(Right) As a Museums at Night visitor to the Tank Museum scours the camera for the enemy, Warrant Officer Mark Spyers explains night vision in the Panther Command and Liaison vehicle (CLV) - a vehicle currently seeing action in Afghanistan. All photos © Rachel Hayward/Culture24
Museums at Night 2010: Culture24 Learners and Teachers' Editor Rachel Hayward turns Tank Girl for Museums at Night at the Tank Museum in Bovington...
The newest part of the Tank Museum, The Tank Story, just before the lights went down for Museums at Night
The Tank Museum delivered a perfectly pitched Museums at Night experience on Friday May 14, 2010, focusing on 100 years of army night-time operations.
In a special out-of-hours event, I joined a lucky band of military enthusiasts who'd booked ahead to discover at first hand how the army and tank crews operated in darkness, from World War One to the present day.
Hugh Copson stands to attention beside one of the hundreds of tanks we saw during the torch-lit tour of the Tank Museum
After an excellent introductory talk about tanks and night time vision from Tank Museum Warden and former tank officer, Steve Davies, we were taken on an exclusive torch-lit tour around the Tank Museum by Steve and Education Officer, Chris Copson.
Mind your head! Stepping inside a tank gave us all a real sense of the tough working conditions of tank soldiers
Chris Copson (far left) guides visitors around the inside of a tank at the Museum that saw both WWI and WWII combat
The eerie silence of the museum created an atmospheric reverence for the two hundred plus might fighting machines on display - especially when we were told about the haunting of a German personnel carrier by two of its previous occupants from WWII.
The Tank Museum's moving recreation of the WWI trenches: The Trench Experience
For me, however, the journey through the Museum's recreation of the WWI trenches ably led by Chris, was particularly poignant and we realised just how vital tanks were in ending the horrors of the war.
Darkness had descended by the time we came outside to try out army night vision equipment for ourselves
Then it was out into the deepening gloom of the evening for a demonstration by the good-humoured army soldiers present of the latest night-time vision equipment. Warrant Officer Mark Getly let us try out all the equipment whilst Captain Tom Devanny played the enemy down on the Museum's outdoor arena, so we could attempt to spot him in the dark.
Warrant Officer Mark Getly helps a Museums at Night visitor adjust his night vision head gear
The exclusive opportunity to try out such expensive army kit was not to be missed
We also got to sit inside a Panther armoured vehicle with its state of the art infra-red vision technology, which is currently seeing frontline service in Afghanistan.
Captain Tom Devanny returns from the pitch black arena to talk to the Museums at Night visitors
Sean Anderson and Dave Andrews were among the enthusiastic crowd of Museums at Night visitors to the Tank Museum
Visitors, including Sean Anderson and Dave Andrews, were delighted with their Museums at Night experience at the Tank Museum and particularly enjoyed the hands on elements of the evening: "More of that next year please!"
Adrian Mansfield, who'd come all the way from Kent for Museums at Night at the Tank Museum, said the evening had been, "educational". "The military has long been an interest of mine," Adrian continued, "I came to the Tank Museum recently for a driving experience and picked up the details about tonight's event. The best bit has been using the thermal imaging equipment... there's stuff here tonight that civilians just can't purchase."
Nicky Croom, Events Manager at the Tank Museum said: "This is the first time that we've put on an event for Museums at Night. We're really happy with how it went and are already planning to do something even bigger and better next year."
If all this tank action has whetted your appetite for more, the Tank Museum has its annual Tank Fest in June. Click on the link for more details.
Museums at Night events are being added all the time. Don't forget to check out the Museums at Night homepage to find out what's going on near you.
Museums at Night events are happening right across the weekend until May 16. Check out the Museums at Night homepage to find out what's going on near you.