The Char D2 was a development of the Char D1 with more armour and more engine power. It was produced in small numbers, and only because famous because it was used in de Gaulle's armoured unit during the fighting of 1940.
The initial proposal for the D2 came from Renault, where there was some concern that the Geneva Disarmament Conference might impose weight limits on tanks that would end the Char B battle tank programme. The initial design for the Renault RZ Char de Combat Surblindé involved an increase in armour to 40mm and the use of a 150hp engine.
The D2 had the same suspension system and a similar turret to the D1. The suspension had fourteen small road wheels per side, with twelve of them carried on three four wheeled bogies, linked to three vertical coil springs and six hydro-pneumatic shock absorbers. The suspension was protected by skirting plates. Storage bins were installed above the track guards, sloping up towards the superstructure. Mud chutes were installed in the shirts, below the four return rollers.
The Puteaux cast APX 1 turret was armed with one 47mm gun and one coaxial 7.5mm machine gun. A second 7.5mm machine gun could be carried in the hull front. The same turret was used on the Char B1. The first production series was armed with the short 47mm SA 34 gun. Later vehicles got the longer 47mm SA 35.
It had mechanical transmission with five forward and one reverse speeds, a multi-place clutch and a rear drive sprocket. Steering was via a Cleveland controlled differential.
The prototype D2 was delivered in 1932, when it was classified as a Light Tank. In 1933 the French Army revised its three types of infantry tanks, and renamed the Battle Tank as the Medium Tank. Both the D1 and D2 were reclassified as Medium tanks in 1935.
Three prototype models were built in 1932 and tested between 1932 and 1934. In August 1933 the army decided to drop the D2, but finding had already been provided.
Two orders for the D2 were placed by the Infantry. The first, for fifty tanks, enough for one tank battalion, was placed in December 1934 and the vehicles were delivered between April 1936 and February 1937 (Renault completed their part of the contract by November 1935 but delivery was held up by problems with the turret). In 1936 it was decided to halt production and concentrate production facilities on the superior SOMUA S35 cavalry tank. A second order, for another fifty tanks, was placed in June 1938 (after the last of the first batch had finally been delivered) and the vehicles were delivered between February and June 1940. The original plan had been to continue production, but after the outbreak of war it was decided to end D2 production and return to the focus on the S-35 and the newer SOMUA S-40.
By June 1936 there were only 17 D2s in service. On 1 September 1939 the French Army had 213 D1s and D2s in service. The entire first batch of 50 had already been delivered, but deliveries of the second batch didn't begin until early in 1940 and only around 37 were accepted by the Army before the collapse of France.
The D2 was thus a fairly minor type in the French army during the battles of May and June 1940, but the type became famous because it was used by the 4th DCR (Infantry Armoured Division), commanded by Charles de Gaulle. This unit had 45 D2s on its strength in May 1940, where they operated alongside a mix of 135 Renault R-35s, 35 Hotchkiss H-35, 33 Char B1 bis and 35 Somua S-35s. The 4th DCR carried out a couple of significant attacks during the fighting, including a raid towards Montcornet on the southern flank of the German advance from the Ardennes on 17 May and an attack on the German bridgeheads over the Somme near Abbeville on 29 May. This second attack saw de Gaulle's tanks make some progress, before being held up by mines and German artillery.
Char Léger D2
Char Puissant D2
Char D2 medium tank (from 1935)
Production: just under 100
Hull Length: 5.46m/ 17.9ft
Hull Width: 2.22m/ 7.3ft (height and width possibly other way round)
Height: 2.66m/ 8.7ft
Crew: 3 (commander/ gunner/ loader, driver, radio operator)
Weight: 20 tons
Max Speed: 23kph/ 14mph
Max Range: 100-155km/ 62-96 miles
Armament: 47mm SA34 or SA35 and two MG
Armour: 40mm max