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Monty's Men: The British Army and the Liberation of Europe - John Buckley

Discussion in 'ETO, MTO and the Eastern Front' started by merdiolu, Oct 29, 2013.

  1. merdiolu

    merdiolu Member

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    I ordered this book as soon as it was published and read during my annual vacation. Prof Buckley examines performance of British Army between 1944-45 and overall performance of British Army during European Theater of Operations. He argues that a series of unjust myths grew about British ground forces during the war even during their victorious 1944-45 period. From memoirs of of defeated German officers who tried to find scapegoats for their failures to writings of 1980 historians like Max Hastings , Col. Carlo D'Este and Stephen Ambrose etc main themes were identical. British Army was slow , plodding , unable to exploit oppurtunities , methodical and easy to predict but heavens most cardinal sin of all reluctant to engage close combat , usually dependent of firepower and numerical superiority. But still they were winners. Why ? He asks. Surely they must have done something right since British army was at Baltic at the end of war.

    PART I

    First of all he tries to deconstruct some myths. (he is mostly successful) British Army was fighting in severe constraints he argues. Man power was short and considering severe casaulties during several periods of war it was getting a critical stage in 1944. British simply could not afford another Somme type casaulty/attrition rate. Population and national mood simply couldn't afford that. Morale was a very important factor. Montgomery knew mood of men and after almost five years of conflict he was aware of the fact that most of them wanted to survive the war alive and intact. He tried to minimize casaulties as much as possible , cut out needless wastage of manpower and material machinery firepower took priorty over using manpower. This is not ineffiency and there is nothing wrong in using material abundancy and firepower advantage to save men's lives he argues. More over Montgomery was under severe instructions from War Office in London to preserve manpower and avoiding heavy casaulties since replacement rate was getting lower and lower in 1944. War Office gave orders to Montgomery to keep British Army intact after the war for occupational duties in Germany and a peaceful transition of army and British society to peacetime after the war not to mention keeping possible reserves for imperial peacekeeping duties plus additional potential campaigns in Burma and Malaya. Churchill and British goverment had to think after the war to have an intact army for a possible showdown with Soviets but also to have a say in peacetable , to be able to show that UK did its bit on battlegrounds. Montgomery had to walk on this balance while preparing his operations he argues. Plus having so many specialist units like Commandos , Special Service troops like LRDG or SAS plus Royal Navy's and RAF's choice of best manpower available also did not help to improve the quality of regular British infantry. Plus he says British Army was still struggling in battlefield doctrines and tactical approaches. Since regimental system had a huge effect on army every unit had its own culture in doing things and they couldn't develop a uniform way of tactics or tactical doctrine so sticking basic First World War tactics like following heavy artillery barrage as much as possible made sense for British he says. That was the most known stuff. Montgomery couldn't trust his subordinates , couldn't trust lower ranks to get the initiative always in battlefield and he believed a central command to lead the battle above anything , because he knew what his men were : A Citizen Army. Civilians in Uniform. Easy to be demoralized even a slightest setback. He needed to keep up their morale and keep their trust and faith to their officers , high command and himself. When ever British or Americans on that matter tried to take Germans on equel terms and strength with independent command he points out Germans usually got better because their officers with better organized and trained in small scale engagements were initiative takers , real oppurtunists who exploited even the slightest mistake of enemy. British and Commonwealth troops and officers were still experimenting their tactics and new operational methods under these restrictions. Because of that Montgomery tried to fight on a ground of his own choosing , preferring to have a massive firepower advantage before operations , tried to gain massive RAF air support and air support coordination. He tried to turn battlefield conditions in his favor as much as possible , gain maximum advantegous conditions before commiting any offensive operations. That is not cheating , it just about reducing casaulties and getting success in most reliable and confident way possible by avoiding large scale risks. Risk taking might seem good , ambitious , daring , adventerous , reckless and be considered positive by avarage reader but due to restrictions mentioned it couldn't be Montgomery's way of war.

