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Best Defensive Tank - Battle of France 1940

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  • Best Defensive Tank - Battle of France 1940

    Imagine you are a French or British General during the Battle of France, which single tank would you prefer to be equipped with, given the choice. Basically what was the best defensive tank used in this campaign.

    Somua S-35


    http://www.worldwarphotos.info/wp-co...erman_tank.jpg

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SOMUA_S35

    Char B1 bis


    http://www.littlewars.se/french1940/B1bis_3.jpg

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Char_B1

    Panzer IIIF


    http://orig15.deviantart.net/57de/f/...er-d4tobah.jpg

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panzer_III

    Panzer IVD


    http://www.tanks-encyclopedia.com/ww...s/Pz4AusfD.jpg

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panzer_IV

    Pz 38(t)


    http://www.tanks-encyclopedia.com/wp...Panzer_38t.jpg

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panzer_38(t)

    A10


    http://www.wwiivehicles.com/great-br...iia-a10-01.png

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cruiser_Mk_II

    A12


    https://servicepub.files.wordpress.c...photo-no-3.jpg

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matilda_II

    Other

    Just in case your 'best' is not listed.
    54
    Somua S-35
    5.56%
    3
    Char B1 bis
    46.30%
    25
    Panzer IIIF
    1.85%
    1
    Panzer IVD
    9.26%
    5
    Pz 38(t)
    1.85%
    1
    A10
    0.00%
    0
    A12
    33.33%
    18
    Other
    1.85%
    1
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  • #2
    Char B1- on a purely defensive role it would be hard to beat.
    The driver gets to park where the 75mm can do its best work, and the 47mm deals with flanking threats... even the one-man turret isn't such an issue in the ambush role.
    The amount of ammo is fantastic, you can just spray and pray to your heart's content all day long, and still have enough to cover your withdrawal if need be.
    "Why is the Rum gone?"

    -Captain Jack

    Comment


    • #3
      Have to be the Char B1, rated better than anything the Germans had at the time. It was just improperly deployed.
      Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? Who is watching the watchers?

      Comment


      • #4
        Tanks are not defensive weapons. That is why 1940 went the way it did.

        The ability to maneuver is the chief defense, because otherwise the enemy simply breaks through where your tanks are not, and wreaks havoc while your lumbering beasts run out of gas.

        Which is what happened.

        Therefore I voted the Mark IV.

        Comment


        • #5
          Here I see the French or British having the burden of being "best." The Matilda II saw service in this campaign in tiny numbers and only one serious action: Arras.

          The SOUMA S35 did acceptably in early actions, but losses were such that the DLM's were soon depleted of tanks.

          The real defensive beast was the Char B1 bis. It fought in a number of actions trying to stop the German advance and proved a tough vehicle to take on for the Germans. I'd say on the defense it proved the best vehicle of the campaign.

          Comment


          • #6
            Where's the one with a gazillion AA guns?

            Char B1bis packs the best punch and best armour. Maginot Line on tracks.

            Comment


            • #7
              I went for Matilda in this one; although I was also strongly tempted to vote B1.
              The B1 is much better armed and I see the two types as being roughly equal in terms of overall mobility. However, the Matilda has a much better internal layout which considerably enhances crew efficiency.
              It also has a lower & smaller silhouette and that, combined with being better able to fully employ its armament from a hull-down position (not having a gun slung low in the hull), weighs somewhat in its favour IMO; given that we are talking about fighting defensively here.
              Nevertheless - and as in the other poll where I also voted for what looks like the 2nd runner - The B1 would not be an undeserving winner here.
              "England expects that every man will do his duty!" (English crew members had better get ready for a tough fight against the combined French and Spanish fleets because that's what England expects! However, Scotland, Wales and Ireland appear to expect nothing so the Scottish, Welsh and Irish crew members can relax below decks if they like!)

              Comment


              • #8
                Matilda or Char B1 bis are the two outstanding choices here. Can't choose between them at present. Its the lack of HE on the Matilda that's the big issue imho.
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                • #9
                  I dont buy the offensive/defensive tank dichotomy. None of the tanks mentioned as options in this poll were designed as "defensive" tanks. Tanks are weapons for the offense, but there are different types of offensives and different types of battles.

                  In the case of France 1940, you have three different understandings of the offensive at play.

                  1. The controlled battle, which is what the French subscribed to. They wanted fast and agile tanks for reconnaissance as well as blocking and slowing down an enemy offensive. And they wanted slower, smaller infantry tanks for supporting the infantry attack once the enemy had been fixed in position. And they wanted a medium tank with great firepower to carry on the attack once it reached the maximum range of the supporting artillery. Hence Somua and light tanks in the cavalry divisions, the Renaults and FCMs for supporting the infantry and the Char B1 to carry on the attack of the DCR beyond artillery range with its heavy armour and 75mm gun.

                  2. The operation to swiftly defeat a large portion of the enemys forces, which is what the German subscribed to, hence all the tanks in armoured divisions, combined into a Panzergruppe for the attack on France. The Germans wanted fast, lightly armoured and well-armed tanks for this purpose.

                  3. A combination of 1 and 2 above which the British subscribed to as they had heavily armoured tanks for infantry support and fast, lightly armoured and well-armed tanks for operational manouver in armoured divisions - even if it did not really get to play out in France in 1940.

                  Now, taking a leaf from the Book of Nick, what we should be looking at is the kind of battle that actually unfolded in 1940 in France. Evidently, the Germans succeded with option 2, turning the battle for France into a fast moving operation, continuosly placing themselves ahead of the French and British decision cycle. In doing so, they made moot the successes of the French and British when conducting smaller operations and battles.

