Battle in the Rear Guard
The French army met the 1930s in a sticky situation. Nominally, France had the most tanks out of any nation in the world. In practice, the situation with tanks was worse than, say, with the Red Army in the summer of 1941. Almost all French tanks were obsolete. The backbone of the armoured forces was still made up of the Renault FT, the best tank in the world when it was made, but too slow and too poorly armoured by the 1930s. The French army needed a new tank: mass produceable, cheap, and well armoured.
The wishes of the army began to come true on August 2nd, 1933. On that day, requirements for a new light tank were drafted. According to specifications, this would be a 6 ton tank with no less than 30 mm of armour, a crew of two, a top speed of 8-10 kph, and armed with either two machineguns or one 37 mm gun. The initiator of these specifications was the Hotchkiss company, but 13 other companies bid for the tender. By early 1934, their number was reduced to 7. The first company to answer was Renault. Its Renault ZM design, later evolving into the Renault R35, was a clear favourite. As for the Hotchkiss company, which started this whole affair, it was satisfied with the building of a prototype, after which they suddenly reclassified the design into a cavalry tank. That's how the Hotchkiss H35 was born.
Meanwhile, the requirements for a light tank changed on May 22nd, 1934. Its armour was increased to 40 mm, the top speed was increased to 15-20 kph, and the machinegun variant was discarded. Four companies received funding to create a prototype: Delaunay Belleville, Compagnie générale de Construction de locomotives (Batignolles-Châtillon), Forges et Chantiers de la Méditerranée (FCM) and Renault. There was another company that reached the prototype stage: the tank branch of the artillery giant Ateliers de Puteaux (APX).