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France's Bataille B1, B1-bis, B1-ter, Char B1 bis, Medium Tanks

Photos

Bataille B1 medium tank:
France's Bataille B1 medium tank
Aberdeen Tank Museum

Design

Some sources have called these Heavy tanks which would probably be a better classification for them, but I'll leave them listed as Medium tanks for now.

In 1921 General J.E. Estienne (pioneer of French tank arm) of the Section Technique des Chars de Combat initiated requirements for a 15 ton tank with a 75 mm or 47 mm in the hull. Tracteur 30 was the codename for the design.

Schneider-Renault, FAMH, and FCM submitted 3 prototypes. In 1926 the Section Technique decided to take the suspension from the FCM and the mechanical features from the Schneider-Renault. The ARL (Artelier de Construction de Rueil) supervised the design and the first Char B was finished in 1929. Early prototypes were developed over the years and in April 1935, 35 / 40 Char B1s were delivered.

In March 1935, the Germans re-occupied the Rhineland. This caused the French to start to re-arm. 40 Char B1s were ordered in April 1935 with 60 mm of armor. These became the Char B1 bis.

Were nicknamed Kolosse by the Germans when the encountered them.

Engine

There was a compressed air and electric starting system for the engine.

The fuel tanks were self sealing.

Suspension

The suspension was based on the Holt tractor. On each side there were three assemblies with four bogies mounted in pairs. There were three independently mounted bogies in the front and one in the rear. The idler wheel in front was spring mounted as well.

There was a Naeder hydrostatic system for steering, when combined with a double differential unit, allowed for very precise turning that was necessary for aiming the gun.

Crew

The driver sat in the left front, drove the tank, and fired the 75 mm gun and machine gun in the hull. The commander had to aim, load, and fire the turret guns as well as command the tank. The loader has to pass ammunition to the commander and load the 75 mm gun in the hull. The radio operator was near the turret. The emergency exits for the crew were a door in the right side of the hull, hatch over the driver, hatch in the right rear of the turret, hatch in the floor, and a hatch in the roof of the engine compartment.

Armament

The 7.5 mm Chatellerault machine gun was on the right of the hull, and could be aimed by the driver or the commander.

The 75 mm gun was aimed by traversing the whole tank.

Fighting Compartment

There was a Luchard air compressor that blew the smoke and fumes from the gun out the barrel in a similar fashion to naval gun turrets. The whole tank had to be turned to move the 75 mm gun into firing line.

The hull had two parts which were separated by a fireproof bulkhead. The rear held the engine, and the front the crew.

Prototype

The prototype that was completed in 1929 had a crew of four, armor 25 mm thick, and four machine guns (3: hull, 1: turret). By 1935 it had increased to 28 tons with 40 mm armor.

Production

  • Bataille B1: 35, 40
    • Production: 1934 - ?
    • Manufacturer: Renault-Satory
  • Bataille B1 bis: : 365, 369, 380
    • Production: 1937 - 1940
    • Manufacturer: Renault
  • Bataille B1 ter: 5
    • Production: 1940

Variants

  • Bataille B1: Production started in 1935. Had self-sealing fuel tanks, grouped lubrication, electric starter, and a floor escape hatch. Complex to build. First French tank to have electric powered traverse. The suspension was leaf and coil springs on vertical articulations. The tracks were driven by the rear sprocket and could be adjusted from the inside. Had APX 1 turret. The 37 mm fire a 1.1 lb HE shell at a muzzle velocity of 1,273'/sec.
  • Bataille B1-bis: Produced from 1937 by Renault, FAMH, Saint-Chamond, and Schneider. In 1939 AMX joined production. Had revised turret (APX4), more powerful engine, and extra fuel capacity. The fuel tanks were designed by ARL or FCM. Required a great deal of maintenance and many broke down on the way to the front. Initially had a 250 hp engine, but was later replaced by an aircraft engine. The hull was cast sections bolted together. The coaxial turret MG had a separate traverse of 10° left and right.
  • Bataille B1-ter: Prototype was built in 1937. However production was focused on the B1-bis. Added a mechanic to the crew. A few were produced with Renault engines. It had a shorter BDR transmission gear which made for more room in the fighting compartment. The upper track went under steel tunnels and the side armor was sloped. The 75 mm gun was given a limited traverse.

Usage

Was used in 4 French armored divisions (1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th DCRs). Each division had 2 battalions of B1s and 2 battalions of light tanks. There were also 57 B1-bis distributed to independent companies.

German use:

Some were converted to 105 mm self propelled guns. Most were used for training.

