Holy Roller tank preservation well underway

The journey continues for London, Ont.’s Holy Roller tank, as volunteers and Fanshawe students work to preserve its memory in both the digital and physical worlds.

The Holy Roller is one of two Canadian tanks to fight from D-Day to VE Day

Fanshawe students Emma Wilson and Taylor Meloche are spending their summer creating a virtual reality tour of the inside of the Holy Roller. (Angela McInnes/CBC)

The journey continues for London, Ont.'s Holy Roller tank, as volunteers and Fanshawe students work to preserve its memory in both the digital and physical worlds. 

The Sherman tank landed with London's 1st Hussar's regiment at Juno Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944. It was one of two Canadian tanks to fight throughout Europe from D-Day until VE Day on May 8, 1945. 

After the War, it was put on display as a memorial in the north end of Victoria Park in 1956.  

In June, the Holy Roller was transported to Fanshawe College's Centre for Applied Transportation Technology to undergo restorative work.  

On Wednesday, the team provided an update on the project's progress. 

"We're basically stripping it right back to bare metal, replacing any parts that need to be replaced in the structure of the tank," said Gary Cambridge, lead of the preservation team. 

"So basically any metal that's rusting or delaminating that has to be removed. We have some great supporters who have volunteered to donate steel to us for that. And then once that's all said and done, it'll be sandblasted, primed and painted and then put back in the park."  

The tank was removed from its pad in Victoria Park in June, 2021 for a complete overhaul. It's scheduled to be returned in June 2022. (Allison Devereaux/CBC)

London's 1st Hussars Cavalry is raising funds for the project. So far, it's garnered nearly $140,000 in donations for a $250,000 goal set last year. 

The end goal is to have the tank returned, as closely as possible, to how it appeared when it returned from Europe in 1945. 

Gary Cambridge heads the tank's preservation team. (Angela McInnes/CBC)

"It's one of the last veterans we have of the Second World War," said Cambridge. "And many people would disagree with that because it's not an inanimate object, but it represents the embodiment of the men who died or who fought the battles so we could all stand around and say what we want to say these days." 

Students bridge past and future with technology

Some of Fanshawe's work study students have also taken part in the project. 

Television broadcasting student Emma Wilson and visual effects student Taylor Meloche used a Matterport camera to take a 3D scan of the tank's interior. 

Next, they compiled the scans to develop a virtual reality tour, seen through an Oculus headset. 

"It's remembering everyone that was inside this tank," said Meloche. "It's cool to be able to take the inside of this piece of history and say hey, look, here it is, walk through it." 

Holy Roller tank restoration update

2 months ago
Weapons technician James McNeil explains the inner workings of the Holy Roller tank, which is being restored at Fanshawe College in London, Ont. 1:39

Images from the scans are available for viewing on the Fanshawe TV website

"This tank went ashore in 1944 through France, Belgium and Holland before it came back to Canada," said Fanshawe College president Peter Devlin. 

"And I think that there's just wonderful symbolism there. It's a great monument of a commitment that Canada made to the world and a monument that is here in London Ontario, and it will be preserved for generations to come." 

The Holy Roller tank is expected to return to its home in Victoria Park in time for the 78th anniversary of D-Day, on June 6 of next year.