Majority of French armored units equipped with Char b1 in 1940?


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The French Army at the start of 'The Battle of France' in 1940 had around 3 to 4,000 tanks. What if the majority were Char B1's?

How effective would they be?
How would the increase in numbers affect the overall battle?
Would these extra units stall or even repel the German advance?

Much obliged!
 
Personally I doubt they'd change much of anything unless they were given better and more numerous radios. If I'm remembering correctly, only a small number even had radio access.

It doesn't matter how effective a tank is if command and control is a shambles.
 
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Char B1s were notoriously expensive and complicated to build - something akin to 3-4 more expensive than say, an H35/R35 light tank, although I don't know the man hours comparison. Managing to equip the entire French army with them would be next to impossible from an industrial stand-point. Something grievous would have to be cut in order to manufacture so many of them: it isn't simply a question of letting loose the financial floodwaters of rearmament, massive industrial capacity increases would have to be diverted from somewhere else - with the only sector that might provide such huge increases in production being the Air Force - in order to achieve those production numbers. Even then, I highly doubt that it is possible. This would almost certainly worsen the French situation by making the army substantially more lopsided and ill-balanced.

As far as impact, some units, like the cavalry with their DLM and DLC armored divisions, are simply not very well suited for the B1's usage, as they need faster, lighter, more mobile vehicles, rather than the B1. The only significant upside is that French DCR tank divisions would be formed earlier, since their formation was delayed to attempt to enable all of their forces to be constituted of B1s, and such a massive amount of B1s would make that possible. Forming them earlier would be very useful since it would give additional time for training, organization, and doctrine to be worked out, which was a severe problem for French DCRs historically, as they had only been formed relatively late and had not had enough time to fully work up to full combat capacity. Correcting some of their problems like the lack of infantry is probably possible, and they might put in a more credible performance - but in the light of the general French situation, they probably will simply get overwhelmed in the tide of battle, like the 1re and 2e who simply ran out of fuel in their counter-marching and confused logistic situation, and promptly had to abandon and blow up their tanks. This is especially so if the rest of the army is underfunded and ill equipped due to such a massive focus on heavy tanks.
 
Hypothetically, the French could give more tank losses to the Germans. It might delay the Fall of France for a few weeks to months at best.
I'll ask my friend @Ukron for his insights regarding this matter.
 
As far as impact, some units, like the cavalry with their DLM and DLC armored divisions, are simply not very well suited for the B1's usage, as they need faster, lighter, more mobile vehicles, rather than the B1.
Given the command loop problems of the French, the extra mobility doesn't really help with faster tanks without radios
 
Working from these numbers:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_combat_vehicle_production_during_World_War_II

There were 163 Char B1 by war outbreak, another 42 were added in the last 3 months of 1939 (14 per month) and 200 by Jun 1940 (33 per month)

Assuming that costs for a tank per ton are about even (probably not), by dispensing with the R35, H35 and S35 France could build an additional:

845 Char B1 (1008 total) by Sep 1939
162 Char B1 (204 total) by end 1939
397 Char B1 (597 total) by end Jun 1940

A grand total of 1808 Char B1 in service by June 1940 but 3300 less H35,R35 and S35.
 
Nothing happens in isolation. The Char B was grossly slow to get into production. Had they begun in time to equip the entire French army with them (plus the radios and support lorries etc.) then it would be a formidable force indeed. However, that threat would surely bring forward a German response to abandon OTL anti tank and tank 37mm guns as too weak and bring forward the 50mm at least and chassis to suit.

The Char B1 was still a real threat to light troops even late in the war. As the airborne troops found in Arnhem In 1944.
 

Garrison

Donor

The French Army at the start of 'The Battle of France' in 1940 had around 3 to 4,000 tanks. What if the majority were Char B1's?

How effective would they be?
How would the increase in numbers affect the overall battle?
Would these extra units stall or even repel the German advance?

