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Thread: The Matilda, queen of the desert.

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  1. #1
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    Default The Matilda, queen of the desert.

    At the start the Matilda was capable of taking on all comer but well out of date two years later.
    But still in 1940 the Matilda had thicker armor than a 1944 firefly, in the desert it had his time of glory.





    It may be better to say what tank was a total waste on time, money and lives not what is best.

    That would be the cruiser A-13 to me, a single german corporal destroyed 7 of those in Arras , 1940.

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    I once read of a Matilda attack during the battle of France in which the tanks thick armour caused the German troops to briefly be routed. But there were too few Matildas, and British infantry, to make any real difference

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    Thanks panzerknacker! Good stuff.

    You re welcome.

    I once read of a Matilda attack during the battle of France in which the tanks thick armour caused the German troops to briefly be routed. But there were too few Matildas, and British infantry, to make any real differenc
    It was true, those were some guys form the SS totenkopf Division wich trown away his guns and start to run in the opposite direction, however the arrival of the heavy antitanks guns finally decide the situacion. With the French B-1 bis happen some like that also. In some desperate situations the german infantry used his Flametrowhers against that tanks, because the normal panzergranate 39 of 37 mm bounced like tenis balls.

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    THE COUNTER-ATTACK AT ARRAS
    21st May, 1940
    http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/UN/U...landers-6.html

    ...The British 'counter-attack' at Arras is frequently referred to as having been made by the 1st Army Tank Brigade and two infantry divisions, but a much smaller force was actually engaged in the opening fighting on May the 21st. In the first place, the selected divisions—the 5th and the 50th—had each at this time only two infantry brigades instead of the usual three. Of these, the 5th Division sent one brigade (the 13th) to relieve the 23rd Division and the French cavalry on the Scarpe in order that the latter might be freed to take part in the action. Its other brigade (the 17th) was to be held in reserve till the first phase of the operation had been completed. Only the 50th Division was to be used in the opening phase. Of this division one brigade (the 150th) was sent to strengthen the Arras garrison and to hold the Scarpe immediately to the east of the town. Thus at the beginning of the operation only the 50th Division's second brigade (the 151st) was employed in the clearing-up action, and of this brigade's three infantry battalions one was kept back in support of the attacking troops. The attacking infantry on May the 21st were thus not two divisions but two battalions. In the second place, the 1st Army Tank Brigade had covered very long tank distances by road with few opportunities for maintenance and it was by now much reduced in strength through mechanical breakdown. Fifty-eight Mark I and sixteen Mark II tanks were all it could muster that day, and many of them were in urgent need of thorough overhaul. (The Mark I tank was the first infantry tank—very slow and, though protected by heavy armour, equipped with only one 7·9-mm. machine gun. The Mark II was a much bigger heavy infantry tank with one 2-pounder gun and one 7·9-mm machine gun.) To the attacking force was added artillery and a motor-cycle battalion...

    Right Column
    7th Royal Tank Regiment
    8th Durham Light Infantry
    365th Battery, 92nd Field Regiment, R.A.
    260th Battery, 65th Anti-Tank Regiment, R.A.
    One platoon 151st Brigade Anti-Tank Company
    One scout platoon 4th Royal Northumberland Fusiliers (Motor-cycle)

    Left Column
    4th Royal Tank Regiment
    6th Durham Light Infantry
    368th Battery, 92nd Field Regiment, R.A.
    206th Battery, 52nd Anti-Tank Regiment, R.A.
    One platoon, 151st Brigade Anti-Tank Company
    One company and one scout platoon, 4th Royal Northumberland Fusiliers (Motor-cycle)
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    Arras 21st May, 1940
    http://www.feldgrau.net/phpBB2/viewt...976dfdfbf0a66b

