WW2 French Prototypes

Automitrailleuse Renault UE

Nation Flag IconFrance (1931-1932)
Armed Tankette / Reconnaissance Vehicle – 1 converted

During the interwar years, the French Army’s Cavalry service was a force actively seeking new types of vehicle to introduce to its forces, generally more than the better-funded infantry. There were active doctrinal developments within the Cavalry which led to new roles being created, for which various manufacturers would offer different designs.

In the early 1930s, the concept of a very light vehicle tasked with reconnaissance duties and armed with a machine gun was gaining popularity within the Cavalry. A first vehicle would be adopted in 1931 in the form of the Citroën P28.

Renault, the largest vehicle manufacturer in France, did not want to allow its competitor Citroën to gain the lead and be able to sell vehicles unchallenged to the French Army. Before more complex and specific vehicles would be developed and offered, Renault’s first light reconnaissance vehicle was a Renault UE modified to feature a small machine gun casemate. This basic vehicle served as a step in the developmental process which would lead to the Renault VM, a vehicle which would be adopted by the French Army as the AMR 33.

The armed Renault UE prototype. Source: Renault documentation via Les Automitrailleuses de Reconnaissance, Tome 1: L’AMR 33 Renault, François Vauvillier, colorized by Smargd123

Reconnaissance Vehicles and Citroën’s Successes

The French Cavalry ended the First World War with a varied fleet of armored cars of various weights, sizes, and armaments. In the interwar years, the need for new, more modern vehicles was apparent, including vehicles which could fulfil a reconnaissance role.

In July 1930, the French Army approved an ambitious program which was to lead to the creation of vehicles to fulfil a large variety of roles. This was the general motorisation program. It called for two types of vehicles which would fulfil a reconnaissance role: a voiture de reconnaissance tout terrain blindée (Eng: all-terrain reconnaissance armored car) and a automitrailleuse légère tout terrain (Eng: all-terrain light armored car). “Automitrailleuse” is a term that, although often translated as armored car, when used in the context of interwar French Cavalry, is used to designate all armored combat vehicles, regardless of means of motion. In other words, a program that, in English, would be translated as an armored car program, could in fact refer to a half-track or fully tracked vehicle.

The first requirement would eventually evolve into the Type L armored car specification, for which Renault would produce the ill-fated Renault URL armored car.

In comparison, the second set of requirements would quickly fall under the influence of a specification for a vehicle which would be ordered in much higher numbers – the Type N. The Type N was envisioned as a lightweight all-terrain, lightly armored infantry tractor and cargo vehicle. Three companies produced vehicles for this program: Latil offered a licence-built Carden Loyd Mk.VI; Citroën offered the Citroën P28 chenillette, a half-tracked vehicle; and Renault offered a tankette, inspired by the general design features of the influential Carden Loyd but by all means its own design, named Renault UE.

Of the three options, the Renault UE was the French Army’s favourite option and would be adopted into service. The vehicle was a light (2.64 tonnes) and tiny (2.8 m long, 1.74 m wide, 1.25 m high) tankette, with a crew of two and protected by thin, bulletproof armor. It could carry large quantities of rifle, machine gun, mortar, or anti-tank gun ammunition in a storage box mounted to the rear of the vehicle. Furthermore, the vehicle was also used to tow either a tracked trailer (designated Renault UK) containing more supplies, or in the future, the 25 mm SA 34 anti-tank gun. It was even possible to tow both, with the gun following the trailer.

Schematics of the Renault UE, showing the general design of the vehicle and the placement of its powertrain. Source: Renault documentation via Les Automitrailleuses de Reconnaissance, Tome 1: L’AMR 33 Renault, François Vauvillier

While the Renault vehicle was preferred in the infantry cargo and prime mover role, the Citroën P28 gathered significant interest from the Cavalry. It was considered as a good candidate for conversion into a light armored car, and, in October 1931, likely even before Citroën could provide a prototype of a vehicle modified for such a role, an order for 50 was notified. These would be the vastly modified Citroën P28 armored cars.

A Renault UE with a Machine Gun

Though the Citroën P28 gathered the most interest from the Cavalry early on, it did not completely forget about Renault, which was itself eager to provide a vehicle and offer a competitor to Citroën’s sudden success.

On November 21st 1931, the STC (Service Technique de la Cavalerie – Cavalry Technical Service) required Renault to provide two Renault UEs for a presentation to a Dragons Portés (Eng: mechanized dragoons) unit. Crucially, the STC requested one of the two vehicles to be armed. This request was made for a presentation which was to take place only nine days later, and this timeframe was considered too short to reasonably modify a UE to feature an armament.

However, while Renault could not produce a conversion for this specific presentation, the request from the STC made it very clear to Renault that there would be official interest in an armed version of the UE from the French Cavalry. Work quickly began on realizing such a conversion. By late 1931, Renault UE prototypes (six had been manufactured) were still undergoing trials for the French military, and the first production vehicles would only be delivered in 1932. As such, creating such a vehicle on such a short notice would be accomplished by modifying an existing prototype.

It ought to be noted that Renault was already working on a more complex and dedicated design by that time. A first proposal for a turreted, Renault UE-based vehicle had already been passed onto the French Cavalry and rejected on November 12th 1931. However, while work on more advanced vehicles was still at the design phase, a simple conversion on an existing Renault UE would allow to have a vehicle “in steel”, easier to experiment on, much quicker.

A front view of the modified Renault UE. The simplistic nature of the conversion can be seen. Source: char-français

Schematic views of the conversion. A gunner would be sat on the floor, with their eyes on the same level as the machine gun’s sight. Source: Renault documentation via Les Automitrailleuses de Reconnaissance, Tome 1: L’AMR 33 Renault, François Vauvillier

The modified vehicle would be the prototype registered as “n°77 982”. The modifications made to the vehicle were very simple. The roof of the co-driver’s compartment was raised by a small extent, using the same riveted construction as the rest of the vehicle. The dome-shaped cupola was retained. This raised compartment allowed for enough internal space for a machine gun to be added. This was the new machine gun available for fortifications and armored vehicle designs, the 7.5 mm MAC 31. The MAC 31 Type E had a weight of 11.18 kg empty and 18.48 kg with a fully loaded 150-round drum magazine. The machine gun was gas-fed, and had a maximum cyclic rate of fire of 750 rounds per minute. It had a muzzle velocity of 775 m/s. The ammunition stowage present on this vehicle would have been unknown, but likely quite limited.

This vehicle would be one of the first to use the new machine gun. It would, in the following decade, be present on almost every single French armored fighting vehicle. The exact weight added by the conversion is unknown. It would likely have been quite limited, and the weight of the modified Renault UE likely stayed under the 3 tonnes mark. Following the modification, the co-driver had to operate as the commander of the vehicle and gunner, with an optical sight present on the top-right of the gun in order to aim.

A Tiny Step Forward

The modified prototype was presented to the French Cavalry at an unspecified date in early 1932.

The 1st BDP (Bataillon de Dragons Portés) carried out operational testing. These trials generally underlined shortcomings of the vehicle when it came to fulfilling the light armored car role which was desired from the conversion.

Besides the machine gun, the modified Renault UE had been kept almost completely untouched. The vehicle retained the Renault 75 four-cylinders gasoline engine, mounted in the center of the vehicle, and producing a mere 30 hp. The leaf spring suspension with three bogies containing two road wheels each, using a front sprocket and rear idler and supported by two return rollers, remained the same. This suspension type was optimized for cross-country mobility rather than top speed. A standard UE would only reach a maximum speed of 30 km/h on road, and it is likely the machine gun armed version would achieve the same. The operational range of 100 km, though not awful, was also not perfect for a reconnaissance vehicle which could be placed into situations where it had to operate on its own for fairly extended periods of time.

The vehicle is seen during its trials, towing the Renault UK trailer. Source:

The vehicle also retained all the elements which would have been found on the regular UE dedicated to an infantry logistical role. As such, it featured the rear stowage area, and even the towing hook. The armed prototype was seen towing a UK trailer in trials. This does mean it would retain the non-negligible carrying capacities of the UE. The storage area at the rear of the vehicle had a standard load of 8,100 7.5 mm ammunition in the form of FM 24/29 machine rifle magazines, 2,688 8 mm Lebel rifle cartridges, 150 hand grenades and 114 rifle grenades. The ammunition load transported by the vehicle could obviously be adjusted regarding which need it was to fulfil, with a full load of 7.5 mm cartridge being of a maximum of 18,000 in the UE’s own storage area alone. The standard load on the UK trailer was of 162 81 mm mortar rounds and 8,500 8 mm Lebel rifle cartridges, or alternatively 15,000 8 mm Lebel rifle cartridges. Generally, an UE and its trailer were considered to be enough to supply a mortar group or machine gun section.

While these logistical capacities could perhaps provide somewhat of an appreciated versatility, they did nothing to compensate for the fact the vehicle was woefully unadapted for combat. The casemate-mounted machine gun configuration was far inferior to the turreted Citroën P28, and unlike the French Infantry, the Cavalry tended not to entertain the concept of non-turreted vehicles and instead preferred only turreted ones. While the armor of a light reconnaissance vehicle would by definition be light, the Renault UE’s protection, with the vertical plates being 9 mm thick and all others being 6 mm thick, was likewise still quite light for a vehicle of the type.

Conclusion – The Unknown Fate of an Experiment

It should serve as no surprise that the armed Renault UE was not adopted by the French Army (though other forms of armed UEs would appear in the following years due to the eventual large-scale production of the vehicle, with some even armed with 25 mm anti-tank guns in the campaign of France, or surprisingly, similar machine gun-armed conversions being produced and sold to China, or created in the field in French Indochina). The vehicle was not adapted to provide a reasonable, mobile reconnaissance vehicle with a turreted armament. Renault was keenly aware of this, and their offer of an armed UE should likely only be taken as a way to prepare work on a more advanced vehicle dedicated for the role, as well a way not to leave the field of a light armored car entirely in the hands of Citroën while Renault was working on its own future vehicle.

