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A Chieftain, a Sexton and a Bastion Wall

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Posted: 24/09/2015 15:39
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News round up time. This week we thought we would update you on a couple of things that have been happening here at Southfields Farm. A new tank, some fun with the Sexton’s wheel stations and something you may not know about Camp Bastion.

News round up time. This week we thought we would update you on a couple of things that have been happening here at Southfields Farm. A new tank, some fun with the Sexton’s wheel stations and something you may not know about Camp Bastion!

It’s the end of the month, it must be new tank time! With tank driving experiences becoming more and more popular, we thought it was about time that we treated ourselves! So this weekend will see the arrival of Armourgeddon’s latest delivery- a Chieftain Tank. The Chieftain FV4201 was the main battle tank of the UK during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. A development of The Centurion and as regular visitors to our blog would know, therefore a continuation of the British cruiser series, the Chieftain shares many commonalities with both its predecessor and successor.

Considered as the most formidable main battle tank in the world, with the most powerful main gun at the time of its introduction in 1966 and most effective armour of any tank any made, the Chieftain has quite some reputation.

The Chieftain introduced a supine driving position- reclining backwards, for the first time to the development of tanks. This position enables a heavily sloped hull with reduced height. A tank faster than the Centurion and able to maintain its speed longer than the Leopard I and able to out-gun its contemporaries, the Chieftain was also the first tank to enhance its amour- which was already superior to many of others.

We are getting our new tank from a company called Bastion. They are the makers of a specific type of sand bag and mesh wall system. It’s that type of wall, which encompasses the periphery of the UK forces base in Hellmand Province, Afghanistan, hence the name Camp Bastion.

For the first time in a while, we have bought a tank which already runs and only needs minor restoration work doing so it wont be long before you will see it in our museum- or even on the track!

At the other end of the scale, our Sexton is back on the job list in the workshop this week (and for a few weeks to come…) having some remedial work done on the 6 wheel stations that support the vehicle’s movement. Our Sexton arrived on site at Armourgeddon about 3 and a half years ago where it has spent most of its time in the museum in its original state- seriously rusty!

The wheel stations of the Sexton are the same as those on a Sherman tank. With spring compressions, they are somewhat of a beast to release and the language has on occasion turned the air blue! However, the first one is on its way to being re-built and put back in place, so just 5 more to go! The wheel stations were removed back in February when we predicted an 8-month turn around to have the Sexton ready for show. The time has slipped us by having had the busiest summer on record this year and we have all been having far too much fun driving the tanks around the tracks to be in the workshop readying next season’s show pieces! We will get there though and when complete, we are looking forward to our Sexton being a fitting tribute to the gunners who fought in her.

The Sexton was based on Canadian-built versions of the M3 Lee and M4 Sherman tanks which entered production in Canada as the Ram and Grizzly in order to provide better artillery support in the highly mobile desert warfare of the North African Campaign. Fighting in North Africa started with the Italian declaration of war on 10 June 1940. On 14 June, the British 11th Hussars regiment, assisted by the 1st Royal Tank crossed the border from Egypt to Libya to capture the Italian Fort Capuzzo. An Italian counter-offensive into Egypt followed by a Commonwealth reply destroying the Italian 10th Army saw the dispatch of the Afrika Corps commanded by Erwin Rommel dispatched to the area to reinforce Italian forces and halt the complete defeat of Axis, which was starting to look possible.

The British Army quickly adapted a number of obsolete Valentine tanks with 25-pounder guns and introduced them as the Bishop. However, significant issues in service around a lack of room for elevation of the gun meant the Bishop was quickly replaced by the US-built M7 Priest- a 107mm gun mounted on the obsolete M3 Lee tank chassis. Ammunition supply issues of using the dual nationality M7 lead to the US attempting to 25 pounder to the M7 Priest making the T-51 in mid-1942 but delays occurred due to failures of the prototype during live-firing exercises. The US were unable to supply a vehicle solely for the British army so they turned to Canada for help.

After the end of the war, a number of Sextons were sold to Portugal where they were used in dessert colours through to the 1980s.

The Sexton here at Armourgeddon is branded with the number 1 in the serial number position. We believe that this means it was the first of the Sexton Mark I vehicles to roll off production. We know that our Sexton was sold to the USA after completing active duty in Portugal- following the journey of many of these tanks through production in Canada, active duty for the British Army and then on to Portugal. We acquired the tank from the USA in 2012. The engine was not able to be restored, so a new one has been sourced- from Australia.

The Sexton would have held a 6-man crew; Commander, Gunner, Driver, Radio Operator and two Loaders and as such is quite a sizeable vehicle. We have many full sized tanks and military vehicles in our museum on site at Armourgeddon and lots of other military memorabilia. The museum is open year round and can be combined with a tank driving activity or just as a visit on its own.

See more in our Military Vehicle Museum


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