The National Army Museum has an extensive military hardware collection, including military vehicles, tanks and field guns from all over the world. The Museum is also involved in a range of military equipment restoration projects, assisted by an enthusiastic group of volunteers who help to preserve these historic military artefacts for future generations to enjoy.
The first armoured fighting vehicle powered by something other than muscle power was proposed in 1855 during the Crimean War but the idea was rejected by Lord Palmerston as being “uncivilised”. In the years prior to World War I, several experimental armoured cars were built, however these proved impractical in the mud-covered battlefields of France and Belgium. The British first developed fully tracked armoured fighting vehicles during World War I in an attempt to break the deadlock created by trench warfare. These early tanks were slow and unreliable but they gave an indication of what later armoured vehicles would achieve.
Between the wars, the British General Staff moved away from tanks as they returned to thinking that the horse and cavalry would still dominate the battlefield. German generals, however, began to take note of the effectiveness of tanks and prepared plans for armoured warfare. In World War II, the German blitzkrieg of tanks, infantry and aircraft attacking together, proved to be one of the most effective forms of warfare ever devised.
By the end of World War II, armoured fighting vehicles were firmly entrenched as a vital part of any army. But tanks could not operate alone and it was realised that they must be supported by other arms including the infantry and artillery. The Israeli Army concentrated on tanks to such an extent that they neglected their other arms and paid a high price in the 1973 war. A wide variety of armoured fighting vehicles are now in service with most of the world’s armies. These types range from Light Armoured Reconnaissance Vehicles, Armoured Personnel Carriers, and Armoured Self Propelled Guns, to the 50-60 tonne Main Battle Tanks in service with the world’s larger armies.