Wartime Memories

The mysterious tank

By Alan Spicer

WWII ordnance around Ditchling Beacon

During the late 1950s early 1960s, my brother Mick and pals would roam the hills with their dogs in the area near Ditchling Beacon. Many old WWII shells were lying around after being defused by bomb disposal and many mortars coming to the surface during ploughing. One, I was told by a policeman, blew part of the farmer’s plough off. Most of this ordnance was left by the Canadians during practice firings leading up to D Day .   

The discovery of a mysterious vehicle

On one occasion, whilst chasing rabbits, one of the lads saw his Jack Russell vanish into a hole in the ground; on closer inspection the hole turned out to be a steel hatchway. Over the next few days the boys began to dig inside the chalk filled hatch and realised it was a buried tank. Wires with porcelain insulators lead from the tank to the Ditchling Road. Eventually the interior was fairly well cleared, and a brass cap from the engine removed to show an ‘expert’.

Confirmed by an expert

The expert confirmed it to be an early Vickers light tank with the engine cap stating ‘Armstrong Whitworth’. As a lad I listened to the story several times and when older in about 1965. walked to the field to see the tank. I was to be disappointed, as all that remained was a large crater and a few small drive wheels. Does anyone know more of the fate of the tank and its purpose?

This page was added on 30/08/2011.

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