Matilda I (tank)
||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (March 2009)|
|Tank, Infantry, Mk I, Matilda I (A11)|
A11E1 pilot model
|Place of origin||United Kingdom|
|Designer||Sir John Carden, Vickers-Armstrongs|
|Weight||11 Long tons|
|Length||18 ft 5 in (4.85 m)|
|Width||8 ft 6 in (2.28 m)|
|Height||8 ft 3 in (1.86 m)|
|Crew||2 (commander/gunner, driver)|
|.303 or .50 inch Vickers machine gun
|Engine||3.6 Litre V8 Ford Model 79 petrol
70 hp (52 kW)
|80 miles (130 km)|
|Speed||8 mph (12.87 km/h),
off road: 5.6 mph (9 km/h)
- For the later Infantry Tank see Matilda II
The Tank, Infantry, Mk I, Matilda I (A11) was a British infantry tank of the Second World War. It is not to be confused with the later model Tank, Infantry Mk II (A12), also known as the "Matilda II" which took over the "Matilda" name after the early part of the war when the first Matilda was withdrawn from combat service. They were of totally different design and did not share components, but did have some similar traits because they were both designed to be infantry tanks, a type of tank that tended to sacrifice speed for increased armour protection.
The development, of the design by Carden at Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd, began in 1935. The General Staff specification required a cheap tank, effectively requiring the use of commercially available components. It resulted in a small two-man vehicle with a low hull and a small cast turret. The turret was fitted with a single heavy machine gun, either a .303 Vickers machine gun or a larger, Vickers .50 machine gun.
Designed for quick delivery as well as low cost, the A11 used many stock parts from other vehicles: a Ford V8 engine, a Fordson gearbox, a steering mechanism similar to the one used in Vickers light tanks, and suspension adapted from the Mk IV Dragon artillery tractor that was itself based on the Vickers 6-Ton Tank Model E.
Although the hull and turret were well protected against contemporary anti-tank weapons, the tracks and running gear were completely exposed and more vulnerable than on tanks that had protected tracks. In addition, the lack of a gun with any anti-tank ability severely limited its utility on the battlefield. Besides operating the machine gun, the commander had to direct the driver and operate the wireless. There being no room in the turret for the wireless, it was placed in the hull and the commander had to duck down inside to operate it.
General Hugh Elles, the Master-General of the Ordnance, is credited with giving the tank the name Matilda "due to the vehicle's diminutive size and duck-like shape and gait."  but the codename "Matilda" for the project was created for Vickers at the time of drawing up the specification in 1935 The "Tank, Infantry, Mark I" name was an Army Council decision of June 1940.
The first order of 60 Matilda tanks was placed in April 1937, and the tank remained in production until August 1940. One hundred and forty were produced, some of them with the heavier .50 inch Vickers machine gun instead of the .303 inch Vickers machine gun.
The Matilda I (55) and Matilda II tanks fought together in France as part of the 1st Army Tank Brigade of the British Expeditionary Force in the Battle of France. They participated in the defence and counter-attack operation at Arras against the invasion by Nazi Germany in May 1940, temporarily discomfiting the 7th Panzer Division under Rommel.
When the BEF returned to the United Kingdom, nearly all their armour was left behind. Matilda Mk Is left in the United Kingdom were withdrawn for training purposes.
Three tanks are preserved at the Bovington Tank Museum. One (possibly T3447) is in running condition though not with authentic engine or gearbox, one is on display in the museum and the third is a severely damaged wreck that was used as a gunnery range target.
- FCM 36, a similar, French two–man, infantry tank
- List of tanks of the United Kingdom
- Tanks in the British Army
- A11 was the General Staff number
- Chamberlain, Peter; Ellis, Chris (1975). British and American tanks of World War II; the complete illustrated history of British, American and Commonwealth tanks, gun motor carriages and special purpose vehicles, 1939-1945. New York, Arco Pub. Co. . p. 54. ISBN 0-668-01867-4.
- Fletcher The Great Tank Scandal p42
- Matilda Infantry Tank p4
- Tank Museum accession record
- Fletcher, David, and Peter Sarson. Matilda Infantry Tank 1938–45 (New Vanguard 8). Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 1994. ISBN 1-85532-457-1.
- Forty, George; Jack Livesy (2006). The World Encyclopedia of Tanks & Armoured Fighting Vehicles. Lorenz Books. p. 56. ISBN 978-0-7548-1741-3.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Matilda I tank.|
- Britain's Matilda Tanks at World War II Tanks and Vehicles / Advanced Squad Leader
- Tank Infantry Mark I A11 (E1949.350)
- Tank Infantry Mark I A11 (E1993.184)