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THE FRENCH CAVALRY CORPS IN 1940

In 1932-1935, the first fully motorized/mechanized French unit, the 1e DLM (Division Lgre Mcanique = Light Mechanized Division), was born and developed. The 2e DLM was born in 1937 and the 3e DLM in February 1940. There will be 3 DLMs on May 10, 1940 (1e DLM, 2e DLM and 3e DLM) forming the French cavalry corps under command of General Ren Jacques Adolphe Prioux (1879-1953).

General Prioux

The DLM is more powerful than the DCR, faster and more mobile. It is a unit fully adapted to modern mobile warfare. The term "light" referred to its speed and mobility. The 1e DLM and 2e DLM became very well trained divisions (even at the divisional and corps level) with efficient crews and specialists. Manoeuvres and trainings were organized at large scale in 1935, 1936, 1937 1938, 1939 and the last divisional training in 1940. They included deep penetration behind fortifications, cooperation with close air support and close inter-arms cooperation. The crew knew their tanks and how to operate them. The gunners were skilled and trained. The 3e DLM formed in 1940 had only reservists who did their military service on horse and some of them discovered their tank a short time before being engaged, except some officers and specialists originating from the other DLMs. The cavalry corps and the corresponding HQ is created at the mobilization beginning September 1939. It is under the command of General Prioux until May 25, 1940 when he took command of the 1st army and General Langlois replaced him at the head of the cavalry corps. The cavalry corps contains initially only the 1e DLM and 2e DLM. The 1e DLM is then attached to the 7th army to operate in the Netherlands on May 10, 1940. It is replaced in the cavalry corps by the 3e DLM on March 26, 1940. During the 1940 western campaign the cavalry corps will regroup 1, 2 or the 3 DLMs.

Each DLM included about 10,400 men and 3,400 vehicles: 1 divisional HQ 1 light motorized brigade (BLM = Brigade Lgre Motorise) with 2 armored cavalry regiments (RC = Rgiment de Cuirassiers or RD = Rgiment de Dragons). 1e DLM : 174 tanks (+ 16 reserve tanks) in the 1e BLM 4e RC (43+4 Hotchkiss H35 and 44+4 Somua S35) 18e RD (43+4 Hotchkiss H35 and 44+4 Somua S35) e 2 DLM : 174 tanks (+ 16 reserve tanks) in the 3e BLM 13e RD (43+4 Hotchkiss H35 and 44+4 Somua S35) 29e RD (43+4 Hotchkiss H35 and 44+4 Somua S35) e 3 DLM : 174 tanks (+ 16 reserve tanks) in the 5e BLM 1e RC (43+4 Hotchkiss H39 and 44+4 Somua S35) 2e RC (43+4 Hotchkiss H39 and 44+4 Somua S35) 1 light motorized brigade (BLM = Brigade Lgre Motorise) with 1 armored reconnaissance regiment (regiment de dcouverte) and 1 RDP (Rgiment de Dragons Ports = mechanized cavalry regiment) 1e DLM : 107 armored cars in the 2e BLM : 40 Panhard 178 (+1 radio car + 2 reserve armored car) 6e RC 4e RDP : 67 AMR33 / AMR35 ZT1 (+2 reserve armored cars) 2e DLM : 107 armored cars in the 4e BLM : 40 Panhard 178 (+1 radio car + 2 reserve armored car) 8e RC 1e RDP : 67 AMR33 / AMR35 ZT1 (+2 reserve armored cars) 3e DLM : 107 tanks / armored cars in the 6e BLM 12e RC : 40 Panhard 178 (+1 radio car + 2 reserve armored car) 11e RDP : 22 Hotchkiss H35 and 47 Hotchkiss H39

1 divisional AT squadron (EDAC = Escadron Divisionnaire Anti-Char) 1 divisional repair and recovery squadron 1 motorized artillery regiment (with all-terrain tractors) 1 motorized AT battery (BDAC = Batterie Divisionnaire Anti-Char) 1 motorized AA battery (BDAA = Batterie Divisionnaire Anti-Arienne) 1 engineer battalion (3 motorized companies plus a bridging company) 1 telegraph company 1 radio company 1 carrier-pigeon detachment 1 HQ motor transport company 1 divisional quartermaster group 1 divisional medical group

During early June 1940, the remains of the 5 DLC were to be converted to a DLM "type rduit", a reduced DLM: 1e DLC as 4e DLM 2e DLC as 5e DLM 3e DLC as 6e DLM 4e DLC as 7e DLM 5e DLC as 8e DLM The deteriorating military situation meant only 4e DLM and 7e DLM were actually formed. The 1e DLM, 2e DLM and 3e DLM are also reconstituted beginning June, as reduced DLMs, with men evacuated from Dunkirk and who returned to France after a transit in Great Britain. These 5 DLMs fought until June 25, 1940.

The cavalry tanks are organized in "escadrons" (1 escadron = 1 squadron) and in "pelotons" (1 peloton = 1 platoon). For example in a cavalry unit like the 4e Rgiment de Cuirassiers there are : 44 Somua S35 and 43 Hotchkiss H35 (+4 reserve tanks of each model): 1 regiment command tank (1 Somua S35) 1 Somua S35 squadrons group = 43 Somua S35: o 1 Somua S35 squadrons group command tank (1 Somua S35) o 1st squadron (21 Somua S35) (one "escadron" with 4 "pelotons") 1 squadron commander tank 4 platoons of 5 tanks o 3rd squadron (21 Somua S35s) (one "escadron" with 4 "pelotons") 1 squadron commander tank 4 platoons of 5 tanks 1 Hotchkiss squadrons group = 43 Hotchkiss H35: o 1 squadrons group command tank (1 Hotchkiss H35) o 2nd squadron (21 Hotchkiss H35) (one "escadron" with 4 "pelotons") 1 squadron commander tank 4 platoons of 5 tanks o 4th squadron (21 Hotchkiss H35) (one "escadron" with 4 "pelotons") 1 squadron commander tank 4 platoons of 5 tanks

1e DLM
General Picard (27.08.39) General De Beauchesne (23.05.40)

2e DLM
General Altmayer (23.08.39) General Bougrain (13.01.40)

3e DLM
General Langlois (01.02.40) General De La Font (26.05.40) General Testard (06.06.40)

Cavalry corps
"Premier et dernier au feu" means roughly "first in and last out" At the beginning of the 1940 western campaign, there are 83 French divisions in the north-east area (3 DLMs, 3 DCRs, 5 DLCs, 72 infantry divisions and 4 cavalry brigades). The 6 DCR/DLM armored divisions were never the equivalent in power and combined arms than a Panzerdivision. There are also 10 British divisions (BEF), 22 Belgian divisions (but their real men strength corresponds only to 12 divisions) and 8 Dutch divisions. The allied had therefore a strength of 123 divisions (113 with the real strength of the Belgian divisions) to face a total of 136 German divisions. There are the equivalent of 13 French divisions on the Maginot line and 6 French divisions initially left to face the Italians. The allied Dyle-Breda plan is to stop the German offensive in Belgium and the Netherlands with the French 1st and 7th armies and the BEF, using the Ardennes and the Sedan area as a hinge on their right flank. The 3 French DLMs have to delay the German troops of Armee Gruppe B (including 3.PzD and 4.PzD in Belgium and 9.PzD in the Netherlands). Their task is to establish contact with the Belgian and Dutch armies and to cover the allied infantry deployment. The French have therefore a fast mechanical force but lacking AA protection and without serious air cover. The defense of the Ardennes and of the Meuse River is taken in charge by the 9th and 2nd French armies : 7 French divisions generally largely under equipped (sometimes no AA guns like for the 55e DI and 71e DI which had also respectively only 12 and 8 AT guns instead of 62) defended an overstretched front on the Meuse River (from Houx to Sedan - that is 15-30 km for each division whereas an infantry division should theoretically defend a 5-7 km front only) facing 40 German divisions including 7 concentrated Panzerdivisionen, with about 1,500 aircraft concentrated on a small area during hours. The French troops can there only rely on a good artillery support but only on very insufficient fortifications. The Maginot Line by itself is indeed stopping at the border with the Luxembourg. General Blanchard (French 1st army) was opposed to the entry in Belgium, judging the Belgian army unable to delay the Germans long enough to enable the deployment of the French troops in Belgium. Indeed the Belgian neutrality obsession did not allow the allied troops to enter Belgium before the German invasion. He evaluated the required time at about 1 week. The Belgians should also have prepared entrenched positions and anti-tank ditches on the future French positions but roughly nothing was done except the beginning of an anti-tank ditch next to Gembloux. General Gamelin, the commander in chief, nevertheless saw several advantages in the Dyle-Breda operation: Protection of the industrial area of north-eastern France Shortening the front between the Maginot Line and the North Sea by 70 km Offering better chances to rescue the Belgian army and integrate it in the whole allied deployment The British of course wanted the war as far as possible from the homeland. The generals Georges (commander in chief north-east) and Bilotte (1st army corps) thought that only a reduced version of this operation, on the Escaut (Scheldt) River, was really possible and that the Dyle-Breda line was too far. General Prioux, commander of the cavalry corps, which will have the task to delay the Germans in Belgium with the 2e DLM and the 3e DLM shared the same point of view and did not think that the Belgian army was able to face the German troops.

General Corap, commander of the 9th army on the Meuse River is also opposed to the Dyle-Breda operation and is worried about the weakness of his troops and the too huge front they have to defend (20-30 km for one division instead of 5-7 km). General Giraud (French 7th army), known for his rather offensive spirit, is also opposed to the operation in Belgium. Nevertheless, Gamelin persisted and engaged not only French troops in Belgium on the Dyle but also the potential of the 7th army in an operation in the Netherlands, sacrificing troops that could have constituted a crucial reserve later. On May 10, 1940, the German army attacks the Netherlands, Belgium and the Luxembourg. Some 4,500 airborne troops (paratroops and glider troops) and Brandenburg commandos seize several important bridges including 2 bridges on the Albert canal, enabling the XVI.Panzerkorps to cross rapidly and capture Maastricht. The Eben Emal fort is quickly and easily defeated by a special assault group. During the night the German engineers establish a bridge to cross the Albert Canal.

Allied and German movements at the beginning of the 1940 western campaign (Militaria magazine)

1. THE CAVALRY CORPS IN BELGIUM


The French cavalry corps (2e and 3e DLM) enters in Belgium on May 10 at 10h30, followed by the French 1st army. They wished they could have moved before the German attack but this was not possible due to the Belgian neutrality. General Prioux sends captain Mtivier from his staff to makes liaison with General Krahe, commander of the 3rd Belgian corps. He reports the little will of cooperation of the Belgians. He also notes that the "Cointet" mobile AT obstacles planned around Gembloux are not deployed; they are completely dispersed several kilometres further around Perwez. The future French infantry positions should have been fortified by the Belgians but except a short portion of AT ditch absolutely nothing was done. The French troops will therefore have to defend on a completely unprepared position. To add to this bad news, Belgian railroad workers went on strike and delayed the arrival of armored elements of the cavalry corps. General Prioux estimates that it will be difficult to fulfil the delay mission with the German massive air superiority. The operation on the Dyle was based on two hypothesises which appeared already wrong: The value of the defensive position at Gembloux The capacity of resistance of the Belgian army He contacts the high command to try to modify the operation into the less ambitious "Escaut" one since only the 3 motorized infantry divisions of the French 1st army were already moving in Belgium. Bilotte, Georges and Blanchard all disagreed with him. The French 1st army will move day and night despite the Luftwaffe. The mission of the cavalry corps is to delay the German troops around Hannut until May 14 before withdrawing behind the French 1st army deployed in Gembloux gap between the Dyle and the Meuse Rivers. On May 11, the 4.PzD crosses the Meuse River while the cavalry corps is deploying in the Ophelissem, Hannut, Huy area. On May 12, the Belgian army retreats to the Dyle River between Anvers and Louvain, exposing the flanks of the French cavalry corps. The battle of Hannut (May 12-14) is the first big tank battle of World War 2 : 411 French tanks (3e DLM and 2e DLM) are facing 674 German tanks (4.PzD and 3.PzD). The battle takes place between the Petite Gette stream and the Mhaigne small river, in the area hold by the 3e DLM. The 2e DLM is far less engaged. On May 12 only the 4.PzD is really involved, the 3.PzD having completely crossed the Meuse River only for May 13. The area is favorable to the tanks, therefore to the enemy whose tanks are more numerous. The Germans are also strongly supported by the Luftwaffe. The battle of Hannut shows that the Somua S35 tank can be at least the equal of the Panzer III and that the Panzer I and Panzer II are rather useless against the French tanks. During the battle of Hannut, General Prioux had the actual command of a real French tank corps facing a German tank corps. They inflicted heavy losses to the Germans. The use of such a French tank corps is unique during the 1940 campaign except perhaps the formation of the "groupement Buisson" beginning June for the battles on the Aisne and Retourne Rivers south of Rethel which grouped the 3e DCR and the 7e DLM. On May 14, having blocked the Germans as long as it was ordered, during 2 days, the cavalry corps moves back behind the French lines at Gembloux. Prioux is ordered to let part of his artillery to the French 1st army. During the battle of Gembloux (May 14-15), the XVI.Panzerkorps will again be blocked by the 1e DM (Division Marocaine = Moroccan infantry division) and the 15e DIM (Division d'Infanterie Motorise = motorized infantry division) which anchored their defenses on the Brussels-Namur railroad, the city of Gembloux and the town of Ernage. All the German assaults are repulsed and the XVI.Panzerkorps sustains heavy losses. Nevertheless the German breakthrough at Sedan will force the rather successful allied troops in Belgium to move back.

