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A publicação de qualquer imagem ou informação referentes ao nazismo, fascismo ou quaisquer outros regimes totalitários deve ser entendida como reprodução do rigor histórico e não como apologia a estes regimes, líderes ou símbolos.

Char B1 and B1 bis - French and German versions (gun and flamm tanks) - case report

Mes amis ...
      Now, let's build 04 (four) versions of this French beauty: Char B1, Char B1 bis (french and captured versions) and Char B1 bis Flamm german version. En avant, mon brave!!!
Char de Bataille B1 bis
Let's build these Girls...
      The Char B1 was a French heavy tank manufactured before World War II.It was a specialised heavy break-through vehicle, originally conceived as a self-propelled gun with a 75 mm howitzer in the hull; later a 47 mm gun in a turret was added, to allow it to function also as a Char de Bataille, a "battle tank" fighting enemy armour, equipping the armoured divisions of the Infantry Arm. Starting in the early twenties, its development and production were repeatedly delayed, resulting in a vehicle that was both technologically complex and expensive, and already obsolescent when real mass-production of a derived version, the Char B1 "bis", started in the late thirties. Although a second uparmoured version, the Char B1 "ter", was developed, only two prototypes were built.
      Among the most powerfully armed and armoured tanks of its day, the type was very effective in direct confrontations with German armour in 1940 during the Battle of France, but slow speed and high fuel consumption made it ill-adapted to the war of movement then being fought. After the defeat of France captured Char B1 (bis) would be used by Germany, with some rebuilt as flamethrowers or self-propelled artillery.
      The Char B1 had its origins in the concept of a Char de Bataille conceived by General Jean Baptiste Eugène Estienne in 1919, e.g. in his memorandum "Mémoire sur les missions des chars blindés en campagne".
General Jean Baptiste Eugène Estienne
      It had to be a "Battle Tank" that would be able to accomplish a breakthrough of the enemy line by destroying fortifications, gun emplacements and opposing tanks. In January 1921 a commission headed by General Edmond Buat initiated a project for such a vehicle. To limit costs, it had to be built like a self-propelled gun, with the main weapon in the hull. To minimise the vehicle size this gun should only be able to move up and down with the horizontal aiming to be provided by turning the entire vehicle. The specifications included: a maximum weight of thirteen metric tonnes; a maximum armour thickness of 25 millimetres; a hull as low as possible to enable the gun to fire into vision slits of bunkers; a small machine gun turret to beat off enemy infantry attacks, at the same time serving as an observation post for the commander and a crew of at most three men. Two versions should be built, the one a close support tank armed with a 75 mm howitzer, the other an antitank-vehicle with a 47 mm gun instead.
      The French industry was very interested in the project. In the past this had often led to much non-constructive rivalry. Estienne, who in the war had personally witnessed the dismal effects of such a situation, was determined to avoid a repetition this time. He used his position as Inspector-General of the Tanks to enforce the so-called "Estienne accord" on the industrialists, ordering them to "reach a mutual understanding, free from any spirit of industrial competition". To be allowed to join they had to agree beforehand to relinquish any patents to the Army, which would be free to combine all projects into a single type. In exchange industry were promised very large orders of no less than a thousand vehicles.
      On these conditions four projects were started in 1921: two by a cooperation between Renault and Schneider: the SRA and the SRB, one by FAMH (Forges et Aciéries de la Marine et d'Homécourt, better known as Saint Chamond) and the last by FCM (Forges et Chantiers de la Méditerranée), the FCM 21. Renault and Schneider would each get to produce 250 units, FAMH and FCM each 125.

