The Matilda II was dominant in the Western Desert battlefield between the autumn of 1940 and the spring of 1941.
The Matilda II first saw action at the Battle of Arras in 1940 and was the only British tank used throughout the Second World War. In North Africa their thick armour earned them the nickname ‘Queen of the Desert.’ However, they proved vulnerable as more powerful German guns appeared. They were last used by the British in June 1942, although the Australians in New Guinea kept them until the end of the war.
The Tank Museum’s Matilda II
The Museum has two Matilda IIs in the collection – one running and one non-running.
The running example was manufactured on 28 May 1941 by North British Locomotive Company. It went to the School of Tank Technology and was transferred to The Tank Museum in 1949. It recently underwent a restoration by the Workshop Team, completed in 2018. It was renamed the Princess Royal after HRH Princess Anne who opened The Tank Museum’s new Workshop.
The non-running example was recovered from a firing range and spent many years as a gate-guard with the Royal Tank Regiment. At the time it had serial number T7283 painted on it. If this is accurate then it was built by Ruston and Hornsby of Lincoln in late 1939 or early 1940. It was a gate guard at Warminster and was completely stripped inside. For the WW2: War Stories exhibition, the Workshop Volunteers performed an aesthetic restoration project and it is now painted in the Caunter Scheme.