Modelling Beutepanzers: French Tanks in German Service

Earth & Steel: The German Defence of France, June-September 1944.

Modelling Beutepanzers:
French Tanks in German Service
with Blake Coster

In this article, I will demonstrate how to convert French Early-war tanks for use in Late-war as the Beutepanzerkompanie featured in the Normandy Axis compilation Earth & Steel.

Learn more about Earth & Steel here...
See the Beutepanzerkompanie in action in the Battle of the La Fière Causeway battle report here...

Left: Earth & Steel: The German Defence of France, June-September 1944.

For this project we will need the Beutepanzer Hatches (GSO194). The pack contains five hatch sprues (open & closed hatches) and five Commander half-figures.

Check out the Beutepanzer Hatches in the online store here...

Right: The contents of the Beutepanzer Hatch pack.
Beutepanzer Hatches (GSO194)
Next, we will need some Early-war French tanks. Below is a table listing the French tanks used in the Beutepanzerkompanie, it also includes their German designation and a link to each of their spotlights.
French Tanks in German Services
German Designation
French Designation Product Code
Panzer B-2 740(f) Char B1 bis
FR070
Panzer 35-S 739(f)
SOMUA S-35
FR050
Panzer 38-H 735(f)
Hotchkiss H-35/H-39
FR020
Panzer 35-R 731(f)
Renault R-35 FR030
Once we have to Beutepanzer hatches and the models we need, it's time to get started.
Modelling the Panzer 35-S 739(f) and Panzer B-2 740(f)
SOMUA S-35 & Char B1 bis
When the Germans converted the SOMUA S-35, they added a radio and fitted the commander's observation cupola with a two-piece hatch. Below are some examples of SOMUA S-35 in German service with the two-piece hatch.
Below Left & Right: A captured SOMUA S-35 fitted with the two-piece hatch.
A captured SOMUA S-35 fitted to the two-piece hatch A captured SOMUA S-35 fitted to the two-piece hatch
An captured Char B bis in German service with the standard French cupola With the Char B bis, the Germans only fitted some with the two-piece hatch. Others were left with the standard commander's cupola as used by the French Army.

Side Note: Other Char B bis were fitted with flame-throwers and saw action in Arnhem during Operation Market Garden.

Left: An captured Char B bis in German service with the standard French cupola.
Adding The Two-Piece Hatch to the SOMUA S-35 / Char B bis Turret
The standard SOMUA S-35 Step One
First take one standard SOMUA S-35 or Char B bis from the French Early-war range.

Left: The standard SOMUA S-35.
Step Two
Take a flat hobby file and begin by to file down the observation cupola.

WARNING: Be sure to avoid inhaling any of the dust when filing down the cupola. Wearing a mouth and nose mask is ideal; these can be purchased from your local hardware store relavtively cheaply.

Right: Filing down the command cupola.
Filing down the command cupola
Be sure to leave some of the cupola so that the hatch is higher than the top of the turret Make sure you leave some of the cupola remaining.

Left: Be sure to leave some of the cupola so that the hatch is higher than the top of the turret.

Note: In this example, I decide to remove most of the cupola. But feel free to experiment.
Step Three
Now use a small amount of hobby glue to secure the hatch in place.

Below: The closed hatch in place.
Below: The open hatch with command figure.
The closed hatch now in place The open hatch with command figure
Below: The SOMUA S-35 with the open and closed hatches fitted.
The SOMUA S-35 with the closed hatch
The SOMUA S-35 with the open hatch
Below: The Char B bis with the open and closed hatches fitted.
The Char B bis with the closed hatch The Char B bis with the open hatch
Modelling Tips
The SOMUA S-35
If you plan to field the Panzer 35-S 739(f) as your Company HQ, model both SOMUA S-35s with the open hatch and add command figures to represent your Company Command and 2iC tanks. It is also a good idea to do this with any Combat Platoons that have a Panzer 35-S 739(f) as its Command team.

The Char B bis
If you field a Schwere Beutepanzer Platoon, again add an open hatch with a command figure to differentiate from the other platoon members. For a little modelling variety you can either add closed hatches to the Panzer sections or leave them as is.
Modelling the Panzer 38-H 735(f)
Hotchkiss H-35/H-39
Like the SOMUA S-35, the Hotchkiss H-35/H-39 was fitted with the two-piece hatch and a radio by the Germans.


