Thursday, 1 June 2017

Truly Tankful

That's not a typo - we spent Bank Holiday Monday at the Bovingdon Tank Museum. My brother was with us for a few days so it seemed like a good blokey sort of outing for him and Bob. I packed a picnic and we arrived just before they opened at 10. We left after 3 - so yes, there was plenty to see and do. Furthermore, your entry ticket gets you a one year pass - and Bob definitely wants to go back, because there was so much to look at and some sections were worth closer study.
I took dozens of pictures - but you'd be better off checking out the website, as theirs are in focus and don't have small children's heads in the way! Being half term,the place was teeming with families. But the atmosphere was happy and relaxed -I am not complaining - it was lovely to see folk having a good time together.
The tour begins with Little Willie - the first tank [I blogged about him 3 years ago] Adrian and I were interested to discover that tanks were designated 'male' or female'. As they were initially called 'landships', and came under the responsibility of the Admiralty, you might have expected them all to be 'shes'.
For one hundred years tanks have been party of the British Army - and we saw examples from WW1 and WW2, in khaki and green camo, others from conflicts in hotter places painted in yellows and browns. We learned of "Berlin Camo" which is an angular pattern of browns, greys and cream - designed to blend into a built up urban environment.
The Cold War section was interesting, reading about BRIXMIS
Reading about some of the activities of the spies gave a whole new dimension to the term bumf ! 

In front of this Cold War Display was a tray of officers' caps - all round the Museum there were areas where visitors could dress up and pose for photos - with caps, jackets, greatcoats etc. It is well organised for school parties and young families - and at one information table, free hats, flags and other goodies were being distributed. I sat down to watch a brief video of soldiers going off to fight and the little boy beside me was waving his paper flag along with the cheering crowds on the screen. I said I was too old to have a free flag, and he solemnly offered me to lend me his so I could wave it at the troops for a minute!
The WW1 section was excellent. You entered past a model of a nurse tending a soldier, down a street of boarded up French shops - then into a section of trenches. Very well planned, lots to see, with audio sections [eg the officer shouting down his field telephone] but passing through one narrow tunnel you found yourself on the German side, looking at their billets.
There was a section devoted to the Tank Men - stories of real soldiers who'd been the first men to serve in tanks in WW1. 
Here is a cannon, captured by one of those tannks - beautifully engraved with the monogram WR [Wilhelm Rex/Kaiser Bill]
Warhorse to Horsepower shows the story of the Cavalry Regiments becoming Tank Regiments, as they moved from animals to machines.
The model horses were beautifully made, and the story was well told. 
I think it would have been good to see something about The Brooke Charity at the very end though, as a reminder of what happened to the horses afterwards.

We sat outside on the grass by the Kuwait Arena to eat our picnic, then watched the display of various vehicles- that was well done, and the commentary was excellent. Sadly the rain came down in torrents, sending everyone fleeing to the shelter of the covered space at the front of the Museum. Fortunately that was almost at the end, so we saw most of the show from a good viewpoint.
Then we walked round to the Vehicle Conservation Centre- passing the guys with the jet-wash gear hosing down the display tanks, which had got extremely muddy.
The VCC is a massive hangar where dozens of tanks of all ages and in all states of repair, are stored whilst it is decided what to do with them. Some go off to the workshop for restoration, whilst others are stripped down for spare parts.
It was a great day - and as it is so close to us, I know we will go back and use our tickets again. 
Bob and Adrian were interested in the mechanics of the tanks, whereas I was more interested in the stories of the people who made and operated them. Ade and I both spotted two names with Norfolk connections which need further research.
I am glad we took a picnic lunch - but have to report that the slabs of cake in the coffee shop were huge. Definitely a plate for sharing.
Facilities for families with children, and for the disabled appeared to be excellent and well thought out. But the proportions of the photo-opp soldier were a little strange - we ended up with Big Heads and Tiny-Trump-Hands"
We really felt we got our money's worth.
Definitely Feeling Tankful

1 comment:

  1. I used to take my children there regularly when we holidayed nearby.


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