Man charged in Holy Roller vandalism

The Holy Roller sits on its concrete pad in Victoria Park. (File photo by Craig Needles, Blackburn Media)

A London man is now facing charges after the Holy Roller tank was vandalized just days after it was returned to Victoria Park following a restoration.

According to London police, officers were called to the park around 4:45 p.m. on Saturday after a man was seen sitting on the Sherman tank, using an angle grinder to deface its exterior. When police arrived, a man was seen standing on top of the tank.

A suspect was arrested without incident, police said.

Shaun Alfred Collins, 44, of London is charged with mischief to a war memorial.

The Holy Roller, one of only two Canadian Sherman III tanks to survive the war, was placed back on its concrete pedestal in the downtown green space on Tuesday, May 31. Since last June, it had been at Fanshawe College where volunteers spent thousands of hours and over $150,000 restoring it to its former glory.

The Holy Roller was part of the invasion of Nazi-occupied France by Allied forces on D-Day. It landed with the 1st Hussars regiment in Normandy roughly 20 minutes after the first assault troops went in. Despite its gun being damaged twice during the war, the Holy Roller survived 14 major battles and outlasted 346 other tanks.

The tank arrived back in Canada in May 1946 and was presented to the City of London in June 1949 to commemorate the sacrifice made by members of the 1st Hussars during the Second World War. It was permanently placed in Victoria Park in May of 1956. That is where it sat until June 8, 2021 when it was loaded onto a flatbed truck and taken to the college for its restoration.