Montgomery Controversy

Discussion in 'General' started by merdiolu, Dec 12, 2013.

  1. belasar

    belasar Junior Member

    Interesting thought.

    But does it not beg several questions?

    How did Churchill remain PM till the guns fell silent in Europe if for two plus years is orders ravaged the British military?

    How is it he is still revered as perhaps Britain's geatest Prime Minister in the last century or longer?

    How could American Officers and political leaders come to know that all of Britains battle failures were due to the PM and not to commanders actually directing troops as it would be in an American Army in battle?

    Or is it only seen in American armed forces as you seem to imply?

    Tom O'brian, merdiolu, fine posts!
  2. merdiolu

    merdiolu Junior Member

    While 2nd US Corps was fighting in El Guettar (which helped 8th Army a lot actually by diverting 10th Panzer Division away from Mareth to north ) Montgomery first repulsed Rommel's final attack attempt at Medenine. He knew the attack was coming by ULTRA and simply let Rommel advance head on towards his artillery and anti tank screen and after throwing him back noted gleefully "He is trying to attack me in daylight with tanks, followed by lorried infantry... It is an absolute gift, and the man must be mad."[

    After that 8th Army made a series of sucessful out meneuvering break through operations against pre prepared stong Axis positions on Mareth Line and Wadi Akarit.
    In Mareth his initial advance towards coast chercked Monty was flexible enough to shift his attack towards south in Matamata Hills once he saw the breakthough New Zealanders did and he simply instructed Brian Horrocks (his best corps commander) in this sector "Go ahead and win the battle for me". He also cooperated excellently with RAF Desert Air Force and its own commander Air Marshal Arthur Conningham (who offended even Pattton previously by reporting lack of advance of land forces in 1st Army and their allegadly shifting blame on air force. Imagine Pattons response ) Although Monty and Conningham later became bitter antagonists in Normandy they worked excellently together in North Africa. During Mareth Line battles RAF basically cleared the way for outflanking 13th Corps and Montgomery once pointed out flying bombers over his HQ "They are winning the war for me !" 1st Italian Army mostly retreated intact but still they evacuated a very good and reliable defensive position bound to survive much longer plus left more than 8.000 POWs (one third German) and a great deal of equipment and arms behind. Wadi Akarit was another good battle. Monty again switched his tactic and instead out flanking as he usually did attacked straight out to middle of Axis defence at night with Tuker's Indian Division and won the day captured 1.000 more prisoners. Link up of 8th Army and 2nd Corps happened on 8th April after 10th Panzer Division retreat El Guettar and 2nd Corps advanced unopposed towards Sfax where link up actually happened.

    All these show how two different Allied armies , their thinking , aproach and commanders thinking. US Forces learned defence effectively in Tunisia and trying mobile warfare , trying to pursue , exploit a breakthrough although compared to British experience they were still learning this. At one point (as we can see it Northwest Europe ) with abundence of logistic supply and numbers they would be as good if not a lot better than British on this regard. They were learning fast and no matter what commanders like Patton , later Lawton Collins , Ernest Harmon , Wood etc wouldn't give up their cavalry doctrine , pursuit operations , they simply needed to improve and develop their tactics and gain experience. British as we could see later were masters in defence since Alam El Halfa. One operation type Monty liked most I think was provoking luring enemy an attack towards a posion he was expecting and reinforced strongly. They were also very good much better than still inexperienced Americans in breaking through prepared fixed enemy defence lines (Monty broke though Alamein , Mareth , Wadi Akarit , Mount Etna and West Wall five of them ) Unfortunetely one thing that puzzles me is British Commonwealth forces ineffective pursuit , expoiting a breakthrough operations. They did that once very effectively after breakout from Normandy during pursuit of German armies through France and Low Countries in 1944 summer. Except that British were maybe a little unjustly called "slow ,plodding".

    So both Patton and Montgomery and British/Commonwealth US Armies were complating each other on battlefield doctrine and operations.
  3. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place....

    I think it depends how people understand how decisions are made.

    One of the more perceptive is that in "Essence of Decision" by Allison. Level one we we talk about "British" or "Americans" as if they were a single person. Level two is the institutional behaviour. The US Army was always going to be for Europe First" because that is the only theatre where the army could deploy. The forces were made up of organisations which have their own habits procedures. Intelligence gathering has its own process. Level three: the interactions between the key participants. The personalities of Churchill, Roosevelt, Marshall, Alanbrooke, Eisenhower, Alexander, Montgomery etc

    The great British public have voted Churchill as the greatest ever Briton. That is some feat for an elected politician, a profession that rarely commands respect..

