‘Got it wrong again, Dad..!’

Well here I am still struggling valiantly on behalf of the Tomahawk Films WW-II German Archive with the necessary evils of Social Media… and that’s without even having wrestled yet with the thorny issue of mastering You Tube and posting up bite-sized snippets from our Archive..(seems many others have already loaded up some of our German music clips & CD covers without our permission, so I feel it only polite that we, as the original copyright-holders, actually get a look–in and have a go ourselves!)

But oh boy! is my learning curve still steep.. with so much coming at me since the sad loss of dear old Stan, Tomahawk Film’s web-master, all this technical fannying around has fallen to me to get my head around and as I opined in one of my former Blogs, I am having to assimilate so much in recent months that my head is in danger of exploding.! It must have been great to be born at a time when all of this new media technology just came naturally to you: in fact my much loved & dearly missed mum always used to ask if it was something she should get involved with?… and I always told her in no uncertain terms to avoid it all costs.!

I would have done the same if today’s modern world didn’t view it as such an essential business tool; in fact only yesterday I heard the superb actor Martin Shaw being interviewed on Radio Two about his new series of ‘Inspector George Gently’ (starting tomorrow night on the Beeb) and when the subject came around to Facebook it was more than obvious that he is implacably imposed to it all and also avoids it like the plague.. and I silently thought: ‘lucky blighter that you can..!’

However the next generation growing up with all of this as ‘natural’ merely take it in their stride, but those young shavers have to remember that my colleagues & I come from the generation that glorified in ITV’s The Sweeney when Regan & Carter would have to break off from a high-speed car chase, tailing a ‘motor full of villains with shooters’ in the East End, to find a ‘phone box to make an urgent call back to HQ..! No good the young sniggering about that, as that was just the way it was and so it is that my generation of 50-somethings are now the apparent dinosaurs… great! But when all the satellites ‘go on the fritz’ after being hit by a meteor shower we at least will know how to write & talk to each other… some of us even know how to do long-division (well not me, I was a somewhat ‘theatrical’ History & English wallah with my head in the clouds… and not much change there either!)

However thanks to my great TV director & cameraman mate Ian ‘Nobby’ Fraser and his wonderful Girl-Friday, Harriet, both have continued to expend further valuable time in trying to help me find my way through the trials & tribulations of Facebook though sadly, ‘Dear Listener’ I have to shamefacedly admit I have transgressed yet again..dang!.. and much to everybody’s exasperation, I find myself on the FB Naughty Step… again, for Pete’s sake.. and it’s for 14 bloomin’ days this time!

Apparently I was again spotted by members of the the FB Polizei Feld-Division contacting another couple of fellow WWII German enthusiasts and that is verboten!.. As was noted before, you may contact friends only on FB to which I counter: that is what the pub, the ‘phone and e-mail is for..!

However Nobby very kindly took me to one side and quietly said “Look Bruno you are imbuing Facebook with far too much importance and a business ethic it doesn’t actually possess..it is just a place for mates to swap gossip and send each other cute little pictures of kittens or donkeys standing on their head…it’s not like the public library or theTomahawk Films website where you post up serious archival & historical information and promote yourself in a business sense.. Facebook is like buying a tabloid newspaper, looking at a couple of  lurid stories & interesting pics inside…then throwing it out..it is literally here today & gone tomorrow..!”

And that was my big mistake..I actually thought Facebook was like a company website where you put up your work & allied information for folk to use like a reference source, (and also exchange links with like-minded folk). But once I finally realised that FB is just a bit of lightweight fun & frolics and nothing more and that this ‘Daily Star’ approach to life is actually their raison d’être in place of a business plan, it has made all the difference to my thinking. So rather than post up written articles I am now limiting myself to sticking up interesting Tomahawk archival pictures with perhaps a few lines of explanation, (or stuff I’ve worked on in my career), writing funny captions on other peoples often hilarious images and just enjoying seeing what other people on FB find funny or thought-provoking.

More worrying however is that I too am now going awwww!! at pictures of kittens & Boxers and laughing uproariously at aforesaid mentioned donkeys standing on their head…but the fact that many other like-minded military-historical enthusiasts are now enjoying our Tomahawk Films WW-II German Archive Page and following us is a real a bonus..!

