Wednesday 11 May 2022

More 1940 French


I had a big session and photographed all my 1940 equipment the other day, apart from the basic rifle platoons for both sides, which are mostly just readily available figures painted to a middling standard, so probably not of massive interest. I did take pictures of all the support weapons and equipment, because it's largely scratch-built, and I couldn't resist showing the few tanks belonging to this setup. So here's the rest of the French. The Hereditary Enemy will be in the next post
Here's an ER40 infantry radio and its team. Note the curious arrangement of a vertical and a horizontal aerial. Each French battalion had six such radios, which put them a little ahead of the German infantry, and veterans said they worked rather well. Crucially however, French tank radios were notoriously ineffective...

The radioman's base is complete with set, battery box and tripod

In the Chain of Command rules there is scope for a "medic", which in the French case meant a stretcher bearer, modelled here with 1892 folding stretcher. 

From the side you can see his armband, bearing the unexpected symbol of a white diagonal Maltese cross. Owing to an over-strict interpretation of the Geneva Convention, French stretcher bearers didn't claim the protection of the red cross armband, despite being completely unarmed. Their German equivalents carried pistols but didn't scruple to demand being treated as non-combatants. Then again the Germans didn't scruple about an awful lot of things at this time.

Here's a Brandt 60mm mortar and team, widely but too thinly distributed in the French infantry at the rate of one for every rifle company. The Brandt design greatly improved on the original British Stokes mortar of WWI, and all modern mortars are descended from it in fact.

With this last picture, I'll explain what all the bright red and blue business is on the French uniforms. The blue on the collar patches indicated the infantry branch of service; it's come out a bit brighter than in reality here, because it wouldn't otherwise show up the figures, which are smaller than the photos you are seeing. The red piping on cuffs and shoulder straps was a feature of the regular soldier's "best" uniform. Normally kept for parades and walking out, it was ordered as the "tenue de guerre" in September 1939. However most reservists recalled to the colours were issued plain khaki uniforms from stock, so the result was a somewhat patchy appearance.

This B1 bis tank is a resin kit that I didn't do much more than assemble and paint, but I like to show it to people because (a) it has an interesting colour scheme and (b) it's a bit of a beast really, isn't it? The B1 bis (B for battle tank, "bis" equating to "mark 2" in British parlance) had two decent guns, five crew and 60mm armour all round, making it the "Tiger tank of 1940". All B1's had individual names and numbers, this one's the "Maroc 203", and were commanded by officers. The fate of almost every single one is known, and a quick Google will show you what became of the Maroc.

This tank was terribly hard for the Germans to deal with, being invulnerable to their standard anti-tank guns. Often they just tried to stay out of the way until the things broke down, which sadly happened a lot. Statistically the majority of French tanks in 1940 were lost to breakdowns rather than enemy action.

French 1940 armour usually has exotic markings and paint schemes. For a start the hull and the turret usually had different camouflage patterns, the reason being they were built and painted in different factories, each of which had its own ideas on the already-vague painting regulations. 

You don't get many tanks with purple camouflage, but that was one of the seven shades used on the camouflage of the hull, all edged with black lines. The turret camouflage boasts a mere four colours.

I didn't go mad with the weathering, as I wanted the colours to show up. There's some dust and some oil spills, and the rust effect on the exhaust pipe came out quite nicely.


  1. Those infantry look great John, but you've just got to love French camo schemes for their tanks, which are just wonderful. You've done a great job on yours:). IIRC, the Germans found that they could knock this tank out even with a Pak 35/36 from the side, by hitting the radiator louvres, which were very vulnerable.

    I'm looking forward to seeing the Germans in another post.

  2. Great looking support units and the char B1 is awesome!
    Best Iain

  3. Thanks, guys, and I agree with your point Steve. The Germans did discover the radiator louvres were a weak spot, and I understand issued advice to aim for the "black rectangle", as it sometimes did become darker than its surroundings. Of course this is only of use if you are able to get a clear shot at the left-hand side of the tank! In practice the German antitank gunners blazed away, hoping to hit any of the weak spots a tank will have, including he radiator, vision blocks, hatch covers, the aerial, the track and so on. Sometimes out of dozens of 37mm rounds to hit a B1, one would get lucky and cause damage or injure a crewman, perhaps causing the tank to retreat. Given the tiny numbers of B1's involved in most attacks, this was a valid tactic for the Germans.

    They also pressed into service guns that were more effective than the 37mm. As well as the occasional use of 88mm AA guns, the Germans had a number of Czech 47mm guns, and they quickly turned round captured French guns of that calibre. Finally 105mm artillery pieces could seriously hurt a B1, and these were the most common remedy in many battles of 1940, right from the start. Later in the campaign many infantry divisions distributed a proportion of their 105mm field artillery on the basis of one to a battery of 37mm guns, for use against heavy tanks. They were certainly quick to adapt.

  4. fantastic work John - loving all the information on this wonderful collection.
    Take care

  5. More lovely work John and I think you under estimate your painting skills too - the accompanying figures look very nice indeed!

  6. Brilliant! The tank is lovely and the other pieces are very interesting. I for one would be interested to see the full platoons..the painting is very nice--not middling at all!

  7. Nice to see a build that does not exhibit "failed its MOT" levels of weathering. :-)

    Regards, Chris.