The publication of any images or informations related to nazism, fascism or any other totalitarian regimes must be understood as the reproduction of historical accuracy and not as apology to these regimes, leaders or symbols.
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 léger FCM 36 - french light infantry tank - case report

Allons enfants de la patrie

le jour de gloire est arrivé!

    The FCM 36 was a French light infantry tank, created in the interwar period. Its concept and design can be considered progressive and modern for the time: it was the first tank (before the famous T34) with sloped armor to be put into production. While other French tanks and most other countries were mounted with screws or rivets, the FCM brought its armor almost completely welded. Furthermore, the FCM 36 had a diesel engine, which increased the operating range and minimized the risk of fire. But unfortunately, because it was so innovative, it was very expensive and few were built. We can say that the Char léger FCM 36 was ahead of its time... Come with me to meet this nice girl.

FCM 36 light tanks of the  I-503 RCC (later 7e BCC)
Parade of November, 1938 - Paris - France
    The FCM 36 or Char léger Modèle 1936 FCM, was a light infantry tank that was designed for the French Army prior to World War II. It weighed around 12 tons and was powered by a 91 hp diesel engine. Like many tanks of the time, had a crew of two and was equipped with a short 37 mm main gun and a 7.5 mm coaxial machine gun.

    In 1933 the Hotchkiss company proposed to build a cheap mass-produced light infantry tank. In reaction to this proposal the French Army invited the whole of French industry to offer alternative designs. In the end three of the competing prototypes would be taken into production: the Hotchkiss H35, the Renault R35 and the FCM 36.
The 1st prototype of a Hotchkiss light tank (2 were built).
No turreted - bolted casting armour
January - 1935.

The 3rd Hotchkiss prototype received a new
upper hull and an early APX R turret.
 and the same six small road wheels per side,
coupled into 3 bogeys.
July - 1935

Renault ZM prototype (father of Renault R-35) on trials
Notice the turret with two machine guns and 3 bogeys with 5 road wheels
late 1934.

The Renault ZM pilot modified with new APX-R turret,
seen here in this R-35 pre-series configuration.
The numerous rectangular shapes bolted to the hull are
test weights to simulate the actual weight of a production tank.
December - 1934.
    The Forges et Chantiers de la Méditerranée (FCM), located at Toulon, had some previous experience with tank production as it had constructed the ten giant Char 2C tanks in 1921 and had been involved in the development of the Char B1.
Char 2C 90 (10) Poitou heavy tank
See more here, in Panzerserra Bunker

Char B1 - FLANDRES (128) heavy tank
   Engineer Bourdot, who had designed the suspension of the Char B, was ordered to create a modern tank design taking full advantage of the large electro-welding capacity of the wharf. In March 1934 he presented a wooden mock-up that was approved by the Army. On 2 April 1935 the prototype was delivered to the Commission de Vincennes, with a turret equipped with a Puteaux SA 18 37mm gun and 7.5 mm MAC31 Reibel machine gun coaxial. 
First prototype for FCM 36 light tank:
Tracteur RN3 prototype no. 1
Notice the sloped armour
April - 1935
    The commission was quite impressed by the vehicle, especially because of its welded sloped armour and the use of a diesel engine promising a good range. It was a bit heavier than the specified nine metric tons at 10,168 kgs. However the prototype was untestable because of mechanical problems. After the first evaluation had been finished on 9 June it was sent back to the manufacturer.
   In fact FCM had not tested the prototype itself yet; this was now done and many shortcomings became apparent. As a result, the vehicle was completely redesigned with a new and lighter hull and turret configuration, suspension and track. The roof of the engine compartment was now bolted on to ease replacement. On 10 September it was again sent to Vincennes only to be sent back on 23 October to have its suspension reinforced. 
2nd prototype of the Tracteur RN3
Notice the sloped welded armour, new turret design
and new tracks, with better grip.
September - 1935
    On 19 December it returned to be tested until 14 May 1936. It was then approved on the provision that the armour would be thickened from 30 to 40 mm, according to the new specifications. This was done by welding an appliqué 10 mm armour plate on top of the main armour, a feature maintained for the production vehicles. 
Tracteur RN3 final version, with improvments
in field tests - Spring - 1936
    The prototype was now brought to the attention of the Commission d'Infanterie, who declared on 9 July that it was the best of all competitors, especially since it had been proven on 17 June to be completely gas-proof, a unique quality that was considered a very desirable feature at the time.

    Even before the type had been approved however, because of Germany's remilitarization of the Rhineland, on 26 May an order was hastily made for 100 vehicles of the Char léger Modèle 1936 FCM for 450,000 FF a piece. The tanks were numbered from 30001 to 30100.
FCM 36 light infantry tank - color profile
   The Hotchkiss H35 and Renault R35 light tanks would also be brought into production, and as these competing types were much cheaper, they would make up the bulk of the French light infantry tanks produced. The reason for co-producing the third most expensive type was its development potential. An important detail to be mentioned is that the turret rings of these light tanks were all of the same diameter, that is, there could be the possibility of interchangeability between turrets and hulls.
H35 Hotchkiss light tank - color profile

R35 Reanult light tank - color profile
   The FCM 36 was seen as the most advanced French tank and should function as a test bed for further improvements. This also meant there was no hurry to start series production. The production facilities only began to be prepared from December 1936 and actual manufacture was delayed for a year to first test a newer design with a stronger engine and a lighter track. Only when this did not render the expected results, the original type was produced, with the first delivery on 2 May 1938. During 1938 and 1939 several modifications were tested on vehicle number 30057 including a new track, clutch and engine, but none of these would be applied on the existing vehicles.

   On 12 May 1938 and 3 February 1939 two additional orders were made of a hundred each. However, when the last tank, series number 30100, of the original order was delivered on 13 March 1939, FCM suddenly announced that it would permanently cease production unless the price was raised to at least 900,000 FF, apparently the actual cost of production. Also FCM indicated that given its increased demanded production quota of the Char B1, there simply would be no capacity to manufacture any FCM 36s before September 1940. In view of these circumstances Inspector-General Jacomet allowed the production of the hull to be discontinued. although the manufacture of the turrets was maintained.
Char B1 heavy tank - color profile
   The FCM turret had already been planned to become the standard for all light tanks, as the old APX-R standard turret early on suffered serious production delays. 
FCM turret - right side
Musée des Blindés - Saumur - France

FCM turret - front side
Musée des Blindés - Saumur - France

FCM turret - interior
Notice the breech of Puteaux SA 18 37mm gun and 
7.5 mm MAC31 
Reibel machine gun coaxial. (right side)
   Relative to the FCM turret, the APX-R turret was tighter (if that was possible), heavier (1.552 to 1.287 kg) and even inferior in protection to the FCM turret, due to constant quality issues with its cast steel that was too soft or too soft fragile. 
APX-R turret in Renault R35 tank on display at
King Ferdinand National Military Museum
Bucharest - Romania
   Because it is better armored, sloped-shaped and easier to build, the use of the FCM turret would be extended to the entire French light tank fleet. The possibility of using both types of turrets on the hulls of light tanks was an important logistical and maintenance facilitator.
FCM 36 light tank dressing an  APX-R turret
equiped with the short Puteaux SA 18 37mm gun

R35 Renault light tank with FCM turret
equiped with the short Puteaux SA 18 37mm gun
   However, this issue of standardization of the FCM turrets was complicated when tests of fire were carried out to enable the installation of a more powerful version of the Poteaux SA 18 cannon. The longer Poteaux SA 38 37 mm gun was installed in the turret of the FCM 36 tank nº 30057, for live fire tests. After the tests, it was found that the welds of the FCM turret had cracks and fissures, due to the stronger recoil of the new weapon. With this, to enable the installation of the most powerful weapon, all the turrets already manufactured had to be reinforced, which was almost impossible to execute in view of the political pressure existing at the time. As a result, existing vehicles would not be equipped with the new weapon. The APX-R turret, for being casted, without welds, did not have this problem, being the option to receive the necessary upgrade of the most powerful armament.
37mm SA 38 tank gun
right side
Musee Des Blindes - Saumur - France

37mm SA 38 tank gun
left side
Musee Des Blindes - Saumur - France

37mm SA 38 tank gun
installed in the FCM 36 turret - tank no.30057
left view

37mm SA 38 tank gun
installed in the FCM 36 turret - tank no.30057
notice the 7.5 mm MAC31 Reibel machine gun coaxial. 
right view

