Poole, U.K. – This is Armed Forces Weekend in the U.K. It’s also the weekend when the Tank Museum, in nearby Bovington, throws TankFest, a three-day celebration of motorized armor. For those readers in the D.C. area, it’s something like the Andrews Air Force Base Air Show, but with tanks.
The Tank Museum is next door to a British military base that specializes in tanks, personnel carriers, and such, and the two have a close relationship. The weather was on the warm side but there was a breeze and the sky was clear – a perfect day. There were thousands of attendees and the event was very professionally organized.
I splurged for a VIP ticket, which got me fast-track entrance, food and drink all day in a special tent, and a seat in a covered area for viewing the action in the arena. The latter was really important as everyone else sat or stood in the blazing sun for hours.
The museum is a very large, modern, well-run institution that has been around for decades. It’s filled with tanks, armored personnel carriers, etc. – anything with tracks or wheels and a big cannon. Many of them have been restored in a huge center on the premises.
My old friend and former work colleague Mike Mather joined me and we had a great time meeting other attendees. For example, there was a man and his recent-college-grad son from Oshkosh, Wisconsin that sat across from us in the tent. For that matter, there were lots of dads and kids there.
German Tiger tanks in the museum, and yours truly among a bunch of tanks in the Restoration Center.
The tanks themselves were awesome. In the arena, tanks and other vehicles were put through their paces on a weaving course, over hills, and around the perimeter. It was amazing to see how fast some of the modern tanks, like the 62-ton Challenger, could move, and how deadly they looked. There was an announcer who kept up a running commentary on the vehicles’ histories and stories, and there were separate programs in the arena featuring vehcles from different countries and eras.
I chatted with a few other visitors from the U.S. and many said this was a “bucket list” event for them.
Many of the vehicles were driven by instructors from the military base and I was able to talk with a few of them in the arena staging area (above). Boy, did these soldiers seem young. But they were very friendly and knowledgable, willing to answer questions. We were also allowed in this area to get a look inside (even get inside) some vehicles. Great fun!
What a great day out – fantastic weather, great experience, and a sea of testosterone. Cheers!