Museum buffs in
India might have heard of technological museums and Railway museums but
only a few might have heard of the Cavalry Tank Museum of the Armoured
Corps Centre and School, Ahmednagar, the first of its kind in Asia. The
museum has a rich collection of tanks used during different periods.
Indeed, what the ship is to the Navy and the airplane is to the Air Force,
tank is to the Army. Former Army Chief (late) Gen BC Joshi-a tankman himself-inaugurated
this museum in 1994.
earliest tanks-the British Mark I were used during World War I.
Nicknamed Big Willie and fitted with a tractor engine, Mark-I
was an effective weapon in battle because it could cross trenches and literally
take the battle into the enemy camp. However the story of tank does not
At the turn of the
19th century, efforts were on to develop a mobile and protected platform
for battle that could break the stalemate inherent in trench warfare.
Trench warfare was known for its high rate of casualty quite unrelated to
battle as many soldiers died from rampant disease in their armoured car.
The museum traces the evolution of the modern-day tank using an assortment
of displays like armoured cars, reconnaissance vehicles and light tanks. It
has a model belonging to the class of armoured cars that General Dwyer used
to enter Amritsar’s Jallianwala Bagh.
In order to make it
a true cross-country vehicle, the wheels of Armoured Cars were
replaced with tracks around 1912-and then were provided with a
turret-mounted gun for better firepower. Tanks played a pivotal role during
the Second World War and both the Allies and the Axis Powers made sparkling
advances in the development of the tank. Early tanks had their
now-distinctive top-mounted main gun on the side in order to lower the
centre of gravity and made the vehicle stable. Indeed, when the main gun
was placed at the top in the British A9 models, the tank was wobbly enough
to be nicknamed Matilda, after the comical duck. Matilda,
apart from its many descendants, is a prized exhibit at the museum.
armoured car Schmerer Panzersphah Wagen (8-RAD) donning a 'swastik’,
a vital component of Adolf Hitler's fleet, transports the visitors to
the Nazi era of Europe.
exhibited at the museum are the many variants of the tank that perform
specialised services such as aircrew recovery, bridge laying,
mine-detonation and dozing. The mine-detonating tank, for instance, uses a
revolving drum of heavy chains called ‘flails’ to detonate anti-personnel
landmines. It clears the path for troops to move on.
because of the versatility of the tank, soon anti-tank armour also began
using tank-like concepts. Many howitzers and anti-tank guns were mounted on
tank classes to give them mobility in the battlefield. Some of the models
displayed in the museum were the mainstay of the Indian Army’s
self-propelled artillery until recently. ‘Amphibious’ tanks shown in the
museum were among those developed for the Normandy Landings during World
Many of the
tanks on display at the museum were originally German and Japanese tanks
captured during World War II. Pakistani tanks like Chaffee,
Walker-Bulldog and Patton that took part in 1965 and 1971 are
were also on display here. The rest of the 40 tanks are vehicles that
served the Indian Army’s Armoured Corps right from its earliest years. All
stand as a mute testimony to the glorious tradition of the mechanised
armour since World War I.
among the exhibits are the Stuart tank which was taken to record
heights of 12000 feet at Zojila Pass in 1948 by the Indian Army’s 7th Cavalry
and the British-make Centurion, nicknamed Pattonkiller and Bahadur.
Patton was considered the hands of Indian troops. Many of the Patton
tanks displayed in the museum (and elsewhere in India) are from the ‘Patton
Graveyard’ in Bhikiwind village of the Khem-Karan sector in Punjab. With
their guns kept in a lowered position, these tanks remind visitors of the
exploits of the Indian Army.
In fact, an
Indian Centurion tank destroying a Pakistani Patton in 1971 lock,
stock and-literally-barrel in the Sialkot sector so alarmed the US
manufacturers of the tank that they came calling to check for possible
snags. That particular Patton with a gaping hole in its gun turret
is the jewel of the museum’s collection.
collection also includes Soviet-made T-54 which saw action in the
1971 Indo-Pak war and was the Army’s main battle tank for many years. A T-54
can persist in 18 ft depth of water using a snorkel and can also create its
own smoke-screen. The Indian tank armour was part of the Allied operations
in World War II. Since Independence, Indian tanks have been in action in
Kashmir and Goa operations, in Chushul and Sela Pass during the Chinese
aggression of 1962 and the Indo-Pak wars..
addition to the museum is the Army’s old warhorse, Vijayanta that
played a key role in the 1971 war and is now being phased out from the
Army. The museum also houses diverse cavalry memorabilia in its two Memory
Halls and has two Model Rooms for automotive armament and electronic
equipment. Heroes’ Gallery records the exploits of the braves of the
Armoured Corps over the years.
interesting facility in the vicinity of the museum is the Tank Driving
Simulator used to train tank drivers. The simulator mimics the roll, pitch
and yaw of tanks driven over all kinds of terrain.