Two decades on from its release, Band of Brothers still stands as one of the best TV series of all time. The limited series follows the journey of Easy Company, from its formation right through to the end of World War 2.
With Damian Lewis in the lead as Dick Winters (still his best role to date) Band of Brothers is beloved for its emotional and grounded story, balancing thrilling action with the genuine horror of war. It stands alongside Saving Private Ryan as one of the definitive war stories, and it helped to shape the concept of the big budget limited series.
However, while the series did strive for historical accuracy, historian James Holland says a scene with the tanks, in particular, misses the mark. Speaking about one scene in which a British tank stops itself from blowing up a building to expose a hidden German tank, Holland is unequivocal. “That’s just nonsense. There is not a single British tank commander I’ve ever come across who would ever say, ‘Our orders are to not fire unnecessarily.’”
The historian continued, “And particularly when you’re in a Sherman tank, because a Sherman tank doesn’t have the same velocity as a Tiger or a Panther that Germans have. But what it can do is it can fire very quickly, and rapidity of rounds is really, really important…it’s a great scene this, but that dialogue is just so ridiculous that it’s not true.”
It’s not all bad news for Band of Brothers, though. Holland went on to praise a ground combat scene, describing the depiction of the fighting as, “spot on.”
While tank experts and historians clearly have their minor issues with some of what’s portrayed, as Holland himself notes Band of Brothers is an adaptation of real life events, making adjustments to suit the medium of TV. The fact that there are inaccuracies here are there does nothing to diminish the success of Band of Brothers, but it does certainly make us want to watch the series once again.