    Gort shared Billotte’s doubts but continued his preparations nevertheless. At 2pm on May 21st, elements of two British infantry divisions and 74 tanks ran headlong into Rommel’s 7th Panzer and the SS Totenkopf Divisions west of Arras. The SS troops briefly panicked, but stood their ground and suffered heavy casualties. [Sydnor, pp.95-6] Rommel, however, found his anti-tank weapons “ineffective” against the heavily-armoured British tanks. His men gave way, artillery was destroyed or over-run and gun crews wiped out. [KTB 7th Pz Div, 21/5/40. AL 596]
    Bringing up anti-aircraft guns, Rommel first halted the British tanks then drove them back towards Arras in confusion by nightfall. [Rommel, p.33] Though he regarded his situation as “fully restored”, Rommel’s losses had been heavy – 84 dead and 289 wounded or missing. [KTB 7th Pz Div 21/5/40. AL 596. According to the division’s records, 43 British tanks were destroyed, 200 soldiers killed and 50 prisoners taken.]
    The British had penetrated just six miles, but the attack rattled the Germans. “A certain air of panic dominated the staffs,” one officer recalled. [Gunsburg, p.256] The concern extended throughout Panzergruppe von Kleist and Fourth Army. [KTB XIX Pz Corps, 21/5/40. Ellis, p.379] That evening, Kluge conceded that May 21st had been “the first day on which the enemy had met with any real success”. [Jacobsen, p.51]
    -

    Arras
    http://www.forum.fun-online.sk/viewt...350203b368026e

    During the battle of Arras (21st May 1940), the British force attacked west of Arras and was composed of :

    Right column :
    - 7th Royal Tank Regiment (23 Matilda I and 9 Matilda II)
    - 8th battalion, the Durham Light Infantry
    - 365th battery, 92nd regiment, Royal Field Artillery (12 25Pdr howitzers)
    - 260th battery, 65th anti-tank regiment (12 2Pdr AT guns)
    - One platoon equipped with 3 French 25mm AT guns
    - One motorcycle platoon from 4th Northumberland Fusiliers

    Left column :
    - 4th Royal Tank Regiment (37 Matilda I and 7 Matilda II)
    - 6th battalion, the Durham Light Infantry
    - 368th battery, 92nd regiment, Royal Field Artillery (12 25Pdr howitzers)
    - 260th battery, 52th anti-tank regiment (12 2Pdr AT guns)
    - One platoon equipped with 3 French 25mm AT guns
    - One motorcycle platoon from 4th Northumberland Fusiliers
    - General Martel and is headquarter staff

    That makes a total concerning the equipements of :
    60 Matilda I
    16 Matilda II
    24 25Pdr howitzers
    24 2Pdr AT guns
    6 French 25mm AT guns

    The British troops faced the 7.PzD and the SS motorized division 'Totenkopf', the 5.PzD was arriving from the east. The Matilda II havy tank spread some panic in the German ranks, mainly in the SS 'Totenkopf' positions where several troops simply disbanded, without mean of destroying the Matilda II. But the 8.8cm Flak and the use of artillery in direct fire solved the problem.

    The French troops began their attack later, covering the western flank of the British attack and faced the SS motorized division 'Totenkopf' and the Panzer Regiment 25 from the 7.PzD. The French forces were composed of elements from the 3e DLM (division légère motorisée) but mainly of the 13e BCC (45 Hotchkiss H35 tanks). The French had a total of about 60 tanks in this battle, therefore probably about 15 Hotchkiss H39 and Somua S35 from the 3e DLM itself. They were soon confronted to direct 10.5cm artillery and Flak fire as well as Pak and tanks. They destroyed at least 3 Panzer IV and 6 Pz38(t) from the PzRgt 25. There is no precise data concerning the French losses but after the whole battle the 13e BCC had lost about 10 tanks and the 3e DLM itself lost also probably about 10 tanks. The 11e RDP (Régiment de Dragons Portés) had only light losses. The French troops covered the retreat of the British units.

    The British lost 62% of the tanks (47 tanks) before retreating and had about 50% in the infantry. 75% of the reconnaissance vehicles (16 from 21) from the Northumberland regiment were also lost.

    Concerning the whole German losses, the 7.PzD lost 89 KIA, 116 WIA and 173 MIA mostly POW as well as about 20 tanks and many Pak and various vehicles. The SS 'Totenkopf' lost about 100 KIA and 200 POW.


    Regards,

    David
    (CONTINUED BELOW)

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    Last edited by George Eller; 01-13-2007 at 02:44 PM.

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    (CONTINUED FROM ABOVE)

    Part of British 1st Army Tank Brigade attached to "Frankforce" (5th and 50th Divisions)
    and taking part in the Battle of Arras on May 21, 1940.

