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Quick Divisions (III)
The division légère mechanique possessed far more tanks than either German light divisions or the Austrian Schnelle Division. Indeed, while the German light divisions and the Austrian Schnelle Division each made do with a single battalion of vehicles that, in contemporary military parlance, qualified as “tanks,” each division légère mechanique was provided with four battalions of armored fighting vehicles that, in whole or in part, traveled on tracks.
Notwithstanding this largesse, the French cavalrymen who served in the division légère mechanique declined to describe their battle buggies as “tanks” [chars]. Instead, they described them as “armored cars” [automitrailleuses].
The automitrailleuses de combat were formed into squadrons of twenty such vehicles. These squadrons were paired off to form half-regiments that, in turn, were assembled, two by two, into regiments. In addition to its two half-regiments, each regiment also possessed a battery of six autocanons de cavalerie. Served by artillerymen, these were 75mm field guns mounted on fully-tracked vehicles.
One of the squadrons in each half-regiment was equipped with "combat armored cars” [automitrailleuses de combat]. These were half-tracked vehicles that carried both a 37mm low-velocity gun and a rifle-caliber machine gun. The other squadron used “reconnaissance armored cars” [automitrailleuses de reconnaissance]. These were fully tracked armored vehicles armed with a single machine gun, which could either be a 7.5mm medium machine gun or a 13.2mm (.52 caliber) heavy machine gun.
The single tank battalion of each German light division had much in common with the tank battalions that served in contemporary Panzer brigades (whether independent or assigned to armored divisions.) It differed from its heavier counterparts in two ways. First, it possessed none of the heavier models (Panzer III and Panzer IV) that were in use at the time. Second, to carry its light tanks (Panzer I and II) over long distances, it made use of tank transporters.
The tank battalion [Panzerwagen Bataillon] of the Austrian Schnelle Division possessed five companies equipped with armored vehicles. Each of the four tank companies operated sixteen Fiat-Ansaldo tankettes. The single armored car company consisted of twelve six-wheeled armored cars that, like the French automitrailleuses de découverte, employed both a forward-facing driver and a rearward-facing driver. (When the Schnelle Division transformed itself into the 4th Light Division, it was this company that provided the framework for the creation of the two armored car companies of the Aufklärungs Regiment.)