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Bovington Tank Museum Live Day
Every Thursday at Midday (Summer)
Every Thursday at midday in the summer months the Bovington Tank Museum has a "Live Day" this consists of usually 6 live AFV's and one dead one.
The vehicles on display on the day I was there were an M60, an FV 432, a HVSS Sherman, a T-59, a Jagdpanzer and 2 Ferret Mk2's (one live one dead). Normally a Chieftain is used, but the M60 had to run in it's place as the British Army had borrowed the Chieftain, quite why I don't know.
The show goes for roughly an hour and takes place on an oval track/enclosure immediately in front of the museum car park. It attracts around 2,500 people each time.
Pyrotechnics are used to simulate gun fire.
The entry cost is only £1 per car, which must be the cheapest entry fee to anything in England: but is actually a voluntary donation and includes a chance at winning a ride in an MBT in addition to about 6 chances to ride in an FV 432 and 1 to ride in the Jagdpanzer! Should you wish to look through the museum you need to pay the normal fee once inside the museum building.
The show begins with a driving and tactics demonstration by a Ferret Mk2 and then on come the tracked AFV's.
This vehicle is said to be the most challenging of the demonstrated vehicles to drive. I was told it was captured during the 1991 Gulf War (there has been more than one war in the gulf in which British Forces have served post WW2). It was then used as a trials vehicle for re-armament with a British 105mm gun by private industry and was then handed over to the Tank Museum.
It is a Chinese version of the Russian T-55 Main Battle Tank and for all intents and purposes is the same vehicle. It is quite noisy (engine wise).
Since writing the above I heard a story about the T-59 getting loose in the car park and doing quite a bit of damage.
This is what I was told happened.
After the vehicle was no longer needed for the re-armament trials it was handed over to the museum, when it arrived the regular workshop crew were all off at some sort of event and the T-59 had to be unloaded from its transport and moved out of the way. So the job was done, the problem being that someone somewhere had either removed or left out the split pins etc in the steering controls. Once the vehicle was in gear and moving it stopped responding to control inputs (something had fallen to bits) and also would not stop! The driver tried to kill the engine but to his horror found that control didn't work either! So he was in there till the ride came to some sort of halt. In the process the T-59 went through the car park and damaged several cars badly. The owner of one particular car was in it at the time and despite the T-59 chewing on his car managed to get the event on video (the general opinion is "run first, video from safety"). This made the TV news all over England that night. They didn't tell me what finally halted the T-59, but as luck would have it no-one was hurt.
The workshop crew got to read about the whole thing (much to their surprise) the next day in the papers. One of the museum employees was rather disappointed that his car was next in front of the T-59 when it stopped, he said he could have done with a replacement vehicle.
This is probably the best known and most photographed of the museum's vehicles as far as the general public is concerned, not for its history but for that of its crew. (I missed their names can somebody provide them please?) The driver (73 y.o.) and Commander (78 y.o.) are both WW2 veterans! The driver served on one of "Hobart's Funnies" (the special purpose unit) and had a tank shot out from under him during the landing on a Normandy beach, then the landing craft that he was on for the ride back out to the armada struck a mine and sunk.
FV-432 Armoured Personnel Carrier.
The standard British APC for the 1960's, 70's and most of the 80's. It came with 2 different engine configurations, the early version had a Rolls Royce B80 series and the latter ones a diesel "multi-fuel". It has 2 half circle hatches on the roof and a single large side hinged rear access hatch.
FV-432 Armoured Personnel Carrier 2nd photo.
During the show the commentator asks for 6 volunteers from the audience to take part in the mock battle, they are then driven to the other side of the field, quickly don military overalls, a combat helmet and are each issued with a de-activated longarm. The participants seem to enjoy the ride but arn't so keen on the "run and drop" of infantry tactics.
M60 Main Battle Tank.
The "star" of the show is used to demonstrate overwatch from cover, autostabilised gun, turret movement and obstacle negotiation (knife edge). I have not included the photo of the M60 behind the knife edge in overwatch as it blends in so well with the building behind that you would not be able to see much. This photo shows it crossing the knife edge.
Here is the M60 after it has pivoted over the top of the knife edge and landed in the water crater. The smoke is from a pyrotechnic. Note that the commander has the turret slewed to the side so as there is no risk of the gun digging in.
M60 Closer up.
The M60 closer; they are large and impressive. On the day, the M60 was not running properly and this had been traced back to the "low sulphur" fuel that is now supplied in Britain, doubtless, a re-tune will probably solve the problem..
This was a post-WW2 German vehicle which rather than be an existing tank type up-gunned and turretless was a purpose designed tank hunter. The vehicle has a steering wheel and hydraulic steering which I am told lacks feel and is not popular for that reason. One interesting part of the design is the large single piece engine hatch; this is raised by inserting a handle into a jacking mechanism at the rear of the vehicle. Beats the heck out of struggling with most AFV engine hatches. With this vehicle comes the final chance for a ride on an AFV. A female is normally selected at random from the audience and gets to "guide" the Jagdpanzer to its position beside the knife edge.
A case of being in the right spot at the right time. The Comet had just been repainted and had been brought outside for a photo shoot as the centre piece in a funds drive to build a memorial to tank crew killed in battle. This vehicle is a runner and appears to have never been restored inside.
The Queen of the display vehicles is this one. They are large and impressive and this one looks to be in good working condition.
Doing the knife edge, with the turret slewed to the side you get a good impression of the size of the gun.
A rear view whilst underway, look carefully at how much mud is flung up by the tracks and how high it goes, even at moderate speed.
One of Bovington's problems is a lack of storage space. This is in part due to most of their vehicles having been supplied by the MOD on a keep or destroy basis (ie, not allowed to be swapped, sold or even leant). So they have to be stored within the museum boundaries. What you see here is just a part of the storage, these are mostly prototype or experimental vehicles. In the front and middle of the picture are concept vehicles that were tried and rejected when the Swedish came out with the "S" Tank.
As you would imagine, the display vehicles don't keep running without a lot of work. From left:
Douglas Greville (Visiting, not working!)
Mike Hayton (Workshop Staff)
Chatty Taylor (Workshop Supervisor)
Bob Nelson (Workshop Staff)
Andy Foster (Friend of the Museum)
Mike is a collector who managed to get probably the ultimate job for a Tank Collector - working on them for a living (and he gets to drive them in the display).
Chatty is the bloke responsible for making everything happen, both organising and hands on and is former Tank Corps.
Bob is former Tank Corps and Crew Commander of either the Chieftain or M60.
Andy is a volunteer who in return for assisting with projects can take part in the displays.
The Tank Museum is keen to recruit members for the "Friends of the Museum - ask the Museum for details if you are interested.
So if you will be in England in the warmer months, try and time your visit to Bovington for a live day, it is well worth the £1 for the show.
There is the 8 chances in 2500 of getting a ride in something: it's pretty long odds - but you never know. By the way, you can buy a ride in the back of an M548 (tracked truck) if you miss out.
Errors and corrections.
This article is all from memory. So if you see anything that needs correcting please email me with the information
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