I have written several Tank Rank articles now in which I rank the various tanks in the various Team Yankee or Flames of War books based on how good I think they are in the game.
Well okay, I rant away, go off on random tangents and form barely coherent arguments about why the tanks I like are the best, but the sentiment is the same.
Anyway, whilst talking about the pros and cons of the various armoured vehicles, one thing that I rarely talk about is that at the fundamental level, tanks are cool. So today sit back, relax, slurp a beverage of your choice, and bask in the glory that is large (and small) armoured vehicles.
Recently I went on holiday to Norfolk – for our international readers that’s the sticky out bit in the bottom right of the UK.
Whilst I was there, the Norfolk Tank Museum was hosting Armourfest 2021. This is an annual show of military vehicles, so, of course, I had to go along and see it, dragging the rest of the family with me.
This consisted of:
Me – tank enthusiast
My Wife – long suffering
My 9-year-old Daughter – enthusiastic, shouty and never sits still
My Mother in-law – nicknamed the pocket battleship
My father in-law – capable of falling sleep anywhere and at any time.
So, I thought you’d like to know about the day, what we saw, and what everyone thought of it. This isn’t just an excuse to turn my holiday photos into an article to keep Lee happy…….. Honest
30 men called Graham
One worry I had with going to the show was that it would just turn out to be 30 men called Graham sat around a rusting Centurion tank counting the rivets, but I was pleasantly surprised: there was hundreds of people there of all ages and genders, (so there were probably 30 men called Graham there in amongst the mix)..
Tank or Not Tank
As we queued up to get in, my daughter looked at the Scorpion sat at the entrance to the museum and said “Look daddy, there’s your first tank of the day”. There then followed a lengthy explanation of what was a tank and what wasn’t, which led to a fun game of Tank or Not Tank that lasted all day.
Once inside the show, we walked past most of the exhibits and headed straight for the arena. I’ll go back and talk about those later as on as I’m working in chorological order here.
The arena was a large section at the end of the museum grounds that was designed for the assorted armoured vehicles to galivant around on, show off their stuff and generally tank around. But, first up, where two more vehicles that everyone correctly identified as not tanks – the Fox and Saracen armoured cars.
These spent about 15 minutes frolicking around the arena and generally showing off, and once they left the arena, everyone agreed that armoured cars were cool.
Once the armoured cars had left the arena, the next thing that entered was a very battered old car, towed into the arena. Why was the battered old car towed into the arena I hear you cry? Why, it was about to be in the middle of a tug of between two armour recovery vehicles of course.
The rules are simple: both vehicles are tied to the old car. When the flag drops, they start driving in opposite directions and whoever has the biggest chunk of car still attached at the end wins.
The winner was the wheeled one (sorry, I’m not well informed on armoured recovery vehicles).
Although I’m going to call shenanigans on this; the car split very neatly down the middle, almost as if someone had cut through most of the chassis and bodywork and only left it together enough so it didn’t fall apart as it was towed in. The naff pyrotechnics that went off as it was pulled in half didn’t help. Still, how could a car being pulled apart ever be anything but cool?
A Mooch Around
After watching a car get ripped in half and wondering for the moment if I had just witnessed the brutal murder of an Autobot, it was time for a mooch around to see what else was there.
Short answer to this was lots of assorted armoured vehicles in a big circle and a few other things of interest dotted about. Here is a selection of what was there.
Cue the armoured vehicle picture montage
After the mooch it was time for something I had been looking forward to and dreading in equal measure – a ride in a BV 206. This is a fully tracked APC used by the Swedish army (and many others) and it comprises of a cab and a trailer and, to turn, pivots on the join between the two. It’s designed to cope with some of the most inhospitable terrain on the planet, so was right at home in Norfolk
The reason I was partly dreading it was I don’t like bumpy rides, but it was a ride in an APC so I couldn’t really turn it down. But I’m telling you, if these ever appear in Team Yankee, anyone who rides in them needed to be rated as Fearless. (Note from my 9 year old-“no daddy, the ride was amazing, the bumps were the best bit, it was sooooo much fun!”)
Shot in the Arse
Once I had recovered from my ordeal and eaten lunch – which I purposely saved for afterwards, it was time to have a look at the other stuff.
