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Wednesday, 31 December 2008 20:06

The Matilda II Infantry Tank (A.12)

Matilda MK II Infantry Tank (A.12)

In September 1936 investigations into a 3 man tank, similar to the Matilda II with 50mm of armour and a top speed of 10-15 mph were initiated, by November the armour requirement was increased to 70mm as well as the ability to cross a trench of 8 feet and a climbing capacity of 3 feet. Two A.E.C. 6.7 litre bus engines were chosen, drawings were undertaken by Vulcan foundry and the mock-up was approved in April 1937. The two pilot models were delivered in April 1938 and although trouble was experienced with the cooling systems to adapt it for hot climates production orders were given.

Compared to other British vehicles of the time the Matilda II was expensive and took longer to build, the first production models were completed in September 1939. The Matilda II used a riveted construction with both cast and rolled armour and was armoured with a 2pdr gun with a Besa 7.92 machine gun. Armour was extremely thick for the period being 75-78mm thick on the front and 65-75mm thick on the sides, this armour granted virtual immunity to nearly all anti-tank weapons of the time. The 2pdr gun could be replaced with a 3" howitzer which could fire both High Explosive and Smoke shells.

The Matilda II first saw action in the Battle of France were it's thick armour caused the German 37mm Pak and tank guns to bounce off even at point blank ranges, only a handful of the tanks had been sent to France so they had little impact on the campaign. In North Africa the Matilda II has great success against the Italians who were unable to deal with the Matilda's thick armour, this protection was well liked by the crews of the Matilda II. It wasn't until the arrival of the Germans in North Africa in February 1941 that a weapon capable of dealing with the Matilda II was available - the 88mm Flak gun, it must be remembered however that the Germans did not have a tank capable of penetrating the Matilda II's armour at range until the Summer of 1942,  after over two and a half years of war.

By 1942 the Matilda was being declared obsolete, the small turret ring was incapable of mounting the 6pdr gun, in fact in the summer of 1941 it had been suggested that Matilda production should cease but it was pointed out that the Matilda II was the only tank at the time with a 3 man turret and 60mm of armour (Churchill tank's reliability problems had not been solved and the 3 man turret for the Valentine was not available yet), so it was decided to keep the Matilda II in production. Due to the usefulness of the Matilda II in the far east and the large numbers that were to be sent to Russia the Matilda was still in production in 1943.

Interestingly there was an attempt to install a 6pdr in the Matilda II, this involved enlarging the turret ring, modifying the hull and installing a Cavalier turret. I've recently came across some documentation that talks about a Matilda "Black Prince" project carried out in 1942 but then dropped, sadly it doesn't say what the modification is but considering the Churchill Black Prince project it could be the name for the 6pdr armed Matilda.

Name Matilda II
Type Infantry
Production Date September 1939
Crew 4
(In turret) 3
Length 18'-5”
Width 9'-4”
Height 7'-9”
Weight 26.5
Ground pressure 16.2
Ground clearance 1'-1”
Track type Stamped
No per track 68
Weight of one Track 1440
Track width 14
Engine 2x A.E.C/Layland
B.H.P/Ton 6.55
Max road speed 15
Average road speed 11
Gear box type  
Gears   4 Forward/1 Reverse
Fuel consumption (road) – MPG 2
Fuel consumption (cross country) 1
Oil capacity 46.5
Auxiliary capacity 30
Radius of action (road) 160
Radius of action (cross country) 80
Trench Crossing 7'
Vertical obstacle 2'
Fording height 3'-6”
Gradient 24
Main Armament 2 Pounder
Ammunition 93
Secondary Armament Vickers .330 (Mk I)/Besa 7.92
Ammunition 2950
Transverse type Hand & Hydraulic
Max elevation 20
Max depression 20
Turret Ring Size 54.3”
Optics No.30
Lower Hull Nose 78(I.T.90)
Upper Hull Nose 47(I.T.90)
Hull Front 75(I.T.90)
Hull Sides Lower 25(I.T.80) + 40(I.T.80)
Hull Sides Upper 70(I.T.80)
Hull Rear 55(I.T.80)
Hull Roof (Front) 20(I.T.80)
Engine Deck 20(I.T.80)
Hull Floor (Front half) 20(I.T.80)
Hull Floor (Rear half) 13(I.T.100)
Turret Front 75(I.T.90)
Turret Roof 20(I.T.80)
Turret Sides 75(I.T.90)
Turret Rear 75(I.T.90)

Production of Matilda II Tanks by year (UK Only) 

  Pre-War Sep-Dec 1939 1940 1941 1942 1943

Matilda II

- 24 368 1064 1330 143

Matilda production by type

Type Number
Mk. I 65
Mk. II 146
Mk. III 675
Mk. III C.S. 118
Mk. IV 1613
Mk. IV C.S. 283


Sources - AVIA 46 188, AVIA 22 456-514, WO 194

Last Updated on Sunday, 12 August 2012 13:48

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