Historiography of the Falaise Gap

Discussion in 'Historiography' started by falaisegap, Aug 19, 2010.

  1. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    I do like Steve Macs postings. Good old fashioned common sense. As to the idea that the Russian contribution is unknown in the West... depends it seems to me, to be how old you are...

    I recall everything about the Russians. Good bad and indifferent. We followed the Russians in everything they did.... But then, we were around in those far off days. That means I am getting very old ......Bugger it!

    That begs the question: do the modern armies have stores to get new knees legs and everything else we need?
    PS I also recall in 1942 the Communists party painting the slogan on bridges,and anywhere it could be seen...

    "OPEN THE SECOND FRONT NOW"
     
  2. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    As to the idea that the Russian contribution is unknown in the West... depends it seems to me, to be how old you are...




    I suppose that was because to your wartime generation they were allies fighting the Germans to those of the Post-War/Cold War generations the Soviets were the 'enemy' not to be praised.
    Now there is a generation of Russians who never knew the Soviet era.
     
  3. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    You bet we knew what was going on. There was a time when the Russians and the Germans signed a non aggression pact. That left us out in the cold and in deadly danger. So all that went on in the East was followed very closely. Our very existence in this land depended on it. my generation followed very closely the eastern battles.

    Let me put it this way. You are in England, the Blitzkrieg has swept through Europe and we are alone in the West.

    Not a bloody soul left but us. The last bastion of freedom that existed. had we gone. "God forbid" the war would have been over, with Germany triumphant.......
    SO, yes we watched Uncle Joe...... Strange as it may seem now ..We were Allies.
     
  4. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Owen -
    and by the same token - there is a generation of British who don't know what the hell Sapper and others like him are tallking about...

    Cheers
     
  5. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

    Gerard; Message #79 -

    "Point is, it took an Allied effort to defeat Germany, Not the Commonwealth forces on their own, not the US on its own and not the Soviets on their own. It would be nice if some people could realise this."

    I totally agree with your Allied effort point, but I'm not sure what the Russian's's did or didn't do has to do with the Falaise Gap, or this thread. The whole original question/point was to do with why the US Army halted and was it an order by Monty (read 'the British') that therefore allowed some Germans to slip away and fight another day. The argument had moved to the fact that the original enquiries may have been motivated by another 'pop' at Monty and certain orders/failures of his, from the other side of the pond, etc, etc.

    As I said at Message #71 Owen (and now you) are skewing off thread!

    Owen; Message #80 - "I too lost a relative in WW1 as you say in the Russians ''ducking out'' of that one as he was killed in the March offensive of 1918 a direct result of German troops being freed up from the Eastern Front after their Revolution."

    It is sometimes difficult to separate the 'personal' from 'wider' effect that offensive had...I have the deepest sympathy for anyone who has lost family in any war. In my great granddads case, he survived until the Battle of Estaires in early April!

    Best,

    Steve.
     
  6. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    You bet we knew what was going on. There was a time when the Russians and the Germans signed a non aggression pact. That left us out in the cold and in deadly danger. So all that went on in the East was followed very closely. Our very existence in this land depended on it. my generation followed very closely the eastern battles.

    Let me put it this way. You are in England, the Blitzkrieg has swept through Europe and we are alone in the West.

    Not a bloody soul left but us. The last bastion of freedom that existed. had we gone. "God forbid" the war would have been over, with Germany triumphant.......
    SO, yes we watched Uncle Joe...... Strange as it may seem now ..We were Allies.

    You must have been privy to some people in the know then Brian....Next to one in the UK knew what was happening in France during 1940 until the end of May when the Admiralty put the call went out for 'little ships' on the BBC. Hardly anyone had heard of Dunkirk until then let alone that the BEF was in serious trouble. Even all the mail being sent home before the 10th May was strictly censored and anyone getting caught using the French civilian post to tell folk back home what was happening was Court Marshalled.

    I can only think you became aware of these events long after they had happened and in some cases after the war-Pehaps from reading books?
     
  7. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

    Now I'm getting drawn in...

    Just to remind everyone that, absent the Finnish scraps, the Russians only got involved in WWII in July 1941. So, they were not our Allies through (nearly) the first two years of a World War and they couldn't have cared less what became of the British or its Commonwealth. They were, as Brian says, in a non-aggression pact with the Germans and sharing the fruits of German advances i.e. half of Poland. To Stalin's rants to Churchill about he/the British being cowards for not opening a second front, I say where were you when we needed an ally in those first two years Uncle Joe; you reaped what you sowed!

