Tired of mean-looking German panzers? What about a frumpy, dumpy little pre-war French tank pressed into German service? I’ve very slightly tweaked this Blitzkrieg Miniatures Somua S35 and painted it for service with the Axis.
The Somua S35 aka Panzer 35-S 739(f)
Captured in the fall of France, many Somua S35 tanks found their way into German service as “beutepanzer”. That’s often translated as “trophy tanks”, but the English word “booty” actually comes from the same German root as the word “beute”. Let’s face it: “booty tank” is much more fun.
They saw service in large numbers on the Eastern Front (although didn’t everything?) but I’m most interested in it as a suitably second-rate machine for an anti-partisan unit. The so-called “security divisions” (in reality often poorly trained thugs in uniform) had a lot of weird foreign kit, and for game balance you don’t want to send anything too indestructible against the partisans anyway. So dodgy old French tank it is!
Converting the Blitzkrieg kit
As conversions go, this one is a doddle. Unlike some other French vehicles that got sawn into bits and made into something completely different, the S35 just got a quick-and-dirty modification that aimed to make the commander a bit more effective by giving him a proper hatch. One of the odd quirks of French pre-war tank design was that he had a cupola but it didn’t have a hatch in it, if he wanted to go head out he had to open the hatch on the back of the turret and climb half way out. Clearly this was bonkers so the Germans chopped off the top of the cupola and added a simple two-part hatch.
That’s dead easy to do, I just filed the top of the cupola flat and added something that looks a bit hatchy. I originally tried making one out of plasticard, but cutting good-looking circles that small is actually bloody difficult. So I had a rummage in my old sprues and found something about right. It’s actually the gunner’s seat from the 20mm turret on a SdKfz 222 ( the actual turret is here). It’s probably a bit too thick really, but with a slot cut in the top with a razor saw it looks near enough for me.
The only other thing I noticed from pics was that all the German S35s had that German map lamp thingy on the front left mudguard. Raiding the same 222 sprues I added one and that was it. Instant beutepanzer!
Build and Paint
Almost no other assembly was required. Only the gun barrel and turret rear hatch were provided in metal. The casting was so clean it required almost no cleanup, which is light years ahead of the resin vehicles I’ve built from Warlord and Die Waffenkammer.
I did magnetise the turret, I don’t want it bouncing around during transit. A quick zap with a Dremel and some little neodymium magnets was all that was required.
For the paint-job, I decided to leave it in the oldskool grey. Front-line units started changing from grey to yellow in 1943, but there were still some vehicles painted grey by the end of the war. It seems at least plausible to me that a security division would still be rocking the older look much later than other units. Leaving it grey means I can use it for actions right through the mid- and late-war. Plus, it’s an obsolete old piece of junk, and somehow the old obsolete paint scheme seems right.
This was an easy vehicle to paint, apart from the tracks the whole thing is just grey. You can’t even really see the road wheels. I painted the exhausts rusty, as they seem to have quickly corroded in service, and spent a bit of time doing some light chipping, as this isn’t a fancy new tank but something with a few years service under its belt.
Markings seem to have been pretty random, I’ve not seen two pictures that are the same, so I just picked on and went with it.