Sveriges första stridsvagn franska Renault FT ”Putte”

Renault FT

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Sweden’s first tank –
a French Renault FT

For a long time, the common belief was that the first tank in Sweden was one of them in parts purchased LK II from Germany, which was assembled in Sweden beginning in late 1921. The French Renault FT cart appeared in source material only in 1923 and was therefore adopted have been purchased on this occasion.

In the spring of 2018, Stefan Karlsson, Museum Director at Arsenalen, got a tip about a newspaper article from Aftonbladet dated 19 June 1921, and it will be the start to see if it would be possible to confirm that the French Renault FT was the first tank in Sweden.

This has now succeeded and it is confirmed by the fact that there is documentation that confirms that the first tank in Sweden was a French Renault FT. Renault FT, or “Putte” which it came to be called in Sweden, probably due to it’s Puteaux gun, has a short life in the Swedish army from 1921 to 1926 when it is shot apart on Marma’s shooting field.

Acquisition

Den 22 januari 1921 sänder Chefen för Arméförvaltningens Artilleridepartement och Generalfälttygmästaren, generalmajor Friherre Ulf Lars Carlsson Sparre en skrivelse till militärattachéerna i Berlin, Paris, Rom, London och Washington om att de skall sondera möjligheterna att få köpa infanterikanoner med ammunition, luftvärnskanon med ammunition, vapen att bekämpa ”tanks”, specialgevär och olika kanontyper med ammunition, dragfordon för artilleriet och eventuellt en lättare tank.1

On 22 January 1921, the Head of the “Arméförvaltningens Artilleridepartement” and “Generalfälttygmästaren”, Major General Friherre Ulf Lars Carlsson Sparre, send a letter to Military Attaches in Berlin, Paris, Rome, London, and Washington stating that they should explore the possibilities of buying infantry guns with ammunition, anti-air guns with ammunition, weapons to combat “tanks”, special rifles and various types of guns with ammunition, traction vehicles for the artillery and possibly a lighter tank.1

The Military Attaché in Paris, Lieutenant-Colonel Ljungberg, replies that he will soon be notified of which guns and other materials are granted for purchases to Sweden as test material. A Renault FT tank armed with 37mm cannon and 200 shots, is among the material that may be purchased. The tank is inspected on 10 May 1921, in Gien, the undercarriage is numbered 66549 and the turret 575, it weighs about 6 tons, and was manufactured on 23 June 1920. The price was 115,000 francs (about 37,000 SEK).2

2) Militärattachén i Paris. E I a. Inkommande handl. Volym 1. 1920 – 1922.

Note that the numbers stated in the report on both the chassis and the turret (actually the tank side) are the same as can be seen on pictures of the Renault FT tank in Sweden. It is built after the first world war ended and therefore stories about the tank having had shot damages when it came to Sweden can be dismissed.

Märkning 66549 på Renault FT-vagnen
Märkning 575 på sidan av Renault FT-vagnen

In Aftonbladet 19 July 1921, it is reported that a “French tank” has arrived in Stockholm, with the steamship Vega on its latest journey from Rouen. The French tank is, according to newspaper information, purchased by the Swedish state, ordered by the “svenska tygstaten” ie “Generalfälttygmästaren”, Major General, Friherre Ulf Lars Carlsson Sparre.3

Aftonbladet 19/10/1921

Aftonbladet 19/10/1921

The first tests

On 25 July 1921, a “trial troop” was formed at the then A 9 – “Kungliga Positionsartilleriregementet” in Stockholm under the command of Captain C.W. Elliot. Here, the Renault FT tank is listed as one of several motor vehicles available. The instruction for the Renault FT tank was to train crews to be made available upon trial and to write a basis for the tank’s care and use and a lubrication schedule.4

On 17 August 1921, orders to transport the “armored vehicle with 37mm cannon” to Malmslätt, together with required personnel, for carrying out certain trials, with arrival no later than the 22nd of the same month.5

Dagens Nyheter 27 August

 

“A series of infantry exercises have been going on for 14 days at Malmslätt, outside Linköping, under General Hasselrot’s leadership and ended on 3 November. The exercises were held to test the various units’ collaboration and among the war tools used, a “tank” was also noticed.”6

In these exercises, the French Renault FT tank was used for the first time.

Dagens Nyheter 27/08/1921

Dagens Nyheter 27/08/1921

Use in major exercise

The Renault FT tank was immediately used in a larger exercise and this can be read in a number of newspaper articles. The descriptions are colourful and a number of different designations are used for our first tank.

