Brits in the Battle of the Bulge?

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by Chief_Joseph, Nov 12, 2006.

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  1. I was wondering if anyone had info on Brits fighting during the battle of the Bulge? There was a small mention of this at the end of Ambrose's Pegasus Bridge, and I've been curious about it.
  2. 30 Corps in the North , Liege and Maastrict screening any drive for Antwerp as I remember Dad saying. Yes it was so cold the oil in the Machine Guns froze.

    If the Germans had broken out and got to Antwerp , we would have had some serious dramas.
  3. Just a few thumbs Chief, the popular accounts (e.g. what Hollywood likes), centres on the 82nd/101st, Bastogne and Patton, (“grrr…..don’t just stand there, step on ants”). Stories well worth telling but only part of the picture. West and north of this salient was sorted by Monty, who among other things, took command of the American 1st and 9th Armies, good units pursuing inappropriate and disjoined orders. In the west across the river he threw 30th Corps who, if the Germans made it through the Ardennes in force, would need to buy time while Antwerp and the route to it was reinforced.

  4. Try reading Charles Whiting's version of the battle of the bulge....
    The Battle of the Bulge, fought on the snows of the Ardennes forests in December 1944 and January 1945, was the greatest land battle waged by the US Army in the 20th century. Official history remembers this victory as being one solely for the Americans, but Charles Whiting uncovers fresh new evidence to the contrary. For political reasons, no mention was ever made of the crucial British involvement in this battle, when the XXX Corps fought a decisive action and halted the German drive to the river Meuse, which they did against a total news blackout and at the cost of 2500 men. The British role in the Battle of the Bulge simply does not exist on paper. "The main reason for adopting a low key in referring to the British contribution was political," said Field Marshall Brooke, Chief of Imperial General Staff. Using eyewitness accounts from British, American and German soldiers, even Belgian civilians, this book sets the record straight, telling the true story of the role the British played in this key defeat, and the hardship and suffering they had to endure.
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  5. British Ground Forces in the Ardennes campaign, 1944;

    Elements of 30 Corps to include;

    6th Airbourne Div.
    51st Highland Div.
    53rd Welsh Div.
    29th Armoured Bde.
    33rd Armoured Bde.
    34th Army Tank Bde.

    Total Forces Committed were;
    55,000, of which 1,400 became Casualties(200+KIA)

    The Krauts should have listened to the Small Solution Proposed by von Rundstedt
  6. As with everything after D Day, you will get a wildly different account of the Bulge depending upon whether you read an American history or a British/European version.

    The US belittle the British contribution by pointing out that there were c.500,000 Americans involved in the battle, and only 55,000 British & Commonwealth - but they fail to note that it was Monty and his staff who took control of panicked and routed US formations and very rapidly created the c2 framework which stabilised the northern flank and set the conditions for the German defeat.

    By this stage of the war, the US were becoming extremely anti-Monty, and this was exacerbated by Monty's arrogance and probable failure to understand the Allied political reality. By the time of the Bulge, Eisenhower and the US generals were already having to admit that Monty's view of strategy (the broad front/narrow front argument) had been correct and that they had been wrong and had caused the war to be extended through into 1945. When the US had to appoint Monty to command US 1st & 9th Armies, it was a tremendous loss of face for the US leadership and, unfortunately, Monty then chose to exacerbate this by boasting about his achievements. Eisenhower came close to sacking Monty altogether and, despite his subsequent apology, Monty ended up being targeted by the US media and the US generals in their own memoires.
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  7. That is putting it mildly, apart from his military talents he was an almost pathological self promoter, who negatively briefed the press about anybody who didn’t agree with him. The UK press, then as now loved Yank bashing and followed Monty about waiting for any headline – they were seldom disappointed.

    Churchill himself had to apologize in the House off Commons and to the US Govt. about Monty’s quite frankly disgraceful comments concerning the Battle of the Bulge, he came within a whisker of being sacked, only Eisenhower stopped Churchill from replacing him.
  8. There was an issue with Montys’ comments, but I don’t see it as correct to centre on arrogance and/or ego? Monty by the Bulge was a Field Marshall, it was his job to direct the war within his control. He was not perfect, never pretended to be, and states so clearly in his memoir. As a senior commander he had an opinion of what should be done and a full explanation of why which he went to great lengths to explain. He was a soldier, not a politician unlike Ike, and was devoted to doing his job of winning the war.

