The Chenillette Lorraine, Type 37L was an armoured cargo carrier produced to support infantry tank units in the French Army.
Infantry units were supported by the Renault UE, but this was too small for use with the tank units, which had more complex supply requirements. A variety of transport vehicles were considered for this armoured role. The Citroën Kégresse P17 half track of the early 1930s was tried out with the Char D1, but wasn't up to the role. The un-armoured tracked Renault ACD 1, based on the UE, was ordered in 1936, but there was still interest in an armoured version and on 17 April 1936 specifications were issued for a tank resupply vehicle.
Lorraine had already produced the CRI tractor (chenillette de ravitaillement d'infanterie) as a possible replacement for the UE, but had lost out to the modified Renault UE2. The CRI was a simple armoured vehicle, with four road wheels carried in two two-wheel bogies on each side.
The CRI became the basis of the new Tracteur de ravitaillement pour chars (TRC). This was a longer version of the CRI, with six road wheels on three bogies one ach side.
The basis structure was simple. It was a simple armoured rectangular box, with the engine compartment in the front, the two crew members and the transmission in the front and cargo carried in the rear compartment. The two crewman sat on either side of the transmission, with the differential housing in front of them.
The Type 37L had a front drive wheel and large rear idler, both raised so that the return route of the track was level. Suspension was provided by six road wheels carried in two-wheel bogies. Each was carried on a vertical suspension arm, carried on horizontal leaf springs. The two wheels could pivot freely on the horizontal arm, which could move vertically on the springs.
The Type 37L could tow a four-wheeled tracked trailer - two wheels on each side, with no return rollers. This was produced in fuel and cargo carrying versions.
The first order, for 214 machines, was sanctioned on 17 October 1936 and signed on 3 May 1937. Eventually 387 vehicles were produced at the original factory at Lunéville. A second factory, at Bagnères de Bigorre further from the German frontier, began to work on the type in 1939 but didn’t produce its first machines until late in 1940.
Three orders for a total of 278 vehicles were placed by the end of 1938, and another two for 174 vehicles in 1939.
The first production vehicle was delivered in the second half of 1937, and they began to go to combat units late in 1937. 387 had been delivered by May 1940. Each light tank battalion received twelve TRCs, and each Char B battalion eighteen. The Char B battalions then became part of the new infantry armoured divisions (Divisions Cuirassees or DCR).
An armoured personnel carrier variant was produced, as the VBCP. This carried the driver and commander in the front, four infantry in the rear of the main vehicle protected by armoured sides that provided cover for seated infantry and six in an armoured tracked trailer, with the same armoured walls. A canvas roof could also be fitted. The trailer had brackets for mounting the infantry's light machine guns in an anti-aircraft position. Around 140 had been completed by the French Armistice, and most were used with the infantry components of the first two infantry armoured divisions (1e DCR and 2e DCR).
A prototype of an armed version carrying a 47mm anti-tank gun was produced.
The Germans used the Lorraine Type 37L in some numbers.
It was used as the basis for the SP 15cm howitzer Lorraine Schlepper (SdKfz 135/1), which had a large fighting compartment built on top of the cargo compartment, and a massive 15cm howitzer which extended almost to the front of the vehicle. It was used by the Germans in North Africa, where it made its combat debut at the battle of El Alamein. 102 were produced in 1942.
The Type 37L was also used as the basis of the Marder I SdKfz 136 tank destroyer. This carried a 7.5cm Pak 40 L/48 anti-tank gun in a similar fighting compartment to the 15cm armed version, although with an open back. This was produced in larger numbers than any other German conversion, and was mainly used by units posted in France.
Hull Length: 4.20m/ 13ft 9.5in
Hull Width: 1.57m/ 5ft 2in
Height: 1.21m/ 4ft
Weight: 5.2 tonnes/ 5.6 US tons
Engine: 70hp Delahaye Type 135
Max Speed: 34km/hr/ 22mph on road
Max Range: 85 miles