In a quiet village called Flesquieres, near Cambrai in north France lies a well known ‘secret’ – the Iron Lady or in this case Deborah a D51 Tank, a WW1 veteran, is hidden away in a brick barn, with bullet holes and shrapnell scars to the front of the barn. The Tank was ‘saved’ by Philippe Gorczynski and was lovingly brought back to ‘life’, and is looking really good for her age, a hundred years on from WW1.
We visited Deborah on our WW1 coach trip, whilst visiting the First and Last British Soldiers graves tour. To find out more about coach tours visit WeLoveCoaches to find a coach tour that suits you.
Historian and hotelier Philippe Gorczynski greeted us and told us how as a young boy, he found shell cases, bullets, helmets and lots of memorabilia from the First World War. He decided to talk to the ‘Seniors’ of the area who remembered the battle of Cambrai, and went in search of the tank that the locals knew had been buried. He found the Mark 4 D51 Tank nicknamed Deborah, who was amongst the five battalions of Allied tanks that lined up on a ridge facing the German Hindenburg Line. Deborah saw battle on 20 November 1917 when the battle of Cambrai began. Her history is documented by Philippe and a small museum has also been created behind the barn. Deborah stands proud and is in good condition, up on her pedestal for all to see. There is other WW1 memorabilia in the barn including a couple of vehicles, shells and even a cooker!
The tank had a crew of eight who operated in very cramped and noisy conditions, and she went speeding along at 4mph! During the battle of Cambrai, Deborah advanced further than most of the tanks, even passing the barn within which she now rests. Just beyond this, along with five of her crew, she met her end, courtesy of German shells which took out a large part of the front.
Virtually all the WW1 tanks were either scrapped or buried, but Deborah has been resurrected to stand as a striking icon to the war, one of only five tanks that have survived. So when you are planning your coach trip around the WW1 battlegrounds, try and make sure Deborah is on your itinerary, but If you are visiting the area by car and touring then contact Philippe and let him share his passion about his ‘lady’ with you.
Philippe can be contacted by email at Philippe.Gorczynski@wanadoo.fr or at the Hotel Beatus, 718,Avenue de Paris, 59400 Cambrai. This Iron Lady is well worth a visit.
Trevor Sullivan went with his wife on a Galway WW1 coach tour.
For Battlefield Tours, Silver Travel Advisor recommends Shearings Battlefield Tours