Crew of 4
gunner, loader, driver).
1 x 2pdr Main
Gun, 1 x 7.92 Besa MG
15 mph on
roads, 8 mph cross-country
93 rounds -2
pdr shells, 2925 rounds 7.62mm bullets
|Length: 5.61 m,
Width: 2.59 m, Height: 2.51
m, Weight: 25 tonnes
|Crew: 4 Power-plant: Two
AEC 6 cyl. diesels or two Leyland cyl. diesels, producing 87 hp
and 95 hp respectively.
|Armament: 1 x 2 pdr. Gun
and 1 x 7.92 Besa mg. or 1 x 3 in. Howitzer and 1 x 7.92 Besa mg.
A Bren .303 anti-aircraft mg. could also be fitted. Two 4 in.
smoke dischargers either side or the turret.
|Armour: 14-78 mm Speed:
|Range: 250 km.
Maker: Vulcan Foundry, Warrington UK. (and
This tank was a development of the Matilda I
Infantry Tank whose main armament consisted of no more than either a
.303 or a .50 Vickers mg. Such was the thinking behind pre World War II
tank development in many Countries (including Britain) that it was
considered that the fitting of larger calibre weapons was not warranted.
The Matilda Mark II arose out of a
need to provide a better armoured and armed vehicle, which could act in
the role of an infantry support tank. For its time, the Matilda II was a
heavily armoured vehicle and it was particularly successful in the early
years of WW II at Arras, France 1940 and in the Western Desert during
Unfortunately, its performance was hindered by
its small calibre gun and relatively slow cross country performance.
Despite its shortcomings, it
was more than capable of being used aggressively. This was especially
demonstrated in the Western Desert where it was virtually immune against
anti-tank and tank guns of the day. In its early conflicts in the
Western Desert, its value as a shock assault weapon was significant and
it soon earned the title "Queen of the Battlefield".
Unfortunately, it was soon outclassed by better enemy tanks and the
German's 88m gun. However, it found a renewed operational life in the
Although the design ideas were sound for their
time, the Matilda could not be up-gunned as the turret ring was too
small to accept a larger tank gun. However, it was found that a low
velocity 3 in. howitzer could be fitted as a substitute for the tank
gun. Such a weapon proved invaluable when operating against infantry,
light skinned vehicles, bunkers and other fortifications.
Mechanically, the Matilda possessed a
hydraulic, power operated turret. Its twin engines were linked through
an epicyclical gearbox, which in turn drove a pair of rear sprockets.
The suspension consisted of sets of bogies which were linked together
and worked against horizontal compression springs.
Australian Service History
The Matilda filled an urgent need for a tank to
operate in New Guinea. Approximately 140 tanks were provided by Britain
in early 1942, and these vehicles subsequently proved suitable for
In 1943, a
flamethrower version was produced, known as the Frog.
Frog's were used in Borneo by 2/1 Armoured Brigade. A bulldozer
version was also developed.
Many of the tanks were fitted with a variety of
battle-field modifications, including wire mesh over the engine covers,
spare track links on the hull and/or pierced steel planking (PSP) which
was normally used in the construction of aircraft runways. It was also a
common practice to festoon the exterior of vehicles with additional
stores and personal items of equipment.
An example of the strength of the tank was
shown in an action at Pabu Hill near Sattleberg (NB: There is a fine
sculpture of a Matilda, titled "The Sattleberg Tank" in the
Museum). On this occasion, a tank assisting the infantry was engaged and
disabled at a range of less than 50 meters, by a Japanese 37 mm gun.
Later a 75 mm gun, anti-tank mines and grenades were used against the
tank. Although it was hit more than 50 times, the crew continued to
fight the vehicle until its ammunition had been expended. They then
managed to escape from the vehicle and return to it the following day.
It was subsequently repaired and put back into action one day later.
During the South Western Pacific Campaign, the
Matilda served with distinction as part of the 1st Australian Tank
Battalion (The Royal New South Wales Lancers). With their war service
completed, Matilda's were relegated to a training role and were in
service with the 1st RSL until 1955, when they were finally retired.
The vehicle on display at the Museum is fitted
with a 3 in. howitzer in place of the 2 pounder gun. It was officially
dedicated as a War Memorial on the Sunday nearest to Cambrai Day in
November 1969 with Anglican, Catholic, and OPD Clergy officiating. Prior
to the service the Regiment had a march through Parramatta. As a
Memorial it cannot be supplanted or destroyed and must be kept for its
original purpose. The bronze plaque notes that it was a gift of the NSW
Branch of the Royal Australian Armoured Corps Association.
Originally, the tank was obtained from the
Australian Government for the purpose of establishing it as a memorial
in the park at the junction of Parramatta Road and Station Street in
Ashfield. The choice of location was because Ashfield was the home of
the 2nd Armoured Car Regiment, 2nd AIF; later it became 2nd Army Tank
Battalion AIF. A deed was drawn up and signed. by both the Association
and Ashfield Council and the RAAC Association began to collect funds to
build the plinth on which the tank would be placed. Funds were very slow
in coming in and the delay gave local residents the opportunity to organize
objections to it, finally in desperation the RAAC Association offered
the tank to the Regiment specifically as a memorial. Prior to all this
the tank had been on Green Hills Firing Range (near Liverpool NSW) as an
intended target when it arrived at the Barracks (and for years) it had a
large target marker painted on each side of the hull - which mystified a
lot of people.
||Singleton, NSW. 1943-01. The smoke shell
discharger attached to a Matilda tank of the 2nd army tank
battalion. The firing mechanism is that of a .303 Lee Enfield rifle
with trigger removed and a cable substituted, leading to the inside
of the tank, from where it is fired. The propellant charge is
detonated by a blank cartridge of .303 ammunition. The barrels may
be fired simultaneously or singly.