Sunday, 3 June 2007

Musée des Blindes de Saumur

In the french city of Saumur is a famous tank museum - the Musée des Blindes de Saumur (check here the official web site). The museum has the largest collection in the world of Second World War german tanks, as well as a significant number of vehicles (e.g., East Europe and First World War tanks) in working condition. The museum has more than 850 vehicles, a third of which work and 200 on permanent display. Usually, an exhibition with the working vehicles is organized in July. You may find that a vehicle referred in the website or here isn't occupying its designated spot because many of the vehicles are moved from time to time for maintenance.

For a complete history of the museum, the portuguese readers can check an article published on Jornal do Exército (the official magazine of the portuguese army) in 1981 (page 1 and page 2). In this link you can also check a scan that I made of a list and plan with the equipment on display. Finally, as an aditional suggestion, I would recommend the reading of this text by Michael J. Meese.
In the summer of 2003, I had the opportunity to make a visit - obviously, I took a few shots and filmed the vehicles in exposition. Here it's a sample of the shots that I took.

A point of interest in the collection is the diversity of vehicles from East Europe countries. Saumur's collection includes, for example, a T-34, T-54/55 and T-72 tanks; tracked PT-76 and BMP-1 and wheeled BTR-70 and BRDM-2 (photo) combat vehicles. In the photo a BRDM-2, a combat reconnaissance and patrol vehicle with a crew of 4 and 7 tons of weight.

An iraqui T-55 tank captured by french forces in the first Gulf War, 1991. Over 95.000 T-54/55 were produced, making it the most-produced tank series in history. The simplicity of these vehicles is due to two reasons: their production was easier and faster; the average lifetime of a tank in fight was less than 45 minutes, so it would be a waste of resources to improve this vehicles. Because of this, Varsaw Pact trusted in the superiority of the numbers over the quality of the material.

A french AMX-30B main battle tank with a mine clearing device, as used in the first Gulf War, 1991. When the french troops found large minefields in the iraqui battlefield they had to improvise: they've used mine rollers recovered from East Germany. These machines were operated by remot control.

A reconnaissance light tank Engesa EE-9 Cascavel Mk II. This 12 tons vehicle has a 90mm gun and its engine can achieve a maximum speed of 100 km/h. The vehicle of the collection was operated by Lybia. Along with Brazil, Lybia was the main operator of the Cascavel (400 vehicles purchased).

The german tanks used during Second World War are well represented. In the photo, a Panzer III armed with a 37mm gun. The collection includes, for example, a Panzer IV, Marder vehicles, a Tiger I, a Tiger II, a Panther, Jagpanther V OR an IV/70A tank destroyers and Schutzenpanzerwagen SD. KFZ 251/7 half-trancked vehicles.

A french army's Panhard VBL light armoured vehicle - note the characteristic

An AMX-30 Pluton, a modified version of the AMX-30 main battle tank for launch a tactical nuclear weapon (15 to 25 KT). The french army has withdrawn these vehicles from service due to the end of the Cold War.

[All the photographs were taken with a Nikon F65 and 28-80mm zoom lens and a Fuji Superia ISO 100 film; the use of a tripod, as well of the auto-focus would have improved them.]

Pedro Monteiro