As early as the 1920s, in France, the philosophy of the battle tank was mooted. This would have meant a series of faster, more heavily armored and mobile AFVs which would be used 'en masse', rather than the 'Infantry Tank' philosophy which was to be adopted in the the 1930s by both Britain and France which was, with all the indications, NOT the philosophy which was being developed by Nazi Germany's fledgling armored formations. One of the more interesting vehicles to come out of the 'Infantry Tank Philosophy' was the French Char B series - the subject of this interesting publication.
Les Chars B: B1-B1 bis - B1 Ter, (Trackstory N" 3) is published by Editions Du Barbotin. The book is in the usual Trackstory format, printed slightly larger than A5 and consisting of some 60 pages (including pull-out plans). The book is written by Pascal Danjou and for those who need it, has the ISBN number of 2-9620988-24
The book consists of 13 chapters, these are:
Technique (technical description)
The B1 Tank
Telling apart the B1 and the B1 Bis
The DCR (Reserve, Cavalry Division) : Composition and battles.
The B1 'Ter' Tank
Beute (use of captured vehicles)
Liberation of France
The ARL in 1944
As can be seen from the chapter headings above, the book's structure is both chronological and logical. The first impression one gleans from the book is the enormous amount of detail - totally belying its small size. The book is entirely bi-lingual (French and English) something that will be invaluable as there is a LOT of information within the text. At this point, I would however say that the translation is NOT particularly brilliant, there are a lot of rather strange translations within the text.
Translator's errors apart, there are several areas within the book which do, in my opinion, make it absolutely invaluable. The first section, which will be of extraordinary interest to the convertors (and invitably the AM people) is the fourth chapter, on 'telling the difference' for those contemplating a 'backdate' to produce a model of the B1. The author has (very) helpfully included a list of the major differences between the two vehicles.
Another chapter of considerable interest, will be the section on 'Beute Panzers' (literally 'trophy' vehicles) in German service. The conventional gun tanks along with the flamethrower version and the 10.5cm SP version are shown in good detail. The chapter 'The ARL in 1944' is of particular interest showing some extraordinarily interesting vehicles such as the re- captured B1 bis' used by the French Resistance and the French Army of Liberation against German strongpoints and post-war use in the Army of Occupation in Germany. Two post-war variants (for want of a better term) are shown in one of the book's latter chapters. The first, an intriguing project, is the L'Arl44 which mounted a 90mm AA gun on A Char B1 bis chassis along with a fuly-enclosed turret (with superficial similarities the British 'Charioteer') along with a somewhat more practical project, a mine-roller version of the Char B bis which strikes one (with hindsight) as a somewhat pointless exercise due to the number of M4s available and equipped for this role. The L'arl44, did however enter service albeit in the interim role which was envisaged.
The images and plans
Inevitably, this book will be bought for those wishing to acquire more images (particularly detail photos) and hence more inspiration for any projects involving the B1 bis. In this department, the book lives up to its initial promise admirably. Firstly, regarding the photos, both the image quality and choice is excellent. Many photos have been chosen, simply because they highlight a particular detail and include a number of useful images of the vehicle's interior. There are several excellent websites which have published an excellent selection of Char B1 bis images, but, in the book, this is doubly valuable with a very good explanatory text.
Moving onto the color profiles by Eric Schwartz, these will, in my opinion, double the value of the book. One of the attractions of building the vehicle, is inevitably, the wide number of schemes carried by the Char B B1 bis, in both national and captured service. Eight (officially sanctioned) color schemes are listed and illustrated - seven of these being camouflage schemes. For those with a love of the more esoteric (and texture) a page is devoted to the experimental scheme of 1939 which involved the direct application of colored textile fibres to one vehicle (actually used in combat) the aptly-named 'Fantasque' of the 8th Tank Battalion. Twelve pages in the book are given oven to these excellently executed profiles - including three pages devoted to Beute Panzers. There are also a number of useful smaller illustrations covering unit markings and a comprehensive run-down on the variations according to company etc.
The final illustrated section consists of two pull-out pages of plans in both 1/72nd and 1/35th scale which cover the B1 AND the B1 bis.
Knowing rather less than I at first thought of this vehicle, the sheer breadth of the subject was extremely surprising. Both on the possibilities for modelling the vehicle, but also for projects such as backdating or conversion to a flamethrower variant. Logically, for such a relatively small book, there will be omissions and it would be fullhardy to describe it as the last word on the subject. The book however, is so impressively done, that it falls easily into the 'vital' category, which if used in conjunction with 'Histoire and Collections' larger (and more expensive) book, it will probably cover all you would need for some highly challenging and interesting projects. Tamiya have been extremely imaginative in producing a long-awaited kit, to meet the challenge and go beyond an 'OOB' model, this modestly-priced book, could well keep the creative flow going over a number of interesting builds..
From the excellent series of reviews which have been published, everything seems to indicate that Tamiya's new Char B1 Bis is a model which is going to build pretty well from the box although a number of people will be wanting to do a little more in regards to super-detailing, 'Germanizing' it or simply looking for an alternative for the kit markings. Therefore, it would seem logical for an modest investment in a good, accessible reference book.
About Jim Rae (jimbrae) FROM: PROVINCIA DE LUGO, SPAIN / ESPAñA
Self-employed English teacher living in NW Spain. Been modelling off and on since the sixties. Came back into the hobby around ten years ago. First love is Soviet Armor with German subjects running a close second. Currently exploring ways of getting cloned to allow time for modelling, working and wr...