Taking the UE as a base, Renault would eventually produce a much more mature, turreted design, with a different, frontally-mounted engine. This would be the Renault VM, which would be adopted by the French Army as the AMR 33. Including prototypes, 123 were produced, marking the start of an era of the 1930s where Renault would see several of its designs adopted by the French Cavalry, including later down the line the AMR 35 in a reconnaissance role, but also the AMC 34 and AMC 35 as cavalry combat vehicles.

As for the modified Renault UE, its fate is unknown. The vehicle could have been scrapped, or even have its modifications reversed to continue serving in an experimental role. Considering it was always a prototype though, being scrapped at some point in the following years appears to be the most probable hypothesis.

The Automitrailleuse Renault UE. Illustrated by Pavel “Carpaticus” Alexe, based on work by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet and funded by our Patreon campaign

Automitrailleuse Renault UE Specifications

Dimensions (L x w) 2.8 x 1.78 m
Weight Likely between 2.64 and 3 tonnes
Suspension Leaf springs
Road wheels 6
Suspension Torsion Bars
Engine Renault 75 4-cylinders gasoline engine producing 30 hp
Maximum Speed Around 30 km/h
Crew 2 (driver, commander/gunner)
Armament 7.5 mm MAC31 machine gun
Armor 6-9 mm


Les automitrailleuses de Reconnaissance, Tome 1: l’AMR 33 Renault, François Vauvillier, Histoire & Collection editions
Tous les blindés de l’Armée Française 1914-1940, François Vauvillier, Histoire & Collection editions

WW2 French Prototypes

Batignolles-Châtillon DP3

Nation Flag IconFrance (1939-1940)
Amphibious light tank/ tracked armored car prototype – 1 built

Amphibious tanks were one of various concepts which saw considerable attention and evolution during the interwar era. Much of this attention was initiated by the British Vickers and Carden-Loyd companies, but experimentations on this type of vehicle quickly spread around the world – eventually reaching France.

A first prototype was worked on by the Batignolles-Châtillon company starting in 1935. Designated as DP2, this design did not prove successful, mostly due to issues with exiting the water, weight, and water-proofing. Nonetheless, Batignolles-Châtillon did not give up on designing an amphibious vehicle, resulting in the very mysterious DP3 prototype by 1940.

The Successor of the DP2

The DP2, produced in 1935 and refined on two different occasions in 1936 after disappointing trials (notably a sinking incident during the first floatation trials in March 1936, when the vehicle attempted to leave water), was not a successful vehicle which could be adopted by the French Army. The vehicle’s trace disappeared after poor results in the March-April 1937 trials it was subject to and the vehicle being given to APX’s facilities in Rueil (likely ARL).

However, this would not mark the end of all work on an amphibious tank by Batignolles-Châtillon. It appears that, at some point, likely in 1939, work began on a new amphibious design. It appears to have retained little to nothing from the DP2, having an almost entirely different architecture and suspension design, while also being a larger and heavier vehicle. Designated as the DP3, it appears to have begun its trials at the unfortunately late date of May 1940.

A Highly Mysterious Vehicle

Very little information is known on the DP3. Pretty much the only hard statistics known on the vehicle are that it weighed approximately 15 tonnes. Nonetheless, observation of the vehicle reveals an amphibious tank very different from the DP2 in design.

Though the DP2 was already fairly large for a light amphibious tank with light reconnaissance and cavalry duties in mind, the DP3 appears to have been even larger, with photos of the prototype next to German soldiers showing a fairly sizeable vehicle, higher than a man despite being turretless, as well as being fairly wide and long.

The hull was very different from the one of the DP2. Though the DP3 was also designed with buoyancy in mind, it did away with the bow extending far from the front of the hull, instead stopping not too far in front of the tracks. The vehicle also appears to have had a higher ground clearance which would have given far better performances when crossing obstacles other than water.

One of the two known photos of the DP3. The vehicle’s higher tracks, encompassing much more of the hull than on the DP2, can clearly be seen, as well as the circular combat chamber present on the side of the vehicle. Source: char-français

These improved crossing capacities are further suggested by the vehicle adopting a new, likely far better suspension design. Instead of the very low suspension of the DP2, the DP3 went with a fairly high track run that encompassed much of the hull. The design of the road wheels suggests Batignolles-Châtillon went with a suspension design fairly similar to the AMX suspension featured on the R40, or the suspension found on the B1 and B1 Bis, featuring a large number (15) of small road wheels per side. Three (one at the rear and two at the front) were independent; these were likely tender wheels. The others were linked together in bogies of two. The rest of the suspension was protected by an armor plate, though it appears the design used a rear-drive sprocket and a front idler wheel. The tracks also appear to have been vastly different and used large track links similar to those found on the B1 and B1 Bis.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of the vehicle would be the location of its armament though. The DP3 appears to have ditched a centrally-mounted turret entirely. Instead, the vehicle features what appear to be round combat chambers to both sides of the hull. What type of armament would be featured in these ‘barbettes’ is unknown, though it likely would have been machine guns. The crew configuration of the DP3 is unknown as well. One may assume it would have a crew of at least four, with a driver, a gunner for each of the combat chambers, and a commander, but this remains pure speculation. The nature of the engine remains unknown as well.

To the Bottom, but not by Accident this Time

The DP3 prototype began undertaking trials in May 1940 – at the same time as the German invasion of France and the Low Countries began. Very little has emerged from these trials – which were likely hastened and interrupted by the invasion – but the vehicle appears to have been more successful than the DP2.

As German forces closed in towards the Nantes region where the DP3 was being tested in early June 1940, the vehicle was purposefully sunk in the Erdre River to prevent the Germans from seizing and potentially using it. A few months later, the vehicle was recovered by the Germans. All known photos of the DP3 date from this time, as can be clearly identified by the presence of water corrosion on it. The further fate of the vehicle is unknown, but it is not known to have survived to this day, and was very likely scrapped.

German soldiers standing in front and on top of the recovered DP3, showing the large dimensions of the amphibious tank prototype, particularly for its fairly lightweight of approximately 15 tonnes. Source: char-français

Conclusion – the Last Pre-War French Amphibious Tank

The DP3 remains one of the most mysterious prototypes present in 1940 France. Very little information has filtered on the vehicle as a whole. Its armament, powerplant, crew configuration, pretty much everything about the vehicle remains unknown, and one may only theorize based on whatever little information and photos of the vehicle remain.

It appears the testers were at least to an extent more satisfied with the vehicle than with the DP2 – and the suspension design indeed appears more mature and allowed for far better crossing capacities. Whether the DP3 had any potential to become a potent combat vehicle remains impossible to judge though.

The Batignolles-Châtillon DP3. Illustration by Andrei ‘Octo10’ Kirushkin

Batignôlles-Châtillon DP3 Specifications

Weight ~15 tonnes
Suspension AMX/B1 type
Road wheels 15 per side (three independent, likely tension wheels, 12 in boggies of two)


Les véhicules blindés Français 1900-1944, Pierre Touzin, EPA editions, 1979
Tous les blindés de l’Armée Française 1914-1940, François Vauvillier, Histoire & Collection editions

WW2 French Prototypes

Batignolles-Châtillon DP2

Nation Flag IconFrance (1935-1937)
Amphibious Light Tank/ Tracked armored car prototype – 1 prototype built

The interwar era saw significant evolutions when it comes to armored vehicles, both in terms of technical and doctrinal aspects. A number of firms, particularly those in Great Britain, were progressively creating a wider variety of armored vehicles which would then significantly influence manufacturers in other countries. One of the concepts democratized during this era was that of an amphibious light tank, a vehicle that would assume reconnaissance and light cavalry combat duties while not being stopped by rivers or marshes. Though the British would be the first to produce such vehicles in the late 1920s and early 1930s, interest in this type of vehicle would eventually emerge in many other countries, including France. This would result in the Batignolles-Châtillon DP2 prototype dating from the mid-1930s.

The French cavalry’s amphibious tank

By the early 1930s, the French cavalry had already taken some minor interest in amphibious vehicles design, with some projects such as the Schneider-Laurent amphibious armored car, which used a wheel-cum track configuration similar to the Czechoslovak Kolo-Housenka (with Schneider having ties with Czechoslovak designers, notably Škoda, during the interwar years). Dating from around 1927, this project would not, however, go anywhere, and appears to have been planned as an unarmed vehicle.

The French cavalry was now interested in an armed, amphibious Automitrailleuse (literally translated to “Armored Car”). The term Automitrailleuse was used to designate all armored fighting vehicles of the French cavalry in the interwar era, regardless of propulsion method. As such, vehicles designated as automitrailleuse may have had wheels, tracks, or both, and ranged from tiny scout vehicles, such as the 5-tonnes AMR 33, to fairly large cavalry tanks such as the 19.5 tonnes S35. The design was created by the Section Technique des matériels automobiles de combat (ENG: Technical section of automotive combat equipment), with the technical realization being assured by the Compagnie Générale de Construction de Locomotives Batignolles-Châtillon (ENG: General Locomotive Construction Company Batignolles-Châtillon), located in Nantes, Western France. Batignolles-Châtillon, though it had previously manufactured some military equipment in the form of railway gun carriages, was a newcomer in the tank industry. Around the same time it produced the DP2, it would also submit a proposal for the 1933 light infantry tank program planned to replace the FT.

