This is the first of two posts showcasing some of the pictures I took at the Tank Museum's Tiger Day event on Saturday. As Premium ticket holders my Brother-in-Law and I had special access to the Tiger Tank, a programme of lectures by the likes of David Willy and David Fletcher and the chance to talk to members of the restoration team throughout the day.
Our day started at 08:15, nearly two hours before the public had access to the museum. Over bacon rolls and coffee we were given an introductory talk by David Willey outlining the itinerary for the day and introducing us to the team that could be consulted at any point of we had questions (kudos to them all, they were brilliant!). Then we were split into two groups and while one half went off for the first lecture of the day the other half (myself included) were taken down to the Tank Story hall and given a detailed look to some of the vehicles.
One thing I wasn't expecting was the chance to look inside the Tiger and the Panther. The hatches were opened and after climbing up a ladder we were able to poke our head and shoulders inside the turret for a good look around. The original 'restoration' of this vehicle was more concerned with the running of the tank but this time the emphasis was on a proper historical rebuild of the inside of the crew compartment as well as the engine. Items like the commanders flash curtain have been restored and the fire suppression system that was installed during the first restoration has been removed. This latter change has improved maintenance access as well as returning the inside of the tank to a historically accurate condition.
The level of detail inside this vehicle has to be seen to be believed. Bare in mind this vehicle was repainted by the British shortly after its capture so all the paintwork we see now has been painstakingly recreated from original photographs and historical documents, many of them in German. Even the numbered 'plugging points' (to make the tank waterproof for deep wading) have been recreated.
The engine was also fully refurbished and entirely new gearboxes had to be constructed to run the cooling fan system. No original gearboxes could be sourced for this so the museum found German wartime blueprints and located a British engineering firm to build the parts from scratch. This wasn't as easy as its sounds. All German tanks were essentially hand made and so there is no such thing as accuracy and consistency. Blueprints are no help if the parts end up 1/100th 'out' of true!
While I was waiting my turn to get inside the Tiger I was lucky enough to have a chat with Paul Duncan the museum engineer tasked with rebuilding the gearboxes. He said it was a massively difficult task for a such a small part of this tank.
The most enlightening thing he told me however was that the rebuild process had made him realise just how over-engineered the Tiger was. The Gearbox had two oil pumps inside it but none of the engineering team could see the point of the second pump as the first one did the job just fine! Extrapolate this over engineering across the whole vehicle and you begin to understand why it was so expensive both money and material to build.
After this up-close-and-personal experience my group was whisked off to the Churchill Room for the first of the days Lectures by the Museums curator David Willey. He explained the broad scope of the restoration process, its highs and lows and most importantly why they were focusing on this one German tank when they have hundreds of others to choose from.
As you may imagine the short answer is that the Tiger pulls in visitors that would not otherwise come to the museum. And this broad audience is a vitally important tick in the 'educational' category when the Heritage Lottery Fund are being asked for money... in short without the Tiger the money to build the new wing would not have been forthcoming. This latest restoration and the crowds it brings in will help secure even more Lottery funding for further expansion of the museum to get more tanks on display. It will also fund improvements to the workshops meaning that in the long run even more tanks can be restored and returned to running condition.
After the lectures we had an excellent lunch and half hour to explore the museum on our own before the main arena display in the afternoon. I'll post pictures from that in the next post but in the meantime I hope you enjoyed this first look at Tiger Day as much as I enjoyed being there!
Wow great pictures I love Bovington been there a few times and yes I have to be dragged out of the WW1 section but I plan to go again the Tiger is out of this world I have just made a Tiger Tank kit 1.35 scale and once I have painted it I will put it on my Blog keep the pics coming I am enjoying the blogReplyDelete
Look forward to thatDelete
I love the last photograph Lee; the face of a very, very happy man!ReplyDelete
Oh yes. Best Birthday Present ever!Delete
Amazing! Thanks for sharing.ReplyDelete
Lucky, lucky youReplyDelete
A great read, thanksReplyDelete
You lucky bugger!!ReplyDelete
I'd just like to say I've really enjoyed these articles. Looks like you had a really good time, and I personally really appreciate you taking the time to write these articles up for those of us who weren't there... so thanks! :)ReplyDelete
Great pics and a fascinating read. That last pic you look like 'the cat who got the cream' ;-)ReplyDelete
I suppose the obvious thing is, if the museum want more money they can hire out the tank for movies.
How about something about Michael Wittman around Villers-Bocage... Spielberg are you listening...?
Another thought - is it fully operational? Could it fire a round?Delete
In theory I suppose it could fire a round...but as the vehicle is so rare I doubt they would risk it.Delete
Very, very impressive. Sounds like a great day out!ReplyDelete
So did you get to take it for a spin? ;)ReplyDelete
Great pics Lee, I feel a trip to Bovington could be on the Rejects agenda this year!!ReplyDelete
It is an excellent museum.Delete
Thanks a lot, Lee !ReplyDelete
Really a nice review for this supposingly great day.
I hope to make it to Bovington one day...
Great posts Lee. Thanks. Really interesting.ReplyDelete
Looks like you had a wonderful time Lee. Really enjoying these posts.ReplyDelete
Great stuff Lee. I am very envious!ReplyDelete
Wunderbar! I have a pic of me and a mate next to Tiger 131 when our day there back in 2001 :-)ReplyDelete
Nice report mate, the wife couldn't get me a ticket for this one, but she's managed to get one for Tiger day two! :)ReplyDelete
Why not come to our Bovington Show in July guys, and see the Tiger at the same time :)ReplyDelete
Malcolm - Battlegroup South