Just round the corner from the fabulous Stag Cafe, sits this World War One Tank. Why is it there? Turns out, it was a way for the Government to make money.
Tanks were first rolled out in 1916, during the First World War. But they really caught the public’s imagination in November 1917, when two tanks took part in London’s Lord Mayor’s Show. Tanks had been used just weeks before, on the first day of the Battle of Cambrai, and had been very effective. Consequently, people at the Lord Mayor’s Show were fascinated by this new piece of British military capability: it added to their sense of an invincible British identity. The National War Savings Committee decided to take advantage of this national swell of pride. Later that same month, battle-scarred Tank “Egbert” was brought over from France and put on display in Trafalgar Square. Inside the tank was a table, from which young women sold war bonds.
The campaign was soon extended to the whole of the country, with six touring tanks in total. Each would spend a week in a town or city, and war bonds were sold from within. A competitive spirit between the towns soon developed when it was announced that whichever town or city invested most per person, they would win “Egbert”. The eventual winner was West Hartlepool, which raised £31 9s 1d per person between October 1918 and January 1919. That is the equivalent of £1,612.24p per person in 2016.
In fact, later in 1919, the Treasury agreed to give 264 “war battered” tanks to various towns and cities in gratitude for their financial efforts. Upon receipt of these tanks, they tended to be sited in municipal parks. Perhaps inevitably, as the distance from the war increased, the tanks were generally allowed to rust, or were sold for scrap.
But not so Ashford’s. Ashford’s tank survived, mainly due to having an electricity sub station installed inside it in 1929! Since 2006, it has become a registered war memorial, which means the Council is duty bound to make sure it stays in pristine condition. Hence the canopy that it now sits beneath.