Hotchkiss H35

The Hotchkiss H35 or Char lightweight 1935 H was a French light tank, 1930. It was a better shot motorized version, the Hotchkiss H-39 in 1939.


In 1926, the French army establishes a program for accompanying infantry tank of less than thirteen tons weight, to take over the Renault FT-17. This tank should equip battalion s autonomous, responsible for supporting the infantry divisions, to be used in number, it had to be lightweight and inexpensive, yet the only tank that was designed to meet the specifications, Renault D1 was neither the one nor the other. In 1933, the company Hotchkiss then presented a model, saying that it was possible to produce a six-ton ​​tank with a shield thirty millimeters. A new program was thus established, calling for a six-ton ​​tank, with a shield of thirty millimeters on all sides, and armed with a 37 mm cannon SA-18 turret. Three prototypes were ordered Hotchkiss, but other companies were invited to present their model, the Renault R35 Renault and FCM, with its FCM36. Meanwhile, 21 June 1934, the shield was raised to forty millimeters and mass ten tons.

January 18, 1935 Hotchkiss presented its prototype to the Commission Experience in Automotive Equipment to Vincennes. He was then tried Mourmelon, until March 4, when the second took his place until June 6. Both tanks presented without turret, armed only with a machine gun, were rejected on June 27, because they did not meet the new specification shield 1934. The prototype was however accepted it, provided that the necessary changes be made. On August 19, the third prototype, provided him with a turret APX cast steel was introduced, and after testing until September 20 was accepted. On November 6, the first order of two hundred copies were passed, the first to be delivered to 12 September 1936. Before this date, two other orders were passed, respectively, 92 and 108 vehicles.

The first series of tanks were tested on the ground, until 4 December 1936. These maneuvers showed that the Hotchkiss was very difficult to run off-road, especially it tacked badly, which made it dangerous for infantry that accompanied it. The direction of the infantry, giving preference to the Renault tank, so decided not confirm that the first hundred copies to equip just two battalions: 13 and 28 battalions of tanks. The remaining three specimens were then offered to the cavalry, who accepted because it does not have a budget for tanks, and most had less need for quality off-road, as it fought more on the road and with infantry scope. The Hotchkiss H35 also had a small advantage of pure speed on the Renault, with 28 km / h against 20. However, in practice, due to the inferiority of its transmission, its average speed was rather less.


The Hotchkiss H35 is a small vehicle of 4.22 m long, 1.95 m wide and 2.15 m high. His body consists of six parts cast steel that are bolted together. We thus have the engine and the floor of the fighting compartment which form the bottom of the vehicle, and four pieces for the top, one at the front, rear and two side. The use of cast steel allows a sloped armor avoiding traps shells, and maximize the chances of deflecting a projectile. While good for the time, the protection did not meet the leaders of the infantry, the maximum thickness is 34 mm, against the 40 requested more there were many problems with the quality of it, among other things because of the large outsourcing. First too soft steel was then cured, but became brittle and loaded bubbles, bubbles were many weaknesses.

The crew consisted of two men. The driver sat at the front right of the box, behind a large door with two cast leaves. Driving is difficult: the tank with no differential rival Renault, he replied unpredictably at any change of direction, the brake’s too low, especially downhill, do not really improved the situation. Another difficulty, the fifth report of the gearbox was very hard to take, so we rarely reached 28 km / h design speed. The tank was also underpowered with only 78 horses for his kg, or 6.9 horsepower per ton. This lack of power and conduct necessarily abrupt driver strongly interfered with the mechanical reliability: thus, failures were frequent. However, the tank had certain qualities: the suspension consisted of three bogie s resembling those of R35, but using horizontal spring instead of rubber cylinders, and 180-liter tank giving it a range of 129 km or 8 hours off-road.

The tank commander, he was sitting alone in a turret APX-R, probably the biggest flaw of the tank, but common to all the French light tanks of the era. Indeed, the leader of the vehicle is left alone to serve and supply the weapons, observing the battlefield, identify potential targets and direct the pilot. Given the number of tasks, he was happy that the radio is not installed on these vehicles. To fulfill these tasks, the tank commander had only a dome observation, without access hatch, the latter being located on the rear of the turret. When he wanted to look around properly, so he had to sit in it, to look over the turret. It was then exposed and very far from her arms.

