|Manufacturer||Hotchkiss et Cie|
|Primary Role||Light Tank|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseThe Char léger modèle 1935 H light tanks, or H35 for short, were designed by the French firm Société Anonyme des Anciens Etablissements Hotchkiss et Cie in 1933 as light and relatively inexpensive tanks to reinforce the French Army. The design was approved on 30 Jun 1933. The specifications finalized and made available on 2 Aug and three prototypes ordered. The first prototype, a turret-less machine gun tankette, was delivered on 18 Jan 1935. The second prototype was delivered on 4 Mar with the same specifications. After the first two prototypes were rejected, the third was delivered on 19 Aug, which had a cast APX turret; it was accepted on 20 Sep. An order for 200 vehicles was issued on 6 Nov and the first was delivered on 12 Sep 1936. Prior to the delivery of the first production vehicle, two additional orders were placed for a total of 200 additional vehicles.
ww2dbaseThe H35 tanks were small vehicles armored by six cast armor plates bolted together, allowing room for only two inside each vehicle. They were difficult to drive, result of weak brakes and fifth gears that was difficult to engage, thus they were handled roughly, causing mechanical unreliability. After field testing, the French Army Infantry accepted only the first 100 H35 vehicles and refused to take further units due to their finding that the H35 light tanks, since they were difficult to drive, handled bumpy terrain unsatisfactorily. The remaining 300 tanks on order were assigned to the Cavalry instead, a division of the Army that used roads more extensively, meaning they had less worry with the issue with bumpy terrain.
ww2dbaseThe French cavalry had two major complaints about the H35 light tanks. First, the armament was weak. To improve the weapon, some of the guns were bored out to accept large shells, but this method was not widely employed as it increased barrel wear. The other issue was the low top speed, which was remedied in 1937 (with ease of drive improved along with it) when larger engines were installed; the new design with the more power engine was accepted on 31 Jan 1939 under the designation Char léger modèle 1935 H modifié 39. On 18 Feb, the new variant design succeeded all original production.
ww2dbaseIn early 1940, some H35 tanks were modernized with radios, and some were equipped with the longer L/35 37-millimeter SA38 guns. In Apr 1940, the newer guns became standard on all H35 light tanks under production.
ww2dbaseIn Feb 1940, two H35 light tanks were export to Turkey.
ww2dbaseWhen the European War began in Sep 1939 with the German invasion of France, 640 H35 light tanks (and variants) were available to the French Army, although only about 500 were in active service in Europe. The start of the war caused the French to plan to expand production, and to aid the French, the British and Portuguese industries were assisting in the production by casting armor sections. The first H35 light tanks saw combat in Poland when three of them, under testing by the Polish Army, were pressed into service on 14 Sep 1939 during the German invasion. 15 of them fought in Norway and participated in the battles at Narvik; 3 were lost during fighting, and the remaining 12 were withdrawn to Britain on 8 Jun and joined the Free French forces in England. By May 1940, at least 1,200 were built, and many of them fought during the defense of France against the German invasion. When France surrendered, about 550 of them were captured by the German forces, which pressed them back into service under the designation Panzerkampfwagen 35H 734(f) and Panzerkampfwagen 38H 735(f); under the German banner, most of them served in occupation roles, though some of them were deployed to Finland during Operation Silver Fox. In 1943, Germany provided Bulgaria 19 H35 light tanks for training purposes, and in 1944 provided 15 to Hungary and a few to Croatia. By Dec 1944, German Army inventory reports show that only about 60 were still in service. In North Africa, 27 H35 light tanks were used against the Allies in Nov 1942, destroying four M3 Stuart tanks, but the French regiment later switched sides.
ww2dbaseAfter WW2, some H35 light tanks remained in active service, mostly with police and other internal security forces in France, Bulgaria, Israel, and others.
Last Major Revision: Oct 2009
|Machinery||One 6-cylinder 3,480cc engine rated at 78hp|
|Suspension||Horizontal helical springs|
|Armament||1x37mm SA 18 gun (100 rounds), 1x7.5mm Reibel machine gun|
|Armor||40mm turret, 34mm hull|
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James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945