“From Mud Through Blood To The Green Fields Beyond”
– Motto of the Royal Tank Regiment in World War I
When it was first introduced to the battlefields of World War I, it was hoped that the tank would be able to break the stalemate in fighting, turning the horrors of static trench warfare into a more mobile battle that could bring about quicker results. Slow and cumbersome, the earliest tanks were monstrosities at best, causing momentary anxiety amongst its enemies until antidotes and their own unwieldy qualities could be turned against them.
The Schneider Char d’Assault tank was France’s first real attempt at differentiating dedicated tanks from dedicated self-propelled gun systems. Like it’s predecessors before it however, the system would never meet its potential due to the design theory of melding a long hull on a short set of tracks. In practice, this combination proved to make the Schneider unable to pass over any type of uneven terrain.
The Schneider was a Char d’Assault idea by Colonel J .E. Estienne with a full design developed by Eugene Brillie under the Schneider Company brand. Both men visited the United States of America in an effort to study and research the Holt series of tractors that utilized a distinct tractor and chassis assemblage – more specifically the “Baby Holt”. The resulting design was termed as the Tractuer Blinde et Arme and production for the French Army followed.
The Schneider Char d’Assault was the most fundamental of tank designs, consistent with early tanks in general. It was of a boxy hull design with a sharp angle at fore. The system sat upon shortened tracks, leaving the forward and aft hull sections hovering over the track assembly. Main armament consisted of a 75mm main gun. Two additional Hotchkiss-type 8mm machine guns were fitted in positional ball mountings on either side of the upper hull for self-defense. The Schneider could carry a full compliment of 7 personnel.
Once the Schneiders became available for use, their design shortcomings quickly became apparent. The short tractor assemblies were useless over anything but flat roads as the elongated hull protruding fore and aft caused the system to get stuck. As a result, the system suffered catastrophic losses against enemy artillery barrages, rendering the entire concept nearly useless. In one particular offensive no fewer than 57% of the 132 fielded Schneiders were destroyed in this fashion.
Look for Wings of the Great War’s first version of the Schneider (WW10202) to rumble onto the diecast battlefield this November.