Russian Tank in London

By Slava Tsukerman

One of my friends, who lives in London, had sent me a photo of the most popular Russian military vehicle, tank T-34, known to every Russian as a symbol of Soviet victories in the WWII. This old tank was located in London on a plot of land at the corner of Mandela Way and Pages Walk.

My friend retold me a popular local legend that the tank was placed there by a developer who couldn’t get a permission from the local council to build on the plot. They did grant him permission though to put a “tank” here.  According to the legend it’s not certain if they knew it was for a T-34 rather than septic tank!

The turret of the tank is turned towards the council offices.

It was hard for me to believe that legend. I had a lot of questions. The first question was how and where could a London resident get a Soviet tank?

Some research provided credibility for the legend.

In the mid 90s an updated film version of Richard III was produced in England. As modern style demanded, the swords and horses of Shakespeare’s time had been replaced with more destructive modern weapons. Tanks were needed and one of the vehicles delivered was an ageing T34 tank recently imported from Russian army, which was rapidly withdrawing from Czechoslovakia. The tank had seen real service during the Prague Spring of 1968 when Soviet troops invaded the Czech capital to crush the revolt.

After the film was finished, the T34 went to a scrap metal dealer from whom in 1995 it was bought by property developer Russell Gray as a gift for his seven year old son.

Then Russell Gray found a better use for the tank, turning its turret toward the council office, which had rebuffed him.

(Gray lives nearby and seems to lose battles often. It is said that he lost quarter of a million pounds by taking an expensive private school to court for expelling his son.)

The tank became a tourist attraction.

It is regularly repainted by different artists, both officially and unofficially. Londoners find it’s worthwhile checking it out when it gets a new repaint. It’s been painted to look like a taxicab in the past and also was painted bright pink.

The tank made its way into a book called “Derelict London”.

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Updated: January 10, 2014 — 9:42 am
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