The DP2 design

A side view of the DP2. This shows the fairly small size of the one-man turret and 37 mm SA 18 gun mock-up in comparison to the hull, as well as very low suspension. The white circles match with the floatation line of the vehicle. Source: char-français

Batignolles-Châtillon produced their DP2 prototype in 1935. The vehicle was fairly large in size for a light tank. Its precise dimensions are not known, but the hull dwarfs the turret, an early model of the APX 5 used in some other light cavalry designs, in size.

The hull was clearly designed for maximum buoyancy, potentially at the expense of some aspects of ground warfare. It used riveted construction. It featured an elongated, bow-shaped front designed to fend small waves, with large, floating compartments on the sides. The vehicle’s suspension was located under these large floating compartments. It was a very small suspension design, with what appears to be a front drive sprocket and a rear idler. The suspension featured eight small road wheels, two independent ones at the front and back and three ensembles of two. These appear to have had very little mobility planned, with the vehicle overall having a very low, flat track run, as well as poor ground clearance. Once again, this is obviously intended to maximise buoyancy. It would, however, highly reduce the vehicle’s crossing capacities when dealing with trenches and other obstacles.

A front view of the DP2, showing the bow-like hull front, the large hull sides meant to improve buoyancy, as well as the cylindrical air intakes. Source:

As most other French light AFVs of the era, the Batignolles-Châtillon DP2 featured a two-man crew. The driver was located in the hull, his compartment being located behind the ship-like bow. This was noted to potentially considerably reduce his visibility when the vehicle was to exit the water, which was more often than not one of the most delicate maneuvers for amphibious tanks. The commander was to be located in the turret. However, when first unveiled, the prototype only featured a wooden mock-up and not an actual functional turret design. This mock-up was pictured with a 37 mm SA 18 main gun offset to the right. The vehicle reached a weight of 11.5 tonnes. Its armor layout is unknown, but, as was typically the case for light amphibious tanks, was likely very thin. The rear-mounted engine appears to have been a 225 hp, 12-cylinder engine. It was known to be fairly heavy, to the point where the center of mass of the vehicle was located too far to the rear, which could once again prove an issue when leaving water. The engine compartment sloped downward. One of the more curious features of the vehicle were large, cylindrical air intakes, located to the sides of the turret and driver’s compartment. The DP2 was also known to feature a turbine for movement on water, and as such, did not rely on the movement of its tracks. On water, the vehicle would turn by rotating the water outlet of the turbine. The vehicle’s registration was 8121-W1.

Navigation trials: Down, she goes

After the vehicle was unveiled in 1935, the idea to make it undergo navigation trials was submitted by the director of APX (Atelier de Construction de Puteaux – ENG: Puteaux Construction Works) located in the Parisian region. On 21st March 1936, these trials began in Poissy, on the River Seine, downstream from Paris.

On water, the vehicle proved quite promising. It moved at a maximum speed of 6.5 km/h. There were no issues entering water, and navigation was performed without any issues. Tests showed that adding a weight of 100 kg would lower the DP2 by 1 cm into the water.

However, leaving the water proved a far more difficult task. When trying to get out of the river, the vehicle naturally began posing itself on the river bank’s bottom, angling upward. This, however, proved too much for the engine compartment, which quickly began to flood. Filling up with water, the heavier and heavier DP2 sank right down.

Improving the DP2

Following the disastrous conclusion of these first navigation trials, the DP2 was recovered and sent back for further work to be performed on the vehicle.

A view of the improved DP2 on land. The vehicle not only features a new, actual turret, but also has removed air intakes, and new tracks, indicating this photo likely dates from after August 1936, perhaps March-April 1937. Source: char-français

Some considerable changes had to be brought to the engine compartment to ensure such an incident would not happen again. The engine louvers were modified and given retractable valves which would cover them when exiting the water, in order to ensure the engine compartment would not flood. Air intakes were also added so the engine could still have access to some air while this was taking place. Likely at the same time, the mock-up turret was replaced by a real one. This was an early version of the APX 5 turret, which would later be mounted on other vehicles, such as the AM 39 Gendron-Somua, AMR 35 ZT-2, and the Panhard 178 destined for the colonies. This one-man turret featured the 25 mm SA 35, a semi-automatic anti-tank gun, as its main armament, with a 7.5 mm MAC31E machine gun coaxially mounted. Though the gun was fairly low in caliber and not fully automatic, it was a decent anti-tank weapon that would be able to defeat most tanks of the era. Its operation within a one-man turret would remain suboptimal due to the overtasking of the commander though.

A side view of the vehicle from the other side. The removal of the cylindrical air intakes fairly significantly impacted the silhouette of the vehicle. Source: char-français

However, the modified engine compartment and functional turret raised the vehicle weight to 12.12 tonnes, which was judged to be too much. It was hoped that weight could be saved by adopting a lighter engine in the future, though this never materialized.

New trials

From 6th June to 13th August 1936, the revised vehicle was submitted to new trials. The DP2 was originally planned to cross 550 km on-roads, but only 115 km would effectively be run, during which the vehicle reached a maximum speed of 40.5 km/h. These trials appear to have focused on the performances of the suspension, with less attention given to amphibious capacities.

The DP2 crossing water, likely on the Seine and during the March-April 1937 trials. The vehicle’s performances on water were satisfying. It was getting out of the water that proved problematic. Source: char-français

The vehicle undertook some less significant revisions following these trials, notably new, stamped steel tracks which were judged to be more robust, before trials resumed again on 1st March 1937. During these, new water trials were undertaken, but the vehicle still proved to be lackluster. Though the DP2 did not sink this time, the engine compartment still proved to not be entirely waterproof, perhaps due to little more than the riveted construction of the vehicle. Starting up the engine also proved particularly difficult, and trials were stopped on 26th April 1937.

Out goes the DP2

After the disappointing conclusion of these new trials, the trials commission decided that the vehicle would need serious additional work before any new trials campaign could be undertaken. Following this, the vehicle was sent to APX’s facilities in Rueil – likely ARL. Its further fate beyond this point is unknown. The vehicle appears to never have undertaken a new trials campaign, though whether some modifications were brought to it after the last trials but before all work on the DP2 was abandoned is unknown.

The DP2 would not mark the conclusion of all Batignolles-Châtillon work in amphibious tanks, with the mysterious DP3 undertaking trials up to the German invasion of 1940. This odd vehicle, which massively differed from the DP2 in general architecture and appears to have disposed of a centrally-mounted turret entirely, preferring two-side mounted combat chambers, remains very mysterious to this day.

One of the two known photos of the DP3. The vehicle’s higher tracks, encompassing much more of the hull than on the DP2, can clearly be seen, as well as the circular combat chamber present on the side of the vehicle. Source: char-français

Conclusion – The disappointing French amphibious tank

The DP2 was not the first French amphibious armored vehicle to be conceptualized. However, it was the first vehicle that could be considered a fully armed amphibious tank trialed by the French military, in an era where that type of vehicle was widely studied and produced abroad, at this point largely due to the influence of British tank design. The DP2 would not prove to be a successful design by any margin. Despite good navigation capacities, the vehicle’s considerable woes when exiting water proved a major issue with the prototype, which would eventually lead to it being shelved.

As with many French interwar prototypes, the eventual fate of the DP2 is unknown. The vehicle is not known to have survived to this day. As such, it was very likely scrapped, though whether this was performed before the war, during the war, under German occupation or perhaps even post-war is unknown.

The DP2 leaving the water, likely March-April 1937. This operation would angle the vehicle downard, which was at risk of compromising the engine compartment. Leaving the water generally is the most difficult part of amphibious operations for vehicles with such capacities, and the DP2 proved unable to perform this task successfully. Source: char-français, colorized by Smargd123
The DP2 with the early mockup turret
The DP2 with the armed turret
Both illustrations created by Pavel “Carpaticus” Alexe and Hadrien Barthélémy


Les véhicules blindés Français 1900-1944, Pierre Touzin, EPA editions, 1979
Tous les blindés de l’Armée Française 1914-1940, François Vauvillier, Histoire & Collection editions

DP2 specifications

Total weight, battle-ready 12.12 tonnes
Crew 2 (Commander, driver)
Propulsion 225 hp 12-Cylinders engine
Transmission Manual
Speed (road) 40.5 km/h
Speed (water) 6.5 km/h
Main Armament 25 mm SA 35 anti-tank gun
Secondary Armament MAC 31E 7.5 mm machine gun
For information about abbreviations check the Lexical Index
WW2 French Prototypes

Batignolles-Châtillon Light Infantry Tank

Nation Flag IconFrance (1934-1936)
Light tank design – 1 prototype built

The armored force of France’s infantry, typically better funded and larger than the cavalry’s, had, during most of the interwar years, the WW1-era Renault FT, the most produced and arguably most successful tank of the First World War (at least, without a doubt, from the French side). An innovative light tank, the FT was produced in massive numbers and, with the adoption of new tanks being slowed down considerably after the end of the Great War, it proved to be the most suitable vehicle for the French military to settle on. By the 1930s though, the old FT had grown obsolete, and timid attempts to produce some somewhat heavier FT-based vehicles had resulted in the NC and D1, which were not built in numbers sufficient to replace or even substantially supplement the FT.

The 1933 light tank specifications

Anticipating a replacement for the FT would soon be requested by the French military, Hotchkiss offered, in June of 1933, their preliminary design for a light infantry tank – by that point a turretless, machine-gun-armed project. Hotchkiss’s proposal ended up as somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy, pushing the French army to establish requirements for a new light infantry tank to replace the FT.

Renault FT light tanks on a parade
Renault FT light tanks on a parade, likely on the 14th of July, in the interwar years. Source: char-français

Those new requirements were finalized on the 2nd August 1933. Though their formulation was a result of Hotchkiss’s proposal, they would be sent far and wide to French industrialists, with up to 14 different manufacturers working on a design, including some with little to no past experience. Indeed, the role of replacement of the FT, the French Army’s workhorse, would logically lead to massive contracts, as this was no irrelevant vehicle to replace.

