We Have Ways Pod

Podcast hosts are historian and very prolific author James Holland (left) and British comedian and musician Al Murray (right)

Podcast Review by Terry LLoyd


From across the Pond comes a highly informative, and extremely entertaining podcast on World War II, titled “We Have Ways”. The name of the show comes both from the very clichéd line, “Vee haf vays of making you talk” used by menacing cinematic Nazi interrogators right up to the first Indiana Jones movie, and also a key laugh line in the 1980s WW II Britcom ‘Allo, ‘Allo (more on that show, and its relevance, later).

The show’s hosts are historian, and very prolific author James Holland and British comedian and musician Al Murray. James will be familiar to viewers of WWII and other history-related cable shows. Al has also become quite the expert on WWII in his own right, motivated in part by his family’s participation in the war. In turn, James Holland crosses over into comedy often with extemporaneous and quite humorous quips and one-liners. Speaking from experience, use caution when consuming liquids while listening. While the format is easy-going, with a good part of the show devoted to answering listener questions, there is no other way to describe the show other than as an unabashed, self-proclaimed WWII “nerdfest.” As to the stated aim of the podcast, to “roam down forgotten front lines, cast new villains and make the case for unlikely heroes,” it clearly hits the mark.

For an American listener, a bit of a primer is needed to help “on board” with the show. References are obliquely made to the comedy show ‘Allo, ‘Allo, which I watched while stationed in the UK. It is centered on a French café in Nazi-occupied France. The best way I can describe the tone of the show is Hogan’s Heroes meets Benny Hill.  Some episodes are available on YouTube. James and Al like to occasionally roast an American military “sacred cow,” such as Patton or airborne commander James Gavin, and most American WWII movies, even (gasp!) Saving Private Ryan. There is no vitriol whatsoever, and facts are always presented to support their viewpoint, however, mistaken it may be. Also, watch the movie A Bridge Too Far if you can. Pay special attention to the scene of a British paratroop officer, played by Anthony Hopkins, when ordering a British anti-tank crew to engage a Panzer with a spring-loaded RPG type contraption called a Piat (rhymes with Fiat and the comparisons shouldn’t stop there). Finally, it wasn’t all Monty’s fault.

Since episodes are independent, they can be listened to in any order, and are a great way to pass the time while driving, flying, or doing chores.

Despite the light touch and frequent laughs, occasionally the podcast includes emotional and respectful recognition of atrocities and tragic situations that occurred during the war. Often the hosts are broadcasting from the very location in the UK or continental Europe where the subject of that day’s cast took place and have even interviewed eyewitnesses to a particular event. These sober, poignant reminders of the true cost and consequences of war, to soldiers, civilians, and civilization stand out when presented.

Take away. It is always beneficial to hear commentary on familiar history from a different, but allied viewpoint. World War II was the largest armed conflict in world history but will soon fade from living memory. At the same time, new information from the war is uncovered every day, requiring the history to be reexamined, rewritten when justified, and new lessons learned. 

321 episodes- available on Apple, Spotify, Acast, Podbean, Podtail and other podcast sites.

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