My original plan was just to go on FB to help Tomahawk Films get noticed by Google  and so hopefully rise above the rankings of those pirating our original Tomahawk Films archive, but it is actually turning out to be quite a fun place to be and I can now clearly see the attraction… it is also having an unexpected but happy consequence to my own personal & professional life as well!

As kind readers of my Blogs may know, before Tomahawk Films I had a very interesting period as a freelancer in television production plus a parallel 8 years or so as a local radio presenter and as I wrote in a recent Blog, my very first professional job in telly was as Unit Production Manager on Jack Hargreaves’ ‘Out of Town/The Old Country’ working alongside my old pal Phil Wade who was the superb sound recordist on the series. One of the unintended consequences of  now being on Facebook is I then found a Jack Hargreaves Page and as a result of that I  posted a small bit about my former role in the Out of Town story and since then have been welcomed in by Jack’s growing legion of followers which in turn is hopefully leading Phil & I to meet up with the man behind those Facebook pages, Simon Baddeley, Jack’s step-son…

So all of this social media is slowly & gradually staring to weave small links throughout my professional & personal life (which I can see is also one of its many attractions), because this new Out of Town link comes at a time when Phil and I also met up after almost 20 years or so of not being in touch, courtesy of Nobby’s 60th birthday bash just before Christmas..(pictured in the photo are my Dad, Dennis left, Nobby middle, Phil right). At what was a ‘superb do’ that I had not realised Phil was attending, we linked up again and through gales of laughter the years rolled away..!

It seems like only yesterday that Phil & I were working together on the Jack Hargreaves’ shows, (and also enjoying a riotous skiing holiday in Westerndorf, Austria in the first mid-shoot break!) and as we left Nobby’s bash we all made a pact to meet up again on the basis that none of us is getting any older and the only time we have spied each other of late was from opposite aisles at funerals… not a good state of affairs by any stretch of the imagination!

Happy to say we’ve now had our first ‘geriatric lad’s night’ out at the local watering hole: The Phoenix Inn, in my village of Twyford (at which the photo albums came out) and apart from the laughter resulting from comparing lack-of-hair and me being accused of actually dying my hair.. bloody cheek!.. plus a measuring of ever-expanding waist-lines (on some!), we also recalled some of the shoots we did… a couple I don’t recall even being on..that’s age for you!

Since then we have started to slowly catch up on our disparate lives via text ahead of our next monthly meet-up, (at which we are hoping to have 3 more mates from the past join us to also exchange wig-length & ‘beer belly’ statistics), and a surprising thing for me in meeting up again was to learn that Phil’s son Ollie Wade has become a very talented singer… his dad Phil was always a dab hand as a singer-songwriter and he’s obviously passed this skill on to his lad..!

Some of our old group back in our pre-television days had varying rock careers in the music biz: the second band I drummed for, ‘Adam West and The Gotham City Rockers’, lasted for a few very successful years on the local circuit here on the South Coast (during which time Nobby, unbeknownst to me at the time as an aspiring TV cameraman, actually looked after our lighting & gig poster design)… there’s a very spooky early crossing of later lives for you..!

I’m embarrassed to admit now that I was totally unaware of him in those heady times, yet years later he has happily become one of my closet buddies.. In fact we all had great fun in our early, if short-lived, disparate musical careers and though some came closer to a recording contract than others, reality dawned and we realised we had to get proper jobs, (if you can call television & radio a ‘proper job’!)

However it is obviously a case of what is in the genes is almost always passed on and in Ollie Wade I am thrilled to have seen on You Tube, (so yes all this Social media is working & interlocking our lives), what an absolutely superb singer he is, possessed of a very haunting delivery and indeed look.. and those of us who know Phil well can see his dad in him.. very ‘mini-me’. Though I don’t get involved in any promotion of up & coming musicians or media-types these days, (as I feel it is just too much like today’s short-cut reality TV to those of us who spent years practising, gigging, learning our craft and driving to & from myriad venues late at night in battered transit vans, dreaming of an album deal.. or even, gasp, a rare appearance on TV), however with Ollie, this is a very different kettle of fish..!

I linked into his superb You Tube pages yesterday to see B/W footage of his latest cover ‘Say Something’ (which I’d never heard until yesterday, but most spookily yet again, has just come on the radio as I write..how weird and how prescient is that ?) and I am genuinely blown away by his obvious talent.. and I urge you, if you have a moment, to make the link yourself and listen in to this brilliant young man sing..what a voice..his parents Phil & Nicky must be so proud of him...and rightly so!