SRA prototype tank
      A fifth producer, Delaunay-Belleville, of which the project (an improved FT 17) had been rejected beforehand, would be allowed to make 83 tanks; the remaining 167 would be allotted at the discretion of the French State.
      On 13 May 1924 the four prototypes were presented at the Atelier de Rueil, where they were compared, each having to drive over a twenty kilometre test course. Immediately it became evident that their technical development had been insufficient, most breaking down; the SRA even started to fall apart. Maintenance was difficult because the engines were inaccessible. All projects used a three men crew but differed considerably in size, form and the solution chosen to laterally point the gun.
      The SRA was the heaviest vehicle with 19.5 metric tonnes. Its length was 595 centimetres, its height 226 cm and its width 249 cm. It had a 75 mm howitzer in the right side of the hull and a cast, 30 mm thick, turret with two machine-guns. It was steered by an epicyclical transmission combined with hydraulically reinforced brake disks. During tests this failed to provide the desired precision.
SRA prototype tank
Seen from the front it already was very similar to the final model, but its side view was more like that of the British Medium Mark D, including the snake track-system, with the drive wheel higher than the idler in front.
British Medium Mark D tank (1920)
      The suspension used leaf springs. A Renault six-cylinder 180 hp engine (a bisected 12V aircraft engine) allowed for a maximum speed of 17.5 km/h; a four hundred litre fuel tank for a range of 140 kilometres.
      The SRB was a somewhat larger vehicle, six metres long, 228 centimetres high and 2,5 metres wide. It was nevertheless lighter at 18.5 tonnes, a result of having a smaller 47 mm gun. It thus was the antitank-version. Using the same engine, its speed was accordingly slightly higher at 18 km/h. More limited fuel reservoirs holding 370 litres decreased the range to 125 kilometres. It used an advanced hydraulic suspension system and the hydraulic Naeder-transmission from the Chaize company combined with a Fieux clutch and Schneider gear box. It used modified FT 17 tracks. The upper track run was much higher, creating enough room for a side door on the left.
SRB prototype tank
      The FAHM prototype resembled the contemporary Vickers Medium Tank. It weighed seventeen tonnes, was 520 centimetres long, 240 cm high and 243 cm wide. It used a hydropneumatic suspension. Despite a weaker Panhard engine of 120 hp it still attained a speed of 18.2 km/h. Fuel reservoirs of just 230 litres limited its range to a mere seventy kilometres. The 75 mm howitzer was placed in the middle of the hull and steered by providing each snake track with its own hydraulicJeanny transmission. On top was a riveted machine-gun turret with 25 mm armour.
Prototype FAMH
British Vickers Medium tanks in manouvers (1926)
      The lightest prototype was the FCM 21 at 15.64 tonnes. It resembled a scaled-down Char 2C, the giant tank produced by the same company. It was very elongated with a length of 6.5 metres and width of 205 centimetres. A rather large riveted turret with a stroboscopic cupola, adopted from the Char 2C, brought its height to 252 centimetres. Like the superheavy tank it had no real spring system for the twelve small wheels per side. Separate clutches for each snake track allowed to horizontally point the 75 mm howitzer in the middle of the hull. It used the same Panhard engine as the FAHM type and its speed was the lowest of all at 17.4 km/h. However, five hundred litre reservoirs allowed for the best range at 175 kilometres.
FCM 21-tank (1925) 
     In March 1925 Estienne decided to base the future production type on the SRB, as regarded the general form and mechanical parts. However, it would be fitted with the 75 mm gun, a Holt-track to be developed by FCM, which company had completed a special research programme aimed at optimising weight distribution, and the FAMH-suspension (later this would again be discarded). Estienne also had some special desires: a track tension wheel should be fitted, adjustable from the inside, and a small gangway from the fighting room should improve the accessibility of the engine compartment. Furthermore the front armour should be increased to 40 millimetres.
      In November 1925 Renault was given the order to build a wooden mock-up, that was finished early 1926. 
Char B1 mock-up (1926)
      On 27 January 1926 it was decided to build three prototypes of what was provisionally called a Tracteur 30, a final design by engineer Alleaume of the Schneider company, cooperating with the STCC (Section Technique des Chars de Combat). The first was to be delivered by Renault, the other two by FCM and FAHM respectively. In the same year the Direction de l'Infanterie in the Plan 1926 redefined the concept of a Char de Bataille: There would be a greater emphasis on infantry support, implying that the antitank-capacity was secondary and no armour increase was necessary. The weight was to be limited to 22 metric tonnes and the speed might be as low as 15 km/h. However, a radio set would have to be fitted to better direct and coordinate its actions; therefore a fourth crew-member was needed.
      On 18 March 1927 the contracts for the three prototypes were signed. The hull of first Renault vehicle, made of softer boiler plate instead of armour steel to simplify changes, was in January 1929 finished apart from the armament. It was delivered in March. The separately produced cast turret was delivered on 23 April. The howitzer could only be fitted in April 1930. This prototype was allotted the series number N° 101. N° 102, the production of which FAMH had shifted to Renault, was delivered soon after; in September 1930 FCM delivered N° 103, constructed by the Atelier de Mépanti at Marseille. One of the vehicles was fitted with an alternative 75 mm Schneider gun instead of the 75 mm St Chamond M 21 from FAMH.

