Fighting On Film: Cockleshell Heroes (1955) ft. Saul David

Prime your limpet mines, pull on your windproofs and climb into your canoes and join us as we paddle furiously into enemy territory to discuss 1955’s Cockleshell Heroes with none other than historian Saul David.

Saul has a new history of the Special Boat Service out so what better film to tackle than Cockleshell Heroes. Starring Trevor Howard, Jose Ferrer, Victor Maddern, Christopher Lee and Percy Herbert as the Royal Marine Commandos tasked with sinking enemy ships deep in enemy territory on Operation Frankton!

The episode is also available on all other podcast platforms, you can find them here.

Here are some stills from the film:

If you enjoy the podcast then please check out our Patreon here. Be sure to follow Fighting On Film on Twitter @FightingOnFilm, on Facebook and don’t forget to check out www.fightingonfilm.com.

Thanks for listening!

A PIAT from Arnhem

Last weekend at the We Have Ways podcast’s history festival the Airborne Assault Museum brought along a very interesting piece of history – a PIAT with Arnhem provenance. The PIAT had allegedly been dropped during Operation Market Garden but not used. At some point after the battle it was discovered by locals and handed into the Doorwerth Castle Museum, the original airborne museum before it moved to the Hartenstein, and was subsequently gifted the the UK’s Airborne Assault Museum in the 1950s.

Discussing the PIAT with Ramsay of the Airborne Assault Museum (Matthew Moss)

The museum believes the PIAT has much of its original paint and in general the weapon is in excellent shape. It has the earlier rear sight with two apertures for 70 and 100 yards, the later design had three – with a maximum range of 110 yards. This PIAT’s monopod could still be raised and lowered, to elevate the weapon upto 40-degrees for indirect firing.

A close up of the PIAT (Mattthew Moss)

The indirect fire quadrant sight is in good condition – complete with its spirit level. The weapon also appears to have its original white indirect fire aiming line along the top of its body and almost pristine webbing – though the butt cover is frayed which isn’t uncommon. Sadly the weapon has been deactivated so we couldn’t open up the action or cock the weapon. It seems to have been welded at the front and rear of the body.

The PIAT is in great shape, albeit deactivated, and it was a pleasure to take a look at a weapon which could be traced back to the battle. Thank you to Ramsay, Ben and Allen of the Airborne Assault Museum for allowing me to examine and film the PIAT, check out the museum’s website here.

Click here for more articles and videos on the PIAT.


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Fighting On Film: Baskeyfield VC

In the last of this month’s Market Garden specials we bring you a very special look at an amateur feature from the 1960s.

Baskeyfield VC‘ tells the incredible story of the actions of John Baskeyfield who was the only Stoke-born recipient of the Victoria Cross during the Second World War. Produced, written and directed by Bill Townley over 3 years, this film is a hidden gem within the war movie genre.

From showing the exploits of Lonsdale force dug in around Oosterbeek Church to Baskeyfield’s VC action itself. The film is a feat of what a driven and passionate film maker can achieve on a micro-budget!

The film was lovingly restored by Ray Johnson of the Staffordshire Film Archive, we talk to Ray about this process during the episode. The film is available to buy here.

Here are some stills from the film:

If you enjoy the podcast then please check out our Patreon here. Be sure to follow Fighting On Film on Twitter @FightingOnFilm, on Facebook and don’t forget to check out www.fightingonfilm.com.

Thanks for listening!

The Panzerfaust & Panzerschreck In The Rhineland

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of travelling to The Tank Museum in Bovington to film some segments for the new documentary on the Rhineland Campaign – ‘Rhineland 45‘. Not all of the segments I filmed discussing weapons could be included in the finished documentary – I filmed quite a few – so I’m pleased to share a couple here. This one looks at German infantry anti-tank weapons: the Panzerfaust and Panzerschreck. Thanks again to  Realtime History for inviting me to take part, check out the documentary here.

Check out the first video of this series on the use of the PIAT during the Rhineland campaign here.


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The StG-44 & How to Use It – Inside Military Aviation History & Military History Visualised’s Book

Today we’re taking a look at a primary source book put together by Chris of Military Aviation History  and Bernhard of Military History Visualized . The book came out a little while ago and is a very useful compilation of a few translated documents on Wehrmacht infantry tactics and the use of the StG-4.

Let’s take a look at ‘The Assault Platoon of the Grenadier-Company November 1944’!

The guys also now have a brand new project underway which compiles documents on the JU-87 Stuka dive bomber, check that out at www.stukabook.com


If you enjoyed this video and article please consider supporting our work here. We have some great perks available for Patreon Supporters. Thank you for your support!

Fighting On Film: Objective Burma (1945)

Lace up your jump boots, sharpen your machetes, load up your M1A1 Carbines and strap on your parachutes. This week we are joined by special guest historian James Holland as we discuss the 1945 Errol Flynn film ‘Objective, Burma!‘ We discuss the the war in Burma, the controversy around the film’s release in the UK and of course the film’s star Errol Flynn.

The episode is also available on all other podcast platforms, you can find them here.

Here’s some stills from the film:

If you enjoy the podcast then please check out our Patreon here. Be sure to follow Fighting On Film on Twitter @FightingOnFilm, on Facebook and don’t forget to check out www.fightingonfilm.com.

Thanks for listening!

British Home Guard Browning M1917 Booklet

During the Second World War the British Home Guard were extensively issued American .30 calibre Browning M1917 machine guns. These water-cool medium machine guns contributed significant firepower to the Home Guard fighting units. They began to enter service in late 1940 and by November 1942 there were some 6,330 in service.

