Thursday, 27 November 2008

What became of our WW1 MkIII Tank?

Whatever became of our WW1 MkIII Tank? Was it actually buried beneath a flowerbed at Haslingden's Victoria Park where it had been on display since 1919 or was it carted away for scrap? No one seems to know what actually happened...

I have just been told by a member of the Great War Forum that the Tank was "Presented to Haslingden in 1919, Mayor stated that it would be cherished and kept for ever etc etc etc. In 1927 money was needed for up keep of the tank yet the council voted to get rid of it. Its reputed to have been buried, as council too stingey to pay for removal. Geo phys surveys in Victoria Park did suggest the existence of the Haslingden tank, unfortunately the limited digs that were permitted did not find anything. Any info would be grateful.. Identification details are seen on the picture above right eg: 59, also it says "N Batt" and to the rear it shows No.603. I am informed that MkIII never actually went into service and that they were used specifically for training and presentation purposes...

(This article was published in the Independent on March 18th 2000 - and written by Ian Herbert - Northern Correspondent)
The Mark One tank was given to the Lancashire town of Haslingden in 1919 in recognition of the locals' war efforts. But councillors found themselves paying rather too much on its upkeep and are believed to have buried it 16ft beneath a park in 1927. Local records shed no light on its disappearance. But a search is under way for what is now a rare military specimen. The Mark One was a key weapon in several First World War battles.
On Wednesday a team of local treasure hunters was given permission by Rossendale council to dig up Victoria Park, under which they believe the tank rests. Initial excavations have found the railings and stone plinth on which it was mounted.
Tank enthusiast Brian Boys said: "Rumours of its existence have been circulating for years, so I got my metal detector and started looking... There is a depression in the ground about 27ft long - the size of a tank - and I picked up a signal all over it.
"When we find the tank we'll dig a few feet around it and use chains and a crane to pull it out," said Mr Boys".

(Since the writing of this article it has now become clear that the tank is in fact a MkIII and not a Mk1 has previously stated in this "Independent" article)
Comments by Centurian (Great War Forum): Council direct works department would have had (or have had access to) mechanical diggers. At the time (1927) I suspect there were no low loaders big enough to take a Mk III tank. Most, if not all presentation tanks were cut up on site or towed (on skids) with a traction engine to somewhere relatively close for cutting up, this latter exercise is no mean task and would have possibly required an outside contactor (and the transfer of cash). Armour plate of the type used on the tanks is grade 3 scrap and virtually worthless. If, however , the tank in question was a Mk III made of boiler plate it would have been at least grade 2 scrap.

And thanks to Jackie Ramsbottom for spotting this and sending it in (5th Aug 2011). It is from the Haslingden Guardian Friday 21st January 1927 - And confirms that the Tank was actually disposed of.

Email received from Carol Scott (email received 7th March 2013)

I am writing as I found your quote identical to my story.  I was trying to trace the history of my hand made brass 1915 "little willie tank", that is what I thought it was until the tank regiment informed me it was a MKIII.
And now I am even more confused after reading your Blog!  The subscription reads B G Hood, 2nd August 1915 Lincoln. I had concluded that William Fosters and Sons Limited of Lincoln were given the contract to build the "little willie tank", the date was Aug-Sept 1915, this is the date subscribed on my Tank along with Lincoln.
Reading your article I believe MK3 were only used for training and this was a later date than 1915.  How could someone hand make a MK3 in 1915 if it had not been built.  The subscription doesn't match to the model.