During the early stages of World War II, the rampaging Wehrmacht began running into some hardened British steel among the softer skinned Crusaders and Vickers Lights. This was of course, the famous Queen of the Desert, Infantry Tank Matilda Mk.II, and nothing short of an 88 mm cannon would stop one.
Witnessing this excellent, unyielding armor first hand, the Wehrmacht were more than happy to capture any operational Matildas for themselves.
In fighting in France and North Africa, some of the captured Matildas were turned on their original operators. A tank under the name of “Dreadnought” is one such vehicle frequently seen in photographs from the time.
A few of the vehicles were sent back to Germany for analysis. This practice of sending captured equipment back to HQ was the norm in all armies. The tanks were mostly used for training purposes in their standard configuration, but one vehicle, previously identified as No. 111, was converted into the Infanterie Panzerkampfwagen MK II 748(e) mit 5cm KwK 39 L/42.
It was nicknamed “Oswald” by its operators.
Here “Oswald” can be seen taking part in training exercises, note the name “Oswald” on the fender. Source: – beutepanzer.ru
The conversion of the “Oswald” was caused by the Hochsee-Lehrkommando (High Seas Instructional Command). For a time, it was trained on in it’s original form. It later underwent some modifications. The tank’s hull and power plant remained the same as the standard Matilda II.
The major modification was the removal of the 2 pounder main armament and the turret, being replaced with the 5cm KwK 38 anti-tank gun. The gun is thought to have come from an irreparable Panzer III. It was pivot-mounted, protected by a specially hand-made shield which went over the weapon’s standard gun shield. Two 7.92 mm MG 15s were mounted atop this.
Infanterie PzKpfw MK II 748(e) Oswald transporting troops during a training exercise
Quite why the turret was changed out is unknown, it is quite possible that the supply of 2-Pounder ammunition ran out and, for obvious reasons, it was easier to resupply with 5 cm shells. Also, the extremely tight turret of the Matilda would’ve made it ill-suited to training purposes. The open space the modification granted would’ve made training, and guidance of the training, a lot easier.
The only other modifications were cosmetic. It was repainted in German camouflage and markings. The name “Oswald” was stenciled onto the track guard above the front left idler-wheel.
Rendition of the Oswald
Oswald on the back of a PiLaBo.41, No. 504, during training exercises. Source: – beutepanzer.ru
Training in the Wehrmacht
This particular Matilda is believed to have served under the British Army in North Africa before its capture, and bared the serial number “111”. The vehicle does, however, have raised suspension, a feature not continued after the debacle in France 1940, so it may well have been captured from the BEF.
Almost untouched, the tank came into German possession at some point in 1942. It was transported back to occupied Holland. Here, it was handed over to the Hochsee-Lehrkommando in Terneuzen where it underwent its modifications. It was then used to train loaders and take part in combat training. It took park in Operation Sea Lion style invasion training.
It is unknown what happened to the “Oswald”, it is possible that it was used against the allies as Holland was liberated. Destroyed in this action, or scrapped, it didn’t see much action during the rest of the war and does not survive today.
Infanterie Panzerkampfwagen MK II 748(e) mit 5cm KwK 39 L/42 “Oswald”
|Dimensions||15’11” x 8’6″ x 8’3″ ft.in (5.99 x 2.60 x 2.50 m)|
|Crew||3-4 (driver, commander, loader, gunner)|
|Propulsion||2 diesel 6-cyl AEC/Leyland 94/95 hp|
|Speed (road)||16/9 mph (26/14 km/h)|
|Armament||5cm KwK 39 L/42
2 x MG 15 7.92 mm machine gun
|Armor||78 mm (3.07 in) hull, approximately 10 mm (0.39 in) for the gun shield|
|Total production||1 Trainer|
Links & Resources
Schiffer Publishing, Ltd.: Captured American & British Tanks Under the German Flag
Osprey Publishing, New Vanguard #8, Matilda Infantry Tank 1938-45
Oswald on en.valka.cz (Slovak)
Oswald on world-war-2.wikia.com