World War II
The infantry wanted tanks to reinforce assaults. These were called chars de manoeuvre d'ensemble, and would use the most powerful infantry tanks. They would be assigned to corps or division commanders as they were needed.
In September 1939 the 1ère Division Cuirassée de Réserve (DCR) was formed. It contained:
- 2 armored brigades, each with
- a battalion of motorized riflemen, and
- 2 12-gun groups of motorized artillery.
There was no reconnaissance unit, nor anti-aircraft defense. It was intended to go ahead of the infantry and break through the defenses of the enemy.
The first was formed in September 1939, with the second in January 1940, and the third in March 1940. By May 1940 3 DCRs were formed and a 4th was being formed under the command of Charles de Gaulle. The formations weren't used to working together yet by the time of the German invasion.
On September 7, 1936, General Gamelin proposed a 4 year plan for rearmament was accepted. This was to form 3 DLM divisions with S-35 and H-35 tanks, 2 DCR divisions with B tanks, and 50 battalions of R-35 and FCM-36 tanks to support the infantry.
In August 1936 Schneider, Hotchkiss and Renault were nationalized by the French government to help with Gamelin's plan. Even with these measures the French industry wasn't able to meet the demands of the plan.
By the end of 1937 it was decided to form the DCRs with 4 battalions of B tanks instead of 6 to increase the number of DCR divisions to 3. The Supreme War Council intervened in 1938 and the formation of the first 2 DCRs was until October 1939.
Several hundred of the available tanks to the French Army were located in North Africa, Near East, Indo-China, and Madagascar.
There were 2 DLMs available, a third that was formed in August 1939 (became operational in February 1940), and 4 battalions of B tanks (known as Groupement de chars de Nancy).
On September 2, 1939, General Gamelin ordered the creation of 2 demi-brigades cuirassées (armored 1/2 brigades) that became the basis for the first DCRs. These were formed January 2, 1940, based on 2 battalions of B tanks and 2 battalions of H tanks. A third DCR was formed on March 16, 1940, but was not operational by May 10, 1940.
There approximately 3,000 tanks in the French Army. The DCRs had about 500 tanks and the DLMs had 800. The rest were distributed amongst the infantry.