A tank said to be the most famous in the world is helping The Tank Museum at Bovington in Dorset to cement its position as the most popular online museum ever.
The Tank Museum’s YouTube channel has just reached a milestone of half a million subscribers and has become the first museum in the world to achieve a total of 100 million views for its uploaded content.
Tiger 131 tank is on the move during the battle re-enactment at Bovington
Tiger Day draws crowd of 4,500 on 80th anniversary
The Tiger 131 tank – Hitler’s secret weapon which was unveiled to him as a birthday surprise with a promise that it would win the war in Europe for Germany – is the only original of its kind left in working order anywhere in the world.
On the 80th anniversary almost to the day of its capture by British troops in North Africa, it was taken out for a spin at the Purbeck museum in a re-enactment of the Battle of Longstop Hill, a turning point in the war against the Nazis.
Tiger Day, a twice yearly event at The Tank Museum was watched by a sellout crowd of 4,500 people on Sunday 23rd April 2023 – but for many thousands more who couldn’t be in Dorset, a camera crew and a team of video editors were on hand.
The film crew’s video of the Tiger 131 in action has now been uploaded to the museum’s YouTube channel where it is likely to be watched by an audience of around 200,000 people.
Photographers line up action shots at the Tiger Day event
Curator of The Tank Museum David Willey prepares for another video shoot
Filming on the Tiger 131 ahead of its re-enactment battle
Most watched museum channel in the world
Tank fans around the world have sent the Purbeck charity to the top of YouTube’s charts as the most watched museum channel in the world, ahead of major institutions like the British Museum, the Louvre in Paris, New York’s Guggenheim Museum and even the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.
YouTube views help Bovington to raise more than £100,000 every year from onsite advertising. It also funnels visitors through to The Tank Museum’s online shop to buy anything from novelty tank slippers to mugs, jigsaws and models – and even inflatable World War Two shells.
The Tiger 131 alone has a whole range of merchandise to celebrate it, including watches, beer and gin, chocolate and clothing, which is sent out to all corners of the globe.
Military historian David Fletcher in front of a bank of cameras
Here’s one we made earlier – a finished YouTube video which has 25,000 views
New ways to reach new audiences
The Tank Museum’s head of marketing Nik Wyness said:
“As a rural regimental museum, we see YouTube as an essential means of reaching a wider audience, helping us to fulfil our mission to tell the story of the tanks and the people that served in them.
“The benefits of growing this online community became fully apparent during the pandemic, when they became an essential source of support during a very difficult time.
“Our 2020 Tankfest live stream was watched by over 1 million people around the world and raised almost £100,000 alone.
“As a charity in a relatively remote location, it’s important that we are always looking to find new ways to reach new audiences and potential supporters to ensure our sustainability.
“YouTube has allowed us to reach a global audience of tank enthusiasts, and it’s as a direct result of this that we are now generating over 25 percent of our annual turnover from non-visitors.”
Comedian Al Murray has presented a number of videos for the YouTube channel
Tiger 131 appeared in action during the 2014 movie Fury starring Brad Pitt
Guest presenters include comedian Al Murray
YouTube now hosts more than 400 tank related videos from Bovington, covering the history of vehicles in the museum, mini documentaries, action from events like Tiger Day and videos featuring famous tank enthusiasts like comedian Al Murray and historian James Holland.
It has also been responsible for attracting support from large funding bodies like the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Arts Council, allowing Bovington to build on its success and branch out into TikTok, which already has over 55 million views in its own right.
But the stars of the channel, which is produced entirely by the museum team, have been expert staff members including museum curator David Willey, and historian David Fletcher.
Battle actors in British Army uniform played a part in telling the Tiger’s story
Time to gather their thoughts before going off into battle
Only 25 percent of online viewers from UK
The Tank Museum’s marketing and communications manager Roz Skellorn said:
“About 25 percent of the online audience is from the UK, the next biggest audience is in the USA and it’s also very popular in Australia and northern Europe, especially Poland, Germany and the Netherlands.
“We recognise that a lot of people potentially will never be able to come to the museum, so we cater for them online with our YouTube channel.
“We were reasonably early arrivals on YouTube, we have been doing it seriously for about eight years. We are now one of the biggest museum channels and have had a lot of success with it, raising a lot of revenue for the museum, which is very important to keep the collection going.
“We know our audience very well, we know what they want to see and we give it to them. We put out a video every Friday, and our team carries out a constant programme of filming, editing and producing, a process which takes about four weeks from start to finish.
“We also have 350,000 followers on Facebook, a big audience on Instagram as well and now with TikTok we are keen to target the younger audience with more of a lighthearted channel.”
On opposing sides, Tiger 131 and the Sherman Fury come face to face at Bovington
The captured Tiger 131 was taken back to the UK and put on display at Horseguards
Designed by Nazis to be unstoppable
The museum’s star of the show, both on film and at the museum, is undoubtedly Tiger 131, designed by the Nazis to be unstoppable. A prototype was demonstrated to Hitler on his 53rd birthday, 20th April 1942, with the promise that it could win the war in Europe, which was beginning to turn against Germany.
Just over a year later, the first complete Tiger I fell into Allied hands when the 48th Royal Tank Regiment, newly arrived in Tunisia from Britain, went into action against the Germans for the first time.
German crews had previously been thorough in carrying out their orders to completely destroy abandoned Tigers in order to prevent them falling into enemy hands.
As a result little was known about this formidable new opponent, so the capture of a complete Tiger was a prize of enormous importance which yielded valuable information.
The unit’s war diary simply states; ‘Crew members of Tiger 131 panic and abandon the tank after two harmless hits from a Churchill (tank)’, but the evidence shows that the tank was subject to several direct hits which were far from harmless.
The capture of Longstop Hill allowed the Allied forces to reach Tunis within two weeks, taking the enemy by surprise and forcing their surrender, which German propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels later admitted was a turning point in the war.
Tiger 131 only runs twice a year, and the next Tiger Day at the Tank Museum is on Saturday 16th September 2023.
Car park etiquette at Bovington – never argue with a tank which wants a prime space!
- Take an online tour of The Tank Museum on its website
- Check out the museum’s record-setting YouTube channel