Renault FT Light Tank

Unit French Army
Place Europe: Western Front
Accession Number RELAWM05039.001
Collection type Technology
Object type Vehicle
Physical description Steel, Wood
Maker Renault
Place made France
Date made 1918
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Light, two man tank with rivetted flat armoured plates. It has a fully rotating, manually operated, one man turret which has been fitted with an 8mm Hotchkiss, machine gun. This turret is the first main production 'Berliet' type, constructed from flat plate armor. There are split access hatches for the commander fitted in the rear of the turret. The commander either stands within the turret or can be seated on a (missing) canvas sling. There is a commander's cupola fitted to the roof of the turret. The driver sits on a cushion fitted to the floor of the vehicle with a sling back (missing) and his entry point is through split hatches fitted into the front hull roof. The driver also has a hinging visor which can be raised to assist visability. Steering is by hand levers, brakes and clutch.

The tracks are all steel and coil springs are fitted to the front sides of the vehicle which assist in keeping the tracks tensioned. The running gear consists of six return rollers and nine road wheels fitted to each side. The road wheels are mounted into three paired bogie sets and one triplet. This triplet bogie is the first bogie fitted and is next to the front idler wheel. The large front idler wheel is steel rimmed and made up from laminated timber segments. The steel drive sprocket is mounted at the rear. The four cylinder, liquid cooled petrol engine is fitted at the rear and develops thirty five horse power. It has a cone clutch and a four speed Renault gearbox with one reverse gear. The exhaust system is mounted on the starboard side towards the rear of the vehicle and consists of a cylindrical muffler and short piece of offset exhaust pipe. This vehicle is missing the crew compartment floor, which leaves the engine and gear box connecting cables exposed. It is also missing its internal ammunition stowage. The vehicle's radiator has been penetrated by a large calibre shot.

The vehicle has been painted post-war in the late 1918 French three colour disruptive camouflage scheme of yellow, green and brown with each color separated by a thin black outline.

History / Summary

The French 'Char Renault' (referred to during the war as the Renault FT, and generally post-war as the FT 17) is widely regarded as the first tank to display modern tank qualities such as a fully rotating, 360 degree turret mounting a commander's cupola, a separate engine compartment to the crew compartment and the capability of fitting larger weapons and a future wireless set. It had very good cross country and vertical climbing performance.

This particular vehicle was transported to Australia in the early 1920s as a gift from a grateful French Government. The exact nature of the vehicle's service on the Western front is currently unknown. However, it clearly suffered major incapacitating battle damage.