These days we are spoiled with abundant content from streaming services, social media and refusing to extinct dinosaur traditional television broadcasts. Back in the 80s, there were 6 buttons of choice on the front of the brown box housing a bulging glass tube. The upcoming movies and cartoons schedule was published in the local newspaper. Old but gold gems were circled with a pen and awaited with anticipation. Families gathered around TVs to rewatch the most popular movies for the 10th time.
A lot of those were World War 2 movies or the Great Patriotic War as it is called in former USSR countries. WW2 scarred a lot of lives with the Soviet Union in particular accounting for 20 million lost souls. The memories lived on through cinema, books and veteran stories. My grandad made it all the way to Berlin but never spoke about his experience. We learnt only a fraction of it when his friends spoke at his funeral. And in every descent size city, there is a war museum and an eternal fire monument.
Because of this, I am a big fan of military history and get excited to see retired war machines. It was to my surprise that I found one of the oldest museums in Australia which was a former Lancer regiment barracks. When horses could no longer offered superiority on the battlefield the regiment moved to use their mechanical replacements but retained its original name.
Why was I surprised? Well, I walked past this place for over a year and never realised it was there right under my nose. What was even more surprising is that they have a working 80-year-old Matilda tank that served in WW2. For military history fans getting inside a piece of history is a rare treat. Youtube videos and VR simulations could not compare with this. The smell of oil and diesel, the tight quarters of the crew and even smaller driver’s compartments can only be experienced in a real thing.
While climbing over old tanks and reconnaissance vehicles with the biggest grin on my face I was told stories of how these you used by volunteers. They were blokes of different looks and ages but all shared the same passion for military vehicles. Their biggest pride a Matilda tank was sitting in a paddock covered with leaves and moss for many years until a couple of guys decided to restore it to its former glory. 60,000 hours of effort later we saw it proudly driving around puffing smoke out of the diesel engine exhausts.
Volunteers don’t get paid and most people would prefer to lie on the beach on Sunday afternoons rather than do this. These men were driven by passion. One of the younger volunteers Will shared that his dad was a mechanic and working on cars was a part of his upbringing. Working at the museum is something he loves to do. While forcing someone to work for free on weekends would make national news frontpages these guys show up without a fail on their own account.
Once you see it you can recognise this quality in everyday interactions. A barista making your cup of coffee. A workmate explaining how the complex process works with their eyes lit. A boxing coach celebrating your little progress in each session. I love how contagious that is. I would like to carry it through my days.