World War II Matilda tank restored and launched in Parramatta

Welcome: A World War II Matilda tank called ACE has been brought back to life. It's now based in Parramatta, home to the Royal NSW Lancers for 120 years.
Welcome: A World War II Matilda tank called ACE has been brought back to life. It's now based in Parramatta, home to the Royal NSW Lancers for 120 years.

Parramatta is the new home to a rare piece of military history.

History uncovered: In 1997, many thought the tank could never be restored. "Fortunately, a few museum volunteers thought otherwise," Mr Hawthorn said.

History uncovered: In 1997, many thought the tank could never be restored. "Fortunately, a few museum volunteers thought otherwise," Mr Hawthorn said.

A World War II Matilda tank made its first public appearance in 70 years at Parramatta’s NSW Lancers Memorial Museum on Sunday after it was restored to its former glory.

Named ACE, the battle tank is one of three surviving Matilda tanks that plunged into the waters of Macassar Strait on July 1, 1945, for what remains as Australia’s largest ever armoured assault, the Battle of Balikpapan.

The launch follows more 20,000 volunteer hours and six years of difficult restoration, which cost $100,000, mostly funded by grants.

The tank sat abandoned in a paddock near Moss Vale for more than 50 years until Lancers Association chairman Les Betts found it in 1997. It was the tank he had driven in World War II. Sadly, Mr Betts died from cancer before the restoration became a reality.

ACE is believed to be the only World War II tank in the British Commonwealth to have seen war action to be fully restored and returned to its fighting unit, according to Army veteran and museum spokesman Ian Hawthorn.

“This is serious military history,” he told the Sun.

“It’s a feather in our cap as there is no project anywhere in the world like this. It’s been a complex restoration, where Lady Luck has intervened several times.”

Geoff Francis, one of the last surviving World War II Regimental veterans who landed with the Lancers at Balikpapan in 1945 attended Sunday’s unveiling.

“It added immeasurably to the significance of the occasion,” Mr Hawthorn said.

The restoration has been recognised with a National Trust Conservation award. A director from Bovington Tank Museum in the UK, one of the finest tank museums in the world hailed the project as “genuinely world leading work”.

The public can see the tank in action with its engines running and moving around Lancer Barracks at 11am and 2pm every Sunday from November 12 until December 3.

“This is a rare chance for the public to hear, see and smell the tank before it goes on permanent display here,” Mr Hawthorn said.

The tank will be available for military and community events across Sydney.