    There is fairly widespread understanding of Churchill's failures. Even at the time he had been associated with failures at Antwerp and Gallipoli. Norway, Greece and Crete had Churchill's paws all over them. These were gestures which made political sense. He was a flawed man, but the right man at the right time, providing the vision and drive to keep Britain in the War and the allies together. . He was also the elected head of government of a democracy that operated a cabinet government and drew on the advice of its military staff. . On balance it all worked.

    It is also easy to dwell on the difficulties the allies experienced working together. Don't forget the huge success of the coalition that called themselves the United Nations. It is easy for coalitions to fall apart, which is what Frederick the Great and Napoleon exploited and Hitler was hoping for. Yet between themselves Roosevelt and Church forged an unbreakable alliance based on political principles which outlasted Facsism, National soclialism and Communism. The allies may have argued, but the result was arguably as good as a result could have been expected.
  4. merdiolu

    merdiolu Junior Member

    The problem was not just Churchill though his interference from London was one of the main reasons for fiascos and did not help the mastters. As in previous posts
    and threads like "What went wrong in 8th Army" battlefield doctrine and unit compositions were lacking in British Commonwealth forces and leadership was mediocre at best sometimes.

    Churchill when became PM in May 1940 took over the duty of Defence Minister on him as well because of witnessing wars run through committees and bickering between several services arms not to mention civilian bureucracy did not inspire him in first months of WW2 and during entire WW1. In initial months of WW2 he became First Sea Lord and full of ideas initiatives about waging war against Germany in 1939-40 period. Mining of Rhine and canal network , cutting iron ore supply of Germany through Norway were all his ideas. The problems was Anglo-French War Council (a similar to WW1 organization in Paris only much more cumbersome this time) was too timid and not effective. Churchill barely got over their objections and found meagre army resources over objections but Hitler pre empted him and invaded Norway. Churchill survived Norwegian defeat intact and reputation strong because he was advocating that kind of initiative and resolve since 1939 at first place. So he became PM and formed a Coalition Goverment which he also became Defence Minister. In July 1942 after fall Tobruk he was called back for a vote of no confidence but he survived that one intact also with his oratory skills and candid appreciation of Rommel as a great commander (a great propaganda tool for Germans later as even Churchill seemed to admire him ) I think most in UK knew at that point however his impulsive hasty behavior was. the defeats ansd setbacks were not Churchill's fault but structural weakness of British Armed Forces and negligance of appeaser politicians before war (when Churchill was screaming for a larger defence budget) At that point there was no leader appearent to assume wartime leadership (Attlee , Halifax etc all of them faded from public awareness by 1942. Churchill was the face and symbol of wartime Britain ) Churchill's fault was his unawareness of fact that the forces he commanded were not mission oriented , most effective armed forces in world and sometimes ignoring local theater conditions , logistical infrastructure etc. He definitely needed someone like Alan Brooke to put his feet on ground.

    To be fair though Alan Brooke Imperial COS once remarked before Battle of Alamein "If this battle goes wrong it will be end of Winston." Monty by defeating Rommel not only increased his own reputation but also saved Churchill's.
  5. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Merdiolu first

    You are still reading the wrong books..US 2nd corps did NOT divert 10th panzer from Mareth - 10th panzer were on the run from Medenine and Pattons failure to halt them at Gabes and so they were trying to return to their home with Von Arnims reinforcement group to Northern Tunisia whereas the other two 15th an 21st were wallowing around as Rommel had been fired at Medenine and they too had escaped at Gabes..

    Coningham was no friend of Monty's but rather that of Tedder and so they along with the US Gen. Brereton had gone off to Algiers and Ike's HQ BEFORE Monty had fired Lumsden who made such a mess of the TanK leadership and was thus able to create the British Blitzkreig with HARRY BROADHURST - which was a mix of Tanks - Infantry - Artillery - Bombers and "Cab-rank" fighters - which Monty then claimed that "they" would win the war etc...

