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Posted on Feb 24, 2004 in Stuff We Like

Bovington Tank Museum

Armchair General

Bovington Tank Museum can be found in Dorset, England and has one of the finest collections of Tanks and Armoured Fighting Vehicles in the world.

The Museum is run as a Registered Charity and is always grateful for donations to help improve their facilities and exhibits. For those of you who have an interest in Tanks and AFVs of all eras, I would strongly encourage you to pay the Museum a visit if you have the opportunity, you will have a great day out.

For children, there are educational aspects and interactive displays and games that they can play.

The Museum has examples of vehicles from as early as World War I, right up to some of the most recent types of armour that can be found around the world.

They also have the world’s ONLY fully-operational Tiger Mk I in the world, but more of that later.


All of the following photos were taken by myself, unless otherwise stated. As you will soon be able to tell from the type of pictures that are prevalent here, my main interest is in German armour!

Thanks to my friend "Roach" who accompanied me on my field-trip for helping me remember the names of some of the more obscure vehicles.

You will find the following links of interest:


The Museum’s connected display halls are essentially laid out on "historical" lines ? that is to say that you are able to follow the invention and development of the Tank on a linear basis as you proceed through the Museum.

For the uninitiated however, the first room you enter might appear to be rather out of place. Immediately you find yourself in a perfect recreation of a British Army recruiting office, circa 1914, complete with a seated dummy posing as a stern-faced NCO asking you questions about why you want to join the Army. As you "pass out" from this room and move onto the next, you suddenly find yourself in a railway marshalling yard, surrounded by wounded comrades being tended to by Nurses and stacks of wooden packing crates full of ammunition and supplies. This is France, 1914, The Great War. But what’s this got to do with Tanks?


Moving on from the marshalling yard, you next find yourself in the muddy trenches, with distant explosions and the cries of men in battle. The squalid conditions in this superb diorama are apparent throughout, and the exhibits here do a very good job of explaining that the war has become stalemated, no-one can advance without sustaining massive casualties and hundreds of men are dying every day. It is clear that one side needs a decisive advantage over the other?

And so, as you progress from this hall through a corridor creatively turned into a replica of a covered German Trench, you exit from the other side to be met with another stunning full-size diorama. Once again it is as if you are in a World War I trench, except this time on the German side of the battlefield. With posed dummies period-dressed as German soldiers, the whole effect is one of abject terror. Petrified German soldiers are running away from a huge tracked metal behemoth that has suddenly appeared over the edge of their trench, smashing through the barbed wire and impervious to all small-arms fire. The first Tanks have arrived on the scene!

This display and the lead-up to it is an excellent introduction to the invention of the Tank, and the diorama that the Museum has set up here is superb. My friend "Roach" commented that he got the impression that they would like to have had "action" displays of this nature throughout the Museum, but this is really the only one.

Following on from this, you enter the Museum "proper", and the first display hall.

This first main hall contains examples of World War I era Tanks, although, sadly, I was unable to see that they had any German examples. Maybe none survived the conflict?

This is a photo of one half of the WWI hall.

Unfortunately, I forget the precise details of which Tank was which in this photo, except that all of the ones in this picture are British. There are examples of both "male" and "female" Tanks in this hall. What’s the distinction? Well, "male" Tanks had cannon protruding from their side turrets. "Female" Tanks however had machine guns instead. I am led to believe that the enemy especially feared the "female" variety of Tanks. Well, you know what is said about the female of the species?

In addition to the "male" and "female" Tanks, there is a truly massive "Supply" Tank, which is basically a one-stop shop on tracks, containing loads of space for food, ammunition and sometimes reinforcements for the troops in the field. This is one of the WWI era vehicles that visitors can actually walk through. I found them to be rather spacious inside ? for Tanks I mean, although once they had 5 other chaps inside and an engine running, I would imagine that they would soon become quite inhospitable.

One other interesting fact that I learnt was that later in the war, the Germans began to make their trenches wider to stop British Tanks from crossing them. The British response to this was to?make their Tanks longer (!).

One of the most interesting exhibits in this hall was this example of a French Renault FT. Looking at this Tank, it’s easy to assume that it could well have come from a much later era of warfare. With the exception of a large calibre main weapon, it appears to have all the standard features of a tank dating from early WWII ? including a proper turret, unlike its British equivalents of the same period. Also unlike British Tanks, this model was designed more for combat in the open ? i.e. once a breakthrough had been achieved past the enemy trenches, although it does have a large "skid" at the rear, which would have been used to help it cross trenches in the first place.

This is a British "Whippet", a later tank used during the First World War for reconnaissance duties. Note the more conventional layout of the tracks.


The next hall contains examples of Armoured Cars and a few Tanks, some experimental, some operational. One of the Armoured Cars is a Rolls Royce model ? it even has the famous grille design on the front, although without the logo ? it’s the dark green vehicle at the back of the photo. The bloke in the front of the photo is "Roach".

This is a rather nice British Mk IIA Light Tank. I quite liked it for some reason?although I don’t think I would even be able to get my long legs inside one!

Not shown in these photos is a truly enormous experimental British Tank, which has 5 turrets, one dedicated for anti-aircraft defence. It quite literally looks like a Battleship on tracks. Needless to say, it never got past the prototype stage, being too expensive and unwieldy ? and, erm, not at all what the Ministry ordered!

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1 Comment

  1. those look nice