Tank Museum, Bovington, England

Discussion in 'Weapons, Technology & Equipment' started by aghart, Sep 5, 2013.

  1. aghart

    aghart Former Tank Commander Moderator

    I am secretary of the Bournemouth, Poole & district branch, Royal Tank Regiment Association. At our latest branch meeting our guest speaker was the historian at the Tank museum. Below are the main points of his presentation which may be of interest to some of you.

    With no further business to attend, the chairman closed the meeting and introduced the guest speaker. Chris Copson, historian at the tank museum gave a very interesting address on Bovington and the tank museum. As many will know, Bovington was originally a very small camp used by the infantry, but was considered ideal for the new tank force because of it's isolation and having a very small civilian population. The story goes that as the first tank drove through Bovington village, the locals had to stay indoors with guards on the streets so they did not see the new secret weapon, a secret weapon that promptly broke down in the middle of the road, in the middle of the village!

    It's always a pleasure to learn something new about a place that you thought you knew well, and this was no exception. During 1916 the very large number of Australian soldiers based around Wareham and Weymouth were used to build a series of trench fortifications, copies of typical German systems found on the western front. The new tank force used these to practice their assault procedures before moving to France. Although filled in by the end of the war, they are still visible and attempts are going to be made to restore a couple of sections. Some of these trenches are on what is now civilian land, close to the glider club, but permission from the land owner has been obtained.

    Chris then concentrated on the tank museum, he explained that the large number of tanks stored there after the end of hostilities were destined to be scrapped but were reprieved when it was decided to use them as a "teaching" collection and the embryo tank museum was born. He explained that the new conservation centre is very important, many old tanks were at first thought to be well preserved, but it was a false hope, internal rust hidden by many layers of external paint! The conservation centre is not a workshop, it's a climate controlled storage area which will have limited public access. It will be used to halt further corrosion in the exhibits not to repair them. One of the vehicles likely to be stored in there is an MBT 80 (the planned Chieftain replacement cancelled not long after it's inception). I never knew that any prototypes had even been built?

    The next 5 years are going to be very busy for the Tank Museum due to the numerous WWI commemorations planned. The main exhibition for 2014 is called Horse to Tank and will show the period 1914-38 and the development of the tank. There will of course be a Cambrai celebration in 2017. They may concentrate on the later battles of the Great War, Chris explained that the disasters of WWI and the huge casualties are often the only things remembered, while the battles of 1918, in which the now very experienced and professional British Army not only held the major German offensive (designed to win the war before the USA could deploy it's full power) of that year, but sent it hurling back in disorder, and made serious advances using combined arms tactics. Chris believes that had the Germans not surrendered in November 1918, an allied invasion of Germany led by the now rampaging British Army was only a matter of weeks away.

    Chris's last topic was to explain that a "making tanks" exhibition was being planned, based on the cut away Centurion. This will involve moving a number of older vehicles including the very heavy TOG II which has seized tracks and the movement of this vehicle is the cause of some serious head scratching at present.

    Chris then answered questions and took seriously the criticism that the tank crews seem to be ignored while the metal gets all the glory, and was interested in the views put forward by some of our members to show how a crew lived on a tank, cooking, eating, ablutions, the whole works, the human side of tanks. Time will tell if our ideas are acted upon.

    Chris then received a well deserved round of applause.

    Fear Naught
    Watson likes this.

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