    I have already explained that education is invariably faster than re-education - the Americans had to be educated - the British RE-EDUCATED in 1941


    Churchill earned the adulation of the civilian population of Great Britain owing to his niggling away about Hitler and Germany and as he became Prime Minister as the war began - his
    oratory and fighting spirit kept that adulation going during many altercations - but not necessarily with the Military as they knew what was wrong as they recognised that Wavell was held accountable for Greece - Crete etc unjustly as was Auchinlek for his inability to choose the right Army Commanders for the desert battles in Cunningham and Ritchie - then the philosophy of Alanbrooke won through and stopped Churchill from interfering in Military matters…but this was NOT recognized by the civilians as we were finally winning and it was all about Monty by then including the US
    … The war finished and soldiers became civilians..and Churchill was thrown out of office and replaced with the super efficient Atlee who introduced the welfare state and dismantled the BritishEmpire which had begun by FDR ( see Elliott Roosevelt's book "As he Saw it " - pp 115 - before another argument starts ) Then the British people began to think and restored Churchill in 1951 but too late - he was past it ….then we had Eden.. and the least said the better ...

  6. belasar

    belasar Junior Member

    Funny, I usually get English humor...... :rolleyes:
  7. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

    I haven't spent any time researching the contemporary evidence and what I put forward is clearly the aggregated anecdotal comments I have heard. Sadly, it's not possible to go back and question those vets more thoroughly as so many have passed away since. I can tell you that I once carried the usual positive outlook on Monty, gleaned from most post war assessments, and was surprised by the degree of negativity I heard. It was far and away the most prevalent view however. I never heard much in the way of positive comments.
  8. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Must have lost the text somewhere as well as spelling your name the fact that I am Scottish

  9. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

    "Canadian soldiers, tired of being cannon fodder"

    If you believe Canadians were used as cannon fodder, you should keep in mind that for the majority of the time Canadians were a minority in the 1st Canadian army itself, the perception of them being used as cannon fodder is a result of historians like Terry Copp who only look narrowly, and nationalistically at Canadian divisions. I refer you to "canadian army in normandy failures in high command", which is a good analyses of the deficiencies in leadership, tactics and approach in the Canadian army

    I don't think there is much dispute that the Canadians were not well led initially, by mostly peacetime and often inexperienced commanders. Countering that, however, was the Canadian reliance on the British military model in terms of doctrine, training, command and staff appointments, equipment, and organization. In any event, with respect to this thread, I'm not entirely sure that the Canadians had much to do with making or breaking Monty's reputation. As for Copp, given the overwhelming volume of British and American commentary on Canadians, we were overdue for a narrow, nationalistic perspective on those events.

    What I mean by narrowly ‘focussing’ on Canadians, is that in many of the Canadian accounts I have read on certain battles/operations, they do not even mention the fact British formations were often operating alongside Canadian, often playing a key role, yet many of these operations are framed exclusively as ’Canadian’. I think this is where the perception of Canadians being used as cannon fodder comes from. It is often not well known that in the “First Canadian Army” there were often more British and Polish formations than Canadian ones. Also your point about them following the british model, the Canadian Corps followed the British model in the first world war, (arguably even more so because it was actually a part of the British army establishment) and all of its officers were inexperienced amateurs, yet the WW1 Canadians corps was one of the most effective formations of the war. Yet many Canadian divisions in the second world war, were simply not as effective, a fact admitted by many of its own officers

    I think you have to distinguish between the performance in Normandy, although the defensive actions on June 7-8 were well regarded, and the improved efficiency later in the European campaign. Radley-Walters (1st Hussars) has offered compelling arguments that the pre-invasion training was ill-suited to the fighting conditions on the continent and that effective doctrine and tactics were developed in the field based on the early failures.
  10. mapshooter

    mapshooter Senior Member

    Another noteworthy point is that Brits were wiling to promote talented officer. Jock Campbell is one. Maj RA, acting Major General, awarded the VC for leading his division from the front, died in a car crash a couple of weeks later (his ADC was the driver).
  11. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran


    Jock Campbell earned his V.C. by leading a conglomerate of units of Tanks Infantry and Artillery including firing a 25 pounder in a series of attacks at Sidi Rezigh in his staff car and directing the attacks with only red and blue

    flags…just after his award he was promoted to GOC 7th Armoured division he was being driven when his car skidded on a clay patch instead of the usual sand - overturned and was killed - his driver contemplated suicide and relented to

    become a Squadron leader of 2nd SAS and involved in many dangerous operations winning the DSO and three M.C.'s as well as many honours from our Allies…he died after suffering throat cancer here in Calgary Alberta where he was also

    a member of the Alberta Government for many years …as communications Minister….his name... Major Roy Farran - a good friend of mine…his obituary is available on the Telegraph he was quite the man ...

