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The French Standard

Discussion in 'Weapons & Technology in WWII' started by SOAR21, Sep 15, 2009.

  1. SOAR21

    SOAR21 Member

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    Recently I've been leafing through some stuff regarding the Fall of France, when I realized, I know nothing.

    Ok, the standard service rifle: MAS36. Right?
    Standard Tank: Is there one? Seems like there are five.
    Standard SMG: MAS38. Yes?
    As for the rest...????
    What were the French Standard LMG, HMG, knife, grenade, anti-tank weapon, auxiliary vehicle, truck, artillery piece, anti-tank artillery piece, anti-air piece, and so on?
    I realized that I could answer these questions for the other major powers, even Italy, but I can't for my life do France. Help, anyone?
     
  2. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    Here is a little bit that I have put together over the years. The French armored park consisted R-35 and R-40, and H-35, H-38s as light tanks. The Bataille B1, and B1-bis in the heavy dept., and probably the best medium tank pre-war, the Somua S-35. There were also another tank in the mediums, but I'll be danged if I can recall what it was. T

    They had the MAS-38 SMG in 7.62x20mm, and the MAS-36 in 7.5x54mm bolt action infantry rifle. The MAS-36 could be converted to a grenade launcher, and many were.

    In the heavy machine gun slot, they fielded the Hotchkiss M30 and coupled them together in single, twin and quad AA mountings for that role, at 13.2x99/95mm. Then there was the Hotchkiss M1922 in the LMG role which could be (and was) chambered in 8x50R Lebel, .303 British, 7x57 Mauser, 7.92x57 Mauser during the war years. They also fielded a "BAR-like" weapon in the MAC Mle.1924/29 using the 7.5x54mm round with a 25 round top feed box magazine.

    Their trucks were probably a combinaion of French Ford, Citroen, and Renault units. Most of the others I would really have to look around for.
     
  3. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    Agreed except for the Mas-38 which could not really be considered as THE standard Mg . ( there were too little of them availble and it was only used by a few units like the Corps Francs.)

    Also for airplanes the standard would be the obsolete Morane , the much better Dewoitine 152, which was suppose to supersede it, came in use too late and was only used in the last weeks of the Batlte of France .
     
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  4. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    Too true, I was only including the MAS-38 as it was the only submachine gun I ever saw which was of French origin, and not an imported SMG they used in the time-frame.
     
  5. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    Off the top of my head ..

    Some units still had the older Lebel WW1 vintage rifles.

    The MAS-38 was issued in very limited numbers before 1940, the French and British didn't have a SMG for the 1940 campaign.

    The FM 24/29 LMG was derived from BAR but is probably closer to the ZB-26 and BREN though it lacks a quick change barrel mechanism. It had practically replaced all other LMGs by 1940.

    There is no standard French tank, but then most countries had separate "cavalry" and "infantry" tanks in service in 1939/40 (with the possibe exception of Italy that only had the L3 tankettes), the most common were the Renault and Hotckiss lights. BTW I think the "missing medium" is the FCM 36 but there were a couple of batallions of D1 and D2 tanks as well.

    AT weapons existed in both 25mm and 47mm caliber, the second was quite good for 1940 but neither was available in sufficient quantities.

    For fighters I believe the Hawk-75 (export P-36) was nearly as numerous as the Morane 406. The bomber force was a mix of obsolete and modern designs with no dominant type (and pretty low overall numbers).

    I believe field artillery was still mostly the venerable 75mm Model 97 though many had been modified with tyres for towing by trucks. The 75 were complemented by 105mm weapons in the heavy field batteries, IIRC the WW1 105 were being replaced by a more modern design.

    The excellent 81mm Brandt mortar is the ancestor of all other 81/82mm weapons (German, Italian, US, Soviet), I suspect the US 60mm was also derived from the 60mm Brandt model 35 but I'm less sure about that one.
     
  6. paratrooper506

    paratrooper506 Member

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    the chattellerault was a lmg which it was supposed to be designed around the browning automatic rifle
     
  7. SOAR21

    SOAR21 Member

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    Ahh thanks all.

    So finally, an excellent French weapon...a mortar. :)
     
  8. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    Well the French tanks were in fact much more advanced than the Panzers . If only they had not been scattered around and without an effcient air protection..... They thefore became an easy prey for Stukas.
    Also French recco planes were converted into low flying assault aircraft which proved to be disastrous and wasted many good crews that would be dearly missed the next days.
     
