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Panzer Miniatures Info Bank
AMR 35 (PaK 6)
Developed as a replacement for the AMR 33, in comparison, the Automitrailleuse de Reconnaissance Renault Modèle 35 (AMR 35) was somewhat larger, had a rear-mounted engine and an improved suspension sported a wider track. The AMR 35 retained the same configuration for its two-man crew as its predecessor with both the driver and commander/gunner seated offset to the left. As built, it was the fasted tracked vehicle in the French arsenal.
After some 70+ vehicles were completed, a serious number of design and manufacturing flaws were discovered that ceased further production. Renault spent the better part of a year redesigning and repairing the initial batch of defective vehicles. While improvements were made, the AMR 35 still suffered from reliability issues that would plague it through its operational history.
While four distinct models were designed, only two actually entered series production, the 7.5mm and 13.2mm machinegun armed versions, presented as the AMR 35 and AMR 35(H), respectively, in the game. The AMR 35(H)’s turret was somewhat unique in that its left front side was higher where the gun was fed and the commander/gunner sat. Two versions mounting a 25mm anti-tank gun, one turret-mounted and the other with the 25mm gun mounted in a fixed position in the hull only reached the prototype stage.
Contrary to what its name would infer, the AMR 35 did not serve in a reconnaissance capacity. It acted as a screening or first contact force for the cavalry and mechanized infantry units. The reconnaissance role
was more aptly filled by the excellent AMD 35 wheeled armored cars. In action against the German forces in 1940, most AMR 35s were lost due to mechanical breakdowns. The Germans deployed some captured AMR 35s as the PzKpfw ZT 702 (f).
Archer (PaK 5)
Looking to maximize the number of mobile mounts for the very effective 17pdr gun, the Valentine chassis was identified as a potential option in 1943.
With the introduction of the final Mark XI variant, it was determined that the Valentine’s long and distinguished service as an effective battlefield tank was coming to an end. The Valentine hull was large enough to accommodate the large gun, but not in a standard turret setting. In fact, to evenly distribute its weight the gun had to be mounted in an open-topped superstructure facing to the rear of the vehicle. When in action, the gun’s breech recoiled directly through the driver’s position forcing him to dismount.
At first this unconventional configuration was considered a limiting factor. However, it was soon discovered that the small Archer could fire off a couple shots and then quickly escape by driving off without having to first turnaround or exit cover.
Even though its design and production started in 1943, the Archer did not enter service until a year later in October 1944. Like the other British self-propelled guns, the M10 Wolverine and Achilles IC, it was fielded in Royal Artillery units, not in cavalry or tank regiments. As a testament to the effectiveness of its 17-pdr gun, the Archer had a long career serving well into the 1960s with the Egyptian Army in action against the Israelis.
Char B1-bis (PaK 6)
Originally envisioned as a breakthrough support vehicle with just a single hull-mounted 75mm howitzer, the Char B1 was redesigned as a vehicle capable of also engaging opposing tanks by the addition of a
fully rotating turret mounting a 47mm anti-tank gun. Its design dated back to the 1920s and therefore was essentially obsolete when it entered service in the late 1930s. Nevertheless, it remained one of the most powerfully armed and armored tanks of its day.
The Char B1-bis was the second design version and the main production vehicle. It sported thicker armor and a longer-barreled 47mm gun. The effectiveness of its hull-mounted 75mm gun was limited since it was fixed in position only allowing a full range of motion in the vertical plane. The driver aimed the gun horizontally by slewing the vehicle from side-to-side. There was a limited stock of AP ammunition befitting its role as an infantry assault tank. The tank’s one man turret overtaxed the vehicle commander as he was forced to both load and fire its 47mm gun while simultaneously assessing the tactical situation.
Never considered part of the French Army’s mobile forces, the Char B1-bis was the primary armored vehicle of its infantry arm. That group’s “breakthrough” division, the DCR – Division Cuirassée de Réserve, was not intended to hold ground or engage opposing armored units in a running battle. The Char B-bis’s limited range and slow speed could not support anything but a methodical advance. The French Army’s cavalry force and its mobile division, the DLM – Division Légère Méchanique, fielding S-35 tanks, was the French Army’s ‘panzer’ force.
Despite in narrow tactical role, the Char B1-bis held its own in a number of tank-to-tank actions against the German PzKpfw IIIs and IVs. In fact, in one battle, a single Char B1-bis knocked out 13 German tanks in short order and still retired intact after being hit over 100 times.
After the fall of France, the Germans fielded a number of captured Char B1-bis tanks as the PzKpfw B-2 740 (f) in the role of flamethrower, artillery and occupation vehicles.
Churchill III (PaK 4)
Only limited numbers of the 6-pdr armed version of the Churchill were supplied to the Soviets; in fact, just 301 tanks were shipped. In Soviet service, the Churchill was classified as a heavy tank. At Kursk, the 5th Guards Tank Army's only heavy tanks were the 35 Churchill IIIs fielded by the 18th Tank Corps’ 36th Guards Heavy Tank Regiment.
Thirteen major models of the Churchill were produced throughout the war. In total, 5,640 vehicles were eventually built. The Soviets considered the Churchill to be an inferior design and shipments were terminated after 1942.
M3A1 Stuart (PaK 3)
The M3A1 light tank was considered a temporary measure until a new design could be developed. It did benefit from the wartime experience the British had with their M3 ‘Honeys’ during the North African campaign. Many of their recommended improvements were incorporated into the new design. Production commenced in the summer of 1942, running through February of 1943.
The new Stuart was one of the first US vehicles to feature a turret basket. Previously, the commander and gunner had to carefully step around the drive train that ran from the engine in the rear to the transmission in the front directly through the turret compartment. However, this addition did nothing to improve the already cramped turret.
Most M3A1s were delivered with the two sponson-mounted machine-guns removed and their mounts plated over. The space was better utilized for additional internal storage. A small number of M3A1s (211) were built with a Guiberson diesel engine before it was decided to produce only gasoline (petrol) powered tanks.
M4A1 Sherman (PaK 3)
Vilified by some and hailed by others, the M4 Sherman was none the less the most numerically significant tank produced during World War II. With just under 50,000 vehicles, it accounted for more than twice the combined number of German PzKpfw IIIs, IV, Vs and VIs produced during the entire war. Its simple design, robust construction and mechanical reliability were its major strengths. So capable, the Sherman was still fighting and winning in the Middle East with the Israeli Army as late as 1973.
The M4A1 was the second Sherman model to be standardized, but was actually the first to enter production. Deliveries started in March of 1942. A mainstay of the Armored Divisions, production continued up until early 1944. The M4A1 shared the Wright R-975 radial engine with the M4. It differed in having a large one-piece cast hull as compared to the M4’s welded hull.
M4A1s actually saw their first combat with British forces in North Africa at Alamein in October 1942. The first US action was in the Western Desert in Tunisia. The battle of Kasserine Pass bloodied the US noses, but those hard lessons went a long way in formulating tactics for future battles. It also pointed out shortcomings in the basic design that were incorporated into the M4A1 and later models.
M10 GMC (PaK 3)
The M10 was identified as a replacement for the limited capability M3 75mm GMC. The Fisher Tank Division of the Chrysler Corp. began work on the two prototypes in January of 1942. Both were available for testing in the spring of the same year. Following a short evaluation period, the US Tank Destroyer Board approved the prototype T35E1 for production in June of 1942 and designated it as the M10 GMC.