An incredible piece of history has been rediscovered at The Tank Museum.

After an investigation, staff have located the first shell ever fired by a tank, which had been sat on display in the museum for almost 20 years.

The search for the shell commenced after a museum accession book revealed that it was among the artefacts in the museum's collection.

However, the shell looked identical to many others, making it hard to identify at a glance. The historic shell was fired in 1916 during the trial of a prototype Mark 1 Tank.

Museum Director Richard Smith said: "It had become part of the Museum’s collection shortly after it was founded in the 1920s. At some point since then, it had become separated from the wooden plinth with a plaque detailing its significance, and put on display as a generic example of a 6pdr round.

"This is a really important piece of history – and it’s ironic that in the last 20 years, around 3 million visitors will have passed it and looked at it without realising how important it was."

It was located in the museum when an archivist was disassembling the case it was in. They saw the accession number on the label, confirming that this was indeed the special shell.

Back in 1916 when it was first used, two member of the Landships Committee - which was formed during the First World War to develop the tank - bet each other £500 that the tank would fall apart upon the shell being fired.

The tank did not collapse, and the Mk1 tanks would go on to assist the war effort on the Western Front. They first appeared in battle in September 1916.

The Tank Museum in Bovington showcases the history of the tank all the way from the First World War to the present day. It features an extensive collection of vehicles and artefacts.

The museum also offers a range of experiences and events for residents and visitors to enjoy. To find out more, visit