"Tanks were built for one purpose - to help win wars. Being designed to do so, however, has inadvertantly left them with an attraction they never intended - the thrill of driving one. Even seeing one is a spectacle, although "
Ex Military – The Machine of War
Some people make it their mission to ensure our history doesn’t just become a thing of the past.
Because so much has been given and so much has been lost it’s their goal to make each generation aware of the sacrifices that were made.
As the decades continue to pass, it’s becoming even more crucial to many that important events are not forgotten. And truer words were never said when it comes to teaching this, and future generations, about the world wars.
For people like Brian Mack – the owner of the 1940 Fordson WOT-2C 15 cwt Truck that features in ‘‘The Machine of War’ film – and Thomas Williamson, it’s a mission that has formed friendships and created a shared passion.
There may be 50 years between the Norfolk Military Vehicle Group members but that age difference matters little. Brian and Thomas are kindred spirits which is why they came together to show off the former’s prized possession in all its beauty for Influx.
“When I was a kid I saw these trucks go through the village I lived in,” said Brian, aged 79.
“I actually went to buy a motorbike at an auction, I saw the truck, and I thought ‘that would be nice to own’. I got it and I’ve been pleased with it ever since.
“I’ve had it for about 16 years now and although I used to have just over 20 ex-military vehicles, this is only one of two I have left. It was the first one I bought so it is special. The brakes are good, the steering is good and the suspension is lovely and it’s very, very close to the original spec.
“I guess it’s what it is like having a flash car because people are just amazed at what they’re following.”
The vehicle people are mesmerised by being behind is thought to be only one of a handful of its kind still operating in the world. Newer versions may be less rare, but Brian’s pride and joy with aero-screens, side curtains and a wire mesh grill is beyond precious.
It was built in 1940 by Ford, houses a V8 3.6-litre petrol engine and was used by the British Army’s Seventh Armoured Division. During the Second World War the unit, more commonly known as the Desert Rats, was involved in military campaigns in North Africa’s Western Desert, Italy and Northern Europe.
However, it was their pre-D-Day base of High Ash, near Mundford, that has become equally synonymous with the iconic brigade. They were stationed in that part of Thetford Forest between January and May 1944 while they prepared for the invasion of Normandy – the only time they had been in the United Kingdom in their entire existence.
“Their camp was here,” said Thomas, 23, of the poignant location the film was shot at in Norfolk.
“There’s a memorial here now too. It’s a special place for the veterans’ families as they want to come here and see where their grandad or great-grandad was, what he did and where he drove. It’s important to have somewhere to come and remember them.
“Many of us dress up in period outfits and uniforms. It’s all down to respect and what those people did for us. We drive the vehicles and wear the uniforms in remembrance of those who did the same thing while serving for us.
“Our group is a mixture of ages really. There are more youngsters getting into it now but with the inflation of vehicle prices, it’s becoming more and more difficult for youngsters to buy a wartime vehicle. We’ve even got members who haven’t got vehicles but come purely for the social aspect. The number one reason we do this is for the veterans and charities though.”
Brian has driven the Fordson across the country and parts of Europe to various events, reunions, remembrance services and period and military events. But he knows what’s even more pleasing to him than being behind the wheel of the classic.
With a smile, he said: “It really is nice when you see the veterans. We keep losing them and it’s sad when they go.
“The best part is taking the old guys out if they want a ride. I had a guy who drove one of these across Germany and he rode with me and he was just so pleased to get in one again.”
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