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Legend

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Recently been reading Guy François' article in GBM #98 about the FCM 1A tank. The argument in the article was that the development of the FCM 1A was originally promoted by

Gen. Mourret who had visited England and had been impressed by the capabilities of marine workshops in England and thought that if France was to build a heavy tank it

needed to be built by an organisation with better engineering skills than the traditional armaments manufacturers. After a bit of politicking (which seems to be de rigeur for any

activity in France) FCM was contracted to build two prototypes (petro-electric and petro-hydraulic transmissions). The petro-hydraulic transmission was a non-starter so a mechanical

transmission was substituted - Renault was to supply the engine and transmission. After about a 6+ month delay by Renault the FCM 1A was finally tested in Dec 1917.

Although there was a push to go to production with the FCM 1A FCM wasn't happy with this idea and produced designs for 30, 45 and 62 ton tanks. Estienne convinced GHQ

to develop the 62 ton tank which eventually become the FCM 2C. The tales of corruption and delay which can be read in the Wikipedia article on the FCM 2C feature nowhere in the Guy François article. So what is the likely truth? I tend to favour Guy François' account since it is based on extensive research in the Vincennes archive.

So - do we consign the FCM 2C development story to the urban myth dustbin?

Regards,

Charlie 



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I hope the following is some help on this issue. I didn't do a great deal of research on the heavy tanks for my book on the Artillerie Spéciale as they didn't get into action during the war but the following is all from the archives at Vincennes. Wikipedia is not a good source for the more obscure parts of history as those writing on it have rarely done any archive research, James H's heroic efforts on the Renault light tank page notwithstanding.

Société des Forges et Chantiers de la Méditerranée (FCM) was asked by the DSA to consider designs for a heavy tank and FCM presented the Comité consultative de lartillerie dassautwith a proposal for a 30 tonne tank in December 1916.  FCM would make the main part of the tank but Renault would supply the engine components. (Comité consultative de lartillerie dassaut, Procès-Verbal 1ère réunion, 17 décembre 1916, ministère de lArmement, Service Automobile, 21 December 1916. 16N2129.) FCM made quick initial progress on the design and came back to the Comité just two weeks later with detailed specifications for the heavy tank. The proposed tank was to be just over 38 tonnes, with a turret with a short 105 mm gun, and driven by a 200 HP Renault motor.When Estienne asked why the tank was to have a 105mm cannon, he was told by Mourret told him that Foch wanted this fitted. (Comité consultative de lartillerie dassaut, procès-verbal  2ème  réunion, 31 décembre 1916, 31 December 1916. 16N2121).

     At its 16 January 1917 meeting, the Comité examined the project. (Comité consultative de lartillerie dassaut, procès-verbal 3e réunion, 16 janvier 1917, 17 January 1917. 16N2129). The discussion was primarily on the following points; the vehicles ground clearance and ground pressure, its transportability on railways and its engine. There was disagreement within the Comité about whether the tank was too large to use a mechanical transmission and would thus need an electric one, similar to that used on the St Chamond. Estienne was not present but he sent a written note. He advised that FCM design was satisfactory but he wanted construction concentrated on the medium and light tanks. In relation to the FCM design, he asked for two prototypes; one with petro-electric transmission and one with petro-hydraulic transmission. When put to a vote, the design with the petro-electric transmission was unanimously agreed but the one with hydraulic transmission only received a small majority in favour. It was agreed that the FCM design should be considered in more detail and the Comité asked GQG to agree a program that would fix the specifications of the various tank designs, of which this fabrication would probably be part of. However, Nivelle was persuaded by Thomas to allow an order of three prototype FCM tanks, to give flexibility in relation to further orders, further decisions to be made on these designs being subject to their performance.(Thomas to Nivelle, 4.153 SA/3, 5 February 1917. 16N2121). 

