HAWKs Tankfest Tour (part 3, Tankfest Preview Day)

After breakfast in the hotel we headed for Bovington.  Friday was “preview day.”  Tankfest is officially Saturday, but getting there on Friday allowed us to see the museum and all the additional vendors brought in for the day.  Since most of the people were out watching the tanks drive around the track, the museum was pretty empty most of the day, which was great.

Approaching the Tank Museum

I took over 500 pictures on Friday, but I’ve only included 25 or so in this blog post.  That isn’t really enough time to even hit the highlights.  Suffice to say, it was a great day.  We took our time, read all the signs, had a chance to talk to some of the reenactors, and just immerse ourselves in the development of tanks.  It is really cool to see in person tanks you have only seen in pictures.  It really gives you a sense of scale.  The small tanks are really small, and the large tanks are really large.  The magnitude of the differences really hits home when you get to see them in person, stand next to them, and touch them.

WWI Mk. IV tank

The initial exhibit traces the development of tanks in WWI.  I think we spent more than 90 minutes in just this section of the museum.

German machine-gun in the WWI trench display
A British tank approaches the trenches
Don, Eric, and me ready for action
Another view of this Mark IV tank
This is a Mark VIII, I think. It could hold 30 fully-equipped soldiers and is the first armored personnel carrier
The HAWKs Tankfest Expeditionary Force
Fascines atop a WWI tank

In many cases, there were glass windows cut into the WWI tanks so you could look inside them.  In other cases you could walk through them.

After the WWI exhibit, you enter the Hall of Tigers, dedicated to Tiger Tanks.

I found this sign particularly interesting. As the Tiger tank was so iconic, it is interesting just how few there were of them.
Me in front of a Tiger I tank in the Hall of Tigers

After the Hall of Tigers, we entered the WWII floor.  Again, I took over 500 photos, but I am only including a few.  It is very difficult to imagine the size of the museum and all the really investing vehicles on display.

An M5 Stuart light tank in the big display room
An M3 Stuart light tank
A German Stug. III
German Panzer II L
PzKfz 234/3
A duplex drive (DD) Sherman tank in the Hall of Tanks. You can see the Sherman through the window they have cut into the canvas skirt.
A French Char B
A Japanese Type 95 Ha-Go tank
A British Cruiser Mark V tank
A cutaway view of a British tank lets you see just how crowded a tank can be.

Then we entered my favorite part of the museum, the Hall of Tanks.  This traces the early development of the tank (on the left) through the Cold War (on the right).  There are a number of displays that allow you to view archival footage of many of the vehicles.  Note that despite this being Tankfest weekend, the crowds were low inside the museum.

A ball tank in the sci-fi tank exhibit
The model fortress in the sci-fi tank display

One of the interesting displays what was not here last year is a display of tank concepts throughout history.  There were probably 30 on display, but I only provide pictures of two here.

A French, Char-B on display.
A French FT-17 on display
Me next to a WWI tank
A German A7V reproduction ready to roll onto the field

There are a number of visiting, refurbished or reproduction tanks on the display, including those pictured.  Most of these are supposed to be driving around the track on Saturday.

There were a number of re-enactment groups set up around the periphery.  Some of the groups were very happy to interact with you.  Others seemed somewhat standoffish.

I have two of these for gaming, but this is the only time I have seen an airborne armored jeep in person.
Some weapons on display with the 29th infantry. You don’t often see some of these weapons.
An Army war correspondent
A group representing the 101st Airborne
A German “squeeze bore” gun in one of the reenactment group areas
The “barn.” As with most museums, a fair number of the artifacts cannot be put on display. For Tankfest this additional storage area was open to the public.

An thus ended our first day at Tankfest.  After an uneventful ride back to Poole, we had dinner in a local gastropub, watched a couple episodes of Hogan’s Heroes, and went to bed relatively early.

HAWKs Tankfest Tour (part 2 – The Imperial War Museum)

Eric, Duncan, and Don near Westminster

The next morning we checked out of our hotel, left our bags at the front desk, and got on the train.  Our intent was to hit the Churchill Cabinet War Rooms, the Imperial War Museum, and (if time permitted) the National Army Museum.  After an uneventful tube right to Westminster, we headed for the War Rooms only to find out that the wait was over two hours and that we should have booked our tour ahead.  I have been here before, and there has never been a wait, but apparently the recent Churchill movie has made the War Rooms immensely popular.  So we walked to the Imperial War Museum.

Don, Duncan, and Eric in front of the Imperial War Museum
Eric, Duncan, and Don…
The entrance hall of the Imperial War Museum

The Imperial War Museum is free.  The lowest floor is mostly WWI, and it is quite well done.  It hadn’t changed — that I could tell — since I was here with my family last Summer, but it is nonetheless very nice.  I took a WWI class at West Point, and it is hard for Americans to grasp the impact of WWI on the British and the Commonwealth, where almost an entire generation was killed in France.

A WWI tank behind signs urging the US to enter WWI

We had planned to spend 90 minutes here and then head to the National Army Museum.  After two hours we had just completed the WWI section.  We decided to take the short, guided tour.  This tour highlighted displays on the first three levels of the museum.

