It’s the Easter holidays and today is one of three days over the entire School holidays that we are all together. As the boys get older its harder and harder to pin them all down in the same building let alone get them to commit to a ‘family day out’. Being all boys we needed something irresistible to tempt them to cancel planned or expected Xbox games or gatherings with mates.
Bovington Tank museum was a regular and popular destination when they were much younger. We’d be accompanied by three youngsters all dressed head to foot in ‘army gear’. We then realised that we hadn’t visited since all the refurbishments were completed, and probably not since I needed the wheelchair. To our surprise the boys agreed to give us their company for the day, even getting up early so we could leave by 10am!
10.01am we left the house and complete with picnic, hoodies and coats( just in case) we set off in the mini and sunshine to Dorset.
We arrived just after 11 to the impressive new building. The car park was already filling up and we were greeted by WW1 recruits as we entered. The ticket buying was efficient and all very wheelchair friendly. For three teenage boys ( all under 16) and the two of us it was under £35. This ticket allows us all re entry as many times as we like over the coming twelve months. (Aren’t I glad to have sons…)
We wandered in and found ourselves in the massive ‘Kuwait’ display hanger. Some interesting and well written displays showing how tanks were developed during the first world war and lots of quotes and references to Winston Churchill, who can easily be thought of as only an influential character of the Second World War.
Just as we were settling in to working our way around the exhibits an announcement was made that they were moving a ‘Tiger’ tank from a display to an outside workshop and as its the only working Tiger tank in the world it was an opportunity to see it moving. Out we went with around fifty others to the car park in time to feel and watch the beast thunder past. This was so exciting for everyone and hubby recorded it on his phone. It was replayed several times over the next ten minutes!
As we made our way back to the entrance we stopped at a huge new memorial honouring the deaths of way too many from the Tank regiments based at Bovington. The whole of one side was full of the lost in various campaigns just SINCE 1945! It was enlightening and sad to see so many fall in so called ‘Peace’ times. Congo, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Egypt, Northern Ireland, Kenya, Western Europe to name just a few
Back in the museum we decided to start with the ‘horses to horsepower’ display. This begins with an old favourite Bovington exhibit of WW1 a French street with a Bar and the trenches. We were very lucky to have walked in on a tour and the guide was very informative. It was his talk that gave the boys memorable and new war time facts; 20,000 men were killed in the first two hours of the Battle of the Somme….the two hours on, four hours off seven day shift that soldiers did in the trenches, the high quality and safety of the German trenches compared to the squalor of the Allied ones and the difference between male and female tanks. All that in under an hour. As we reached the horse displays another announcement was made saying that a n outdoor display and battle reinactment would be starting at 1oclock.
We made our way up the slopes past the cafe to the grassed terrace and bank where already a crowd was gathering overlooking a large area a with a mound. Perfect timing for me, by now I was tired and hungry so we laid out the picnic rugs on the grass and the boys fetched the picnic basket from the car.
The display was great fun with the articulate and interesting commentator telling us all the difference between tracked and wheeled vehicles and the various fuel types. Then as an interesting turn of events he asked who was on holiday, as it was a Monday, of course we all answered ‘yes!’ He then proceeded to tell us about the news that we would have all missed that was in that mornings newspapers and television announcements; a group of rebels from ‘Roratania’ had landed on Lulworth Beach and were trying to invade. It was then that the now familiar thunder of a heavy duty tank could be heard and into the arena. The rebels all dressed in Black holding black flags out from their German post war built Panther tore across the arena, mounted the mound and raised their flag. Boo hiss… Then ‘horrah!’ The British sent a reconasence wheeled jeep out to assess the situation. A few moments later a British tank arrived and unloaded two groups of ‘soldiers’ ( volunteers from the audience picked earlier and given twenty minutes of training). They advanced and eventually captured the rebels and re took our mound.
During this there were several rounds of gunfire and some loud bangs. My body leaps at any and every sudden sound so the boys thought this was hilarious having me all but leave the ground at every firing! At last it was over and everyone returned inside the museum, leaving me to relax and have a nap in the sunshine. I had a perfect hour dosing and was retrieved by the boys when they had had enough.
I was led out through the shop. I remember previous visits trailing through air fix kits and combat clothing, well that was all still there but as reward for all the mums, daughters and grannies, a vast display of pink and fluffy along with a wonderful collection of vintage and War time memorabilia, sewing kits, kitchen ‘pinny’s’ and a great greeting cards. Perfect as I have several friends birthdays coming up!
So marks out of 10? Two ‘8s’ a ‘9’ and a ‘7’ from the boys. I’ll give it a ’10’ as it ticked all the boxes for me, boys happy, I can rest. If it was raining I would have had to lay out my rug amongst the tanks for my rest which may have been distressing for younger visitors. (‘ mummy has that lady been run over by that big tank?’) if I was more able and not a keen tank lover then I could have made use of the large cafe should the weather not have been suitable for sunbathing, so still able to get full marks!
There have been murmurings of visiting our local Haynes motor museum following its recent massive refurbishment….maybe I can delay that until the next school holidays. I’ll let you know how we get on!