D-Day tank restored for anniversary
A D-Day tank that has been restored after lying abandoned by the banks of a canal in Normandy for years is to be unveiled on the 70th anniversary of the historic campaign.
For years the Centaur tank, used to provide covering fire for Royal Marines during the Normandy landings, has laid abandoned on the bank of the Caen canal, near the famous Pegasus Bridge.
The bridge was the site of one of the most famous assaults in D-Day, when gliders silently landed with fewer than 200 men on board to take two bridges without the Germans destroying them, allowing the soldiers who had landed on the Normandy beaches to move inland and begin the liberation of France.
The original bascule bridge was replaced in the 1990s but is now preserved just yards from its original site on the Caen canal where the Memorial Pegasus, a museum on the historic assault, has now been set up.
Pegasus Bridge will be one of the sites where commemorations to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day are held, including a mass parachute drop, a ceremony at the museum, and a midnight ceremony to mark the actual moment of the airborne landings.
They will also involve the inauguration of the Centaur tank, which has been restored by the museum after lying abandoned on the bank of the canal for decades.
Only 80 of the unusual Centaur tanks, specifically adapted for use by the Royal Marines Armoured Support Group in the D-Day landings, were ever made, and it thought that just five remain.
Mark Worthington, curator of the Memorial Pegasus, said the tank will now join other artefacts preserved at the museum and its park.
He said: "There are only five of these left in the world to my knowledge and this is the only one of the five which actually landed on D-Day.
"It was on the bank of the Caen Canal about 500 yards from here, and it was falling to bits, literally falling to bits.
"So to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day and the 350th anniversary of the Royal Marines the tank was brought into the museum and is being restored a second time - it was already restored once in the 70s."
He said although the museum is an airborne museum, the tank is relevant because some Centaur tanks came up to reinforce lightly-armed airborne troops in August 1944.
Much of the restoration has been carried out by two British companies, Cobham and Dytechna, who have carried out repairs to areas such as track guards, and blanket and ammunition boxes, at no cost to the museum itself.
Mr Worthington said: "And my colleagues and I have been carrying out the paintwork.
"Royal Marines have also come across and spent several days here repainting the tank which was a great project for them."
The tank is expected to play a huge part in the 70th anniversary commemorations in June, with dozens of veterans expected to attend, including at least two Royal Marines who served in Centaurs.
"For the 70th anniversary lots of monuments will be unveiled to commemorate the anniversary and here we have an historic monument which was literally falling to bits on the bank of the canal," Mr Worthington added.
"It really is an historic artefact."