Tobruk Matilda markings question

Discussion in 'North Africa & the Med' started by Chris C, Apr 19, 2020.

  1. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian researcher

    Hi all,

    I think these Matildas were in 4RTR. In any case my actual question is, does anyone know the purpose of the large numbers that were put on these tanks?

    mat.jpeg
    (THE BRITISH ARMY IN NORTH AFRICA 1941)


    mat2.jpeg
    (2nd image source: Hoping the wind is strong enough on Twitter)

    PS edited caveat in tweet for second picture. "A British MK II tank. Remained with us at Capuzzo. Was later knocked out during an attack by the enemy on the Fort. Nov . 1942 [this should be 1941] I don't think Len took this photo, I suspect he purchased a print from somewhere. There are a few others with a '2 29' marking."
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2020
  2. ltdan

    ltdan Nietenzähler

  3. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian researcher

    Appreciated, but I don't think this answers my question.

    It's a little maddening that there isn't a date for this photograph which was posted in the other thread:
    [​IMG]

    But what I think this shows is the eventual fate of the tank in my second picture. The first picture of it (plus the text describing its eventual loss!) shows that the 8 was not something written on the tank by the Germans. Besides, most of the other photos in the other thread show black handwriting, not anything carefully painted in white. Even the "38" on "Crucible" in the other thread looks too neat to have just been written on a tank for a firing test or instructional purposes.
     
  4. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian researcher

    PS added the text of the tweet which seems to correct the date. Actually if it was at Fort Capuzzo it can't have been part of the Tobruk garrison.
     
  5. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian researcher

    PPS the other possibility for the tank marked '2' is that it is entirely mislabeled and also stems from Matilda tanks working with New Zealand infantry at the start of Op Crusader.
     
  6. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Attached Files:

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  7. Robert-w

    Robert-w Well-Known Member

    It's speculation but it looks rather like the WW1 system when a tank would have its unique number (often in small characters), a name (usually starting with the same letter for each battalion) and a very large crew number (sometime incorrectly called a call number). The latter was so that the infantry with whom the tanks were co-operating/supporting could report back on the progress, or otherwise, of their supporting tanks. The tank crew would take their number and tank name with them from tank to tank.

    It might be an infantry tank thing.
     
  8. andy007

    andy007 Senior Member

    Hi Chris,

    Good to see the photo I posted has stirred some debate/research! The knocked out photo is a great find.

    Re-reading the caption I wonder if the photo is meant to illustrate the tank that was with them at Capuzzo rather than be a photo of the actual tank? A few of Len's photos are marked with 2-29 on the back which others from 23 Battalion also have so I wonder if it was illustrative purposes? Given the knocked out photo appears to be Australian in origin, Tobruk could make more sense as the location?
     
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  9. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian researcher

    Hi Andy!

    What does 2-29 mean to you? Now that I think about it, February 29 is an unusual date, and 1942 was not (just checked) a leap year.
     
  10. KevinT

    KevinT Senior Member

    Not entirely true Robert. Some regiments did carry the name forward as I , II etc but several regiments / CO's thought it bad luck to use the same name.

    BTW. T6849 is DEFIANCE from 4th RTR.

    Cheers

    Kevin
     
  11. Robert-w

    Robert-w Well-Known Member

    Do you mean battalion COs?
     
  12. KevinT

    KevinT Senior Member

    Regiment / Battalion / HQ whatever, the names were not always carried forward.

    CheersKevin
     
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  13. Robert-w

    Robert-w Well-Known Member

    They were battalions in WW1 and names were not carried forward if the tank commander was dead or otherwise hors de combat as the tank crew and the new commander would then select a new name.

    However we are veering away from the concept of the number in WW2 being similar to a WW1 crew number
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2020
  14. andy007

    andy007 Senior Member

    Hi Chris,

    I think it might be the copy number or order number for the prints? Just a hunch. There is a selection of photos with similar numbers such as 2-20, 2-21, 2-27 etc.

     
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  15. ltdan

    ltdan Nietenzähler

    This numbering thing seems somewhat unusual as tese numbers quite rare.

    Although No 4 Defiance obviously earned some fame:
    DEFIANCE.jpg

    The crew of A12 Matilda MkII 'Defiance' (T 6849), 4th Royal Tank Regiment, 32nd Army Tank Brigade, take a break during the fighting near Tobruk, Libya. 28 November 1941

    (Photo source - © IWM E 6804)
    No 1 Army Film & Photographic Unit
    Major Geoffrey Keating

    (Colorised by Gabriel Bîrsanu from Romania)


    also from unknown source (obviously polish)
    MAtilda 1.jpg
    the tank finally entered the scale modellers world via Tamiya, although with serial number 6949 instead of 6849
    MAt nod.jpg

    This doesn´t solve thy "mystery" of the numbers, but I found another one with a large O or 0 at the turret:
    matilda-ZERO.jpg

    have fun :D
     
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  16. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    That's not a number it's a circle to denote it's in C squadron.
     

    Attached Files:

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  17. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian researcher

    Itdan, thanks for the post. I wasn't sure about another photo of Defiance, and looking at the locations and dates associated with all of these may and help stitch together some sense.

    (And as a side note, I am very slowly working on a 1/48 Matilda II, and will probably use the Defiance decals. I will have to check whether the serial number is correct or not! - No.)
     
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2020
  18. MarkN

    MarkN Well-Known Member

    I suggest it was for easier visual recognition by the 4RTR CO (O'Carroll) and his squadron commanders of where his/their various troops were on the battlefield.

    There is nothing to indicate in 4RTR's war diary, or any others associated with the date and event, that it was anything beyond an internal 4RTR thing. If it had anything to do with accompanying infantry, you'd expect some reference to it in their ops orders. There isn't.

    Moreover, the 70th Division and 32nd Army Tank Brigade are very explicit about what markings are to be painted on to AFVs, and what other identifiction devices are to be used, for others to spot friend from foe. No mention of big numbers.
     
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  19. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian researcher

    Mark, thank you very much, that's massively helpful.

    Is there any mention of the markings at all in 4RTR's war diary?
     
  20. ltdan

    ltdan Nietenzähler

    Strongly assume it was a measure for the Tobruk break-out in November ´41:
    Mat Tob.jpg 32 Tank Bde workshops inside Tobruk working to ensure the maximum turn out for the battle.
    Mat Tob 2.jpg Matilda Mk 2 of D Sqn 7 RTR ,(driver Cpl Thomas Woodworth)
    Mat Tob 3.jpg The relieving force greet the breakout force.

    some more at the source here:
    1941 – 1942
     
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