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  1. Your first chance to see Tiger 131 in action after its starring role in the Hollywood Blockbuster FURY... In 2015 Tiger 131 will only make two appearances in our arena; Tiger Day – 2nd May and Tankfest 27th & 28th June. As the only running Tiger 1 tank in the world you really can't afford to miss it! The Museum will open at 10.00am with a range of World War Two talks and tours taking place throughout the day, including the opportunity to get close to Tiger. The Vehicle Conservation Centre will be open from 10am – 5pm allowing access to the main floor, this allows visitors unprecedented access to the museum’s extended collection of tanks and other military vehicles. The highlight of the day will be at 1.30pm, when Tiger 131 makes its return into the Kuwait arena*. The 30 minute display will examine and compare this World War Two beast to its Axis and Allied contemporaries; including Matilda II, Panzer III, T-34 and Sherman. The display will also examine the impact Tiger had on future tank design, with Centurion and Leopard*. Please note that access to the arena will be solely for those with a valid Museum ticket. *As with all our historic machines, the appearance of the Tiger tank in the display is subject to its mechanical reliability on the day. SEE TIGER 131 IN ACTION! We’ve put together a short film from 2014’s Tiger Day: If you would like to learn more about the history of Tiger 131 please click here Ticket Options: Please note: Tiger Day is a Special Event Day so pre-existing annual passes will NOT be valid. Special event admission prices apply
  2. FEBRUARY HALF TERM Find out More - Camouflage 14th February 2015 - 22nd February 2015 This year February Half Term is all about Camouflage! Find out more about how camouflage techniques are used in combat and how the armed forces take inspiration from nature when trying to stay hidden. Visitors will have the chance to find out how crews work and fight together, conceal and live with their vehicle. There is also the opportunity to sit inside the Chieftain Main Battle Tank and an original First World War Mark IV tank and find out more about how these machines operate. There will be talks, tours and trails as well as activities for the whole family. The Vehicle Conservation Centre will be open every day 13.30 – 16.30.Normal admission prices apply and Annual passes are valid.
  3. For Great War Truck. Would you be able to get in touch with The Tank Museum on marketing@tankmuseum.org Our Curator has a couple of questions for you, but unfortunately your private inbox on HMVF seems to be full. Sorry to interrupt the thread. All the best.
  4. Date of Event: From 6th December 2014 to 7th December 2014 Time of Event: 10.00am - 17.00pm. Venue: The Tank Museum Entry Fee: Normal Admission applies Take a step back in time and discover how Christmas was celebrated during the two world wars and beyond! Celebrate Christmas on the Home Front, make wartime Christmas decorations, enjoy a variety of activities, traditional carols and music, and meet Father Christmas as he arrives by tank! Then enjoy our indoor Christmas Market; with over 50 traders offering local crafts and produce with Christmas treats and gift ideas for all. • Meet Father Christmas and see him arrive by tank! • Sing along with the Land Girls and their 1940’s classics. • Story time with Martin Impey and book signing of “The Christmas Truce”. • Living History – Christmas on the front line. • Fancy Dress! There will be a prize for the child who comes in the best fancy dress costume. • Learn about life in the Women's Land Army. • Christmas Carvery Lunch*. • Vintage performance from the Singing Spiv. • Singing from the Bovington Military Wives Choir (Saturday) and Weymouth Choral Society (Sunday). *Additional charges apply.
  5. The Tank Museum is again hosting the official remembrance service on behalf of the Bovington Garrison. This service will be attended by serving soldiers, veterans and their families, but visitors are also very welcome to join in the service which commences at 10.30. Visitors are asked to assemble by 10.15. This well attended service will take place in The Tamiya Hall. Following this, a wreath laying ceremony will take place at the Royal Armoured Corps Memorial outside the Museum. All visitors will be asked to respect the 2 minutes silence that occurs at 11.00. Sunday 9th November, from 10am. Admissions FREE
  6. Today The Tank Museum announced the launch of its latest exhibition, ‘Fury’, sponsored generously by Wargaming. Opening its turret doors on the 20th of October, the exhibition tells the story of the Museum’s integral involvement with the making of David Ayer’s visionary film, Fury, which bursts onto cinema screens across the UK on the 22nd of October. The movie casts two of The Tank Museum’s exhibits: the world’s only working Tiger 1 tank and the eponymous Fury Sherman M4 tank, in a tale of overwhelming odds deep behind enemy lines in the last days of the Second World War. Taking centre stage in the ‘Fury’ exhibition will be the film’s armour plated star, the Sherman M4, alongside imagery and footage directly from the film. Other attractions include uniforms from the film worn by some of the stars, and numerous props straight from the set, all kindly donated by Norman Productions. David Willey, Curator of The Tank Museum, said, “Being a part of making this film was a remarkable opportunity for the Museum and we want to share that experience with our visitors. This exhibition will give an insight in to how The Tank Museum was involved in the Fury film, the issues we faced when working to safely use some of our historic collection and what it was like for staff on the set of a Hollywood movie.” To celebrate and acknowledge Wargaming’s continued support of The Tank Museum, the ‘Fury’ exhibition will also host various gaming stations where visitors will be invited to play World of Tanks. Using in-game tanks modelled on the armoured vehicles from the film, players will be able to clash against each other to recreate the very battles Wardaddy and his troops fight in the film within the Wargaming universe. This will be further supported by a video which intersperses film footage from Fury, with Wargaming’s tanks in-game to form a thrilling montage, overlaid with commentary by Richard Cutland, UK Historical Consultant at Wargaming. “Wargaming has a long history of collaboration with The Tank Museum, we sponsored the building of a classroom in the museum, we also contributed to the restoration of The Museum’s collections and now we are extremely proud to be working with The Museum again, sponsoring the making of this new exciting Fury exhibition, which is a perfect match to our game World of Tanks", said Rinaldo Andreolli, General Manager Wargaming Europe. The ‘Fury’ exhibition will open on the 20th of October at The Tank Museum and is scheduled to run until the end of 2015.
  7. This Half Term immerse yourself in the world of modern warfare. Meet the British Army and learn more about their equipment, day to day work and training in a series of free talks and tours plus “hands on experience”, with The Rifles. Our Tanks in Action arena displays will take place every weekday, where you'll have the chance to see the evolution of modern warfare, from the beginnings of the tank to the present day. Throughout Half Term, Children Go Free - terms and conditions apply. Details to be announced soon. Don't miss... • Face to Face with the Enemy – a talk from The Rifles on their experiences in Afghanistan. • Tanks in Action – Monday to Friday, 2pm. • Professional Face Painting from Diamond Faces – Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday. • Tank Museum Modellers – Monday - Friday Plus talks, tours, craft activities and trails. Normal admission charges apply, and annual passes are valid for this event.
