With the Fall of France in May-June 1940 came the capture of thousands of French military vehicles. The Germans moved on claiming this still-useful stock and reintroduced them into their own ranks. While some vehicles were allowed retain their original combat roles, others were modified to fulfill growing German Army requirements and this proved with case with the Renault Char B Heavy Tank which was introduced into French Army service prior to the war during 1936. Armed with a 75mm howitzer in its turret, as well as a 47mm cannon in the hull, these steel beasts were well-armored fighting machines and of concern to the invading Germans during 1940. Under new ownership, the tanks were selected for conversion to Self-Propelled Howitzer (SPH) platforms as the "10.5cm leFH 18/3 (Sf) auf Geschutzwagen B2".
Early on, the Germans modified the French tanks as flame-projecting vehicles under the "Flammwagen auf Panzerkampfwagen B-2(f)" designation and sixty were completed to that standard. However, their limited showing along the East Front helped evolve the Char B stock as dedicated self-propelled artillery systems instead.
As such, the Char B2 was reworked as a howitzer carrier by installing the 10.5cm (105mm) leFH 18/3 series field howitzers within a fixed, open-topped, slab-sided superstructure. The gun, mounting hardware and recoil system were all kept intact and partially protruded from the front panel of the superstructure. The original running gear - including the Renault 307 6-cylinder, liquid-cooled engine of 300 horsepower - was also retained though the hull-mounted 47mm cannon was deleted. The crew numbered five and the Fu.5 radio set was carried aboard. Secondary armament was a single 7.92mm MG34 machine gun.
The initial batch of ten tanks emerged in January-February of 1942 and a further six units came online in March of that year and total conversions reached sixteen vehicles all converted by Rheinmetall-Borsig during 1942. The series went on to have a relatively short service life (as part of German Army artillery regiments) that ran into mid-1943 - at which point they were succeeded by the newer SdKfz 124 "Wespe" SPH vehicle (detailed elsewhere on this site).
As completed, the Geschutzwagen B2 tanks reached road speeds of 15.5 miles per hour and ranged out to 87 miles. Cross-country range was restricted to 62 miles. Weight was 32.5 tons and dimensions included a length of 7.62 meters, a width of 2.4 meters and a height of 3 meters.
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