Radio 4 16:30-17: Tue Sep 16th - Great Lives on FM Bill Slim

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by whiffler, Sep 16, 2008.

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  1. A Series of biographical discussions with Matthew Parris.

    7/9. General Sir Mike Jackson, former Head of the British Army, nominates Field Marshal Bill Slim, leader of the Burma Campaign.

    Military historian Julian Thompson lends weight to the argument that Slim, less well known today than other Second World War Generals, was perhaps the greatest commander of the 20th century.
  2. I wonder if Slim was the best of the 20th century (and I have no argument with that) was there a better one between him & Wellington?
  3. Sorry, double post. Sir Colin Chapman possibly?
  4. ugly

    ugly LE Moderator

  5. I here & now declare my ignorance in these matters, I seek education from those who know better!.

    Thanks Ugly for the link, I was unaware of Plumer & his CV is quite impressive!
  6. ugly

    ugly LE Moderator

    Messines ranks as a seriously well won battle. His troops were well trained and prepared. How many WW1 generals are surname of a battle?
    Some good books around about it!
  7. Byng of Vimy?
    Allenby of Meggido (OK, it was 'Meggido and Folkstone')?

    It's not a long list!
  8. Slim, sacked twice when commanding 14 th Army, then both who had fired him where chopped and he took over their Command.
    Best Brit General of WW II and one of the Great all time commanders of Men in the Field.
  9. ugly

    ugly LE Moderator

    The thing is we had better generals in WW2 or were better served by those generals, those in WW1 fare badly in comparisom. Plumer despite his age had good staff and insisted on thorough training, none of this New Army can only advance in waves rubbish for him!
    Dress rehearsals and full size models of the objectives!
  10. Ugly with respect mate - Bollocks. There is now plenty of research around to suggest that the WW1 generals were not the bunch of tossers depicted by the Theatre Workshop.

    The 1914 mobilisation plan and its implementation was a object lesson in good staff planning. The manoeverist fighting of the BEF upto the race to the sea was superb and showed that well trained troops well led by good generals can hold much larger forces. The next few years were an enormous learning curve for all the participating belligerents but the ones that came out best were the British Empire .

    Given that the Generals had to take an Army of 300k and turn into one of nearly 5 million, had to learn all about engineering/arty/chemical and air on scales which had never been dreamed of and function with virtually the same level of comms that Wellington had enjoyed I think they did remarkedly well. Add in the fact that there was no serious mutiny in the British and Empire armies (unlike every other nation in the field) and the fact that they beat the best army in the world. Beat them mark you! The Germans threw everything they could at us in 1918 and we stopped them and then went on to chase them out of France.

    Christ think of what we could have achieved if we'd had some good generals.
  11. ugly

    ugly LE Moderator

    No disrespect felt at this end hence my comment that perhaps we were better served by those officers in WW2 than 1. Plumer no doubt was ahead of his time and justly recognised for it. There wasnt a lack of good generals per se but perhaps a lack of good staff work mainly I believe due to the massive expansion of the army. The Army just didnt believe that citizens could do the job but was happy to use colonial citizen armies as shock troops? I hope I didnt come across as denigrating other WW1 Generals, I was holding up Plumer as an example of brilliant general ship from an era where far too often the lions led by donkeys pacifism theory takes the moral high ground. You and I agree!
  12. Yes we do probably agre about the Kaisers war, but I think that the time is ripe for a good look at generalship and fighting quality in WW2. The fact that we were on the winning side and with far less casualtiesthe WW1 I believe hides some very unappealing evidence that we as a nation were no match for the Germans.

    Slim trained his men to fight the jap and by his training and leadership they not only fought him but bested him. The same cannot be said of the troops who fought in Western Europe. At best the Brits matched the Germans but they rarely bested them. I have read much in the past few years about the campaign from Normandy through to the Rhine crossings (anything byPatrick Delaforce is a joy) and the force ratios that had to be used to beat the Germans were much higher than those of WW1. Incidentally the casualties for the fighting troops were in many cases equal to and sometimes in excess of those of the major WW1 battles.

    It will be interesting to see the results when the historians really turn to examine WW2 Generalship in the same depth as WW1.
  13. Absolutely! The per capita casualties taken during the breakout battles on D Day were horrendous and we had almost total air superiority. Nothing wrong with using high force ratios though. I think it was Slim who said it wasn't wrong to use a sledgehammer to crack a nut as long as you don't care what the nut looks like at the end.
  14. ugly

    ugly LE Moderator

    I suppose popular history again as written or at least dictated by the winning Generals takes the lead.
    I read some intersting books on statistics of WW2 including I think one called at the sharp end? Very revealing about how unwarlike a technologically advanced army was over its predecessors of only 25 years before!
  15. I suspect there was a bit too much reliance on nut cracking sledgehammers and not enough on training.
    All that business about the hun being automatons was rubbish. I've read a couple of books that suggest that the one things german soldiers were trained to do was fight on their own initiative.

    Someone called Sajer wrote a book and missed out the most interesting bit - how he was trained when he joined his fighting division.

    Haven't read the Sharp End for years. Must take it with me on the next exercise.