The largest tank ever produced, the Char 2C was an imposing and impressive machine, though unfortunately symbolic of the somewhat chaotic nature of tank production and procurement among Allied nations during the First World War.
With a contract given to ship manufacturer FCM, the development of the heavy tank that would eventually become the Char 2C was marred by differing military and political opinions surrounding tank requirements and the focus on light, medium or heavy tanks. By the War’s close an over ambitious order of 300 tanks was cancelled, although continued interest in heavy tank procurement lead to one prototype and nine production models being delivered in 1921
All ten tanks were assigned to the 511th Tank Regiment at Verdun and spent most of their interwar years in storage. Already conspicuously outdated by 1939, they were nonetheless mobilized into the 51st Tank Battalion at the outbreak of war, with eight tanks seemingly fully operational. Tank No.96 ‘Anjou’ was a non-runner and appears to have been scavenged for parts, subsequently pointlessly being ‘sabotaged’ by French artillery, whilst No.94 ‘Bretagne’ was destined for a rebuild that was never completed. To heighten their pre-war propaganda value all 10 tanks had been named after the ancient regions of France, however beyond this value the tanks where clearly obsolete.
Orders had been issued in June 1940 to bring the tanks to the front, with the intention to transport them by rail from Landres, somewhere around the 12th-13th June. Tanks No.92 ‘Picardie’ and No.95 ‘Touraine’ suffered mechanical failure on route and were disabled by their crews, although they seem to have remained externally intact when captured and have been extensively photographed. The remaining six tanks were loaded onto their rail transport and moved in the direction of Gondrecourt-le-Château, were they encountered heavy German bombing. With the situation perilous and the seemingly unstoppable German advance the train was ordered in the direction of Neufchateau to prevent the tanks falling into German hands. Around the 15th June the convoy was blocked some 40km north of Neufchateau by a bombed train and the extensive backlog this caused. The crews were left with no choice but to disembark on foot and destroy the tanks by placing charges around the ammunition storage, contrary to German reports that the tanks were dive-bombed.
The ignominious fate of these beasts was the subject of extensive German propaganda coverage, with many photos readily available showing them wrecked on their rail bogies. Five of the tanks show varying signs of destruction; tank No.98 ‘Berry’ almost blown in half, whilst the charges in No.99 ‘Champagne’ apparently failed to detonate leaving the tank completely intact. Much mystery surrounds this particular tank, with some unverified sources claiming it was taken to Berlin and subsequently captured by the Russians, ending up at Kubinka. Period photographs do show Champagne on a rail car with graffiti markings ‘Beute Pz.Rgt.10’. The remaining disabled tanks were subject to German gunnery practice, apparently by personal from the test centers Kummersdorf and Hillersleben.
For its time the Char 2C featured an impressive array or armor and armament, with 45mm frontal amour and three-man turret armed with a 75mm main gun. This was further supplemented by machine gun turret at the rear and 3 independent 8mm machine guns in the hull.
One innovative feature was the stroboscopic cupola fitted to the turret’s, allowing an improved view of the battlefield with a greater degree of protection than on previous tanks. The domed drum cupola featured multiple viewing slits with heavy glass viewing blocks on the inside.
The elongated shape would have allowed, in theory, the tank to easily negotiate wider German trenches, something that had hindered previous French tank designs. Weighing in at 69 tons, the tank had a top speed of 15km/h with the tracks powered independently by 200/250 hp engines and an electrical transmission. A crew of 12 in two fighting compartments, separated by a central engine bay, operated the tank.
The kit comes packaged inside a large stout box with some lovely box-art depicting No.93 ‘Alsace’ on a pre-war manoeuvre. In the box we have the following:
- 10 sprues of tan styrene
- 1 separate lower hull
- 1 seperare upper hull
- 1 separate upper engine compartment structure
- 1 separate front turret
- 1 separate rear turret
- 150 black styrene loose individual track links
- 1 sprue of clear styrene
- 1 fret of photo-etch parts
- 1 decal sheet with markings for three tanks
- 1 instruction booklet
There are 387 tan styrene parts with the sprues laid out as follows:
- Sprue A: Main turret and various hull parts
- Sprue B: Engine compartment roof details
- Sprue Cx2: Lower hull parts
- Sprue Dx4: Running gear and smaller hull detailing
- Sprue E: Turret ring and running gear armor covers
- Sprue: F: Main hull sides
Upon opening the box and inspecting the parts, one is instantly struck by the seemingly limited number of parts for such a huge model. The upper and lower hull are beautifully slide molded items, as are the individual turrets and the only real challenge being the monotony of assembling the ninety road wheels.
