A TANK compass which aided a three-man crew in a miraculous escape during the Second World War will soon be on display at the Tank Museum.

The museum’s latest exhibition will tell the incredible story of the compass. The museum is currently closed due to government restrictions but when it reopens visitors will be able to find out more.

Second Lieutenant Peter Vaux, Major Stewart Fernie and Lance Corporal Robert Burroughs were in a Light Mark VIB tank at the Battle of Arras in May 1940 when they were separated from their battalion.

They found themselves behind enemy lines and escaped by hiding their tank in undergrowth and immobilising the vehicle, continuing on foot. They took with them only emergency rations, clothing and the tank’s P8 compass.

Vaux later recalled the moment he realised they were in trouble and planned their escape.

He wrote: “I was completely paralysed with fear. Our petrol was almost finished so we made for a wood and deep in the undergrowth hid the tank.”

A remarkable 11-day journey began to reach the River Somme and get back to allied lines, hiding in farms and woodland and scavenging for food, relying on the tank’s compass for direction the entire time.

The compass eventually led them to the river, but there was another obstacle, near impenetrable marshland. After disguising Vaux in civilian clothes and claiming he was a Flemish refugee who had been ordered to repair fences, they were able to plot a path through the river.

During the crossing, Corporal Burroughs was swept downstream and drowned, whilst Vaux and Fernie were separated. Vaux and Fernie eventually managed to swim to safety and were sent back home.

Vaux later wrote: “On 6th June we caught our first glimpse of Weymouth Bay. Never, I think have I ever seen anything so beautiful.”

David Willey, Curator of the Tank Museum said: “On its own as a Second World War era compass it is of little significance but add the story of its use in the escape and it becomes a remarkable object.”

“This battle and Vaux’s account of the escape highlights the courage, resourcefulness and sheer determination of our tank crews in the Second World War.

Our exhibition will include this and other fascinating objects and stories to tell the British tank soldiers story.”

Peter Vaux was leader of the reconnaissance troop of the 4th Battalion of the Royal Tank Regiment, he was later awarded an OBE and retired with the rank of Brigadier. He died on February 6, 2013, aged 96.

The compass will be displayed in the museum’s new Second World War exhibition, upon reopening.