I arrived at The Regiment in early 1969, just before the Libyan exercise. When the Regiment returned, I signed for 04 EB 68, first troop, 'C' Sqn, a monster responsibility to a kid of 19. Our old Centurions were 'mothballed', on the back road, (and sold to Israel, I think).
04EB68 was the Troop Sgts tank, in this case, the late and great Robin (Dutch) Holland, and I was his nig driver.....
About two years ago, I started to wonder what had become of 68. Was she scrapped, sold to The Arabs, in a museum??? All I had was a grainy black and white photo, with the number visible on one of the armoured side plates.
Firstly, I contacted the Tank Museum at Bovington, but they couldn't help. Then after scouring the internet, I found a reference to a chap who had lists of all Chieftains made, and their subsequent fate. Contacted him, and he very kindly supplied me with his lists. Under the number 04EB68, was the note "Retained for Gate Guard". So I contacted the Ministry of Defence. No one wanted to know, until finally I was connected to a Major Wilkinson, (God knows what he does), and after a bit of huffing and puffing, with the sound of rustling papers, he came back on. Success! 04EB68 was allocated to the Logistics Depot at MoD Donnington. Next job was to get the depot up on Google Earth, and yes, a Chieftain Tank was on a plinth outside. Now to the 'phone. As you know, getting a line can be really difficult to any MOD establishment, but hey, eventually I got through. Could I please come and see your 'gate guard' please??? Sorry, it's gone............Damn. But I had seen it on Google Earth....hang on, hell, the Google piccy was three years old.
So now, another search began. Maybe it had gone as a range target? Started along that route, when suddenly, I saw a picture on the net, of a Chieftain being unloaded at a range, with the caption 04EB68....Emailed the chap who had posted the picture. Nothing. So time lapsed. About six months later, I got a surprise email from the chap. Sorry he said, been away in Aus! Anyway, he told me that he had taken the picture at Otterburn Range, Northumberland, some two years before. So I phoned them, and spoke to a Major Ackroyd. He was a bit hesitant at first, and said he would be in touch. Got to admit I was a bit crestfallen.
Two days later, this arrived:
Dave; Mon 22 Apr if you can come up. Report to the main gate and they will direct you to Range control.
WO2 Dean Taylor will escort you round the range for the day. No one knows OTA like he does. If your tank is here he will be able to help you find it.
Dean: Please note and update the calendar.
Major Peter Ackroyd RA
Range Safety and Liaison Officer
Defence Training Estate - Otterburn
Otterburn, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE19 1NX
Good stuff. Contacted No1 son, (himself an ex Siggy), and on the allotted day, we drove up to Otterburn. Signed in at the gate, and we were escorted to the range control office. Tea and biccies followed, then off into a LandRover with Wo2 Taylor, and off up the range. He knew just where to find 68, and there, on a lonely hillside, the tank I last saw forty five years ago. Must admit I was a bit emotional, it was like finding something you thought was long lost. Anyway, loads of pictures, climbed in and over. No, I was told, this tank isn't used as a target any more, and that got me thinking.........
So, back to the depot for lunch, then home. What a fantastic day. I cant thank those guys enough for looking after us. One of my contacts is a guy called Bob Grundy, who lives and works in Wigan. He restores old tanks. He knew the story, and contacted the MOD, and Bovington Museum. The upshot is, that the MOD will GIVE me (because of the circumstances of my search for it), 68, but I cant sell it or dispose of it, however, Bovington may be prepared to restore it as a rare early Mk2. Just awaiting the outcome now. They will also then give her a permanent home.
Maybe I should get out more..........