Tank Museum in Bovington hosts model show to mark 100 years

A hundred years after the author Rudyard Kipling first suggested creating a display of tanks, thousands of people visited the museum in Bovington at the start of its anniversary celebrations.

More than 3,000 people came along to the Tank Museum on Saturday 11th February 2023 for the South West Model Show, the first of many events planned for the museum’s centenary.


Entry to the main exhibition hall is past some of the most iconic 20th Century tanks

Crowds begin to build up as the South West Model Show weekend opened

Exhibitors set up stalls in the middle of exciting museum displays

Jungle Book author Rudyard Kipling inspired the museum

Bovington in Dorset was the main training centre for tanks in World War One, and as the vehicles returned after the war ended, some were saved as examples to teach new Tank Corps soldiers about vehicle development.

In 1923, Rudyard Kipling famous for writing the classic novel The Jungle Book, visited the site and suggested more should be done to preserve these important vehicles. A shed was found to house a fledgling collection, though it would be 1947 before it was fully opened to the public.

A hundred years after Rudyard Kipling’s visit, the birthday celebrations of the now world famous museum kicked off with the South West Model Show, which featured everything from military machines to movie monsters, not to mention a squadron of fundraising daleks.

Scale models from iconic Hollywood movies featured on many of the stalls

Even Aardman Animation’s brave hound Gromit got in on the action

Model makers in huge demand in the workplace

And if anyone had doubts about the relevance of models in today’s world, the Arts University of Bournemouth had streams of visitors stop by to hear about the innovative degree course which frequently places 100 percent of its students into exciting and well paid jobs.

Recent graduates have joined Marvel Studios, Aardman Animation and Leavesden Studios, the Watford base where Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon is filmed.

But others have gone on to join design and architecture firms, companies such as Dyson, Honda, McLaren, Google and Jaguar Land Rover while one even moved into criminal law pathology after sculpting the real life face of a pharaoh from mummified remains for a museum.

Arts University Bournemouth course leader Paul Johnson with Icelandic international student Freyja Aevarsdottir

Some of the varied sculptures created by students on the model making course

Sculpting in everything from clay to pixels

Arts University of Bournemouth course leader Paul Johnson said:

“Model making is so relevant to scores of industries, from creative companies to medicine and museums, product design, animation, advertising, film and tv props, theatre, architecture – the list is endless.

“We have about 40 students in each year group for our three-year degree and there is a huge amount of work for them, especially in the film and TV industry.

“We teach them how to sculpt in everything from clay to pixels and each year, every year our employment rate is between 90 and 100 percent.

“Right now, the film industry has three jobs for every applicant, the demand is huge and to be honest if we had 80 students in each year group we would still get them placed.

“Wherever there is a product you interact with, there has probably been a model maker involved.”

Terry Howlett of Langton Matravers is a volunteer model maker for the Tank Museum

Volunteer model makers displayed their work

Langton Matravers resident Terry Howlett is one of the volunteer model makers for the Bovington Tank Museum and was showing off some of his work at the show.

Terry said:

“I retired and moved down here some years and looked for a local model club, joining Poole Vikings, but then through them I heard about the museum and volunteered for this group which makes and displays models during school holidays.

“I’ve been making models all of my life, after an uncle bought me an Airfix model and I got fascinated by the whole process and didn’t stop.

“I suppose there was a break in my early 20s when I discovered females and got married, but since I retired from my job as a freelance IT programme manager, I’ve been like a child again with the models.”

Actor Mark McGeechan as the Seventh Doctor with members of the Charity Dalek Squad

Protecting the humans from angry daleks

The Charity Dalek Squad was a big draw at the model show, where fully operational daleks glided through the corridors and exhibition halls making various threats against visitors who wouldn’t pay them enough respect.

Mark McGeechan, playing the seventh incarnation of Doctor Who – otherwise known as Sylvester McCoy – said:

“As a Time Lord, it is my job to protect the humans from these angry blobs in polycarbide armour, which I shall do until the day I regenerate into my next incarnation.”

The Charity Dalek Squad was established in 2003 to support good causes around the United Kingdom and now has more than 80 professional volunteers and hobbyists who organise or attend Doctor Who and Dalek themed events in the name of charity.

The group also employs about 30 Daleks, as well as the odd Cyberman, Clockwork Droid, Ood, Silurian, Scarecrow and more.

Intricate scale models included scenes from most movie genres

Model making accessories were everywhere – including paints of every possible hue

Among the more unusual souvenirs was a range of war vehicle themed alcohol

Tank-shaped cakes wanted for birthday bash

The model show is also open on Sunday 12th February 2023, and there’s plenty more exciting events for the museum’s 100th birthday year.

During the February half-term break, a tank inspired outdoor play area will be opened, and award winning balloon artist David Crofts will attempt to make a tank out of balloons on Tuesday 14th February 2023.

On Sunday 26th February 2023, the winner of the 2022 series of The Great British Bake Off, Syabira Yusoff, will be judging and announcing the winner of a baking photo competition to make a novelty birthday cake for the museum – with tank-shaped cakes especially welcome!

And as part of The Tank Museum’s centenary celebrations, there will also be a double headline concert on Sunday 28th May 2023 celebrating the music of both pop icon, David Bowie and the epic rock opera music of Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman.

More events and new exhibitions are expected to be announced shortly.

A 1920 Rolls Royce armoured car is the museum’s oldest vehicle that is still operational

One of the museum’s more modern exhibits is the Crusader III tank

Paying tribute to the warhorse – a popular exhibit about the use of cavalry in warfare

Further information

  • Discover more about the Tank Museum and its 100th birthday celebrations

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