  12. merdiolu

    merdiolu Junior Member

    He was the inventor of Jock Columns concept wasn't he ?
  13. merdiolu

    merdiolu Junior Member

    For the rest of Tunisian Campaign in April-May 1943 after meeting of 1st and 8th Armies neither one could prevent retreat of Axis Army Group Africa (re designated name of 1st Italian and 5th Panzer Army combined ) retreating north towards Tunis. But Germans with Hitler's insistence continued to reinforce Tunisian bridgehead in spring instead of evacuating it. So number of Axis troops bagged in final offensive multiplied many more. For the rest of campaign it was more of a Alexander-Bradley-Horrocks effort. Bradley after assuming command of 2nd Corps performed admirably if a little bit conventional. Capture of Hill 609 and final drive on Bizarte (when in May before final assault he was told it would cost 50 tanks to reach Bizarte , Bradley went on and lost 47 tanks knocked out at the end ) were necessary morale raisers for US troops and commanders because it reaffirmed confidence to themselves and their superiors. North Africa between 1940-43 was actually a great battlefield labarotary drilling exercise ground for Allies actually. Here they developed their skills and capabilities to take on Germans later on European continent.

    (That one of the reasons why I dismiss "Was Battle of Alamein necessary ?" threads or claims of Cornelli Barrett who thinks Operation Torch in NW Africa on November 1942 would compel Panzer Army to retreat from Egypt anyway. I would reply that Monty took a direct order from COS "to destroy Rommel and Afrikakorps and drive it out of Egypt" To stay idle at Alamein line with all firepower logistical build up would not be just unacceptable from political sense. Without actual positive outcome that Germans could be actually beaten at field confidence and trust of troops commanders between each other and themselves would be forever crippled. Alamein was a much needed morale victory above anything. Not to mention all of Panzer Army retreating intact without any losses from Alamein would make things very difficult for Torch forces , 1sr Army driving for Tunis. Rommel would have much more force than he actually had to attack and deal with inexperienced 2nd Corps or rest of 1st Army. Besides capture of airfields in Cyreneica was absolutely necessary to protect convoys bound for Malta.)
  14. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member


    I haven't spent any time researching the contemporary evidence and what I put forward is clearly the aggregated anecdotal comments I have heard. Sadly, it's not possible to go back and question those vets more thoroughly as so many have passed away since. I can tell you that I once carried the usual positive outlook on Monty, gleaned from most post war assessments, and was surprised by the degree of negativity I heard. It was far and away the most prevalent view however. I never heard much in the way of positive comments.



    Thanks for the reply. Could I just clarify a couple of points. You say that most post war assessments of Monty were positive, whereas from what I understand there was much cricitism from US historians such as Blumenson as far back as the 1950's and 60's (and obviously more in post-war memoirs, etc). Even in the UK, the original adulation was never 100% and during the 1960's the pendulum seems to have swung heavily against him from a historical perspective.

    I wondered if you could hazard a guess as to the time period during which you spoke to most of the veterans? I wonder if it is possible to compare contemporary feelings towards a military leader with those recorded years later. After being bombarded by decades of historical argument, how easy it is to separate memories, memories of memories and memories of reading, etc.


  15. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron


    there is more to

    than you realise !

    Whenever I personally am prompted to respond to something that has just been posted on a ww2 subject, I go through a set process of "trying to remember".

    Stage 1 is when I start off with what I refer to as my original memory and for that I have to dig really deep, as i try my level best to throw myself back in time to a particular event and then to re-create the moment honestly, warts and all.

    Stage 2 is when I ask myself "have I written about this before and if so, where did I first put it into print". i inevitably start off with the 100 odd articles that I wrote on the BBC People's War Archives that encompassed most of my overseas activities,

    Finally there's stage 3. when I think "I must have replied to this subject on this forum" and I then just do a general search on the subject being discussed. Because at heart I am a lazy bugger, I then do a simple copy & paste of whatever thoughts I previously had and hope that this will spark further discussion.

    I often ask myself "am I remembering this as it was or am I remembering what I wrote about it ?"

    One of the happiest days of my life was when I received my Army Records and was able to confirm various dates and events.

    These records, plus the surviving pages from my diaries, are my bedrock to support a memory that, although still sharp in certain aspects, is deteriorating rapidly in day to day usage.

