Tankfest 2011 - Tortoise to Run!

27th May 2011


Tortoise to Run for First Time in 60 Years

TANKFEST provides the public with a unique opportunity to see rare vehicles in action. This year, you’ll see the massive Tortoise tank running before the public for the first time in 60 years.

The Tortoise (official designation Tank, Heavy Assault, A39) is one of the largest and heaviest vehicles in the collection, weighing 80 tonnes. It was built in Birmingham in 1947, making it a surprising design contemporary of the highly successful Centurion tank.

The Tortoise project began in 1943. At the time, the British feared their tanks would be outgunned by the new generation of heavy German tanks that had recently emerged. The appearance of the Tiger had rendered light tanks like the Stuart and Matilda II all but obsolete.

The opening years of World War Two had given rise to what probably remains the most rapid evolution of armoured vehicles before or since. To illustrate this, just over 10 years earlier, the British had accepted the Matilda I and then the Valentine into service. The Germans had recently adopted Panzer III, and the race to deliver bigger more powerful tanks was on. Mobility was therefore compromised by the need for better armoured protection and stronger firepower.

To this end, Tortoise was built around a powerful 32pdr (94mm) gun, in answer to the German 88mm carried by The Tiger. This was powerful enough to deal with the toughest German tanks of the war. But its sheer size and weight would give it a top speed of just 12 miles an hour. This may at first appear slow, but the Churchill tank, a key part of the British tank force in 1943, could only manage a few mph more.

Tortoise was well armoured with a maximum thickness of 225mm, although no attempt was made to slope the armour – a technique used on tanks like the Russian T-34/85 in order to increase the practical armour thickness. In fact, this particular innovation was not seen on a British tank until Centurion arrived on the scene in 1945.

But the Tortoise was never to enter service. It was obsolete on completion in 1948; the war it was designed for being over, and with more practical designs such as the British Conqueror in the pipeline.

The Tank Museum’s Tortoise is now the only complete surviving example of this anachronistic machine. We believe that it was last run under its own power during gunnery trails in the early 1950’s, over 60 years ago. Its meteor engine (essentially the same as a Merlin engine of the Spitfire), still produces the same pleasing tone as it would have all those years ago. But it is a `thirsty` vehicle, with Tank Museum experts estimating that it will travel at 10 gallons to the mile.

It was removed from display in the Museum in April, from where it was towed (with some considerable difficulty) to the Workshop and undergone a thorough inspection and evaluation prior to its starring role at TANKFEST.



TANKFEST remains excellent value – with prices held at 2010 levels!

The TANKFEST ticket also includes admission to The Tank Museum for a year; so this year you can even visit The Tank Museum before TANKFEST with your TANKFEST ticket! Advanced ticket purchases also attract at least a 10% discount.

Book Now!

This year, we are also offering hospitality at TANKFEST. For prices and booking information click here.

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If you couldn’t make it to TANKFEST 2010 find out what you missed – and get a flavour of what you can expect from TANKFEST 2011! Click here!

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