37mm SA 38 tank gun
installed in the FCM 36 turret - tank no.30057
right view

    The FCM 36 was a small vehicle, 4.46 m long, 2.20 m high and 2.14 m wide, with a crew of two. It has a weight of 12.35 metric tons. 
FCM 36 light tank
front view
Saumur - France
   The armour consists of many panels electro-welded together into an pyramidal shape to avoid shot-traps and fully implement the principle of sloped armour. Such a configuration was unique at the time. This included the upper track run and the suspension units, protected by zig-zag armour plates. The engine deck is the only armour which is bolted as this enables easier access to the engine. 
FCM 36 light tank - rear view
notice the bolted rear armour
Saumur - France
   As the armour is of good quality, the 40 mm thickness angled at 30 to 45 degrees from the vertical, renders an equivalence of about 45–55 mm, enough to regularly defeat the standard anti-tank guns of its day, even when the gun was ideally positioned. The reclining armour implied that more raking shots would quickly start to deflect. The type was the only actually produced French tank of the period that featured a diesel engine, which gives the vehicle a superior range of 225 kilometres from a fuel tank of 217 litres. In other aspects, it conformed to the French design standards. French tanks were usually slow compared to their German, British or Soviet counterparts. The V-4 91 hp Berliet diesel allows for a top speed of just 24 km/h. 
  BerlietV-4 diesel engine - FCM 36 light tank
video frame from Musée des Blindés Saumur video
    The suspension is accordingly simplistic, consisting of eight road wheels per side sprung by eight vertical coil springs. The tank can cross a two metres trench and climb a 70 cm obstacle or an 80% slope. Also very limited is the armament: apart from the Reibel Mitrailleuse modèle 1931 7,5mm machine gun, the standard short Puteaux L/21 37 mm SA 18 gun was fitted, a cannon with very poor anti-armour capacity.

Operational use - France:
    As 100 FCM 36s were to be produced, only a limited number of units would be equipped with the type. However these would happen to participate in the key event of 1940 during the Battle of France: the crossing of the Meuse river, by XIX Army Corps of Heinz Guderian on 14 May 1940.
General Heinz Guderian in a SdKfz. 251/3 halftrack
command vehicle - France, May 1940.
    In March and April 1939 two battalions were created. Unique among those battalions equipped with light infantry tanks, these units would be called Bataillon de Chars Légers or BCLs: the 4e and 7e BCL, that each received 45 FCM 36s. They had an organic strength of 39 (three companies of thirteen), a materiel company of six and used five tanks for driver training. Of the other ten tanks, eight were used for driver training, one was destroyed testing the efficiency of the German Teller mine, and one remained with the factory to serve as a test bed. On 25 August 1939, upon mobilisation, the BCLs were renamed Bataillons de Chars de Combat. The 7e BCC was incorporated into the 503e Régiment de Chars de Combat, the 4e BCC into the 502e RCC.
FCM 36 (30004) from  7e BCC - 2e Cie - 2e Sect.
showing its immaculate and colorful camouflage.
She would be destroyed on the road from Maisoncelle to Chemery
France -  May 14, 1940
    After war was declared against Germany in September 1939, both FCM 36 battalions were combined, together with 3e BCC, a R 35 unit, into the 503e Groupement de Bataillons de Chars, the armour reserve of the Second Army. When German infantry on 13 May 1940 established a bridgehead over the Meuse at Sedan, the FCM 36 battalions were late in the afternoon ordered to counterattack and reduce it, cooperating with an infantry regiment, as they themselves had no organic infantry component. 
Panzer IV crossing the Meuse, France - May -1940
    Due to the rout of the last French defence line at Bulson during the night and the ensuing confusion, the approach march could not begin until early in the morning of the 14th, when the first German tanks started to cross the river on pontoon bridges. The German armoured vanguard and 7e BCC collided near Bulson. French FCM 36 tanks destroyed some lighter German armored fighting vehicles such as the Panzer II and I, but their short guns were too weak in penetrating power to deal with the 30mm armor of the Panzerkampfwagen III, although the latter also had trouble penetrating. the thick and sloped armor of the FCM 36, with its 37mm guns from the early series.
Panzer III Ausf. E destroyed near Sedan.
Notice the 3.7 cm KwK 36 gun
France - 1940.
   Both sides slugged it out, often engaging at the shortest possible distance, to increase the effectiveness of their weak cannons. In the end, the FCM 36's applied armor failed and the welds, being the weakest points between the plates, including the bottom corners of the turret just above the hull, were penetrated. The 7e BCC had to withdraw, leaving 26 of the 36 tanks employed behind.
FCM 36 - 30015  LE ZEPHIR 7e BCC  1ère Cie   3e Sect.
Destroyed at the western exit of Maisoncelle (Ardennes).
 The crew died in combat.
May 14, 1940

Destroyed FCM 36 tanks, abandoned on the road
to Maisoncelle (Ardennes), being examined by the Germans.
May 14, 1940

FCM 36 - 30025 - 7e BCC 1ére Cie 
turret showing multiple penetrations on its side.
Destroyed on the road to Maisoncelle (Ardennes)
May 14, 1940

FCM 36 - 30001 Le Mistral
 Destroyed on the road from Maisoncelle to Chemery - Ardennes
May 14, 1940

