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Ashford’s World War One tank the last of its kind on show

 
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BerichtGeplaatst: 17 Jun 2013 21:31    Onderwerp: Ashford’s World War One tank the last of its kind on show Reageer met quote

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Ashford’s historic World War One tank, which has stood guard in the town centre for almost 100 years, is the last of its kind on outdoor display to the public.

The Mark IV was presented to the town in August 1919 by Captain Ferrar of the Army Council, in recognition of the people’s generous response to the National War Savings Appeals.

The tank, which was one of 1,220 built for combat in Belgium’s Flanders Fields, is believed to be one of eight that still exist in this condition and the only one in the UK standing visible to the public.

A number of towns around the country, including Canterbury, Maidstone and Folkestone, were the recipients of tanks donated after the war effort as a monument of thanks.

But military vehicle expert Mr David Willey, curator at Bovington Tank Museum told how the rarity of Ashford’s Mark IV means it remains a very special specimen.

He said: “Even Second World War armory is going up in price all the time these days. “It’s not like the old days 30-years ago when you had genuine spitfires outside RAF bases. Even World War Two tanks which have been standing outside for years are tending to be brought back in because they are getting that much rarer and they are of more historic interest That makes the tank sitting in Ashford’s town centre is special.”

Although believed never to have seen battle, Ashford’s Mark IV is considered very lucky to have survived this long as many of the tanks presented to towns were recovered for scrap metal during World War Two.

One of the reasons Ashford’s has remained in the town is because in 1929 the back of the tank was removed, as well as all the mechanical workings inside, and an electricity sub station was installed within.

Mr Willey added: “In terms of tourism, everybody loves them. Tanks are a such a great, iconic object, and anywhere there is a tank people go for a photo opportunity.

“It was gifted after the first world war to the people for helping to raise money during the war year. It is now the last one left and it probably only there because of the electricity station within it and because the council bother to come back and paint it every year and keep it in good nick.

“There was over 200 of them given out across the country and because of their age have started leaking oil and had health and safety issues so most of them are were got rid of.”

This particular model was considered the “female” version of the Mark IV which was armed with six Lewis machine guns where as the “male” versions were equipped with larger powder guns.

Weighing 26 tons, the Mark IV had a max road speed of around 7mph. It also carried a crew of eight people in very cramped conditions. The model has been criticized in the past as its design meant that the 70 gallon fuel tank was placed above the crew compartment and a direct hit from an enemy shell would result in the crew being soaked in burning fuel with quick escape almost impossible.

However, the model that stands just off New Street was also considered one of the most important tools of the war as it was able to cross trenches up to a maximum width of 10 feet.

Around 62 of them were used on June 1, 1917, at the famous battle of Messines Ridge in Belguim which saw allied forces try to break enemy lines. This attack was a run-up to the much larger Battle of Ypres, known as Passchendaele.

After major refurbishment in 2005, the Mark IV at Ashford is still looking in a good state and has been re-painted in its original colours. It was also officially registered as a war memorial in November 2006.
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