Eaglemoss EM003 French Somua S-35 Medium Tank - 1re DLM, Quesnoy, France, 1940 (1:43 Scale)
"A lost battle is a battle one thinks one has lost."
- Marshal Ferdinand Foch
The Somua S-35 was one of the first tanks used to mechanize the French cavalry in the mid-1930s. It was a very advanced vehicle for its time and many of its features were to become standard for future tank designs, such as cast, rather than rivetted armor. A radio was fitted as standard and the tank was supplied with a sufficiently powerful main armament to be still in service in German hands on D-Day in June 1944. Production was slow and there were only around 250 in front line service by the time the Germans invaded in 1940. The major drawback was that the commander was required to operate the gun and the radio as well as his normal duties. Despite this reduced effectiveness, the S-35 was still the best Allied tank in service in 1940.
Pictured here is a 1:43 scale replica of a French Somua S-35 medium tank that was attached to the 1re DLM, then deployed to Quesnoy, France, during May 1940.
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Release Date: April 2014
Historical Account: "Classroom Lessons" - Neither the French nor the British anticipated such a rapid defeat in Poland, and the quick German victory, relying on a new form of mobile warfare, disturbed some generals in London and Paris. However, the Allies still expected they would be able to contain the enemy, anticipating a war reasonably like the First World War, so they believed that even without an Eastern Front the Germans could be defeated by blockade, as in the previous conflict. This feeling was more widely shared in London than in Paris, which had suffered more severely during the First World War in blood and material devastation.
The French leadership, in particular Edouard Daladier, Prime Minister of France since 1938, also respected the large gap between France's human and economic resources as compared to those of Germany.
The Supreme Commander of France's army, Maurice Gamelin, like the rest of the French government, was expecting a campaign from the Germans that in the strategic sense would mirror the First World War. The Von Schlieffen Plan, Gamelin believed, was to be repeated with a reasonably close degree of accuracy, and even though important parts of the French army in the 1930s had been designed to wage offensive warfare, it would be preferable to confront such a threat defensively, as the French military staff believed its country was not equipped militarily or economically to launch a decisive offensive initially. It would be better to wait until 1941 to fully exploit the combined allied economic superiority over Germany. To confront the expected German plan - which rested on a move into the Low Countries outflanking the fortified Maginot Line - Gamelin intended to send the best units of the French army along with the British Expeditionary Force north to halt the Germans in the area of the river Dyle east of Brussels until a decisive victory could be achieved with the support of the united British, Belgian, French and Dutch armies. The original German plan closely resembled Gamelin's expectations.
The crash in Belgium of a light plane carrying two German officers with a copy of the then-current invasion plan forced Hitler to scrap the plan and search for an original alternative. The final plan for Fall Gelb (Case Yellow) had been suggested by General Erich von Manstein, then serving as Chief of Staff to Gerd von Rundstedt, but had been initially rejected by the German General Staff. It proposed a deep penetration further south of the original route, which took advantage of the speed of the unified Panzer divisions to separate and encircle the opposing forces. It had the virtue of being unlikely (from a defensive point of view) as the Ardennes were heavily wooded and implausible as a route for a mechanized invasion. It had the considerable virtue of not having been intercepted by the Allies (for no copies were being carried about) and of being dramatic, which seems to have appealed to Hitler.
Manstein's aggressive plan was to break through the weak Allied center with overwhelming force, trap the forces to the north in a pocket, and drive on to Paris. The plan benefitted from an Allied response close to how they would have responded in the original case; namely, that a large part of French and British strength was drawn north to defend Belgium and Picardy. To help ensure this result, the German Army Group B was still expected to attack Belgium and the Netherlands in order to draw Allied forces eastward into the developing encirclement, as well as obtaining bases for a later attack on Britain.