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Weapons of World War Two

The Italo-German Campaign in North Africa (Jun 1940 - Jun 1941)

Matilda infantry tank

Version depicted: Mark 2

Matilda Mark 2 infantry tank

During the Second World War, the typical anti-tank and support artillery piece of the Axis forces was the 47/32. This weapon, excellent for the time on which it had been adopted, 1935, could perforate 35 millimeters of armor at 700 meters; in 1940, increased the protection of the armored vehicles in service, its effectiveness was more modest, but always able to effectively counter the enemy tanks. Because of this, we can imagine the surprise experienced by the soldiers who saw the new Mk II tanks entering action in North Africa for the first time. On the "Matilda", for this was the nickname of the Mk II, the anti-tank projectiles could not perforate, because they ricocheted laterally on the powerful armor of 80 millimeters in thickness. The design of this tank had momentarily returned to the strategic concepts from the First World War, which envisaged the tank as totally subordinated to the infantry and its defense. The evolution of the strategy regarding the operation of armored vehicles would promptly demonstrate that the tank-infantry binomial was used in a diametrically opposite way. The poor speed and the reduced operational range, sacrificed in favor of the solid protection, would be the main defects of this tank. Its structure presented a novelty: the absence of a framework. The armored plates and the bodywork elements were not assembled to a skeleton, but directly riveted to each other, forming a decidedly robust ensemble, whereas the turret and the front of the hull were made through casting. The armament comprised a 40-millimeter cannon, besides a machine gun and a Bren machine gun for anti-aircraft fire, installed in the top of the turret. In overall, and making comparisons, it could be seen that some tanks of the Axis were faster and better armed than the "Matilda", but the most powerful pieces, the Italian 47-millimeter and the German 50-millimeter, were not corresponded with proportional protections; the best Italian armor was one of 47 millimeters and the German counterpart was one of 50 millimeters, and they could be perforated by the British cannons, whereas the pieces of the Axis could do just little against the mastodontic "Matilda". These were later dispatched by using anti-tank pieces of high muzzle velocity such as the 50-millimeter Pak 38, or the famous 88-millimeter Flak 18/36, which was the terror of the Allied tanks. Regarding the career of the "Matilda", after a first utilization in France in 1939, it would fight in North Africa and Crete until 1942. It would be later used in Guinea by the Australian troops and, equipped with special fuel to operate at low temperatures, it would fight alongside the armored troops of the Red Army. This one, to compensate the severe losses of the first period of the war, would receive 7000 tanks of several types from England (of which only 4260 arrived), 7056 from America (of which only 5228 arrived) and 1380 from Canada (of which only 1188 arrived), besides many tens of thousands of automobiles, armored cars and half tracks.

Year: 1938

Weight: 26.9 tonnes

Length: 5.61 meters

Width: 2.59 meters

Height: 2.44 meters

Ground clearance: 50 centimeters

Maximum armor: 80 millimeters

Engine: Two AEC A 183/184 of 87 horsepower

Maximum speed: 24 kilometers/hour

Operational range in road: 250 kilometers

Operational range in countryside: 125 kilometers

Crew: 4

Armament: One 40-millimeter cannon; one 7.92-millimeter machine gun; one 7.7-millimeter machine gun

Ammunitions: 93 of 40 millimeters; 2935 of 7.92 millimeters; 600 of 7.7 millimeters

Maximum surmountable trench: 2.15 meters

Maximum surmountable step: 61 centimeters

Maximum surmountable slope: 24 degrees

Fording: 1.00 meters

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