1.1 The battle of Hannut (May 12-14, 1940) 3. PzD


PzBfWg : 29 Panzer I : 117 Panzer II : 129 Panzer III : 42 Panzer IV : 26 armored cars : 56 (including 23 with a 2.0cm L/55 gun) 3.7cm PaK L/45 : 48 2.0cm FlaK 30/38 : 24 8.8cm FlaK L/56 :9 7.5cm leIG : 24 15cm sIG :8 10.5cm leFH : 24 15cm sFH : 12 infantry : 3 rifle battalions, 1 motorcycle battalion, 1 engineer battalion + attached M.G.-Btl.7 : including 12 3.7cm PaK L/45 + attached II./Flak-Lehr-Rgt : 9 8.8cm FlaK L/56 and 24 2.0cm/3.7cm FlaK + attached artillery : II./Art.Rgt.49 (with 12 15cm sFH)

4. PzD
PzBfWg : 15 Panzer I : 141 Panzer II : 111 Panzer III : 40 Panzer IV : 24 armored cars : 56 (including 23 with a 2.0cm L/55 gun) 3.7cm PaK L/45 : 48 2.0cm FlaK 30/38 : 24 8.8cm FlaK L/56 :9 7.5cm leIG : 24 15cm sIG :8 10.5cm leFH : 24 15cm sFH : 12 infantry : 4 rifle battalions, 1 engineer battalion + attached Pz.Jg.Abt.654 : 12 3.7cm PaK L/45 + attached M.G.-Btl.9 : including 12 3.7cm PaK L/45 + attached artillery : II./Art.Rgt.40, II./Art.Rgt.50 and s.Art.Abt.611 (adding at least 40 additional guns)

TOTAL XVI. Panzerkorps


tanks : 674 (including 132 Panzer III and Panzer IV) armored cars : 112 (including 46 with a 2.0cm L/55 gun) 3.7cm PaK L/45 : 132 2.0cm / 3.7cm FlaK : 72 8.8cm FlaK L/56 : 27 7.5cm leIG : 48 12cm sIG : 16 10.5cm leFH and 15cm sFH : 112+ + 7 rifle battalions, 1 motorcycle battalion, 2 engineer battalions, 2 MG battalions = 12 battalions

2e DLM
Hotchkiss H35 Somua S35 Light tanks Armored cars 47mm SA37 L/53 AT guns 25mm SA34/37 L/72 AT guns 25mm AA guns 75mm Mle1897 field guns 105mm C Mle1935 B howitzers infantry : 84 : 88 : 66 Renault AMR35 ZT1 (+ 3 Renault ADF1 command tanks) : 40 Panhard 178 (+ 4 radio armored cars + 4 reserve armored cars) :8 : 12 :6 : 24 (including also 1 Renault YS2 artillery observation tank) : 12 : 3 infantry battalions and 1 motorcycle battalion (dragons ports) including also several 37mm infantry guns and 25mm AT guns

3e DLM
Hotchkiss H35 Hotchkiss H39 Somua S35 Armored cars 47mm SA37 L/53 AT guns 25mm SA34/37 L/72 AT guns 25mm AA guns 75mm Mle1897 field guns 105mm C Mle1935 B howitzers infantry : 22 : 129 : 88 : 40 Panhard 178 (+ 4 radio armored cars + 4 reserve armored cars) :8 : 12 :6 : 24 : 12 : 3 infantry battalions and 1 motorcycle battalion (dragons ports) including also several 37mm infantry guns and 25mm AT guns

TOTAL French cavalry corps


Hotchkiss H35 and H39 : 235 Somua S35 : 176 armored cars : 147 (including 80 Panhard 178 and 67 AMR33 / AMR35 ZT1) 47mm SA37 L/53 AT guns : 16 25mm SA34/37 L/72 AT guns : 24 25mm AA guns : 12 75mm Mle1897 field guns : 48 105mm field guns : 24 + 8 infantry/motorcycle battalions

CONCLUSION France
411 tanks (including 176 Somua S35 and about 60 Hotchkiss with a 37mm L/33 SA38 gun) 147 armored cars and light reconnaissance tanks 40 AT guns 12 AA guns 72 field guns 8 infantry/motorcycle battalions

Germany
674 tanks (including 132 Panzer III and Panzer IV) 112 armored cars 159 AT guns (including 27 8.8cm FlaK L/56) 72 AA guns 112 field guns (including 10.5cm leFH sometimes used in direct fire against the French tanks) 54 infantry guns (lacking on the French side, and also more mortars) 12 infantry/motorcycle/MG/engineer battalions

The 3e DLM (General Langlois) will have to face directly 2 Panzerdivisionen: 3.PzD (General Stumpff) and 4.PzD (General Stever). The 2e DLM (General Bougrain) will be only partially implicated. Therefore the 674 German tanks including 132 Panzer III and Panzer IV will mainly be opposed to 239 French tanks including 88 Somua S35 tanks. Unlike the French troops, the Germans have a strong air support. The VIII.Fliegerkorps (General von Richtofen) with 300 Ju87 "Stuka" dive bombers and 42 Hs123 "assault" biplanes and about 130 Me109 supports Hoepner but

on May 13 it is engaged over the Meuse River. The IV.Fliegerkorps and IX.Fliegerkorps add some 280 He111/Do17/Ju88 bombers and over 500 Me109 and Me110. On the French side each DLM has only 3 modern reconnaissance aircraft attached.

Map of the Hannut and Gembloux area (Source : Gunsburg)

On May 10, 1940, the reconnaissance elements of the 8e RC (Colonel Mario) of the 2e DLM and the 12e RC (Colonel Leyer) of the 3e DLM move towards the Albert Canal, Lige and Maastricht. The core of the cavalry corps is moving to the area of Hannut. On May 11, General Prioux chooses to wait for the enemy on the Tirlemont-Huy line, using the Petite Gette stream and the Mhaigne small river to anchor the defense. The northern part behind the Petite Gette stream and Hannut is defended by the 3e DLM, which will have to face the main assault. The southern part behind the Mhaigne small river is defended by the 2e DLM. During the morning the Belgian army is retreating, exposing the flanks of the cavalry corps; the actions of the different allies is not coordinated unlike the 136 German divisions under a same and efficient high command. The French reconnaissance patrols are in contact with the German armored elements between Maastricht and Lige and delay the German spearheads. The 12e Rgiment de Cuirassiers (Panhard 178 armored cars) for example has been split in 3 reconnaissance detachments: 2 commanded by capitaine Renoult and 1 led by capitaine de Montardy. Capitaine de Montardy sends a patrol (Vasselot platoon) on the road of Maastricht to the Albert Canal. They meet the first German elements and are the first of the 3e DLM to engage the battle. During all the day, the Panhard 178 armored cars from 12e RC will fight the Panzers to delay their advance. Around 12h00, the town of Tongres is surrounded by the enemy. The reconnaissance detachment of capitaine de Montardy moves a bit back to avoid the encirclement. The Vasselot platoon is deployed on the Ramkin crossing and destroys or immobilizes 5 German tanks, including 1 Panzer IV from Pz.Rgt 35. On the French side a Panhard has a wheel damaged after a collision with a Panzer I and a motorcycle platoon has been captured by the enemy. On its side, capitaine Renoult moves back to Saint-Trond to hold the accesses of the town until night. There are many such events with the Panhard 178 armored cars on May 11.

The area of the 3e DLM is divided in 2 sectors organized in depth with infantry strong points in each town, village or farm hold by the 11e RDP (Colonel des Revouy) supported by tank groups deployed on the rear, ready to counterattack between the infantry positions. The northern sector is defended by the 6e BLM (Colonel des Loges): 12e RC (40 Panhard 178 armored cars) whose elements are currently in reconnaissance patrols 11e RDP (2 infantry battalions with 44 Hotchkiss H35/39 tanks) The 2nd battalion of the 11e RDP (II/11e RDP, Capitaine Brau) is deployed around Ophelissem and the 3rd battalion of the 11e RDP (III/11e RDP, squadron commander Kientz) is around Marilles and Orp. The southern sector is defended by the 5e BLM (General de La Font): 1e RC (43 Hotchkiss H39 and 44 Somua S35) 2e RC (43 Hotchkiss H39 and 44 Somua S35) 11e RDP (1 infantry battalion with 22 Hotchkiss H35/39 tanks) The first line around Hannut and Crehen is defended by the 1st battalion of the 11e RDP (I/11e RDP, Capitaine Lafargue). The 2e RC (Lieutenant-Colonel Touzet du Vigier) has the task to protect this first line with 2 Somua S35 squadrons and 2 Hotchkiss H39 squadrons. The 1e RC (Lieutenant-Colonel de Vernejoul) is maintained in reserve in Jauche. There is a whole tank regiment in reserve, not in a linear defense. The 2e DLM has also organized an in-depth defense with the 3 infantry battalions and the 67 AMR33 / AMR35 ZT1 armored cars of the 1e RDP (Colonel de Bellefon), the tanks of the 13e RD (Lieutenant-Colonel Juin de Baisse) and of the 29e RD (Colonel Baruteau).

May 12, 1940 The reconnaissance elements of Colonel Leyer delay the 4.PzD until May 12 at 9h00 before moving back to the positions of the 6e BLM. The Panhard 178 armored cars even knock out several German tanks. The 4.PzD attacks with strong support from the Luftwaffe. The Pz.Rgt.35 (Colonel Eberbach) supported by 1 infantry battalion is the first to attack the French troops. The Hannut area is attacked by Panzergruppe Eberbach. The I/11e RDP holds and strikes back despite heavy losses mainly due to the 2.0cm guns of the Panzer II with their high rate of fire. The German tanks reached the center of Crehen where they are ambushed by the 5 camouflaged Hotchkiss H39 tanks from Sous-Lieutenant Geneste. 4 German tanks are immobilized but the German tanks are more numerous. The 2.0cm projectiles bounce against the armor but Panzer IIIs knock the French tanks. A first counter-attack is launched by the 3rd squadron of the 2e RC (Hotchkiss tanks, Capitaine Sainte-Marie Perrin) and finally 11 French Hotchkiss tanks and 5 German tanks are destroyed. The 10 other Hotchkiss tanks are ordered to retreat. The inefficiency of the 37mm SA18 L/21 gun of 80% of the Hotchkiss tanks is demonstrated; it is unable to destroy the Panzer III and Panzer IV at 50-100m. In Crehen, the Somua S35 tanks (Lieutenant Lotsisky) destroy 4 German tanks, 1 AT gun battery and several trucks. Next to Thisnes, despite heavy losses, the French troops stop the Germans and destroy the regimental command tank of Colonel Eberbach (who will later be commander of the 4.PzD). The Somua S35 tanks launch a real charge against the enemy and stop the German advance in front of Crehen. Several German tanks are burning after the counter-attack of the Somua S35 tanks. At the end of the day, Crehen is evacuated by the French dragons ports who move back to Merdorp, Jandrenouille and Jandrain, on their second line. A renewed German assault is launched between Crehen and Hannut at 20h00, after a strong artillery preparation. A French artillery preparation is followed by the counter-attack of 1 Somua S35 tank squadron (only 21 tanks) of the 2e RC led by captain de Beaufort. The Somua S35 tanks destroy meticulously every German tank and resist to the German guns. This attack inflicts heavy losses to the Germans who are forced to retreat. Many Somua S35 tanks come back with 20-40 2.0cm and 3.7cm hits without any damage. The 4.PzD is also defeated more north on the Petite Gette stream, in front of Tirlemont. The German attempts to cross the Mhaigne River more south are defeated by the tanks of the 2e DLM which also supported the 3e DLM by firing on the tanks moving against the 3e DLM. During the rest of the night there are only artillery battles. During the night, General Hoepner realizes the inefficiency of his light tanks against the French tanks. He orders to engage the Hotchkiss tanks but to avoid combat with the Somua S35 tank. The French 47mm L/32 SA35 gun is able to destroy the German tanks at 800m but the 3.7cm KwK proved to be rather useless at standard range (300400m) against the Somua S35. The reports from the Panzerbrigade 3 indicate that the 3.7cm gun is inefficient beyond 200m. The Somua S35 tanks will have to be neutralized by the Panzer III, Panzer IV and AT guns at close range and by the 8.8cm FlaK or 10.5cm leFH in direct fire at long range.