  8. Today's the day.. Britain at War Day! Don't miss out - 10am until 5pm
  9. Above: (Left to Right) David Ayer, Logan Lerman, Brad Pitt and Jon Bernthal.Brad Pitt visited The Tank Museum, at the end of August, with his co-stars Logan Lerman and Jon Bernthal and writer-director David Ayer to promote the release of the upcoming film Fury. Pitt also reunited with two of his larger co-stars: the hero Sherman tank that would play the role of Fury, and Bovington’s world-renowned Tiger 131. The Tank Museum was first involved with Fury when writer-director David Ayer reached out to the museum seeking out expertise, crew and vehicles. One of Ayer’s mandates for the production was that it would be told in a way that would be as historically accurate as possible. Later, the stars of Fury came to the Museum to learn first-hand about the history of tank warfare, whilst being given a tour around the impressive display of vehicles in the Museum’s collection. They also took the time to visit the ranges at Lulworth, to see the modern British Army tanks in action. Original Second World War vehicles were at the top of the list for Ayer and it was agreed that the Museum would loan its Sherman tank as the main ‘hero’ tank for the duration of the filming. After much discussion, the Museum agreed to loan its world-renowned Tiger 131 tank as well for a two week trip to the film set. Museum staff crewed these vehicles and remained on set with a recovery tank in case there were any breakdowns. This was the first time that the Tiger 131 had left Bovington since 1953 and, most importantly, the first time since 1946 that an original Tiger I tank has appeared in a major film production. The Sherman tank takes centre stage as ‘Fury’, the home of the American tank crew, which will come face-to-face with the fearsome Tiger as the crew find themselves behind German lines at the end of the Second World War. David Willey, Curator at The Tank Museum, “With our unrivalled collection, our contacts and staff we were an obvious choice for the filmmakers to consult. We hear how well the British film industry is doing and, having seen those skills at work on the set, it was fantastic to realise that the collection here is part of that success. After witnessing the care and attention that has gone in to making this war film, we really look forward to seeing the end results.”
  10. Just a reminder to everyone about Britain at War Day......
  11. Seventy years to the day after Polish and British Forces fought side by side at the Falaise Pocket in Normandy, The Tank Museum, and the Land Forces Museum, Poland made an historic swap of two Cold War era tanks, which thirty years ago would have faced each other on opposite sides of the Iron Curtain. The Chieftain was the backbone of the British Royal Armoured Corps for nearly thirty years after its introduction in 1966. Its 120mm gun was considered the best of its kind in the world and its 120 mm armour made it a tremendously powerful weapons system. The T72 was introduced into the forces of the Former Soviet Union five years later in 1971, the T72M being manufactured in Poland. It was a formidable opponent, lighter than the Chieftain but with equally powerful armament. The Chieftain Mark 11 has been gifted to the Land Forces Museum, Bydgoszcz, today where it will go on display to the public. In exchange the Tank Museum has received the T72 tank, which will form part of their active operational fleet. Visitors will now be able to see this impressive machine roaring round The Tank Museum arena during Tanks in Action display and at the Museum’s biggest event of the year, Tankfest. Richard Smith, The Tank Museum Director, “We are delighted to have been given this fine example of a T72 (left); it will make an excellent addition to our tank displays and our collections, helping us complete our record of the Cold War.” Mr Mirosław Giętkowski, Director of the Land Forces Museum in Bydgoszcz, “We are grateful to The Tank Museum in Bovington for the Chieftain tank. It will be the first of a new collection of NATO military vehicles. This exchange is one of the first in Poland and I hope that it will initiate a wider international cooperation between museums of a military profile."
  12. One of the hardest things for a soldier to bear was the separation from loved ones; this was especially true for the families left behind. With an ocean between them, lucky charms, letters and reminders of home were sent to soldiers; whilst letters and keepsakes were sent to families. Popular items that were used for this purpose were the ‘WW1 silks’ and the ‘sweetheart brooches’. Many soldiers carried lucky charms from home, one such person was Captain Patrick O’Dowd, who had enlisted in 1914 into the Tank Corps. His particular lucky charm was a teddy (right), this would have been kept or carried near him whilst fighting in France. Whilst there is little known about the history of the bear, it is possible that the bear could have been a token from his wife Ruth. This was common practice among soldier’s sweethearts, as it would serve as a reminder of home. The embroidered postcards (below) that originated in France around 1900; became popular during the First World War and are known as WW1 silks. The silk was made by hand by French and Belgian refugees and then sent on to factories, where it would be cut and mounted onto card. A flap could be added which would allow a small printed card to be inserted inside. WW1 Silks became wildly popular with the British and American soldiers on duty. This is the reason why most of the silks that were produced, included patriotic imagery, such as British and American flags or symbols. It is estimated that around 10 million of these handmade cards were produced. The popularity for these cards declined after the war and are not found after 1923. Whilst these cards were reintroduced in 1930, they were completely machine made and never regained the popularity that the silks had enjoyed in the First World War. The sweetheart brooches (left) were given by soldiers to their loved ones, before they were sent off to fight in France. These badges could take the form of regimental badges, tanks, aircraft or wings. These badges became increasingly popular which led to their mass production. Hundreds of designs were made with a variety of materials, ranging from base metal to platinum. This meant that even the poorest soldier could afford to give a keepsake to his sweetheart. These tokens were used as a way for loved ones to show support for their men’s regiment; and was a visual example of the thoughts between the civilian population and the soldiers on the front. Keepsakes were used in a variety of ways: for good luck, relationships and encouraged further patriotism within the civilian population. However, the most important thing that these tokens were used for, was to remember and believe that those soldiers would return home to their families.
  13. The whole museum will be taken over by model clubs and traders! Our own Tank Museum Volunteer Modellers will be displaying some of their military models and will be more than happy to share their modelling tips. Model groups attending who have completed an application form, will be applicable for 6 complimentary passes, additional passes will be charged at group rate (please contact the events team in advance). Model club members pay group rate on production of a valid membership card. Normal admission charges apply, and annual passes are valid for this event.
