Military man rumbling down The Mall

It has been more than 60 years since a tank rolled down The Mall. But a Suffolk military museum and a French-based businessman are set to turn heads later this month when they take on a charity challenge from London to the Somme in an armoured personnel carrier.

It has been more than 60 years since a tank rolled down The Mall.

But a Suffolk military museum and a French-based businessman are set to turn heads later this month when they take on a charity challenge from London to the Somme in an armoured personnel carrier.

The unusual form of transport, which is owned by military enthusiast and former Bury St Edmunds man Simon Blagden , aims to mark the 90th anniversary of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) and 25 years since the Falklands conflict.

The ex-Army man, with the help of the East England Military Museum at Barnham, near Thetford, is also hoping to raise more than £30,000 for the charity that has been installing and maintaining the graves of Commonwealth service personnel across the globe since the First World War

The three day 225 mile Great Warsy Tank Run will begin at a ceremony led by The Duke of Kent on May 25 at St James's Square, in London, before heading to Dover via Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square.

After crossing the Channel by ferry, the crew of seven businessmen and museum backup crew will then call in at war memorials at Vimy Ridge, Arras, Peronne, Thiepval, and Corbie before finishing at Mr Blagden's home at Chateau de Warsy, in the Somme.

Most Read

The 44-year-old, who is a Falklands veteran and now runs a telecoms business, said the challenge would not be possible without the two years of preparation by officials at the East England Military Museum.

“I have been excited about this for the last couple of months. It is not every day you get to drive a tank around Piccadilly Circus!”

“When you live in the Somme, every three or four miles there is a graveyard or memorial and it is very moving to think that these soldiers and servicemen have given the ultimate sacrifice. At a time when soldiers are risking their lives today and everyday, we thought something needed to be done to highlight the anniversaries and raise awareness and money for the CWGC,” he said.

The Spartan CVRT armoured personnel carrier, which will be driven by Mr Blagden with six business colleagues as passengers, was built in 1977 and was used by the Army as a battlefield taxi for small detachments of frontline soldiers up until two years ago. The 4.2lt Jaguar petrol engine powered vehicle is capable of speeds of 60mph.

Shaun Hindle, trustee of the military museum, who will be driving the Land Rover support vehicle, said: “Hopefully nothing will go wrong, but we have to pre-empt sods law and have all bases covered. We can't call the AA if we breakdown! It will be the first time a tracked vehicle has been down The Mall since the Second World War.”

A popular living history show, Battlefront II, will be taking place at the East England Military Museum on June 1,2 and 3. For more information, visit www.militarymuseum.org.uk.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter