The Recovery

Following research of the breach by Daniel Abbott, chairman of the Buffalo LVT Association a ground study was taken in the area of the breach north of Crowland in 2020 which involved a drone survey and scan of the area with a metal detector. The results showed a very specific area where something was buried although at this point there was no real way of knowing if it was a Buffalo LVT or a galvanised steel cattle water trough that had been washed into the hole during the flood.

A full geophysical survey was then carried out which showed something large was buried, but what it was could only be confirmed by digging a deep hole. Over the following months, plans were put in place so large-scale excavations could begin.

The recovery starts

On Thursday 22 April the North Level Drainage Board called Daniel to say they could have an excavator on site the following day and would be able to start digging. The drainage board had provided their Volvo EC250E LR (Long Reach) excavator for the job. The EC250E weighs in at 28 tons, it has 168 kW of power or 225hp and a dredging depth of over 14 metres.

The following day arrived and the excitement was mounting. Once the area where the buried Buffalo was thought to be was marked out digging commenced. Then just after lunch on Friday a gun shield was found. It was the first piece uncovered and it was in great condition considering how long it had been in the ground.

Then during the afternoon a corner of the Buffalo was found, about three metres away from where the gun shield was located. This was fabulous news and a great relief. It made all the hard work getting to this point worthwhile.

Work halted over the weekend and started again on the following Monday. Over the next few days, heavy machinery and volunteers with hand tools continued to remove heavy clay from around and inside the amphibious vehicle. A pump was brought in as rising groundwater threatened to flood the hole.

By Thursday the Buffalo was ready to be pulled out of the ground it had been in for over 75 years. Two trucks from Tears Recovery were available for the challenge including an ex-army Foden 6×6 with 290hp and a maximum lift capacity of 12.5 tons. Once connected up the Buffalo was successfully towed to the top of the hole.

The plan was to move the Buffalo to its new site that evening but due to the weight of the buffalo and heavy clay that was still in the vehicle one of the lifting points broke so it was decided to finish for the day. It had been in the ground for 75 years, it could wait until tomorrow…

Friday started with the removal of further clay from the Buffalo to lighten the load. Then with military precision, the Buffalo was loaded onto a trailer and towed through the town of Crowland to its new location. Many of the town’s residents came out to see the historic occasion.

The next stage will be to restore it although this can only be done with your help.

In total, it is estimated that 4,500 tonnes of clay were removed during the five-day recovery project, which was aided by North Level Drainage Board, Crowland Cranes and Tears Recovery. After the Buffalo was removed from the site the hole was refilled. Today grass has regrown over the area and you would never know that it had even been there…

The breach location September 2021

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