Military Review

Tanks in the Nivelle Battle. Part of 1

In March 1917, several French tank divisions, equipped with tanks of the SA-1 Schneider type, were ready for battle.

During this period, the organization of the French tank units was as follows: the 4 of the tank was a battery, the 3 of batteries was a division; The 3 tank division of Schneider or the 4 tank division of Saint-Chamond (as a rule) together with a platoon of supply and repair were combined into a group.

The Allied command firmly hoped to break through the German front in the course of the upcoming large-scale operation. 13 March, General Michelet wrote: “The use of tanks north of r. En will allow on the very first day of the offensive to reach the most remote enemy positions. ” Indeed, only tanks could cope with new defenses, which the Germans had just finished building at the front of Berrier Grove Clandan - Ginokur (first line) and Amifontaine - Prouve - Pergiotel (rear line), which was out of reach of the French field artillery fire.

All 8 tank divisions were attached to the French 5-th Army.
The main blow was supposed to inflict 32-corps, advancing between pp Miet and En. On the left, this attack was supported by the 5 corps, and the right flank of the strike connection was provided by the r. En

Tanks in the Nivelle Battle. Part of 1

1. Tank CA-1 Schneider.

Most of the tanks - 5 divisions - under the command of Major Bossu was in the direction of the main attack. The remaining 3 battalions, commanded by Major Shabe, were assigned to the 5 Corps, supporting its left-flank 10 Infantry Division. The 5 Army's instruction established that "tanks will be used to support infantry when attacking enemy positions not affected by our artillery preparation." The instruction for the tank units of the 5 Corps prescribed: “A group of tanks immediately preceding the infantry steps into the positions occupied by the enemy, makes a passage in the wire obstacles, takes defenders under fire, and, having broken their resistance, makes way for the infantry. The latter ... rushes forward and takes possession of the position. ... provides further advancement of tanks, eliminating all obstacles in their way. "

Bossu Group (2, 4, 5, 6, 9 Division and 1 Supply and Repair Platoon) and Shabe Group (3, 7, 8 Division and 3 supply and repair platoon), by the evening of April 13, arrived at the assembly point.

In accordance with the order of the commander of the 32 corps, the 2, 5, 6, and 9 divisions were supposed to support the 69 division (left flank), and the 4 division (right-flank) ). The deployed divisions were to advance along the following routes: the 42 (commander - captain Pardon) and 2 (commander - captain Shanuan) divisions - in the offensive zone of the 6 infantry regiment on the Nassau trench, and then on the Albo farms and Moulin; The 151 th (commander - captain Nosero) division - in the strip of the 5 th infantry regiment - to the Würzburg trench, railway and the western edge of the Pruve grove; 162 (division commander - Captain Gubernard) Division - in the strip of the 9 Infantry Regiment - on the part of the Würzburg trench, railway and the southern edge of the Pruve Grove; The 267 th (commander - captain de Forsantz) division - in the strip of the 4 th infantry regiment - to the part of the Würzburg trench, the park and the village of Ginoncourt and the Erbihe grove.

A group of 5 infantry regiments was assigned to the Bossu group: two head divisions (154), half a pound each for the right flank divisions (2 and 9) and one company for each of the other divisions (4 and 6) th)

The 3 division of the Shabe group had to turn around in such a way as to attack the trenches "Thuringen" and "Speer", and then the terrain between Berrier and Amifontaine. To accompany the tanks, 3 companies of the 76 Infantry Regiment were assigned.

Issues of assistance to the stranded tanks, supplies and communications were debugged - companies have allocated selected fighters for each 4 tank.

April 16 launched an offensive.

In 6 hours of 30 minutes, a column of 82 tanks from the Bossu group of tanks moved to the starting position - on the highway from Pontaver to Kohler. The tanks came under fire from the German artillery firing at the squares - there were no casualties in the personnel, but the tracks of several tanks were damaged by large fragments. In 8 hours the head of the column approached the bridge over the river. Miet and to the French trenches - the tanks had to stand 45 minutes in anticipation of the construction of passages through the trenches. The escort infantry, hitting the enemy’s barrage, rushed into the message and scattered through the trenches.

