By No 1 Army Film & Photographic Unit [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Matilda Mk. II – History

History of the Infantry Tank Mk. II Matilda, a British tank used during the Second World War by the Commonwealth forces.

This post will explain briefly the story of the Matilda II, as it was commonly known the Infantry Tank Mk. II, a British tank of the Second World War. Mainly known for its heavy armour, it fought in France, North Africa, Pacific and in other minor theatres; the Soviets employed them in the Eastern Front, and so did the Germans as war prize.

Matilda designation was "infantry tank", that is a relatively slow but heavy armoured vehicle used to support infantry. Its armour thickness reached 78 mm (3.07"), much more than the average 50 mm (1.97") of the other contemporary tanks. This became an advantage in the first phases of the Second World War, when the guns of enemy tanks were too weak to pierce its armour from a long distance; on the other hand, the Matilda could easily destroy them from the same distance.

The only weapons effective against it were high caliber cannons, such as the famous German 88 mm FlaK AA gun, or the PaK 40 AT gun. Shaped-charge shells, like those fired by the Italian Semovente da 75/18 self-propelled guns, could also destroy it.


Its armament consisted in a Ordnance QF 2-pounder (40 mm, 1.57") main gun and a coaxial 7.92 mm (0.312") Besa machine gun. The armor varied from 78 mm (3.07") in the hull glacis to 20 mm (0.79") in the upper hull and turret roof. It had a crew of four: commander, gunner, loader and driver.

The major weaknesses were its poor speed (6 mph —less than 10 km/h— off-road) due to an underpowered 95 HP engine, and complex and unreliable mechanics; moreover, the cannon lacked high-explosive shells for anti-personnel use, whereas the turret was too small to allow an upgrade of the main gun.

Operating history

Matildas saw service in Europe and North Africa from the beginning of the war until mid-1942; in the Pacific, on the other hand, it fought until the end of the conflict. Afterwards, its hull was a base for several support vehicles, like mine clearers, flamethrowers, searchlights and mortar carriers. The last nation to use it was Egypt, which employed during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

From Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.

A Matilda II tank during a live exhibition.

An Infantry Tank Mk. II Matilda during a live exhibition at he Bovington Tank Museum, United Kingdom.

Image sources: 1, 2

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.