Life in a tank

Driving a tank is a tough job but throughout history, tank crews have remained very loyal and attached to their huge metal beasts. The life of a tank crew apparently hasn’t changed much since the first tanks were used in the First World War, although the advances in technology have made certain tasks easier. Let’s take a look at what life is like being part of a tank crew.

Modern tanks don’t have much room inside for creatures comforts, believe it or not. They are also bigger than the Sherman tanks of World War II, so imagine how cramped they must have felt. The UK’s current tank in service is the Challenger 2 which weighs a hefty 70 tons when fully loaded. Each tank costs £4.2 million so it’s a good job they are sturdy.

The inner compartment where the crew sit is bigger than it used to be but it has to filled with four crewmen and is only about 6 ft high so head bumping might be a common problem. The area is about 10 ft by 15 ft but also has to be used for the storage of rations, clothes and any equipment needed. Any leftover space is most definitely reserved for ammunition. Would you like to know how it feels to be part of a tank crew? For your very own Tank Experience, visit

In pure British spirit, there is a boiling facility in the turret so the crew can have a brew in the middle of a battle if they wish. I wonder if there’s biscuits stashed somewhere too? A small luxury such as the ability to make a cuppa can make all the difference however as crews often have to live in the tank for days or even weeks at a time deep in enemy territory. The tank becomes home and the men rely on it to survive. It becomes more than just a weapon. They live in it and from it in that it supplies their water and gives them the means to heat it. It is easy to see how such an emotional attachment occurs between the crew and their beast.

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Of course, this kind of attachment has it’s benefits as knowing your machine inside out means you can control it better and understand it’s little quirks and faults and how to work around them. Being in such close proximity to your crew mates has it’s advantages too and the army call it ‘small unit cohesion’. It improves morale but also efficiency and speed in understanding each other in tricky combat situations.

Back in the Second World War, the crew would have worried about being stuck in a burning tank, as the Sherman had a propensity to burn when hit by enemy shells. Modern tanks are far safer and one brilliant example of the protection these tanks offer occurred in 2003 when a Challenger 2 came under fire in Basra. It fell into a ditch and lost its tracks and while the crew sheltered inside, it was hit by no less than 14 RPGs and an anti-tank missile. Six hours later the tank was up and running again with only a few minor dents. Now that’s an impressive machine.