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JMGT:S 1/72 S:t Chamond

On the Real Thing

The Char Schneider C.A.1 was intended to be the standard French heavy tank and an order was placed for 400 of them on 25 February1916. However, Monsieur J. L. Breton, of the French Government department responsible for war inven­tions, gave authority for the firm Forges et Aciéries de la Marine et d'Homé-court, at Saint Chamond near Lyon, to design another tank, larger and better­armed than the Schneider. Both depart­mental and industrial jealousy were involved because this step was taken without full knowledge of the Army and neither Joffre, the Commander-in­Chief, nor Estienne, the leading military expert on the subject were consulted and there was no co-operation with the Schneider firm.

StChamond_2.jpg (43926 byte)The design of the Char Saint­Chamond, as it was known, was undertaken by Colonel Rimailho of F.A.M.H who took as starting-point a lengthened Holt Caterpillar chassis, which had been specially built up from parts of three Holt tractors for comparison with the Schneider-built chassis in trials at Vincennes on 21 February 1916.The prototype vehicle of Saint­Chamond design was completed by September 1916, and it was in its essentials a larger version of the Schneider; but although the tracks were longer the much larger hull led to a considerable overhang at front and rear which, it was soon found, resulted in poor cross­country performance and handling characteristics. It is interesting to note that the original designs included a third single wide track at the front, which should have considerably improved the climbing ability of the machine, although it would also have accentuated its nose-heaviness. Probably for the latter reason and also, doubtless, to simplify production, this feature was not included in the tanks built.

stch1.jpg (33706 byte)In addition to the handling faults, the Saint-Chamond was found to have further defects when in action for the first time on 5May 1917. Facilities for crew exit in emergency were poor, vision arrangements were inadequate and the recoil cylinder of the 75-mm. gun was found to be vulnerable to enemy fire.The Saint-Chamond had an electric transmission - a Panhard four-cylinder petrol engine of 80-90-h.p. operated a 52-kw dynamo which in turn supplied two electric motors, one to each track. This system eliminated the gear chang­ing difficulties inherent in other early tanks and simplified steering (for which controls were provided at either end of the vehicle) but it was complicated and delicate and, unfortunately, unreliable and added to all the other troubles with this tank.

stch2.jpg (29142 byte)In an effort to correct at least some of these faults, modifications were introduced both in the course of production and retrospectively. After the first 165 tanks (of the 400 ordered) were built, the 75mm. Saint-Chamond T.R. gun was replaced by the standard 75mm Model 1897 field gun. The flat roof with two circular cupolas of the early tanks was modified to a new pattern higher at the front to give more head­room to the crew - there was one square cupola at the left on most tanks. The tracks, which were too narrow, were replaced with wider ones with a chevron tread pattern to give more traction and to accommodate these the hull side plates over the tracks had to be modified.

stch3.JPG (62052 byte)It was recommended that additional 82 mm plates should be added to the side plates (which were a basic 82 mm.) to give full protection against the German `K' bullet, although this modification was not carried out in full. Other features of the Char Saint­Chamond were the four Hotchkiss machine-guns (one each side, one at the front, one at the back with 8488 rounds carried) in addition to the main weapon (for which 106 rounds were supplied) mounted in the front plate; its crew of nine men, and its weight (due mainly to its heavy transmission system) of 24 tons.

stch4.jpg (58496 byte)The S:t Chamond was first used in action on May 5 1917, in support of an infantry attack at Moule de Laffaux. The major flaw in the construction - the small drive train and the big front overhang - at once revealed itself: of the 16 S:t Chamond tanks that participated in the assault, 15 got firmly stuck when they attempted to cross the German trenches. In the next big tank attack, both Schneider CA 1:s and S:t Chamonds participated, but the result was again a flop: only the CA 1:s managed to pass the German trenches!

stch5.JPG (22487 byte)None of the modifications introduced could make the Saint-Chamond into a good tank and, after the French had given consideration to other designs to replace it and the Schneider C.A., it was decided to accept the offer of British heavy tanks for employment in the offensive planned for 1919. The production of the tank was curtailed after some 400 were built. Under 1918 these vehicles participated in some 375 different actions, and at the end of the war only 72 were still left in service.

If you want more info on the S:t Chamond, you simply MUST visit the Blindés Francais, an excellent French Site, with super material on this tank. And you should not miss these excellent walk around photos of the worlds only surviving S:t Chamond!


The Kit

Well, I have to say it straight away: this is the best WW1 Braille Scale AFV kit you can find out on the market today! Cromwells Mk V* and Mk VIII are very close, but this one wins by a whisker. The kit comes packed in a sturdy cardboard box - illustrated by both a plan and a photo of the kit -, and is made in soft, light-yellow resin. The main parts are the hull, the bottom, the bow and the two track assemblies. 

The track assemblies are made up of a number of parts and have both back, front and sides - no "half" parts here. There is also a number of smaller parts: the Hotchkiss MG:s - made in white metal and some of the very best I've seen -, a finely detailed 75mm cannon, an optional cupola etc. There is also some Photo-Etched parts supplied, including the makers star emblem!

This is an excellent kit!

The mouldings are really first rate, crisp and with no air bubbles; they are easily comparable to the very best, say Al-By. There is some flash on the track assemblies, but that's it. The dimensions, angles and details are correct. The kit includes a good set of plans and also - would you believe that? - some decals, alright so it's only numbers, but the gesture is truly appreciated. Note that JMGT produces two variants of the S:t Chamond: early and late.

 This is the late variant, with the sloping roof, and retractable drivers cupola. Yes, I find it difficult to fault this kit. For all those not here in Europe, you can buy it from The Squadron Shop in the US. (But it is expensive to get it from them, and will cost anyone in Europe buying it hefty import duties.) For anyone in Europe the best bet is instead to contact Socrate themselves. Their address is

71, Grande Rue
95760 Valmondois
Tel : 33 1 34 69 60 00
Email :

According to Eric Gallaud (thanks for the info, Eric!) the price is some 30 Euros + P&P (5 Euro for France). 

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