Much obliged!
The problem wasn't the quality or quantity of French tanks, it was terrible French leadership combined with a strategy that would have been the right one in February 1940 but not in May 1940.
 
The problem wasn't the quality or quantity of French tanks, it was terrible French leadership combined with a strategy that would have been the right one in February 1940 but not in May 1940.
Fully agree. the French command structure could not keep up with the very flexible German command
 
in 1940 had around 3 to 4,000 tanks. What if the majority were Char B1's?
I think we are all underestimating how many that is, we are talking 1500-2000+ tanks with a real gun even if they do baddy, so long as they dont just sit in barracks they will far more than OTL?
 

Garrison

Donor
I think we are all underestimating how many that is, we are talking 1500-2000+ tanks with a real gun even if they do baddy, so long as they dont just sit in barracks they will far more than OTL?
Not if they are in the wrong place and the high command takes so long to make decisions that orders are out of date before they are received. The French tanks deployed in 1940 were by and large superior to the Panzers, they were just very poorly handled.
 
It also won't help when the tanks in question are so expensive as to gut the rest of your force, is so difficult to maintain that many will have broken down on the way and too heavy for most of your bridges. The CharB was overrated like the Tiger was.CharB the Tiger Tank of France What you wanted in WW2 is a good medium tank. The heavies were generally too expensive to buy and maintain.
 
I served in the M60, which was a latter period tank and definitely more advanced than those of world war. And the difficulty of perceiving your surroundings from inside are terrible. And I can only imagine how that is when you have no radios to communicate with other tanks, when you can’t be told direction of approaching infantry or bearing of tanks or guns, or be warned about incoming aircraft.

French need radios, better doctrine, inter service cooperation, mixed unit tactics and better leadership, not thicker armor or bigger guns.
 
Now for the Germans, they will notice more B1 and B1bis being produced. the 50mm is still in development, more ready for 1940

The B1 bis was more expensive, 1.2M Francs, to .95M for the S-35 and .61M for the older Char D2 medium, a 20 tonner with the last models with the longer 47mm gun in the APX1 turret used with the other French AFVs

But the best thing about the bis over the standard B1 was the Radioman, who alsp gave shells to the TC's 47mm had a real voice set, not just CW Morse, with a 1 mile range Voice, and 7 mile Morse range

While the Naeder Hydrostatic drive was criticized for poor reliability, it was actually better than the previous D2

With B1 production accelerated, so would be the Char B1 ter program, from 1937
charbp4s03-24d75bc92801a6417fe722f08469352f.jpg


More armor, refined layout
 
French production was so slow, that in order to equip all of their armored units without the helpful intervention of Henri the Francophile ASB, they would need to start very, very early. Early enough that even the most dullwitted German military personnel assigned to the Embassy in Paris will be able to drive around the countryside with some binoculars, and a notebook and pen, make some notes, and send a coded message to Berlin at the end of the week. The next Monday, plans will immediately begun to be drawn up to replace existing AT assets and tank guns with something 50mm at bare minimum.
 
France had no interest in that many B1s and as other people have pointed out, given the effort needed to produce a single B1 this would be an effort way in excess of any Great Power outside of the USSR. This is out of character not just for France but also for a Western country.
 

McPherson

Banned
France had no interest in that many B1s and as other people have pointed out, given the effort needed to produce a single B1 this would be an effort way in excess of any Great Power outside of the USSR. This is out of character not just for France but also for a Western country.
1. Training.
2. Common rifle.
3. Radios.
4. Mortars.
5. Landmines.
6. More training.
7. Fighters.
8. Somuas
9. More training.
10. More Amiots and LeOs
11. More training.
12. Marshall type purge of the French Army overaged generals.
13. Shoot Petain.
14. Shoot Laval
15. More training.

