A11 Infantry Tank Mark I Matilda I

Last updated on February 17th, 2019 at 10:29 pm

The first model of the famous Matilda tanks was designed by Sir John Carden, a prolific tank designer in Britain at the time. It was first built in 1936 at the Vickers tank factory. There are a number of stories behind how these tanks got the nickname Matilda. Some say that General Hugh Elles named her after a cartoon series of the time because of her funny, duck-like appearance. Though it is known that the designer, Sir John Carden, had penciled the codename Matilda on the original sketches for the A11.

As the name suggests, infantry tanks were created to support infantry, foot soldiers, and because of this the first Matilda tank only had a top speed of 8mph (13kph) to keep up with men in battle.

Its weapons included a 0.303in (7.7mm) machinegun or a 0.5in (12.7mm) machinegun. It had no main turret gun or any kind of anti-tank defenses.

Because the British government was still reluctant to spend a lot of money at this time, costs were kept low by utilizing existing components such as a commercially available Ford V8 engine and gearbox and breaks, clutches and steering systems from existing light tanks and gun tractors. The body was cheaply made from riveted plates, only the turret was cast in one piece.
A11 Infantry Tank Mark I Matilda I
An initial order of 60 A11’s was placed in April 1937 and by 1940 a further 80 had been built.

Because they used parts that were readily available and well-tried, the Matilda I’s were very reliable. However, because of their poor quality construction, poor armor and performance, they were practically obsolete the moment World War II began.

During a brief period of action at the start of the war they were always outgunned by superior enemy tanks and were afterwards only used for training future tank crews.

Great Britain

A11 Infantry Tank Mark I

Active: 1938
Crew: 2
Weight: 11 tons (11,160kg)
Length: 15ft 11in (4.85m)
Height: 6ft 1in (1.85m)
Width: 7ft 6in (2.54m)
Weapons: Main – 1 x 0.5 inch (12.7mm) Vickers Machinegun or 0.303in (7.7mm) Vickers Machinegun
Armor Maximum – 2.36in (60mm)
Engine: Ford V8 gasoline, 70hp
Speed: 8mph (13kph)
Range: 80 miles (129 km)