Evaluation of Somua 35

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cbo
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Post by cbo » 05 Sep 2007 07:30

Tim Smith wrote: Very telling that the Germans needed to roll out their 'heavy tank' - the Panzer IV - to beat the S-35 medium tank, and even then they took considerable losses in tank vs tank combat. (Panzer IV was regarded as a heavy tank in 1937-1940.)
Who exactly thought the Panzer IV to be a heavy tank in 1937-1940? It weighed between 18.5 and 20 tons depending on model while the Panzer III was between 15.5 and 19.5 depending on model in that timeframe. There was nothing "heavy" about its role on the battlefield either, it was a support vehicle for Panzer III. And finally, it was organized in medium tank companies (Mittleren Panzerkompanie).

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Post by cbo » 05 Sep 2007 07:36

Carl Schwamberger wrote:"About the autonomy of the tanks (in km, by road), I have these data roughly: "

David... what do you regard as the most relaible sources for this sort of data?
FWIW, I would only consider data for autonomy, range or fuel consumption reliable if it is clearly stated under what conditions the data applies. Otherwise, you can very easily end up with comparing off-road consumption for one vehicle with roadmarch consumption for another.

cbo

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Post by Carl Schwamberger » 09 Sep 2007 06:00

cbo wrote:
Tim Smith wrote: Very telling that the Germans needed to roll out their 'heavy tank' - the Panzer IV - to beat the S-35 medium tank, and even then they took considerable losses in tank vs tank combat. (Panzer IV was regarded as a heavy tank in 1937-1940.)
Who exactly thought the Panzer IV to be a heavy tank in 1937-1940? It weighed between 18.5 and 20 tons depending on model while the Panzer III was between 15.5 and 19.5 depending on model in that timeframe. There was nothing "heavy" about its role on the battlefield either, it was a support vehicle for Panzer III. And finally, it was organized in medium tank companies (Mittleren Panzerkompanie).

cbo
The "heavy" label comes in part from German soldiers who's descriptions are translated into English as "heavy". I dont have their original comments in German in front of me so I cant say what exact word they used, but the translations use the word 'heavy'. In some cases they may be refering to the MkIII as a heavy tank, its not clear.

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Post by ChristopherPerrien » 09 Sep 2007 06:40

One thing not mentioned yet, was a critical weak spot of the S35, where the lower and upper hull met and was secured by bolts all the way around the entire hull. If a round hit this seam the Somua could catastrophically split in two along this seam.

Chris
"Most of the crewmember communicated by shouting inside the tank or for example the tank commander who was sitting in the turret had his feet close to the shoulders of the driver below ... just by pushing or kicking he was able to order (left, right etc.). "


Ouch! That must have been a bruising experience for the driver, especially whenever the TC got excited in combat. But I think this system was not exclusive to the French army. ISTR something similar being reported by tankers in some of the early war US tanks.
I can vouch that this method/system of commo was still used in US Armor Corps in the 1990's. :lol:

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David Lehmann
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Post by David Lehmann » 09 Sep 2007 08:53

ChristopherPerrien wrote:One thing not mentioned yet, was a critical weak spot of the S35, where the lower and upper hull met and was secured by bolts all the way around the entire hull. If a round hit this seam the Somua could catastrophically split in two along this seam.

Chris
IMHO this is perhaps relevant on a test bench, making physical tests, but roughly never happened in reality on the battlefield. It is nonetheless often brought on the table by people playing WW2 online, as well as the urban myth of the very weak spot of the B1bis's air intake. I think the single photo where I saw a Somua S35 roughly in 2 parts was a German one destroyed probably by a mine. Otherwise I have seen hundreds of photos of French Somua S35's (wrecks or abandoned), even hit on critical points by what seems to be 8.8cm or 10.5cm shells or destroyed by what seemed to be an internal explosion ... of course the tanks were out of use but I never saw a tank cut in two parts along these bolts. I am not saying it was impossible at all, but it was not such critical that it would happen frequently on the battlefield.

