Usually 25,000 tank fans visit the attraction over three days to watch armoured vehicles being put through their paces on the circuit.
But with Tankfest’s cancellation due to coronavirus, bosses decided to put on a live, three-hour programme instead.
And they were stunned when figures showed that more than a million people tuned in from all around the world – and they donated £80,000 to the museum.
It meant the online Tankfest was the most successful live streaming event that any British museum has ever put on.
The museum already had one of the most successful YouTube channels of any museum in the world, with 270,000 subscribers.
It achieved over 14 million views during 2019 and over five million views during the lockdown period.
Curator David Willey hosted the programme alongside Richard Cutland from World of Tanks, the popular computer game, which also streamed the show and has sponsored Tankfest since 2014.
David said, “It was a huge disappointment for us to cancel Tankfest – not least because it’s our biggest fundraiser.
“Initially we postponed it until September but it became clear this would not be possible, so we decided to hold it online.
“It was a quick turn-around and we called in other museums in Belgium, Austria, The Netherlands, America and Canada.
“It led to a successful international collaboration and highlights including America’s M1 Abrams, firing its gun.
“Footage from previous years was used but we also had new views filmed from inside the vehicles, allowing people to see the driver at work.
“A further benefit is that it drove ticket sales for next year’s Tankfest – so we are due a bumper event in 2021.
“We will probably do similar online events, especially as Covid restrictions remain.”
World of Tanks players were encouraged to support the museum by purchasing in-game fundraising packs, which raised £57,000.
The Tankfest film can still be watched at tankfest.org
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