The Battle of France is over, and a German recovery crew inspects a broken-down Renault Char B1 bis. They travel the French countryside in a captured Chenillette, marked with German crosses. The place is near Sacy le Petit, about 50 km north-north-east of Paris. Will the tank be repaired and pressed into German service, or will it be scrapped, the turret used in the defenses along the Channel coast?
When I got this photo, I looked for a name on the tank, as the crews named their tanks. Sure enough, on the front glacis there’s “BUGEAUD”, the name of a French field marshal in the Napoleonic wars. Going to the excellent Chars-Francais website, it was a breeze finding the story behind the fate of this particular tank.
The tank was numbered 534, serving in the 3rd company of the 28e BCC (28th Battle Tank Battalion). “Bugeaud” was crewed by:
Commander: Aspirant Maingard
Driver: Caporal-chef Collet
Assistant driver: Caporal Paul Trompette
Radioman: Caporal Sturbeaux
Mechanic: Chasseur Trémini
“Bugeaud” was involved in the battles north of the river Oise, 8-13 June, 1940. The reconstituted French 1st Armored Division faces German forces. The Germans appear to be everywhere, and the tanks are ordered to help the infantry withdraw. Aspirant Maingard spots a dozen German tanks and fires on them. The 47 mm gun jams, and the tank withdraws from the action. His CO, lieutenant Pavillon, congratulates Maingard and tells him to have a drink at the local bistro to calm his nerves. The gun repaired, “Bugeaud” is engaged in a second battle that day, and the unit manages to knock out or immobilize ten German tanks. This buys the French a short reprieve, but the units in the area lack support, and it is decided that they should withdraw. The next day, 9 June, “Bugeaud” takes an R 35 tank in tow. They come as far as Sacy-le-Petit when “Bugeaud” breaks down and her crew is forced to abandon the tank.
What became of the crew? They were probably taken prisoners of war and spent the next five years in Germany, unless they managed to join the Free French Forces. As for the tank, its further fate is unknown.