Regards,

David

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Tim Smith
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Post by Tim Smith » 09 Sep 2007 09:40

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
cbo wrote:
Tim Smith wrote: Very telling that the Germans needed to roll out their 'heavy tank' - the Panzer IV - to beat the S-35 medium tank, and even then they took considerable losses in tank vs tank combat. (Panzer IV was regarded as a heavy tank in 1937-1940.)
Who exactly thought the Panzer IV to be a heavy tank in 1937-1940? It weighed between 18.5 and 20 tons depending on model while the Panzer III was between 15.5 and 19.5 depending on model in that timeframe. There was nothing "heavy" about its role on the battlefield either, it was a support vehicle for Panzer III. And finally, it was organized in medium tank companies (Mittleren Panzerkompanie).

cbo
The "heavy" label comes in part from German soldiers who's descriptions are translated into English as "heavy". I dont have their original comments in German in front of me so I cant say what exact word they used, but the translations use the word 'heavy'. In some cases they may be refering to the MkIII as a heavy tank, its not clear.
I've heard the early Panzer IV described as a 'heavy support' tank. The 'heavy' part probably refers to the size of the gun rather than the weight of the tank. 75mm was a big gun by 1939 standards.

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Post by ChristopherPerrien » 09 Sep 2007 20:42

IMHO this is perhaps relevant on a test bench, making physical tests, but roughly never happened in reality on the battlefield. It is nonetheless often brought on the table by people playing WW2 online,
Well I have never even seen WW2 online , but the phenomenom of the Somua vunerability I mentioned is my recollection is from many and varied sources about the Somua, and all long predate the internet. I am not one to BS about so obscure an issue, it is just something I have heard/read many times. Wish I could point to a source to reference, but I would have to dig deep into my book collection and I don't have the time.

Chris

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Post by cbo » 10 Sep 2007 06:50

Carl Schwamberger wrote:The "heavy" label comes in part from German soldiers who's descriptions are translated into English as "heavy". I dont have their original comments in German in front of me so I cant say what exact word they used, but the translations use the word 'heavy'. In some cases they may be refering to the MkIII as a heavy tank, its not clear.
Tim Smith wrote:I've heard the early Panzer IV described as a 'heavy support' tank. The 'heavy' part probably refers to the size of the gun rather than the weight of the tank. 75mm was a big gun by 1939 standards.
I've read a French account talking about German 70-tons monster tanks streaming into France and Belgium in 1940, so I'm sure that under the right circumstances, some people - German, French or other - might also have described the Panzer IV as a "heavy tank" :)

It is just not a very good description of the Panzer IV.

Just as some like to call it an "infantry support tank", which is equally misleading as to what the function of the Panzer IV actually was.

cbo

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Michael Emrys
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Post by Michael Emrys » 10 Sep 2007 07:45

cbo wrote:I've read a French account talking about German 70-tons monster tanks streaming into France and Belgium in 1940, so I'm sure that under the right circumstances, some people - German, French or other - might also have described the Panzer IV as a "heavy tank" :)
US GIs were confusing it with the Panzer VI Tiger at least as late as 1944 and probably into the next year as well. I reckon any enemy tank that's pointed at you looks huge.

Michael

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phylo_roadking
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Post by phylo_roadking » 10 Sep 2007 14:46

LOL well, take a look at the pics of PzIVs with turret schurtzen....if all you saw was a ROUND turret approaching you over the hearest hedgerow - you'd run!

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Tim Smith
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Post by Tim Smith » 10 Sep 2007 17:00

cbo wrote: Just as some like to call it an "infantry support tank", which is equally misleading as to what the function of the Panzer IV actually was.
cbo
Actually the Panzer IV was originally a 'tank support tank'. It was to support the Panzer III by shelling enemy anti-tank guns with HE from long range, so the Panzer III's wouldn't be knocked out.

However 'tank support tank' sounds confusing. 'support tank' is less confusing.