    And I don't think that we Brits/Commonwealth were the last bastion of freedom either, there was still the USA; which has always held the same principals as us in this respect. However, until the US joined in after Pearl Harbour in December 1941, we were the only ones willing to fight for freedom; and not just for our own. The US Ambassador to the UK in the early stages of the war, one Joe Kennedy (father of JFK), spent much of his time trying to persuade the British to hand the Royal Navy and the Crown Jewels over to the US, rather than fight.

    So, although the US eventually supplied us with kit, either bought or borrowed, and therefore a life-line, we were fighting on our own. And that is why I am proud of that generation of the people of this little Island of ours and those from the Commonwealth; who fought a great many of the hard yards before 'the Big 2' turned up!

    I do not like their achievements being either run down or watered down and that is why I have have baulked at what may have been another attempt to revise history, belittle Monty/the British and thereby blaming him/us for any failings at Falaise, whilst at the same time and by default, promoting the US contribution.

    We Brits/Commonwealth should be watchful of Anglophobe, revisionist, Hollywood claptrap, otherwise it will become the accepted view of the many people who don't have the same experience, education or historical knowledge of Brits/Commonwealth on this forum. We face a new war and that is preserving the memory of our Armed Forces during WWII and its great achievements.

    Best,

    Steve.
     
    Rich Payne likes this.
  8. macrusk

    macrusk Proud Daughter

    First time I've been on in ages, and I am pulled into a hot thread!

    While I agree with bits and pieces of various posts, I am firstly going to direct my attention to a non-Falaise Gap issue, which is something Steve wrote in the post previous to mine:

    "And I don't think that we Brits/Commonwealth were the last bastion of freedom either, there was still the USA; which has always held the same principals as us in this respect. However, until the US joined in after Pearl Harbour in December 1941, we were the only ones willing to fight for freedom; and not just for our own. The US Ambassador to the UK in the early stages of the war, one Joe Kennedy (father of JFK), spent much of his time trying to persuade the British to hand the Royal Navy and the Crown Jewels over to the US, rather than fight."

    Your emphasis on "We were the only ones willing to fight for freedom" is quite distracting from the rest of your post.

    The contributions and efforts of the Commonwealth countries. In particular, Canada's contribution and effort was extraordinary in both men and in terms of materiel that was supplied to Britain. Australia initially virtually stripped its own country of defensive forces in order to fight for the British in Europe. Many only look at "the big three" listed in numerous books and movies as the Allied Powers. Particularly in the early years of World War II before American manufacturing power helped the Allied side, it was the people of the Commonwealth who did without in order to share what they produced (food and other goods) with Britain.

    My father was mobilized with the Canadian Non-Permanet Militia in August of 1939, becoming a member of the 58th Heavy Artillery and then the 3rd LAA and would serve through the entire North-West European campaign, landing in England April 1941. In 1942 he got out of hospital after recovering from the effect of a Parachute Bomb August 1942 in time to meet the remnants of his division (the 2nd) and his own artillery battery returning from Dieppe. He landed with the 2nd at the beginning of July 1944 and began the ongoing fight through Normandy. He was at Caen and he was at Falaise. I've always believed that what he saw and experienced at Falaise was a large part of his later PTSD. As I've discussed with Sapper on WW2F, they share the same descriptions of what they saw and smelled in the aftermath of the fight for the Gap.

    Canuck posted from a book by George Blackburn. Blackburn was a newswriter who served as a FOO with the 4th Field Artillery of the 2nd Canadian Division. He earned his Military Cross at the Twente Canal bridgehead in Holland. His descriptions of the Gap also match Sapper and my Dad's. Another author who describes the struggle for Falaise Gap, is Denis Whitaker, who earned his DSO and Bar for Valour in Normandy. Both Blackburn and Whitaker in their books searched vigourously for original source material, and interviewed their peers intently to capture their memories. I hightly recommend both: victory at falaise: the soldiers' story by BG Denis Whitaker, Shelagh Whitaker with Terry Copp; and The Guns of Normandy: A Soldier's Eye View, France 1944 by George G. Blackburn. Perhaps the Canadian viewpoint will bring a fresh perspective to this debate.
     