  14. This year's Britain at War show will focus on the 70th Anniversary of D-Day. LIVE DISPLAYS See a range of privately owned vehicles in action alongside vehicles from The Tank Museum collection. TALKS & TOURS Browse stalls and enjoy a range of D-Day themed talks and tours. Learn more about Hobart's Funnies, and the D-Day landings. SPECIAL DISCOUNT Military Vehicle Trust Members will be entitled to a 30% discount. To qualify for your discount, present your MVT membership card at admissions on the day of the event. The individual names on the card will be entitled to admission at the discounted rate. D-DAY ARTEFACTS D-Day related items like maps, photos and diaries, will be on show at three sessions throughout the day, in the Education Room. The Archives and Library are also encouraging visitors to bring in their own Dorset D-Day memories to discuss with the team. The Vehicle Conservation Centre will be open all day. There will be Tracked Vehicle rides going on throughout the day, at an additional cost of £3. Please note - Normal admission charges apply, and annual passes ARE valid for this event. Open 10am - 5pm
  15. David Fletcher MBE, former Tank Museum Historian, presents another in a series of exclusive articles inspired by the historic documents and photographs held in the Archive. There are some tanks that don’t fit into any category at all, and others that are so obscure that it is very difficult to learn much about them. When these factors both apply to one tank then you know you have a problem and such a case relates to the vehicle I am going to try to describe now. It was originally described as the Tank, Light, Three-Man Experimental and was awarded the General Staff identification number A3E1, which certainly classified it as a tank, it was also issued with the War Department number T1021 but no road registration number that I am aware of. It was built by the Royal Ordnance Factory to a contract dated 8 August 1925. It appears, albeit briefly, in a number of books and I thought it might be interesting to take a look at some of them to see what they tell us. To begin with we turn to what we call the MeeWee list. MWEE, the Mechanical Warfare Experimental Establishment was based at Farnborough and its job was to test every new vehicle for the British Army. In fact at the time we are talking about, before 1928, it was known as the Tank and Tracked Transport Experimental Establishment and for a while it used to change its title every year or so as someone in charge endeavoured to describe precisely what it did, rather like they do today, but we have always known it as MWEE (pronounced MeeWee) which was one of its longest running titles. Anyway MWEE, or the T & TTEE if you wish to be more accurate, compiled a register of every vehicle they tested with additional data, some more useful than others. Unfortunately in the case of A3E1 it’s a bit thin, a bit too thin you might think, but at least the information, coming straight from the horse’s mouth as it were is quite trustworthy. The thing arrived at Farnborough from the Royal Ordnance Factory on 29 March 1926 and was issued to the Superintendent of Design on 27 June 1929 by which time T & TTEE had become MWEE. In fact it had been effectively disposed of since it is never heard of again. It is recorded as having an AEC four cylinder engine rated at 52bhp, in effect a bus engine, along with an AEC four speed gearbox and steering by Rackham clutches. It was 6ft 1.5 inches high, 17 feet 9 inches long and 6 feet 9 inches wide, it weighed 6 tons 14 cwt. was armoured with 12.7mm, say half an inch plate and had a top speed of 16mph. It was given the MWEE number 52. While at Farnborough it was a participant in the special demonstration laid on for the assembled Dominion Premiers on 13 November 1926. It was staged on Camberley Common on what appears to have been a particularly wet and windy day. The plush little souvenir book issued for the display says that it carried the identification number 5 and adds the following details; the engine was water-cooled, which we could have guessed, and the vehicle had a cross-country top speed of 10mph. It could climb a 35 degree slope, had a circuit of action of 45 miles and could cross a gap (or trench) of 5 feet 9 inches. It had a crew of three and was armed with two machine-guns. The blurb on the page is not terribly revealing, it says ‘An experimental type of machine to carry two machine guns mounted front and rear and to be inconspicuous. It embodies an effort to reduce the cost of manufacture by utilising a commercial type of engine and a cheap type of cast steel track.’ On the page it is identified as a Three-Man Tank although when MWEE booked it in they describe it as a Tank, Three-Man Machine Gun Carrier, and if that is not enough when it was photographed, perhaps at MWEE, it had Carrier M/G No. 1 1925 written on both ends, so perhaps it wasn’t a Light Tank after all. It was photographed at Camberley, not very well due to the awful conditions but you can make out the number 5 panted on it and in any case it is the only known photograph of the vehicle in addition to the two posed portraits, that we have. There weren’t that many books on tanks published in those days but two I have contain references to this strange vehicle. The earliest is Fritz Heigl’s Taschenbuch der Tanks which first came out in 1926. A3E1 appears in a supplement that was published in 1927 where it is referred to as a ‘Light Dragon MG Carrier’ but since it is written in German much of it is unclear to me. It does however appear to say that the vehicle could climb a vertical step of 0.8 metres and ford to a depth of 1 metre, although how it knows this is not clear and since some of the other details, like the armour thickness being 8 – 10mm are clearly wrong, means that they should be treated with some caution. Next in the book category is The Fighting Tanks since 1916 by Jones, Rarey and Icks, published in the United States in 1933. It describes the vehicle as a Light Dragon Machine Gun Carrier and says that it was produced by Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd. which we know is wrong, while most of the figures quoted are equally dubious such as the trench crossing ability of 7 feet 2 inches, the weight of 11. 