TANKFEST 2024 Stuns Attendees With Live Tank Displays, Living History Re-Enactments

Photo Credit: Geoff Moore / The Travel Trunk
Photo Credit: Geoff Moore / The Travel Trunk

TANKFEST 2024 in Bovington, Dorset, United Kingdom, saw two unique demonstrations of a pair of armored vehicles separated by over 70 years! Put on by The Tank Museum, the latest running of the annual event was a show-stopper, with over 24,000 tank and military fans in attendance.

FV4005 driving around the TANKFEST 2024 outdoor arena
FV4005 SPUD at TANKFEST 2024. (Photo Credit: Geoff Moore / The Travel Trunk)

First to have its public appearance was SPUD, a prototype that was the result of a 1950s-era experiment to fit the biggest possible gun to a tank. Dating back to the Cold War, from a time when the fear of conflict with the Soviet Union and the nation’s powerful IS-3 tanks, dominated military thinking.

A huge 183 mm gun, housed in a massive box-shaped turret, remains the largest ever fitted to a tank. It fired a round that weighed 72.5 kg and required two crew members to load it.

Ajax driving around the TANKFEST 2024 outdoor arena
Ajax at TANKFEST 2024. (Photo Credit: Geoff Moore / The Travel Trunk)

Coming right up to date, attendees of the event also saw a working Ajax, the very latest vehicle about to be put into service with the British Army later this year. There are six variants in the Ajax family, all based upon a common base platform.

The armored vehicles are designed to be at the heart of the British Army’s future armored fleet, offering enhanced lethality; survivability; reliability; mobility; and all-weather intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) capabilities through their advanced sensor suite.

The Ajax is currently in the demonstration and manufacturing phases of its lifecycle, with the British Army conducting training and testing on early vehicles with both operational units and training establishments. Reliability Growth Trials are progressing well.

Five members of First to Fight sitting together in a row outside
Polish living history group “First to Fight” at TANKFEST 2024. (Photo Credit: Geoff Moore / The Travel Trunk)

Having sold out all tickets in advance, the massive crowds who attended the first day of TANKFEST saw a whole series of tank action throughout the day in the arena, as well as the many living history displays put on by numerous re-enactor groups who flocked to the event.

For the first time, there was a group of Polish World War II re-enactors called “First to Fight.” All others are based around the United Kingdom and traveled to Dorset to attend. Another group who used the 29th Division as their subject came from Wales and the county of Somerset for the three-day event.

People standing around a World War I-era tank parked outside
World War I-era tank at TANFEST 2024. (Photo Credit: Geoff Moore / The Travel Trunk)

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TANKFEST also saw a display of many versions of the Centurion tank that included SPUD. Various marks were demonstrated, and a WWII battle sequence also played out for the entertainment of the attendees seated around the arena in grandstands.

Geoff Moore

Geoff Moore is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE