TANKS FOR THE MEMORIES: Co-author Barry Hodges with a copy of the book detailing the history of tank 169041. 

By PAUL MENSCH

WHEN it comes to Australian military history, libraries and bookstore shelves are overflowing with books on the subject.

Accounts of battles, heroism and the horrors of war are a vivid reminder to us all of the sacrifices that have been made for our country.

Gol Gol local Barry Hodges has added his own book on the subject, but with a unique twist.

Barry and his co-author, Graham Munsell, have compiled the history of just one Australian army tank, Centurion 169041 – the atomic tank.

Both Barry and Graham were part of the tank crew that worked on 169041 during 1969 in Vietnam, when the tank was affectionately named ‘Sweet Fanny,’ but her history starts well before then.

The book details the tank from her manufacture in England in 1951, the trip to Australia, and time at the School of Armour at Puckapunyal.

In 1953, the tank was transferred to Woomera in South Australia and then Emu Field, where she was positioned 350 yards from a 9.1 kiloton atomic bomb detonation.

For the rest of the 1950s and early 1960s, Tank 169041 was based back in Puckapunyal, either in storage or used for training.

In 1968 the tank was shipped to South Vietnam where she served as a troop corporal’s tank with C Squadron.

It was here that the authors of the book took control of the vehicle and their stories of that time are detailed.

Among the many accounts of tank 169041’s time in Vietnam, is the details of a rocket propelled grenade attack that penetrated the turret between the track and track bin injuring two of the crew.

It did not take long for repairs to occur and ‘Sweet Fanny’ was back in action.

The book goes on to tell of Tank 169041’s history after Vietnam, of it being the lead tank in the final Centurion Parade, where she carried the retiring Chief of General Staff, Lieutenant General H.J. Coates, AC, MBE, to her final resting place at the Edinburgh Air Force Base in South Australia, within the lines of the 1st Armoured Regiment.

Mr Hodges said that it has taken over a year to compile and publish the book of this amazing tank and her history.

“If this tank was a human being it would have received every military decoration possible,” he said.

“The Australian War Memorial was delighted to have a copy of the book and we have also donated a copy to the Wentworth Military Museum.”

The book can be purchased for $30 and anyone interested in obtaining a copy can contact Barry Hodges on 0428 248 634.