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Episode 1

The Second World War was the ultimate conflict of the machine age, and the tank was its iconic symbol. The 'tankies' who fought inside had experience of much of the conflict from the fall of France to the deserts of Africa, from the invasion of Italy to D-Day, and on to the final victory in Germany.

In this two-part series, historian, BBC Diplomatic Editor and former officer in the Royal Tank Regiment, Mark Urban tells the story of six remarkable men from one armoured unit - the Fifth Royal Tank Regiment, also known as the Filthy Fifth.

Using first-hand testimony from the last surviving veterans alongside previously unseen letters and diaries, Mark brings the story of an extraordinary 'band of brothers' to life, in visceral detail. At the same time he analyses the evolution of tank production in Britain and illustrates how we fell far behind our German enemies in both technology and tactics, relying instead on dogged determination and a relentless drive to victory, whatever the costs.

In part one, Mark begins his journey in northern France, introducing our band of brothers in the midst of the fall of France and the retreat to Dunkirk. Characters such as 'rookie' tank driver Gerry Solomon join veterans, themselves still only in their twenties, such as and Jake Wardrop and Harry Finlayson.

Mark then follows in the tankies' footsteps across the deserts of North Africa. Here he looks at the game-changing tank battles of Sidi Rezegh, Alam Halfa and, of course, the battle that changed the course of the Second World War - Alamein. He then takes us back to England where the tankies expect a well-earned rest; instead they are confronted with the news that as battle-hardened troops they must fight again, this time on the beaches of Normandy.

With spectacular archive footage, including rarely seen colour footage, it brings to life the Second World War from a unique point of view.

Release date:

1 hour

Last on

Wed 29 Jun 2016 01:00

Credits

Role Contributor
PresenterMark Urban
Series ProducerFrancis Whately
Executive ProducerDominic Crossley-Holland
Production ManagerRebecca Maidens
Production ManagerMichelle Clinton

Mark Urban's introduction to the series

Mark Urban

"The Second World War was such a uniquely destructive episode in human history..."

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