     FCM received an order for the two prototypes on 1 February 1917. One would be petrol-electric, one petrol-hydraulic, the latter being particularly difficult to manufacture as no such transmission then existed. The Comité meeting of 10 May 1917, formulated the advice that the order for the petro-hydraulic version should be cancelled and the factory should move to the petro-mechanical version, known as the type 1B, provided that the tests on type 1A were satisfactory.  (Comité consultative de lartillerie dassaut, procès-verbal 10e  réunion, 10 mai 1917, 12 May 1917. 16N2121).

However, FCM only managed to produce a prototype 1A heavy tank by the end of 1917, the other designs remaining firmly on paper. FCM was constantly pressed by the Comité to show it the new tank but there were seemingly endless delays in building the prototype, largely caused by difficulties in sourcing various parts needed for the tank. For example, Moritz from FCM told the Comité on 5 June 1917 that tests would not be able to commence until around 15 July, as they were waiting for parts from the Renault factory.(Comité consultative de lartillerie dassaut, procès-verbal 12e  réunion, 5 juin 1917, 6 July 1917. 16N2129).On 18 October 1917, Moritz told the Comité that the tests on the 1A could commence within three weeks, but, again, there was another delay.(Comité consultative de lartillerie dassaut, procès-verbal 17ème réunion, 18 octobre 1917, 31 October 1917. 16N2121).

     The Comité met in November 1917 to try and finalise the specifications for the FCM heavy tank and to insist on seeing the prototype.(Comité consultative de lartillerie dassaut, procès-verbal 19ème réunion, 17 novembre 1917, 30 November 1917. 16N2129).   Tests were arranged to be held at the FCM premises and minimum specifications for the tank's manoeuvrability and speed were agreed. 

     The following month, AS Commandant Maurice Velpry went to FCM and saw the 1A test-tank put through its paces, as well as examining the factorys proposals for variants on this design. (Commandant Velpry, GAN, Etat-major, Compte-Rendu du mission examen dun char dassaut, 24 December 1917. 16N2120). The 1A itself was 42 tonnes in weight, seven metres long and capable of crossing a 3.5 metre-wide trench. It had thicker armour than the French medium tanks (35mm at its thickest points) and a 105 cannon in a turret, which Velpry recommended replacing with a 75mm gun, as well as two machine guns. The 1A was driven around the test track without any problems, Velpry seeing it cross all the obstacles that one would normally find on the field of battle. Velpry thought the heavy tank could be useful as a complement to the light tanks, particularly as its armour might enable it to directly engage German field-guns. He was impressed enough by the tests, which proved the factory could produce a heavy tank, to recommend that FCM should be given an order for one of the three designs it was offering. The A tank was 30 tonnes in weight, 6.4 metres long, with a 75mm gun but Velpry believed that this design was insufficient from all points of view as its armour, gun and manoeuvrability were no better than the existing medium tanks. The 1B tank was very similar to the 1A, although slightly heavier, and was rejected by Velpry for the same reasons. The final design was the 2C, a significantly heavier (64 tonnes) and better armed tank than the others. In Velprys view, the 2C was the most promising design as it used four engines currently in use, whereas the 1B was going to need a specially designed engine. As the 2C could be moved on the rail network, although it would have needed to use the ALVF lines, Velpry suggested that 200 should be ordered. Estienne concurred with Velprys advice when he wrote to the ministre de larmement, on 30 December 1917, and recommended manufacture of the 2C tank. (Estienne, Le Général commandant lAS à Monsieur le ministre de larmement et fabrications de guerre (DSA), 30 December 1917. 16N2121). This was primarily because Estienne believed that a heavy tank should be as heavy as was possible, while remaining capable of being moved on the rail network. While he was sure that the 2C was satisfactory in relation to its armament and there were no obvious obstacles to its manufacture, he was concerned about its battlefield mobility. It was essential, in his view, that the tank should be able to cross a battlefield without needing the assistance of infanterie daccompagnement, a major problem for the medium tanks. He expressed some concern about the 2Cs trench crossing ability (due to the length of the tracks) but, provided this was addressed, he would not hesitate to propose that 100 heavy tanks should be manufactured immediately.  Pétain agreed and FCM was asked to begin immediate production on the 2C, 300 of which were to be delivered by 1 April 1919. However, difficulties with manufacturing and acquiring raw materials, particularly steel, delayed production of the 2C just as the army was beginning to be in urgent need of a heavy tank. By June 1918, it was clear that there would be no 2Cs available until 1919 and Foch instructed Loucheur to ask the British for 300 Mark Vs. (GQGA, Le Général Foch à M. le ministre de l'armement, 24 June 1918. 16N2120). In the event, the 2C did not enter service until after the Armistice.  

