Featured in the War Clouds exhibit, the 25 mm Hotchkiss anti-tank gun was a French anti-tank gun from the 1930s, built by the Hotchkiss arsenal, that saw service in the Spanish Civil War, the Second World War and the Indochina War. Light and mobile, it could be improvised into a portée weapon by its users.
By the early 1920s the French Army had come to the realization that the armor-piercing capability of the 37 mm TRP infantry gun would be insufficient against modern tanks. In 1926 Hotchkiss proposed a 25 mm in-house design developed by its design office. This model was accepted for service in 1934 under the designation canon de 25 mm semi-automatique modèle 1934 (“25 mm semi-automatic gun model 1934”, generally shortened to canon de 25). At the outbreak of World War II, it was the main anti-tank weapon of the French infantry. By May 1940, there were reported to be 6,000 in service with the French Army, although some formations were still waiting for their full allocation.
In action in the Battle of France in 1940, it was found that the projectile was too small to be very effective against German tanks, especially at longer ranges. It remained a useful weapon against armored cars and other light armored vehicles. In 1935 the Hotchkiss 25 mm anti-tank gun was purchased for evaluation by the US Army. Turkey bought 400 examples of the gun during the interwar period. During the Spanish Civil War, a few examples of the Hotchkiss gun reached the anti-Franco Republican forces. Some were mounted on captured Panzer I tanks.
At the outbreak of World War II, the 25 SA-L model 1934 was assigned to almost all armored and anti-tank units of the French army, while the 25 SA-L model 1937 was used in support companies of the infantry battalions.
Despite its low caliber which forced its servants to target precisely the weak points of the opposing tanks, it remained for the time a powerful anti-tank gun against the Panzer II, III and IV which constituted the majority of the German tanks during the invasion of France by the Nazi regime. The 25 illustrated itself at the Battle of Stonne, during the first combat of May 15, 1940 where a single 25mm gun laying in ambush on the edge of the village neutralized 3 Panzer IV tanks in 5 minutes. During the defense of Rouen on June 9, 1940, when one of them located at the foot of the old Corneille bridge placed in its line of sight the German tanks which descended the rue de la République and fired several shots, destroying two panzers. According to another version of the facts, a Renault R35 tank, laying in ambush near the barricade, would be at the origin of the destruction of one of the two panzers; in any case, it cannot have been caused by the Renault FT tanks as they were only equipped with machine guns.