Thursday, 9 April 2015

Australian Matilda Tank vs Japanese Guns

Author: Vollketten

In April 1944, the Australian Army conducted series of tests on the Matilda tanks they were using against Japanese forces. These tests featured a variety of shells - Armour Piercing, High Explosive and HEAT rounds fired from a ‘Meiji’ Type 41 75mm Field Gun.

The tests were carried out by the Operation Research Section of the Army Ordnance Corps at the HQ of the 5th Division at Fortification Point, Papua New Guinea on the 4th to the 6th of April 1944, using both static shell testing, where the shell is held at a fixed point and detonated and using direct fire from the gun itself. The captured gun in question was fired by men from the 2/14th Field Regiment and serviced by the 2/83rd Light Aid Detachment.

Japanese Type 41 75mm Field Gun with gun shield.

Firing was conducted at a range of 150 yards (137metres) and a multitude of rounds were fired with mixed results. The Type 41 Field gun is 17.3 calibres field gun, very light and handy, weighing very modest 540kg and is able to put out a 5.71kg 75mm shell at 360m/s. So, the testing method may look a little crude using a forked stick but this is ideal as it holds the HE shell in place for the test.

Another static shell test, this time of a Hollow Charge shell placed against the frontal armour. Being a static test, it will actually improve performance as there will be no loss of penetrating due to the rotation of the round, but the purpose is clearly to ensure that the shell is detonated precisely where they wish to test the impact.

Hollow Charge round hitting Matilda on the glacis plate directly in line with the drivers view port. Despite making a significant indentation into the plate, the round is not recorded as penetrating.

Impact from 3 hollow charge rounds against the front armour. No recording of any penetration of the armour.

Hollow Charge shell number 12 fired from 150 yards hitting the front armour of the Matilda. Round did not penetrate.

Armour Piercing shell hitting the front armour of the Matilda. Round did not penetrate.

Three separate Armour Piercing rounds this time hitting the area around the drivers view port shearing it off. Two hits in the corner where the port meets the vertical part of the hull and don’t penetrate. Round three is less clear as it has sheared off the edge and shoulder of the vision periscope. Would have to put this one down as a non-penetrating hit too. To the left of the view port as you look at the image you can see another, earlier hit described below.

This is the Hollow charge round strike before those AP rounds sheared off the drivers view port seen from the outside.

Inside view of the penetration (that tiny hole above the white rectangle) through the front by a fired Hollow Charge round, the exterior of this section can be seen in the above image.

This is a cut section from the front armour of a different Matilda with the vision slit on the left. In this case a Hollow charge round has struck at a descending angle the edge of the periscope mounting where the front armour is much thinner and penetrated. Now, the armour is only much thinner there because the big circular piece of steel holding the periscope in place behind has been removed. It's not actually a weakspot in the armour. Of note is the splash across the rest of the armour as a result of the explosion.

This is the inside view of that hit and to test the behind armour effect a sheet of sisalkraft paper was placed 20 inches (50.8cm) behind the target.

Shell impact being inspected.


So what can we tell from these trials? Well, for starters, the Matilda was still a capable tank even in 1944 and also that the Type 41 Field Gun firing Hollow Charge shells was a potent anti-tank weapon. The AP rounds all failed to penetrate and the results of the HE shells aren’t even shown presumably because they were so ineffective. All of the efforts focused on these Hollow Charge rounds showed them to be inconsistent at best.

Australian War Museum Archive


  1. well, firing heat rounds from any japanese gun would have been less than satisfactory. the germans invented heat rounds for the short barreled 75mm gun, as it turned out to be quite effective. the japanese...did they even had heat rounds?

    1. I am pretty sure that a major nation like Japan had HEAT rounds but, my guess would be that they didn't plan to fight heavily armored tanks anyway. After all why would they expect to fight such things on islands or in a jungle environment?

    2. they did have HEAT and Australians captured them as well with that 75mm gun in New Guinea IIRC.
      And you could even use it in game on Chi-He with Type99 75mm gun(based on Type 41 75mm Field Gun, in the article above)
      but 57mm does better IMO :P

    3. according to wot, the sherman 75mm had apcr while there never was. im sorry, but you cant use world of tanks for historical statements.

    4. This is due to ammo type classification in WoT. In WoT we have AP, APCR, HEAT, and HE (HESH is high pen HE in game).

      Under APCR, we have all sorts of other ammo types, like HVAP and APDS. If you look at the Sherman's 76mm M1, it has what appears to be classified as APCR. However, if you look at the name, it's actually HVAP M93. Same as the L7 clones, the Centurion 7/1 shoots APDS L-28, even though it's classified as APCR.

