Battlefield (documentary series)

Battlefield (documentary series)

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Battlefield is a documentary series initially shown in 1994 that explores the most important battles fought primarily during the Second World War
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 but also the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

. The series employs a novel approach in which history is described by detailed accounts of major battles together with background and contextual information.


The series provides a comprehensive narrative of the war; in addition to traditional tactical details, subjects such as personalities and motivations of the leaders, technological developments, management of war economies, strategic contributions of smaller battles, etc. are explored in terms of their contribution to particular turning points. The narrator (Tim Pigott-Smith
Tim Pigott-Smith
Tim Pigott-Smith is an English film and television actor.-Early life:Pigott-Smith was born in Rugby, Warwickshire, the son of Margaret Muriel and Harry Thomas Pigott-Smith, who was a journalist. He was educated at Wyggeston Boys' School, Leicester, King Edward VI School Stratford-upon-Avon, and...

) speaks throughout the series, with no interviews of actual battle veterans. The show is entirely made up of archive footage and 3D graphics. Rare archive film, including rare colour footage specific to each battle is included.

Detailed analysis of the battle including leaders, commanders, soldiers and weapons is presented. Events preceding the featured battle are presented, as well as some aftermath details. The political and military situation before each battle. Explanations of weapons and tactics. Detailed analysis of the cause of each battle. The action in the context of the war as a whole. Informative maps and graphics.

Episodes consist of two hour (100 minute) programs. Each episode of Battlefield is divided into segments. A typical sequence is as follows:
  • Prelude to Battle / Order of Battle / The Leaders / Strategy for Offense / Strategy for Defense / The Commanders / The Opposing Forces / Weapons / The Men / The Eve of Battle / The Battle, several Phases / The Battle Won / After the Battle

The series was produced by Lamancha Productions in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Series One - 1994

  1. The Battle of France
    Battle of France
    In the Second World War, the Battle of France was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries, beginning on 10 May 1940, which ended the Phoney War. The battle consisted of two main operations. In the first, Fall Gelb , German armoured units pushed through the Ardennes, to cut off and...

  2. The Battle of Britain
    Battle of Britain
    The Battle of Britain is the name given to the World War II air campaign waged by the German Air Force against the United Kingdom during the summer and autumn of 1940...

  3. The Battle of Midway
    Battle of Midway
    The Battle of Midway is widely regarded as the most important naval battle of the Pacific Campaign of World War II. Between 4 and 7 June 1942, approximately one month after the Battle of the Coral Sea and six months after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States Navy decisively defeated...

  4. The Battle of Stalingrad
    Battle of Stalingrad
    The Battle of Stalingrad was a major battle of World War II in which Nazi Germany and its allies fought the Soviet Union for control of the city of Stalingrad in southwestern Russia. The battle took place between 23 August 1942 and 2 February 1943...

  5. The Battle of Normandy
  6. The Battle of Berlin
    Battle of Berlin
    The Battle of Berlin, designated the Berlin Strategic Offensive Operation by the Soviet Union, was the final major offensive of the European Theatre of World War II....

Series Two - 1996

  1. The Battle for North Africa
    North African campaign
    During the Second World War, the North African Campaign took place in North Africa from 10 June 1940 to 13 May 1943. It included campaigns fought in the Libyan and Egyptian deserts and in Morocco and Algeria and Tunisia .The campaign was fought between the Allies and Axis powers, many of whom had...

  2. The Battle of the Atlantic
  3. The Battle for Russia
    Eastern Front (World War II)
    The Eastern Front of World War II was a theatre of World War II between the European Axis powers and co-belligerent Finland against the Soviet Union, Poland, and some other Allies which encompassed Northern, Southern and Eastern Europe from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945...

  4. The Battle for Italy
    Allied invasion of Italy
    The Allied invasion of Italy was the Allied landing on mainland Italy on September 3, 1943, by General Harold Alexander's 15th Army Group during the Second World War. The operation followed the successful invasion of Sicily during the Italian Campaign...

