Flesquières is a village at the junction of the D92 and D89 roads, about 5 kilometres south-west of the main road from Cambrai to Bapaume. The museum lies a little east of the village on the south (right) side of the D92 road to Cantaing.
It is immediately adjacent to Flesquieres Hill British Cemetery.
On the 20th November 1917 the British launched a major tank-led offensive in this area : the Battle of Cambrai. During their assault on the village of Flesquières a number of tanks were knocked out and years later there were rumours about one being buried.
Philippe Gorczynski is a local historian on the Battle of Cambrai, and wrote the excellent book Following the Tanks.
Having heard the stories of the abandoned tank he felt that it had to be possible using archive material to locate the remnants and use it as some sort of monument to those who had taken part in the battle. The problem seemed to be that the local rumours about Russian prisoners being forced to drag the tank’s carcass didn’t seem to fit in with archaeological soundings taken in the area. Yet searches elsewhere proved to be just as negative.
Eventually, after six years of work, metal detectors had highlighted an area in a field where there seemed to be a large object. Work began on 5th November 1998 and within an hour M Gorczynski realised that he hadn’t found part of a tank. It looked as though he had a whole one. The tank was fully exposed in time for the anniversary of her participation of the battle on 20th November.
The tank was recognised as being a female (it carried Lewis machine guns whereas the male tanks were armed with six pounder canons.) so that already helped limit the possibilities. Then, by a quirk of fate, the Tank Museum at Bovington received a letter asking about a tank. There was a photo on the back of which was written : “Mr Heap’s bus”. The photo showed a damaged tank after the battle of Cambrai. The tank in question was one of the three possibilities for the Flesquières tank and bore exactly the same damage. Deborah, D51 had been recovered.
Having spent years in an open barn a more fitting structure was created in 2017 alongside the cemetery in which five of her crew are buried.
Deborah was registered as an Historical French Monument on 14th September 1999 and the new building, inaugurated on the 25th November 2017, will help preserve her from the elements.
Visitors descend a ramp curving around the tank allowing a good view from above. Down below it is possible to get a good look at the structure and there are numerous display panels in the alcoves explaining how the tank was constructed and functioned.
The museum will open its doors to the grand public in March 2018. An entrance fee of €6 has been proposed. Off season the days are likely to be limited to : Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday.