Originally published on 31st December 2017 in www.urbanescapist.wordpress.com
I normally set out on a walk with an intention to look at different aspects of nature depending on the season but my walk last Thursday was to be different and it was to visit the Canadian Mark ll Churchill tank left on Kithurst Hill after the 2nd World War. This part of the South Downs from the Southdowns Way between Chantry Hill and Rackham Hill and then south to Wepham Down and Angmering Park has become a favourite place to walk for me over the last few years. There are various routes I normally take to reach my destination but today because my 5 year grandson was coming with me and together with my two youngest daughters who are in the middle of a fitness regime I chose the shortest from Kithurst Hill car park. Using a 5 year old as a cover to hide my excesses and over indulgence during the festive period is a little lame but I think I got away with it. Anyway he was pleased to find some snow that had settled on the top of the downs from the wintry showers we have had over the last couple of days. The car park can be reached by taking the road off from the B2139 linking Amberley and Storrington. The route to the tank can be found quite easily from the car park by taking the south easterly path over the field which leads to a patch of trees and a crossing of paths. Turn right and follow the path a few yards in a south westerly direction and then as the trees finish the tank appears on your right. Every time I visit this spot I am taken aback by the silence and calmness of the surroundings which 75 years ago would have been a contrast to today when the area was used for military training by the Canadian army.
The tank left on the downs was part of the 14th Canadian Army Tank Battalion who were preparing for the raid on Dieppe on the 19th August 1942 and was to prove unfortunately very costly to the Canadian forces. The tank had broken down due to mechanical problems and possibly due to the forthcoming Dieppe Raid and the replacement by the Mark III it was deemed not worth repairing. Instead it was handed over to the 2nd Canadian Army Division who used it for target practice . The amount of bullet holes in the side of the tank is evidence of this. When the war finished due to lack of accessibility to the spot where the tank was left the clearance teams rolled it into a nearby bomb crater. In 1993 the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers dug the tank back up. The turret and various other parts were removed and taken to the Tank Museum in Dorset where they were used to repair other exhibits and the remainder of the tank was left where it remains to this day.
The tank is just one reminder of the presence of the Canadian army in the area during the second world war. Other reminders are the Canadian memorial on Worthing seafront near to the Grand Avenue junction and in Durrington many of the roads where the Canadian camp was situated are named after Canadian towns and cities. On the downs themselves there is also a barn called Canada on the road coming from North Stoke near Camp Hill where troops were training. Too much of a coincidence not to be connected I guess.