Friday, 13 January 2017

'Liberated' R35 in German service

As certainly some of my regular followers will be aware of, I'm currently taking part in the frenzy that is the Annual Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge. Thus service on this blog might be even more erratic than usual. 
Panzerkampfwagen 35R 731(f) - France June 1940
The Char léger Modéle 1935 R, better known as Renault R35 or just R 35, was the most numerous french tank fielded in World War II. Considered a light tank it weighed in at 10.6 tons and had a crew of 2. For its time it was relatively well protected with a maximum armour of 43mm at the front. About 1700 vehicles were built between 1936 and the armistice in June 1940. Thus it was also the most numerous french tank (around 800 vehicles) captured and employed by the Wehrmacht.

While the battle for France was still lasting the first 'liberated' R 35's were already turned against their former owners. Some of the vehicles were hastily repainted in grey while others still retained their original french camouflage. In order to prevent 'friendly fire' incidents, huge Balkenkreuze were applied to the vehicles. Due to its low speed and weak armament German crews weren't overly enthusiastic about their new charges. The tank commander was severely over worked as he had to act as gunner and loader simultaneously as well. In the few vehicles fitted with radios the commander had to fulfill that task too, adding to the strain already put on him.

R35 with German installed double-door hatch and trench rail
At first the R 35's (now named Panzerkampfwagen 35R 731(f)) were used as training vehicles for Operation Seelöwe but by autumn many of the tanks were overhauled to fit German standards. This above all meant replacing the useless observation cupola with a simple double-door hatch to allow for better allround view and accessibility for the tank commander. Still around 25 unmodified vehicles were given to armoured units of the Ordnungspolizei.

Due to its somewhat underwhelming performance the R 35 wasn't even considered to be employed as a fighting vehicle during Operation Barbarossa, not even for second line units. Considering the Wehrmacht was at all times pressed by a need for tanks and was still fielding the outdated Panzer I and II's at that time, that's quite a statement in my eyes.
While the R 35 obviously had no place as a front line vehicle in the armoured units of the Wehrmacht, some were used by the Luftwaffe for guarding airfields, some were used as training vehicles and for occupational duties, especially in France and the channel islands. Others still saw minor combat during the axis campaign on the Balkans and still later on in Anti-partisan operations. A few tanks were also given to Germanys allies

By far the greatest number of R35's were converted to fulfill different tasks though. For example it saw service as an artillery tractor or Bergeschlepper (recovery vehicle) on the eastern front after having been stripped of turrets and ammunition racks. They were used successfully to pull even heavier pieces like the 15cm sFH 18 heavy howitzer and the even heavier 17cm Kanone 18 in Mörserlafette. It was also quite commonly used as a self-propelled anti-tank gun called 4.7cm Pak(t) (Sfl) auf Fgst.Pz.Kpfw.35 R 731(f). With the chassis of the R 35 being even smaller than the Panzer I's on which the Panzerjäger I was based, it needed some ingenuity to fit the same Czech made 4.7cm Pak onto it.

In a desperate bid to stop the Allied onslaught during and after D-Day a number of R 35's from the various training regiments were put to the field by the Wehrmacht. If it was a weak vehicle by the start of World War II it was completely chanceless by 1944, thus suffering badly. The last recorded action of R35's in German service was during the liberation of Paris in August 1944.
The last ever recorded action though took place as late as 1958 during the Lebanon crisis.

The model is by Warlord Games and if it hadn't been in the bargain stash of my local gaming store, I'd have been rather disappointed with the kit. The detail is weak and it didn't go together as smoothly as newer resin kits. If I should ever fancy another go at some of the various versions in German service I'd definitely give the Neucraft Models version a try.

At first I wanted to convert it to have the double-door hatch but as I couldn't find one of the spare hatches in my bits box till after priming, I went for the unmodified version to field it as part of my Blitzkrieg force. The driver was a simple conversion by adding a plastic head with field cap from the German Blitzkrieg Infantry set by Warlord Games.


  1. This was a stunning piece of work Nick, lovely conversions and wonderful brushwork.

  2. Respect. I painted two R35 from Warlord Games. Hard work.

  3. Beautiful model! The bio on the R35 is quite interesting. Thanks for sharing both!

  4. Excellent work Nick and an enjoyable read as well! I'm really looking forward to seeing this and quite interested to see how it preforms.


  5. Great looking model...and pictures!

  6. Impressive bit of kit - nice paint work.

  7. Nice theme ! I like those strange tiny pre-war tin-cans.

  8. WTF - wirklich tolle Farbgebung, wollte ich sagen.
    Brillant work, Nik

  9. Perfection again, Nick! Your painting and posing makes this look like a page out of history.

  10. Very nice painting once again! Love the uniform of the guy in the turret as well as the corroded exhaust pipe!

  11. Beautiful, beautiful work on the tank! Great realism on such a small model.