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Armor in World War II Discuss all aspects & disciplines of World War II Armor here.

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  #1  
Old 21 Nov 16, 23:08
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DLM, DCR, DLC... what were they?

This is a request for an audit of some information I have about French Armored Divisions in 1940. What I have just does not look right, these units look too specialized and far too limited to me.

According to this book I have, they were organized like this;

5 x DLCs (Cavalry) existed, and included a Cavalry Brigade that was indeed the major proportion of the manpower involved.
Each "Division" had an Armored Battalion of 12 Hotchkiss H-39 light tanks and 12 x Panhard 178 armored cars. There were also 20 x AMR recon tanks with the Dragoon Regiment.

3 x DMLs were in the field and several more (all understrength) were formed during the fighting. Each Division had two Brigades and each Brigade had two Regiments, each with 40 tanks (total 160 tanks)
Two Regiments had S-35 tanks, the other two had H-35 or H-39 tanks.
There was also 1 x Motorized Infantry Brigade, making this the most balanced force of the three types.

3 x DRCs were the heavy hitters, but they were not balanced. There was only one mechanized Infantry Battalion present.
There were two demi-brigades, one with two light battalions of 45 xH-39 tanks, and two battalions of 35 x Char B-1 tanks.
There was no recon unit of any kind.
The 4th DCR was formed during the fighting and had a different organization; three Battalions of 45 x R-35 tanks, one Battalion of 45 x D-2 Infantry tanks, and two battalions of 25 x Char B-1bis heavy tanks.

Is that right?

I also have a list of other formations, showing where the rest of the French tanks went.

33 Indépendant Battalions sent to various Infantry Divisions, and 12 Indépendant Companies as follows;

Twenty Battalions with R-35 light tanks.
Two with H-39 light tanks
two with FCM-36 light tanks
eight with obsolete FT-17 from WW1
and one with the Char 2C (never saw action)
All had 45 tanks except the FT-17 units that had 63, and only a few Char-2C were ever built.

Five Companies had 11 x Char B1
Two had 15 x Char D-2
three with 10 x Ft-17
two with 15 x H-39.

That is a lot of detail, but I have learned not to trust sources overly much.
How does it look to you guys?
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  #2  
Old 21 Nov 16, 23:26
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The 5 DLC were hardly divisions. They are more akin to brigades or large regiments in size and more like the later US Mechanized Cavalry regiment in terms of usage.
This is the unit described:

There are two cavalry regiments (battalion sized horse mounted infantry really) in a Brigade de Cavalerie. Each of these "regiments" has about 700 men in it.
Next, is the Brigade Dragoons Porte. This is two "battalions" each of three companies. The battalion has an infantry company, a heavy weapons company, and a motorcycle / light tank company. It uses unarmored SOUMA halftracks for transport. Long on heavy weapons, short on manpower.
Next, is the Regiment automitralluse. This has two tiny battalions. One consists of 18 AMR armored cars with a company of motorcycle infantry. The other has 18 H35 tanks and a company of motorcycle infantry.
The artillery regiment has three battalions in it. The first is really not artillery. It has two 47mm AT gun batteries of 4 guns each and a third with 6 25mm AT guns.
The next battalion has 12 75mm guns, and the last has 12 105mm howitzers.
There are the usual division services in company sized units backing this up.

The whole "division" doesn't come 8,000 men. These were literally ground up in nothing flat when they ran up against panzer divisions. The unit has the equivalent of 10 weak infantry companies in total along with 3 weak companies of tanks (two machinegun armed lights, and one or H35), along with a company of armored cars.
Calling the DLC a "division" is an injustice. It wasn't.
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  #3  
Old 22 Nov 16, 15:24
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Okay, so the numbers come up reasonably well in that case-

Quote:
Originally Posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
....
The whole "division" doesn't come 8,000 men. These were literally ground up in nothing flat when they ran up against panzer divisions. The unit has the equivalent of 10 weak infantry companies in total along with 3 weak companies of tanks (two machinegun armed lights, and one or H35), along with a company of armored cars.
Calling the DLC a "division" is an injustice. It wasn't.
In terms of the number of men, it wasn't that far from what the Red Army was calling a Division just two years later. But you are right, its is just too weak for anything by screening and recon. IMHO, it would have been better if the scout tanks and armored cars had been made part of a DCR.
Maybe this formation was intended to be paired with it... but in that case, why not just combine them to make one whole unit instead of having two separate Divisions spread out over the same ground?
That is just asking for confusion.