FCM 36 - 30057 -7e BCC 3e Cie  2e Sect.
This was the tank that tested the 37mm SA 38 tank gun
Destroyed at Chemery (Ardennes) road.
May 14, 1940
   When 7e BCC had failed, the attack by 4e BCC was halted. The battalion attacked and defended Stonne on 15 May, but was driven from this key position with some losses. Until 23 May it would be attached to 3 DIM.
   Both battalions were now kept in reserve to rebuild their numbers from the matériel and training units. During Fall Rot they executed successful counterattacks on 9 and 10 June on the Aisne river position, against German infantry units. Later they tried to cover the retreat of the French Army, losing most of their combined strength of 45 in fights with German tanks.
 FCM 36 - 30026 - 7e BCC  2e Cie  1ère Sect.
Destroyed at Attigny (Ardennes)
June 10, 1940

FCM 36  30028  7e BCC 2e Cie
Destroyed at Attigny (Ardennes)
June 10, 1940

FCM 36 - 30040 COMME TOUT LE MONDE (white52)
4e BCC 2e Cie  2e Sect.- Destroyed at Sézanne (Marne)
June 13, 1940

FCM 36 - 1e Companie, 7e BCC
Sedan - May, 1940
   The FCM 36 was generally painted by FCM in a distinctive pattern with light grey blue (gris bleu clair) or pale yellow (jaundtre) at the top, and horizontal rolling bands of red brown (sepia), pale green (reseda), beige, and dark green (vert fond). The 7e BCC usually used a distinctive circular emblem on the turret front, based on the regimental insignia of the 503e RCC, a stylized tanker firing a machine gun. It was reproduced in company colors with the 1e Companie in all blue, the 2e Companie with the gear in white, and the 3e Companie with the gear in red. This is the tank of the commander of the 4e Section, 1e Companie, Aspirant (reserve) Pierre Cassier, named "Le Temeraire" (Reckless). Although not visible from this angle, the turret had a medium blue "club" insignia on both turret rear corners, about 30cm (1 foot) high. This followed the French tank tradition since World War I of using playing card symbols to distinguish subunits. The order in this unit was 1e Section (spade), 2e Section (heart), 3e Section (Diamond) and 4e Section (Club). These were in the company color (le Companie: blue, 2e Companie: white, 3e Companie: red). 

The end and the use by Germans: 
   With the fall of France in 1940, captured FCM 36s intact or in good repair were kept in their original state as gun tanks and were therefore named Panzerkampfwagen FCM 737(f). However, for logistical reasons, it seems they saw very little use in France in the 1940s.  After some improvised use by units in May and June 1940, they were not as such employed by them.
FCM 36 - 30022   7e BCC  1ère Cie  2e Sect.
Damaged in action near Chemery on May 14, 1940.
After being repaired, it returned to active duty,
being captured by the Germans after June 1940.
Notice the crude German markings over the French colors.

FCM 36 - 30022   7e BCC  1ère Cie  2e Sect.
Color profile of the vehicle above

FCM 36 -30061   4th BCC   1st Co. 1st Sect.
Lost at Voncq (Ardennes) on June 9, 1940 - captured and used by Germans

FCM 36 -30061   4th BCC   1st Co. 1st Sect.
Color profile of the vehicle above
   The big problem with the operational use of these tanks was logistics: the German panzers used gasoline and the FCM 36 were powered by diesel. Although diesel was supplied to the heavy trucks, this supply discrepancy was always a problem in the use of the FCM, and the surviving tanks were stored for future emergency use. And, around 1942, the Germans decided to use the chassis of the FCM 36 for conversion into self-propelled artillery and tank destroyers.
       From six to twelve (numbers are not precise) FCM 36 chassis were rebuilt as self-propelled artillery, the 10.5 cm leFH 16/18 (Sf) auf Geschuetzwagen FCM (f), in 1942. There are records that eight being sent to Sturmgeschuetz-Abteilung 931 (931st Assault Gun Battalion), in 31st October 1942 and later four more being sent to the same unit in early 1943.. This unit’s long name is often abbreviated to Stu.Gesch.Abt. 931.
10.5cm leFH 16 auf GW FCM 36(f) being finalized at the factory.
Note the absence of frontal armor on the gun.

