Anglo-French command relations 1940

Discussion in '1940' started by MarkN, Nov 17, 2021.

  1. MarkN

    MarkN Well-Known Member

    Over the years I have read through all manner of commentary about what was happening in Belgium / France and how the command relationship functionned, failed and how Britain's allies were the principal cause of the BEF's plight. More often than not Pownell's diary entries are cited as (part) evidence to confirm this narrative.

    Having now had an opportunity to read them myself, I am more than a little surprised by the degree to which his words have been taken out of context.

    Pownell's words are not a reflection of what was historically occuring on the BEF's flanks but a reflection of his guesses and assumptions of what was going on and why. Yes, his words have significant historical value as regards his perceptions (and perhaps that of GHQ collectively), but they offer poor insight to the historical reality of what was going on outside GHQ.

    That, of course, is an obvious product of the poor flow of accurate information and intelligence. A problem that Ellis highlights was largely of Gort / Pownell's own making! My surprise is the ease at which subsequent storytellers have twisted personal perceptions from a position of ignorance into evidence of historical fact.
  2. MarkN

    MarkN Well-Known Member

    Charley Fortnum kindly posted Pownell's diary which has been the principal source for many a post-war storyteller.

    Personally, I think the two volume Assignment To Catastrophe by Edwards Spears offers a far more accurate and balanced picture - albeit from a different level in the chain. Remember, even Pownell's diary editor felt the need to warn off the reader as to his (Pownell) bias and misrepresentation of allied efforts.

    Below are three chapters from the first volume: Prelude to Dunkirk published in 1954.

    I chose 24 and 25 May as the latter was his first day on the job as Churchill's person liaison to Reynaud. The entry for the 24th provides the context to the immediate problems facing the two allies. So many interesting talking points. A perfect gamut of information that allows a storyteller to cherry pick 'evidence' of just about any bias they wish.

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    Tullybrone likes this.
  3. MarkN

    MarkN Well-Known Member

    For 6 months Marshall-Cornwall was the senior British officer appointed to the Allied Military Committee, the joint staff created to provide military advice and guidance to the Supreme War Council and act as liaison between the British and French military staffs.

    He was then pulled out of that appointment to head up No.17 Military Mission in June 1940. That was the mission set up to provide the British eyes and ears within Altmayer's Xe Armee HQ.

    I imagine his observations and comments would also help in building a better picture of Anglo-French command relations.

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