11th Armoured Division WW2 - the best or just bull?

#1
Something that crosses my mind from time to time is the oft-stated claim that the 11th was the best Armd Div in NW Europe in the Second World War. It's more than likely that those who wore the Black Bull would believe it but:
(1) is there any objective reason behind the claim?
Or (2) were they the best by default because 7 Armd & Guards Armd Divs were not as good?
Or (3) perhaps 11 Armd reflects the reputations of Hobart (original GOC and RTR training idol) and Roberts (operational GOC, youngest Div Comd, career tankie)?
I lean towards the last two options because I've not really seen a satisfactory answer to the first.
Any thoughts?
 
#2
WaltOnTheMildSide said:
Something that crosses my mind from time to time is the oft-stated claim that the 11th was the best Armd Div in NW Europe in the Second World War. It's more than likely that those who wore the Black Bull would believe it but:
(1) is there any objective reason behind the claim?
Or (2) were they the best by default because 7 Armd & Guards Armd Divs were not as good?
Or (3) perhaps 11 Armd reflects the reputations of Hobart (original GOC and RTR training idol) and Roberts (operational GOC, youngest Div Comd, career tankie)?
I lean towards the last two options because I've not really seen a satisfactory answer to the first.
Any thoughts?
I'm of course biased, :roll: it had one of the most battle hardened armoured regiments within it's ORBAT.......................3RTR! :wink:
 
#3
Saw a TV prog this week Tank Overhaulers.
A team on the Isle of White where doing up a Comet recovered from an Army firing range.
They kept mentioning 11th Armoured showed many 44/45 movies and how at end of WW II they had the Best tank in service, until Ivan introduced the Joe Stalin 1 at the Berlin Parade.
john
 
#4
It was the division that recieved the new comet tanks so by that measure it was the best equipt armoured division in the British orbat from that point, so maybe thats the reputation you are refering to.
Otherwise the 7th kinda got a bad rep for over-cautiousness of its desert vets after villers-bocage, and the Guards armoured obviously failed to reach arnhem (whether thats by their our fault or monty's overambitious plan is up for debate) so by default then maybe the 11th by default was the best for not ******* up an Op (epsom and goodwood aside as all 3 divs got a bloody nose there). But also they were responsible for the largest ever advance in one day (60miles) through france and captured antwerp as well which was a bit of a coup.
So not to belittle the bravery or ability of any of the brave troopers in the 7th or Guards then on balance I'd vote for the 11th having the slightly better collective record in NW Europe. But thats just one meaningless opinion I know and hats off to all involved.
 

AlienFTM

MIA
Book Reviewer
#5
11 Armoured were also first across the Seine, a battlegroup of 4/7DG and 15/19H forcing an opposed crossing.

Concur with Soprano and jockass's comments (though obviously former's is slightly in error by missing out the word "and" between "ORBAT" and "3RTR).

Jonwilly. I saw that prog last year. ISTR the archive footage largely showed 3RTR Comets. 15/19H were on the ranges in their brand new Comets when Hitler went on his last European tour in the Ardennes in Dec 44 and had to stop what they were doing, remount their clapped-out Shermans and head off alongside 3RTR with the rest of 11 Armoured to dig the Septics out of their hole. Not that the Septics would ever admit that of course.

Funny how 3RTR kept popping up next to 15/19H. Must be some sort of hero worship.
 
#7
AlienFTM said:
11 Armoured were also first across the Seine, a battlegroup of 4/7DG and 15/19H forcing an opposed crossing.

Concur with Soprano and jockass's comments (though obviously former's is slightly in error by missing out the word "and" between "ORBAT" and "3RTR).

Jonwilly. I saw that prog last year. ISTR the archive footage largely showed 3RTR Comets. 15/19H were on the ranges in their brand new Comets when Hitler went on his last European tour in the Ardennes in Dec 44 and had to stop what they were doing, remount their clapped-out Shermans and head off alongside 3RTR with the rest of 11 Armoured to dig the Septics out of their hole. Not that the Septics would ever admit that of course.

