Saint-Chamond tank

On display in the courtyard of the Historial

Commemorating the Great War and creating a buzz

To coincide with the commemorations marking the centenary of the Great War, Thierry Duponcheel, a teacher at the Le Corbusier professional high school in Tourcoing, had the bright idea of getting his pupils to build a full-size replica of a WWI-era tank. With this project, he had two goals in mind: to commemorate the Great War, and to raise the profile of the “decoration and design” program at his school.

The Saint-Chamond tank, an ideal model

Simply and solidly-designed, the Saint-Chamond tank soon emerged as the most suitable model for this project. The second attack tank manufactured by the French Army during the First World War, heavier and longer than its predecessor (the Schneider CA1), 400 of these armoured vehicles were produced by the Compagnie des Forges et Aciéries de la Marine et d’Homécourt, in Saint-Chamond. It is thus an important part of local history in the corner of northern France where the high school is situated: nick-named ‘Mon P’tit Quinquin’, the Saint-Chamond saw action during the Flanders campaign. No original model has survived intact, but a “second generation” Saint-Chamond tank is now on display at the museum of armoured vehicles in Saumur.

Painstaking work

The pupils, whose studies usually focus on the design of promotional items, used design software to create plans for the replica tank. The dimensions are suitably impressive: 9 metres long, 2.5 metres wide and 3 metres tall. The team began by creating a 1:10 scale model, a task which took 3 months. Using this model, the students were able to build and paint the final, full-size replica. Originally exhibited at Roncq, during the second edition of the Retro Mécanic festival, the tank was the star of the 11 November ceremony in Tourcoing before going on display at the town hall. Thierry Duponcheel and six pupils have now rebuilt the replica in the courtyard of the Historial, for visitors to the museum to enjoy.

Watch this video summary of the construction process: