Apparently for these former soldiers, passing their pension time at the garden playing domino wasn't enough, for a few days a week, they crawl into the tank carcass despite their bad knees and only stopping for doctor consults.
|Joe Tabone and Mike McGraw.|
Ray Jones, one of the member of the restoration team and a former Lancer and motor mechanic says: "-It is better than a men's shed because we are achieving something here that is hugely important to the Australian military."
|Ace in 1945.|
Ace was the first Australian tank onshore in the battle that seized Balikpapan, Borneo, from the Japanese in the last days of World War II in July 1945.
After the war, from the 50 tanks that composed the armored regiment, only 3 weren't destroyed, also with nobody that had worked on the Matilda tanks still alive they got reduced to a manual found in a workshop that said "reassemble in reverse order," if was only that easy.
With more than 150,000 work hours and at least $90,000 in donations later, the team is scheduling the have Ace back on the road to mark the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Balikpapan on July 1, 2015.
|The entire team (clockwise from front left): Paul Martyn-Jones, Dave Crips, Joe Tabone, Mike McGraw, Ian Hawthorn, Ray Jones and George Glass. Photo: Peter Rae|
In 1997, museum volunteers found this Matilda in water and full of vegetation near Moss Vale, they mistakenly called it "ACED" but after getting its serial number they were able to get a hold and contact Les Betts, a WW2 veteran that made part of the tank crew, after picking himself off the floor, Betts said "That's the tank i drove in July 1945, and it just so happens to be the first tank that actually came off the landing craft. And what you thought was a D was a playing card, the ace of spades."
MR. Les Betts died soon afterwards.