The French Campaign 1940
French Tanks in 1940
The rapid rout of the French Army in May and June 1940 threw doubt on the fighting spirit of the men and the quality of their equipment.
The armoured divisions did not escape these harsh judgements which were delivered without any distinction during all the emotion of defeat. But the passage of time and a little distance are necessary for History to be the judge.
We know today:
the number of armoured vehicles and equivalent, in both camps that the modern German tanks, greater in number, were often shown to be inferior to their French counterparts that the French armoured cavalry and battle tank crews can pride themselves on their genuine feat of arms in stopping the German advance at the price of heavy losses
Despite the efforts and foresight of certain officers, and in particular Colonel De Gaulle and Generals Flavigny and Delestraint, France went to war in 1939 under the command of generals still dazzled by the victory of 1918 and deaf to the warnings of recent events.
At the time of the general mobilisation, French armour was still scattered about principally in support of the Infantry. As in 1917, mechanised divisions had hardly begun to be formed and only then in the light of the invasion of Poland by the hordes of Panzers thundering down in serried ranks and overturning everything in their path.
Amongst the exhibits on show in the hall, The French Campaign 1940, are:
Hotchkiss H 39 Renault AMR 33 Renault R 39 Renault R 35 Panhard AMD 178 Renault B1 bis Somua S 35 Renault UE 31 Gnome & Rhone Motorcycle and Side-Car
Documents published in this section
The Hotchkiss H 39 is a small tank at 4.22 metres long, 1.95 metres wide and 2.15 metres high.
The bodywork is made up of six cast steel sections bolted together. There is the engine floor and that of the cabin which together make up the base of the vehicle, and four sections forming the upper bodywork: one to the front, one to the rear and two sides.
The most powerful French tank in service in 1940 was already outmoded, its principal ordnance being housed en casemate (armour protection to the front and two sides) which greatly reduced the field of aim.