Thursday 21 December 2023

British Tanks in 1943

 "Report on use of foreign MK-2 [Matilda] and MK-3 [Valentine] tanks in combat

1. General characteristics

Since the brigade was created on March 25th, 1942, it was armed with MK-2 and MK-3 tanks. The latter showed themselves well in battle as infantry support tanks in all sorts of battles. There were also cases of using them to combat enemy tanks (Pz.Kpfw.III, Pz.Kpfw.IV) at close ranges (200-600 meters), especially from ambush in defensive fighting.

The off-road mobility and maneuverability of the MK-2 and MK-3 tanks is insufficient compared to the T-34 in all types and periods of battle. The MK-2 tank in particular is not very mobile even on even terrain. In cases where it needs to turn 360 degrees, its turning radius is 15 meters. The tracks often fall off on sharp turns. The limit of the slopes it can climb or descend in winter, rainy, or damp weather is 15-18 degrees. 

The dimensions of the MK-3 tank allow it to get up close to the enemy using terrain features as cover and take them by surprise. In winter, the depth of the snow conceals it from enemy fire. MK-2 and MK-3 tanks have a clearance of 420 mm with a ground pressure of 0.60 [kg/cm²] when the tracks are submerged by 100 mm. In the winter, they can drive through 50-60 cm deep snow, which allows them to drive on country roads and off-road. If anti-tank obstacles need to be crossed, they can cross a 0.75 m tall wall, ford a one meter deep stream, cross an anti-tank trench [figure missing] wide. In the winter they can handle 18 degree slopes, in the summer and in dry weather they can handle 30 degree slopes.

2. Armament of MK-2 and MK-3 tanks.

The MK-2 and MK-3 tanks cannot combat German Pz.Kpfw.IV, Tiger, and Panther tanks, as the 40 mm gun's armour piercing shot does not penetrate the aforementioned tanks even at close ranges commonly encountered on the battlefield. The 40 mm gun does not have HE shells, which makes it impossible to destroy enemy personnel, firing positions, machine guns, mortars, and light fortifications.

The ammunition capacity is 60 rounds, but it's possible to stow 110-120 rounds, which lets the tank fight for a long time. 

The gun is flawless in battle, but there were cases of temporary malfunctions: failure to extract due to dirt in the extraction mechanism.

The Besa 7.92 mm coaxial machine gun  showed itself well in battle. It is reliable and robust even if firing for a long time. The tank carries 13 belts of 250 rounds each, but can fit 18 belts.

The 50 mm mortar installed to the right in the turret can fire British HE shells at a range of 350-400 meters or smoke bombs at a range of 75 meters. Domestic HE shells can be fired at a range of 550-650 meters at enemy personnel hiding behind terrain features, but there are cases where the tail fins are torn off and the jam must first be cleared.

3. Engine and transmission.

The diesel engine in MK-2 and MK-3 tanks is reliable in operation, but there is an issue with the compressor if the tank driver is inexperienced. Sharp changes in engine RPM can break the compressor mesh.

In the winter, both the engine and compressor need to be filled with alcohol so that the valves don't freeze. 

The gearbox in the MK-2 and MK-3 becomes fouled with oil and slips, particularly the MK-2. Sharp turns result in tearing of the driven gear teeth. If spare parts are available, this takes up to a day and a half to repair.

4. Running gear

The MK-2 tank has a deficiency in its running gear. The gap between the side of the tank and spaced armour gets filled with dirt and the wheels do not rotate. The track slides on  them instead, which consumes a lot of engine power and results in lower driving and maneuvering speed. After driving like this for 15-20 km the tracks will chew up the wheels and the latter require replacement.

The MK-3 tank does not have this defect. The running gear is more robust, but there are cases of rapid wear of the rubber tires, after which they need to be replaced. The idlers of the MK-2 and MK-3 tanks are weak. The bolts holding the tensioning mechanism can break even with a very soft blow.

In the winter, the track links have issues. There were cases of track links bursting at temperatures of -20 degrees, especially on the MK-2. This impedes with their ability to carry out combat tasks.

The design of the track and its links often prevent the tank from crossing slopes as low as 15 degrees. Traction needs to be improved.

After a 400-500 km drive, all bearings of the running gear wear out and need to be replaced. 

If the spaced armour of the MK-2 tank becomes bent when hit by shells, the tracks can jam.

The MK-3 (Valentin) tank is easy to repair in the field if spare parts are available. Sometimes the parts kits don't have the necessary parts, in which case repairs are done by taking parts from written off, knocked out, or burned out tanks.


The MK-3 tank is a reliable tank in all types and periods of fighting, with only one major drawback: the armament. It is desirable to have a larger caliber gun that fires both AP and HE shells.

The MK-2 has much lower qualities than the MK-3 tank. It has the same weak armament that does not allow to match the enemy's modern weapons on the battlefield. The 76 mm gun has no AP shells, and the 76 mm HE shells are slow (350 m/s) and have short range (600-700 m). 

The MK-2 and MK-3 tanks can be used on secondary areas of the front where enemy tanks are not expected. In case a tank battle can be anticipated, they should fight from ambush and at short ranges.

Signed, commission members [signatures]

Approved: Assistant Chief of Staff of Armoured and Motorized Forces of the 7th Guards Army, Guards Major Golikov
November 4th, 1943"

CAMD RF F.341 Op.5330 D.31 L.230-232

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for a useful and informative post.

    Regards, Chris.