A PHENOMENAL First World War fundraising campaign which saw a community donate the modern day equivalent of £32m in three days was commemorated on its centenary.

Between April 11 and 13, 1918, the battled-scarred Tank 141 Egbert visited Bishop Auckland to raise funds for the war effort.

It was one of six tanks brought back from active service by the National War Savings Committee to tour towns and cities across the UK from November 2017 to May 1918. Egbert’s first stop was Trafalgar Square in London, where over a two-week period £3.2m was raised, the equivalent of £273m in today’s money.

West Hartlepool, meanwhile, raised a staggering £2.4m, equating to £2,956 per head today.

Nigel Bryson, chairman of Bishop Auckland Town Team, began researching the ‘tank bank’ tour after reading about the visit in his great-grandmother’s diary. On Saturday, he organised a pop-up exhibition at the Newgate Centre to reveal his findings.

He said: “When my dad died in among the papers that were left was a diary from 1917 from my great-grandmother. As I was flipping through the diary at the back there was an entry that just said ‘the tank comes to Bishop Auckland’ and underneath there was a figure that I couldn’t identify so that set me off trying to find out how much money was raised.

“When I confirmed the total was £400,000 I was stunned, especially when I looked into how much £400,000 is worth today. It is £32m - a phenomenal amount of money.”

He added: “The fact that people in Bishop Auckland donated so much money means the war effort must have been of tremendous importance to everybody.”

The Northern Echo reported on the visit at the time, stating: “Thousands of school children invaded the Market Square at Bishop Auckland yesterday, where the tank Egbert is located, in order to swell the total of the South West Durham Campaign.”

Along with Mr Bryson’s research, the exhibition also saw a specially commissioned painting of the tank by local artist Eric Thompson auctioned off, raising £176 for the Bishop Auckland Hospital MRI Scanner.

Mr Bryson said: “The tank was a machine of death, and we want to raise funds for a machine that saves lives.”

War poetry by poet Alison Car was also displayed.

Mr Bryson is keen to hear from anyone with more information or pictures of the tank in Bishop Auckland. Contact, nigelbryson@btinternet.com or 07789907441.