Categories
WW2 French Armored Cars

Panhard 178 CDM

France (Vichy Regime) – 1941-1942
Armored Car – 45 Turrets Built For Pre-Existing Hulls

With the defeat of France by Germany in the spring of 1940, an armistice was signed between the two countries on 22nd June 1940, going into effect three days later. Some of the most important clauses of the treaty were the occupation of France’s northern half and all of the Atlantic coast by Germany, and the establishment of a “free zone” administered entirely by French authorities in the South. The French army was limited to a mere 100,000 men, with no armor outside of 64 Panhard 178 armored cars which had to have their 25 mm SA 35 main guns replaced with 7.5 mm MAC 31 machine guns.

A Panhard 178 in its original configuration, armed with a 25 mm SA 35 anti-tank gun and a 7.5 mm MAC 31 machine gun in an APX 3 turret, in service with the 6th GRDI, a reconnaissance group, during a parade, late 1930s. Source: char-français
Vichy Panhard 178, having had their 25 mm SA 35 gun removed and replaced by a second 7.5 mm MAC 31 machine gun. Source: www.warwheels.net

In June and July of 1940, the Third Republic’s democratic government was replaced through a series of votes in parliament by an authoritarian one led by WW1-hero Philippe Pétain. He and his government enacted collaboration policies in the following months. Despite this, the army of this armistice government, which came to be referred to as the “Vichy Regime”, was far from entirely collaborative. Indeed, the vast majority of the remaining army’s soldiers and particularly officers were veterans of the campaign of France, and many did not accept the occupation of France. While stockpiling of weapons that had been evacuated into Southern France, away from the eyes of the Armistice Commission, started as early as June 1940, it started to take a more elaborate form the next month, as the CDM (Camouflage du Matériel/Camouflage of Equipment) was founded under the direction of colonel Emile Mollard. A secret organization within the army, unknown by a large part of its higher-ups, let alone the German armistice commission, the CDM focused on creating weapons caches for a variety of equipment – mostly firearms and other infantry equipment, but even some armored vehicles. Notably, 45 Panhard 178 hulls which had been evacuated without turrets during the 1940 retreat were secretly kept around by several cavalry regiments. The idea behind the CDM was that, in case of a German invasion of the free territory, enough weapons could be provided to extend Vichy’s army to 300,000 men, which would then delay the German invasion until reinforcements from overseas (both the colonial empire where the CDM also organized caches and the occidental Allies) could arrive and stabilize a front in Southern France.

The CDM’s stockpiling effort quickly took a large scale in 1940 and 1941; French historian and resistance veteran Henri Amouroux reported 65,000 rifles, 9,500 machine guns, 200 mortars, fifty-five 75 mm mle 1897 guns and a variety of anti-tank and anti-aircraft guns had been stockpiled during the winter of 1940-1941. American historian and Vichy specialist Robert Paxton estimates the amount of secretly stockpiled equipment to be equivalent to 80% of the weapons officially used by the armistice army. By November of 1942, 1,520 people were involved in the organization.

By the spring of 1941, as most weapons that could be stockpiled had already been found, the CDM began to expand its service beyond the mere stockpiling and hiding of already existing equipment. In April of 1941, Mollard met with engineer Joseph Restany in the headquarters of the 16th division of the CDM, in Montpellier. Restany had been the lead engineer behind Renault’s tank design bureau prior to the collapse of the French Army in 1940. He had notably designed and produced, in record time, a turret for the Panhard 178 armored car that mounted a 47 mm SA 35 gun instead of the 25 mm SA 35. The time between the start of the work on the turret’s design and a produced example being mounted on a hull was less than a week. Mollard requested that Restany take the lead of an industrial project to manufacture 45 turrets to match the 45 turretless Panhard 178 armored car hulls that had been evacuated in 1940. These new turrets could be armed with a variety of armaments, with the CDM having at its disposal some 47 mm SA 35 and 25 mm guns as well as 13.2 and 7.5 mm machine guns. Restany promptly accepted the offer and adopted the pseudonym of J-J Ramon to lead this highly secretive project.

A photo of the Panhard 178 which received a turret designed by Restany and his team, scuttled on the 17th of June 1940. Designed in less than a week, the turret was mounted on a hull which was then sent to the 1st Armored Car Regiment of the 4th DLM (Division Légère Mécanique/Light Mechanized division). It is claimed to have knocked out two German tanks. Source: Collection Pascal Danjou

Designing the CDM Turret

It was decided that the production of the CDM turrets would be concentrated around the town of Castres-sur-Agout, in a fairly rural part of South-Western France. Several reasons motivated this choice: despite being fairly rural, the area comprised a number of mechanical workshops; and the town of Castres itself included an artillery park led by a colonel aligned with Mollard, as well as the presence of the 3rd Dragons regiment, a cavalry unit which possessed some of the un-turreted Panhard 178s, which would considerably ease the testing process for the turrets.

Restany designed the turrets himself in his hotel room of the Grand-Hôtel de Castres. While he originally intended to find an industrial designer to create the turret, it proved impossible to find one in Castres. As for the plans of the Renault turret which Restany had produced in June of 1940, those had been lost, and he reported that even if they had been available, this design required pieces that would have been too difficult to produce for the industrial capacity available around Castres.

The turret which was designed by Restany had a shape very similar to the one produced in 1940, being very clearly inspired by this previous example. The turret had what Restany describes as a “pseudo-pyramidal” shape. The turret’s front, sides, and rear were given 20 mm of armor, while the top and turret ring were 10 mm. The front of the turret was quite considerably changed in comparison to the 1940 vehicle, with the gun going through a more complex superstructure, and ditching the original mantlet that was the same as the S35 and Char B1 Bis. This turret used a turret race that was quite different from the ones manufactured in normal conditions. The internally dented race found on the turrets originally used for the Panhard 178, most notably the APX 3, was far too complex for the remote workshops around Castres, and turning the turret was accomplished in a much more rudimentary fashion. It was rotated by hand, and once the orientation was found, the turret was kept in the desired direction via a rack and pinion piece that was “blocked on the fixed circle”, blocking the turret in place. As for vision, when moving, the top hatch could be opened for the gunner to stick his head out of the turret. When fighting, vision slots could be used for observation. The turrets were painted in the French artillery gray color. In comparison to the 1940 turret which only featured a basic top hatch, the CDM turrets had both a rear-door and a better-designed top hatch. The CDM turret housed two crew members, in addition to the two others located within the vehicle’s hull.

The turret was designed by Restany to accept both the 47 mm SA 35 and a 25 mm gun, though whether those were the shortened 25 mm SA 35 meant for armored vehicles or the original and more common 25 mm SA 34 is unknown. The 47 mm gun was more potent than the 25 mm; it penetrated 40 mm at 30° and 400 m, whereas the 25 mm SA 34 penetrated 30 mm at the same angle but at 500 m. Furthermore, the 47 mm SA 35 did have an explosive shell, which the 25 mm lacked.

A German soldier showing off on a Panhard 178 CDM. This photo also shows one of the best views of the turret’s front on a 47 mm-armed vehicle. Source: armedconflicts
A photo of German personnel standing aside a Panhard 178 CDM of unknown armament, showing the rear of the turret. Source: armedconflicts

Secretive Manufacturing

A manufacturing process which was as discreet and secretive as possible, so as not to be found out by the Armistice commission, was set up to produce the CDM turrets.

Before work began on the production of actual turrets, a wooden mockup was produced towards late May 1941 in a workshop of a Castres industrialist, Henri Delmas, which also took the orders for mechanical pieces that would be needed to manufacture the turrets. It is through Delmas that subcontractors would be hired to manufacture the various elements of the turrets, which would reduce the interaction of Restany with third parties and the risk of the whole scheme being found out.

