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Page last updated at 14:09 GMT, Thursday, 9 September 2010 15:09 UK
Wakefield firm restores World War Two Sherman tank
The Robin Hood Sherman tank
Robin Hood, a Sherman tank, was in a poor state of repair before restoration

A tank which fought in one of the biggest battles of the Second World War has been restored in Wakefield.

City engineering firm TEi offered to restore the tank for free, with apprentices working hard to bring it back up to fighting strength.

The tank, a Sherman, fought with Nottinghamshire's Sherwood Rangers during 1944's Operation Market Garden.

Martin Kerry from the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry Association says: "This tank is very important historically."

Resting place

Robin Hood tank on the back of a lorry
The tank was brought to Wakefield on a lorry - and is now heading back

Known as Robin Hood, the tank is now on its way from Wakefield to what is expected to be its final resting place at the Dutch National Liberation Museum at Groesbeek.

Before its restoration in West Yorkshire, the Sherman's story goes back 66 years to what's considered to be one of the most audacious of the Allied offensives of World War Two.

Operation Market Garden, which took place between 17 and 25 September 1944, saw 86,000 paratroopers, air and ground units involved in a daring mission to seize control of bridges and river crossings in the Netherlands and Germany.

Initially successful, it ended in defeat with thousands of Allied troops killed and many more injured or taken prisoner.

The operation was immortalised in the legendary war film A Bridge Too Far.

National liberation

The Sherwood Rangers' tank survived, however, and 25 years ago it was donated to the Dutch National Liberation Museum where, Martin Kerry says, it slowly fell into decline.

He explains: "It was offered as a gesture to the people and to add something to the Museum. The tank itself was put on a plinth with a plaque.

"Unfortunately, it suffered from a bit of age-related wear and tear and a tiny bit of vandalism, which is slightly disappointing but it happens all over.

The veterans all wanted to climb in and have a drive. These guys are all in their mid- to late 80s!
Martin Kerry, Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry Assocation

"Also, the museum had been painting it year by year but all they had been doing was painting over rust.

"Eventually, it would probably have got into a state where it would be unusable."

British spirit

It was at that point that the apprentices at TEi engineering in Wakefield stepped in to try and save this historic vehicle, literally, from the scrapheap.

Martin says: "The firm generously offered to do this work for nothing, which completely restores your faith in the British spirit.

"We hadn't had any relationship with them but they decided to take this vehicle as a project.

"They had their apprentices working on it and it has meant younger people asking questions like, 'Were the British in the war, too, then? Wasn't it just the Americans?'"

The Wakefield engineering apprentices did their bit during the summer of 2010 and completed their work as the 66th anniversary of Operation Market Garden drew near.

Final journey

Now, with just days to go before that anniversary, the Sherman tank is on perhaps its final journey back to the Netherlands.

But before it set off, a few members of the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry Regimental Association were given a sneak preview.

Martin Kerry explains: "We took some of our veterans to Wakefield a couple of weeks ago for a viewing of the tank in a stripped-down form.

Tank at the museum
The tank will be returned to its plinth at the Dutch National Liberation Museum

"The engineers had taken the turret and the tracks off and removed all the corroded parts.

"The veterans all wanted to climb in and have a drive. These guys are all in their mid- to late 80s!"

Emotional experience

The tank will soon be back in pride of place at the Dutch National Liberation Museum.

Martin Kerry says it will be an emotional experience for the Sherwood Yeomanry veterans to see it there.

He says: "We've got seven ex-tank drivers going over, including a 90-year-old gentleman called Arthur Hinitt. He's never been back before.

"He doesn't quite know how he's going to feel and is unsure about going back. But I think, after a little trepidation, he'll be looking forward to it."

Meanwhile, for the apprentices at TEi in Wakefield it will probably back to more mundane engineering tasks from now on. After all it's not every day that a genuine piece of World War Two heavy armour will rumble their way.

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