Thursday, March 24, 2005
Early British Infantry Tanks
The first British infantry tank was the Matilda I, based on World War One ideas. It had a low speed, heavy armour and only a machine gun. 140 of these 11 ton vehicles were built. They served in France with the 1st Army Tank Brigade, with the BEF. Those in France were lost in the debacle and withdrawal from Dunkirk. The collapse in France in May 1940 emphasized their shortcomings. The successor was the Inf.Mk.II Matilda. Its strongest feature was its relatively heavy armour, at least for the time. That was what had made it so potent at Arras, during the counterattack against Rommel's 7th Panzer Division. They also did well in the initial stages of the war in the Western Desert, in North Africa. A total of 2,987 Matildas had been produced, when production was stopped in August 1943. The problem with the Matilda was the cast hull that prevented the tank from being up-gunned to the 6pdr or 75mm gun.