Info: Char de Bataille B1

Discussions on all aspects of France during the Inter-War era and Second World War.
Posts: 1414
Joined: 11 Mar 2002 19:04
Location: Romania

Info: Char de Bataille B1

Post by Ovidius » 26 Apr 2002 23:17

Some food for thought for those who tend to underrate the French AFVs of 1940... :mrgreen:


The initial requirement for the Char B1, known as le char de bataille (the battle tank), as drawn up in 1921, called for a 13-ton vehicle with a maximum armour plate thickness of 25mm to be armed with a hull mounted 7.5-cm (2.95-in) gun for infantry support and two machine-guns situated in a rotating turret.

Four companies were invited to build prototypes although it was under the condition that they allow the army to mix and match parts from the various vehicles that were submitted to eventually produce the best possible vehicle. The companies involved were Forges et aciéries de la Marine et d'Homécourt (FAMH), Forges et chantiers de la Méditerraneée (FCM), Delaunay-Belleville and Schneider-Renault. A total of five prototypes were submitted for evaluation of which four were presented at the arsenal Atelier de construction de Rueil (ARL) in May 1924. Schneider-Renault submitted two prototypes, the SRA and SRB.

The Schneider-Renault SRB was chosen as the basis for the new tank along with its steering mechanism, engine and gearbox. The suspension and running gear were taken from the FAMH designed vehicle and the tracks from the FCM prototype. In March 1925 Renault was chosen as prime contractor with Schneider, FAMH, FCM and Delaunay-Belleville all providing work and components as sub-contractors. The final assembly of the vehicle was to take place at the Renault plant in Paris. A contract for the construction of three prototypes was finally placed with Renault on 17th January 1926 but it was not until January of 1929 that the vehicles first began to appear.

The French Army saw the Char B1, as a supplement to light tanks such as the Renault R35. Classed as a medium tank, this vehicle was designed to accompany infantry attacks, tackle enemy tanks if need be, and break into enemy rearward positions.

The prototype weighed 25 tonnes (28 tons) and carried a crew of four who were protected by a maximum of 25-mm (0.98-in) of armour. It was armed with one 7.5-cm (2.95-in) gun situated beside the driver, two hull-mounted, forward-firing machine guns, and two coaxially mounted machine guns in a revolving one-man turret. In October 1930, based upon experience gained in Char B1 tactical trials, studies were initiated for an upgraded char de bataille. Prototype trials continued and by 1935, maximum armour had increased to 40-mm (1.57 in) and weight to 28 tonnes (31 tons).

The German re-occupation of the Rhineland in March 1935 galvanised the Direction de l'Infanterie (Directorate of Infantry), in April 1935, to order the manufacture of 40 Char Bs, up-armoured to 60-mm (2.36 in). These were to be officially designated as Char B1 bis.

Further design work and trials were needed before the tank could accept the heavier armour but in the meantime production proceeded slowly based upon the 1935 prototype with 40-mm armour, with the addition of a cast APX 1 turret that carried a 4.7-cm (1.85-in) SA 34 short-barrelled cannon and machine gun. Only 35 of these Char B1s, as they were called, were delivered before the thicker armour and other improvements were introduced on the upgraded Char B1 bis, which weighed 32 tonnes (35 tons) and mounted a Renault engine boosted to 300 hp (224 kW) to haul the extra four tonnes. The APX 1 turret was exchanged for the similar but thicker APX 4 turret that mounted the superb high-velocity 4.7-cm (1.85-in) SA 35 L/34 armour-piercing cannon. France eventually produced 365 Char B1 bis tanks.

