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Anti-Tank Guns

In 1940 the French had two modern anti-tank guns, the 25mm and the 47mm. Unfortunately there were not suficient to equip all the divisions and older WWI vintage guns were pressed into service.

Two 25mm anti-tank guns in 12mm from Minifigs. Their targets are 1/285 Panzer III tanks from GHQ. 
Note that the officer's kepi has a red top (infantry) and not blue (artillery).

The four types of anti-tank gun were:

25mm SA mle 34 and SA-L mle 37 

The Canon de 25 antichar SA modèle 1934 Hotchkiss and Canon de 25 antichar SA-L modèle 1937 Puteaux were the same gun mounted on two different carriages. The model 1937 had a lighter carriage weighing only two-thirds that of the earlier model 34 and the gun was very slightly longer.

The French 25mm AT guns were very modern when they came into service in 1934. In 1940 there were 4500 guns in service but this was insuficient to fully equip all units and some had WWI vintage 37mm guns instead. These light anti-tank guns were crewed by the infantry or cavalry and not by the artillery.

The 25mm proved very accurate and had an effective range of 800m at which it could destroy all German tanks except the Panzer IV which the gunners needed to get at a closer range. The gun had a very small silluette and a good flash suppressor, a combination which made it very hard to spot.

25mm anti-tank gun by Pithead.

Each 25mm AT gun in an infantry regiment had 156 AP/APT rounds of which 72 were immediately available. There was no HE shell for this gun so it could not be used against soft targets.

Two 25mm anti-tank guns from Minifigs.

In non-motorised units the 25mm AT guns were generally towed behind a horse-drawn model 1937 limber. In combat the Renault UE tractor could be used to tow them.

In motorized infantry regiments the towing vehicle was also often the Renault UE tractor and for long-range movements various halftracks and trucks were used. The original mle 1934 gun was designed to be horse-drawn and found to be too unstable for high speed towing by wheeled vehicles. They were therefore transported carried on a truck or towed behind on additional "wheels" (train rouleur). 

The lightened mle 1937 could be towed behind tractors. In the divisional AT company/squadron of motorized units the official towing vehicle could be the Laffly V15T in cavalry units or the Latil M7 T1 in infantry units. The Unic TU1 was also used for that task.

The 25mm anti-tank gun was very fragile and could not withstand prolonged towing by motor vehicles. It quickly became the practice for motorised units to carry their guns in the back of their vehicles. 

The dragoon regiments (RDP) in the Light Mechanised Division (DLM) soon mounted the 25mm guns belonging to their heavy weapons squadron in their Laffly S20TL trucks. The guns could be carried facing forwards or backwards and could be fired when mounted. When the gun faced forward the windscreen had to be lowered so Laffly produced a special vehicle with split windscreens that allowed the driver’s side to remain up with a forward facing gun.

A converted S20TL from Pithead with a 25mm from Minifigs in the back.

About 220 of these guns were given to the British Expeditionnary Force (BEF) in exchange for some Boys AT-Rifles. The practice of carrying the gun on the bed of a truck was copied by the British and "Portee" became a British military term.

A converted BEF Morris truck with a 25mm in the back.

37mm mle 1916 TRP

The Canon d'Infanterie de 37 modèle 1916 TRP was an infantry support gun, first used during WWI. TR stands for tir rapide (rapid fire) and P for the manufacturer (Atelier de Puteaux). For transport this weapon could be broken down into 3 sections or wheels could be added for towing. These guns were sometimes equipped with an armored shield. 

1036 of these guns are still in service in 1940 in the French army (mostly in second line infantry divisions) to perform as an anti-tank gun since there are not enough of the new 25mm AT guns in service to equip all the infantry regiments. In this role each gun had 120 HE and 80 AP shells available. 

The 25mm AT gun was lacking HE shells to neutralize human/soft targets and therefore the 37mm TR infantry gun was still liked since it could fire HE shells. Additionally it was very accurate and had a high rate of fire.

