In 1934 the French began experiments with purely armored formations in creation of their first Division légère mécanique (DLM, Light Mechanized Division). Essentially a cavalry formation, maneuvers involving the DLM revealed the need for heavier armament. This led to the Renault R-35 and the Hotchkiss H-35 tanks, basically downsized D-2s. These two were the most numerous French tanks in World War II. Both had two-man crews, but the R-35 weighed about 22,000 pounds and had an 82-hp engine, speed of 12–13 mph, maximum 40mm armor thickness, and armament of one short-barreled 37mm main gun and one machine gun. The French built about 2,000 R-35s and exported them to Poland, Turkey, Romania, and Yugoslavia. The Germans later captured and modified a number of these for their own use and also converted some to artillery tractors and gave others to Italy.
The H-35, R-35, H-38, and H-39 were all of high quality compared to the German tanks at that time. The chief drawback in the French tanks was probably their one-man turret. All three symbolized the French embrace of the doctrine of light tanks operating in support of infantry, a concept seriously open to question; French tankers deserved better.
Summary: Mid-1930s successor to the Renault FT-17 light tank designed for infantry support. Widely exported before the war to Poland, Yugoslavia, Romania, and Turkey.
Production dates: 1935–April 1940
Number produced: Approx. 2,000; 945 available in the Battle for France (the largest number of any French tank of the campaign)
Armament: 1 x 37mm (.46-inch) main gun in turret mount; 1 x 7.5mm (.295-caliber) machine gun (coaxial)
Weight: 22,046 lbs.
Armor: maximum 40mm
Power plant: Renault four-cylinder 82-hp gasoline engine
Maximum speed: 12 mph
Range: 88 miles
Fording depth: 2’7”
Vertical obstacle: 1’7.7”
Trench crossing: 5’3”
Special characteristics (positive/negative): A high-quality fighting vehicle with well-designed cast turrets and hulls and Cletrac steering; its principal drawbacks were its insufficient main gun and unsatisfactory internal arrangement of the one-man turret. The R-35 never achieved its potential because it was deployed piecemeal against massed German armor formations.
Special models: After the defeat of France in 1940, the Germans gave some R-35s to Italy and utilized others as garrison and training tanks or modified them for use as ammunition carriers and artillery tractors. Some also had their turrets removed and were employed as self-propelled gun carriers in coastal defense works.
The Renault R40 is the final variation of the R35. It was developed by the Atelier de Construction d’Issy-les-Moulineaux (AMX) which introduced a brand new and better suspension that consisted of 12 pairs of small road-wheels on each side mounted in pairs, vertical coil springs, and protective skirting plates. This vehicle mounted the long-barreled 37mm SA38 L/33 gun in the APX-R1 turret and had an AMX trench-crossing tail. Just less than 120 tanks had been built from 10th May 1940 onwards and put into service with the serial numbers 51541 to 51658. They equipped the 40e BCC (30 R40 and 15 R35), the 48e BCC (29 R40 and 16 R35), and the reconstituted 28e BCC (24 R40 and 21 R35), also beginning June 1940, two Polish companies in France (companies "Pagézy" and "Chabowski" with 15 R40 each).
Crew: 2 men
Maximum armor: 43mm (APX-R turret is cast and hull is cast armor + RHA bolted elements)
Maximum speed: 20-23 km/h (Renault engine, 4 cylinders, gasoline, 85 hp, 5880 cm3, water cooled)
Transmission: 4 forward, 1 reverse
Range: 140 km
Armament : a 37mm SA38 L/33 gun and a 7.5mm MAC1931 CMG (42 AP, 58 HE and 3000 cartridges - elevation of -16 to +20° and traverse of 5° right and 5° left but could be blocked to aim only with the turret rotation).
37mm SA38 L/33
Theoretical rate of fire: 15 rpm
Traverse of 5° right and 5° left (could be blocked to aim only with the turret rotation)
Telescopic sight : 4x (L.767 telescopic sight, range drum up to 1400m for the APC shells and 1600m for the coaxial MG, field of view 11.25°, + reticule)
Practical AT range: 600-800m