British Troops Inferior?

Discussion in 'NW Europe' started by adamcotton, Nov 7, 2005.

  1. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

  2. jimbotosome

    jimbotosome Discharged

    (angie999 @ Nov 8 2005, 06:02 AM) [post=41293]I see no evidence, for instance, that the British were always ready to surrender and the British tenacity in defence was recognised by all, particularly the Germans. A late friend of mine, a senior NCO wounded and captured at Arnhem, remarked about how Americna prisoners seemed to give up in captivity, neglecting things like hygene and normal military discipline.
    [/b]
    Much of what you stated I agree with but a couple of points didn't belong in the spirit of your assessment Angie.

    You quoted anecdotes by your NCO friend on Americans in contradistinction to saying that you find no evidence that British soldiers were ready to surrender. What did the comment of your friend on those American prisoners have to do with your opinion of the British? Seemed a bit like a cheap shot. How can an insult of those American POWs bring up the honor of the British? Seems like a violation of a quote by Lincoln, “You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong” applied to reputations of soldiers. Reducing American honor would never bolster British honor. If in the defense of the American soldier, someone stated anecdotes about how some of the British POWs joined the German SS to form a British division of the SS, not only would that be an unfair implication that the behavior of those British POWs to betray their country was a microcosm of the British fighting man, but how would it comment, good or bad, on the American’s fighting spirit or behavior as a POW?

    The other point I disagree with is that you assume that the American Army was not at its peak in 1945. I don’t know how you can come to this assessment. Just because it has more men who are not as experienced does not make an Army weaker. These more inexperienced are simply used in reserve, more reserve does not make veterans less capable. It makes the Army more formidable, not less. The inexperienced soldiers are not thrown into hard battles. If you read Patton’s books and Bradley’s books they often spoke about how they were careful to place the inexperienced in the least challenging situation. They would then (as Patton called it) “blood” the troops by bringing them into situations progressively more and more challenging to build their experience levels. In fact the inexperienced troops in Bastone at the start of the German Offensive were there to protect them from attack by strong German units believing that the forest gave them protection from armor. These units were quickly withdrawn and the experienced 101st were shuttled in.

    Most of your points were right on. Those two didn’t seem to fit.

    I do agree with your assessment of the British troops (but also the other Allies as well) were better toward the end of the war. This is not only experience but just as importantly, morale. When you are struggling and frustrated, your morale is low and your enemy’s is high. This would mean that the enemy would be a much better fighter in a relative sense. But from 1944 on, the tide had turned and the morale began to increase in the Allies and was rapidly dropping in the Germans. By late spring 1945, those German soldiers who would be seen as brave, “never say die”, Rambo types were so demoralized they were seeking surrender to avoid annihilation or even retreat anymore. So how can one make a generalization that German soldiers were good and British soldiers were poor when it comes to fighting spirit? When the British troops are surrounded by Tigers they would not give the impression of “bold” because “bold” in that situation would be synonymous to “stupid”. Being killed does not help your cause, being captured at least ties up enemy resources. The only time you fight is when you buy time for your compatriots. The same when the Allies were raining devastating, intense and relentless artillery down on crack SS troops, charging out of foxholes would be considered stupid, but curling up in a ball with their thumb in their mouths screaming like little girls and crying for their “mums” might be understandable behavior rather than cowardly. I would bet when the artillery stopped you would find a lot of the elite SS troops had lost their will to fight as well.
     
  3. angie999

    angie999 Very Senior Member

    (jimbotosome @ Nov 8 2005, 03:00 PM) [post=41313](angie999 @ Nov 8 2005, 06:02 AM) [post=41293]I see no evidence, for instance, that the British were always ready to surrender and the British tenacity in defence was recognised by all, particularly the Germans. A late friend of mine, a senior NCO wounded and captured at Arnhem, remarked about how Americna prisoners seemed to give up in captivity, neglecting things like hygene and normal military discipline.
    [/b]
    Much of what you stated I agree with but a couple of points didn't belong in the spirit of your assessment Angie.

    You quoted anecdotes by your NCO friend on Americans in contradistinction to saying that you find no evidence that British soldiers were ready to surrender. What did the comment of your friend on those American prisoners have to do with your opinion of the British?
    [/b]
    Well, "inferior" (topic heading) is a relative term. I was trying to show that all armies have faults, but not necessarily the same ones as each other.

