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Letters sent in to the Evening Telegraph June 1988
First World War Tank - Memories

The Wellingborough News Friday 20 February 1920

The female Mark III tank, named Rushden, was unveiled in Spencer Park.

The tank on its hard standing in Spencer Park
Handing over the Tank to the Council

Town landmark that became scrap metal

A redundant World War One tank, presented to Rushden Urban Council in recognition of the town's war effort, was pictured in the 'Down Memory Lane' spot on May 17 and rekindled memories for many people in the area.

At the end of World War One many towns received thanks for their contribution to the war effort in the form of a redundant tank — tank's still, of course, being something of a novelty having been introduced during the war.

This picture shows the tank presented to Rushden Urban District Council. It is being accepted on behalf of the council by Fred Knight — that's him in the bowler hat. The picture was sent in by his grandson. Peter Knight, of High Street, Great Doddington. And he points out that the little girl standing directly in front of him is his cousin Joyce Claridge who still lives in Rushden.

atop the tank
Joy Claridge breaks a bottle of whiskey on the tank.

We cheered!

Crowds of people lined the route to watch the tank being driven from Rushden Station to the concrete slab in Spencer Park.

 Railway sleepers were stacked across the road at the bottom of Station Approach and also at the junction of Washbrook Road.   

The tank was driven by Rushden soldier, Mr Cyril Woods, second from left in the photograph.

Cheers from the crowd went up when the tank came down Station Approach and rumbled over the pile of wood.

I and others ran down to Washbrook to see it negotiate the next obstacle and finally to Spencer Park where the crowd gathered for the ceremony, hence the pictures.

The photograph was taken by a local photographer, Mr C F Chapman.

At the beginning of the last war the tank was sent to Hitler in smaller consignments quicker than it came.

J W (Bill) Houghton

I well remember being taken to see the tank arrive. I stood with my father outside Mr Fred Corby's house, "The Beeches", along with an animatedly expectant crowd.

We were soon to see this somewhat clumsy object come rocking down the road, driven, I believe, by Mr C Woods.

I seem to remember that the late Mr C Clark (Captain) was directing operations, but I may be wrong. It was a Sunday afternoon."

For the civilian population it would  have been their first sight of a tank. It lurched round the corner into Washbrook Road and was finally placed on a concrete base just inside Spencer Park, by the brook, where we could have a much close inspection.

We children used to climb on top of it and slide down the wheels, somewhat bumpily and, I think now, disrespectfully.

I believe the War Office presented it to the town in appreciation of their efforts in the War Savings campaign. It was quite a great day when The Tank came.

R M Jenkinson (Mrs)

Masquerade : The picture includes my late uncle, Hector Macleod. He is wearing a homburg hat, and is fourth from the left.

Although in civilian clothes, he was
in fact a Captain in the Royal Tank Corps, having served with them
when the tank was a secret weapon, and they masqueraded, I believe, as the Gas Corps.

He took part in the first tank action
at Cambrai, but was seriously wounded at Geuzeaucourt and is mentioned in the history of the regiment; "Rolling Through", as "Young Mac".

Ian Macleod

Happy hours

The picture no doubt brought a smile to many of your readers.

Presented to the townspeople for their response to the War Savings Appeal, it stood for many years in Spencer Park where countless youngsters in the 1920s and 30s spent many happy hours playing on and around it.

In 1940 it was broken up for metal salvage to help the Second World War effort.

A Packwood
I would imagine that quite a number of the older people of Rushden will well remember the tank pictured in Mr Peter Knight's excellent photograph.

Indeed, it was a very well-known Rushden landmark right up until it was "taken for scrap metal" in the early days of World War Two around 1940.

The tank stood in the Spencer Park close to the small bridge over the brook in Washbrook Road. The platform that it stood on is still there and visible, I believe, and can be seen still beside the bridge. It was very popular indeed with all the children, and I remember that its tank tracks were all polished like silver by the seats of the boys' pants, and the dresses of the girls who used to climb, sit and slide all over it.

I recall playing upon the tank endless times, and also going inside it a number of times. My grandfather and great-uncles were friends of the park-keeper who had a key to unlock the flap in the tank and let us in, but never without an adult being present and in charge.

It was quite dark in the tank, I remember, and it had a metal, oily smell all its own. Anyone who went into the tank will well remember it, I guess, even today.

It's not widely known today that the tanks of World War One could be male or female. The female carried machine-guns in her side mounts (turrets), and the male a much large calibre gun of the cannon or field-gun type.

My father went to see the tank just after World War One when it arrived in Rushden. It came to Rushden station by train and then ran under its own power to its parking spot platform in Spencer Park.

