EmploymentThe Renault UE was employed at the start of World War II by the French Army, and was subsequently pressed into German Army service, as well as being used in limited numbers by Free France and Romanian forces.
The chenillette was mainly allocated to the standard Infantry Regiments, the first on 10 September 1932. There were six chenillettes present in the Compagnie Hors Rang (the company not subordinated to any battalion, and serving as the regimental supply, maintenance and replacement unit) and three in the Compagnie Régimentaire d'Engins, the regimental heavy weapons support company. Their primary official function was that of a supply vehicle to provide frontline positions with ammunition and other necessities while under artillery fire. The light armour was sufficient to stop small shell fragments and rifle or machine-gun fire at ranges greater than 300 meters. The Renault UE could carry or tow approximately 1000 kg of supplies; this included 350 kg in the cargo bin and 600 kg in the trailer. Typical loads included 81 mm Brandt mortar ammunition, ammunition for the 25 mm Hotchkiss anti-tank gun or rifle and machine-gun ammunition. To indicate they were towing, the tractors would erect a small rectangular steel plaque on the roof showing a yellow triangle on a contrasting blue field. The remainder of the vehicle was normally painted a dull bronze green overall, not using the intricate three- or four-colour schemes typical of French armour of the time. The more exposed forward positions would be supplied by the tractors only; their bins, though small, could still hold a load of 150 25 mm rounds or 2,688 machine-gun rounds. Mortar and gun teams were expected to move their own weapons if the move was less than 1,000 meters, otherwise, they were loaded, two each, in UEs for longer movements; likewise four machine-guns would be loaded. The 25 mm gun could optionally be towed. As the tractors were too small to accommodate the weapon crews, these had to move behind, following the vehicles on foot; the piece commander during this procedure sat next to the chenillette driver to indicate the desired new position of his mortar or gun. This was in fact the only occasion that within the Infantry Regiments a second crew member was really present: the driver normally formed the entire crew, although an assistant driver was allocated. A chenillette was thus never permanently attached to an individual weapon system; each 25 mm gun e.g. had its own horse-team to pull it for normal transport. For longer distance moves, the chenillette would be normally loaded on a truck, with the Renault UK trailer and (on good roads) possible mortars or guns towed behind. The larger trailer was officially never part of such a tow; it was in short supply, with just one available for four tractors each (two in each regiment) and only used to remove these if they had broken down. In practice it was not uncommon to transport the smaller trailer on the truck, while using the larger to move the tractor, as the prescribed procedure lowered the convoy speed to 15 km/h.
In the Mechanised Infantry Divisions Renault UE strength was much higher however. Their Compagnies Divisionnaires Antichar had twelve chenillettes, one for each 25 mm gun — and in this case each individual gun had its own tractor. In their CREs six Renault UEs were present, again one allocated to each 25 mm gun; and their battalions had in their Compagnies d'Accompagnement two Renault UEs to serve their organic two Brandt mortars and two 25 mm guns. The Mechanised Infantry Regiments thus had eighteen chenillettes each, the MIDs in total 66. These are the official standard numbers; actual strengths (and uses) varied, also dependent on the replacement of the 25 mm gun by the 47 mm Brandt that was considered too heavy to be towed by a chenillette. In total the French Army had an organic strength of about 2500 Renault UEs; as the number of vehicles produced became after September 1939 much higher, Modèle 31s, mostly completely worn out, were gradually phased out. These older vehicles were sometimes unofficially appropriated by engineer and artillery units. Depot strength on 10 May was 1278.
Being in principle an unarmed vehicle, the Renault UE was allowed to be employed by Vichy France. The type served in various conflicts involving the French colonies, used both by the government forces and the Free French. In May 1943, there was an attempt by the Free French to add the British Ordnance QF 6 pounder anti-tank gun, mounted on the rear of the vehicle with a gun shield. The relative size of the gun and the vehicle meant that it had to be operated from rear, as there was no room for the crew to operate it in the vehicle. After disappointing trial runs, the prototype was reverted to its original role as an artillery tractor. After D-Day some vehicles were used by the French irregular and regular forces in France. After the war some units for a few years still made use of the type. Some vehicles were taken into use by the army of Syria.