Hello everyone, I am Aj St. Charles (otherwise known as PigeonDeVerdun), and Harkonnen has generously allowed me to write historical articles for TDB. I am very excited to be here, and I will do my utmost to bring you quality content in the form of interesting and relevant historical articles, tank tree proposals, and the like.
My background: I received a bachelor’s in History with a focus on Military History in 2016, and French military history, armored vehicles, language, and development are my biggest interests and passions. However, I am an American, and getting my hands on authentic sources can be very time consuming, thus it is unlikely that I will be able to contribute more than once a month.
Of course, regardless of whether or not you like or dislike this article, your feedback is welcomed. Only through comments and discourse will Harkonnen and I know if this is something this community would enjoy. With all that out of the way, let’s dig in to some history!
Marking Your French Tanks
Let’s face it. Wargaming has been known to take some, let’s say, historical liberties, with the game in order to produce more content, be that the line of Chinese Tank Destroyers, the FV215b, various modelling problems, etc.. However, World of Tanks has done a great job with incorporating historical content where it is possible, and their efforts to make lines of tank development from around the world into a fun video game are commendable.
My article today will be a small celebration of one aspect World of Tanks gets right (but could always be expanded and improved upon): Emblems with historical significance. Specifically, emblems you should put on your French tanks for maximum historical accuracy.
The Card System
Certain French tank battalions used a card system, in which the suit and coloring indicated the compagnie (company) and peloton de cavalerie (cavalry platoon) to which each tank belonged. This means that the following decals can be used if you don’t particularly like the roundel (which itself was widely used, mostly among cavalerie divisions [think mediums and lights]):
While the colors can change between units, usually blue signifies the 1ere compagnie, white the 2e compagnie, and red the 3e compagnie, so that the colors follow the Bleu Blanc Rouge of the French flag. All images above would work, with the black spade being the most questionable choice. Spades are the first peloton, hearts second, diamonds third, and clubs the fourth. The emblems that show the entirety of a playing card are not historically accurate, and I don’t recommend using them to this end.
The Division Symbols
The first, and arguably most well regarded is the 2e Division Blindée (2nd Armored Division), led by Général Leclerc. The exploits of this division are lengthy, glorious, and complicated, but English sources are not as difficult to come by. Thus, for sake of space, I will continue their story at another time.
This is of course a great symbol for any French tank, but it would work just as well for several foreign tanks that fought in Free French units and the French Army after the war. These include the M4 Sherman, Wolverine, M3 and M5 Stuarts, M8A1, Crusader, Valentine, American arties tiers 3-5 and could be extended to the Jackson, Cromwell, Panther, Tiger I, Tiger II, Chaffee, Pershing, and M46 Patton. Admittedly, the Tigers probably aren’t fair game, but some were used until they broke down by Free French units in the Liberation of France, and Le Musée des Blindés de Saumur (Armor Museum of Saumur [think Bovington but French]) does have a running Tiger II. Really, it just depends on how much you want to use French markings. My opinion: This works best for Heavy and Medium tanks.
The second is lesser known, but interesting because it is a unit that fought during the Battle of France. It is the symbol of the 4e Régiment de Cuirassiers (4th Regiment of Cuirassiers), without the 4 under the cuirassier. They had the unenvious task of moving into northern Belgium and making the link between Dutch and Belgian troops. They were to provide them with badly needed firepower to defend the Dyle Line, as was planned on by France, Belgium, Britain, and the Netherlands. Unfortunately, this crack unit was in the wrong place at the wrong time; the place being Belgium, and the time being simultaneous to the German push through the Ardennes. Thus, there chance to be a decisive attacking force was stunted by being forced into a defensive stance.
In addition, their lack of consistent fuel crippled their ability to attack in force, and only partial efforts could be made at any given time. Later, some tanks would have to tow others during withdrawals due to lack of fuel. Nevertheless, they would take part in the defensive fighting around Dunkerque, with Commandant Marchal using the remaining tank forces to act as a last defense, one that could not be saved, to defend the embarkment of the l’Armée du Nord (North Army) onto Allied ships.