    You couldn't change military culture of an army overnight or even after five years of conflict. For example 7th Armored Division famous Desert Rats learned from hard way that Northwest Europe was quite different from North Africa , their war experience and veteran status hold little value in hedgegrows of Normandy. British tank crews were used to see and engage enemy from long range when they found themselves in hedgegrows in Normandy or marshes of Netherlands they struggled , failed in their tasks a few times (Montgomery was quite displeased with performance 7th Armored and relieved its commander in Normandy ) but ultimately prevailed.

    But how ?
     
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  2. merdiolu

    merdiolu Member

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    PART II

    Buckley argues that most of commentory about British ground forces uses a benefit of hindsight , using German methods as standart best way for comparision unjustly-a lot of them were absorbed as NATO tactical and operational thinking in battle after all but not all of them- plus accept memoirs of every German officer like Hans Von Luck or commited Nazis like Kurt Meyer as truth (I observed this last phenemona in works of Hastings above all)

    German Army treated its troops harshly , sometimes even contemptously with little regard for their safety , conditions or health he argues. As war progressed worse for Germany fear was used by high command , officers and Nazi leadership more to keep army and its personel in check , to do their bidding on them. More and more soldiers or officers were punished or executed (15.000 German soldiers were executed and this is the recorded number actual numbers probably are many many more ) as war approached its inevitable conclusion. Moreover threats against families or relatives of soldiers officers who failed in their duties or deserters became more common (that was news for me ) This is no way for efficiency in any organization Buckley argues. For example whenever an officer takes an order to attack strongest Allied position under unfavorable conditions he couldn't oppose or argue with order under fear or arrest or execution or sent to a penal battalion. As a result he would prefer authority over lives of his troops. German medical services , health organization , logistical system all much much worse than British or Americans he argues. Most German units were living hand to mouth in supplies , fuel or ammunition. Once their vehicles including vaunted tanks damaged or broke down they usually left it because more and more maintenence personel were drafted to frontline service and there was chronic lack of spare parts. At the other hand British repair and maintenence units were suberp better and much faster than Germans could imagine. Their tanks like Shermans or Cromwells or other motorized vehicles if recovered could easily be repaired or cannibilized for spare parts. For example after Operation Goodwood at Caen sector British maintenence personel recovered 190 knocked out tanks (almost half of tanks lost by 2nd British Army in operation ) , repaired them and put them in use again in less than a week. German air cooperation was non existent since Luftwaffe vanished from air and that caused great morale reduction. British ground units always tried to cooperate with RAF and could ask for tactical air support by radio. In fact RAF air supremacy although tied to whims of weather and not always decisive to ground battles was still so complate many times German panzer crews just abandoned their vehicles intact in hurry when they heard Allied fighter bombers and their vehicles captured undamaged by Allies ! (Anthony Beevor's Normandy book also mentions this) Ideological commitment or proffession in tactical operational arms can take you only a point not beyond it says Buckley. Moreover German tactics and tactical supremacy became duller and actually predictable even during Normandy Campaign. Best way for Germans to seal any Allied penetration or gap was to launch an immediate counter attack while enemy was in movement or in fluent state , weak in defences. British and Commonwealth troops figured that out long time ago and used this tactical inflexibilty against Germans , to crush their inevitable and hastily organized counterattacks when they were open with immense firepower to waste their manpower and personnel. Actually German generals also confirm that. I remember a German general saying counter attacking British positions caused heavy casaulties with very little or no sucess especially if they were given time. Several operations like EPSOM in Normandy and engagements in Peel marshes in southeast Holland gives truth to this. Germans were fixed in their ways and could not change. They were still fighting in Eastern Front rules. British were more innovative due to their restrictions constantly finding new ways to improve and experiment like developing Kangroo infantry carriers or Buffolo amphibious vehicles to carry infantry through battle zone or water obstacles , advanced artillery tactics (British artillery was best , much better than their opponents in locating , pinpointing and engaging targets in more destructive firepower ) and advanced engineering methods like building bridges , deploying special armor like mine clearing AVRE tanks etc. In intel gathering from reconnicance to POW interrogation to Signal intel. interception British were suberp. And in British Army along with Americans public relations in liberated territories were in contrast with Germans who were basicly occupiers with no regard to oppressed civilians they captured he says. British usually gained sympathy of civilians in territories they captured and even utilized them in better ways in gathering intelligence and logistics. Never forget morale factor and this element provides to overall performance Buckley mentions. Allied troops were not ideologically motivated automons without regard to civilians only focused on fine arts of military. Civilian attitude of Allies troops gave them greater advantages and made them war winners.
     
