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Some Light Tanks and Infantry (I) tanks were involved in actions around Heraklion and Maleme.  As my background in the services was as a Navigator on Vulcans, my tank knowledge is limited.

I will be adding to this page.  If any 'tankers' notice any errors, please let me know.

After a visit to the Tank Museum at Bovington, and a look at a few web sites I now have some idea of the difference between these two, and so have included some photos and a few details.  I am still unsure exactly how many of each type were involved on the island.  However, the Official New Zealand History, p49/50 states; 'In the event 16 light tanks of C Squadron, 3 Hussars, and six I tanks of B Squadron , 7 Royal Tank regiment, were with difficulty got ashore by 15 May.  Three further I tanks of 7 RTR were ordered to Crete and landed at Tymbaki on the south coast on 19 May.  These latter went first to Heraklion and thence by sea to Suda, where they were in time to play a part in the rearguard.  Of the light tanks six were sent to Heraklion on 18 May; the rest were to go to 4 NZ Brigade, but by 19 May three were still in ordnance being repaired.  Two of the I tanks were sent to Heraklion, two to Retimo, and two to Maleme.  In these areas they were dug in and camouflaged.  They were to be held in reserve for counter attack.'
Lt Farran said of them; they were of an old type and from the Western Desert, 'battered, ancient hulks'.  There were no proper cooling systems for the guns and wirelesses could not be fitted in time for the embarkation.

The Vickers Mk VI Light Tank

The Matilda A12 had a crew of 4 - commander, driver, gunner & loader - weighed around 27 ton with a top speed of 15 mph.  The power came from two 95 hp engines, and the tank had a range of some 50 miles on internal fuel tanks.  The armour was quite respectable for its day, with some 78mm at the front, and 20mm on the thinnest plates.  The armament was a Quick-Firing 2 pounder for which 93 rounds were carried, while alongside the main gun was a 7.92mm air-cooled machine-gun.

The Matilda (I) tank

9 Matildas from 7th RTR were used on Crete.

The Matilda (I) tank

The Crew.  The tank had four crew members, and the loneliest had to be the driver, sitting in the nose of the tank ahead of the rest of the crew.  For those who have not driven or ridden on a tank, the ride cannot be described as smooth.  Many years ago as an RAF officer cadet I spent some days with the army in Germany, and a ride on the front of a tank, hanging on to the gun barrel is still fairly vivid.  The steering is via two levers, either side of the drivers legs, with which he can apply braking to either of the two tracks, so turning the tank by 'slewing' it round.  The gear selector lever is between the driver's legs.
The gear box was a pre-selector type, so the gear next required was selected by the lever.  When the gear was needed the driver would use the clutch pedal, so selecting the previously selected gear.  My first car in 1967, as an officer cadet, was an old Armstrong Siddley Whitley with a pre-selector box.  As a learner driver I did not always know the next gear I would need, belated apologies to the other drivers in Lincoln at that time!
With the drivers hatch open he could raise his seat and drive with his head out, at least then he could see where he was going.  With the hatch closed up he would look through a thick vision block, or a periscope.  Escape from the tank was tricky for the driver.  The normal route was through the hatch over his head, or in an emergency he could go through an escape hatch under his seat.  Given the low ground clearance etc, this was not a good option.  Another route was through the crew compartment behind him, but to do this the crew needed to traverse the turret to the right when they left to allow him to get into their compartment.
Inside the tank the Commander was in the turret, where he had a rotating cupola on the left side of the turret.  Like the driver, with the tank closed down the commander's view of the world was via a vision block or a periscope.  Where possible he would operate with the turret hatch open.
In front of the commander, though lower down, was the gunner.  He used his left hand to operate the turret traversing gear, and his right operated the firing handle.  The fourth crew member was the loader who would feed the rounds into the open breech after the previous round had been fired.
To me, the inside of the tank looks extremely small for the crew, and it must have been very hot in there in the heat of the day in Crete.

Turret of a Mathilda showing the machine gun alongside the main gun.  Taken in the IWM, photo J Dillon

Side view of the same Mathilda.