During the interwar years (that is the years spanning World War 1 and World War 2), the British Army developed a new armored warfare doctrine that made use of two distinct combat tank types. The first type was to be fast and lightly armored, intended to break through enemy defenses and attack the more vulnerable rear and flank areas, causing as much disruption as possible. The tanks were accordingly named "cruiser tanks" due to their speed requirement. The bulk of the battle force would, therefore, be a type of complementary tank known as the "infantry tank". These vehicles could afford to be larger in overall dimension and sport heavier armor protection. Infantry tanks would be required to directly support accompanying infantry forces in the move to take enemy positions. This "one-two punch" on paper certainly held some merits for the time when combat experience was based in World War 1 armored warfare outcomes. However, combat in the upcoming world war would render such thinking obsolete.
The first infantry tank developed for the British Army became the "Tank, Infantry, Mk I, Matilda" under the project designation of "A11" and this served to fulfill an official British Army requirement listed in 1934. Engineer Sir John Carden of Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd was charged with its design and development though he was forced to work within financial constraints. The type would therefore have to rely on many existing automotive components taken from various sources to promote a logistically-friendly and cost-effective solution. As the threat of war in Europe loomed ever greater in these days, the design would serve as an interim solution until a more purpose-designed vehicle could be developed (this became the "Matilda II"). The development constraints would prove something of the type's undoing for the resulting design became limited in scope, seeing very limited production. Work on the new initiative began as early as 1935.
The end-product was a small tracked vehicle fitting two crew and modest armament. The hull was centered between a pair of tracks which were narrow in their width and ran along completely exposed running gear. Eight small road wheels were divided along two suspended bogies with two track return rollers. The drive sprocket was held at the rear near the engine with the track idler at the front. The hull utilized slab sides with frontal armor 60mm inches thick. The Matilda was given a cast steel turret, however, which made it something of a modern design though armament was limited to a single machine gun. The crew was made up of the driver in the front hull center with the vehicle commander/gunner/loader/radio operator in the turret (note the compounded roles). Power was supplied by a single Ford V8 liquid-cooled gasoline fueled engine of 70 horsepower allowing for a top speed of no more than 8 miles per hour over ideal surfaces and a range of 80 miles. The vehicle could ford up to 28 inch deep water sources allowing for some amphibious capabilities. Overall weight was 12.3 tons, putting her more on par with "light tank" systems of the time.
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