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  3. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    Merdiolu, thank you for the review, and a well deserved salute.

    Now that I have gotten the niceties out of the way, I shall be my contrary self :)

    I fully agree that the common British soldier gets something of a ill deserved rap for many of the sins (plodding, slow, methodical, predictable, unable to show initiative and a unwillingness to close with the enemy) listed. To some degree these same "faults" are attributed to the US Army as well, often the most vocal critics of the US Army for these is her sister service, the USMC.

    Professor Buckley, in his zeal to prove the fallacy of this premiss, seems to go far (unintentionally I presume) in laying the groundwork for proving some "truth" in the myth.

    According to Merdiolu ( I myself have not had the pleasure of reading this book), the author list's multiple reasons why the British Army in NW Europe acted as it did, Orders from on high, implied poor quality manpower, poor to inconsistent training system (Regimental), need for substantial manpower for post-war political-military objectives, dwindling replacements and a profound disconnect/distrust by Montgomery of his officer's and men to show any individual initiative or drive.

    If these factors are true, do they not prop up the less flattering view of a common British soldier?

    I believe the author's overall premiss is sound, that use of technology/firepower to limit casualties is a perfectly valid way to make war (the US Military has used this since the same time period and while we have not always achieved our political goals, we have rarely been defeated on the battlefield) and the common "Tommy" has nothing to apologize for winning the war in a sane (and less costly in blood) manner.

    What I am somewhat unsure is if the author has proved it or simply added fuel to the myth he tries to erase.
     
  4. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    I would argue that the methodical movement of the British army was due to Montgomery and that more importantly, it wasn't a fault. It was a careful use of manpower and resources to win the war with fewer casualties and by taking fewer risks. I think Monty and to an equal extent, Eisenhower, knew that the tide had shifted in their favor and that they'd win. So why attempt risky and casualty-heavy battles of encirclement or penetration when you could spread out and kill the enemy with attrition, and an occasional punch when the enemy weakened in one sector or another?
     
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  5. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    I agree and do not see this as a flaw as such, I was merely attempting to summarize what Merdiolu says the author states as pre-existing conditions that compelled British tactical-strategic doctrine.

    As I stated the British soldier has no reason to explain himself, he did his duty as his American allies did and took the same risks. I merely question if Prof. Buckley used the best evidence and criteria to dispel the myth or simply re-enforced the misconception.
     
  6. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    I see. I think to some extent this myth was created by the press and by the feuding of Patton and Montgomery.
     
  7. merdiolu

    merdiolu Member

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    Thanks for reading and acknowledgement. The feud between Montgomery and US generals also damaged image of British Army a lot and Monty's reputation after the war (more specifically after he passed away ) Buckley makes clear that Field Marshal had personality problems and basicly a hard man to get along anyone except his subordintes who accepted his authority. He was not even popular among his British peers before the war because he was an outsider , with ideas which hold merit but a overbearing arrogant way of explaining them. More over he had a constant friction with most RAF commanders like Arthur Teddler (who had Eisenhower's ear as Deputy Commander of SHAEF) since Sicily Campaign , Sir Arthur Harris , Leigh Mallory and Arthur Conningham (commander of 2nd RAF Tactical Air Force who offended even Patton in Mediterranean Campaign) RAF was a complately different service arm and not short of egoists like himself. At the other hand Montgomery got along with RAF Vice Marshall Harry Broadhurst very well about tactical air suport of RAF to ground forces. More importantly Monty was very popular with regular troops because although not everyone liked him they respected him to reduce casaulties , to do the job , look after the conditions they were in and constantly improving them. The uncomprimizing but confident behavior (later copied by his favorite corps commanders like Brian Horrocks or Canadian Guy Simmons ) , clear cut operational orders explaining goals and targets in most clear way were also good morale raisers among soldiers and created his positive image among them. In his words "I never seen Haig or French in trenches during Great War and I do not intend to act that way" He did not like chateu generalship and that's why he constantly moved with his mobile HQ both planning strategy (he left operations to his subordinates ) and able to see front himself. Buckley also mentions his cadre of trusted liason officers close to front (Phantom network-some called them Monty's spies) was very effective constantly reporting him from front. Though book is more about his and other general's influence on evolution and performance of British Army not Montgomery himself. By explaining the conditions and restrictions army had to operate he says British soldier of front line acquited itself well (%70 of casaulties during war suffered by front line infantry that was %15 of whole army)

