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British Equipment And Generals Suck, Part Deux.


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Once again, what about British generalship. Monty or Alexander? Slim vs almost anyone else?

 

I see a problem on the premise... History Channel? :P

 

Generalship under Monty was limited by the tight control he exercised and cronyism, but to be fair he didn't do much worse (or better) than other allied generals, he certainly won the Normandy campaign (where he was the top dog), got defeated in Market Garden but then went on to stop the boches in the Bulge and on to Germany, plus, of course, won at El Alamein - where his merit was in attriting the Axis and changing his plan when things went awry, something he did in Normandy too. He learned from his mistakes too (see operation Varsity) which other generals with better reputations did not (i.e. Manstein).

 

What about Wavell? he was responsible for a theater of action that nowadays is called CENTCOM more or less, kicked out the Italians out of the horn of Africa, defeated them in Egypt/Lybia and defeats the dangerous Iraqui uprising and got defeated by Rommel and the Germans when he followed orders from London (that he protested) to weaken his forces everywhere.

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Problem with UK tanks mounting bigger guns was not turret ring alone (look what guns Soviets managed to mount on same turret ring*), as was combination of obsession with internal gun mantles (which ate space in turret much more than any gun) and relatively small turret ring, which could support bigger guns if they switched to external gun mantles as did rest of world.

 

*76mm ZiS-96 L/42 in Matilda - only mod required was external mantle. Now anything that could mount 76/42 could mount 57mm L/73 also, hence it could mount 6pdr. Comfort inside tank actually increased, as a lot of space was freed when switching to external mantle. Only reason they gave up on it was that there was a deficit of guns (needed for KVs), while deficit of LL ammo never materialized.

Edited by bojan
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Er, the 6 pdr AT gun was available for production in late 1940, but it would have been 200 of them vice 600 2-pdrs.

 

The 1st French Army did stop them in Belgium, but not the 3rd Army in France. The German center thrust was from Luxembourg, through the Ardennes that was not passable for armor.....We do need to lose the French surrender monkey myth. They fought hard, were strategically whipped.

 

Face it, nobody did well against the Germans until December 1941, regardless of who were the generals.

 

Marshall and Ike fired 115 US generals in WWII. Only a few were unwarranted.

 

And the german losses per day actually increased after the evacuation of Dunkirk,

despite the french having lost a lot of it's best equipment and it's best units.

 

The reason AFAIK was largely changes in tactics, to defence in depth

with infantry and artillery providing all round defence of some areas,

and the armour used for counter-attack.

 

But unlike the russians and the britons, the french didn't have enough space,

to buy them the time, to alow the to experince - learn - reorganize - retrain/replace

to stop the germans.

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Great post Ken.

 

Er, the 6 pdr AT gun was available for production in late 1940, but it would have been 200 of them vice 600 2-pdrs.

 

The 1st French Army did stop them in Belgium, but not the 3rd Army in France. The German center thrust was from Luxembourg, through the Ardennes that was not passable for armor.....We do need to lose the French surrender monkey myth. They fought hard, were strategically whipped.

 

Face it, nobody did well against the Germans until December 1941, regardless of who were the generals.

 

Marshall and Ike fired 115 US generals in WWII. Only a few were unwarranted.

 

Nobody knows if your leaders are any good until the test comes. Alan Brooke was conscious of the essential laziness of UK generals, sought the ones he thought could do well. Monty was one of them. He succeeded at Alamein using Auckinleck's plan, mind you.What he could not control was Churchill! The RN admirals were good scrappers, generally did well, although Phillips was ill suited for the impossible task at Singapore.

 

BTW, just what did Alexander ever do on a battlefield?

 

The Vickers 6-ton was fine, for 1935.

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...

Its interesting that the gun problem seemed to go away to a large extent when the Royal Artillery got out the towed antitank gun role (prefering SP mounts) and when Britain had decided on a 'Universal' tank. 17 pounder to 105mm through to L11 120mm in Chieftain seem to have been a fairly painless journey when compared to the difficulty early and mid war tank designers had in getting guns to fit.

 

Yeah, 17pdr was a neat feat of engineering, power of Panther 75/70 in much more reasonably sized package.

