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Not a good week for Generals of the Modern British Army

Oh dear, the good General is under investigation for bullying. DM link only at the mo'...

ATG
You have just made an old looking man very happy, consider yourself the recipient of a large (virtual) Tanqueray 10 & tonic shippers.



www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8610069/amp/Army-probes-career-ending-bullying-claims-against-Falklands-heros-son.html


Schadenfreude, karma, pure delight all rolled into one, and it’s not even 0800hrs yet.
 
Mostly the Army is poor at stuff because we allow it to be. But we refuse to admit it, because that would mean we aren't national heroes from the "finest Army in the world" led by commanders forged in the "national centre of excellence for leadership", but just normal people with fairly average leaders. Problem is, if you want to be the former, you have to start by acknowledging that you are the latter.

From 2016. Situation: no change

I agree fully, I suspect that the issue is that great leaders (of which the Army has many) do not progress as well as their more 'politically astute' brother officers.
It is the same in many environments, the best salesman/ mechanic or whatever rarely gets promoted to run the office/ workshop. Such a promotion requires totally different skillsets.
 
Also, why promote your top mechanic etc from a place where they are most effective.
Most likely because you have a broken career management path for specialists.
 

diverman

LE
Book Reviewer
Most likely because you have a broken career management path for specialists.

Indeed you never have a career path that rewards those who want to be specialists. If you want more money you have to go for promotion, which means technical people are never truely rewarded for the value they bring to a company.
 

Wordsmith

LE
Book Reviewer
I agree fully, I suspect that the issue is that great leaders (of which the Army has many) do not progress as well as their more 'politically astute' brother officers.
It is the same in many environments, the best salesman/ mechanic or whatever rarely gets promoted to run the office/ workshop. Such a promotion requires totally different skillsets.

It has been remarked by many military historians that the skills to rise to the top in an army in peacetime are not the skills required in wartime. In peace time, political skills are needed to climb the greasy promotion pole; the often abrasive personality of many effective wartime leaders leaves them unsuited to play what is in effect office politics.

It has been said that Britain invariably loses the opening battles, but then wins the war. That's due to the need to hoof the ineffectual 'political' generals and replace them with the less polished, more abrasive and more effective war fighting leaders.

Wordsmith
 
It has been remarked by many military historians that the skills to rise to the top in an army in peacetime are not the skills required in wartime. In peace time, political skills are needed to climb the greasy promotion pole; the often abrasive personality of many effective wartime leaders leaves them unsuited to play what is in effect office politics.

It has been said that Britain invariably loses the opening battles, but then wins the war. That's due to the need to hoof the ineffectual 'political' generals and replace them with the less polished, more abrasive and more effective war fighting leaders.

Wordsmith

I think that’s a story we like to tell ourselves.

I would be interested (but can’t be arsed to find out) how many Generals at the end of WW2 weren’t Generals at the beginning of it.
 
It has been remarked by many military historians that the skills to rise to the top in an army in peacetime are not the skills required in wartime. In peace time, political skills are needed to climb the greasy promotion pole; the often abrasive personality of many effective wartime leaders leaves them unsuited to play what is in effect office politics.

It has been said that Britain invariably loses the opening battles, but then wins the war. That's due to the need to hoof the ineffectual 'political' generals and replace them with the less polished, more abrasive and more effective war fighting leaders.

Wordsmith
Don't see how being abrasive necessarily makes you effective in war.

Oh and we haven't exactly won in Iraq or Afghanistan.
 
I think that’s a story we like to tell ourselves.

I would be interested (but can’t be arsed to find out) how many Generals at the end of WW2 weren’t Generals at the beginning of it.

Bad form to quote oneself, however...

a wiki deep enquiry into hte 14th Army in WW2 has most of the GOCs/Corps Cdrs and Army Cdrs as at least Brig by 1939. Of course all of them had served in WW1 as Junior Officers.

However, more than one of those “fighting Generals” was sacked for being shit.
 

Wordsmith

LE
Book Reviewer
Don't see how being abrasive necessarily makes you effective in war.

It may be a part of the determination to get things expedited and get inside the enemy's reaction time. Many of the great commanders applied the hairdryer treatment to laggardly subordinates.

ABC (Admiral Cunningham of WW2 fame) was notoriously intolerant of under-performing subordinates as was 'Bomber' Harris. And Harris famously said of one of his Group Commanders (Bennett) "he doesn't suffer fools gladly".