In the future, tankers also experienced problems moving through an extensive system of trenches. So, when overcoming a position plot, Captain Pardon deployed his division into battle order - hitting the hail of German shells. The infantrymen, instead of helping the tanks to cross the obstacle, tried to move away from them - to avoid fragments of German shells. Crews were forced to get out of the cars and construct the crossings themselves.

At this time, the projectile gets into the tank Major Bossu - the commander of the group is killed, and the crew is disabled.

2-4. Tank "Schneider" from the inside.

At noon, 5 tanks managed to overcome obstacles and reach the 78 hill - but in vain they gave signals, calling for help from their infantry. There were few infantrymen, and they did not dare to follow the tanks through the area of ​​fire.

13 watches 5 joined 2 to the broken tanks, and the detachment launched an offensive at the junction of the Nassau and Würzburg trenches.

But they did not have time to move up a few hundred meters, as they came under direct fire - the German batteries from. Geveenkur and Groves Klokdan. Two tanks caught fire. Just at the junction of two trenches, another 77-mm cannon, serviced by three gunners, suddenly found itself - it destroyed two more tanks. The remaining three cars moved over the crest of the 78.

Encouraged by the withdrawal of tanks, the Germans launched a counterattack in the direction of the Moshan farm - but were repulsed. The fire of the Germans intensified: several tanks were damaged, the captain died Sorry. The remainder of the 2 Tank Division was transferred to the command of the 6 Battalion Commander Captain Shanouan.

The 6 Division followed 2 at close range, and without loss reached the second German position. At 11 hours, he turned around for a fight and moved to the Nassau trench. German planes, having discovered the division, reported artillery about it, and it was covered with powerful fire. In 14 hours 6 tanks were shot down (5 of them burned out), on both banks of the river. Miet the French infantry could not move forward.

At this time, the counter-attack mentioned above began. The 6 Division supported the 2 with fire, and the Germans were scattered. But the tanks, being alone, retreated.

Parts of the 15 Infantry Regiment approached 151 for hours. It was decided to conduct a joint counterattack.

In 17 hours of 20 minutes, the tanks moved to the attack, and the crest of 78 was occupied by the French infantry.

The 5 division was also active. But immediately after crossing the river. Miet Division was hit by enemy artillery - one tank was set on fire, and two officers (including Captain Nosero) were wounded. The rest of the tanks commanded by Captain Dubois continued their advance - breaking the trenches in 400 meters north of the Moshan farm, they attack the Würzburg trench in two groups. In the center, a commander tank was moving, and in 50 meters to the right and left of it, 2 columns of two batteries each attacked.

Approaching a close distance to the target of the attack, the tanks turned into battle formation and opened fire. The enemy began to retreat, and the tanks continued the offensive, overcoming the “Würzburg” trench, and leaving 6 vehicles along the way (the rest reached the southern edge of the Klokdan grove).

The infantry fell behind again. The tanks stopped and gave her signals - from 13 to 16 hours the tanks stood in place, from time to time repeating a conditional signal. 3 vehicles were sent for reconnaissance: one to the edge of the Klokdan grove, the second east of the grove, and the third to the southeast, to the railroad.

The first two tanks were almost immediately destroyed, and the third, having passed the railway, advanced further than all other tanks on that day. But on the way back, he was also hit by a German shell.

In 16 hours 30 minutes, Captain Dubois received a message that, due to the losses incurred, the infantry could not move on. The division was preparing to withdraw when a counter-attacking enemy appeared at the railway - but the tanks scattered it with fire.

The actions of the tanks in this battle seemed so successful to the French infantry that it was even asked to leave them all night (as sentries) ahead of the captured enemy trench - to cover (!) The infantry. Fortunately, the tanks were ordered to retreat to their “waiting” position in the Bomara grove.

To be continued

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  1. Amurets
    Amurets 19 October 2017 07: 05
    Author. Thanks for the article, but most of all I liked the photo of the SA-1 Schneider tank inside. You can imagine how they are arranged inside.
  2. svp67
    svp67 19 October 2017 07: 34
    The English tanks of that time were slow, slow and very bad, but they were better than the French, which were still few and where the British took the mass, the French could not do anything. It was necessary to wait for the appearance of the Renault tank, so that everything would change by a turn ...
    1. Amurets
      Amurets 19 October 2017 08: 47
      Quote: svp67
      The English tanks of that time were slow, slow and very bad, but they were better than the French,

      English tanks are still an original design, like Renault, and Schneider and Saint-Chamonix are alterations to the Holt tractor.
      Link "Two volumes of S. Fedoseev" All tanks of the First World War. "
      1. DimerVladimer
        DimerVladimer 19 October 2017 10: 44
        Quote: Amurets
        Schneider and Saint-Chamonix are reworking the Holt tractor.