Prototype nº 101 in original state with small MG turret
Prototype N° 102 Renault
Prototype N° 103 FCM
       Testing on the first prototype had already begun before the other two were delivered, or even its main armament was fitted. It had with 24,750 kilogrammes a weight higher than specified but could nevertheless reach a top speed of 24 km/h. From 6 May until August 1930 the Commission d'Experiences des Matériels de Chars carried out a further test programme on what was now officially called the Char B: the "B" not referring to Bataille but to a general classification code. The commission was largely satisfied with the vehicle, though many smaller problems were detected that had to be improved. The FCM prototype featured several alternative technologies: a Winterthur transmission, a Citroën clutch and a Sulzer diesel engine, later replaced by a Clerget diesel. All of these systems would prove to be more unreliable than the original concept and were ultimately rejected.
      The three vehicles were not only used for technological but also tactical experimentations. Together with the Char D1 pre-series they represented the only modern tanks in France and the Army was naturally very interested in what lessons could be learned from them about future warfare, outlining the concept of a Char de Manoeuvre. Neither Char de Bataille nor Char de Manoeuvre are official type designations; they refer to the tactical concepts only..
Char D1 tank
      In October 1931 a small unit was formed, the Détachement d' Experimentation in which the prototypes were united from December, using the Camp de Châlons as a base to see how they could be used in winter conditions. Afterwards they on their own power drove to the Atelier de Rueil for repairs. In September they participated in the Champagne summer manoeuvres as a Détachement Mécanique de Combat; from 4 May 1933 N° 102 en 103 together formed a Détachement d'Engins Blindés to perform tactical experiments in the army bases of Coëtquidan and Mourmelonas part of a motorised light division, followed by comparable experiments in April 1934 at Sissonne. Technical aspects were not forgotten during these tests and it was established they could attain an average road speed of 19 km/h, cross a trench 2,4 metres wide and wade through a 105 centimetres deep stream.
      The prototypes were again extensively altered to meet changes in specifications. On 6 April 1934 the first order was made for seven tanks of a Char B1. The "B1" refers to the fact that there were other simultaneous projects to develop improved types: the Char B2, B3 and B B.
      The Char B1 was manufactured by several firms: Renault (182), AMX (47), FCM (72), FAMH (70) and Schneider (32). 
Char B1 - FLANDRES (128)
Char B1 - rear view. Notice the characteristic tow hook
      Although it was the main producer, Renault had not exclusively designed the tank. Therefore the official name was not Renault B1 as often erroneously given. It was a very expensive tank to build: the per unit cost was about 1.5 million French francs. In France at the time two schools of thought collided: the first wanted to build very strong heavy tanks, the other a lot of cheap light tanks. Both sides managed to influence procurement policy to the end that not enough tanks were built of either category, to the exasperation of men like Colonel Charles de Gaulle who wanted to build more of the medium Char D2, with a third of the cost of the Char B1 bis, but armed with the same 47 mm gun.
Char D2
Tactical function:
      The outer appearance of the Char B1 reflected the fact that development started in the twenties: like the very first tank, the British Mark I tank of World War I fame, it still had large tracks going around the entire hull and large armour plates protecting the suspension and like all tanks of that decade it had no welded or cast hull armour. 
British Mark I tank
      The similarity resulted partly from the fact that the Char B1 was a specialised offensive weapon, a break-through tank optimised for punching a hole into strong defensive entrenchments, so it was designed with good trench-crossing capabilities. The French Army thought that dislodging the enemy from a key front sector would decide a campaign, and it prided itself on being the only army in the world having a sufficient number of adequately protected heavy tanks. The exploitation phase of a battle was seen as secondary and best carried out by controlled and methodical movement to ensure superiority in numbers, so for the heavy tanks also mobility was of secondary concern. Although the Char B1 had for the time of its conception a good speed, no serious efforts were made to improve it when much faster tanks appeared.
      More important than the tank's limitations in tactical mobility, though, were its limitations in strategic mobility. The low practical range implied the need to refuel very often, limiting its operational capabilities. This again implied that the armoured divisions of the Infantry, the Divisions Cuirassées de Réserve, were - despite their name that merely reflected the fact that they had originally been planned to be raised in a secondary mobilisation - not very effective as a mobile reserve and thus lacked strategic flexibility. They were not created to fulfill such a role in the first place, which was reflected in the small size of the artillery and infantry components of the divisions.

The one-man turret

      Another explanation of the similarity to the British Mark I lies in the Char B1's original specification to create a self-propelled gun able to destroy enemy infantry and artillery. The main weapon of the tank was its 75 mm howitzer, and the entire design of the vehicle was directed to making this gun as effective as possible. When in the early 1930s it became obvious that the Char B1 also had to defeat counterattacking enemy armour, it was too late for a complete redesign. The solution was to add the standard cast APX-1 turret which also equipped the Char D2.

     Like most French tanks of the period (the exception being the AMC 34 and AMC 35) the Char B thus had a small one-man turret. Today this is typically seen as one of their greatest flaws.
      The commander, alone in the turret, not only had to command the tank, but also to aim and load the gun. If he was a unit leader, he had to command his other tanks as well.
APX-1 turret interior...Very, very tight ...
      This is in contrast with the contemporary German, British and Soviet policy to use two or three-man turret crews, in which these duties were divided amongst several men. The other nations felt that the commander would otherwise be over-tasked and unable to perform any of his roles as well as the commanders of tanks with two or three-man turret crews.
      Whether this left the Char B1 less-formidable in actual combat than a review of its impressive statistics suggests, is difficult to ascertain. In 1940, the vast majority of Char B1 combat losses were inflicted by German artillery and anti-tank guns. In direct meetings with German tanks the Char B1 usually had the better of it, sometimes spectacularly so as when on 16 May a single tank, the Char B1bis EURE (commanded by Captain Pierre Billotte), frontally attacked and destroyed thirteen German tanks lying in ambush in Stonne, all of them Panzer IIIs and Panzer IVs, in the course of a few minutes. The tank safely returned despite being hit 140 times.
Char B1bis  EURE - cammo scheme
The proud crew of EURE
      Similarly, in his book Panzer Leader, Heinz Guderian related an incident, which took place during a tank battle south of Juniville: "While the tank battle was in progress, I attempted, in vain, to destroy a Char B with a captured 47-mm anti-tank gun; all the shells I fired at it simply bounced harmlessly off its thick armor. Our 37-mm and 20-mm guns were equally ineffective against this adversary. As a result, we inevitably suffered sadly heavy casualties".
      The French favoured small turrets despite their shortcomings, as they allowed for much smaller and thus cheaper vehicles. Although the French expenditure on tanks was relatively larger than the German, France simply lacked the production capacity to build a sufficient number of heavier tanks.             The Char B1 was expensive enough as it was, eating up half of the infantry tank budget.