47mm SA mle 37 

The Canon de 47 antichar SA modèle 1937 Atelier Puteaux was arguably the best anti-tank gun on the battlefield in France 1940. Only the German 8,8 cm FlaK 18 had a better penetration but that gun's high silluette, poor maneuvrability and lack of gunshield made it unsuitable for the anti-tank role. 

47mm anti-tank gun in 12mm from Minifigs.

From 1918 to 1938, the French Army had employed the 75mm modèle 1897 field gun in the anti-tank role. Although this gun was an effective anti-tank weapon, it was too big, too heavy and too unmaneuvrable (6° traverse) to be a really effective anti-tank gun. In 1938, the French Artillery selected a 47mm gun manufactured by Atelier Puteaux as its new anti-tank gun, although problems with the prototype and ammunition delayed the start of production.

In 1940 there were 1200 guns in service but this was insuficient to fully equip all units and some still had the WWI vintage 75mm modèle 1897 gun. Unlike the light anti-tank guns, these were crewed by the artillery.

The 47mm was very accurate and had an effective range of 1000m at which it could destroy all German tanks.

These guns were rarely horse-drawn and even in non-motorised units these guns were vehicle-towed. The Citroën-Kégresse P17, Unic P107, Laffly S15T or Laffly W15T were all possible tractors. 

This gun was respected by the Germans and in his memoirs, "Achtung Panzer !", General Heinz Guderian describes how hed directed the fire of a captured French 47mm against an attacking Char B1 bis which the German's own 37mm anti-tank guns had problems penetrating.

The 47 SA 37 also armed anti-tank vehicles such as the Laffly W15 TCC tank hunter (based on a 6x6 Laffly truck). By mid June 1940, 70 Laffly W15 TCCs had been produced, and their high mobility and firepower had allowed them to rack up a huge kill ratio.

75mm mle 1897 and 75mm mle 1897/33 and 75mm mle 1897/38

In 1940 there were insuficient 47mm guns to equip the artillery's anti-tank units so WWI vintage 75mm guns were used instead. Sometimes units had a mix of 47mm and 75mm guns.

A 75mm mle 1897/38 gun in action 1940.

The canon de 75 mm mle 1897 was a field artillery piece from 1897 which served throughout WWI and continued to equip many horse-drawn field artillery units in 1940. It could be used against tanks but its limited 6° traverse made it less than ideally suited for this role..

Two 75mm mle 1897 guns in 12mm from Minifigs.

The canon de 75 mm mle 1897 modifié 1933 was a modified version with a new split-trail carriage that entered service in 1935. It was intended for the anti-tank role with a split trail carriage designed by the Atelier de Bourges. This gave it a much wide traverse (58° instead of 6°) as well as an improved elevation (-6° to +50° instead of -11° to +18°). The weight was however increased (1,550 kg instead of 1,140 kg).
kg). The wooden wheels were replaced by solid metal wheels (without tyres). Only a small number were produced and they do not seemed to have performed satisfactorily and by May 1940 most seem to have been replaced in front-line units by 47mm guns or 75mm guns with the Arbel platform.

In 1935 the Arbel platform was introduced; this was a simple circular grooved base that gave the gun a 360° field of fire, at the cost of increased time to limber and unlimber. It was not unlike the method used by the British on the 25pdr.

UNIC P107 towing a mle 1897/38 gun.

The canon de 75 mm mle 1897 modifié 1938 had the original wooden wheels replaced by metal wheels with tyres and the weight increased to 1,500kg. Owing to lack of time only 700 guns were modified and these were used to equip motorized artillery units. The tractor used to pull these guns was normally the UNIC P107 halftrack or  Laffly S 15 TL truck. 

On June 6th, 1940 at Hornoy, a battery of 75mm mle 1897 guns belonging to the 72nd Regiment of Artillery, claimed 38 German tanks destroyed in just one afternoon!