  • PzKpfw B1-bis 740(f), PzKpfw B-2 740(f): Issued to Panzer units in France from 1941 on. Used in Jersey and Guernsey. Were issued in 1943 to the 14th and 21st Panzer divisions when they were being reformed. Only a few saw duty outside of France. Four were used by the 223rd Panzerkompanie in Russia, and 7 were used by the SS Prinz Eugen division in the Balkans.
  • PzKpfw B1 (f) Fahrschulewagen: The turret was removed and replaced by a machine gun. It was used as a driver training vehicle.
  • Flammwagen auf Panzerkampfwagen B-2(f):
  • 10.5cm leFH18/3 (Sf) auf Geschützwagen B-2(f):

Specifications

  Bataille B1, Char B1
Crew Commander, driver/gunner, loader, radio operator
4
Radio  
Physical Characteristics  
Weight 69,300 lb
30,480 kg, 31,500 kg
25 tons, 28 tons, 30 tons, 33 tons
Length 20' 8", 20.92', 20' 10.8", 20' 11"
6.37 m
Height 7' 1", 9', 9' 1.8", 9.2', 9' 3"
2.79 m, 2.82 m
Width 8' 2", 8' 2.4", 8.17'
2.49 m, 2.5 m
Width over tracks  
Ground clearance 19"
Ground contact length  
Ground pressure  
Turret ring diameter  
Armament  
Main - turret 1: 37 mm
1: 45 mm
1: 47 mm
1: 47 mm / 1.85"
Main - hull 1: 75 mm
1: 75 mm Howitzer
1: 75 mm / 2.95" short gun
MG - coaxial 1: 7.5 mm MG
1: 7.5 mm M31 MG
1: 7.5 mm / 0.295" MG
MG - hull 1: 7.5 mm MG
1: 7.5 mm M31 MG
1: 7.5 mm / 0.295" MG
Side arms  
Quantity  
Main 77
Secondary 50
MG  
Side arms  
Armor Thickness (mm) 14 - 40, 40
Hull Front, Upper 2.25"@0°
Hull Front, Lower  
Hull Sides, Upper 0.75"@0°
Hull Sides, Lower  
Hull Rear 0.75"@0°
Hull Top  
Hull Bottom  
Turret Front 2.35"@0°
Turret Sides  
Turret Rear  
Turret Top  
Engine (Make / Model) Renault
Bore / stroke  
Cooling Water
Cylinders 6
Capacity  
Net HP 180, 270, 307
Power to weight ratio  
Compression ratio  
Transmission (Type)  
Steering Naeder double differential
Steering ratio  
Starter  
Electrical system  
Ignition  
Fuel (Type) Gasoline
Octane  
Quantity  
Road consumption  
Cross country consumption  
Performance  
Traverse 360°
Speed - Road 17 mph, 17.2 mph, 17.4 mph
28 kph
Speed - Cross Country  
Range - Road 93 miles, 112 miles, 150 miles
150 km, 180 km
Range - Cross Country  
Turning radius  
Elevation limits  
Fording depth 4' 10"
Trench crossing 9'
2.74 m
Vertical obstacle 3' 1", 3' 10"
0.93 m
Climbing ability 20° slope
Suspension (Type) Articulating vertical coil springs
Wheels each side 16
Return rollers each side  
Tracks (Type)  
Length  
Width  
Diameter  
Number of links  
Pitch 9.5"
Tire tread  
Track centers/tread  
  Bataille B1-bis
Crew Commander, driver/gunner, loader, radio operator
4
Radio ER51
OR ER53
Physical Characteristics  
Weight 31,500 kg, 32,500 kg
31 tons, 31.5 tons, 32 tons
Length 20.94', 20' 10.7", 20' 10.8", 21' 5"
6.37 m, 6.5 m, 6.52 m
Height 9' 2", 9.17', 9' 1.8"
2 m, 2.79 m, 2.8 m, 2.88 m
Width 8' 2", 8' 2.4" , 8' 3", 8.19',
2.5 m, 2.52 m
Width over tracks  
Ground clearance 0.45 m
Ground contact length  
Ground pressure 0.85 (kg/cm2)
Turret ring diameter  
Armament  
Main - turret 1: 47 mm
1: 47 mm L/32
1: 47 mm L/34
1: 47 mm SA-35
Main - hull 1: 75 mm
1: 75 mm L/17
1: 75 mm ABS SA-35 howitzer
1: 75 mm / 2.95" short gun
MG 2: MG
1: 7.5 mm MG
2: 7.5 mm / 0.295" MG
MG - coaxial 1: MG
1: 7.5 mm MG
MG - hull 1: 7.5 mm MG
Side arms  
Quantity  
Main 50 (AP and HE)
Secondary 74 (HE)
MG 5,100
Side arms  
Armor Thickness (mm) 14 - 65, 60,
Hull Front, Upper 40-60
60@20°
Hull Front, Lower 40-60
60@45°
Hull Sides, Upper 55
60@0°
Hull Sides, Lower 55
60@0°
Hull Rear 55 55@43° & 55@0°
Hull Top 14-27
25@80° & 25@90°
Hull Bottom 22
20@90°
Turret Front 55
56@0°
