“ Address: Bovington / Dorset / BH20 6JG / England „
Having visited Dorset a couple of times this year we have paid a couple of visits to the Tank Museum in Bovington camp near Wareham. I'd never really visited this part of the Country very much prior to this year and the opportunity to look around the Tank Museum was very appealing.
The museum itself is located on the army base at Bovington where the majority of the British Tank training is carried out. The museum itself is in South Dorset and is clearly signposted from all of the nearby towns and is within a mile of Monkey World. There is a large car park in front of the Tank Musuem, which is completely free to visitors of the musuem.
It is very easy to find and with a large car park it is able to cope with an increase in visitors that will inevitably come during the summer. Both of our visits to the Tank Museum this year have been out of season and although the car park has been reasonably busy there were still plenty of parking.
When we arrived at the Tank Museum on our first visit I was a little shocked by the £11 entrance fee for adults, until I discovered that this ticket would permit you entry as many times as you like for a year. As we already had a trip back to Dorset in mind for later in the year this then worked out to be a decent price. Obviously the more times you visit the museum the better value this ticket becomes, but when you consider the size of the museum and the content it is a very good price. They also offer the option to gift aid your entrance fee, which enables them to claim back an additional fee from the tax office for any UK tax payers.
The prices for kids are also quite reasonable and also cover for a years worth of visits at £7.50. There is also the option of a family ticket for 2 adults and 2 children, which worked out at a reasonable saving of £7 for a family of 4, far better value than our visit to the Teddy Bear Museum in Dorchester. As well as the running costs of the museum itself they keep the tanks up to a working standard and the entrance fee represents excellent value to preserve an important piece of history.
The museum is open 361 days of the year with the closures being Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Years Day. For the remainder of the year the museum is open from 10 am till 5pm.
The museum itself is split into 4 different sections and I think it will probably be easiest to tackle each of these sections separately.
As you enter the museum they have perhaps the most interesting exhibit of all. It is a recreation of what the trenches were like for a World War One Soilder. It progresses through the war including a valuable history lesson on certain battles onto the contributions made by tank crews on both sides. I found this to be perhaps the most interesting section of the museum. The opportunity to climb inside a tank and see just how cramped they are, is a nice addition to the experience.
The next section of the museum is the Discovery Centre, which takes the visitor on a journey from the inception of the tank in 1915 through to the modern day. Within this large section they have a number of tanks from Armies all over the world, all of which have a different use. This is again another very interesting sector of the museum, if for no other reason than highlighting that tanks aren't just for firing shells at an enemy. They detail Tank strategies used in previous wars and it gives a fascinating insight into these powerful machines.
The final indoor section of the museum is a more detailed look at the history of the Tank as a weapon. It takes you through the inception of specific designs and even includes one of the museums most interesting exhibits about the Nazi's Bitlzkrieg tactics. This section of the museum also includes one of one 4 Tiger Tanks left in the world and the only one that still runs. The detail of each exhibit and the presentation of all the tanks in al three of these sections makes the entrance fee worth the money.
The final section of the museum is the Arena, where they carry out tank displays during the April, May, Summer and October holiday breaks. Unfortunately we've not been there on one of these days but I'm sure based on the quality of the museum this will also be worth seeing.
It would be fair to say that I was very impressed with the Tank Musuem. Despite my initial reservations regarding the entrance fee, I now think it was worth the money. I think the year pass really justifies the price of the ticket and I was surprised on my second visit how many exhibits I had obviously missed on my first trip. I think the museum really offers something for everyone both young and old. In a museum that can boast in excess of 300 vehicles I think the people behind the Tank Museum have gone to great length's to create a comprehensive and interesting attraction.
The exhibits throughout the museum are well set out and document a number of very important historical events. I really felt I learned a lot from my visit and think it is a good place to take Children to learn about some very important historical events. The museum itself certainly surpassed my expectations and after looking around the Tank related gift shop on both occasions I have really felt that the visit proved to be excellent value for money.
The Tank Museum does include a restaurant, but I have never been in and so do not feel that I can comment on this during this review of the Tank Museum itself.
