Lasting tribute to workers unveiled

Gone with a bang: Frank Smith in front of the Centurion Tank
Gone with a bang: Frank Smith in front of the Centurion Tank
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A lasting tribute to the workers and service men and women of Leyland has been officially unveiled.

Special guests attended a ceremony on Thursday to welcome the siting of a 50-tonne Centurion Tank at the roundabout where Flensburg Way meets Penwortham Way.

Among them was former army Centurion Tank driving instructor Mr Frank Smith, 79, who later became a test driver for the vehicles at Leyland Motors.

Speaking at the ceremony, he said: “Centurion Tanks have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.

“Even before I started driving them they used to rumble past my house on Northgate when I was a kid, and my dad worked at Leyland Motors all his life.

“I think this is an absolutely brilliant tribute and a testament to the workers, and it also shows that stuff built in Leyland was made properly, and made to last.”

The Mayor of South Ribble, Coun David Suthers, unveiled a commemorative plaque next to the vehicle.

He was watched by members of local groups and organisations who have worked with South Ribble Borough Council on the project.

These include Leyland Painters, the Probation Service, SITA, the British Commercial Vehicle Museum and John Cooper Recycling.

The tank is mounted on an earth plinth with the barrel pointing towards Preston. It is hoped that it is the first of a number of ‘gateway’ features around the town, under the theme ‘Made in Leyland’.

The tank was restored and donated by local businessman Martin Ainscough, who was keen to see it return to its roots and be put to good use.

He said: “I am delighted to have been able to donate this fantastic piece of Leyland’s world-famous industrial heritage to the town.

“It is important that we remember our heritage, the workers who put Leyland on the map and those from the area who have died in conflict.”

Coun Phil Smith, cabinet member for regeneration, leisure and healthy communities at the council, said: “It is wonderful to see this project to create a truly unique gateway to Leyland come to fruition.

“It has captured the imagination, and we are very pleased with the tremendous amount of support and positive feedback we have had from residents, community groups and organisations alike.

“This is the latest piece in the jigsaw of the wider regeneration of Leyland, thanks in no small part to Martin Ainscough.”