Desert Mysteries, Part Four

The Royal Tank Museum

Amman in Jordan is home to one of the best museums of its type in the world, The Royal Tank Museum.

A project of the King of Jordan, Abdullah II, the museum was established in 2007 and opened in 2018 in a building best described as having the appearance of a futuristic Arab fort built with stealth technology.

John Tull, Going Postal
© John Tull 2024, Going Postal

This impressive building has around 20,000m2 of exhibition space over thirteen halls, a reinforced perimeter track and special display area, as well as its own restoration workshops. It houses over 110 tanks arranged in a chronological order, some set within specially constructed dioramas with murals, suitably posed and dressed mannequins, and light and sound effects.

Primarily the museum was built to display the vehicles and armour used by the Jordanian Armed Forces, and particularly those used by King Abdullah and his father King Hussein during their military careers.

Although there is an emphasis on those types used by the Jordanian Army in the post-WW2 conflicts in the region, there is also a good coverage of British and German armour from WW2.

When I visited last year, my interest was in two specific sets of WW2 vehicles that the museum has.

The first set being those that belonged to the British and their Arab allies in what nowadays would be called “Special Forces”, and the second are those of the Afrika Korps (to be covered in Desert Mysteries – Part 5).

Amongst the British armour on display are Crusader, Grant, Matilda, Stuart and Valentine tanks, Marmon-Herrington and Staghound armoured cars and a Lloyd Carrier. All originals and restored to the correct desert war camouflage schemes and markings.

The stand-out vehicles to me were however the following:

A WW1 vintage Rolls Royce Armoured Car as used in the Arab Revolt and the Sinai and Palestine Campaign against the Ottoman Empire. Some examples even remained in use with the British Army until the WW2 Desert War where one was captured by the Afrika Korps and inspected by Rommel.

John Tull, Going Postal
© John Tull 2024, Going Postal

An Arab Legion patrol based on a Ford truck…

John Tull, Going Postal
© John Tull 2024, Going Postal

…and the best of all, a Long Range Desert Group Chevrolet truck.

John Tull, Going Postal
© John Tull 2024, Going Postal

The Imperial War Museum in London has an original LRDG truck but left unrestored in the condition it was found, out in the Libyan desert in the early 1980s, and there is a reproduction LRDG Chevrolet in Canada that was built around a contemporary vehicle.

There are other vehicles of similar types that are still out there in the desert, having been found by various expeditions since WW2, including CMP Chevrolets and Fords.

Most of these wrecks belonged to the little-known “Sudan Defence Force” which was a British Colonial Auxiliary Force raised in 1925, that went on to serve through the Desert War especially on the Kufra convoys that provided supplies across 1200 kilometres of desert from Wadi Halfa on the Nile to the French under LeClerc who were holding Kufra deep in the Libyan desert.

Was this Chevrolet one of theirs? Unfortunately, my Arabic and the Museum staff’s English were not up to me finding out where this vehicle originated from but irrespective of that it is a wonderful relic and a definite desert mystery.

© John Tull 2024