From: Dallas, Texas, USA
Everyone seems to have a problem with the S-35s, and though they are the toughest opponent early on for the Gerrys, I will give you some ideas how I do it, and decisively, every time.
The MOST important thing to realise about the French is that the gunners are quite inaccurate in S-35s, and also that they give up as a total froce, quite easily.
The matter of inaccuracy in the S-35s, can be quite important, because the German armor is quite a bit more accurate. In other words, until they're within range of penetrating their hulls, concentrate on just a few of them, so that you start winning the suppression war, since at this point you cannot win the penetration war, thereby reducing their numerical advantage (should you not be able to follow the advice on the next paragraph in certain situations).
In a meeting engagement, the best thing I figure, is to get some recon unit on a hill that has objectives on it and place the tank holding force behind the slope (of course getting any infantry to the hill and beyond it is a good help). When the recon unit sees the a great many S-35s have closed within 10-15 hexes of the hill, unleash the holding force tanks onto the hill, and start opening up on those hulls below. Part of the key here, is to get tanks that will open those hulls (PZIIIEs need not apply) purchased. I do advise to get maybe a section or two of PZIIIEs for the overall battle, not because they can penetrate anything, but because they come with so many shots that they are your main power of suppression, and also they can work well as the only units you might want to use so as to upset accuracy of enemy units during opfire.
I don't believe there are any regular guns that (meaning non-88mm) can open the S-35 tops, as I don't know if I've ever seen them go down by this method, as in most battles against superior armor I can expect to see a few losses from that, but I may be imagining things. In any event you can't expect to destroy S-35s via top hits due to their not only being perhaps invulnerable there, but more importantly that they come in such hordes.
One key element of being able to survive very well against the S-35s in a meeting engagement, is to take those objectives as quickly as possible, with something, anything, that can sneak back there and get the French held ones. This is important, because the French will fight as doggedly as anyone, since they can't surrender if they have any objecitves. Knock out half their tanks, while having all the objectives and they'll surrender. They may even surrender in those conditions, even if you've just destroyed 1/3 of their tanks.
I don't think I need get into how helpful mines can be when the French are on the offensive, either. To me, the toughest the French are, is in a meeting engagement (mines are useless for one thing), because I do not have all the objectives to get a quick surrender, while if I'm on an attack mission, myself, puts me at superior amounts of armor, to nullify the problem of the hordes.