Early Franco HEAVY METAL

Eric Bryan looks at the history of the Saint-Chamond World War One tank

‘The tank’s extended nose and short treads created problems in crossing ditches and negotiating obstacles’

Early type Saint-Chamond advancing against the German lines in April 1918
WIKIMEDIA COMMONS, PUBLIC DOMAIN

During the trench warfare of World War One, the Germans attempted to counter the mechanised advances of the new British tanks by digging trenches too wide for the vehicles to cross. The trench-crossing capability of the British Mark IV tank was about 10ft, so the Germans dug trenches 11-12ft wide in the Hindenburg Line in 1916-17. The British in turn counteracted this measure by building longer tanks which had a greater trench-crossing capacity. Battlefield trenches and blast craters proved to be even greater obstacles for the French tanks of the era, the Schneider CA1 and France’s second heavy tank of World War One, the Saint-Chamond.

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