Stompie, or simply the Bermondsey tank, is a non-functional Soviet T-34 battle tank that since 1995 has stood on a small piece of waste ground near the western end of Mandela Way in south Bermondsey.
It was named Stompie by owner Russell Gray, a local resident, in memory of James ‘Stompie’ Moeketsi (1975–89), who was kidnapped and murdered by members of Winnie Mandela’s bodyguard. This seems a curious choice. Did it perhaps represent the owner’s resentment of the use of Nelson Mandela’s name for a Bermondsey street, yet couching his objection in a politically correct way? That’s purely this author’s speculation. Maybe it just seemed like a good name for a tank.
At first, various authorities took a disapproving interest in Stompie. Southwark council placed a ‘remove for disposal’ sticker on it, and questions were raised regarding its absence of planning permission. The Ministry of Defence demanded to know whether it had been properly decommissioned, lest some miscreant should clamber aboard and rumble away down the Old Kent Road. But lately it seems to have been left alone.
The tank has been artistically repainted on several occasions (and then adorned with graffiti).