Restored WWI Lorry Delivers Bells

OP John Marshall with his resotored Thorneycroft WWI lorry and delivery of bellsPhoto: OP John Marshall (64-70) with his restored Thorneycroft World War I lorry and ring of eight bells he delivered to St George's Church in Ypres.

The Pocklington Thursday Club was formed by an eclectic group of individuals as a regular lunch get together in the 1990s, with late staff Nigel Billington (58-88) and Terry Hardaker (64-95) as leading lights. It is still meeting annually, and the 2017 gathering once again assembled at the Feathers in December.

As part of the proceedings, the Thursday Club throng heard from John Marshall (64-70), the organiser of the annual lunch for the past decade, who updated the diners on his recent trip to Ypres in his restored Thorneycroft World War I lorry.

John has been restoring anything old – vehicles, steam engines, machines or buildings – for most of his life. His first project was while he was still a Pocklington School pupil in the 1960s when he paid £5 to Dr Fairweather for an old Talbot car that lay abandoned at the back of Faircote across the road from the school. John was first featured in the pages of the Pocklington Post in the late 1980s when he put the millwheel at Stamford Bridge corn mill back into working order, and his passion for old vehicles and machinery has continued to this day.

But it was his most recent project that captured the interest of his Thursday Club companions. In 2016, John discovered a partly scrapped Thorneycroft lorry in a farmyard, and set about bringing it back to life. The vehicle had been delivered to the War Office in February 1915 and is thought to have been used in France during WWI, before becoming a London brick company delivery truck, then eventually falling into disrepair.

John turned back the clock, found replacement parts across a wide area and carefully restored it to pristine condition. It is now believed to be one of only four of the WWI lorries still in existence, and the restoration project had added poignancy when John was asked to make a special delivery in it. St George's Church in Ypres is an Anglican church built in the 1920s as a memorial to the 500,000 British and Commonwealth troops who fell in the nearby battlefield. But the church never got its intended bells, until now when a recent appeal funded an initiative to hang new bells in the tower to commemorate the centenary of the end of the war.

The ring of eight bells were cast at the world's foremost bell foundry, Taylor's of Loughborough, who arranged for their bells to be transported from the Midlands via the Menin Gate memorial to the battlefield church in Belgium in authentic style on the back of the Thorneycroft lorry. John was gratified to be asked to undertake the journey, commenting: "It is simply the most honourable thing I've ever done."

The Thursday Club is planning to follow in John's footsteps and arrange a trip to the WWI battlefields in the summer, while John intends bringing his lorry to Pocklington and to school in 2018 as part of the town's centenary commemoration of the end of WWI.

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(Article: OP Phil Gilbank 67-74, Photo credit: Old Glory Magazine)