 

On other part, agree, it was mostly lack of clearly defined goals that hampered UK tank design, more than anything else. Most technical problems were consequence of companies being left to do what they thought was OK (Covenanter anyone?), and then trying to fit existing tanks in doctrine. Internal gun mantle was clearly such artifact*, it was something that was good at one point, but quickly became hindrance, but since none bothered to change requirements it stayed.

 

*Originally it gave better protection vs bullet splashes and enabled easier mounting of free-balanced guns, which was British pet idea until 1943 (when they gave up, about 3-5+ years after the rest of world, Japanese excluded). It did not take much space due being relatively thin, but once it moved to 50+mm armor, it had to be mounted more inside turret to provide structural support for it, and it started limiting space seriously. Even when Brits gave up on one of reasons for internal mantlets (free-balanced guns), they kept internal mantlets due the inertia, even if they did not bring anything positive on table.

Then hull construction, which was bizantine to say at least, requiring ~two times more welds then streamlined hulls (further creating weakspots) with multiple (5+) thickness of armor used further complicating production.

Fletcher nicely pointed it, none made reasonable requirements, and companies tried their bast. Some went well (Valentine), some not so (Covenanter, Challenger).

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Comparing the Centurion to the M47/M48 is a rather fine appraisal of a tank conceived 10+ years prior to the M47, itself an outgrowth of earlier designs.

 

Isn't the M47 more or less an M26 with a new turret and improved M46 automotives? Work on what became the M26 and Centurion designs both started in 1943. I agree that being competitive with 1950's designs like the M48 and M60 speaks well of the Centurion, but I stand by my position that the Centurion was slightly overrated until upgraded with American components.

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Comparing the Centurion to the M47/M48 is a rather fine appraisal of a tank conceived 10+ years prior to the M47, itself an outgrowth of earlier designs.

 

Isn't the M47 more or less an M26 with a new turret and improved M46 automotives? Work on what became the M26 and Centurion designs both started in 1943. I agree that being competitive with 1950's designs like the M48 and M60 speaks well of the Centurion, but I stand by my position that the Centurion was slightly overrated until upgraded with American components.

 

 

On the other hand, the M48 left a lot to be desired until getting brittish components (L7)

and the M1 until it got german components (RM 120mm L/44).

 

The Centurions ability to be uppgraded has been grossly overrated though.

For the Centurion upgunning meant a new turret

(20pdr to 105mm L7 was just a new tube designed to fit specificaly to all vehicles using the 20pdr),

unlike for instance the Sherman (75mm to 17pdr, 75mm to 75mm/AMX and 105mm),

M48, M1 Abrams and so on.

 

The other improvents (power pack, fire controll, ERA and so on)

was also done to many (if not most) tank types during the cold war.

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No, Stuart, you shall not.... Actually, I intended this as a more free wheeling discussion more so of the British War from 1939-1945. Looking at the generalship, one finds a lot of duds, for lack of better word. Monty was certainly no firebreather, actually he probably was just as bad, as MacArthur. IIRC the only really good British General was Slim, with Cunningham his RN equal in terms of ability. But really is it poor leadership, or a realistic appreciation that the UK could not suffer the horrific casualties of yesteryear? Or was it that British generals were afflicted with a case of the slows, and poor decision making when it came to missing opportunities. SNIP

 

 

Well Murph, you keep throwing vague generalisations (see what I did there :) ) based on very little apart from the word "slows", a couple of names and unsupported assertions. Mebbe you could enlighten us and provoke a bit more discussion by providing a bit more detail. Altho there's lays the risk that the additional detail will reveal your opening premise to simply be mince, to use the local argot. :)

 

BillB

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I was wondering when you would chime in on this one. :) Seriously, Monty with his insistence on a "tidy" battlefield, use of Ultra, and overwhelming artillery, could have moved quicker. Perhaps looking at Operation Goodwood is a mistake for his abilities. I still think that Wavell, or the Auk would have made a better Army Group commander than Monty.