    Tank, Infantry, Mk I, Matilda I (A11)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matilda_Mk_I

    Maximum armor: 60 mm
    58 Mk I total at Arras

    Tank, Infantry, Mk II, Matilda II (A12)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matilda_tank

    Maximum armor: 78 mm
    16 Mk II total at Arras

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    Standard German 3.7cm PAK anti-tank gun (considered the best anti-tank gun in general service in the world at that time) shells were unable to penetrate the heavily armored Matilda tanks. One tank had fourteen gouges made in it's armor by shells that failed to penetrate. Although a few British tanks suffered broken tracks or were hit by German dive bombers. In the early stages of the battle the Germans lost six Pzkw III's, three Pzkw IV's and some Pzkw II's. The British lost seven Mk. I's. Also in the initial stages 400 German prisoners were taken. Only by the personal intervention of General Erwin Rommel and his skillful use of 8.8cm FLAK guns firing Panzergranate (armor-piercing shells) were the British tanks finally stopped. The British withdrew after 48 hours of battle. During the battle, the German 7th Panzer Division suffered its highest losses for the campaign. Arras was the most significant counterattack made against the Germans during that stage of the war in France.

    Strategically, the operation was a British success. By delaying the German armor for two and a half days, four British divisions and a large part of the French 1st Army were able to withdraw in good order to the channel coast.

    The success of British tanks against German armor intimidated the German High Command, which ordered its panzers to halt. Rommel's 7th Panzer Division was pulled back for rest and repairs. Later, the Germans decided to conserve their tanks for future battles in central France (Operation "Red").

    A direct consequence of this decision by the German High Command was that the panzer divisions were prevented from attacking Dunkirk. This was very important, because it helped preserve the BEF (British Expeditionary Force) for evacuation from Dunkirk (Operation "Dynamo"). The successful rescue of the BEF at Dunkirk was a turning point in the war; almost a quarter of a million British soldiers were saved from capture during the evacuation, including almost all of Britain's regular peacetime army. Had they been lost, there would have been very few first-class professional soldiers left to train a new army.

    from: Blitzkrieg: From the Rise of Hitler to the Fall of Dunkirk, Len Deighton, Ballantine Books, 1980, p 252-254, 265
    and Illustrated World War II Encyclopedia, Lt Col Eddy Bauer and Brigadier Peter Young, H.S. Stuttman Inc., 1978, p 165

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    SEE ALSO:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Arras_%281940%29

    http://history.farmersboys.com/Battl...e_of_arras.htm

    http://search.bbc.co.uk/cgi-bin/sear...2Bww2&x=11&y=4

    http://pedia.counsellingresource.com...of_Arras_(1940)

    http://www.search.com/reference/Batt...ras_%281940%29

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/t...icleId=1119926

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    Last edited by George Eller; 01-13-2007 at 10:35 PM.

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    Thanks for the information George. Some Matildas A11s, had an 12,7mm Vickers heavy MG.

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    It's a pity that they never could figure out how to mount a significantly larger gun in the Matilda. I believe the turret was too small, and redesigning the tank was too cumbersome.

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    There was a prototipe with a 6 pounders, I dont know succesful but ugly for sure. Not only that the armament was inadecuate but also the british mania of having troubles with the HE ammo in his guns, ridiculous.


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    Interesting photo Panzerknacker. Seems like many of the British tanks of that era had very boxy shaped turrets.

    Here is a three-view color drawing of
    Infantry Tank, Mk I, Matilda I, (A11)

    http://www.europa1939.com/tanques/tanques/matilda.html

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    I really like the Matilda senior, with 57 mm gun and explosive shells it would be a fersome tank in the 1940-42 period. Like a mini KV-1.

    Matilda with AMRA demining rollers.


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    Quote from P.K. :"Matilda in dug out emplacemet near Tobruk, those vehicles play a fundamental role in defeating the german attemp to breach into the fortress in april 1941. Exposing only its solid cast steel turret was a hard nut to find and to crack for the advancing german Panzers."

    The Hull defilade(sometimes called hull-down) is a classic when using armor in a defensive postion.There would be 2 or 3 dug-outs for each tank(if time permitted), and after a few shots, would move to an alternate. Indeed it was very difficult for the attackers to get a good shot at them, while the tank in defilade could take its time and engage any targets within its field of fire.Kind of like a tank sniper...

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    And here you got another Matilda emplacement, this a very ease to conceal and very hard to find by aerial recce operations.
    However Rommel did not repeated his 1941 mistakes when he go after the allied fortres in mid 1942 and the value of this positions became a very low one.


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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.


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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.

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