May 13, 1940 On May 13, the 3.PzD joins the 4.PzD. Nevertheless, at dawn the French troops are attacking and not the German ones. 6 Somua S35 platoons of the 2e DLM (30 tanks), led by captain de Villle, attack at 5h30 the southern flank

of the 4.PzD. They slaughtered German tanks and their losses were very small and mainly due to the use of 8.8cm FlaK in AT role. At 9h00, the Luftwaffe attacks massively Jauche, Merdorp and Jandrain. At 10h00, the German assault is launched. The German infantry clashes with the III/11e RDP and at 11h00 the tanks of the 3.PzD and 4.PzD attack concentrated on a front of less than 5 km wide. The 3.PzD moves towards Orp and the 4.PzD towards Jandrenouille. The French infantry strong points organized in hedgehogs are submerged, many Hotchkiss tanks are destroyed. At 13h30, the 1e RC (Colonel de Vernejoul) which was maintained in reserve in Jauche in engaged. The 2nd squadron of the 1e RC (21 Somua S35 tanks, captain Ameil) is launched in a north to south attack against the 4.PzD positions north of Jandrenouille. The Somua S35 tanks stop in a hull-down position, at 800m of the German positions. All the German tanks are crowded in a forest edge. The Somua S35 tanks open fire and slaughter systematically the German tanks at long range. At the same time, the Somua S35 squadron led by captain de Beaufort (2e RC) launches a south to north counter-attack against the other flank of the 4.PzD. The 4.PzD looses many burning tanks and cannot deploy as it was planned. Elements of the 3.PzD are engaged to outflank the Somua S35 tanks of captain Ameil but on the way they encounter the 1st squadron (21 Somua S35, Lieutenant Mazeran) of the 1e RC, perfectly embossed and engaging them on the flank. About 50 German tanks are knocked out but the Somua S35 tanks have to abandon their position because of lack of ammunition. Only Lieutenant Racine's platoon manages to retreat without losses. 29 hits of 2.0cm and 3.7cm shells are numbered on his tank but without serious damage. Only 16 out of the 42 Somua S35 tanks of the 1e RC are still completely operational on May 13 evening, all covered with 20-40 impacts, the others have to be repaired or had been abandoned/destroyed. Many German shells had been wasted against the French tanks without success at a too long range. The 3.PzD is more lucky, most of the Somua S35 tanks being already engaged against the 4.PzD. General Stumpff commanding the 3.PzD, unlike the 4.PzD, doesn't try to reduce all the French infantry strong points but tries to infiltrate in the rears of the French lines. Nevertheless, several tanks remain stuck in the Petite Gette stream and several tanks are lost in front of the strongpoint of Marilles hold by the II/11e RDP. Lieutenant-Colonel du Vigier (2e RC) engages against the 3.PzD his last 4 platoons: 10 Hotchkiss and 10 Somua S35 tanks. Jandrin is encircled, Jauche is close to the same fate but Marilles can be evacuated by the infantry under the cover of the French tanks. The 3e DLM is ordered to move back on new positions at 16h00 and the 2e DLM, far less engaged, at 17h00. On May 12-13, the French cavalry corps is blocking the Germans about 30 km in front of Gembloux. General Prioux has been ordered to delay the Germans until May 14 and moves 10 km back in the area of Perwez hold by the 4e GRDI (Colonel Arlabosse), the reconnaissance group of the 15e DIM. The 4e GRDI includes motorcycle platoons but also 13 Laffly 50 AM and 12 Citron-Kgresse P16 Mle1929 armored cars. There are no natural elements really useful to build a defense, only several dispersed and rather useless "Cointet" mobile AT obstacles. During this time the Luftwaffe attacks all the French rears, on the frontline the French and German troops are too closely mixed. Fuel supply issues force the XVI.Panzerkorps to stop on the Jauche-Ramilles line. At 21h00, the 3e DLM is deployed on its new positions and the 2e DLM is deployed early on May 14. According to the war diary of the 3.Panzerbrigade (3.PzD) commanded by Colonel Khne: "huge quantities of ammunition were used during the battles against French tanks because of the lack of power of the 2.0cm and 3.7cm guns. In our brigade, all the 3.7cm and 7.5cm shells were used during a single battle on May 13. Our unit had to wait for ammunition supply to continue to fight." German sources agreed that the "only really effective" German tank weapon against French armor was the 7.5cm KwK firing APCBC shells. The same source from 3.Panzerbrigade concludes that their 3.7cm gun was effective only at less than 200m range.

May 14, 1940 North of the French cavalry corps, the British troops move back behind the Dyle River. South of the French troops the Belgian army retreats on Brussels. Both flanks of the cavalry corps are exposed. During the morning the 3.PzD and 4.PzD attack strongly the center of the new French deployment, but they are defeated by the French artillery and perfectly embossed tanks. The 2e DLM and 3e DLM block the enemy and start to move back behind the French 1st army around Gembloux during the morning. Mission accomplished for the cavalry corps of General Prioux. Germans never attacked with less than a tank battalion (about 80 tanks including 10 Panzer III and 6 Panzer IV) against French units of the strength of s squadron (about 20 tanks). The main reason is a better tactical regulation mainly due to more radio sets on the German side. French officers latter admitted that they were surprised by the German tank concentration.

The French tanks due to their 1-man turret were probably a bit more intricate to use and were more often embossed in a rather static position, firing on the German tanks at medium/long range, than engaged in a pure melee-like combat. Contrary to the 1e DLM and 2e DLM who had well trained crews, the 3e DLM (except some officers from the other DLMs) had only reservists who did their military service on horse and some of them discovered their tank a short time before being engaged. They had fired a few shells at Suippes and now, they were facing a flood of German tanks ! (It is still amazing that they did not run away at this glance). To worsen the situation, most of the Somua of the 3e DLM went to combat with 2 crew members instead of 3, many tankers were in permission at the beginning of the combats and therefore nobody was there to help the commander to reload. In these tanks the Somua had really a 1-man turret instead of a 1 one. This can explain why *one* German source (even not specified) is quoted in Gunsburg's article "battle of the Belgian plain" about the bad gunnery skills of the French tankers. The 3e DLM in Hannut which had a very high proportion of reservists sustained heavy losses while the more experienced crews of the 2e DLM (also less engaged) in the same battle had only light losses. Nevertheless the 3e DLM reservists inflicted significant losses to the elite of the Panzerwaffe. Each counter-attack made by a small formation of Somua S35 tanks was seen as critical by the Germans. For this division, there was of course the absence of tracer shells and the fact that roughly all the Hotchkiss tanks of the 3e DLM had 37mm SA18 L/21 guns with only poor anti-tank efficiency. It is a miracle that they could fight so well against the elite Panzerwaffe in Hannut. They had better tanks (considering the armor and the armament of the Somua S35 tanks) than most of the German crews but mostly with crews lacking training. To actually hit a Panzer with the 1-man turret would prove to be difficult for the 3e DLM : German tanks were fast, training insufficient and tracer shells absent in the tanks ... But on the German side, the situation was not very good as well : apart from the 7.5cm L/24 gun of the Panzer IV, no German shell could pierce the Somua S35 and the Hotchkiss H39 at a comfortable range, they had to move to close range. German tankers went to duel the French Somua S35 tanks at medium and long range (around 600-800m and up to 1000m) with both sides using too many rounds for nothing but the 47mm L/32 SA35 gun of the Somua S35 was able to destroy the German tanks at this range unlike the German ones. The 4x gunsight of the Somua tanks was also adapted for such long range targeting. Even counterattacks led by 10 Somua S35 tanks were viewed as critical on the German side The French would trade tanks for time. During the battle, the advancing German tanks were very often attacked on the flanks and the rear by the French tanks. The French tactics are therefore probably not that bad as often depicted. All along the battle, the French troops launched many counter-attacks despite being massively attacked by the Luftwaffe. The German Colonel Neuman wrote: "the admirable tenacity of the French troops, which did not loose an inch of ground, despite heavy losses left the battle indecisive. General Hoepner didn't know the real strength of its opponent and the location of the core of the enemy armored forces." The losses are heavy on both sides. The French lost 105 tanks (75 Hotchkiss H35/H39 and 30 Somua S35 tanks) and the Germans about 164 tanks, mainly due to the action of the Somua S35 tanks (despite being often manned by crews lacking experience) but also several because of the Hotchkiss tanks or because of the infantry strong points including AT guns and AT mines. Concerning the French tank losses a part was probably destroyed by the Luftwaffe and not at all by German tanks. A high proportion of the 75 Hotchkiss tanks were destroyed by enemy fire. A significant number of the 30 lost Somua S35 tanks is due to drivers' mistakes or mechanical breakdowns. Noteworthy here is clearly a better survival rate of the more powerful Somua S35 tank compared to the Hotchkiss H39. The Somua tanks could engage the German tanks at longer range. Concerning the French infantry, the 11e RDP is reduced to 1 operational battalion. In tank battles, the one who hold the ground in the end has a tremendous advantage. German field workshops would work during the night to repair some of the tanks that were knocked out during the battle. It is indeed rare that with the projectile of 1940 a tank remains totally and definitely destroyed. But only the Germans could recover their knocked out tanks. During the battle the German tanks were several times out of fuel and ammunition. The Germans organized air supply to provide fuel for their tanks. Three officers of the 3e DLM who fought against the German tanks during the battle of Hannut will play a role in the next part of the war: Colonel Leyer, future commander of the 4e DLM in June 1940, will command the Vichy French cavalry in Morocco. In 1942-1943, he will be one of the main actors of the creation of the French armored arm. Squadron commander Touzet du Vigier had in charge the "armored cavalry" course in the cavalry school at Saumur from 1931 to 1934. During his teaching and in various conferences in 1937-1938 he proved very open to the innovative ideas concerning the tanks. His teaching influenced many officers like Capitaine de Hautecloque (as known as Leclerc). Already in 1914, he led a cavalry raid deep behind the German lines during 5 days. In 1937, he took part to the writing of the cavalry doctrine with General Flavigny. In 1940, Colonel Touzet du Vigier commanded the 2e Rgiment de Cuirassiers (3e DLM) and fought during the battle of Hannut. He commanded the 2nd motorized cavalry brigade in North Africa until 1942-1943. In 1944, he became commander of the 1st French armored division (1e DB) included in the First French army. Colonel de Vernejoul, commander of the 1e Rgiment de Cuirassiers (3e DLM) in 1940 will be commander of the 5th French armored division (5e DB) in 1944.

One could also mention Lieutenant-Colonel Baillou, who was tank commander in the 3e DLM in 1940. He will command the "escadron hors-rang" (headquarters squadron) of the 12e RCA (Rgiment de Chasseurs d'Afrique), a regiment of the 2nd French armored division (commanded by Leclerc, who was captain in 1940) in North Africa and France. He will be instructor in France from 1945 to 1950.