2 tons and a new one, the horsepower per ton rating of 5.4. They also state that the suspension was the same as that fitted to the Vickers Medium, which we suspect is wrong and that the crew communicated by means of Laryngaphone which is entirely possible although they are the only ones to mention this. However it is that description of it as a Light Tank, Dragon, Machine Gun Carrier that seems to be the most telling, as if those responsible for describing it didn’t really know what it was at all. A Light Tank, well maybe but a very odd one with a machine gun turret at each end, Dragon, very doubtful since the term dragon was normally used to describe an artillery tractor and this machine does not appear to have had a towing hook at the rear and in any case the engine hardly seems powerful enough to pull itself along, never mind anything else. And a Machine-Gun Carrier, well hardly since one of the normal features of an MG carrier was the ability to dismount weapons for external use; you could not easily do that with these guns, sealed as they were in little turrets, so if anything it was a light tank, but a very peculiar one. A point made by B. T. White in his British Tanks and Fighting Vehicles (1970) where it gets a brief mention. So as a historical oddity we have to leave it there, with two rather meaningless contemporary descriptions. Now it is time to turn and see what one or two more recent writers have had to say about it. Not that there are all that many of them. George MacLeod Ross, the arch apologist for the Royal Ordnance Factory, in The Business of Tanks (1976) doesn’t mention A3E1 at all, which might tell us something. Nor is it mentioned at all in Janusz Magnuski’s classic Wozy Bojowe of 1964. Chamberlain and Eilis, attempting to cover all possibilities, include it in their Pictorial History of Tanks of the World (1972) as a light tank and again in Making Tracks (1973) where it is listed as a machine-gun carrier. In the latter, by the way, it repeats the hint in the 1933 American book that it has the same box bogie suspension as the Vickers Medium tanks, but more of that anon. It also qualifies for an entry, and a picture no less, in Bob Icks and Duncan Crow’s Encyclopedia of Tanks (1975) but that adds nothing to what we know about it at all. Which is about all you will find on it anywhere, well at least anything fairly informative. All we can do now is comment on what we can see. To begin with the engine appears to be located more or less amidships, not at the rear as one source suggests, but it does drive the rear track sprockets. The driver has his head inside a small, armoured cube at the front on the right, with a machine-gun turret alongside to the left. This not only obscures the driver’s view to his left but rather limits the traverse of the turret to the right. The rear turret, on the other hand, has a fairly wide arc of fire given that, in its normal position it is pointing in the wrong direction. Both turrets were probably manually traversed. The ability of the rear gunner to communicate with the other two men at the front, except by the unearthly tones of the Laryngaphone, is almost non-existent as far as one can see. He appears to have been more isolated than the rear gunner in a bomber. The matter of the suspension is quite interesting. Given that any kind of suspension on a tracked, armoured vehicle was still quite an innovation in 1926 one might expect it to be given more detailed coverage. The possibility that it was of the Vickers box bogie type seems unlikely, given that there is no evidence of vertical tubes enclosing springs and we suspect a system of individual pairs of rollers on trailing arms, working against short, coil springs as used later in the ROF’s A7 series tanks. This would have been quite a novelty in 1926 so it seems very strange that it is not mentioned. The other odd feature is the prolific use of return rollers, five on each side to support the track. It is tempting to link A3E1 with A1E1, the Independent since they were more or less contemporary and both adopted a layout of scattered turrets. Both were also rather long and narrow come to that, which should have made them difficult to steer, but they were built by different organisations for a different purpose so it seems that any connection is purely coincidental. And that, as far as it goes, is about all we can say concerning this strange vehicle. By the time it was apparently consigned to the scrap heap in 1929 the first real light tanks had started to appear from Vickers Ltd. (Vickers-Armstrongs from 1928), far more practical machines in every respect.
  16. Above: German machine-gunners take cover during the Allied invasion. The German Army that met the Allied invasion of Europe on 6 June 1944 was very different to the one that had conquered France four years earlier. Many of Germany's best troops had been sent to fight in the invasion of Russia and the remaining soldiers - including foreign volunteers, Prisoners of War and 16-17 year old boys - were generally unfit for service. There were also shortages of vital equipment. Immediately before the invasion, the German coastal defences were subjected to a massive bombardment from air and sea. Some soldiers were buried under collapsed bunkers and many survivors were too shell-shocked to fight. (Right: German coastal defences under construction shortly before D-Day.) Disagreement about how the French coast should be defended meant that Germany's formidable Panzer Divisions were poorly placed to react to the Allied invasion. Forced to advance by day, many armoured vehicles were destroyed by Allied aircraft before they even reached the coast. "Dearest Lu, It is a hard fight that the army is having to withstand. I was up at the front yesterday and am going again to-day. The enemy's air superiority has a very grave effect on our movements. There's simply no answer to it. It's quite likely to start in other places soon. However, we do what we can." Letter from Field Marshall Erwin Rommel to his wife, 10 June 1944.
  17. Above: US Troops and Landing Craft, Weymouth Harbour "...the southern portion of England became one vast camp, dump and airfield" General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander Allied Forces on D-Day. Dorset's location on the south coast meant that it played a key role in the D-Day invasion. British, American and French soldiers were stationed in the county with large American camps at Poole. The American and Canadian soldiers were an object of curiosity, particularly to the female population. Elsie Ross a fifteen year old paper girl in Bournemouth in 1944, recalls: “…..."Hey girl! Over here!" A voice straight out of the movies stopped me in my tracks. Never mind not speaking to strange men they didn't come much stranger than this. Six foot four, black and shining as ebony and a white smile like a crocodile...” The American Rangers, given the job of capturing the German guns at Pointe-du-Hoc, trained on the cliffs at Burton Bradstock near Bridport. On the day of the invasion itself the American forces that captured Omaha beach set off from Poole and Weymouth. (Left: US Troops prior to embarkation, Weymouth Esplanade) Glider planes carrying Tetrarch tanks were launched from Tarrant Rushton near Wimborne. These tanks aided paratroopers in capturing important points behind enemy lines diverting German forces away from defending the beaches. Find out more from David Fletcher's article - Airborne in Normandy. (Right: A Hamilcar Glider at Tarrant Rushton) Operation Smash Mounting a huge operation on the scale of D-Day required months of planning and practice runs. On April 4th 1944, Exercise Smash was held at Studland Bay with DD Valentine tanks. Shortly after launching, the weather changed and the waves grew bigger. As a result, six tanks sank with the loss of six crew members. Although tragic this was a valuable lesson. The tanks were not seaworthy in rough weather and so on D-Day, the DD tanks were launched in shallow water. (Left: A DD tank, Studland Bay) You can see a Sherman DD tank with original canvas screen on display in the Museum’s Tank Story Hall. The British army also held a large-scale invasion exercise, somewhere along the South Coast, when infantry and armoured troops made practice landings under cover of huge air umbrella. The photograph (Right) shows troops wading ashore under fake enemy opposition.
