New documentary celebrates lost WW1 tank

"This type of continued practice based research directly informs the teaching and learning on the course, which positively impacts on the student experience."

Fiona Graham, Course Leader for BSc (Hons) Film Production Technology

Filmmakers from Staffordshire University are documenting the extraordinary story of a British tank discovered beneath a World War One battlefield in France.

Fiona Graham and Paul Ottey, who teach on the BSc (Hons) Film Production Technology course, have been filming on location in France as lost military tank 'Deborah' is moved to its new home at the first ever WW1 tank museum in Flesquieres.

Fiona explained: “I first met the tank many years ago and have returned many times, made short radio documentaries and written about Deborah for people in England. It's a fascinating piece of machinery and we can learn so much from its engineering and the men who sacrificed their lives during WW1.”

“The transportation of the tank was a remarkable engineering accomplishment and it's been fantastic to capture its journey!”

Deborah played a leading role in the first successful mass tank attack during the Battle of Chambrai in 1917 but lay undiscovered beneath the earth for 80 years until French historian and author Philippe Gorczinski MBE led a search and excavated the tank in 1998.

Since then Deborah has been kept as a memorial in Gorczinski's barn but was last week transported to a new home at a dedicated museum in the village, the Center of Interpretation of Flesquieres, to commemorate the battle's 100th anniversary.

After being hoisted on a truck by a crane the tank travelled 1km to the new location before being hoisted into position deep down in the new museum’s construction – with just 40cm to spare each side.

Supported by Staffordshire University Fiona and Paul are creating digital content for the museum, which will educate future generations and young people across Europe. The team have been working closely with Philippe Gorczinski and have interviewed the military attaché to the Queen in France and General Sir Andrew Ridgway for the project.

“As lecturers we have extensive backgrounds in the film and television industry and I believe it's important to continue our development in the field. This type of continued practice based research directly informs the teaching and learning on the course, which positively impacts on the student experience.” Fiona commented.

The team are continuing the documentary and will be back over the next few months to film ahead of the museum's official opening in November. The finished filmed will also be shown in England and Fiona hopes it will help to encourage people to see the tank in the new museum and learn about the area and its significance.

“We look forward to returning for the anniversary of the battle in November and hope that we can help and work together to inspire young and old to visit the remarkable tank that is Deborah.”

Fiona added: “In the future we would also like to see schoolchildren from England take part in an exchange with children in Cambrai so they can learn together about history. Deborah the tank is a peacemaker and an educator now not a war machine.”



Amy Platts
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