Not only is today Easter Sunday, it is also the centenary of the first French tank attack at Berry-Au-Bac!
Taking place seven months after the first use of tanks by the British, the French tank arm (or Artillerie Speciale, AS) was involved in actions forming part of the larger Nivelle Offensive. Although the offensive overall was deemed a failure, the accounts I’ve read of the tank actions indicate that their crews performed creditably with the new technology under very difficult conditions.
I’d thought about setting up a centenary wargame for this action, but the Easter break has interfered a bit with that! Nonetheless, I thought it would be worth expanding my WW1 French tank strength so that I could fight the action some other time, so to that end I bought an Early War Miniatures Schneider CA tank model. I already had two of these models, but this one was going to be painted slightly differently (for reasons that may become apparent)!
The model is pretty straightforward to build, consisting of a single piece resin hull and white metal track units and details. The hull was a nice clean moulding, so I only had trim and file the metal bits before assembly. Trickiest bits to fit were the two tail skids, so I used super glue gel for them. I made my own 75mm BS howitzer from plastic rod, since the gun supplied looked a bit small to me, and I also used plastic rod for the machine guns (just because they’re more robust than the white metal ones that came with the model).
Now for the painting! The two Schneiders I’d built previously were finished in a grey/sand/green/brown scheme, with edges of the colours lined in black-grey, based on a scheme in the New Vanguard WW1 French tanks book. But I decided to leave this model in plain light grey, although I used the same dark brown wash to shade it and make it look grubby (maybe too grubby for a plain grey vehicle). The reason for this simpler scheme was because I also wanted to be able to use it for my 1920s Chinese Warlord forces – Schneiders were reportedly used in China, although photographic evidence is lacking, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me!
Backdrop for the vehicles in the photos is a vac-formed trench systems/strongpoint, also from EWM. I based it on mounting board and the covered all of the outer surface in Vallejo white pumice, sprayed it dark earth, washed the trenches in brown and the drybrushed it. I also made up some lengths of thick duckboarding that can be dropped into the trench bottoms to allow figures to stand straight on the fire steps. It’s a nice scenery item and also illustrates quite well the problems Schneiders had crossing trenches! C’est la guerre!