10.5 cm leFH 16/18 (Sf) auf Geschuetzwagen FCM (f).
box art from ICM model kit (#35340)
   In 1943 ten chassis were rebuilt as Marder I tank destroyers, with the 7,5 cm PaK 40 anti-tank gun and officially called 7.5cm PaK40(Sf) auf Geschützwagen FCM(f). These destroyers were employed by 21 Panzerdivision in the Battle of Normandy in 1944. 
An immaculate 7.5cm PaK40(Sf) auf Geschützwagen FCM(f) 
of the Marder I family, in the process of being delivered to your unit.
Marder I on FCM 36 base - ICM model kit (#35339) box art
   Only one FCM 36 survives at the Musée des Blindés at Saumur. It has been restored to running condition.


FCM 36
TypeLight infantry tank
Place of origin                         France
Service history
WarsWorld War II
Production history
ManufacturerForges et Chantiers de la Méditerranée
Unit cost₣ 450,000
No. built100
Mass12.35 metric tons
Length4.46 m
Width2.14 m
Height2.20 m
Crew2 (commander, driver)

Armor40 mm
Main armament
37 mm L/21 SA 18 gun
Secondary armament
7.5 mm MAC31 Reibel
machine gun
EngineV-4 Berliet diesel engine
91 hp (67 kW)
Power/weight7.36 hp/tonne
Transmission5 forward, 1 reverse
Suspensionvertical coil spring
Ground clearance0.36 m
Fuel capacity217 litres
Operational range
225 km
Maximum speed24 km/h

The kit:
    For this comission project, I'll use this option, from ICM Models:
ICM kit (#35337) box art
FCM 36 - French light tank in German service
    My client requested his model with the French colors, but in the store that I acquired this model, this was the only version of this kit available. Fortunately that all kits are the same, just changing the decals of the markings... and that really won't be a problem... But enough talking and let's move on...
My workbench, with the ICM kit parts...

Starting by the booklet, by the chassis, gluing the parts togheter.
The kit is very well detailed and injected...

The fit of the parts is perfect. So far, a delight to build, no doubt....
   To glue the bogie wheels perfectly aligned to each other, I made a "Mad Scientist" invention: I used thick metal wire, which I sanded to the same size of the inside diameter of the wheels, using the Dremel as a vise. 
   I kept the metal pin installed in the Dremel mandrel (I didn't use the Dremel rotating, just as a support...) and inserted the two wheels in this axle, to be able to glue them together, perfectly aligned. Simple and effective.
The Panzerserra "Wheel Aligner Tool" (patent pending),
ready to receive the two wheels to be glued together.
The objective is to make pairs of perfectly aligned
wheels for the suspension bogies.

Using welder glue to fuse one wheel to another.
The welder liquid is deposited between the wheels with a brush
and the capillarity does the rest...
The pin, being metallic, is not attacked by the welder.

Parfait, as Brigitte would say...

And the bogies and drive sprockets in position...
Tout parfaitement aligné...

Time to test superglue for bonding vinyl tracks.
The kit features 4 segments of tracks, which must be joined together in pairs.
I like to "scrape" the areas that will be glued to increase the adhesiveness...
The glue seems to adhere well to the material, keeping the
union between the parts very firm...

While the superglue dries on the tracks, we continue
to build our little girl's suspension and lower hull...

Really, a très jolie et sympathique little girl !!

The tracks in position. I used superglue in the
return wheels to to simulate the weight of the upper portion of the tracks,
giving this portion a slightly loose look.
Notice the joining point of parts (red).

I almost broke this delicate piece when handling the tank...
Don't worry mon ché's easy to fix!!!

And ready !! Tout est parfait!!!

As I said before, this kit is very nice to build...
left view

Right view.
As the kit does not have interior details,
I left the driver's hatch half-open...

Adding the hull details and starting to build the armament...

Soooo  pretty!!

Starting the construction of the pyramidal turret.
Horus says: " * Nice turret..."

Turret - right view

The kit is ready for painting....

Next step: markings and colors!!
À bientôt!!

2 comentários:

  1. Hello, Panzerserra! This is an excellent project, I really am interested in French armored vehicles and the battles through the Low Countries and France. It seems in many ways that French AFVs were technically superior to those of the other nations.

    ICM make good kits, I'll have to get a FCM 36 for myself.

    1. Hello Tank Girl!!
      Welcome back... (and come back often!!)
      Yes, French tanks were superior to their contemporaries in many ways, but they had one fatal flaw; the turret that overloaded the tasks of the commander of the car: he was both commander and gunner. Not to mention the tactics employed by the French, clearly outdated in relation to the Germans, for example. But in terms of material, without a doubt, the French tanks were excellent. About the ICM kit, I recommend it without any restriction: a delight to assemble, especially this FCM 36!!! If you throw the pieces in the air, there is a high possibility that they will fit together when they fall to the ground..... Very nice to build!!! Merry X'mas and Happy new Year!!!!