Tuesday, February 16, 2016

French Renault R35 Tank in German Service

French Renault R 35 Nr.50968 "Le Hérisson" (The Hedgehog) tank of 2e Compagnie / 21e Bataillon, (commanded by Lieutenant Gout in the Battle of France in 1940), after its captured by the Germans. After the fall of France, 843 of R35s fell into German hands; 131 were used as such as Panzerkampfwagen 35R 731 (f), issued to panzer units and mainly used for security duties or driver training, or used on armoured trains; most were later rebuilt as artillery tractors and ammunition carriers after removing the turret. A considerable number, 174 according to some sources, were converted into a 47 mm tank destroyer to replace the Panzerjäger I: the 4,7 cm PaK(t) auf Panzerkampfwagen 35R(f) ohne Turm. The tank destroyer version had the turret replaced with an armoured superstructure mounting a 47mm kanon P.U.V. vz. 36 (Škoda A6) anti-tank gun. The vehicles were converted by Alkett between May to October 1941 to try and make an equivalent vehicle to the Panzerjäger I. The result was not as successful as the Panzerjäger I, mainly due to the slow speed of the R 35 and the overloaded chassis. A few were deployed in Operation Barbarossa, most were deployed in occupied territories, such as the Channel Islands, The Netherlands (with Panzerjäger-Abteilung 657, part of Panzer-Kompanie 224) and France. They fought in the battles for Normandy with Schnelle Brigade 30 in 1944 (five attached to the 3.Kompanie / Schnelle-Abteilung 517), and around Arnhem with Panzerjäger-Abteilung 657. Other possible users include 346. Infanterie-Division in Normandy and 59. Infanterie-Division who fought the 101st Airborne at Arnhem. Some of the turrets were detached from the tanks and were used on defensive fighting positions known as "Tobruks". This gave the Tobruk enhanced firepower and the gunner protection from shrapnel and small arms. Fourteen R 35 tanks, used to train tank drivers, equipped the 100. Panzer-Ersatz-Bataillon (100th Panzer Replacement Battalion) in the German 7. Armee in 1944. On 6 June 1944, they were among the first Armee-Reserve units sent into combat near Sainte-Mère-Église to oppose the American airborne landings in Normandy. Supporting a counterattack by the Grenadier-Regiment 1057, R35s penetrated the command post of the U.S. 1st Battalion 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment before being destroyed by bazooka fire.

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