    Buckley does criticize Monty's operations when he saw it is necessary though. After breakout from Normandy through Northern France and Belgium 2nd British Army did an excellent pursuit job , worked well with both Canadian and American forces well he observes. Then why they missed closing the Scheldt , failed to trap 15th German Army ? Buckley's explanation : Lack of strategy focus from the top. Or more specifically conflict of strategy. When September 1944 arrived everyone could see they could finish the war victoriously with one final push to Rhine and crossing it before 1944 winter. A "victory disease" spread from Eisenhower's staff in SHAEF to 12th and 21st Army Group HQs. When 11th British Armored Division captured Antwerp on September 4th 1944 , division commander General Roberts immediately sent a detachment to north side of Albert Canal but it was too weak and pushed back. He needed more troops from his main Corps (30th Corps) both to secure Antwerp city and jump to north to cut Beverland. He hadn't asked because he did not consider a priorty because everyone's priorty suddenly became getting Rhine , crossing it and finishing war suddenly and quickly. 30th Corps cmdr General Horrocks takes all the blame in his memoirs (in his own words "Brian Horrocks just couldn't see the vaue of Scheldt because my eyes were fixed on Rhine" ) but to be frankly he did not take a specific strategic or operational instructions from 2nd Army or 21st Army Group HQ (from Montgomery) on that regard either. British Army's centralized command structure worked against itself on this specific occasion because it stiffled initiative taking and oppurtunity grabbing. Eisenhower leading all land campaign as CiC of Ground Forces from his HQ and injured from his knee , immobile in his bed did not give any specific instructions except letting every army and army group to advance on their own in a broad front (Bradley , Montgomery , Patton) , did not focus on a specific part of front. But more over it was also Monty's fault he argues. If he intended to lead land campaign as he insisted he should have seen vulnerable situation of 15th German Army in Beverland peninsula at his sector and its existance was closing Antwerp itself. Instead he was focused on getting and crossing Rhine at first , crossing it , and getting command of all Alied land campaign and finishing it as soon as possible in his unflexible and own confident fashion. Channel ports like Antwerp suddenly became a lower priorty. (1st Canadian Army was reducing them meanwhile anyway ) He believed he could do it a faulty assumption. The main reason for his insistance to a big focused final push on 21st Army Group front on Northern Germany was :

    1) Getting Ruhr main industrial center of Germany and with a concentrated attack even Berlin (of course getting German capital over 400 miles was a fantasy unless Germany experienced another October 1918 Revolution something that could not happen in Hitler's Germany. Previous incidents can lead faulty assumtion that history would repreat itself)
    2) Huge pressure from War Office to end the war as quickly as possible victoriously because manpower reserves of UK was getting critical levels. Monty was forced to disband one British division in August to have more reserves and in December he would be forced to disband another one (veteran 50th Northumbrian Infantry Division)
    3) V-2 Campaign also started and British goverment was forcing Monty to overwhelm Netherlands and overrun V-2 rocket launching sites.

