What Wargaming is doing with its military restoration projects is so utterly unique that you just have to be impressed. The company doesn’t need to do this. It’s an immensely wealthy company and there are countless ways it could be spending its money. While cynics may say that this is all just marketing – and I don’t mind saying I held sentiments along those lines before this – it’s when you meet the Wargaming people and talk to them that it becomes clear their love of this equipment and the era is real. The passion is real and so is the pride.
Here we are, in the Australian Armour and Artillery Museum in Cairns, witnessing the unveiling of a WW2 Sentinel tank in its new home. Wargaming do this a lot. I was particularly impressed with its salvaging of a Dornier Do 17, digging it from its sandy grave of 73 years, and painstakingly restoring it before eventually putting it on display in the Conservation Centre in the U.K. It’s worth popping by here [http://rafmuseum.mdx.ac.uk/dornier17/portfolio/] to see the scale of that job, and some terrific historical documents and images.
The Sentinel was an easier job, by comparison. This unique vehicle is the only Australian tank designed and produced here. 65 were made, and only three of this model survive. This one was used on a farm after the war, sans turret, until an American collector bought it. When he passed away recently, Wargaming made and offer and the Sentinel was theirs. It was a mess, but looking at it today in the museum shows off all the hard work that went into making it worthy of exhibition.
After some new parts were fabricated and the surfaces cleaned and painted, there remained the issue of the missing turret. But as fortune would have it, the Australian Armour and Artillery Museum had a later model of the Sentinel which had a perfectly matching turret.
Seeing the Sentinel take its place among the 114 vehicles in the Cairns museum was quite moving. Were it not for the efforts and investments of Wargaming this would still be half-a-tank, and over in the wrong country. The size of the Australian Armour and Artillery Museum in Cairns blew me away, it was several times bigger than I was expecting. I highly recommend a visit – heck – it’s worthy flying up just for this, it really is a stunning collection of historical military vehicles.
IT’S IN THE GAME
Coinciding with the unveiling, the Aussie Sentinel also arrived in World of Tanks. It’s a decent performer, average at most things without being particularly strong, but it doesn’t suck so that’s a good thing. I asked Wargaming’s Nicolas Moran about the Sentinel in the game, he told me that “it’s appropriate to its real life capabilities, with good mobility good armour and the gun is adequate. The problem is when you get to higher tier vehicles, like the German Tiger – so if the Sentinel met the Tiger it’s go home time.”
Moran’s job as Director of Militaria Relations for Wargaming America essentially involves being a military expert for the company, and he played a key role in locating this Sentinel and guiding its restoration. I asked him why the company was doing all this; he explained “it’s our DNA. We just love tanks and history, our CEO was in the service, I’m a veteran, there’s a bunch if us into military history. What good would it do anyone if we didn’t do this?”
Despite its good intentions, occasionally Wargaming gets the cold shoulder, as “some of the older museums have been reluctant to work with us because they think we’re glorifying war” said Nicolas. But on the flipside Nicolas and the other military enthusiasts at Wargaming are held in high regard by others, which include the makers of the recent and amazing Fury movie. As Nicolas explained “the Fury producers sent me the script to look over. They really got the attitude of being a tank crewman in the move.”
And while we were talking tanks, I asked Nicolas what his top three tank movies were, as you do.
Top Three Tank Movies according to Wargaming’s Nicolas Moran:
The Beast (a totally kick-arse Israeli film)
And as a bonus pick Nicolas nominated The Pentagon Wars.