On the other side Rommel hustled about the North African battlefield blasting slow or under-performing officers. And frequently embarrassing the 8th Army by getting there "first with the most".

I can't remember the source of the quote, but someone very senior on the Allied side "said you don't have to be polite in war, you merely have to be right".

Wordsmith
 
Or is that just another apologia for particularly odious people? By that standard, should be hailing Maj Gen Jones as a Warfighter, and bemoaning his investigation or do we not like him because he’s a political animal?
 

Caecilius

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Bad form to quote oneself, however...

a wiki deep enquiry into hte 14th Army in WW2 has most of the GOCs/Corps Cdrs and Army Cdrs as at least Brig by 1939. Of course all of them had served in WW1 as Junior Officers.

However, more than one of those “fighting Generals” was sacked for being shit.

I'd argue that's too junior for the politics/fighting phase to kick in. It's only really at 3* where a general needs to be political - there's obviously a difference between peacetime operations in Whitehall and commanding a corps overseas.

There are extreme examples of mavericks who could only ever promote past OF3 in wartime, Nelson being the best example, but I'm not sure that's what people usually mean when they talk about the political/fighting divide.
 
I think that’s a story we like to tell ourselves.

I would be interested (but can’t be arsed to find out) how many Generals at the end of WW2 weren’t Generals at the beginning of it.
I think there was significant acceleration from 1939 onwards and some very young (by today's standards) general officers. I also think that anyone who didn't cut the mustard was dispatched in most cases to coastal defence in Iceland or somesuch. Monty sacked folks in both the desert and Normandy if they weren't good enough or if they 'bellyached' and he would have been the definition of abrasive.
 
I think there was significant acceleration from 1939 onwards and some very young (by today's standards) general officers. I also think that anyone who didn't cut the mustard was dispatched in most cases to coastal defence in Iceland or somesuch. Monty sacked folks in both the desert and Normandy if they weren't good enough or if they 'bellyached' and he would have been the definition of abrasive.

And Monty was damn closed to being sacked himself...
 
Lots of adjectives being bandied about with a fair bit of thin justification so perhaps a little 'choice' may be appropriate:

"Political" -

Can be meant as:
1. Astute and knows which levers to push and which levers to pull to exert influence
2. As above but does so for personal advantage
3. As 1 and 2 but is also a self serving, mean spirited bastard who does everything for personal advantage.
4. Total out and out bully who dominates all of those around him and whose bullying goes up and down the ranks and who dominates his superiors as well as subordinates.

"Abrasive"

1. Direct and decisive
2. Speaks truth to power.
3. Rude aggressive bastard without justification
4. Total out and out bully who dominates of those around him and whose bullying goes up and down the ranks and who dominates his superiors as well as subordinates.
 
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And Harris famously said of one of his Group Commanders "he (Bennett) doesn't suffer fools gladly".

FoC

Harris described Bennett as "the most efficient airman I have ever met".

'Bennett was Harris’s personal choice for the command of the PFF.

'Harris gave a detailed assessment of Bennett’s capabilities in his book Bomber Offensive, first published in 1947. In the following passage he gave a vivid portrait of Bennett’s character as he described why he rated Bennett so highly.

"Don Bennett, whom I had known since 1931, was the obvious man at that time available for the job of head of the Path Finder Force. He was in his early thirties, very young indeed to become a Group Commander, but his technical knowledge and his personal operational experience were altogether exceptional. […] He was a profound student of navigation, and in the early part of the war he took the major part in opening the transatlantic ferry. I then got him back into the Air Force as a Wing Commander.

"He commanded a Halifax squadron and in 1942 was shot down in flames over Norway when attacking the Tirpitz in his usual gallant manner; he escaped to Sweden after many adventures and was returned to England. His courage, both moral and physical, is outstanding, and as a technician he is unrivalled.

"He will forgive me if I say that his consciousness of his own intellectual powers sometimes made him impatient with slower or differently constituted minds, so that some people found him difficult to work with. He could not suffer fools gladly, and by his own high standards there were many fools."

"From my point of view the essential thing was that he tackled the complex and technical problems of our intricate bombing tactics with as much energy as ability. He has a most unusual memory and can pick up a book on some highly technical subject and in a very short time get the whole thing off by heart; he is, in fact, very much an intellectual and, being still a young man, had at times the young intellectual’s habit of underrating experience and overrating knowledge.

"All this is, of course, rather unusual in a fighting man and we were lucky to get a man of such attainments to lead and form the Pathfinders."


 
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