Forces of Valor 81001 British Matilda Mk. II Infantry Tank - 7th Armored Division "The Desert Rats", North Africa, 1941 (1:32 Scale)
"After [El] Alamein, we never had a defeat."
- British Prime Minister Winston Churchill
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 1:32 scale replica of a Matilda infantry tank is painted in a striking multi-colored desert scheme. Features opening hatches and a detailed exterior.
Length: 7.38 inches
Width: 3.12 inches
Height: 3.38 inches
Release Date: June 2003
Original Issue Price: $29.99
Historical Account: "The Desert Rats" - According to Field Marshal Lord Carver, himself a former Desert Rat, the 7th Armoured Division's name and emblem were inspired by a pet jerboa kept by a regimental signaller. Seeing the beast, the division's then commander, Major-General "Hobo" Hobart, is said to have remarked, "This little animal should become our emblem. We must learn to live as he does, the hard way, in the desert."
And, having trained its men to fight and win battles in the vast Western Desert, the division played a crucial, and decisive, role in the North African campaign. Three times - in 1940, '41 and '42 - German and Italian forces attempted to take control of the North African coast. Three times they were driven back, by the UK's Eighth Army, the heaviest fighting taking place near Tobruk in Libya.
The German commander, Lieutenant-General Erwin Rommel - the charismatic and respected 'Desert Fox' - promised his men that, if they took Tobruk, he would build a monument to commemorate the victory. If they lost, though, the
Afrika Korps would bury its dead there. The German cemeteries still to be seen on the Libyan coastline bear mute testament to Rommel's failure and the Desert Rats' hard-won success.
But it was victory at El Alamein in October 1942 - which came after one of the biggest artillery barrages of the war - that sealed Rommel's fate in North Africa and brought the Desert Rats, the Eighth Army and its commander, General Bernard Montgomery, eternal fame.
Not surprisingly, the Desert Rats' war did not end there. They fought in some of the war's bloodiest battles; at Salerno, in Normandy. and crossing the Rhine into Germany. And they ended the war by marching in the victory parade at the very heart of the Third Reich, Berlin itself.