last year I wrote an article about a group of middle-aged man (from mid 60s to early 70s) that took a rather odd pensioner hobby. These lads -and former soldiers- despite their bad knees would crawl into the carcass of a 71-year-old Matilda nicknamed “Ace” and stopping only for doctor consults.
Interestingly enough, Ace was the first Australian tank onshore in the battle that seized Balikpapan, Borneo, from the Japanese in the last days of World War II in July 1945.
After the war, from the 50 tanks that composed the armored regiment, only 3 weren’t destroyed, also with nobody that had worked on the Matilda tanks still alive they got reduced to a manual found in a workshop that said “reassemble in reverse order,” if was only that easy.
In 1997, museum volunteers found this Matilda in water and full of vegetation near Moss Vale, they mistakenly called it “ACED” but after getting its serial number they were able to get a hold and contact Les Betts, a WW2 veteran that made part of the tank crew, after picking himself off the floor, Betts said “That’s the tank I drove in July 1945, and it just so happens to be the first tank that actually came off the landing craft. And what you thought was a D was a playing card, the ace of spades.”
MR. Les Betts died soon afterwards.
I’m glad to tell you that an year later, “ACE” is finally complete, what a beauty: