War Master WMTK0001 British Matilda II CDL Canal Defense Lights Tank - 11th Royal Tank Regiment, Dover, England, 1940 (1:72 Scale)
"Too uncertain to be depended upon as the main feature of an invasion."
- Conclusion drawn by the British leadership from Exercise Primrose in 1943 at Tighnabruaich, Scotland
The Mark I Matilda was developed in response to a 1934 requirement for a close-support infantry tank. Well armored for its day, it was, nevertheless, a small, simple tank. Despite being sturdy enough to withstand hits from most German tank guns in the early stages of WWII, it was too poorly armed to be of much use as the war progressed. The Mark II had improved armament, which enable it to stand up well in combat, particularly in North Africa where it was widely used in the run-up to the Battle of El Alamein in 1942. Following its replacement in frontline service, the Matilda was used for a variety of specialized roles, such as mine-clearing (the Baron), as a flamethrower tank (the Frog), and as the basis of a Canal Defense Light for illuminating night operations.
This particular 1:72 scale replica of a British Matilda II CDL Canal Defense Lights Tank was attached to the 11th Royal Tank Regiment, which was dispatched to Dover during 1940.
Length: 2-3/4 inches
Width: 1-1/4 inches
Release Date: July 2011
Historical Account: "Step into the Light" - The Canal Defense Light (CDL) was a British "secret weapon" of the Second World War. It was based upon the use of a powerful carbon-arc searchlight mounted on a tank. It was intended to be used during night-time attacks, when the light would allow enemy positions to be targeted. A secondary use of the light would be to dazzle and disorient enemy troops, making it harder for them to return fire accurately. The inaccurate name Canal Defense Light was used to conceal the device's true purpose.
The searchlight was mounted in an armoured turret fitted to a tank. Initially the Matilda tank was used, replacing its normal turret with a cylindrical one containing both a searchlight and a machine gun. This was later replaced by the US M3 Grant which was superior in several ways. It was a larger, roomier tank, yet was also faster and so better able to keep up with tanks such as the Sherman. It was armed with a hullmounted gun, which was unaffected by the replacement of its normal turret with the searchlight turret.
The searchlight turret included a station for an operator. The light emerged from a vertical slit that was just 2 inches (5.1 cm) by 24 inches (61 cm), its comparative smallness reduced the chance of damage to the optical system by the entry of bullets. The beam diverged at 19 horizontally and 1.9 vertically, forming a pool of light around 34 by 340 yards (31 310 m) at a range of 1,000 yards (910 m). The turret could rotate 360 and the light beam elevated or depressed by 10 from the horizontal.
Blue and amber filters allowed the light to be coloured as well as white. A shutter could flash the beam on and off up to twice a second. It was found the blue light caused the CDL tank to appear to be at a greater distance, and blue and amber light beams from two CDL tanks could combine to illuminate a target with white. A flashing beam would further dazzle and disorient enemy troops by not giving their eyes a chance to adapt to either light or darkness.
The project was shrouded in secrecy. It was tested during Exercise Primrose in 1943 at Tighnabruaich, Scotland, with the result that it was determined to be "too uncertain to be depended upon as the main feature of an invasion".