Military Incompetence

Discussion in 'General' started by canuck, Apr 10, 2011.

  1. sparky34

    sparky34 Senior Member

    SINGAPORE must rank as one of the biggest foul-ups of the second world war .
    the lack of leadership is breathtaking ..failure to build a proper defensive system
    on the north of the island until it was to late shows how incompetent the high
    command was .plus pre-war thinking that no enemy could penetrate the jungle of
    MALAYA and threaten the island was a disaster in the making ..
     
  2. cameronlad

    cameronlad Member

    Very well put - except for two points.
    1. In 1939-1940 British commanders and their subordinates (no matter how good or bad) were not in command - the French were. Neither were they on control - the Germans were.
    2. On balance the German's had better equipment in crucial areas where and when it counted most. Allied tanks are a case in point. Both the quality and quantity of our own military equipment was one of the most hotly contested issues of our own politicians at the time of going to war, prompting protest letters to Chamberlain by his own ministers.
     
  3. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    John Lawson
    Now why do you believe that you will have an arguement with me about Monty culling the dead wood he found when taking over 8th Army - I should remind you that he sent for Three senior officers to take on XXX corps - Oliver Leese - XIII - Brian Horrocks and the Artillery - Sydney Kirkman - and quite a few dead heads of Colonel's - one I am reminded of when asked by Monty who looked after the battalions training- the Colonel assured him that this was the job of the 2i/c - later on meeting the 2.i/c - same question - different answer - the Colonel was fired. The only one he couldn't replace - there was no other - was the Armoured Commander - Lumsden - took him all the way to Medenine to get rid of him- the armour caused the myth of Monty being slow as they insisted on replicating the Balaclava charge - after all Lumsden won the Grand National...to subsequent high losses in Tank Crews- after Medenine and at El Hamma - the NEW Armoured came up with the British Blitzkreig - then again at Tunis- and again at the "BIG SWAN: to Brussels and Antwerp - had Monty been able to sort out the Armour- we might have been in Tripoli much earlier- as it was "Pip" Roberts of 3rd RTR - then jazz piano playing Brigadier of 26th Armoured bde- then Commander 11th Armoured Division in NWE did well after his hard apprenticeship in the desert.....
    Cheers
     
  4. Tab

    Tab Senior Member

    Rav 4....I was on the Suez invasion and I never saw a problem with the wrong kit loaded in the wrong part of the ship. I am not saying that it did not happen but it could only have been the odd ship. Many of the people on these landings were old hands from WW2 and had done all this many times before.
    When you think that on this invasion we had five through deck aircraft carriers taking part in some form or other it should give you some idea of the size of this operation. Also it was the first time that Helicopters had been used for the attacking force to land large numbers of troops, long before the Americans had tried it.
     
  5. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

    Hi Canuck,

    I beleive I made a similar point with regard to British commanders; in that Montgomery wanted leaders who wanted to get on with the job and not have their decisions/planning confined by worrying about career or promotion. Although, I think Tom Canning may have a difference of opinion with me on that one.

    However, as a German General once said, "no plan survives first contact". German equipment wasn't that much better than the Allies (I'm talking 1940 here), in fact sometimes it was worse, they just used it in a more imganitive way. The Germans tended to use the line of dislocation; concentrate mobile forces, hit a weak area, then range around in the rear areas hitting HQs and logistics dumps etc, thus cutting the teeth arms from their command and supply. "A bad plan is one that cannot be changed", who said that?

    In certain cicumstances it was the mere fact that an enemy formation turned up unexpectedly in a rear area location that panicked soldiers, not the weight of vehicle or size of ordnance it carried.

    Which makes me wonder how the BEF command managed to keep command, control and communication of and with their forces when they were being constantly outflanked by some of the more mobile German forces.

    "There are no bad soldiers, only bad generals"

    Then again, how can you find fault with armoured commanders in Normandy and beyond who had no option but to throw Shermans and Cromwells at the screens of 88mm cannon.
     
