The French tank corps was an essential part of the French army from 1917 onwards, yet its history has been strangely neglected in English accounts of the Western Front – and that is why Tim Gale’s meticulously researched history is such a timely addition to the literature on the First World War. Using information derived from the French military archives at Vincennes, much of which has never been published in English before, he describes the design and development of the tanks, the political and organizational issues that arose between the French military and civilian bureaucracy and the record of these pioneering fighting vehicles in combat. All the major engagements in which French tanks participated are depicted in graphic detail, often quoting directly from recollections left by individual tank commanders of their experience in battle, and each operation is assessed in terms of its impact on French tactics in general and on tank tactics in particular. The Nivelle offensive and the battles of Malmaison, the Matz, Soissons and Champagne are featured in the narrative, and the actions of the French tanks serving with the US army are covered too.Much of the material in Tim Gale’s study will be entirely new to non-French speakers. The story will be fascinating reading for anyone who is interested in the Great War, the French army, military innovation and the history of armoured warfare.
FRENCH TANKS OF THE GREAT WAR Development, Tactics and Operations
This is the first time an English reading audience has an in-depth account of French World War I tank history. While the British beat the French in introducing the first tanks to the battlefield, the importance of the French contribution to early tank development, both technical and doctrinal, should not be forgotten. In terms of technical achievements, the French FT-17 is likely the most important tank design of the war, heralding the transition from sponson carrying armoured boxes to the more modern turreted tank concept. This is an excellent and well documented history.