I pray he doesn’t go down the television wannabe route and be used & abused by the music industry as with so many previous ‘one-hit wonders’ (or X-Factor winners as they are now known!), but gets picked up by trusted music-career professionals and bags a ‘proper’ recording deal for, with his obvious talents, I know Ollie Wade is a star of the future..and remember… you heard it here on the Tomahawk Films’ Blog… go for it Ollie!

….now, where’s that hilarious Facebook photograph of a Boxer puppy driving a German armoured car..?

Copyright @ Brian Matthews 2014

Goering: A Career…

I don’t mean this to sound ‘full of it’ (or as my former Aussie colleagues would say ‘up myself’) but when you’ve spent the bulk of your professional career working in and around World War Two & Third Reich military history and watching TV documentaries on the same, almost daily, (allied to an ever-present hobby in the same vein), you eventually reach a point when you think that you may, possibly, have viewed much of the original period archive-footage available or have heard most of the historical angles expressed by the experts from this important period in time.. that in fact there is not much more to come to the surface that you haven’t already watched, heard or read about at some point in the previous 40-odd years of study!

It is also the case, (and one of the reasons that Tomahawk Films ceased being a distributor of WW-II documentaries to spend more time promoting my own TV documentary, ‘Channel Islands Occupied’), that rarely does anybody come up with something totally new in terms of documentary content or unseen 16mm newsreel footage to warrant yet another ‘look’ at a well-worn subject. In fact it always amazes me our Third Reich newsreels footage on Tomahawk Film’s Hitler’s Combat Newsreels is still, apart from the odd few seconds shown here & there, pretty unique in terms of what turns up on our screens these days and so it always manages to retain its ‘first seen buzz’.

One of the reasons I see so much archival material recycled across myriad documentaries is because we have a TV on in the corner of our production office tuned into the main satellite channels to keep an eye on WW-II documentaries to help us up to date with who is using our German music or Sounds of War combat SFX under contract, or to pick up on the names of new documentary companies who might be interested in using our German archive for future projects…

As I have said many times before, with so many WW-II documentaries airing on the dedicated satellite television platforms, (many being merely repeats from previous years) it is always a happy surprise when something fresh pops up on the TV screen and really grabs your attention. I am pleased to say this has happened to me in recent weeks.. firstly yesterday in the shape of a superb doc called Nazi Hunters, following the immediate post-war efforts of US Forces to bring Jochen Peiper and members of the SS-Leibstandarte ‘Adolf Hitler’ (part of the overall 6th Panzerarmee) to justice for their involvement in the massacre of American GIs at Malmedy during the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes in the winter of 1944/45… and then on Sunday night (and the previous Sunday to that), in the shape of a real cracker of a superb new 3-part documentary series on the H2 Military History Channel entitle Goering: A Career.

In co-production with Germany’s ZDF Channel and with the ever-superb journalist Guido Knopp listed in the credits, (though this time strangely under ‘lighting’ rather than writer/producer, so perhaps this was an early outing to his subsequent career), this series is offering both some stunning original colour footage and a great script providing further thoughts on Goering, the man, thus making it a really engrossing and very well researched & delivered documentary on Hitler’s Number Two and Head of the Third Reich’s air arm..and still the final episode to go..!

Born in 1893, Herman Goering was a former WW1 Ace in the Kaisers’ fledgling air arm and went onto become the much derided, overweight and somewhat lazy Supreme Commander of Hitler’s new air force, the Luftwaffe. His later addiction to morphine has been well documented down the years and this might explain his often strange military decisions, (or indeed lack of them), at times, resulting in his Luftwaffe High Command often being driven to utter distraction by its leader’s increasingly bizarre behaviour later on in the war…

Indeed had Goering been ‘clued-in’ to the modern concept of aerial warfare, (rather than wedded to WW1 fighter tactics), one wonders if the outcome of the Battle of Britain might have been a much closer thing; nevertheless it appears that from the very outset Goering actually knew that his Luftwaffe was under strength in both aircraft & manpower!

Indeed a regular contributor to yesterday’s episode Part 2 was a former Luftwaffe Test Pilot who admitted that all of the early aircraft promised to Hitler, (and often shown in some strength displaying in the skies above early Nazi Party Rallies), were nothing more than un-tested prototypes so, apart from the legendary ME Bf109, when war broke out in 1939, the Luftwaffe was indeed not the force it was wildly publicised as being or that the Allies believed it to be!