  6. Rav4

    Rav4 Senior Member

    Rav4, was it a squaddie you lent the book to? That might qualify as military incompetence. Re Suez, a basic 'logistics' problem clearly understood even in WW1 (if not before) obviously lost in the interim.

    Your right- An ex squaddie:D
     
  7. John Lawson

    John Lawson Arte et Marte

    Cheers Tom,

    You always come up with good, interesting info with regard to armour and Monty. Experience - you cann't buy it.

    All the best,

    John
     
  8. John Lawson

    John Lawson Arte et Marte

    There's a thing Cannuck,

    I cann't find fault with them, sometimes you just have to go with what you've got, what you know or what you're told to do.

    With regard to the 88mm, why didn't the British/Allies use the 3.5 inch QF AA gun in the same way as the Germans. Granted in the begining they probably didn't know what was hitting them, but once they did, why not use a similar weapon on the enemy? It would probably have made a mess of any panzer as the earlier version had a similar velocity. Was it just a case of the British not being able "think outside of the box"?

    3.5" QF AA Gun
    Mk I - III : 2,670 feet per second (810 m/s) (new) 2,598 feet per second (792 m/s) (typical), still enough to do a tank!
    Mk VI : 3,425 feet per second (1,044 m/s)

    88mm Flak - 820 m/s (2,690 ft/s)

    How many were deployed in each Corps or Division in 1940?
    Any photos of them destroyed in the withdrawal to Dunkirk?
     
  9. A-58

    A-58 Not so senior Member

    I'd like to offer up the biggest bungling that I can offer no reasoning for. In the 1941-42 Philippine Campaign, MacArthur's wavering early on whether to put WPO into play. He then decided to call an audible and change the play after the Japanese landed at the Lingayen Gulf, then second-guessed himself and deciding to go with WPO. He moved his army to the Bataan Peninsula and abandoned Manila according to plan. During the lead up the the opening of hostilities, he made no effort to militarize Bataan. No trenches, no bunkers, no roadways, no evacuating civilians, no pre-placement of supplies, no nothing. In his haste of evacuating Manila, tons of supplies were destroyed in place, and other substantial were left behind. These items could have been put to good use during the siege. Of course I'm not saying that US forces could have held on until help arrived since no relief force was available. My point is that nothing was done to make do with what they had to work with at the time.

    And to top it off, FDR gave Mac a Medal of Honor for that crappy performance there.
     
    Slipdigit likes this.
  10. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    John Lawson
    Don't know how many times I have raised this same subject of th 3.7 AA vs the 88mm AA/AT - but the first time it was held that the 3.7 " stood too high off the ground - forgetting that the 88mm stood 11' off the ground - but the War House
    wallopers had never had an 19' barrel of an 88mm pointing at them- then when there was 1000 3.7" sitting in various warehouses in the mid East- they were very heavy and needed a very large scammell to pull them through the desert- then - well we have better gun coming up - true- four 17 pounders landed with the Torch Forces Nov '42 - spirited down to Medenine ALONGSIDE some unofficial 3.7AA guns acting as A/T guns- result three panzer Divisions stopped dead after a few hours battle - Rommel was fired - the 17 pounder spirited back to the Uk for a better platform - next time they showed up was with a Canadian battery at Sicily- never saw them on Tanks in Italy although some people who weren't born at the time assure me that there were lots of them in Italy - so I gave up - BUT the 3.7 was finally converted into an A/T and used - go on three guesses - yep BUlGE February 1945-
    now That is good timing ......yeah right ...
    Cheers
     
  11. Bernhart

    Bernhart Member

    along the line of the 88 question, throughout the fighting in the desert, sicily and Italy we must have captured some intact 88's. did we ever use them against the Germans?
     
