Wittmann v Ekins: The Death of a Panzer Ace (DVD)

Wittmann v Ekins: The Death of a Panzer Ace (DVD)

Michael Wittman was one of the best known German tank aces of the Second World War, single-handedly halting a major British offensive at Villers-Bocage. This documentary traces Wittmann's career throughout the war, focuses in particular on the fighting in Normandy. At the same time it looks at the career of Joe Ekins, a British tank gunner who many have fired the shots that killed Wittman.

The basic format of the film consists of three presenters - two historians and a weapons expert - narrating the two stories. This is supported by a fascinating interview with Ekins, and by some directly relevant wartime photos (including pictures of two of Wittmann's knocked out tanks.

The disc contains two episodes. Part One looks at the two men's background, Wittmann's wartime experiences, Ekin's training, the Tiger vs the Sherman Firefly and the campaign from D-Day to Viller-Bocage and the start of the Allied breakout. Part Two looks at Operation Totalize, the battle in which Wittmann was killed.

This film demonstrates the importance of position, surprise and luck in tank warfare. At Villers-Bocage Wittmann had the advantage of surprise and was lucky, driving past a hidden British tank at short range but while the gunner was absent! During his final battle Wittmann was in a bad position, advancing across open ground towards one formation of British tanks and with British and Canadian tanks on both sides. This is where Ekins comes into the picture. As the Germans advanced across his front he hit three Tigers with five shots in 12 minutes. All three were knocked out, probably including Wittmann's tank. The film finishes by looking at the various claims to have destroyed Wittmann's tank, concluding that Ekins had the best claim.

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