Another tantalising fact emerging from this superb profile is that as Goering indeed knew in advance that he had not the firepower at his command to deliver for Adolf Hitler, (despite always assuring his Führer that he had), behind the scenes he was doing everything he could to avoid another World War, including secret pre-war negotiations with Britain to find a way of averting conflict and his air arm being ‘found out’ in actual combat!

From some of what I heard last night it appears, to my mind at least, that Goering was perhaps more of a sensible individual than we have all given him credit for, despite being undoubtedly lazy and often finding any excuse to  bunk off to his superb castle-like country estate at Carinhall to indulge his love of hunting and spend time with his later accumulated wealth. Which was a complete reversal of his fortunes given that, pre-war, he had escaped from his growing role within the fledgling Nazi Party and fled to Sweden where, as a penniless former fighter pilot, he effectively lived off his wife’s parents. He eventually he returned to Germany to take up his position at Hitler’s side, but ever fearful of the Führer’s moods and stubborn single-mindedness plus his increasing desire for war, he never actively opposed Hitler’s visions for European domination, (even though he knew that half of his ideas were barking!).

Also detailed was Goring’s later wealth, stemming from his ‘success’ as an art dealer, though his dealings, (interpreted as ‘shopping’ in the countries Germany had recently occupied) were straightforward theft. Indeed at vital moments when he should have been taking full command of Luftwaffe air operations in the Battle of Britain and thence the 1941/42 Eastern Front campaign in Russia, he was more concerned with having his staff locate great works of art across Europe, to then be transported back to Carinhall in his own personal train… much to the ill-concealed anger of his elite fighter pilots who felt they were trying to conduct air campaigns on two major fronts with their hands tied behind their backs.

One superb interview thus far was with the Luftwaffe fighter ace and Knight’s Cross with Oakleaves holder Günter Rall, who, (with 275 combat victories in World War Two) later went on to serve with distinction in the post-war German Luftwaffe. A remarkably modest and hugely likeable former pilot with his ever-fluent and superb English, his interviews are always worth watching and listening to and in this terrific second episode he again delivers some very interesting facts & figures, plus a ‘no-holds barred’ appraisal of Goering as an air-force leader..!

Another incredible fact of which I was totally aware was that Herman Goring had a younger brother called Albert…very much a man in the background and who actually spirited a number of leading Jewish businessmen and film-makers out of Germany to America in the pre-war period. Indeed when it came to the ‘Jewish Question’ itself, it seems that Goering himself was somewhat more pragmatic about this whole issue than was hitherto known…and incredibly it appears that he also allowed several leading Jews to escape the Third Reich, (despite being Hitler’s  deputy and replacement Führer should Hitler die), excusing himself with the line: ‘A Jew is only when I say he is a Jew’..another most interesting fact to emerge from this documentary.

I won’t give too much more away in case you have not yet seen this 3-parter as no doubt it will be repeated, (a great many times… and rightly so in this case), in the coming weeks and months amidst the tidal wave of great-to-merely-mediocre Third Reich documentaries now airing across the gamut of satellite TV channels, however this one is most definitely worth a watch..the final episode coming on H2 this Sunday evening!

Just as a final thought when talking about the current crop of WW-II documentaries now appearing on a television set near you: I don’t know if you have noticed, but why has there been allowed to emerge an extremely annoying habit of the experts, when wheeled-in to voice their historical expertise on camera, of constantly talking in the present tense?  A whole raft of rather earnest historians, university lecturers and the ‘great & the good’ are paraded before us to eagerly tell us that ‘Goering is this’, ‘Hitler is that, or Rommel is faced with a tough situation, or such & such squadron is flying against so & so or that a unit of this force is fighting through great odds… and so on and so forth!

I don’t know which producer started this appalling interviewing habit, but everybody’s now seemingly at it. However these are now global events from over 70 years ago, so memo to whomsoever: please use was not is… thank you, I feel so much better now..!