Aside from too few infantry for too many tanks (and that is a matter of opinion on my part) the Panzer Divisions were the best combined-arms formations in the world in 1940.
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  #4  
Old 22 Nov 16, 17:12
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French Army tactics were evolving over time. They tried to make competing groups happy. The DLC was supposed to only screen. They had Renault Light Tanks. The DLM were heavier formations and used Somua 35's and AMR 35's to perform Cavalry functions. The DCR used Char B bis and AMX 39's to support Infantry units.

The competing tactics are confusing.

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Old 22 Nov 16, 18:47
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Exorcist View Post
Okay, so the numbers come up reasonably well in that case-



In terms of the number of men, it wasn't that far from what the Red Army was calling a Division just two years later. But you are right, its is just too weak for anything by screening and recon. IMHO, it would have been better if the scout tanks and armored cars had been made part of a DCR.
Maybe this formation was intended to be paired with it... but in that case, why not just combine them to make one whole unit instead of having two separate Divisions spread out over the same ground?
That is just asking for confusion.

Aside from too few infantry for too many tanks (and that is a matter of opinion on my part) the Panzer Divisions were the best combined-arms formations in the world in 1940.
The DLC's were intended to screen in front of the French Army in the Ardennes. That's a big reason the horsed portion was kept. It was thought horse cavalry would have an easier time in the terrain of the Ardennes than vehicles. It also explains their general lack of depth and staying power.
If you look at their employment in the campaign, they moved forward into the Ardennes and were literally ground up almost immediately. It was like a 1940's version of the US 14th Cavalry Group in the Losheim gap in 1944.

But, one thing the DLC was not was some sort of armored division... Not with a mere 38 tanks 20 of which were really two man tankettes armed with a machinegun.
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Old 28 Nov 16, 14:56
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Quote:
Originally Posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
...
But, one thing the DLC was not was some sort of armored division... Not with a mere 38 tanks 20 of which were really two man tankettes armed with a machinegun.
That is clearly a fault of my source... but pairing a DLC with a DCR would have given you a Division that could have mangled a Panzer Division.
IF they had mounted that Brigade on trucks instead of horses and filled it out a little.

And those 33 Battalions are a shocking dissipation of forces. Just the non-FT-17 companies could have been combined with a mechanized INfantry Brigade to make a formidable force.

Did those "independent" Battalions of armor ever achieve anything? Did they ever impede a German advance in any notable way?
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Old 28 Nov 16, 19:09
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I originally did the in-depth research into French 1940 armored formations to crush John Moiser's book The Blitzkrieg Myth. It is easily one of the most poorly researched and schlock books on the subject ever written. I pummeled the guy in e-mails personally to him.
His defense was the book was "peer reviewed" and that he had a PhD and I didn't. Not a single attempt to refute anything I said. An academic snob with mediocre research skills and no knowledge of the subject he was writing on.

I said his bibliography was a "sampling of common secondary sources on the subject and coffee table books (ie., ones with lots of glossy pictures and no substance)"
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Old 29 Nov 16, 00:52
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Quote:
Originally Posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
...
His defense was the book was "peer reviewed" and that he had a PhD and I didn't. Not a single attempt to refute anything I said. An academic snob with mediocre research skills and no knowledge of the subject he was writing on.
...
...and it's punks like that who get published all the time.
Must be a 'peer' thing.

BTW; the Germans did have some armor outside the Panzer Divs, but it wasn't much and it was very different... no tanks involved.

These were the first Marders, Mk. I tanks converted to Tank Destroyers by mounting a 47mm gun where the turret used to be. There were five companies of them in France (perhaps?) and they must have done reasonably well because more were produced.. but not all that many.

This was the only Panzer Jaeger of its kind until 1942's SP 75mm guns, aside from a few halftracks of varying types. It must have been useful since Rommel took some of them to North Africa.
Conflicting info shows that they had 18 to a Company, and/or 27... in a company...?
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Old 29 Nov 16, 03:02
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Exorcist View Post
This is a request for an audit of some information I have about French Armored Divisions in 1940. What I have just does not look right, these units look too specialized and far too limited to me.

