Brief battle over tank’s place at heart of town
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!