Delmas lended a workshop in the town of Mazamet, near Castres, which belonged to a society he managed to Restany and the CDM. This workshop was used both as a warehouse for deliveries of armor plates and turret races, and to manufacture some races.

The manufacture of turret races is what appears to have been the hardest hassle to overcome for Restany and his personnel. Those were fairly complicated pieces of engineering, and the workshops around Castres usually only had fairly rudimentary industrial machinery. Therefore, despite the limited number of turret races needed, production took place in a number of different workshops, including the one in Mazamet, and some in Saut-du-Tarn and Saint-Juéry. The ball bearings were manufactured way further east, around the industrial center of Saint-Etienne, and then delivered to the area around Castres. The welding electrodes were brought from Toulouse, to the west of Castres. The armor plates necessary for the turret were sneaked out of the Saint-Chamond steelmaking plant, way to the north-east, despite the heavy surveillance those were under. The cutting of those armored plates took place in the Mazamet workshop, while the production of mechanical, foundry and forge parts was assured by Delmas and his sub-contractors in Castres. The assembly of the turrets was assured at first in a workshop in Saint-Cyprien, on the Mediterannean coast and near the Spanish border. However, it was replaced mid-production by a workshop installed in an abandoned mine in Griffoul. All the transport that was needed for this extensive manufacturing process was assured by the large truck fleet the CDM had set up previously.

The first turret was assembled at Saint-Cyprien on 1st October 1941. It was vastly satisfactory, requiring a single change in the subsequent turrets, the application of a fixed shield to seal the potential gaps between the gun and the turret. Nine turrets were then assembled each month, with the last of the 45 being finished on 28th January 1942.

The turrets in Vichy’s Army

Once the turrets were manufactured, they were delivered to the various units that possessed turretless Panhard 178 hulls. Those deliveries were conducted using a workshop truck similar to those used by the French Army prior to 1940. Some minor problems arose during those deliveries. In an annoyed tone, Restany reported in his account of the production of the CDM turrets that the hulls in Châteauroux had been “tweaked” by “amateurs”, without extending on what this meant outside of noting it caused difficulties to the team that had to mount the turrets. Interestingly, he notes that at Montauban, near Toulouse, the hulls on which the turrets had to be mounted featured a smaller turret ring, which required remaking the top of those hulls to then mount the turret. While Restany did not mention why those turrets had a smaller ring, if he even knew, it has been theorized those may be hulls intended for colonial use: eight Panhard 178 modified to mount a smaller APX 5 turret were ordered in August of 1939, but only four are known to have received the turret and have been sent to Indochina. It is possible the four others may still have lacked their turrets when they were evacuated in the spring of 1940.

In his account, Restany mentions the cities of Auch, Clermont-Ferrand, Châteauroux, Limoges (where he reports the hulls had be hidden so well they were hard to access – following up by saying this was not a criticism at all), Lyon, Marseilles, Montauban and Castres. Castres, despite being the center of the manufacturing scheme, is actually where the delivery ended up being the most risky. Restany reports that a truck that transported two turrets, while stopped, had six cars pull up aside it, those being none other than the German control commission of Toulouse on a tour of the area. He reported that the Germans chatted with the CDM personnel, but did not inspect the innocent-looking truck, much to the relief of the delivery personnel.

The regiments which received the CDM turrets were the 2nd Dragons in Auch, the 3rd Dragons in Castres, the 8th Cuirassiers in Châteauroux, the 8th Dragons (operating in Issoire, but the turretless hulls onto which the turrets were mounted were in Clermont-Ferrand), the 6th Cuirassiers in Limoges, the 11th Cuirassiers in Lyon, the 7th Chasseurs (operating in Nîmes but with the hulls in Marseille) and the 3rd Hussards in Montauban.

The Machine Gun Refit

While the turrets produced under Restany’s management were functional, the only armament they featured was either a 25 mm or a 47 mm gun. While an anti-aircraft mount for two machine-guns was designed, and one was produced and tested on a turret, it did not reach production, being deemed too complicated. However, CDM command made a request to Restany that the turrets should be fitted with a 7.5 mm machine gun, this request being done once the turrets were already mounted. This was not a complicated modification according to Restany, but it required teams to be sent to each location where the armored cars were stored to perform it. The modification consisted in making a small opening in the turrets, left of the main gun. Through this opening, a FM 24/29 light machine-gun was inserted. Restany reported this modification took less than an hour per turret. The FM 24/29 is quite an interesting choice for a coaxial machine gun. It was a weapon quite similar in design and capacities to the British Bren, though it predates it. One may have imagined the standard tank machine gun, the MAC 31, should have been used instead. While firing the same 7.5 mm cartridge as the FM 24/29, the MAC 31 had a higher rate of fire (750 rounds per minute instead of 450) and larger magazines (150 rounds instead of 25). However, it is likely the CDM did not have many, if any MAC 31. The ubiquitous FM 24/29, found in the vast majority of French units in 1940, was in comparison a common sight in the service’s caches. The refit of the turrets to mount machine guns is known to have been completed by early November of 1942, just before the German occupation of the Free Zone beginning on November 11th.

Plans of the mounting of the FM 24.29 light machine gun through on opening in the turret. Source: Une entreprise secrète sous l’occupation Allemande, Joseph Restany, 1946

Some CDM turrets did not receive the same machinegun opening as the one described by Restany though. While he does not mention it, three photos show turrets (whether this was a single or several different turrets is not known) which had the machine gun in a quite large boxy superstructure to the right of the gun, an element which most likely required far more extensive work. Coincidently, the only known photos of 25 mm-armed turrets are those photos, while all 47mm-armed turrets feature the machine gun going through an opening to the left of the gun, as described by Restany. It has been theorized that the boxy superstructure may in fact have been found on all 25 mm-armed vehicles, though this cannot be proven.

A photo of a Panhard 178 CDM with a 25 mm gun and a FM 24/29 in a boxy structure to the right of the gun. This photo was taken upon the vehicle’s capture by German troops. The turret is still painted in French artillery gray, instead of the German camouflage it later received. The hull was painted as standard in the 1940 French camouflage. Source : Pascal Danjou Collection
Two German soldiers stand in front of a 25 mm-armed Panhard 178, with the machine gun appearing on the right of the main gun. Source: albyminiatures.e-monsite.com

Other Projects of Restany

As the manufacturing of the CDM turrets was finished by January of 1942, Restany continued to use the industrial network he had constructed for other re-armament projects. 64 Panhard 178 retaining the APX 3 turret were officially in service of the Vichy army, but those had been deprived of their original 25 mm SA 35 gun, replaced by a mere MAC 31 machine gun. To prevent those being re-armed with 25 mm guns, the Armistice Commission confiscated the mantlets. The CDM requested the manufacture of new ones from Restany, who got to work on a simplified mantlet which would both look less suspicious to avoid detection and simpler for manufacturing in the modest facilities he operated in. 92 mantlets were to be manufactured. Despite difficulties encountered, about half were manufactured by the end of activities in November of 1942.

A far more ambitious work was the production of 225 armored cars, based on the chassis of G.M.C trucks that were in the possession of the CDM. This very ambitious project began in 1941 and took most of Restany’s attention in 1942, as it involved producing not just turrets, but basically an entirely new armored car. By November of 1942, a prototype had been completed, and parts for the 224 vehicles that would have followed were being produced, with, notably, 65 completed armed turrets and 15 more being armed by November of 1942.

