Advertised as the Wednesday Wobble, organised by David & Rosemary Hicks, a visit to the museum part of Shrivenham Military College sounded too good an opportunity to miss as around 20 members can attest. The decision to go in the car or on the bike? After the heavy rain of the morning it looked like it was clearing up with a potential frost that night, so the bike it would be. Riding along the A420 in the sunshine I could see a huge rain cloud ahead and correctly surmised this would be Shrivenham! Meeting Dave I suggested the name should be changed to the “Shrivenham Shower”, two meanings of course.
Our guide, Paul Molyneaux, proved to be very pragmatic when it came to booking in with no photographs and passes required and so speeding us through to start the visit on time. He rides a number of BMW bikes himself and therefore fully understood our requirements. A gentle ride through the college grounds, with the recent new training building looking very impressive on our left, to park up in front of the museum. The introductory talk laid out the reasons for the college, who attends and what they are expected to learn plus the logic for the museum itself. Military equipment changes very rapidly as threats are dealt with by new developments in protection for the forces and firepower to overcome the opposing forces. Students can learn how weapons and armour have evolved over the years by detailed inspection of the equipment in the museum, why some things worked at the time but may be inadequate as the opposition produce methods and devices to defeat them. On the tour of the museum a number of items of Soviet equipment could be seen; the explanation for these being that they have been sold to many countries who may turn out to be our enemies. Knowledge of how to operate and maintain the guns, trucks and tanks could allow them to be used against the enemy if they are found intact. They also provide information on how other countries design and manufacture military equipment, which can be used in the development of new machines.
I have always been intrigued by the Swedish tank with no turret and an example could be seen in the museum. Technically it is not a tank but a very low profile gun platform. The South African mine destroyer seemed an amusing story as although it worked well on the straight roads of Africa, when used on the tight bendy roads of Europe it couldn’t turn! The “V” hull shape to protect the driver by deflecting any blast outwards has been used on many other military vehicles.
Some examples of early and more recent “drone” aircraft are an indication of the future.
The room full of examples of various mines was very sobering showing how many different ways man has and is devising methods of destroying or injuring fellow humans. Examples of some of the terrorist weapons also indicate the changing face of the enemy.
There is another part of the museum where hand guns ranging from blunderbuss to the latest are stored but the curator was not available for our visit. A good reason to organise another visit please.
Here are just a few examples of the high quality exhibits.
During the tour we could hear the rain hammering down outside but it had reduced to just a gentle shower by the time we were leaving. As I rode through the grounds I could reflect on how interesting the visit had been. My reverie was rudely shattered when, just after gently crossing a speed bump, the back of my bike dropped about six inches!! I knew that the rear suspension had collapsed but didn’t know why. I must thank those who stopped to try and help me out although it didn’t seem possible to continue to ride. The upper mono-shock eye had jumped across to the right and only stopped because the spring hit the frame! I thought in the half light that the end of the mounting bolt had sheared off. The rubber bush had vanished but was found lodged on the drive arm. With some judicious jiggling the eye could be moved back over the bolt and with two cable ties retained in that position and the bike could be ridden to the car park to be left overnight. I am deeply indebted to Dave Hicks for coming all the way back from Bicester in his car to pick me up. It turned out that the bolt hadn’t sheared but the retaining washer had broken off and vanished, allowing the eye to move off its shaft. Theoretically, I could have removed the mono-shock, refitted the rubber in the eye and replaced it on the bike. Cable ties could have been used to hold it back against the frame and ridden it home. Would you trust your rear suspension mounting to a couple of cable ties?
I think this was a self inflicted problem as I had only recently fitted the mono-shock and remember that the washer provided by the manufacturer was too small for the bolt and so I used the old one which I bet was made of aluminium! There’s a good sized steel one on there now.
I can aslo praise the recovery service from Footman James who efficiently dealt with the transport to Andrew Sexton at Hook Norton and also Andrew’s engineering skills in making a more secure mount for the mono-shock.
All’s well that ends well and it proved one of the main reasons to be in the BMW Club; the willingness of everyone to try and help out a fellow member in distress. Thank you all.
John L Broad