Char B1:
    The original Char B1 had frontal and side armour up to 40 mm thick. The vehicle had a fully traversing APX1 turret with a 47 mm L/27.6 SA 34 gun. This had a poor anti-tank capability: the thirty APHE (Armour Piercing High Explosive) rounds among the fifty the tank carried had a maximum penetration of about 25 mm. In addition, it was armed with a 75 mm ABS 1929 SA 35 gun mounted in the right-hand side of the hull front and two 7.5 mm Châtellerault M 1931 machine guns: one in the hull and the other in the turret. The 75 mm L/17.1 gun, that could fire both a HE and the APHE Obus de rupture Modèle 1910M round, had a limited traverse of only one degree to the left or the right (equating to about 18 metres at 500 m range).
Char B1 model 1937 "Poitou"- 5th DCR, IIIrd Army, Sarre offensive - September 1939.
      It was laid onto target by the driver (provided with the gun sight) through the Naeder hydraulic precision transmission. The traverse had only been made possible in order to precisely align the gun barrel with the sight beforehand. The 75 mm gun had its own loader—the remaining two crew members were the radio operator and the commander, who had to load, aim and fire the 47 mm gun while commanding the vehicle (and in the case of platoon leaders, command other vehicles as well). The fighting compartment had the radio set on the left and an exit hatch in the right side. All vehicles had the ER53 radio telegraphy set, which used Morse Code only. A hatch in the rear bulkhead gave access to a corridor (under which nineteen 75 mm rounds out of a total of eighty were stowed) in the engine room to the right of the engine, which was officially rated at 250 hp (190 kW), but had an actual output of 272 hp (203 kW). Each tank had its own team of three mechanics; in battle some of these might join the regular crew. In 1940, some Chars B1 was upgraded with the long barreled, higher velocity 47mm SA35 L/32 gun turret, the same turret gun of th Char B1 bis and Somua S-35.
Char B1 with original short gun in the turret snorting in the field...
Char B1 with long 47mm SA35 L/32 gun turret
      The suspension was very complex with sixteen road wheels per side. There were three large central bogies, sprung by a vertical coil spring. Each central bogie carried two smaller ones. The three vertical springs moved through holes in a horizontal beam, to both extreme ends of which road wheels were attached by means of leaf springs: three at the front and one at the back. The high track run gave the tank an old fashioned look, reflecting its long development time.
Char B1 DAUPHINE (124) testing a deployer apparatus of fascine
      It had a maximum speed of 28 km/h and a weight of 28 metric tons. The range was about 200 km. A total of 34 vehicles were built from December 1935 until July 1937. They had series numbers 102 to 135. Chassis number 101 was kept apart to build the Char B1 ter prototype.

Char B1 bis:
      The Char B1 bis was an upgraded variant with thicker armour at 60 mm maximum (55 mm at the sides) and an APX4 turret with a longer-barrelled (L/32) 47 mm SA 35 gun, to give the tank a real anti-tank capacity. It was the main production type: from 8 April 1937 until June 1940 369 units were delivered out of a total order for 1144, with series numbers 201 to 569. Before the war manufacture was slow: only 129 had been delivered on 1 September 1939. The monthly delivery was still not more than fifteen in December; it peaked in March 1940 with 45.

      The Char B1 bis had a top speed of 25 km/h (16 mph) provided by a 307 bhp (229 kW) petrol engine. The first batch of 35 Char B1 bis used the original engine but from 1938 to May 1940 they were slowly re-equipped. Its weight was about 31.5 metric tons. The operational range was about 180 km (110 mi) which was similar to other tanks of the period. At 20 km/h (12 mph) the three fuel tanks (total capacity of 400 l (88 imp gal) would be exhausted in six hours.
Char B1 bis 337 “Eure”-  41th BCC, 1st company - France, 16 may 1940.
      To improve matters, at first, trailers with an 800 litre auxiliary fuel tank were towed but this practice was soon abandoned. These Schneider trailers were tested with Renault prototype 101, but have proven to be unsafe in the field. However, in the desperate days of 1940, they returned to be used sporadically ...
The Schneider  auxiliary fuel trailers
The prototype Renault 101 testing the fuel trailer in the trials...
      Instead Char B1 units included a large number of fuel trucks and TRC Lorraine 37 L armoured tracked refuelling vehicles specially designed to quickly refuel them. The last tanks to be produced in June had an extra internal 170 l (37 imp gal) fuel tank.
Chars B1 towing Schneider fuel trailers
      To cool the more powerful engine the Char B1 bis had the air intake on the left side enlarged. It is often claimed this formed a weak spot in the armour, based on a single incident on 16 May near Stonne where two German 37 mm PAK guns claimed to have knocked out three Char B1's by firing at the intakes at close range. The air intake was a 6-inch (150 mm) thick assembly of horizontal slits alternately angled upwards and downwards between 28 mm thick armour plates, and as such intended to be no more vulnerable than the normal 55 mm side plates.
      Over the production run the type was slowly improved. Tanks number 306 to 340 carried 62 47-mm rounds (and the old complement of 4,800 machine gun rounds); later tanks 72 and 5,250. However the B1 bis had fewer 75 mm rounds compared to the earlier B1 : 74 instead of eighty, normally only seven of which were APHE ammunition. Early in 1940 another change was made when the ER53 radio was replaced by the ER51 which allowed spoken wireless communication. The company and battalion command tanks also had an ER55 for communication with higher command. The crews of the 1re DCR kept their old sets however, preferring them because the human voice was drowned by engine noise.