Funny how 3RTR kept popping up next to 15/19H. Must be some sort of hero worship.
Ne............sorry AFTM IIRC both Regt's were in the process of converting to Comet and were doing a spot of firing on the ranges up at Gravelines! Now I can only imagine the chaos as they were told right - 'Hand back these tanks and go and collect your old Shermans'! :x We know what a pain in the arrse that can all be out in BATUS let alone being at war! :roll:
 
#8
WaltOnTheMildSide said:
Something that crosses my mind from time to time is the oft-stated claim that the 11th was the best Armd Div in NW Europe in the Second World War. It's more than likely that those who wore the Black Bull would believe it but:
(1) is there any objective reason behind the claim?
Or (2) were they the best by default because 7 Armd & Guards Armd Divs were not as good?
Or (3) perhaps 11 Armd reflects the reputations of Hobart (original GOC and RTR training idol) and Roberts (operational GOC, youngest Div Comd, career tankie)?
I lean towards the last two options because I've not really seen a satisfactory answer to the first.
Any thoughts?
Brigadier Roscoe Harvey, who commanded the division's 29th Armoured Bde, was also well though of. Like Roberts he had commanded at regimental and brigade level in the desert:

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4158/is_19960329/ai_n14038825

I think one of the reasons that the 11th was better thought of is that it had the right blend of experience and fresh troops. Whether this was justified or not I don't know.
 
#9
Thanks for the thoughts so far. Jockass' in particular leaves me feeling more comfortable that I've not missed something blindingly obvious. That's not strictly true, I did omit one objective (and assumed correct) fact. The Div history, 'Taurus Pursuant' mentions that 11 Armd had the highest casualties of the armoured divs in the campaign, though it's difficult to see how that equates to 'being the best'.

I should read up on 3RTR. As a battle-hardened regt in a green div, I wonder how their performance differed from the regts in 7 Armd whose battle-hardness made them war-wary, if not war-weary (so they say)?
 
#10
WaltOnTheMildSide said:
Thanks for the thoughts so far. Jockass' in particular leaves me feeling more comfortable that I've not missed something blindingly obvious. That's not strictly true, I did omit one objective (and assumed correct) fact. The Div history, 'Taurus Pursuant' mentions that 11 Armd had the highest casualties of the armoured divs in the campaign, though it's difficult to see how that equates to 'being the best'.

I should read up on 3RTR. As a battle-hardened regt in a green div, I wonder how their performance differed from the regts in 7 Armd whose battle-hardness made them war-wary, if not war-weary (so they say)?
Try getting hold of "A View from the Turret" by Bill Close or "A Tankies Travels" by Jock Watt! Over in 7 Armd were two other RTR Regt's - The 1st and The 5th.
 
#11
The 11th were certainly a very good division. But the difficulty with comparing formations is who they had in them at various stages. The 7th were first in on the beaches at Normandy, and took heavy punishment at Villers Bocage which meant significant remanning and new equipment. This was necessary as the British were engaged in very heavy fighting at one end of the front, in order to release space to the south to allow others and the Yanks to break out. It took time to get them going again with the new drafts and hardware. Later on they were as good as any other. After the 11th took some serious casualties this slowed them down later on, but again after remanning and new equipment they were a division to be reckoned with. Personally I think the business of a fixed "ranking order" is a nonsense, there are too many factors involved. Both fought very well, lost many men, and had to reman and re-equip continually. But we in the 7th could always piss further than they could, although there is no scientific proof.
 
#12
old_rat said:
The 11th were certainly a very good division. But the difficulty with comparing formations is who they had in them at various stages. The 7th were first in on the beaches at Normandy, and took heavy punishment at Villers Bocage which meant significant remanning and new equipment. This was necessary as the British were engaged in very heavy fighting at one end of the front, in order to release space to the south to allow others and the Yanks to break out. It took time to get them going again with the new drafts and hardware. Later on they were as good as any other. After the 11th took some serious casualties this slowed them down later on, but again after remanning and new equipment they were a division to be reckoned with. Personally I think the business of a fixed "ranking order" is a nonsense, there are too many factors involved. Both fought very well, lost many men, and had to reman and re-equip continually. But we in the 7th could always urine further than they could, although there is no scientific proof.
Which included the divisional commander (Maj Gen Bobby Erskine) and armoured brigadier (Brig "Looney" Hinde) being sacked. The new GOC (Maj Gen G L Verney, who wrote a history of the division) said that the 7th "greatly deserved the criticism they received ". He himself though only lasted a few months; whether his replacement was punishment or not I don't know.