German Occupation

On the 11th of November 1942, following the invasion of French North Africa by Allied forces beginning two days prior, the Germany Army moved in to occupy the free part of France. The military was ordered to stay in its barracks by the collaborationist government led by Pierre Laval. In the following days, as Vichy’s military was dissolved, German troops found a number of the vehicles that had received CDM turrets. How many came into their hands is unknown, as it is rumored some units threw their turrets into ponds before they were found. Even more elusively, some may have remained hidden all the way until the large-scale resistance uprisings of August of 1944, when they would have been found by the Resistance. No photographic evidence backing up any of these claims exist.

A 47 mm-armed Panhard 178 CDM of Sicherungs-Aufklärung-Abteilung 1000 in Paris, extract from a German newsreel. Source: GBM 86

In any case, Panhard 178 CDMs are known to have been put to use by German security troops. Several photos show the vehicles used by the Sicherungs-Aufklärung-Abteilung 1000, a reconnaissance group of the 189. Reserve Infanterie-Division. A single company, designated as Panzer Späh Kompanie, is known to have used Panhard armored cars. One vehicle has been clearly identified, the “Jaguar”, 3rd vehicle of the 1st platoon of Sicherungs-Regiment 1000’s 14th company (the Panzer Späh Kompagnie), whilst another German Panhard 178 CDM is known to have had the name of “Hagen”. Another vehicle appears to have been modified with radio equipment. The eventual fate of the German Panhard 178 CDM armored cars is unknown.

A German 25 mm-armed Panhard 178 CDM on the side of a road, with both the turret’s top hatch and the hull’s front hatch and side door open. Source: armedconflicts

After the end of the war, a Panhard 178 CDM was found in Tours in 1948. It had taken a major hit to the front, though whether this was from being used on a firing range or from combat is unknown. A turret was reported by French historian Pascal Danjou to be awaiting restoration in the reserves of the Saumur tank museum back in 2009.

Conclusion

The Panhard 178 CDM is a particularly interesting vehicle, as it is one of the most extensive armament projects undertaken under the Vichy regime. This was done away from the eyes not only of the German armistice commission, but also of the military and political higher-ups which, far more collaborative than most of the Army, would not have allowed such a breach of the armistice. While Restany started an even more extensive project, the manufacture of armored cars on GMC truck chassis, only the turret-manufacturing project reached completion by the point all work had to be interrupted because of German occupation.

Looking at the bigger picture, the CDM ended up being an important weapons supplier to the resistance in 1943 and 1944, with the weapon caches that were not found by German troops being used to arm numerous resistance units. This was not without consequences. Most notably, Colonel Emile Mollard and his son, Lieutenant Roger Mollard, were found by the Gestapo and deported to Germany in September of 1943. While Emile survived the war and was awarded the Légion d’Honneur as well as the rank of Brigadier-General, his son Roger did not survive the war. Despite the CDM’s considerable role in arming the resistance as well as the large armament project undertaken by Restany, it remains one of the more obscure and little-known aspects of the French resistance, far from the glory of the Liberation of Paris for example.

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Profile of the German Panhard 178 CDM “Jaguar”, Sicherungs-Aufklärung-Abteilung 1000. 3rd vehicle, 1st platoon, 14th company. Illustration produced by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet

Sources

Une entreprise clandestine sous l’occupation Allemande, Joseph Restany, Charles-Lavauzelle et compagnie editions, 1948
GBM (Histoire de Guerre, Blindés et Matériel) N°86, January-February-March 2009, pp 22-31
char-français.net
armedconflicts.com (only for specified photos)


Categories
WW2 French Armored Cars

Saurer CAT and White Saurer

ww2 french tanksFrance (1929-36)
Armored cars – At least 9 Saurer-CAT and 5 White-Saurer

French Morocco and the CAT

On 15th March 1912, following a Franco-German diplomatic standoff and the Treaty of Fez between the French Republic and the Kingdom of Morocco, part of Morocco became a French protectorate, effectively becoming a part of France’s large colonial empire. In the following years, French troops under Gouverneur-général Lyautey occupied Morocco but had to face rather significant local opposition.
Around 1914 or 1915, as Moroccan resistance, emboldened by the Great War, peaked, a French businessman, Jean Mazères, was hired by the French colonial administration to start doing delivery and supply work in Morocco. Mazères had established himself in Rabat shortly before the war to supply his family’s industry with wool. He owned two trucks which were originally meant to be used for his business, but were very much needed by a French army in need of means to supply its troops across the North African protectorate. Throughout the following years, Mazères received more transport missions from the French Army, which convinced him to progressively acquire more vehicles and expand his services to the French Army. By March of 1919, he had become crucial for the French Army in Morocco, to the point where he was given a monopoly on automobile transport in the Protectorate of Morocco.
Mazères finally turned his supplying service for the French Army into a company in 1922, forming the CAT (Compagnie Africaine de Transport – African Transport Company), associating himself with the truck manufacturer Saurer, which would provide the entirety of the CAT’s truck fleet in the following years. Mazères passed away in 1925, but his company remained in business, and as crucial for the French military. In June 1919, two operators of one of Mazères’ trucks were killed by Moroccan nationalists while on a supply mission for the French Army. Throughout the 1920s, attacks on the CAT’s supply convoys intensified, as Morocco underwent a particularly violent era of the Rif War, which, while mostly concentrated in Spanish Morocco, spilled over into the French protectorate too. With nine drivers killed and four others wounded during the decade, the job was particularly dangerous, and the CAT’s convoys were in dire need of military escort.

Saurer 5AD truck (registered as 1124 MA3/N°341 in the company’s fleet) of the CAT in Morocco, circa 1933

The birth of the “Saurer-CAT”

The CAT’s vehicles were, at first, escorted by the Cavalry Armored Car Squadron of Morocco and the 5th squadron of the 1st REC (Régiment Etranger de Cavalry – Foreign Cavalry Regiment). As the company’s lines continued to expand further into the Sahara and further away from the centers of French activity in Morocco, the needs for escorts rose to the point where the French Army actually gave the CAT responsibility over the escort of its truck convoys. As a consequence of this new mission, the “Saurer-CAT”, an armored car based on the CAT’s Saurer trucks, was born.

Saurer-CAT N°11 and a Renault KZ car of the French Army, ~1930. Pascal Danjou collection.
The earliest photography we have of the Saurer-CAT dates from 1929, which is the commonly assumed date of its entry in service. The vehicle itself uses a Saurer chassis, which actually appears not to have been taken from the company’s 3 AD or 5 AD truck, but to have been purposely-built. Indeed, the GBM magazine (N°119, January of 2017) reports that the vehicle had a 3.70 m wheelbase, which does not match with any known Saurer truck of the era – these had a wheelbase of at least 4 meters. That chassis was fitted with an armored body of unknown thickness, with mostly un-angled, riveted armored plates. On top of that hull, the vehicle was fitted with an octagonal turret that was armed with an 8 mm Hotchkiss mle 1914 machine-gun. It was seemingly powered by a Saurer four-cylinders 6842 cm3 55 hp engine, as found on Saurer 3 AD and 5 AD trucks.

Postcard showing the Saurer-CAT n°3. Pascal Danjou collection
The Saurer-CAT armored car had a rather odd legal status as well as crew composition. While the vehicles themselves were the property of the CAT, the machine-gun was the property of the state. The vehicle’s driver was an employee of the company, but the rest of the crew was composed of French Army soldiers: a commanding non-commissioned officer, a machine-gunner and a spotter. Each vehicle was given a number that was painted on either the turret, the hull, or both. As of today, photos of numbers 3 to 12 have been found, suggesting the existence of at least nine vehicles. There are no known photos of number 1 and 2, and whether or not they were operational vehicles remains unanswered.

