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French WWI armour

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Geregistreerd op: 11-6-2007
Berichten: 6937

BerichtGeplaatst: 08 Feb 2009 8:51    Onderwerp: French WWI armour Reageer met quote

Summary: The first French tank. Based on the Holt Tractor design, the first were ordered beginning in February 1916. The Schneider Char d’Assaut 1 (CA1) went into action on the Chemin des Dames on 16 April 1917, during the Nivelle Offensive. Later the Japanese purchased a few.

Production dates: February 1916–May 1917

Number produced: 400

Manufacturer: Schneider Company

Crew: 6

Armament: 1 x 75mm (2.95-inch) M1897 main gun; 2 x 8mm (.315-caliber) Hotchkiss machine guns

Weight: 14,600 kg (32,178 lbs.)

Length: 19’8”

Width: 6’7”

Height: 7’10”

Armor: maximum 11.5mm

Ammunition storage and type: 90 rounds of 75mm; 3,840 rounds of .30-caliber

Power plant: Schneider four-cylinder 70-hp gasoline engine

Maximum speed: 3.7 mph

Range: 30 miles

Fording depth: –

Vertical obstacle: –

Trench crossing: 5’10”

Special characteristics (pos/neg): Designed primarily for infantry support, the CA1 had poor cross-country mobility and trench-spanning ability; gasoline tanks were vulnerable to enemy fire.

Summary: Ordered slightly after the CA1, the St. Chamond first saw action in the April 1917 Nivelle Offensive. At end of the war 72 of 400 were still in service. Later Lithuania and Spain secured some examples.

Production dates: 1916–?

Number produced: 400

Manufacturer: Compagnie des Forges d’Honecort at Saint Chamond

Crew: 9

Armament: 1 x 75mm (2.95-inch) main gun and 4 x 8mm (.315-caliber) Hotchkiss machine guns

Weight: 23,000 kg (50,692 lbs.)

Length: 25’12” (with gun, 28’12”)

Width: 8’9”

Height: 7’6”

Armor: maximum 17mm

Ammunition storage and type: 106 rounds of 75mm; 7,500 x .30-caliber

Power plant: Panhard four-cylinder 90-hp water-cooled engine supplemented by a dynamo, two electric motors, and storage batteries

Maximum speed: 5.3 mph

Range: 37 miles

Fording depth: –

Vertical obstacle: –

Trench crossing: 8’

Special characteristics (pos/neg): Dual controls allowed the St. Chamond to be driven from either end, but like the Schneider it suffered from poor cross-country performance.

Special models: A number were converted into char de ravitaillement (supply tanks).

Summary: The first true light tank. Produced in large number by the Renault automobile company, it was employed en masse. The American Expeditionary Forces Tank Corps used the Renault. A profoundly influential design. Some were still in service during World War II.

Production dates: First entered service in May 1918

Number produced: 4,000?

Manufacturer: Renault and other manufacturers

Crew: 2

Armament: 1 x 37mm (1.46-inch) or 1 x 8mm Hotchkiss machine gun

Weight: 7,000 kg (15,428 lbs.)

Length: 16’5” with tail

Width: 5’7”

Height: 7’

Armor: maximum 22mm

Ammunition storage and type: –

Power plant: Renault four-cylinder 39-hp gasoline engine

Maximum speed: 5 mph

Range: 24 miles

Fording depth: –

Vertical obstacle: –

Trench crossing: 6’5”

Special characteristics (pos/neg): full 360-degree revolving turret, the first tank to be so equipped

Special models: self-propelled gun; radio-equipped

Although the British built the first tanks, the French actually built many more of them (4,800 French tanks to 2,818 for the British). The French first became interested in a tracked vehicle in 1915, as a means to flatten barbed wire. Then, that December, a French artillery colonel, Jean E. Estienne, wrote General Joffre suggesting that the French build caterpillar-type vehicles similar to the Holt tractors he observed in use by the British to move about their artillery. Estienne, who stressed the need for speed in development, proposed an armored box that would mount a quick-firing gun.