    </div><div class='quotemain'>
    someone stated anecdotes about how some of the British POWs joined the German SS to form a British division of the SS, not only would that be an unfair implication that the behavior of those British POWs to betray their country was a microcosm of the British fighting man, but how would it comment, good or bad, on the American’s fighting spirit or behavior as a POW?
    [/b]

    In general, as above, but we know there were a handfull who got involved with the SS, maybe 50 or so. Cannot be denied.

    </div><div class='quotemain'>
    These more inexperienced are simply used in reserve, more reserve does not make veterans less capable. It makes the Army more formidable, not less. The inexperienced soldiers are not thrown into hard battles. If you read Patton’s books and Bradley’s books they often spoke about how they were careful to place the inexperienced in the least challenging situation.
    [/b]

    Might be correct for inexperienced divisions fresh in theatre, where possible, but it is not true of replacements. It is widely accepted that many American divisions were kept in the line for far too long without relief and that replacements, often very badly trained by late 1944, were sent forward into front line positions. Many died before anyone in the units could even remember their names. I could quote a number of sources. One I do not usually quote but will this time, would be Stephen Ambrose, Citizen Soldiers.

    As you may remember, I am not much interested in the memoirs of the generals in any army. They are universally self-serving and a bad source of history.

    I think that both the British and US armies in Europe had a maked performance dip from late 1944, but the Germans had a worse one.






    (sapper @ Nov 8 2005, 02:05 PM) [post=41312]Can you imagine this old buzzard giving in to anything?
    [/b]

    Not even a pretty girl?
     
  4. laufer

    laufer Senior Member

    (sapper @ Nov 8 2005, 11:43 AM) [post=41275]If anyone is in any doubt about that they should have seen the inside of the Falaise pocket! That would soon change their minds.
    Sapper
    [/b]

    Right! images/smilies/default/angry.gif
     
  5. wasman

    wasman Member

    <span style="font-size:18pt;line-height:100%">My Dad was called up in 1943, he did his basic training and was then sent off to war, his first taste of war was Anzio in January 1944, he wasn’t a professional soldier, he was no more than a kid, he did what he was told and most of all did what he needed to do to survive, he was injured by shrapnel and flown to North Africa, patched up and sent back up the line, from what I have read about Anzio the biggest injury was nerves, most men in the later part of WW2 were ordinary blokes being led by men whom only being human made mistakes, I must admit that I haven’t read Mr Simpson’s book and don’t intend to, what he is doing is a cheap shot at promoting his book, the people who fought and lived through World War Two were exceptional people, not a professional army of killing machines, but ordinary men putting their lives in danger for something they believed in, as to if the British Army was a good or a bad army, they did their best and saw it through till the final victory, I for one thank all the men and women of the allies who did their bit.</span>
     
  6. jimbotosome

    jimbotosome Discharged

    (angie999 @ Nov 8 2005, 10:38 AM) [post=41315]In general, as above, but we know there were a handfull who got involved with the SS, maybe 50 or so. Cannot be denied. [/b]
    My point was what does the action of a few (anecdotes) have to do with an evaluation of the whole? It was (or should have been taken as) a rhetorical question.

    (angie999 @ Nov 8 2005, 10:38 AM) [post=41315]Might be correct for inexperienced divisions fresh in theatre, where possible, but it is not true of replacements. It is widely accepted that many American divisions were kept in the line for far too long without relief and that replacements, often very badly trained by late 1944, were sent forward into front line positions. Many died before anyone in the units could even remember their names. I could quote a number of sources. One I do not usually quote but will this time, would be Stephen Ambrose, Citizen Soldiers. [/b]
    Again, how does attacking the Americans (commanders in this case) with claims which may or may not be true, exonerate or indict the British fighting spirit?

    (angie999 @ Nov 8 2005, 10:38 AM) [post=41315]As you may remember, I am not much interested in the memoirs of the generals in any army. They are universally self-serving and a bad source of history.[/b]
    Could I infer from your two statements that you believe that NCOs like your friend are free from self-serving biases nor false bravado?

