Welcome to the Military Vehicle Museum. The Museum was opened in 1983 when members of the North East Military Vehicle Club took a lease on the former Science and Engineering Museum building in Exhibition Park. The museum as opened by the lord mayor who was transported to the museum in Field Marshal Montgomery’s Humber staff car that was used by him during the invasion of Europe.
The museum began to acquire it’s own exhibits, the first major exhibit being a number of searchlights from the Tyne Electrical Engineers, one of which was restored to working order and operated from the Town Moor the following year. The local firm of C.A. Parsons was responsible for building searchlights during World War Two.
Other exhibits followed, Saracen and Ferret Armoured cars and, display cabinets were begged and borrowed to display many smaller exhibits and uniforms. And a replica trench was built from a TV set donated from Channel 4’s “Voices of War”.
During this time Volunteers supplemented by staff employed through various government job creation schemes initially manned the museum. However in the late 1980’s it with the change of funding it became fully voluntary and has run as such ever since.
At one stage the museum had the exiled King Michael of Rumania as its patron. The king is the last surviving head of state who lead a country during the Second World War. At 16 he successfully lead a coup to remove the pro German government and bring Rumania on to the side of the Allies.
He was a keen Jeep owner and still owned the Jeep giving to him by General Eisenhower at the end of the war. His daughter lived in Durham at the time and he and Queen Anne visited the Museum.
Slowly the vehicle side of the collection became less important as the stories of the North East soldiers, sailors, airmen and civilians developed, the trench was enlarged to tell the story of the trenches followed by a replica street to show the events at home during WW2.
By 2005 the building was in urgent need of safety work and it was decided to close and relocate. Unfortunately after two years of hard work the site chosen was flooded in 2008 and which put a stop to the planned move.
Sunderland City Council expressed an interest in the museum moving along side the North East Aircraft Museum at the site of what was once RAF Usworth. Development of a suitable building and infra structure started in 2009.
A building to store the larger vehicles was donated by the Port of Sunderland and dismantled by museum Volunteers and moved to the site. A Strategic Initiative Budged grant and a donation from the Sir James Knott Trust enabled the foundations and erection of the store, the first vehicles moving on-site in January 2012.