A tank lain buried underground for 74 years has been uncovered following an extraordinary project to locate and dig up an amphibious tank.
The Buffalo landing vehicle, found in Crowland near Peterborough, was one of two which sank after being washed away during an operation to construct a temporary dam following floods in 1947.
Crowland farmer Daniel Abbott pored over records and carried out exploratory work over the past three years to confirm that two stricken vehicles were still near the fishing pit.
And there was a lump in his throat at 3.50pm on Thursday as a cheer went up from the army of volunteers as the first Buffalo began to be hauled out from 30ft below ground level.
‘It was very emotional’
Daniel, 41, said: “I couldn’t believe it. It was very emotional.
“I was nervous all day. This has all been a big part of my life.”
North Level Internal Drainage Board (NLIDB), Crowland Cranes and Tear’s Recovery worked with Daniel’s committee on the 50-man project.
NLIDB estimates that it excavated about 4,500 tons of clay during the five-day operation.
Works supervisor Nick Day said: “As the flood defence authority we held an interest and were happy to volunteer our machinery.
“Ground scans had been carried out but there was the possibility it could have been just a cattle trough there. But our hopes were raised when we smelt fuel in the groundwater.”
He added: “When the Buffalo broke free of the suction and started to move up and out it was a great moment.”
The tank is in remarkably good condition, thanks largely to the preservation qualities of the clay. However, now it’s in contact with the air there’s time pressure to get it cleaned up and treated to prevent it deteriorating.
Daniel insists the Buffalo will not be sold and will be staying in Crowland.
And he says he will turn his attention to recovering the other vehicle in due course.
Likely used in World War Two
He added: “There were a lot of rumours flying around about the Buffaloes not being there. People told me that they’d all been recovered.
“But I remember as a young child my great-grandparents telling me there were amphibious vehicles around the site.
“I just want to thank everyone who has helped in the project.”
Back in March 1947, 30 Buffalo vehicles were placed in a horseshoe effect to enable the breached bank to be shored up. Sixteen of them remain as part of the flood defence.
It’s thought the recovered Buffalo would have been used in Operation Plunder, the crossing of the Rhine in March 1945. It would have been armed with a Polsten cannon and two Browning machine guns which were removed in North Street, Crowland.
A version of this article originally appeared on our sister title the Peterborough Telegraph