Holy-moly – that didn’t take long.
Just one week after the Holy Roller returned to London’s Victoria Park following a year-long restoration, it’s been vandalized.
The last surviving Sherman tank used by the First Hussars during the Second World War had its brand-new paint job deeply scratched to the bare metal on the back deck of the vehicle.
While it’s not the first time the tank has been vandalized over the decades it has been in the park, it was disappointing for it to happen so soon after the $160,000 restoration, officials said.
“We kind of expected it,” said Michael Procure, a retired sergeant with the First Hussars Association. “We knew it was going to happen, we just didn’t know when it was going to happen.
“It is a little disturbing, but unfortunately, it is what it is. It’s the way it happens.”
Two members of the regiment caught the vandal in the act on Saturday when they were in the park to prepare for Sunday’s memorial of their Black Sunday, which marks the day the First Hussars lost 30 tanks during a battle with a Nazi Germany SS Panzer Division on June 11, 1944.
Procure said the members saw a man with an angle grinder on the back of the tank. They chased the man off and, with the help of a London police patrol in the area, the man was caught and arrested.
Before he was caught, the man had scratched up the paint job on the engine deck, grinding through about five coats of paint to get to the metal.
London police have not released any information regarding the incident or charges.
Procure said members of the restoration team and the regiment will be at the tank on Tuesday at 1 p.m. to make the repairs to the paint job.
Funds have already been set aside to deal with any damage to the vehicle, Procure said. Also, there are plans yet to be approved for better lighting and closed circuit security cameras at the tank.
The Holy Roller was brought to London after the war in 1945 and displayed at the armouries and the Western Fair, before it was moved to Victoria Park in 1950.
It was only one of two Canadian D-Day tanks still intact at the end of the war. The regiment’s 350-tank fleet was essential on D-Day for ferrying soldiers to the beaches and helping infantry escape from the war zone.
But after eight decades as a public military monument, the tank was badly rusted. Members of the First Hussars and volunteers, some from Fanshawe College’s welding and auto body repair programs, spent more than 8,000 hours dismantling and rebuilding the 33-tonne machine from the inside out.
The Holy Roller rode into D-Day on the second wave, survived 14 major battles and travelled 4,000 kilometres. The last survivor of the tank’s D-Day crew died in 2020 at age 97.