  9. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

    Michelle; Message #88 -

    "You were the only ones willing to fight for freedom??????? How dare you blithely disregard the contributions and efforts of the Commonwealth countries...Perhaps you need to educate yourself outside of looking at only "the big three" listed in numerous books and movies as the Allied Powers."

    I find your note offensive and suggest, Michelle, you re-read my note. You will find throughout that I refer to the British and the Commonwealth, as one. If I have used a generalisation, such as we or us, it is an 'inclusive of the Commonwealth' context; as you will see from the opening paragraph of mine that you quote. I have not blithely disregarded the contributions and efforts of the Commonwealth countries, quite the reverse. Instead of you rudely suggesting that I need educating, I suggest that you have your eyes tested!

    I also suggest that you withdraw your message.

    Steve.
     
  10. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    Now I'm getting drawn in...

    Just to remind everyone that, absent the Finnish scraps, the Russians only got involved in WWII in July 1941. So, they were not our Allies through (nearly) the first two years of a World War and they couldn't have cared less what became of the British or its Commonwealth. They were, as Brian says, in a non-aggression pact with the Germans and sharing the fruits of German advances i.e. half of Poland. To Stalin's rants to Churchill about he/the British being cowards for not opening a second front, I say where were you when we needed an ally in those first two years Uncle Joe; you reaped what you sowed!
    Steve, Britain might have the moral high ground when it comes to WW2 for they did go to war to aid Poland but ask the next question after your first, exactly what did Britain do to help out the Soviets on land between June 1941 and October 1942 when El Alamein was launched? Exactly what Allied operations significantly aided the Soviet Armies as they faced the Blitzkrieg? Sure Stalin reaped what he sowed but without the Soviets, as distasteful as you may find this, the Allies would never have invaded Northern France in 1944. North Africa pre-Alamein didnt exactly tie down huge amounts of Wehrmacht Personnel did it? All I'm saying is dont throw stones whilst in a Glass House.

    We Brits/Commonwealth should be watchful of Anglophobe, revisionist, Hollywood claptrap, otherwise it will become the accepted view of the many people who don't have the same experience, education or historical knowledge of Brits/Commonwealth on this forum. We face a new war and that is preserving the memory of our Armed Forces during WWII and its great achievements.

    Best,

    Steve.
    I do agree Steve with one proviso. Whilst one should strive to ensure the part played by ones Armed Forces are kept alive, it shouldnt be by trying to put the other allies achievements down. There is a certain tendancy by certain members of this boards that any person posting about the US is putting down the contribution of the Commonwealth/UK Forces and that we should be reminded of this at any opportunity. Yet there is no problem with throwing off hand comments such as the Americans "swanning around in open country". Oh thats ok to say but dont criticise Monty and dont put the British forces down. Bit of a biased perspective there methinks. By all means talk up the British perspective. But having someone talk about the US perspective does not mean it is ALWAYS at the expense of the others.

    And this Hollywood thing........... most people who want learn about history dont watch films for their knowledge. I get frustrated due to historical inaccuracies in films but its absolute rubbish to say its a conspiracy by Hollywood to retell history. They are an entertainment industry run by competing companies. There is no conspiracy, to think so is at best naieve, at worst ignorant.
     
    dbf likes this.
  11. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Stand up Steve Max...Truth will out, well said Sir. Though to be fair, it is very difficult to pass on the atmosphere in this land when we were totally alone. A feeling that "The buggers will never win here"...

    I recall the invasion scares, when my father and his mates manned the coast armed with double barreled shot guns. Accompanied by wave after wave of German bombers in strict formation, black clouds of them, and arrogantly flying quite low.

    But to get back to Falaise, Anyone doubting Monty, should have seen the horrors that I saw inside the pocket. For there was war in its most horrific. And Monty rammed everything into that cauldron, till there was nothing but dead and burned bodies, with the stench of death overpowering.. I can smell it now. That and the smell of Germans will stay with me to the end of my days.
     
