I followed-up on my visit to the Bovington Tank Museum in the UK with a visit to the Swedish equivalent, Arsenalen in Strängnäs. It is about 100 km from Stockholm, and thus less far off than the UK variant. Arsenalen is strictly speaking a “vehicle” museum, not just a tank museum, even though a majority of the vehicles on display are indeed tanks or at least armored vehicles.
As can be seen, it is not as fancy a building as Bovington. But the content is pretty good. I actually like the displays here better.
Arsenalen is doing a very good job of explaining the history of armored vehicles in the Swedish Army. This job is made easier by the simple fact that as a small country, Sweden simply has not produced or procured as great a number of types as for the example the British or Russian armies. Most vehicles on display has been in service with the Swedish Army (and in one case, the Navy) at some point, but there are also a few vehicles that have been obtained from the outside – in particular a few small German World War II tanks and the mandatory T-72 from the post-cold-war fire sale in Eastern Europe.
The day we visited was one of about three days during the Summer where they show off some running vehicles. This day, the vehicles were Stridsvagn 104 (Tank model 104), also known as the latest and last modernized Centurion variant.
Note that this variant is also present in Bovington, in their Tank Factory display. They also drove around in the uniquely Swedish Pansarbandvagn 302 (an APC), and a prototype open scout car from Germany.
PBV 302 (actually, this photo was taken when the PBV was open to the public for rides):
Scout car 1511:
Inside the museum, the displays are really nice since rather than just putting all the vehicles in a row, Arsenalen creates little displays that give a better idea for the systems in action. Just by having a dummy show a tank commander putting his head out of the hatch, you get a much better idea for the scale of the vehicle. There is also a nicely camoflaged cold war camp with a PBV and a repair vehicle.
The most dramatized display shows the crew of a 37 mm Bofors anti-tank gun. Really makes you appreciate the bravery of anti-tank gunners…
This shows an Infanterikanonvagn 91 reloading in the Winter:
Also in the collection: Panzer I, all Swedish tanks from the late 1930s and early 1940s, a Chieftain, Leopard I, and a Leopard II in Swedish Stridsvagn 122 version. There is a US M113 APC, and the prototype for the BV10S/Viking/BV308/BV309 light tracked vehicle. And an East German Trabant patrol car.
One of the most interesting items is a T55 that has been cut open. It was apparently used a training device in East Germany. Unfortunately, the sign did not tell me how it got here. I guess there is an interesting story. Very nice display showing off how a tank (albeit an older one) looks inside.
Four-wheel drive is nothing new either… this is a 1910 US-built four-wheel-drive truck!
Finally, the collection lets you see how the Swedish army has reused tracked chassis over the years. There are at least two heavily reused lines.
Stridsvagn model 42, which gets used to create the tank destroyer Pansarvärnskanonvagn model 43. Later, the m/42 are rebuilt into Stridsvagn 74 – with a new turret.
In the same fashion, the Czech design that is best known by its German name Panzerkampfwagen 38(t) was license-built in Sweden as the Stridsvagn model 41. I forgot to take a picture of it, for some reason. But I did get pictures of the derived designs: a German Hetzer tank destroyer, the assault gun Stormartillerivagn model 43, and the late 1950s APC Pansarbandvagn 301! Look at these pictures, and it is clear that it is the same chassis with very different superstructures.
A visit is highly recommended if you happen to like tanks and modern history.
As can be seen from some of the pictures above, is most cases the hatches and doors are open on the vehicles, allowing you to look inside. This is quite a contrast to Bovington, where everything is closed down. Outside the museum, there are a few vehicles parked on display – and it is totally OK to climb on them. Makes for some nice shots with the kids. Guess Bovington has so many visitors that their displays would wear down too fast if they allowed the same kind of activity.