  18. David Fletcher MBE, former Tank Museum Historian, presents another in a series of exclusive articles inspired by the historic documents and photographs held in the Archive. Above: A Tetrarch practising disembarkation from a Hamilcar glider. In action there would not be time to create that ramp of sandbags, the tank would just come rolling out and never mind the consequences. Today we can take it for granted that aircraft are available, the Americans and Russians have them, that can load a 58 tonne main battle tank, lift it into the air and fly it more or less as far as you like. And yet it was just seventy years ago, within the lifetimes of some of us, when airborne tanks were used in action for the first time, on D-Day of course, 6th June 1944. The tanks they used then were Tetrarchs; A17 Light Tank Mk VII that weighed 7.5 tons, carried in General Aircraft G. A. L. 29 Hamilcar Gliders which had to be towed into the air and then towed as far as they needed to go and cast loose close to their landing zone, the towing aircraft preferably a Handley-Page Halifax. Many of them left from Tarrant Rushton airfield, not far from here, on the early evening of D-Day to reinforce those who had landed earlier. The Hamilcar was not an attractive aircraft but apparently it flew very well. It was fitted with a large hinged door in the nose, for loading and unloading, while the undercarriage consisted of two large wheels attached to the sides of the fuselage with long oleo-pneumatic shock absorbers which could be deflated to bring the fuselage down to as near ground level as possible. Failing that, if the undercarriage was damaged, ash strips beneath the fuselage acting as skids held the plane steady as it skidded to a halt. Left: A Handley-Page Halifax towing a Hamilcar at an official demonstration. The glider still has its undercarriage in place. The Tetrarch was a pre-war design, offered by Vickers-Armstrongs as a new generation light tank, but considered by the Army as a light cruiser on account of its two-pounder gun. In the end it became an airborne tank by default, due to its size, not its fighting powers which were negligible by 1944. The three-man crew of the tank; commander, gunner and driver were supposed to stay in their places inside the tank while it was airborn but we know that some climbed out to look at the armada of shipping below, peering through a hole in the floor, although they were back inside, in time for the landing. During the landing the driver fired the tank up so that it would be ready to drive out at soon as the glider stopped. As the tank moved forwards it pushed against a strap which in turn caused the nose door to open and as soon as it started to emerge the entire fuselage tilted forwards but this didn’t matter anymore, the Hamilcar wasn’t going anywhere. In all eight tanks, belonging to 6th Airborne Reconnaissance Regiment, Royal Armoured Corps were landed, all apparently manned by Royal Tank Regiment crews, other Hamilcars carried different vehicles, for example Universal Carriers which soldiers at the time insisted on calling Bren Gun Carriers. According to the manual each Hamilcar was able to carry two Carriers but, as far as we can tell on the day, only one was on board each plane, otherwise they could carry up to 7983 kg of general cargo. Right: The Tank Museum’s own Tetrarch, a close support version mounting the three inch howitzer. If you look closely it is just possible to see how the tank steers, by bending its tracks. Once outside the glider the tanks were on their own. Most of them ran over discarded parachute lines that became tangled around the suspension and took most of the night to remove but the few that avoided this fate went out on patrol and at least two of these ran into German self-propelled 88mm guns, against which they had no chance at all. Come to that there were very few things in the 1944 German armoury that they could cope with so one is entitled to ask whether there was any point in sending them at all, except for the fact that it could be done. Left: A Universal Carrier having just reversed onto a Hamilcar, up the special ramps at the front. From this angle you get an excellent interior view of the nose door. Even so the operation had at least one unlooked for beneficial effect. The number of gliders and tugs in the air was astounding and is remarked on by many pilots. The sight, as they swept in to land was even more impressive and as much as it lifted the spirits of British troops already on the ground it dismayed the German defenders. Particularly the men of 21st Panzer Division aiming for the coast near Lion-sur-Mer, before Sword and Juno beaches linked up. Observing the great mass of aircraft landing in their rear they had visions of being cut off and decided to withdraw instead.
  19. David Fletcher MBE, former Tank Museum Historian, presents another in a series of exclusive articles inspired by the historic documents and photographs held in the Archive. Mention the name Delaunay-Belleville to anyone in France, anyone who knows about cars that is, and they will tell you that, up to 1914 at least they were regarded, like Rolls-Royce, as the best cars in the world, probably better even than the Rolls-Royce. In 1914 three of them, probably on a 40hp, six cylinder chassis, were acquired by the Royal Naval Air Service for conversion to armoured cars and, since some new information appears to have come to light on them it is probably time to tell their story. The new information which comes from a recently published book on Russian armoured cars by Maxim Kolomiets concerns a chap named Arthur Nickerson who we believe was a Royal Naval Air Service man. He is already known, or at least is believed to be the designer of the turrets fitted to Rolls-Royce armoured cars but now the suggestion is that he designed the turret for the Delaunay-Belleville as well, which opens up a whole new dimension to the saga. You see all the evidence, such as it is, points to the Delaunay-Bellevilles having been armoured in France, probably by the firm Forges et Chantiers de France at Dunkirk. That was the firm Commander Charles Samson used for all his armoured vehicle projects. It seems possible that the cars were designed to Samson’s order, he had recently started to receive armoured cars designed by the Admiralty but he didn’t like them very much because they were open at the top and offered precious little protection to the crew. It may be that he had the turreted cars built to show what could be done, however Forges et Chantiers had no access to real armour plate so the odds are, if they built the Delaunay-Bellevilles, that they were built of boiler plate, not genuine armour plate. It also suggests that if Nickerson designed the turrets he was based in France too, and probably one of Samson’s men. When Samson left France he brought many of his armoured cars home with him and the three Delaunay-Bellevilles were among them. They formed part of Number 14 Squadron of the Royal Naval Armoured Car Division, along with three Clement-Talbots, six Rolls-Royces and three Seabrook armoured lorries. They were based at Barlby Road, North Kensington, the Headquarters of the Royal Naval Armoured Car Division. Two of the armoured cars remained as they were, for how long we don’t know, but the third had an interesting and in some ways influential history. In the summer of 1915 this car had its armoured body removed and the body, without its turret, was placed onto an imported American tractor, a Killen-Strait. In that form it became, for a while, the first tracked armoured vehicle, a forerunner of the tank although whether it counts as an actual tank is a bit doubtful. The chassis of this armoured car then became a light truck, or what the Navy would call a tender, for general use in the London area. It must have lasted quite a while because in 1917 it was being driven by Lieutenant-Commander Toby Rawlinson RNVR, brother of General Sir Henry Rawlinson. Toby Rawlinson was in command of a mobile anti-aircraft battery charged with the air defence of London and on this particular day he was driving the Delaunay-Belleville on a visit to Foulness Island on the East Coast near Southend, where some of his guns were stationed. Driving across the tidal causeway Rawlinson passed on the wrong side of a marker post and the vehicle became trapped in the mud. Rawlinson jumped out and ran for it but the car was overtaken by the incoming tide and sank out of sight. Never to be seen again.
