Band of Brothers changed my whole outlook on the Second World War. The excellent HBO series put faces to that conflict in a way no school assembly, as important as those are, could as a group of American troops slogged their way across Europe and into Germany.
Black Watch Snipers has done that again from a Canadian point of view. Airing Friday at 9 p.m. ET on History as part of the network’s Days of Remembrance programming, the yap films documentary follows the actions of this country’s most storied regiment: the Black Watch Battalion. Mixing interviews with the five remaining snipers, now all in their 90s, of that elite group—Dale Sharpe, Jim “Hook” Wilkinson, Russell “Sandy” Sanderson, Mike Brunner and Jimmy Bennett—with stunning recreations, Black Watch Snipers is the gripping recounting of their heroic and terrifying experiences over a 10-month period in 1944.
“We looked after each other. That’s how we survived,” Wilkinson says into the camera. If only it was really that easy.
“It’s a damn war and we didn’t start it,” Sanderson says. “And it had to be ended. So we did the job.”
Black Watch Snipers begins on Juno Beach on D-Day, with the Black Watch Battalion heading 20 miles inland to Verrieres Ridge where they encountered the full force of the Germans. Hundreds were killed. The scout platoon, formed soon after and led by Sharpe, consisted of young men with one mission: to be ahead of the main group and take out as many high-ranked German soldiers as they could. Their movement continued across the top of France and into Belgium, where the team took on the dangerous task of interacting with the Germans entrenched in Antwerp. Then it’s on to the Netherlands, where the battalion suffers more tragic losses, its liberation and a final showdown in Germany.
To a man, they all say at some point during the broadcast that they’ll never forget what they went through. We shouldn’t forget either, and Black Watch Snipers helps us remember.
Black Watch Snipers airs Friday at 9 p.m. ET on History.