The Schneider CA1 (originally named the Schneider CA) was the first French tank. It was inspired by the need to overcome the horrors of the trench warfare of the "Great War".
Schneider & Co. was a large arms manufacturer in France. Having been given the order to develop heavy artillery tractors, in January 1915 the company sent out its chief designer, Eugène Brillié, to investigate tracked tractors from the American Holt Company, at that time participating in a test programme in England. On his return Brillié, who had earlier been involved in designing armoured cars for Spain, convinced the company management to initiate studies on the development of a Tracteur blindé et armé (armoured and armed tractor), based on the Baby Holt chassis, two of which were ordered.
Experiments on the Holt caterpillar tracks started in May 1915 at the Schneider plant with a 75hp wheel-directed model and the 45hp integral caterpillar Baby Holt, showing the superiority of the latter. On 16 June, new experiments followed in front of the President of the Republic Raymond Poincaré, leading to the order of 10 armoured tracked vehicules for further testing. In July 1915 the Schneider programme was combined with an official one for the development of an armoured barbed wire cutter by engineer and Member of Parliament Jules-Louis Breton, the Breton-Prétot machine. Ten of the fifteen available Baby Holt vehicles were to be armoured and fitted with the wire cutter. On 10 September, new experiments were made for Commander Ferrus, an officer who had been involved in the study (and ultimate rejection) of the Levavasseur tank project in 1908.