  12. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

    John Lawson
    Don't know how many times I have raised this same subject of th 3.7 AA vs the 88mm AA/AT - but the first time it was held that the 3.7 " stood too high off the ground - forgetting that the 88mm stood 11' off the ground - but the War House
    wallopers had never had an 19' barrel of an 88mm pointing at them- then when there was 1000 3.7" sitting in various warehouses in the mid East- they were very heavy and needed a very large scammell to pull them through the desert- then - well we have better gun coming up - true- four 17 pounders landed with the Torch Forces Nov '42 - spirited down to Medenine ALONGSIDE some unofficial 3.7AA guns acting as A/T guns- result three panzer Divisions stopped dead after a few hours battle - Rommel was fired - the 17 pounder spirited back to the Uk for a better platform - next time they showed up was with a Canadian battery at Sicily- never saw them on Tanks in Italy although some people who weren't born at the time assure me that there were lots of them in Italy - so I gave up - BUT the 3.7 was finally converted into an A/T and used - go on three guesses - yep BUlGE February 1945-
    now That is good timing ......yeah right ...
    Cheers

    Tom,

    That entire post speaks to incompetence. Be it organizational, political, leadership or plain stupidity, an available, effective weapon never found it's way to the men who so badly needed it.
     
  13. Reading through these posts, I am a little mystified. I am not of course a military historian, so my conceptions may be entirely wrong.
    I did not think Dunkirk was a disaster. With the Belgians collapsing on the left flank on May 28th (?) and the apparent unwillingness of some French units to defend their country, I thought the BEF did extraordinarily well. (Before I suffer any Flak, I would of course mention that many French and Belgian units fought ferociously and with great courage.) Bringing the BEF back from Dunkirk was a major logistical nightmare and all units performed with tremendous heart. My Dad, returning via Dunkirk on May 29th 1940, coaxed me into the RN. Good old Navy, he said, us brown jobs can always rely on you !!
    I didn't think Arnhem was a disaster either.(Except for the tremendous loss of life suffered by the 1st Airborne. That was tragic, but what a hell of a fight they put up against truly frightening odds must go down as an epic act of heroism.) However, we did get within a mile of Arnhem, and wasn't Holland liberated by this action in the space of 11 days or so? The American 82nd and 101st Airborne did a tremendous job in keeping 30 corps moving. Its heartening to see that together we worked in perfect unison.
     
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  14. John Lawson

    John Lawson Arte et Marte

    Cheers for that Tom, but I'm in agreement with Cannuck. The Germans using their initiative, or maybe they didn't have any other guns available, quickly brought the 88s into action in a different but extremly necessary role. Had we (British/Empire/Allies) used a similar amount of initiative we may have had a better anti tank gun earlier and, just maybe, a better tank gun. Still it's all ifs an' ands now and the benifit of hind sight, ah the best sight of all.

    Thanks again Tom, you always come up with the goods.

    Cheers

    John
     
  15. Warlord

    Warlord Veteran wannabe

    Tom,

    That entire post speaks to incompetence. Be it organizational, political, leadership or plain stupidity, an available, effective weapon never found it's way to the men who so badly needed it.

    Whitehall (and Washington, too) was also a victim of the "Old Boy" mentality, and the poor sods at the front paid dearly for it.
     
  16. Alan Allport

    Alan Allport Senior Member

    The story of British anti-tank warfare from 1939-45 was not always a happy one, to be sure. But to ascribe its failures simply to incompetence or stupidity is to oversimplify the hard decisions that designers and planners at the time had to make.

    One of the reasons that the QF 3.7" wasn't as adaptable as the 8.8cm FlaK for anti-tank use is, ironically, because it was a much more advanced AA weapon. It was designed to work off range data supplied by radar rather than manual aiming over open sights. When it was introduced in 1937 a dual AT role wasn't considered vital because the QF 2-pdr fulfilled that niche very effectively - indeed, it was probably the best AT gun in the world at the outbreak of the war.

    By 1941, the 2-pdr was certainly obsolete; but the 6-pdr wasn't available for production until April, and to switch production at that point would have meant manufacturing only 100 6-pdrs in 1941 instead of 600 2-pdrs. The decision was made to prioritize quantity over quality - an imperfect but understandable choice given the country's desperate situation that year.

