Char B-1 Bis (E1951.40)

Char B-1 Bis
Char B-1 Bis
Char B-1 Bis
vehicle info
Precise Name
Char B-1 Bis
Other Name
Char de Bataille B-1 bis
Main Utility Type
Country of Use
1938, Renault Societe Anonyme Usine, France
World War 2
location in the museum
A French heavy tank from 1940
Design of the Char B dates back to 1926 when three prototypes were built by a consortium of companies under the control of Atelier de Construction de Rueil. Subsequent developments saw the appearance of the Char B1 in 1935 and the Char B1 bis, an up-armoured version, about a year later. Although classed as a medium tank the Char B was clearly designed for infantry support. Its main armament, a 75mm howitzer, is located in the hull, alongside the driver who aims and fires it. The tank commander, in the turret, has to load and fire the 47mm gun and the 7.5mm machine-gun.

In its day the Char B was regarded as one of the most powerful tanks in the world, yet still had many features which harked back to the First World War; the tall hull, all-round tracks and side entry doors, for example. On the mechanical side, however, it was extremely sophisticated. The Renault 6 cylinder engine had been modified from an aircraft unit while the transmission was operated by a Naeder hydrostatic system which gave the driver superb control when swinging the tank to aim the gun. The Char B was also equipped with an advanced gyroscopic direction indicator.

The Char B was issued to tank battalions in armoured divisions and saw extensive combat in the summer of 1940. There is some evidence to suggest that visibility from the tank was poor and, undoubtedly, the crew of four was over stretched.

Of the 365 Char B-1 bis built, large numbers were captured intact by the Germans in France in 1940. Those tanks that survived were later incorporated into the German Army and modified in various ways. They were used to equip German armoured units, serving as the PzKpfw Renault B-1 bis 740(f) and fighting in 1941 in Russis and the Balkans.

Our exhibit was issued to 1st Platoon, 1st Company, Panzer Abteilung 213, Panzer Division Schweizingen for service in the Channel Islands and was captured on Jersey at the end of the war. The Panzer Abteilung 213 was formed in the autumn of 1941 to operate French tanks, and arrived in Jersey and Guernsey in March and April 1942 on the SS Derindje and SS Livadia. This tank was number 114. The regiment never fired a shot in anger, although many of its recruits fought in other panzer regiments. The tanks were returned to France in May 1946, although this one was sent to the School of Tank Technology in Britain before being movd to the Tank Museum.

Period of Service : 1936-1945
Full Tracked
Gun - 75 mm Howitzer and 47 mm SA35Gun
Armament - Main Weapon Type
7.5 mm Machine Gun
Armament - Secondary Weapon Type
Renault 6 cylinder, 16 litre, 307bhp, water cooled
5 Forward, 1 Reverse
Multiple leaf and coil springs
9.7 bhp/ton
Power to Weight Ratio
Vehicle Statistics
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