The other day I shared some pics from the RAF museum in London, which reminded me of my visit to the British Tank Museum a few years earlier. The museum is in Bovington, which is a bit of a hike from London, but well worth the trip if you like huge metal vehicles that can blast holes in stuff (and each other). I had two cameras with me that day, one of which used a quaint material called "film" to record images. Unfortunately, I do not have digital versions of what I shot with that camera. But I had recently gotten a digital camera and shot a few pics with that. So, in that regard, this cross-section of photos is not as balanced as it could have been.
As I recall, the first room I entered was the World War I hall. Home of the goofy tanks.
This is not a tank really; it is a Hornsby tractor, developed before the war broke out. The British army used them and I suspect some people began to notice that the track system was an interesting concept. You couldn't drive it through no-man's land under withering machine gun fire just yet. What if we added some armor?
Okay, we've boxed in all the sensitive parts. It'll be a little while before someone figures out we can slope the armor. And mount a big gun? One step at a time . . .
Okay, now we're getting somewhere: that iconic shape and it's bristling with guns.
Some of these things don't look all that useful until you remember that the alternative was to crouch in a trench and pray. I read that this thing could do 8 miles an hour (which is why they called it the Whippet).
You fast forward from the WWI room into the WWII room and are greeted by this:
Hello. You'll notice that this Tiger II or Tiger B - sometimes called a King Tiger by the people it was shooting at - needs some detail work. On the plus side, it is not roped off. You have to love a museum where you can get up close and look at the exhibits.
And the Panther. I know the old Tiger versus Panther debate rages. The Tiger gets my vote but there are no wrong answers.
Yes, the Panzer II. Stay tuned; by the time we are done you will have seen roman numerals I - VI. (and look at his little brother on the left!)
I just think about the shipping costs to get a Russian KV-1 to England. Can someone run those numbers by UPS for me?
The Panzer IV is a classic. Used in all theaters where the Germans saw action, it had the highest production figures of all German tanks.
And the III. I am not including pictures due to space but the museum also has the Jagdpanzer versions of most of the German tanks as well.
And before we get to the finale, here is the Panzer I. You'll recognize it from the first 5 minutes of any World War II documentary.
Finally, the Tiger. This example runs and drives. On the day I visited (a weekday in the spring) there was no one else in the building but volunteers. The kind gentleman who was keeping an eye on this hall even let me move the ropes out of the way to take pics of the Tiger. I highly recommend this museum if you ever get to England. There is a post-WWII section as well and a couple of the tanks are cut out or have walkways to access them and to climb all over. You will not have enough time to take it all in.
Steve Lehto is an attorney and writer. He wrote Chrysler's Turbine Car: The Rise and Fall of Detroit's Coolest Creation and The Great American Jet Pack: The Quest for the Ultimate Individual Lift Device both published by Chicago Review Press. Follow him on Twitter while Twitter is still kind of cool. Twitter: @stevelehto