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"Axis Use of French Mechanized Equipment" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following intelligence report on German conversions of captured French tanks and armored cars was originally published in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 9, Oct. 8, 1942.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


At the time of the collapse of France, the equipment of the French Army was on the whole of excellent quality and type, and the factories of her industrial areas were keyed to wartime production. New prototypes were being evolved, and considerable research work was in progress. It was therefore reasonable to expect not only that large quantities of captured war material would come into general use in the Axis armies, but that the Germans would endeavor to swing the whole industrial resources of occupied France into the manufacture of advanced French designs, in addition to normal German equipment, for use by the Axis.

By February 1941, it was already clear that this was the case. The National Socialist Motor Corps was training drivers and mechanics for German's mechanized units on large number of Chenillette tracked carriers. These vehicles are very small tractors. They tow a tracked trailer in which an 81-mm mortar or a light antitank weapon can be carried. Being armored, they could be used in a role very similar to that of the Bren carrier, or as a tractor for antitank or infantry guns. In addition, it became known that French tanks were being sent to Germany; that damaged French tanks were being repaired for the same destination; and that manufacture of French types was continuing on a large scale in Occupied France.

In June 1941, there was a report that about 400 French R35 tanks in Germany were having the turret removed and replaced by an open-roofed armored box shield, in which were mounted a Czech 47-mm antitank gun and a coaxial machine gun. This arrangement was supposed to give a traverse of 50 degrees. The thickness of the shield was said to be 25 mm in front, 20 mm at the sides, and 15 mm in the rear. This report coincided with evidence of a somewhat similar alteration in the German Mark I tank.

The increasing tendency of the Germans to mount heavier guns in tank chassis extended, according to a report of July 1941, to the French 31-ton "Char B", which the Germans were said to have adapted by fitting a 450-horsepower engine and by mounting the very effective German 88-mm multipurpose gun. About the same time, according to a highly placed Axis industrialist, France had produced her five-thousandth tank for the Reichswehr.

Early in the Russian campaign, French R35 tanks were identified from a photograph in a German newspaper as forming part of the German forces. This identification was later confirmed by a report that French tanks were being used in considerable numbers. The only unit definitely identified, however, as being equipped with a proportion of R35 tanks is the 10th Reserve Tank Battalion, which uses them for training only.

It is also confirmed that large numbers of French tanks have been handed over to Italy, including the R35 and the obsolete FT type. The 2d Tank Battalion Renault R35 has been identified with the 4th Tank Regiment at Rome. There is also a battalion "Somua" with the 4th Tank Regiment at Rome, and it is known that the Somua S35 is being used by the Germans. A new version of the S35 known as the Char S40 was to have been made with a more powerful engine and a better suspension. Another Somua type is the SAu4O, which mounted a long barreled 75-mm gun in the hull. Since the S.O.M.U.A. (Societe d' Ouillage Mecanique et d' Usinage d' Artillerie) factory in Paris is making tanks for the enemy, these types may possibly be in production.

Included in the general designation "R35" may be found an improved type with a better suspension, a more powerful Hotchkiss engine, and a slightly different silhouette.

It seems probable that French armored cars also are being used by the Germans. The first report came from a German prisoner, who described French armored cars with armament "just like a German Mark II Tank". The French Panhard 178 AMD 35 armored car is an 8-ton 4-wheeled type with 18-mm front and side armor and mounting one 25-mm quick-firing gun and one machine-gun. Recent evidence indicates that this car may be in course of adoption by the German armored division. Its speed of 50 miles an hour makes this type a very efficient vehicle for its intended purpose.


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