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Page last updated at 11:12 GMT, Wednesday, 15 September 2010 12:12 UK
'Robin Hood' WWII tank restored in time for anniversary
The shell of the Sherman tank
The tank was restored for free by an engineering firm in Wakefield

A tank which fought with Nottinghamshire's Sherwood Rangers in one of the biggest battles of the Second World War has been restored.

The 30-tonne Sherman tank named Robin Hood was used during 1944's Operation Market Garden.

It will go on display at the Dutch National Liberation Museum for the battle's 66th anniversary in September.

Seven Sherwood Rangers veterans, all over 80, plan to travel to the Netherlands to see the tank.

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

Audacious offensive

The Sherman took part in what is 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 said, it slowly fell into decline.

He explained: "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 the historic vehicle, literally, from the scrapheap.

Martin said: "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.

The Wakefield engineering apprentices did their bit during the summer of 2010 and completed their work in time for the 66th anniversary of Operation Market Garden.

Final journey

Before the Sherman tank set off on perhaps its final journey back to the Netherlands a few members of the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry Regimental Association were given a sneak preview of the restored vehicle.

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

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

"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

Several veterans will be travelling to the Netherlands for the 66th anniversary of Operation Market Garden.

Martin Kerry said it will be an emotional experience for them to see the tank in pride of place at the Dutch National Liberation Museum.

He said: "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."

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