 

Aftonbladet 3 October 1921

“A big tank was lying in wait at the junction in the direction of Järfälla.”

Aftonbladet 03/10/1921

Aftonbladet 03/10/1921

Photo in Aftonbladet 03/10/1921

Photo in Aftonbladet 03/10/1921

Stockhols-Tidningen 4 October 1921

“During ‘Upplandsmanövern’, 1921-10-03-18, the A-force under Colonel Hedengren held the positions Töjna – Akalla – Järfälla, consisting of ‘Sörmlänningar’, ‘Vaxholms grenaldjärer’, a department of the ‘Livgardet till Häst’, an artillery regiment, two light and a heavy division, and one – our only – armoured car. It was the first time [sic! the second time] an armoured car was used in Sweden. The B-force under Colonel Nauckhoff’s command, consisting of ‘Svea’ and ‘Göta Livgarde’, a squadron cavalry and artillery to the same strength as the opponent, to which came a pair of squadrons of ten aairplanes. These [B-force] were on the section Jakobsberga station – Lake Söby – Ragvala. ”

Sthlm-Tidningen 04/10/1921

Sthlm-Tidningen 04/10/1921

Part from Sthlm-Tid. 04/10/1921

Part from Sthlm-Tid. 04/10/1921

Sources:
1) 062 KAAD upp till 1937. Konstr.avd. E II vol 2 1921 – 1924
2) Militärattachén i Paris. E I a. Inkommande handl. Volym 1. 1920 – 1922.
3) Aftonbladet 19 juli 1921
4) och (5) KAAD MB2 Andra Militärbyrån 1921
6) Dagens Nyheter 27 augusti 1921
7) Dagens Nyheter 4 oktober 1921
8) Rapport över försök med pansarvagnar vid I 1 hösten 1923, jämlikt g.o. litt H 92/1923
9) Rapport över försöken med stridsvagnar vid I 1 vintern 1924 jämlikt g.o. 71/1924
10) KAAD Konstuktionsavd. Fordon. EH 1926
11) Försök med viss infanteribeväpning å Marma den 8/9 september 1926.
12) M II 1926 vol 35. Handling nr 3500.

Research project Pioneer Time

When an ongoing research project within SPHF and a renovation work of a Strv m/21-29 at Arsenalen (Arsenalen, the Swedish Military Vehicle Museum) coincided, it was natural to merge the forces to better map and describe the first pioneer time in Swedish armour history. The result since the beginning of 2019 is a research work on the Swedish armoured pioneer era, 1921 to 1938.

Much of the data is collected from documents in the War Archives but supplemented with materials from other sources. First, time-consuming work to find the right documents in a large number of collected documents, then to interpret and compile the various sources.

The project follows the so-called Context Model, which is to put Swedish armoured vehicles in a larger context. Since often the image of the armour units stays at the exterior of tanks and rarely, often neglected, the reality that large resources are required to enable effect with these weapons – personally, equipment as well as organizationally.

“The tank at the disposal of the A force provided a great deal of disarray among the enemy in the neighbourhood of Järfälla, and awakened, as one of the officers expressed himself ‘sometimes frightening, sometimes astonishment’.”

The most well-known picture of the Swedish Renault FT, from Stockholms-Tidningen (04/10/1921) and Dagens Nyheter (10/10/1921).

The most well-known picture of the Swedish Renault FT, from Stockholms-Tidningen (04/10/1921) and Dagens Nyheter (10/10/1921).

Svenska Dagbladet 4 October 1921

“The new armoured car, which the A-force had at its disposal, aroused, as it was expressed, both astonishment and a frightfulness, where it crept forward along the roads, over the fields and up the mountain slopes, like a giant snail, which suddenly got in a hurry. It is alleged that at one point it effectively intervened in the area of Järfälla.”7

SvD 04/10/1921 page 3

SvD 04/10/1921 page 3

SvD 04/10/1921 detail page 9

SvD 04/10/1921 detail page 9

Provinstidningen Dalsland

About the jamming and recovery of the Renault FT tank reports the Provinstidningen Dalsland

Provinstidningen Dalsland 04/10/1921

Provinstidningen Dalsland 04/10/1921

In 1922

We have no information about what happens to the Renault FT tank in 1922 and until the tank company at “Svea Livgarde” is pulled together on 20 August 1923. Nor do we know at present whether the trials continue at the then A9 or if the Renault FT tank is used at additional exercises.

