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Posted on Feb 17, 2007 in Front Page Features, Stuff We Like

Armchair General – Behind the Scenes

By Simon Delaney

The next shoot involved me running back to the Churchill to stop its progress up the road. This didn’t take too long so the next shot was set up. The setting up process is the only chance that the extras have to sit down and take a break, because the unit is always working against the clock to achieve everything it has set itself for the day. This may involve working well into the evening, as we did on every day of this shoot. Often we were called on to assist Seimon by carrying items of equipment, helping with the smoke machine or holding lighting boards.


Click here or on the image above to see another take as I bail out (approx 9MB)!


The Churchill being driven to position

With the cameras and crew set up for the scene where I jump onto the side of the tank and shout to the commander about the gun, I thought it would be quite a quick job like the last scene. However, the combination of hobnailed Ammo boots and slippery tank surfaces caused me to try several different ways to clamber onto the Churchill until the right one was found. 

The tank commander and driver spent most of the day in the tank, getting to know it so they could act as if they’d ‘lived’ in it for months. Part of the ACG re-enacting method is not to film people with objects and equipment, but for the extras to actually interact with them as if they know them intimately. Only then do you get the shots you need, and the shots that ACG readers have come to expect. I spent some time in the turret as well, and there’s not much room, I can tell you. With all the hatches down, and the sound of powerful tank engines running close by, really gave you the feeling of being cut off from activity outside, and it was a real experience.

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Van loads of equipment and uniforms help us create an authentic look

Lastly, we set up for the bunker shot. This involved Richard Underwood as an officer who has appeared, dazed, from the bunker with two other soldiers who collapse near the tank traps. With this completed, we walked to our camp area for a barbeque and much conversation about the day’s filming. We were able to review the digital shots on a laptop PC to give us an idea of what it will look like when the completed series of photos are published in ACG. 

King Tiger

In the morning, we had to set up for a completely different series of photos. We woke early and were in pole position to watch the Museum’s staff haul their Tiger II into position. The engine had been removed so the weight was reduced to a mere 68 tons! This beast was to be photographed for the Museum’s promotional purposes as well as ACG’s article. Not only is this example one of only a handful in existence, but it is unique in that its last few combat hours are well documented. It was this period of time that we intended to recreate for a ‘How They Fought’ article. The tank suffered transmission damage whilst attempting to hide itself behind a building. The Tiger was then abandoned by its crew but several were apprehended by French Resistance fighters. A group of German re-enactors recommended by Richard Underwood arrived to feature as the assault troops interacting with the tank and also to be part of the King Tiger’s crew.

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The King Tiger is an impressive machine


Click here or on the image above to see footage of the German crew hiding beneath the King Tiger (approx 3.5MB)!

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1 Comment

  1. Hi i just look at your web page i see you are making dragons teeth i would like to no if i can get the measurement so i build sum for my
    re-enacting group if help me out

    yours david smith