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David Brown Santastalo to restore Buffalo LVT 1947 Gearbox

David Brown Santasalo is gearing up to restore an ‘Operation Buffalo’ LVT gearbox for the Crowland Buffalo LVT Historical Group after being buried 30ft underground for 74 years. The gearbox which has been preserved in a second world war military tank is now undergoing refurbishment at our manufacturing facility in Huddersfield, UK.

July 2021

During the ‘Big Flood of 1947’, sixteen tanks were sent into Crowland, Lincolnshire by the British Army to act as a barricade against the River Welland’s banks breaking. The tanks created a standing flood defence for almost 30,000 acres of land around the River Welland, however when the water was then pumped back into the flood plain, five of the Buffalo tanks floated away. Whilst they were able to recover one of the tanks, two sank into fishing pits and the rest were unrecovered.

After hearing about the disappearance of the 26ft, 18,000 kg tanks, Daniel Abbott, Chairman of the Crowland Buffalo LVT Historical Group committed himself to finding the tanks over the last four years. Starting with a dedicated committee of friends to help him research, ongoing fundraisers to maintain necessary funds and help from RAF Wittering, along with an army of volunteers and a drone flight from Crowland Cranes, the first Buffalo tank was finally recovered after a five day operation ending on Thursday 29th April 2021.

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Once the tank had been brought above ground with the help of a 50-man project team, including the North Level Internal Drainage Board (NLIDB), Crowland Cranes and Tear’s Recovery, the next step was assessing the 74-year captivity damage. Instantly it was clear that the tank was still in remarkable condition despite its age, due to the preservative properties that were in the 4,500 tons of clay that it had been submerged in.

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David Brown Santasalo’s Global Defence Director and Managing Director UK, Steve Watson said, “Upon hearing about this historical discovery, we began discussions with the Crowland LVT Historical Group. They were aware of our long-standing expertise in the Land Defence power gearbox market and our unique capabilities to repair any make of gearbox, no matter how old! I was delighted to have the opportunity to be involved and our specialist team are now working hard to restore the LVT gearbox to its original glory. DBS is pleased to offer our services to the historical society free of charge and ensure the gearbox is professionally refurbished, while ensuring it maintains its authenticity.”

In order to assess the condition of the gearbox, we sent a trained DBS fitter, accompanied by one of our new apprentices to analyse the tank and its gearbox and provide an internal review of the requirements for the project. The gearbox was then transported to our facility in Huddersfield, where it has been stripped down, cleaned and evaluated. The findings were that the gears themselves just need polishing and a thorough clean, but miraculously only have surface rust, proving how well the clay has preserved it! Our team are now awaiting delivery of the final parts and hope to complete the project by the end of the year.

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We are honoured to be given the opportunity to be a part of the exceptional journey this Buffalo tank has been on. The Buffalo LVT Historical Group aim to make the fully restored tank a monument which will attract visitors to the town of Crowland in the future.

If you would like to contribute to this exciting project, please visit the Buffalo LVT Historical Group’s GoFundMe page: https://www.gofundme.com/f/crowland-buffalo-restoration-museum.

Photo credit: We would like to thank the Project Buffalo Historical Group for providing the images to support this article.

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