Another major flaw of the tank, its cannon SA-18 (SA semi-automatic reference to his head), a piece of 37 mm from the First World War, to the very low initial speed, was unable to penetrate more than 23 millimeters of armor, which rendered it unfit to fight against other tanks. Subsequently, the chamber of the barrel was rebored sometimes in cavalry units, to use special ammunition with increased propellant, giving an initial rate of about six hundred meters per second, and a perforation near thirty millimeters.

Carriage of ammunition was one hundred tank shells: shells bursting model 1892/1924 (APHE type: piercing explosive) or model 1935 (APCR of category and sub-caliber explosives) and two thousand four hundred cartridges gun.

The light tank 35H modified model 39

As the cavalry was requesting a higher speed, the installation of a more powerful engine was tried in October 1936 giving birth to a prototype next year. The body was enlarged to accommodate the new engine of one hundred and twenty horses, forcing engineers to revise accordingly the suspension and tracks. The mass then reached 12.1 tons. The new model, much faster, was able to reach 36 km / h, but it was also easier to drive. Submitted to the Commission Experimentation of Infantry January 31, it is accepted as modified light tank model 35H 39, and an order of two hundred copies went, later extended to nine hundred. In 1940, three hundred and fifty of them were modified to ship the gun SA38, longer and more modern, which gave him a real tank capacity. The new tracks lengthened although improving the distribution of ground pressure, delayed production as tooling machining skates early versions had to be changed. Nevertheless, all versions of six-hundred and forty tanks are ready in September 1939, and about a thousand in May 1940.

At entry into the war, the Allies decided to concentrate production of light tanks on a single model: because of its high mobility, the Hotchkiss was chosen. It was planned to equip the many armored divisions were to be set up for a hypothetical decisive offensive in the summer of 1941. It was hoped to push production to three hundred copies monthly, and to do this, the British and Portuguese industries were leveraged to provide evidence of cash sunk. In exchange for their help, the British were to receive new Renault B1bis per month. These ambitious plans are quickly forgotten with the Battle of France in May 1940.

Operational use

Three tanks were sold to Poland who fought in September 1939, in units of circumstance. Fifteen were sent in 342 independent company of tanks to support the dispatch of Narvik.

Six battalions were used in the three new armored divisions reserve, where they supported the mighty tanks B1. In the cavalry, 450 were in service. Each light cavalry division, possessed fourteen, which equipped a squadron of his regiment of armored cars. In light mechanized divisions, he completed the insufficient number of Somua S35, it fitted to two squads of four each regiment of armored combat, a total of eighty tanks per division. The 3 DLM, saw three more armored reconnaissance squadrons equipped with Hotchkiss, rather than Renault ZT. Other units to use, 2 and 5 recognition groups of infantry, who used five COMAM provided by the Division of Montlhery.

Most often used in mobile mechanized units, the tank Hotchkiss, despite its many faults, behaved quite brilliantly during the Battle of France, in particular because of the value and dedication of his crew and, to a lesser extent Thanks to its protection, making it a difficult to destroy for panzer s 1940 target. Mention may be made ​​among the many feats of arms, combat Flavion May 15, 1940, where 150 tanks of the opposed the 718 tanks of 39 Panzer General Hoth without any help, manhandling several German units before handing in the number, but also the fight Stonne of 3 DCR and 3rd Motorized Infantry Division, started the same day, and continued until May 26, costing the three DCR half its tank crews, but it prevented any progress first of two panzer divisions of 19 Panzer and three infantry divisions of 6 Armeekorps, inflicting very heavy losses on the German units.

After the armistice, no less than 550 copies were recovered by the Wehrmacht, which used rather in units responsible for occupation duties or training. An independent unit, 211in Panzerabteilung was still fitted in the early stages of Operation Barbarossa, Finland. The Germans realized thereafter a series of conversions propelled guns and specialist vehicles. The French continued to use the model in some units arranged in the colonial empire.