 

 

 

No, Stuart, you shall not.... Actually, I intended this as a more free wheeling discussion more so of the British War from 1939-1945. Looking at the generalship, one finds a lot of duds, for lack of better word. Monty was certainly no firebreather, actually he probably was just as bad, as MacArthur. IIRC the only really good British General was Slim, with Cunningham his RN equal in terms of ability. But really is it poor leadership, or a realistic appreciation that the UK could not suffer the horrific casualties of yesteryear? Or was it that British generals were afflicted with a case of the slows, and poor decision making when it came to missing opportunities. SNIP

 

 

Well Murph, you keep throwing vague generalisations (see what I did there :) ) based on very little apart from the word "slows", a couple of names and unsupported assertions. Mebbe you could enlighten us and provoke a bit more discussion by providing a bit more detail. Altho there's lays the risk that the additional detail will reveal your opening premise to simply be mince, to use the local argot. :)

 

BillB

 

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I was wondering when you would chime in on this one. :) Seriously, Monty with his insistence on a "tidy" battlefield, use of Ultra, and overwhelming artillery, could have moved quicker. Perhaps looking at Operation Goodwood is a mistake for his abilities. I still think that Wavell, or the Auk would have made a better Army Group commander than Monty.

 

 

 

No, Stuart, you shall not.... Actually, I intended this as a more free wheeling discussion more so of the British War from 1939-1945. Looking at the generalship, one finds a lot of duds, for lack of better word. Monty was certainly no firebreather, actually he probably was just as bad, as MacArthur. IIRC the only really good British General was Slim, with Cunningham his RN equal in terms of ability. But really is it poor leadership, or a realistic appreciation that the UK could not suffer the horrific casualties of yesteryear? Or was it that British generals were afflicted with a case of the slows, and poor decision making when it came to missing opportunities. SNIP

 

 

Well Murph, you keep throwing vague generalisations (see what I did there :) ) based on very little apart from the word "slows", a couple of names and unsupported assertions. Mebbe you could enlighten us and provoke a bit more discussion by providing a bit more detail. Altho there's lays the risk that the additional detail will reveal your opening premise to simply be mince, to use the local argot. :)

 

BillB

 

 

 

Appraising Monty's qualities for Goodwood is rather shortsighted, after all he was attacking the German's strongest point, but if he had gone for the weakest one, the merit would be for the Americans? (see Cobra)

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Didn't Monty HAVE to keep up the pressure to keep the German armored divisions pinned? Couldn't it be argued that most of the allied left flank prior to Cobra was one long spoiling attack? Was it planned that way or did it merely work out that way? Careful husbanding of resources would go with that. Does the mass air bombardment contradict that or is it just more action designed to wear down the Germans and keep their attention focused on the left flank vs looking towards the right?

Edited by rmgill
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You know, I don't know quite what the deal is with Montgomery haters. The guy certainly was a self-promoter with a perceived imperative to be faultless in the public eye. But he wasn't an incompetent general. He was certainly the master of organizing and implementing the deliberate offensive (his own plan or anybody else's). I don't even think it's fair to say that he "lost" Market Garden. He's just been judged on his unrealistic sales talk, rather than what was actually possible. The Soviets would have been satisfied to gain 60 miles at the loss of s single division. And' it's not like the ground gained was ultimately useless. Veritable was certainly made possible by Market Garden. The ground would have had to be taken eventually, for that purpose or a similar one.

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Er, the 6 pdr AT gun was available for production in late 1940, but it would have been 200 of them vice 600 2-pdrs.

 

 

 

The Vickers 6-ton was fine, for 1935.

Which was my point about the Dunkirk effect, my question was did the Dunkirk effect on production linger beyond when it should have?

 

I think the 6-tonner was a decent design for countries like Canada to adopt in 1935 both for their industries and armies to become accustomed to tank design, manufacture and use. I think the Ram was a very good design for it's time, despite the MG turret. Pity it was never tested at the time of it's initial issue in North Africa.

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Part of that Tony, is how much is real generalship, and how much is ultra and/or fabrication? The same goes for many of the US Generals, who were less than stellar such as Bradley, Hodges, MacArthur, etc. Great generals like Terry De La Mesa Allen were sidelined through envy, and because they were aggressive cavalrymen which made plodders like Bradley uncomfortable.

