WW2 Churchill MK2 Tank, South Downs

South Downs Churchill Tank – Sleeping Giant

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.

WW2 Churchill Tank Removed 2019

2020 Update: We have checked with the Norfolk Estate, which owns the land, and can confirm that the tank was permanently removed for restoration. The tank will eventually be relocated to a British Museum that is being created in France to recognise the D Day Landings.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Tank Now Removed 2019

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33 thoughts on “South Downs Churchill Tank – Sleeping Giant”

  1. My son and I saw ur posts which helped us find the tank today… was splendid…. whilst there 5 other people turned up to see it… she still draws a crowd! Was wondering where the bomb crator was where she spent so long upside down??

    1. My understanding is that the tank was literally dragged upright and left where it was. So I suspect the wooded area right by the tank. Obviously over the years the ground has been farmed endlessly so changed a bit.

    2. I took my family to see the tank yesterday 08/09/2019. And sadly the tank has been removed. Only the footprint of where it has sat since 1990 is left. I believe it has been removed veyr recently.

  2. Looking around what to see in Storrington I found your story Aboutaleb the tank. Without your descripion I had never found it. Nice road to parking and walk way. Thanks Fred drom The Netherlands

  3. Thankyou for helping me find this. My father was in the Tank Regiment in the second world war and trained in Churchill tanks. Its a lovely spot and I often go and visit the tank and think of him.

  4. Hi – is there any chance we can use one of these images in a South Downs publication? We will credit you of course.

  5. I operate Amateur Radio (Ham) from that car park. In the Summer it is a peaceful and gorgeous location, especially at sunset.

  6. Hi, what a lovely surprise to come across your article on the tank. I spent approx 30 years riding horses on the South Downs and never had a ride I didn’t enjoy. We now walk our 4 dogs and often do the round walk turning right after leaving the tank. Much too short for a ride but perfect for an approx 3 mile walk. Loved your pics. Thank you. Mo Timmis

  7. Hi Malcolm, As a Duke of Edinburgh leader using this part of the south downs for expeditions I give my young people the grid reference for the tank as a point of interest. Having now found your blog I shall direct them here so that they can find out some interesting history for the tank.

    Thank you

    Barry Goodchild

  8. Thank you for this post. We found the tank tonight following your instructions. It was an amazing experience.

  9. 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

    1. 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.

  10. 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..

  11. 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

      1. There is also 2 ww2 bunkers east of the chantry lane car park one is in tact and the other has somewhat collapsed but still pretty cool

        1. Hello Sam, the one close to the SDW at Barnsfarm Hill has been fenced in recently.

          I know the other one in the field with the collapsed roof. There is also one near the back of Amberley Castle.

          Hope you enjoyed the blog post.

          1. Ive seen the tin buildings, but didnt know about any bunkers – are these the auxiliary type

    1. 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.

  12. 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 ..

    1. 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.

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

    2. 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.

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