Saurer-CATs 3 and 12, with two White-Saurers in the background, Southern French Morocco, 1933. Pascal Danjou collection

Design

While not based on a pre-existing Saurer chassis, the Saurer-CAT very much looked like a truck having been given an armored body, of which the exact thickness was unknown, though it could not withstand more than an 8 mm bullet. The 55 hp Saurer engine and its radiator, typical of 1920s trucks, was visible at the front. Two headlights were present on the vehicle’s front, attached to its lower body.

Saurer-CAT N°9 at a halt with the armor protecting the read wheel not mounted. Pascal Danjou collection
Further back, in the driver’s post, there were two large vision hatches which the driver could open or close depending on whether or not the vehicle was in combat. While most photos show them opened, at least one exists in which these are closed, the vision of the driver being limited to small vision slots on the vehicle’s sides in such a situation.

Saurer-CAT n°12, notable for having a circular base for its turret which the other vehicles do not feature, at a halt with the front hatches open, ~1930, Pascal Danjou collection
The small octagonal turret was located in the center of the hull and, despite its seemingly makeshift construction, some of the vehicles did feature a mantlet that surrounded the Hotchkiss 8 mm mle 1914 machine gun, while a number of others simply had the machine gun go through a hole in the turret. The vehicle’s hull featured two side doors around the driver’s position, towards the front of the Saurer-CAT. These did not cover the entirety of the vehicle’s height, only the lower half of the hull. The gunner took position in the turret, and the commander may have sat next to the driver. The spotter took place in the rear, where another hatch could be opened, allowing him to check to the vehicle’s rear. The two rear wheels featured quite large arches, on which a toolbox was mounted. The tires and wheels used appear to have been the same as in the standard truck of the CAT, the Saurer 5AD. At least one photo shows a vehicle with a spare wheel attached to the side of the hull.

Renault KZs of the French military escorted by two Saurer-Cat in the Middle Atlas. The vehicle leading the convoy, N°5, features a spare wheel on the rear side of the hull. Alain Alvarez collection

CAT armored car
The Saurer-CAT armored car with number 7, in service in North Africa. Illustration by Yuvnashva Sharma, funded by our Patreon campaign.

The White-Saurer: recycling the French Army’s armored car bodies

From 1932 onward, a new model of armored car appeared in the CAT’s inventory, the “White-Saurer”. These vehicles were made using the armored body of White armored cars, which, by the early 1930s were beginning to be very worn out, and, if not upgraded to the White-Laffly 50AM or 80AM standard, were often retired. These armored car bodies were fitted on the chassis of the 5AD Saurer truck, as demonstrated by the similar wheelbase of 4.50 m. The original White armored cars were fitted with a turret that mounted a 37 mm SA 18 gun at the front, and a Hotchkiss mle 1914 8 mm machine gun at the rear. On the CAT vehicles, the 37 mm gun was traded for a second Hotchkiss. Five of these “White-Saurer” conversions were made for the CAT in 1932. They operated similarly to the “Saurer-CAT”, with a civilian driver and a three-man military crew. They were also numbered using the same systems, taking numbers 13 to 17.

Two White-Saurer, N°13 and 16, and Saurer-CAT N°3, Southern Morocco, 1934. Pascal Danjou collection

Saurer-CAT and White-Saurer n°13. This vehicle does not feature the armor that usually protects the rear wheel. Jean-Pierre Decourtil collection

The CAT’s armored car in operation, and their final fate


Saurer-CAT n°7 and two Saurer 5AD trucks during a halt. CBED collection, via Pascal Danjou
The CAT’s armored cars ended up being successful in their intended mission of protecting the CAT’s transport and supply vehicles and crews from attacks. There were no casualties reported in the company’s personnel after the first vehicle entered service in 1929. The two models of armored cars were the property of the CAT and protected its routes until 1934. In February of that year, France officially announced the successful end of its pacification operations in Morocco. Some vehicles at least appear to have then been given to the French army, with at least a “Saurer group” being reported in the 5th squadron of the 1st REC in 1934-1935, and the last known photos of the vehicles in 1935 only showing them with military personnel.

White-Saurer N°16 surrounded by military personnel, 1935. As no civilian personnel or vehicles can be seen, this photo is presumed to be one from the vehicle’s services in the French Army after the end of the pacification of Morocco. Pierre-F Aujas collection.

A Saurer-CAT (in the background), and two unknown vehicles that were supposedly used by the CAT alongside the White-Saurer and Saurer-CATs: In the middle, a vehicle of unknown chassis using the armored body of a WW1-era AMAC Renault-GPAR mle 1914 armored car; in the foreground, a vehicle that uses the armored body of a White armored car, but with a much bigger engine and rear than on the known White-Saurer. The photo being from 1930, it may be a prototype or early model of the White-Saurer. Pascal Danjou collection

Sources

-GBM n°119 (January of 2017): “Les voitures blindées de la CAT” pp. 33-38
-Tout les blindés de l’Armée Française 1914-1940 (François Vauvillier, Histoire & Collections editions) p. 97
-https://mfd.agadir.free.fr/agadirfrontdemer/CAT/CAT.html (Only regarding the CAT itself, not the armored vehicles)

Categories
WW2 French Armored Cars

Panhard 165 & 175

France France (1930)
Armored car – 60 built

The first Panhard Armored Car

The Panhard company was no novice on the military vehicle stage, having had already produced parts for armored cars prior to the Great War. The 1930 Panhard 165 and 175 armored cars were derived from the 16 cv X46 car chassis of 1926. They were designed especially for the TOE (Théâtres d’Opérations Extérieurs) or Foreign Theaters of Operations (overseas, colonial service). North Africa was foremost in the minds of the designers, the terrain there requiring decent off-road capabilities. Other “theaters” included Syria, Palestine, Constantinople, Morocco, and AOF-AEF (West and Equatorial Africa) in the interwar. Two models were designed, the first called 165 (used during the Rif War, against Moroccan tribal warriors), and the second 175, completely overhauled with better suspensions and used in WW2, exclusively in North Africa.

The Panhard 165

The story of the Panhard 165 starts in 1929. The Panhard AM20 and “new” Laffly AMD 50 failed the tests of the Armored Cavalry Bureau. The harshness of colonial service imposed new requirements linked to the lack of spare parts and maintenance facilities. The new Panhard 165 prototype was still largely based on the AM20, but with some modifications, like the armor plates and a more powerful 4-cylinder Panhard 86 hp engine instead of the previous 20 hp one. The engine radiator was protected by narrow horizontal plates.
The tall 4×2 vehicle had a crew of four (driver, assistant driver/mechanic, commander/radio and gunner). 60 such vehicles were built in total, but 30 were of the modified 175 type. The overall weight was 6750 kg, with a length of 5.43 m (17’10”) and a height of 2.76 m (9’1”). The vehicle had a good ground clearance. Its most striking visual characteristics were its uneven roadwheels, the rear pair being massive, supported by leaf springs. The armor was riveted, 6 to 9 mm thick (0.2-0.35 in).
Propulsion was assured by a Panhard, 4-cylinder 86 hp gasoline engine, procuring a power to weight ratio of about 7.31 hp/t. It was coupled to a mechanical type gearbox, with propeller shaft, manual handling and reverse gear. The top speed (shown on trials) was 75 km/h (47 mph) on road and 31 km/h (20 mph) off road. The maximum range was 600 km (380 mi) and 385 km (240 mi) respectively, thanks to a fuel capacity of 170 liters. The fuel tank was mounted close to the engine. It could climb a 0.3 m (1′) vertical obstacle or manage a 40% gradient, gap a 0.7 m (2’4”) trench and ford 0.6 m (2′) of water. The front wheels measured 8×36 dm and the rear ones were 10×40 dm, with bulletproof tires manufactured by Veil-Picard and leaf spring suspensions.
Its main armament was the standard-issue Puteaux short barrel 37 mm (1.46 in) SA 18 L/21 gun meant to deal with fortified buildings at moderate range, or lightly armored vehicles at less than 200 m range. The muzzle velocity was 367 m/s or 388 m/s (400-425 yd/s) depending of the charge. It came with an ammo supply of 194 rounds (94 AP mle 1898 and 100 HE Mle 1916 according to some sources) and had a secondary armament comprising a Chatellerault FM 24/29 7.5 mm (0.29 in) or MAC 31 machine gun, with 2400 rounds of ammo. The rear fighting compartment housed the vehicle commander, tasked with gun maintenance, and machine gunner. Boxes with tools, spare parts and regular entrenching tools were located on the side steps.

