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Thread: The Matilda, queen of the desert.

  1. #31
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    Operation Battleaxe, the kingdom in Peril:

    The operation Battleaxe was the first british major offensive agaist the Afrika Korps, it took place the June 15th 1941. The armor componentes of this operation arrived to Alexandria in the shape with the convoy “Tiger”. Those were 135 Matildas, 85 “Cruisers” tanks, and 25 light tanks.

    The main objetives were to relieve the garrison of Tobruka nd also bring to the battle and destroy most of the german armored forces.
    One of the most strategical points were the Halfaya pass near the Libian Egyptian border.
    On the eastern side, at 05:15, Coast Force, commanded by Brigadier Reginald Savory and charged with capturing Halfaya Pass, started to move on to their objective.

    On the top of theescarpment was the Halfaya Group, composed of the 2nd battalion Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders, the thirteen tanks (twelve Matildas and one light tank) of the 4th Royal Tank Regiment's C Squadron (which had previously captured
    Halfaya Pass during Operation Brevity), and an artillery battery from the 31st Field Regiment.
    To their east and below the lip of the escarpment were the 1st battalion 6th Rajputana Rifles and 2nd battalion 5th Mahratta Light Infantry, two troops of the 4th Royal Tank Regiment's A Squadron, and a few 25-pounder guns.

    At 05:40, British artillery for the Halfaya Group was scheduled to open fire on the German and Italian forces stationed in Halfaya to provide cover for the tanks and infantry, but the battery had become bogged down by soft sand.

    After waiting until 06:00, fifteen minutes after the fighting began to the west below the escarpment, the commander of C Squadron, Major C.G. Miles, ordered his tanks to attack at the top of the pass; soon after though the [anti-tank guns of the German and Italian defenders opened fire and within a few hours all but one light tank and one of the Matildas had been destroyed, the well concealed 88s Flak 18 guns were particulary aiming to the british infantry tanks.

    Two near penetrations by the 88mm gun.



    At 10.00 am Miles radioes a last and desperate message “…they are tearing my tank to bits ! “, minutes later he also fell prey of the german antitank guns when one 88 shell penetrated his Matilda and caused a catastrophic internal explotion.

    Turret blew off



    The British forces below the escarpment did not fare much better, as four of the Matildas were disabled by anti-tank mines which were supposed to have been cleared; this blocked the path of the remaining two and reduced the small tank force to acting in a pillbox capacity.

    Burned out. Note the small caliber impacts.


    The Rajputana Rifles and Mahrattas made several attempts to reach the pass, but were repelled each time; the former losing their commanding officer, Colonel P.R.H. Skrine, in the final attack.

    After 3 days of battle the offensive succeded only in capturing the Fort Capuzzo but failed any other objetive, the british forces withdrawn leaving behind 91 tanks destroyed, including 64 Matildas.

    In the other hand the germans have 50 tanks damaged, but only 12 remain irreparable losses.


    "Matildas graveyard", a view of the Halfaya pass with hulls of some matildas and a Marmon Harrington AFV.


  2. #32
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    Rare cammo in the "Griffin", a Malta based Matilda mark III, it was designed to mix up the tank with the Maltese envoriment...wich was rich in low white stone walls.



    About a dozen of Matildas were based in the mediterranean island paired with some Valentines, those were to be the main defense force in case of the axis landing , that was the operation Hercules, operation that never took place given the german lack of confidence in the Italian naval support.

  3. #33
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    I have always "enjoyed" the Matilda tank. It looked very stately in a desert setting to me. Besides when I first started studying the British in the desert the Mitilda was the first British tank I learned about.

  4. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by Panzerknacker View Post
    Rare cammo in the "Griffin", a Malta based Matilda mark III, it was designed to mix up the tank with the Maltese envoriment...wich was rich in low white stone walls.



    About a dozen of Matildas were based in the mediterranean island paired with some Valentines, those were to be the main defense force in case of the axis landing , that was the operation Hercules, operation that never took place given the german lack of confidence in the Italian naval support.
    This is an excellent picture showing the scale of the Matilda, and how small it was relatively speaking considering its thick armor. Unfortunately, this meant the turret was it Achilles Heal as a bigger gun could never be mounted successfully in the design...

  5. #35
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    Actually the Matilda is a little longer than the pz III and IV with 6.1 meters, however the turret ring in both german designs in larger.

    Incidentally the Churchill have a inch more in ring diameter but its different turret allowed the 6 pounder.

  6. #36
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    A very curious image, a german used Matildad...recaptured by british infantry, I suppose than given the slow speed of the infantry tank you can reach it running.


  7. #37
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    Default Re: The Matilda, queen of the desert.

    Profile of the "Gamecok", a Matilda II mark I captured in France, note the tailskid designed for avoid falling in a wide trench. also it had the increased clearance wich improved cross country capabilities but incemented stress on suspension parts.




    The same tank in repair shop.


  8. #38
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    Default Re: The Matilda, queen of the desert.

    Ping.

  9. #39
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    Default Re: The Matilda, queen of the desert.

    Quote Originally Posted by Panzerknacker View Post
    A very curious image, a german used Matildad...recaptured by british infantry, I suppose than given the slow speed of the infantry tank you can reach it running.

    The Germans were using a lot of captured equipment, especially in Africa, but also in Russia, since the German industry was not able to manufacture enough stuff themselves.
    E.g. in Northern Africa, whole German artillery regiments were equipped with captured British 25Pdr guns (which BTW were very much liked by the German gunners). Both sides liked to use captured trucks and the LRDG liked to use the Italian Breda 3.7 cm AA gun on their trucks, both for AA defense was well as for ground support (e.g. when they ambushed a German convoy).

    Jan

  10. #40
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    Default Re: The Matilda, queen of the desert.

    Sure , the germans used captured Matildas even before the Afrika krops, this is one modified with a open turret and 50mm gun.


  11. #41
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    Default Re: The Matilda, queen of the desert.

    I suppose it would be difficult to escape in a vehicle that one can chase down of foot,,,,
    Given that all sides were short of materiel, using abandoned, captured,munitions or whatever enemy equipment may be gained, to ones own benefit would be the order of the day. Even if there were field modifications needed, to weapons automotive, etc. these were more easily done than to get replacements through channels.(yeah, like that was going to happen. )

  12. #42
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    Default Re: The Matilda, queen of the desert.

    24 km/h full speed ahead was the top speed for the Matilda, so yes if were a good runner you probably would cath it up, and in the desert the hatch is likely to open, a couple of hand grenades....hmmm, no good for the crew.


  13. #43
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    Default Re: The Matilda, queen of the desert.

    Quote: "24 km/h full speed ahead was the top speed for the Matilda, so yes if were a good runner you probably would cath it up, and in the desert the hatch is likely to open, a couple of hand grenades....hmmm, no good for the crew."

    That is why the Allies developed the Anti-Tank bicycle.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  14. #44
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    Default Re: The Matilda, queen of the desert.

    Hmmm, a burst with the besa mg and the bike is no more.

    transporting the Matilda.


  15. #45
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    Default Re: The Matilda, queen of the desert.

    I do agree my friend,, I used to sell surplus BESA ammo in my gun store, it was a hot load,, to strong for some of the lesser rifles chambered for the 7.92x57 cartridge. I liked shooting the A.P. rounds, they did a fine job holing steel plates if they were not too thick, 3/8"- 1/2". I have a soft spot in my head for the matilda,, one of the few English tanks I favor.

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