A huge WWII tank buried underground for 74 years in the Lincolnshire Ferns has been completely restored.
The 26 foot-long Buffalo tank has been buried almost 30 feet down since 1947, but astonishingly could become Europe’s only driveable example by next summer.
Farmer Daniel Abbott, 42, and his team of volunteers hauled the huge 18,000kg amphibious tank from underground in April last year after three years of searching and planning.
The Buffalo sank into the ground after being washed away when being used as a flood defence to protect the village of Crowland, Lincolnshire during the March 1947 floods.
It was part of a temporary dam to hold back the flood from the River Welland, which involved 15 other tanks.
The Second World War-era tank was buried 30ft underground and needed a huge excavation to be recovered
Daniel Abbot,42, on top of the tank he spent three years working to get out. He and his team restored it to its current condition in just over a year
The 26 foot-long tank has been relatively well-preserved thanks to being buried in peat and clay for the last 74 years
Remarkably, Daniel Abbot thinks the historic tank could be fully driveable next summer, with some of its original components having been restored to working order
The tank ended up underground after being swept away and sinking during floods in 1947
Now, just over a year later, the tank has been restored in time for the 75th anniversary of the 1947 floods and it will be on display at the Thorney & Crowland 1940s Weekend on June 25 and 26.
The LVT-4 tank has had its cockpit restored, its front armour plating re-sprayed, the original gearbox has been repaired, and new tracks have been fitted.
Daniel Abbott, who located the Buffalo, said: ‘I’m absolutely blown away by the restoration. We have got a new working engine from America and hope to fit it in the tank over the winter so by next summer it will be driveable.’
Daniel Abbott poses holding a Union flag after it was excavated Crowland, Lincolnshire
The crew managed to dig up and 18,000kg and haul it out of the 30ft haul in April last year
The Buffalo tank was one of 16 brought in as part of flood defences for the nearby village of Crowland when the River Welland burst its banks
The Daily Mail’s original report about the floods
He said the original bodywork has not been repainted because of its many interesting features.
Mr Abbott added: ‘When we started cleaning the tank we found people’s names scratched into the panelling and we’re not sure if that happened during the Second World War or in 1947.
‘We also found a hand-painted symbol of a bull’s head of the 79th Armoured Division painted on the front, and someone has painted “all ok” on the panelling.’
The March 1947 floods came after a combination of heavy snow, a sudden thaw, high tides, rain and wind caused the River Welland to break its banks.
Around 30,000 acres of land around Crowland were flooded and 16 Buffalo tanks were brought in to help seal the breach.
When the water was pumped back into the flood plain, the water got under some of the Buffalos and five of them floated away. One was recovered, two sank in fishing pits and two were left in a hole.
Daniel and his team spent three years planning to excavate the tank from the hole. They did a lot of digging by hand, as well as using a machine from the North Level Drainage Board.
The tank had been buried in clay and peat and was well preserved. The team eventually wants to build a museum in the town to house it.
Daniel added: “Hopefully we will eventually be able to put it in a nice shed in the town and make a museum. It’s been in Crowland for 74 years and it’s part of the town’s history.”
Buffalo LVT-4s were used in the Rhine Crossing in 1945.
How were Buffalo amphibious vehicles used during the war?
The Buffalo tank was originally a American cargo carrier
The Buffalo, also known as the Landing Vehicle Tracked, was an American cargo carrier originally designed to bring stores from ship to shore in the 1920s and 30s.
It soon became an assault vehicle bringing troops ashore during amphibious operations after engineer Donald Roebling adapted his previous military tank, which he called the Alligator.
The US Marines used them extensively in the Pacific against Japanese forces, even arming them with deadly flamethrowers.
In Europe, the British Army used 600 of them to cross the River Rhine in 1945 during Operation Plunder, armed with 20mm cannon and machine guns.
The Royal Marines used them in Burma and Malaya and in the ill-fated 1956 Suez Crisis.
During the Suez Canal crisis, the Royal Marines made a landing in Port Said using the US-tanks while being supported by a number of Centurion tanks from the Royal Tank Regiment.
In 1943, the US Marines used the vehicles when landing on the island of Bougainville, which is part of Papua New Guinea, during the Second World War.
The tanks were also used by the US Army in Europe in small numbers in 1944-45 for river crossing operations.
It was first used in North Africa in 1942 in order to tow vehicles and also for boat salvage operations.
After the Second World War, some of the tanks were used during the Korean War for the landing in Incheon and the subsequent Han River crossing to re-take Seoul.
The amphibious vehicles were also used in the evacuation of Hungnam Harbour when Chinese forces attacked.
Following the war, the oldest Buffalo’s were disposed of or sold to other countries however the LVT-3 and LVT(A)-5 remained with the US army.