Amazingly, this upcoming May-June 2020 will mark the 80th anniversary of the Battle of France. I am curious as to how it will be remembered – if at all. Certainly I would think that both the French and the Germans will likely shy away from commemorating the event for diametrically opposed reasons. Yet, it is definitely worth remembering it as a seminal event that without question fashioned all of the world’s history since.
I have studied this battle since my days at West Point. I was fortunate there to study with the then-USMA Department of History Chair COL Robert A. Doughty (now a retired Brigadier General). I was able to participate in a class (HI498 – a colloquium) with him and just one other cadet during my second semester senior year as part of my concentration of studies in French. A side note – my class – 1984 – was the last class not to have majors – we had concentrations. This meant we could choose 8 classes outside of the 44 classes in the core curriculum. As I love military history, especially French military history, this colloquium was a great opportunity. We studied Alistair Horne’s works among others.
Previously, I have built French and German tanks and run several France 1940 games described in this blog – but my 15mm/1:100 scale tank inventory was quite lacking in terms of the wide variety of vehicles used. I aim to remedy that. I am currently planning on running a game at TotalCon in February, and at HAVOC in April. I may do others as well, plus club gaming sessions. This blog post describes the first chapter of my preparation and force building upgrades for those events – four Hotchkiss light cavalry tanks (one H35 and three H39’s).
I will go over a bit of history of the Hotchkiss tanks and then show some WIP shots of the models. I will then share some eye-candy shots of the finished models. Lastly, as per usual, I will share the paints and materials used in this project.
The H35 tank was originally rejected by the infantry, who chose the R35 instead. It was intended to be a light cavalry tank, though it did equip some infantry tank units as well. Hotchkiss built around 1200 H35’s and H39’s, with the majority being H35’s. The Hotchkiss company was actually founded by an American from Connecticut, Benjamin Hotchkiss. He was a Union ordnance engineer at Colt and a munitions builder during the American Civil War. Finding no US business after that conflict, he moved to France and set up his own company.
The H35 and H39 both had the same 37mm SA18 gun that many French tanks had though the H39 had a longer barrel with better armor penetration (30mm vs 23mm of armor with the shorter barrel). Given that a Panzer IIIE of the time had 30mm of armor all around, this was not adequate to be sure. It had a crew of just two, which made it challenging to operate effectively in battle. Three out of four of the armored divisions’ tank regiments had Hotchkiss tanks (the other one had SOMUA S35’s). The armor was adequate, but with a range of only 80 miles and a top speed of 17 mph, it was not very cavalry-like. On top of it all, it was tough to drive and mechanically unreliable.
After France capitulated, both Germany and Italy got Hotchkiss tanks. Some of these Italian vehicles faced US Army Rangers in Sicily. After the war, some Hotchkiss tanks served on with the Israeli Defense Force until 1952.
I acquired a 3-vehicle packet from Battlefront Miniatures (#FR020) and one single H39 vehicle from Peter Pig (#PP33). The Battlefront ones could be either H35’s or H39’s. In the end, one of the H35 guns was unsatisfactory, so I ended up with one H35 and three H39’s. In the game, there are no differences statistically between the two types.
Now, I would like to share the finished vehicles – eye candy (at least I hope you find them nice to look at).
Battlefront H39’s (two)
Peter Pig H39
This concludes my very last post of 2020 – and the beginning of this project. (I will be doing a 2019 round up of course – but that will be coming later this week).
More Battle of France vehicles (French and German) will be coming and I hope that you will find them interesting. If you have any feedback, good, bad or otherwise, let me know in the comments section – I do appreciate knowing what you think.
Thanks for looking and Happy 2020!
PAINTS, INKS, GLAZES, SHADES, WASHES, PIGMENTS, FLOCKING, GLUES AND MORE USED ON THESE VEHICLES:
Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol 91%
Microscale Liquid Decal Film
1/8″ neodymium magnets
Green stuff (kneadatite)
Poster tack and ¼” square wooden dowels on plastic plates
Back in March of 2017, I learned that the UK-based War Games Supply Dump Miniatures was closing after thirteen years of business. My problem at that time was that I had wanted to get more of their fun-looking retro-sci-fi figures. I had already very much enjoyed painting the Khang Robots I got from WSD for my Warbot platoon that serve as squad leaders in that unit. I had also seen many of WSD’s Dirk Garrison sci-fi line figures on Buck Surdu’s blog. I needed to get some while it was still possible to add to my forces for Combat Patrol™ retro-sci-fi games.
As time was limited (as was Roger’s remaining inventory) I placed a sizable order with Roger for several groups of 28mm scale figures that would be suitable for building platoons – including Khanopians, Valkyrie Space Pirates, and miscellaneous items such as Space Munchkins and my Robo-servo Guns that I posted about here previously. After finishing my Macron unit, I decided that it was time to get some of these languishing WSD projects painted, starting with the Retrovians.
By the way, many of you who follow this blog may recognize Roger as the author of the blog “Rantings from Under the Wargames Table” – a fun blog that unfortunately Roger ended in April of this year (you are indeed missed Roger!).
