The Saint-Chamond tank was the second heavy tank of the French army to be built and used during the First World War, but it never met the expectations of the military.
As the duration of the positional war on the Western front increased, the French army command demanded armoured vehicles and tanks to attack the German positions directly or to support the infantry.
For this purpose, Schneider developed the Schneider CA1, the first French tank, which was presented to the French army at the end of 1916. At that time, however, it was already known that the requirements of the army had not been taken into account in the development, so that many French officers were outraged about it. Also the development was not carried out together with the French company Forges et Aciéries de la Marine and d'Homécourt (FAMH), because the company Schneider did not want to pass on their patent.
So it happened that FAMH had started the development of a tank at the beginning of 1916 and had to implement the military specifications as well as possible.
The result was the Saint-Chamond tank, named after the city where it was built.
As one of the specifications the tank should be able to hold the Saint-Chamond gun 75 mm. Since the designers did not want to attach the main gun to the sides as they did with the British Mark tanks, they decided to attach the gun to the front. To achieve this, a new hull had to be developed based on the Holt chassis. The designers opted for an angular box, the dimensions of which made it the largest armoured vehicle in the world to date.
The engine was placed in the middle of the vehicle to distribute the weight evenly. The 90 hp Panhard 4-cylinder engine was chosen as the drive, but as it turned out later, it was much too weak for the weight of 22 tons. However, the electrically driven chains proved to be an innovation. This meant that the tank was easier to drive, but the electric motors tended to overheat and were prone to faults.
As additional armament, a total of 4 8 mm Hotchkiss machine guns were attached to the sides and rear of the tank.
The first prototype was presented in September 1916.
After the presentation of the prototype and the first test drives, the weakness of the oversized body of the tank quickly became apparent. This protruded at the front as well as at the back 2 meters over the actual chains designed for civilian use. With the weight of the gun the tank was accordingly very top-heavy, which led to the fact that in the area the nose sank fast into the machine.
In addition, no trenches with the tank could be overcome by the overhanging fuselage, instead these remained stuck with the attempt to cross the trenches and had to be pulled out only cumbersomely again.
Subsequently the prototype was modified. The front was reworked and the tank got some slits. In addition, the roof of the tank was bevelled, so that the German grenades bounced off.
Altogether it turned out, however, that the tank would have been unsuitable for the war at the western front. Only through pressure and the lobby work of Colonel Émile Rimailho, who accompanied the whole project and was also financially involved in the company FAMH, finally 400 Saint-Chamond tanks were ordered by the French army.
In March 1917 the series production of the tanks was started. The first operation took place on 5 May 1917 during the Battle of the Aisne, where the French army carried out its last major offensive against the German positions. Since no breakthrough was possible until the end of April and the French losses already amounted to more than 30.000, the 16 tanks used were to give support to the Laffaux mill. With the advance of the tanks the weakness showed itself again not to be able to drive through ditches. Only three tanks managed the crossing, the rest got stuck and could no longer be used.
Also the conversion after the 165th built tank from the Saint-Chamond cannon 75 mm to the Canon de 75 mm modèle 1897 did not bring any improvement of the weight distribution. Nevertheless, twelve artillery groups were set up.
Until the end of the war, the tanks were used only in flat terrain or as mobile artillery support. Of the 400 tanks ordered, 377 were built, the remainder converted into supply and recovery tanks until production was stopped in March 1918.
|Maximum speed:||8 km/h|
|Armour:||11 to 17 mm|
|Main armament:||Saint-Chamond T.R.-Cannon 75 mm
later Canon de 75 mm modèle 1897
|Other weapons:||4 x 8 mm Hotchkiss machine guns|
|Drive:||Panhard 4 cylinder engine with 90 HP (66 kW)|
You can find the right literature here:
The Encyclopedia of French Tanks and Armoured Fighting Vehicles: 1914-1940
France, alongside Britain, represents the birthplace of a new weapon that will revolutionize the art of war: the armored tank. And even before the appearance of this new piece of armament, it was in France around the turn of the twentieth century that we see the appearance of the first armored and combat vehicles.
In encyclopedic form, without forgetting any of the principal one hundred autos (tanks and armored cars) and their 200 variants and derivatives (troop transport, bridge layers, anti-mine tanks, etc..), This book offers a panorama absolutely full of all the vehicles that have succeeded or surrounded the Great War until the beginning of World War II.
A detailed though concise text concise, this work offers precise tables presenting all the specifications of the primary vehicles. With abundant illustrations (rare period photographs, sumptuous color profiles) this book an essential reference for both specialists and amateurs.
Armoured Fighting Vehicles of World Wars I & II: Features 90 Landmark Vehicles from 1900-1945 with over 370 Archive Photographs
Features 90 landmark vehicles from 1900-1945 shown in over 370 colour and black-and-white archive photographs
French Tanks of World War I (New Vanguard)
This title examines the emergence of the first modern tank, the Renault FT. It is a little known fact that France fielded more tanks in World War I than any other army. However, France's early tanks suffered from poor mobility and armor compared to their contemporaries. Indeed, their initial use on the Chemin des Dames in 1917 was a bloody fiasco. In spite of initial set-backs, the French army redeemed its reputation with the Renault FT.
The Renault FT pioneered the modern tank design, with armament in a revolutionary central turret and the engine in the rear. More importantly, the Renault was designed to be cheap and easy to manufacture. Discover the history of the early French armor developments and their triumphant new design, the Renault FT, that helped to turn the tide of war in the favor of the Allies.
Armoured Warfare in the First World War (Images Of War)
A hundred years ago, on 15 September 1916, on the Western Front during the Battle of the Somme, the tank made its debut on the battlefield. The first tanks were crude, unreliable, vulnerable weapons, but they changed the character of land warfare forever, and Anthony Tucker-Jones's photographic history of these pioneering armored vehicles is the ideal introduction to them.
In a selection of over 150 archive photographs he offers a fascinating insight into the difficult early days of this innovative new weapon, describing its technical history and its performance in combat. While the Battle of Cambrai in 1917 is often held up as the first large-scale tank battle, tanks had already served at Flers-Courcelette on the Somme, during the Nivelle offensive and the battles of Messines and Passchendaele.
His book shows that the development of the tank was fraught with technical obstacles and battlefield setbacks. It was invented by the British and the French at almost the same time to help break the deadlock of trench warfare, and the British deployed it first in 1916. Belatedly the Germans followed the British and French example. The initial designs were continuously refined during two years of intense warfare. Finding the right balance between power and weight, getting the armament right, and working out the best tactics for tanks on the battlefield was a tricky, often deadly business.