Based on initial inspection I’d certainly have no reservations recommending this kit to beginners. The breakdown of parts is sensible and logical, for example the engine compartment housing being a single molded item that eliminates the pitfalls of aligning panels such as we might encounter in other manufacturers kits. Incidentally this part slots perfectly onto the upper hull, hopefully a sign of the overall precise engineering of this kit.
Sprue attachment points are pleasingly limited and don’t compromise any of the detailing, the only issue encountered being the fine wiring for the engine compartment which had snapped on one of my kit sprues (probably best replaced with lead wire anyway!).
The lower hull will probably prove the most irritating part of the build, with ninety, two-part wheels to assemble. These simply sit in place on a run of grooves molded onto the bottom hull plate and can be left movable (there’s not much point though).
Unfortunately it is here that we do encounter a serious error by Meng Model
; where they have failed to represent the any of the leaf spring suspension stations. The suspension is located on the centre of the hull with the outside wheels acting as idlers. This is a fairly major omission and will be difficult to correct without major surgery, although one could model a tank fitted with the wheel cover plates.
The tracks are an absolute work of art and simply click together without any requirement for clean up. Having assembled a few runs I can attest that these are very sturdy once assembled and shouldn’t require any glue, although a few drops to hold them in place on the completed model wouldn’t go amiss.
The main hull is a very simple construction, with a single roof plate and integral rear sprocket mounts and two large single piece hull side plates. The roof and sides slot together with the aid of some notches and once again dry fitting highlights the precise engineering present here. The riveted hull is beautifully presented with stunning rivet detail, which will really ‘pop’ out with a careful pin wash.
Onto the hull are added various additional parts, including separate crew doors, the upper track runners and some photo-etch screens for the engine compartment vents. Despite the seemingly cluttered look of this tank, Meng Model
have done an admirable job of limiting the number of parts that make up the additional details and assemblies, without compromising on detail.
On the front of the hull roof, at the driver and gunners station are what appear to be raised stowage bins, which fit around the front turret ring. From studying photos of those tanks disabled in France 1940 it appears not all tanks have these bins fitted, some tanks appear with just the flat riveted roof plate. ‘Alsace’ and ‘Normandie’ have them fitted pre-war but not when disabled on their rail bogie, ‘Poitou’ has then fitted on both occasions.
The centrally located engine compartment has a single slide molded upper housing with separate roof plate, complete with vents and photo-etch screens. The main weaknesses in this area are the separate wiring, (or plumbing?) pipes, which are quite fiddly and will require some careful clean up. The prominent exhausts will need to be improved as well with some mr surfacer, or skilful painting, as these are totally smooth.
Finally there are the front and rear turrets. Again these come as stunning separate single slide molded upper parts with separate turret rings. These slot onto the main hull and can be rotated on the finished model. There are some very fine vertical mold lines present on the turrets to be removed and I do find the two-part 75mm gun to be a bit weak, although I’m sure the AM guys will tackle this in due course.
The concise instruction booklet includes a history of the Char 2C, followed by the very clear and easy to follow construction lines drawings, very much reminiscent of Tamiya instructions. In the back of the booklet we have color and marking profiles for three vehicles (the superb decal sheet having been provided by Cartograf):
- No.93 ‘Alsace’ of the 51st Bataillon de Chars de Combat, France 1939
- No.90 ‘Poitou’ of the 51st Bataillon de Chars de Combat, France 1939
- No97 ‘Normandie’ of the 51st Bataillon de Chars de Combat, France 1939
My one gripe with the markings is that as there were only 10 tanks, eight of which were actually runners in ‘39, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to wish that more options be provided. Given that Nos 92 and 95 both broke down and were abandoned off their rail bogies, markings for one of these would have great diorama potential to model a tank in a wartime setting without the bogie.
This is undoubtedly a stunning kit from Meng Model
of a subject I’m sure many thought would never appear in styrene. The quality of molding and engineering is incredibly high and easily on par with the best manufactures out there. Initial testing of some parts indicates very precise fitting which should enable a relatively hassle free build.
The amount of detailing Meng Model
have successfully included with a relatively limited parts count will be especially pleasing to beginners or those seeking an easy build. Increasingly some companies seem to be going for ever more parts with complex sub-assemblies and its pleasing to see a company like Meng Model
follow the Tamiya example but with a diverse and interesting range of releases.
The error with the suspension (I suspect probably partially intentional) is irritating and does mare the release for anyone striving for an accurate build. An obvious solution is to model a vehicle with armoured skirts and Chris at Inside the Armour has hinted a correction set for this. Despite this though, I don’t think it significantly detracts from what is otherwise a very detailed and buildable kit.
Zaloga, S. ‘French Tanks of World War 1’. Osprey, 2010
Char 2C ‘World War Photos’
Stroboscope information, Landships Forum
Char 2C German gunnery practice reference, Axis History Forum