Kithurst Hill Tank

Many of you will have walked on the South Downs and enjoyed the stunning views across Horsham District; if you haven’t then we would highly recommend it!

One of the places you can start your walk in the South Downs National Park is Kithurst Hill, which also gives you access to the wonderful South Downs Way. The views from the top of the hill are particularly good and the area is a haven for wildlife. In fact, The Times featured the area as one of it’s ‘good walks’ in January this year.

When we asked you to nominate your Hidden Gems, many of you put forward Kithurst Hill. The reason it was nominated is because there are two rather usual elements to this area of the South Downs. Part of Kithurst Hill is designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument, containing part of the Kithurst Hill dispersed round barrow cemetery. This dates all the way back to the Bronze Age (c3400 – 700BC) and if hills could talk, we think this one would have some incredibly interesting stories to tell.

The second unusual element to Kithurst Hill is, in amongst the peaceful fields and the wildlife quietly going about their business, are the remains of a World War Two Churchill MKII Tank! According to stories, this tank was due to be used in a Second World War raid in France but developed mechanical issues, so was left behind.

The South Downs was used as training ground for the Canadian troops, and as part of their training, they used this broken down tank for target practice. In fact, it’s littered with holes where it was pierced by munitions from the 2nd Canadian Army Division.

Once the war ended, there was a huge clean up operation on the South Downs, however it proved incredibly difficult to remove this tank. As it was impractical to move it, the tank was rolled into a bomb crater, where it stayed buried under chalk and soil for 50 years. It was unearthed by the REME in 1993 and removed from the crater to its’ current resting place in the field on Kithurst Hill.

Some parts of the tank were salvaged and used to restore other Churchill Tanks at the Tank Museum, Bovington Camp in Dorset. Now all that remains is the shell of the tank, a memory and testament to our rich history. Perhaps this weekend is the time to take that walk and spend a moment reflecting when you see the tank.

To find out more about our Hidden Gems, keep an eye out for our updates. You can follow the Horsham District Year of Culture 2019 on Facebook, we’re also on Twitter and Instagram as @HDCulture2019.

Image coutesy of Alan Stainer

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