French tank development began shortly after the creation of Little Willie, but the one thing to note about French tank development was that the French were not designing their tanks under one ministry like their British allies, rather all of their designs were being produced by multiple little committees and companies that competed with one another for resources. This led to two things:
- French tank development was wild and chaotic, because of the amount of competition and design differences from the different committees.
- Tank development in France had arguably more innovation than the British, you had radically different tank designs from France than in Britain–who derive most of their designs on variations of the Marks series.
Out of all of the companies, one came to be the forefront of early French tank development, the Schneider company. Within 2 weeks of introducing the concept to a French artillery officer, the chief engineer at Schneider designed the Char d’Assaut (Assault Tank) Schneider CA1 (Shown below)
Though the CA1 was for the most part a riveted metal box with guns, at least the French had put some functional style into it compared to say Little Willie and the German A7V, aside from the standard armament of the 75mm gun short barreled gun on the right side flanked by machine guns, the front of the tank was slanted with a metal rebar to cut through barbed wire, and was able to carry 6 men.
Remember when I said that the French had multiple companies and committees all vying for resources/funding? Another tank was developed shortly after the CA1 by FAMH–a competitor to Schneider, originally designed to be partly based on the CA1 but was blocked by the designer of the aforementioned tank due to patents, known as the Saint-Chamond Heavy Tank (shown below):
This thing was similar to the CA1 in weapons loadout (1 75mm and 4 machine guns), but it was larger, delicate, and more unwieldy in rough terrain (look at how small the suspension/track was compared to the rest of the tank!), often breaking down and leaving its 9 man crew dead in the water.
Unfortunately, both of these tanks were not successful in on the front and production for both stopped, the few remaining remained in service throughout the war.
***This does not mean however, that the French stopped tank development outright, in 1916 the French would later produce a tank whose design would forever revolutionize the way tanks were built and set the standard for all tanks all the way to today, more in the next post.***