http://www.btinternet.com/~ian.a.paterson/divcommanders.htm

22nd Armoured Bde went through a couple of commanders before Brig Tony Wingfield took over in October 1944 for the rest of the war.

http://www.google.co.za/url?sa=t&so...NZZqppLoQZGN7b7Eg&sig2=rAlkMUQzeKbvVjKOiul5pw

Is it significant that 11th Armoured Div had the same two men in the equivalent posts throughout the campaign? Were the sacked 7th Armoured Div officers merely scapegoats or did their replacement really improve the division?
 
#13
baboon6 said:
Which included the divisional commander (Maj Gen Bobby Erskine) and armoured brigadier (Brig "Looney" Hinde) being sacked.
Not until August and not strictly down to VB, more the cumulative effects of VB, GOODWOOD and BLUECOAT.

Is it significant that 11th Armoured Div had the same two men in the equivalent posts throughout the campaign? Were the sacked 7th Armoured Div officers merely scapegoats or did their replacement really improve the division?
The sackings did not exactly improve morale in 7 Armd as both were generally well regarded within the Div. Verney's diary (the source of the 'deserved criticism' quote) observes 7 Armd were 'shocked' by the sackings. It may be that the new management were, and were seen to be, less sentimental so command superseded leadership (7 Armd tended to hold 'conferences' rather than O-Groups). They also had the advantage that the Great Swan that followed didn't present quite the same challenges as Normandy.

old_rat said:
Personally I think the business of a fixed "ranking order" is a nonsense, there are too many factors involved. Both fought very well, lost many men, and had to reman and re-equip continually.
Seconded. They all suffered much the same regardless of what was on their shoulders. It's unfortunate that 7 & Gds Armd seem to be remembered for what they failed to do rather than what they did.

But we in the 7th could always urine further than they could, although there is no scientific proof.
I dunno - a yellow trail from El Alamein to Berlin's quite impressive...
 
#16
Im Heinz Johannsen from Schleswig Holstein Germany. I was Born 1935 in Rendsburg and was 10 years old whenthe war was over. The 11thArmoured Division was the Div. made sure, tha Schleswig Holstein was British Zone, and not Russian Zone: When in Lüneburg Heath, the C/O of the 11TH, AD "Pip" Roberts called Brigadier Roscoe Harvey, C/O of 29th Artmured Brigade and Said: I want you to go like HELL to Lübeck.You must get there bevor our friends. Roscoe Harvey though he was talking about another Division on the Rhine. so I said:"Christ, we ll get there bevor them. What friends are you talking about PIP Roberts said : "You know the big Boys. The bloody Russians. I Roscoe H. ) had These new fast Tanks.which we put on the Autobahn and we went flat oput at thirty-five miles an Hour.We got to Lübeck on the Baltic Coast just bevor the Russians. That Final-Gallop was a Close runthing. I remeber asking my Driver: How fast are we going? .. He replied: Over thirty Sir, and still on the pridle. These last words are out of the Book "ROSCOE THE BRIGHT SHINER by Tim FITZGEORGE_PARKER. Next year, the People of the Village Moldent- Winning, will Name an Allee afteBrigadier ROSCOE HARVEY. It cannot be too late to say THANK YOU, All older People worldwide, know what it is like to live in a russian occupide ZONE: We where very Lucky. Thank you for that.... Heinz Johannsen 0049 4331 448855
 

rampant

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
#17
@Jimtheflag With risk of causing a major thread drift, it would be fascinating to know of your experiences as child during the war. Especially the last year or so.
 
#19
@Jimtheflag might want to take his name and phone number off his reply above... just a thought...
 

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