The Hard Fought Road to the East – German Grenadier & Tank Divisions
By Pen and Sword / History Films (www.pen-and-sword.co.uk)
RRP GBP £16.99
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This appealing DVD features numerous clips of archive films starting with the pre-war German Armed Forces, progressing through the Second World War and to their final defeat in 1945. This usage of original footage of the Wehrmacht is interesting and enjoyable.
There are plenty of small snippets of exciting information that can be easily overlooked during the first viewing of this film. There is a short and very unusual section regarding the usage of “messenger dogs” and their training alongside their “handlers” which then develops into the messenger dogs carrying homing-pigeons to various frontline units.
The film principally considers the pre-war and wartime history of the Heers (German Army). It shows an attestation ceremony with the recruits taking their oath of loyalty to Hitler. It then follows the chronology of the Second World War starting with the invasion of Poland and the declaration of War by the allies.
There are archive clips of the invasion of France and the signing / negotiations by the French to conclude this campaign. Featured are the original railway carriages used by the French for the German defeat in 1918 but now used for the French surrender to the Germans in 1940.
The film then considers the invasion of the East and presents some unusual commentary on the readiness of the Red Army - itself considering invading Germany. The Germans launched a pre-emptive strike against the Russians with the launch of their Operation Barbarossa on 22nd June 1941.
The footage shows how the Germans tackled not only the physical enemy but also the atrocious weather conditions which faced them in the East. There are clips showing the Germans trying to keep their vehicles from freezing in the cold weather by using fires and blowtorches!
One issue the film mentions is that of the paper versus the actual fighting strengths of divisions. Compared to the strength of the divisions at the start of the war the final fighting strengths of many German divisions had deteriorated to the state where to quote the film they were “ghost” divisions. Their final true fighting strengths had virtually no resemblance to their “paper” strength.
The film is presented in an easy to follow format with many interesting anecdotes – some of which will surprise! It is not the sort of film that you can watch once and then think you have seen all its contents fully. To really appreciate this film you need to watch it carefully a few times before you can really say that you have watched it properly. It comes highly recommended and it is a film that you can keep watching time after time whilst still drawing enormous enjoyment from it.