West of Portsmouth, in Dorset, a museum houses hundreds of armored vehicles and tanks including rare models. One of the world largest collections of this kind and it’s even possible to drive some of them.
If you are fond of military history and weaponry, cross the Channel and go to Bovington, in Dorset. Near Poole, the British tanker training camp is home to one of the largest museums in the world dedicated to armored vehicles and tanks. Called Tank Museum, it boasts more than 300 vehicles from nearly 30 countries, including very rare models such as the first tanks built in 1916, one of the only German Tiger 2 tanks to survive the Second World War and astonishing small tanks landed in Normandy by gliders on D-Day.
[ Practical ]
Opening dates and time
Open every day from 10am to 5pm
Adult : £14, 5-16 years old children : £8
Armour Experience Day : £245
Tank Experience Day : £295
Access all areas : £65
Tel : (44) 1929405096
The museum comprises several sections, the most interesting being the one called "Tank Story" which traces the history of tank and can be of interest to a wide audience, including children. It begins by explaining the reasons which led to the invention of tank, namely to cross WW1 trenches and the no man's land that separated them. One also learn that originally there was male ones, with cannons, and female ones, with machine guns. It then shows the evolutions of this fighting machine as well as of its use on worldwide battlefields through several key periods of world history. A subject illustrated by thirty-five vehicles including emblematic ones such as the French Renault, the German Panther, the American Sherman, the Russian T34 and the English Challenger.
The invention of tank and its first uses are also the central topic of two other sections.
The first one is called "Trench Experience" and recreates WW1 scenes through full scale models. It presents British tanks of the Great War as well as the first model produced by Germans. In addition, a Tank Men sub-section tells the stories of men who crewed the first tanks. Named "Warhorse to Horsepower", the second consists of films and photographs from the early 20th century, explanatory panels and a selection of tanks. It focuses on the role of horse before, during and after the war, as well as on the transitions in British Army cavalry units during this period.
As to the «Second World War - The Discovery Center» section, it presents almost all tanks used during the conflict as well as their theatres of operation and it includes an area related to 2014 «Fury» film that starred a Sherman M4.
Called «The Vehicle Conservation Centre», the last main section is the largest.
Armored vehicles from all over the world
It is devoted to armored vehicles in the broad sense of the term, and features both tanks, amphibious vehicles, tank destroyers, water cannons, personnel carriers and even an armored quad and a remote control miniature battle tank. A heterogeneous collection where vehicles are arranged by origin and by period. There is also a simulator very popular among teenagers that gives visitors the feeling of being in the turret of a tank while it moves and shoots.
In addition, a space called "Battlegroup Afghanistan" recreates a tank forward operating base in Afghanistan with their facilities and the armored vehicles they used. Interviews with soldiers, panels, films and interactive kiosks explain their living conditions and the nature of the fighting.
If you want to learn more about tank technology, there is also a «Tank Factory» section explaining how British armoured vehicles are designed and manufactured since 1916.
Lastly, from 2017, a new area will bring together every member of the Tiger tank family.
A ride in a tank
During school holidays and the Tankfest annual festival organized in June, some tanks maneuver around and through obstacles in an arena located right in front of the museum. Indeed, one of the specific characteristics of the Tank Museum is that all vehicles on display are in working order.
On certain dates and by reservation, it is possible to discover the workshop in charge of their maintenance and restoration. A visit entitled "Access all areas" which includes a guided tour of the museum's collections during which the participants have the opportunity to get into some armored vehicles.
As part of tours named «Tank Experience Day» and «Armour Experience Day» , it is even possible to take a ride in a tank sitting in the crew chief's seat and to drive a tracked armored personnel carrier for 3 km on the exercise ground of the military camp. A great thrill.
February 24, 2017