The armoured vehicle section is inaugurated on May 9, 1980 and comprises vehicles, transmission equipment and pieces used by artillery and military engineering. Collection items are restored according to detailed documentation. Work is performed at the remote storage facilities the Museum has for instance in Brasschaat (near Antwerp) or Bastogne. Numerous armoured vehicles are also on display there.
The British caterpillar tractor is the forerunner of what was later on to become the tank. The vehicle is soon equipped with armoured plating, in order to resist enemy fire. In order to mislead the opponent the armoured tracked vehicle appears on the First World War battlefields under the codename “tank”. This “secret” name however remains in the running, even when all armies are equipped with the new invention. The large tracks can handle all terrains; the trenches and swampy areas are no longer out of reach. The Military Museum possesses three of those impressive Great War contraptions: the British Mark IV Male, the British Whippet and the French Renault FT17.
Originally, tanks were used at the front in order to penetrate enemy lines and tow artillery pieces. The French Renault U.E. was used for transporting supplies of munitions, fuel and food on the battlefield. After the French defeat in June 1940, the Germans captured a large number of these tracked vehicles, which were then converted and used for other purposes, for instance the defence of airfields.
The American Sherman M32B1, on the other hand, played quite a different role. As a rescue tank, its job was to evacuate damaged and immobilised tanks from the front.
Tanks were also used for reconnaissance in enemy territory. For example, our display shows a Locust, primarily used as a reconnaissance vehicle for airborne troops. With its mere 8 tonnes, this small armoured vehicle could easily be transported by glider, thereby allowing it to cover huge distances in one leap, just like the little creature whose name it bears.
Infantry vehicles, combat vehicles, rescue tanks and reconnaissance vehicles… virtually every type of armoured vehicle that has ever existed is represented in this section.
In a few years the completely renovated square patio (a listed site in the Jubilee Park) will focus on Belgian tanks, with restored vehicles and new exhibition galleries dedicated to the history and operations of the Belgian Army after 1945.