|Panzerkampfwagen 35R 731(f) - France June 1940|
While the battle for France was still lasting the first 'liberated' R 35's were already turned against their former owners. Some of the vehicles were hastily repainted in grey while others still retained their original french camouflage. In order to prevent 'friendly fire' incidents, huge Balkenkreuze were applied to the vehicles. Due to its low speed and weak armament German crews weren't overly enthusiastic about their new charges. The tank commander was severely over worked as he had to act as gunner and loader simultaneously as well. In the few vehicles fitted with radios the commander had to fulfill that task too, adding to the strain already put on him.
|R 35 with German installed double-door hatch and trench rail|
At first the R 35's (now named Panzerkampfwagen 35R 731(f)) were used as training vehicles for Operation Seelöwe but by autumn many of the tanks were overhauled to fit German standards. This above all meant replacing the useless observation cupola with a simple double-door hatch to allow for better allround view and accessibility for the tank commander. Still around 25 unmodified vehicles were given to armoured units of the Ordnungspolizei.
Due to its somewhat underwhelming performance the R 35 wasn't even considered to be employed as a fighting vehicle during Operation Barbarossa, not even for second line units. Considering the Wehrmacht was at all times pressed by a need for tanks and was still fielding the outdated Panzer I and II's at that time, that's quite a statement in my eyes.
While the R 35 obviously had no place as a front line vehicle in the armoured units of the Wehrmacht, some were used by the Luftwaffe for guarding airfields, some were used as training vehicles and for occupational duties, especially in France and the channel islands. Others still saw minor combat during the axis campaign on the Balkans and still later on in Anti-partisan operations. A few tanks were also given to Germanys allies.
By far the greatest number of R35's were converted to fulfill different tasks though. For example it saw service as an artillery tractor or Bergeschlepper (recovery vehicle) on the eastern front after having been stripped of turrets and ammunition racks. They were used successfully to pull even heavier pieces like the 15cm sFH 18 heavy howitzer and the even heavier 17cm Kanone 18 in Mörserlafette. It was also quite commonly used as a self-propelled anti-tank gun called 4.7cm Pak(t) (Sfl) auf Fgst.Pz.Kpfw.35 R 731(f). With the chassis of the R 35 being even smaller than the Panzer I's on which the Panzerjäger I was based, it needed some ingenuity to fit the same Czech made 4.7cm Pak onto it.
In a desperate bid to stop the Allied onslaught during and after D-Day a number of R 35's from the various training regiments were put to the field by the Wehrmacht. If it was a weak vehicle by the start of World War II it was completely chanceless by 1944, thus suffering badly. The last recorded action of R35's in German service was during the liberation of Paris in August 1944.
The last ever recorded action though took place as late as 1958 during the Lebanon crisis.
The model is by Warlord Games and if it hadn't been in the bargain stash of my local gaming store, I'd have been rather disappointed with the kit. The detail is weak and it didn't go together as smoothly as newer resin kits. If I should ever fancy another go at some of the various versions in German service I'd definitely give the Neucraft Models version a try.
At first I wanted to convert it to have the double-door hatch but as I couldn't find one of the spare hatches in my bits box till after priming, I went for the unmodified version to field it as part of my Blitzkrieg force. The driver was a simple conversion by adding a plastic head with field cap from the German Blitzkrieg Infantry set by Warlord Games.
With only the tank and tank commander being painted during the challenge, this entry should net me 15pts for the tank, 2.5pts for the tank commander (half figure) and the additional 50points for the bonus round. So 67.5pts in total.