The Char de Rupture 2C or Char 2C was a very heavy tank that was designed during the First World War but produced in small numbers after the war.
The French tank force of the First World War was commanded by General Estienne, who had played a key part in the development of the first French tank, the Schneider CA.1 assault tank, before in September 1916 being appointed commander of the tank force - the Assault Artillery.
One of General Estienne's suggestions was the development of a heavy breakthrough tank to be used in the planned offensive of 1919.
The new heavy tank was designed at FCM by Savatier and Jammy. They produced a series of prototypes - the A, IB and IA, before work moved onto the massive 68 ton Char de Rupture 2C. FCM was a ship building firm, and the 2C was built at the Chantiers Navals de la Seyne dockyard.
The 1A was completed by December 1917. It was a very large 41 ton tank, armed with a 75mm gun in a front mounted turret, and two 8mm machine guns, powered by a 240hp Renault engine. It proved to be difficult to steer. The 1B was similar but armed with a 105mm gun. There may also have been a 1C, a direct predecessor of the 2C, weighting 70 tons and carrying the same armament of one 75mm gun and four machine guns.
The 2C was similar in layout to these earlier prototypes. It was powered by two engines. It carried one 75mm gun in a turret carried at the front of the fuselage, making it the first tank in the world to carry that size of gun. It also had four machine guns - one in the hull front plate, one on each side level with the turret and one in a small turret at the rear of the tank. This was another first, making the 2C the predecessor of a series of multi-turreted interwar tanks.
An order for 300 2Cs was placed on 21 February 1918, but French industry was already stretched very thin, and this order was never filled. Ten tanks were built before the Armistice, but didn't become operational until 1921. At the end of the war the contract was reduced to only ten tanks. By then they had been given two 180hp Mercedes engines, taken as war reparations. These were later replaced with two 250hp Maybach engines, also taken as war reparations. Power was provided to rear drive wheels using a petrol electric transmission system - each of the petrol engine powered one electrical generator, which was in turn linked to one electric motor per track. The 2C shared the same basic flaw as the prototypes - it was more than three times longer than wide, making it very difficult to steer.
Suspension was provided by 24 double roller wheels on six bogies, carried on flat springs. For long distance travel each tank had to be suspended between two special railway carriages, an unusual arrangement that required far too much time. It could take up to four hours to load a tank onto its carriages.
In 1921 the ten 2Cs were issued to 51 Battalion. Over the next few years the suspension was improved, radios were installed and internal communication was improved. Work on improving the design continued until 1932, when attention turned to a 45 ton Char B3 and a 50 ton Char BB. Neither of these projects produced anything, so the Char 2C remained the only Heavy Tank in French service.
In 1926 one of the 2Cs was turned into the only 2C-bis. It was given new 250hp Sautter-Harlé engines and a short barrelled 155mm gun in the main turret. At the same time thicker armour was installed.
On 1 September 1939 the French Army still had 6 2Cs in service. All six were destroyed in 1940 when German aircraft caught them on their railway flat cars north-east of Langres. The bombing damaged the rail line, and trapped them on their rail cars. The surviving vehicles were sabotaged by their own crews late on 15 June 1940. As a result the type was never used in combat.
Hull Length: 33.66ft
Hull Width: 9.66ft
Crew: 12 as built, 13 by 1927
Weight: 68 tonnes (74 tonnes 2C bis)
Engine: Two 180hp Mercedes airship engines (1921), two 250hpo Maybach engines later
Max Speed: 12kph
Armament: 75mm (2C), 155mm (2C bis), four 8mm machine guns