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French Tanks of World War II (2): Cavalry Tanks and AFVs

French Tanks of World War II (2): Cavalry Tanks and AFVs

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French Tanks of World War II (2): Cavalry Tanks and AFVs

105 pagine
1 ora
Jul 20, 2014


The sequel to French Tanks of World War II (1), this title focuses primarily on France's cavalry armored vehicles, including the light reconnaissance tanks such as the AMR and AMC families, the famous Somua S.35 cavalry tanks and the extensive array of armored half-track and armored cars used by the French cavalry. Specific attention is also paid to tanks considered important from a numerical standpoint such as the Hotchkiss H-35/H-39 series. Featuring specially commissioned profile artwork, photographs and illustrations, French Tanks of World War II (2) provides detailed insight into the background and design of these tank types and presents a brief, yet thorough assessment of their performance during the Battle of France.
Jul 20, 2014

Informazioni sull'autore

Steven J. Zaloga received his BA in History from Union College and his MA from Columbia University. He has worked as an analyst in the aerospace industry for over three decades, covering missile systems and the international arms trade, and has served with the Institute for Defense Analyses, a federal think tank. He is the author of numerous books on military technology and history, including NVG 294 Allied Tanks in Normandy 1944 and NVG 283 American Guided Missiles of World War II. He currently lives in Maryland, USA.

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Top citazioni

  • The similarity between the Somua and PzKpfw 35(t) suspension is not widely appreciated, since the Somua suspension was hidden under a metal cowling.

  • Renault FT tanks were carried piggyback on heavy trucks for speed and the tanks were disembarked when needed for combat missions.

  • Gén Maxime Weygand, wrote an influential article in the very first postwar issue of the Revue de Cavalerie in 1921.

  • The single most crucial fault in French tanks in 1940 was the Atelier de Puteaux (APX) turret designs.

Anteprima del libro

French Tanks of World War II (2) - Steven J. Zaloga





As was the case elsewhere in Western Europe, World War I was the swansong of traditional French horse cavalry. The cavalry continued to exist in the French army, but in a very diminished and distorted form. A number of cavalry divisions were still present in the order of battle, but they fought on foot and differed little from the ordinary infantry. After the war, the French army still saw a potential use for horse cavalry to conduct reconnaissance, flank security and liaison operations, but largely as a servant of the infantry. The idea of the cavalry as the mobile arm of decision on the battlefield was in serious doubt. A secondary reason for the retention of the cavalry was their value in the colonies, especially in North Africa and the Levant where they still had their utility.

The cavalry had dabbled in mechanization as early as 1902 in the form of armored cars. They were generally designated as automitrailleuses (AM: machine-gun cars) or auto canons (AC: gun cars) depending on their armament. They saw combat use in the mobile opening phase of the war, but became increasingly irrelevant with the stagnation of trench warfare. Early armored cars were based on conventional automobile chassis, and they were overburdened with armor, underpowered, and susceptible to becoming bogged down off the road. There was a brief flurry of use in the final year of the war with the arrival of improved designs and greater opportunities for mobile missions.

To their credit, senior French commanders saw cavalry as focused on a mission rather than defined by the horse. The most influential cavalry officer of the interwar period, Gén Maxime Weygand, wrote an influential article in the very first postwar issue of the Revue de Cavalerie in 1921. He argued that

trench warfare is the negation of war, since war always seeks a decision which can only be produced through movement ...The cavalry will keep its raison d’être as long as speed and surprise are valued on the battlefield ...The war of tomorrow will be, more than ever, a war of machines.

The more far-sighted cavalry leaders saw the esprit cavalier tied to mobility rather than to the horse. The French cavalry continued to develop the armored car, but recognized from the outset that it was road-bound. The standard practice was to form mixed scouting groups of armored cars and motorcycles, with the motorcycles used for cross-country scouting.

In the late 1920s, the French cavalry hoped that the half-track technology embodied in the Citroën-Kégresse system would overcome the mobility problems of traditional armored cars. The most numerous type built was the AMC Schneider P16, which was manufactured in 1930–31. (MHI)

At the beginning of the 1930s, the cavalry’s armored force in metropolitan France consisted of 11 squadrons of White TBC armored cars left over from World War I. Of the 230 armored cars still on hand, about half were modernized between 1931 and 1933 by rebuilding them on Laffly truck chassis with 50hp engines. These were called AMD Laffly 50 AM or White-Laffly.

The problem facing the French cavalry in the 1920s was the lack of funding and the weakness of the technology. Tanks were a possible solution, but they were too slow and the postwar reorganization put them under infantry control. In spite of this, the French cavalry units experimented with the use of mixed tank/armored car raiding groups. Renault FT tanks were carried piggyback on heavy trucks for speed and the tanks were disembarked when needed for combat missions. The moto-mobile groups of the early 1920s were an interesting precursor of the later mechanized divisions.

The Schneider P 16 remained in service through the 1940 campaign, although its role diminished as fully tracked cavalry tanks began to appear. This example is seen on duty with the 2e GAM during summer war games in the 1930s. (NARA)

The AMC Citroën P 28 was an attempt to convert a failed infantry tractor into a cavalry armored car. Although 50 were ordered in 1931, they proved to be a technical flop and they were retired prior to the 1940 campaign. (NARA)

The panacea for the French cavalry in the 1920s was the half-track. This technology seemed to offer essential cross-country capability as well as superior speed to contemporary tanks. Most of the early experimental work focused on the Citroën-Kégresse system. Adolphe Kégresse was born in France but emigrated to Russia in 1905, where he worked in the imperial auto park of the tsar. He developed a half-track system using rubberband tracks

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