- AMR 33
name=Renault AMR 33
caption=the AMR 33 at
Musée des Blindés
used_by=France, Nazi Germany
production_date= 1933 - 1935
weight=5.5 metric ton
Mitrailleuse mle 1931
secondary_armament=reserve gun could be used as anti-aircraft weapon
engine_power=84 hp (63 kW)
suspension=oil damped horizontal springs
vehicle_range= about 200 km
speed=60 km/h, off-road: 45 km/h
The AMR 33 was a light French
tank, used in World War II.
To counter the threat posed by the massive Soviet arms build-up since
1928, the year Stalintook power, the French government on 4 July 1930conceived the plan to form a projection force capable of assisting its allies in the " Cordon sanitaire". This force would have to consist of five motorised infantry divisions and the five existing cavalry divisions, one brigade of each of which would have to be motorised. In 1934 the 4th Cavalry Division would have to be transformed into an armoured division. The plan called for the introduction of many specialised vehicles, among which was an "Automitrailleuse de Cavalerie type Reconnaissance" (AMR), specified on 16 January 1932as a vehicle of three tons, armed with a light machine gun and having a range of 200 kilometres. "Automitrailleuse" was then the generalised term for any light armoured fighting vehiclearmed with a machine gunand was also used to indicate a cavalry tank, as by law tanks ("Chars") had to be part of the Infantry. Although the name might suggest otherwise, an AMR was "not" a specialised reconnaissance vehicle but a skirmisher without a radio. The gathering and reporting of information was the task of an AMD ("Automitrailleuse de Découverte").
In anticipation Louis Renault had early November 1931 already begun to design a "tracteur léger de cavalerie type VM" based on his
Renault UEtractor. On 12 November the first drawings were examined and rejected because the vehicle in its proposed form was much too cramped. A larger hull was clearly necessary but Renault was hesitant to invest in it without the prospect of a possible order. On 21 November he is asked by the "Section Technique de Cavalerie" to provide a tanketteversion of his Renault UE to test the feasibility of a tracked AMR-concept. Being hereby informed of the general outlines of the specifications, he sent on 22 Decembera representative to supreme commander Maxime Weygandto lobby for a Renault AMR. Weygand informed him that it had informally been decided to procure the AMR Citroën Kégresse P 28, a half-trackmade by Renault's competitor Citroën. After much deliberation however the General that very day committed himself to take a Renault tank into consideration.
That commitment being secured, Renault hastily designed a larger model, a wooden mock-up of which was presented in March 1932. Based on it an order was made on
20 Aprilof five prototypes for a price of 171,250 FF per vehicle, to be delivered in September before the start of the autumn Champagne manoeuvres. The Cavalry saw this as a pre-series to obtain a platoon to be used for its very first trials with a mechanised unit. Renault however decided to provide each with a different suspension type, to lower the risk that his design would be found wanting. All were generally based on the Carden Loyd type that Renault had simply copied for his Renault UE. As there simply wasn't time to fully develop all types before the autumn, in July the five vehicles, with military registration numbers 79756 to 79760, were delivered with the simplest one: two leaf springs on each side didn't "spring" the suspension units, they "were" the suspension units. In September the tanks were united in the first French Cavalry mechanised unit ever: the experimental "Détachement Mécanique de Sûreté". The experience showed that they were very agile, but also noisy, poorly balanced and lacking sufficient range; unsurprisingly, the crew was always in for a bumpy ride.
After the exercise they were sent back to Renault, who shortly afterwards submitted three types for evaluation to the "Commission d'Expériences du Matériel Automobile" at
Vincennes: prototype 79758, still with the original suspension, 79759 with added internal hydraulic dampers and 79760 with a fully new suspension consisting of a central bogie with a leaf spring and wheels at the front and the back connected to two horizontal helical springs. In November and December 1932the "Commission de Vincennes" tested them. They were found to have a sufficient speed, but a range of only a hundred kilometres and to be too heavy with a weight of 4.8 tons. On 8 Decemberit was decided to abandon the irrealistic three ton weight limit and install larger fuel tanks and heavier armour; the vehicles were again sent back. In April 1933 Renault submitted two types, fitted with 0.5 ton weights simulating an up-armouring from nine to thirteen millimetres maximum: 79758 rebuilt with a horizontal rubber spring suspension and 79757 fitted with a suspension derived from that of 79760, but now with a central vertical spring and the casings of the horizontal springs filled with oil to make them act as dampers. They were tested until June 1933and, against the strong advice of Renault favouring the rubber springs, on 6 Junea production was ordered for prototype 79757 as the AMR Renault modèle 1933 or AMR 33. The Renault factory identifier was Renault VM.
On 8 March 1933 the Cavalry had already made a preliminary order of 45 for whatever type would be chosen. This was confirmed on 22 June together with a second order of twenty vehicles, deliveries were to start no later than 1 July. In the autumn a third order was made of fifty. The first vehicle was only delivered on
1 June 1934however, due to financial difficulties; the last of the 115 in September. The production of the Citroën half-track was limited to fifty. It was decided to rebuild the original prototypes into standard vehicles; however in fact two were used to develop the AMR 35, an improved model that was necessary because the too-fragile suspension of the AMR 33 was prone to breakdown (or even simply to break off) and engine noise was excessive. Prototype 79758 was used to test several other improved configurations. To compensate three more AMR 33's were built in 1935 for a total of 123, including all prototypes. The chassis that was used for the development of the "Engin P", a project for a 37 mm gun equipped tank destroyer, is not concluded in this number.
The AMR 33 was a very small vehicle, 3.5 meters long, 1.64 m wide and 1.73 m tall. Its weight was only 5.5 metric tons and the 84 hp engine allowed for a maximum speed of 60 km/h. A Cleveland differential was used; there were four forward and one reverse gears. A fuel tank of 128 litres allowed for a range of 200 km. The (rivetted) armour of all vertical plates was 13 mm, of all inclined plates 9 mm, of the top 6 mm and of the bottom 5 mm. There was a crew of two: one driver to the left next to the engine and the tank commander/gunner behind him in the turret, armed with a 7.5 mm
Reibel machine gun. There was also a reserve machine gun that could be optionally placed on a pedestal on top of the turret for AA-use. The original proposal had foreseen in the use of a special expensive Schneider turret; the prototypes had a very high octagonal Renault turret at the very back of the hull. This proved to be too awkward and was replaced on the series vehicles by a flatter design from the army "Atelier de Vincennes", the AVIS-1, moved about a foot to the front to improve visibility. The AVIS was produced by Renault and had, a unique situation for a French tank turret of the thirties, a hatch in the top for observation. The normal access to the tank was by means of large double hatch at the back of the hull however.
The 115 vehicles available in 1934 were first assigned to the five cavalry divisions, a squadron of fifteen for each, except 5th DC which got ten and 4th DC which received forty. In
1935it was decided to transform 4th DC into an armoured division in case of war. For its sole tanks this division was to have had six squadrons equipped with the AMR 33. Its fighting power would thus have been very limited indeed. Both in 1936and 1937however a real armoured division was created. These 1 DLM and 2 DLM ("Division Légère Mécanique") had three squadrons of AMR 33's each to accompany their motorized infantry (among many other types); the three remaining cavalry division just one. At that time however the AMR 33 had already been supplemented by the AMR 35.
Battle of Francethe type fared very badly. It was poorly armed and armoured - and very unreliable because of its one good point: its speed which wore out the suspension units. It was faster than any German tank of the time. Some captured AMR 33's were used by the Germans as the "Panzerspähwagen VM 701 (f)", probably mostly in France itself.
A single vehicle survives at the
Musée des Blindésat Saumur.
* François Vauvillier "Les Matériels de l'Armée Française 1: Les Automitrailleuses de Reconnaissance tome 1: L'AMR Renault modèle 1933 type VM — ses précurseurs, ses concurrentes et ses dérivées" Histoire & Collections Paris 2005.
* [http://www.wwiivehicles.com/france/armored-reconnaissance/amr-33.asp WWII vehicles]
* [http://www.chars-francais.net/archives/renault_amr33.htm Chars-francais.net]
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