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PIC OF THE WEEK: a French tank in German hands.

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Our image this week shows a French Char B1 bis, one of the most powerful tanks in the world at the start of World War II, under examination by German troops, a scene enacted many times during the Fall of France in 1940.

The Char B, which appeared in prototype form in 1926, was originally intended as a medium tank. The design however, which featured good armour protection and a hull mounted 75mm gun with a further 47mm in a small turret, made the vehicle more suitable to an infantry support role.

Although somewhat redolent of World War 1 tanks with its all round tracks and side entry doors, the Char incorporated a revolutionary hydrostatic control transmission system which gave the driver a very fine degree of steering control, important in terms of aiming the hull mounted 75mm “bunker buster”. Internally the vehicle was fairly cramped and one especially pities the commander who not only had his own job to do, but also had to load aim and fire the 47mm secondary armament.

In the battles of 1940, Char B1s acquitted themselves well, largely due to the inability of German tank guns to penetrate their armour. Such was the speed of the French collapse however that over 150 were captured intact and subsequently reused by the Wehrmacht. Termed PzKpfw B2 740(f), some continued in their original configuration while others were rebuilt as flame throwers or self-propelled guns.

The Tank Museum Char B1 bis was sent with Panzer Abteilung 213 as part of the garrison forces of the Channel Island of Jersey, reaching Bovington after the war via the School of Tank Technology, Chertsey. Now repainted in French colours, her period in Wehrmacht service is identifiable by modifications such as radio aerial mounts and, for those with good eyesight, a tiny Waffenamt eagle stamped into the original Renault manufacturers plate mounted on the glacis.





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The Panzer units in the Island's were the only ones never to see actives service. A number of vehicles had the turrets removed and were fitted as SPG's. Also turrets were removed, mainly from Renault FT tanks and mounted on fortifictions in all three main island's. Some had the 37mm gun others just a machine gun.


And a picture of the beasts in Jersey post Liberation can be found here: http://www.thisisjersey.co.uk/hmd/resourcesearch.pl


(Photographic archive, keyword: tank)

Edited by Tony B
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