Tankies: Tank Heroes of World War II - Episode 2
The story of six men from the Fifth Royal Tank Regiment from D-Day and the Battle for Normandy to the largest tank battle ever fought by the British Army and victory in Germany.
In the last of this two-part series, historian and former tank commander Mark Urban continues the story of six remarkable men from the Fifth Royal Tank Regiment in World War II.
Surviving veterans and previously unseen letters and diaries relate in visceral detail how an extraordinary 'band of brothers' fought throughout the war.
This episode picks up the story with the regiment's triumphant return from north Africa and victory at Alamein. Expecting a well-earned rest, instead they are joined by new recruits and re-equipped with brand new British-made Cromwell Tanks in preparation for D-Day - the invasion of Europe.
Fighting in the hedgerows in northern France is a shock to the men of the Fifth Tanks, who were used to fighting in the wide-open spaces of the desert. German soldiers lie in ambush behind hedgerows with hand-held anti-tank weapons. Veteran Gerry Solomon, one of the most experienced tank commanders, tells how his tank is knocked out and he is wounded.
The new Cromwell tank proves no match against the German Tiger tank. At the battle of Villers Bocage, a single Tiger brings the advance of the whole British Army to a standstill. But it meets its match when it comes up against another new British tank - the Sherman Firefly.
Veterans describe how for two months they fought a battle of attrition, losing hundreds of tanks in the British Army's biggest ever tank battle, but keeping the German tanks fighting in the British sector so the Americans could break out of their sector into open countryside beyond.
The Fifth Tanks advance rapidly, the first to liberate Ghent in Belgium. Pushing on into Germany just days before the end of the war, some of the regiment's most experienced veterans, who had been fighting since the beginning, are tragically killed.