The Battleship of Tanks
|The Char 2C.|
|The Char 2C with its crew (including one extra man).|
The French Subsecretary of Artillery during the Great War, General Léon Augustin Jean Marie Mourret, asked shipyard Forges et Chantiers de la Méditerranée (FCM) near Toulon to come up with a heavy tank. The British had developed a few of their own, which Mourret must have heard about. The British tanks were first used at Cambrai, and this officer evidently feared being left behind. There was what can only be described as a tank euphoria amongst the Allies, as the British subsequently swept aside all opposition at Cambrai with their first tanks and appeared about to completely break the trench-warfare stalemate. Mourret then applied pressure to FCM to finish the job quickly. He probably figured a big French tank would sweep the dirty Boches aside and he would become a national hero.
|The French were quite proud of their big tanks.|
|Painting of one of the ten Char 2Cs actually built, the "Alsace."|
|A French Car 2C on a special rail hauler.|
The Char 2C wasn't even the biggest tank dreamed up by the French - at one point, they even contemplated a 600-ton tank (somewhat akin to the later German Maus). As the Germans closed in, the French even ordered yet another humongous twin-turret monster. It was never built, however, as the Germans quickly overcame France.
|A French Char 2C proudly decked out like a battleship, pennants flying high.|
ConclusionThe French Char 2C was a classic failure because it represented the age-old case of generals fighting the last war. Well, it's unfair to place the blame on the generals - it was the bureaucrats who pushed through a project that was no longer necessary and a static achievement in a very fluid field of development. It is difficult to answer some questions about the Char 2C tank such as what its intended purpose was supposed to be. That requires getting into the minds of the designer and its supporters within the government. Simply saying that building a massive tank was completely crazy and misguided is not really a satisfying answer because the Germans also seriously considered doing it long after they should have known better in 1943. No, there was a reason, we just have to figure it out.
|A captured French Char 2C apparently being used for testing purposes (note the numerous shell holes) by the Wehrmacht.|
|Like the Maginot Line (shown), the French Char 2C was designed for fighting the last war, not the next one.|
|A French Char 2C after being destroyed by the retreating French Army. Apparently, they destroyed the tanks by dropping explosives down the hatch, blowing out the sides.|