The French Hotchkiss H-39 light tank first appeared in 1939. It was intended for use by French infantry and cavalry formations. Its story in combat is no different than that of other French tanks, although the H-39 was one of the better of the lot. Its handling qualities in terrain proved to be somewhat lacking and the tank proved underarmed compared with equivalent German vehicles. More importantly, the tactics devised for the use of tank formations as mere support for the infantry/cavalry was just too outdated in the reality of the Blitzkrieg.
After the surrender, the Germans took over a large number (over 500) of H-39s as war booty. Initially these tanks were employed for occupation duties. With the outbreak of the Barbarossa campaing, the Germans started mustering all available vehicles for support of the campaign in Russia. With it came the H-39's second career, this time with the Wehrmacht.
In German service the H-39 received designation Panzerkampfwagen 38H 735(f). The vehicles had the turret modified with a new roof hatch. Some were modified to munition carriers or artillery tractors, while others were equipped with four 320 mm rocket launchers under the designation Panzerkampfwagen 38H(f) mit 28/32 cm Wurfrahmen. Additional variations came in 1942 as H-39 became the basis for Marder I with 7,5cm PaK 40 and mechanised 10,5cm howitzer leFH18.
The Wurfrahmen was roughly the German equivalent of the Soviet Katyusha rocket artillery. Of much larger calibre, they had a heavier explosive charge than Soviet rockets, but were just as inaccurate which made them suitable mostly for area shelling. For the same reason a large quantity of launchers needed be concentrated on a target whenever possible. This in turn brought a requirement for the mobility of the launching units.
A peculiar feature of the Wurfrahmen was that the rockets could be installed onto the vehicles and fired from the wood shipping containers that they came in.
Bengt Johansson is the author of this model. The Trumpeter H-39 is an accurate and detailed kit, yet requiring a good deal of filling and sanding, especially in the front part of the hull.
Bengt found also a couple of stages where the kit could be improved upon. In the first place, Bengt replaced the gun barrel with turned aluminium item.
The klaxon horn, antenna tripod mount, supporting braces for the Wurfrahmen and various handles were all scratchbuilt items. Bengt also added a few bolt heads holding the motor cover and replaced the moulded-on rivet heads on the hull and fenders.
The towing hook and the spare wheel mount at the rear hull plate were "transferred" from the old Heller kit of the H-39.
The driver's figure comes form Italeri, but had its head replaced with a more detailed one from Dragon.
Additional images, click to enlarge