Char B1 ter:
          Development of the Char B1 ter was started at the same time as production funds were given for the bis with the intention of providing a tank armoured to 75mm. A design with sloped and welded 70 mm armour, weighing 36.6 metric tons and powered by a 350 hp (260 kW) engine was meant to replace the B1 bis to accelerate mass production from the summer of 1940. In the course of the redesign, space was provided for a fifth crew member, a "mechanic".
      Cost was reduced by omitting the complex Neader transmission and giving the hull gun a traverse of five degrees to each side instead. The first prototype was shown in 1937. Only two prototypes could be finished before the defeat of France. In May 1940 it was agreed to deliver nine Char B1's each month to Britain in exchange for a monthly British production of the "H39".

Operational History:
      The Char B1 served with the armoured divisions of the Infantry, the Divisions Cuirassées de Réserve. These were highly specialised offensive units, optimised to break through fortified enemy positions. The mobile phase of a battle was to be carried out by the armoured divisions of the Cavalry, equipped with the SOMUA S35.
Somua S-35
      The First and Second DCR had 69 Char B1's each; the Third 68. The 37th Bataillon de Chars de Combat, serving with 1DCR, was at first equipped with the original B1; these vehicles were refitted with the longer SA 35 gun in the spring of 1940. The turret type designation was changed to APX1A. The battalion was re-equipped with the Char B1 bis and in May reinforced by five of the original tanks.
      After the German invasion several ad hoc units were formed: the 4DCR with 52 Char B1's and five autonomous companies (347e, 348e, 349e, 352e and 353e Compagnie Autonome de Chars) with in total 56 tanks: 12 B1's and 44 B1 bis. Also 28BCC was reconstituted with 34 tanks. The regular divisions destroyed quite a few German tanks, but lacked enough organic infantry and artillery to function as an effective mobile reserve.
       A number of Char B1's (161) were captured by the Germans during the Fall of France. These were later pressed into service as second line and training vehicles under the name of Panzerkampfwagen B-2 740 (f)., because of their low velocity and poor mobility.

Panzerkampfwagen B-2 740 (f). - captured Char B1 bis used by the Germans

Flammwagen auf Panzerkampfwagen B-2 (f): In 26 May, 1940, Hitler examined the future use of the captured Chars b1-bis as flamethrower tanks. He ordered the conversion of 24 Chars B1 bis to form two companies that were to be ready for the coming campaign in the East: Operation Barbarosa
     There were three versions of the PzKpf. B-2 740 flamethrowing tank. In the first version, the flamethrower - like the original 75mm hull tank gun - could be moved only vertically, and aiming to the side had to be done by turning the vehicle. The driver was also the flamm "gunner". The burning oil was housed in the interior of the vehicle. the range of the flame was between 40 to 45 meters.
Panzerkampfwagen B-2 740 (f) - Flamm - 1st version
Notice the projector in the place of the 75mm hull gun
Panzerkampfwagen B-2 740 (f) - Flamm - 1st version
Panzerkampfwagen B-2 740 (f) - Flamm - 1st version in the russian front
      In the second version, a small platform was mounted in place of the 75mm hull gun, with a rotating little turret attached on it. The rotating turret was the same type as that used on the SdKfz 122 Panzerkampfwagen II Flamm "Flamingo".
SdKfz 122 Panzerkampfwagen II Flamm "Flamingo".
Notice the flamm turrets (red arrows)
      The flamethrower was operated by its own gunner, who sat next to the driver, and for whom a visor was cut in the bow armour. In this version too, the burning oil compressed with nitrogen was carried in the vehicle. AS I sayd before, 24 tanks of these first two versions were built.
Panzerkampfwagen B-2 740 (f) - Flamm - 2nd version.
Notice the flamm turret covered by tarp
Panzerkampfwagen B-2 740 (f) - Flamm - 2nd version.
Panzerkampfwagen B-2 740 (f) - Flamm - 2nd version.
The vehicle shows the Flamingo turret
Panzerkampfwagen B-2 740 (f) - Flamm - 2nd version.
Russian front
Panzerkampfwagen B-2 740 (f) - Flamm - 2nd version.
      After these first two initial versions, it was decided to built a new and improvedversion (the third and final version). The ignited fuel mixture was now propelled by a motorized pump, enabling 200 bursts of oil with a range of 50 meters. The flamethrower was still fitted in place of the 75mm gun, but now on a rotating  mount type Koerge to get some transverse and an armored vision block was added over it on the glacis plate. Sixty vehicles were made of this third version and they were all delivered by 31 May, 1943. These tanks carrying the fuel for flames in an external armour tank located in the rear of the AFV.
Panzerkampfwagen B-2 740 (f) - Flamm - 3rd version.
Notice the projector in a ball mount
Panzerkampfwagen B-2 740 (f) - Flamm - 3rd version.  rear view
Notice the fuel tank for flamethrower in the rear hull
      The Germans also converted 16 Char B1 bis tanks into 10.5cm le.F.H.18/3 (Sf.) auf G.W.B2 (105 mm self-propelled artillery).
10.5cm le.F.H.18/3 (Sf.) auf G.W.B2
     Ordinary tank versions were also frequently modified. For example, additional armour was placed above the main gun, and a winch mechanism was added behind the turret. One unit, Panzer-Abteilung 213, was equipped with the Char B1 bis and deployed on the Channel Islands from 1941 to 1945. One of their tanks is displayed by the Bovington Tank Museum, though repainted in French colours. In German service, the tank saw action in the Balkans Campaign and the Eastern Front, initially during Operation Barbarossa, the flamethrower version from 1942 onwards.