  12. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Steve, Britain might have the moral high ground when it comes to WW2 for they did go to war to aid Poland but ask the next question after your first, exactly what did Britain do to help out the Soviets on land between June 1941 and October 1942 when El Alamein was launched? Exactly what Allied operations significantly aided the Soviet Armies as they faced the Blitzkrieg? Sure Stalin reaped what he sowed but without the Soviets, as distasteful as you may find this, the Allies would never have invaded Northern France in 1944. North Africa pre-Alamein didnt exactly tie down huge amounts of Wehrmacht Personnel did it? All I'm saying is dont throw stones whilst in a Glass House.
    I do agree Steve with one proviso. Whilst one should strive to ensure the part played by ones Armed Forces are kept alive, it shouldnt be by trying to put the other allies achievements down. There is a certain tendancy by certain members of this boards that any person posting about the US is putting down the contribution of the Commonwealth/UK Forces and that we should be reminded of this at any opportunity. Yet there is no problem with throwing off hand comments such as the Americans "swanning around in open country". Oh thats ok to say but dont criticise Monty and dont put the British forces down. Bit of a biased perspective there methinks. By all means talk up the British perspective. But having someone talk about the US perspective does not mean it is ALWAYS at the expense of the others.

    And this Hollywood thing........... most people who want learn about history dont watch films for their knowledge. I get frustrated due to historical inaccuracies in films but its absolute rubbish to say its a conspiracy by Hollywood to retell history. They are an entertainment industry run by competing companies. There is no conspiracy, to think so is at best naieve, at worst ignorant.

    I'm a little puzzled. Just what could Britain have done between June 1941 and October 1942, having lost most of its quipment the previous year ? In addition to tying up Wehrmacht resources in France (without which, Germany might have been able to turn on the Soviets sooner), Britain also had to garrison Ulster with a hostile state to the south.

    Would the Allies not have attempted to liberate at least western Europe without the presence of a war in the east ? Perhaps not in 1944 but I don't belive that it would have been much later. Had it not been for Stalin and Molotov, Britain would probably not have needed to be in France in 1940, let alone 1944.

    I don't have the impression that those of British or Commonwealth origin on this forum generally feel the need to do the US down if left unprovoked, but this thread was started by someone from the US who apparently felt that there were points to be scored by looking for a British scapegoat.

    To reinforce what Sapper has just said, from those that I've spoken with, no-one who travelled through Falaise in the aftermath would ever suggest that there had been a sense of 'letting them get away'
     
    Paul Reed likes this.
  13. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    the Russians only got involved in WWII in July 1941.

    June 22 1941. ;)

    Steve can you learn how to use the quote feature, it's that little speech box on the top , makes it easier to read your posts.
    [​IMG]
     
  14. macrusk

    macrusk Proud Daughter

    Michelle; Message #88 -

    "You were the only ones willing to fight for freedom??????? How dare you blithely disregard the contributions and efforts of the Commonwealth countries...Perhaps you need to educate yourself outside of looking at only "the big three" listed in numerous books and movies as the Allied Powers."

    I find your note offensive and suggest, Michelle, you re-read my note. You will find throughout that I refer to the British and the Commonwealth, as one. If I have used a generalisation, such as we or us, it is an 'inclusive of the Commonwealth' context; as you will see from the opening paragraph of mine that you quote. I have not blithely disregarded the contributions and efforts of the Commonwealth countries, quite the reverse. Instead of you rudely suggesting that I need educating, I suggest that you have your eyes tested!

    I also suggest that you withdraw your message.

    Steve.

    I have edited my post, and I do apologize for flaming although it was fairly mild. Your initial paragraph quoted in my post blinded me to anything else you wrote in that post. Perhaps you should not have bolded and postured from the context of "We" including the other Commonwealth countries as so many do - which those of independent countries who declared war separately usually find offensive.

    I will not withdraw my message as the balance of it is quite valid.
     
    Slipdigit likes this.
  15. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

    I have edited my post, and I do apologize for flaming although it was fairly mild. Your initial paragraph quoted in my post blinded me to anything else you wrote in that post. Perhaps you should not have bolded and postured from the context of "We" including the other Commonwealth countries as so many do - which those of independent countries who declared war separately usually find offensive.

    I will not withdraw my message as the balance of it is quite valid.

    Many thanks for the amendments you made; I do like your comments regarding the Commonwealth contribution and will have a look for those books you recommend.

    Without wishing to be offensive in any way, I will continue to use "Commonwealth", "us" and "we", in context, solely for the reason that it would be a complete pain to have to list all of the then Independent and non-Independent Commonwealth countries that gave such a lot to the cause of Freedom. I'd be sure to offend someone for leaving a country off the list, putting it in the wrong list, or using its modern day name instead of its 1940 one (and vice versa). Please, never think that I don't appreciate and applaud their sacrifices, without them I would probably speak German as my first language now!

    I have another post to make on this thread, but it will have to wait until much later, as today is my daughters birthday and I am off now to help her celebrate!!