                         Copyright @ Brian Matthews 2013

Soldier Songs in the Third Reich…

As I soon came to discover when producing Tomahawk’s comprehensive & very varied catalogue of original WW-II Two German military & civilian music,  including the Military Music of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich 1933-45, nothing in life is ever really new, for many of the so-called classic Nazi party songs & tunes adopted by the Sturmabteilung, Hitler Youth, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS, Heer, Afrika Korps and so on, were in many cases, simply old Imperial German marching songs or classic German folk songs adopted and adapted with much military pride or fanatical fervour by the Third Reich.

Many traditional soldier songs, from Als die Goldene Abendsonne & Ein Heller und ein Batzen, to pre-WW-1 One songs like Lippe Detmold, & Strassburg O’ Strassburg date as far as the 1700s rule of Friedrich the Great. In fact Wenn alle untreu werden, the official anthem of the SS, dates right back to 1568.

However, under the aegis of the Third Reich, many of these traditional Prusso-German military songs & tunes were now adopted by individual military units and regiments as their own official corps songs; as such, they were sometimes known either by their original historical name or, more commonly, as the song of the particular unit that had adopted it.

For example, ‘Ritter der Nordsee’ was adopted by the Kriegsmarine and became known officially as the Lied der E-Boots (or Song of the E-Boats), whilst the traditional ‘Argonnerwald’ became the Song of the Pionierkorps. Elsewhere, the Luftwaffe’s flak crews adopted ‘Leb Wohl, Irene’ as their own, ‘Es War ein Edelweiss’ became known as the Lied der Gebirgsjäger (Mountain Troops), and ‘Rot Scheint die Sonne’ became the favourite and stunningly evocative tune of Hermann Goering’s paratroopers and henceforth known as the Lied der Fallschirmjäger.

The creation of new and stirring songs to accompany the battle campaigns were also encouraged by the Reich; as such the great German marching song composers of the time, Prof. Herms Niel, Norbert Schultze and Hermann Löns were to flourish through the writing of such stirring songs as Wir fahren gegen Engelland (for the planned assault of mainland Britain), Das Frankreichlied (to accompany the German assault on France), and Vorwärts nach Osten (to eulogise Hitler’s eastern campaign against Stalin’s Russia).

In some cases, new politically inspired words were simply set to old & well-known German melodies, such as the new Hitler Youth march, ‘Durch deutsches Land marschieren wir’, penned by Herbert Hammer, which was dropped onto the tune of the old World War One favourite, ‘Argonnerlied’! 

However, despite Germany’s awesome strength as a military nation and the undoubted prowess of its individual fighting men, the actual subject matter and contents of quite a large number of the newer marching & folk songs penned, with the full encouragement of the Third Reich leadership, were surprisingly gentle and non-militaristic.

Many more tunes now spoke longingly of dearly loved and much missed mothers & girl friends (the names of Gerda, Ursula, Rosemarie, Monika & Annemarie being extremely popular with songwriters and soldiers alike!), and of the varied  regions of the soldiers’ beautiful German homeland, with many fond references to the nation’s abundance of mountains & heathlands, flowers & trees, rivers & oceans, towns and hamlets!

The re-vitalised German film industry, now flourishing under the patronage of Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, was to also introduce a number of well-known Third Reich military songs, including ‘Soldaten sind immer Soldaten’ from the film ‘Der Westwall’ and the very popular naval tune, ‘Wenn das Schifferklavier an Bord ertönt’, which was written especially for the film ‘Das Wunschkonzert’ (the movie story of the German Armed Forces radio request show Wunschkonzert fuer die Wehrmacht), before being enthusiastically taken up by the German military and civilian audiences alike.

Strangely, many of the new marching songs, although written by many differing lyricists, appeared to share many common words, sentiments and even choruses, so making it not uncommon to come across songs bearing exactly the same main title, with often only the sub-titles distinguishing them upon first glance..!

In addition, this sudden re-emergence of German songwriters & composers in the 1930s and early 40s, from both the ranks of the professional civilian musician and the trained soldier from the armed forces, also gave rise to more than one version of a song actually staking its claim to be the official Korpslieder for a particular unit, which caused confusion!

This resulted in differing lyrics & arrangements appearing across a range of official military song-books under the same title, as in the case of both the U-Boot Lied and the Lied der Afrika Korps, where at least 2 different songs claim to be the ‘official’ D.A.K. anthem, whilst there were 8 separate songs devoted to the U-Boot arm in the Kriegsmarine song-book Blaujacken-Lieder’..! 

         Copyright @ Brian Matthews 2013

 

The Best of Enemies..!

