At the start of World War Two the largest tank force in the western world was that of the French Army. The French could call on 3,600 plus tanks in all 3 groups and 5 types. There were 3 light tanks classes in the form of the Renault R35, Hotchkiss H35, and FCM36. The Char B1 filled the role of a heavy tank and the Somua S35 filling the medium role. At the start of World War Two the Somua S35 is considered to have been the best tank of its time, the reasons for this belief was its mix of firepower, speed, and armour protection. When France capitulated to Germany on the 25th June 1940 a large number of these tanks were pressed into service by the German forces, it is this aspect concerning specifically the Somua S35 in German service that this book from Tankograd Publishing looks at.
Just in case you have never looked at a Tankograd Publishing book before this book as with a lot of Tankograd Publishing books is duel language, having German text on the left hand side of the page and English text on the right. The book has 72 pages 10 of which is text. There are also 130 black and white pictures between its covers.
Having looked at the Somua S35 on display at Bovington Tank Museum I have to say that there is something that appeals about this tank, and the history and pictures within this book from Tankograd Publishing only increases its appeal. When you look at the tank and compare it to other vehicles of the period you can see just how much more advanced it looks. The text in the book begins with short introduction on the tanks in French service and just as the British Army how poorly they were utilised when war was declared. Some interesting facts regarding the Somua S35 that is covered in the book is that a large number of Somua S35 tanks were delivered minus their turrets due to shortages of steel. By the time France surrendered the French had 420 Somua S35’s and all of these vehicles regardless of what state they were in were now in German hands.
The book also covers the fact that the German military machine marched into World War Two a lot sooner than it should have and that if the British and French forces had been better commanded the war would likely have been a lot shorter with the same outcome. The German armour that lead the Blitzkrieg we are all familiar with was not a match for the armour it faced but was used too much better effect, what is probably not so well known is just how far the German forces were from full mechanization. It is due to these reasons that the German military pressed so much French and for that matter British war material into service. The Beutepanzer was always going to be a part of the German war machine and there is quite a lot of detail on this subject generally covered in the text.
The text goes into quite some detail on how the German Army intended to equip units with the same types of captured vehicles and press them into service where needed, this proved to be impractical for the most part. The vehicles were still put to work though performing the task of keeping control of captured areas and thus in time freeing up the German Panzers to continue to fight at the front, this proved to be especially important when Hitler sent the German Army into Soviet Russia on the 22nd June 1944. One amusing piece I read was how 23 Somua S35’s were sent to North Africa to perform Policing duties with French crews, These crews promptly joined the British and Free French forces and fought against the Germans.
The pictures in the book considering their age are for the most part excellent; however some are showing their age. The picture selection shows the Somua performing a number of duties including as a prime mover for the artillery. The detail that can be picked out from these pictures will really help anyone who has purchased the Inside the Armour Somua kit or perhaps at some point in the future an injection moulded plastic version, I say future as the kit that is out there I understand is very hard to love.
This book from Tankograd Publishing on the Somua S35 would seem to me to be a must for anyone with a kit of the tank. Having all of these pictures in one place for easy reference will greatly enhance the modellers ability to reproduce a model that is as accurate as possible. The history of the Somua S35 is just icing on the cake here as speaking for myself I like to know at least some of the history of the specific vehicle or at least the vehicle type.
Highs: A great selection of pictures with a fair history of the vehicle type as Beutepanzers in the German Army.Lows: I did find a single spelling mistake in the English text which I know annoys some.Verdict: Highly recommended.
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About Darren Baker (CMOT) FROM: ENGLAND - SOUTH WEST, UNITED KINGDOM
I have been building model kits since the early 70’s starting with Airfix kits of mostly aircraft, then progressing to the point I am at now building predominantly armour kits from all countries and time periods. Living in the middle of Salisbury plain since the 70’s, I have had lots of opportunitie...