A Quick overview of the

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Mark II, IIA (AEC Engine) and IIA*(LEYLAND Engine)

From their debut in France in May 1940 just eight months after the war started to their final operational role in Balikpapan in July 1945 the Matilda Tank had earned respect and had gained the title of one of the best British Tanks of the period.

With heavy armor and an impressive power traverse 2-pounder anti tank gun the Matilda had supreme control over the battlefield. In desperation the German 88mm anti-Aircraft guns we first used on land based vehicles to try and control the mighty Matilda.

The Matilda was still been used by the Australian Army into the mid 1950’s in training roles and had one of the longest operational history’s of any British Tank.

The early Matilda’s were made by the Vulcan Foundry in Warrington and later LMS, Harland and Wolff, North British Locomotive, Fowler and Ruston and Hornsby, these companys may of also sublet the works as some tanks can be found with unusual markings such as BP and Co Ltd and B Ltd.

From active service to farm frolics

Dad bought our first Matilda in the early seventies at a clearing sale for 250 dollars and so began a life time of fun and adventure For many years I rode on our old Tilly while dad cleared scrub and sank dams and at some early age I began to drive the old girl myself. We have had all sorts of adventures like loosing a track, Bogged to the waist, and disasters like dropped pistons and final drive failure.

Extracts from the Instruction manual

Outline of construction,

The Marks II and IIA Infantry Tanks are similar mechanically but the armament differs in that the Mk.II has a Vickers co-axial machine gun and the Mk .IIA a Besa. The Mk.IIA* also has the Besa.

The Front part of the vehicle forms the fighting chamber whilst the rear half houses the power unit and Transmission.

The Hull is suspended on bogies of the Bell-crank-coil-spring type and the suspension is protected by skirting plates.

Two water-cooled compression ignition engines coupled together by a transverse train of gears supply the motive power. From the centre gear, a shaft drives rearwards to a Wilson pre-selective gearbox which is mounted transversely across the rear of the tank.

Rackham steering clutches are mounted on each side of the gearbox, steering is controlled by two steering levers.

Two radiators are placed adjacent to and beneath the roof of the rear compartment, Each radiator being a separate unit connected to its specific engine. Each engine also has its own lubricating oil tank and fuel tank and it is possible to operate one power unit independently of the other. Electric starting is employed with the AEC engines using Glow plugs and the Leylands been direct start. Compressed air is used to effect gear changing.

The Turret is rotated by manual or power traverse. In most respects the general construction of the vehicle is similar to various known types of medium tanks.

Hull Group

The Hull is built from specially shaped armour castings and plates constructed to form a rigid structure.

To increase strength and the resistance of the Hull to sudden shocks, the top and bottom plates have been rebated into the side plates, The shoulders taking the shear-load off the fixing rivets and screws.

The hull is braced by the hull nose and toolbox castings at the front end and by the final drive gearbox casting and back plate at the rear end. In addition, a bulkhead separating the fighting compartment from the engine compartment acts as a stay.

The drivers seat is in the centre of the tank and is fitted with a hood that is controlled by two leavers or a hand wheel in latter tanks. The batteries are on each side of the driver. The steering leavers are fitted on each side of the driver with the gear selector between the driver’s legs. There are only two pedals, the gearbox control pedal on the left, and the accelerator pedal on the right.

Hand wheels for disengaging both engine clutches’ are fitted on the bulkhead between the fighting compartment and the engine compartment.

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Suspension and Sprocket Group

The suspension consists of five bogie assemblies, a jockey wheel, driving sprocket and idler wheel on each side of the tank protected by a heavy skirting plate .The idler wheel is adjustable so track tension can be maintained.

In early vehicles the returning track was carried by six pairs of rollers, these were very small and the bearings collapsed quickly or they choked with mud as the inside rollers were rebated into the sloping mud chute.

It was decided to replace the rollers with three track guides, this was now the new standard.

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An axis pin on the bottom arm of a four-armed suspension lever carries each bogie; Suspension levers are mounted opposite handed between the hull plating and the hull skirting with a large spring working horizontally against the upper arms.

The rear bogie is similar except that the spring is half the size and is located between the top arm of the suspension unit and bracket between the armour plates.

The driving sprocket is mounted on the final drive at the rear of the tank and consists of a small pinion driving a larger bull gear. The assembly is bolted to the tank, the bracket carrying the outer end of the shaft is bolted to the outer plate and the inner end is clamped using two bolts and a special cover. The Final drive ratio is 4.86 to 1.