I was not able to order all of the Retrovian models, but a decent assortment of ones of different poses. I got the following 34 from Roger to build a Retrovian platoon:
3 DG-07 “The Bra’sheer” figures/three-legged vehicles
1 DG-11 “Garkkon” figure (Retrovian Monster)
2 DG-50 “Retrovian Captain w. Sword & Pistol” figures
6 DG-56 “Retrovian Two Man Sonic Cannon Team” crew figures (one had a sonic cannon, one had a pair of sci-fi binoculars – 3 of each)
In deciding how to construct the platoon, I needed to consider how to build something that would be useful as a unit – and that would have some sense as to its build. I also have been watching a number of early 2000’s Star Trek “Enterprise” episodes (that I never saw when the series ran). I have become very fond of the Andorians – and Jeffrey Comb’s portrayal of Commander Shran. The Andorians had not been much seen in the Trek universe since the original 1960’s Star Trek. I decided that in homage the Retrovian platoon would be completed as blue skins and with some Andorian names.
As far as structure, I had enough to create three line squads of two teams. There would be 10 figures in a squad: a squad leader, an A team of a team leader and four troopers, a B team of a team leader (the binocular half of the Sonic Cannon team), a Sonic Cannon gunner, a marksman/sniper, and a Bra’sheer Assault Pod. The Bra’sheer I envisioned as having an automatic weapon and mechanical claws that could tear apart obstacles, walls, or enemies’ heads and limbs.
That left me with enough figures to make two other sections. The first is an HQ section (composed of a platoon leader and a platoon sergeant). The second is a Garkkon section (reporting to the platoon sergeant or platoon leader) with a marksman in control of a giant Garkkon monster suitable for melee. The Garkkon is a hybrid of a fish, a lizard, and a giant chicken – it’s quite amusing to look at.
I will share how I assembled and painted the Bra’sheer pods and the Garkkon, then go into the infantry. Then I’ll share some eye candy that I hope you will like, as well as a glimpse into some of the play aids I made (with help from Buck Surdu) for these in club or convention game play. Lastly, I will share a list of the paints and materials used in the making of this platoon for those interested.
I believe the Bra’sheer were sculpted by Brad Shier – given their names. The three Bra’sheer figures were, like all of these, great sculpts. As I had three, it made sense to assign one per each squad on the B teams. Assembly-wise, I did have a good amount of filing and filling with green stuff to do on these. Also, the process of assembly was a bit difficult as I wanted to get the legs in position such that the chassis were level. I ended up needing to affix one leg at a time and check if they were level.
Eye Candy of painted Retrovian Platoon and Combat Patrol™ Game Aids
Platoon Sergeant, SFC Thelev
1st Squad, A Team Leader
1st Squad, B Team Leader
2nd Squad, A Team Leader
2nd Squad, B Team Leader
2nd Squad Trooper (A Team)
3rd Squad A Team Leader
3rd Squad B Team Leader
Retrovian Platoon (group shots):
This project took a bit longer than I expected it to – about 3-4 weeks – but it was rewarding. I do hope that you found it interesting and fun to look at – so let me know in the comments section – good or bad. Did you pick up on any Andorian references here?
During the Battle of France (May-June 1940), there was an amazing variety of vehicles on both the German and the French sides. At this same time last year, I began putting together a collection of period 15mm/1:100 scale vehicles for this period. These were discussed here. I have previously posted about a couple of games (December 2018 and January 2019) that I ran using the What a Tanker™ rules from the UK’s Too Fat Lardies. I have been hoping to return to this period and add more vehicles to both armies. I am starting this augmentation by adding 3 FCM 36 light tanks to my fleet.
The FCM stands for Société Nouvelle des Forges et Chantiers de la Méditerranée, a shipbuilder in Toulon who manufactured this 1936 design – and delivered about 100 to the French Army up through 1938. Cost and industrial manufacturing concerns limited further purchases. They were a little more than 12 tons, with a crew of two. The armor was fairly good – welded, and very sloped for tanks of the day. It also had a diesel engine and reasonable range unlike many other contemporary French tanks. However, like many other French tanks, it was armed with the weak Puteaux SA 18 37mm gun which definitely had challenges fighting German armor. Notably, two battalions of FCM 36’s tried to repel the bridgehead that the Heinz Guderian had established across the Meuse, but they were too little and too late. After the surrender of France, some of the FCM 36 chassis were converted to Marder I’s or self-propelled artillery. Some of these conversions were involved in the Normandy Campaign of 1944. Today, only one FCM 36 survives at Saumur.
I thought these would be a good addition to my French early-war tank collection. In What a Tanker™, these are the cheapest tanks to buy point-wise. The only source I found for these models was Old Glory. They are metal, and quite small of course.
Lastly, I thought I’d share some group and individual shots and a bit about their debut on the tabletop the day after they were completed.
I used a blue diamond, a red heart, and a red club as decals which would also help identify these as different individual tanks on the tabletop. From my research, FCM’s did not seem to have as many markings historically as other French tanks.
On the other side of the table, Mike’s teammate Tom managed to kill Christine’s Panzer 38(t) with a SOMUA S-35. Mike got another FCM 36, and that was killed by Christine’s teammate Chris’s StuG A (in the shot below on the left). Mike replaced his lost tank with an R35. Tom drove his SOMUA around the building but frustratingly could not take a point-blank shot at the Panzer IIIE (as his dice roll failed him). Mike had to leave, and my wife Lynn (no gamer just watching) took over the R35. Lynn drove the tank to the side of Christine’s Panzer IIIE, and rolled three critical hits – and Christine failed to block any. This knocked out the Panzer IIIE!
That ended the game, with the French winning a very narrow victory 32-31. If Lynn had not rolled so well in killing the Panzer IIIE, the Germans would have won. Thanks to the players for a great and fun game!
I have plans for more French and German tanks for this scenario. I hope that you enjoyed this post, and feel free to share your thoughts and feedback with me in the comments section! I have been behind on my blogging efforts and hope that I can share more with you soon! Thanks for taking a look!