The Panhard 175

This model was overhauled by Panhard, taking into account the lessons of the Rif War and interwar service. It is quite hard to have a precise detail of the modifications list which seems to revolve around the reinforced suspension and the addition of a rear mounted driver post. However, the model was in “competition” with the more modern Berliet VUDB. It seems that some vehicle had their 37 mm (1.46 in) gun replaced with antitank 25 mm (0.98 in) guns during the wartime period.
Another model was derived for the chassis, the Panhard 179. This armored personal carrier had a completely new rear compartment replacing the turret and fighting compartment, large enough for 6 infantrymen. Its armament was a single FM24/29 machine gun and about 30 to 60 units were manufactured in all.
Radios: Squadron commanders (GAM) received models equipped with an ER 26 ter radio set intended for internal communication within and between cavalry units. The captain’s vehicle was fitted with two ER 26 ter radios, one for communication with the platoon leaders and the other for keeping in contact with the squadron’s colonel. The crew wore flexible helmets equipped with headphones, one under the cap and the other under the helmet, specific to the on board radio sets. The ER 26 had a wavelength of 40-110 m and 100 watts of power. Its range was 60 km (37 mi) when stationary and 30 km (19 mi) (in graphic mode only) when moving. It had two 2 m antennas at each end of the vehicle.

Lineage of Panhard Armored Vehicles

WW1: Panhard-Genty 24 HP (1911), Panhard 103 (1914 – partially armored), Panhard 105 (1913).
Interwar: Panhard 138 (1926) cavalry type, from which the Panhard 165 was derived. The single vehicle was converted into an armored command car.
In 1932, the Panhard 179 appeared, derived from the same chassis as the 165 and 175. In 1935, they were overshadowed by the Panhard AMD 178 (AMD 35). In 1940, the Panhard 201 prototype was hidden from the Germans and after liberation, and used for the design of the famous EBR in 1951.
Coldwar: In 1956, the rare Panhard ETT appeared.  The Cold War years saw the arrival of the AML 60/90 (1966), M3 (1969), VCR (1977), ERC-90 Sagaie (1979), VBL (1990). After the fall of the Iron Courtain, the Panhard PVP appeared in 20o2 and in 2005 the VPS was derived from the Peugeot P4. In 2010, the SPHINX prototype was unveiled at Satory, with the CRAB following a year later. None were ordered yet.
Panhard 165 squadron command variant - Source: Unknown
Panhard 165 squadron command variant – Source: Unknown

The Panhard 165/175 in action

The first use of the 165 was during the Rif War (1920-26). The French started their intervention when the country passed onto their control as a protectorate. Their intervention lasted just one year, between 1926 and 1927. The Rif was a mountain range in Northern Morocco, 150 km long. The Rif tribal warriors used very efficient guerilla tactics.
The Panhard 175 saw action in WW2 against the Axis, in Morocco, Syria then Tunisia. They were used alongside Panhard 179s that acted like APCs, generally placed at the head of the column, three vehicles. The French used these until the spare parts stock was exhausted. By 1944, American and British vehicles had replaced all the French built armored cars. None survived to this day. Its legacy had been overcast by the excellent Panhard 178.

Links

Panhard 165 on Chars-Français.net
On the turret difference (forum)
Interesting photo of the camouflaged 3th RCA -coll AVZ94
Another reference on Armoredgun.org
About the battle of Gembloux, French AFVs
Model on Warpains.net
Same on Minitracks

Panhard 165/175 specifications

Dimensions 4.79 x 2.01 x 2.31 m (15’7” x 6’6” x 7’5”)
Total weight, battle ready 8.2 metric tonnes (17,000 lbs)
Crew 4 (driver, rear driver/radio, commander, gunner)
Propulsion Panhard 4-cyl SK, gasoline, 105 hp
Speed 72 km/h (46 mph)
Suspensions 4 x 4 leaf spring suspensions
Range/fuel capacity 300 km (186 mi)/140 l
Armament 37 mm (1.46 in) SA 18
Reibel M1935 7.5 mm (0.295 in) machine-gun
Armor (max) 20 mm (0.79 in)
Total production 1143 A+B versions

The basic Panhard 165 in 1933
The basic Panhard 165 of 1933, here with a wartime modification, the replacement of the 37 mm (1.46 in) Puteaux by a 25 mm (0.98 in) antitank gun.
A camouflaged Panhard 175 TOE of the 3rd BCA (Bataillon de Chasseurs d'Afrique)
A camouflaged Panhard 175 TOE of the 3rd BCA (Bataillon de Chasseurs d’Afrique) – Click for the HD version.
Panhard 179
The closely derived Panhard 179, also with the 3rd BCA (Bataillon de Chasseurs d’Afrique)

Gallery

Panhard 165/175 - Source: Unknown
Panhard 165/175 – Source: Unknown.
Panhard 179 seen from the rear in North Africa
Panhard 179 seen from the rear in North Africa
Panhard 165/75 TOE - Source: Panhardclub.nl
Panhard 165/75 TOE – Source: Panhardclub.nl

Categories
WW2 French Armored Cars

Laffly S15 TOE & W15 TCC

ww2 french tanks France (1938-40) Armored car – 107 built

Laffly military vehicles

Laffly was a civilian truck manufacturer, founded in 1912 at Billancourt, near Paris. It was renowned for its firetrucks and 4×4 vehicles, both designed for civilian use and for the French Army, like the 4WD V15 artillery tractor and the 6WD S15. Both models were characterized by excellent off-road capabilities and specific trench-crossing features provided by extra rollers, uncommon for armored cars in general at the time. By some aspects, these vehicle were similar to the German Krupp-Protze 6×6 light truck and their chassis proved equally versatile and reliable.
The 6×6 family comprised the following vehicles.
The Laffly S15T, a light artillery tractor that served the 75 mm (2.95 in) mle 1897 field gun, Canon de 105 court mle 1935 B howitzer or AT guns like the canon de 25 antichar.
The Laffly S15R, a reconnaissance vehicle that had a lighter rear cab and modified transmission to allow less torque, but higher speeds. This vehicle was only armed with a single MAC 31, FM 25/28 or Berthier machine gun.
The Laffly S15T, a low-profile standard tractor made by Hotchkiss to tow the standard French 47 mm (1.85 in) antitank gun.
The Laffly S15L, the ambulance version, with a rear modified to carry six stretchers and covered by a tarpaulin.

The Laffly S15 TOE (1934)

Based on the S15 chassis, this vehicle was fully armored, with 7 mm (0.27 in) steel plates riveted on a central frame. The vehicle was characterized by the absence of the central rollers, due to their intended colonial theater of operation. TOE literally meant “Théatre d’Operations Extérieur” or External Operation Theater. It was tested in 1934 in Africa, then an order was placed in 1936 and deliveries took place in 1938-39. Both the driver and commander were seated in the cab and could see through folding up armored shutters and sight slits when buttoned up. Just behind was located the machine-gunner, which operated a Reibel 7.5 mm (0.29 in) light machine gun in a hemispheric turret or a simple open air mount that allowed anti-aircraft fire. Access was granted by side doors, and there was a small utility cargo bay at the rear, between the twin axles. Hinged observation ports were also located at the rear. 45 vehicles were provided by Laffly until 1939.

The Laffly W15 TCC (1940)

Derived from the W15T, this vehicle was characterized by the same general 6×6 configuration, with a pair of rollers at the front and another in the middle, between the two axles. Neither was suspended and were meant only to provide additional ground pressure when crossing trenches or high obstacles. After an idea of general tank inspector Keller, rather than tow the 47 mm (1.85 in) antitank gun, the latter was carried directly in the cargo bay, facing the rear of the vehicle. Such a conversion was ordered for trials early in 1940 by the general staff, with the intention of providing mobile antitank capability to motorized divisions. TCC meant “Tracteur Chasseur de Chars”, tank hunter tractor. The original prototype was entirely armored. The series vehicles were mostly identical, except for the fact that the cabin and the 47 mm (1.85 in) SA mle 1937 gun were not fully enclosed anymore. The gun had -13°/+13° elevation and 60° traverse. Production vehicles only retained the lower part of the armor and a new shield for the gun. After successful trials at Vincennes and in the camp of Mailly, the conversion was only approved on May, 17. Between May 24 and June 17, 62 TCCs were delivered of the 100 ordered.

Active service

The W15 TCC were the first vehicles of this kind and proved very efficient in service with the Batteries Antichar Automotrices (BACA) n°51 to 61 of the 11th RA and the 305e RA2 10th battery. Despite their numerous kills, they could do little to reverse the situation and, by the end of June, all had been lost in action or abandoned. The S15 TOE were already in the French African colonies when the war broke out. They were used by Tirailleurs motorized units for reconnaissance and patrols. After the June 1940 armistice with Italy, four vehicles stationed in Tunisia were captured and reused by the Italian forces with RECAM (Raggruppamento Esplorante del Corpo d’Armata di Manovra) until December 1941. These were rearmed with a 8 mm (0.31 in) Breda 38, while a 13 mm (0.51 in) machine-gun was installed in the cargo bay for AA defense. The French vehicles were replaced, after December 1942, with Allied vehicles, like the Marmon Herrington. The Germans captured and reused some Laffly W15Ts, rebuilt with a sloped armor reminiscent of the Sd.Kfz.250/251 half-tracks.

Links & references

The S15 on Wikipedia
The W15 TCC on Little Wars

Laffly W15 TCC specifications

Dimensions 4.50 x 1.90 x 1.80 m (14.9 x 6.3 x 7.11 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 4.96 tons (9920 lbs)
Crew 4 (driver, commander, gunner, loader)
Propulsion Hotchkiss 680 2.3 liter, 4 cyl. petrol, 65 HP
Top speed road/off road 48/34 km/h (30/21 mph)
Suspensions 4×6 independent leaf-springs
Range/fuel capacity 300 km (186 mi)/120 l
Armament Main: 47 mm (2.5 in) SA37 gun
Secondary: FM 24/29 7.5 mm (0.29 in) machine-gun
Armor (max) 12-15 mm driver cab and gun shield (0.47-0.59 in)
Total conversions 62

Laffly S15 TOE in Syria, 1941.
Laffly S15 TOE in Syria, 1941.
Laffly W15 TCC
The Laffly W15 TCC fully enclosed prototype on trials at Camp of Mailly in April 1940 and with the 1st DCR. Despite being successful, Generalissimo Pierre Gamelin refused the conversion, because of insufficient protection and other priorities. But, after the 17th of May, an order came for the delivery of 5 vehicles per day. Laffly never came near this figure, but delivered 60 vehicles, only partially protected due to the lack of time.
Laffly W15 TCC
Series Laffly W15 TCC, May 1940. Some were also camouflaged with brown stripes.

Gallery

4-view drawing of the W15TCC
Laffly W15T, as rebuilt, in German serviceLaffly W15 TCC fully armoured tank hunter at the camp de Mailly tested in march-april 1940Laffly V15

Categories
WW2 French Armored Cars

White-Laffly AMD 80

ww2 french tanks Armored car (1933) France – 28 built

Based on the 1917 White AM body

After the conversion of the old White AM armored cars to AMD 50s had started, it was decided that the design had to be improved. The old body of the WWI armored car was modified and mounted on the Laffly LC2 truck chassis. The engine and most mechanical parts were also from the Laffly truck. Nothing of the old White chassis remained, and the name was kept just as a historical reference. This model was considered outdated even when it was commissioned. But, due to the need of armored cars, the conversion process went ahead anyway. AMD stands for “AutoMitrailleuse de Découverte” and it was sometimes referred to as the “Vincennes”.

Design

The AMD 80 was characterized by a long wheelbase, and only the rear axle had off-road tires. Its off-road performance, in European conditions, was not amazing, but the vehicle could climb a 40° slope, and cruise at about 80 km/h (50 mph) on the North African roads. The bodywork was conventional, made of 8 mm (0.31 in) plates bolted together to a central frame, with the driving compartment forward and the fighting compartment just behind, with an one-man asymmetric turret housing a 13.2 mm (0.52 in) heavy machine gun, a 7.5 mm (0.29 in) coaxial FM24/29 Fortress type machine gun, and another one at the rear of the turret, firing backwards. There was a small one-piece hatch on top of the turret. Access was granted by two side doors. The driver had sight slits and armoured shutters, and a second one was provided for driving in reverse. Indeed, there were a front & rear driving positions and four gears for each sense, but steering was only applied to the front axle, which required skill to drive backwards at full speed. External storage was provided on the two steps and rear muguards. 28 vehicles were converted in all.

In action

The Laffly AMD 80 was used initially in the 6th and 8th Regiments of Cuirassiers. In 1937, this model was replaced by Panhard AMD 178 in these units, and the 27 vehicles still in service were sent to French North Africa, joining the 1st Foreign Cavalry Regiment and the 4th Regiment of Chasseurs d’Afrique. After the 1940 armistice, they were transferred to the 8th Regiment of Chasseurs d’Afrique, but many returned to the 4th Regiment of Chasseurs d’Afrique for a parade in May 1943, marking the victory and the end of the desert war.

Links

GBM, Histoire & Collection, about WW2 French tanks
Comprehensive datasheet from WarWheels.net

Laffly AMD-80 specifications

Dimensions 5.5 x 2.2 x 2.5 m (18×7.2×8.2 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 7.5 tons (16,583 lbs)
Crew 4 (driver, co-driver/mechanic, commander, gunner)
Propulsion Laffly 4-cyl gasoline, liquid cooled, 80 hp (58.8 kW)
Speed 80 km/h (50 mph)
Suspensions Leaf springs, front axle steering
Range/fuel capacity 400 km (250 mi)
Armament Main: 13.2 mm (0.52 in) HMG
Secondary: 2 x FM M26/29 7.5 mm (0.295 in) LMG
Armor 8 to 20 mm (0.3 to 0.9 in)
Total production 28

AMD-80
White-Laffly AMD 80.
AMD-80
Laffly-Vincennes of the Chasseurs d’Afrique in Tunisia, 1943.