According to this book I have, they were organized like this;

5 x DLCs (Cavalry) existed, and included a Cavalry Brigade that was indeed the major proportion of the manpower involved.
Each "Division" had an Armored Battalion of 12 Hotchkiss H-39 light tanks and 12 x Panhard 178 armored cars. There were also 20 x AMR recon tanks with the Dragoon Regiment.

3 x DMLs were in the field and several more (all understrength) were formed during the fighting. Each Division had two Brigades and each Brigade had two Regiments, each with 40 tanks (total 160 tanks)
Two Regiments had S-35 tanks, the other two had H-35 or H-39 tanks.
There was also 1 x Motorized Infantry Brigade, making this the most balanced force of the three types.

3 x DRCs were the heavy hitters, but they were not balanced. There was only one mechanized Infantry Battalion present.
There were two demi-brigades, one with two light battalions of 45 xH-39 tanks, and two battalions of 35 x Char B-1 tanks.
There was no recon unit of any kind.
The 4th DCR was formed during the fighting and had a different organization; three Battalions of 45 x R-35 tanks, one Battalion of 45 x D-2 Infantry tanks, and two battalions of 25 x Char B-1bis heavy tanks.

Is that right?

I also have a list of other formations, showing where the rest of the French tanks went.

33 Indépendant Battalions sent to various Infantry Divisions, and 12 Indépendant Companies as follows;

Twenty Battalions with R-35 light tanks.
Two with H-39 light tanks
two with FCM-36 light tanks
eight with obsolete FT-17 from WW1
and one with the Char 2C (never saw action)
All had 45 tanks except the FT-17 units that had 63, and only a few Char-2C were ever built.

Five Companies had 11 x Char B1
Two had 15 x Char D-2
three with 10 x Ft-17
two with 15 x H-39.

That is a lot of detail, but I have learned not to trust sources overly much.
How does it look to you guys?
I found these:
DLM: http://enpointe.chez-alice.fr/dlm.html
DCR: http://enpointe.chez-alice.fr/dcr.html
DLC: http://enpointe.chez-alice.fr/dlc.html

They look correct to me, are at least French sites, but if anyone has better info please post .
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Old 29 Nov 16, 03:56
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Exorcist View Post

BTW; the Germans did have some armor outside the Panzer Divs, but it wasn't much and it was very different... no tanks involved.
Of course the Germans did use independent tank battalions, which were Heerestruppen (non-divisional units). But they were mostly special outfits, often not serving in the main theater (for instance they had an independent tank battalion PzAbt 40 zbV at the time of the campaign of France - but it was the armored component of the Norway occupation forces), or kept separate because made of captured equipment (PzAbt 66 zbV had Soviet tanks, for instance), or for being a specialized unit (PzAbt 100 zbV was a Heerestruppen battalion of flamethrowing tanks, for instance). Note the zbV designation - for special use.

The above is making exception for the very beginning; in Poland, the Germans still had a couple of "regular" tank battalions not yet assigned to a Panzerdivision.


Quote:
These were the first Marders, Mk. I tanks converted to Tank Destroyers by mounting a 47mm gun where the turret used to be. There were five companies of them in France (perhaps?) and they must have done reasonably well because more were produced.. but not all that many.

This was the only Panzer Jaeger of its kind until 1942's SP 75mm guns, aside from a few halftracks of varying types. It must have been useful since Rommel took some of them to North Africa.
Conflicting info shows that they had 18 to a Company, and/or 27... in a company...?
Jentz says that in 1940, the 521. and 605. had 18 vehicles, and the 616., 643. and 670. had 27 vehicles. So it's not conflicting info but just that they did have different numbers in different units. But these were Panzerjäger Abteilungen Sfl., i.e. self-propelled tank hunter battalions, not companies.

The first big-caliber German tank hunter wasn't a fully tracked vehicle: they were the 25 8.8cm FlAK 18 Sfl., 88s on a hastily armored halftrack chassis, of the 8. schwere PzJgdAbt.

On top of that, already in 1940 the Germans had the first StuG IIIs, and again these were independent non-divisional units - but they were batteries, the StuG III being an armored artillery thing at the time.
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Old 29 Nov 16, 09:04
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Exorcist View Post
And those 33 Battalions are a shocking dissipation of forces. Just the non-FT-17 companies could have been combined with a mechanized INfantry Brigade to make a formidable force.

