Hatfield man rolls up in a tank for wife’s 60th birthday and retirement

On her retirement, Frances waves off her old workplace in style after she was picked up in a tank.

On her retirement, Frances waves off her old workplace in style after she was picked up in a tank. Picture: Karyn Haddon - Credit: Archant

A Hatfield man has given his wife a birthday and retirement surprise of her life by picking her up from work - in a tank.

Frances Elliott probably hoped for some flowers today on her 60th birthday, and perhaps some cards from colleagues thanking her for 25 years of service as an events coordinator at the University of Hertfordshire.

What she won’t have expected is a 25 foot-long, 17.5-ton tank equipped with a 105mm Howitzer and the capacity to shoot 13 miles.

Frances’ husband Dave decided to say ‘tanks a lot’ to his wife of over two decades by offering her an unstoppable ride home in style.

“She knows I’ve got something planned but she doesn’t know what,” said Dave, before the stunt.

Frances Elliott got the surprise of her life on her 60th birthday and retirement when a tank rolled

Frances Elliott got the surprise of her life on her 60th birthday and retirement when a tank rolled up at the University of Hertfordshire to take her home. Picture: Karyn Haddon - Credit: Archant


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He also arranged for many of her extended family to be there for the surprise.

Naturally, they’ve all had a go riding round their Hatfield estate in the tank before it was time to pick up Frances.

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For Dave, what’s important is doing something that she will never forget.

“I like to do things where people remember,” said Dave. “I don’t see the point in getting her a watch or going out for a meal.

Frances Elliott and husband Dave, who organised for a tank to pick her up from the University of Her

Frances Elliott and husband Dave, who organised for a tank to pick her up from the University of Hertfordshire on her retirement and 60th birthday. Picture: Karyn Haddon - Credit: Archant

“She’ll remember this when I’m long gone, what happened on her 60th birthday.”

He’s sprung unusual surprises on his family before, such as giving his 10-year-old great-niece the individually-wrapped parts of a mannequin for Christmas one year - which she now keeps proudly in her bedroom.

But how did he get the idea to send a tank to collect his beloved?

“I thought of maybe a horse and cart, or a steamroller,” he said.

Frances Elliott and husband Dave, who organised for a tank to pick her up from the University of Her

Frances Elliott and husband Dave, who organised for a tank to pick her up from the University of Hertfordshire on her retirement and 60th birthday. Picture: Karyn Haddon - Credit: Archant

But then, he said, in the back of his mind he had the iconic image of Margaret Thatcher riding a tank at a NATO training ground after the Falklands War.

“I’m a fan of strong women,” he said.

A few phone calls later and Dave had done a deal with tank hire company Tanks A Lot.

Company boss and tank driver Nick Mead said that in his line of work, he’s become used to navigating the practicalities of tank travel.

Friends and family of Dave and Frances Elliott take their tank for a spin before it surprises France

Friends and family of Dave and Frances Elliott take their tank for a spin before it surprises Frances on her retirement and 60th birthday. Picture: Karyn Haddon - Credit: Karyn Haddon

“I just go rolling along and when I see a police car I just give him a wave,” he told the Welwyn Hatfield Times cheerily.

Tank travel is surprisingly free of red tape, he said, as they’re tax- and MOT-exempt.

He is keen to remind readers that the vehicle Frances rode today is not technically a tank, but is actually known to military aficionados as an Abbott self-propelled Howitzer.

Dave said that he thought Frances would be “100 per cent embarrassed” when the tank showed up.

Friends and family of Dave and Frances Elliott take their tank for a spin before it surprises France

Friends and family of Dave and Frances Elliott take their tank for a spin before it surprises Frances on her retirement and 60th birthday. Picture: Karyn Haddon - Credit: Karyn Haddon

“She’s the complete opposite to me,” he said.

“But then again, she’ll be even more embarrassed when she goes into the paper,” he joked.

Frances told the Welwyn Hatfield Times that she had been expecting some kind of surprise, but not a tank.

“That was a bit of a shock wasn’t it,” she said. “Just a bit!

Dave Elliot said 'tanks a lot' to his wife Frances on her 60th birthday and on her retirement by pic

Dave Elliot said 'tanks a lot' to his wife Frances on her 60th birthday and on her retirement by picking her up from work in an unusual ride. Picture: Helen McFarlane - Credit: Helen McFarlane

“I was shell-shocked, to be honest.

“If you knew David, he comes up with these crazy ideas.

After Frances was waved off from work by her colleagues, she said that people were waving all the way home through Hatfield and taking pictures.

“I’ll never forget this day, I swear,” she said.

Family and friends travelled from across the country to help pick up Frances Elliott on her 60th bir

Family and friends travelled from across the country to help pick up Frances Elliott on her 60th birthday and retirement. Picture: Karyn Haddon - Credit: Archant

“I’m speechless really!”

Frances Elliott had the surprise of her life on her 60th birthday and retirement when she was picked

Frances Elliott had the surprise of her life on her 60th birthday and retirement when she was picked up from work in a tank. Picture: Karyn Haddon - Credit: Archant

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