The Tank Museum and the UNIVEM association tell the story of the Battle of France

10 May 1940 – the Battle of France begins.

German troops attack the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium and come up against the French forces. The German tanks begin their onslaught. Preparation and strategy errors or just pure bad luck mean that after six weeks, France’s fate is sealed. The Battle of France saw French troops – which had fought unfailingly until the armistice – defeated. 

For the 45th edition of Rétromobile, the Tank Museum in partnership with the UNIVEM association will be exhibiting two rare vehicles that perfectly embody France’s technical genius and its weaponry expertise.
The 1939 SOMUA S35 and the 1938 LAFFLY / LICORNE V15 T artillery tractor

The Tank Museum showcases the SOMUA S35

Char SOMUA 1938 Rétromobile

The Somua (Société d’Outillage Mécanique et d’Usinage d’Artillerie) was designed as part of the programme to modernise the French cavalry at the start of the 1930s. The tank proved to be a fearsome adversary for the German tanks’ first attacks in 1939; with its V8 engine and 47 mm gun, it constituted a highly effective weapon. Many specialists believe it to be the best tank of all of the warring nations during the 1940 Battle of France. Numerous German tanks were destroyed by it. Of the last three remaining vehicles, the one presented by the Tank Museum is the only one in working order.

SOMUA S 35 specifications

• Weight in combat order: 20 t
• Crew: 3 men
• Total length: 5.40 m
• Width: 2.10 m
• Height: 2.60 m
• Maximum road speed: 40 km/h
• Maximum off-road speed: 35 km/h
• Armament: One 47-mm gun with 118 shells – one 7.5-mm machine gun
• Engine: SOMUA V-8 petrol engine
• Capacity: 12.7 L
• Power: 190 hp
• Cooling: water
• Fuel: petrol
• Average consumption on roads: 160 litres per 100 km
• Average off-road consumption: 310 litres per 100 km
• Fuel capacity: 410 L
• Transmission: 5 speeds
• 430 units produced
• Tank Museum collection –

The UNIVEM association exhibits its 1938 LAFFLY / LICORNE V15 T artillery tractor

Laffly V15T Rétromobile

At the end of 1938, the French army started using the V15T to tow the 25 mm Hotchkiss anti-tank gun. This light artillery tractor had all the advantages of a modern all-terrain vehicle. Close to the ground, significant ground clearance, independent wheels and central differential with locking capability. The V15T was highly effective on the most undulating terrain. It could go practically everywhere, since each wheel had its own transmission system and it featured erratic small wheels at the bow and under the floor, so that the chassis never had to touch an obstacle. This way, it could tow an anti-tank gun very quickly. During the Occupation, the German army quickly seized most Lafflys, since it had no comparable artillery tractors of its own.

LAFFLY/LICORNE V15T specifications

• Weight: 2.4 t
• Crew: 4 men
• Total length: 4.20 m
• Width: 1.85 m
• Height: 2.70 m
• Engine: 4-cylinder Hotchkiss
• Fuel: petrol
• Capacity: 2.3 L
• Power: 55 hp at 3200 rpm
• Maximum speed: 58 km/h
• Average consumption on roads: 25 litres per 100 km.
• Transmission: 4 speeds
• Payload capacity: 600 kg
• Number built: 200 units built at the La Licorne factory.
• UNIVEM Association Collection -