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Thread: The Matilda, queen of the desert.

  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    At the start the Matilda was capable of taking on all comer but well out of date two years later.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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    Thanks Panzerknacker, yes some were armed with a Vickers .50 cal MG.

    Here is more on the Infantry Tank Mk I - Matilda I (A11)
    the most numerous of the Matilda tanks at the
    Battle of Arras - 21 May 1940.

    Tank, Infantry, Mk I, Matilda I (A11)
    http://good-times.webshots.com/photo...94410232HquShK



    from: British and American Tanks of World War II, by Peter Chamberlain and Chris Ellis, Arco Publishing Company, 1975, p 54


    from: British and American Tanks of World War II, by Peter Chamberlain and Chris Ellis, Arco Publishing Company, 1975, p 55


    from: World War Two Tanks, George Forty, Osprey, 1995, p 33
    and Tanks of World War II, Chris Ellis, Chancellor Press, 1997, p 100

    SEE ALSO:
    http://www.webshots.com/search?query=matilda+mk+1

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    Last edited by George Eller; 01-16-2007 at 08:00 PM.

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    Nice pics.

    The captured A11s were named "infanterie Begleitwagen Mk.I" (infantry escort vehicle) , but never introduced again in combat by the germans , mostly for trining duties and police task.

    Interesting shots of the Matilda Mk-II A-12 crossing steel obstacles.





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    Quote Originally Posted by Panzerknacker View Post
    Nice pics.

    The captured A11s were named "infanterie Begleitwagen Mk.I" (infantry escort vehicle) , but never introduced again in combat by the germans , mostly for trining duties and police task.
    -

    Thanks Panzerknacker,

    The British did the same with their A11's. After Dunkirk they were relegated to training duties.

    I like those pics of the A12 crossing steel obstacles. Great shots.

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    Last edited by George Eller; 01-16-2007 at 08:00 PM.

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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 Originally Posted by Panzerknacker View Post
    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.


    They weren't successful. The turret ring was too small making it very unwieldy and unreliable...

    Besides, by that point, it really needed a 17.2-pounder/77mm gun. Then it would have been quite a tank that would have been useful well after WWII.

    My source states that when the British Army replaced the Matildas with Shermans and Grants, most of them were in "good running order" and the armor still made them very useful for other applications such as: mine clearing vehicles, combat engineer applications, lights, and of course --flamethrowers!!

    The Australians were especially fond of using flamethrowing Matildas against Japanese jungle bunkers...

    (From: "Tanks of the World" by David Miller)


    Australian infantry escort a Matilda "Frog" flamethrowing tank in 1945.
    Last edited by Nickdfresh; 01-20-2007 at 07:10 AM.

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