The specifications sent to the various manufacturers were quite detailed, with performance requirements in a number of different aspects. The tank was to weigh 6 tonnes, feature a crew of two, and be armed with either one or two 7.5 mm machine-guns, or a 37 mm cannon. The maximum speed should be of 15 to 20 km/h, the armor 30 mm thick, and the vehicle should be able to run for 8 hours and at least 40 km. A large number of mobility requirements were also made, such as being able to climb a 65% slope, be stable laterally on a 60% one, or cross a 1.70 m wide-trench or ford water 1.20 m deep, among others. Generally, the requirements called for a vehicle very similar to the FT in role and capacities – merely updated to take into account some more modern features.

Batignolle-Châtillon enters in the fray

One of the manufacturers which offered a design for the specifications was Batignolles-Châtillon. A subsidiary of the larger Batignolles, Batignolles-Châtillon was installed in Nantes, western France. Formed in 1917 as the Compagnie générale de construction de locomotives Batignolles-Châtillon (Eng: General Locomotive Manufacturing Company Batignolles-Châtillon), the company’s products were mostly linked to locomotive and wagon manufacturing, but already included some military aspects, such as the carriages of railway artillery pieces.

370 mm modèle 1915 artillery piece
A 370 mm modèle 1915 artillery piece on a Batignolles carriage. Source: Railway Artillery: A Report on the Characteristics, Scope of Utility, Etc., of Railway Artillery, Volume II via Wikimedia Commons

The first ‘Bat-Chat’

During the mid 1930s, Batignolles-Châtillon expanded its operation to include armored vehicles manufacturing, which is not particularly surprising from a locomotive manufacturer. Proposing a vehicle for the 1933 program was an important aspect of this foray into armored vehicles manufacturing, though it was not the only attempt. The company also simultaneously designed an amphibious tank design, the DP2.

As with most manufacturers, Batignolles-Châtillon offered a plan in 1934. A prototype was ordered to the company, which is quite notable. Only five manufacturers got to the prototype manufacturing stage, with the other four, APX, Renault, Hotchkiss, and FCM, being involved in military affairs to a greater extent and since an earlier point than Batignolles-Châtillon. Batignolles-Châtillon’s light infantry tank prototype would be completed in the early spring of 1935 and delivered to the trials commission of Vincennes on the 5th of April that year.

The Batignolles-Châtillon design weighed in at 11.76 tonnes at the prototype stage. It was notable for some of its construction principles, as the vehicle combined cast construction for its turret and riveted construction for the hull. It was the only prototype produced as a result of the 1933 program to use riveted construction. Despite this combination of casting and riveting, the Batignolles-Châtillon prototype is overall more reminiscent of the fully welded FCM design rather than the cast APX, Renault, and Hotchkiss vehicles.

A front 3/4 view of the Batignolles-Châtillon
A front 3/4 view of the Batignolles-Châtillon vehicle, from the trials at Vincennes; source: Archives de la Direction Générale de l’Armement of Châtellerault, via char-français

Hull design and construction

The Batignolles-Châtillon’s hull was notable due to its riveted construction. It featured front plates quite considerably angled backward, particularly for the lower hull and front sides. This front lower hull featured two doors from which the driver, sitting in the hull, would enter or leave the vehicle. The upper front hull featured two vision ports, one behind bulletproof glass and another behind a perhaps more solid steel cover. Vision ports under glass were also found on each of the front sides of the hull.

The vehicle’s hull got quite narrower behind the crew compartment, with the engine having a fairly diminutive size. The radiator was located at the rear, with the exhaust on the somewhat angled rear plates. Overall, and unsurprisingly for a riveted design, the hull used very angular shapes, making it comparable to the FCM 36 in this regard, though the Batignolles-Châtillon arguably made use of steeper angles. The precise dimensions of the hull are unknown, and in general little precise data has emerged from Batignolles-Châtillon’s light tank prototype. The armor thickness itself is also not known, though 40 mm (to meet the expected requirements that were updated in 1934) all-around were likely, and realistic considering the vehicle’s weight. The armor of the hull behind the suspension and on top would naturally have been lighter – if compared to other French vehicles of similar role and weight, likely in the 15 – 25 mm range.

A side view of the Batignolles-Châtillon light tank
A side view of the Batignolles-Châtillon light tank, with side skirts mounted. The narrower construction of the hull behind the crew compartment is obvious. Source: Archives de la Direction Générale de l’Armement of Châtellerault, via char-français

Powerplant and suspension

The Batignolles-Châtillon vehicle’s power plant was a 66 hp Unic diesel engine. There are few additional details available, however, this is a quite weak engine for such a heavy vehicle. With a power-to-weight ratio of 5.6 hp/ton, it is quite likely the Batignolles-Châtillon vehicle would have been quite sluggish, with even the quite slow R35 having 8 hp/tonne. Reaching anything higher than the program’s required 20 km/h appears an unlikely feat for the Batignolles-Châtillon tank.

The vehicle’s suspension consisted of seven road wheels, an independent one at the front, and six grouped in three bogies of two each. On top of those bogies were nine triangular mounting points for the side skirts, on which they would be riveted. The drive sprocket was installed at the front and the idler at the rear. In operations, the bogies would be covered by a side skirt, though the road wheels themselves would remain uncovered.

suspension used by Batignolles-Châtillon
A view of the vehicle’s side with the side-skirt removed, showing the suspension used by Batignolles-Châtillon. Some elements are quite original and different from other suspensions used by French vehicles in the 1930s. The large side skirts mounting point are unheard of in other French designs of the time, and the road wheels using riveted construction, or the quite frail bogies, also differ significantly from other French suspensions of the time. Source: Archives de la Direction Générale de l’Armement of Châtellerault, via char-français

An original one-man turret

The Batignolles-Châtillon design featured a one-man turret armed with a 37 mm SA 18 main gun and a coaxial 7.5 mm MAC 31 machine gun. All of the vehicles in the program would eventually match this armament, although the Renault and Hotchkiss vehicles were first offered either without turrets or with a turret design fitted with two MAC 31s instead.

It should be noted that an armament of two MAC 31s instead of just one is often mentioned, but there do not appear to be any mount for a machine-gun outside of the co-axial one. It is possible this may refer to a backup machine-gun being stored in the vehicle either in case of the mounted one being damaged or having a failure or of the crew having to leave the vehicle. This was common in the French cavalry but rarer in the infantry.

As with the front hull, the turret featured a large number of visors. Glass-covered vision ports were featured on the front of the turret’s forehead’, towering quite considerably in the rear three-quarters of the design, as well as on each side. Smaller vision slots were found on the sides and front sides.

At the rear of the turret, a spring-loaded rectangular door could be found. It would allow the commander to stick out of the turret outside of combat situations, or to evacuate the vehicle in urgency. The commander would enter the vehicle from the front hull hatches, and not the turret door.

The size of the turret ring, while not known, was most likely 875 mm, as with the APX turrets featured on the APX, Hotchkiss, and Renault designs, and the FCM’s welded turrets. Turret interchangeability was a requirement for the 1933’s program turrets. In any case, the Batignolles-Châtillon light tank had a one-man turret, in which the crew member would occupy the roles of commander, gunner, and loader. Even with a lot of intelligent technical solutions, making such a turret ergonomically viable – especially with an armament heavier than machine-guns, even with a gun firing small shells such as the 37 mm SA 18 – was pretty much in the realm of fantasy. The commander would very likely have been very much overtasked in operations – though this is also no different from all other vehicles of the 1933 program, due to all following the requirements of a vehicle featuring 2 crewmen.

rear view of the Batignolles-Châtillon light tank
A rear view of the Batignolles-Châtillon light tank – showing the exhaust as well as the spring-loaded rear turret door. Source: Archives de la Direction Générale de l’Armement of Châtellerault, via char-français

Unsuccessful trials in 1935

The Batignolles-Châtillon light infantry tank was trialed in 1935, from the vehicle’s delivery in April of 1935 onward.

The vehicle did feature some interesting aspects. Notable was that the liberal use of glass-covered vision slots by the designers allowed for very good visibility, superior to that of other proposals for the light infantry tank design. The armor was also judged satisfactory, with the exception of the hull armor behind the suspension, though how vulnerable this section of the vehicle’s hull would be in practice is questionable. In terms of performance, the Batignolles-Châtillons did not at all appear to have been inferior to other candidates.

Where the Batignolles-Châtillon light tank failed, though, was in terms of reliability. Mobility trials of the vehicle were quite the failure. On the 24th June 1935, the tank was unable to accomplish a 50 km drive, with a breakdown requiring repairs. The weak engine was likely an important factor in those failures leading to the prototype being returned to its factory, and receiving some considerable modifications to its suspension.

Modifications and new in vain trials

The new suspension trialed on the Batignolles-Châtillons
The new suspension trialed on the Batignolles-Châtillons. It appears to have been pretty much entirely new, from the ground up, but this does not mean it was flawless: the various black arrows in this picture were part of the trial commission’s report and indicated parts of the vehicles where flaws were identified. Source: Pierre Touzin, Les Véhicules Blindés Français, Nancy 1979, via Wikimedia Commons

The Batignolles-Châtillon prototype was returned to its factory following the breakdown in late June, and then received an entirely new suspension, likely due to the old one being lackluster – once again not particularly surprising for a newcomer in armored vehicles design.

It returned to trials with idlers and sprockets that may have been slightly larger. However, those are by far the most moderate changes. Instead of seven, the vehicle now had six, larger road wheels of a newer design, with larger outer rims. Those road wheels were installed, two-by-two, on three bogies of a new, more sturdy design. Those featured horizontal and vertical springs allowing for more extensive movements of the road wheels. The vertical springs were located behind the boggie’s outer structure, on which the side skirt would most likely insert. Four classic rounded return rollers were featured.