 

But going back to the topic at hand, who were the outstanding British divisional and corps commanders of the war?

 

 

You know, I don't know quite what the deal is with Montgomery haters. The guy certainly was a self-promoter with a perceived imperative to be faultless in the public eye. But he wasn't an incompetent general. He was certainly the master of organizing and implementing the deliberate offensive (his own plan or anybody else's). I don't even think it's fair to say that he "lost" Market Garden. He's just been judged on his unrealistic sales talk, rather than what was actually possible. The Soviets would have been satisfied to gain 60 miles at the loss of s single division. And' it's not like the ground gained was ultimately useless. Veritable was certainly made possible by Market Garden. The ground would have had to be taken eventually, for that purpose or a similar one.

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Part of that Tony, is how much is real generalship, and how much is ultra and/or fabrication? The same goes for many of the US Generals, who were less than stellar such as Bradley, Hodges, MacArthur, etc. Great generals like Terry De La Mesa Allen were sidelined through envy, and because they were aggressive cavalrymen which made plodders like Bradley uncomfortable.

 

But going back to the topic at hand, who were the outstanding British divisional and corps commanders of the war?

 

I just don't find that kind of thinking to be credible. Fighting a modern battle at the army level is a corporate undertaking, and the general has to be judged on his success or failure as a corporate leader. "real generalship" is, to me, just a rhetorical stick with which to beat figures who did well as managers of armies, but who were not as dashing or colorful as some might wish them to have been. Montgomery's failure was not as a corporate leader within the organization, but as a corporate leader in his public-facing role. He wanted all of the credit and none of the blame.

 

WRT corps and division commanders, I've read plenty of books on the war and NW Europe in particular. I couldn't off the top of my head name a single corps or division commander, except for Patton, Bradley, Taylor, Ridgeway, and Horrocks -- and they're all tied together by N Africa and Market Garden.

 

Look at it this way: There were just as many Allied armies in NW Europe in 1944 as there were Union corps at Gettysburg. Similarly, there were just as many corps as divisions, and just as many divisions as brigades. The level of influence on the overall outcome that a single corps or division had just wasn't that great, and the level of performance of the average corps or division commander means much more than the level of performance of the outliers.

Edited by Tony Evans
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...As for British Generals, one has to look at it from the point of view that Bomber Command lost 56000 men in combat (not all of them British it has to be said) and we were taking scarcely less significant losses in the North Atlantic. When you consider we were a nation of something like 60 million back then, and we were fighting in the Med, Far East and Europe, needing to keep some manpower back to service industry and coal extraction, its easy to see there was not an infinite amount of infantry in which we could afford to take WW1 style losses. I...

 

47.9 million in 1939 according to the National Register.

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Actually we did - or made a very good effort. Keep in mind that Canada was less industrially developed proportionately than the US or UK. In spite of that we built a large number of escorts, most of the Commonwealth's trucks, and a great deal of other equipment.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_production_during_World_War_II#Summary_of_production

 

With 23% of the UK's population, Canada made:

 

20% of the number of tanks and SP guns made by the UK;

Just a note here, and not to disparage Canada's production contribution, but all of the engines and almost all of the transmissions for tanks built in Canada were manufactured in the US.

 

Yes, 17 pounder is a good indicator that, whatever flaws in the early war, I think by mid war we had caught up commendably quick. And whilst we might mock tanks like Challenger, at least someone in the war office decided to spec an afv commendably quick as a standby if Sherman Firefly failed to come up to scratch. That showed a foresight that was not apparent when 6pdr was being developed.

It seems it's the other way around. Pilot Challengers were under construction by May 1942, while Mark Hayward says that it wasn't until 16 October 1943, when Challenger was looking less than promising, that during a meeting it was asserted that "...the installation of the 17-pdr in the Sherman tank shows promise of being successful" and a memo from 29 October said, "...as a stop-gap measure, mount the 17-pdr in Sherman M4 tanks."
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One would have to re-read the Alan Brook diaries in order to obtain just one man's view of relative merit of UK/CW commanders, and I have no time. Fortunately for the US, we have Ike's 1Feb45 memo in which he rated his top generals, according to the "value of services each officer has rendered in this war ...." an interesting list: It includes commanders, logisticians, chiefs of staff and aviators, demonstrating the corporate nature of an army [as per AEvans, above] and the difficulty in singling out the 'masters of the battlefield' from the essential rest of the pack.

