Former German general’s car displayed in Eastbourne for 30 years is restored as a ‘living exhibit’

The historic car has been restored to working order
The historic car has been restored to working order

A former German general’s car seized by the Royal Sussex Regiment in the Second World War and kept in Eastbourne for years has been restored to working condition.

General Hans-Jürgen von Arnim drove his staff car to his surrender to British forces in 1943.

Before...the car had been at the Redoubt Museum for 30 years

Before...the car had been at the Redoubt Museum for 30 years

The Steyr four by four command vehicle was seized and was owned by the Royal Sussex Collection at the Redoubt military museum for 30 years.

But with the closure of the Redoubt museum, one of the team’s biggest challenges was deciding the fate of the historic vehicle.

Luckily, it was arranged to loan the car to the Invicta Military Vehicle Preservation Society who were keen to restore and show it at displays around the country.

Back in November 2016, members of the Society and Royal Sussex Collection worked together and over two weekends stripped the vehicle down to its chassis and removed it on a low loader to a workshop on the Isle of Sheppey.

The car was seized by British forces back in 1943

The car was seized by British forces back in 1943

Since then the vehicle has undergone a complete overhaul including replacing all the electrics as well as the hydraulic and fuel lines which had been stripped out when placing the vehicle in the Redoubt.

The whole chassis, engine, body and interior have been restored to the condition found in a photograph taken outside the Afrika Korps HQ in Tunisia during research for the project.

Barry Lane, trustee at Royal Sussex Collection, said, “Its lovely when you see a project like this come to fruition.

“Bringing history to life and to as many people as possible is what heritage should be all about and this very rare and historic car in its restored state will do this, it now has a much brighter future than previously.

The car had to be stripped down and put back together again

The car had to be stripped down and put back together again

“More people will see this on its first public outing than ever saw it in the Redoubt Fortress.

“This whole project is a model of how partnership working should be. Next year, there will be a full programme of shows where it will be on display.”

Although there are still two items to restore to full condition (the canvas cover and seating), the restoration is now advanced enough for it to go on public display.

Its first public outing will be the Military Odyssey at the Kent County Showground at Detling over the weekend August 25-27.

The projected has taken around two years to complete

The projected has taken around two years to complete

It will complete circuits around the arena with a mannequin dressed as Von Arnim as well as being on show on stand 46 along with a display of artefacts from the collection relating to its capture.

Then, it is hoped to go to shows across the country – with hopeful Sussex locations being Goodwood and Horsebridge Festival of Transport.

Barry said, “It is now a living exhibit, which will reach a far larger audience than it ever would have done gently rusting in the Redoubt.

“For those veterans and members of the public who bombarded us with concerns about its future 18 months ago, they are all encouraged to go to Detling to see the car in such splendid condition.

“This is a complete turnaround in its future and a complete vindication of the new positive partnership between the Association, Invicta and the West Sussex Records Office.”

Barry added it is even hoped the car will star in a Second World War film one day. “There’s only nine of those left in the world,” he said.

Hans-Jürgen von Arnim was Erwin Rommel’s replacement as commander of the Army Group Africa, and was promoted to general rank in 1942.

When the general arrived to discuss terms of surrender at Cap Bon, Tunisia, in 1943, he came through the lines of the first battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment, who were serving with the fourth Indian Division.

Then Von Arnim was transported to Allied Headquarters, before being interned along with other German officers at Camp Clinton, Mississippi, and released in 1947. He died in 1962.

Eastbourne museum and the German general’s car