Now the dust has settled and my eardrums have recovered, we can take a look at what is arguably the greatest and most extensive tank event in the world: TANKFEST.
TANKFEST is The Tank Museum’s highlight of the year, one that I personally have had the pleasure of attending since it began. Back then it was a much more primitive affair, with a camp site, a small selection of private vehicles and a humble tank display in what was then a glorified field for an arena.
Today though, TANKFEST is a whole different beast, and after a two year hiatus due to the virus that shall-not-be-named, it was good to be back.
The Tank Museum kindly gave TankHistoria access to their press area, which is where I spent most of my weekend, happily snapping away at the heavy metal action unfolding in front of me.
Upon arriving (early on the Saturday morning), one immediately notices that this event has increased in scale. Two stages, bag searches, large amounts of hot-food and multiple entrance lanes means TANKFEST has a much more “festival-y” vibe to it, something I’m a big fan of.
Once you’re through the gates, you’re met with a sprawling scene; dioramas on your left, trading stalls on your right, and vehicles and period reenactors all around.
The smell of food and burnt diesel fills the air, while a tank in the arena echoes across the site – it is definitely good to be back!
As is standard practice on TANKFEST, the Vehicle Conservation Centre is open to the public. This is one of the most fascinating places at The Tank Museum; a room rammed full of rare prototypes and one-offs, topped off with the odd vehicle that didn’t quite make the cut for the museum.
There is so much to see in here, and its a shame it isn’t open all year round.
TANKFEST is set in a semi-circle around the museum’s Kuwait Arena, giving you quick access to the sights no matter where you are. The vehicles involved in the displays are kept in a sectioned off parking area, which is opened in between displays to let the public get up close and personal with these machines while they are still warm.
This “alive” aspect really gives you a proper appreciation and understanding of the weight – and strain – of these vehicles that you simply cannot get from a static piece.
Speaking of warmth, it seemed like the tank gods were looking out for us. The forecasted torrent of rain we were all praying didn’t happen held off the entire weekend, bar a small splash on the Sunday.
The weekend was split into four full displays, two per day. Each was identical, giving myself an opportunity to photograph and video everything that was going on.
While the overall quantity of vehicles shown felt smaller, it was faster paced.
The much-beloved Tiger 131 was not present, as it now has its own dedicated day, Tiger Day.
As is common at TANKFEST, some of the vehicles in the display are privately owned. These are an opportunity to see something special, such as a Jagdpanther in 2019 or an IS-3 in 2018.
2022 was no different, with The Wheatcroft Collection’s stunning M-51 Sherman and Eden Camp Museum’s M-50 Sherman stealing the show. You wont see this combination very often.
After this crowds were wowed by a large rotating mass of Cold War steel. Ten Cold War-era tanks – such as the Challenger 1, Leopard 1, T-72 etc – rolled around the arena all at once.
This overwhelmingly visceral moment was one of my personal highlights of the entire weekend.
Once they rumbled out of the arena I took the opportunity to grab a cheeseburger for lunch. Delicious.
Back to the tanks.
The next display was one courtesy of the British Army. They took centre stage with a large selection of equipment, both wheeled and tracked. Naturally, the Challenger 2 is always a winner for the crowds, who get to watch 65 tons of metal, rubber and composite armor move much faster than you’d think possible.
Oh, and the odd diesel-smoke screen never gets old either.
One of the most interesting vehicles was the Titan, the enormous bridge-laying version of the Challenger 2. It was simply staggering to watch what looked like a three story building get put through its paces in the mud. The driver clearly knew what he was doing.
The day was capped off by a British Army battle display, pyrotechnics and all. Okay, deploying a Challenger 2 against two armed assailants is not the most realistic scenario in the world, but the bangs and fireballs are certainly a spectacle for the younger ones.
I finished the day highly satisfied, slightly sunburnt and with a full stomach and memory card. Perfection!
I made it out before the crowds, ready to do it all again the next day.
TANKFEST 2022 was a fantastic day out. The show went without a hitch, and behind the smoke, dust, roar of exhausts and clacking of tracks, it was easy to forget the likely thousands of hours of planning and many flat-out staff that made sure it all went so smooth.
TANKFEST never disappoints, and continues to fulfil its role as the premier tank event in the world.
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I’m already excited for TANKFEST 2023. Tickets are on sale here.