Staying at the home of the enemy that tried to kill you in the war-time skies over Europe would seem to many people to be a fanciful story that could never happen; but that is exactly what did happen to a former Lancaster flight engineer from Hampshire, who survived his encounter with  Luftwaffe night-fighter ace, Knight’s Cross holder Heinz Rokker, over the French town of Neufchateau in July 1944.

One of only two air-crew to escape from their blazing bomber that fateful night, Thomas Harvell from Southampton parachuted to safety and was rescued by a local Frenchman, to later join forces with Resistance fighters, the Maquis, whom he fought alongside  in the Autumn of 1944 as they harassed German supply lines.

Known today by former members of the Maquis as ‘notre Anglais’, Mr Harvell, was on his way from a 5-day stay at Mr Rokker’s home in Oldenburg in Germany to France’s national monument to their war-time Resistance fighters at Sicon in the Franche-Comte region, when I caught up with him in Neufchateau whist I was travelling with Combat Veterans of America’s 79th Infantry Division on their pilrimage back to the D-Day Beaches of Normandy and thence onto Alsace-Lorraine.

Mr Harvell was to be presented with a medal of appreciation by the Federation Nationale Andre Maginot, and a certificate bearing the name of his war-time alias ‘Charles Hautier’ in recognition of his daring war-time exploits alongside his French comrades; however such acts of derring-do would not have happened, but for Heinz Rokkers’ dramatic & deadly intervention that July night.

An officer in the CID branch of British Transport Police at Southampton Docks, back in 1944 Mr Harvell was flying to Stuttgart on the night of July 28/29th with 514 Squadron’s Lancasters from Waterbeach in Cambridgeshire, when he first came face-to-face with Hauptmann Rokker…literally!

Born on October 20th 1920 in Oldenburg, Heinz Rokker volunteered for the Luftwaffe in 1939, having just sat his German ‘A’ Levels, (Kriegsabitur), early because of the outbreak of war. Upon acceptance in to the Third Reich’s air arm, he immediately undertook officer and initial pilot training at the Luftkriegschule (Air Warfare School) at Berlin-Gatow before being posted to Magdeburg to complete his training. Following night-fighter conversion at the Nachtjagdschule (Night-fighter School), at Neubiberg-Ingolstadt, he was posted to 1/NJG 2  in Sicily, scoring his first 4 night kills over North Africa.

In August 1941 the Squadron was sent to Brussels-Melsbroek for a rest, during which he undertook two long night flights over England, before transferring back to Sicily in January 1943 where he added a further kill to his mounting tally. July 1943 saw Rokker’s night-fighter squadron posted back to Germany as part of the Reich’s air defence umbrella around Kassel-Rothwesten and after the June 6th Allied Invasion of Normandy was posted to Chateaudun. In early 1944 Rokker was promoted to Hauptmann and made a Staffelkapitan, (Squadron Leader), and was now flying from the Rotenburg/Twente/Kassel-Rothwesten sector once again when scrambled against Thomas Harvell’s second incoming Lancaster raid on Stuttgart of the week.

Flying his radar-equipped Junkers Ju88 with its twin cannons mounted on top of the fuselage, known as Schrage-musik (slanting music) Rokker, who was to amass 64 kills before war’s end, lay in wait for the RAF ‘blind bomber’ formations and having already shot down one Lancaster that night, finally pounced as Mr Harvell’s aircraft flew wide of the bomber stream, his navigator having locked onto the British aircraft’s H2S radar waves.

Rokker flew under Harvell’s lone aircraft and using a ‘pull-down’ visor which magnified the target, let loose his Schrage-musik cannons, firing up at the underside of the Lancaster into the bomber’s port inner engine. For reasons that Thomas Harvell still cannot not fathom, pilot Flt Lt Jones continued to fly straight & level, taking no evasive action whatsoever.

One 39 Allied aircraft shot down in that single, the German ace could not believe his luck and having circled around to watch the bomber continuing in its level flight, swung back in on the starboard side and raked the Lancaster with heavy nose-canon fire… this time the doomed heavy four-engined aircraft blew up in the night-sky over Neufchateau.

