Sharing only the name with the Mark I, the Matilda II first saw the light of day at the outbreak of the Second World War. Another Infantry Tank, designed to provide close support to footsoldiers in an attack, the Matilda II was armed with a 2-pounder (40mm) and a machine gun.
In contrast to its unimpressive firepower, the Matilda's armour was, in fact, thicker than all other tanks of the day and proof against all Axis anti-tank guns up to 75mm. It had not one, but two engines, coupled together. However the combined 190hp could only propel its 25 tons to a maximum of 16 miles per hour. Given that it was intended for infantry support, the Matilda - for reasons now unknown - lacked a high-explosive shell.
Despite its shortcomings, the Matilda II earned the distinction of being in service throughout the war. Initially its armour gave it an advantage over opposition in Europe and North Africa, but enemy developments had negated this by mid 1942. Nevertheless, the lack of heavy armoured opposition in the Far East meant that the Matilda stayed in service with the Australians until the very last day of the war.