[Chandler, The Papers of Dwight David Eisenhower, The War Years, Vol IV, pp. 2466-69]

    1. Bradley & Spaatz tied at 1-2
    2. B: Quiet but magnetic leader; able, rounded field commander. determined and resourceful; modest S: Experienced and able air commander; loyal and cooperative; modest and selfless. Always reliable
    3. Smith, Bedell Outstanding as C/S of superior hqs. Firm, loyal highly intelligent.
    4. Patton Dashing fighter, shrewd, courageous
    5. Clark Clever, shrewd, capable; splendid organizer
    6. Truscott Experienced, balanced fighter; energetic; inspires confidence
    7. Doolittle Dashing, learns rapidly, enthusiastic
    8. Gerow Good fighter, balanced, calm, excellent planner, always optimistic, selfless, a leader
    9. Collins Particularly fine CG in a battle; energetic, always optimistic, a leader
    10. Patch Cool fighter, balanced, energetic
    11. Hodges Sound, able, experienced
    12. Simpson Clear thinker, energetic, balanced
    13. Eaker Cooperative, firm, experienced
    14. Bull [G-3 SHAEF] Good judgment, careful, energetic
    15. Cannon Particularly experienced in ground support; an outstanding officer
    16. Ridgeway [tie]Magnetic; courageous; balanced corps commanders; both fighters
    17. Brooks [as above]
    18. Walker Top flight corps c.g. fighter, cool.
    19. Lee A commander rather than a supply type; extremely loyal, energetic, tireless. Places too much value on the "Engineer" label.
    20. Gruenther Brainy, energetic, loyal
    21. Vandenberg Studious but active; cooperative; good judgment
    22. Haislip Fine corps c.g., fighter, cool.
    23. Quesada A dashing, cooperative leader
    24. Devers* Enthusiastic but often inaccurate in statements and evaluations.; loyal and energetic.
    25. Eddy Excellent fighter; experienced
    26. Rooks Sound planner; good judgment; loyal
    27. Crawford Experienced in larger phases of supply organization; loyal and energetic
    28. Larkin Able, experienced, energetic
    29. Weyland Excellent leader; experienced in ground-air ops
    30. Norstad Sound, able, sensible; loyal, tireless
    31. Allen, L Fine c/s; cool, loyal, calm
    32. McLain Shrewd, courageous, experienced
    33. Littlejohn Best Quartermaster I know
    34. Anderson, Fred Brainy, cooperative, experienced
    35. Huebner [three way tie] Outstanding divisional leaders; experienced fighters. (All now commanding corps or soon to be assigned)
    36. Harmon, E [as above]
    37. Van Fleet, J A {as above]
    38. Nugent Young, cooperative, experienced in ground-air operations; energetic

 

 

* NOTE: The proper position for this officer is not yet fully determined in my own mind. The overall results he and his organization produce are quite good, sometimes outstanding. But he has not, so far, produced among the seniors of the American organization here that feeling of trust and confidence that is so necessary to continued success.

 

Reading further, I found that Ike took input from Smith and Bradley and told Marshall his compilation represented "composite judgement.". Furthermore, in the list preamble, he remarks the following: "Position occupied and opportunity have inescapably played a certain part in determining my priorities but where, for example, a Corps C.G. has performed magnificently as opposed to only good performance by an Army Commander, then the former is rated higher." [italics in original]

 

Edited by Ken Estes
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Comparing the Centurion to the M47/M48 is a rather fine appraisal of a tank conceived 10+ years prior to the M47, itself an outgrowth of earlier designs.

The M47 was the ultimate PIP of the M26/M46 which was also conceived much earlier.

 

The US tanks have all been very amenable to growth

 

Medium M2-M3-M4-M4(76)

Light M2-M3-M5

Hv/Md M26-M46-M47

 

All were basically the same chassis with improvement stacked on improvement.

 

The same could be said for the M60 which soldiered on through an extensive series of upgrades and improvements..

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