If you have been following Arcane Scenery on Facebook you will already know that I was fortunate enough to be able to get to Tankfest at Bovington this year. What a fantastic day out! If you are at all interested in tanks, either as a wargamer, modeller or just as an enthusiast, then this show is a must visit event. I am always somewhat wary of attending these big set piece shows, fretting that it will be too busy, parking will be an issue or it will be over priced. Tankfest suffered from none of these issues as far as I was concerned. Yes, it was sold out and there were thousands of people there. However, the organisation was superb. We arrived at 10.00am and were directed into one of the car parks without delay and from there it was a short walk to the entrance. There was a very long queue of spectators waiting to get in, but the queue was always on the move and as we were walking past parked up tanks and could see into the Live History exhibition, the queue was actually quite a pleasant experience, a phrase that I never thought that I would use.
Security was quite tight, with armed Policemen keeping watch over proceedings. Mind you, I did have to supress a smile and a ‘smart alec’ answer when asked if I had any alcohol or knives in my rucksack. I understand that the beer concessions have to make their money – as for sharp knives, within a step of getting through the entrance, I was surrounded by enough military hardware to re take Iraq. If I’d forgotten to bring my bayonet there were plenty on show and plenty of Army surplus suppliers well stocked with all sorts of hardware. Ah! The joys of modern life, but I digress.
Once into the event enclosure, there was plenty to do and see. Your event ticket gives you access to all areas and the exhibition is split into the following sections: The Tank Museum, itself split into 6 or 7 halls and beautifully laid out; The workshops and conservation hall, where the ‘overstock’ of vehicles ready to be conserved or serviced are stored; The tank park, where the vehicles that were running were on display in between shows; the Living History encampment, full of re enactors and their vehicle and weapons; the traders tents, although some traders were housed in the museum itself; the hospitality tents and finally; the Arena, where the live action is taking place. To be honest at first I didn’t know which way to turn! There was just so much going on.
Inevitably, we gravitated to the arena and despite the crowds, managed to find a spot to see the tanks in action. Having just missed the Leopards tearing up the arena, we watched the more sedate D-Day Embarkation Convoy parade. There were plenty of WW2 vehicles in the parade, including a few rare beasts. The highlight for me, being the ShermanM4A3E8 ‘Fury’ from the film of the same name. At this point, I realised that I was in trouble…Although I am a Tank enthusiast, I was struggling to recognise and remember the names of all of the vehicles that were being paraded. What with trying to video them on my phone, take pictures using my camera and actually watch the parade, it seemed impossible to take notes, so you will have to forgive me if some of my vehicle identification is a bit off in this early report!
So note to self, next time bring a note book! If I was a bit confused by the Armoured Cars, the WW1 tanks were a bit easier to spot. It was something else to see these running in the arena. OK, I realise that they are replica’s but nonetheless, we were treated to a fantastic parade of the French Saint-Chalmond:
Followed by the British Mark IV, as seen in the film ‘Warhorse’:
And finally, bringing up the rear, a German AV7!
As an added bonus, there was a Rolls Royce armoured car from which the commentary was taking place:
After the WW1 tanks there was a bit of a break, so it was off to grab a bite to eat (Giant hot dog and diet coke…oh the irony in that choice!) and then on to the Museum. Now at this point in my review, I will take a short break and leave you with a couple of pictures from the main hall in the Museum, ‘The Story of the Tank’. I actually took nearly 300 Photos at Tank Fest, as well as half a dozen videos and it would neither be practical or fair to expect a reader to plow through this lot. My plan is to edit them, caption them and upload them to a hosting site where interested parties can access them at their leisure. So watch out for Tankfest part 2 next week.