Debutant Deborah’s first engagement in Forncett St Peter

Stephen Machaye and Tom Beamish, design engineer at JCB. ''Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography
Stephen Machaye and Tom Beamish, design engineer at JCB. ''Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography

Speedster Guy Martin was forced to slow down when he set about building a replica of a First World War tank.

It was not just that the original of the Mark IV tank only went at about four miles an hour.

Long Stratton, Norfolk. Deborah II, the Mark IV which was built from scratch''Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography

Long Stratton, Norfolk. Deborah II, the Mark IV which was built from scratch''Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography

So few remain that the television presenter, mechanic and former motorcycle racer and his team had to build the replica from scratch.

Fortunately, they were able to work from drawings which had survived for more than 100 years.

Deborah II, as the replica is known – after an original tank of that name was found at the Cambrai battle site in France – now has a permanent home at the Norfolk Tank Museum in Forncett St Peter.

It is a fitting final home because the museum chairman, Stephen Machaye, was involved in the building of Deborah with Guy Martin and construction machinery manufacturers JCB right from the start, when he was approached by the North One television company.

“It is unbelievable to see her here,” he said. “She is as close to the original as anybody could hope for.”

Visitors to the museum will be able to climb inside Deborah and imagine what life would have been like for the eight man crew – consisting of a commander, driver, two gearsmen and four machine gunners – in battle conditions.

As if return fire from the enemy was not danger enough, the crews also had to contend with heat and exhaust gasses from the tank engine.

“Petrol engines and technology were in very early days then,” said Mr Machaye. “It was probably safer for foot soldiers outside.”

Lord Dannatt, the former British Army Chief of General Staff and patron of the museum, was among visitors this week celebrating Deborah’s arrival.

She joins a collection of 20 tanks and armoured vehicles which can be viewed on the four days a week the museum is open during the summer.