Join us for as we examine the Carol Reed-directed 1944 British classic ‘The Way Ahead’ starring David Niven, Stanley Holloway, William Hartnell, Peter Ustinov and John Laurie. We’re joined by special guest Richard Fisher, of the Vickers MG Collection and Research Association, who picked the film partly due to it’s iconic scene featuring a Vickers Gun! The film follows a platoon of men through their call up, training and up to their first experience of battle!
You can watch ‘The New Lot’ (1943) on the IWM’s site here.
Join us for something a little bit different this week as we discuss some listener pitches of war movies they’d like to see made! We share our own ideas and look at what you guys suggested recently over on twitter.
We have examined several on screen appearances of the PIAT previously, in this article we will look at a scene from the 2014 Polish movie, MIASTO 44 or City 44/Warsaw 44. The film follows a group of young members of the Home Army during the Warsaw Uprising.
In the scene we’re going to analyse today a Home Army squad are in a defensive position on the first story of an apartment building when a German Goliath remote controlled mine approaches their position. They immediately open fire on the Goliath with small arms, some rifles, a couple of submachine guns including a Sten, a PPSh-41 and an MP40 as well as a captured MG-42. While they’re pretty well armed, they’re low on ammo.
With the small arms fire ineffectual the squad leader calls for the PIAT. The Home Army had an estimated 70 PIATs at the start of the uprising. The British Projector, Infantry, Anti-Tank was the Pole’s primary infantry anti-tank weapon. By the 12th September the allies had managed to drop more PIATs bringing the number available to around 250.
What’s so special about this scene is that it depicts the cocking of the PIAT! As the others open fire the PIAT number one can be seen rotating the outer casing to unlock it and then pulling it up until the spring inside is cocked. He then lowers the casing and locks it ready to fire. We don’t see it but the No.2 has loaded a bomb into the bomb support tray and the No.1 places the monopod on the sandbags and takes aim.
So not only do we have photographs of the PIAT in use at Warsaw we also have some good accounts of its use, one from Zbigniew ‘Deivir’ Czajkowski, a corporal and patrol leader with the Home Army’s ‘Parasol’ scout battalion describes using a PIAT against a German tank during street fighting. Czajkowski describes how the man about to fire the PIAT had forgotten to prime the bomb, he then describes firing on the tank below their position:
“I press the heavy weapon into my shoulder. The tank is in front of me, as if on a plate. I can see the enormous armour plating and the smoke coming from its muzzle. I set my sights. Slowly… carefully… The tank fires, below us again. I aim just behind the turret. There! I squeeze the trigger. The PIAT recoils, the round flies through the air… nearly there… It misses the tank and explodes to the rear of it. “Fuck!” Now my colleague tears the PIAT out of my hands. I don’t stop him. I load a new round. Two more shots from the tank. Presumably they haven’t noticed us. Suddenly it dawns on me – we’re on the second floor! “Aim lower, much lower, under the tracks. We’re too high up here.” The barrel of the PIAT tilts down. I’m oblivious to everything glued to the gap in the wall. The weapon barks. There’s a flash of light against the side of the tank. Got him! The tank is momentarily covered in smoke.”
While not a tank, the Goliath seen in the film, were used during the fighting in Warsaw. The Goliaths were armoured, remote controlled bombs could be steered from cover. These tracked mines could deliver a 60 to 100kg payload of high explosive. Enough to destroy positions and heavily damage buildings. A pair of Goliaths are also seen in the earlier Polish film on the uprising – 1957’s Kanal – which also features a PIAT, albeit a wooden mock-up, which takes on a German tank.
In Warsaw 44 the PIAT No.1 manages to land his bomb just in front of the approaching Goliath, the blast apparently is enough to break one of the mine’s tracks – perhaps shrapnel or debris struck it. The victory is short-lived, however, and the Polish position is raked by machine gun fire – killing the PIAT No.1 – and a full German assault follows.
The film’s depiction of the PIAT is quite good, although the PIAT appears to be cocked very easily. The weapon’s recoil seems a little light but is represented with the No.1 being sharply pushed back. There is a short flash as the remains of the bomb’s propellent cartridge are seen as the bomb leaves the spigot. We can also see that the spigot is still visible in the bomb tray, meaning the weapon has not re-cocked itself.
The PIAT gave the besieged soldiers of the Home Army a much-needed weapon capable of taking on enemy armoured vehicles. But a few dozen PIATs weren’t enough to turn the tide and the valiant Poles were forces to surrender after two months hard fighting. The film, Warsaw 44, gives a pretty immersive idea of what the fighting in the city might have been like and is worth checking out.
Miasto 44 (2014) Warsaw 1944: An Insurgent’s Journal of the Uprising, Z. Czajkowski, (2013)
Join us as we take a special look at not one but two films – both looking at the ill-fated SAS mission – Bravo Two Zero. Gulf War films are rare and with the 30th Anniversary of the war upon us we thought it was a good time to take a look at ‘The One That Got Away’ (1996) and ‘Bravo Two Zero’ (1999).
