South Downs WWII Churchill Tank
An abandoned World War II tank left to rust in the downland.
Whether hiking purposefully along the South Downs Way or casually strolling around Kithurst Hill, many visitors are surprised to come across this manmade relic within the South Downs natural landscape.
If you visit today, the area’s tranquility is ubiquitous, but almost 70 years ago the site would have been rife with the sounds of gunshots, sergeants’ orders, and the roaring of tank engines. The area devoid of civilians proved ideal military training grounds, particularly for Canadian recruits.
As World War II advanced, so did technology, and updated versions of weapons were continually issued in the hopes of bringing an advantage to either side. The older models that were removed from the front lines intact were sent to the training grounds.
Whether this hulking Churchill MkII tank met a mechanical doom or was strategically located in the rolling hills of the downland, it became used for target practice by the Canadian Army, leaving one side of the vehicle littered with bullet holes.
The very conditions that made this landscape an exemplar training ground also meant the bulky tank was left in-situ even after the postwar clear-up was finished. It was forgotten for decades before being dusted off and left in place for passersby to marvel at. It’s believed that parts of the tank have more recently been removed to complete display models at the Bovington Tank Museum. This may explain the missing gun turret.
Preserved in a museum would be a much less surprising location for this surviving wartime memorabilia, but it doesn’t quite compare to seeing the tank nestled within the downs, and climbing inside to imagine the lifetime that led it to its resting place.
Update as of September 2019: The tank was removed for restoration. The tank will eventually be relocated to a British Museum being constructed in France to recognize the D-Day landings.
Know Before You Go
Best to park at Kithurst Hill Car Park, before walking along the South Downs Way and turning south. Detailed directions can be found here.
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