Our guide for the highlights tour of the Imperial War Museum
Silhouettes of soldiers on a trench wall in the Imperial War Museum.

The tour was short but informative.

A WWI airplane at the Imperial War Museum
Some WWI weapons

After a short break for lunch in the cafe, we had about 45 minutes to take in some of the other exhibits before heading back to Paddington and our hotel to pick up our bags.

The front of a Lancaster bomber from WWII
A two-man submarine from WWII
A Smith gun

This was one of the more interesting displays for me, since I just bought one for gaming hypothetical Sea Lion scenarios.  It fired a 6-lb armor piercing shell that was useful out to 50 meters and an HE (anti personnel) shell out to a couple hundred meters.  When tipped on its side, the lower wheel became the traverse mechanism and the upper wheel provided some overhead protection.

So, we had intended to stay 90 minutes.  After four hours we hadn’t seen everything, but we had to get on the road.  We took the Great Western Railway train to Burnham where after another short walk (to Don’s dismay) we arrived at Enterprise to hire a car.  Most of us packed lightly, but Eric brought a steamer trunk, so I was a bit worried about whether we were going to fit.  While I filled out the paperwork, Duncan, Eric, and Don Tetrised our stuff into the boot.  I have to say that driving on the left side of the road is much easier the second time around.  In two hours we arrived in Poole and checked into our hotel.

Our hotel in Poole (a Holiday Inn Express). This is the only hotel we stayed in for two nights.

In London at the Mitre House, we could barely fit into the room, but the room here at the Holiday Inn Express in Poole was quite spacious.  We then took a mile walk to the seaside where we had our choice of several pubs and restaurants for dinner — along with some football hooligans.  We got to bed quite later (nearly 2300 GMT).

Lord Baden Powell at the Poole seaside

On the way back to the hotel, we passed this statue of Lord Baden Power, the greater of Boy Scouts.


HAWKs Tankfest Tour (part 1)

Arriving at our hotel in London.

Last year, I came to England with my family, and we had a great time.  A highlight for me was a visit to the Tank Museum in Bovington.  As with many museum visits, my family patiently put up with Bovington for a couple of hours and then kept hinting that it was time to leave.  So, I suggested that some of my wargaming buddies and I should head to England for Tankfest at Bovington and while there visits to some other military history museums.  Candy did the lion’s share of the work to pull this together.

The National Maritime Museum.

Our first, very, very long day involved the flight to London, train to Paddington Station, and check in at our hotel.  The we took a somewhat eventful tube ride to Greenwich.  I didn’t realize how far apart the North Greenwich and Greenwich tub stops were or that we had to transfer to the DLR.  Then none of the locals could tell us how to get a bus ticket to complete the trip. So after a little floundering, we arrived at the Maritime Museum.

The Maritime Museum is free.  We spent about two hours here, and we were able to see most of what was on display.

A handsome and study visitor to the Royal Maritime Museum.
A WWI era motor torpedo boat.

I found this model of a WWI-era motor torpedo boat very interesting.  A few years ago I wrote a set of wargaming rules for motor torpedo boat games in WWII.  I knew there were motor torpedo boats in WWI, but I had never seen one.  I am not sure how the torpedo was launched since it is facing into the boat, but I suspect the propellors were wound up, the torpedo was dropped, and the boat veered quickly to the side.

The main deck of the Cutty Sark.

After the Maritime Museum, we decided to visit the Cutty Sark, which was once the fastest ship in the world.

The ship’s bell.

We entered the Cutty Sark in the cargo hold, visited the tween deck, walked the main deck, and visited some of the cabins.

In the officer’s ward room aboard the Cutty Sark.

The ship was interesting, and there were some nice informational signs.  There were no docents to help explain things or answer questions.  Unlike the Constellation in Baltimore, there was not audio self-guided tour.  At 13 GBP, I thought there would be more explanation, but it was nonetheless a worthwhile experience.

The underside of the Cutty Sark. Note how the ship’s hull does not touch the ground. It was jacked up to prevent the hull from warping.

After the Cutty Sark, we stopped in a pub for dinner.  We were all beginning to run out of steam.

Finishing up out dinner in a Greenwich pub
Duncan, Don, and Eric at the Globe theater in London. Don had just take a happy pill.

In an effort to get our bodies on Greenwich Mean Time, we decided to attend a play in the Globe theater in London before returning to our hotel.  We saw the Shakespearean play A Winter’s Tale.  We were all fading, so  keeping up with the rapid, Elizabethan dialog and the proper accents was something of a challenge, particularly since I didn’t know the play. Last time in the Globe I saw The Taming of the Shrew, which is one of my favorite Shakespearean plays, and I liked that better, but it is always interesting to attend a play in the Globe.

This concluded day one.  We went back to our hotel after a longish walk along the Embankment to Waterloo Station and a short train ride to Paddington.  All the old timers said they had had enough walking.  Duncan’s fit bit measured us at nearly 18k steps.