There's a photograph of the tank taken at this time passing under the old railway bridge (now gone) in the book entitled Old Rushden.

W E Upton

That Tank : My cousin, Mrs Jill Waterfield sent me a cutting from a recent edition of your paper concerning the tank which was presented to Rushden Urban District Council. I am writing to inform you that the dashing young man in the baggy British Warm [coat] was my father, the late Captain Hector Macleod of the Royal Tank Corps (as it was then) who had actually delivered the tank. He was the younger son of the late Superintendent and Mrs H. D. Macleod of Portsoy, The Avenue, Wellingborough and brother of the late Mr Kenneth Macleod, Mrs E. Richardson, Miss Elizabeth Macleod and Mrs M Cox.

My late mother was the former Miss Nellie Tailby of Rushden and the only member of the family still living is my mother's youngest sister Mrs Muriel Ellson who lives in Great Addington.

I have this photograph in my possession and can clearly remember my father telling me how he used to deliver tanks to various places after the war.

Patricia Barnett (Mrs)

Tank : The Memory Lane photograph of the World War One tank at Kettering might bring back memories of a similar tank that stood for many years in Spencer Park, Rushden.

I can remember watching its arrival in the town. It came by rail and then proceeded under its own power to the park. At the bottom of Washbrook Road a huge pile of railway sleepers were laid across the road to demonstrate the tank's ability to climb over obstacles, I understand that the driver was the late Cyril Woods, who was later well-known as a County ambulance driver. The tank was a source of much pleasure to us boys, who clambered all over it and got to know its every plate and rivet.

R A Beardsmore

A poem by R. W. Norman published in a fund
raising booklet in aid of
The Rushden
St John Ambulance - Motor Ambulance Appeal.

In Memoriam

Our Madame Tank has gone at last,
Her two decades of ease have passed,
And now, for all that we can tell,
She’s just base metal, poor old “gel”.

Some twenty years ago she came
(In those days quite a smart young dame)
And close beside the rippling brook
Her monumental job she took.

And through the years, the upper deck
Of this squat Monarch of the rec,
Because to nippers all around
A choice if rusty, stamping ground.

Now from our sight at last she’s gone,
This lusty local Amazon;
Her neatly welded ribs have been
’Reft by the fierce acetylene.

Her many deftly jointed feet
Were amputated so to meet
The never-ebbing need for more
Steel fodder to pursue the war.

Though now she’s riven from our gaze
We won’t forget those happy days
She spent with us (gift from the Crown)
In which she gained some slight renown.

And possibly ere long we shall
See on her concrete pedestal
Another lass of forty ton –
Symbolic of the Peace we’ve won.

A poem by R. W. Norman from a booklet of his rhymes
published by Rushden & District History Society 1995
when the Society put up a Blue Plaque on his home

The Tank

For nearly twenty peaceful years our monumental Tank
Has in bucolic idleness dwelt on the " river" bank.
Apart from nippers clamber'ng upon the upper deck,
For two decades this landship has been Monarch of the 'Rec.

But now the war-time Amazon must heed the martial note
And join the army of defence (despite a rusty coat)
To join the Tank Corps once again would put her in a fix
Now tanks do umpteen m.p.h. when she can't rev. up six.

But what a splendid shelter this old warrior would make
Could we but haul the carcase home, then up the garden take
And dump beside the'plot of grass beneath the apple tree;
T'would definitely fill the bill for high-grade A.R.P.

Between the caterpillar shoes we'd sow the runner bean,
And plant a rambler o'er the top to form a rustic screen.
Tomatoes, too, would grow aloft, spring onions 'neath the hull,
And rhubarb close beside the door for shelterers to cull.

Inside our refuge room we'd sit like sardines in a tin,
And while away the time by picking losers with a pin.
We'd play a game or two of darts our latent skill to show,
Or hear the (Goe) bells' wild refrain upon the radio.

From Wheels & Tracks No 68 [?1999]

World War I Presentation Tanks – After the end of World War I the British government donated 265 tanks to towns and cities in recognition of their efforts in buying War bonds and War Saving Certificates. They were awarded by the National War Savings Committee and delivered by the Tank Corps. Female types were selected because there wee more of them and they could be supplied without guns and were therefore less likely to be used against the Government!

On delivery by a Tank Corps crew – invariably by rail from Bovingdon Camp – they were driven to the selected site by the town council. The final drive chains were removed – just in case – and the officer made a speech telling of some famous actions that the tank had been in. (In fact most appear to have been training tanks, with no active service history at all). It is believed that most communities did not really welcome them. They were not actual war trophies and only reminded people of things they wished to forget. Thus the tanks were eventually scrapped, before or during WWII, except for one in Ashford, Kent.

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