The principal German units that used the Char B1 bis:
  • Panzer-Brigade 100 
  • Panzer-Regimente 100 
  • Panzer-Ersatz-Abteilung 100 
  • Panzer-Abteilung (F) 102 
  • Panzer-Abteilung 213 
  • SS-Panzer-Abteilung "Prinz Eugen" 
  • Panzer-Kompanie z.b.V. 12 
  • Panzer-Abteilung 223 
  • Beutepanzer-Kompanie 223 
  • I./Artillerie-Regiment 93 of 26. Panzer-Division 
  • II./Panzer-Regiment 1 of 1. Panzer-Division 
  • Panzer-Regiment 2 of 16. Panzer-Division 
  • I./Panzer-Regiment 36 of 14. Panzer-Division 
  • Panzer-Abteilung 205 
  • Panzer-Kompanie 206 
  • Panzer-Kompanie C (ND) 224 
  • Panzerjäger-Abteilung 657 (PK 224)
      Italy independently from Germany captured eight Chars B1 bis when in October 1940 an Italian worker disclosed to the Italian Armistice Commission that they in July had been hidden in a cave near Les Baux-de-Provence. These vehicles, six of which lacked the turret, were tested but probably not operationally used by Italy.
      After the Allies had invaded France in 1944, some B1s were recaptured. Several were used on an individual and incidental basis by resistance forces, such as those fighting the German garrison of Paris in August 1944. On 7 October 1944, the Provisional Government of the French Republic formed the 13th Dragoon Regiment of the Free French Forces. The majority of the regiment fielded SOMUA S35cavalry tanks, but Captain Edmond Voillaume's 2nd Company was equipped with 19 B1 bis tanks, which included a mixture of standard and German modified B-2s. They were stationed in Orléans until 2 April 1945, when they were mobilized for the Allied siege of La Rochelle.
      The tanks were effective in the attack on Royan on 15 April 1945, using their 75 mm guns for fire support, while targeting pillboxes with their 47 mm guns. After that, 2nd Company accompanied troops on an assault on Pontaillac on 17 April, followed by an attack on the German stronghold at La Rochelle between 29 April and 8 May. Voillaume was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions.
Char B1 bis recaptured in La Rochelle parade
13th Dragoon Regiment - Free French Forces.
Notice tha Allied star in the B1 side
Char B1 bis VERCORS from 13émé Régiment de  Dragons
Char B1 bis VERCORS in parade, 1944.
Char B1 bis BAYARD recaptured. France, 1944.
      After the war, the 13th Dragoon Regiment was stationed in the French occupation zone of Allied-occupied Germany as part of the French 3rd Armoured Division. It was eventually disbanded in the German town of Wittlich in April 1946.
fonts: Wikipedia ; Tanks Encyclopedia ; Chars-francais

Char B tank
TypeHeavy tank
Place of origin                         France
Service history
In service1936-1940 (France)
1944-1945 (Free French Forces)
Used byFrance, Germany
WarsSecond World War
Production history
ManufacturerRenault and others
Produced1935-1937 (Char B1)
1937-1940 (Char B1 bis)
Number built405 (34 Char B1, 369 Char B1 bis & two Char B1 ter)
Weight28 tonnes
Length6.37 m 
Width2.46 m 
Height2.79 m 

Armor40 mm (Char B1)
60 mm (Char B1 bis)
75 mm ABS SA 35 howitzer
47 mm SA 34 (Char B1)
47 mm SA 35 (Char B1 bis)
2 × 7.5 mm Reibel machine guns
EngineRenault inline 6 cylinder 16.5 litre petrol
272 hp
Power/weight9.7 hp/tonne
Transmission5 forward, 1 reverse gear
Suspensionbogies with a mixture of vertical coil and leaf springs
Fuel capacity400 L
200 km 
Speed28 km/h
21 km/h  off-road
double differential

The kits:
      Well, for this double project, I'll use two of the excellent Tamiya B1 bis German Army (#35287)
This tank is beautiful !!!!
       Starting by the wheels !!!

In position...

