South Downs Churchill Tank – Sleeping Giant

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High up on the South Downs in West Sussex, a short walk from Kithurst Hill car park, surrounded by peaceful fields, wildlife and crops, sits a now silent giant. A beast of a man-made machine.




Over 75 years ago this area of the South Downs, rising above Storrington, Cootham and Parham House would have been a hive of military activity.

Kithurst Hill, South Downs

Kithurst Hill, South Downs

South Downs WW2 Tank – HD Video

The following video was shot on 17th May 2015 by myself, an hour before sunset. The audio is very quiet because it can be very quiet in that part of the South Downs National Park. A far cry from back in 1941 / 1942.

The South Downs, with their sparse population back in the 1930s – 1940s were the ideal training grounds for battle ready Canadian troops and their metallic machines. After hostilities ended between the Axis powers and Allied forces, a huge clean-up operation began, with the removal of defences, equipment, weapons.

Kithurst Hill, South Downs Sussex

Kithurst Hill, South Downs Sussex

Once civilian access was fully restored to the Downs, a sense of normality descended upon the land; peace and quiet returned. Not all defences were removed though, as a walk in the countryside will reveal today; pillboxes, anti-tank traps can still be found dotted around fields and country lanes at strategic points.

What you don’t often find in the middle of a field, is the rusted chassis of a Churchill MKII Tank, complete with holes from armour-piercing munitions.

South Downs WW2 Churchill MKII Tank

Churchill MKII Tank, South Downs

Churchill MKII Tank, South Downs

The story goes like this; As the Second World War progressed, so military technology also progressed just as rapidly. Enhancements and improvements were made to fighting vehicles, inferior and unreliable machines were liable to be left behind. Which is exactly what happened with the South Downs tank.

South Downs WW2 Tank

South Downs WW2 Tank

The 14th Canadian Army Tank Battalion used this tank and others just like it, for training. This tank was due to be used on the ill-fated Dieppe raid (19th August 1942) but developed mechanical problems so was left behind in Sussex. The 2nd Canadian Army Division used it as target practice on the South Downs and after the war ended efforts were made to remove the remains.

Churchill MKII Tank, Kithurst Hill

Churchill MKII Tank, Kithurst Hill

Unfortunately at the time, the efforts to clean up the South Downs and remove the tank proved difficult. A lack of easy road access, plus soft ground conditions meant that in the end the fate of the Churchill was to be a little undignified.

The Kithurst Hill Tank was rolled unceremoniously into a nearby bomb crater and would spend the next 50 years buried under soil and chalk, upside down. Eventually in 1993 the REME unearthed the remains and dragged the tank from the crater, to the side of a field. Where it sits today.

South Downs Churchill MKII Tank

South Downs Churchill MKII Tank

Various parts of the tank were removed and salvaged to aid restoration of other Churchill tanks at the Tank Museum, Bovington Camp in Dorset. What’s left is what you see today. The chassis of the tank, complete with track drive wheels, turret gear and lots of holes from the target practice.

Churchill MK2 Tank, Sussex.

Churchill MK2 Tank, Sussex

Just Sleeping Now – I’m Tired of Fighting. I shot the image below at this angle because I wanted to create a sense of peace, calm and a final resting place for memories.

Churchill Tank, South Downs Way

Churchill Tank, South Downs Way

 The 70th anniversary of D-Day was remembered 2 days before I took this image. I said a silent thank you as I pressed the shutter.

Churchill MKII Tank, South Downs Sussex

Churchill MKII Tank, South Downs Sussex

The easiest way to walk to the tank is to start from the SDW car park at Kithurst Hill (Springhead Hill). From the B2139 Amberley Road there is a tarmac track that leads up to the car park. The South Downs Way runs east / west just a few feet from the car park.

WW2 Churchill Tank South Downs Way, West Sussex.

