The Armoured Corps of most nations armies originally started as horse borne cavalry units. With the introduction of the tank in World War One by the British who first used Mark I tanks on the Somme battlefield in France on September 15th, 1916 the face of warfare changed completely (they were introduced to break the back of trench warfare). Cavalry units began converting to the armoured role (machine guns and armoured vehicles made men on horseback just too vulnerable).
The first tank on tank battle did not occur until April 24th, 1918 near Villers-Bretonneux in France – this was due to the fact that the Germans did not deploy their first tank the A7V until March 21st, 1918 and had produced only 20 by wars end on November 11th, 1918.
From its introduction, tanks were just there to assist the army, but by World War Two and the onset of the German Blitzkrieg the importance of the tank in battle as a striking force and as an army in itself, was never better understood. Today the armoured corps is an integral fighting arm of any nation.
The Australian cavalry has a long history dating back to the Boer War and World War One, but the Royal Australian Armoured Corps was not officially formed until 1941. Prior to this date the Australian Army did first operate armoured cars in 1916 during World War One (Sinai and Palestine campaigns) and tank units were first formed in late 1920’s/early 1930’s using the British designed Vickers Medium Tank.
During World War Two the Australian Army operated British, American and home designed armoured vehicles such as the M3 Grant and Matilda II tanks. These tanks were primarily used in the Middle East and Pacific War.
After that war the line of heavy Main Battle Tanks included the British Centurion (operated from 1952 to 1977 including service in the Vietnam War), the German Leopard (1976 to 2007 – we had quite a variety of these as you can see in the photos) and now the mighty US designed M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank (the first tank was delivered in 2006).
More than 70 armoured vehicles along with cannons, other weaponry, artefacts and uniforms are on display at the Royal Australian Armoured Corps (RAAC) Tank Museum at the Puckapunyal Army Base in Victoria. These displays show not only equipment operated by Australia and her allies but also includes tanks from former Cold War foes and neutral countries along with captured equipment and tanks from World War Two (German and Japanese), the Vietnam War (Chinese built tanks and armoured vehicles) and the Iraq War (tanks and armoured vehicles).
I have been visiting Puckapunyal or “Pucka” as it is also known, since I was a kid and there is always something new there to see. I always enjoy visiting the museum and have now taken two of my little nephews who loved it! As it is an active military base you must have a valid Government ID and you are only allowed to visit the museum area of the base. The tank museum is well worth a visit if you are ever near the Seymour area of Victoria.