        On the KV tank there was an archaic transmission from the Holt tractor.

        Analysis of the technical characteristics of the T-34 and KV tanks carried out by employees of the US Aberdeen Proving Ground:

        Beyond all criticism - bad. An interesting case has occurred. The KV tank transmission repair worker was amazed that it was very similar to the transmissions with which he worked 12-15 years ago. A firm was requested. The company sent drawings of its A-23 transmission. To everyone’s surprise, the blueprints of our transmission turned out to be a copy of those sent. It struck the Americans not that we copied their design, but that the design was copied, which they abandoned 15–20 years ago. On the T-34 tank, the transmission is also very poor. During operation, the teeth completely crumbled out on it (on all gears).
        1. Amurets
          Amurets 19 October 2017 13: 32
          Quote: DimerVladimer
          On the T-34 tank, the transmission is also very poor. During operation, the teeth completely crumbled out on it (on all gears).

          For the T-34, one can also say that the metal and heat treatment were of poor quality. And the fact that the staff had low qualifications and what this led to. You can find about this in the memoirs of Professor Emelyanov, the book "How it began." Chapter: "Where tanks are made." - Let's all the same make a complete chemical and metallographic analysis of the broken tooth.
          We send him to the laboratory. The next morning a sensation.
          - Do you know what happened? Steel is not chromium-nickel-molybdenum, not "ha-en-four", but chromium - "she-ha-fifteen"!
          - What about?
          It seemed incredible!
          "She-ha-fifteen" - a steel grade from which rings for ball bearings were made, it is well resistant to abrasion, but completely unsuitable for gears!
          Who sent this steel to stamping gear discs? Here is such a detective story.
          And on the KV transmission, I completely agree with you.
    2. 27091965
      27091965 19 October 2017 10: 27
      Quote: svp67
      but they were better than the French, which were still few and where the British took the mass, the French could not do anything.

      It was not always possible to take a mass. I think it all depended on the opposition that they were given.
  3. XII Legion
    XII Legion 19 October 2017 07: 38
    The actions of the tanks in this battle seemed so successful to the French infantry that they even raised the question of leaving them all night ahead of the captured enemy trench - to cover the infantry

    In conditions of positional warfare, high hopes were pinned on new weapons, especially when on the Western Front the infantry gradually weaned its ability to act independently ("artillery destroys, but infantry occupies").
    By the way, in addition to the tank divisions, both Russian Special Brigades acted as part of the French 5th Army
    1. hohol95
      hohol95 19 October 2017 09: 28
      Soviet tanks in Finnish were better than French, but the infantry - SAME ...
      By December 13, units of the Red Army reached the main defense line of the Mannerheim Line. An attempt to break through it from the course failed - due to poorly set reconnaissance, the troops had no idea about the nature of the fortifications. Therefore, from December 17, attacks of tanks and infantry began, with the support of artillery firing at the squares. The scenario of all attacks was approximately the same: as soon as the Finns opened machine-gun and mortar fire, the Soviet infantry, throwing tanks, fled back in a panic. If the infantry managed to occupy the area captured by the tanks, then with the onset of darkness it retreated. The infantry commanders had so much uncertainty about their subordinates that the infantry tasks were assigned to the tankmen and demanded their fulfillment, threatening to be shot. So, according to the command of the 40th Tank Brigade, the regiment commander of the 24th Infantry Division ordered the tanks to perform the night combat guard service - "guard the infantry while at the enemy’s regiments, and if you leave, I order to throw grenades at you." In the band of the 138th Infantry Division, on the night of December 23, the tanks of the 35th Tank Brigade were used to protect the headquarters of the division and the headquarters of the infantry regiments from attack by small enemy groups, since the infantry units left their positions in disarray. On December 19, two battalions of the 20th Tank Brigade passed two barriers, “saddled” the fortified unit and advanced three kilometers inland, actually breaking through the Finnish main defense line. When the tankers demanded that the infantry of the 138th Infantry Division throw forward to occupy the pillboxes, the Finns opened mortar fire, and the infantry retreated in a panic. The battalions of the 20th brigade fought in the depths of Finnish positions until dark, and then, having lost 29 tanks, they retreated.
      The infantry had to be trained in joint operations with new equipment !!!
      The Germans in the First World War issued an instruction "Interaction of tanks with infantry", which among other things noted: “The infantry and tanks advance independently. When moving with tanks, infantry should not come closer than 200 steps to them, since artillery fire will be opened on the tanks. ” That is, in fact, the interaction was excluded.
      1. XII Legion
        XII Legion 19 October 2017 12: 14
        The infantry had to be trained in joint operations with new equipment !!!