When the car obessed love of your life announces he wants to visit a tank musuem whilst on holiday you grit your teeth and get it over and done with as soon as possible. Having been dragged around several dozen draughty small collections of random militaria over the past decade we knew precisely what to expect and we held firm to those expectations right up until the point we entered the car park. A proper car park with tarmac and parking bays. That makes a very pleasant change to playing avoid the rusty pile of junk in the corner a field.
The building itself is rather pleasing on the eye too. A low level rotund modern terracota venue with huge and imposing glass widows, a very generous outdoor ramp up to a terraced cafe and directly in front of the entrance a large childrens play area with enough equipment to appease the average ten year old whilst providing plenty for the under threes too.
The entrance to the building is light airy welcoming and heated. Things were looking up. The reception desk was efficiently manned by five members of staff who dealt with the small queue very efficiently and cheerfully. This turned out to be the general staff attitude throughout our visit. A vast proportion of the staff were actually volunteers with an average age of 80 or so making them the perfect guardians of a collection dating from World War I. No question was too obscure for them to answer and they were genuinely happy to answer any and all questions whether it be those of hyper excited four year olds or the more complex of mechanicaly minded adults.
As a family of four we parted with £30 which was about average in the area for entry to an attraction. Ordinarily this would be a single day visit but by opting to Gift Aid my donation, which didn't cost me any more but enabled the musum to reclaim the tax, this was automatically upgraded to a free annual admission to the tank museum for me and any other adult or children I chose to take with me on any future visits.
The museum is laid out into galleries according to date of manufacture and also the war the tank was developed for. Each gallerie is accessed via a very wide gently curving ramp making the entire museum fully accesible for pushchairs and the disabled. The entry hall contans a number of childrens quizzes and a selection of pencils with which to complete them. These range from a teddy bear hunt to a spot and identify the unit logo on each tank. It kept our children quiet and observant throughout our visit. Not that they needed the quiz as there were interactive facts for children within each room ranging from uniform jigsaw puzzles to explanations of camouflage. I discovered plenty of things I hadn't known before.
As for tanks there are hundreds of them although no more than one of any type. They range from tiny motorbike powered tanks to enormous armoured personnel carriers. They're all close enough to touch, many are available for you to look inside, several have been cut in half so that you can ride through them in a wheelchair and for £2.50 you can go for a ride round the outdoor test track in one.
The exhibits aren't limited to tanks. Theres a very realistic walk through scale model of the trenches which was very authentic (unless you were actually there in which cases it'll be nothing like the real thing as it was warm and dry and didn't smell) but it still gave pause for thought and explained more in five minutes than my school history lessons ever did. There are also displays of uniform, medals, gas masks, nuclear, biological and chemical warfare suits throughout the ages as well as short overviews of their original owners.
At 12 noon a tannoy announcement was made that an outdoor display would be taking place. Sufficient notice was given that we retrieved the picnic from the car and took a seat on the large grassy banking overlooking the site. Staff carried out extra seating for pregnant mums and those on walking sticks. Nothing was too much trouble. The display itself lasted 30 minutes with a very informed and most importantly interesting comentary with enough variety to keep the audience and most importantly the children within the audience captivated for the duration.
In fact there was literally tons to keep children occupied throughout from camo face painting to a huge childrens corner with colouring, dressing up and free computer simulation games as a tank driver on the battlefield.
The museum has a cafe and a separate coffee shop although we didn't use either the advertised prices weren't overly expensive.
If thats not enough for you the Tank Museum also offer a heap of extras including childrens birthday parties (£13 per person), a half day tank ride experience (£150 per person), a behind the scenes tour including a visit to the workshops (£45 per person) and the ultimate tank experience days (all of the above £265) which includes a driving leson over a two mile MOD cross country circuit.
The museum also offers an enormous varitey of out of hours lectures for between £10 and £12.50 per head with guest speakers including authors Chris Ryan and Bernard Conwall as well as military historains and the soldiers themselves. There are also an array of fundraising evenings including Proms in the Tank Park, Wartime Dinner Dances and the Light Cavalry bands rock and pop concert which are affordably priced at £7.50 per head or £20 including a 2-course buffet meal.
Toilets are plentiful, spacious and clean as is everything else about the museum. Theres a large gift shop too with an enormous selection of books on tanks.
If we lived closer I'd definately return again and again and again.
Over 300 tanks are on display here, ranging from WWI to the most recent Challenger.