This modified prototype was trialed in 1936, from the 20th January to the 1st August. In comparison to its first iteration, the new suspension likely improved the vehicle’s mobility. The gearbox also appears to have been more reliable on this modified prototype. However, the significant issue of poor power-to-weight ratio remained unsolved. Even if the Batignolles-Châtillon prototype had been perfect – as perfect as a two-men infantry tank could be – it is unlikely it would have been adopted at this point, with three of the five prototypes presented in the 1933 program, the Hotchkiss (H35), Renault (R35), and FCM (FCM 36) already having been adopted. Adding yet another very similar vehicle would have been redundant. In general, the quite similar FCM 36 appears to have been superior to the Batignolles-Châtillon in most aspects, although also mounting a diesel engine, the one it used offered a better power-to-weight ratio, and its welded construction would have been sturdier and more durable than the Bat-Chat’s riveted hull and cast turret. The main advantage the Batignolles-Châtillon would have had over the FCM would most likely have been vision, which, while not irrelevant, would still be little in comparison to the advantages offered by FCM’s welded design. Therefore, and while Batignolles-Châtillon appears to have attempted to salvage its design by suggesting outfitting the tank with a more powerful engine – the Batignolles-Châtillon light tank would not be adopted.

Conclusion – An unsuccessful but interesting first foray into armored vehicles design

The Batignolles-Châtillon light tank is quite notable in that it was one of the contenders for the replacement of the Renault FT. Though it would be an unlucky competitor to the R35, H35, and FCM 36, it is still notable that Batignolles-Châtillon, a newcomer in armored vehicle design, managed to have their proposal reach the prototype stage, something only a minority of the 14 manufacturers called upon succeeded in.

This unsuccessful first attempt would not result in Batignolles-Châtillon stopping their foray into armored vehicle design. In the late 1930s, they would continue studying amphibious vehicle design, with the DP2 and later DP3 amphibious tanks. The most famous Batignolles-Châtillon designs are not, however, those from the 1930s, but rather, the firm’s proposed vehicles from the 1950s: the Batignolles-Châtillon 12t, an unlucky competitor to the AMX-13, and, most significantly, the 25t, a lightweight medium tank which gathered some considerable online fame in the last decade. It ought to be noted, however, that no Batignolles-Châtillon armored vehicle would be adopted by the French military, the closest being the Batignolle-Châtillon’s powerplant being an inspiration for that of the AMX-30, which would become France’s standard-issue main battle tank in most of the Cold War.

The suspension of the Batignolles-Chatillon tank is visible here, showing the bogies, springs, and return rollers.
The Batignolles-Chatillon light infantry tank, as it was built. The well-angled front (predating the T-34) is visible, as is the rather anemic gun. Illustration by Pavel “Carpaticus” Alexe, funded by our Patreon campaign.


Crew 2 (Commander/gunner/loader, Driver)
Armament 1x 37 mm SA 18 main gun, 1x MAC 31 7.5 mm machine gun; perhaps an additional, back-up MAC 31
weight 11.76 tonnes
Engine 66 hp Unic Diesel
Power-to-weight ratio in hp/tonne 5.6
Armor Most likely 40 mm all-around, lighter behind suspension & on top and bottom


Tous les blindés de l’Armée Française 1914-1940, François Vauvillier, Histoire & Collection editions, p48
Char-franç (
Trackstory N°4: R35/R40, Editions du Barbotin, Pascal Danjou
Les véhicules blindés français, 1900-1944, Pierre Touzin
Chars de France, Jean-Gabriel Jeudy

WW2 French Prototypes

APX 6-tonnes light tank

Nation Flag IconFrance (1934- at least 1938)
Light tank – 1 prototype completed

Throughout most of the interwar years, the workhorse of the French army remained the Renault FT light tank. Developed under the direction of Louis Renault and with the support of General Estienne during the First World War, the small, manoeuvrable, and cheap to produce light tank proved very effective in comparison to the larger and sluggish Saint-Chamond and Schneider tanks. By the 1930s though, the FT’s heydays were gone, and innovations in tank design meant the vehicle was rapidly becoming massively obsolete. Though some efforts had been undertaken to update and produce heavier tanks derived from the FT during the 1920s and early 1930s, resulting in the Renault NC and then D1, those were not adopted in massive numbers, with just 160 D1s built for the French military.

The 1933 light tank specifications

Anticipating a replacement for the FT would soon be requested by the French military, Hotchkiss offered, in June of 1933, their preliminary design – by that point a turretless, machine-gun-armed project. Hotchkiss’s proposal ended up as somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy, pushing the French army to establish requirements for a new light infantry tank to replace the FT.

French Renault FT on manoeuvre during the interwar. The Renault FT was a massive success, and its effectiveness as the French army’s armored workhorse in 1918 was deeply ingrained in the minds of French military thinkers – to the point that, when it came time to search for a replacement to the antiquated light tank in 1933, the requirements that were formulated basically called for a modern remake of it. Source: char-français

Those new requirements were finalized on the 2nd of August 1933. Though their formulation was a result of Hotchkiss’s proposal, they would be sent far and wide across French industrialists, with up to 14 different manufacturers working on a design; indeed, the role of replacement of the FT, the French Army’s workhorse, would logically lead to massive contracts, as this was no irrelevant vehicle to replace.

The specifications sent to the various manufacturers were quite detailed, with performance requirements in a number of different aspects. The tank was to weigh 6 tonnes, feature a crew of two, and be armed with either one or two 7.5 mm machine-guns, or a 37 mm gun. The maximum speed should be of 15 to 20 km/h, the armor 30 mm thick, and the vehicle should be able to run for 8 hours and at least 40 km. A large number of mobility requirements were also made, such as being able to climb a 65% slope, be stable laterally on a 60% side grade, and to cross a 1.70 m wide-trench or ford water 1.20 m deep, among others. Generally, the requirements called for a vehicle very similar to the FT in role and capacities – merely updated to take into account some more modern features.

The state workshop of APX

One of the five manufacturers which went as far as manufacturing a prototype was the Atelier de Construction de Puteaux (ENG: Puteaux Construction Workshop), abbreviated as APX and sometimes known simply as ‘Puteaux’, after the commune they were installed in within Paris’ suburbs. Founded all the way back in 1866, this state-owned workshop mostly worked with artillery and firearms, producing the designs of various engineers and sometimes designing their own. They were not one of the first French manufacturers to get into tank production, though the SA 18 37 mm gun found on the FT was a Puteaux design. During the 1930s, Puteaux would extend their operations into the field of armored vehicles quite considerably; the majority of turrets mounted on French 1930s armored vehicles, from the Panhard 178 to the B1 Bis’, were designed by Puteaux. That being said, their proposal for the 1933 light tank program appears to have been the first tank designed by APX from the ground up.

The APX proposal

APX presented the project for their light infantry tank in February of 1934, and the vehicle’s design is mostly known from the plans that were presented then.

A view of the vehicle from the February of 1934 project. Source: char-français
The same overall view of the vehicle, with the side skirts covering the suspension and a turret armed with a 7.5 mm machine-gun and the 37 mm SA 18 main gun, dated from February of 1934. This larger version of the plans had first been edited and given a fake blueprint look but has here been restored to the original black-and-white. Source: Archives de l’armement de Châtellerault via & Andrew Hills

The tank designed by APX was a vehicle quite diminutive in size, with a length of 4.40 m, a width of 1.58 m, and a height of 1.85 m, turret included. As for the ground clearance, it was quite low, at 0.35 m.

The vehicle used cast construction for both the hull and turret. Though the vehicle was small in size, the hull was, in comparison to the other light tanks submitted by other manufacturers, quite bulky. The driver’s compartment is easy to point out, sticking out from the front, and not being angled in the part featuring the vision port – something quite uncommon for cast French tanks. The angled part below featured a large two-piece hatch from which the driver would enter the driving position, which was noticeably low. The armor of the vehicle was 30 mm-thick all-around.

Powerplant and suspension

A somewhat notable feature of APX’s tank was the use of a diesel engine, a feature it shared with FCM’s proposal, which would become the FCM 36. In the case of the APX tank, the engine used was a two-stroke, 4-cylinder engine producing 65 hp at 2,500 rpm. With the weight of the vehicle being 6.85 tonnes, the horsepower-to-weight ratio was 9.5 hp/ton, a decent performance for an infantry support tank; the speed, with 19.8 km/h, was within the expected performances. The engine consumed 7 liters of fuel hourly on average, giving the vehicle a range of 150 km, or about 10 hours, thanks to its 70 liters fuel tanks.

A cut-away view of the APX light tank, dated from March of 1934.
The same sideway cut of the APX 6 tons light tank, dated from March of 1934, showing the vehicle’s internal arrangement, the suspension, and the general shape of the hull. As for the previous one, this plan was first given a fake blueprint look but has here been given a more authentic black and white. Source: Archives de l’armement de Châtellerault via & Andrew Hills

The transmission was installed at the rear, as was the radiator, installed in the sloped, rear part of the engine compartment. The mounting of the transmission led to the drive sprocket being at the rear of the vehicle, and the idler wheel at the front. The suspension consisted of 5 bogies with two road wheels each, the front bogie facing the front and the four others the rear, as well as an independent wheel between the rearmost bogie and the drive sprocket. There were four return rollers at the top. The suspension would, in operation, be covered by a side skirt, which featured openable covers in order to oil and maintain the road wheels. The rear drive sprocket was not covered by this side skirt.

Turret and armament

The APX light tank’s turret is a quite notable one in the history of French turret developments. By December 1933, APX had launched itself into the design of cast turrets, first for the B1 heavy tank, but soon for its own light tank.