    (Source: French, Raising Churchill's Army)

    Best, Alan
     
  17. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

    Reading through these posts, I am a little mystified. I am not of course a military historian, so my conceptions may be entirely wrong.
    I did not think Dunkirk was a disaster. With the Belgians collapsing on the left flank on May 28th (?) and the apparent unwillingness of some French units to defend their country, I thought the BEF did extraordinarily well. (Before I suffer any Flak, I would of course mention that many French and Belgian units fought ferociously and with great courage.) Bringing the BEF back from Dunkirk was a major logistical nightmare and all units performed with tremendous heart. My Dad, returning via Dunkirk on May 29th 1940, coaxed me into the RN. Good old Navy, he said, us brown jobs can always rely on you !!
    I didn't think Arnhem was a disaster either.(Except for the tremendous loss of life suffered by the 1st Airborne. That was tragic, but what a hell of a fight they put up against truly frightening odds must go down as an epic act of heroism.) However, we did get within a mile of Arnhem, and wasn't Holland liberated by this action in the space of 11 days or so? The American 82nd and 101st Airborne did a tremendous job in keeping 30 corps moving. Its heartening to see that together we worked in perfect unison.

    Tommy,

    Dropping the brave lads from the 1st Airborne troops on top of two SS Panzer divisions was not an intelligence failure but simply a bad decision. Many would argue that a more flexible commander would have altered the original plan once the presence of the SS units became known.
     
  18. Tommy,

    Dropping the brave lads from the 1st Airborne troops on top of two SS Panzer divisions was not an intelligence failure but simply a bad decision. Many would argue that a more flexible commander would have altered the original plan once the presence of the SS units became known.

    Yep Canuck, I wholeheartedly agree with that, and apparently Major Fuller, from intelligence, and Dutch underground informed General Browning about Bittrich's panzer division which was resting at Arnhem in anticipation of an assault by Patton in the south. To my mind, dropping 1st Airborne was not just a bad decision - it was tantamount to criminal. I have often thought what I would have done as a General. I think I would have waited 48 hours after the American drops, and 30 Corps start, bombed the hell out of the Panzers, and if intelligence reports permitted, drop Urquart and Sosabowski together as one drop. Of course this may still have resulted badly, and it's easy to be wise after the event, but I agree with you, that a good General would have been more flexible.
     
  19. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Before we get into blaming the General in Charge of the Market Garden operation for not being "flexible" in changing to avoid the two understrength and resting Panzers Divs at Ahrnem we mustn't forget that the General in charge of the Air Operation was not Monty nor even "Boy" Browning but one US General Brereton - who had an active hatred for Monty stemming from their first meeting in the desert- and who allowed Browning to drop with his whole Corps HQ instead of the Polish bde which might have made more sense - Was the intelligence of the Panzers passed on to the top end ?
    we shall probably never know ....

    it was also the Air People who chose Urguharts dz's as I understand it- and where was this overall Air Commander at the time of the operation ? -" missing believed swanning around looking for other operations to mess up "

    If it's incompetant culprits you are looking for I would nominate Brereton as #1

    But then what do I know - I wasn't even there - but like others - I read a lot ...
    Cheers
     
  20. Rob Dickers

    Rob Dickers 10th MEDIUM REGT RA

    BUT the 3.7 was finally converted into an A/T and used - go on three guesses - yep BUlGE February 1945-
    now That is good timing ......yeah right ...

    Tom
    I know we've discussed this before,
    By the end of Dec 44, the 3.7HAA gun was increasingly being used for support in a ground role for major actions but was not converted to A/T.
    I think what you are refering to as regards the Bulge
    was that the 3.7 in this action was the first British gun to fire the new Proximity Fused Shells which had just come on line and proved to be very effective in this battle when used by the HAA guns against ground forces.
    It was found that continuded firing by the 3.7 in the ground role as per its design for high vertical AA use caused the barrels to overheat,swell and distort, as well as straining the mountings and large numbers had to be taken out for repair and rebarreling after being used in this way.
    Best
    Rob
     

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