In only 11 days, the unit was evacuated, disembarked, and reformed despite lacking replacement tanks and supplies. The unit then rejoined the front lines and continued a fighting retreat for the next 15 days. Threatened by constant encirclement, the Régiment manages to stay one step ahead and fights many delaying actions to keep the path south open for other infantry and armored units. The Régiment only stopped fighting with the signing of the Armistice. The historical tanks to wear this symbol are the H 35(39) and the Somua S35. My opinion: This works best for Medium tanks.
Now, I did say France had 3 unique symbols. What is the last? This is it:
It doesn’t show up in the military section or even the flags and standards section of the emblems, rather, it shows up in the same category as the playing cards. It is a very poorly done conversion of this symbol:
I only realized this after stumbling across this:
This is the symbol for the 503e RCC (Régiment de chars de combat [Combat Tank Regiment]), which was entirely made up of FCM 36s. In 1939 it was joined to the 503e Groupe de Batallions de Chars (503rd Battalion Group) as the 4e and 7e Batallion de Chars de Combat. Its most notable contribution to the French war effort was a series of smaller counter attacks around Voncq, oblique to the larger battle of Sedan. On June 9th, an effective supporting action became a combined tank and infantry assault, and was the highlight of their contribution. Unfortunately, most of the tanks were lost to withering anti-tank fire, and the unit was withdrawn for rearming. The historical tank for this symbol is the seldom-played FCM 36. My opinion: This works best for Light tanks.
My recommendations for Wargaming would be to add the following:
The 4e Division Cuirassiers: Famous for being the unit with which de Gaulle counter-attacked at Montcornet. While unable to turn the tide, de Gaulle did manage to halt the advance in his section of the front for a time. Unfortunately, his counter-attack theories counted on air support and divisions of combined infantry and tanks, neither of which were available in quantity for his counter-attack. Suited for the B1, D2, and R35. Heavy Tanks, Medium Tanks
The 41e Batallion de Chars de Combat: Famous for Capitaine Billotte, and his fantastic offensive in the town of Boulagne-Billancourt. If you are interested in his efforts, I can visit this topic in the future. Suited for the B1. (On a side note, for the love of tanks, add “Eure” as a name choice. Please Wargaming.) Heavy Tanks.
Régiment Colonial de Chasseurs de Char (1944-1945), Régiment Colonial de Chasseurs de Char (1946-1958), and/or Régiment Blindé de Fusiliers Marins: These units would be the French equivalent of the American Tank Destroyer Forces. Suited for French tank destroyers, and the Wolverine and Jackson. These units would continue to fight in the First Indochina War, albeit with a much more accurate tank destroyer in their emblem. Fun fact, the last option are actually French Marines without a ship to defend, and wore some pretty great caps. If anyone is interested in the French approach to using American tank destroyers, this could be yet another topic for the future. Tank Destroyers.
1ere Division Blindée: This division is lesser known these days (mostly due to the attention the 2e DB receives), but it was the first Armored Division to reach the Rhine. They carried on fighting through the Black Forest, and were also the first to reach the Danube. While the French 1st Army would be the first to cross both the Rhine and the Danube, the 1ere Division Blindée was the first armored division to reach each. Suited for the same tanks as the 2e Division Blindée. Heavy Tanks, Medium Tanks.
I hope this article was informative and at least a little interesting. If you do find it useful or fun, please let me know, as there is plenty to write on this topic.
– Vauvillier, Francois. The Encyclopedia of French Tanks and Armoured Fighting Vehicles: 1914-1940. Paris: Histoire and Collections , 2014.
– Battlefield: Episode 1: The Fall of France. Directed by Dave Flitton. Youtube.com. August 15, 2012. Accessed November 10, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbKYbLUkIpk.
– Vauvillier, Francois. The Encyclopedia of French Tanks and Armoured Fighting Vehicles. 2014.