    When reading about the man, what he says of himself and what others say, IMHO it comes across in what he said he was frank and blunt. Praise and blame allocated fairly and accurately as he saw it, and in the cold light of retrospective day it’s hard to say he was wrong. Because he could consider the big picture, implementation required action within the theatre as a whole where often he was forced/allowed to control only a part with others following, at times, incongruous battleplans.

    Politically he did not excel, and as he said himself, he was aware he often ‘put his foot in it’ because he explained with frank logic and honestly which are not the tools of a politician. Also, as the press love to do then as now, certain comments he made were reported out of context from the whole text, and at the time no one bothered to ask him specifically what he meant.

    Britain lost control of the driving seat with the invasion of North Africa, a legacy which endured and continues to endure. Before the second German offensive through the Ardennes, Monty had been pleading for control of all forces, including American, in that north west sector. When the Germans attacked, Ike suddenly gave it because he had to acknowledge he actually had no control or intelligence in that sector. Monty found even the American forces only knew the theoretical disposition of their forces, and did not actually know what each was experiencing day-to-day. Immediately he placed liaison officers in all units to rectify this, which met with hostility from local US commanders who regarded them as ‘Montys’ spys’. In real terms, Monty saved American lives. Furthermore, if overall theatre control had been given to Monty, and earlier on, utter carnage such as over 30’000 American men at Hürtgenwald would not have taken place.

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  9. Its interesting to contemplate the (politically impossible) scenario of Monty remaining in command of all allied land forces after D-Day. Imagine him being able to pursue his "narrow front" strategy, but this time with total control of the logistic pot, and with a firm c2 grip over Patton and Bradley. I think he may well have been able to make the most of the best talents of both US and British/Commonwealth forces, to orchestrate the encirclement and destruction of all German forces in the west before December '44.
  10. Indeed 4(T), a bucketful of ‘what ifs’ here. Then, how wide does this spread, e.g. what place for Dragoon in the south of France? I have an opinion of Monty that I don’t think he was phased by scale, and also worked hard to keep sight of the small end. There’s that great instance, IMHO, of pre D-Day when Monty decided to embark on a tour of troops and also, among others, munitions factories. In their weekly meeting, Churchill briefed the King about developments and told him of Montys’ very popular tour, quipping ”I think he may be after my job?”. To which the King replied; ”That's a relief, I thought he was after mine."

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  11. It's amazing how Similar him and Patton were. That's probably exactly why they hate each other so much :wink:
  12. From the point of self belief in their own considered opinion, I’d say you’re absolutely right Chief. Then again, if that wasn’t the case, what on earth were they doing in battle command in the middle of a war? 8O

  13. To quote Patton to Bradley - 'Hell Brad, I know I'm a prima donna. So is Monty. The difference is, he won't admit it!' :wink:
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  14. The massive difference between Monty and Patton was that Monty knew what he was doing. Monty was a professional soldier with a track record second to none. A number of his worst enemies were not American, the likes of Tedder did everything possible to hinder him and cause him problems at a political level.

    The often misquoted speech given by Monty post battle of the Bulge was his biggest mistake in terms of talking to the press but as ever it only appeared in edited format. Not helped by the German use of this as propoganda, it really did him no good at all at a time when the Yanks were recovering national pride from a disaster.

    Robin Neillands books on Normandy and the Rhine Crossings are great reads because they seek clarity and he offers a reasoned and impartial view of situations where myth has all but covered the truth. The chapters on Arnhem are interesting because he uses both Official US sources and orders of the day to hang some of the blame on Gavin for his failure to seize the Njmegen bridge , or even include it`s capture in his orders.

    Often the argument about Monty is based on national pride and it is very difficult to be objective. As for me, I`d have served under his command quite happily.
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