    Under these conditions hastily planned and faulty Operation Market Garden was born says Buckley. Not everyone agreed with Operation Market Garden he adds : Miles Dempsey cmdr of 2nd British Army (left largely unknown in history under shde of Monty) had severe doubts and wished to march west from Belgium to Rhineland and cross Rhine at Wesel (as they did on March 1945) but overruled he says. Montgomery's style of leaving operations and operational planning to his subordinates caused failure mostly because it did not allow a through meticilous planning something British staff officers excelled and Montgomery could add his touch under his vision. Montgomery was also partially isolated he argues in his mobile HQ. Whole Market Garden plan was based on wrong assumptions , faulty intelligence , well wishing and lack of possible enemy reactions. General Browning cmdr of 1st Airborne Army and Roy Urquart commnding General of 1st British Airborne were not experienced in airborne operations and cooperating or collaborating with ground troops. Planning of airborne and ground operations were not in harmony (someone like Monty or Dempsey should have intervaned on that regard) Everyone had an immense optimism to finish the war from Ike to use vaunted airborne divisions under Washington's War Department pressure (mainly from Marshall) to Monty dreming getting CiC of all land forces to airborne officers who were restless for action wished to do their bit before end of war. By that way British Army disregarded its principles says Buckley. It outstripped its artillery fire support due to fast advance , weakly cooperated with RAF , assumed all bridges could be captured at once and enemy was in disarray etc...Montgomery and British Army did not stick his own principles in Market Garden and tried to play with a huge risk unusually first time and they failed summarizes Buckley. Due to that Germans strengthened Antwerp approaches , got 15th Army to safety , stabilized Western Front by exploiting sudden decrease in Allied momentum. When SHAEF and 21st Army Group HQ realized there won't be any sudden end to war they had to fight longer to the 1945 both they and 21st Army Group HQ relized they needed a suitable supply harbor like Antwerp and British/Canadian efforts focused there on October but by then it was too late. At the other hand simply focusing on Antwerp on September 1944 would mean admitting there would be a need for a large scale supply port for an extended Rhine Campaign until 1945 and beyond and in September 1945 optimism no one did wish to hear that. Everyone needed to see end of war not extending it.

    More than that in my opinion no matter where Rhine was reached and crossed by whom war would extend to 1945. Allies simply did not envision sudden German collapse and fast mobile crossover in France and Belgium in August 1944 and did not plan their strategy or logistics accordingly. Even if an army whether American 1st or 3rd or British 2nd reached it and more than that put a bridgehead on other side Allied drive would already be spent and that bridgehead would be contained and thrown back. Allies simply did not plan ahead and not prepared to cross Rhine in September. There would be no end to war in 1944 no matter who decided what under pre existing conditions and plans before invasion. It was just destined to be.
     
  8. merdiolu

    merdiolu Member

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    After Market Garden Buckley focuses on autumn winter campaigns of 21st Army Group in Netherlands south of Maas and he finds little fault in them. He praises performance and drive of Canadians to clear Breskens Pockets , Beverland Peninsula and combined Commando seaborne landings , land attack from Beverland by Canadians with RAF and Royal Navy cooperation to capture Walcharen to clear Antwerp approaches. British Combined Ops Special Forces showed their wholesome value in large scale front operations first time in Walcharen landings he says. Clearing Netherlands south of Maas was also mentioned and it was much more easy since area was flat and not easy to defend and secured Antwerp from any German counter attack. Then he focuses clearing west of Maas (right flank of airborne corridor ) around Peel marshes. Since that area was both flat and full of marshes advance was difficult but despite hard going and tough resistance of German 1st Parachute Army (it was constantly reinforced with Panzer and Panzer Granedier Divisions and even attempted counter attack in October and gained some ground against "loaned" 7th US Armored Division but then repulsed ) both Venray and Overloon key towns of Limburg were liberated and German bridgehead west of Maas was destroyed. Just like 82nd and 101st US Airborne , 7th US Armored Division also fought with 2nd British Army for some time and he observes a few differences between British and American operational methods. Like Americans were confident in all arms Combat Group formations in brigade strength and British since their bitter experiences in Western Desert tended to avoid them or breaking up divisions and preffered units suporting each other including regiments or brigades under divisional HQ control.

