This summer we visited the Tank Museum at Bovington in Dorset.
We’ve been before and there’s always something new to look at – plus there’s SO much information on show that it’s hard to take it all in just in one visit.
There absolutely hundreds of tanks, tracked vehicles, armoured personnel carriers (these are NOT all the same thing I have discovered after making several faux pas and apparently bringing shame on my son – ‘oh muuuuuum’!!) on display; there’s a vast number of personal accounts of time spent at war in and around these vehicles, all poignant and thought provoking; there’s the history of the tank from its inception, evolution and application through different wars and you can learn to signal with flags (although maybe not if you’re me as I am not that well-co-ordinated!).
At 1pm every day there’s a short ‘mock battle’ between a couple of tanks, which everyone is welcome to watch. We all sit on a grassy hill, eating our picnics whilst listening to Vera Lynn, Glen Miller et al over a crackly tannoy (ahhh the British quaintness of it all) when all of a sudden these tanks come roaring and rolling across the battle ground firing at each other and at the end of the demo a flag is planted – of course!!
We’re all warned that there will be loud bangs and the such like but it never fails to make me jump practically out of my skin and emit just the tiniest of screeches – much to the amusement of my fella (oh and the man behind me who I distinctly heard snort!)It really is a bit of good fun!
What struck me on this visit, as it did before, is the cool names that we like to give our military hardware – tanks and their close relations are always seemingly given fierce and feisty names which presumably are supposed to send shivers down the spines of the enemy whilst evoke feelings confidence, leadership and indefatigability in the home team.
For example, as I wandered around the museum I found tanks called ‘Chieftan, Challenger, Maurauder and Crusader’…how inspiring! A far cry from the first tank – Little Willie….which, even if it was a derogatory nickname for the German prince m, it still isn’t the most scary of names is it?!
Clearly we learnt our lessons from then onwards as the world went on to produce all sorts of armoured vehicles and chose far more impressive names like Tiger (HUGE metal monsters guaranteed to scare the living daylights out of you regardless of their name) the Luchs (Lynx), Leopard and the Scorpion too…always very suitably aggressive monikers for these battle vehicles.
So far so good you say? Hmmm…So we then have the Tortoise…okaaay, well it’s not necessarily the most fearsome creature but it has a solid shell and THIS Tortoise is HUGE… a 78 ton self-propelled gun so I suppose we’ll allow that one!
What about the Sherman V Crab then? This is actually my favourite tank – it’s a mine clearing tank with fabulous chains on the front which whip the ground – awesome! I forgive it being called after a crustacean just on that point alone!
We get right back to formidable menacing business with the Centaur Dozer, the Praying Mantis and Saracen – definitely a spine-chilling ring to these machines!
…and then there is Stuart “The British Honey”…
…oh dear and we were doing so well weren’t we?!!