Brief bat­tle over tank’s place at heart of town

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Front Page -

This week’s Ex­press Cut­tings looks back at a story pub­lished in Tues­day Ex­press, a fore­run­ner to the Ash­ford Ex­tra, on Fe­bru­ary 20, 1962 and ques­tions the un­think­able: Should Ash­ford War Tank be moved? The 27-ton First World War tank was pre­sented to the town by the Army Coun­cil on Au­gust 1, 1919 in recog­ni­tion of the splen­did re­sponse of Ash­ford and District to the var­i­ous “War Loans” ap­peals. The sug­ges­tion to move the iconic relic was made by the man­age­ment com­mit­tee of the Ash­ford Cham­ber of Trade. They also sug­gested that the square be­tween Cas­tle Street and New Street, lent it­self to “an at­trac­tive lay­out”. Mr Dun­can Sk­il­beck, the prin­ci­pal guest speaker at the cham­ber’s an­nual din­ner sug­gested that the town “go gay” and that a foun­tain and flow­ers would be more at­trac­tive. Sev­eral mem­bers of the com­mit­tee slated the tank as a “mon­stros­ity” and an “ugly ob­struc­tion” and at the time See­board (South East­ern Elec­tric­ity Board), held great in­ter­est in the tank and its fu­ture as it housed one of their sub­sta­tions. Other com­ments were made re­gard­ing the square be­ing used for hap­haz­ard park­ing of cars, and that the in­tro­duc­tion of a foun­tain would put an end to it. Thank­fully, the pow­ers that be at the time voted against the some­what crude sug­ges­tions and the at­trac­tive tank con­tin­ues to at­tract vis­i­tors far and wide. One bless­ing, though, was that there was never a sug­ges­tion to scrap it. Nowa­days the tank is a des­ig­nated War Me­mo­rial, and the sub­sta­tion dis­ap­peared many years ago. Reg­u­lar main­te­nance of the age­ing tank pre­vents it from de­te­ri­o­rat­ing fur­ther, and ex­ten­sive works were un­der­taken re­cently as the tank was found to be rust­ing from the in­side out. On the ear­lier men­tion of “foun­tains”, wouldn’t it be nice to see the one in the Lower High Street work­ing again. Maybe we should put a tank there in­stead!

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