  20. “I hope you will receive these few lines as I don’t expect anyone will come to take me away,… you will always have the consolation that I died quite happy doing my duty." During the First World War commemorations on the 4th August at The Tank Museum, Corporal Duesbury’s story of courage and suffering touched the hearts of many. On 13th September 1916, John Duesbury, of the 2nd Sherwoods, was part of an attack in the prelude to the Battle of Flers-Courcelette. After a heavy bombardment from the Germans he was severely injured and trapped in a shell hole. 'I am writing a few lines severely wounded. We have done well our battalion, advanced about ¾ of a mile. I am laid in a shell hole with two wounds in my hip and through my back. I cannot move or crawl. I have been here 24 hours and never seen a living soul. I hope you will receive these few lines as I don’t expect anyone will come to take me away, but you know I have done my duty out here for 1 year and 8 months and you will always have the consolation that I died quite happy doing my duty.' 'Must give my best of love to all the cousins who have been so kind to me the time I have been out here. And the best of love to Mother and Harry and all at home.' Over four thousand people gathered at The Tank Museum to remember those who had fallen, including Corporal Duesbury who has no known grave. A First World War battle re-enactment showed the type of warfare that men like John Duesbury would have encountered, including the Museum’s replica Mark IV tank, after which the crowd fell silent for a Remembrance Service led by the Lord Lieutenant of Dorset and an army chaplain. Richard Smith, Director of The Tank Museum says, "The 4th August marked the start of four years of commemorations, when we as a Museum and as a nation will be looking back and ensuring that the actions of men and women, who lives were changed forever by the War, will be honoured." (Right: Challenger II and Mark IV, old and new stand side-by-side)
  21. Written by Sarah Lambert It is with sadness that we say goodbye to Reg Spittles, a lovely man, who passed away on 6th November aged 95. Reg served with the Northamptonshire Yeomanry and the 1st Royal Tank Regiment and saw action during the Normandy campaign in 1944. For his dedication and time as a soldier he was awarded (from left to right) the 1939 – 1945 Star, the France and Germany Star with Normandy clasp, the Defence Medal, the War Medal, and the Territorial Efficiency Medal. He remained a tank enthusiast throughout his life and in spite of his advanced years, along with his good friend and fellow ex-soldier Mike Bush (right), Reg made the long journey from his Northampton home to the Museum’s Tankfest event every year. With their stories and always present sense of humour, the two men were very popular with both Museum staff and volunteers. Reg was something of an author and kept up a regular correspondence with the Museum’s Curator, sending him stories of his time in Normandy. He also visited schools in Northampton to read the stories and talk to the children about his wartime experiences. The Tank Museum hopes to collate some of these letters and feature them as part of a display to mark the 70th anniversary of the D-Day Landings in June 2014. A verse from a poem by Reg Spittles, 1993: They loaded us up on transporters to take us back to Bayeux As we travelled up north past the places we’d fought Leaving comrades asleep in their graves They’d know we weren’t retreating, Giving up the ground they’d won. So we left them to rest at peace with the world In the warm earth of the Normandy sun. http://www.tankmuseum.org/ixbin/indexplus?record=ART4202&_IXMENU_=news_and_events
  22. It’s always a real treat when a new photograph turns up, especially when it comes ‘out of the blue’ and particularly in my case if it features the sort of vehicles I am interested in. This one, although perhaps not as sharp as it might be, is a case in point. It came to us from Mr Terence O’Neill of Lacock in Wiltshire and features, as you can see, a selection of Rolls-Royce armoured cars which seem to have halted in the village for a rest. The photograph was taken by Mr O’Neill’s grandfather and very appropriate too, since Lacock is virtually the home of photography in England. The interesting thing from my point of view, is the selection of vehicles at the head of the column. Right at the front is a Rolls-Royce, 1920 Pattern Mark I armoured car, in original condition. But behind it is one that has been modified to Mark IA standard. There are three major points of difference. Firstly, the armoured strips across the bonnet, intended to deflect incoming bullets away from the driver’s visor. Secondly, the way the Vickers machine-gun has been fitted to the turret in a bullet proof ball mounting instead of the more open style of mounting fitted to the unmodified 1920 pattern cars, and finally the large, oval cupola on top of the turret to give the car commander a bit more headroom and enable him to see outside in reasonable safety. This car also has the oval device on the side of the hull which should tell us that it belonged to the Royal Tank Corps and include its specific War Department number. The third car in the line-up is another Rolls-Royce but this time of the 1924 Pattern with a revised type of armoured hull and a new style of turret. It was one of the last batch of Rolls-Royce armoured cars built for the British Army, all on the 50/60hp Silver Ghost chassis. The 1924 Pattern cars also featured the machine-gun in a ball mounting and a cupola on top of the turret but the style of these makes the car instantly recognisable. The line-up of these three armoured cars is very unusual and most distinctive, as far as one can tell the other two armoured cars, further down the line, are both standard 1920 Pattern types and beyond them is a lorry, too surrounded by people to allow accurate identification but certainly a typical 6x4 in the 30 cwt class and therefore probably a Morris-Commercial. So what are they doing there, why are they parked outside the Abbey in Lacock at all? Well to be honest we don’t know, but two possibilities suggest themselves. Given the variety of vehicles they could be on a training run from Bovington, something designed to give the commanders some navigational experience and the drivers a bit of practice and accustom them to driving in convoy. The other possibility is that they are working with the Experimental Mechanised Force which took part in a military exercise on Salisbury Plain in 1928 and spread over most of Wiltshire. In that case the cars would belong to 3rd Battalion, Royal Tank Corps which was stationed at Lydd, in Kent. However if that were the case the mixture of cars seems a bit unlikely. So can we date the event? If it is the Mechanised Force then it must be the summer of 1928 but if they have driven up from Bovington it could be any time after 1924, when the third car in the line-up (and probably the Mark IA come to that) began to enter service, we cannot be more precise then that. http://www.tankmuseum.org/ixbin/indexplus?record=ART4161&_IXMENU_=news_and_events
  23. I’ve been doing some work on early American tanks lately, and came up with one that seems to be a bit of a puzzle, at least it seems that various authors are undecided on whether it was the real thing or not. The tank in question was apparently built at the Holt Manufacturing Company’s plant at Stockton, California, and made its first, and probably only, public appearance on 18 April 1918. The occasion was the visit to Stockton, California, by Colonel Ernest Swinton (Major-General in 1919, Sir Ernest from June 1923). Swinton was on a lecture tour of the USA and took time out to visit Stockton, to reinforce his claim to being the inventor of the British tank. While Benjamin Holt wanted his company’s part in the evolution of the tank to be emphasised at the same time, so that in a sense both individuals wanted to use the visit to their own ends, but for different reasons. In this picture (above) Benjamin Holt, looking suitably patriarchal is standing alongside Swinton who is making a proper Charlie of himself by saluting the little tank. Of course whether you regard Swinton as the inventor of the tank or not, the Royal Commission on Awards to Inventors certainly didn’t, but as to being the initiator of the idea of the tank, that’s a different matter. Holts also displayed one of their big 75hp tractors which Swinton always claimed had been his initial inspiration for the tank concept, the British Army had used about 1,500 of these during the war but mostly as heavy gun tractors. But to get back to that little tank. Certain authors, who shall remain nameless, seem to regard it as the genuine article since they include it in their catalogues of vehicles, whereas Reynold M. Wik, who wrote a history of Holt tractors, and who ought to know, refers to it as a ‘mock baby tank’. It was apparently powered by a motorcycle engine and had tracks built up from chain with track links made from wooden blocks. It was designed to look like a First World War British tank in miniature and presumably had a crew of just one man, who was very squashed up inside. The guns it mounted were all dummies and would have to be, unless they were served by a crew of very small midgets. One curious thing about it was that when it first appeared, before Colonel Swinton and Benjamin Holt and his assembled staff at the Stockton works, it had the simple word HOLT printed vertically down the side of the left sponson. However when it appeared on another occasion the word HOLT had been replaced by the legend H.A. 36 on the sponson (above) and across the front, which must mean something to somebody, and with the word CATERPILLAR in wavy letters on the side of the hull ahead of the sponson and behind. Now Caterpillar had been a registered trade name used by Holts since before the First World War, so referring to the Holt 75 as a Holt Caterpillar Tractor was perfectly acceptable but in 1925, after Holt amalgamated with Best, it formed the Caterpillar Tractor Company, a name by which it has been known ever since. Whether the little tank survived that long we don’t know, nor what became of it in the end. Maybe it still survives somewhere, even today, and if so this would be the time to bring it out, with 100 years of the tank about to be reached.