This comprised of a try at archery, (there was a competition in which the person who scored the highest on a dart board could win a ride in the Saracen but I didn’t take part in this as I was just glad my arrows went forwards. I did get the consolation prize of a smug feeling as my father-in-law had to ask for a lighter bow seeing as he couldn’t fully draw the original one they gave him. Although my daughter did beat me – with a special kids bow, so I’m claiming that doesn’t count.
Not content with filling a target full of arrows, my daughter then had a go at a target shooting with a pellet gun. She had great fun, especially when they switched it to full auto and pellets were going everywhere. She was mostly pleased when she proudly showed me the target and announced “Daddy I shot him in the bottom”.
Right, that’s enough of that, time to get back to the tanks.
People who like 1:1 scale gaming
Next up in the arena it was time for the procession. This was basically people who owned military vehicles driving them around the arena and generally showing them off. Sadly, most of these turned out to just be assorted versions of trucks and jeeps, with the odd more interesting thing every now and again. But then I suppose it’s a lot cheaper and easier to keep a truck running then a main battle tank.
Here are just a few pictures of what we saw- there must have been about 15 or so different things in the arena.
After the parade there was just time for another quick mooch around before the grand finale.
So, time for more tank porn
The Wasps Unmentionables
Then it was time for the big head line act, the crème de la crème, the bees knees, the mutts nutts, the grand finale. It was time for the car crush.
The principle is simple: a couple of scrap cars are towed into the arena, then a Centurion and a Chieftain enter. They drive around a few times, generally showing off, and then squash the cars.
There was, however, one issue: the chieftain had broken down.
After about 15 or 20 minutes waiting and with the Chieftain still not behaving, they decided the best thing was to let the Centurion have the glory and it was let loose in the Arena.
After a bit of posing it was time to get down to business; those cars weren’t going to crush themselves
The Centurion had a second pass over the cars to make sure they were well and truly squashed.
Then there was good news and a heavy diesel rumble as the Chieftain had been fixed.
In it came into the arena, bellowing clouds of dust and with its turret pointing backwards. It got to the first bend in the arena course and…. promptly broke down again. When it was restarted it attempted to rotate the turret and….. got the barrel stuck in a tree. Things were not going well for the Chieftain.
But after these set backs were sorted, it got its own chance to shine by driving round the arena and then firing the main gun – which was defiantly not just some pyrotechnics fired from a few meters behind it…..honest.
Those of us about to die salute you
There is a slight exaggeration in the section above. The car crush was the big head line act, but it wasn’t the final thing on. Next up the rebuilt Mark IV tank was going to take to the arena with some reenactors to help Field Marshal Haig move his filling cabinet three inches closer to Berlin. But I couldn’t watch that as I had a promise to keep in a different arena.
For you see there was a ground hosting an activity at Armourfest that had got the wrong end of the stick – a bunch of chaps dressed as medieval knights. Apparently, they had seen there was an event on called Armourfest and booked it without realising. They had set up an arena of their own where kids and their victims, err I mean grown-ups, could go and bash each other with foam wrapped sticks. I had promised my daughter she could have a go and she dragged me and the Father-in-law along with her.
So, explain again what makes it not a tank
That was Armourfest 2021 – Norfolks biggest tank show. It’s also worth pointing out that in Norfolk there is also a place called The Muckleburgh Collection which is a completely separate tank museum. That one has a much bigger collection but we’ve been there before several years ago..
If you are going to Norfolk and have the time, I’d highly recommend checking out both of them, especially if you can make it for Armourfest 2022, which next year might be spread across 2 days.
Collective Final Thoughts
Favourite Vehicle – Saladin, because having 6 wheels is fundamentally cool
Final Thought – The guy who drives the Centurion has a much cooler job then me
Favourite Vehicle – Daimler Dingo (sorry didn’t get a photo of it) because it’s cute
Final Thought – That was more enjoyable than I thought it would be (stop sniggering at the back)
Favourite Vehicle – Fox, because it’s cute and it’s called a fox
Final Thought – That was cool! I want to go to more tank shows
Favourite Vehicle – Centurion, because it’s big and didn’t break down
Final Thought – I swear that bow wasn’t working properly
Favourite Vehicle – BV 206, because she can tell her art club that she’s ridden in a “tank”
Final Thought – I still don’t understand what the difference between the tanks and not tanks is