• Nicholas Harrison

Update from 'Project William' & message of support from The Duke of Cambridge.

After nearly a year in the planning and a delay of three months, due to COVID-19, on Saturday, we started a new project. 

The first phase of the project, lasting four weekends, is to prepare and paint a Conqueror tank, that is currently located on the main carpark of the Wight Heritage and Military Museum, to help preserve it for many years to come. William, as the tank is called, is in a sorry state with much damage due to the weather and sadly vandalism. 

Our team of volunteers includes young long-term unemployed people and a former employee of the RNLI, who was made redundant due to the pandemic. 

On Saturday the team, under the supervision of our volunteer Project Manager, Murray, started the day with a series of introductions and briefings with particular emphasis given to safe working conditions and Covid restrictions. We were so grateful to both the historian, Dan Snow and Isle of Wight MP, Bob Seeley for their words of encouragement and support for our project participants.  The team, in almost monsoon conditions, had a good look over the tank before returning to the shelter of a large hut where they set about building a project plan. Each participant received their own tools, hi-vis vest, helmet etc., again being conscious to not share equipment before starting to give William a long awaited scrub!  

On Sunday, the famous Isle of Wight sunshine yet again failed to appear, and boy did it rain! However, the volunteers decided to amend the plan and divided themselves into two teams. One team took one of the storage bins off the tank and, having dried it off, 

cleaned the debris out from the inside. They chipped away the loose paint with wire brushes and scrapers before sanding and brushing it off in readiness to paint. A coat of primer was applied to test coverage, adhesion, and length of time to dry.

Meanwhile, the second team showed incredible perseverance as they attacked more of the flaking paintwork on the tank itself and practiced setting up the scaffolding to be used when cleaning the gun barrel. 

The participants all worked incredibly hard in dreadful conditions and the one most brilliant ray of sunshine we experienced was thanks to His Royal Highness, The Duke of Cambridge, who sent us a message to read out to our volunteers which said: “I am delighted to hear about the vital work that Soldier On! is carrying out to support those in need, helping individuals to flourish within their societies. I wish everybody taking part in the restoration of the ‘William The Conqueror’ tank on the Isle of Wight the very best of luck.”

We're already looking forward to next weekend when we'll continue to this exciting work. 

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