Tag Archives: dvd review

Wittman v Ekins: The Death of a Panzer Ace – The DVD

This is the second DVD I have had the pleasure of reviewing from the partnership of Battlefield History TV and Pen and Sword Digital. Whilst the first DVD I reviewed focussed very much on family military history, this release looks at two very different men, on opposing sides of one of the most famous battles of the Second World War.

Michael Wittman was the most renowned German Tank Ace of the Second World War. By the time he arrived in Normandy with his elite Waffen SS Tank Battalion, he had seen extensive service on the Eastern Front and had been decorated for bravery. By contrast Trooper Joe Ekins was a shoemaker in civilian life who had volunteered for the Norhamptonshire Yeomanry, a territorial armoured unit. These two very different men came to be facing each other in August 1944 during Operation Totalize – Montgomery’s attempt to break out of the bridgehead or tie down German reinforcements, depending on which side of the historiography you sit!

Many books and programmes have attempted to pinpoint exactly who killed Michael Wittman. Where I think this DVD is spot on is in its conclusion that while it is almost possible to pinpoint who exactly killed Wittman, but it is very possible that it was Trooper Ekins. My take on it having watched the DVD, is why have people become so fixated with finding out who exactly killed Wittman? Lots of men and tanks were fighting each other in the summer of 1944, is it really possible or indeed wise to try and isolate individuals from the bigger picture? But I guess if people are interested in it, its always going to be the subject of speculation.

I found this a vey enjoyable DVD indeed. The balace between battlefield visits, the interviews with Joe Ekins and the expert analysis was just about right. In particular I enjoyed Richard Hone’s look at the German and Allied Tanks. The use of battlefield maps, overlaid with graphics and used in conjunction with battlefield views, really brings the story of life. But best of all, the interviews with Trooper Joe Ekin ensure that his memories and experiences are recorded for posterity.

This kind of focussed, battlefield interpretation lends itself very well to the DVD format. Its very well produced, and with a nice soundtrack. Whereas Tracing Great War Ancestors was a good effort, this seems a more confident offering. The ability to talk to veterans, walk the battlefields and present graphics paints a picture far more accesible than even the most vivid book. And I think there is a demand for these kinds of studies. I can think of plenty of stories associated with Arnhem that could be told very lucidly using this approach – fingers crossed we will see many more like this in the future.

Wittman v Ekins: The Death of a Panzer Ace is available from Pen and Sword Digital

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Filed under Book of the Week, d-day, videos, World War Two

Tracing Great War Ancestors – the DVD

DVD

I’m well into the swing of reviewing books now, having been working on my blog for almost 9 months. But it was a pleasant surprise to receive a copy of this brand new DVD from Pen and Sword. In fact, im surprised that its only now that this concept is taking off!

The DVD is broken down into three sections, and follows Richard Hone as he sets off on a journey of discovery, looking to find out more about his Uncle Bill who died in the First World War. In the first part genealogist Simon Fowler shows Richard how to get started. Armed with these details, in the second part Tim Saunders takes Richard to visit the Battlefields in France and Belgium where his Uncle Bill fought, from Loos, via the Somme and Passchendaele, to where he was killed in the Ypres Salient in 1918. Finally, medal expert Phil Mussell explains about First World War campaign medals.

There are also some pretty nifty extras, including a printable family tree planner, a full-colour magazine and book extracts. This aspect of the product is something that could be developed more in the future – would it be possible to include digital examples of documents, for instance? Maybe even film clips and/or music? I’m not sure how licensing would work, but its a thought…

It makes a very pleasant change indeed to be watching a DVD on family military history, rather than reading a book – it brings it to life so much more vividly. I can imagine it being a lot more friendly too if you want to research your family history but are not into reading. It is structured very well, with a nice gentle introduction. I am a big fan of getting out there to ‘smell the battlefield’, so it’s very pleasing to see that the viewer is encouraged to do just that. The use of a case study is a sound idea, and adds a nice personal touch. At the moment I am researching the men of Portsmouth who died in WW1 and watching this DVD has given me plenty of inspiration.

In some respects the presentation is rather rusty, however. Some of the editing is less than crisp in places, and we hear Tipperary and one other WW1 era song throughout. Also, it might make an interesting sideshow to run a sweepstake as to precisely which British Army regiment Tim Saunders was an officer in! But these are issues of style: the substance is all there.

I think we can expect to see a lot more DVD’s like this in the future. I must admit it has got me thinking too: how about some DVD’s in a similar vein, but aimed at younger people?

Tracing Great War Ancestors is available from Pen and Sword

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Filed under Army, Family History, Uncategorized, World War One