A replica of a tank used by the British and Allied forces in the First World War has been created which is to take pride of place in the Abbey Gardens, in Bury St Edmunds.
It is part of the World War 1 Trail which is being set up in the town organised by the My WiSH Charity and Our Bury St Edmunds, the business improvement district (BID) in the town.
The tank, which has been created by Steve Manning, who runs Topiary Art Design, at Pakenham, has been made on a steel frame with camouflage netting.
It’s 16ft long but the original tank would have been 32ft long complete with a bizarre steering mechanism at the rear and carried five men.
Mr Manning said: “The British and the French between them made over 6,500 tanks and it was the end to the stalemate of trench warfare but over the course of the war the Germans learned quite fast how to destroy our tanks and at the end of the war the British only had eight tanks left out over 6,500.
“This one had two cannons, one either side, and three machine guns inside. They were very hot and horrible places to obviously be in the battle and the Germans learned how to destroy them.
“They used to throw grenades that would get lodged on the top of the tank so we started to make a very simple chicken wire construction canopy over the top that was welded to it so that the hand grenades and mines they were throwing would bounce off and roll off rather than getting lodged between the tracks.”
He added: “It’s an honour to have been asked to be involved in the art trail in Bury St Edmunds and anything that’s good for the town as we like working with the BID and supporting the town.”
And the sponsorship for the tank has come via Chassis Cab, which is the DAF truck franchise holder in East Anglia, and Culford School.
Its managing director Robert Baxter , whose daughter Grace is a pupil at the school, said his 94-year-old father Jock was a tank driver and was part of the regiment which tested out tanks prior to the D-Day landings in the Second World War. But on a test drive he shattered his leg while driving over a land mine and never took part in the landings.
“We have funded it but allowed the school to have the publicity and interest and we hope it attracts some of the pupils to get round the trail. The First World War is easily forgotten if it’s not remembered.”
And Katie Clarke, the charity committee lead teacher at Culford School, said: “Many soldiers, including Old Culfordians, lost their lives in the Great War and for their sacrifice and securing our liberty they should never be forgotten.
“Through history, we learn about our ancestors and we are given examples of values that help us to understand ourselves and others as well as understand the difference between right and wrong.
“As we approach the November centenary for the end of the First World War many of our pupils will visit the trail and keep alive the memory of those who lost their lives on the battlefields 100 years ago.”
The trail will feature 18 pieces, commissioned by local artists and sculptors, dotted in prime town centre sites and will be on show from July 21, through to Armistice Day, on November 11. At the culmination of the trail an auction will take place to sell off all of the pieces to go to the Every Heart Matters appeal.
The West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust is investing £5.2m in developing a state of the art cardiac suite that will provide quicker access to more treatments, but the £500,000 My WiSH Charity is hoping to raise will lead to the whole unit, which is currently fragmented on different floors, being brought together in one purpose-built centre.
Treatt, the leading beverage ingredient solutions manufacturer based in Bury St Edmunds, will be the main sponsor for the trail, and Daemmon Reeve, group CEO, said: “It’s fantastic to be able to support this ambitious and exciting project which remembers the bravery of those who fought in World War One and is also helping to raise the £500,000 needed to fund the brand new cardiac centre at the hospital.”
If you want to support the Every Heart Matters appeal go to the websitewww.mywishcharity.co.uk and if you would like to donate to the appeal you can do so by going to: Justgiving.com/ehma or text EHMA17 £10 to 70070.
Pictured above is Steve Manning’s replica tank.