    Then Battle of Bulge comes in. Buckley laudes Montgomery's handling of battles on northern shoulder , getting a grip on battle and getting a touch with corps and division commanders , using his liason officer system fully and taking necessary strategic and operational decisions even they were and Montgomery himself was unpopular among senior American commanders. He delayed counter attack and decided to launch it to center of German bulge in January 1945 because best road network leading to that sector not to base of bulge to cut German armies complately. Road network and bad weather conditions dictated pace and location of Alied counter attack. Eisenhower's decision to hand northern sector was complately correct one. Unfortunetely right after battle he gave that unwise , PR disaster press conferance which was bound to misunderstood by everyone. Even his allies in press like Alan Moorehead and Chester Wilmott thought it was a poorly thought one and Monty should have been stopped before that ress release incident. His trusted Chief of Staff Freddie Guingand was sick during this incident couldn't stop him but saved his chief's career by minimizing damage. Montgomery simply couldn't conceive the resentment he caused among senior American commanders especially Bradley who was very sensitive after Battle of Bulge and determined to not to be subordinate to Monty again. Partisan British press who championed for Monty's ground commander cause on their headlines did not help matters either. Monty made a PR mistake but his handling of actual battle was proffesional Buckley concludes.

    Rest of the book devoted march on Rhine in Operation Veritable (toughest fighting 1st Candian Army consisted of mostly British units involved on very unfavorable ground with quagmire-"mud , mud and more mud" remembers Brian Horrocks) , destruction of 1st German Parachute Army and 15th German Army on Rhineland by combined British and American advance due to Hitler's insistance to defend Rihineland to last man , crossing Rhine with an unnecessariy overbearing show of force with Operation Punder and airborne component Operation Varsity and march of 21st Army Group to Baltic In these oerations British Army showed a more steady and proffesional skill towards end of war Buckley mentions , became experts in dealing natural obstacles , using special crafts and armor to overcome quagmire areas or rivers ,using firepower more effectively even unnecessary overbering shows of force like Varsity/Plunder. Though I disagree about his conclusion that too much force was used in crossing of Rhine at Wesel. After the war German generals mentioned that Northern Germany hold the key to domination of whole Reich and appereantly Montgomery thought so and rightly assumed that they would defend it fiercely , they had a huge artillery and AA gun concentration around Wesel and so logical conclusion was 21st Army Group needed a sudden and deep bridgehead with a massive firepower. He couldn't know that 1st German Parachute Army and 15th German Army would fight till bleeding white at Rhineland during Febrary / March due to Fuhrer orders and a shadow of themselves would remain at opposite side. Even then he couldn't be sure whether there would be a sudden concentration of German reserves for counterattack once he crossed river. Heavy concentration of units and firepower was his way of assuring things and things went smoothly before end of war. Other crossings of Rhine before 21st Army Group threw German reactions and reserves possible and made Monty's crossing easier. It also his effort in Plunder/Varsity somewhat excessive but as I said it was the closest crossing to Ruhr and he wanted to be sure of results.

    British Commonwealth ground forces best performed when they acted in accordance to their strong points , their advantages and well evolved developed principles.
     
  9. Fred Wilson

    Fred Wilson "The" Rogue of Rogues

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  10. sonofacameron

    sonofacameron Member

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    "Reluctant to engage close combat". Wonder where he came up with that one.!!!! My late Father must be turning in his grave at that statement.
     
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  11. jimmytwohand

    jimmytwohand New Member

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    Must be in relation to the Eastern front "run at the enemy with your bare fists or your own side machine guns you" school of thought.
     
  12. arminiuss

    arminiuss New Member

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    I think the western allies should have carried it a step further and actually do what Uncle Joe was accusing them of, hanging back and letting the red army do all the dying. Between all the AA guns and troops manning them because of the bomber offensive and troops tied up from Norway down through the Med. that was the main contribution of the west. Whether or not there was any fighting going on really made little difference. After the Normandy landings, which were not a high casualty affair for the allies, the Germans had to keep a certain amount of stuff in the west regardless. Why suffer the troops especially once it was decided not to go for Berlin? Did it really matter where the final troop dispositions were in the west when the red army took Berlin? Whether they were in the Alps or on the Gustav line?

