It’s no secret that I’m a fan of military programming, and Hell Below is a fantastic one. Produced by Parallax Film Productions out of Vancouver, the documentary series delves into life aboard submarines during the Second World War, and Tuesday’s newest is a humdinger.
“The Wolfpack”—broadcast on Smithsonian Channel Canada at 8 p.m. ET—explores the elite submariners that hunted Allied convoys bringing much-needed supplies from the East Coast of North America to Britain. At the centre of the episode is Otto Kretschmer, one of Hitler’s U-boat aces whose guts and gambles made him a successful and valued member of the German side. Kretschmer inflicted incredible damage by manoeuvring his submersible into the middle of convoys and then picking off ships one by one, leading to cataclysmic losses.
Filmed aboard era ships and subs, Hell Below successfully portrays not only the successes and failures of Kretschmer and his crew, but the claustrophobic conditions they operated in. With hundreds of feet between them and the surface—and with Allied boats dropping depth charges—being on a U-boat crew was not for the faint of heart. You can’t help but feel sympathy as depth charges shudder through the sub’s structure, springing bolts and letting in freshets of water. Expert analysis, re-enactments, stock footage and impressive CGI help tell the tale of Kretschmer’s career and what happened when the Allies finally put radar on their ships.
Hell Below airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Smithsonian Channel Canada. You can watch past episodes via Smithsonian Channel Canada’s website.