Munitionsschlepper auf PzKpfw I destroyed near Hannut

Panzer I (4.PzD) knocked-out near Hannut

Panzer III F destroyed near Merdorp

1.2 The battle of Gembloux (May 14-15, 1940)


The resistance of the cavalry corps (2e DLM and 3e DLM) from May to May 14, 1940 allowed the deployment of the 1e DM (Division Marocaine = Moroccan infantry division - General Mellier) and the 15e DIM (Division d'Infanterie Motorise = motorized infantry division - General Juin) around Gembloux, on a front of 12 km. Note that during this battle each division had to defend a 5-7 km front as intended for a French infantry division instead of 20-30 km for the infantry divisions around Sedan. The tanks of the cavalry corps were still involved on the beginning of the 14th of May and the artillery of the cavalry corps reinforced the French units at Gembloux. In Gembloux, the French infantry/artillery couple will face with success the German Panzer/Luftwaffe couple of the so-called "Blitzkrieg".

French deployment around Gembloux (Source: Aymes)

The battle of Gembloux is mainly opposing the French infantry to the German Panzerdivisionen and Luftwaffe. The tanks of the cavalry corps play only a role on May 14 and artillery elements of the cavalry corps are detached to the French infantry. The Germans troops are ordered to take Gembloux and to break through the lines of the French 1st Army on May 14. In the morning, after the battle of Hannut, the 5.Panzerbrigade (Colonel Breith) of the 4.PzD (Pz.Rgt.35 and Pz.Rgt.36) forms the spearhead of the XVI.Panzerkorps and goes on. The core of the German troops is delayed during about 1 hour in front of the "Cointet" AT obstacles in Perwez. The German engineers open passages for the vehicles and the trenches just behind are empty. They should have been occupied by Belgian troops. All these concentrated German troops are targeted by 9 Morane-Saulnier fighters MS.406 but in a short time 3 of the French fighters are shot down by the FlaK and the others are pursued by numerous German fighters. Pz.Rgt.36 and elements of the divisional infantry (Schtz.Brigade 4 = Schtz.Rgt.12 and Schtz.Rgt.33) are blocked a bit later around the town of Grand Leez and the woods next to this town by the fire of French tanks from the 2e DLM which are ordered to delay the advancing enemy. The intervention of Ju87 dive bombers does not change the situation and the attackers are still blocked by the French fire. After an artillery preparation and a concerted attack, the town is finally taken. German engineers capture one French AT gun and knock out 4 French tanks with it. A fifth French tank is immobilized with an explosive charge in the tracks.

The 3.PzD on its side is delayed by the retreating 3e DLM north-east of Ernage. Like in Hannut, the 3.Panzerbrigade complaints that too many shells are fired without effect against the French tanks and that only the 7.5cm KwK of the Panzer IV is really efficient against them. The same source from 3.Panzerbrigade indicates that the German 3.7cm gun was effective only at less than 200m range. They are probably facing Somua S35 tanks covering the retreat of the 3e DLM. The infantry of the division joins the tank only at night and in the darkness one battalion is even fired at by German tanks. Due to this rearguard resistance, the German attack on the French infantry positions cannot be launched as planned on this day and more tanks are lost on both sides. The French loose about 15 AFVs during these delaying combats. Because of the events in the area of Sedan, the retreating tanks from the 2e DLM and 3e DLM are first put in reserve but they are rapidly removed from the Gembloux gap and sent south to face new threats. Nonetheless, several AT guns and artillery units from the cavalry corps remain with the French infantry. The 1e DIM (deployed north of the 1e DM) is for example reinforced by 12x 105mm C howitzers, 24x 75mm field guns and 4x 47mm SA37 AT guns from the 3e DLM. During May 14 and 15, 1940 the 3.PzD and 4.PzD will be blocked by the French infantry in the Gembloux gap, unable to pierce the French lines. Both sides will sustain heavy losses.

1.3 Conclusion after the battles of Hannut-Gembloux (May 12-15, 1940)


During 2 days the 3e DLM (and the 2e DLM) managed to stop 2 Panzerdivisionen and to inflict them heavy losses in Hannut. The French losses in the 3e DLM are also significant: with more than 100 tanks out of 239 (since the French did not hold the ground) and high infantry losses in the 11e RDP. Regarding the losses on both sides the result is rather a draw. Both sides managed to fulfil their mission. The single mission of General Prioux was to resist enough to delay the German advance during 2 days. This mission was completely fulfilled, in this sense the battle of Hannut is a French tactical success, but the damaged tanks could generally not be recovered. Of course, today we know that the German attack in Belgium had the aim to attract the allied troops in a trap but the XVI. Panzerkorps was not simulating its combats and the heavy German losses are real. Hoepner had actually the order to fix the cavalry corps but also to pierce the French line in Gembloux, in which he failed. The 2 Panzerdivision supported by 2 infantry divisions were again blocked in Gembloux, by 2 French infantry divisions this time. On the overall strategic level of course the allies failed in May 1940, but Hannut and Gembloux can eventually be seen as French tactical successes over the German army but it is rather a draw. Despite heavy aerial support, the advantage of the radio sets in their faster tanks etc. the Germans failed in face of the French cavalry corps and the 1st army which were devoid of aerial support. In Hannut some 164 German tanks were knocked out and in Gembloux the French artillery indirect fire alone destroyed about 50 German tanks, including 32 tanks in the Pz.Rgt.35. On May 15 evening, the 4.PzD had only 137 operational available tanks left (including only 4 Panzer IV) from the initial 331 tanks. So there were 194 tanks damaged, under recovery/repair or destroyed after the battles of Hannut and Gembloux. Only 41 % of the tanks were operational. On May 16: The 4.PzD had about 55% operational tanks = 182 available tanks. Therefore 45 extra operational tanks than on May 15. But 149 tanks remained unavailable; this number is including destroyed tanks and tanks in the repair workshops. The 3.PzD had 75% operational tanks. Therefore about 85 tanks are still destroyed or in the repair workshops one day after the battles. On May 16, 1940, one day after the battles, 234 tanks (35% of the tanks) were not operational anymore, including an unknown number of definitively destroyed tanks. The Germans repaired more of their tanks during the following days or weeks while the French could not recover the 105 tanks they had left in Hannut. After the battle of Gembloux, General Hoepner estimated that he was unable to continue efficiently the combats the next day. Indeed many tanks were not operational anymore and the artillery lacked now ammunition. The heavy guns had to await their supplies from Maastricht in the Netherlands; all the other dumps were empty. Hoepner's troops are so exhausted that they cannot exploit the retreat of the French 1st Army on May 16-18, 1940 to disorganize it. The assault of 2 Panzerdivisionen supported by 2 infantry divisions have been stopped on an improvised line by 2 French infantry divisions. Hoepner had actually the order to pierce the French line in Gembloux, in which he failed. The eventual French success in Hannut and Gembloux is only a short-lived victory and the human cost is very high. On May 15 evening, the French 1st army, although undefeated, is ordered to move back due to the collapse of the 9th army on the Meuse in the area of Sedan on May 13. This situation endangers greatly the rear right flank of the 1st Army. The French troops will move back and deploy between Arras, Valenciennes and Tournai.

General von Bechtolsheim and captain von Jungenfeld judged the French deployment in Hannut as very linear and the French units as poorly mobile. This was repeated by Henrich Bcheler, Hermann Zimmerman and B.H. Liddel Hart in 1949 but is rather in opposition with the memories of General Prioux and the books of Genotte and Sarton. In fact the French deployment is everything but linear since the defense is organized in depth, but the French deployment is also therefore rather static. There were only local counter-attacks. There were no mobile attack launched involving e.g. all the tanks of a whole regiment. Indeed, when you look on a General map, the deployment of the cavalry corps seems rather linear, because it is a defensive deployment and because it is clearly on a north to south axis. But it is for sure an in-depth organization with infantry strong points supported by tank squadrons ready to counter-attack between the infantry hedgehogs; and a whole tank regiment in reserve. It seems poorly mobile because the 2e DLM could have been far more engaged against the XVI.Panzerkorps, instead of staying south of the 3e DLM. But, one has to be coherent and remember the context. For the French units this German attack was the main one, not a trap as we know it today. They knew that the German had 8 extra Panzerdivisionen available somewhere. They did not know how many more Panzerdivisionen were to be engaged in that battle. The 2e DLM could have been surprised on its flanks by 1 extra Panzerdivision. The 3e DLM accomplished the mission completely and has delayed the 2 German armored divisions for required time. It inflicted heavy losses since 164 German tanks were knocked out. Captain Jugenfeld judged probably not the mobility of the French tanks by themselves (although for sure the German tanks are faster) but the mobility of the French tank units. The French tanks launched many counterattacks but indeed they also fought several times in rather static positions. They used hull down emplacements at medium/long range to engage more numerous German tanks and meticulously fired at them from a safe position. They had not necessarily the need to move or they would probably have lost their advantage. They took advantage of the terrain to fulfil their mission. If engaged all the time in a pure mobile and melee-style combat, without sufficient radio sets and 1-man turrets, against more numerous enemy tanks, they would probably have lost more than 105 tanks. The good armor (40mm on the hull and the turret) and the powerful 47mm L/32 SA35 of the Somua S35 tank coupled to a 4x gunsight (higher magnification than the German tank gun sights but smaller field of view) made it able to engage safely German tanks up to 800-1000m. At this range it was roughly impossible for a German tank to destroy the Somua S35. The Somua S35 proved capable of continue to fight after having received up to about 40 German hits but every German tanks were easily penetrated by the 47mm SA35 gun. Firing on the German tanks from a well chosen position was a better solution for the French tankers than to be engaged in a melee at close range with a 1-man turret, especially for the inexperienced 3e DLM and especially because as explained most of the Somua S35 tanks of this units had only 2 crew members instead of 3. Captain von Jugenfeld probably judged the French tank units with his views of German tankers, for who the main advantages are speed and tactical regulation thanks to the radio. The French tanks were used in a different way to exploit their own advantages. They proved to be rather successful according to the German losses, and unlike the German side without heavy air support or the use of powerful 8.8cm FlaK in AT role. The French deployment was aimed on defense and counter-attacks and the German one was focused on the offensive, it was not a complete meeting engagement. The delay mission in Hannut was actually a perfect mission for the cavalry corps. Nonetheless, in 1940 the core of the French army remained the infantry associated with the artillery and they proved able to stand up against the new German tank/aircraft couple in Gembloux. The French air force and the French tanks remain mainly auxiliary units meant to support this infantry in 1940, like in the 1918/1921 doctrine. The French tanks are not and independent arm and in combat they are rather employed to take specific and successive objectives by piercing about 15-25 km deep in the enemy lines. The French tanks were not conceived to pierce 100 km deep like the powerful and independent Panzerwaffe. Nonetheless, the French cavalry tanks had the ability to move fast to a far away deployment area and may have to execute pursuit and exploitation missions, other classical cavalry missions beside the reconnaissance and delay missions. Had the Germans frontally attacked the 2e DLM instead of the inexperienced and incomplete 3e DLM, they would probably have sustained even higher losses.

2. THE 1e DLM IN THE NETHERLANDS


While the 2e DLM and 3e DLM are engaged in Belgium with the 1st army, the 1e DLM (General Picard) has to fulfil a similar mission in the Netherlands for the 7th army. The French 7th army has to deploy between Breda and Turnhout but this line was rather far away from the starting line in France. The 1e DLM was to move first, to provide intelligence and reconnaissance for the 7th army and to establish contacts with the Belgian and Dutch armies. Its mission was then to delay the German troops long enough to allow the 25e DIM (General Molini) and the 9e DIM (General Didelet) to occupy the position on the Marck River. The 1e DLM will have to face the XVIII.Armee (General von Kuchler) including the 9.PzD (General Hubrig) and the 1.Kavallerie Division. The 9.PzD has to cross the Meuse River, to reach Tirlburg and to take Breda. It will then be split in two groups: A first group reinforced by the SS Verfgung (mot) division A second group reinforced by the SS Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler (LAH) regiment and 2 airborne troops battalions of the VII.Fliegerdivision with the mission to take Rotterdam The Dutch troops concentrated their armored cars, strong infantry and AA elements around their airfields. They inflicted significant losses to the airborne German operation. The Luftwaffe lost about 225 aircraft in the Netherlands due to the allied air forces but also because some 170-200 transport planes (mostly Junkers Ju52s) were destroyed, mainly on the ground by artillery fire.