      You might think this is just historical inaccuracy, however, I believe it's for both gameplay and development. It's easier for a player to look at the APCR icon and understand that this is the fast-travelling, high-pen round. Having different ammo classes and icons for things like the M4's HVAP M93 would be a waste of resources, and be confusing for player's that aren't into these details.

      tl;dr: AP/APCR/HEAT/HE/HESH are just in-game classifications for the role of the ammo type. For the actual type, look at the name.

  2. The Matilda was an excellent tank for its time. The armor was thick and the gun was punchy. It was very effective in north Africa until the germans started using the 88.

    1. the gun is only the 2pounder X gun, not the ficional XB gun from Wargaming... against PzIII tanks it was already insufficient, but the japanese did not have any armour, so that was the only hope for the matilda, the turret was too small to fit anything bigger, that is why they started building Valentine, to make up for Africa, but when the Valentine was done, the brittish already used Shermans, Cromwells and i think Churchills.....

    2. the gun is only the 2pounder X gun, not the ficional XB gun from Wargaming... against PzIII tanks it was already insufficient, but the japanese did not have any armour, so that was the only hope for the matilda, the turret was too small to fit anything bigger, that is why they started building Valentine, to make up for Africa, but when the Valentine was done, the brittish already used Shermans, Cromwells and i think Churchills.....

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. @Dennis. As far as I can figure the XB gun isn't fictional. It was the 2 pounder but with the little John adapter on it letting it fire tungsten tipped APCNR ammo.

      The little John adapter was similar in concept to the German konish weapons. As in the barrel gets smaller in diameter and thus increasing muzzle velocity and pen power. The tips squished together. As a result barrel durability was poor and the shells were expensive as tungsten was in short supply.

      Bear in mind this may be bs as I'm not an expert but I got this from somewhere :p....

      The XB designation may be made up though.

    5. Littlejohns are a nightmare to research...

      There are currently 20 known designs from the Allies(Australia, US, UK and Canada) of which, at least, 6 different adapter device designs were for the 57mm/6pounder(there are probably more). On top of this, there are at a min, 20 designs from Germany for WW2 and probably more, but very very little Research has been done in this field since the end of WW2.

      The 6 pounder LJ is among the most powerful and accurate guns produced in WW2. By a long shot. Only at very long range (1500y-2000y+) does such things as the US 90mm M3 and German 88 KwK 43 stand out.

  3. The littlejohn adaptor is real. Whether it was actually used on the Matilda or not, or how it effected it penetration values I don't know, but Wargaming didn't make up its existence.

  4. 2 pounder gun penetration was;
    AP - 49 mm at 100yds, and 37 mm at 500 yds.
    APHV and APCBC rounds were 54 mm at 500yds.

    PzKpfw III armour Ausf. A through to C was 15mm
    Ausf. D through to G was 30mm
    Ausf.H has a second 30mm front plate (so 60mm)
    Ausf.J was 50mm (produced from about spring 1942)
    Ausf. L and M have an additional 20mm plate (so 70mm)

    so for most of the time the Matilda 2 pounder was sufficient against Pz III, and could penetrate Japanese Ha-Go (12mm thick at front) easily.

  5. Matilda was sufficient versus early Pz III-IV, but by 1943 late Pz IV and Panthers were only mediums left in German production. By comparison Japanese up to 1945 did not have anything capable of withstanding 2pdr save chi-nu, of which only 60 were manufactured, and all kept as "ultimate reserve" on home islands...

  6. Japanese empire's tech is sucks. But it is so shame that My country was ruled by them

    1. In the Empire's defense it doesn't make any logistical sense to sink large amounts of resources developing heavy armored vehicles over naval or air assets when those assets are by the nature of your combat zone going to be the primary weapon of offense and defense.

  7. The Australians used the 3 inch howitzer equipped "CS' version of the Matilda as well as a flamethrower equipped Matilda variant against the Japanese. These proved much more useful than the 2pounder gun in that theater of operations.

  8. The matilda "Hedgehog" used by Australian forces in Papua ,New Guinea was a normal matilda tank with a 7 spigot naval mortar fitted on the tank. They fired over the turret and was used by the 2/1 armoured regiment ,4th armoured brigade .

  9. Thanks for the article. Interesting read.

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