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Why Did The British Army Have So Many "characters"?


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#61 Ken Estes

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Posted 10 November 2019 - 1633 PM

Commanding 21st Army Group and communicating frequently with the CIGS [FM Alan Brooke] and thereby the government, does not mark him as a mere order taker. He was the most experienced commander in the most experienced army of the Western Allies at that time. He planned the Normandy landing as ground commander and remained in charge ashore of the invasion until 1st Army Group was activated.

 

Commissioned in 1908, he served with distinction in combat during World War I, emerging as a captain. In the postwar army, he served throughout the empire and gained a reputation as a tough minded officer. His first service as a general was in Palestine in 1938. He commanded the 3rd Infantry Division in France in 1939-40, and after the Dunkirk evacuation, he took command of the Southeastern Command as Britain prepared to defend against German invasion. On 13 August 1942, “Monty” was appointed commander of the 8th Army in Egypt then facing the Axis armies at El Alamein. In his first and greatest military victory, the Second Battle of Alamein, he demonstrated the penchant for detailed planning and patient accumulation of superior forces that would distinguish his command style.  Montgomery was one of the few British Army officers who realized the perpetual weakness of its officer corps in terms of intellectual acuity, self-discipline, and thorough attention to detail and supervision. As a result, he rode his officers particularly hard, tolerated few excuses and frequently relieved them of command when they failed to deliver expected results. Although rather taciturn in personality, he adopted an outgoing persona with the troops and imbued them with a sense of winning and necessary sacrifice that proved a remarkable turnabout from the grim days of 1940-41. Under his leadership, the British Army grew in stature and became a seasoned and capable force in World War II, despite crippling manpower problems.

 

Montgomery finished the war already a knight (1942) and a field marshal (1944), to which he added many postwar honors, including his peerage of 1946 as Viscount Montgomery of Alamein (and Hindhead). He continued his distinguished military career in command of the British Army of the Rhine (1946), as Chief of the Imperial General Staff (1946-48), chaired the short lived military alliance of Britain, France and the Benelux nations (1948) and served as deputy Supreme Commander, Allied Powers Europe (1951-58) until retirement.  He wrote several books, but tarnished them and himself by his excessive, but not entirely undue, self-promotion and acerbic critiques of most other allied generals. 


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#62 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 11 November 2019 - 0210 AM

Commanding 21st Army Group and communicating frequently with the CIGS [FM Alan Brooke] and thereby the government, does not mark him as a mere order taker. He was the most experienced commander in the most experienced army of the Western Allies at that time. He planned the Normandy landing as ground commander and remained in charge ashore of the invasion until 1st Army Group was activated.

 

Commissioned in 1908, he served with distinction in combat during World War I, emerging as a captain. In the postwar army, he served throughout the empire and gained a reputation as a tough minded officer. His first service as a general was in Palestine in 1938. He commanded the 3rd Infantry Division in France in 1939-40, and after the Dunkirk evacuation, he took command of the Southeastern Command as Britain prepared to defend against German invasion. On 13 August 1942, “Monty” was appointed commander of the 8th Army in Egypt then facing the Axis armies at El Alamein. In his first and greatest military victory, the Second Battle of Alamein, he demonstrated the penchant for detailed planning and patient accumulation of superior forces that would distinguish his command style.  Montgomery was one of the few British Army officers who realized the perpetual weakness of its officer corps in terms of intellectual acuity, self-discipline, and thorough attention to detail and supervision. As a result, he rode his officers particularly hard, tolerated few excuses and frequently relieved them of command when they failed to deliver expected results. Although rather taciturn in personality, he adopted an outgoing persona with the troops and imbued them with a sense of winning and necessary sacrifice that proved a remarkable turnabout from the grim days of 1940-41. Under his leadership, the British Army grew in stature and became a seasoned and capable force in World War II, despite crippling manpower problems.

 

Montgomery finished the war already a knight (1942) and a field marshal (1944), to which he added many postwar honors, including his peerage of 1946 as Viscount Montgomery of Alamein (and Hindhead). He continued his distinguished military career in command of the British Army of the Rhine (1946), as Chief of the Imperial General Staff (1946-48), chaired the short lived military alliance of Britain, France and the Benelux nations (1948) and served as deputy Supreme Commander, Allied Powers Europe (1951-58) until retirement.  He wrote several books, but tarnished them and himself by his excessive, but not entirely undue, self-promotion and acerbic critiques of most other allied generals. 

 

I was referring to the fact that he didnt have his own ability to make strategic decisions. OK, so perhaps he did in the Western Desert to a degree, but that was until he came under under Alexander. In 1944 I gather before Market Garden he pushed a single bold strike by 21st Army Group across the Rhine to Eisenhower, and was overruled. Market Garden was a remnant of that, but Eisenhower was more interested in a broad front strategy. Something Montgomery, probably rightly, said the Allied Expeditionary Force didnt have the resources to undertake.

 

Do I think he was right? Yes. Although Im not sure 21st Army Group  could have been able to undertake it without substantial reinforcement from the American's. The point is, we cant know, because Montgomery was a junior commander, and the decisions was not his to make, unlike Wellington or Marlborough whom were alliance leaders.


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#63 RETAC21

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Posted 12 November 2019 - 1529 PM

Neither Wellington nor Marlborough were in a better position than Monty. Particularly Wellington had to agree whatever he did with the Spaniards (who many times had their own ideas and liasion was loose to call it something. See Talavera). I know British history "forgets" the part of the Peninsula war not fought by Wellington but there was a lot going on beyond his command.


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#64 Ken Estes

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Posted 13 November 2019 - 0039 AM

Ike had the historical example of WWI and Foch as supreme commander also advocating the broad front advance against a German opponent not entirely beaten. There was no objective for Ike worthy of a rapid advance into Germany, except to occupy launching sites of the V weapons bombarding the UK. There was no rush to be first into Berlin, as the Russian occupation zone had already been agreed upon.


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#65 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 13 November 2019 - 0208 AM

Neither Wellington nor Marlborough were in a better position than Monty. Particularly Wellington had to agree whatever he did with the Spaniards (who many times had their own ideas and liasion was loose to call it something. See Talavera). I know British history "forgets" the part of the Peninsula war not fought by Wellington but there was a lot going on beyond his command.

 

Nonetheless, unless ive been badly informed, he was the overall alliance commander in Spain was he not? He even had a Spanish Aide de camp (whom had actually fought at Trafalgar interestingly) to help him in that effort.

 

 

Montgomery only had that authority when he was planning and undertaking D Day. After the break out, he was just one more commander among many. His arguments with Eisenhower, where he came damn near to being relieved, are just one indication that after D Day, he was not his own man. Im not aware that Wellington or Marlborough had to deal with problems like that. Yes, im sure Wellington had issues with the Spanish, and I know for a fact Marlborough had problems on the home front. They were still their own men on the battlefield. Montgomery was not.


Edited by Stuart Galbraith, 13 November 2019 - 0210 AM.

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#66 Ken Estes

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Posted 13 November 2019 - 1719 PM

Monty had both Alan Brooke and Churchill at his back, so Ike's ability to relieve him must be considered limited. Marshall was also leaning heavily on keeping the British happy. Had Monty made serious errors, that might have been an exception.


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