Dorset's Tank Tradition
Bovington is home to the armoured military vehicle commonly known as the tank. The collection at the site's museum contains some of the rarest examples of tanks in the world, and a dedicated team who restore and maintain them.
For years the people of Bovington have grown accustomed to the occasional boom of tank gunfire and the slow rumble of tanks rolling through - this is the Dorset village which could rightly hold the title of 'home of the tank'.
It was decided by the War Office some ninety years ago that it was the perfect location to test this new weapon of war, as it was close to the coast, and the new armour could be easily transported to the front line.
Even today, Bovington camp is part museum, part working army base; and the camp is home to tanks and soldiers training for active service.
One of the driving forces behind the museum's history was the famous author Rudyard Kipling.
As tanks were brought back to be tested, they were just left to rot, but it was Kipling who suggested to the army that Bovington could be a resource of tank memorabilia, making good use of the vehicles which lay unattended.
In fact, many of the vehicles which make up the World War I collection came from this initial display.
Many of the tanks at the collection came from the British Army's own 'discarded' machinery, but obtaining 'enemy' vehicles was a much harder task.
And many of the German vehicles on display were actually seized in combat, and as such have interesting tales to tell.
Nik Wyness, the museum's PR manager, explained the story of one particularly prized capture -
"This is a perfect example of something that was captured in the battlefield, taken back to Britain for evaluation, completely stripped down, they tested the engine, they saw how it worked and basically 'caned' it.
"The Tiger is quite an iconic machine, and you can see there how it was knocked out. It was captured by British Churchill tanks from 48th RTR.
"There were four or five Churchill tanks after one Tiger, a shell from a Churchill lodged itself in the mechanism which turns the turret, and the crew have panicked and bailed out.
"This Tiger was found empty but relatively functional. It was unusual because when they abandoned Tigers, the crews were told to blow them up. So this was the first Tiger to be captured intact, but also fully functional, which at the time was a great publicity coup!"
"This is the only running Tiger in the world, which is another piece of unique history here in Bovington."
Grafitti daubed in Iraq.
There are also more recent examples of tank history, and reminders of how chilling war can be, particularly as Nik points out in the case of an Iraqi tank:
"We captured an Iraqi tank that had a strange network of pipes on the outside, and when the investigation team got it back here they were trying to work out what these pipes did.
"Eventually we found out that the pipes took carbon dioxide fumes from the engines and were used in ethnic cleansing of Kurdish villages."
As many of the tanks are ages old, they require an awful lot of maintenance, and the museum is lucky to have an in-house team to help.
One tank which has thrived on the care and attention paid by the team is the German WWII tank - the Panzer I.
"This Panzer is riddled with holes, as you can imagine that would have caused a lot of damage to the man inside it!
"What we do with all our vehicles is, the way they are painted in the museum is not totally the way they were painted when they were captured, as paint doesn't last that long, and a lot of these vehicles, especially if they've been knocked out in combat will be badly damaged.
"When we're restoring these vehicles we make them as authentic as possible, we can find out the exact hue, the exact markings. We put them back to as they were in their hey-day.
"It's all about conservation and preservation - but the sad fact is that while they were being evaluated with the British Army they were badly beaten up! The other problem would be souvenir hunters, squaddies ripping bits off!"
At The Tank Museum you will see the world’s largest and best collection of tanks.
The tank was a British invention that changed warfare for ever when it was introduced in World War One – and Bovington has been the home of the tank ever since. From the Somme to Tiananmen Square or D-Day to Desert Storm the tank has played a part in shaping history – and it continues to do so today.
The Tank Museum is the only place where many of these rare and historic vehicles can be seen. Fresh from a £16m investment in new exhibitions & facilities, with almost 200 vehicles on display in 6 large halls, you will come face-to-face with tanks that have seen action in all the major wars of the 20th century.
The Tank Story tells the story of the tank from its invention to the present day.
The Trench Experience allows you to walk in the footsteps of a World War One solider from the recruiting office to the front line.
In the Discovery Centre you will find out how different tanks are used in different ways and learn what it is like to be a tank crewman.
In our Arena you can get closer to the action; see the awesome tank action displays during school holidays – and experience for yourself the thrill of riding in a tracked vehicle. Click here to find out when our special events and displays occur.
New licensed Restaurant, extensive gift, model and book shop.
New family activity trails and children’s play area.
Free Parking and full wheelchair access.
The Tank Museum
Tel: 01929 405096 :-Fax: 01929 405360
The Tank Museum is open daily 10.00 - 17.00
Christmas closure dates: The Tank Museum will be closed on the Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Years Day.
At The Tank Museum we bring the history of tanks and tank crew to life…
Supported by the world’s best collection of tanks & action packed live displays.
The Tank Museum is the museum of the Royal Tank Regiment & Royal Armoured Corps.
The Birthday Party with a Bang!
The Tank Museum has launched a new themed birthday party package to give your little soldiers a special day they will never forget!
Aimed at children between 6 and 12 years, our package includes a choice of activities and lunch to make their day go with a bang.
The package includes entry to The Tank Museum for a minimum of 8 children, camouflage invitations to send out, and a choice of 2 activities from; camouflage face painting, tour of the Museum, military dressing up & drill session, or a look inside a World War One tank.
Each little soldier is given lunch served in ration tins, their own set of dog tags and a special party bag including cake and a toy tank; all for just £13.00 per person.
For more information, please call 01929 405096 ext 238.
Dorset Men At War
Riding in a Sherman !
Bovington Camp is home to the Royal Armoured Corp and its training grounds, thus giving new meanings to Thomas Hardy's description of the surrounding country side as the 'Blasted Heath'.
It was here that T.E. Lawrence, (Lawrence of Arabia) served as a simple private in the Royal Armoured Corp. He died in a motorcycle accident whilst travelling to his home at nearby Moreton.
View of Clouds Hill Dorset