As this month marks the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended the “war to end all wars,” I thought this story of “beating swords into plough shares” might be interesting.
Frenchman Louis Renault started to build cars in 1898 and by the time of the Great War was a successful automobile manufacturer. In 1916, Renault received a visit from a French Colonel of Artillery, J.E. Estienne, who had told the French high command, “Gentlemen, the victory in this war will belong to which of the two belligerents will be the first to place a gun of 75 [mm] on a vehicle able to be driven on all terrain.”
The visit seems to have inspired Renault, who with the help of his staff designed the famous little Renault M-17 (FT) tanks that were known as “Chars D’Assaut” or “chariots of assault.”
Machinery had been destroyed or shipped back to Germany and both horse and manpower were scarce due to war losses. Tractors were badly wanted but were virtually nonexistent.
The French Army had, however, some 3,000 surplus Renault tanks on hand and someone had a bright idea….
Sam Moore grew up on a family farm in Western Pennsylvania during the late 1930s and the 1940s. Although he left the farm in 1953, it never left him. He now lives near Salem, where he tinkers with a few old tractors, collects old farm literature, and writes about old machinery, farming practices and personal experiences for Farm and Dairy, as well as Farm Collector and Rural Heritage magazines. He has published one book about farm machinery, titled Implements for Farming with Horses and Mules.