Best wishes

Tim  

 



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Legend

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Thank you very much.

Your account fits very well with Guy François' account.

One item that does strike me is that the French tank development effort proceeded without a high level coordinating body

until the end of 1916. It seems that the "Comité consultative de l'artillerie d'assaut" served many of the functions of the

British "Landships committee". The development process of the early French tanks must have been very difficult with various

organisations adding features and demanding changes.

The FCM heavy tank project must have been running for some time before the CCAS committee authorised the production of a 

prototype(s) since there was a wooden model of the FCM tank at La Seyne-sur-Mer at the end of 1916. Jules-Louis Breton visited

FCM on 13 January 1917 to view the model and discuss the tank with FCM (Guy Francois).

 

I agree that Wikipedia articles often lack an authoritative grounding in primary source material - although, to be fair, access to the primary

material is often difficult and expensive. However, it seems to me that Wikipedia suffers from a couple of problems that could be addressed

but haven't been:

1. The editor software is difficult to use. I spent a lot of my working life in IT - if I'd come up with the wikipedia editor as a solution

I'd expect to be fired.

2. The moderation system is weird - I haven't figured out whether it's a bunch of people who really don't know what they are doing

applying rules rigidly or the rules themselves are inadequate. (read JamesH's struggles with the moderators on the Renault FT as an

example).

Regards,

Charlie

 



-- Edited by CharlieC on Wednesday 1st of January 2014 01:38:27 AM

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Bonsoir,

About choice from General Mourret to built the French heavy tank in a marine workshops (Société des Forges et Chantiers de la Méditerranée) like the British . . . . ,

it is interesting to know that Schneider and Co was also a marine workshops (since 1839 to 1957) who build at Châlons-sur Saône many boats, submarines and torpedo boats,

who got to the Mediterrean sea by the Rhône. . . . .

Schneider, with the tank Schneider CA1, had an experience an tanks unknown by FCM . . . and, of course was so able to used marine technology that FCM . . . .

The General Mourret's decision to choice FCM is too incomprehensible that his decision to command, without order from the War Ministry and the Grand Quartier Général,

400 tanks Saint Chamond.

See in the Archives Nationales de Pierrefitte - Fond Albert THOMAS série 94 AP, with many box on :

                             Ministère de l'Armenent, Service Automobile, trucks, Artillery and munitions, factories, Artillerie Spéciale : box 94 AP14 - 94 AP15- 94 AP16- 94 AP17)

 Très bonne année 2014 - Michel



-- Edited by Tanker on Wednesday 1st of January 2014 01:44:19 AM

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Legend

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Thank you, Michel, for the season's greetings and your comments about General Mourret.

I think Mourret would be known in English as a "loose cannon".

I'm surprised that Mourret had the authority to order the 400 tanks from Saint-Chamond. I would have thought

a major production contract like that would have required sign off at a ministerial level at least.

Regards,

Charlie

 

 



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Tim -

I'm not understanding why Valpry didn't just order the 1A that he saw demonstrated - with whatever main gun, vs. an untested concept for a much heavier tank? 

I also don't comprehend why they'd give FCM a production order - for anything - when it took them almost a year to build a single prototype.

Charles



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Legend

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velotrain wrote:

Tim -

I'm not understanding why Valpry didn't just order the 1A that he saw demonstrated - with whatever main gun, vs. an untested concept for a much heavier tank? 