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Engine Group

Engine types

Matilda I and II are fitted with twin AEC diesel engines A183 and A184 (replaced with the Leylands) Matilda III and IIICS are fitted with twin Leyland diesel engines E148 and E149 or E164 and E165. Matilda IV, IVCS and V are fitted with twin Leyland diesel engines E170 and E171.

Engines with the lower number are the left-hand motors. All Leyland engines have cast iron sumps except E148’s and E149’s.

The power units consist of two engines mounted side by side coupled together at the flywheel by a cross drive assembly. Most of the engine components are inter-changeable between engines, with the exception of fuel pumps, camshafts and the timing case

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Each engine has its own lubrication and cooling system this allows each engine to operate with out the other this can be very handy in the event of one engine collapsing, the vehicle can still be driven home.

Engine lubrication is on the dry sump system with a capacity of around 6 gallons with about 4.5 gallons always in the oil tanks. The sumps have a well at both ends for the scavenger pumps to operate out of ensuring the engines don’t run dry in rough ground.

On Matilda IV, IV CS and V the supply tank is mounted on the starter motor bracket at the bottom and to the cylinder head at the top. Oil is drawn from the bottom of the tank buy the main pump and is returned to the tank via an fined oil cooler, on earlier models the oil tanks are mounted on the hull wall.

On marks II and III the oil coolers are mounted over the top of the motors and are hinged as to allow access to the components under them. On marks IV and V the coolers are mounted across the two engines just above the oil filters, This position is in the main air stream to the radiators

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The Cooling system for each engine is separate from each other and consists of a water pump driven off the generator, a three bladed fan driven from the timing case through a small bevel gear box mounted on top of the main gearbox and a radiator mounted almost horizontally under the rear louvres.

The radiators are hinged to allow full access to the gadgets on the final drive system and can be lifted when full of water (approx 6 gallons each).

Transmission Group

The cross drive assembly is a train of gears, which transmit the drive from both engines to a single propeller shaft. The casing is bolted on to the engine bell housing and forms the rear mounting of the power unit

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The cross drive gives a ratio of 0.8 to 1.

The main drive shaft has a double sprocket for the chain drives to the air-compressor and the power traverse pump. The air compressor drive is by a single roller chain and a duplex roller chain drives the power traverse, both chains have stainless tensioners mounted internally.
Although double duplex chains would have been better based on my experience.

The Gearbox

In order to conform to the need for a short engine room, the Wilson epicyclic pre-selective gearbox is mounted transversely across the rear of the tank below the radiators. It has six forward speeds and one reverse.

Note from doug: any Ferret owners will instantly regonise the gear selector internals of this gearbox.

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The input shaft is mounted in the centre and the driven bevel is mounted on a sleeve over the main driving shaft. The gears are divided into two groups with their respective brake bands, automatic adjuster and toggle mechanism; these are carried on each side of the bevel drive.

On the left side is the big reduction group comprising of the reverse, emergency low and first gears. On the right side is the small reduction group comprising of fifth, fourth, third and second gears.

On the extreme left side of the box is a fixed ratio epicyclic gear, which is always engaged so that the ratio in the big reduction group is the product of the actual gear ratio in the group multiplied by the fixed reduction.

The drivers steering levers have two specific functions those been to steer the tank and to provide braking.

Braking is effected by pulling back the required lever. This applies a mechanical brake band to the brake drum of the Rackham clutch. This causes the drum to slow down and stop causing the cam rollers to run up the cam on the drum and so disengage the clutch, this also stops the track making the drive from the other side turn the tank.

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When both levers are applied the above action takes place on both sides and the vehicle in an emergency can be brought to a complete stand still.

Great care must be taken when descending a hill as the vehicle can overrun when the brakes are applied if the correct gear was not selected prior to starting the decent.

If the vehicle speed increases too much under brakes a severe shock load will be transmitted through the final drive if the brakes are released to quickly.

This can lead to some hair-raising descents

The information contained in this document was obtained from the following resources,

- Tanks Infantry ‘Matilda’ (Issued by Authority of Headquarters 1943)
- Self-Changing Gearbox for Matilda (Issued by Chief inspector of mechanization 1941)
- Infantry Tank Mark II, IIA and IIA* (Issued by Authority of Headquarters 1941)
- Engines (Issued by Leyland Motors LTD)
- Wilson Gear boxes method of overhauling. (Issued by RAEME training centre.)

Matthew McMahon

Many thanks to Mathew for an in-depth article.

I received this article and several others on a CD after Mathew's attempts to email it to me had failed due to the size. It carried the following message:

WARNING - This disc contains material that some people may find boring.
Others may think it is great.

For myself, I can see how much hard work has gone into his vehicles and am impressed.


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