  24. Above: The Simms War Car. David Fletcher MBE, former Tank Museum Historian, presents another in his series of exclusive articles inspired by the extensive archive of unique historic documents and photographs held at The Tank Museum. I have been rummaging around in old files recently and amidst the bits and pieces that surfaced I found quite a few documents, articles and old cuttings, regarding the pioneer automobilist and armoured car designer F. R. Simms. Further stimulus came from my friend Stuart Gibbard who unearthed more information and some new photographs. Not that I propose to revisit all of that here, I have another object in mind. Freddie Simms is just the excuse. However we should acknowledge Simms’ place among the pioneers – he was not the only one by any means. His earliest essay dates from 1899 and involved fitting a Maxim gun to the handlebars of a Beeston Quadricycle, powered by a 1½hp De Dion engine which he demonstrated at Richmond in Surrey in that year (right). However much of what Simms did, his motivation if you like and many of the people he interacted with were more involved in the general history, the early history, of the automobile in Britain and the application of mechanisation to agriculture so what I really want to show is how a study, albeit a fairly superficial study of these factors will improve our understanding of his place in the history of armoured warfare. I imagine most people with a passing interest in armoured vehicles, and indeed many who are more focussed will at least be aware of the Simms War Car. It turns up in virtually every book on the subject of armoured fighting vehicles as if to prove that, from the very start the attitude of those bewhiskered old codgers at the War Office was dead set against anything mechanical or modern that might upset the even tenor of their way of life. Of course it wasn’t really like that, not quite anyway, but that well-known photograph, now almost iconic, of Simms’ massive vehicle, filled to the brim with top-hatted toffs outside the Crystal Palace in April 1902 seems to say it all (left). More than one writer has commented on the fact that there is not a uniform in sight, not even a policemen; indeed The Autocar commented on this at the time in the most disparaging terms. Incidentally the Crystal Palace seems to have been a popular venue with F, R, Simms. When he began importing Daimler cars in 1895 he demonstrated the first one at the Crystal Palace. However my interest at the moment and the object of this article is to take a look from another angle, in a way that Frederick Simms illustrates admirably. A friend of mine refers to it as ‘mixing your disciplines’ although in his case it usually means making a model with one hand with a glass of single malt in the other and nothing wrong with that, it has to be said. Simms was not a military man, indeed I can trace no military influence on Simms’ life at all unless he was a member of the Motor Volunteer Corps, as most of his associates were, so one is forced to ask where his military interest comes from. The answer seems to be that he had a wide range of interests extending from ordinary motor cars and lorries through these armoured designs and internal combustion tramcars to farm tractors and mechanical lawnmowers. Those photographs that Stuart Gibbard sent me, which I include here, are what inspired this piece because they illustrate my point precisely. Two are of the Simms War Car, parked on a road somewhere while the third shows his prototype farm tractor (right) and Stuart was interested to know whether I thought that this machine showed, in effect, the chassis of the former – in other words was it possible to say that Simms used the tractor as the basis for his War Car? My immediate reaction is to say no; Simms had a number of interests, each of which was unique in its own way and apart from the fact that both vehicles featured a four-cylinder engine and four wheels there was no direct link. I base this view on the fact that Simms had such a broad range of interests – mixing his disciplines if you like – that each project was a concept in its own right with only the most basic features in common. In any case the War Car pre-dates the tractor by a year; the latter was built and demonstrated at Ipswich in 1903. I think this becomes obvious when one compares the tractor chassis with the sectioned drawings of the War Car that appeared in The Autocar (right); the War Car is a lot bigger than the tractor and it has coil springs on the front axle whereas the tractor, as far as one may see, has leaf springs all round. The tractor also has a power take-off at the rear, for driving other farmyard implements – a typical agricultural application. We are told that the War Car was driven by a 16hp Daimler engine while that of the tractor is rated at 20hp; both are described as four-cylinder and might well be the same while the War Car, we are told, had a four speed Canstatt gearbox while one would expect no more than two speeds on a tractor; in addition to the power take-off of course.. The layout of the tractor is entirely conventional, even by today’s standards, but the War Car is not. The engine is located in the centre on the War Car and although it is described as a four cylinder unit it hardly looks big enough and there is no obvious location for a radiator. On the other hand the tractor chassis is laid bare, you can see the radiator at the front and the cylinder blocks, each of two cylinders, in line behind it. This leaves a lot of questions concerning the War Car unanswered; where is the exhaust for instance? According to the article in The Autocar, which reads a bit like an official handout or press release, the War Car’s engine was cooled by a Canstatt fan, driven off the engine, which sounds like an air-cooled arrangement; there is certainly no indication of a radiator or a water system, or indeed, any evidence of an exhaust pipe; while as the drawing shows the gearbox is apparently located behind the driving axle, which is a very odd arrangement. Perhaps someone with a better engineering brain than mine can make more sense of this. Now my idea of mixing disciplines involves more than single malt, although I have no objection to including that at all, but it extends to the point that my book shelves hold titles on early tractors and motor cars in addition to armoured vehicles, among many other things, but these will do just for now. The tractor itself, I think, can be dismissed fairly quickly. At this time Simms was acting as something of an entrepreneur, designing things, sometimes building prototypes but in the main offering his ideas to others to develop. From a couple of my books I learn that the tractor was developed, at least to the point of a working prototype, by the Ipswich firm Ransomes, Sims and Jefferies; although their Mr Sims was not our Mr Simms, nor even related as far as we known. They built and demonstrated a prototype tractor based upon Frederick Simms’ design in 1903 but failed to attract any customer interest at all and seem to have let the project drop. Simms himself of course was also interested in capitalising on the motor industry in whatever way he could think of although he, like many others, realised that this was