On His Majesty's Service

The Tank Museum educates and entertains thousands of visitors every year, but behind the scenes we’re also doing our bit for King and Country.

The Tank Museum was established 99 years ago as a technical and teaching collection to support both the mechanical and weapons training of tank soldiers.

It has since been considered a part of the Bovington and Lulworth Garrison training estate, and an important part of our mission remains to support the Royal Armoured Corps (RAC).

Whilst we are now an independent charity, our board of trustees includes several serving army personnel, and our Chair has always been a retired senior military officer.

Our Collections Policy lays out the requirement to collect vehicles and artefacts that specifically record the history of the RAC, including vehicles that fought against them and others of particular interest.

Recruits and potential officers must all still visit The Tank Museum as part of their training to learn about the deeds and machines of their forebears.

Royal Tank Regiment soldiers on a visit to mark the 100th anniversaryof the Battle of Cambrai.
Royal Tank Regiment soldiers on a visit to mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Cambrai.

The layout of the “old” museum was clearly suited to the needs of the NCO Instructor so he could chronologically and simply explain the development of machines and systems.

The sectioned engines and gearboxes that were once liberally dotted about were remnants from those days.

The Archive and Library was established as a repository for years of accumulated military knowledge and the results of trials and problem solving.

Soldiers, including those from ATDU, looking through solutions from the past.
Soldiers, including those from ATDU, looking at solutions from the past.

The Army frequently finds itself looking to overcome issues they have encountered before. So, whether it might be the co-operation of infantry and armour, the introduction of new equipment, the development of tactics, or anything else, there are likely to be existing solutions or methods for tackling those problems that can be found in the Archive.

Areas of interest change with the geo-political climate. The early years of this century saw considerable interest in countering the insurgent or IED threat – but the fighting in Ukraine had revitalised military attention on the potential of fighting a conventional war in Europe.

The vast base of knowledge in the material available in the Archive and in the vehicle collection itself is now being used refresh the serving soldier as to the nature of a threat that hasn’t been considered seriously since 1989.

British MBT units are now deployed on mainland Europe as part of a NATO mission to the Baltic states to deter Russian aggression.

Prior to deployment, the Royal Tank Regiment held a study day at The Tank Museum where they looked at historical examples of warfare in the Baltic and reviewed studies on the use of tanks in wooded and artic terrain.

The origins of The Tank Museum’s running collection dates from a time when vehicles associated with important moments of regimental history were used in army events such as parades or tattoos. Some may remember the Bovington Battle Days of decades past.

Today, there are two T72 tanks in our running fleet. These are often used in army training on Salisbury Plain as a more realistic ‘Opposing Force’, where the soldiers can also take the chance to get good look at them.

The Museum's T-72 at Army Firepower demonstration on Salisbury Plain.
The Museum's T-72 at an Army fire demonstration. .

Much of the equipment we have seen used in Ukraine would be considered Museum pieces; vehicles such as the BDRM 2 and BMP 1 are present in the collection and available for soldiers to inspect.

A Ukrainian unit badge, gifted to The Tank Museum.
A Ukrainian unit badge, gifted to The Tank Museum.

It was recently reported that the British Army had been training the Ukrainian Army on armoured vehicles here at Bovington.

This saw Ukrainian troops and their volunteer interpreters visiting the Museum for special tours – and once again the T-72 was of particular interest.

As a “thank you” they presented the Museum with one of their unit badges which features the now famous tank-pulling Ukrainian tractor.

If translated, we are told, the text includes some fruity language as to what they think of their opposition!

Alongside the serving soldiers, defence industry and procurement agencies are also finding the museum an important resource in the work.

Such usage by the military establishment and serving soldiers ensures that The Tank Museum remains relevant to and informed of the needs of contemporary RAC soldiers, even though we primarily deal in the past.

This can only be a good thing for The Tank Museum and the regiments we serve.

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