The Ashford Tank Centenary
07th June 2019
While our partners at ABF The Soldiers’ Charity are kicking off their 75th anniversary celebrations, RIFT’s home town of Ashford is celebrating an anniversary of its own. As of the 1st of August this year, Ashford’s St. George’s Square will have been host to one of the town’s most famous landmarks for an incredible 100 years.
An important WWI transport hub, Ashford was awarded its very own Mark IV tank in 1919. The gift was made in recognition of how resolutely Ashford rose to the occasion in the National War Savings appeal. Over the last century, our little tank has won a place in the hearts of the local community, and made an indelible mark on the character and heritage of the town itself. Originally one of 1220 produced, the Ashford tank now stands among just 7 surviving Mark IVs, and Ashford council will be officially celebrating the centenary in August with a presentation detailing its history and significance.
Standing proud at 26 tons and over 26 feet in length, it’s difficult to overstate the impact the Mark IV tank had when it first crawled off the production line and into battle. In a military climate dominated by trench warfare and heavy artillery, the tank was a truly game-changing development. Its significance at home was almost as great as it was on the battlefield, putting a whole new face on modern warfare. The image of the impressive Mark IV had a rallying effect on public morale, and served as a major boost to the purchase of war bonds by the public. Displayed across the country, these roving “tank banks” would collect cash and issue bonds wherever they went. The attention and money they gathered are still impressive even in today’s terms.
On the 1st of August in 1919, less than a year after the end of the First World War, a Mark IV was delivered by rail to Ashford. All told, 265 of these tanks were gifted to towns that had made significant contributions to the National War Savings appeal. In front of a cheering crowd, the tank was officially dedicated to the town by Captain Walter Farrar MC of the Royal Tank Corps. A century later, the tank still looks immaculate, having gone through a number of restorations and refurbishments over the decades.
Now an official Grade II listed war memorial, the Ashford Mark IV is to be celebrated as the symbol of British pride it truly is. The upcoming celebrations this year will include:
- Historic recreations and re-enactments.
- Talks from Royal Tank Regiment members on their memories of the Mark IV.
- A range of WWI themed events, from music to exhibitions.
Of course, it’s not all about the past. As always, Ashford has one eye on the future as well. Wheels are already turning on a full assessment of the Mark IV’s condition, with the goal of keeping it in pristine shape for another hundred years and more. It’s the last of its kind on public outdoor display, and well deserves the respect and attention it receives.
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