From Mj Burén’s report 1923

The Renault FT tank arrives at the tank company and is described by Mj Burén in his report8 to the “Infanteriinspektören” in 1923. The following is mentioned in the report.

The 37 mm Puteaux gun from the Renault FT tank was mounted in a Strv m/21 (tank number 5) and this tank was then used by the platoon commander. The trails with the French gun went very well. It worked great, was easy to learn how to operate and the precision was good. About 1/3 of the ammunition malfunctioned and the effect was found to be very local.

The Stridsvagn m/21 numbered 1, 5, 6. 7 and 8 participated in the major exercise in Scania at Munka-Ljungby in 1923, but there’s no mention of the Renault FT tank.

Autumn 1924 – from Mj Burén’s report 1924

In his report to the “Infanteriinspektören”9, Mj Burén writes extensively and very critically about the Renault FT tank.

“As far as the Renault tank is concerned, the experiments with its use did not go particularly well.”

Burén lists a whole range of technical problems with the Renault FT tank which are difficult or impossible to fix. He tries to find some solution to how to use the tank, but despite several proposals, he finds no solution to the problem.

Since the state granted a special grant for the purchase of two radio stations, one of these was mounted in a Strv m/21 (tank no. 6) and the other in the French Renault FT tank (on 16 August) wishing to get some use of this tank.

Renault FT tank with radio antenna of bamboo. Note that the gun is unmounted.

Renault FT tank with radio antenna of bamboo. Note that the gun is unmounted.

”The antennas were made up of provisional devices, which were suspended on coarse bamboo rods on the transmitter-tanks and on the only receiving tanks of copper wires running along the carriage supported by braces attached to the armour.”10

1925

During parts of 1925, the Renault FT tank was used as a radio vehicle. After “Tygstationen” and AEG (which designed the radio) repaired flaws that disturbed the equipment and designed a new “umbrella antenna”, the radio was installed in a Strv m/21, tank no. 6.

Later Strv m/21 number 10 was equipped with the radio that previously was in the Renault FT tank and an “umbrella antenna” and then the need for Renault FT tank was no longer relevant.11

1926 Renault FT tank is shot apart

In August 1926, the Renault FT tank is discarded and prepared as target material for test shootings.10 Subsequently, various shooting and blasting attempts will take place during September with several different weapons: 13 mm machine gun with Colt, 20mm armour grenades with a machine gun m/Samag, 37mm infantry gun (French ) and finally “throwing of hand grenade bundles against Renault tank”.

Finally, on 16 October 192612, it is ordered that the remaining parts should be transported in from the firing range and Sweden’s first tank’s short life can be considered over.

Sources:
1) 062 KAAD upp till 1937. Konstr.avd. E II vol 2 1921 – 1924
2) Militärattachén i Paris. E I a. Inkommande handl. Volym 1. 1920 – 1922.
3) Aftonbladet 19 juli 1921
4) och (5) KAAD MB2 Andra Militärbyrån 1921
6) Dagens Nyheter 27 augusti 1921
7) Dagens Nyheter 4 oktober 1921
8) Rapport över försök med pansarvagnar vid I 1 hösten 1923, jämlikt g.o. litt H 92/1923
9) Rapport över försöken med stridsvagnar vid I 1 vintern 1924 jämlikt g.o. 71/1924
10) KAAD Konstuktionsavd. Fordon. EH 1926
11) Försök med viss infanteribeväpning å Marma den 8/9 september 1926.
12) M II 1926 vol 35. Handling nr 3500.

Research project: Pioneer Period

When an ongoing research project within SPHF and a renovation work of a Strv m/21-29 at Arsenalen (Arsenalen, the Swedish Military Vehicle Museum) coincided, it was natural to merge the forces to better map and describe the first pioneer time in Swedish armour history. The result since the beginning of 2019 is a research work on the Swedish armoured pioneer era, 1921 to 1938.

Much of the data is collected from documents in the War Archives but supplemented with materials from other sources. First, time-consuming work to find the right documents in a large number of collected documents, then to interpret and compile the various sources.

The project follows the so-called Context Model, which is to put Swedish armoured vehicles in a larger context. Since often the image of the armour units stays at the exterior of tanks and rarely, often neglected, the reality that large resources are required to enable effect with these weapons – personally, equipment as well as organizationally.

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