Building the two chassi
...and the hulls !!
47mm guns under construction...
( I had a (disassembled) turret from
10.5cm le.F.H.18/3 (Sf.) auf G.W.B2 )
Turrets with weld seam done with thin plasticard...
Notice the differents cupolas...
      The tracks are amazing. LBL, but workeable by click...
61 links per track... Delicious !!!
The hulls. Notice the differents versions.and corrections with rivets and plasticard
I open the squared holes in the front of the sponsons....
With shoes...
...and fenders...
Next step: painting...
      My primary intention was to build two Char B1bis, but with the modifications made by the Germans after capture these french tanks. As we have seen in history, the Germans used many of Char B1bis as Panzerkampfwagen B-2 740 (f). 
Char B1bis as Panzerkampfwagen B-2 740 (f).
Notice the left tank with german modifications (red arrows)
      But searching deeper into the subject, I became interested in the flamethrower version of this tank: the Flammwagen auf Panzerkampfwagen B-2 (f). I searched the conversion kits for these tanks flamethrower in the web and found excellent choices, but all of the late (3rd) version.
Flammwagen auf Panzerkampfwagen B-2 (f). - 3rd version
      And as I like different things, I decided to scratch the intermediate version of the Flammwagen auf Panzerkampfwagen B-2 (f)., with the flamm turret from Sdkfz 122 Flamingo.
SdKfz 122 Panzerkampfwagen II Flamm "Flamingo".
Panzerkampfwagen B-2 740 (f) - Flamm - 2nd version.
      So, let's go: First of all, I did a profile (based in a George Bradford drawing):

      Removing the gun from the hull of the Char B1 standard:
Char B1bis with no gun...heretic image !!!
      As I had two old kits ICM Flamingo, I decided to cannibalize one to make the conversion of my Char B2 Flamm:
The flamm turret from ICM kit
Working in the Char B1 bis hull...Notice the details...The flamm turret was
modified in his base...
Flammwagen auf Panzerkampfwagen B-2 (f). - mid version.  Notice the turret,
the aerial and the flamm gunner visor in the front glacis...

Now, I have two Chars: the gun and the flamm version, all Germans.
      But... modelers pro-France, don't worry ... I liked it so much of this tank that I decided to build (in parallel) more two "pure" French versions: the Char B1 bis and the early Char B, using a conversion kit (retrofit) of Azimut Productions:
Azimut conversion kit
      The beginning of the French girls:
Continuing the building ... Now, the French girls ...The Azimut parts present an extreme variation of casting. Some pieces are perfect and other horrible ...
The front glacis under the 75mm gun resin and plastic. resin ok.
The 75mm guns...
       To transform a Char B1 bis in B, the rear upper deck must be changed. The marked part will be cut and replaced by the resin part. Thankfully this part was perfect...
The upper deck....
Done !!!
Applying the part ...Cyanoacrylate...
The worst surgery: front glacis...
And the worst part: the resin part (air vent grill) was contracted.
The dimensional alterations turn the part unusable!! Too small!
Using the Tamiya part
The front glacis in resin. Contracted too,  but to a lesser extent...
Done, after blood, sweat and  tears!!!

A family photo!!
The turret...The casting here demanded a lot, but a lot of work.
The parts in the hull will be eliminated, in the future...

The Char B almost done...
The french Char B1bis...

Tracks...Love the tamiya tracks!!!! 61 links by track...
The girls with shoes...
      Man, these resin parts (rear hook) are simply horrible!!!! I had to redo everything in scratch ...Metal wire, Plastruct and metal foil...and two hours of pain...
Azimut parts: awful!!!
The new hook...Notice the rear fenders (contracted, too...)
Rear hook
Not bad...
The French girls, almost done...

 And the building continues....The four girls...
Almost ready for painting...
The wiring for frenchy's aerials...
      Well, time to do the markings of the versions...First of all, the French ones...For the Char B1 (early), my choice was the Char B1 REIMS, N° 107. To do this version, I have an old decal sheet from Editions du Barbotin to Chars B1 and B1bis.
Decals for Char B1 and CharB1bis- Editions du Barbotin
Notice the only Char B1 in the list: REIMS
Char B1 n° 107 -  REIMS. Notice the Algae pattern:
Two tone lobed vertical camouflage in (supposed) yellow ocher and olive green.
REIMS with short gun version
REIMS with long gun (upgraded) after its capture by the Germans.
REIMS with long gun (upgraded) after its capture by the Germans - front view
My version will be the early, with short gun.
      For the Char B1bis, I'll build the unique FANTASQUE] n° 251. The decals will be made by myself, in my Laserjet. The two girls with primer...
French Chars in primer...
      I decided to start by the Fantasque, which features a unique pattern of camouflage. The Char B1bis n° 251 FANTASQUE was delivered to 508th RCC Luneville in early 1939. In December 1939, serves to camouflage experience based in the "flocking painting", developed by engineer Marc Marchal. The method consists in covering the vehicle with a special paint which are applied colored textile fibers. The selected pattern consists of trunks of chestnut trees on green background with touches of pale yellow. The name of the tank is in black and the number remains in white. 
Char B1 bis Fantasque - right side
Name in black and number in white...
Fantasque - left side. Notice the name in black , but the number is obscure in this pic....
Fantasque destroyed - left front side -  notice the details...
Name in black (rectangles) and remaining of the number in white (circle)??
FANTASQUE destroyed in June, 1940.
      Tests show that this method of painting does nothing in the visual camouflage. Also can resists very sore trials terrain. No action was taken, but carried this camouflage throughout its operational life. She was attached to the instructions duties at the School of Tanks in Satory. Attached to the 347th CACC in May 16, 1940 and to Battalion 8/15 on June 3 for the attack to Abbeville. Tank commander: Lieutenant Dupont . Finally, she was destroyed in Rambures, June 6, 1940.
      One of the problems to paint this pattern of painting are the colors of the camouflage. The profiles in the literature have different interpretations:
FANTASQUE- name in black and absence of number.
Notice the tree pattern and the background color: yellowish green
FANTASQUE- name in red and  number in white.
Notice the tree pattern nd the background color: yellow ochre
FANTASQUE- name in black and  number in white.
Notice the tree pattern nd the background color: yellowish green
      After seeing this, I decided to make my interpretation about chestnut trees cammo: First, the background color: shades of bluish green light:

First shades of colors...
      Now, using tonal variations to give volume and depth...