    Seems to me that the very publishing of history, no matter who it is doing it, is more often than not, spun with either self-promotion, personal bias, nationalistic rhetoric, or done strictly for ego, fame or fortune rather than for some noble desire to propagate truth to posterity. I stopped believing in fairly tales at the age of 6. While I don't believe that any history book by generals is unbiased gospel, I also am not hyper-cynical because they, unlike the NCO, know the whys and the hows of what was done.
     
  7. No.9

    No.9 Senior Member

    Personally, I would not rate either of them as military historians.

    Well thank you for that, its enriched this discussion - not to mention my life. I'll clear my shelves of the works of two of Britain's foremost and acclaimed military historians. Perhaps I could fill the void with something you've written?

    Alternately I could continue to absorb the wisdom and facts from these exceptional authors and continue to use Foot as the SOE benchmark.

    No.9
     
  8. Des1

    Des1 Junior Member

    Get rid of the bloody ultra proud nationalism!
    Being British or being German did not make you a better soldier.
    That is an ideology which I find ridiculous.
    Circumstances of war must be taken into account.
    No one was an inferior soldier - they were products of their country .. politically, economically and spiritually.
    Wise up.
     
  9. No.9

    No.9 Senior Member

    Well, there speaks another bleeding heart liberal.

    <span style="color:#FF6666">Please do not threaten other members of the forum just because you disagree with them. If you haven't done already, please read the Board Guidelines. Paul Reed, moderator.</span>
    No.9
     
  10. jimbotosome

    jimbotosome Discharged

    (No.9 @ Nov 8 2005, 03:57 PM) [post=41329]
    Personally, I would not rate either of them as military historians.

    Well thank you for that, its enriched this discussion - not to mention my life. I'll clear my shelves of the works of two of Britain's foremost and acclaimed military historians. Perhaps I could fill the void with something you've written?

    Alternately I could continue to absorb the wisdom and facts from these exceptional authors and continue to use Foot as the SOE benchmark.

    No.9
    [/b]
    I assume this is response to my statements to Angie. Based on that assumption the thing I would tell you is I really don't care what you do or what you believe. Unlike those historians I am not trying to pass off my opinion of hearsay as unequivocal fact. They usually are. Since all they published in their books you are discarding, is their own opinions, then you are welcome to "fill in the void" with my opinions which are posted in sundry places here on this forum. As far as me having facts for you, I won't be so arrogant to try to pass my opinions off as fact.

    I wonder how many times your two favorite British historians contradict each other or one calls the conclusions of the other asinine. Whether they do or not, plenty of self-exalted historians with lofty opinions of others call other historians idiots too. If historians have “facts” as you call them why are they so often in contradiction? In fact if there is someone who might qualify to be a historian on this forum it would be Angie (and spidge), but as you can see I don’t agree with all of her opinions though I do consider them more than many others and why I occasionally take issue to them.

    So friend, clear your shelves of these books, or build an alter and burn incense to their authors, it really doesn’t make any difference to me. Just don’t expect me to believe that anything published by “exceptional” authors is anything other than their opinion.
     
  11. No.9

    No.9 Senior Member

    Well jimbotosome, perhaps you need change your medication or see someone about your paranoia? Did you use the words I quoted, no, angie did in a pointless snipe at two 'set-in-stone' authorities. Therefore my post was not addressed to you nor your indignation about American POWs being anything less than exemplary. What that has to do with the topic of Simpson's comment is another matter.

    The books and manuscripts in my library are staying just where I wanted them as after almost 50 years of putting it together I assure you I don't have room for what I consider bunk. There may be a point to debating Taylor and Foot with you, however, I get the impression you're familiar with neither nor their place in the history mix.

    No.9
     
  12. adamcotton

    adamcotton Senior Member

    Goodness me! Why is that a few contributors in these forums cannot, or will not, post something without resorting to barbs and insults??? Far from being a forum for intellectual debate between like minded individuals, I often feel that these forums are nothing short of a gladitorial arena for clashes between titanic egos!!! Tone it down, guys.....
     