I also don't comprehend why they'd give FCM a production order - for anything - when it took them almost a year to build a single prototype.

Charles


 The delays to the FCM 1A weren't down to FCM - most of the delay was caused by Renault's failure to deliver the engine and transmission. Once FCM finally got the engine

in late November 1917 it only took them a few weeks to finish the tank. FCM were actually quite efficient. The heavy tank project seems to have started with a study in

July 1916. The authorisation for a design was given to FCM in Oct 1916. By December 1916 FCM had created a wooden mockup of the tank. FCM thought they would have the FCM 1A prototype finished in May 1917 when they were given authorisation for a prototype in Jan 1917.

Regards,

Charlie



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I notice that the Wiki article is disputed, but it suggests that Renault were the ones to create the wooden prototype - or at least provided the experience/expertise.

Meanwhile, Renault had consulted his own team lead by Rodolphe Ernst-Metzmaier, which, since May 1916, had been in the process of designing the revolutionary Renault FT light tank. This work had not, however, stopped them from considering other tank types. Renault, always expecting his employees to provide new ideas instantly, had by this attitude encouraged the team to take a proactive stance setting a pattern that would last until 1940 and to have various kinds of contingency studies ready for the occasion, including a feasibility study for a heavy tank. This fortunate circumstance allowed a full-size wooden mock-up to be constructed in a remarkably quick time.

I also have to wonder why FCM, if the delay was mostly due to Renault, didn't request the government to intercede sooner than they apparently did.  From a distance, it looks like wide-spread mis-management.

The 1A prototype appears to have been very close to the specs issued 23 January 1917 by Minister of Armament Albert Thomas, so I still don't comprehend why they would then switch to something else at the late hour of December, 1917.

 

 

 



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Legend

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I don't think the hypothesis that the wooden model was created by Renault has much support - the model was at the FCM factory at La Seyne-sur-Mer, a fair distance

from the main Renault factory at Billancourt. It's likely that both Renault and FCM were part of the studies of a heavy tank in 1916. The Renault study was developed into the

Renault FB artillery portee vehicle.

Guy François' article in GBM #98 goes into some detail about the selection of the 62-ton tank rather than just producing the FCM 1A. It seems the Louis Locheur, Minister of Armaments

wanted to commit to 100 FCM 1A, with the first deliveries in July 1918. Estienne expressed more interest in FCM's 62-ton proposal and had written to Clemenceau about his views at the

end of 1917.  Clemenceau apparently agreed with Estienne which effectively ended discussion of production of the FCM 1A.

I agree that poor management marked this project. CCAS should have been monstering Renault or actively seeking alternatives but both sides (CCAS) and FCM seemed surprisingly

supine throughout 1917.

Regards,

Charlie

 



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Legend

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Tim G wrote:
...Wikipedia is not a good source for the more obscure parts of history as those writing on it have rarely done any archive research...

One problem with Wikipedia is that it actively discourages original archival research. When I rewrote the Flying Elephant entry a few years ago based on information from the Stern Archives, I was actually criticised in the Discussion section for using original research! Their terms of use are such that only published sources can be used.



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Legend

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"One problem with Wikipedia is that it actively discourages original archival research."

 

If you published your findings here and it was written up by a secound party for Landships 2, that would probably pass and you could I think quote it yourselfwink

It makes no sense whatsoever.....

Cheerssmile



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Roger Todd wrote:

One problem with Wikipedia is that it actively discourages original archival research. When I rewrote the Flying Elephant entry a few years ago based on information from the Stern Archives, I was actually criticised in the Discussion section for using original research! Their terms of use are such that only published sources can be used.


 It is a conundrum, as they are also criticized for being insufficiently disciplined in controlling the factual authenticity of their content.  While understanding your frustration, I'm sure you're aware that verifiable citations are a generally universal criteria for serious non-fiction writing in any field.  I learned how fine the line can be between analysis and opinion in Art History classes.  While you mention that ". . only published sources can be used", I don't know the enforcement level, as you frequently see articles that are marked as needing references.  I just read through" Criticism of Wikipedia", on their site, and will readily admit that their approach creates the opportunity for all sorts of issues. 

