Geschutzpanzer 39H(f) 7.5cm PaK 40 Hotchkiss (Marder I) Tank Destroyer (TD)
Supplies of captured French Hotchkiss H35 Light Tanks made the German Geschutzpanzer 39H 7.5cm PaK 40 tank destroyer possible.
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With the conquering of neighboring France in 1940, the German Army acquired stocks of Lorraine tractors, FCM 36 tanks and Hotchkiss H35 tanks. These were either retained in service as-is or modified to suit other battlefield roles such as self-propelled artillery (artillery gun carriers) or dedicated tank destroyers. The wartime "Marder" series proved one of the latter and was developed in several series' of its own beginning with the "Marder I". Between 170 and 180 Marder Is were completed and its stock was made up of all three of the aforementioned French vehicles.
The Hotchkiss breed was formally designated as "Geschutzpanzer 39H(f) 7.5cm PaK40(Sf) Hotchkiss" and the conversion work entailed complete removal of the H35 turret with a thin-skinned, open-air superstructure added in its place. The main gun was the 7.5cm (75mm) PaK L/46 anti-tank gun, a proven artillery piece with good penetration value at range, and this was dropped onto the vehicle with gun shield and all. With the gun shield set outside of the superstructure, the weapon retained its traversal of 30-degrees right or left of centerline. Since the vehicle had no traversing turret of its own, the gunnery crew either relied on this range-of-motion or the entire vehicle was turned into the direction of fire. The gun was capped with a large slotted brake for recoil reduction.
The operating crew numbered four (the driver in the hull) and the radio fit was the Fu.Spr.Ger set. The open-topped nature of the superstructure, while providing a good amount of working space for the three-man gunnery crew, exposed the crew to both battlefield dangers and elements but nonetheless was a cheap and simple conversion to produce an all-new fighting vehicle.
The running gear of the Hotchkiss tank remained largely as the original. Power was from a Hotchkiss 6-cylinder, liquid-cooled unit of 120 horsepower at 2,800rpm. Multiple wheeled bogies dotted the sides of the hull and the track link sections were of a thin profile. Road speeds could reach 35 kmh and range (on roads) was out to 180 kilometers (95km cross-country).
Unlike the Lorraine tractor and FCM 36 tank conversion process, the Hotchkiss H35 presented a much more complicated exercise for the Germans which led to some of the tank's components being reworked or dropped from the design altogether. As such, production was limited to just twenty-four units before the end and these emerged from German-controlled Paris-based workshops during 1942. All of the stock saw combat service in France for their part in the war and they ended their days either destroyed in battle of given up for something better.
Some forty-eight other H35 tanks were converted to become self-propelled gun carriers and were outfitted with in-direct-fire artillery-type guns instead.