Tanks For The Memories
Country Life UK|February 17, 2021
Once a common sight across Pembrokeshire, German tanks–and the soldiers who trained in them–have been consigned to the past, laments Harry Mount
Harry Mount

ON the wild, winding road to Flimston Chapel, a remote spot on the Pembrokeshire coast, you suddenly come across a sign in German: ‘FÜR LKW VERBOTEN’ (‘Forbidden for trucks’; LKW is short for Lastkraftwagen —German for trucks). Above it, in English, the sign says: ‘NO ACCESS FOR TANKS.’ The sign is one of the last relics of an extraordinary story. From 1961 to 1996, the German Army came to the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park to practise gunnery exercises and tank-firing out to sea at the Castlemartin Training Area.

My family’s seaside cottage is just by the military range, so my childhood holidays were punctuated by the sound of gunfire and by thrilling cliff walks past battered British Chieftain tanks and German Leopard tanks, used for target practice. One tank’s camouflaged turret had been flipped open and furled back like a tin of sardines, the only flash of colour a small, pristine Union Flag. On one thrilling bike ride, I found five spent bullets by the coast path and my mother once descended to Flimston Bay for a swim, only to be faced by 100 naked German soldiers about to go skinny-dipping.

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