HAWKs Tankfest Tour (part 4 – The Main Event!!)

The Russian encampment before Tankfest opened for the day

As with yesterday’s post, I took hundreds of pictures and videos, but only a few are presented here.

This whole trip was built around Tankfest 2018.  We had tickets for the director’s enclosure so we had an assigned area to sit and didn’t have to worry about staking out a hunk of ground early.  Nonetheless, we got up early and drove to Bovington, arriving over an hour before the gates were scheduled to open, because we didn’t know what traffic was going to be like.  The re-enactors were set up near the gate, so we got to see some of their morning activities as we waited.  Interestingly, the organizers had brought in a bucket loader to dig a trench for these Russians.

German A7V tank in the tank park.  This is a replica.  The only known A7V was captured by New Zealanders and now resides in Australia.   The outside and the engine speeds are authentic, but the inside is modern.

As soon as the gates opened we beelined to the tank park.  Here is where all the vehicles that were going to be driving during the day were parked and ready for the show.  This was only open for about 90 minutes, so we wanted to make sure we didn’t miss the opportunity.    What follows are a series of pictures I took in the tank park.  There were no “do not touch signs.”  In general you couldn’t climb on any of the vehicles, but you could walk up to them and fondle them.

Don in front of a Honey

An M-16 halftrack. This was fitted with quad .50 cal machine-guns for anti-aircraft fire but was quite effective against ground targets as well.

A Universal (a.k.a. Bren) carrier
Some paragon of studliness in front of the Universal Carrier for scale. This vehicle is MUCH larger than I imagined.
A Lancaster armored car
A Marder and crew waiting their return to the tank park
Duncan and Eric took a ride in this cargo carrier based on the M113 chasis that has been converted for tourist transport.

The live portion of the show began with a demonstration of the three German Leopard tanks.

They then showed some modern British tanks and vehicles.  The next “show” was of a number of light reconnaissance vehicles.

This has the “Berlin” camouflage pattern.
A scorpion or scimitar light reconnaissance vehicle.

A million years ago, when I worked briefly with the 15th/6th Queens Royal Lancers I was able to get inside one of these.

The British have a lot of light reconnaissance vehicles, while the US has never really embraced this concept in the same way.  The announcer partially explained this as a need for lighter, cheaper vehicles to police the empire, but this doesn’t really explain why the US concept doesn’t generally include these kinds of vehicles.  These would seem to be useful in the cavalry regiments in the light units.

This seems like it would really expose the crew to indirect fire, weather, and the sun.

The recon vehicles were followed by armored personnel carriers.

A crew dismounts an APC and assaults across an objective

Then they brought out a couple of British engineering vehicles.

The engineering vehicles actually did work laying the bridge, picking up debris, and laying a fascine.

Then came my favorite part of the show, in which the WWI and early WWII tanks drove around the arena.

Click to see a video of the German A7V.

Click to see a video of the French Char B

Click to see the French FT-17 and British Mark IV

Click to see video of the Stuart and Sherman driving around the arena.

It seems to be agains the anti-sedition act of 16 something for a British historian to ever say anything good about Americans, but the announcer did a great job debunking all the myths about the Sherman and actually talked about both the Sherman and Stuart in positive ways.

And more German WWII vehicles:

German Panzer III
German StuG
German towed 88mm gun
An another view of the Stuart
Matilda I

Matilda I being towed off the field after it overheated

The day culminated with three mock battle scenarios from WWI, WWII, and Iraq.

WWI infantry following a Mk IV

The presentation was unabashedly pro-British.  Some of the history presented clearly presents a British bias.  I have no problem with this.  This is the British Tank Museum on British Armed Forces Day.  Americans are pathologically self-loathing and self-destructive, so it was refreshing to see people touting their military history and accomplishments.  Actually, it was refreshing to see people who even knew anything about their history.  As the US Armor Museum is reconstituted in Columbus, GA, I hope the curators were here today seeing this for themselves.  THIS is what the new Patton Museum should be like.  The fact that the vehicles were moving I think really made this accessible for younger people in the audience without resorting to special effects or cuteness.  This was tank history in action.

This was a GREAT day, and I am very glad that we came to Bovington for Tankfest.