|Matilda Mk. II|
Queen of the Desert
|Upgrades to||Churchill (Nuclear mode)|
The Matilda Mk. II was an armored monster that, like the B1 bis, was long considered to be impenetrable. But that robust armor came at the price of very slow movement. As for its armament, its 2 pdr. (40mm) anti-tank gun was soon outdated and unworthy of such a sturdy chassis. Quite cheap and readily available from the outbreak of the war, the Matilda is perfect first-line shield for more fragile but better armed units.
The Matilda II was designed for infantry support. The Matilda was a great success in the early part of the war, particularly in the desert war, but it was hindered by it's slow speed and it's own armament, which was not sufficient against German Panzers; Italian tanks, though, were easy pickings. There were only 24 Matilda IIs in operation in France in 1940, although even this small number posed enormous problems to the German troops. Their armor could not be penetrated by German tanks or anti-tank guns and only the 88 anti-aircraft gun stood any chance against them. People call them walking artillery because of the massive cannon. These tanks paired with some type Firefly tank destroyers can destroy an armored column.
In September 1936, investigations into a 3 man tank, similar to the Matilda II with 50mm of armor and a top speed of 10-15 mph were initiated, and by November the armor 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 liter 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 armor and was armed 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 armor 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 armor 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 armor, 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 armor 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 armor (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.
The Matilda is armed with a small caliber, which fires both HE Shells and AP Shells, and a .30 Caliber Machine-gun, However the matildas weren't given HE rounds at frist but the crew did take at least 5 HE rounds as "Mine busters"