Churchills Greatest Mistake !

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by jonwilly, Nov 23, 2008.

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  1. A friend's father 81 years young, has just come out for our cool season and brought for his son a copy of Max Hastings, 'Faces of World War II'.
    I have been loaned the book and on skimming though I saw reference to Churchill's disastrous Order to Send troops, March 41, from the victorious Army, that had just conquered Cyrenaica (Spelling blame me and Apple Mac) to Greece, to resist the Nazi Horde.
    Was this Churchill's Greatest Mistake, including the defence of Crete, or does one other yet to come, take precedence ?
  2. His insisting that the Prince of Wales join Repulse in Singapore, without Indomitable and hence no air cover. Both ships sunk by Jap aircraft as the went north to peninsular Malaysia.
  3. Well I think your getting close to where I consider Churchill's greatest mistake happened but I would also say that if the Indomitable had been there then the jap shore based bombers would have sunk Three capital ships.
  4. So it would have to be choosing to defend Singapore with all shore battery emplacements facing the wrong way. Some 130,000 POWs subjected to all the horrors they suffered for the next 4 years?
  5. Churchill had a habit of meddling in strategic detail and some obsessive projects which could all be counted as "mistakes". Churchill has a bright idea, often late at night and unfettered by the logistic or organisational constraints. If you read Alanbrooke's Diary there appears to have been a whole series of potential disasters.

    He had a thing about the strategic potential of Norway and the Balkans.

    Greece and the Balkans 1941... No chance of success, but I can understand the political imperative of doing something however minimal to help the Greeks.

    Less well known but almost as disastrous was the 1943 Dodecanese campaign in an attempt to persuade the Turks to join the war - which ended in disaster at Cos and Leros.

    But he started with the Dardanelles...

    However, its also worth noting that after resigning in the fall out from the Dardanelles Winstoin Churchill does the honourable thing and volunteers for service on the western front in the trenches as a field officer.
  6. ugly

    ugly LE Moderator

    Commanded a Bn of the Royal Scots in the front line, a pity none of our current crop of leaders have any service to fall back on when they drop one is there!
  7. Quote from Allenbrooke: Winston has a dozen ideas everyday on how to conduct the war. Unfortunately, only two of these are good ideas and Winston doesn't know which of the 12 they are!

    Whilst you can point the finger at Churchill for a number of military blunders (with the benefit of hindsight), after 1940 he was tasked with keeping a large number of dispossessed and often difficult foreign politicians onside (De Gaulle for for one), which he managed with varying degrees of success.

    The catastrophe of Singapore cannot be blamed on Churchill - the defences of both Malaya and Singapore had been seriously neglected in the 1930s (the name Brooke-Popham comes to mind) and was seriously compounded by poor senior officers and the incompetant General Percival. Churchill sent the Repulse and the Prince of Wales on the advice of commanders on the ground who very seriously underestimated the capabilities of the Japanese Air Force (and the Japanese forces in general).

    Whilst reinforcing Greece may be seen as a tactical blunder, strategically it made a great deal of sense. The Balkans campaign diverted a large number of German troops from preparation for Barbarossa, thus ensuring that the invasion of Russia started weeks later than planned and leaving the Wehrmacht exposed in the Russian winter, instead of resting in winter quarters. It also made sense to defend Crete and (once again) it was only lost by poor allied leadership - the German Paras lost so many men that they were never again deployed in a large scale airborne operation.
  8. I seem to recall that the Germans themselves admitted that Greece and the Balkans had cost them victory against Russia in 1941. In that regard, from the overall strategic perspective, the decision made sense.
  9. Gallipoli?
  10. "Churchill often smoked cigars in front of soldiers who hadn't had a decent cigarette in days."

    - and thus, got wiped like a dirty arrse in 1945.


  11. I think a lot of the problems the allies had in 1939 till 1941 were not so much due to bad command decisions by people like Churchill (or Roosevelt, De Gaulle), but by bad decisions made much earlier. The underfunding of the military, weak leadership and political meddling were much more detrimental then the way armour was deployed in Northern France in the spring of '40.

    Churchill's greatest mistake in my view: He didn't send enough army formations to Norway to open a proper front. Thus forcing a miserable retreat once more...
  12. Northumberland Fusiliers actually.
  13. Becoimning a politician in 1908 - always a bad move to become a politician.
  14. Nah, a Bn of the bogging Royals? That would have been his greatest mistake, but in fact it was definitley a Bn of the RSF. Not a bad CO by all accounts.

    His biggest mistakes will probably be contended by minds greater than mine, but I've always found his "Gestapo" jibe at Labour in 1945 ill-judged if not ill-natured, and sad in that he'd clearly lost his feeling for common sentiment.

    It temporarily soured his reputation when he should have been most gracious, and reminded everyone of the Churchill they hadn't liked in the 20s and 30s.

    Gallipoli has always been mentioned as a great mistake of his. Personally I suspect it was a workable plan that turned into a fiasco due to feeble leadership by military commanders in the pivotal early stages.