I was a very happy camper on Saturday as I joined 11 other members of the South London Warlords in a trip to Bovington for Tankfest 2017, which was Kindly organised by the club. Even a 7:30 start from Dulwich (meaning I had to getup at 5.30) wasn’t enough to spoil the start of the day. The 3 hour drive in the mini-coach passed smoothly enough helped immensely by watching A Bridge Too Far on the on board DVD player, an inspired idea by Dave there.
I had never been to Bovvy before and I was quite excited to tell the truth and couldn’t wait to get cracking. Of course though we had to be civilised as a brew and bacon bap was needed by Dan and Daren before we ventured into the museum – I breakfasted on Pork Pie and Coke, the choice of champions! – but pretty soon we were in. The place was absolutely heaving with the event being sold out and so I didn’t take too many photo’s as there was usually someone in the way! We made our way round the museum and had an absolute blast, as if we weren’t going to enjoy ourselves really, it is a huge building full of tanks.
So we spent the whole morning wandering round the exhibits getting our tank nerd well and truly on, with each of us coming out with little nuggets of information or being the first to recognise a certain mark. Then there was the shooting competition. I noticed a Bren Gun set up in front of a screen and a young lad ‘shooting’ at it, apparently a Skill At Arms Test Simulator thing. It was only a pound a go and hence too tempting to not to have a bash, so we all duly did. There were other weapons that you could go on too dotted about the exhibits so the Vickers and PIAT were tackled as well – indeed we kept coming back round to where the Vickers was as there was always a queue! It must have been the combination of the boyish joy of being around all those tanks and watching the film on the way down that caused it but it was bleeding good fun even though I was useless!
The Tiger exhibit was well worth it and you can see why people were terrified of the buggers in WW2, they are truly impressive looking machines, the Tiger 2 being comparable in size to a modern MBT. I wasn’t too keen on seeing the ‘Fury’ bit though but as Dan said I suppose they have to take any sponsorship they can get. One thing that I particularly enjoyed was the many Centurions, hands down my favourite tank I reckon. Just a great looking bit of kit and still has to be one of the most successful tanks that has ever been produced. Good to see the Panzer IV too, a much overlooked tank I reckon and one that we all agreed on is probably the image you get in your mind if you think of a ‘tank’. Some of the ‘odder’ vehicles and funnies were interesting too such as the Preying Mantis and Matilda Canal Defence Light.
So with the museum done and the shooting comp finished it was outside for a couple of beers and to check out the show, where I bumped into ‘Lindybeige’ of YouTube fame which was nice as I like his stuff (fantastically eccentric, check it out). We had missed the morning’s event but got to see the WW2 and Cold War tanks doing the rounds of the arena which was, quite frankly, well cool! I loved seeing the Leopard 1’s (a German a3 and a Canadian C2) belting about and the incredibly squeaky Swiss Pz61 was a nice surprise. Hands down winner though was the Challenger, the speed of the turret traversing was quite frankly scary and it did look the business. We decided to skip the battle re-enactment to have a look around the conversation centre/shed which we all agreed we should have visited earlier as it had some great Cold War kit in – Marder, AMX-13 and AMX-VCI being favourites for me. I was quite surprised that just how big some of the vehicles were, the EBR-75 and 90’s are absolutely massive, as is the Luchs which made the Ferret seem even more ridiculously small!
As much as I really enjoyed the day out I could have done without the re-enacting. There was just something a bit off about people pretending to fight battles when there are guys walking about the same venue that have been doing it for real quite recently, I did see one squaddie looking quite despairingly at a couple of geriatric looking Fallschimjager as they walked past him. Having said that though the place was absolutely rammed with people from all across Europe and beyond so they must be doing something right, and the World of Tanks sponsorship seems to have been a success with a long queue at their stand all day.
It was soon time to head back to the coach though and after a sleepier journey home – with the fantastically bonkers ‘Excalibur’ to watch this time as ‘Zulu’ wasn’t working – we got back to London about 8 o’clock, knackered but thoroughly happy chaps. Many thanks to the club for arranging the trip, an absolutely cracking day out. Daren, Dan and I have discussed maybe putting a game on at next years Wargame show so hopefully we can get back down there again.