  13. spidge

    spidge RAAF RESEARCHER

    (adamcotton @ Nov 10 2005, 12:25 AM) [post=41364]Goodness me! Why is that a few contributors in these forums cannot, or will not, post something without resorting to barbs and insults??? Far from being a forum for intellectual debate between like minded individuals, I often feel that these forums are nothing short of a gladitorial arena for clashes between titanic egos!!! Tone it down, guys.....
    [/b]


    Good call Adam!
     
  14. adamcotton

    adamcotton Senior Member

    The point has been made that any author's books merely represent his or her own opinions, and not necessarily hard fact. Well, anyone calling themselves a serious historian will be certain of his or her information before committing it to paper, especially as so much of it is easily verifiable. If personal opinion comes into it, then it is in how the material presented is interpreted by the author - and that is the nature of writing history, and is perfectly legitimate. It is inevitable that some historians will be more respected than others, but to blanket dismiss the works of so many established names because they were supposedly self -serving or profit seeking - especially when that dismissal comes from someone who has never published a word themselves - is frankly ludicrous! If any historian were motivated only by self interest it would show clearly in their work and lay them open to ridicule.
     
  15. jimbotosome

    jimbotosome Discharged

    (adamcotton @ Nov 9 2005, 10:57 AM) [post=41375]It is inevitable that some historians will be more respected than others, but to blanket dismiss the works of so many established names because they were supposedly self -serving or profit seeking - especially when that dismissal comes from someone who has never published a word themselves - is frankly ludicrous! If any historian were motivated only by self interest it would show clearly in their work and lay them open to ridicule.
    [/b]
    Adam, I may be walking into a trap here, but I don't think I blanket dismissed historians. If there was a blanket statement it was that certain ranks of soldiers were less reliable than historians.

    Historians – gods walking amongst us?
    The terms self-serving, profit-seeking apply to mankind, both before you or I were born and long after we are gone. To put such an idealistic respect on someone that you deem their opinions unequivocal implies in the least that you believe they are the first people to be immune from these traits so common to mankind. This weakness of man applies to historians, scientists and even reporters for the "beeb".

    Publish or perish?
    Respect for historians should come from their ability to put lucid cases together from obscure facts, not for the number of dogmatisms they boldly put into print. You seem to have an inordinate appreciation of publication as you have often reminded us of your own “publications”. Mein Kampf was published, but it turned out to be the prating of a madman, and there are many such things in print even by the lofty “historians”. Just look at some of sapper’s fumes about the reports of historians that contradict what he saw, and you can see that historians have no special nobility and say things that, at least he believes, they are not qualified to say. I am just not into elitism, Adam. There are people on this forum that know a lot more than me. I am not going to deify them to the point I won’t argue against them. If my debates with Angie don't prove that, I don't know what would. She knows quite a bit more than I do. But that doesn't give her a free pass when she occasionally mixes her opinion in when stating facts. I can respect her knowledge without thinking she is above reproach or super-human. Yes-men might be pleasant but they are not useful.

    The virtues of being a historian?
    I don’t gauge my opinion by the number of people that have read it nor is it affected by the rhetoric thrown at it. I gauge it by the logical arguments that support it or refute it. If it is wrong and I am shown it’s wrong, there is more of a propensity for me to change my opinion than someone that has “published” theirs and now must defend something what they “published” just to save their reputation. That is the rule. That is why historian argue back and forth with each other like angry badgers. They don’t want their reputation soiled by being proven wrong. That is self-serving because truth stands on its own merits. Having their views questioned is a threat to their lofty reputation as a “historian”. It is ironic that this is the very subject of this thread where a historian has said something controversial that flew in the faces of things read by other historians. If opinions of historians are truisms, then what has the historian that is the subject of this thread said that written that other historians have not? If they are all the same, who would by his book? If the words of historians or those who publish were like oracles from God, then why would there be debates and even forums like this where debates can take place?
     
  16. angie999

    angie999 Very Senior Member

    (No.9 @ Nov 8 2005, 08:57 PM) [post=41329]Personally, I would not rate either of them as military historians.

    Well thank you for that, its enriched this discussion - not to mention my life. I'll clear my shelves of the works of two of Britain's foremost and acclaimed military historians. Perhaps I could fill the void with something you've written?

    Alternately I could continue to absorb the wisdom and facts from these exceptional authors and continue to use Foot as the SOE benchmark.

