‘Everything in war is very simple...’ The Great War French tank regulations and their implementation


  • Tim Gale, Dr Independent Scholar, UK




This article examines how the French army developed its tank doctrine during the Great War. How that doctrine came to be formulated and how it worked in practice will be discussed, as will the obstacles to devising such doctrine in the context of continuous and large-scale operations on the Western Front from 1916 to the end of the war. The three French tank designs, the Schneider, the St Chamond (both medium tanks) and the Renault light tank had to be tested and developed in the field, as was the doctrine used to employ them. As will be shown, despite developing sound tank doctrine on a tactical and operational level reasonably quickly, the French army would then discover that good doctrine was only part of the equation leading to military effectiveness, illustrating Clausewitz’s dictum that ‘everything in war is very simple, but the simplest thing is difficult’.