St. Chamond
Production Information




Technical Specifications

8.9 meters


2.7 meters


2.4 meters


23 tonnes


4 cylinder Panhard-Levassor (petrol) 90 hp, Crochat-Colardeau electric transmission


12 km/h




75 mm gun

4 x 8mm Hotchkiss M1914 machine guns




Tank,, Ammunition Carrier, Recovery Vehicle

Year introduced




The Saint-Chamond was the second French heavy tank of World War I, with 400 built from April 1917 to July 1918, Born of the commercial rivalry existing with Schneider, the Saint-Chamond was underpowered and inadequate. Its tracks were too short for the vehicles length and weight. Later models attepted to rectify some of these flaws by installing wider and stronger track shoes, thicker frontal armor and the more effective 75mm Mle 1897 field gun. The Saint-Chamond tanks remained engaged in various actions until the late summer of 1918, becoming more effective as combat became mobile again. Eventually, the Saint-Chamonds were scheduled to be replaced by British heavy tanks.

History Edit

Development Edit

The Saint-Chamond was developed after the French government ordered 400 tanks from FAMH. Forges et Aciéries de la Marine et d'Homécourt aimed to build a tank similar to the Schneider CA. However, Eugène Brillié, the designer of the Schneider, refused to share his parents for free, and FAMH refused to pay. As a result, FAMH, being unable to replicate certain details of the Schneider, developed its own tank.  It did include a "Crochat-Collardeau" gasoline-electric transmission, a proven traction system already used by the French railways on railcars . Furthermore, the freedom to design a heavier and larger tracked vehicle gave Saint-Chamond the opportunity to upstage the Schneider company. They did it by installing on their "Char Saint-Chamond" a more powerful, full size 75mm field gun plus 4 Hotchkiss machine guns instead of the two machine guns present on the Schneider tank.

Saint-Chamond's technical director was Colonel Émile Rimailho, an artillery officer who had become dissatisfied over the insufficient reward he had received for helping design the famous Canon de 75 modele 1897 field gun as well as theModele 1904 155 mm "Rimailho" howitzer. Following his departure from the French State arsenal system (APX) and joining Saint-Chamond, Rimailho designed a 75 mm field gun similar to the Mle 1897 75 mm gun he had co-developed with Sainte-Claire Deville. It was the proprietary Canon de 75mm TR Saint-Chamond (Modele 1915), designed to fire the regular French 75mm ammunition. Colonel Rimailho, who had a direct financial interest in selling his company's gun, induced the Ministry of War to specify that the new Saint-Chamond tank would also mount the Saint-Chamond made 75. In so doing Rimailho had also upstaged the Schneider CA1 tank which could only be fitted with a smaller Schneider-made fortress gun firing a 75mm reduced charge ammunition. To accommodate a regular length and full size 75mm field gun, a longer hull than on the Schneider tank was essential. The Saint-Chamond prototype, a tracked vehicle longer and heavier than the Schneider tank was first demonstrated to the French military in February 1916.

When Colonel Jean Baptiste Eugène Estienne, who had taken the initiative to create the French tank arm, learned that an order for 400 additional Saint-Chamond tanks had been passed on April 8,1916, he was at first quite elated. When it later became apparent that they would be of a different type, Estienne was shocked and wrote:

I am painfully surprised that an order has been launched of this importance without asking the opinion of the only officer who, at the time, had undertaken a profound study of the technical and military aspects involved and who had brought the supreme commander to the decision to take this path [towards a tank arm].[1]

References Edit

  1. Mathieu Detchessahar and Yannick Lemarchand, "Des Hommes et des Projects dans l'Urgence — La naissance du char d’assaut français,Annales des Mines p 47; quoting Lettre d’Estienne à Joffre, 1er novembre 1916. SHAT, 16 N 2121: « Je suis péniblement surpris qu’on ait lancé une commande de cette importance sans prendre l’avis du seul officier qui, à l’époque, se soit livré à une étude approfondie de la question technique et militaire, et qui ait décidé le général en chef à marcherdans cette voie »