Home » Norfolk Tank Museum: A Look into Military History

Norfolk Tank Museum: A Look into Military History

by Paola Bertoni
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The Norfolk Tank Museum is an incredible place in the Norfolk countryside where you can experience the tanks firsthand. While some people are interested in military history, I have to admit that I am just fascinated by the imposing mass of tanks and the fact that they can go anywhere thanks to their tracks. Despite my personal opinion, tanks are a crucial part of military history that evolved over the years. In this blog post, you can explore the exhibits of this unique museum.

About the Norfolk Tank Museum

The Norfolk Tank Museum is an independent museum in Forncett St. Peter, Norfolk. It houses a collection of military vehicles, weapons, and militaria, mainly from the 20th Century and the Cold War Period. The museum’s main activity is restoring and maintaining the collection of tanks and armoured cars in working condition.

The museum also aims to provide an educational experience that provides insight into the mechanisms and machines of conflict and the lives of those who have taken part, soldiers or civilians. Inside, you can gain a small insight into the life of a British soldier from the late 19th century, including the uniforms they wore and the weapons and tools.

The Norfolk Tank Museum prides itself on the fact that visitors can handle many of the items on display to experience the feel of a weapon, or to sit in a claustrophobic tank. For example, I discovered that inside a tank is so hot that air is barely breathable. I also learned that soldiers had to carry an extremely heavy backpack during their displacements and that tanks are not virtually unbreakable as I thought.

View from inside a tank at Norfolk Tank Museum
View from inside a tank at Norfolk Tank Museum

Norfolk Tank Museum’s Exhibits

The Norfolk Tank Museum is a treasure trove of military history, boasting an extensive collection of tanks and military vehicles that spans over a century. You can see some of them inside the museum, while others are in the outside area. The open-air exhibits are also home to various fascinating displays, including a radio room and an original Anderson Shelter; the famous British anti-raid shelter that was widespread during World War II.

As you explore the museum, you will come across numerous tanks and military vehicles that are still under renovation. You can perceive how the museum’s work is continuous in progress, a collection that grows and is enriched year by year.

During our visit, we had the pleasure of being guided by Stephen, the museum’s curator. He was brimming with fascinating insights and stories. For instance, he showed us a soldier’s mask worn inside the tanks, as they were not bulletproof at the time! Stephen’s enthusiasm and knowledge brought the collection to life and made our visit all the more enjoyable.

One of the most exciting aspects of the Norfolk Tank Museum is that many of the tanks are accessible for visitors to climb on and even explore from the inside. This hands-on experience is a fantastic opportunity for adults and children to get up close and personal with these incredible machines and gain a deeper appreciation of their place in history.

Paola Bertoni wears a mask used by soldiers inside a tank to protect themselves from shrapnel, Norfolk Tank Museum
Here, I’m wearing a mask used by soldiers inside a tank to protect themselves from shrapnel, Norfolk Tank Museum

The Main Hangar

In the Norfolk Tank Museum’s main hangar, you can witness a fascinating collection of military vehicles, weapons, and militaria, including the remarkable Deborah II, a replica Mk IV Tank as seen on Channel 4’s documentary ‘Guy Martin’s WWI Tank’. It was quite popular in the UK at the time.

But that’s not all. The museum also has a unique collection of Centurion tanks that are on static display most of the year and are well worth seeing. Even if you are not interested in the army, you’ll be amazed by the AVRE, an Mk13 Gun Tank, and an ARV. The same vehicles can even be seen in action along with other vehicles during the museum’s Armourfest festival. 

If that’s not enough, you can also explore the Chieftain Main Battle Tank and the Saladin Armoured Scout Car, both on static display with full public access. You can even climb inside and experience the confirmed space and atmosphere of the crew turret.

Main hangar exhibition at the Norfolk Tank Museum
Main hangar exhibition at the Norfolk Tank Museum

The Armoury

Along with the tanks and vehicles, the museum boasts other exhibits that offer a captivating glimpse into various aspects of military history. One such exhibit is the collection of military uniforms, weapons, and equipment showcasing soldiers’ lives throughout history.

The impressive Armoury houses a vast collection of small arms displayed in a shipping container in the main hangar. This collection includes a wide array of weaponry, from pistols to rocket launchers, from the First World War to the present day. The Armoury is an awe-inspiring testament to the evolution of military technology over time.

Outside exhibition

At the forecourt of the location, near the café and ticket office, you can find a collection of semi-permanent vehicles and AA guns of Czech and Russian origin. These vehicles are either waiting for restoration or currently undergoing one.

Moving down the side of the main hangar, you will come across several vehicles in various stages of refurbishment. You even have the opportunity to climb these vehicles and capture memorable pictures.

Tanks in the outside exhibition of Norfolk Tank Museum
Tanks in the outside exhibition of Norfolk Tank Museum

The Nissen Hut – Radio Room

The Nissen Hut serves a dual purpose, offering a unique blend of historical artefacts and modern technology. On one hand, it houses a captivating collection of World War II memorabilia and models, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the stories of that time.

On the other hand, it also functions as a hub for the museum’s extensive collection of military radio equipment, overseen by the local Waveney Wireless Group, who are passionate experts in the field.

Inside the Nissen Hut, you can learn about the fascinating world of WW2 radios, the various iterations of the Cold War British Clansman radios, as well as their Chinese and Russian competitors. It’s a truly immersive experience that will leave you with a newfound appreciation for the role of technology in shaping history.

Events at Norfolk Tank Museum

The Norfolk Tank Museum is a great place that offers a variety of events for a fantastic day out, like the Armourfest. During this annual fest, you can witness the museum’s impressive collection of tanks and military vehicles in action, driven around the museum. It’s truly an extraordinary experience that brings history to life right in front of you.

Useful Information to Visit Norfolk Tank Museum

If you plan to visit Norfolk Tank Museum, here’s some useful information to keep in mind. The cost of admission for adults is £9 per person. For each paying adult, one child under 12 can enter for free. This means that if you’re visiting with a child, you’ll only need to purchase one adult ticket to gain admission for both of you. It’s a great deal that makes the museum more accessible to families. Extra children pay £5 each.

How to Get to Norfolk Tank Museum

The Norfolk Tank Museum is a must-visit attraction in the heart of South Norfolk, specifically at Forncett St Peter, around 10 miles from Diss and 12 miles from Norwich. Being situated in the countryside, the best way to reach the museum is by car. Outside the museum, ample parking space is available to accommodate your vehicle.

However, if you plan to use public transport, you might have to go through a bit of a hassle. The nearest train station is Diss on the Great Eastern Line, and from there, you can catch the Simonds Buses line on weekdays to reach the museum. Get off the bus at Forncett Old Station and a short, 400-meter walk west will take you to the Museum. Unfortunately, I am unaware of any public transport options on weekends. Still, you can check the Simonds Buses websites for any updates.

Norfolk Tank Museum
Station Rd, Forncett St Peter
Norwich NR16 1HZ

The Norfolk Tank Museum is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in military history or just passionate without reason about tanks like us. The museum’s extensive collection of tanks, vehicles, and exhibits provides a fascinating look into the evolution of military technology over the years. Feel free to share you’re experience in the comment section, whether you are a history enthusiast or you were just looking for an exciting day out!

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