May 10, 1940 The 1e DLM will be supported by 2 reconnaissance groups: one with the 2e GRCA and the 5e GRDI under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Lestoquoi, which will operate with the 1e DLM one with the 2e GRDI, 12e GRDI and 27e GRDI under command of Colonel Beauchesne, which will operate independently Nevertheless these reconnaissance units are reduced; only the motorized elements are used, the horse mounted elements being to slow. All these reconnaissance groups include motorcycle platoons. The 2e GRDI is the reconnaissance group of the 9e DIM and includes also 13 Panhard 178 armored cars and 13 Hotchkiss H39 tanks. The 5e GRDI is the reconnaissance group of the 25e DIM and includes 13 Panhard 178 armored cars and 13 Hotchkiss H35 tanks. The reconnaissance regiment of the 1e DLM is the 6e RC (Rgiment de Cuirassiers), commanded by Colonel Dario, with about 40 Panhard 178 armored cars. It is reinforced by the Lestoquoi group (2e GRCA and 5e GRDI). Together, they cross the Belgian border at 10h30 and reach the Albert canal east of Anvers during afternoon. They move beyond Turnhout during the night. The tanks of the 1e DLM arrive by train around Oosmalle, 15 km west of Turnhout.

May 11, 1940 To be sure to have troops as early as possible in the Netherlands, a landing of French troops has been organized on the Walcheren and Zuid Beveland islands (Zeeland islands). This landing is known as operation F (F as Flessingue = Vlissingen). Channel boats from the Calais-Folkestone line like the "Cte d'Azur" and the "Rouen" are used to load the troops at Dunkirk. The transport ships are escorted by 7 torpedo ships provided by the 2e DT (division de torpilleurs), 11e DT and 14e DT. Other ships were present like French submarine chasers, French "aviso" ships and several British vessels. The "Diligente" is a second class "aviso" but it was used to supply seaplanes. This ship arrives with 15,000 litres of fuel. At 9h00 a Heinkel He-111 bomber attack the harbor of Flessingue but without result. On May 11, there are 2 landings: one at 4h15 and a second one at 13h40. The French troops landing in the Netherlands are the 224e RI from the 68e DI (General Beaufrre), supported by 1 artillery group (12 75mm Mle1897 field guns) provided by the 89e RA from the 60e DI (General Deslaurens). The reconnaissance elements reach Breda, Tilburg and Eindhoven. 400 German paratroops held the Moerdjik bridge next to Breda. They have occupied the previously Dutch fortifications and are equipped with MGs, mortars AT rifles and AT guns. 1 Panhard 178 platoon (5 armored cars) and 2 motorcycle platoons are ordered to prevent the Germans to move towards Breda which is the final objective of the 1e DLM. They block the Germans with the help of Dutch infantry units. Motorized German elements are moving north-east of Tilburg and skirmish with French advanced elements. One German tank is destroyed. Around 21h00, detachment Dudognon (Panhard 178 armored cars from the 6e RC)

defend the Moergestel Bridge over the Reussel River. At 23h00, 3 German armored cars accompanied by 3 sidecars and a truck full of troops appear. Marchal-des-logis (NCO rank) Gaulthier recalls: "the leading 2 German armored cars do not see me and head for the Panhard 178 "La Varende". The first German armored car crushes 2 of our side-cars and barely dodges the "La Varende" (tearing off a mudguard on the way) and crashes into a cement pole. The second German armored car (an 8-wheeled Sd.Kfz.231 probably) stops to my left and opens fire. Meanwhile the third German armored car turns out in front of me on the bridge. I open fire with my 25mm SA35 gun and I hit it square on. The German armored car rolls for several extra meters before stopping to my right. At the same time, the explosive charges placed under the bridge explode as the German truck is on the bridge. I was in the turret so the deflagration stunned me and I fell inside. When I recovered and went back to the hatch I saw the second German armored car still firing on my left. I pivoted the turret and fired point blank with both the main gun and MG (with AP bullets). It quickly ceased firing. The whole action only lasted a quarter of an hour. The enemy e lost around 20 dead and drowned. The 6 Cuirrasiers detachment has captured 4 men including 2 wounded. The three German armored cars whose motors cannot be started again are scuttled as well as a German side-car. Two more intact BMW side-cars will replace the 2 that were crushed and we used them up to Dunkirk." The French troops had only a few lightly wounded men. The 2e GRCA deploys in Breda and the 5e GRDI is in Tilburg after the loss of 1 armored car in an ambush. The infantry of the 1e DLM is deployed on the Reussel River between Tilburg and Turnhout, north-west of the Belgian 18th infantry division. The deployment would be satisfactory but the Belgian and Dutch troops retreat rapidly and the 1e DLM is suddenly alone to face the German troops. The Belgian army abandoned a triangle formed by 3 canals (Turnhout, Campines and Albert). The right flank is completely unprotected and German troops are infiltrating. Tilburg, Breda, Turnhout and Oostmalle are bombed by the Luftwaffe.

May 12, 1940 The 9.PzD has crossed the Meuse River at Gennep and moves towards Breda. The French reconnaissance elements retreat to the Wortel Merxplas Turnhout Desschel line after having skirmished with German armored elements. The movement of the 7th army towards Breda is cancelled to reconstitute a continuous front after the retreat of the Belgian army on the Berg op Zoom Anvers line. The 25e DIM is deploying in Wortel. The infantry of the 1e DLM and Belgian troops are in contact with the enemy on the Turnhout canal and are reinforced by the 9e DIM on May 13 only. The pressure of the 9.PzD is increasing in the area of Turnhout and a German infantry division crosses the canal but cannot advance more. On May 12, two additional convoys unload French troops in the Zeeland islands. The Luftwaffe is now very active and attacking the harbor every 2 hours. The ships are not hit but these bombings have the effect of hampering the unloading of the equipment and fuel supplies. A truck is thrown on the "Diligente" by the explosion of a German bomb. The ship is still full of fuel but there is no explosion. The "aviso" is nonetheless blocked and will leave the harbor on May 13 only. All the other ships leave except the submarine chasers "chasseur 6" and "chasseur 9". May 13, 1940 The 1e DLM is strongly attacked by the Luftwaffe and the 9.PzD. Movements through the Anvers tunnel are delayed because Dutch employees in charge of the air intake went on strike ! General Picard launches 2 Hotchkiss squadrons of the 18e RD (42 tanks) in a counter-attack against the German troops who managed to cross the Turnhout canal. The objectives are Moll and the bridges on the Turnhout canal. An other canal has to be crossed and only one, 8 meters long, engineered bridge enables the crossing of tanks but only the lighter ones. The Somua S35 tanks cannot be engaged. 1 German battalion is forced to retreat from Moll but the bridges are strongly defended by AT guns and infantry. Without infantry the French attack cannot go on. Several German AT guns are destroyed or crushed and the enemy infantry sustained losses. Several French tanks are damaged but only when engaged at close range. At the end of the day, receiving no infantry support to open the way, the French tanks have to move back. During the night, the French troops in the Walcheren and Zuid Beveland islands are reinforced by the 271e RI, motorized elements of the 68e GRDI and 1 engineer company from the 60e DI. These troops crossed the Escaut (Scheldt) River thanks to ferries.

May 14, 1940 The 1e DLM is attacked south of Berg op Zoom and defeats the Germans. Because of the context of the German breakthrough in Sedan and the very advanced position of the French 7th army and of the 1e DLM, the French troops are ordered to retreat towards Anvers. The 9e DIM and the 25e DIM are sent to the south to reinforce the French 1st army.

During this day 1 tank battalion of the 9.PzD, reinforced by German infantry, AT guns and supported by artillery fire encircles and destroys the 12e GRDI and several armored cars of the 6e RC in Berg op Zoom, west of Tilburg.

May 15, 1940 Rotterdam and La Haye have been captured by the Germans. On May 15, the Dutch army capitulates. The 1e DLM is deployed in the area of Kontich and begins to move back at 21h00. The 1e DLM will fight hard delaying combats. In one week the division moved on more than 600 km, managing to defeat all the German encirclement attempts before being trapped around Dunkirk. A strong German attack (including SS-Standarte Deutschland) is launched against the French troops still in the Zeeland islands. The French 271e RI is in Zuid Beveland and the French 224e RI (B reserve regiment) is in Walcheren. The French troops are completely cut from the 7th army and encircled by the Germans. The 271e RI launches a counter attack but without success. The regiment is destroyed, only 300 survivors retreat to the island of Walcheren to defend the Sloedam (a small dam between Walcheren and Zuid-Beveland). The canal between Walcheren and Zuid Beveland is a poor defence since it is completely dry at low water. Walcheren is defended by the 224e RI supported by 1 group (12 75mm Mle1897 field guns) of the 89e RA and the remains of the 271e RI who are completely demoralized. These troops are nevertheless supported by the fire of the French torpedo boats from the 2e DT and 6e DT and by several French submarine chasers. The Loire-Nieuport LN.401 dive bombers from AB.2 squadron (French fleet air arm) support the ground troops by attacking the German forces and the Potez 631 twin-engine fighters from AC.2 squadron (French fleet air arm) provide air cover. The French troops will resist until May 17.

Sd.Kfz.260 destroyed by French troops near Anvers

May 17, 1940 The French defense collapses slowly and the troops have to retreat to the harbor of Flessingue to be evacuated. The first French troops evacuating Flessingue have the luck to still find several ferries. These ferries are ordered to return to Flessingue to evacuate additional troops but they will never do that. The Royal Navy lost the destroyer "Valentine", and had the destroyer "Winchester" damaged whilst protecting these ferries. The 14e DT (division de torpilleur) reinforces the French troops and takes part to the evacuation. The torpedo boat "Cyclone" fires 80 shells of 130mm on the main road of Zuid Beveland where German troops are concentrating. It is replaced for the fire mission by the "Siroco" and later by the British ships "Wolsey" and "Vimiera". During the

same time, the 12 guns of the 89e RA fire 3,000 75mm shells. Nevertheless that does not prevent the Germans to cross the little canal separating the 2 islands, mainly thanks to the support of the Luftwaffe. General Deslaurens (commander of the 60e DI and of the operation) is killed in Flessingue (Vlissingen) while fighting, a carbine in his hands. Most of the French troops are embarked by the French navy (Chasseur 5, 6, 10, 41 and 42) but operation F is a failure. The General commanding the operation has been killed, the 271e RI doesnt exist anymore as operational unit and 2 battalions of the 224e RI have been captured. The 12 guns of the 89e RA group have been destroyed or scuttled. Concerning the navy it proved able to land and to embark troops under heavy German air attacks; only 1 British ship was sunk.

3. THE FRENCH CAVALRY CORPS AFTER MAY 15, 1940


After the combats in Belgium and in the Netherlands, General Prioux wants to concentrate the 1e, 2e and 3e DLM in the cavalry corps. Nevertheless it seems not possible, all the time the tank brigades are being ordered by the army corps to support different infantry units. Prioux cannot control the fate of his tanks; they are dispersed and cannot be grouped as wished. On May 26, General Prioux takes command of the 1st army and is replaced by General de La Font. After Dunkirk, the tank crews, who are the French troops evacuated in priority reconstitute the cavalry corps but it is only the shadow of the previous one.

3.1 The grouping of the DLMs in the north (May 16-20, 1940)
On May 16, the 3 DLMs move back to France.

Situation on May 16, 1940

The 1e DLM is deployed south of Valenciennes and Cambrai, attached to the 9th army. The Somua S35 tanks are deployed at Quesnoy and will soon meet German mechanized elements reinforced by AT guns during short but violent engagements. Rear guard elements of the French 9th army are engaged in the forest of Mormal, east of Quesnoy. The 7.PzD (General Rommel) has trapped them in the woods and goes on with its advance, letting the 5.PzD (General von Hartlieb) reduce them.

Today's map showing Quesnoy (the city in orange) he Mormal woods as well as the towns of Jolimetz and Landrecies.

On May 17, the 1e DLM is ordered to block the German tanks. There is also a fierce battle in and around the Mormal forest. The 1e DLM meets the 5.PzD and elements of the 7.PzD. The 1e DLM is far from having all its units but the counter-attack starts at 18h30 from Quesnoy towards Landrecies. The tanks of the 4e RC (Colonel Poupel) and the 18e RD (Colonel Pinon) are incomplete, inferior in number and forced to disperse to control the assigned area. Nevertheless the morale and the determination are high. During the counter-attack many Hotchkiss tanks are destroyed by 10.5cm field guns used in AT role. The French counter-attack will significantly delay the 5.PzD. On May 17, 1940, the platoon of Lieutenant Andr De Conigliano from the 3rd Squadron of the 4e RC meets elements of the the 4e RDP (Rgiment de Dragons Ports - infantry) in Englefontaine (also on the map) and at 18h00 the platoon received the order to establish a bridgehead at Landrecies. Arriving next to a level/grade crossing in Landrecies the Somua S35 of lieutnant De Conigliano is under intense fire from German AT weapons ambushed at point blank range. His tank is knocked out. The driver, brigadier-chef Fresnais, is killed and the Lieutenant is killed too only the radio/loader is rescued. The 4 other tanks of the platoon, under the command of marchal des logis-chef Lger, break the engagement around 19h15 and pull back towards Englefontaine. They establish a defensive position on the Englefontaine-Landrecies road.

