Cobbaton combat collection

MMI made a return trip to what must be one of the largest private collections open to the general public in the UK

While I’m sure that there are private collections of military vehicles and assorted military memorabilia that are than the collection to be found at the Cobbaton Combat Collection, few of them open their doors to the public as a museum on a day-to-day basis, indeed Cobbaton is more like a private collection that just happens to be open to the public than a museum.

Thankfully Cobbaton does open to the public, and owner and frunder Preston Isaac, his wife Dinie, their daughter Lucy and son Tim together with his wife Beth have run this fantastic collection as a museum for man many years, making this a true family run business. It’s a museum I love to visit and over the years I think the number of visits I have made ‘4 personally is now running into double figures, and I have no doubt I will be returning again time after time.

Contained within the collection is a large collection of military vehicles, weapons, and associated military memorabilia with everything from a Sherman tank to a Standard Tilly and lots more besides. If there is a problem with the museum it’s the lack of available space, space that decreases year in year out as the collection continues to grow and evolve, that said it’s all part of the charm of the Cobbaton Combat Collection, where visitors could spend many an hour looking at the vehicles crammed into the museum, let alone the many thousands of weapons and items of militaria displayed amongst the vehicles, it truly is an ‘Aladdin’s Cave’ for military enthusiasts.

Although it had only been a relatively short time since my last visit to Cobbaton, I noticed a numberof changes within the museum, with some of the larger exhibits having been moved around, while others had been taken outdoors for the show I was there to report on, so it was out with the camera to capture what I could in order to offer a flavour of the museum, because such is the extent of the museum collection, that’s all I can do, offer a brief glimpse of the delights to be found at Cobbaton, which hopefully will inspire some of you to pay a visit for yourself.

Show Time

As mentioned previously, my eighth visit to the museum in North Devon was timed to coincide with their annual ‘VJ Day’ military vehicle show held in August, which sees a number of vehicles belonging to local (and not so local) collectors attending the two-day show and putting on a display in the fields behind the museum itself.

This year saw a good collection of vehicles gathering for the show, and for once the ‘weather behaved itself! Having said that, Preston did say that vehicle numbers were a little down on previous years, whereas the number of re-enactors at the show increased, perhaps a sign of the times where collectors are finding themselves feeling the squeeze as fuel prices rise and vehicle prices increase too.

There were several living history displays, including one arranged around the mount in the main display field that commemorated the 30th anniversary of the Falkland War and as well as a Lightweight Land Raver and visiting re-enactors, included captured Argentine items from the museum’s collection.

A more elaborate wartime diorama display incorporated the museum’s own semi-derelict Comet tank and two Daimler armoured car hulks as well as a number of the re-enactors own vehicles in the area just before entering the display field to the side of the museum, and the re-enactors had even gone to the trouble of digging trenches and ditches for added authenticity.

Other vehicles on display around the large field included a number of wartime vehicles, including a Morris-Commercial C8 15cwt truck; an Austin Tilly, an Austin staff car, several Jeeps, a Dodge weapons carrier, Dodge Command Car and a GMC 6×6 truck and an assortment of motorcycles.

Post-war vehicles were well represented too, with an assortment of Land Rovers, which included a number of Lightweights, Ambulances, a couple of the newer Wolf Land Rovers and an ex-SAS Series IIA Pink Panther Land Rover, which is a regular at the show and is driven down to the show in Devon from Gloucestershire -come rain or shine!

I thoroughly enjoyed myself at both the museum and show, which was all the better for being blessed with proper summer weather, and despite my return trip turning into something of a marathon thanks to crashes and delays on the M5, which saw a three-hour trip turned into a seven-hour trip,

I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!

It may not be the biggest of shows, but it’s a very friendly event with a relaxed atmosphere that’s generating funds for the Burma Star Association, and has the added bonus of having the museum and it’s fabulous collection of vehicles and artefacts to keep you occupied for many hours. If you haven’t been to the Cobbaton Combat Collection yet, I can thoroughly recommend a visit. Contact details and opening times can be found at: www.cobbatoncombat.co.uk

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