At the same time that the Direction de l'Infanterie made funds available in 1935 for production of the Char B1, it gave instructions for subsequent development of the vehicle to remedy certain disadvantages found in the B1 and B1 bis. The tanks’ sidewalls and tracks had proven vulnerable to armour-piercing shells and practical experience had revealed the distinct disadvantage of aiming the 7.5-cm (2.95-in) gun solely by aligning the tank. The new design would give this gun a mounting with a limited traverse of five degrees each way. During the redesign, the opportunity was also taken to make space for a fifth crewmember, described as a mechanic. The turret and armament of the new vehicle, dubbed the Char B1 ter, remained the same as on the Char B1 bis. In June 1940, after the invasion of France, the only three B1 ter prototypes were loaded aboard a cargo vessel that was unfortunately sunk before reaching its final destination and so no examples of these unique vehicles exist today.



More info and PLENTY of high-quality pictures :D :

Detailed technical article with even more pictures:

Sorry for not posting more pictures, but they are simply so many good ones that I don't know what to choose! 8)

~Best regards,

Last edited by Ovidius on 02 Jun 2002 20:50, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Posts: 270
Joined: 11 Mar 2002 19:00
Location: The Old Line State USA


Post by MadJim » 30 Apr 2002 02:27

Unfortunately French tactics were bad. The Germans later refurbished some char b chasis and used them for the basis of a self propelled gun. I beleive they were used by 21st (?) panzer divison in France. (When it was being rebuilt)

Logan Hartke
Posts: 1226
Joined: 12 Mar 2002 18:30
Location: Illinois, USA

Post by Logan Hartke » 30 Apr 2002 02:41

French communication was pitiful and the people in the turret were always over-tasked. It was much like the Soviets until 1943. The military used the civilian phone lines and they were known to be the worst in Europe at the time.

Logan Hartke

Posts: 1414
Joined: 11 Mar 2002 19:04
Location: Romania

Re: used

Post by Ovidius » 30 Apr 2002 19:35

MadJim wrote:Unfortunately French tactics were bad. The Germans later refurbished some char b chasis and used them for the basis of a self propelled gun. I beleive they were used by 21st (?) panzer divison in France. (When it was being rebuilt)

Not only the tactic. The whole concept at the basis of the Char B project was wrong from the start.

1. High complexity - resulted in high performance(tremendous passability, high firepower etc) but very hard to build(manually) and a nightmare to maintain. For example, instead of giving even a limited traverse to the 75mm cannon, they built the Naeder Hydrostatic steering system, which allowed for infinitesimal variations in vehicle's position, even when turning the tank on the spot, but was very complex and expensive.

2. Poor deployment - used as infantry-support tank(since the breakthrough role had no sense anymore), the giants had to fight each on it's own, without cooperation.

3. Poorly thought crew layout - this actually hampered the adoption of the Char B1bis tanks by the Germans. The commander, busy to fire the 47mm gun, could not communicate, take decisions, cooperate with other tanks etc.

The Char B1 was built like an ocean liner - slowly, carefully, with immense expenses. It was a sort of Pz VIII 'Maus' avant la lettre :D


Posts: 74
Joined: 02 Oct 2005 19:27
Location: Germany

Re: Info: Char de Bataille B1

Post by PreußensGlanz » 05 Aug 2019 00:12

Is someone able to provide info if and were the few Char B1 were used in the Western Campaign?
"Spread word to every slave, that even the mighty republic bleeds when struck!"

User avatar
Posts: 760
Joined: 14 Jun 2003 03:38
Location: Riom Auvergne & Bourbonnais France

Re: B1 units may june 1940

Post by Loïc » 06 Aug 2019 00:48


according to François Vauvillier remained 34 B1 in the parks and depots early may 1940,
following tanks were taken to be used in the battlefield

12 in the newly-raised 347e Compagnie Autonome de Chars de Combat (CACC) renforcing the 2e DCr ... iew&id=602

5 entered into the Compagnie de marche Gaudet 3/37 serving with the 14e DI [104 Verdun, 112 Mulhouse, 122 Alsace, 127 Jura, 132 Poitou] ... iew&id=642

according to Alain Adam it seems that 3 more were gathered in a provisional section around La Charité-sur-Loire the 15th june ... -107-reims ... -armorique ... 08-dixmude

Tanks B (& B1 bis) list ... -et-b1-bis

Return to “France 1919-1945”