Wednesday, 2 May 2012

The Kithurst Hill Churchill

A breath of fresh air for today, in two ways. First of all, I’ve shifted time period away from King Arthur and into the 1940s (I bet you weren’t expecting that), and then there’s a literal reference to fresh air because these photos prove that I’ve left the house at some point! British tanks of the interwar period and Second World War are one of my other ‘things’, but let’s not dwell on that for too long.

Out in the Sussex countryside are the remains of a Churchill tank , sitting at the edge of a field, at the edge of time, in the middle of nowhere. I’ve visited it a few times over the last few years as it’s on one of my top mountain biking routes near to where I live. Most of the rides I do are because of the wildlife or scenery, both of which are plentiful in Sussex on the South Downs. I regularly see a rare site for this county: a pair of red kites which nest alongside one of our favourite routes, and more buzzards, stoats, and deer than you could shake a stick at. But you really want to hear about the Churchill, don’t you?

From the structure, I could tell this was a Churchill, but not much beyond that. However, a bit of digging around online has turned up the following information:

It’s a Mark II formerly used by 14th Canadian Army Tank Battalion, who underwent training in Sussex 1941/2. 

During training for their part in the Dieppe raid, this particular tank developed mechanical problems: not unheard of in early Churchills! It was taken out of service (maybe it knew what was going to happen at Dieppe – have we found a psychic tank?) and 2nd Canadian Army Division used it as target practice on the South Downs. 

One source says that it was targeted by PIATs, but the holes in the hull look to be Boys calibre to me … can anyone tell me in the Boys was being used for training in 1942?

After the war, it was tipped into a bomb crater and buried, finally to be dug up by REME in 1993. The turret was removed but the hull remains. Worth a look if you happen to be up near Kithurst hill in Sussex.

More useful info here:

More on the Tank

An online search for ‘kithurst hill tank’ will show up plenty more photos and a few videos.