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September 16, 2016

The Ashford tank is unusual because it is still there, the only one of all those presented which has survived in the same location ever since it was donated.

Ashford is in Kent and at one time housed the main workshops of the South Eastern and Chatham Railway. Today it is better known as a station on the Eurostar line to the Continent. The tank, a Mark IV female training tank with twin tubular radiators, may have been built by the Coventry Ordnance Works in Glasgow. It carries the training number 245 and was probably used for driver training at Bovington.

It was delivered to Ashford station on 1 August 1919 under the command of Captain Walter Farrar MC. As Second Lieutenant Farrar he became famous when commanding the tank ‘Flying Fox II’ (F22) at Cambrai on 20 November 1917. In trying to cross the canal at Masnieres, over a damaged bridge, his tank, another Mark IV, broke the bridge and sank into the river although Farrar got all his crew out. Among the speeches made at the presentation ceremony was one by Captain Farrar which credited the tank with having been in action at Cambrai. This was the usual fiction because the tank had never been anywhere.

Ashford’s presentation tank was driven from the station to St Georges square in the town where a plinth had been prepared for it on a traffic island outside the ‘Old Prince of Wales’ pub. The tank owes its survival to the fact that from 1929 it was used to house an electricity substation. The Daimler engine and other internal fittings were removed so that a transformer could be installed and two doors were fitted at the back to give access to it, which meant that the rear hull plate and petrol tank had to be removed as well.

Electrical arrangements changed in 1968 so the tank was no longer needed to fulfil this duty but by then its significance as a historic relic was slowly being appreciated and, despite at least three offers to buy it, the tank has remained in place.

Today the area where it sits has become a pedestrian precinct, the tank has been repainted and restored up to a point and it is now protected by a roof, with a low wall all around it. The tank had already been listed as a Grade II Listed Building and later it was adopted as a War Memorial.

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