A.12 Infantry Tank Mk.II
Matilda III

Airfix 1:76 Scale Vehicle Review

A.12 Infantry Tank Mk.II, Matilda III

Matilda infantry tanks were used by the British Army in France and North Africa until gradually replaced by M3 Lee/Grant and M4 Sherman tanks in 1942. The Australian Army also deployed Matilda tanks in the infantry support role. The Matilda was very popular due to its heavy armour protection which rendered it immune from all Italian tanks in North Africa as well as many of the German anti-tank weapons available early in the war. The Matilda's 2 pdr. gun was already obsolete at the beginning of the war, but it had sufficient armour penetration capability to deal with the flimsy Italian tanks encountered in North Africa. Although designated as an infantry tank, the 2 pdr. gun could not fire high-explosive shells which might have been useful in defeating enemy infantry positions.

Technical Specifications

  • Matilda III
  • Type: A.12 Infantry Tank Mk.II
  • Length: 5.62 m
  • Width: 2.59 m
  • Height: 2.44 m
  • Weight: 27 t
  • Armament: 2 pdr. Tank Gun with 93 rounds,
    co-axial 7.92 mm Besa Machine Gun
  • 3 Crew: Cmdr., Driver & Gunner
  • Year: 1939-1942

Initially, the Wehrmacht had to rely on support from Luftwaffe 8.8 cm FlaK (anti-aircraft gun) units, heavy artillery units firing over open sights, or tank-hunter detachments using the new 5 cm PaK 38 anti-tank guns, to stop a Matilda tank. During the 1940 campaign, Pz.Kpfw. IV support tanks and StuG. III assault guns used hollow-charge anti-concrete shells to defeat Matilda tanks.

Armour Penetration Capabilities of German Anti-tank Weapons at 100 metres

Weapon A.P. A.P.C.R.
7.92 mm Panzerbüchse 38/39 34 mm
2 cm L.55 Kampfwagenkanone 30/38 40 mm 52 mm
3.7 cm L.45 KwK 35 & PaK 35/36 65 mm 79 mm
7.5 cm L.24 StuK 37 & Kampfwagenkanone 37 57 mm 76 mm
Tungsten cored A.P.C.R. (Armour Piercing Composite Rigid) rounds had better penetration capabilities than regular A.P. (Armour Piercing (Manganese steel solid shot)) rounds, but they were significantly more expensive to produce. Tungsten was scarce, and German supplies of it ran out in 1944. None of the above weapons penetrated the Matilda's armour of 78 mm all-round. Those listed below could defeat the Matilda, but the more effective of these weapons were static, ground mounted anti-tank guns. As a result, the Matilda dominated the desert tank battles and Rommel had to adopt a defensive tactical posture to counter this threat.
2 cm L.112.5 FlaK 30/38 81 mm 106 mm
2.8 cm schwere Panzerbüchse 41 94 mm (A.P.S.V.)
5 cm L.42 Kampfwagenkanone 38 69 mm 115 mm
5 cm L.60 PaK 38 & KwK 39 99 mm 141 mm
7.5 cm L.48 KwK 39 & PaK 39 144 mm 172 mm
7.5 cm L.46 PaK 40 149 mm 176 mm
8.8 cm L.71 FlaK 35/36 247 mm 311 mm

When Pz.Kpfw. IV Ausf. F2 with the long 7.5 cm L/43 gun was introduced in June 1942, the Matildas no longer dominated the desert tank battles. Using an A.P.C.R. shell, the Pz.Kpfw. IV Ausf. F2 had an estimated 34% chance of defeating a Matilda at 500 metres, compared to a 26% probability of the Matilda defeating it. Spare track links were fitted to provide Pz.Kpfw. IV Ausf. F2 with additional frontal armour which reduced the Matilda's rate of success even further. In combat, the Matilda would have to approach to within 100 meters of a Pz.Kpfw. IV Ausf. F2 to gain a slight advantage, whereas the panzer commander could use the better speed and mobility of his vehicle to maintain the tactical advantage at 500 meters range.

In addition to its limited armour penetration capability, the Matilda's 2 pdr gun was not designed to fire high-explosive shells which could have defeated enemy anti-tank and machine gun positions. The Matilda was a designated infantry tank, unable to support friendly troops with direct high-explosive fire against entrenched enemy position. The A.12.C.S. (Close Support) conversion of the Matilda II fulfilled this role more effectively, but at the cost of increased logistical requirements, and a more complicated tactical deployment of these specialist vehicles. By comparison, tanks with a multi-purpose gun carried armour piercing and high-explosive ammunition which enabled them to engage any possible ground target effectively.

The Matilda tank also suffered from being underpowered by two 86 BHP truck engines, giving the Matilda III a top speed of only 12 MPH. Because of their low cruising speed, Matilda tanks were carried to the battlefield by tank transporters. The M3 Lee/Grant and M4 Sherman tanks which eventually replaced the Matilda traded the heavy armour protection for higher speed and greater maneuverability.

Evaluation

Scale model with much raised detail.

Excellent choice of subject, a key vehicle and a very attractive model.

Few parts, easy to assemble. Track assembly is easier than on most other tank models.

High quality kit. Parts fit well and there is minimal flash.

Compatible with Fujimi, Matchbox, Nitto, and VAC-U-CAST.

The model was unavailable for some time, but Humbrol released it again in 1997.

Soft plastic tank tracks should be painted on both sides to retard a chemical reaction which is known to dissolve them eventually.

Historical Employment

  • British Army, North Africa 1940-1942
  • Australian Army, New Guinea 1942
  • Soviet Army, 1941-1943

Possible Conversions

  • A.12 Matilda II, British Expeditionary Force (B.E.F.), France 1940. The vehicle was equipped with the Vickers 0.303 Inch water cooled machine gun in an armoured housing. The Vickers housing may be modelled using small plastic or metal tubing.
  • A.12.C.D.L. (Canal Defense Light) conversion kit available from VAC-U-CAST.
  • A.12.C.S. (Close Support) equipped with a 94 mm L/18 Field Gun and the Vickers MG. Metal or plastic tubing may be used for the conversion. The field gun's barrel is shorter than that of the 2 pdr gun, it should only be 75% of the length of the original barrel supplied with the kit. All A.12.C.S. conversions were based on the A.12 Matilda II, not the Matilda III version.
  • Australian Army field conversions of the Matilda included flamethrowing vehicles, popularly know as Frogs, and bridgelayers with makeshift or prefabricated bridges. Australian Matildas participated in amphibious landings.
  • Pz.Jäg. A.12, Normandy 1944. Matilda tanks captured in the 1940 campaign were later converted to Panzerjäger (tank hunters), and these vehicles took part in the defense of the Atlantic Wall. The Pz.Jäg. A.12 had the turret removed and a German 5 cm L/60 PaK 38 mounted instead. A photo of a Pz.Jäg. A.12 taken in May of 1944 shows its British "T" registration number, presumably because it was still in the original B.E.F. camouflage scheme. The Airfix Panzerabwehrkanone PaK 40 may be used for this conversion, it looks identical to the PaK 38.

Matilda infantry tanks played an important role in the early campaigns of World War 2, France 1940 and the Desert War 1940-1942. Without the Matilda, the British involvement in these campaigns cannot be simulated accurately. A10 and A13 cruiser tanks would be another important addition to the early war range, enabling the wargamer to simulate this period in history.

Airfix Modelling

Andy Reid

Frequently Asked Questions

For further information and updates, please join us on facebook or in the Miniatures Forum.

British Miniatures of World War Two