Restoration of the Matilda Battle Tank

The memories of the World War II etched in the minds of veterans are fading as we get deeper into the 21st century.

To keep these memories alive the Parramatta Lancers Barracks Museum is working to preserve and restore those memories by restoring a 25-tonne Matilda battle tank. The tank popularly known as the Ace, it was used as protection for Australian soldiers on the battle field. It was also a reliable weapon against Japanese attacks in the Pacific. This was helped by the fact that the Japanese did not have anti-tank artillery.

The Matilda was one of the most important inventories of Allied Powers during the early years of the war. It arrived in Australia from Britain in the spring of 1942 and became a key part of the Australian offensive. It became the only tank to serve the whole course of the war (starting with the British and ending with the Australians in 1945). The Matilda proved an excellent tank because it was well protected.

The Fourth Australian Armored Brigade used the Matilda in New Guinea and Borneo in 1945 as part of Australia’s Pacific campaign. Compared to other Allied Powers, the Australian army was more successful in its use of the Matilda against the Japanese as compared to the British and French’s offensive against the Germans. This was because the Australians managed to modify the Matilda and made other more powerful weapons like the Matilda “Hedgehog” which was a rocket launcher.

When World War II ended, the Australian army destroyed the tanks by driving them off the cliffs.

Restoring the Ace which was driven off the cliff has proved to be challenging for the Parramatta Lancers Barracks Museum. They however report that they managed to get the engine running, meaning that the first and important step towards restoring the tank is complete, the Mail Online reports.

The reason for restoring and preserving the tanks is that of remembrance. Restoration of the tanks is seen by the Museum as a means to remember those who fought in the war and also as a way to remind the world not to repeat again one of the dark episodes of human history which was World War II.

Ian Hawthorne,  a curator with the Museum describes the task of trying to make the engine of an old tank that was driven off the cliff run as an “incredible feat”. It has taken the Museum at least a decade and it hopes to finish the restoration and have the tank stand as a reminder of the war.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE