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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.)
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:
- 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