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Latitude: 53.6601 / 53°39'36"N
Longitude: -0.6906 / 0°41'26"W
OS Eastings: 486622
OS Northings: 418971
OS Grid: SE866189
Mapcode National: GBR RVM3.8P
Mapcode Global: WHGFZ.C8CG
Plus Code: 9C5XM865+2P
Entry Name: Tank Hard
Listing Date: 20 January 2023
Source: Historic England
Source ID: 1481990
ID on this website: 101481990
Location: North Lincolnshire, DN15
County: North Lincolnshire
Civil Parish: Burton upon Stather
Built-Up Area: Burton upon Stather
Traditional County: Lincolnshire
Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Lincolnshire
A tank hard and apron (hardstanding) of 1944 built for military training in support of the campaign in Europe following D-Day. Constructed of concrete blocks, timber sleepers and reinforced concrete for the purpose of tank embarkation and manoeuvring.
A tank hard with apron constructed in June 1944 by Artesian Works Company for the 79th Armoured Division.
MATERIALS: constructed of cast concrete and concrete panels with some iron fittings, iron beams and timber sleepers.
DESCRIPTION: the apron platform of level concrete at the top of the riverbank is parallel to the river (north/south) and forms a hardstanding. It is built of two adjoining sections, one measuring 31m x 3m and the other measuring 31m x 3.1m. There are two 7.3m iron railway beams set in the front edge, 6m apart. Set in the concrete at the south end of each beam are 7 equally spaced iron bars arranged radially to form a quadrant to aid the traction of tank vehicles and prevent damage to the concrete during a turning manoeuvre. To the rear of the hardstanding are two approximately 1.3m square sunken anchor blocks with iron loops and rings for mooring landing craft or hauling of heavy equipment, vehicles.
A second concrete tank hard slopes down to the river from the iron beams at a 15-degree angle. It is understood that it measures 2m from front to back and is 20.5m wide in two sections. Damage to each end indicates that it was originally wider and possibly of 31m to match the sections on land. Below this platform are approximately 175 railways sleepers laid at right angles to it, although several of the sleepers above low water mark are thought to have been lost to decay. The recorded arrangement of sleepers is 43 across the width of the ramp and four or five from top to bottom. The sleepers are bedded on concrete ‘chocolate blocks’, fixed with screws and rods, and are 0.3m wide and 0.15m deep, and a variety of lengths. Below the sleepers is another concrete platform of unknown dimensions.
The tank hard (or tank ramp) and apron was part of the River Crossing Wing School of the 79th Armoured Division on the site from 1944-48. It was used for the secret training of squadrons in new methods of crossing of rivers using Duplex Drive (DD) amphibious tanks. This was one of three training wings set up for tackling different challenging environments, the others being A Wing, the Freshwater School based at Fritton Lake, Norfolk; and B Wing, the Saltwater School, based at Gosport, Hampshire. They were formed as part of the invasion plans agreed following the disastrous landing at Dieppe in August 1942 when the British and Canadian troops who were unloading tanks suffered heavy casualties.
The 79th Armoured Division was established in 1943 commanded by Major-General Percy Hobart under the overall command of General Sir Alan Brooke and instigated by Winston Churchill. The purpose was to devise the modification and development of a series of tanks to adapt to a variety of problems encountered during invasions, and to train specialist units to use the tanks in combat. A key innovation was made by Hungarian engineer Nicholas Straussler who developed a canvas flotation screen to make Valentine and Sherman tanks ‘amphibious’. Compressed air was used to raise the screen with a locking mechanism to hold it stiff, to provide buoyancy as the DD tanks drove off a landing craft into the sea or from a riverbank. Once developed, this enabled the Division to provide vital close firing support to troops landing on the beaches in Operation Overlord in June 1944. Another of Straussler’s inventions that was trialled at Burton-upon-Stather was ‘Gin and It’ - a folding canvas ramp that could be attached to the front of a tank or a Buffalo landing vehicle, to enable it to climb up slippery riverbanks.
The Burton site was selected in May 1944 for its similar characteristics to those of the Rivers Seine and Rhine, which would need to be crossed as part of the advance into Germany in late 1944 and 1945. It also benefited from being a secluded location where training could take place in secret. The site was requisitioned and made secure. A 130m access road from a field adjacent to Stather Road and a concrete and timber hard or tank ramp with 500 ‘chocolate blocks’, were laid out by Artesian Works Company. The chocolate blocks (also known as biscuit slabs) were used at numerous sites across the country to facilitate the entry and exit of tracked vehicles to waterways, particularly the embarkation hards established to enable landing craft to be loaded for D-Day. The school was in operation by July 1944 and other structures built there included workshops to the south of the site and a temporary summer camp for 400 men. The Staffordshire Yeomanry was the only regiment to train at Burton with further training taking place in Belgium prior to action in the Netherlands, in Operation Plunder (the Rhine) and in Italy.
Training continued at Burton after the war and new prototype equipment was tested. The site was taken out of use in 1947 and the site cleared of school camp buildings and structures. The footpath was closed to the public in the 1980s and the tank hard became silted over. The remaining camp structures were cleared in the 1990s. The tank hard was cleared of vegetation in the early C21 by a local heritage group but has since silted up again.
The Tank Hard on the River Trent bank at Burton Upon Stather, Lincolnshire is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* as a physical manifestation of the ingenuity and technical expertise of the 79th Armoured Division to secretly develop new technology to help change the course of the Second World War, in this case by improving river crossing methods using Duplex Drive (DD) amphibious tanks that were crucial to the military advance into Germany;
* it was the only tank hard built for training and other Second World War tank hards to survive well are nationally designated in recognition of their rarity and considerable historic interest.
* as a substantially intact tank hard and apron with iron fittings, the structure illustrates its unusual function for military training of technologically innovative equipment;
* despite some degradation, it survives well as a Second World War tank hard in comparison with the few other examples that remain in England.
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