    Best,

    Steve.
     
  16. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

    Steve can you learn how to use the quote feature, it's that little speech box on the top , makes it easier to read your posts.
    [​IMG]

    I usually do Owen, but for some reason this feature wasn't working for me yesterday and I had the devils own job trying to accept a 'friend' invitation. Whether this was a glitch with the WW2Talk system or my PC I don't know, but all appears well again today.

    Best,

    Steve.:)
     
  17. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

    ...exactly what did Britain do to help out the Soviets on land between June 1941 and October 1942 when El Alamein was launched? Exactly what Allied operations significantly aided the Soviet Armies as they faced the Blitzkrieg? ...[and]

    And this Hollywood thing........... most people who want learn about history dont watch films for their knowledge. I get frustrated due to historical inaccuracies in films but its absolute rubbish to say its a conspiracy by Hollywood to retell history. They are an entertainment industry run by competing companies. There is no conspiracy, to think so is at best naieve, at worst ignorant.

    Gerard,

    Rich Payne gave a very eloquent reply to your note and I won't go over that ground again.

    Although you raise the point about what land based assistance was given to the Soviets between June 1941 and October 1942. I would first echo what Rich said, which is that we were in no position to offer any significant land based assistance to anyone. But for our cousins in the Commonwealth we would have probably lost all 'influence' in N Africa, the Middle East and the Eastern Med during this period as well.

    However, we - the Commonwealth - did what we could and this saw the introduction of the north Atlantic convoys, as well as the bombing of industrial targets (but not always) in Germany, which had to have held back industrial output and certainly manpower that would otherwise of found itself on the eastern front. The Russsians coudn't have failed to notice the state of Germany when they eventually arrived, courtessy mainly of the RAF and USAAF.

    On land, the 50th (Northumbrian) Division was embarked from Cyprus for Palestine on 6 November 1941, with the ultimate objective of concentrating in Iraq and then moving to fight side by side with the Russians in the Caucasus. Soon after two Brigades, the 151st and 69th, of 50 Div had arrived in 'Kirkuk' the Caucasian project was cancelled. I can't currently recall the source of the following comment, but I understand it was the Russians that cancelled the assistance.

    The 50 Div was sent to the assistance of the Russians in November 1941 despite the fact that there was no English Infantry division facing the enemy anywhere in the world until February 1942; and 50 Div was that division, situated in the Western Desert.

    On the Hollywood matter. My point here is that the vast majority of people who watch those movies do not and never will have your understanding of WWII. And it is those movies that influence them about WWII. You may not agree, but if you did a survey you would probably find that '9 out of 10 cats' believe what these movies spout. There may not be a general conspirarcy, but I think it would be at best naieve, at worst ignorant to believe that the anti-Monty/British lines are not inserted by Anglophobes and/or revisionists; otherwise why are they there?

    Best,

    Steve.
     
  18. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Again a well thought out posting. There is no doubt that Hollywood films do influence the young that go to see them....

    To such a degree, that if asked what occurred in WW2, you would certainly get the film version... How do I know that with such certainty? Well I, in the company of my friends who managed to get me into schools, and places of further education, were faced with this very problem.

    The only knowledge the youngsters had was from films, and I gave at least a hundred talks. (representing the NVA) The friends that got this disabled old fellow in and took care of me, are all sadly gone....Bless their cotton socks. AS an aside; the most common questions from the boys was "Did you shoot anyone" and from the girls a much more down to earth question..."Where did you go to the lavatory" Shows the practicality of the two sexes ..Does it not...
    Sapper
     
  19. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Most kids learn about WW2 now from gaming on consoles or computers.
    Like this..

    [YOUTUBE]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qDTcSa3Wqno[/YOUTUBE]
     
  20. Swiper

    Swiper Resident Sospan

    TBH they show the initial Beach Landing of SPR as representative of the Second World War combat. Its an extraordinary action being shown as the norm - total nonsense in that regard.

    Hell most History Students I know barely understand Britain/Commonwealth (even less of the Commonwealth side of things) side of things. Most haven't really heard of Monty. This is not an exaggeration, and has led to discussions in the past regarding the Second World War being far more strained as they just lack the building blocks to discuss anything that happened.

    Easiest way to tell is to ask them a chronology of the Second World War, and ask them after they give you a dreadful one - to explain HOW the Allies win. They can't.
     

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