Purpose of this blog

Dmitry Yudo aka Overlord, jack of all trades
David Lister aka Listy, Freelancer and Volunteer

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Red Bridge

Disclaimer: This one is written from mostly French sources, and so was put together using Google Translate, so it might have some errors creeping in. Equally the information is quite sparse on the battle.

On the last day of May 1918 the German assault was in full flow, however near Retz Forest the French Moroccan infantry were about to launch a counter attack. Shortly after the attack was opened on the defending Germans, a number of tanks burst out of the cornfields just a few tens of yards away from the German lines. These tanks were unlike anything seen before by the Germans, they were Renault FT's. The Germans, by now knew how to deal with tanks, and started shooting at vision slits with their machine guns. However this had little effect, and one by one the German machine guns were silenced. The Renault FT was produced in huge numbers and sold around the world, and became the father of a great many nations tank programs. In 1940, At the start of World War Two there were still several hundred, if not a thousand or more in the French inventory.
When the Germans invaded France on the 10th of May 1940 the French military began to react. The French Army’s Ecole des Chars (tank training school) formed an impromptu battalion from the cadets and instructors who volunteered for combat, many of the instructors were reservists. At the time the School had a huge array of vehicles, including two Char B1 Bis', four Char D1's, three Char D2's, two Hotchkiss H39's, two Hotchkiss H35's, four FCM 36's and a single Renault R35. It also had on its books about 350 Renault FT's.
In the FT's the commander's controls were crude. The commander had to kick the driver to transmit his commands. A boot to either shoulder indicated a turn to that side was desired. A kick to the back was advance, and the poor drivers head, kicked once, was asking for the tank to be halted. Repeated blows to the head were the signal to reverse.
From the School's tanks the R35's and H39's and some of the FT's were formed into two companies. One of those companies was held back to protect provide Paris with an armoured force for its protection. In this role the FT's would have been more than adequate.

 However the 2nd Company was dispersed along the Marne to protect ten bridges stretching along the river from Ferté-sous-Jouarre to Château-Thierry, and was in position by the 25th of May. As was so often the case the French deployed their tanks in small numbers. At one of the bridges in Château-Thierry there stood a lone FT commanded by Cadet Charles-Armand de Rougé. The bridge  had only just been rebuilt after the battle at Château-Thierry in 1918. About two months after that battle, on the 28th of August Cadet de Rougé had been born in Paris. Now the young noble was watching refugee's and shattered French units retreat back across the bridge which he was parked next to, guarding. He was not completely alone, some of the French infantry began to halt in place to help him defend. The bridge was also rigged for demolition.
Medallion featuring Cdt de Rougé

 On the 10th of June 1940, Cdt de Rougé spotted a line of vehicles approaching, these were trucks and a pair of armoured cars from the 54th Reconnaissance Regiment, belonging to the 1st Greisberg Jager Division. Cdt de Rougé opened fire, along with the rest of the defenders as the Germans tried to charge over the bridge. The lone FT knocked out at least ten enemy vehicles, and the Germans were forced to break off the attack. As the battle drew to a close Cdt de Rougé stood up in his hatch, and was hit by small arms fire, and fell down outside his tank, the bridge was also demolished at about this time. Cdt de Rougé died later on of his wounds. When the new bridge was built, and opened in 1950 it was named after him.

Image Credits