Thrown clear of the exploding Lancaster as cannon fire hit its fuel tanks and rescued by a local Frenchman after a hair-raising parachute landing, Mr Harvell found his way into the hands of the Resistance. After several aborted attempts to reach Allied lines, he opted to stay and help the French underground in their clandestine war against the Germans. During a 6 week period he fought alongside the Maquis, helping to liberate the town of Pierrefontaine in 1944, before being ‘liberated’ himself by advancing American Forces.

Eventually making his way back to Britain, via Italy, in November 1944, Mr Harvell rejoined his squadron, but was told that downed air-crew fighting with the Resistance was deemed to be against the terms of the Geneva Convention. He would therefore no longer be able to fly on ‘Ops’ and was assigned to aircrew  training until the end of the war, returning to ‘civvy street’ in 1947.

Back in Germany, Hauptmann Rokker as a night-fighter pilot, amassing a further 59 kills with the ’Wilde Sau-Zahme Sau’ Geschwader, (Savage Hog-Tame Hog Squadron), from his final air-base in Schleswig. His war-time medals included a Black Wound badge on July 14th 1942, the Iron Cross 1st Class on August 14th 1942, the Knight’s Cross from the hands of Adolf Hitler on July 27th 1944 and the Oak Leaves to his Knight’s Cross on March 12th 1945 from Head of the Luftwaffe, Herman Goering.

At war’s end Heinz Rokker was briefly interned by the Allies and on his release in late 1945 qualified as a teacher, retiring from his post as a deputy head-teacher of a primary school in his native Germany in 1982.

Meanwhile the ‘Aviateur Anglais’ Thomas Harvell is a regular guest of his war-time Resistance comrades in the beautiful French town of Neufchateau…

But how did they feel coming face-to-face after their deadly duel in the night skies of Europe so many years before? Mr Harvell explained: “Heinz was very proud to be an ace and before meeting me, he’d been a guest at the RAF’s Air Gunners Association where he met a Halifax rear gunner and a Mosquito pilot he’d shot down and both were very surprised to meet the German pilot who’d been their Nemesis.

But when I met him, it was as if we’d known each other all of our lives, though it had been so personal back then as he was actually trying to kill me..!  As an ace he had obviously been a ruthless man and though he later became a quiet primary school teacher, whenever he talks about his wartime exploits you can see that old streak of ruthlessness emerge once again..! 

As for meeting Heinz in person, it was very emotional and as we are both tall men his first words to me were that we were ‘both a matching pair’’… furthermore he could certainly well remember that night, telling me that he had to give us two bursts to despatch us as we continued to fly straight and level”

Today the two adversaries are friends, their deadly duel but a distant memory and whilst Heinz Rokker lives in peaceful retirement in Germany, still with his Knights Cross with Oakleaves on display at his home, Thomas Harvell is home in Hampshire, a hero of the French Resistance… with both medal and citation to prove it..!

Copyright @ Brian Matthews 2013

Die Musikkorps der Wachbataillonen-Berlin…

Some while ago several Tomahawk Films’ customers contacted us, actually with the same query, regarding a new CD that had been released in the US which they had bought, purporting to be a compilation of military music tracks all performed by the band of the army’s elite Regiment, ‘Grossdeutschland’, (the army’s Wachbataillon during the era of the Third Reich)… but were bit confused when they discovered that this album also contained a number of tracks performed by the Luftwaffe’s Wachbataillon as well, and should this be the case..?

Despite not having heard this album myself, nevertheless from the track listings & credits read out to me over the ‘phone, my personal thoughts were, ‘absolutely not’..! The ‘Grossdeutschland’ was the army’s Berlin-based Wachbataillon or Honour Guard only, (as well as being the Wehrmacht’s elite combat unit in the field), whilst the Luftwaffe’s Wachbataillon was a totally separate elite Honour Guard belonging to Herman Goering’s powerful German Air Force so providing some of the best Luftwaffe musik ever heard in the capital.. thus being a case of: ‘never the twain shall meet’..!

However, it was certainly the case that from time-to-time certain military musicians within the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS Musikkorps did actually change their arm of service and transfer over to another Musikkorps, if a suitable musical vacancy came up within another regimental band or orchestra… and very often this was directly as the result of a Situations Vacant advertisement posted for the player of a certain required instrument in the pages of the German entertainment magazine ‘Variety’.

