German Technology Exchange with Italy, Part I – Semovente B1 Bis

Author: Vollketten, with a big thank you to Zarax and Captain Nemo for help in preparing this article.

I’ll try and cover some more of the tank related technology exchange between Italy and Germany in Part II, but for Part I to get off to a flying start and to promote some thought, Part I will look at one specific technology exchange from Germany to Italy in WW2. In this case the French B1 Bis heavy tank.

French B1 Bis:


In case that sounds a little odd, bear in mind that following the collapse of France in 1940, huge stocks of French equipment were taken over by the Germans. Much of this equipment was reused and/or modified by them, although many vehicle,s which were deemed to be unsuitable for their purposes, were supplied in large numbers to their allies, including Italy.

Amongst the French stocks supplied was a quantity of 20 x B1 Bis. heavy tanks, pulled unfinished from the suspended F.C.M. production line, because they were missing their turrets. These B1’s were of the latest type made by F.C.M., omitting the overly complicated Nader type transmission system and with limited traverse for the hull howitzer, just like on the B1 Ter.

Initially, the Italians were not impressed. The B1 was considered too heavy with its 28 tons (heavier than any Italian tank in service at the time) and it also required a well trained crew and was said to be too large. This unduly negative criticism of the logistic requirements from the military was a false one though, as Italy was perfectly able to manage the logistics of a moving tank sized objects weighing up to 32 tons and the B1 was not too big for the rail system either.

It was true however that such a highly complex vehicle was not what the Italians were after, having a shortage of highly trained crews, who would be able to use and maintain these tanks. The Italian army however was very large and given the small number of men required overall, it’s unlikely that such crews could not be found. This vehicle entering the service would have been more than double the mass of any in-service Italian tank and the most powerful vehicle available at the time for the army.

Certainly, there was sufficient interest in them for the investigations to be made into having replacement turrets made for these vehicles by SOMUA, or to have completely new ones welded in Italy. In the end however, the army simply covered the turret ring with a 60mm armour plate and intended to use them as assault guns. With 60mm of frontal armour, the B1 was thus the most heavily armoured tank in the Italian Army at the time.

B1 Bis Semovente undergoing trials in Italy:


In the end however, nothing came of the project and it is unclear how many tanks ever received the turret plate other than this one (above) undergoing trials. The fate of those vehicles is not clear and it is not known at this time, whether any saw action, so it is possible they were simply scrapped in the following years.

So how would/could it work in game?

Well, Italy has enough low tier assault guns already available to it, so wouldn’t be reliant on this vehicle to ‘plug a gap’ in its tree. If it had the SOMUA turret added, effectively it would just be a clone of the French tier 4 B1 heavy tank already in game and there isn’t enough information to deduce what the Italian welded turret could have been, if it even got to the design stage. Historically, it was thought to be an assault gun so a Tier IV Tank Destroyer would best reflect this, although if necessary, it could actually fill the role of an artillery piece, but maybe that possibility can wait for discussion another time.

B1 Bis Semovente:


The B1 actually turns quite quickly and this is the upgraded transmission later type, so would turn even faster and the hull is exactly the same as the known B1 Bis, but Italian data for it gives the following information:

Mass: 31,500kg (presumably this is the weight with turret as it is also given as 28 tons without turret)
Crew: 4 (presumably commander, driver, gunner, loader)
Dimensions: 6.37m long x 2.5m wide x 2.7m high
Ground clearance: 0.48m
Engine: 300hp engine capable of 28kmh (this was the ‘with turret’ speed)
Armament: 1 x 75mm A.B.S Mle 29 gun with 74 rounds of ammunition (although with more space internally, more ammunition could certainly be carried) with 5° traverse left and right (even if an Italian 75mm were substituted such as the 75/18, it would still be a very serviceable gun at that tier, if not slightly better with a different choice of ammunition)

Theoretical maximum rate of fire for the gun would be 15 rpm for AP shells but slower for APHE or HE shells due to the time taken to fit fuzes.

- Obus de rupture Mle1910M (APHE), weighing 5.55kg at 475m/s capable of penetrating 40mm at 30 degrees/400metres
- Obus explosif Mle1915 (HE), weighing 5.50kg at 500m/s and able to penetrate 17mm at 30 degrees at 800 metres

Gli Autoveicoli da Combattimento Dell’Esercito Italiano V.2 – Pignato, Cappellano
La Meccanizzazione dell Esercito Italiano by Ceva and Curami
Axis history forum

21 thoughts on “German Technology Exchange with Italy, Part I – Semovente B1 Bis

      • It would be a cool Tier III TD. Mediocre gun, but pretty much impenetrable armor for that tier.

        • And if the thing is a regular tree tank, it would mean there would have to be gun upgrades available.

          • If it’s in the main tree I’d imagine it would be tier 4 alongside the Somua SAu-40, and so it would share the 105 mm howitzer as its top gun. Basically, it would be like the Hetzer and StuG Ausf. B on the German tree: the Somua is slower but has troll armor (except for the tumor on top), the B1 Bis Semovent would possess less but still good armor (though it has an obvious weakspot in the frontal hull that would allow the gun to be damaged by penetrating shots) and better mobility.

