The Mighty Eure
Much is made of how strong, heavily armored, and revolutionary the German Army’s blitzkrieg attack on France and the Lowlands was in May 1940, able to knock four Western European countries out of the war within six weeks and very nearly trap the British forces on the continent.
The thing is, ut should be remembered that most of the German armor of 1940 were very light 6-ton Panzer I (machine gun armed) 9-ton Panzer II (20mm gun armed) and 20-ton Panzer III (37mm gun) tanks. Further, the French and British actually had more tanks than the Germans. It was the better Teutonic tactics that won the day for the boys in grey, not their vehicles.
But there were some exceptions to that rule. The French had a very good tank for the time, the 29-ton Char B1 Bis.
The B1 Bis, with its 75 mm ABS SA 35 howitzer in the main hull, a 47mm gun in a single-man turret, and two 8mm Reibel machine guns, was slow (just 15mh on a good day) but very well armored for the time with 60mm steel plate– allowing it to shrug off all but a direct hit from a German Pak 40 or larger.
Therefore, although German tanks could outrun a B1, they couldn’t outfight it in an area where speed and maneuverability wasn’t a factor. Eure proved that.
The crew of the B1 Bis “Eure” Serial 337, the tank of the Captain Billotte, leading the B1 Assault on Stonne on the 16 May 1940. The Eure was responsible for knocking oout 13 German Panzers in a row while maneuvering around the city, using the local streets to its advantage. In all the French tank was hit 140 times by small caliber rounds but not knocked out.
Chef de char : Capitaine Billotte
Pilot : Sergent Durupt
Radio : Chasseur Francis Henault
The Germans liked these tough French panzers so much they used more than 160 inherited B1’s in their own army, designating them as the Panzerkampfwagen B-2 740 (f) and keeping them in service as late as 1944.