Tag Archives: tanks

UK Tour: Naval Aviation and Tanks (again)

After our short detour to Heathrow to drop one of our number off for his flight back to New Zealand, we headed south-west again into the Somerset area for a look at the Fleet Air Arm Museum at the Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton.

2014-09-02 10.00.35 HDRThis museum is dedicated to everything that the aviation wing of the Royal Navy has done and achieved in the past 100 years, beginning with the Royal Naval Air Service during the First World War, through the Second World War, and into the age of jet aircraft and helicopters operating from massive aircraft carriers during the Cold War and beyond.

As with many of the museums we’ve visited, the Fleet Air Arm Museum has a great collection of aircraft, many of which (such as the Short S.27) we’d not previously seen anywhere else.

Sopwith Pup - one of the first aircraft to be launched from and landed on a ship.

Sopwith Pup – one of the first aircraft to be launched from and landed on a ship.

Additionally, just like the R.A.F. Museums in London and Cosford, the display halls in Yeovilton are well lit and spacious, allowing visitors to have great access around most of the aircraft—it’s possible to view most of the displays from multiple angles (including overhead in  a number of some cases), making the experience that much better and more enjoyable.

One of the unique displays at the museum is the mock-up of the flight deck of the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal as it would have appeared in the 1970s. You enter this display area via a simulated helicopter ride, and you then spend the next 35 minutes or so being led through the display area (the flight deck and island) by simulated flight deck crew who tell you about the displays and the activity on the deck. It’s a great way to portray the aircraft and the workings of an aircraft carrier.

Concorde 002

Concorde 002

It’s interesting to note that the Fleet Air Arm Museum also has some aircraft on display that don’t fit strictly within what you would expect of a naval aviation museum—the prime example of this being Concorde 002—the first British-built Concorde to take to the skies in 1969. There are also a couple of other experimental jet aircraft in the same hall—the Handley Page HP115 (built to explore the performance of low delta wings at low speeds) and Hawker P117 (built as part of the development process that led to the Hawker Harrier)—interesting aircraft in their own right, but we’re still not sure what they have to do with naval aviation!


Grumman Martlet (a.k.a. Wildcat) in original Fleet Air Arm colours.

All in all the museum is another good facility to visit if you happen to be in the Somerset area, and the fact that you can get a 12-month Gift Aid pass (allowing you free entery anytime in the 12 months after your first visit) is certainly good value if you’re able to make a repeat visit or two—as with many of the museums in the UK, taking everything in on a single visit is a daunting task, so a free repeat visit is a great option.

One of the main battle tanks on display in the Bovington Arena.

One of the main battle tanks on display in the Bovington Arena.

When we’d had our fill of naval aviation we decided that as we had 12 month passes to the Tank Museum at Bovington, and given that we were only a one hour drive away, we’d go and have a second visit to that fabulous museum as well.  It was a good chance to take a good look at some of the things we’d not had time for earlier in the trip, including Tiger 131, the first Tiger tank captured by the Allies during the Second World War.

Tiger '131' at the Bovington Tank Museum.

Tiger ‘131’ at the Bovington Tank Museum.

Now that we’ve had a chance to take a look at a greater number of military museums in the UK, we’d certainly have to say that the Tank Museum in Bovington is one of our favourites.  If you’re going to visit make sure that you’ve set aside a good few hours to take a thorough look around—it’s certainly needed.


UK Tour: Steam Gala In Norfolk

Having spent nearly three weeks running around the UK looking at aircraft and staying in various hotels, the next few days were certainly a major change of pace.

Once again we were in the Norfolk area, though this time we were right on the coast at Shearingham and Weybourne, rather than further inland as we had been a week or so past when we stayed in Norwich.


A view looking toward the village of Weybourne as seen from the North Norfolk Railway.

Additionally this weekend there was to be no two-star hotel accommodation, it was five-star camping all the way at a local camp ground! Our good friend, photographer Rob Leigh supplied all the essential camping equipment, and kitted out his own ‘canvas’ hideaway with all the essentials of modern camping, including the beer fridge!

10660125_901664289848531_4356747315578954265_nWe were in the area for the weekend to attend the North Norfolk Steam Gala—a three day event featuring a number of steam locomotives plying their trade back and forth along the railway line between the coastal towns of Shearingham and Holtabout a twenty minute train journey if it’s done non-stop. For steam afficianados this is one of the big annual events in the area, with six different locomotives running this year (four locals and two visitors).


We had the chance to walk along the track (with a special pass) and watch the trains coming past at very close quarters, and we were also able to buy a day pass to ride the trains back and forth between the stations at Shearingham – Weybourne – Holt.

This is a great way to spend a weekend, particularly because the carriages attached to each train were of quite different designs and eras—you could easily spend all day going up and down the line on completely different trains. While this gala weekend was a feast of steam for enthusiasts, the North Norfolk Railway operates year round so if you’re in this area it’s certainly worthwhile checking out their website and going for a ride.


Field gun display at the Muckleburgh collection.

Field gun display at the Muckleburgh collection.

The other surprise we had was finding the Muckleburgh Collection right next door to the camping ground we were staying at. This military vehicle collection and museum is a bit like the Norwich Aviation Museum—a bit rough on the outside, but actually pretty impressive on the inside. With a total of over 150 tanks, guns and other vehicles (many of which are still operational) the collection is a very worthwhile visit, particularly when you consider that there are also a significant number of other high quality exhibits (local military history, light weapons, ammunition, local naval history etc).

The fact that many of the vehicles of the collection are still operational means that in the school holidays during the display season (April – November) the Collection will usually display one of the main battle tanks in the outdoor arena at 2:30pm — luckily we were their in time to see the Soviet T-55 tank put through its paces.  Note that this was not two-three minutes start-her-up-and-drive-100m display—the tank was demonstrated for almost 15 minutes, and at times it probably got close to reaching her to speed! This was a great display.

Soviet T-55 main battle tank demonstration.

Soviet T-55 main battle tank demonstration.

If you have the chance to visit Muckleburgh, you should do so, just make sure that you’re not put off by the somewhat shabby appearance of the outside of many of the (historically significant) buildings on  the site. Inside the collection is great.

One small part of the naval history displays.

One small part of the naval history displays.