  9. aglooka

    aglooka Member

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    Hi there,

    There were indeed (more or less) standard weapons for the first line divisions. The divisions of the second line were much worse. I've seen pictures of troops with single shot rifles and the 1877-1885 range of de Bange guns (no recoil mechanism) was also still in use
    Mortars: second line divisions often used old 75mm, 150mm ,240 mm trench mortars (WWI vintage).

    Artillery: there were 7 (and one of 145mm) types of 155mm gun in service. One of these , but available in only small numbers was the 155mm long Schneider with a range of 26.000 m (8 pieces only), another was a mdle 1877 gun with no recoil mechanism (480 mobilised).

    There were in fact very few modern guns, almost all stemming from WWI or earlier, altough lots of experimental models were build during the interbellum, barely any was accepted for production (one example was the 105mm long Schneider)

    The 75mm was indeed modernised with rubber tires, and an addition to its capabilities was a turntable that could be fitted to make the gun more adapted to AT warfare (usually one gun per battery had it). The standard towing half track was the Citroen. , but most of them weren't fitted with tires, the theory was that the unmodernised guns would be moved strategically ported by requisitioned trucks and tactically by requisitioned agricultural tractors.
    The 75mm was indeed the standard field gun. (you need alot of money to replace 4500 guns :) )

    A plethora of models of heavier calibres, going back from WWI to 1884, None designed after the first world war.

    AA guns: Many models of 75mm, many still using the barrels of the 1897 gun , but a few models of more modern guns in quite large numbers (108 batteries of modern 75 mm guns (immobile),and in very small numbers 90mm and 105mm guns. Light AA: at last homogenity with the 25mm gun (2 models, but very alike)and 13.2 heavy mg in different types of mountt.

    Heavy reliance on railway guns all stemming back to WWI (i'm not going to count the number of models , but there were alt least more than 20)

    Trucks : indeed alot of models, and many of them (together with agricultural tractors) requisitioned. (I read a tale somewhere of a battery having 4 different types of trucks and several diffrent types of tractors.)

    I'm not going into tanks, but there were alot of models, mostly built in very small batches.

    As for planes, i leave this for the specialists

    Oh, and another excellent French weapon was of course the 120 brandt mortar, copied first by the Russians, and then by the Germans from the Russians :) (and still around in many improved versions)
    The 47mm AT gun was maybe the best field AT gun in the world at that time but there mere much to few of them.

    many greetings

    Aglooka
     
  10. Hufflepuff

    Hufflepuff Semi-Frightening Mountain Goat

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    What surprises alot of ppl is that during the 1940 invasion alot of the French tanks were actually better than the german panzers. The Germans panzers just had better tactics and one very important tool that helped them win: the radio.
     
  11. aglooka

    aglooka Member

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    But much inferior in tactical use. The turret was a one person thing, which housed the commander, who had to command the tank, keep an overview of the tactical situation, Load, point and fire both main and coax. Otoh most medium and heavy tanks had a radio operator in the hull that had nothing to do but operate the radio.

    The best attribute of the later models of French tanks was their (relatively) heavy armour, which gave the commander when under fire at least some time to do all the stuff he had to do and taking hits in the process before firing his excellent (second advantage at least in the char B an the Somua) AT gun.

    But what is almost never mentioned is that the Char B had alot af engine and transmission problems, with only a small portion actually reaching the battlefield (it was very underengined !). (The practice in the French army often was to tow a disabled tank to the battlefield, but this often resulted in both tanks breaking down of course) Oh and they could have left out that almost useless 75mm howitzer (pointed by the driver and with a seperate loader (Who had almost nothing to do). And used the space and weight to go for an at least two man turret. Which was manageable (see the example of the T34: not ideal but maybe sufficient, 3 man turret was ideal (and is still the standard except now in tanks with autoloaders)). Thus you have one overworked commander , one rather overworked driver (drive and aim a gun) and two guys barey doing anything (radio operator and loader for the little used 75mm howitzer)

    The Somua: excellent tank too in theory, but again with that guy who had to do everything in the turret. I have no data in my head about realability here, but i have my doubts.

    The other models were older less armoured, built in very small batches and with worse guns. And poor reability.