Technical Data

25mm SA mle 1934 and 25mm SA-L mle 1937
Manufacturer modèle 1934: Hotchkiss
modèle 1937: Puteaux
Quantity 1st May 1940: approx 4,500 in service
Gun Characteristics
Caliber 25mm 
Gun length 1.8m
Gun length in calibers mle 34: L72
mle 37: L77
Muzzle velocity 920 m/s
Practical range 800m vs tanks
1500m vs soft targets
Rate of fire 15-25 rpm
Elevation -5° to +15°
Traverse 60°
Sight Telescopic 4x magnification
Ammunition Mle1934 AP and Mle1934 APT
Typically 156 rounds of which 72 readily available.
Physical Characteristics
Weight modèle 1934: 480kg
modèle 1937: 300kg 
Length 3.71 m (12' 2")
Width 1.05 m (3' 5")
Height 1.10 m (3' 7")
Gun Shield Armour 7mm
Crew 1 NCO and 5 men (plus 1 driver)
Other nations Germany, modèle 1934: 2,5cm Pak 112(f)
Germany, modèle 1937: 2,5cm Pak 113(f)
Britain, modèle 1934: 25mm Hotchkiss

37mm mle 1916 TRP
Manufacturer Puteaux
Quantity 1st May 1940: approx 1,036 in service
Gun Characteristics
Caliber 37mm 
Gun length 790mm
Gun length in calibers L21
Muzzle velocity Mle1916 HE: 367 m/s
Mle1892M AP: 388 m/s
Practical range 400m vs tanks
1500m vs soft targets
Rate of fire 15-30 rpm
Elevation -8° to +17°
Traverse 35°
Sight Telescopic 2x magnification
Ammunition Mle1916 HE and Mle1892M AP.
Typically: 120 HE and 80 AP 
Physical Characteristics
Weight 108kg in action
160kg when travelling (with wheels) 
Length 3.50 m (11' 6")
Width 1.05 m (3' 5")
Gun Shield Armour 6.5mm - not fitted on all guns
Crew 1 NCO and 4-6 men
Other nations Germany: 3,7cm IG 152(f)

47mm SA mle 1937
Manufacturer Puteaux
Quantity 1st May 1940: approx 1,200 in service
Gun Characteristics
Caliber 47mm 
Gun length 2.497m
Gun length in calibers L53
Muzzle velocity 855 m/s
Practical range 1000m vs tanks
2000m vs soft targets
Rate of fire 15-20 rpm
Elevation -13° to +16.5°
Traverse 68°
Sight Telescopic 4x magnification
Ammunition APCBC mle 36
Physical Characteristics
Weight 1,070kg  
Length 4.10 m (13' 5")
Width 1.62 m (5' 4")
Height 1.10 m (3' 7")
Gun Shield Armour  
Crew 1 NCO and 5 men
Other nations Germany: 4.7cm Pak181/182(f)

75mm mle 1897 aincluding mle 33 and 38
Quantity 1st May 1940, modèle 1897: 3,800
1st May 1940, modèle 1987/38: 700
Gun Characteristics
Caliber 75mm 
Gun length 2.721m
Gun length in calibers L36.3
Muzzle velocity Mle 1910M APHE: 580 m/s
Mle 1915 HE: 575 m/s
Practical range 800m vs tanks
2000m vs soft targets
Rate of fire 10-12 rpm
Elevation -10° to +42°
mod 33: -6° to +50
mod 33: 58°
Ammunition Mle 1910M APHE and Mle 1915  HE
Physical Characteristics
Weight 1,140kg in action
1,970kg when travelling
mod 33: 1,500kg in action
mod 33:  1,550 when travelling
Length 4.45 m (14' 7")
Width 1.51 m (4' 11")
Gun Shield Armour
Crew 1 NCO and 6 men 
Other nations Germany, mle 1897: FK 97(f)
Germany, mle 1897 mod 33: FK 232(f)
Germany, mle 1897 mod 38: FK 231(f)
Poland: 75mm Armata Polowa wz.1897/17