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David Lehmann
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Post by David Lehmann » 10 Sep 2007 18:45

cbo wrote:I've read a French account talking about German 70-tons monster tanks streaming into France and Belgium in 1940, so I'm sure that under the right circumstances, some people - German, French or other - might also have described the Panzer IV as a "heavy tank" :)

cbo
About "70-tons monsters", that is also usually the description made by the Germans about the B1bis tank in a lot of accounts. The B1bis tanks are then described as:
- "Stahlkolosse" (iron colossus)
- "Stahlriesen" (iron giants)
- "Stahlfestungen" (iron fortress)
- "stählernde Kasten" (iron boxes roughly)
- "Riesentiere" (giant beasts)
- "Ungeheur", "Ungetüme", "Untiere" (monsters)

Regards,

David

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cbo
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Post by cbo » 11 Sep 2007 08:43

Tim Smith wrote: Actually the Panzer IV was originally a 'tank support tank'. It was to support the Panzer III by shelling enemy anti-tank guns with HE from long range, so the Panzer III's wouldn't be knocked out.

However 'tank support tank' sounds confusing. 'support tank' is less confusing.
Again, I have to ask, who exactly used these terms to describe what? I dont recall seeing any references to the Panzer IV being labelled a "tank support tank" during its development and use? Or are they just your labels?

I guess "Support tank" could be seen as a translation of "Begleitwagen" (perhaps "companion tank" would be more correct), but it is in fact a rather confusing label, as it does not say anything about what the Panzer IV was supposed to support :)

As for its role on the battlefield, the Panzer IV was supposed to deal with the same primary targets as any other German tank. Those targets were enemy heavy weapons, including tanks. Panzer IVs could be deployed as the situation dictated, either in support of the lighter tanks or with them, in the first wave or second wave of the attack etc. Despite being organized in a company on their own, they could be used together or parcelled out as platoons as the situation dictated. What put the Panzer IV in a supporting role was the need to call them in when soft targets could not be dealt with by the machinegun fire of the light tanks (including the Panzer III) or the use of smokeshells was needed.

It would appear that the introduction of HE ammunition for the light tanks (2cm and 3,7cm, later 5cm) reduced the need for the Panzer IV as a specialized HE-lobbing vehicle and the introduction of the dual purpose 7,5cm L/43 gun basically removed that need.
There is an interesting table in Jentz "Panzertruppen" vol II p. 52 showing the distribution of tanks in the platoons of PzRgt 11 in April 1943. The different types of tanks - Panzer III (5cm L/60), Panzer III (7,5cm L/24) and Panzer IV (7,5cm L/43) are mixed in the platoons, confirming that the specialization that lead to the need for the Panzer IV had been abandoned in the field long before the distinction between light and medium companies was abandoned later in 1943.

cbo

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Re: Evaluation of Somua 35

Post by DannyD1199 » 03 Mar 2008 22:07

Great read and thanks for the information.

Just a question...I play a game someone mentioned, called BattleGround Europe (WW2OL). The s35 is modelled in this game, but it's modelled with an uncloseable driver's slit(or maybe ventilation slit?) on the left side of the armor where the driver would sit, at even height with his head. Is this on the real tank ?

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David Lehmann
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Re: Evaluation of Somua 35

Post by David Lehmann » 22 Mar 2008 23:46

Hello,

I am not sure to understand what you mean, but no there is no big opening on the Somua S35, exposing the driver.
Just look at 'real' photos of this tank.

Somua S35 tank vision means:

Hull:
3x PPL RX 160 episcopes (68° horizontal field of view, 24° vertical field of view)

APX1CE turret (40-42mm armor, probably between 2,100 kg and 2,570 kg) :
1x sight for the 47mm SA35 gun (4x L.762 sight, + reticle, field of view 11.82° - or L.731 ?)
2x PPL RX 160 episcopes (68° horizontal field of view, 24° vertical field of view)

Cupola (rotating):
1x periscopic binocular (4x magnification, 9.9° field of view)
1x PPL RX 160 episcope (68° horizontal field of view, 24° vertical field of view)
1x Estienne slit (114° field of view – 120mm x 10mm slit protected by a 24mm thick armored shutter)

Regards,

David
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