Insignia of the 4e Rgiment de Cuirassiers

A Somua S35 tank and a Panzer 38(t), both destroyed. The photo was probably taken in Landrecies.

The Somua S35 tank of the photo is perhaps the one of Lieutenant Andr De Conigliano but the location of the scene on this photo is not completely sure. New elements enabling to locate the scene are welcome. The town of Landrecies was in German hands with the French tanks arriving. The first French tank was apparently quickly destroyed in an ambush. There is no mention of German tanks in Landrecies in the journal of the 4e RC but all the area was hold by elements of the 7.PzD (explaining the Panzer 38(t)) and by the 5.PzD. The Panzer 38(t) on the photo was perhaps knocked out by the Somua S35 tanks before or during their movement back towards Englefontaine. On May 18, 12 Somua S35 tanks of the squadron of Capitaine De Segonzac from the 4e RC are holding the town of Jolimetz along with one company of Moroccan tirailleurs in support. During all the day they faced half of the 5.PzD (about 120 tanks and massive infantry, field artillery, AT guns and aviation support) on the move in this area. 1 Somua S35 tank (Marchal des logis Enfroy) is damaged during a reconnaissance and sent back to Quesnoy. Only 11 French tanks are then controlling the town. The German attack is launched and after a few losses the Germans sent preferentially the heavier Panzer IVs in the town itself. At the end of the day the town was completely surrounded. In 10 vs 1 odd, the French have lost 10 tanks (destroyed or abandoned) and the Germans 26 tanks, mostly Panzer IVs. That is a perfect example of what well-trained French crews were able to do.

Map of Jolimetz with the position of the French Somua S35 tanks before the battle (in dark gray the Mormal forest)

On May 19, the 1e DLM is again under command of the cavalry corps. On May 20, the 5e DINA (General Agliany) supported by the 1e DLM and the 39e BCC (45 Renault R35 tanks) attack the German 8.ID, 20.ID (mot), 4.PzD and 5.PzD. The combats last all the day long and on the evening several French troops are trapped in the Mormal forest after having sustained heavy losses. On May 21, the French move back to Englefontaine. At 8h00 one battalion of the 24e RTT (Rgiment de Tirailleurs Tunisiens) of the 5e DINA, trapped in the forest, launches a bayonet charge under German MG and artillery fire to break the encirclement. At 12h00, 300 men of the battalion are KIA and only around 100 men manage to pierce the German lines. The 39e BCC has lost all its 45 tanks and the 18e RD of the 1e DLM has only a few operational tanks. The 2e DLM and 3e DLM on their side covered the retreat of the French 1st Army from May 16 to May 19. On May 18, they launched several violent but limited counter-attacks in the area of Douai.

3.2 Difficult battles in the Flanders and the road to Dunkirk (May 21-29, 1940)
On May 21, there is an allied counter-attack at Arras. The British brigade (General Martel) leading the main attack on the Arras-Bapaume on 15h00 consists in: Right column: 7th Royal Tank Regiment (23 Matilda I and 9 Matilda II tanks) 8th battalion, the Durham Light Infantry 365th battery, 92nd regiment, Royal Field Artillery (12 25 Pdr howitzers) 260th battery, 65th anti-tank regiment (12 2 Pdr AT guns) One platoon equipped with 3 French 25mm AT guns One motorcycle platoon from 4th Northumbrian fusiliers Left column: 4th Royal Tank Regiment (37 Matilda I and 7 Matilda II tanks) 6th battalion, the Durham Light Infantry 368th battery, 92nd regiment, Royal Field Artillery (12 25 Pdr howitzers) 260th battery, 52nd anti-tank regiment (12 2 Pdr AT guns) One platoon equipped with 3 French 25mm AT guns One motorcycle platoon from 4th Northumbrian fusiliers General Martel and is headquarter staff That makes a total concerning the equipment of: 60 Matilda I light tanks 16 Matilda II heavy tanks 21 armored cars 24 25 Pdr howitzers 24 2 Pdr AT guns 6 French 25mm AT guns

The battle of Arras on May 21, 1940 (Karl-Heinz Frieser)

The British troops faced mainly the 7.PzD and the SS Totenkopf (mot) division, the 5.PzD was arriving from the east but too late to take part to the battle. The Matilda II heavy tank spread some panic in the German ranks,

mainly in the SS Totenkopf positions where several troops disbanded, without sufficient mean to destroy the Matilda II. But the 8.8cm Flak and the use of artillery in direct fire rapidly solved the problem. The French troops began their attack later, covering the western flank of the British attack and later the British retreat. They faced the SS Totenkopf (mot) division and the Pz.Rgt.25 from the 7.PzD. The French forces were composed of elements from the 3e DLM but in fact mainly of the 13e BCC (45 Hotchkiss H35 tanks at full strength). The French had a total of about 60 tanks in this battle, therefore probably about 15 Hotchkiss H39 and Somua S35 tanks from the 3e DLM itself. They were soon confronted to direct 10.5cm artillery and Flak fire as well as PaK and tanks. They were even fired at by British AT gunners. The French tanks destroyed at least 3 Panzer IV and 6 Pz38(t) from the Pz.Rgt.25 while covering the British retreat. There is no precise data concerning the French losses but after the whole battle the 13e BCC had lost about 10 tanks and the 3e DLM itself lost also probably about 10 tanks. The 11e RDP (Rgiment de Dragons Ports) had only light losses. The British lost 62% of the tanks (47 tanks) before retreating and had about 50% losses in the infantry. 75% of the reconnaissance vehicles (16 from 21), mainly from the Northumbrian regiment were also lost. Concerning the whole German losses, the 7.PzD lost 89 KIAs, 116 WIAs and 173 MIAs as well as about 20 tanks and many AT guns and various vehicles. According to K.H. Frieser, from the 173 MIAs, 90 men integrated again quickly their units in the 7.PzD.The SS Totenkopf (mot) lost about 100 KIAs and 200 POWs. The advance of the 7.PzD is stopped for the rest of day, therefore only for several hours. Elements of the SS Totenkopf (mot) division are facing a British unit defending a bridge on the Scarpe River in the town of Aubigny-en-Artois (15 km west of Arras). In reprisal for this resistance, 98 people from the town are executed by the Germans. The officer in charge, Obersturmbahn Fritz Kuchenlein will be hung on January 28, 1949 for his war crimes. The attack started on 15h00 and on the evening it is rather a tactical failure after only 3 km of progression. After the surprise effect, the attack is defeated by the 8.8cm FlaK, the Luftwaffe and counter-attacking German tanks. It illustrates also the inter-allied communications issues because it was a British initiative. The west cover assured by the French tanks went deeper towards Amiens but it was a very limited and secondary action. These troops nevertheless covered the British retreat and inflicted losses to the German tanks. The counter-attack at Arras by itself is secondary regarding the General situation. It blocked indeed the 7.PzD during a few hours but it is very localized and limited in strength. The core of the German troops went on with their movements towards the northern harbors regardless of the battle that was fought. On May 22, the 25e DIM supported by the 38e BCC (45 Hotchkiss H35 tanks at full strength) drives the German 32.ID from the field near Cambrai on the Escaut River, east of Arras. The French breakthrough is important and the Germans engage massive air support to stop it. 18 Dewoitine D520 fighters from GC 2/3 in patrol in the area intercept a Stuka group and 11 Ju87 dive bombers are shot down. But, the French attack is stopped by the intensity of the bombings. The same day, General Prioux decides to regroup the cavalry corps in the area of Arras. The I/4e RDP supported by the 18e RD (1e DLM) leads a brilliant counter-attack which allows to take Mont-Saint-Eloi north-west of Arras. During this attack, the 2e DLM and 3e DLM covered the flanks of the attack. On May 23, the 158e RI (Colonel Pucinelli) launches a bayonet charge, between Mons and Valenciennes, against the German 269.ID and takes Thulin despite the numeric superiority of the Germans. Many German soldiers are captured during the assault. Thulin is then shelled by the heavy German artillery. The French troops entrenched in Thulin are finally submerged, Colonel Pucinelli is WIA and captured. The last French troops surrender only after having used all their ammunition. On the same day, the 7.PzD outflanks Arras by the west and the 5.PzD tires to progress by the east after having reduced several infantry resistances. General Prioux has deployed the 1e DLM east of Arras. The division is strongly and frequently attacked by the Luftwaffe. One Stuka makes a lucky hit on the tank of Colonel Pinon, commander of the 18e RD. The Colonel is heavily wounded, the two other crew members (captain Beaussant and the driver) are dead. The 3e DLM tries to lengthen the position of the 1e DLM to the north, up to Notre Dame de Lorette. But, west of Arras, the 7.PzD turns frankly to the east and heavy combats take place south of Bthune. The 3e DLM retreats towards Lens. The Germans capture again Mont-Saint-Eloi to the 1e DLM, which moves north of Arras. The 2.PzD reaches Boulogne, the 1.PzD reaches Calais, the 6.PzD is near Saint-Omer and the 7.PzD is in the suburbs of Bthune. The allied units in the north are completely encircled. On May 24, the salient of Arras is evacuated and a new frontline is established on the canals between Arleux and Bthune. The 3 DLMs will be replaced by infantry units. On May 25, the whole cavalry corps (1e, 2e and 3e DLM) has only 75 operational tanks left out of the 585 initial ones. General Prioux is replaced by General Langlois and takes command of the French 1st army.

From May 26 to May 28, the remaining tanks of the cavalry corps led several violent but limited actions, whose victims are mainly from the 5.PzD. Platoon strong tank groups at the best are also used around Watten and Bollezeele in the battle of the Aa canal from May 25 to May 27 against the "Grossdeutschland" regiment, the SS Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler (LAH) regiment, the 20.ID (mot) division and the 6.PzD. On May 29, the cavalry corps retreats to Dunkirk. The remaining tanks are first grouped at Coudekerque and fight until the end under the command of squadron commander Marchal (21 Somua S35 tanks, 18 Hotchkiss H35/H39 tanks). Many times their intervention even in small numbers allowed to defeat German attacks on the pocket and to delay the fate of the trapped troops. The last Somua S35 tanks are out of fuel and scuttled. The German operations launched on May 10, 1940 enable to encircle 13 French infantry divisions, 3 French armoured divisions (DLM), 13 Belgian and 9 British divisions in the north on May 23. On May 27, the British evacuation plan is ready and the War Office tells Lord Gort that "his single duty is now to evacuate to Great Britain as much troops as possible". On the morning of May 28 the Belgian army surrenders. The priority of the British HQ will quickly be to evacuate as fast and as much as possible. The French HQ priority is to fight as long as possible to gain time for the troops, which will face all the German troops after Dunkirk. This resistance (100,000 French and 20,000 British troops on May 30) played an important role in the evacuation of the BEF. The remaining tanks of the French cavalry corps will play a decent role in the defense of the allied pocket. A total of 338,682 troops (according to Admiral Ramsey) including 123,095 French troops have been evacuated from Dunkirk. The French Navy alone (300 French military and civilian ships are engaged and 60 lost) evacuated 68,999 soldiers (20,525 French and 48,474 British soldiers). But the success of the evacuation in the air and on the sea is widely due to British means. On June 9, 52,669 of the evacuated French troops are back in France (Brest harbor) and about half of them will continue to fight until the end of the 1940 western campaign. The German operations against the allied pocket are not easy. The German troops are opposed to the best allied troops : the 1st French Army, the French cavalry corps and the BEF. The successful evacuation of the BEF would probably not have been possible without the stiff French resistance around Lille, which blocked 7 German divisions. From May 28 to June 1, about 40,000 French troops led by General Molini (also commander of the 25e DIM) held about 800 German tanks and 110,000 soldiers from the 4.PzD, 5.PzD, 7.PzD, 7.ID, 217.ID, 253.ID and 267.ID. The French troops are composed of various more or less complete units. These French troops fought encircled until all their ammunition was used and led several counter-attacks, the commander of 253.ID, General Khne, was even captured. The Germans let the defenders parade in the streets after the battle granted them the honors of war to salute their fierce resistance. Even Churchill in his memories recognized the role of the troops in Lille. To defend the 500 km of the so-called "Weygand Line", from the North Sea to the Rhine, there remains only 63 divisions (59 French, 2 Polish depending from the French army and 2 British divisions) to stop 136 German ones, including 10 Panzerdivisionen, 6 motorized infantry divisions and 1 cavalry division. With such means only a frontline on the Somme and Aisne Rivers can be defended. Mathematically the campaign is lost, but the French troops will offer a fierce resistance during June 1940, inflicting heavy losses to the Germans and later to the Italians who declared war to an already beaten opponent.

