2009 Tanks in Town - Mons
The 'Tanks in Town' event originates from the commemoration of the US allied advance into Belgium liberating towns and villages. The spearhead of this advance first arrived just from over the French border into the Belgian town of Mons. It was lead by a couple of reconnaissance light Stuart tanks.
The 2009 event consisted of a group gathering on a large field outside Mons. From this location the entire group of allied tanks and vehicles moved abreast just over a small hill. On the other side German reenactors were 'waiting' in trenches supported by vehicles, an Hetzer tank, a PaK and a SiG33 field artillery piece.
When the allied group appeared over the small hill the reenactment began. Infantry with K98's, MG's and even the SiG33 and Hetzer started shooting blanks with a lot of noise and smoke. The advancing allied tank group had infantry moving in front of them firing back with blanks. Of course the allied 'won' and afterward some vehicles parked to show the gathered crowd.
All parts of the entire day event were completely accessible for the public. Everyone was welcome to admire all tanks and vehicles from up close.
From the field the group advanced over the hill, on the other side 'German' reenactors had dug trenches and started to defend. During the mock-battle two aircraft (non-ww2) made some low passes over the entire battlefield. I must admit that I never attend reenactment events - but this entire scene was pretty impressive!
After the large reenactment part the entire group left for a staging area nearby. From there they would follow quite a long track through several small villages and roads ending up in the city of Mons. The large townsquare would be their end goal. I positioned myself on a street in Mons were the entire group would just arrive in this town. The group was spearheaded by two Stuart tanks (just as in 1944) which were still being restored but which were already functional!
The origin of the 'Tanks in Town' event finds itself in a rather interesting story revolving around 1 particular tank. On September 2nd 1944 Major John Randolph Tucker (1914-2015) with M5A1 Stuart 3047787 'Fish 'n Chips' (F Company/ 83rd Armored Reconnaissance Battalion/ 3nd Armored Division) was the first Allied tank to enter the city of Mons after years of German occupation. A local police officer noted down the tank's serial number. After the war the Mons city requested the US Army if this particular Stuart tank survived the war – which it did, and the US Army donated the ‘Fish ‘n Chips’ as a memorial for the liberation of the city of Mons.
For the next 40 years the Stuart tank stood as a monument in the city of Mons during which it deteriorated under the open sky by the weather. By 1983 members of the Royal Mons Auto Moto Club offered to restore the tank. The city mayor donated the tank to the club and since then the ‘Fish ‘n Chips’ appears evey year in running order to celebrate the liberation of Mons.
On the 45th anniversary of the city of Mons in 1989 the 'Fish 'n Chips' was reunited with its wartime commander, Major Tucker, who again returned to Mons in 1994 for the 50th anniversary of the liberation. For the coming 15 years the little tank was the only armored vehicle to attend the annual event. As time passed an ever increasing number of tanks and wartime vehicles would also start attending the ever growing event.
In 2000 the Stuart tank was transported to the USA were it attended several events including the 4th of July parade in Washington DC with her original tank commander Major John Randolph Tucker! After this USA adventure the ‘Fish ‘n Chips’ still participates in the annually held liberation celebrations which by now is called the ‘Tanks in Town’ event.