We were visiting London for the weekend to see our daughter Amelia in her first West End Performance so I decided to finally visit this Soviet built T34 tank at Mandela Way in Bermondsey. It was early Sunday morning my wife was asleep and I decided to get out early, hire a Boris Bike, and head out across the city to visit this tank.
A pleasurable cycle across Blackfriars’s Bridge and down to Elephant & Castle. After a few near death experiences I arrived finally at Stompie Garden. There was a garden with a few beer cans strewn around and I spent an hour taking pictures of this relic still smelling of diesel. According to Wiki,
‘This tank is a former Czech army tank that is said to have taken part in the suppression of the Prague Spring uprising in 1968. Following the “Velvet Revolution” and the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, it was decommissioned and sold, and was used as a prop in the making of the 1995 film Richard III in London. On completion of the film, it was bought in 1995 by Russell Gray, a local scrap dealer, for £7,000 as a present for his son. He had previously failed to secure planning permission from Southwark Council to a vacant plot of land that he owned; and so, in an act of humorous protest, he placed the tank on the site, with its gun turret turned towards the council offices. He had previously allegedly obtained permission for the installation of a “tank” there, assumed by council officials to mean a septic tank. The tank is nicknamed after the South African anti-apartheid activist James “Stompie” Seipei.’
Above left is a pink Russian T34 in a park in Elblag Poland. It commemorates the battle between the Red and German Armies in 1945. Each year school children paint this tank in an act of peace.
Whilst I was there a few locals passed and smiled and a Russian came by with the same intent and we both laughed about the situation we thought the tank was smaller than we had realised. Finally I mounted my trusty Boris Steed and cycled back through the coffee shops and narrow lanes of Bermondsey, back to the river, across London Bridge and via St Pauls made it back to Blackfriars. I must say next time I’m here I’m going to hire a bike and explore the bars and shops deep into the South Bank area.