The result was a mostly cylindrical turret design, featuring a rounded observation cupola on top, a door at the rear, and a mantlet sticking out at the front. Two vision ports were present, one on each side. The turret was notable for mounting both a 37 mm SA 18 main gun and a 7.5 mm machine-gun – while the program originally requested a vehicle that would have either, but not both. It should be noted the exact model of the 7.5 mm machine-gun which was to be used is not known. While the 7.5 mm MAC31E, which would become the standard French tank machine-gun of the 1930s, appears as the most likely answer, the FM 24/29 light machine-gun has occasionally been mentioned as the vehicle’s secondary armament. It should also be noted that another version of the APX tank, featuring two 7.5 mm machine-guns instead, may have been considered.

The turret was crewed by the commander, who also assumed the roles of gunner and loader. He sat on a retractable seat that rotated along with the turret, though reaching down quite far in the hull’s fighting compartment below. Ammunition for the 37 mm gun was stored on the sides of this combat compartment; the quantity of shells carried is not known.

An elusive prototype, suffering from anti-state bias

It appears that a prototype of the APX light tank was manufactured, being completed in October of 1935. Very little is known about it, and no photographs have survived to this day; it is known the prototype was still in existence by 1938, with a mention of a new oil pump being in construction for the design in a document dated from the 15th of December 1938.

Despite a prototype being manufactured, the APX light tank does not appear to really have been taken into consideration for adoption. APX was the only state-owned manufacturer to go as far as manufacturing a prototype, and this state-owned status appears to have warranted the prototype an ‘out of competition’ status.

It should be noted that the requirements for light infantry tanks were edited in May of 1934, now requesting a 40 mm-thick armor while raising the maximum required weight from 6 to 8 tonnes. It is not known if this change in requirements was considered when manufacturing the prototype.

The influential APX-R turret

While APX’s light tank design as a whole is obscure, its turret is not. It was, in 1935, adopted on both Renault and Hotchkiss’s light tanks, under a version that appears to have undertaken some minor evolutions, but remained vastly similar. This turret would be known under the designation of APX-R; featured on both the Hotchkiss and the Renault light tanks, which would become the two most produced French tanks of the 1930s, it would by far be the most common turret design in the whole of the French military by 1940, and even be refitted with a longer 37 mm SA 38 gun from 1939 onward. This massive borrowing from the APX light tank remains its main legacy, though one could hardly argue for it to be a particularly great one; the APX-R’s one-man design resulted in the commander being utterly overtasked, and even for a one-man turret, it was quite horrendous and inefficient ergonomically.

A Renault ZM prototype – the vehicle which would become the R35 – refitted with the APX-R turret. The ZM initially featured a cast turret without a cupola and armed with two 7.5 mm MAC 31E machine-guns. It was refitted with the APX-R in the spring of 1935 before the APX light tank prototype was even completed. Source: For the Records blog.

Conclusion – An APX venture of questionable success

The APX light tank is, in itself, a quite obscure vehicle. An unlucky competitor to the R35, H35 and FCM36, despite seemingly reaching the prototype stage, no photos have been known to survive up to this day. The light tank does not appear to have been seriously considered for the role of standard light infantry tank for the French army either.

Nonetheless, the influence of the design via the APX-R turret ought not to be underestimated – thousands of French tank commanders would, in the later interwar and during the campaign of France, serve in a turret design originally designed for the APX 6-tonnes. As for the prototype itself, its eventual fate is unknown. As often with French pre-1940 French prototypes, the most probable fate of the vehicle was scrapping, though the question remains, by whom; The French prior to 1940, the Germans during the occupations of France, or even the French during the post-war reconstruction era? It appears unlikely an answer to this question will arise anytime soon.

Illustration for the APX-6 tonnes infantry tank, created by Pavel “Carpaticus” Alexe and funded by our Patreon campaign

APX Light infantry tank specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 4.40 x 1.58 x 1.85 m
Ground clearance 0.35m
Weight 6,850 kg
Engine 2-strokes 4-cylinders diesel engine producing 65 hp at 2,500 rpm
Maximum Speed 19.8 km/h
Power-to-weight ratio (in hp/ton) 9.5
Fuel tanks capacity 70 lites
Average hourly fuel consumption 7 litres
Range 150 km/ 10 hours
Crew 2 (Commander/gunner/loader, Driver)
Armament 1 37 mm SA 18 main gun, 1 7.5 mm machine-gun (either MAC31E or FM 24/29)
Armor 30 mm
Total Production 1


Tous les blindés de l’Armée Française 1914-1940, François Vauvillier, Histoire & Collection editions, p48
Trackstory N°4: R35/R40, Editions du Barbotin

WW2 French Prototypes

Citroën P28 chenillette

Nation Flag IconFrance (1931)
Infantry tractor – 3 prototypes

The early 1930s were marked by the worldwide popularity of the tankette concept, which produced a variety of vehicles used in sometimes quite radically different manners across most major industrial powers of the world. The Citroën P28 original prototype was one of the more original derivatives of this design. Designed to serve as an infantry tractor, it used a half-track configuration with Kégresse suspension, which makes it a quite interesting and original design. While not adopted as an infantry tractor, with the more traditional fully-tracked Renault UE being picked, it became an interesting half-track cavalry armored car.

In the wake of the Carden-Loyd

In 1928, production of the British Carden-Loyd Mark VI tankette began. The result of several years of experimentation on one and two-man turretless armored vehicles, this British tankette was a 1.5 ton heavy vehicle with a two-men crew. A novelty on the international market, which was relatively stagnant and dominated by the WW1-era French Renault FT, the Carden-Loyd seemed to offer new possibilities as a lighter and cheaper armored vehicle.

The potential was not lost on France and, in June and July 1930, two Carden-Loyds were tested at the Centre des Essais de Véhicules (Vehicles Trials Center) of Vincennes. Those trials had been conducted at the initiative of engineer Edgar Brandt. Brandt was a prolific artillery designer, responsible notably for the Brandt 27/31 81 mm mortar, an evolution of the British Stokes that would, in turn, be adopted, modified, and/or copied by virtually every major and many minor military powers of the 1930s. It is reported two different Carden-Loyds were tested, one of a “light” and one of a “heavy” model. The light one could be outfitted with a machine-gun and used as a small combat vehicle, while the heavier one was tried as an armored tractor with a tracked trailer, with the purpose of carrying the Stokes-Brandt mortar and ammunition.

The Type N program

The trials of the two Carden-Loyd vehicles proved influential in the French Army’s infantry services. On October 7th, 1930, a set of specifications was issued for a new type of vehicle. These would be véhicules blindés de ravitaillement de l’infanterie, or armored infantry supply vehicles. This set of specifications was given the denomination of “Type N” a few weeks later. The Type N specifications requested vehicles with a maximum height of 1.10 m, able to carry a load of 950 kg, typically a mortar or heavy machine gun with ammunition, crewed by two men, able to reach 35 km/h, and with an autonomy of five hours.

Projects from three different companies were ordered to be built as prototypes. The orders covered six prototype vehicles, trailers to be used by these vehicles, as well as larger trailers on which the vehicles could be carried on, towed by a truck. The first company to receive orders was Latil, which produced a design created by Brandt and Vickers-Armstrong, the makers of the Carden-Loyd. The Latil design was very similar to the original British vehicle, and one of the six prototypes was actually imported from Great Britain. The second company was Renault, generally speaking, the giant of the French armored vehicles industry in the era, which produced the UE, a small entirely tracked tankette, obviously inspired by the British Carden-Loyd but still a new design. Finally, Citroën produced the P28, a vehicle far more different from the British tankette that inspired the Type N program

Citroën’s infantry tractor

Citroën’s military vehicles of the 1920s were almost systematically fitted with the Kégresse track system. This system consisted of tracks that, instead of separate metallic interlocked parts, were instead a unitary, flexible belt. It had been created by French engineer Adolphe Kégresse whilst he was based in Imperial Russia, from 1905 onward. In 1919, Kégresse returned to France and was hired by Citroën. From then on, his track systems were featured on a large number of military vehicles, often in a half-track configuration, including artillery tractors and armored cars such as the AMC P16 (designed by Citroën but produced by Schneider) and even some Renault FT light tanks.

The vehicle presented by Citroën to match the Type N specifications was no exception to the rule. It was a small half-track with two wheels at the front used for steering and powered Kégresse tracks at the rear. These had a large front sprocket and a single bogie holding two road wheels as well as a large rear trailing wheel. A notable feature of the Citroën vehicle was that it was crewed by only one man, who sat at the front-left of the vehicle, under an openable 6 mm-thick armored hood with vision hatches on the sides. The engine was to his right; the rear of the vehicle was unarmored and featured a storage bin where weapons or ammunition would typically have been carried. The front of the P28 featured two distinctive round headlights. No armament was fitted, as the vehicle was merely intended to transport arms and ammunition under minimal protection, not to actively fight.

The driver’s hood on prototype 35248. Source: char-français
Photo of prototype 4016-W1, showing the P28’s notable headlights. Source: char-français

The engine used was a Citroën C4 4-cylinder, 72×100 1,628 cm3 engine with an output of 30 hp. This gave it a maximum speed of 39.5 km/h on-road, without a trailer. It should be noted that, when the order for prototypes was placed by the French military, the production of three half-tracked vehicles and three fully tracked ones was requested. The tracked version never left the drawing board and even its design remains unknown as of today.

Unsatisfactory trials

Three prototypes were manufactured by Citroën, registered as 35248, 35249, and 4016-W1. The first prototype began its trials at Vincennes on 24th July 1931 and continued trials there until the 29th. The two other prototypes were delivered to the training grounds along with their trailers on July 31st of the same year. The trailer that had been designed by Citroën was wheeled, unlike the Renault UK trailer of the UE, which was tracked.