3.3 The silence of the cavalry corps (May 30 June 10, 1940)
From May 30 to June 10 the cavalry corps disappeared as operational entity. Evacuated from Dunkirk to Great Britain, transported back to France (via Dover, Bovington and finally Brest again in France), the men from the cavalry corps are equipped again. Captain Devouges is in charge of the transit for the 1e DLM. The crews left Great Britain on June 2. Contrary to other units the men always refused to be disarmed. Indeed all the French troops arriving in Great Britain were disarmed by their ally.

4. THE REORGANIZATION OF THE CAVALRY CORPS


Beginning June, the cavalry constitutes 5 DLMs, but reduced ones. All the possible equipments are used: brand new tanks from the factories or very old ones taken in dumps, parks and schools or training centers. Several of these tanks are completely exhausted. Several Panhard 178s went in combat without turret: with home-made armor plates (16-20mm) forming a casemate (40 would have been produced during June 1940) and armed with 25mm SA35 or 47mm SA34 guns and a LMG or completely without turret/casemate and simply armed with a LMG. One Panhard 178 armored car had a modified turret with a 47mm SA35 gun and a coaxial MG (Renault turret). This version took part to combats of late June 1940 in the area the Loire River. It proved very efficient and knocked out numerous German AFVs. The new 1e, 2e and 3e DLM (created west of Paris) are under the direct command of the cavalry corps but not the 2 others. The remains of the 5 DLCs were to be converted to a DLM "type rduit", a reduced DLM: 1e DLC as 4e DLM 2e DLC as 5e DLM 3e DLC as 6e DLM 4e DLC as 7e DLM 5e DLC as 8e DLM The deteriorating military situation meant only 4e DLM and 7e DLM were actually formed. 1e DLM (Colonel Beauchesne): ready on June 10 at Pacy-sur-Eure. It includes: 10 Somua S35 tanks 10 Hotchkiss H39 tanks 5 Panhard 178 armored cars 2 motorcycle squadrons 2 dragons ports battalions 2e DLM (General Bougrain): ready on June 10 at Dourdan. It includes: about 20 tanks 2 Panhard 178 squadrons (42 armored cars if at full strength, actually probably around 20 only) 2 motorcycle squadrons 2 dragons ports battalions 3e DLM (General Testard): ready on June 10 at Conches. It includes: 2 Somua S35 squadrons (42 tanks if at full strength, actually probably around 20 only) 2 Panhard 178 squadrons (42 armored cars if at full strength, actually probably around 20 only) 1 dragons ports battalion 1 group of 75mm Mle1897 field guns (12 guns) 4e DLM (General Leyer): created east of Paris with remnants of the 1e DLC, 17e GRCA, 2e GRDI and reinforced with a motorcycles and armored cars group coming from Montlhry where is based the COMAM (Centre d'Organisation de Motocyclistes et Automitrailleuses). The 4e DLM is attached to the 7th army on June 10 and includes: 10 Somua S35 tanks 10 Hotchkiss tanks the 1e RAM (armored car regiment) with about 12 Panhard 178 armored cars 2 infantry regiments (1e Chasseurs and 5e Dragons) 2 batteries of 75mm Mle1897 field guns (8 guns) 1 engineer company 1 signal company 1 HQ motor transport company 1 divisional quartermaster group 1 divisional medical group

7e DLM (General Marteau): created already on June 5 with remnant of the 4e DLC, it is attached to the 2nd army. The order of battle of the 7e DLM is as follows: 14e BLM (Brigade Lgre Mcanique) : Lieutenant-Colonel Grvy o 4e RAM (Rgiment d'Auto-Mitrailleuses) : Commandant Chapel 2 squadrons with armored cars and motorcyclists (10 Panhard 178, 14 AMR-33/35) o 8e RD (Rgiment de Dragons) : Commandant Deron 4 Hotchkiss tank squadrons with 22 very old Hotchkiss H35 tanks and 20 new Hotchkiss H39 tanks with the 37mm SA38 gun. o 4e EDAC (Escadron Divisionnaire Anti-Char) : Capitaine Hapette Saint-Martin (12 25mm SA34/37 AT guns) e 4 BCM (Brigade de Cavalerie Motorise) : Colonel Praud o 14e RDP (Rgiment de Dragons ports) : Commandant Sonnery 1 motorcyclists / armored cars squadron (7 Laffly 50AM, 16 LMGs, 1 60mm mortar) 3 infantry squadrons (54 LMGs, 12 MMGs, 3 60mm mortars) 1 support squadron (4 25mm SA34/37 AT guns, 4 81mm mortars, 8 MMGs) o 31e RDP (Rgiment de Dragons ports) : Commandant De Villers 1 motorcyclists / armored cars squadron (7 Laffly 50AM, 16 LMGs, 1 60mm mortar) 3 infantry squadrons (54 LMGs, 12 MMGs, 3 60mm mortars) 1 support squadron (4 25mm SA34/37 AT guns, 4 81mm mortars, 8 MMGs) o 4e escadron de rparation divisionnaire (recovery/repair squadron) : Capitaine Palies 77e RATT (Rgiment d'Artillerie Tracte Tout Terrain) : Lieutenant Colonel Baratchart (12 75mm Mle1897 guns, 12 105mm C guns, 5 47mm SA37/39 AT guns, 3 25mm AA guns) 33/1 compagnie de sapeurs mineurs (engineer company) 1 divisional quartermaster group 1 divisional medical group

4. THE LAST BATTLES OF THE CAVALRY CORPS


From June 10 to June 25, the 5 reduced DLMs will fight the German army uninterrupted, delaying them on each River or stream. The Panzerwaffe nevertheless favoured movement to combat and avoided as often as possible other battles like Hannut and Gembloux. The foot infantry units of the Heer were in charge of neutralizing the French pockets. The French cavalry crews will sacrifice themselves to cover the retreat of the French infantry units. Fall Rot launches the Germans on the Somme and Aisne Rivers on June 9, 1940. The French lines are also attacked on the Seine and Marne Rivers. The cavalry corps (1e, 2e and 3e DLM) covers the retreat of the army of Paris (General Hring) by delaying the Hoth Panzerkorps from Pacy to Louviers. The 4e DLM will have the same kind of mission for the 7th army from Epernay to Meaux.

4.1 The 7e DLM on the Retourne River (June 10-11, 1940)


South of the Aisne River is created a "groupement cuirasse" (armored group) with the 3e DCR and the 7e DLM under the command of General Buisson. They will have to face the tanks of the XXXIX. Panzerkorps (General Schmidt) with the 1.PzD and 2.PzD. On the morning of June 10, the "groupement Buisson" is the single unit able to lead a counter-attack in the area of Rethel. But it is south of the Retourne River and has first to cross it. The tanks reach their base line only at 14h00. At this moment the German bridgehead's size has already considerably increased. After refuelling, the unit is ready to attack at 15h00 but is only launched at 17h00. The French counter-attack is launched without artillery or aviation support. The movements of the "groupement Buisson" are spotted by the Luftwaffe and will be stopped mainly by the numerous guns installed in anti-tank role by the 21.ID. The "groupement Buisson" is split in 2 parts: 1) One part crosses the Retourne river more on the east and attacks the Germans from an east / south-east axis : Northern attack on the Annelles - Perthes axis (groupement of Lieutenant-Colonel Matre) with elements of the 3e DCR: 17 Hotchkiss H39 (2/42e and 3/42e BCC), 9 Renault B1bis (2/41e BCC) and the 3 infantry companies of the 16e BCP (bataillon de chasseurs ports). Southern attack on the Juniville - Tagnon axis (groupement of Lieutenant-Colonel Salani) with elements of the 3e DCR: 25 Hotchkiss H39 (45e BCC), 10 Renault B1bis (1/41e BCC) and of the 7e DLM : reduced 31e RDP (Rgiment de Dragons Ports). A few B1bis tanks from the 3/41e BCC remain in Annelles as protection and take not part to the attack. 2) One part south of the Retourne river, composed of the 10e BCC (40 Renault R35) and of the 7e DLM attacks on the Mnil-Lpinois - Alincourt - Le Chtelet axis.

The 7e DLM order of battle is slightly modified during this battle : 14e BLM (Brigade Lgre Mcanique) : Lieutenant-Colonel Grvy o 4e RAM (Rgiment d'Auto-Mitrailleuses) : Commandant Chapel 2 squadrons with armored cars and motorcyclists (10 Panhard 178, 14 AMR-33/35) o 8e RD (Rgiment de Dragons) : Commandant Deron 4 Hotchkiss tank squadrons with 22 very old Hotchkiss H35 tanks and 20 new Hotchkiss H39 tanks with the 37mm SA38 gun. But only about 25 tanks will reach the deployment area, most of the exhausted Hotchkiss H35 tanks have been immobilized during the move. o 4e EDAC (Escadron Divisionnaire Anti-Char) : Capitaine Hapette Saint-Martin (12 25mm SA34/37 AT guns) 4e BCM (Brigade de Cavalerie Motorise) : Colonel Praud o 14e RDP (Rgiment de Dragons ports) : Commandant Sonnery 1 motorcyclists / armored cars squadron (7 Laffly 50AM, 16 LMGs, 1 60mm mortar) 3 infantry squadrons (54 LMGs, 12 MMGs, 3 60mm mortars) 1 support squadron (4 25mm SA34/37 AT guns, 4 81mm mortars, 8 MMGs) o 31e RDP (Rgiment de Dragons ports) : Commandant De Villers 1 motorcyclists / armored cars squadron (7 Laffly 50AM, 16 LMGs, 1 60mm mortar) 3 infantry squadrons (54 LMGs, 12 MMGs, 3 60mm mortars) 1 support squadron (4 25mm SA34/37 AT guns, 4 81mm mortars, 8 MMGs) But the 2/31e RDP and 5/31e RDP squadrons are engaged north of Juniville, with the groupement Salani. They are not available for the 7e DLM. o 4e escadron de rparation divisionnaire (recovery/repair squadron) : Capitaine Palies 77e RATT (Rgiment d'Artillerie Tracte Tout Terrain) : Lieutenant Colonel Baratchart (12 75mm Mle1897 guns, 12 105mm C guns, 5 47mm SA37/39 AT guns, 3 25mm AA guns) 33/1 compagnie de sapeurs mineurs (engineer company) 1 divisional quartermaster group 1 divisional medical group

The 7e DLM is reinforced by the 10e BCC (40 Renault R35 tanks). On June 10, the 7e DLM will have to face mainly the 1.PzD (General Kitchner): PzBfWg : 18 Panzer I : 52 Panzer II : 98 Panzer III : 58 Panzer IV : 40 258 tanks (including 98 Panzer III and Panzer IV) armored cars 8.8cm Flak (Sfl) auf SdKfz8 8.8cm Flak 3.7cm Pak36 2.0cm / 3.7cm Flak 15cm sIG33 auf PzKpw I 7.5cm leIG 15cm sIG 10.5cm leFH18 15cm sFH : 56 (including about 23 with a 2.0cm L/55 gun) : 6 (self-propelled 8.8cm anti-tank gun) : 9 (often used in anti-tank role) : 48 : 24 :6 : 24 :8 : 24 (sometimes used in anti-tank role) : 12

But the 1.PzD is reinforced by elements if the 17.ID anf 21.ID. Note that before "Fall Rot" in France, the 1.PzD seems to have been reinforced to 276 tanks.