Join us, on the 53rd anniversary of the week the Tet Offensive began, as we take a look at 1989’s ‘The Siege of Firebase Gloria’ starring R. Lee Ermey, Wings Hauser & Albert Popwell. Directed Brian Trenchard-Smith its a Vietnam last stand movie that riffs on its predecessors.
Join us as we look at 1943’s ‘Bataan’ starring Robert Taylor, Robert Walker, Lloyd Nolan, Kenneth Spencer and Desi Arnaz. Directed by Tay Garnett, it’s one of the few films to look at the brutal Battle of Bataan. It’s a classic last stand movie and incorporates elements from the battle which saw some of its hardest fighting 79 years ago this month.
While doing some archival digging I found some interested newsreel footage of early Cold War British missiles. The footage features the Malkara anti-tank missile and the Thunderbird surface-to-air missile.
The Malkara was developed in the early 1950s. It was a wire-guided anti-tank weapon with a 57lb HESH warhead. It had a range of up to 2.5 miles. In the footage we see it guided through a hole in a target net.
The Malkara was mounted on a number of platforms and vehicles and remained in service into the mid-1960s. It’s bulk and weight saw it eventually replaced by the smaller Vickers Vigilant and the Swingfire.
The second missile featured in the newsreel is the English Electric Thunderbird, a British Army SAM with a 75km range and a speed of Mach 2.7. The Thunderbird was replaced by the Rapier in the 70s, which is still in service today.
Hope you enjoyed seeing some of these British cold war missiles in action, it’s amazing what you find in archives when you aren’t looking for it!
Footage Source: Universal Newsreel Volume 30, 1957, via US National Archives, (source) Anti-Tank Weapons, T. Gander, (2000)
In this episode of Fighting On Film we examine 1951’s ‘Go For Broke!‘, written & directed by Robert Pirosh and starring Van Johnson – who had worked together on ‘Battleground‘ (FoF Episode 6). The film tells the unique story of the 442nd Infantry Regiment, a US Army unit made up of Japanese-Americans who became the most decorated unit of its size of World War Two!
Late last summer we visited the Anglesey Transport Museum in North Wales. They had a great collection of classic and vintage cars and bikes and most interestingly they had a little collection of British military vehicles.
They had a number of trucks and special purpose vehicles from the Royal Engineers, REME and RLC and even a Green Goddess Fire Engine. They also had a couple of pretty cool Cold War British Army armoured personnel carriers.
The Saracen was a six-wheeled armoured personnel carrier (APC) built by Alvis. It entered service in 1952 and was used extensively in Malaya and Northern Ireland. The Saracen could carry an 8 man section along with its 2 man crew. It had a 160HP Rolls Royce engine and depending on when during its service life its turret could be mounted with a .30 calibre M1919A4 or an L37 vehicle-mounted general purpose machine gun.
Another APC which was in service alongside the Saracen, the ‘Truck, Armoured, 1 Ton, 4×4’, better known as the Humber Pig. Based on a truck chassis, it had a 120HP 6 cylinder engine and room for 6 men on the benches in the back. It could be mounted with an L4 Bren gun. It saw extensive use in Northern Ireland during operation Banner and was in service from 1956 through to the early 90s.
Daimler Ferret Mk1 Scout Car
Next to the Pig in the collection was a Mk1 Daimler Ferret scout car. Fitted out with an M1919A4 and six forward-firing grenade launchers – for smoke grenades. The later Mk2 had a turret but the Mk1 made use of its low profile. This one has its canvas cover over the fighting compartment. The 4×4 Ferret was powered by a 130HP Rolls Royce B60 straight six. Perfect little run-around to do the shopping in.
On the top of the hull is the pintle mounted Browning M1919A4 machine gun. This would have been operated by the Ferret’s commander. We can see the mount allows it to be aimed and fired from somewhat inside the hull. The Ferret entered service in the early 1950s and remained in use into the late 1980s/early 1990s. Just short of 4,500 Ferrets were manufactured.
Bofors QF 40mm Mk1
At the centre of the military vehicle collection was a QF 40mm Mk1, better known as a Bofors. Both land and naval versions of the Bofors were used during the Second World War and after. Capable of firing 120 40mm shells per minute, it was normally manned by a four man crew. It filled the British army’s light Anti-Aircraft gun role and remained in service well into the 1980s.
We can see the gun’s huge recoil spring and to the rear of the gun is a case deflector which connected with a trough which channels the spent cases down below the gun. The gun still has most of its controls and traverse and elevation crank handles in place. On top of the gun are the huge guides for the four-round clips of 40mm shells.
In another special episode of Fighting On Film we chat with director Stuart Urban and some of the cast (Hugh Ross & Ian McNeice) of the 1992 BAFTA-winning film ‘An Ungentlemanly Act‘. A unique war movie which looks at the first 36 hours of the Falklands War and the battle to defend the island from Argentine invasion.
With so few war movies made about the Falklands War by both sides this film is especially interesting. It was fascinating to hear about the writer/director’s first hand research and about what it was like to film on location in the Falklands just a decade after the war.