Prototype 4016-W1 shown towing the Citroën trailer, and with the side hatch open. Source: char-français
Prototype 35249 with a similar trailer on a platform. Source: char-français

The vehicles generally performed quite poorly during those trials, with complaints being addressed to Citroën. Notably, the vehicle’s cooling left a lot to be desired, with risks of overheating the engine. There was no system for the driver to detach the trailer without leaving the vehicle, which was both impractical and potentially dangerous under fire. The French Conseil Consultatif de l’Armement (Consultative Council of Armament) was pushed to make a choice between the different vehicles in October 1931. While its trials had not been without flaw either, the more conventional Renault UE was adopted by the French military, cutting short the P28’s life as an infantry tractor, though not as a military vehicle in general.

Conclusion – a future in the cavalry

Despite the rejection of the Citroën P28 infantry tractor, it did see further evolution thanks to interest from the cavalry, which considered the vehicle’s potential evolution into a light reconnaissance armored car, leading to at least one of three prototypes being converted to mount a turret instead of the storage bin, and the order of 50 armored car variants of the P28 featuring a centrally-mounted turret in October of 1931.

As for the infantry tractors prototypes, their fate beyond 1931 is unknown. It is quite likely they ended scrapped, if not by the French in the 1930s, then by the German occupiers during the Second World War.

Whilst Citröen’s proposals were not adopted, they remain the most original vehicles offered to the French Army as part of the Type N program. In comparison, the Latil-Brandt vehicle was little more than a copy of the original Carden-Loyd, and the Renault UE took a lot of inspiration from the British vehicle, particularly suspension-wise.

Illustration for the Citroën P28 tractor, created by Andrei ‘Octo10’ Kirushkin and funded by our Patreon campaign


Tout les blindés de l’armée Française 1914-1940, François Vauvillier, Histoire & Collections éditions,
Les matériels de l’armée Française: Les automitrailleuses de reconnaissance, Tome 1, l’AMR 33 Renault, François Vauvillier, Histoire & Collections, 2005

WW2 French Prototypes

Panhard 178 with Renault 47 mm Gun-Armed Turret

France – 1940
Armored Car – 1 Prototype Built

In 1931, the French Cavalry formulated a request for an AMD (Automitrailleuse de Découverte / ‘Discovery’ armored car), an armored vehicle meant to perform reconnaissance while having enough combat capacities to be able to engage enemy units. This was in opposition to the AMR (Automitrailleuse de Reconnaissance / Reconnaissance Armored Car), smaller vehicles with more limited combat capacities. Panhard, the leading French armored car producer at the time, designed the Voiture Spéciale 178, more often simply known as Panhard 178, to answer this request. The vehicle was adopted by the French cavalry as the AMD 35 in 1934. Formal orders were placed in January of 1935, production beginning in 1936, and the first operational vehicles delivered in February of 1937.

A Panhard 178 in service with the 6th GRDI, a reconnaissance group, during a parade, late 1930s; this may have been either in Compiègne (where the unit was formed), or in either Vitry-le-François or Bar-le-Duc, in the Ardennes, where the unit was deployed in 1939. Source: char-français

The Panhard 178 was an 8-tonne armored car powered by a 4-cylinder 105 hp engine and able to reach a maximum speed of 72 km/h. One of its most interesting features, which separated it from the vast majority of other French armored vehicles, was its two-crew APX 3 turret, which allowed the commander to concentrate on his tactical and spotting missions, leaving the operation of the gun to the gunner/loader. This was a major improvement in comparison to the one-crew turrets which featured on the vast majority of French tanks, where the commander also had to reload and operate the vehicle’s armament.

This APX 3 turret featured a 25 mm SA 35 anti-tank gun as well as a coaxial MAC 31 7.5 mm machine gun, with 150 25 mm and 3,750 7.5 mm rounds. This armament was fairly capable for an armored car, being, for example, generally sufficient to deal with early Panzer III and IV models fielded in the campaign for France, as well as the earlier Panzer I and II, with a penetration of 40 mm of vertical armor at 500 m, and 30 mm at 30° at the same distance. This gun was significantly better than the 37 mm SA 18 found on many tanks and armored cars, but the 47 mm SA 35 gun found on Somua S35 and B1 Bis tanks offered better armor-piercing capacities, as well as explosive shells which the 25 mm lacked.

The Panhard and the SA 35

Outfitting the Panhard 178 with the 47 mm SA 35 gun was considered before the campaign for France actually began. In a letter from January 1939, the French Army General Staff and the Direction of the Cavalry stated that mounting the 47 mm SA 35 gun on the Panhard armored car was a possibility, at the very least for the vehicles destined for service in North Africa. However, the same letter reported that Panhard 178 armored cars would only be outfitted with the 47 mm SA 35 gun if the production of the latter was sufficient to equip tanks being produced with the gun (the S35 and B1 Bis) and to refit the older B1 and D2 that were temporarily armed with the short-barrel 47 mm SA 34. The letter ends with the General Staff requesting the acceleration of the production of 47 mm SA 35 guns “as much as possible” from the Direction of Armament Manufacturing.

Despite the General Staff urging for more 47 mm guns to be produced in order to outfit the Panhard 178 with them as early as January of 1939, there had been little to no advance in this field by May of 1940. It is known that arming the already used APX 3 turret with the 47 mm gun was considered instead of designing a new turret. However, it was still uncertain whether the APX 3 turret could practically be modified to mount a 47 mm SA 35.

The invasion of the Low Countries and France, beginning on the 10th of May 1940, led to the Panhard 178 being fielded in large numbers against German armored vehicles, where some issues with the 25 mm SA 35 arose. While sufficient against most German-made tanks, the gun notably struggled at range, particularly against what accounts from French tankers refer to as “Škoda tanks”, most likely describing both the Škoda Panzer 35(t) and CKD Panzer 38(t). Furthermore, the gun lacked any high-explosive shell and was not automatic, making it of very little use against infantry.

At the same time, a significant problem arose in the production of the Panhard 178, hulls were being manufactured at a significantly faster rate than APX 3 turrets. While not particularly a problem during the Phoney War, as hulls could be stored while waiting for a turret, in a context where the survival of the French state was now in question, finding military use for these unarmed hulls became a priority. It is in this context that a French officer, Squadron Chief d’Astorg, who commanded the 1st RAM (Régiment d’automitrailleuses / Armored Car Regiment) of the 1st DLC (Division Légère de Cavalerie – Light Cavalry Division), unable to receive APX 3 turrets for the Panhard 178 hulls he received, requested the Renault tank design office to come up with a way to arm Panhard 178 hulls with a 47 mm SA 35 gun behind a mere gun shield instead of a fully rotating turret. This request was most likely made on 31st May 1940.

Design of the Renault Turret

Renault’s design bureau, led by engineer Joseph Restany, managed to design an entire turret within three days. The production of a prototype of this turret began immediately, with a turret being mounted on a hull on the 5th of June 1940, and went on firing trials that proved successful the next day.

Unsurprisingly enough for a turret that had been designed and then manufactured in less than a week, the design Restany and his team came up with was fairly rudimentary, particularly in comparison with the original APX 3 turret. The Renault turret was entirely welded, with a simple shape. The frontal plate, one of the distinctive elements of the design, was sloped quite considerably. It was made from two different plates, the first was 13 mm thick followed by a 25 mm one, giving a thickness of 38 mm not accounting for the slope, something which was quite respectable even for medium tanks by 1940 standards. The sides and rear of the turret were 25 mm thick. The main armament was an SA 35 47 mm gun. This gun fired 47×193 mm rimmed shells. Its standard anti-tank shell was an armor-piercing capped (APC) shell, the Obus de rupture modèle 1935, fired at a velocity of 660 m/s. According to German tests, it could penetrate 40 mm of armor at an angle of 30° and a range of 400 m. Additionally, the gun could also fire a high-explosive (HE) shell with a muzzle velocity of 590 m/s and 142 grams of explosives.

Like the APX 3 turret, the Renault one could accommodate two crew members. However, as expected because of its short design circle, it was fairly primitive. The top hatch through which the crew accessed the vehicle was reported to be “more of a lid”, and despite the rear of the turret being quite spacious, there was no rear door. Vision on the sides was provided by simple, fairly large round holes which could be closed by a rotating cover. The turret did not feature electrical traverse and therefore had to be rotated by hand.

The first prototype was not kept for experimental purposes, as is usually the case, but instead delivered to the d’Astorg’s 1st RAM as early as 6th June 1940. Accomodations for production of more examples with a slightly revised turret to offer better conditions for the crew as well as mounting a FM 24/29 machine gun in the hull began. Renault stated it could produce four turrets a day on 11th June 1940. However, the next day, the French industrial giant’s main factories of Billancourt, west of Paris, were evacuated to secondary facilities further south. This put any potential production into disarray. By the time an official order for forty turrets came on 13th June 1940, Renault was not able to fulfill it, and the single produced turret remained unique.

A photo of the 47 mm-armed Panhard 178 where it was scuttled. The top hatch of the turret is opened, and the round view port is closed. Source: Collection Pascal Danjou
Another view of the 47 mm-armed Panhard, with the turret pointed at a different angle and the side view port opened. This photo was most likely taken at a later point than the first, as suggested by the tires being removed. Source: Collection J. Beauval

Service in the 1st RAM

The hull outfitted with the Renault turret was delivered to the 1st RAM. This regiment was part of the 1st DLC, which had been engaged in the battle of the Meuse. Its men were evacuated from the vast encirclement performed by the Wehrmacht in Northern France and the Low Countries, while their heavy equipment had to be abandoned. The unit was reformed into a DLM (Division Légère Mécanique – Light Mechanized Division, in practice quite similar to a German Light Division). It was as a part of this new 4th DLM that the 1st RAM continued to fight in the campaign of France. Thanks to d’Astorg, we know about one particular skirmish in which the 47 mm-armed Panhard played a pivotal role, on 15th June 1940. Near a bridge on the river Yonne at Etigny, about 100 km south-east of Paris, a patrol led by this vehicle engaged a German motorized column including 15 vehicles escorted by two “heavy tanks” (a term which, in French testimonies from the campaign of France, generally designates a Panzer IV and occasionally a Panzer 38(t)). The Panhard 178 was able to knock out the two tanks with three 47 mm shells, allowing the patrol led by Sous-Lieutenant (sub-lieutenant) Bouhier to then knock out the rest of the German column. D’Astorg also reported that the armored car’s turret resisted multiple hits, though he does not specify whether those were hits from anti-tank weapons or merely firearms.

