tisdag, december 26, 2006

Tanks in History

The alley leading to Pansarmuseet was an ordinary country lane tucked away in a typical Swedish landscape, relatively low, ultra flat, dotted with red wooden barn houses. "Don't worry, we are on the right path." My companion, Henrik, told me in a sympathetic voice. No street address was available for the tank museum, our final destination, in the middle of an arduous walk after we got off at Varnhem, where three Medieval pagan monarchs from the House of Eric, later Birger Jarl as well, the founder of Stockholm, and Count Magnus Gabriel de la Gardie were all buried in the well-marked historical Varnhems klosterkyrka.

Soon I found out why officially but a succinct road description existed for Pansarmuseet - because we were heading for a protected military base, in which the museum currently lay. According to a 1990 law, we were forbidden to outline the environs in verbal terms. No photos either. Once inside the museum, curiously enough, photographing was however permitted, the museum assistant rather readily assured me. As a retired military man, he was obviously delighted to see visitors dropping in. The day before, we were told, there had not been even one guest coming.

[No Picture]

Pansarmuseet was founded in 1969 by a special initiative of Rudolf Paleman, Henrik's late grandfather. An admittably young museum, it has steadily grown from a collection of 27 fighting vehicles at its inception to more than 100 nowerdays. Spending one afternoon in this treasure house would be a terrific experience for all lovers of tanks. I surely made a field day of this opportunity to be allowed close access to the tank components for a detailed view. Here every vehicle appeared in good conditions. Had it not been for lack of spare parts, they could have had us take the tanks for a real drive. The helpful guide confirmed my surmise with a yes.

Carden-Loyd Mk V, England 1928
1.4 tons, 2 men. British pre-World War II tankette. I almost mistook it for a water carrier. It was indeed reminiscent of the first tanks in history.

Renault NC 27, France 1927
8.5 tons, 2 men. Didn't work properly right from the start, the assistant said ruefully. That's quite French. lol. But does it happen to appear artistique? Like one of those animated toys in a ... Jan Švankmajer film? Héhé..

Panzerjäger Marder II ausf C, Germany 1942
Bad news for the Nazi army then, the tank motor got sabotaged in Norway in the Second World War. The Panzer eventually made its way to Sweden.

M4 Sherman, USA
Cruiser tank. Old-fashioned; but looks starkly familiar.

M3 White Scout Car, USA.
So someone painted down his belle Olga love on this patrolling car amidst the war chaos.

Churchill Mk III, England 1942
Infantry tank, a low angle view:

m/42 VKP, Sweden 1944
UN bought 15 of this type for its Indian and Irish battalions after the car went popular for missions in Congo.

m/39, Sweden
Sweden sold 13 of this type to Dominican Republic in 1958. It was reported that some of them were on the market for sale in 2004, around $30,000 for each.

m/40, Sweden (1940). Interior views:

Swedish M series on display:

Strv 103 C Sweden
Developed by Bofors AB in 1967-71. 42.3 tons, 3 men. No turret. Suitable for water operations. The fence was believed to be an innovation. Designed with the USSR in mind during the Cold War era.

Invincible tanks. Apparently they were not there in the north of Canaan, July, 2006. ;)
Judges 1:19 "And the LORD was with Judah; and he drove out the inhabitants of the hill-country; for he could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron."

While I was checking out the hulking juggernauts, Henrik's attention mostly went to the silent plastic tank models neatly lined up along the wall shelves. They were the old pastime work on display of his grandfather. "Impressive. How long did it take your grandpa to get each one done?" I asked him.

"On average, I think couple of weeks were normally needed." He paused a moment before he answered. "I was 8 years old when my grandpa passed away. When I see the tank models now, I can't help visualizing him working on these in his free time. I still have vivid family memories, but what I wished most to connect with after I became an adult person was his inner mind. Something possibly too complicated for an 8-year-old child to adequately understand at that time."

In a country with public sentiments traditionally going strongly anti-war, the points of view on weapons, or for that matter military establishment in general, are diverse and often in conflict. Sometimes it can cause formidable divergence of opinions even within a family. Henrik's father was said to hold an "orthodox" pacifist position, but down to the third generation, there's a notable curiosity from Henrik's part to appreciate more his grandfather's military background for an atavistic reversion. When I thanked him for his guidance as we departed, he responded just with visible contentment.

"You know, coming back again is a groovy thing. When was the last visit I paid here? Well, years years ago." For a throwback like him, alas, probably there won't be another time, given the fact that Pansarmuseet is going to move to a new home on the other side of the country and the present location is to close down in the new year.

I guess only a bike such as this one would remain staying there out of the same roadside obscurity.

- Off note as of 2008/05/30

According to an updated SvD article, the entire tank regiment P 4 in Skaraborg, which was grounded in the year of 1631, would have to be abolished under the government's current plan. This Swedish regiment has seen action most recently in Afghanistan. Read how locals reacted here.

söndag, december 24, 2006

Outside it's dark and cold

The first time the true spirit of Sankta Lucia found me as a receptive mind was during a St. Lucia Day celebration I took part in at Svenska teologiska institutet in Jerusalem on December 13, 2002. The setting of the Holy Land rendered the original religious meaning of the holiday particularly edged. Until then I didn't even know that St. Lucy had been a martyr from Sicily and the tune of the melody Neapolitan. But the fact that the name of the saint meant "light", hence "the way of light" through "in Lucy", and the fact that the fête was around the very day of the winter solstice, when outside it's dark and cold in the far North, made the Scandinavian trait of this tradition distinctly appealing to me. As an outsider, I wished someday I could even have a personalized experience of the Nordic land.

This year I witnessed the St. Lucia procession at Habo Church near Jönköping in Sweden. The building was built entirely in wood, and was "one of four churches whose pictures were reproduced by the Swedish Post Office Christmas stamps abroad" in the same 2002. Four years have passed, my life is again at a crossroad. Again I hear "natten går tunga fjät". The night walks with heavy steps.

More photos you'll find in my gallery on St. Lucia celebration:
Click Here