Heading east out of Melbourne on a bus with a group of journalists, I wasn’t exactly certain what to expect. I knew roughly where we were headed and what we were going to do, but my imagination could only take me so far.
Truly understanding what we were about to take part in was impossible until after the fact. I’m sure many of you have had a similar experience. There are times when you think you know what’s about to happen and the actuality turns out to be much less rewarding than you’d hoped.
Then there are times when your imagination is so far below reality, the event seems even better by comparison. This was one of the latter.
The city of Melbourne quickly gives way to suburbs, which just as quickly recede into the countryside and open plains then finally, we headed into Gippsland. Located in Victoria’s South East, Gippsland is one of the most beautiful regions in Australia.
The undulating hills are home to temperate rainforest interspersed with dairy farms, wineries and small, quiet towns. I watched as the countryside flowed past the windows of the bus.
I saw a young calf frolic with its mother cow and I saw wallabies scamper away from our vehicle as though their lives depended on it. Gippsland is truly a placed where Mother Nature is still the queen.
Humans have carved out a niche, but the region belongs to the plants and animals.
It’s in this idyllic locale that we arrive at our destination. Hidden within the rainforest, behind winding, narrow dirt roads is a collection of some of humanity’s finest instruments of destruction.
Importantly for our group, South Gippsland Tank Adventures is home to a fully functional Centurion Mk. 5. To celebrate the tank’s inclusion in World of Tanks on PC, we’re here to drive the Centurion and experience its incredible power up close and in person.
This Centurion Mk. 5/1 RAAC was constructed in 1950 and was deployed in Vietnam for the duration of the Vietnam War. Despite being involved in some engagements, the Centurion was undamaged until the final days of the war. It wasn’t damaged by enemy fire, however, instead, someone placed some material over the exhaust pipe and set the tank on fire. Oops.
We’re told that the British built Centurions were introduced in 1945 and were supposed to take part in World War II. They never got the chance though, thanks to the German surrender.
While the Centurion was a British design, it was standardised by the Australian Army between 1950 and 1970 and were integral to the success of the Battle of Coral-Balmoral, during May 12 – June 6 1968.
Cameron Stone, the owner of South Gippsland Tank Adventures, told our group that the Centurion we rode has appeared in historical images from the Vietnam War. This particular tank is missing the spotlight that players will see in-game, but when it did have the spotlight it featured an image of Mickey Mouse, something Cam is keen to recreate.
Wargaming Australia Country Manager Travis Plane told us, “The Centurion tanks were well armoured, mobile and easy to maintain. No doubt there will be great anticipation amongst our tankers for the Centurion to roll out.”
World of Tanks Regional Publishing Director Alexander De Giorgio describes an uptick in the number of Australian players in recent times.
We’re not just dedicated to great gameplay, but delivering local, historically relevant content. Our player base in Australia and NZ continues to grow, especially following the launch of the local server and most recently World of Tanks 1.0.
The Australian Centurion is another example of our commitment to our Aussie players
The Centurion in-game won’t feature the Mickey Mouse sticker on the spotlight, but it will be historically accurate. During our time at South Gippsland Tank Adventures, Cam Stone and his crew explain how the Centurion in World of Tanks includes the same custom modifications made by the Australian Army.
Parts of the Centurion’s side skirts, guards and tracks were all cut and discarded by the Australian Army as a means to make the tank easier to repair. This Aussie ingenuity was on display with another tank in Stone’s workshop. As he was walking us around the tank, he pointed to a bracket covered with chicken wire and proudly declared, “That’s an official Australian modification.”
The purpose of the chicken wire was to prevent the Japanese from being able to throw grenades inside the tank. Humble chicken wire saves the day and it doesn’t get much more Aussie than that.
South Gippsland Tank Adventures’ workshop and museum are definite attractions and well worth the drive, but the star of the show is the Centurion. And that’s why we’re here.
It’s hard to describe just how big the Centurion is. I knew it was 52-tonnes, but seeing it in person was eye-opening. The thing is HUGE. Standing almost two storeys tall and nearly 8m long, it’s an impressive beast of a machine. Once Stone starts up the engines and the Centurion comes alive, it’s even more impressive.
This is a machine that is nearing 70 years old and it is still going strong. It’s been to war and back and it’s still kicking. And if standing next to it was exciting, once I got inside, the adrenaline rush was intense.
Although the Centurion only travels at a maximum of 35 km/h riding it is a wild experience. Cam Stone drove the tank while myself and another journalist poked our heads out from the gunner’s seats.
The wind whipped my face and combined with the sound of the engine, I couldn’t hear anything. I could only imagine how terrifying and disorientating it would have been to actually be in a Centurion while doing battle. After my ride had finished, I jumped down to the ground and immediately wanted to go again. It was a slow ride, but it was an amazing one.
Thankfully, Wargaming had one final surprise for me. I had been selected to ride in the tank while it crushed a car. A freaking car!
As I sat in my gunner’s seat, trying to imagine what it would be like going over the car, it was another example of simply not having the imagination to do so. At first, we glided over the car’s central body without any effort. Like a knife through butter.
Cam Stone then reversed the Centurion and took us over the engine block. This was the best moment of the entire experience. The Centurion rose up and up and up as the smashed up Corolla’s engine held onto its structural integrity. It felt like we were up at a 45-degree angle and it felt like we were being held that way for minutes. In reality, it was only a few seconds, but for those few seconds, I felt excitement and fear like no other.
Eventually, the puny six-cylinder engine gave way and we plummeted to the ground with a thud. 52-tonnes of pure military might smacked into the ground and I held on for dear life.
I thought of the Wallaby again. He’d had the presence of mind to get out of the way of our bus, but this car had no such chance. There was no escaping its fate and the Centurion had claimed another victim.
While driving the Centurion in World of Tanks isn’t likely to get close to the experience of actually riding one, it’s still excellent to see Australian representation in the game. The Centurion joins the Australian-designed Sentinel AC1 as the second Aussie tank in World of Tanks and it is available from today May 11 2018.
The Centurion is a Tier VIII tank and will join the British Centurion Mk. I and nearly 100 other Tier VIII tanks.
If you want to experience the Centurion up close and personal, head to the South Gippsland Tank Adventures website. For everyone else, jump onto World of Tanks PC now and take the Centurion Mk. V for a spin.
PowerUp! wants to give a huge thanks to Wargaming for inviting Leo on this trip.
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