Matilda IV of 38th Tank Brigade - Low commander's cupola
B.I.T. Mk.II "Matilda" at the Kharkov operation, May 1942
S.K.Timoshenko, Chief of SW Front
E.von Kleist, Chief of 1st Pz. Armee
Matildas at the Kharkov operation, May 1942
In order to exploit the gains of the winter of 1941/42, the Soviet High Command, the "Stavka", ordered a large-scale offensive towards Kharkov in May 1942. For the first time on the Eastern Front, a large amount of British tanks, 117 Matildas and 81 Valentines, delivered thru the Arctic Convoys PQ-9,10,11 to Murmansk and Archangel, saw major combat action in several tank brigades of Timoshenko's South-Western Front.
Valentine IV of 36th Tank Brigade - Note Bren AA machine gun in Lakeman mount
The first major combat action occured with the 22th Tank Corps of the 38th Army on May 13, 1942.

The 22th Tank Corps by that time consisted of 127 tanks in three Tank Brigades with a total of 41 Matilda III and IV as well as some 30 Valentine IV in the 13th, 36th and 133rd Tank Brigade.

On May 13, 1942, the 22th Tank Corps clashed into the German 23rd Panzer Division with the follwoing results :

  • 13th Tank Brigade and 133rd Tank Brigade lost all their tanks (the 13th Tank Brigade - 12 Matilda + Valentine, 14 BT, 6 T-26; 133rd Tank Brigade - 12 T-34 and 9 BT), but destroyed at the same time, according to the commanders' reports, about 65 German military vehicles.
  • 36th Tank Brigade lost 37 tanks (6 MKII Matilda, 19 MKIII Valentine and 12 T-60) and destroyed 40 enemy tanks, moved to the village uncoated.

According to the German data, the 1st Battalion of the 201stPanzer Regiment of 23rd Panzer Division destroyed 79 tanks (45 T-34, 13 Matilda 12 BT and 9 KW), while loosing 10 of its own (9 Panzer III and Panzer IV).

3rd Battalion 6th Panzer Regiment from 12 to 22 May destroyed 62 tanks (5 KW, 36 T-34, BT 16 and 5 Matilda).

Matilda IIA* / III of 133th Tank Brigade - (early) internal hinges of hull side plate access hatches
The second major combat action occured at the final stage of the battle from May 25, 1942, on.
By the evening of May 25, 1942 three combined Tank Brigades, the 15th, 64th and 114th Tank Brigade, desperately tried to open the outer ring of encirclement..
Around the town of Csepyel, the day the tank brigades managed to destroy no less than 19 German tanks and 8 anti-tank guns.
Their own losses, however, summed up to 29 tanks: 15th Tank Brigade - 7 (5 T-34 and 2 1-60), 64th Tank Brigade - 10 (7 MK2 Matilda and 3 T-60) and 114th Tank Brigade - 12 (4 M3 medium and 8 T-60).
So, on May 26, the Tank Brigade still consisted of: 15th Tank Brigade -10 T-34 and 2 T-60, 64th Tank Brigade - 2 MK2 Matilda. 1 MK3 Valentine and 7 T-60, 114th Tank Brigade -13 T-60.
At 16.30 on that day, when the tanks went into battle again, 12 Soviet Shturmovik ground fight aircraft appeared over the battlefield and erroneously bombed their own troops.
Following the Shturmoviks, German bombers also appeared before the end of the day in groups of 20-30 planes.
As a result, though 4 tanks and two anti-tank guns were destroyed, the breakthrough of the enemy defenses finally failed.
The three Tank Brigades' losses amounted to 5 tanks: 15th Tank Brigade - 5 T-34 and T-60 - 64th and 114th Tank Brigade - none.
Matilda IIA* / III of 64th Tank Brigade - No asbest heat protection around exhaust pipes
Note shell holes...
...and BESA turret machine gun (?) in German hands
Matilda IIA* / III of 38th Tank Brigade - (later) external hinges of hull side plate access hatches
Matilda IIA* and IV, examined by Croatians...
...and littering the Ukrainian steppes
Matilda IV of 38th Tank Brigade - Note yellow (?) water marks on side shield
Note Wireless No.19 antenna and double exhaust pipe of Leyland engine


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Last Updated: June 07, 2014