A pair of Hounslow Home Guard man an American .30 calibre Browning M1917 (London’s Screen Archives via BFI)

With so many guns in service there needed to be a way of describing, categorising and identifying the weapon’s parts so an identification list booklet was drawn up giving the American and British nomenclature for the gun’s individual parts.

Front cover of the Parts Identification List for the Browning M1917 (Matthew Moss)

The booklet draws on the US Army Ordnance Corps’ Standard Nomenclature List A5 for the American parts names. The purpose of the booklet was basically to allow soldiers familiar only with British designations to know the necessary American nomenclature for the various parts. This would have been useful for when requisitioning replacement parts.

Page showing the gun itself from Parts Identification List for the Browning M1917 (Matthew Moss)

I plan on digitising much of what is in the TAB reference collection when I have the time and funds to do so, in the meantime a PDF of the pages from this booklet is now available here. Acquisition of this parts identification list booklet was made possible by our Patreon supporters – if you’d like to join us and help us share pieces of history like this one please check out the Patreon page here.

Check out videos on items from our reference collection here.

Fighting On Film: When Trumpets Fade (1998)

Join us as we look at ‘When Trumpets Fade‘, John Irvin’s HBO TV movie which follows a battle-weary squad leader torn between simply staying alive and leading his new recruits into action during the Battle of the Hürtgen Forest. Starring Ron Eldrad, Zak Orth, Frank Whaley, Timothy Olyphant and Bobby Cannavale the film shines a light on a largely forgotten battle and premiered just a few months before Saving Private Ryan.

The episode is also available on all other podcast platforms, you can find them here.

Here’s some stills from the film:

If you enjoy the podcast then please check out our Patreon here. Be sure to follow Fighting On Film on Twitter @FightingOnFilm, on Facebook and don’t forget to check out www.fightingonfilm.com.

Thanks for listening!

PIAT During the Rhineland Campaign

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of travelling to the Tank Museum to film some segments for the new documentary on the Rhineland Campaign – ‘Rhineland 45‘. We looked at various small arms used during the campaign ranging from Panzerfausts and Bazookas to MG-42s and M1A1 carbines.

Not all of the segments we filmed discussing the weapons could be included in the finished documentary, so I’m pleased to share a couple here. This one Brings Up The PIAT!

The Projector, Infantry, Anti-Tank was used extensively during Operations Veritable and Varsity in March 1945. British and Canadian troops put them to use against enemy armoured vehicles and defensive positions within the forests, towns and villages of the Rhineland.

If you’d like a copy of my book on the PIAT you can pick one up here.

Thanks again to Real Time History for inviting me to contribute, check out the documentary here.


If you enjoyed this video and article please consider supporting our work here. We have some great perks available for Patreon Supporters. Thank you for your support!

The Covenanter Bridgelayer

In this video/article we will examine some rare footage of the Covenanter Bridgelayer in action. The footage is available to watch on the BFIs website and originally comes from the Wessex Film and Sound Archive. The 16mm film was filmed at some time in August 1942 but little else is said about locations in the BFI archive entry for the footage.

The Covenanter Bridgelayer being demonstrated (IWM MH 3674)

The tank’s hull number is visible as T.18434 which I think would make it one of the earliest English Electric-built Covenanters. The covenanter was developed in the late 30s as a cheaper cruiser tank. It entered service in 1940, but saw limited active service – instead being largely used in training roles. The bridge element of the vehicle was a Scissors Bridge 30ft, No. 1. – it was deployed and recovered by a clutch and 2 to 1 reduction gear, it was powered directly from the tank’s engine.

Cruiser Mk V Covenanter III (A13 Mk III) (IWM KID 778)

A US report on the Covenanter Bridgelayer explains how it worked:

“The opening of the bridge begins after the launching mechanism has begun to pivot on the rollers of the launching frame. Since the cables are of fixed length, they act to open the bridge as it is pivoted about the rollers.
Having been laid across the obstacle, the bridge is disengaged from the prime-mover [the tank itself]. The bridge is then ready for the passage of other vehicles.
To retrieve the bridge, the prime-mover crosses the bridge to the far side of the obstacle, hooks up to the bridge, pulls it back to the traveling position, and is then ready to proceed to the next obstacle.”

The bridge had a span of 34 feet and vehicles up to 30 tons could cross it. It could be deployed in under 3 minutes and in total the bridge and the system which launched it was 3.5 tons. The vehicle had a two man crew, with a driver and a commander.

Above is a British Pathe newsreel that gives us a closer look at some of the Bridgelayer’s mechanism at work.

The US report also noted that “In one case 1,200 successful launchings and recoveries were made by one vehicle without undue maintenance.” The system was only mounted on a small number of Covenanters. One source suggests 20 Covenanter I and 60 Covenanter IV tanks were converted into Bridgelayers. Far more Valentines were equipped with them and subsequently the Churchill AVRE became the British Army’s primary bridging tank.

A later Valentine Bridgelayer in action in Burma, 1945 (IWM)

No location is given for the footage but the presence of a number of barrage balloons to the rear is intriguing! It may have been filmed at the Royal Engineers Establishment at Christchurch or at another demonstration elsewhere. Scissor Bridges, with similar basic designs remain in service with numerous militaries around the world today.


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Bibliography:

‘Covenanter: Reservist Tank’, Tank Archives, (source)

‘A Home Guard parade and an inspection by the Duke of Kent’, BFI, (source)

Tactical and Technical Trends, No.15, Dec. 1942, Military Intelligence Service, War Department, (source)