      Now, using brushes (0) to make the grass. Horizon line, in background,  first...
Tall grass in green...
right side...
      It's tree time, now. Chestnut trees and branches in brown...
Artistic painting...Notice the grass, in the painting base...left side
Right side...

Rear view
      I added "embossed aspect" with bright and dark tones on the trunks and braches of the trees ....
Using colors to do "embossed aspect" in the cammo - left side
Right side
Rear view
Front view...
Bird view...
      And as quoted a friend of mine in Track-Link, Mike Griffin, the cammo resembles a work of a Dutch Post-Impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh, in the Flowering Orchards series: Orchard in Blossom - April, 1888. These paintings depict French countryside, at the end of the 19th century:
Thanks for the tip, Mike !!!
Orchard in Blossom - April, 1888
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
     Uff ... Now would be the weathering time. But this will be done with the other sisters ... I'll paint the cammo of the REIMS. But this is the story of the next step!
While the Fantasque painting dries, let's take care of Reims ...
Algae cammo pattern...- left side

right side
Rear view...
The two frenchy girls; Fantasque (background) and Reims (foreground)
Très belles dames!!
 Continuing the project:
Making the decals...Fantasque !!!
In the turret...
Front glacis...
right side - Fantasque & 251
Reims...left side...
Reims - front view...
Reims - left side
rear view...
top view
top-rear view
The Kraut girls...cammo and decals...
Kraut gun tank...
Kraut flamm tank - right side
Kraut flamm tank - left side
The four girls after matte varnish...
 Finally, I finished the quadruple French project... In a chronological sequence, the first girl to be displayed will be the firstborn, most experienced:-

- Char B1 REIMS: tank n° 107 - 37éme BCC - France, 1939.
Char B1 REIMS: tank n° 107 - 37éme BCC - France, 1939

Char B1 REIMS - left side

Char B1 REIMS - rear view
Char B1 REIMS - right side

      And now, a big surprise: the debut of the Rover, the dog. This faithful and charming companion was given to Kojak by our great friend Paul Owen, from Track-Link.(Thanks a lot, Paul !!)
Kojak and Rover with Char B1 REIMS
Wellcome home, Rover !!!
Char B1 REIMS: tank n° 107 - 37éme BCC - France, 1939.
 Another french Girl:
- Char B1bis  FANTASQUE: tank n° 251 - 347ème CACC - France, 1940.
Char B1bis FANTASQUE: tank n° 251 - 347ème CACC - France, 1940.

Char B1bis FANTASQUE - left side

Char B1bis FANTASQUE - rear view

Char B1bis FANTASQUE - right side

Char B1bis FANTASQUE with Kojak and Rover

Char B1 REIMS and Char B1bis FANTASQUE

Now, A German girl, with hot lips:

- Flammwagen auf Panzerkampfwagen B-2 740(f)-(2nd version) - Panzer-Abteilung (F) 102 - Russia, June, 1941.
Flammwagen auf Panzerkampfwagen B-2 740(f)-(2nd version)
Panzer-Abteilung (F) 102 - Russia, June, 1941.

Flammwagen auf Panzerkampfwagen B-2 740(f) - left side

Flammwagen auf Panzerkampfwagen B-2 740(f) - rear view

Flammwagen auf Panzerkampfwagen B-2 740(f) - right side

Flammwagen auf Panzerkampfwagen B-2 740(f)  with Kojak and Rover

Char B1 REIMS and Flammwagen auf Panzerkampfwagen B-2 740(f)

...and finally, the last Char B1bis, captured by the Germans:

- Panzerkampfwagen B-2 740 (f) - tank 01 from 213th Heavy Panzer Battalion HQ - Channel Islands - Spring, 1944.
Panzerkampfwagen B-2 740 (f) - tank 01
 213th Heavy Panzer Battalion HQ - Channel Islands - Spring, 1944.

Panzerkampfwagen B-2 740 (f) - left side

Panzerkampfwagen B-2 740 (f) - rear view

Panzerkampfwagen B-2 740 (f) - right side

Panzerkampfwagen B-2 740 (f) with kojak and Rover (the dog...)

Two French-German girls: Gun and flamm tanks
Panzerkampfwagen B-2 740 (f)
      As a final word, a photo of the whole seed of Chars B1bis "Germans"  from my collection (so far...):
Panzerkampfwagen B-2 740 (f), Flammwagen auf Panzerkampfwagen B-2 740(f)
and 10.5cm le.F.H.18/3 (Sf.) auf G.W.B2

Thanks for your patience and I see you guys soon, with new projects!!