I have for a few years been gathering information on the FT 17 tank, as much info as I can on the subject. This weekend I spent a Saturday afternoon with kind thanks to David of the Weald Foundation who showed me around the two FT 17s in their collection ready to be restored to complete working order for the WW1 celebrations, one of the FTs being a TSF radio model.
I have learnt more in an afternoon about the FT tank than I ever have over a period of years, especially about its construction and the process of its forthcoming restoration.
It was interesting to note how the armour plates had to be annealed to a mild steel state so the tank can be used in a safe way for its future preservation for many years to come. The armour becomes brittle over age as fragile like glass, similar to brittle cast iron and starts to form cracks in the plates, so it’s annealed to turn it into a mild steel state. After annealing the cracks are them weld filled
David showed me how the annealing showed up the original marking used in the factory for construction of each plate that was most probably marked in chalk or paint that somehow etched into the plating. It was interesting to note that the armour was put together with bolts shaped like rivets made in a keyhole fashion, so the bolt is constructed with a small lug on the side that matches holes in the armour so the bolt stays fixed while the bolt is tightened up, a one man operation with a spanner. Using bolts rather than rivets would make manufacture much simpler.
I was shown how the chequered floor plates were originally constructed, by hand using a punch (fly press I assume). They concluded this as the pattern of the plate seemed to run out to one side, as the factory worker grew tired and bored towards the end of finishing the plate.
It was interesting to note at the time upon reflection that 97 years ago this tank was cutting edge technology like the space shuttle is today. This tank was built at a time in the horse and cart era, standing there looking at it did bring it home to you.
It was interesting to see that the Weald Foundation had spent a lot of preparation time and money investing in castings for engine, gear box and wheel station parts and sourcing other spares in preparation when the restoration fully begins, hence the missing trackside to Bovington's own FT that was missing for a while.
I believe that the engines will be the first stage to start in a few weeks’ time for its first strip down. Although the Weald foundation seems to be a bit like a secret society, it’s a very active organisation that is well known throughout the military restoration world with close links to big organisations such as Bovington, IWM and museums’ overseas. The reason for not being in the lime light is that they are so busy with a program of future restorations stretching to 2030; they have had no time to be more public with such a busy schedule to task.
This is all about to change in a couple of months’ time as the Weald Foundation is going to form a membership scheme with 3 stages of membership, so members can see the weald foundation at work and interact with restoration activities.
Membership 1 will be a basic membership that will give online access to restorations showing the latest blogs on the Foundations vehicles and restoration progress. Membership 2 (in limited numbers) will give members access to visit the collection and watch the restorations in progress and to get involved with projects etc. Membership 3 will be unlimited access (again in limited numbers)
Those interested in the FT 17 tank and German armour, for more details about the Weald Foundation and membership contact David at email@example.com.