Laffly S15 & W15

Armoured car (1938-40)
France - 107 built

Laffly military vehicles

Laffly was a civilian truck manufacturer founded in 1912 at Billancourt near Paris. It was renown for its firetrucks and 4x4 vehicles both designed for civilian use and for the French Army, like the 4WD V15 artillery tractor and the S15 6WD. Both models were characterized by excellent off-road capabilities and specific trench-crossing features provided by extra rollers, uncommon for armoured cars in general at the time. By some aspects these vehicle recalled the german Krupp-Protze 6x6 light truck and their chassis proved equally versatile and reliable.

The 6x6 family comprised the:
Laffly S15T, light artillery tractor that served the 75 mm mle 1897 field gun, Canon de 105 court mle 1935 B howitzer or AT guns like the canon de 25 antichar.
Laffly S15R, reconnaissance vehicle that had a lighter rear cab and modified transmission to allow less torque but higher speeds. This vehicle was only armed with a single MAC 31, FM 25/28 or Berthier machine gun.
Laffly S15T, low-profile standard tractor made by Hotchkiss to tow the standard French 47 mm antitank gun.
Laffly S15L, the ambulance version, with a rear modified to carry six stretchers and covered by a tarpaulin. But for our concern, only two vehicles were declined into armoured cars, the S15 TOE and the W15 TCC.

The Laffly S15 TOE (1934)

Based on the same chassis this vehicle was given fully armoured with 7 mm steel plates riveted on a central frame. The vehicle was characterized by the absence of central rollers due to their intended colonial theater of operation : TOE litteraly meant "Théatre d\'Operations Extérieur" or External Operation Theater. It was tested in 1934 in Africa, then ordered in 1936 and delivered in 1938-39. Both the driver and commander seated in the cab, could see through folding up armoured shutters and sight slits when closed.

Just behind was located the machine-gunner, which operated a Reibel 7.5 mm light machine gun protected inside an hemispheric turret or a simple open air mount that allowed anti-aircraft fire. Access was granted by lateral doors, and there was a small utility cargo bay at the rear, between the twin axle. Hinged observation ports were also located at the rear. 45 vehicles were provided by Laffly until 1939.

The Laffly W15 TCC (1940)

Derived from the W15T this vehicle was characterized by the same general chassis 6x6 configuration, with a pair of rollers at the front and another in the middle, between the two axles. Both were not suspended and only there to provide additional ground pressure when crossing trenches or high obstacles. After an idea of general tank inspector Keller, rather of towing the 47 mm antitank gun, the latter was better carried directly on the cargo bay, turned to the rear. This conversion was ordered for trials early in 1940 by the general staff to provide a mobile antitank capability to motorized divisions.

TCC meant "Tracteur Chasseur de Chars", tank hunter tractor. The original prototype was entirely armoured and was virtually identical to the serie vehicles except for that the cabin and the 47mm SA mle 1937 gun were fully enclosed in an armoured casemate. It was given a -13°/+13° elevation and 60° traverse to the rear. Production vehicles only retained the lower part of the armour and a new shield for the gun. After successful trials at Vincennes and in the camp of Mailly, the conversion was only approved on may, 17 and from the 24 may to the june 17, 62 TCCs were delivered on the 100 ordered.

Active service

The W15TCC were the first of its kind and proved very efficient in service with the Batteries Antichar Automotrices (BACA) n°51 to 61 of the 11th RA and the 305e RA2 10th battery. Despite their numerous kills however they could do little to reverse the situation an at the end of june, all had been lost in action or abandoned. The S15 TOE were already in the French African colonies when the war broke out. They were used by Tirailleurs motorized units for reconnaissance and patrols.

After the june 1940 armistice with Italy, four vehicles stationed in Tunisia were captured and reused by the Italian forces with the RECAM (Raggruppamento Esplorante del Corpo d'Armata di Manovra) until december 1941. These were rearmed by a 8 mm Breda 38 while a 13 mm was installed in the cargo bay for AA defence. The French vehicles were replaced after december 1942 by allied vehicles like the Marmon Herrington.

Links & references

The S15 on Wikipedia
The W15 TCC on

Laffly W15 TCC specifications

Dimensions 4.50 x 1.90 x 1.80 m (14.9 x 6.3 x 7.11 fts)
Total weight, battle ready 4.96 tons (ibs)
Crew 4 (driver, commander, gunner, loader)
Propulsion Hotchkiss 680 2.3 litre, 4 cyl. petrol, 65 HP
Top speed road/off road 48/34 km/h road (30/21 mph)
Suspensions 4x6 independent leaf-springs
Range/fuel capacity 300 km (186 mi)/120 L
Armament Main: 47 mm (2.5 in) SA37 gun

Secondary: FM 24/29 7.5 mm (0.29 in) machine-gun
Armor (max) 12-15 mm driver cab and gun shield (0.5-0.6 in)
Total conversions 62
Laffly S15 TOE in Syria, 1941.

Laffly W15 TCC, fully enclosed prototype on trials at Camp of Mailly in april 1940 and with the 1st DCR. Despite being successful, Generalissimo Pierre Gamelin refused the conversion because of insufficient protection and other priorities. But after the 17 of may, the order was passed and confirmed for a delivery of 5 vehicles per day. Laffly never came near this figure but delivered 60 vehicles, only partially protected due to the lack of time.

Laffly W15 TCC
Laffly W15 TCC or serie, may 1940. Some were also camouflaged with brown stripes.

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