Outre-Mer and Métropole: French officers' reflections on the use of the tank in the 1920s

Michael Finch

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    During the 1920s the French army benefited from a surplus of Renault FT-17 light tanks, whose capabilities had been assessed on the battlefields of 1917 and 1918. Following the First World War, these machines were used in operations during the Russo-Polish conflict in 1919-1920, and subsequently during the Druze uprising in Syria and the Rif War in Morocco in the mid-1920s. Writing in the pages of published military periodicals, enthusiastic officers could consider the future capabilities of the tank, and assess its capacities with reference to those conflicts. In Poland, the Renault FT was considered to have shown a surprising robustness. In Syria and Morocco, French officers were able to consider the utility of the tank in acting against a general rebellion, rather than against a European-style opponent. Moreover, in these theatres the tank's potential to act both in conjunction with the infantry and independently could be demonstrated. Thus French officers were drawn to the conclusion that in some circumstances the tank could be used as a true 'armoured infantryman': a substitute for the regular soldier and a means to avoid casualties. Nevertheless, the exceptionality of the colonial theatre, and in particular the lack of enemy anti-tank capabilities there, meant that officers were cautious when attempting to apply these conclusions to the future European theatre. Rather, their approach was pragmatic, and in keeping with the idea of the 'methodical battle' which was developed towards the end of the First World War.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)294-313
    JournalWar in History
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2008


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