    No.9
    [/b]

    Well, I would be interested to know what works of military history you think Alan Taylor wrote. I have never heard anyone else refer to hom as a military historian. A bit like calling Richard J Evans a military historian because he writes about the Third Reich, German foreign policy and preparations leading to the war in 1939. He was/is eminent, his work was/is impressive, but he was/is not a military historian - Taylor/Evans that is.

    I agree about Foot about SOE, but that it very much specialist history well away from the genuine field of military history.

    And by the way, what I called self serving (a view widely held by historians by the way) was the memoirs written by generals. They write in the main not to educate and inform, but to justify their own actions and decision.
     
  17. No.9

    No.9 Senior Member

    What an odd statement? Military history I know Taylor wrote (among his 30 books) include:

     The Struggle for Mastery in Europe 1848-1918, 1954.
     The Trouble makers : dissent over foreign policy, 1792-1939, 1957.
     The Origins of the Second World War, 1961.
     The First World War : an illustrated history, 1963
     English History 1914-1945 (Volume XV of the Oxford History of England), 1965.
     From Sarajevo to Postdam : 1966
     War by Timetable, 1969.
     The Second World War : 1975.
     The War lords, 1977
     How wars begin, 1979
     Revolutions and revolutionaries, 1980.
     How wars end, 1985.
     From the Boer War to the Cold War : essays on twentieth century Europe, 1995.

    If for you, military history must include the name, disposition and blow by blow account of say one or more regiment, then you won't derive too much satisfaction from Taylor. The General may be as high up as you're concerned with, but the chain of command stops ultimately with the political leader. Soldiers fight wars, politicians make them. Taylor deals with performance of forces, but significantly his understanding and opinion why ultimately Tommy Atkins is sitting in his foxhole in a certain location at a certain point in time.

    Then again, you say; "I agree about Foot about SOE, but that it very much specialist history well away from the genuine field of military history."? 'Genuine'? sorry that's utter bunk. The SOE was an integral part of the British military war effort.

    Anyway, none of the aforesaid has anything to do with the point I actually made. I stated; "If such a sweeping statement had come from say AJP Taylor or MRD Foot, then it would merit serious consideration.", which is perfectly true. I made no statement as to who the best military historians are or anything like. I said if either had stated anything along the lines that the British were consistently inferior, it would have invoked serious reaction, just as other statements of theirs did from the academics, the press and even the government.

    I would say you've made pointless comments you now choose to validate with attempts at hair-splitting rather than have the fortitude to retract.

    No.9

    [​IMG]
    When asked if history is cyclical (Oswald Spengler's view), Taylor replied; "It is not history which repeats itself but historians who repeat each other."
     
  18. angie999

    angie999 Very Senior Member

    No 9, the great majority of Taylor's books which you list are certainly not military history by a country mile and I have never seen any of them quoted as a source by military historians. He has a great deal to say about wars, but on the political and diplomatic level.

    If Taylor had pronounced on the British Army's capabilities, I would not take him seriously, because he never did any serious work on the topic. If he were alive today, I think he would agree with me.

    Get this: I stand by my comments and there is nothing to retract. If you don't like it, tough.
     
  19. adamcotton

    adamcotton Senior Member

    Jimbo - this may come as a surprise to you but, as a mature, intelligent adult, I do too have some innate understanding of human nature and its traits and weaknesses and really don't need those pointing out to me! I do not display undue reverence for "publication" and think, in over 80 posts, I have mentioned my own twice, possibly three times. I was simply making the point that the telling of history is a two-fold process of reporting established facts and interpreting them - the latter is a subjective process and therefore is always open to debate: the very same thing, in fact, you just said! Why must you always try to be clever?
     
  20. Paul Reed

    Paul Reed Ubique

    (adamcotton @ Nov 9 2005, 01:25 PM) [post=41364]Goodness me! Why is that a few contributors in these forums cannot, or will not, post something without resorting to barbs and insults??? Far from being a forum for intellectual debate between like minded individuals, I often feel that these forums are nothing short of a gladitorial arena for clashes between titanic egos!!! Tone it down, guys.....
    [/b]

    I agree - please keep this civil. If you haven't done so already, please read the Board Guidelines.
     

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