Char B1 file photo [7380]

Char B1

Primary RoleHeavy Tank


ww2dbaseThe Char B prototype heavy tanks were built in 1930s to experiment with heavy break-through specialist vehicles. After altering the design based on the experiences with the two prototypes, the Char B1 design was completed, and on 6 Apr 1934 an order for seven units was issued. They were extremely costly to build; each unit cost about 1.5 million Francs, but the price was justified to some of the French military leaders for the tanks' purpose. Well-armed and well-armored, these tanks were meant to be used well on the front to very quickly and very decisively punch a hole in the enemy's defensive line, although the high fuel consumption seemed to partially make them ill-suited for that purpose. Another potential drawback of the design was that the commander of each tank was also expected to be the loader and gunner of the main gun, thus potentially overwhelming the commander in combat situations. Several French firms were given contracts to build the Char B1 heavy tanks, including Renault, AMX, FCM, FAMH, and Schneider.

ww2dbaseIn the late 1930s, the Char B1 bis variant design was completed which carried thicker armor and new primary armament, improving the design's anti-tank capabilities. Between 8 Apr 1937 and Jun 1940, 369 Char B1 bis heavy tanks were delivered out of the order of 1,144 units; 129 were delivered by the eve of the European War.

ww2dbaseThe Char B1 ter variant design was drawn up and planned to be in production in the summer of 1940. These tanks have thicker sloped armor and upgraded engine, but they never entered production before the German invasion of France.

ww2dbaseAt the eve of the invasion, Char B1 heavy tanks were in service with the French 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Divisions Cuirassées de Réserve; the 1st DCR and 2nd DCR each fielded 69 of these tanks, and the 3rd DCR had 68. After the invasion began, the 4th DCR was formed with 56 Char B1 tanks (12 original type, 44 bis type). A significant portion of them were lost during German artillery bombardments or to anti-tank guns, but they put up a strong mobile defense against German tanks. In one instance on 16 May, a Char B1 heavy tank single-handedly destroyed 13 German tanks from an ambushed position while taking 140 hits and survived the engagement. After the fall of France, 161 of them were captured by German forces. They were put into German service; 85 as tanks under the designation Panzerkampfwagen B-2 740 (f), 60 as converted flamethrowers under the designation Flammwagen auf Panzerkampfwagen B-2 (f), and 16 converted to self-propelled artillery. The captured units largely served in training roles or on secondary fronts.

ww2dbaseSource: Wikipedia.

Last Major Revision: Jan 2007


Char B1
MachineryOne gasoline engine rated at 272hp
SuspensionBogies with a mix of vertical coil and leaf springs
Armament1x47mm L/27.6 SA 34 gun, 1x75mm ABS 1929 SA 35 gun (80 rounds), 2x7.5 mm Châtellerault M 1931 machine guns
Armor40mm maximum
Length6.37 m
Width2.46 m
Height2.79 m
Weight28.0 t
Speed28 km/h
Range200 km

Char B1 bis
MachineryOne gasoline engine rated at 307hp
SuspensionBogies with a mix of vertical coil and leaf springs
Armament1x47mm L/32 SA 35 gun (62-72 rounds), 1x75mm ABS 1929 SA 35 gun (74 rounds), 2x7.5 mm Châtellerault M 1931 machine guns
Armor55mm sides, 60mm front
Length6.37 m
Width2.46 m
Height2.79 m
Weight31.0 t
Speed20 km/h
Range180 km


French Char B1 bis heavy tank, date unknownScuttled French Char B1 heavy tank in Beaumont, Belgium, 16 May 1940, photo 1 of 2A Belgian civilian and a German soldier looking at an abandoned French Char B1 heavy tank, Ermeton-sur-Biert, Belgium, mid-May 1940Scuttled French Char B1 heavy tank in Beaumont, Belgium, 16 May 1940, photo 2 of 2
See all 5 photographs of Char B1 Heavy Tank

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
18 Nov 2010 07:32:00 AM

The Char B-1 Heavy Tank, it was a big and
powerful tank for it time. The tank had self-
sealing fuel tanks, However maintenance was difficult.
It was also expensive tank to build each one
cost 1.5 Million French francs, had limited
range of 112 miles, and pulled its own fuel trailers. It was powered by a 6-cylinder gas
engine of 300hp and a speed of 25km/h

Many broke down on the way to the front, and never even fired a shot at the Germans.
The tank was armed w/ 1x75mm gun w/75rounds
between 62/72rounds for 1x45mm gun, and
5,250 rounds for the machine guns.

After the fall of France, the Germans used
the Char B-1, salvaged and repaired them.
In German service called them PzKpfw B-1/B-2 740(f) issued to Panzer units, to train tank
crews, used in Russia, and patrol/police duties.

2. The Tank Guy says:
24 Apr 2018 06:02:19 AM

The Char B1 Bis that took out 13 panzer IVs was actually not only a surviving tank after that battle, but was also able to make it back to its hangar to be repaired. Furthermore, the B1 was nicknamed 'Eure'
3. Anonymous says:
16 Oct 2019 11:49:33 AM

What about the defensive characteristics. This information lacks all around specifications for the armor in thickness and angle.

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French Char B1 bis heavy tank, date unknown
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