About 65 French tanks with only about of them 20 armed with the 37mm SA38 gun will have to face at least 258 tanks including 98 Panzer III and Panzer IV and strongly supported by infantry, artillery and the German aviation.

June 10, 1940 The various reconnaissance patrols launched by the 4e RAM spot 60 enemy tanks between Neuflize and Alincourt at 10h30. At 11h00 about 100 German tanks are reported north of Juniville. At 12h05 the patrols report the encirclement of Perthes by 30 tanks and motorcyclists. One Panhard 178 is lost during the morning by one of the numerous Ju87 Stuka attacks, the German control the skies and use their Luftwaffe as often as possible to support their attacks. The French air force is inactive and the AA guns are rather rare. At 12h30, the 7e DLM is deployed in the area of La Neuville in order to control the line Mnil-Lpinois Aussonce La Neuville. The Hotchkiss H35 tanks of the 8e RD have been taken in schools and are very old and exhausted vehicles. Most of them have been immobilized by mechanical failures. All the 20 Hotchkiss H39 tanks but only very few Hotchkiss H35 tanks are operational in the 8e RD which is therefore reduced (probably about 25 tanks). The 1/31e RDP infantry squadron/company is deployed north of La Neuville in a wood on the border of the road between Juniville and La Neuville. 2 infantry companies, 1 support company and armored cars are in Aussonce. 3 Hotchkiss tanks squadrons of the 8e RD (about 20 tanks) relieve Panhard 178 armored cars from the 4e RAM in Mnil Lpinois : the 3/8e RD in the town itself and the 2/8e RD and 4/8e RD next to it.

French reconnaissance patrols are in contact with German tanks on the road between Juniville and La Neuville. The Panhard 178 armored cars try to delay the advancing German tanks but one vehicle is lost and the reconnaissance patrol retreats. The groupement Aussenac next to La Neuville is composed of: 10e BCC (40 Renault R35) 1/8e RD (8 Hotchkiss H35/39) 4/14e RDP (1 infantry squadron/company) reinforced by AT guns from the EDAC

The 1/10e BCC (13 Renault R35 tanks) remains in La Neuville and the other elements of the "groupement Aussenac" begin their movement towards Juniville at 13h30 but they are blocked 2 km north by numerous German tanks and AT guns. The 2/10e BCC (13 Renault R35 tanks) engages the battle but their 37mm SA18 gun lacks power and they have to go to close range (< 25-100m) with more numerous German tanks which can engage them from at 200-300m. 9 Renault R35 are destroyed and the 4 other retreat. Of these 4 tanks only one is able to continue to fight.

Renault R35 from 10e BCC

The German tanks continue their progression and encounter the trucks carrying the 4/14e RDP (infantry company). The French troops disembark in a hurry and take position in the woods around the road. Immediately, the 1/8e RD with only 8 tanks counter-attacks against about 30 German tanks. The squadron commander (Capitaine de Loriol) with 3 other tanks manages to outflank the enemy and 2 German tanks are destroyed by the Marchal-des-Logis Flouret. Surprised, the Germans stop their attack and move back. On the French side 2 immobilized Hotchkiss tanks are scuttled.

Destroyed Panzer IV from 1.PzD

The 3/10e BCC (13 Renault R35 tanks) is then ordered to push towards Juniville to rescue the survivors of the 2/10e BCC. They are soon stopped by a German artillery barrage followed by German tanks attacking on the flank. One Renault R35 is destroyed; the others retreat in the cover of the woods hold by the French infantry. During all the afternoon, the 3/10e BCC launches successive counter-attacks to delay the 1.PzD, loosing 7 more Renault R35 tanks, but they manage to rescue the survivors from the 2/10e BCC and to recover several immobilized tanks. One motorcycle platoon advances 500m more north and capture several items and documents in a German tank wreck. Under heavy fire they retreat with 3 WIAs. At about 16h00, the German tanks and mechanized troops attack the woods hold by the French infantry supported by the remaining 6 Renault R35 and 6 Hotchkiss H35/39. Two German tanks are destroyed and once more they are pulled back. On the French side 2 men have been killed and several WIA. Two German AT guns take position next to the woods and open fire on a R35 tank. 2 shells miss the tank and both AT guns are destroyed. The Germans cancel their attack and the task is given to the German artillery which bombards the woods occupied by the French troops. During the evening, most of the French tanks move back to La Neuville. At 21h00, the French infantry is close to be out of ammunition but is still controlling the road, supported by 3 Renault R35 tanks and 2 25mm AT guns. The French infantry in the woods is being slowly encircled and at 23h30 they are ordered to retreat to La Neuville, on the main French line. At 18h00 German tanks are also spotted in the woods north of Aussonce, between Mnil Lpinois and Juniville. Lieutenant De Villle from 2/8e RD moves with 4 Hotchkiss tanks to meet them. They first encounter ambushed German AT guns and later tanks. 2 Hotchkiss tanks are destroyed and Lieutenant De Villle is KIA with his driver. From the 27 Renault R35 tanks engaged by the 2/10e BCC and 3/10e BCC (two companies of 13 tanks and the battalion commander's tank) : 10 have been destroyed 10 are damaged but recovered and under repair 7 are operational The 1/10e BCC has 13 more tanks and there are also the 5 replacement tanks of the battalion for a total of 20-25 operational tanks. The remnants of the 1/8e RD (1 fully operational tank and 5 tanks under repair) deploy at La Neuville at 01h00. At the end of June 10, 4 Hotchkiss tanks have been destroyed, 5 are under repair and about 16 are still operational. That makes a total of 36-41 operational tanks and several armored cars to stop the German Panzerdivisionen moving south. But the Germans have to delay the advance, out of fuel and ammunition they return to their lines on the Retourne River and will proceed with their offensive on June 11. The town of La Neuville will be bombarded all night long by the German artillery, 1 AMR is destroyed by the indirect hit of a 150mm shell. At 22h30 the 7e DLM is reinforced by a company of the 152e RI, the "Red Devils" of the 14e DI.

June 11, 1940 On June 11, 1940, the French forces move about 10-15km south / south-west while fighting all the day long. During all the day the French troops will be attacked by the Luftwaffe. During following days the battle strength of the 7e DLM will quickly fall to about 50%. On the morning of June 11, the reinforcement company of the 152e RI stops German infantry between Aussonce and La Neuville. The French strong points south of La Neuville (3/31e RDP and 4/31e RDP), next to the Le Merlan farm, immobilize a few German tanks thanks to their AT guns. The German artillery enters in action, destroying several French trucks and side-cars. The 8 remaining Panhard 178 armored cars from Capitaine Gobert delay the German advance south of La Neuville while the French infantry retreats. Ambushed in the woods they surprise 30 German tanks: 2 are immobilized and 3 are knocked out. The swift French armored cars hit and run without having to sustain losses until they are ordered to retreat too. In Selles and Heutrgiville, the few tanks from the 4/8e RD delay the German advancing tanks. In Pontfaverger 2 Hotchkiss from the 1/8e RD resist against 50 German tanks until their complete destruction.

In Bthenville, engineers supported by dragoons (infantry) mine the bridges (2 bridges and 1 rail-road bridge) and blow them at 12.30 AM. They entrench behind the Suippe River and face the German attacks. But the Germans have crossed the river in Pontfaverger and enter in Bthenville from the south-west. Thanks to an alcohol distillery put on fire while the German tanks were in the corresponding street, a real firewall is created, blocking the German progression. The remaining tanks of the 8e RD prevent the encirclement while the infantry exits from Bthenville and retreats. The last Hotchkiss tanks of the 8e RD are destroyed. They are sacrificed against impossible odds to save their comrades.

Panzer III knocked out in La Neuville (or Neuville which could be in a different location that the town near Juniville) The 7e DLM will fight continuously until June 25, sacrificing its men and vehicles to cover other troops, inflicting heavy losses to the enemy.

4.2 The retreat (June 11-25, 1940)


On June 11, the 1e DLM takes Heunires to the Germans, north of Pacy-sur-Eure, before withdrawing on order. The Somua S35 tanks destroy 6 German AT guns. On June 12, at 13h45, General Weygand orders the retreat of the French army, the high command moves to Briare. The French army plans to resist on the Loire River. The 1e DLM is attacked in the area of Evreux by the 27.ID. The infantry defends itself very well. Encircled, on squadron is rescued thanks to a counter-attack led by French tanks. The 2e DLM is engaged in fierce house by house combats Jaudrais and Senonches. The 4e DLM continues to cover the retreat of the 7th army. The 7e DLM has lost most of its tanks and armoured cars on June 14. One of its remaining elements will face a dramatic fate near Nevers. This group is composed of several side-cars, 10 tanks and a motorized infantry platoon. They encounter some light German reconnaissance elements, which are crushed easily, but these elements are the first one of the XIV. Panzerkorps ! The men of the 7e DLM immobilize 2 German tank battalions during several hours and destroy several enemy AFVs before being killed or captured. The sacrifice of this small unit enables the rest of he 7e DLM, as well as the troops they are covering, to cross the Loire River safely. On June 14, 2 dragons ports squadrons supported by Somua S35 tanks of the 3e DLM destroy a whole German motorized column at Damville. On June 16, the 3e DLM fights next to Fert-Vidame. The cavalry corps arrives completely behind the Loire River on June 19 and takes part during 48 hours to the combats on this new line. They are deployed east of the famous cavalry cadets from Saumur. On June 21, the retreat goes on. On June 22, the 2e DLM has crossed the Creuse River and is decided to delay the Germans in the Haye Descartes area. At 8h30 an attack is launched against German motorized elements, which

are reinforced by AT guns. Many German vehicles and AT guns are destroyed but 5 French tanks are damaged. During the afternoon one German assault is defeated. On June 23, the cavalry corps covers the retreat of the French army on the Dordogne River. The 7e DLM is reduced to 2 motorized squadrons without tanks and 2 reduced artillery groups. On June 25, the armistice comes into effect and the cavalry corps is ordered to stop the combat. The 1e DLM is in the area of Riberac. It is disbanded on July 31, 1940. The 2e DLM is in the area of Prigueux. It is disbanded on July 16, 1940. The 3e DLM is in the area of Thiviers. It is disbanded on July 11, 1940. The 4e DLM is in the area of Saint-Etienne de Fursac. It is disbanded just after the armistice. The 7e DLM is in the area of Massiac. It is disbanded just after the armistice. The armoured units of the French cavalry fought valiantly from May 10 to June 25, 1940, sometimes in impossible odds but always with courage and honor.

Sources :
"Avec la 3e DLM et le corps de cavalerie" (G. Delater) "Blitzkrieg lOuest, Mai-Juin 40" (Jean-Paul Pallud) "Divided and Conquered: The French High Command and the Defeat of the West, 1940." (Jeffery A. Gunsburg, 1979) "Gembloux" (Henri Aymes) "Histoire de Guerre" magazine n40 (based on several books and official reports) "Histoire de Guerre" magazine n46 (based on several books and official reports) "Histoire de Guerre" magazine n5 (based on several books and official reports) "La campagne de 1940" (Christine Levisse-Touz) "L'Arme Blinde Franaise (Tome 1) : Mai-juin 1940 ! Les blinds franais dans la tourmente" (Grard Saint-Martin). The author is a French cavalry Colonel with an History Ph.D. "Le mythe de la guerre-clair la campagne de l'Ouest de 1940" (Karl-Heinz Frieser). The author is a German Bundeswehr researcher (Colonel), in German the book is entitled "Blitzkrieg Legende". "L'escadron de Segonzac" (Olivier d'Ormesson) "Mai - Juin 1940 : dfaite franaise, victoire allemande, sous l'oeil des historiens trangers" (Maurice Vasse) "Mai - Juin 1940 : les combattants de l'honneur" (Jean Delmas, Paul Devautour and Eric Lefvre) "The battle of Gembloux, 14-15 May 1940 : the 'Blitzkrieg' checked" (Jeffery A. Gunsburg, the journal of military history 64 (January 2000), 97-140) "The battle of the Belgian plain, 12-14 May 1940 : the first great tank battle" (Jeffery A. Gunsburg, the journal of military history 56 (April 1992), 207-244) "The French army 1939-1940 organisation, order of battle, operational history" (4 volumes, Lee Sharp) "Une pice anti-char de 25 du 2e RTM Gembloux" (Louis Brindejonc, Revue Historique des Armes n11987 pp 66-73) "Une vie de char" (Robert Le Bel)

David Lehmann