Continuing with my visit to Bovington Tank Museum (1+2)
After World War 2 ended the world was literally awash with tanks, and many ended their days at the scrap heaps or as targets on ranges. The enemy tanks were dissected and many features would be copied and incorporated into local designs. Large amounts of surplus tanks went on to become the armoured corps of developing countries while some got enveloped in local wars. This post will deal with tanks of all shapes and sizes and colours and creeds.
Starting with the French AMX13 which mounted a long gun in a small turret. The turret design is unique in that part of it is responsible for elevation and depression, while the other part is responsible for traversing. It also features an auto loader but was limited to carrying 12 rounds only.
The American M46 General Patton was an improved version of the M26 Pershing, serving successfully in the Korean war, and probably for many years afterwards. This particular vehicle was supplied to Great Britain for evaluation purposes. The tiger face painted in the tank was hoped would frighten the enemy.
The granddaddy of the famous Centurion tank is this Mk 1, this vehicle is a prototype and came it arrived too late to see any action. But it was the result of a successful design that would evolve into a solid, reliable and effective tank that is still in service today.
Compare this vehicle to the Centurion MK 3 pictured below. These vehicles gave excellent service in the Korean War, and have served in many other theatres too. It was also a very successful export vehicle, and South Africa had a number of Centurions that were converted into the local variant called an “Olifant”.
The Russians were never caught napping when it came to tank design, and one of the many successful designs was the T62 which debuted in 1965. This particular vehicle was captured during the Gulf War in 1991. By modern standards it is now a very dated design, but the large production run has meant that many survive in smaller countries all around the world.
This Challenger 1 MBT Mk 3 is a veteran of the Gulf War and was the first of a new generation of main battle tanks produced for the British Army.
The German Leopard at the museum is an early pre-production model of what has become an extremely successful vehicle. The Leopard has undergone many evolutions in its overall design, and has been supplied to a number of countries. It is widely recognised as an extremely quick tank with impressive cross country performance.
The British Chieftain tank was introduced in 1965 as the worlds first MBT, and has since been surpassed by the Challenger. A formidable vehicle, it would probably have born the brunt of a tank assault during the cold war. This example however was a former gate guard and has now retired to the museum.
Opposing the Chieftain would have been the T72, and while a very good design it suffered from many flaws that were very evident during the Gulf War when it came up against British Challengers and American Abrams tanks. A number also served in Angola during the Border War and they suffered heavily at the hands of the fast moving Ratels with their 90mm guns.
Concluding this blog post all that is left are the “funnies”. The experiments and odd vehicles that are inevitable when design is being considered and a prototype has to be built. Occasionally a funny does make into service and become a success. It will also feature the occasional wheeled vehicle from the museums vast collection. The museum has a wonderful collection of one-off’s, funnies, experiments and vehicles that should never have seen the light of day. Yet many of these oddities and peculiarities gave rise to much bigger and better things, and even mediocrity has its place in the greater scheme of things.
Probably the most impressive that I saw was the A39 Heavy Assault Tank, aka A39 Tortoise. It was a huge machine that proved totally impractical and which never saw action, even though it was designed during the war. Testing of the vehicle revealed that it was reliable, but its sheer size made transporting it extremely difficult, and it was too slow and unwieldy to be of any use. Fortunately it never went into production.
Another interesting vehicle is the TOG II, and it has the distinction of being the heaviest tank in the museum, weighing in at a hefty 80 tons. It also featured diesel electric propulsion as well as a host of other innovative features. Fortunately it did not enter service, but having seen how a heavy machine like this is hampered by its size you have to ask why the Tortoise as pictured above was ever tried in the first place.
The Italians were not great tank designers, and it was always joked that they had more reverse than forward gears. This small tank is the Carro Veloce L3/33, and it is fitted with a flame thrower. Successfully used in places like Ethiopia against tribesmen it was a death trap when confronted by anything marginally better than itself. It had a two man crew and the pump used to spray the petrol was so weak that the tank had the ability to set fire to itself if driven too fast.
In the background is the Rotatrailer which was like an all purpose fuel/ammunition/water carrier that could be towed behind a tank. It was not a great idea at all. For starters fuel was carried in the wheels, and these were easily damaged or leaked. And a lack of suspension jostled the contents so much that they ended up being damaged.
The Stridsvagen 103 S (aka “S” Tank) was put into production for the Swedish Army. It does not have a turret which gives it a very low sillhouette. The gun is aimed by moving the tank or by raising or lowering the suspension. When it first appeared it was widely criticised, but by all accounts was actually a very successful machine.
And on the subject of turretless tanks, the Contentious was a British design that was more of a test bed for various ideas. It had limited traversing capabilities and was elevated or depressed by raising or lowering the suspension. It was never designed as a production model and this is probably the only one there is.
This tracked landing vehicle is known as the Buffalo, and it was really designed to cross water carrying men or machines. It was unhandy machine on land, and had a low freeboard, but like the DUKW was an indispensable machine that performed what it was called upon to do. Used by both American and British forces it played a major part in a number of important battles.
Everybody wants a Kettenkraftrad. This strange vehicle that seems to be a motorcycle that was swallowed by a tank, was actually a very sophisticated machine. It was intended to be used as a handy transportable vehicle that could be used as a carrier, communications vehicle, cable laying or reconnaissance.
The Scorpion light tank (aka Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance) served successfully with British forces for a number of years. Lightweight, adaptable and well liked, it is also one of those vehicles that everybody dreams of owning.
The one interesting item that the museum has is a Centurion tank that has been cut in half, and it is interesting to see the armour sizes of the turret areas.
Of course tanks are not the only vehicles to be seen at Bovington, and they have a good variety of armoured cars too.
The BDRM-2 RKh was a Russian vehicle reconnaissance vehicle that also saw service during the Border War and was used in a number of Warsaw pact countries. They were amphibious and have been in service for a number of years. This particular version was a chemical weapon reconnaissance vehicle and used to mark mined areas.
Saladin Armoured Car
Rolls Royce 1920 Pattern MKI
Humber MKI Armoured Car
Marmon-Herrington MKVI Armoured Car
And that rather unsuccessful Marmon-Herrington concludes my trip to the Bovington Tank Museum. I have not shown everything I saw as there was so much to see. Neither can my photographs do justice to the preservation that has gone into these oldies. A number of these are in running condition too, and often appear on open days. It is a magnificent place and well worth the visit. If you don”t believe me then check out their website
for more information on the museum and its exhibits.
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