Discussion in '1940' started by Dave55, Jul 29, 2019.
In 1940 which army was more mechanized, the French or the Germans?
That is an interesting question. The problem in answering it is perhaps there's relatively little familiarity with French Army organisation. I made a vague attempt once at asking around a few places whereabouts French TEGs (tables effective de guerre if I remember correctly, equivalent to British WEs) could be found, and got a tumbleweed response. There are some decent books to be had I think but I'll confess I've not got them.
There's plenty of discussion on the German approach; fully motorise a fraction of formations and units, then sprinkle a much reduced level of MT around the remaining troops. The French Army fielded multiple types of Division, which included a few mechanised variations. Whether the standard Infantry Divisions were left bereft of MT to kit out the implicitly mobile formations I've no idea sadly.
You'd have to compare like with like I think. The troops manning the Maginot line were clearly not mobile and had no M.T.
The French seem to have taken quite a lot of horse-drawn artillery forward...but they expected to be positioning them along a stable fronline....and they also seem to have expected that they would be able to move troop formations and armour into place by rail.
However, German troops on home defence wouldn't have been very mobile either.
In 1940 the French Army had more motor transport than the Germans and more tanks than the Germans. However as Rich says the French had a very different view of what the war would be like to the view of the Germans. There is (or was) a splendid book on French army vehicles 'L'Automobile Sous L'Uniforme'. I bought my copy 25 years or so ago. The vehicles which were specifically ordered for the army were supplemented by a large number of requisitioned vehicles of varying usefulness. The plan was that the infantry units holding the trench line would have transport that was suitable for administrative rather than tactical use. There were mechanised units which were to be held to counter any German breakthrough. These did have specialised equipment.
French tanks although numerous were thinly spread and intended for differing purposes. Many were for reconnaissance, many were for infantry support and some were to be used as a mobile reserve to plug gaps in the line.
There were no units which corresponded to the German Panzer Divisions well balanced mobile force of all arms with well designed specialist vehicles.
The one was designed for offensive action while the other was defensive.
The most highly mechanised army was the British Army. This remained the case throughout WW2.
Thanks for responses. I asked because almost all the pictures of see of horses (not mules) during WWII are in German service. I don't remember ever seeing any French or British. Some Japanese and Polish but not many.
Surely at the very least 4e Division cuirassée was approaching the equivalent to a German Panzer Division in concept?
I am always struck by the ferocity of fighting at Montcornet (in which 4e fought) which is a battle that deserves to be much better known and understood this side of the Channel.
There are plenty of mentions (and photos, sadly) of equine casualties amongst French artillery columns...They were absolute sitters in the event of aerial attack.
The British Army is perhaps not an entirely fair comparison as it was an expeditionary force. Inclusion of home forces would have included a lot more bicycles and they did still have horsed cavalry elsewhere.
Just having a vague look round today I'm reminded of the absolute blizzard of abbreviations for French units and formations.
Not even Leo Niehorster's site covers French organisations in detail, and mostly links to the below site that sadly was never finished (note that it might trigger some pop-up ads or warnings if visited, though Norton seems content it's not an issue);
Just copying from the abbreviations list, which is a work in itself, these are the Division types;
DI Division d'Infanterie - Infantry Division
DIA Division d'Infanterie d'Afrique - (North) African Infantry Division
DIC Division d'Infanterie Coloniale - Colonial Infantry Division
DIF Division d'Infanterie de Forteresse - Fortress Infantry Division
DIM Division d'Infanterie Motorisée - Motorised Infantry Division
DINA Division d'Infanterie Nord-Africaine - North African Infantry Division
DLC Division Légère de Cavalerie - Light Cavalry Division
DLCh Division Légère de Chasseurs - Light Chasseurs Division
DLI Division Légère d'Infanterie - Light Infantry Division
DLIC Division Légère d'Infanterie Coloniale - Light Colonial Infantry Division
DLINA Division Légère d'Infanterie Nord-Africaine - Light North African Infantry Division
DLM Division Légère Mécanique - Light Mechanised Division (Cavalry Armoured Division)
DM Division Marocaine - Moroccan Infantry Division
That doesn't even touch on the non-Div units.
If you're interested in French Army Organisations try this site:
Armée de Terre Française 1940
Its a real goldmine of information......in French but use the various links to the left of the Je Suis Charlie banner to navigate around their forum, maps OOB and TOE organisational pages that give breakdown of organisations of French units down to what each man was armed with.
I hope you find it useful.
Separate names with a comma.