Get 1=> 15 accomplished and one "might" be able to justify 300 more Char Bs. I think I would prefer airpower and more trained French troops armed with common rifles ably supported by mortars, and BIM aircraft, so when the Herr tries to cross the Meuse, they get to "Meet the Amiots" and "Say Hello to LeO" as they get whacked trying to ford the river and build their pontoon bridges for the infantry battering ram waiting just to the north of Luxembourg. I mean a traffic jam seventy kilometers long just screams "BOMB ME!".
 
France had no interest in that many B1s and as other people have pointed out, given the effort needed to produce a single B1 this would be an effort way in excess of any Great Power outside of the USSR. This is out of character not just for France but also for a Western country.
The same Factory making the B1, also had to fulfill orders for the Char D2, a waste of metal, even at half the cost of the B1, and worse, took up floorspace and workers

Its not ASB.
just a different government. That not ASB, just really hard, to avoid the labor troubles before the War.
plans will immediately begun to be drawn up to replace existing AT assets and tank guns with something 50mm at bare minimum.
That would be the Czech 47mm

As good as the 50mm, but at least Skoda was making them, unlike the KwK 38 50mm, still in development. 47mm could be pushed up to where some would be in the Mk II Ausf F, but would need development on the recoil system, it wasn't as compact as what the Germans were working on for the 50mm
 
The primary users of the B1bis would be the new DCR armoured divisions. The production of the B1bis accelerated not only because initial problems were progressively solved, but also because those divisions were being implemented.
So, the changes that lead to a larger percentage of French tanks being B1bis could also lead to an earlier implementation of this divisions, and to more of them being fully operational in May 1940.
For this to happen a major rethink of the evolution of the French army would have happened, and that, more than the tanks themselves, would be a game changer. getting rid of Gamelin is always a good POD, since modern French historiAns are even more critical of him than their predecessors, that used to blame the civilians in the government more than the military leadership.


One thing that should be noted in the radio debate is that most radios in use in 1939 were rubbish, suffered from major interference when used in the move and the reluctance in their introduction was often a result of their limited effectiveness vs cost. The Germans not only had more radios, critically they had better radios. In most other countries it would be more accurate to talk of "noise" radios rather than "voice" radios
 

McPherson

Banned
The primary users of the B1bis would be the new DCR armoured divisions. The production of the B1bis accelerated not only because initial problems were progressively solved, but also because those divisions were being implemented.
1. I am unsure that the French might not have been better off with DLMs which were tactically faster and more mobile than the "Mixed formation infantry tank dedicated" and slow DCRs.
So, the changes that lead to a larger percentage of French tanks being B1bis could also lead to an earlier implementation of this divisions, and to more of them being fully operational in May 1940.
2. Based on the history of the retreat of the center and the debacle that was VII Army, I am convinced that DLMs make more sense.
For this to happen a major rethink of the evolution of the French army would have happened, and that, more than the tanks themselves, would be a game changer. getting rid of Gamelin is always a good POD, since modern French historians are even more critical of him than their predecessors, that used to blame the civilians in the government more than the military leadership.
3. I agree that the fault of France 1940 needs a good solid scholarship rethink. The civilian leadership might have been late (1938ish) in trying to fix their early 1930s mistakes, but it was actually the French army that wasted the time they had and sudden new money thrown at it. The chaos in military industrial policy and industrial logistics, as well as the training and doctrine actually starts with the professional officer corps, not with the civilians. The civilian politicians were actually begging their military professionals to get it in gear. This is very much about Gamelin's wrecking crew.
One thing that should be noted in the radio debate is that most radios in use in 1939 were rubbish, suffered from major interference when used in the move and the reluctance in their introduction was often a result of their limited effectiveness vs cost. The Germans not only had more radios, critically they had better radios. In most other countries it would be more accurate to talk of "noise" radios rather than "voice" radios.
The ECRs were atrocious, but that was more to do with not actually buying, using and figuring out what the radios were supposed to be and do. It says something is wrong with the French army technical services when the DUTCH and NORWEGIANS had good radios and the French military (well, the French NAVY had good radios) did not.
 
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