  5. The Battle of Leyte Gulf
    Battle of Leyte Gulf
    The Battle of Leyte Gulf, also called the "Battles for Leyte Gulf", and formerly known as the "Second Battle of the Philippine Sea", is generally considered to be the largest naval battle of World War II and, by some criteria, possibly the largest naval battle in history.It was fought in waters...

  6. The Battle for the Rhine

Series Three (Vietnam War) - 1999

  1. Dien Bien Phu
    Battle of Dien Bien Phu
    The Battle of Dien Bien Phu was the climactic confrontation of the First Indochina War between the French Union's French Far East Expeditionary Corps and Viet Minh communist revolutionaries. The battle occurred between March and May 1954 and culminated in a comprehensive French defeat that...

     - The Legacy
  2. The Undeclared War
  3. Search and Destroy
  4. The Showdown in the Iron Triangle
    Iron Triangle (Vietnam)
    The Iron Triangle was a area in the Binh Duong Province of Vietnam, so named due to it being a stronghold of Viet Minh activity during the war...

  5. Countdown to Tet
  6. The Tet Offensive
  7. War on the DMZ
  8. Siege at the Khe Sanh
    Battle of Khe Sanh
    The Battle of Khe Sanh was conducted in northwestern Quang Tri Province, Republic of Vietnam , between 21 January and 9 July 1968 during the Vietnam War...

  9. Air War Vietnam
  10. Rolling Thunder
    Operation Rolling Thunder
    Operation Rolling Thunder was the title of a gradual and sustained US 2nd Air Division , US Navy, and Republic of Vietnam Air Force aerial bombardment campaign conducted against the Democratic Republic of Vietnam from 2 March 1965 until 1 November 1968, during the Vietnam War.The four objectives...

  11. Peace with Honour
  12. The Fall of Saigon
    Fall of Saigon
    The Fall of Saigon was the capture of Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, by the People's Army of Vietnam and the National Liberation Front on April 30, 1975...

Series Four - 2000

  1. The Battle of Kursk
    Battle of Kursk
    The Battle of Kursk took place when German and Soviet forces confronted each other on the Eastern Front during World War II in the vicinity of the city of Kursk, in the Soviet Union in July and August 1943. It remains both the largest series of armored clashes, including the Battle of Prokhorovka,...

  2. Air War Over Germany
  3. Manchuria - The Forgotten Victory
  4. Pearl Harbor
    Attack on Pearl Harbor
    The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...

     and the Fall of Singapore
    Battle of Singapore
    The Battle of Singapore was fought in the South-East Asian theatre of the Second World War when the Empire of Japan invaded the Allied stronghold of Singapore. Singapore was the major British military base in Southeast Asia and nicknamed the "Gibraltar of the East"...

  5. Guadalcanal
    Guadalcanal campaign
    The Guadalcanal Campaign, also known as the Battle of Guadalcanal and codenamed Operation Watchtower by Allied forces, was a military campaign fought between August 7, 1942 and February 9, 1943 on and around the island of Guadalcanal in the Pacific theatre of World War II...

  6. The Siege of Leningrad
    Siege of Leningrad
    The Siege of Leningrad, also known as the Leningrad Blockade was a prolonged military operation resulting from the failure of the German Army Group North to capture Leningrad, now known as Saint Petersburg, in the Eastern Front theatre of World War II. It started on 8 September 1941, when the last...

Series Five - 2001

  1. The Battles for Tunisia
    Tunisia Campaign
    The Tunisia Campaign was a series of battles that took place in Tunisia during the North African Campaign of the Second World War, between Axis and Allied forces. The Allies consisted of British Imperial Forces, including Polish and Greek contingents, with American and French corps...

  2. El Alamein
    First Battle of El Alamein
    The First Battle of El Alamein was a battle of the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War, fought between Axis forces of the Panzer Army Africa commanded by Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, and Allied forces The First Battle of El Alamein (1–27 July 1942) was a battle of the Western Desert...

