Armament 90mm, 2 x MG



Last Update: Thursday, February 13, 2003