Did those "independent" Battalions of armor ever achieve anything? Did they ever impede a German advance in any notable way?
Their purpose wasn't, of course, to actually operate independently. They existed to be assigned to infantry divisions. The doctrine was to use them on the offensive, in support of the infantry, in the methodical infantryman's speed offensives that the French theory mandated.
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Old 29 Nov 16, 09:56
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Quote:
Originally Posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
I originally did the in-depth research into French 1940 armored formations to crush John Moiser's book The Blitzkrieg Myth. It is easily one of the most poorly researched and schlock books on the subject ever written. I pummeled the guy in e-mails personally to him.
His defense was the book was "peer reviewed" and that he had a PhD and I didn't. Not a single attempt to refute anything I said. An academic snob with mediocre research skills and no knowledge of the subject he was writing on.

I said his bibliography was a "sampling of common secondary sources on the subject and coffee table books (ie., ones with lots of glossy pictures and no substance)"


I bought Mosiers book on the battle for Verdun ("Verdun") on sale for some easy reading on the plane. I found it sufficiently amusing as not to throw it away when I got home, but that had more to do with the way he composes a "myth" which he then sets out to destroy. Sort of advanced trolling.

His area of expertise is film and litterature and his ph.d. was about the relationship between historiography and epic poetry.

I'll give him credity for using that insight to write books on historical subjects using litterary theory to create interesting plots in the myth-busting genre, but as a historian, he has nada to offer.

I think he was probably enjoying himself playing academic ass-hole to your amateur historian.
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Old 29 Nov 16, 10:15
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Originally Posted by The Exorcist View Post
This is a request for an audit of some information I have about French Armored Divisions in 1940. What I have just does not look right, these units look too specialized and far too limited to me.
I think it can be argued, that the DLC was the French Armys take on the "light division", a concept adopted in many countries and seriously studied in others. It was an attempt at modernizing the cavalry and bringing it into the machine age, maintaining the advantages of the horse in an age where tanks and armoured cars were not very good at switching from fast road movements to off-road driving. The armoured cars being too heavy for off-road and the tanks not very fast. Just behold the numerous wheel-cum-track designs and Christies fast tanks. The idea died out as the motor vehicles became more capable, but such divisions were fielded, even if the horses disappeared from the TO&E in some cases. The Germans fielded light division ins Poland and the Italians had something similar as well. Closer to home for me - the two Danish Cavalry regiments were going down the same route, developing into a mix of mounted cavalry and armoured cars.
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Old 29 Nov 16, 15:31
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...and it's punks like that who get published all the time.
Must be a 'peer' thing.

BTW; the Germans did have some armor outside the Panzer Divs, but it wasn't much and it was very different... no tanks involved.

These were the first Marders, Mk. I tanks converted to Tank Destroyers by mounting a 47mm gun where the turret used to be. There were five companies of them in France (perhaps?) and they must have done reasonably well because more were produced.. but not all that many.

This was the only Panzer Jaeger of its kind until 1942's SP 75mm guns, aside from a few halftracks of varying types. It must have been useful since Rommel took some of them to North Africa.
Conflicting info shows that they had 18 to a Company, and/or 27... in a company...?
Most of the Pzjr I were attached in company strength to panzer divisions. They also attached these vehicles...



So, the Pzjr I wasn't alone in its design or role.
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Old 29 Nov 16, 15:34
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Originally Posted by cbo View Post


I bought Mosiers book on the battle for Verdun ("Verdun") on sale for some easy reading on the plane. I found it sufficiently amusing as not to throw it away when I got home, but that had more to do with the way he composes a "myth" which he then sets out to destroy. Sort of advanced trolling.

His area of expertise is film and litterature and his ph.d. was about the relationship between historiography and epic poetry.

I'll give him credity for using that insight to write books on historical subjects using litterary theory to create interesting plots in the myth-busting genre, but as a historian, he has nada to offer.

I think he was probably enjoying himself playing academic ass-hole to your amateur historian.
My big problem with that, if that was indeed his intent, was that he carried it out so poorly. His lack of historical knowledge ruined the effect. It's like open mic night at a comedy club and some drunk amateur is on stage. The jokes aren't funny because they are poorly timed and given to the audience.
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