  3. Monte Cassino
    Battle of Monte Cassino
    The Battle of Monte Cassino was a costly series of four battles during World War II, fought by the Allies against Germans and Italians with the intention of breaking through the Winter Line and seizing Rome.In the beginning of 1944, the western half of the Winter Line was being anchored by Germans...

  4. The West Wall
    Siegfried Line
    The original Siegfried line was a line of defensive forts and tank defences built by Germany as a section of the Hindenburg Line 1916–1917 in northern France during World War I...

  5. Arnhem - Operation Market Garden
    Operation Market Garden
    Operation Market Garden was an unsuccessful Allied military operation, fought in the Netherlands and Germany in the Second World War. It was the largest airborne operation up to that time....

  6. The Battle for Caen
    Battle for Caen
    The Battle for Caen from June-August 1944 was a battle between Allied and German forces during the Battle of Normandy....

Series Six - 2002

  1. The Battle for the Crimea
  2. Scandinavia - The Forgotten Front (*In this episode, the iron mines located in northern Sweden are incorrectly stated to be in northern Finland.)
  3. The War Against the U-Boats
  4. Destination Okinawa
    Battle of Okinawa
    The Battle of Okinawa, codenamed Operation Iceberg, was fought on the Ryukyu Islands of Okinawa and was the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific War of World War II. The 82-day-long battle lasted from early April until mid-June 1945...

  5. Campaign in the Balkans
  6. The Battle for the Mediterranean
    Battle of the Mediterranean
    The Battle of the Mediterranean was the name given to the naval campaign fought in the Mediterranean Sea during World War II, from 10 June 1940-2 May 1945....

Broadcast History

The Battlefield series was originally aired on the BBC (UK) and PBS Television (USA). The Military Channel currently showed a shortened version of the series. Major networks still showing documentaries from the ‘Battlefield’ series include Discovery Networks Europe (UK) and PBS (USA).

Series one

The Battlefield series has been issued in videotape by Polygram Video (UK - PAL format) and Time-Life (USA - NTSC format). DVD collections were reissued by Polygram Video in the UK (PAL format) in 2005. In 2010 the original series was re-released on DVD in the US.

  • Release date: 02/05/2005
  • Format: PAL, six two-hour episodes on six DVDs
  • Running Time: 11 hours 10 minutes
  • Narrator - Tim Pigott-Smith
    Tim Pigott-Smith
    Tim Pigott-Smith is an English film and television actor.-Early life:Pigott-Smith was born in Rugby, Warwickshire, the son of Margaret Muriel and Harry Thomas Pigott-Smith, who was a journalist. He was educated at Wyggeston Boys' School, Leicester, King Edward VI School Stratford-upon-Avon, and...

  • Executive Producers - David McWhinnie, David Rozalla, Ken Maliphant
  • Producer - Dave Flitton (series prod.)
  • Directors - Dave Flitton, Andy Aitken, Justin McCarthy

Series two

  • Release date: 02/05/2005
  • Format: PAL
  • Number of Discs: 6
  • Running Time: 300 mins

Series Three

Series Three was reissued by Time-Life as 12 segments, each 50 minutes long, on NTSC VHS videotapes. The series was produced by LaMancha Productions and produced and directed by Dave Flitton. 3D Graphics by Greg Moodie and Gavin Bonnar. A PolyGram Visual Programming/Lamancha co-production. Narrated by Gavin MacFadyen.

Series Four

Series Four has been published by Time-Life with 50-minute NTSC VHS videotape episodes. The program copyright is Cromwell Productions, Ltd. (2001).


For Battlefield Vietnam:

'I have never seen a sustained narrative about the Vietnam War which captures the subtle nuances of it in such clear and simple language. Superb treatment.' - Dr. Robert Goldich, National Security Specialist, US Library of Congress

'Every department of politics or modern history should invest in this set, and use it.' - Journal of Strategic Studies'