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It's Guy: Tank commander; Mechanic and motorcycle racer on biggest challenge yet - his battle to build WW1 machine from scratch.


Guy Martin's WWI Tank does exactly what is says on the tin. Well, the tank.

The mechanic and motorcycle racer hosts a one-off special which celebrates the centenary of the war machine which was introduced by the British at the Battle of Cambrai.

What better way to mark it than by building your own? Guy visits battlefields in France and delves into archive recordings to learn about the men who served in them, and the women who built them.

Helped by the Norfolk Tank Museum and JCB, the mechanic tries to build his tank in five months to join a Remembrance Day parade.

He said: "Tomorrow is the 100th anniversary of the first time that tanks were actually successfully used in a battle. They'd been tried before, but they'd never really made a difference until the Battle of Cambrai. So it's a hundred years this month.

"I'm embarrassed about how little I know about the First World War, I didn't even know that tanks were used in it. I'm a Grimsby lad, and the tanks were created in the next town up from me, in Lincoln. That's where it all started, and no one knows that story. The whole reason it was called a tank was because when the first ones were being built at Fosters (William Foster & Co, the agricultural machinery company used to build the tanks) people would ask 'What is it?' and they were told 'It's a water tank' because it was top secret."

Isle of Man TT competitor Guy has taken on many challenges for Channel 4, including defying gravity on the largest Wall of Death ever made, taking on F1 driver David Coulthard in a series of head-to-head challenges and building push bikes to go 100mph and converting transit vans to reach speeds of 150mph.

But building a WWI Tank has been the hardest by far.

He said: "This is the biggest thing we've undertaken. It's not that we're restoring them, or modifying them - we're building an exact replica of a Mark IV Tank, from scratch.

"When I first looked at this challenge, I thought, 'This is a big ask. We're not going to see this happen'. JCB were the main reason this was able to happen. They built the main part of the tank, then the lads at the Norfolk Tank Museum put all the engine together and everything.

"But JCB's technology and know-how was so important. It was a massive undertaking on all sides. And the TV company got everyone pulling together. And they've done a b****y amazing job. You think, 'It was designed and built 100 years ago - that should be easy to replicate with modern techniques'. But obviously not. Originally it was all riveted together with 3000 rivets, but that's not the way materials are fastened together nowadays. It's either welded or fused or folded. So all the rivets on our tank are fake rivets, but all in exactly the right place.

"And you have to get the tracks looking just right. The track plates are replicas of the original, but underneath, that is a modern track system. But the chain and the sprocket system under that, that was specially made."

The complexity of building the tank in the 21st century gave Guy and his team an appreciation and respect for those who built them in the First World War.

He said: "At the battle of Cambrai they had 375 tanks. It was a massive undertaking. The prototypes were built in Lincoln. Then production was subbed out all over the place. Then they got them all out to Cambrai without anyone noticing. And they got 30,000 horses out there without anyone noticing as well. The plan was for the tanks to go in first, open the defensive line, and then the cavalry would go through."

For all his derring-do, Guy would not have liked being inside a tank in the First World War.

He said: "It would have been b****y brutal. They had face guards but they didn't wear them very often. That was to stop you getting blinded - when the tank got shot, you got small shards of metal coming off the inside. And the exhaust was leaking in there. And you had eight blokes in there. Rather them than me." nGuy Martin's WWI Tank is on Channel 4, Sunday, 8pm.


MAMMOTH TASK Guy Martin had to overcome many hurdles as he to rose to the challenge of building a WW1 tank
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Nov 19, 2017

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