    For instance ......did I take this morning's breakfast tablets ?

    CL1 and Our bill like this.
  16. belasar

    belasar Junior Member

    Ron, a valuable insight, thank you.

    Perhaps I could add one from a colonial who grew up post war.

    As a lad in my early teens I went to a school in Ohio where a boy of my same age from Britain also attended. Can not remember if his family had emigrated or here simply for work, but he was quite "British" to us locals :) We shared Homeroom (not a class really, just the assembly point where attendence was taken for the day) and History class together.

    We had many 'discussions' about the war, who won it and who was the best general of the day. They were animated with great energy and precious few facts. How they progressed I am sure you may be able to guess and the only fact that ever came out of them is that neither of us were swayed by the other.

    I can confirm anecdotally that many Americans who fought in the war (and I had contact with) held a veiw that Montgomery was over-rated and arrogent. A curious thing since nearly half of them were Pacific war vets who never saw a British soldier, let alone Montgomery himself. It was not universal, but was predominate. I can also confirm that where I was at the time it was not the way it was taught in History class. Basically it went "yes he won battles, but... kind of reasoning.

    Since then I have read a great deal, watched many films and documentories and with access to the internet, gathered a more complete picture of the period. No I won't claim to be Oracle of all fact, but I have come to accept that the teenage boy I was does not have the understanding of the mature man he became.

    My veiw of Montgomery and Patton has evolved over time. Neither was the extreme image I had nearly 40 years ago. I like to think I have a much better, fairer appriciation of each. Both knew how to do their jobs, both knew how to lead the men they commanded, both had great success, and yes, both made mistakes and had trouble admitting that they did.

    Isn't time we stop trying to destroy one to prove the worth of the other?
    von Poop and CL1 like this.
  17. m kenny

    m kenny Senior Member

    Another line of argument I have seen used many times in order to justify the crucifixion of Montgomery.Previously in the thread it was also said the criticism of Montgomery was needed to counter the argument he was perfect and never put a foot wrong. Both arguments are bogus because I have never ever seen a thread anywhere where the starting premise is Monty's perfection or his superiority to Patton.
    Without exception Monty is dragged into a Patton topic in order to disparage him and make him look as Patton's inferior. Indeed to my mind Patton fans are THE worst offenders bar none.
    Likewise I have never seen a thread started which states Monty was 'the best'. Never once.
    The argument always is the same Monty was slow/plodding/arrogant/queer etc. It is the detractors who make all the running but it seems they are so focused that they can not see it.
    Perhaps it is time for them to stand back and examine their motives. It is long overdue because their whole argument is based on lies and invention.

    I am going to insert a caution here. Note I have not praised Monty in any way or defended his record. From experience I know I must always write that sentence in invisible ink because I always get accused of being a promoter of the man.
    von Poop likes this.
  18. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place....

    That is the man. Let me add a few more Gunners who played a big part

    Sidney Kirkman - sent out with Montgomery. Instilled the centralisation of command of artillery in 8th army, reversing the policy of decentralisation. Commanded 50th Diviison and XIII with diustinction.

    John Currie - one of the junior British commanders who flourished uinder Montgomery's regime. Read about him here.

    Hetman *Hatchet" Jack Parham. BRA 1st Army. Whaever faults may be found with the 1st Army its artillery fire control was not onr of them - nor was its use of Air OPs, based on the idea that itr was easier ot train gunners to fly than train pilots to interpret the land battle. The "Lessons learned" from North Africa Tunisia are those the army applies in the rest of the war.

  19. belasar

    belasar Junior Member

    Apparently not.
  20. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    M Kenny

    It's the bending of the truth which gets to me in all these arguments - typical examples in Merdiolu's postings to-day e.g wasn't Jock Campbell V.C. the inventor of the "Jock" Columns concept - this I have to doubt as many - if not MOST Scotsmen were - and still are known as "Jocks" with the exception of David Stirling - the co founder with "Paddy" Mayne and Lewis of the SAS…Wavel is recognized as being the originator of the Jock columns as he had little to play with and he WAS commissioned into the Black Watch- a very famous Scottish Infantry regiment.

    Another is the error in his statement of WHEN Bradley - who commanded 2nd US corps …….well No he didn't at that time - as he was sent out from Washington to keep an eye on Patton who was in charge until he took over - in SICILY of 7th US Army and Bradley took over 2nd corps...


Share This Page