 I personally find Wiki unparalleled for providing a quick background overview on pretty much any subject - including many that are not contained in the encyclopedias.  Although I will do a general web search, if I see a Wiki article on the first page of results I will instinctively go there, as I know that it will almost always provide what I'm looking for, with an ability to easily drill down to whatever level of detail I may wish.  I also know that I will get real info on the first screen, and not need to plough through a chain of advertising-laden pages/sites to get to the final target - the reason I ignore any result from Ask et al.

Has anyone tried correcting the Wiki entry on the FCM 2C, referencing the Guy François article?

Did you (or others) remove your entry, or did you work something out?

 Couldn't you reference your sources at the Stern Archives, or was the issue that they were "unpublished" ?



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Legend

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The FCM 2C article on Wikipedia does reference Guy François' article but seems to make little use of the content of the article and certainly the wiki entry's author(s) don't appear to have understood what Guy François was saying.

There is a viewpoint from which Wikpedia's policy against archival sources makes sense. The archives are mostly inaccessible to all but the most dedicated so if one believes that Wikipedia is serious about limiting it's sources to those which can be independently checked by anyone then the policy makes some sense. However, the policy seems to have become a mantra among the Wikipedia editors without the application of common sense in cases where information on a topic does not exist in any reliable form outside the archives. 

On a side issue - one does not have to tolerate advertising on web pages - may I recommend Adblock (adblockplus.org) - works well in modern browsers and makes webpages look as they did before the pollution of advertisements.

Regards,

Charlie 



-- Edited by CharlieC on Wednesday 1st of January 2014 10:23:04 PM

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Legend

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I'm probably being unfair on Wikipedia, it may have been hyper-anal editors (like the idiots James H encounters periodically). I got round it by pointing out that the bare bones of what I'd written appear in Glanfield's book, as he clearly used the same archives I did.



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Legend

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Tim G wrote:

The 1A itself was 42 tonnes in weight, seven metres long and capable of crossing a 3.5 metre-wide trench. It had thicker armour than the French medium tanks (35mm at its thickest points) and a 105 cannon in a turret, which Velpry recommended replacing with a 75mm gun, as well as two machine guns.

He was impressed enough by the tests, which proved the factory could produce a heavy tank, to recommend that FCM should be given an order for one of the three designs it was offering. The A tank was 30 tonnes in weight, 6.4 metres long, with a 75mm gun but Velpry believed that this design was insufficient from all points of view as its armour, gun and manoeuvrability were no better than the existing medium tanks. The 1B tank was very similar to the 1A, although slightly heavier, and was rejected by Velpry for the same reasons. The final design was the 2C, a significantly heavier (64 tonnes) and better armed tank than the others. 


 Can anyone clarify these apparently contradictory statements for me? Was the FCM 1A a 7m long 42 tonne tank, or a 6.4m 30 tonner??



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Legend

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It does look confusing, but the scenario was this (see GBM 98 p48):

FCM 1A is the 42-ton vehicle which was built (and which was actually more like around 8.3m in length over the tracks), and of which amazing movie footage has been recently revealed.

However...

FCM then designed three other vehicles:

  • FCM A (not 1A!), the 30-tonner (the one causing the confusion with 1A)
  • FCM 1B, the 45-tonner
  • FCM 2C, the 62-tonner

All the above have profile drawings reproduced in GBM 98 (p48), and it should be noted that the drawing for the FCM 2C differs somewhat from the vehicle as actually built. FCM A and FCM 1B were not built.



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Legend

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Afaik - The FCM 1A prototype as tested in Dec 1917 (the one in the video) was 42 tons, 7m long with a 105mm short howitzer.

After the testing period there was a faction who wanted to put the FCM 1A straight into production with minimal changes - Louis Locheur - Minister of Munitions

was keen on this route.