The 47 mm-armed Panhard met an unfortunate end shortly after this skirmish. On the morning of 17th June, the 1st RAM was attempting to cross the largest French river, the Loire, in order to defend its southern banks, where the French High Command hoped a defensive line could be formed. By the point the regiment arrived in the town of Châtillon-sur-Loire, where it was supposed to cross, the bridge had already been blown up to prevent German crossings, with all bridges south from there being unusable. Left with no other option, the unit scuttled the vast majority of its equipment in order to prevent its capture, including the 47 mm-armed Panhard. All photos we have of the vehicle show it scuttled near the railway bridge of Châtillon-sur-Loire, including some in which German soldiers pose in front of the vehicle. The fate of the vehicle beyond this point is unknown, though it is very likely it ended up scrapped.

German soldiers examining the 47 mm-armed Panhard. This photo is particularly interesting, as it shows the Panhard with its tires, in a different location, and with its inside seemingly ripped out from the door. Source: char-français

Another photo of the vehicle’s inspection by German troops. A seat is visible in the foreground, as well as the ammunition storage inside the vehicle. Source: char-français.

The Future of 47 mm Gun-Armed Panhard Armored Cars

While only a single example of this particular 47 mm-armed Panhard turret was produced, the Panhard and the 47 mm SA 35 would be mated two different times in the future. During the German occupation of France, Joseph Restany, the engineer who had designed this first 47 mm turret, was recruited by a secret organisation within the army of the Vichy regime, the CDM (Camouflage du Matériel – Material Camouflage). His job was to lead the design and production of turrets accepting both 47 mm and 25 mm guns in order to outfit them on turretless hulls which had been evacuated to Southern France and remained stored away from the eyes of the Armistice Commission. The design of those turrets would be directly based on the first model designed by Restany in 1940, though being both more advanced thanks to a longer development time, and in some others more rudimentary due to the lack of materials and the high secrecy of the project. 45 of those CDM turrets were manufactured in 1942 and installed on a variety of Panhard 178 hulls, some which would be captured by German troops during the occupation of Southern France in November of 1942 and then issued to security units operating within France.

Panhard 178 CDM in service with the German Sicherungs-Aufklärung-Abteilung 1000, a reconnaissance group of the 189. Reserve Infanterie-Division, France, 1944. All vehicles in the photo are armed with 47 mm SA 35, but it should be noted that around half of the Panhard 178 CDM received 25 mm SA 34 guns instead. Source: Christophe Grégoire collection

After the end of the occupation of France, production of yet another 47 mm SA 35 Panhard began in 1945. This new model was designated Panhard 178B, and featured the gun in a quite large, cylindrical turret, the FL1. Unlike the Renault and CDM models, which were just mounted on pre-existing hulls, new, upgraded hulls were produced alongside those new turrets. 414 of these armored cars would be produced and would be in service during the late 1940s and the 1950s. They were used for securing the French colonial empire in its last decade. In this way, despite being a single prototype rushed in June of 1940, the 47 mm-armed Panhard would have a quite significant legacy.

A Panhard 178B, the vastly modernized, 47 mm-armed model of the Panhard 178 manufactured in the late 40s for colonial service. Source: char-français


The 47 mm-armed Panhard 178 designed by Renault’s design office and operated by the 1st RAM is a quite peculiar vehicle when it comes to France’s armored production. One of the various improvised vehicles which appeared during the collapse of France in the spring of 1940, it is notable because, despite being a prototype, it was used operationally, and in the only instance where it is known to have fought, performed brilliantly.

The combination of the 47 mm SA 35 gun and the Panhard 178 hull is indeed one which appears full of potential. The 47 mm weapon was quite effective against tanks by 1940 and the two-crew turret featured on the Panhard 178 meant it could be operated more effectively than in one-crew turret tanks such as the S35 and B1 Bis. While the armor of the vehicle, outside perhaps of the turret’s front, left much to be desired, as on most armored cars, it retained a great mobility. While the turret manufactured by Renault in 1940 was very much experimental, the concept of a 47 mm SA 35-armed Panhard was indeed full of potential, and had even been theorized earlier. But the fall of France would prevent it from reaching its full potential and being mass-produced in a mature form, though the CDM turrets manufactured in secrecy and based on the Renault turret were one of the most extensive armament projects undertaken in Vichy France.

Illustration for the Panhard 178 outfitted with the 47 mm gun-armed Renault turret produced by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.


Une entreprise clandestine sous l’occupation Allemande, Joseph Restany, Charles-Lavauzelle & Cie editions, 1948
GBM (Histoire de Guerre, Blindés et Matériel) N°86, January-February-March 2009, pp 22-31
char-franç (1) (2)

WW2 Chinese Armor WW2 French Prototypes

Renault ZB

France (1935)
republican flag Republic of China (1938-1942?)
Light Tank – 19? built

Upgrading the AMR 33

The Renault ZB was essentially a lengthened test (and later, export) version of the AMR 33 fitted with a more versatile suspension type. The suspension type influenced later designs, such as the Renault R35, but the Renault ZB was rejected for French service. However, in 1936, the Kuomintang and Yunnan Provincial Government ordered sixteen vehicles which appear to have served in Burma in the early 1940s, where they were presumably lost.


As early as 1934, Louis Renault realized that the AMR 33 was in need of modernization. The engine was one concern, which was replaced with the more powerful Nerva Stella 28 CV engine, and it was also moved to the rear of the vehicle instead of the front. Testing showed that the vehicle could hit speeds of up to 72km/h, with 48.5 km/h as an average road cruising speed. Whilst impressive, officers pointed out that the engine, originally used for a sports car, was too delicate, and was replaced with the Renault 432 22 CV 4-cylinder engine, which was originally used for commercial buses. With a weight of just over five tonnes, the vehicle could hit a maximum speed of just under 64km/h, and an average cruising speed of just over 35km/h. An order of 92 was placed on 3rd July 1934, and was named AMR 35.

However, there was another upgrade to be done concerning the suspension. The AMR 33’s suspension was intended to be used for the AMR 35, but was considered rather delicate and unreliable for cross-country driving. Moreover, the oil shock dampeners were rather maintenance heavy, and therefore quite unsuitable for military service. As a result, Renault began to work on a total redesign of the suspension, which led to three different types being developed, tested on AMR 35 chassis number 79758.
One type had the idler wheel on the ground, which was rejected. The second type had two bogies and five roadwheels, and the vehicle was known as the Renault ZB. This suspension type later developed further and used on the Renault R35. The third suspension type, mounted on the Renault ZT, was similar to the ZB, except it only had four roadwheels, and one bogie, and it was accepted for service.

Chinese Service

According to “World War II and Fighting Vehicles: The Complete Guide” by Leland Ness, in March 1936, the KMT ordered 12 Renault ZB (which he refers to as AMR-ZB). Half of these were armed with 37mm SA-18 guns, and the other half had 13.2mm Hotchkiss M1929s. Included in this order were 1500 HE shells, 1500 HE tracer shells, 3000 AP shells, and 300 practice rounds. Four more were ordered by the Yunnan Provincial Government a few months later, which were apparently all armed with 13.2mm Hotchkiss M1929 machine guns.
These were likely ordered because the Germans, who were closely allied to China (read more here), were unable to meet the demands of the Chinese armed forces, and thus the KMT began searching for other military hardware suppliers. France had previously sold vehicles to China – as early as 1919, they had sold Renault FTs to Warlord Zhang Zuolin (Chang Tso-lin) and later sold some to Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang in 1928.
Yunnan received their vehicles in October 1938. The KMT’s tanks were shipped to Haiphong, French Indochina (now Vietnam), but the Japanese applied pressure to the French government, and they were not delivered immediately. Two vehicles finally arrived in China in February 1940, and another eight in June 1940. The other two are unaccounted for. The French also sold the KMT an estimated ten modified Renault UEs with 7.7mm machine guns in August 1936, which reached China in 1940 for the same reasons.
The Renault ZBs were apparently used by the Chinese Expeditionary Forces in Burma, but further information is unclear. One photo shows a Renault ZB with 13.2mm Hotchkiss machine gun in Burma, 1942. These vehicles are likely to have been lost or abandoned in Burma, as they are not known to have taken part in the Chinese Civil War (1945-1949).

Renault ZB of the Chinese Expeditionary Force, Burma, 1942.
Renault ZB of the Chinese Expeditionary Force, Burma, 1942. Illustration by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet

Renault ZB “30” with Hotchkiss M1929 (a 13.2mm machine gun) of the Chinese Expeditionary Force, Burma, 1942. The vehicle appears to be camouflaged by shrubbery.

Renault ZB, reported wrongly by some sources to be in China. This is actually the trial vehicle in France in 1934.

Renault ZB of the Yunnan Provincial Government, armed with a 13.2mm Hotchkiss M1929 machine gun.


“World War II and Fighting Vehicles: The Complete Guide” by Leland Ness
“Все китайские танки. «Бронированные драконы» Поднебесной” by Andrei Chaplygin