Book Review
Hotchkiss H35/H39
Track Story #6: Hotchkiss H35/H39
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by: Gary Kato [ GARYKATO ]


The Hotchkiss H35 was one of three light tanks intended to replace the FT-17 for supporting the Infantry. While Renault won the competition, the Cavalry liked the faster H35 and ordered them. All three of the tanks had 40mm of armor, which was quite thick for the time. Like the FT-17, they had a 2 man crew and were armed with the short barreled 37mm SA18 gun (sometimes even pulled out of retired FT-17s) and a co-axial machine gun.


The book was written by Pascal Danjou with color profiles by Eric Schwartz and English translation by Claude Gillono. It was published in 2006 by Editions du Barbotin (ISBN 978-2-9520988-5-9). The book has 62 6.75"x9.5" pages with text in both French and English. There are no scale drawings. All photos are black and white with 36 color profiles at the back of the book.

The Chapters

Tankette or Light Tank? gives an overview of the development of the H35 and later H38. The Hotchkiss was originally a casemate design, but then switched to using the APX turret. Later, the H35 was given an up-rated engine leading to the H38, although usually referred to as the H39. Late-production H39s had the longer barreled SA38 gun. There are 2 photos of the casemate prototype, 3 of turreted prototypes, 4 photos of Hotchkiss and AMX tail trials, 4 photos of mine damage tests, 1 photo of AMX turrets (SA38), 1 photo of the gun breech inside the turret, 1 photo of ammo stowage, 1 cut-away drawing of the H35, 1 photo of an H35 with R40 suspension, 1 photo of a mine clearing device, 1 grainy photo of an H39 entering a water proofing test ditch, and 1 photo of an Australian Sentinel (the connection is explained in the text). There are also illustrations of the H35 and H38 from maintenance manuals to show the major external differences between the two. These are general drawings not detailed plans.

Distribution and Organization covers what units had which type of Hotchkiss. Although the Cavalry was the initial buyer, the Infantry decided to order it as well. A table breaks out H35 versus H38 (new engine) and H39 (SA38) tanks. There are 3 photos.

May/June 1940 - The Battle of France has descriptions of combat use. There are 13 photos, about half having been taken after the French lost them.

The Camouflage and Markings chapter mentions how camouflage was standard but markings varied between units. Some unit variations are discussed. There are 6 photos.

Narvik discusses the interesting story of an expeditionary unit meant for Finland, but used for Norway instead. There are 7 photos, all of tanks with this unit in Norway and in England after evacuating Norway.

The African Saga covers not only Vichy use of the tank but continues the saga of the Free French expeditionary unit now finding itself in Africa. There are 9 photos, 7 of which cover the Free French expeditionary unit, 1 of a Vichy French unit in Africa (which opposed Operation Torch), and 1 of H35/38 hulls in Syria ready to be disposed of.

PanzerKampfwagen 38H (f) shows how the Germans used the H35/39. Most of the text covers the use of the tank with various German units with some mention of variants such as the 75mm-armed tank destroyer, 105mm-armed self-propelled artillery vehicle, and turret-less utility vehicles. There are 7 photos of H35 (6 with German-modified cupolas), 2 of the tank destroyer, 2 of artillery vehicle, and 2 of turret-less utility vehicles.

1944/1948 The Last Battles covers late-war use by the Free French Insurgents, post-war use by the French forces occupying Germany, and by the Israelis. There are 4 photos of Free French tanks, 1 of an unusual wreck in a field, 1 of a possibly faked tank re-fitted with a British 2 pdr gun, and 2 of Israeli H39s.

Color Profiles, as usual, is the best part of the book. There are twice the number of color profiles than previous Trackstory books. Because of the fixed 62 page Trackstory format, this means squeezing three profiles onto each page instead of the usual two. There are profiles for 24 French, 8 German, 1 Free French Insurgents, 1 Post-War French, and 2 Israeli vehicles. German versions include a 38H in Russia, a 38H in France, a utility vehicle, a radio/command vehicle, a tank destroyer, an artillery vehicle, an H39 armed with Wurfrahmen rocket launchers, and an H39 in the Balkans.
The Israeli version rearmed with a 2pdr gun is suspected of being a fake version. There is one discrepancy in the other Israeli profile in that the vehicle depicted is shown with a German cupola in the profile while the accompanying photo shows it with the original French dome. The profile is probably based on the H39 in the Latrun Museum which is either another H39 painted as 421 or perhaps the turret of 421 had been replaced/modified after 1948.

Bibliography lists books for further reference.
Highs: Overall coverage of the history of the tank. Lots of color profiles!
Lows: The Trackstory format is too short to do this tank and its combat history justice.
Verdict: This book is a great overview of the H35 and H38 with plenty of color schemes for a modeler to choose from.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: Other
  Mfg. ID: ISBN 978-2-9520988-5-9
  Suggested Retail: $22.95 USD
  PUBLISHED: Mar 22, 2009

About Gary Kato (GaryKato)

Copyright 2021 text by Gary Kato [ GARYKATO ]. All rights reserved.


Nice one Gary! - did you spot the official illustrations show the cupola in the centre of the turret roof I also discovered while building the Trumpeter Hotchkiss that you can get away with diascope vision devices on the turret of early production H-39s, something the book doesn't show. Absolutely worth buying in spite of any caveats. David
MAR 22, 2009 - 06:38 AM
No, I hadn't noticed! But then I suppose such errors happen in current manuals as well.
MAR 22, 2009 - 08:04 AM
Another one on the way too http://www.minitracks.fr/ David
MAR 22, 2009 - 08:32 AM
Wow. Actually I think the Trackstory format would be too small for the FT-17 although if they just stick to French/German use it might not be bad.
MAR 22, 2009 - 09:37 AM
I suspect the new volume will just cover use of the FT-17 in the late 30s and 1940, maybe with some German conversions. David
MAR 22, 2009 - 09:30 PM

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