        I agree, this is the main thing
        See the root
        Maybe this will be in the final part of the article.
  4. parusnik
    parusnik 19 October 2017 07: 43
    Thank you, the photos are very interesting
  5. Olgovich
    Olgovich 19 October 2017 07: 55
    Yeah, tanks are useless without infantry .....
    1. hohol95
      hohol95 19 October 2017 09: 46
      Without trained to joint action with the infantry tanks ...
      From simple infantry, there was little use for tanks.
  6. Curious
    Curious 19 October 2017 09: 26
    Probably it should be pointed out that the events described in the article are generally the first use of French tanks in battle, and the events themselves are one of the most bloody battles of the First World War - “Offensive of Nivelles” or “Meat grinder Nivelles”. The losses in this "meat grinder" were so significant (the French - up to 180 killed and wounded) that rebellion and mass desertion began in the French army.
    As for the use of tanks, the lack of experience in their use led to a number of mistakes and, ultimately, to failure.
    Although the terrain looked generally tank-accessible, but given the 15-day artillery preparation and expansion of trenches by the Germans, it became impassable. The interaction with the infantry was not worked out at all. The movement of tanks before the battle took place on the artillery shot by the terrain and did not hide from the enemy.
    So the first pancake was lumpy.
    1. hohol95
      hohol95 19 October 2017 09: 44
      Then there were a lot of such “pancakes”.
      And the French and the British.
    2. hohol95
      hohol95 19 October 2017 14: 31
      Until 1918, British strategists cherished the hope of introducing cavalry divisions into strategic breakthroughs after breaking through German defense tanks to the full depth!
      And not once did they fail to do so! The cavalry was either not introduced into the battle or suffered heavy losses from German groups trying to fill the gaps in defense!
      In the fall of 1917, in the battle of Cambrai, they only turned out to be the only branch of the army that had fulfilled all its tasks.
      For the attack of the cavalry corps, preparations were also made: 32 tank-retractors with special tugs cleared all three lines of wire fences, and bridge parks for the cavalry were brought to the canal in two tanks.
      But the cavalry missed valuable time - the advance of the horse corps was stopped by the fire of automatic weapons of the German reserves that had arrived.
      On August 8, 1918, in the battle of Amiens, only two and a half companies of German sappers were enough to stop the advance of the 3rd Cavalry Division, and they only retreated when the tanks went on the attack and pushed them back, north of Beaufort. Only a few cavalry units were able to get here, and here the battle ended. The second line of cavalry was not introduced into battle.
  7. nivander
    nivander 19 October 2017 11: 56
    attention is drawn to the clear interaction of the German military branches, excellent communications, high stability (calculation of the 77 mm suffered losses, but did not abandon the gun and position) excellent work of artillery reconnaissance, observers and proofreaders., well, the stupidity and incompetence of the French generals - neither one of them did not think of involving at least a company of sappers, orders were given only to the most general and were formulated very clearly. And only the courage and initiative of the crews somehow leveled the level
    1. Curious
      Curious 19 October 2017 13: 16
      The offensive for the Germans was no secret. They prepared ahead of time.
      The order of April 11th is known for one of the German divisions, which urges soldiers to defend their positions to the end: “The fatal moment is drawing near. The development of enemy artillery fire ushers in a future attack on our trenches. The brave Rhine, Hanoverian and Guard regiments will defend their positions to the end. I’m sure that not one will surrender. ”
      Hence the result.
  8. hohol95
    hohol95 19 October 2017 14: 12

    For those interested!
  9. Lieutenant Teterin
    Lieutenant Teterin 23 October 2017 15: 25
    An interesting and very informative article. The author - my sincere gratitude for the work done!