Porsche Tractor Journey Raises Funds for Charity – and Awareness of the Toll of War

A doctor drives his antique Porsche tractor from Germany to North Wales for Doctors Without Borders.

  • Before setting off on the journey from southern Germany to North Wales, Arthur Niesser asked a couple of mechanics in Schwendi – Klaus and Alfons Hofele – to prepare the tractor for the journey. Now that the Porsche has returned to Germany, the Hofeles will be its caretakers.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • There are no hydraulic arms on the tractor, but they aren’t essential. Working lights, though, are a must.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • Things are nice and straightforward from the driving seat – and that’s just as well, because Arthur hadn’t driven the Porsche in many years. It took a few miles for him to feel at home on the tractor.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • Arthur with his Porsche, near his home on the North Wales coast.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • The beginning of the story: Arthur’s family back in the day when the Porsche was a modern tractor. The woman at left is Arthur’s grandmother.
    Photo courtesy Arthur Niesser
  • Arthur loved this tractor as a little boy. He is shown here with his brother and grandparents on the family farm in southern Germany.
    Photo courtesy Arthur Niesser
  • Arthur parked outside the European Commission building in Brussels, Belgium.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • Arthur spent poignant hours visiting war cemeteries and thinking of the fallen. Pictured here is the Tyne Cot Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery. Located at Passchendaele in Belgium, the cemetery is home to a much-commented-on headstone. The marker at the grave of 2nd Lt. Arthur Conway Young reads, “Sacrificed to the fallacy that war can end war.”
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • The Porsche has an unmistakable shape.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • View of Buckingham Palace from the Mall – a view not usually seen from the seat of a tractor.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • The old Porsche, with its vintage caravan in tow, looks strangely out of place next to examples of Germany’s ultra-modern architecture.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts
  • Back in Britain, Arthur was pleased to meet up with his son, Tom, for a day in Windsor.
    Photo by Josephine Roberts

A journey isn’t always about simply getting from one point to another. Take the amazing 1,000-mile trip from Germany to North Wales made by Arthur Niesser on his Porsche tractor in June 2014.

German-born psychoanalyst Arthur Niesser, who spent years working as a general practitioner before specializing, has long supported the work done by Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders). An international, independent medical organization that delivers emergency aid to those affected by armed conflict, epidemics, healthcare exclusion and natural disasters, Doctors Without Borders was founded in 1971 by physicians and journalists.

In 2014, Arthur decided to raise both awareness and funds for the charity by driving an antique Porsche tractor from his old family home in southern Germany to his current home in North Wales. During the planning process, he came to realize that 2014 marked the centennial of the start of World War I.

“In 1914, national borders were heavily defended,” he says. “Today (the European migrant crisis notwithstanding), most borders have become invisible and have lost their significance.” He began to see the fact that he would be able to drive his tractor across this part of Europe, a place once so troubled and full of conflict, as a kind of celebration; a measure of how far we have come in terms of peace. It also reminded Arthur of the sad losses and horrors that so many people suffered during both world wars.

Small and affordable

I imagine that quite a few physicians own Porsches, but I don’t suppose many of those are Porsche tractors. Arthur is certainly unusual in his choice of vehicle, but he didn’t actually go out and buy a Porsche: He inherited it. Arthur grew up in Schwendi in southern Germany, where his grandparents lived on a smallholding with three cows and a pig.

“For years, cows were used to pull the plough and wagons full of hay, potatoes and manure,” he explains. “Then, increasingly, tractors came into use. Porsche offered a small and cheap tractor, which was aimed at small farms. My Porsche was built early in 1960. I was 7 years old at the time.”


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