There was supposed to be another FCM 1A-like tank with a petro-electric drive but this never got built.

However, FCM said that the FCM 1A prototype was a "proof of concept" machine and had some deficiencies. FCM suggested further

development of one of three concepts. 

1. A 30-ton tank, 6.4m long with a 75mm gun

2. A 45-ton tank (I think this one may have been with petro-electric drive)

3. A 62-ton tank - Estienne was more interested in this one and eventually it became the FCM 2C.

Regards,

Charlie

Edit: Roger must be a bit faster on the keyboard than I - we seem to agree though.

 



-- Edited by CharlieC on Saturday 4th of January 2014 01:12:34 AM

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TinCanTadpole wrote:

 Can anyone clarify these apparently contradictory statements for me? Was the FCM 1A a 7m long 42 tonne tank, or a 6.4m 30 tonner??


 Typical project:  Late, over budget, and 10 tons heavier than what the specs called for.

 

Estienne was not present but he sent a written note. He advised that FCM design was satisfactory but he wanted construction concentrated on the medium and light tanks.

3. A 62-ton tank - Estienne was more interested in this one and eventually it became the FCM 2C.

He seems to have changed his tune.  Perhaps he thought it was the option least likely to actually get built and interfere with FT-17 production.

 

 

I keep thinking that the 1A sounds like exactly what they had originally wanted.

 



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Legend

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From Guy Francois' article - the specification of the FCM 1A appears to have evolved over time:

During the 16 Dec 1916 meeting of the CCAS (comité consultatif de l'artillerie d'assaut) - General Mourret reported that a study by FCM and Renault had defined a 30 ton tank 

The FCM administrator, Moritz, reported to the 30 Dec 1916 meeting of the CCAS the outline of a heavy tank design - 38 tons, armed

with a 105mm gun and 30mm armour with a 200hp engine and transmission supplied by Renault

(That's pretty close to the FCM 1A prototype)

At some stage, I haven't figured out when, the mobility specifications of 0.9m obstacle, 3.5m trench crossing were imposed on the FCM 1A. The testing ground

for the FCM 1A was laid out with obstacles defined by the Ministry of Munitions.

Regards,

Charlie



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Legend

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Roger, Charlie, Velotrain - thanks gents, that explains things nicely. French tank design seems to have been a confusing matter in some respects, but definitely interesting. If the 1A was a proof of concept, that explains why a design that looked the part was passed over for the 2C; one thing I would say though, is that it might have helped future generations if they'd been more imaginative with the choice of names! (Not that it was an important concern at the time, of course smile)



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Legend

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I should point out the "proof of concept" idea is my interpretation of the development. The technology of the time was fairly immature so building

a prototype and having it work reasonably well would have been considered a major achievement. FCM were probably right - the Renault engine

was potentially an issue with the design - you can see the engine overheating and blowing smoke a number of times in the video. The decision on the

FCM 2C seems oddly rushed. The FCM 1A didn't have any live fire tests until Feb 1918, the turret and gun were supplied by Schneider in Oct 1917 as a drop in unit.

Steve Zaloga makes a point in his book "French Tanks in WW1" that Estienne may have been concerned that the heavy tank should be able

to cross very wide anti-tank trenches.

On reflection, I think the point that Mourret chose FCM as the developer because it was a ship-building organisation is overblown. Alternatively, if the heavy engineering

companies in France were surveyed in 1916 Schneider, St-Chamond and Renault were operating at near capacity. However, because the naval actions in the early part of

WW1 had been very limited FCM would have had spare capacity. So, an alternate view is that FCM was chosen simply because it had sufficient spare capacity to

develop heavy tanks and, as a bonus, could translate the naval design experience to tanks.  

I think we should gather all the material on the FCM 1A and write it up for Landships II - at least there will be one place on the Web that has a reliable account of the

French heavy tank development (hope Wikipedia's collective ears are burning now).

Regards,

Charlie 



-- Edited by CharlieC on Thursday 9th of January 2014 01:47:37 AM

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