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Weapons of World War Two

Matilda Mark 2 infantry tank

Matilda Mark 2 infantry tank

At the beginning of the Second World War, the typical antitank and support 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 counter effectively the enemy tanks. Because of this, one can imagine the surprise experimented by the soldiers who for the first time saw the new tanks Mk II entering action in North Africa. On the "Matilda", nickname of the Mk II, the antitank projectiles could not perforate, because they ricocheted laterally on the powerful armor of 80 millimeters in thickness.

When designing this tank the projectists 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 binomial tank-infantry was to be used in a completely opposite way. The scarce speed and reduced operational range, sacrificed in favor of the solid protection, would be the main faults of this tank. Its structure presented a novelty: the absence of framework. The armored plates and the bodywork elements were not installed over a skeleton, but directly riveted one to another, forming a decidedly robust ensemble, whereas the turret and the front of the hull were made by casting.

The armament comprised a 40-millimeter cannon, plus a machine gun and a Bren gun for antiaircraft fire, installed on the top of the turret. Overall, and making comparisons, it could be seen that some tanks of the Axis were faster and better armed than the "Matilda", but to the more powerful pieces, the Italian 47 millimeters and the German 50 millimeters, did not correspond proportional protections; the best Italian armor was 47 millimeters and the German counterpart was 50 millimeters, and they could be perforated by the British shooting, while the pieces of the Axis little could do against the armor of the Mk II.

Later these would be dispatched by using high-velocity antitank pieces such as the 50 millimeters Pak 38, or the famous 88 millimeters, 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 serious losses of the first period of the war, would receive from England 7000 tanks of several types (of which only 4260 would arrive), 7056 from America (5228 arrived) and 1380 from Canada (1188 arrived), besides the 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: 0.61 meters

Maximum surmountable slope: 24 degrees

Fording: 1.00 meters

Also in Weapons of World War Two:

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