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Posted March 26, 2016 by Adam Ghiggino in Feature
 
 

Wargaming Brings Australian WWII Sentinel Tank Home to Cairns


On Wednesday, 23 March, World of Tanks developer/publisher Wargaming stretched their influence from the virtual world into the real one, with a special unveiling. The culmination of two years of planning and restoration, Wargaming has brought a rare WWII-era AC1 Sentinel Tank back home to Cairns. On display at The Australian Armour & Artillery Museum just north of the city, the tank is one of only six remaining in the world, from an initial run of 65. However, it has its place in history as the only mass-produced tank Australia contributed to WWII, and the first tank to have a single-piece hull.

Rocket Chainsaw, along with a bevy of Australian media, were invited to Cairns to see the tank in its restored glory first-hand. While you may not think the weather and extreme humidity would make for ideal conditions for presentation, the Australian Armour & Artillery Museum has a huge range of tanks on full display, still extremely impressive spectacles of engineering.

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“It’s a big deal for us, because our games are essentially virtual museums of military vehicles,” explained Alexander Bobko, Head of Global Marketing Projects at Wargaming.

“It’s part of Wargaming’s DNA, when we speak about history and historical accuracy.”

The AC1 has traveled halfway around the world to return to its homeland, originating from a private collection in Los Angeles. In 2014, after its owner, Jacques Littlefield, passed away the collection was moved to Austin, Texas, and certain pieces of that collection were made available for sale. The sale caught Wargaming’s interest, as they saw the Sentinel not just as the most unique item on offer, but a way to give back to the Australian World of Tanks community that forms a large part of their Asia business.

“This is the only occasion we have purchased a tank. That’s why we wanted to make it available for the public,” Alexander commented.

“In the same year, the Australian Armour and Artillery Museum was opened in Cairns, which we found out about thanks to our Australian players. We also took into consideration that our Australian community have been asking to add this very tank in the game World of Tanks.”

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Wargaming has indeed taken the opportunity to re-create the Sentinel tank in World of Tanks as well, as it is now available for PC players and World of Tanks Blitz gamers. Alexander advises that since there are so few tanks produced in Australia, the tank is available in the British Tech Tree of the game.

It was the push from Australian fans for local content that ultimately helped Wargaming make the local connection to bring the Sentinel home to Cairns.

“We saw there is a demand from the Australian community to have a tank… There is a new museum in Australia, a very cool one with a huge connection with very, very cool owners… We acquired this new tank… All of these elements have been made up into one big story.”

This story has been captured by Wargaming in an upcoming documentary, which we were treated to a sneak preview of. It details the journey of the tank from America to Australia, the restoration process and the key individuals behind the negotiations. The tank’s design and military history is also explained in layman’s terms, making it easy to understand the vehicle’s place in history.

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This isn’t the first heritage activity Wargaming has undertaken, previously helping to stage a re-enactment of an historic air route from Seattle, USA to Moscow, Russia. The flight commemorated the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, and featured authentic WWII-era planes from the AT-6 Texan to the Bell P-39 Airacobra.

“There is a huge demand for something extra from the community– tell us more about this tank or this warship, ” said Alexander, “That’s why we are producing tons of content and tons of videos, articles, stories about tanks or warships or warplanes.”

It’s also the combined effort of everyone involved in World of Tanks that helped achieve this common goal – from both the developers and audience.

“It’s all about creating something extra. It’s all about combining resources from the community side, from the business development side, the historical side… When we see the AC1 Sentinel here, it’s the result of the community working with developers, game designers, marketing, PR.”

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From restoring military history, to looking to the future of gaming technology – Wargaming was also showcasing a new VR demo using Google Cardboard, a taste of what’s to come. The demo was simply a replay of a real World of Tanks match, however presented in VR panoramas so that you could view the action going on all around you. Taking into account the swivelling-nature of a tank and it’s similarity to how one would be using VR in an office chair, it seems a natural fit for Wargaming to be exploring options to integrate VR into their games. However, that time might still be some ways away.

“Virtual Reality is something we really want to be part of. However, the market is very much in the alpha…” Alexander laughed.

“I wouldn’t even call it alpha stage. Pre-alpha, maybe. But still, we are experimenting.”

 

The AC1 Sentinel Tank is now available on World of Tanks for PC and World of Tanks Blitz. If you’d like to see the genuine article, you can visit the Australian Armour & Artillery Museum at 1145 Kamerunga Road, Smithfield in Queensland, open 7 days 9:30am-4:30pm.

 

Rocket Chainsaw’s flights, accommodation and travel expenses to the World of Tanks Sentinel unveiling were provided by Wargaming and PPR.


Adam Ghiggino

 
Owner, Executive Editor of Rocket Chainsaw. I also edit TV, films and make average pancakes.


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