    I find it hard to believe they did the dying so that more of Germany would not be communist. Or maybe that is why?
     
  13. merdiolu

    merdiolu Member

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    Please I did not want to offend to anyone especially veterans and if I did I am very sorry. I know British/Commonwealth soldier was dogged and through and I have highest regard for WW2 veterans since they were the side who fought longest in struggle against Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.

    I also really recommend this book. It really shows the trials , problems and adaptation process of British Commonwealth troops and how they overcame the problems as an institution , improved itself and how their command really thought and worked. It is not a white washing but still full of praise and shows that negative reputation of British Army after the war as slow , cumbersome , firepower quantity superiorty addicted was unjust and undeserved. When I meantioned "Reluctant to engage close combat". I meant the impression and image drawn from previous popular military works like Max Hastings , Stephen Ambrose etc. When I read them before I even thought back then that it was unfair...
     
  14. jimmytwohand

    jimmytwohand New Member

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    At what point after Normandy would you have stopped? Do you think the Germans would have meekly sat in trenches while you did this?
    Would you have liberated France/Belgium/holland or waited for Uncle Joe to do it?
    Remember WW2 was the clash of 3 ideologies not 2.
     
  15. arminiuss

    arminiuss New Member

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    Stay within range of naval gunfire and let the Germans do all the attacking. They would have had all the problems the allies had, Avaranches over and over, plus get pounded by really big guns and the air forces.

    Let Uncle Joe have Europe, he was a valued ally was he not? Last I saw the leaders of the western world still celebrate with the Russians their liberating all those countries from Hitler. That implies to me that USSR was a fine overseer of eastern Europe. Why not give those benefits to western Europe too? There would have been no need for Nato, maybe there would even not have been a cold war or arms race. The west went to war over Poland and then left them to the USSR. What about France, Belgium or Holland is it that they did not also deserve the benefits of being red?

    I think even if the continent went red the US would safeguard GB. There would have been alot fewer casualties for the English and Americans. And in all likelyhood communism would still have failed eventually.

    As for 3 ideologies not 2, besides the master race crap, what is the difference between being oppressed by facists or communists? They are both socialists after all, 2 sides of the same coin and all that.
     
  16. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    John Buckley is one of the historians offering the next stage of interpreting the story of the Normandy campaign and NW Europe.

    Immediately after the war the victory was attributed to the fighting qualities of the Tommy and GI who prevailed over the evil Huns and Japs and the clever allied generals - only marred by the spats between the generals as various memoirs were published. .

    Then, with books by people like John Ellis "Brute Force" and Max Hastings "Overlord" it became accepted that the Allied troops were inferior to the Germans and the allies only prevailed through brute force. Carloe D'Este picked apart the allied decision making and drew attention to the difference between what Montgomery said he was going to do and what he did. D'Este also pointed out the flaws in the American command - but its the view that reinforced the simplistic chauvinistic US view of Montgomery and the British.. These accounts tend to draw on accounts that half of every British battalion ran away at the first shot, and draw heavily on the performance of the weakest units, and ignore those that performed well..

    Several people are now challenging this explanation of the Normandy campaign. Terry Copp, the Canadian historian has revisited the actions of the Canadian Army - armed with the results from the 21 AG Operational Research teams which are archived at McGill university. This contemporary research showed how inaccurate much of the firepower had been iand challenges the view that the allies just blew the Germans away with artillery,and airpower. Terry Copp and John Buckely have put forwards the reasonable argument that even after the artillery had done its bit, infantry and armour had to get in there and do the job. Add to this Stephen Hart's Colossal Cracks which explains a systematic strategy and a new view emerges.