Gallery


AMD 80 in North Africa.

AMD 80 during the African victory parade, passing by General De Gaulle in 1943 – Credits: WW2Photos.se

Categories
WW2 French Armored Cars

White-Laffly AMD 50

France (1931) Armored car – 98 converted

Improperly called “White”

In 1929, nearly all French armored cars and most tanks were dating from WWI. On the most used models was the White, based on a US built truck chassis and “dressed” by coachbuilder-turned-armored-body-maker firm Ségur & Lorfeuvre in 1917-18. More than twenty years after their production, the chassis was considered worn-out, but the body was still in almost pristine condition. In 1927-28, it was decided to transplant these bodies on a brand new, modernized chassis. Laffly was approached by the army for the task, already known for its LC2 lorry in service. It was a 4×2, with a rear axle resting on double wheels. 2.4 tons rested on the front axle and 3.8 on the rear one, suspended on leaf springs and pneumatic tires. So when the conversion started (the decision was taken in 1929) with a first prototype in 1931, the vehicles were in practice Laffly chassis with original S&L bodies, and the “White” name was only kept for tracing back their origins.

Design

The original body was assembled from sheets of rolled steel with an armor thickness of 7 mm (0.3 in), which were fastened to the frame using bolts and rivets. In the front section, wrapped in a boxy hood, was the Laffly 50 hp gasoline engine, with a fuel tank, oil tank, engine cooling system and a portion of transmission assemblies. The engine torque was distributed by a manual transmission, four speeds forward and two reverse. There was, from the start, a full reverse gear allowing all four forward gears to also act as reverse gears. To ensure a constant flow of air, the radiator was adorned with triple-blind angled fixed plates vents and an upper movable lid. Engine access was made easier by large removable panels on the sides of the hood.
In the driver compartment, the driver sat on the left side and his assistant on the right, also serving a second control station located in the rear of the chassis for reverse march. The fighting compartment occupied the whole aft. To increase its internal volume, the engineers completed near semicircular sidewalls, equivalent to the width of the turret base. The turret was symmetrical, of riveted construction and relatively complex shape, with two hatches on the roof through which the vehicle commander and gunner could monitor their environment. In addition, side sight openings were added. The crew accessed the vehicle through side doors, made of large individual armor plates. The left one opened towards the stern, and the right one towards the bow. Tool boxes, pickaxes, shovels and spare parts were fastened to the sides.
The armament comprised a short barrel 37 mm (1.46 in) Puteaux SA18 gun and a single 7.5 mm (0.295 in) FM 24/29 on the opposite side of the turret. Ammunition comprised 164 rounds (92 HE and 72 AP for the 37 mm/1.46 in) and 5500 rounds (including 288 armor-piercing tracers). In addition, a spare 7.5 mm (0.295 in) infantry FM was carried, which could be installed on the fork mounts located on the left side of the turret frontal panel, possibly for AA protection, although the turret design was ill-suited for this. Both drivers had closed armored covers at the front and rear of the chassis for observation and four semicircular ports in the sides of the driving compartment. Electrical equipment included a 6 volt battery and a large removable headlamp which was fastened to the brackets on the radiator shutter. A pair of smaller headlights were mounted on the hood front corners and a third light located on the left rear wing of the hull, removable.

Conversion and active service

The first conversions were performed in 1931 and trials followed. An order was issued, after positive results, for the conversion of 60 vehicles. But shortly after, a second order was issued in 1932-1934. New designation was Laffly 50AM or AMD White-Laffly, AMD standing for “Auto-Mitrailleuse de Découverte” (reconnaissance armored car), for the cavalry. However, their age began to tell during the thirties and, over the next five years, half of these vehicles were sent to the colonies. A small contingent was sent to China, to reinforce the French garrison in Shanghai and later served in Indochina. As of May 1940, 67 were still in service, including 28 to 32 in Algeria and Tunisia, 13 in Metropolitan France with the 4e GRDI (intelligence group attached to 15e DIM), 6 to 10 in Indochina and 12 in Lebanon.
Since only a handful were present in France, their actions during the 1940 May-June campaign went almost unnoticed. These were later captured and briefly used to train personnel of the Wehrmacht. All the others which remained were submitted to various local colonial administrations, but for the African ones, their career was shortened in November 1943, as they were withdrawn with the perspective for the newly formed 1st Free French Army to receive brand new US M8s instead.

Links & references

GBM, Histoire & Collection, about WW2 French tanks
On Wharwheels.net
On Chars-Français.net (in French)

Laffly AMD 50 specifications

Dimensions 5.50x 2.30x 2.60 m (11.48x 5.24x 5.67 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 6.5 tons
Crew 4 (driver, co-driver, commander, gunner)
Propulsion Laffly 4-cyl 3670 cc, 50 hp
Top speed 65 km/h road (50 mph)
Suspensions 2×4 dependent leaf-springs
Range/fuel capacity 300 km (186 mi)/120 L
Armament Main: 37 mm (1.46 in) Puteaux SA18 gun
Secondary: Châtellerault M1931 7.5 mm (0.29 in) machine-gun
Armor (max) 35 mm (1.38 in)
Total production 98 conversions


White-Laffly AMD 50 in colonial service.

Laffly AMD 50 of an Algerian or Moroccan platoon.

Laffly 50AM in France with the 4th GDI, May 1940.

Categories
WW2 French Armored Cars

Panhard 178

France (1937-40) Armored car – 1143 built

Arguably the best French WW2 armored car

The most popular model of all the French armored cars, colloquially known as the “Pan-Pan”, in reference to Panhard, was also one of the longest-living, most produced and most widely used armored car before, during and after World War Two. It was a tribute to its qualities, a good balance between mobility, firepower and protection. Panhard is still the French reference builder of armored cars and wheeled tanks today. Development of the model 178 began with a 1931 specification from the cavalry, for a modern, long range and fast reconnaissance vehicle classed as an AMD (“Automitrailleuse de Découverte”).
The final specs came in November 1932 and asked for a 4-ton wheeled vehicle capable of cruising up to 400 km (250 mi), with a top speed of 70 km/h (44 mph), a 12 m (39 ft) turning radius, 8 mm (0.31 in) of armor and a 20 mm (0.79 in) main gun and coaxial 7.5 mm (0.295 in) machine-gun. By 1933, Panhard, Renault, Berliet and Latil proposed prototypes. Panhard was the earliest bidder, demonstrating, in January 1934, its special prototype 178 before the Commission de Vincennes with a provisional Avis 13.2 mm (0.52 in) machine gun turret. It was accepted with some modifications, despite being over the weight and size specs, and tested again in late 1934 by the cavalry. It was accepted as the AMD 35 (or “modèle 1935”).