WW2 Churchill Tank South Downs

Stand on the SDW and look south towards the English Channel, you should see a public footpath leading south-east across a large field. Follow this path between the crops (in the summer of course!)

After walking across this field you will come to an intersection with another path. Still looking south, you want to take the path that leads off to the right, through a small wooded dell. Watch out for the stinging nettles, they bite in Sussex 😉 At the time of my 2014 visit someone had crudely written on the footpath sign the word “tank”, which was handy.

WW2 Tank, South Downs Way

WW2 Tank, South Downs Way

Map of Walking Route

The map shown is a rough guide to the route that I walked. Please make sure you always follow safe and legal paths, roads and walkways. The actual location of the red-route on the map is an approximation. Never walk in the sea or off a cliff, please just don’t, you’ll get wet and I’ll get worried!

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Malcolm Oakley
Hello, I’m Malcolm Oakley, a keen walker, leisure photographer and outdoors blogger. I'm lucky to have lived at the edge of the South Downs National Park, in West Sussex.

Living in Devon I am now walking the South West Coast Path and Dartmoor National Park with my Border Collie 'Dave'.

I hope you enjoy reading about my walks, look forward to reading your comments on the blog posts and YouTube videos. Please do get in touch.
Posted in West Sussex

16 comments on “South Downs Churchill Tank – Sleeping Giant
  1. Great post! There was a similar story associated with a tank in the Balsdean Valley, on the Downs east of Brighton. Sadly there is no sign of the tank remaining.

    • Malcolm Oakley says:

      Thanks for the comment. I think the relatives of any Canadian veterans would appreciate the peaceful and scenic location of this tank.

    • Thomas Austin says:

      Hey! I am a explorer and biker, I am close to the Balsdean Hamlet, or what remain’s of it I saw your comment by chance and was wondering if you had any idea where it was. Me and my friend Ewan Withey , and I (Thomas Austin) was exploring and we came across a bomb used in WW2 (For training clearly!) We were excited for exploring for thing’s like this (The Tank you referenced) so I was just wondering if you had any knowledge of where it is and anything else WW2 / Balsdean’s remain’s .
      Thank you – Thomas Austin.

  2. Randy Brown says:

    Ok, that IS pretty cool! Although we do have a few old tanks and other military memories in our deserts of Southern California, we dont have any at my walking spot, Salton Sea.
    Score 1 for Malcolm ..

    • What amazed me was the fact the tank was virtually intact (until 1993 when parts were used for restoration) and upside down from around 1945 to 1993. No one bothered with it. Tipped it into a bomb crater at the end of WW2 and shoveled a ton of dirt on top of it.

  3. Alan Stainer says:

    I really must make the effort to find this tank. Perhaps if there is time for a walk this weekend…

    • It’s an easy walk from Kithurst Hill car park, bit of a steep trek from Storrington Greyfriars Lane or a long walk from Chantry Hill. Saturday looks like the best day! Go for it.

  4. Nige says:

    Great blog and an interesting post. I’ve heard about the tank for sometime but never been out to track it down (no pun intended). Hope to take a look for it tomorrow. Cheers

  5. Becca says:

    We found the tank today, my partner and I… Out for walk we picked a random path across a field at a sign post, and glad we did… almost walked right on by without knowing it was there if not for the little tree covered path to the right. Followed that and we literally came out on top of the tank almost. Each of us stood stupidly a moment and then went ‘it’s a tank’

    After getting home a little google research brought us here! Thanks for this story and little bit of history..

  6. Ray says:

    When they first found this tank after years of searching my father informed me that he knew the exact location because when he was working with his dad who was a woodsman he had told him

    • Hello Ray, yes I expect many local people knew exactly where it was. Am sure it wasn’t that well hidden. Just in a difficult location to get heavy lifting gear. Easier at the time to just let nature reclaim the metal.

  7. Ben boulton says:

    I left so much from this it is so cool and next weekend I will visit it with my dad

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