Flesquires Tank Deborah
Historical Information (Source: Wikipedia)
Deborah is one of the very last direct witnesses to the Battle of Cambrai. On November 20, 1917, this British Mark IV tank – a “Female” model, equipped exclusively with machine guns – took part in an unprecedented offensive. It was the first time the British made massive use of tanks, a technology then in its infancy. At 6:20am, along a 10km-long front, 476 tanks set forth towards German frontlines. The element of surprise worked and the Tank Corps broke through. But in the village of Flesquières, where Deborah was located, German fighters were resisting with zeal. Hit by a shell, the British tank was neutralised. The tank’s carcass would rest on the spot until the end of the war, but British engineers sweeping the battlefield in 1919 wound up burying her away underground in an enormous pit.
For decades, Deborah was out of sight and out of mind, forgotten beneath the surface. But in the early 1990s, Philippe Gorczynski, a resident of the region, heard a rumour. An elderly lady remembered a tank that might have been buried in the area. Intrigued, the hotel owner and Great War enthusiast took up the search. “It’s as if I had been given a treasure map,” Gorczynski says. “To begin with, the account turned out to be very interesting, but then on the ground, it turned out to be a lot more hazy because I couldn’t see a thing.” The amateur historian persevered nevertheless. He was convinced a First World War tank was out there somewhere. “I had to find it at any cost. I had already unearthed almost three tonnes’ worth of tank parts. But my goal wasn’t to make a giant puzzle, it was to find a whole one.”
After poring over hundreds of archival documents and aerial photographs, Gorczynski refined his search perimetre. In November 1998, a survey was finally conducted at the tank’s presumed resting place. Gorczynski’s hypothesis had been correct. Two weeks later, with a team from the city of Arras’s Archeology Service taking part, Deborah finally saw the light of day. To preserve her, the tank was kept in a barn Gorczynski bought in the village of Flesquières.
In the summer of 2019 Tank Mark IV Deborah moved from the barn into the new building in Flesquires.