                  What tanks were capable of fast, armoured operations in 1940? I'd say these:
                  • Somua S-35
                  • Panzer IIIF
                  • Panzer IVD
                  • Pz 38(t)
                  • A10


                  But within the doctrine of the limited operation and infantry-centered controlled battle subscribed to by the French and (arguably) the British other tanks are the top contenders:
                  • Somua S-35
                  • Char B1 bis
                  • A12


                  I guess the intention behind the split between offensive and defensive tanks is to highlight these essentially doctrinal differences.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Assuming that by defensive tank, we mean the tank best suited for the limited operations of the controlled battle, I think there are three choices:
                    • Somua S-35
                    • Char B1 bis
                    • A12


                    The A12 is a given, as it was Britains best infantry tank at the time. There were more A11s and they were arguably just as succesfull in combat, but I guess a small, machingun armed two-man crew tank is just not worthy to participate in a "best tank competition"
                    The Char B1-bis was the battlefield brute of the campaign and certainly more succesfull than other French tanks designed for this type of fighting.
                    The Somua is included because it was well armed and well armoured as well as fairly fast and agile and could participate in a good slugging match with infantry, artillery and anti-tank weapons.

                    What do you want in a "defensive" tank?

                    In terms of firepower, you need to be able to destroy the enemys heavy weapons, even if they are dug in. That requires HE and this is the Achilles heel of the A12. It did not have any and the round that was available was not very good. The Somua had a slightly bigger 47mm gun that fired HE - a usefull round, as far as I can tell. The Char B1-bis had a 47mm HE firing gun like the Somua, but also a 75mm which puts it ahead of the HE game. But the "defensive" tank also needs to be able to defend itself against enemy tanks. All three contenders could do this, but the A12 could do it with a vengeance.
                    Still, the prize goes to the Char B1-bis.

                    The "defensive" tank cannot evade and outmanouver the enemy, it has to get stuck in and this requires a thick hide. All three tanks had this, even though none of them were immune. The A12 and the Char B1-bis are ahead of the game here, but the tall, vertical sides of the Char B1-bis does not make the for the best utilization of the thick plates.
                    Prize goes to the A12.

                    Mobility for the "defensive" tank means the ability to transverse whatever ground the enemy hides behind or in. Speed and range is not so much an issue.
                    The Somua and the Char B1-Bis have the same nominal ground pressure, but the Somua has more pressure concentrated on each wheel, so is more likely to sink into soft ground. The two tanks have nearly the same power-to-weight ratio. The A12 equals Char B1-bis in pressure on each wheel, but falls severely behind on nominal ground pressure and power-to-weight ratio. This suggests that the Char B1-bis would be the best off-road performer of the bunch, also having the by far best steering system.

                    I dont have much data on reliability, but the Char B1-bis had some issues with the advanced steering system and hydraulics. The A12 seems to have had some mechanical issues in its career while the Somua seems to have done well, travelling back and forth across Belgium and Northern France.

                    In the end, I'd opt for the Char B1-bis in this poll.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Arnold J Rimmer View Post
                      Tanks are not defensive weapons...
                      Granted, but there will come a time when your tanks get drafted into a desperate situation that involves helping to hold the line.
                      It may even be alone, or have nothing but a few shaky infantry nearby.

                      It may not even be tanks you are tasked with stopping.
                      IMHO, one of the worst nightmares for a Tanker is holding a position being infiltrated by large numbers of infantry. It may even be THE worst, especially at night. In fact, if you don't have good infantry of your own nearby and mortars standing by, you and your buddies will have to bug-out eventually, or die in place. Sooner or later, they will get you.

                      Poor little Matilda, with just one MG and slow speed in reverse, does not stand a chance.
                      "Why is the Rum gone?"

                      -Captain Jack

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by The Exorcist View Post
                        Granted, but there will come a time when your tanks get drafted into a desperate situation that involves helping to hold the line.
                        It may even be alone, or have nothing but a few shaky infantry nearby.

                        It may not even be tanks you are tasked with stopping.
                        IMHO, one of the worst nightmares for a Tanker is holding a position being infiltrated by large numbers of infantry. It may even be THE worst, especially at night. In fact, if you don't have good infantry of your own nearby and mortars standing by, you and your buddies will have to bug-out eventually, or die in place. Sooner or later, they will get you.

                        Poor little Matilda, with just one MG and slow speed in reverse, does not stand a chance.
                        Good points, but the Mark IV with its 75mm HE, decent speed (for the day) and maneuverability could shift from position to position, drawing infantry into kill zone after killzone. Far from perfect, but tanks without infantry as you noted, are vulnerable.

                        The ability to maneuver is the key IMO. Using a tank as a bunker only works if you have a full range of supporting arms in place.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by broderickwells View Post
                          Where's the one with a gazillion AA guns?

                          Char B1bis packs the best punch and best armour. Maginot Line on tracks.
                          That's a very good description of the B1. It literally is a mini-Ouvrage, and artillery bunker with a turret for all-round defense.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I liked the Matilda II and the Char Bis. The 75mm gun on the Char tipped the scales for me.

                            Pruitt
                            Pruitt, you are truly an expert! Kelt06

                            Have you been struck by the jawbone of an ASS lately?

                            by Khepesh "This is the logic of Pruitt"

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                            • #15
                              Maltilda all the way. Always surprised me that that, relative to the opposition, the British had their best tank during the disastrous 1940 campaign.
                              "To be free is better than to be unfree - always."

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