Mantlet: 56 round
Turret Sides 45
46@22.5°
Turret Rear 45
46@22.5°
Turret Top 28
30@70.5° & 30@90°
Engine (Make / Model) Renault
Bore / stroke  
Cooling Water
Cylinders 6
Capacity  
Net HP 180, 300 , 300@1,900 rpm , 307
Power to weight ratio  
Compression ratio  
Transmission (Type) 5 forward, 1 reverse.
Steering  
Steering ratio  
Starter  
Electrical system  
Ignition  
Fuel (Type) Gasoline
Octane  
Quantity 400 liters
Road consumption  
Cross country consumption  
Performance  
Traverse 47 mm: 360°, hand.
75 mm: 0°
Speed - Road 17 mph, 17.2 mph, 17.4 mph
28 kph
Speed - Cross Country  
Range - Road 112 miles, 111.8 miles
150 km, 180 km, 140 km
Range - Cross Country 100 km
Turning radius 14 m
Elevation limits 47 mm: -18° to +18°
75 mm: -15° to +25°
Fording depth 0.72 m
Trench crossing 9'
2.74 m
Vertical obstacle 3' 1"
0.93 m
Climbing ability  
Suspension (Type) Vertical mounted coil springs
Coil Springs
Wheels each side 16
Return rollers each side  
Tracks (Type)  
Length  
Width 0.5 m
Diameter  
Number of links  
Pitch  
Tire tread  
Track centers/tread  
  Bataille B1-ter
Crew Commander, driver/gunner, loader, radio operator, mechanic
5
Radio  
Physical Characteristics  
Weight 36 tons
Length 20.8'
Height 9.5'
Width 8.94'
Width over tracks  
Ground clearance  
Ground contact length  
Ground pressure  
Turret ring diameter  
Armament  
Main 1: 47 mm
Secondary 1: 75 mm
MG  
MG - coaxial 1: 7.5 mm MG
MG - hull 1: 7.5 mm MG
Side arms  
Quantity  
Main  
Secondary  
MG  
Side arms  
Armor Thickness (mm) 70
Hull Front, Upper  
Hull Front, Lower  
Hull Sides, Upper  
Hull Sides, Lower  
Hull Rear  
Hull Top  
Hull Bottom  
Turret Front  
Turret Sides  
Turret Rear  
Turret Top  
Engine (Make / Model) Renault
Bore / stroke  
Cooling Water
Cylinders 6
Capacity  
Net HP 310
Power to weight ratio  
Compression ratio  
Transmission (Type)  
Steering  
Steering ratio  
Starter  
Electrical system  
Ignition  
Fuel (Type) Diesel
Octane  
Quantity  
Road consumption  
Cross country consumption  
Performance  
Traverse 360°
Speed - Road 16.5 mph
Speed - Cross Country  
Range - Road  
Range - Cross Country  
Turning radius  
Elevation limits  
Fording depth  
Trench crossing  
Vertical obstacle  
Climbing ability  
Suspension (Type)  
Wheels each side  
Return rollers each side  
Tracks (Type)  
Length  
Width  
Diameter  
Number of links  
Pitch  
Tire tread  
Track centers/tread  

Sources:

  1. The Encyclopedia of Tanks and Armored Fighting Vehicles - The Comprehensive Guide to Over 900 Armored Fighting Vehicles From 1915 to the Present Day, General Editor: Christopher F. Foss, 2002
  2. Panzer Truppen The Complete Guide to the Creation and Combat Employment of Germany's Tank Force 1933-1942, Thomas L. Jentz, 1996
  3. Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two, Peter Chamberlain and Hilary Doyle, 1999
  4. Tanks of the World, 1915-1945, Peter Chamberlain, Chris Ellis, 1972
  5. The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II, Chris Bishop, 1998
  6. Western Allied Tanks 1939-45, David Porter, 2009
  7. Tanks of World War II, Duncan Crow, 1979
  8. Tank Data 2, Aberdeen Proving Grounds Series, E. J. Hoffschmidt and W. H. Tantum IV, 1969
  9. The Illustrated Guide to Tanks of the World, George Forty, 2006
  10. Atlas of Tank Warfare From 1916 to the Present Day, Dr. Stephen Hart, 2012
  11. Armored Fighting Vehicles, 300 of the World's Greatest Military Vehicles, Philip Trewhitt, 1999
  12. World War I and II Tanks, George Forty, 2012
20th Century American Military History Crucial Site