• Nicholas Harrison

Phase 1 of 'Cold War' tank restoration project completed.

A team of young and unemployed people worked tirelessly over four weekends to help preserve one of the Isle of Wight’s most exciting military artefacts.

The Conqueror Tank, built in the late 1950s, has been guarding the car park of the Isle of Wight Military and Heritage Museum for a number of years since being rescued from becoming little more than scrap metal. Due to the weather, and occasional vandalism, the tank was in desperate need of being preserved for future generations.

With the kind permission of the tank’s owner Soldier On! recruited a team of young people who were struggling to secure jobs. The project therefore had two initial aims, firstly heritage preservation and secondly, to interrupt the period of unemployment for a group of young job-seekers by giving them a unique work experience from which they can both understand more about who they are and present their capabilities to potential employers.

Wanting to make friends, to be part of a team, increase their confidence and gain clarity on what careers would suit them best were the universal themes amongst the group.

As the project began to take shape, Soldier On! formed a partnership with the Isle of Wight College to develop the digital skills of the participants as well as isleofwightjobs.com to provide recruitment specific support. As a result of this collaboration, the project was divided in two phases.

Phase one was completed on Sunday afternoon. The tank, over four weekends, was stripped of the rust and peeling paint with both sandpaper and taking it in turns using a needle gun. The weather on weekend one was the greatest challenge, turning out to be the wettest weekend since records began in the C19th. However, the team soldiered on, and having primed the vehicle with brushes, a coat of dark green bronze, the original colour for the era, was added, both manually and with a spray gun, over the final weekend. From the attached photographs, (slide show), we hope you agree that ‘William’ the Conqueror looks a lot better!

"The team I got to work with has been amazing!" - Tom

"From this project I have got quite a few new friends, its been a really good experience, its been lots and lots of fun and I've enhanced my team working skills greatly" - Callan

"So far, I have increased my ability to work in a team and my confidence overall and I'm getting support with my next career" - Jonathan

Phase 2 now begins. Tom has already created a fantastic timeline story board explaining phase 1, and the team will now engage with the Level 3 digital industries to create a range of digital assets that we will give to the museum to enhance the visitor experience. This will continue through November and early December and we will of course keep you updated. Additionally, the team will now receive one-to-one recruitment coaching from Reuben at isleofwightjobs.com. We would like to express our sincere thanks to the tank owner, to Martin, one of the trustees who oversaw the spray painting and looked after us so well throughout, Reuben who gave an inspirational pep talk about recruitment and Iona, from Isle of Wight Radio 107FM, who gave a fascinating talk offering some really helpful tips and techniques about on-line/digital interviewing.

It is often said that young people just sit around playing computer games, they don’t want to work and have no real ambition. From what we saw that just simply isn’t true. One participant secured a new job before the project reached half way, another wants to join the Navy, one is looking at securing further opportunities to work with tanks, another wants to become an undertaker, one is looking to find a role as a graphic designer and another wants to become a blacksmith. Each and every one of these young men showed drive and determination, flexibility, adaptability, teamwork, resilience, interest, compassion for one another, leadership, an ability to work under time pressure and communication; to varying degrees of course, but they all tried and that’s the main thing. They put in the effort and the results speak for themselves.

“We have reinstated its (the tank’s) original colour paint, and the volunteer team have learnt new skills and hopefully can use these skills as they go on in life. They worked very hard under stressful conditions. Over a period of four weekends a lot was accomplished.” – A museum Trustee.

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