            If this were in the game it might actually make tier 4 more fun to play (since it seems that for the most part the only fun tier 4s that aren’t premiums are tank destroyers)

  1. Well, I guess that would make a perfect premium TD for the Italy/European tree.

      • The Char B1 Ter has sloped side armor. Are you really sure it’s already in the game?

          • I didn’t know that the B1 in game had 80mm of armor, or a more powerful engine, or better tracks than the B1 bis. Oh wait, the B1 in game is identical to the b1 bis, not the b1 ter. Nemo, you are bloody retarded when it comes to historicity or the game, please stop trolling and let the real experts handle this.

            • I wouldn’t be as insulting as the poster above, but yes, there’s nothing B1 Ter related in the in game B1 Bis.

              The hull isn’t the same, the engine isn’t the same, and it doesn’t have the planned two-men turret either.

              The only thing it’s got is the 47mm, as I don’t think the Ter version was supposed to receive any gun upgrade. Saddly, while it could pretty much blow up anything the germans had at the time, it’s completely gimped in game.

              I wish WG buffed the B1 Bis or made a tier 5 B1 Ter. This tank was probably as impressive (and unreliable) as the KV1 at the time, yet it’s complete shit in game.

              • A tier 5 heavy with a 47 mm gun? Seriously? Unless it gets special MM so that it ONLY sees tier 5s, the gun would be worthless, and even then it’s underpowered by tier 5.

              • It’s not gimped at all. It can blow up anything the Germans had in real life just as well…the only vehicle the Germans had on the same tier as the B1 is the StuG III B with the 75mm derp. Everything else is tier 2 or 3.

            • Respectfully the gun of the Ter and Bis are the same. The top gun in game was never fitted to a B1, B1 Bis or B1 Ter. Which is sort of odd as when the Germans invaded there was a good 1k+ of the advanced guns available.

              Second I mentioned the lack of Hull Change. I would quote myself but that seems pointless as you cant read.

              Thirdly the more powerful engine you get in game is actually off the Ter.

              And I think that the Ter used the same tracks as the Bis but need to check as I have not read up on the B1 for some time.

  2. I was curious if the 4-man B1 could hold 4 without the turret but it seems the B1 ter had room for 5 crew (one mechanic) so presumably his place would be taken by the commander in a turretless version.

    The balancing would be hard for it, tier 3 and it’s armour is very strong, better than the Pz2J really and that thing’s a nightmare, yet as the B1 ingame can testify, not much for tier 4 with a poor gun to back it up.

    Maybe B2-style tiering? Tier 4 that only sees own-tier?

    • The Ter indeed had a two men turret.

      Problem with the tank in game (Bis version, at least), is its awful gun. It was pretty good IRL, and is complete shit in WoT.

      That being said, I found the B1 to be pretty imba when I grinded the french heavy line. The armor made it pretty much invincible against other tier 4s. Mind you, that was two years ago, before the insane power creep that also plagues low tier tanks nowadays.

  3. So basically the B1 Bis Semovente is a tier 3 or 4 version of the stock ARL V39. Interesting.

  4. I have to say I find some things a bit strange:

    It was planned that, after the B1 Ter had been finalized, the B1 Bis (on the new tanks only, not the ones already made) would have received some of the improvements such as:

    - Horizontal aiming of the 75mm
    - Welded driver hood (instead of casted)
    - Improved Naeder system
    - Either the ARL 2 turret (armored at 60mm) or a new deep drawn turret.
    - Improved engine
    - New cooling system for the Naeder

    Plus some others modifications such as a Cotal automatic gearbox and the replacement of the 75mm by either a 105mm (from the 105mm Mle.1928 Mountain gun) or a 135mm (from the 135mm Mle.1932).

    But as far as my sources knows, no B1 Bis were modified.

    In 1940 with the losses of the Northern France factories there was a lack of turrets (with the APX 1 CE of the S 35 though to be used as replacement) which made that B1 Bis were produced and send to the battle without turret (a 60mm thick plate covering the hole).
    As example, the B1 Bis n°505, destroyed the 22 June at Tournon-Saint-Martin, one the 11 B1 Bis of the lieutenant Bibes company:
    Also note the additional, armored, rear fuel tank.

    The 75mm was the 75mm Mle.1935 by the ABS, shortened designation: 75mm SA35.
    The 75mm Mle.1929 existed but it was a fortress gun.

    The APX 4 turret weighted 2570kg so by removing it a B1 Bis would indeed approach the 28t.

    The B1 Ter would have been equipped with an uparmored ARL 2 turret (70mm), which is not a two-men turret but, once again, a one-man turret.
    To resume:
    - ARL 2 C (40/40/60) – Somua S40
    - ARL 2 (at 60mm) – Planned improved B1 Bis
    - ARL 2 (at 70mm) – B1 Ter
    The B 40, in its initial configuration, would have been equipped with a two man turret armed with either the 47mm Mle.1934 RF or the 47mm SA37 (plus a 105mm hull gun), it was later changed to a single 75mm in a three-men turret.