But such a move would be deemed a complete change of uniform & service regulations as these career-musicians were joining a completely new branch of the German Armed Forces: so as far as the ‘Grossdeutschland’s’ superb band was concerned, its full-time professional musicians may have moved in and out on odd occasions, but it was always an Army Musikkorps, and in turn the Luftwaffe Musikkorps stayed completely separate as an Air-Force military band..!

So I have to agree with those callers in that whilst this American-produced ‘Grossdeutschland’ CD offers some military music tracks performed by the Army’s elite Honour Guard Musikkorps, to then also include other tracks performed by the Luftwaffe’s Honour Guard does seem a little erroneous..!

I must admit our Production Office ‘phone only started ringing with these customer queries after Tomahawk Films had produced & launched our specific Berlin Honour Guard CD which combines the performances by both of the capital’s elite Musikkorps of the Luftwaffe & Army Wachbataillonen… and thus its title Die Musikkorps der Wachbataillonen-Berlin…The Wehrmacht’s Elite Guard Detachments 1937-1945...as it contains an exciting blend of seven tracks performed by the Musikkorps der Wachbataillon ‘Grossdeutschland’ supported by six from the equally skilled Stabsmusikkorps Wachbataillon der Luftwaffe..

But this whole question of Berlin’s Honour Guards during the period of the Third Reich is a quite fascinating one, for it was actually in 1921 that Berlin’s first Guard Detachment since 1918 was created with the Reichswehr’s Kommando der Wachtruppe, together with a Musikkorps der Kommandantur-Berlin led by the very famous military Musikmeister: Friedrich Ahlers.

Tasked with Honour Guard duties at the Neue Wache, (or New Guard House), in Germany’s capital city, manpower for it was drawn on a rotational basis from army battalions across the country and with the coming of the Third Reich in 1933, it was re-named Wachtruppe-Berlin.

Nazi Germany then re-armed in 1935 and the Wehrmacht was subsequently created and with it, a new three-battalion Wachregiment-Berlin came into being in 1937, with the band re-designated Musikkorps der Wachregiment und Kommandantur-Berlin and whilst peacetime military bands averaged 28-38 musicians, this elite army band now boasted some 48 members.

Nazi Germany’s new Air Force was also created in 1935 and a similar Luftwaffe Wachbataillon, tasked with guarding Goering’s Berlin Air Ministry, also found itself deputing, once a week, for the army as it stood in for the Wachregiment as the Wehrmacht’s Guard Detachment at the Neue Wache.

Meantime, Luftwaffe Inspector of Music, Prof. Hans-Felix Husadel had appointed the highly talented Stabsmusikmeister Hans Teichmann to head and lead a new Stabsmusikkorps der Wachbataillon der Luftwaffe which was only too eager to show off its prowess and panache at many open-air concerts around the Capital and also to the massed German audiences via the Sunday night Wunschkonzert für die Wehrmacht radio shows.

In addition, this superb Air Force military band was also an important staple of Germany’s wider commercial music industry and regularly recorded at Telefunken’s famous Berlin studios with many subsequent schellack 78rpm recordings produced on their label actually surviving through to today, if you can hunt them down!

Meanwhile yet further changes came in April 1939 with the army’s Wachregiment, still under the direction of Stabsmusikmeister Friedrich Ahlers, being renamed Infanterie Regiment ‘Grossdeutschland’ and its band, the Stabsmusikkorps der Wachbataillon Infanterie Regiment ‘Grossdeutschland’ und Kommandantur-Berlin; (rather unwieldy and something of a real mouthful, so not surprisingly many record labels simply shortened the name to simply Musikkorps ‘Grossdeutschland’..!)

At the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, many Wehrmacht & Waffen-SS bands were disbanded ‘for the duration’ and the musicians transferred to their war-time roles of radio operator, despatch rider or combat-medic. However, the army’s prized Musikkorps Infanterie Regiment ‘Grossdeutschland’ (along with just two other elite bands, Musikkorps SS-Leibstandarte ‘Adolf Hitler’ & Musikkorps 12.SS-Panzerdivision ‘Hitlerjugend’), remained in operational… and in fact played almost up until war’s end in May 1945.

Today, some nearly 70 years on from their last performances, it was a real pleasure, (and another yet another fascinating history lesson), to produce & re-master Tomahawk’s Wachbataillonen-Berlin CD which, in my humble opinion, contains some of the very best Third Reich musicianship so expertly performed by the leading military performers of the day….just superb!!

Copyright @ Brian Matthews 2012