Twelve of these tanks, income in Britain after the Norwegian campaign, were recovered by the fledgling Free French Forces and fitted out their tank company. They were sent to Dakar and then landed in Cameroon and participated in the country of Gabon. Then they participated in the campaign in Syria, where they were almost all destroyed by anti-tank the Vichy army guns or put out of action for mechanical problems.

Some of these tanks belonging to the security forces in Syria, were sold illegally postwar the new Israeli army made ​​use of it during the war of 1948 and held until 1956.

Units who used the H35 1940


•In light Cavalry Divisions:

◦ DLC, 1 armored Regiment – 16 tanks

◦2  DLC, 2 – RAM 16 tanks

◦3 DLC 3 – RAM 16 tanks

◦4 DLC, 4 – RAM 16 tanks

◦5 DLC, 5 – RAM 16 tanks

•In Groups recognition Infantry Divisions:

◦2 GRDI, 9 Sun – 23 tanks

◦5 GRDI, 25Sun – 23 tanks

•In light mechanical divisions:

◦ DLM Cuirassiers and 18th Dragoons – 47 tanks each

◦2 DLM, 13th Dragoons and 29th Dragoons – 47 tanks each

◦3 DLM, 1st and 2nd Cuirassiers Cuirassiers – 47 tanks each (all with SA38 gun), 11th regiment of dragoons 69 tanks.

◦4 DLM (created June 10, 1940 with the remnants of DLC) Roche Group (10 tanks), 1 RAM.

◦7 DLM (created June 5, 1940 with the remains of four DLC), 8th Dragoons – 40 tanks (including 20 with SA38)


•In armored divisions:

◦ DCR, 25 and 26 battalions of tanks

◦2 DCR, 14 and 27 BCC

◦3 DCR, 42 BCC and 45 BCG

•Battalions of tanks attached to hosts

◦ Army: 13 and 38 BCC – 45 tanks each

•342 independent company tanks – 15 tanks

Alternative Bids:

The factory designation of the amended 35H model 39 was the Hotchkiss light tank model 38 series D, which caused a lot of confusion, because although the official name is still lightweight tank 35H, many began to call 38H or 39H . After the war, it was considered long, wrongly, that the designation of the model with the 120 horsepower engine was the one with the H38 and SA38 gun, H39.

•Light tank model 1935 H official model designation engine with 78 horsepower.

•Light tank model 1935 H modified 39 official designation of the model with 120 horsepower engine.

•Hotchkiss H35 unofficial designation Light Tank Model 1935 H.

•Hotchkiss H38 unofficial designation Light Tank Model 1935 modified H 39.

•Hotchkiss H39 unofficial designation Light Tank Model 1935 H modified with 39 SA38 gun.

Employment in the Wehrmacht

•Panzerkampfwagen 35H 734 (f) designation of German Light Tank Model 1935 H

•Panzerkampfwagen 38H 735 (f) designation of German Light Tank Model 1935 H modified 39

•Artillerieschlepper 38H (f) converting artillery tanker by removing the turret.

•Panzerkampfwagen 35H (f) mit 28/32 cm Wurfrahmen vehicle rocket launcher.

•Pak40 7.5 cm (Sf) auf Geschützwagen 39H (f) conversion tank destroyer commonly called SdKfz. 135 Marder I made ​​24.

•LeFH18 10.5 cm (Sf) auf Geschützwagen 39H (f) conversion propelled 105 mm howitzer, 48 made.

•Panzerbeobachtungswagen 38H (f) conversion of artillery observation vehicle.

Equivalent tanks in 1940


◦Panzerkampfwagen 35 (t), Czech

◦Panzerkampfwagen 38 (t), also Czech








•Philip Trewhitt, Armored Fighting Vehicles. Brown Packaging Books, 1999.

•Touzin Pierre, The French armored vehicles, 1900-1944. EPA, 1979.

•Jean-Gabriel Jeudy, tanks France, FORESTAY 1997.

•E. Tanks and armored Ramspachers French Charles Lavauzelle, 1979.

Tank of the Second World War

French tank of the Second World War

Light Tank


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