There is little doubt that the Hitlerjugend Division retains a fearsome reputation as a result of the stand it made in Normandy in 1944. Given the mixture of fact and mythology attached to the division it is easy to build an image of brainwashed teenaged fanatics holding up the Allied advance by fair means or foul. We know that many of the very young men involved had been indoctrinated in the National Socialist system from their formative years.  As the presenters of this DVD point out, there is always much more to a simple black and white story. They make no effort to gloss over excesses or add to the myths. With the aid of the veteran officer Hubert Meyer they seek to build a picture of the creation, the preparations and the deployment of the division during those climatic days from D-Day onwards.

This is a well produced an immensely studious production. The presenters walk the battlefield and explain the significance of individual events and it makes for an excellent source of information should you plan to follow in their footsteps.  Careful use of archive footage, still photographs and modern film of living history groups and restored vehicles add to the effect. Snippets from the best known UK military events and angular sequences on HMS Belfast enhance the package. The use of maps and diagrams is particularly good. Whatever your view of the SS, Hubert Meyer is a dignified presence.

The commentary may seem a little ponderous at times, but to be fair, so much effort is made to remove any notion of frivolity that we are left in no doubt this is not in any way a piece of sensationalist light entertainment. The impact is to make the DVD take a bit of time to get into, but it grows on you. The presenters are battlefield guides by profession and their expertise gives this film the kudos a recognised face off the telly could not. It works well and had the effect of encouraging me to walk the fields and hedgerows where the Anglo-Canadians clashed so brutally with these infants terrible of the Waffen SS so many years ago.

Mark Barnes

Presented by Tim Saunders and Richard Hone.

Pen & Sword Military digital DVD. 100 minutes.


Mark Barnes

Mark Barnes is a longstanding friend of WHO, providing features, photography and reviews. He has contributed to The Times of London and other publications. He is the author of The Liberation of Europe (pub 2016) and If War Should Come due later in 2020.