WWII

Crowland Buffalo: How A WW2 LVT Was Unearthed After 74 Years Underground

The buried amphibious vehicle was one of 16 Buffalo LVT landing craft deployed to protect the town of Crowland from floods in 1947.

A man who discovered a Second World War amphibious vehicle buried nearly 30ft underground for 74 years has begun the task of cleaning it up.

Volunteers spent five days digging to recover the 13-tonne Buffalo LVT (Landing Vehicle Tracked) and are now painstakingly removing almost three-quarters of a century of mud from the vehicle.

The Buffalo was one of 16 deployed to Lincolnshire to protect the town of Crowland in March 1947 after huge snowstorms and severe weather caused the nearby River Welland to burst its banks and flood about 30,000 acres of land.

When the water was pumped back into the flood plain, the Army lined up the 16 Buffalo landing craft to act as a makeshift dam and, although they were weighted down with sandbags, five of the amphibious vehicles floated away.

For decades there have been stories of the Buffalos buried beneath the ground at Crowland.

Farmer Daniel Abbott read about the story of the floods, and the Buffalo LVTs brought in to help, in his local newspaper.

He then pored over records and carried out exploratory work over three years to confirm the location of any buried vehicles.

Crowland Buffalo Tank discovered after 74 years underground crane winch 30052021 CREDIT WILL TYRELL.jpg
Cranes and winches assist in recovering the Buffalo (Picture: Will Tyrrell).

Then in 2018, while at a tractor rally at RAF Wittering near Peterborough, Mr Abbott got chatting to the station commander who volunteered the services of the base's Bomb Disposal Squadron to search for the Buffalos.

With their bomb detecting gear, they concluded there was definitely something buried at Crowland.

Mr Abbott said: "I wrote to the MOD [Ministry of Defence], asking them if there was anything left behind.

"They said they'd forgotten about it and there could be the possibility of something being left behind."

A drone, as well as a geophysics expert, confirmed the GPS co-ordinates where they thought any craft might be buried.

After a mini-digger deployment couldn't reach the depths required, a drainage company offered assistance to Mr Abbott and the volunteers.

Nicholas Day, from North Level Internal Drainage Board, remembers the discovery being "quite a moment".

"We got the Buffalo, we understood its orientation, we figured out we could get that out," he said.

Crowland Buffalo discovered after 74 years cheered by locals 30052021 CREDIT ROSS HARRIS.jpg
Aerial view of the Buffalo as it was transported to be cleaned (Picture: Ross Harris).

The members of the team that recovered the vehicle were applauded by the locals as they transported it to be cleaned.

Due to the preservation qualities of clay, the vehicle is in remarkably good condition, but now it's in contact with the air, cleaning and treating are essential to prevent it from deteriorating.

The Buffalo may have seen action during the crossing of the Rhine in the Second World War but Mr Abbott insists it will not be sold and will be staying in Crowland, even with the attention of the world's press.

"I wasn't ready for all that, I was just looking for an amphibious vehicle, get it out, get it home and get working on it," he said.

"I've had people from Australia, America, New Zealand, all messaging me saying 'congratulations', but this Buffalo is staying within Crowland, not for sale, it's staying put."

In a few years' time, Mr Abbott will once again search for another of the hidden Buffalos: "We got one out, we might as well have a look for another one."