Design of the AMD 35

The first model was fitted with the APX3B turret. After complaints of cracking gun sights and overheating interior, modification were applied to production models in 1937, adding a silencer and a ventilator to the turret. By 1940, most experts agreed that the Panhard 178 was one of the most modern 4×4 designs worldwide. The hull design was straightforward, with a fighting compartment comprising also the driver and co-driver seats at the front.
The gunner and commander stood in it, or sat on simple leather belts. The hull, made of 5 to 8 mm (0.2-0.31 in) steel plates was riveted. The four wheels were independently sprung to horizontal leaf springs. There were two access doors at the rear of the fighting compartment and the engine compartment was after it, separated by a fireproof bulkhead. The Panhard ISK 4FII bis V4 petrol engine (6332 CC, giving 105 hp@2000 rpm) was mounted very low, giving the vehicle its distinctive silhouette. As customary there was a dual-drive, with a rear driver doubling as radio operator (short range ER29, medium range ER26 sets), an eight-speed gear box and a normal steering wheel for quick reverse march.
The compactness of the design allowed it to fit 26 mm (1.02 in) thick frontal armor and 13 mm (0.51 in) side armor, 7 mm (0.28 in) bottom, 9 mm (0.35 in) top and glacis and 13 mm (0.51 in) to the back, sides and front of the superstructure. The turret had a 20 mm (0.79 in) thick front plate and 13 mm (0.51 in) sides, which were sloped. This gave a total weight of over 8 tons, double of what was planned originally.
However, this did not put any constraints on performances, as the top speed was still 72.6 km/h (45.1 mph), with an average cruising speed of 47 km/h (29 mph) and range of 300 km (186 mi), thanks to two fuel tanks of 120 and 20 liters. Off-road capabilities were limited however (26 mph/42 km/h to speed), despite being a real 4×4, because of the large gap between the two axles. Crossing capabilities were just sixty centimeters (2 ft), but it could climb a 30 cm (1 ft) obstacle.
The APX3 turret, derived from that of the AMC-35, had a large double hatch on the back and was large enough for two men. It was electrically traversed, with the commander at the right and gunner at the left. They had a standard (and later Gundlach type) periscope and PPL.RX.168 episcopes. On the first batch, there was a Chrétien diascope on the front and simple vision slits with armored shutters on the sides. The standard 20 mm (0.79 in) AT gun was derived from the light 25 mm (0.98 in) Hotchkiss modèle 34, fitted with the L711 sight.
Due to the shorter barrel, heavier charged rounds were used, giving a muzzle velocity of 950 m/s (1039 yd/s). With tungsten-core ammo, this was sufficient to defeat 50 mm (1.97 in) of armor, like that of the Panzer III front plate. However, the light projectile failed to cause much damage inside and multiple shots were needed. 150 rounds were stored. The coaxial 7.5 mm (0.295 in) Reibel machine-gun comprised 3,750 rounds, of which 1,500 were armor-piercing. A spare 7.5 mm (0.295 in) was stored and could be mounted over the turret for AA defense.

Production

The first series was scheduled to start in 1937, but work really started in 1938 due to shortages, strikes and delays in the production of the turret. By September 1939, 219 hulls at least were available, pending completion for some. By May 1940, total production reached 339 vehicles. Variants were the commander versions (with long range radios, 28 vehicles), a colonial version (8) and a North African version, with a heavy duty radiator (128 vehicles).
In June 1940, an attempt was made to use surplus hulls as tank destroyers, fitted with an open-top turret and a 47 mm (1.85 in) SA35. More conversions were planned, but only one vehicle was used in combat. By the time of the armistice a grand total of 429 vehicles had been delivered, and 553 extra hulls. Since there were more hulls than turrets available, after the German occupation, extra hulls received additional turrets produced under German supervision (176 more), giving a grand total of 729 vehicles. Modifications started with the 111th vehicle, with the fitting of an armored turret ventilator and, later, stowage boxes were added to the rear fenders. Unit cost was 275,000 Francs (hull only).
After the liberation of Paris, plans were made to resume production at Firminy (North) with many modifications, ended with a model called Panhard 178B. The hulls were modified to receive a bigger turret Fives Lille (FL1), large enough to house a 75 mm (2.95 in) SA 45 L/32 gun. Also added was a new four cylinder engine and an EM3/R61 radio set. An order was given for a first batch in January 1945, followed by another in July. However, in the meantime, production reverted to a smaller 47 mm (1.85 in) SA35 coupled with a machine-gun. 414 were built in 1945-46.

The Panhard 178 in action

The first unit which was given the new armored car was the 6e Cuirassiers, in April 1937. By 1939 there were eleven squadrons using 218 vehicles. By the spring of 1940, the 21e Escadron (later 4e GRDI) saw action in Norway. By May-June 1940, the 370+ vehicles were allocated to reconnaissance squadrons organic to mechanized and armored divisions. The Divisions Légères Mécaniques (DLM) in particular had 40 vehicles each, plus 4 radio and 4 reserve.
In Divisions Légères de Cavalerie (DLC), complement was 12+1+4. Mechanized Infantry divisions (GRDI) also used the type with sixteen vehicles each. By May 1940, one of these units conducted skirmishes with advanced elements of the Wehrmacht in Holland, near Hertogenbosch. They also engaged German elements in Belgium, conducting a successful fighting retreat, then engaged with reconnaissance columns at the Battle of Hannut. German vehicles were similarly equipped with 20 mm (0.79 in) gun, but did little damage to the Panhard’s armor.
After the fall of France, the German army captured or obtained 190 vehicles, some brand new, as Panzerspähwagen P204 (f). They saw heavy action during Operation Barbarossa, 107 being lost in 1941, as well as converted to Panzerspähwagen (Funk) P204 (f) (with a bed frame antenna), still soldiering by 1943 on the Eastern Front. By that time, many received spaced armor. 43 more were converted in 1941 as railway patrollers (Schienenpanzer).
The Vichy regime used 64 vehicles for police duties (with the gun replaced by a machine-gun), later captured by the Germans in November 1942. 34 of these were converted as open-top carriers for 50 mm (1.97 in) L/42 or L/60 guns by 1944, staying in France. None of the vehicles planned in 1939 for North African service were sent. Instead, the bulk was absorbed by De Gaulle’s 10e cuirassiers, 4e DCR. However, four modified colonial vehicles with the smaller ZT-2 turret were sent to Indo-China (Vietnam).
One was captured by the Japanese. After the war, Panhard 178B were sent in French Indo-China for counter-insurgency operations. Others saw service until the early 1960s at Djibouti or with the Syrians. These vehicles were generally considered fast, reliable, easy to drive and with a quiet engine, but at the same time suffered from several issues: a weak clutch, slow turret rotation, cramped interior, unreliable radio sets, poor cross-country drive and very noisy brakes.

Links

The AMD 35 on Wikipedia
Monography about the Panhard 178/AMD-35
GBM, Histoire & Collection, about WW2 French tanks

AMD-35 specifications

Dimensions 4.79 x 2.01 x 2.31 m (15ft 7in x 6ft 6in x 7 ft 5in)
Total weight, battle ready 8.2 metric tonnes (17,000 lbs)
Crew 4 (driver, rear driver/radio, commander, gunner)
Propulsion Panhard 4-cyl SK, gasoline, 105 hp
Speed 72 km/h (46 mph)
Suspensions 4 x 4 leaf spring suspensions
Range/fuel capacity 300 km (186 mi)/140 l
Armament 20 mm (0.79 in) SA 35
Reibel M1935 7.5 mm (0.295 in) machine-gun
Armor (max) 20 mm (0.79 in)
Total production 1143 A+B versions

Panhard 178
Panhard 178, early production, 6th GRDI, 2nd Squadron, France, May 1940.
Panhard 178
AMD 35, late production (4th prod. batch), 8th Cuirassiers, 2nd DLM, France, September 1939.

Panhard 178 tank hunter with the Renault turret designed by Engineer J. Restany and 47 mm (1.85 in) SA 34, 1st DLC, France, June 1940.

Vichy French Panhard AMD 35 ZT-2 in Vietnam, 1941.
Schienenpanzer
Schienenpanzer, Eastern Front, 1942.
Panhard 178
Panzerspähwagen P204(f) mit 5 cm KwK 38 L/42, Sicherungs-Aufklärungs-Abteilung 100, Southern France, 1943.
Panhard 178 B Indochina
Panhard 178B/FL1, French Indo-China, 1947.
Sources : Trackstory n°2, www.minitracks.fr, GBM

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