Might and power
PUBLISHED: 12:00 03 August 2015
In a quiet corner of south Norfolk, an impressive collection of military strength has been gathered together, as Angela Youngman reports.
Where can you climb into a Chieftain tank, discover what it is like to sit in a Saladin armoured vehicle or have a ride in a BV amphibious vehicle across a bumpy purpose built assault course? The answer is the Norfolk Tank Museum, near Long Stratton.
Earlier this year, the museum appeared on BBC Two’s Antiques Road Trip programme when antiques specialist Paul Laidlaw came for a visit. He was featured taking a ride across the fields in one of the vehicles in the collection, accompanied by the curator Stephen Machaye.
A private museum, The Norfolk Tank Museum contains numerous tanks and other armoured vehicles dating from the 1940s onwards, including examples from the USA, Russia and Sweden. The majority of the vehicles are in full working order. Visitors can discover the differences between various types of machine guns, rifles and anti-tank weapons and talk to enthusiastic volunteers about the weapons and vehicles on display. There is also a collection of small arms and uniforms spanning more than 100 years of military history.
Even more can be seen on the weekend of August 15 and 16, when the Norfolk Tank Museum holds its annual Military Vehicle Weekend. This is complete military vehicle mayhem as tanks, armoured cars and other vehicles take on the assault course, tearing up the turf as they climb up and over countless ridges. It is an awesome sight as the vehicles roar around the field, raising clouds of dust and highlighting the sheer power of these massive vehicles. Numerous re-enactors take part, with displays bringing alive different periods of recent history from the Second World War onwards, plus a birds of prey display, archery, food and drink. In the evening there is a hangar dance and licensed bar. The Swing Machine big band brings alive the music and style of the late 1940s to enthusiastic dancers, many of whom wear period dress. Tickets to the hangar dance must be pre-booked.
The Norfolk Tank Museum is very much a work in progress. Many of the vehicles are under restoration, so visitors can often see new projects underway. A team of volunteers carries out all the restoration work on the premises and they enjoy talking to visitors about their work and the vehicles they maintain so carefully.
The Norfolk Tank Museum is open Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, May to October; Station Road, Forncett St Peter, NR12 1HZ; 07703 337714; norfolktankmuseum.co.uk