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On the Track of History: Bovington's Tank Museum

by Stephen D. Rogers

Recognized as the greatest collection of armoured fighting vehicles in the world and built on the very site of the original tank trials conducted during World War I, The Tank Museum offers so much more than the usual static museum experience for both first-time and repeat visitors.

Imagine not just looking at their collection of nearly 300 tanks representing over 26 countries but actually watching them in action, listening to the recorded voices of veterans who fought in them, and riding on one yourself.


Tanks in Action: A variety of armoured fighting vehicles race across open ground amidst pyrotechnic explosions. The climax of this forty-five minute demonstration is a mock tank battle that includes infantry support comprised of 10 volunteers from the audience who ride to the fight in an armoured personnel carrier.


Family Activity Trail: Six stations located throughout The Tank Museum offer visitors a chance to push, pull, wind, and touch as they learn more about armoured fighting vehicles. Have you ever wondered how a crew of 4 or 5 eats, sleeps, and goes to the toilet while stuck in a dark, smelly, and very cramped tank?

Trench Experience: Walk through a recreation of World War I trenches and gain an appreciation of why tanks were developed in the first place, that is to break the stalemate and wasted lives of trench warfare. In just the first day of the Somme battle (1 July 1916), British dead, wounded, missing, and captured totaled more than fifty-five thousand men.


The Exhibits: And then there are the armoured fighting vehicles. The Tank Museum has everything from a Mark I (the oldest fighting tank in the world) to the Challenger II (the British Army's Main Battle Tank). Exhibits represent over two dozen countries and are divided into halls organized by time period and theatre of operation. The heaviest tank on display is the British TOG 2 at 80 tons and the fastest vehicle on display is the Alvis Scorpion with a top speed of 80 km/h. The German Tiger is one of the most popular draws but I personally prefer the German Panzerkampwagen IV series.

Please be aware that vehicles are occasionally taken out of service to be cleaned, maintained, and repaired by employees and volunteers.

The Tank Museum also displays small arms (from pistols to anti-tank rifles), medals, and the much-feared German 88mm antitank gun which was capable of destroying any Allied tank fielded in World War II.

A recent addition to The Tank Museum is the Lawrence of Arabia collection. T.E. Lawrence served at the Tank Corps at Bovington under the assumed name Private Shaw.

The Library: The Tank Museum library includes one of the largest collections of armoured warefare publications in the world, War Diaries and Transcripts covering both world wars, and over 250,000 photographs. The library is open weekdays from 10 am to 4 pm. Library admission costs an additional £10 and requires an appointment.

Restaurant and other Facilities: The fully licensed restaurant seats up to 160 and offers a range wide of traditional English fare. Outdoors, there are play and picnic areas. Ample parking is provided for free.


The Tank Museum Shop: Eventually, you have to leave. Why not take an armoured fighting vehicle home with you? The Shop carries a full line of models, books, photographs, and videos. You can also select from a wide selection of Royal Tank Regiment souvenirs. The Tank Museum is a registered charity and all profits from Shop sales are used to maintain and improve the museum.

Virtual Museum Tour: It's been said that no plan survives first contact with the enemy. If, despite your best intentions, you find yourself unable to reach The Tank Museum, you can still visit the Virtual Museum for twelve different views of The Tank Museum.

Location and Admissions

The Tank Museum is located in Bovington, South Dorset, and can easily be reached by road, rail, and air. If arriving by air, Bournemouth International airport is located 20 miles away. When driving from London & South East, take M3/M27/A31 Bere Regis/Bovington. When driving from Exeter, take A35 Dorchester/A352 to Wool. When driving from Central England, take A354 Blandford/Bovington. Signposts label the routes from Dorchester, Blandford, Poole, Bere Regis, and Wool.

We took the Waterloo/Weymouth line to the Wool station and used a box there to call a taxi for the 2-mile ride to The Tank Museum. (The pleasant ride from London took about two-and-a-half hours and allowed us to catch up on a reading list that then was augmented by our visit to The Tank Museum Shop.)

The Tank Museum is open every day from 10 am to 5 pm except for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day. Visit http://www.tankmuseum.org/prices for current admission rates.

More Pictures courtesy of The Tank Museum:

In January 2015 The Tank Museum kindly offered TimeTravel-Britain.com some additional, more recent photos:




More Information:

The Tank Museum
Bovington, Dorset BH20 6JG
General Information: +44 (0) 1929 405096

The Tank Museum's Tiger Tank

The Tank Museum's D-Day Site

The Tank Museum Virtual Tour

Dorset County Council

Over five hundred of Stephen Rogers's articles, stories, and poems have been selected to appear in more than two hundred publications. He was in London sitting through remakes of Broadway shows when he found a reference to The Tank Museum in a guide book. The vacation was saved. Visit his website at http://www.stephendrogers.com.
Article and photos © 2006 Stephen D. Rogers
Photos courtesy of the Tank Museum


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