    The later model light tanks were generally good but again with the "do all" in the turret again, and most of them had the woefully inadequate very short 37 mm gun with almost no AT capacity. (this gun was derived from a wwi infantery gun with very low mv) There was in 1939-1940 at least an effort to arm these tanks with a real 37 mm AT gun but these reached the front in only small numbers (one tank per troop i believe, and assingned to the commander of the troop, who now had also the main anti tank firepower of the troop and thus even more responsibilities)

    Apart from the heavier armour and better AT gun of some models, i fail to see tbh why the French tanks were more advanced than the German ones. Altough one must admit that they could give the Germans a headache when deployed in some numbers.

    Aglooka
     
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  12. Drucius

    Drucius Member

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    The Highlanders definitely had Tommy guns that they used for aggressive patrolling in 1940. Not many, for sure.
     
  13. aglooka

    aglooka Member

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    Indeed, and they disliked the drum magazines because of the rattling sound they made, they wanted straight magazines, i don't know wether they got em.

    greetings,

    Aglooka
     
  14. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    I remember one testimony from a French vet who quoted that "Germans had modern boots , we had obsolete breeches and this is the way it went with eveything else....." He said it all
     
  15. Triple C

    Triple C Ace

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    Take it for what it's worth: the primary German tank for the Battle of France was the Mark II Panzer, armed with a 20mm flak gun and protected by the paper thin so-called armor. The French lights paled before Mark III/IV, but they could have eaten Mark II for breakfast.
     
  16. aglooka

    aglooka Member

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    tha breakdown of German tanks is as follows:

    523 Panzer I two 7.92mm machine guns
    955 Panzer II a 20mm (this was not an automatic anti aircraft gun but a single shot weapon afaik)
    349 Panzer III 37mm gun
    278 Panzer IV short barreled 75mm gun
    106 Panzer 35 (t) 37mm gun
    228 Panzer 38 (t) 37mm gun

    Indeed an overwhelming number of I's and II's.

    And indeed the French tanks could cause serious problems to the undergunned German tanks:
    One Char B destroyed 13 tanks, 2 Anti-tank guns and was hit 140 times with no penetration. (But as said a very low numbers of Char B's actually reached the place of combat in practice)

    And the 25mm AT gun was not that bad at all, its perfomance comarable to many 37 mm guns. It also had the advantage of very little flash, and its position was difficult to spot after a round was fired. (Penetration : 40mm /25° at 400m (54mm /0° at 100m) and the gun had a rep for being very accurate) I read a story somewhere (but cannot find it now) of a single 25mm holding up a tank colunm and destroying several AFV's in the process.

    The allies (French, Belgian, British) were not doing bad at all against the Germans on the fronts in Belgium, repaetatly counterattacking and retaking lost positions. Having in the end established a more or less stable front there.
    But it was the breaktrough at Sedan that caused all these good results to be of no use and resulted in the retreat and loss of the best troops and equipment of the allies.

    The "new" frontline in Northern France consisted almost all of second line troops with little of the things needed in modern warfare, and was far outnumbered by the Germans anyway. To this was added the French fear that the Germans would still effect a penetration of the Maginot line and kept the reserve troops there in place, while these might have been used on the fronts near the Aisne and Somme, but i doubt this because the strategic mobility of these divisions was almost nil and their fighting ablilities outside the blockhouses (where for example most of their AT guns were in non removeable positions) they used probably very low.

    So we come to the old conclusion again that while the French tanks might not have been wonder weapons, they were more than good enough to fight the German tanks when on equal terms but:
    1. German tactics made sure that they fought usually not on equal terms but from a position of superiority
    2.In the end by strategic developments defeated the elite French divisions. (and along with them the Brits and Belgians)
    3. And we must not underestimate the impact of airpower on the developments

    Many greetings !

    Aglooka
     
  17. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    Aglooka thanks for your valuable input, where do you get such accurate information if I may ask?
     
  18. aglooka

    aglooka Member

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    Lots of books and some googling :)
     
  19. wph377

    wph377 Member

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    I have taken into the cobwebs of my brain the fact that the Panzers (Mks I and II) were also faster and more automotively reliable and efficient. They truly were the best machines for a Blitzkrieg in 1940. This, combined with the vaunted Stuka... There were more than a few situations where the French were fighting German armored units with a single tank, as the others had broken down on the way. Like 10 Stuarts versus one of those Soviet multi-turreted jobs:D Perhaps I'm wrong?
     
  20. aglooka

    aglooka Member

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    This is a very good resume of many things that i told in my long posts.

    Congrats, i couldn't say it better in so few words !

    Many greetings

    Aglooka
     

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