Right:
A Hotchkiss H-39 in German service fitted with the two-piece hatch.
A Hotchkiss H-39 in German service fitted with the two-piece hatch
Adding The Two-Piece Hatch to the Hotchkiss H-35/H-39 Turret
The standard Hotchkiss H-35/H-39 Step One
First take one standard Hotchkiss H-35/H-39 from the French Early-war range. In this example, it has been modelled as an H-39.

Left: The standard Hotchkiss H-35/H-39.
Step Two
Once again, take a flat hobby file and begin by to file down the command cupola.


Right: Filing down the command cupola.
Filing down the command cupola
Be sure to leave some of the cupola so that the hatch is higher than the top of the turret Again, leave a small amount of the cupola.

Left: Be sure to leave some of the cupola so that the hatch is higher than the top of the turret.
Step Three
Use a small amount of hobby glue to secure the hatch in place.

Right: The hatch secured in place.
The hatch secured in place
Below: The Hotchkiss H-39 with open and closed hatches fitted.
The Hotchkiss H-39 with the closed hatch
The Hotchkiss H-39 with the open hatch
Modelling Tips
The Hotchkiss H-35/H-39
Since the Hotchkiss H-35/H-39 can also be field as the Company HQ, you will also want to model them with open hatches and command figures to represent the Company Commander and 2iC team. When fielding them in Combat Platoon, it is best to model them with the closed hatches.

Modelling the Panzer 35-R 731(f)
Renault R-35
When numbers of Renault R-35 were first captured, they were simply re-painted before being put into service. Later, other were fitted with the two piece hatch in an attempt to improve the commander's view. When the two-piece hatch was fitted it was either on top of the existing cupola or the cupola was removed completely and the hatches were fitted to top of the turret.

Right:
A Renault R-35 in German service with the standard French command cupola.
A Renault R-35 in German service with the standard French command cupola
Below: A Renault R-35 in German service with the two-piece hatch fitted to the command cupola. Below: A Renault R-35 in German service with the command cupola removed and the two-piece hatch fitted directly on the turret.
A Renault R-35 in German service with the two-piece hatch fitted to the command cupola A Renault R-35 in German service with the command cupola removed and the two-piece hatch fitted directly on the turret
Adding The Two-Piece Hatch to the Renault R-35
The standard Renault R-35 Step One
Again; take one standard Renault R-35 from the French Early-war range.

Left: The standard Renault R-35.
Step Two
File down the command cupola with a flat hobby file.

Right: Filing down the command cupola.
Filing down the command cupola
Be sure to leave some of the cupola so that the hatch is higher than the top of the turret Again, be sure to leave a small amount of the cupola.

Left: Be sure to leave some of the cupola so that the hatch is higher than the top of the turret.
Step Three
Use a small amount of hobby glue to secure the hatch in place.

Right: The hatch secured the hatch in place.
The hatch secured the hatch in place
Below: The Renault R-35 with the Open and Closed Hatches Fitted.
The Renault R-35 with the closed hatch The Renault R-35 with the open hatch
Modelling Tips
The Renault R-35

The Panzer 35-R 731(f) can also be field as the Company HQ, you will also want to model them with open hatches and command figures to represent the Company Commander and 2iC teams. This can also be done to designate the Platoon Commander if you decide field a Lichte Beutepanzer Platoon. Any other Panzer 35-R 731(f) that you wish to field in your Combat or Weapons platoons can be modelled with a closed hatch or for some variety, still with the standard French cupola.
Painting Beutepanzers

When it comes to painting your Beutepanzers, use the following colours:

Base Colour
Dunkelgelb: Middlestone (882) or German Armour Late (SP04).

Camouflage Colours

Rotbraun: Chocolate Brown (872); Olivgrün: Reflective Green (890).


These colours can be found in the German Armour Paint Set (Late) or in the War Paint spray can range.

Learn more about the German Armour Paint Set (Late) here...
Learn more about the War Paint range here...

Tip: When adding recognition markings, captured vehicles often had more than standard. This was done in an attempt not to be mistake for the enemy. 

~ Blake.

Below: Examples of painted Beutepanzers.

Examples of painted Beutepanzers