a long term process – an idea that would only catch on if influential members of the public, followed as a matter of course by the public at large, took to automobilism in a big way. Thus, among his immediate circle he numbered the dedicated motoring enthusiast Sir David Salomans, the wealthy Evelyn Ellis and, inevitably, the Hon. Charles Rolls. A less exalted but in many ways more influential character was the diminutive businessman Harry J Lawson whose business methods, while not strictly speaking a model of probity, at least ensured that things got done. Simms, one suspects got tarred to some extant by Lawson’s brush which is why, some say, he never got the knighthood he might otherwise have deserved. Now, perhaps, you can see what I mean by mixing my disciplines. At one level, including Simms himself of course, we have some quite fascinating military connections. Ransomes, Sims and Jefferies not only built some of the early Thompson Steamers that Colonel Crompton acquired when he pioneered military haulage in India they were also involved in the production of special devices for 79th Armoured Division during preparations for the invasion of France in 1944 – so there are sound military reasons to study that company, but for similar reasons the firm that Charles Rolls and his partner Henry Royce founded in 1904 has had significant links with the military, almost up to the present day. But those things aside my point is this, that the whole subject, whether it be the history of tractors, or cars, or the persons involved is fascinating in its own right and the more one studies these things, the more one learns, the more interesting it all becomes. What horrifies me, and I come across it all the time, is the attitude that says ‘this is my interest, this and nothing else’. Believe me if you do not study the subject as broadly as possible; follow every avenue as far as it leads you will miss a lot and never even get a true grip on your core subject.
  25. Above: Mark IV tanks on a train leaving the Armstrong-Whitworth works in Newcastle. The leading one is uncovered, the rest sheeted down. David Fletcher MBE, former Tank Museum Historian, presents the first in a series of exclusive articles inspired by the extensive archive of unique historic documents and photographs held at The Tank Museum. Cuthbert Hamilton-Ellis, writing his entertaining story of The Midland Railway in 1953 recalls how, in 1917, he witnessed what he described as a trainload of Mark V tanks being hauled by a Somerset and Dorset 7F Class 2-8-0 locomotive rolling southward across the Dorset meadows. Now it is not my place to argue with the great man, he was writing many years before me and actually remembering things from a lot earlier, but if it really was 1917 then I would be inclined to suggest they were Mark IV tanks, not Mark V, but as he described them they were heavily sheeted down so it would be difficult, but not impossible, to tell them apart. However if it was 1918 then they could have been Mark V tanks or even Mark V*, all of which were built in Birmingham. Either way the delivery details outlined below still apply. But if they were Mark IV tanks, where had they come from? We need to realise that whatever the date this was before the establishment of a central tank testing facility at Newbury in Berkshire. In other words, where ever these tanks had come from they would have been tested locally before delivery. It seems therefore that if they were Mark IV tanks they could have come from Birmingham or Scotland; not Lincoln perhaps, trains from there are unlikely to have travelled by way of the Somerset and Dorset. The Somerset and Dorset Railway had its northern end at Bath, a direct connection with what was then the Midland Railway which itself had many connections with the London and North Western Railway, and of course the Midland itself, as well as the London and North Western served Birmingham directly and had connections with the Glasgow area through Carlisle. (Right) A Mark V* being driven aboard a Rectank wagon at the Metropolitan Carriage, Wagon and Finance Company works at Saltley, Birmingham, using the side loading method. Now although in fact the routes a trainload of tanks could have used from Birmingham and the north, could be many, the fact that this particular train finished up on the Somerset and Dorset gives some focus to the route used. The train would most likely have originated on the west coast, or possibly the west midlands. (Left) A Mark V* bridges the gap between two Rectank wagons, both of which have their end jacks down. This method was more common when they were end loading. So with the limited information available we can’t really say where the tanks came from. The odds are in favour of the Birmingham/Oldbury area because, according to surviving returns, they were delivering approximately 200 tanks per month while the three factories in Glasgow, Mirlees, Watson Co. Ltd., William Beardmore Co. Ltd., and the Coventry Ordnance Works were only turning out about 50 a month between them. Not that we know what constituted a trainload but probably not much more than a dozen so we can’t say for sure where they came from even then. (Right) A tank securely sheeted down and passing under the loading gauge at Saltley So where were they going. The fact that they were on the Somerset and Dorset is not much of a clue, it rather depends on which line they took after leaving Broadstone, heading south. Both led to the London and South Western line, but that to the right would have taken them down to join the South Western near Hamworthy and then on in a westbound direction through Wareham to Wool, where they would be unloaded and driven up the road to Bovington Camp. If, on the other hand, they had taken the left hand line out of Broadstone they would have continued down to join the South Western just outside Poole, heading east through Poole and Bournemouth and across the New Forest to Southampton, from where they would be shipped across to France with their final destination probably being Tank Corps Central Workshops at Erin, in the Ternoise Valley. (Left) Tanks being loaded onto a Ferry over the special terminal at Southampton. This only came in to service towards the end of the war. Before that tanks had to be craned aboard ship. So you can see how, even the chance sighting of a trainload of tanks in 1917 can’t really help us to decide where they had come from, or where they are going. What it does do is tell us that the Somerset and Dorset Railway was one of the routes they used. However the real point of all this is to say, as I have done a few times before. That one really needs to read all around a subject in order to learn as much as possible. Alright in this case it was pure chance that, while reading this book I came across the reference to tanks on the Somerset and Dorset, and I wouldn’t be reading the book if I wasn’t also interested in railway history, But the point is that you never know where a reference to tanks might turn up so I say again, as I have said before, keep your options open and your interests wide in case you learn something more. To find out more about The Tank Museum's Archive & Reference Library, click here.
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