    There is a sporting analogy. In team sports such as rugby or soccer one team may have better more instinctive players, who in a free flowing high tempo game would dominate and win. These are the sides that are exciting and fun to watch. Their opponents know that their best chance is to slow the game down and force a lot of stoppages and rely on set piece plays. The British knew that the Germans were better at Blitzkrieg, improvised operations at a high tempo. They had it demonstrated across Europe. So they systematically did everything to play to their strengths, the set pieces where lots of artillery and pre-planning mattered and being good at improvisation didn't. The British army would blast its way onto a position with lots of artillery support, bring forwards anti-tank guns and set up the defences to kill the inevitable counter attack. Montgomery was the man who put the tactic into effect, but it wasn't just him. The technology , organisations and techniques were configured to support this kind of warfare. .

    By and large the US Army, although modeled on the German, wasn't as good at them at improvised mobile warfare either. Even if the Americans understood the German ideas, they never trained their junior officers to think two levels higher to make auftragstaktic work as well as the Germans could. However, US soldiers learned quickly and good formations (4 AD) became very, very good, but this was a function of individuals rather than a system - hence 7 AD until Hasebrouck and Clarke.

    It is utterly simplistic to position Patton as an aggressive cavalryman and Montgomery the cautious infantryman. Of course Patton was the dashing cavalry man in the Dash for Palermo, the pursuit from Normandy and the advance into Germany. But had Patton commanded the 1st US army in Normandy he would have had to fight a set piece, and he did fight some set piece battles in Lorraine. There was no room for manouvre. It was the cautious Montgomery who took the massive risk of Op market Garden. If you examine his career, he gave aggressive orders for an armoured pursuit and exploitation, after El Alemein and sacked generals when it was not carried out. (And to utter heresy on a US oriented forum , I might suggest that Patton wasn't the best of the US generals. Bradley made the break out and probably deserved to be his superior.

    Of course the British Army had to be cautious and careful with the lives of its soldiers. By 1944 there was a shortage of infantry manpower and units would have to be broken up. The US Army was in much much better shape and had soldiers waitign in the US to deploy. US commanders could afford to take more risks .Their losses could be made good - even if it was with the best men of the units still waiting to be shipped to Europe. Taking a different analogy, it is far easier to make risky bets if you have lots of money. ;).
     
  17. jimmytwohand

    jimmytwohand New Member

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    Interesting thoughts Arminiuss, none of which i agree with. :) I thought i was in a different forum and this probably isn't the thread to get into it. If you wanted to stick a post up in a more appropriate forum i would be interested to have a crack at disagreement when i have the time free.

    Great post Sheldrake. Its really helpful to see these analyses of my future reading list.
     
  18. scipio

    scipio Member

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    Could you expand on this please - I don't understand what you are referring to
     
  19. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    The US 7th Armoured Division was a hard luck formation until the Battle of the Bulge. It's first significant action was Metz, when nit was held after attacking over the Franco-Prussian Battlefield of st Privat, across the "ravine of death" and through the memorials to dead germans that might have been avoided by commanders better versed in that battle. The attack on overloon did not go well and 7th AD was seen as failing in the German counterattack at Meijel in October 1944. Fm Lord Carver used to talk about his part in the dismissal of Sylvester having become convinced that he had lost his grip. I can't find the link but at least one of the post combat interviews on the excellent 7AD website included details which struck me as of a unit with a very poor standards of low level leadership. (Soldiers forbidden to sleep in buildings in poor weather or requisition food - but a well stocked officers mess. After a few personnel changes 7th AD performed very well in the Ardennes and afterwards.
     
  20. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    Well, without wishing to wade in two-fisted to this thread, I'm really pleased to say that I 'accidentally' picked up a pristine ex-review copy of this book in London yesterday. I must blushingly admit to having completely overlooked this topic previously and bought the book on the strength of Buckley's previous one about British armour in Normandy.

    I've just read the introduction and am looking forward to getting into the book itself. He presents an interesting overview of the way in which the British Army of '44/'45 has been steadily denigrated/under-rated by historians and so far, his own tone seems refreshingly balanced.

    I'll see how it goes.................
     

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