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French “trooper» SOMUA S35

After World War I the French army began to mechanize. This process affected the cavalry – mobile strike force. In the early 30’s cavalry formed the tactical and technical requirements “combat armored vehicle” – a tank designed specifically for mobile mechanized units. Development of machines took up the firm SOMUA – a subsidiary of arms company Shneider.

main Cavalry

contract for the creation and construction of a 13-ton tank with thick armor not less than 40 mm and a maximum speed of at least 30 km / h was signed in October 1934. In fact, to complete the construction of the first prototype, designers SOMUA took only 7 months. In April prototype was ready. To keep within such a short time managed through the use of foreign experience. Engineers working on the suspension and drivetrain, while working in the Czech company “Skoda”, so that these units from many borrowed from the Czech quite good light tank Lt.35. Engine and gearbox also had Czech roots.

The speed and range of the new tank completely satisfy the demands of cavalrymen, but had to spend some serious work to correct deficiencies. The need for new tanks in the cavalry was high, so they did not wait for the final “polishing” the car and made the first order. Tank entered the army in 1936 under the designation Char 1935 S, but more famous and familiar name was SOMUA S35.

French cavalry units so needed a new tank that made the order on the SOMUA S35 without waiting for the “grinding” machines

Due to the haste in taking up arms S35 had reliability problems, and not the most successful arrangement of internal modules created problems for repairers. Therefore, two more years in the design of the tank to make improvements. Only after the deficiencies were largely eliminated, the cavalry S35 formally accepted into service and began to actively buy it for acquisition of parts.

mobile, with a good book – up to 36 mm in the forehead and body up to 56 mm in the tower – and a good 47-mm gun, the tank is considered one of the best cars of its time. And not only in France but also in the world. A serious drawback of the tank was single tower, forcing the commander at the same time work gunner and loader. Theoretically, once on the S35 began installing a tower with an extended chase, the commander could help radio operator, but in combat it was practically impossible.

In the spring of 1939 the French issued technical requirements for modernization SOMUA S35. The updated version of the cavalry tank was reinforced with the engine (220 hp.. Instead of 190) and an improved chassis. However, the main novelty promised to become hull and turret. Instead of casting and assembly bolts to be used welding rolled armor plates. The new tank, designated SOMUA S40, initially going to launch into production in October 1940, but the war that erupted in Europe, made to boost performance. Master serial production of the new cavalry tank designers were ready by July 40th, but the war with Germany still started earlier – in May.

In war as in war

The first really major tank battle of World War II can be considered as the battle of the Belgian city of Hannut, which began May 12, 1940. SOMUA S35, took part in it, the Germans spoiled a lot of blood.

Near the settlement Crea west of Hannut on account of one of the units S35 were four German tanks and anti-tank guns battery. Another detachment among other German cars destroyed in the village of Tin Tank German Colonel Eberbach. The colonel himself, however, survived, but the offensive stalled. In the evening, the Germans attempted to strike again, but SOMUA counterattack forced them back. From this came the battle S35, receiving direct hits from 20-40 20- and 37-mm guns, but without any holes. There was a local success, but failures in other parts of the front still forced the French troops to retreat to the second line of defense.

SOMUA S35 used all along the French campaign of 1940, but the overall experience of their application can be described as local progress within the context of the failure.

S35 идёт в атаку. 1940 год After France surrendered, was part of the S35 in the German armored forces. Tank little finished installing double tower and a better radio station, and give it the name of the Pz.Kpfw. S35 739 (f). As such, “Soma” had to do some fighting on different fronts, including the Soviet-German. With the latter relates the story, which is quite possible, and later became a breeding ground for rumors about the active use of German tanks in the Brest fortress.

When the Germans attacked the USSR on June 22 41st, Brest Fortress one of the first to receive the blow the enemy. The main German tank forces bypassed the fortress side, and its assault laid on the infantry, artillery, and other troops. To hasten the defeat of the Germans decided to use another attack three SOMUA S35, assigned to the armored train № 28. The tanks withdrew from the platforms and go into battle. By the end of the day, all three cars were destroyed by grenades and fired anti-aircraft guns at the North Gate.

Active trophy “French” were used in the fighting on the territory of Finland and Norway during the battle for the Arctic. In 1944, a number of SOMUA S35 again began under French banners and participated in the liberation of their homeland. Thus ended the battle path of one of the best French tanks initial period of World War II. Subsequently, the designers who worked on the S35 and its modifications, formed the backbone of the team, tank building a resurgent France.

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