What is the Tankmuseum all about?
The Belgian Tankmuseum is not a true “museum”. The Tank Museum is a non-profit organisation that takes care about the collection of armoured vehicles belonging to the Royal Army Museum in Brussels.
The organisation has about 1000 members worldwide, but the core is made up by about 60 volunteers who maintain and restore the vehicles.
The organisation has a board of directors of 7 persons and is headed by Lieutenant-General (ret.) Yvon Brunin (right).
The adventure starts in 1978. The collection of armoured vehicles is spread all over the museum. There is no dedicated space or display for them.
In 1979 a couple of enthusiasts get green light from the curator to “put some paint” on the vehicles.
Soon more and more people join in to help. The work on the vehicles is done on sundays. The idea to create an “armoured” section begins to take shape.
At that point in time the club is joined by the recently retired Lieutenant-General Dewandre, who already, while still in active duty, strived to preserve one vehicle from each type that saw service in the Belgian armed forces.
The group of tank enthousiasts now calls itself 'Tank Museum'.
Meanwhile, a lot of vehicles are ready to be shown to the public. However inside the museum there is no space available, but they can use the outdoor centre court of the museum.
Sadly the centre court is somewhat of a dump. Luckily the Tank Museum gets some aid of the 4th engineering battalion, which helps to clean the courtyard up.
On May 9th 1980 the centre court is ceremoniously opened. On the court there are, at that time, 38 vehicles on display. With the help of Lt-Gen. Dewandre’s contacts and others the collection steadily grows.
At the same time a documentation center and small exhibition about the history of armoured vehicles is set up. In September 1981 the first issue ofTank Museum News is printed.
For administrative purposes the Tank Museum becomes a non-profit organisation. On their first general meeting of April 23rd 1983 this becomes official.
The centre court quickly runs out of space, so the Tank Museum is forced to look out for storage space for vehicles that can not be displayed. After numerous peregrinations along depots in Olen, Westerlo and Tielen, they finally settle down in the fortress of Kapellen (near Antwerp). This site is made up out of several hangars, a large open space and the 19th century fortress. From 1994 on the ,by then, 200 vehicles large collection is stored there.
In Brasschaat a team of volunteers equips 2 hangars as workshop.
Some volunteers that stayed in Brussels moved in 2000 to another depot inVissenaken (near Tienen). Here the second group of volunteers of the Tank Museum starts work at vehicles..
On March 27th 1999 Lt-Gen (ret.) Brunin is chosen as new president of the organisation. The first president of the Tankmuseum dies in July 2003, leaving behind a mourning organisation.
In 2008 the collection consists of 360 vehicles divided over the 2 depots and the centre court. The Tankmuseum has about 1000 members worldwide and celebrates his 25th birthday as official organisation.
On special occasions the vehicles come alive. During exhibitions, remembrance ceremonies, car shows, military parades and so on, the restored armoured vehicles are shown to the public. The vehicles of the section ground equipment are the only part of the very large collection of the Royal Army Museum that can bring the museum to the people. The volunteers of the Tank Museum in co-operation with the regular military personnel of the Royal Army Museum thus perform an important PR-function.
The Tankmuseum organises once or twice a year study trips for its members to other military related museums in Belgium or abroad. Museums in Saumur and Normandy (F), Munster, Sinsheim, Koblenz and Remagen (D) and Bovington (UK) are just a couple of them. Membership does have its advantages.
One of the other perks of being a member is the annual Tank show.
This is organised in the Depot of Brasschaat and gives the members a chance to take a look at the work of the volunteers as well as the stored collection. Traditionally there is a reception and lunch. The day is closed with a massive dynamic demonstration of restored running vehicles.
A fun packed day out especially for the members!
In co-operation with the RAM guided tours are organised on a regular basis in the Depot of Kapellen. The public gets a chance to visit the storage and restoration hangers and is treated to a dynamic demonstration.
More info and the exact dates can be found in the "News"