Wardown trophies of war

Event date

11th February 1920 to 18th February 1920



The Luton News , 19th February 1920

Source Date

1920-02-19 00:00:00
Entity info.
Wardown presentation tank

Luton's tank, presented to the town in recognition of the support accorded to the War Savings movement, is to be placed in Wardown Park in company with a naval gun captured from the Germans in Palestine by the 1/5th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, reported The Luton News of February 5th, 1920.

These decisions were arrived at on Tuesday evening, when the Town Council met in the Lecture Hall at the Public Library, where the meetings of Council will now be held until such time as a new Town Hall materialises.

Mr P.J. Carter, secretary of the War Savings Committee, wrote in a letter: "The Council is recommended to grant permission for the tank to be placed in position on the vacant ground of the New Bedford Road, lying between the Moor and the road. It is also suggested that a concrete base should be erected with a slope of one in four, on which the tank can be driven with the nose pointing upwards, as this greatly adds to the appearance."

The Parks Committee had previously resolved that the German Naval Gun captured by the 1/5th Beds Regiment and presented to the borough by the Lord Lieutenant should be placed in Wardown Park, near the centre gates, New Bedford Road.

After Councillor Osborne described the suggested New Bedford Road site as "most unsuitable" and Alderman Cain said he thought the tank might be placed by the side of the gun in Wardown Park, it was agreed the tank should go to Wardown.

« On February 12th, The Luton News reported that as very few were aware at the time of the arrival of Luton's tank, the entry into the town yesterday afternoon caused a mild sensation.

For some time the workmen at Wardown have been preparing the resting place of Luton's memento of war, and this sloping foundation for the 30-ton relic will be completed by next week, when the tank is to be formally handed over to the town [February 18th, 1920].

The unwieldly-looking iron monster arrived yesterday at the Midland station on a truck in company with two other tanks which were bound for more northern towns. At Luton the tanks parted company, let us hope for ever, and Luton's gift was shunted on to a side line, and thence into the passenger goods station.

It was in the charge of several Tank Corps mechanics, directed by an engineer in civilian attire, and it had come nearly straight from the thick French mud, only breaking the journey at Richborough [developed in 1916 as a secret wartime harbour, near Sandwich in Kent] to be put completely in order. It is one of the Lewis gun types, and must have seen much war service, as it is one of the first of these implements. It was caked with French mud and, although not bearing shell marks, there were evidences on it of rifle bullet hits. The guns had, of course, been dismounted but we understand that the engine will not be removed entirely. There is no doubt that the tank will need much cleaning up and painting.

It took the mechanics quite an hour to prepare for the journey to Wardown, and it was surprising with what facility it was moved away. It's "run" to the park went off without a hitch, and it is even suspected that it did good to the tram track. Unfortunately, it got in front of a tram car, which had to crawl to Wardown.

Beyond ploughing up a little macadam and turf, the tank went in through the gate quite neatly and safely, and there it will remain until next week. But there was still drama to come...

« "It would be ungallant to suggest that the contrariness which this tank exhibited was only to be expected of a female tank," said The Luton News on February 19th. "But the fact remains that, after being formally presented to the town and accepted this good 'female' jibbed at its job. It climbed a little way up its stand and then refused to budge.

"We were given to understand it was suffering from some inward complaint, which could be cured in ten minutes, and the members of the crew hammered and tinkered about inside for a very liberal ten minutes. When they came out into the open they smiled quite happily about their job, but inside they laboured and perspired, and any old soldier will know how he would have felt and thought under similar conditions.

"The carburettor had something to do with the malady, and the ten minutes was such a liberal ten minutes that some of the visitors got tired of waiting and went away. But those who stayed had a little more excitement for nothing.

The tank decided to climb a bit farther up the slope, and then - bang! The engine backfired into the carburettor, and the petrol behaved as nastily as it can do on occasions. Certainly small boys, if they had not been safely in school, would have been immensely gratified by the following fireworks display, but for the civic dignitaries it was anything but a happy impromptu.

The interior of the tank quickly became a raging furnace, and it was lucky for the Tank Corps men inside that the side shutters were open, so that they could scramble out quickly, and rescue their coats and caps. One man was burned a bit on the hand. Another was very worried until he found his tunic was safe, for apparently it contained his pay.

There were frequent little explosions, but the only danger was the main petrol tank at the rear, and fortunately this did not "give up". Chemical extinguishers had to be commandeered to deal with the flames, but by the time they were got under it was hopeless to think of doing anything more with the tank for the time being. The officer in charge, however, stated that it could be put into working order again later, in order to get it properly into position.

« As the report stated, the presentation tank was a 'female,' unlike the more heavily armed and battle-battered 'male' touring "Tank Bank" mascot Egbert which visited Market Hill in July 1918 as part of the War Savings drive. The Wardown tank was dismantled in March 1941 as part of the World War Two demand for scrap metal.

Event Place

Author: Deejaya

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