In February 1916, following an investigation of the possibilities, Joffre ordered 400 of these from the Schneider Company and, shortly thereafter, another 400 from the Compagnie des Forges d’Honecourt at Saint Chamond. The first Schneider CA1 was delivered to the French Army on 8 September 1816. It was not an innovative design. It basically consisted of an armored box hull mounted on a Holt tractor chassis. The chief changes from the original design were that the Schneider had a crew of six men rather than four and mounted a short 75mm gun instead of a 37mm main gun. The Schneider weighed some 32,200 pounds and had a vertical coil suspension system. Double doors at the rear provided access for the crew, and there was a ventilator attached to the top. The 75mm main gun was mounted on the right-hand side facing forward; the Schneider also had two machine guns, one to each side. Maximum armor thickness was 11.5mm and its 70-hp liquid-cooled engine could drive the tank at a maximum speed of 3.7 mph.

The St. Chamond was far bigger than the Schneider. It weighed 50,700 pounds and had a 90-hp engine that produced a maximum speed of 5.3 mph. Dual controls allowed the tank to be driven from either end, but it had poor cross-country maneuverability. Its crew of nine men manned a 75mm main gun and four machine guns. Its 75mm, unlike that on the Schneider, was a normal rather than short-barreled gun. Unlike the British, the French did not place great emphasis on trench-spanning or cross-terrain capability in their armored vehicles and thus their types were inferior to those of their ally in cross-terrain capability. The Schneider could only span a trench of 70 inches, a major shortcoming. The St. Chamond could span an 8-foot trench. As with all the early tanks, the St. Chamond was mechanically unreliable; and with the moving parts of the engine exposed inside the tank, the tank interior was a dangerous place for the crew. The St. Chamond seemed superior on paper to the Schneider because of its superior main gun, longer track, and an electrical as opposed to mechanical transmission, which made driving it far easier. But its greater weight made it less maneuverable over soft ground, and the front of its hull projected well over the tracks, greatly reducing its trench-spanning ability. It also was far less reliable mechanically than the Schneider.

In 1916 the French army made the decision to refocus tank production on light, rather than medium, tanks. In July 1916, at the suggestion of Estienne, the French ordered an armored machinegun carrier from Renault, to weigh 6 tons and be capable of accompanying assaulting French infantry. The result was the Renault FT- 17, the prototype of which appeared at the end of 1916. Following trials in early 1917, the government placed an initial order for 1,000; later orders raised the total to some 4,000 of what would be the least expensive and simplest tank of the war.

The two-man Renault was powered by a four-cylinder, 39-hp gasoline engine and could attain a speed of 5 mph. This was not deemed a problem as it was designed to move at the pace of advancing infantry. Its armor was a maximum thickness of 22mm, which could be penetrated by a high-powered rifle with armor-piercing ammunition. The Renault was of simple design, constructed of flat steel armored plates. It had a fully rotating turret, the world’s first. It mounted an 8mm Hotchkiss machine gun, later changed to a short 37mm (1.46-inch) Modèle 1916 “Trench Cannon” served by the tank commander in the turret. The second crew member was the driver. The tank had no chassis, the armored hull bearing the weight. The Renault’s rear “tail” assisted in trench-crossing.

The little Renault could span a 6.5-foot-wide trench and had a 24-mile cruising range. From the spring of 1918 a new battalion of the Renaults joined the French field forces each week thereafter. The FT-17 first went into action at Ploisy-Chazelle on 31 May 1918. Throughout the remainder of the war the tiny Renault became the commonplace image of the World War I tank. The Americans began production of a Renault clone, the 1917 “6-Ton” in 1918, but none was delivered in time to see action. Other countries also produced variants, and it was exported after the war to Brazil, Canada, and China. The most numerous tank of World War I, the Renault was also the most common armored fighting vehicle between the two world wars. The French used it in colonial warfare, and it participated in virtually all armed conflicts of the period, including the Spanish Civil War of 1936–1939. In World War II the French army had eight front-line battalions of Renaults armed with 7.5mm machine guns. The Germans employed captured FT-17s in a variety of roles, including policing, and as tractors or mobile command posts. Renault FT-17s used by the Germans saw action as late as 1944.
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