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Top 10 Worst Military Leaders in History

I don't get the defensiveness as far as Monty is concerned. He was a ponderous commander, unwilling to commit to battle unless overwhelmingly superior in numbers and was hardly known for daring thrusts (Market Garden aside). The Falaise pocket being a case in point where a more bold commander would have closed the kettle and destroyed the en within boundaries, but Monty prevaricated between the short and long encirclement and the opportunity was lost to take 100000 troops off the field rather than the 50000 that were eventually encircled.

He was also entirely too fond of claiming that the current situation was EXACTLY what he planned all along despite what he said was his plan in the planning phase. After the Caen debacle, he just chose not to let people in on his plans at all becoming more and more delphic in his pronouncements so that whatever happened he could claim the credit. Ironically, the Germans, by pouring most of their Panzer divisions at the British, played into allied hands as it was probably Monty's strong suit, a cautious attritional battle, that tied down the panzers to allow the Americans to summon their strength and breakout towards the Cherbourg Peninsula et al.

Monty wasn't one of the ten worst, but he was by no means as good as the post war British lionisation of him would have us believe.
 
One of the things he gave to the men and women in North Africa was a belief in their own strength and power and ability to win. He boosted their morale.

Churchill was trying to pressure Monty to start his El Alamein advance/attack earlier than 23 October, but Monty stood firm, to ensure that he had all the POL, stores, and ammo in place. And secondly, the extra time allowed the Navy and RAF to sink and damage Rommels supplies, and thus to weaken rommels forces.

Monty did not win the battle single handed, but he gave the 500,000 men under his command a belief that they could win.
 
One of the things he gave to the men and women in North Africa was a belief in their own strength and power and ability to win. He boosted their morale.

Churchill was trying to pressure Monty to start his El Alamein advance/attack earlier than 23 October, but Monty stood firm, to ensure that he had all the POL, stores, and ammo in place. And secondly, the extra time allowed the Navy and RAF to sink and damage Rommels supplies, and thus to weaken rommels forces.

Monty did not win the battle single handed, but he gave the 500,000 men under his command a belief that they could win.

And this is where and why his star was formed. Churchill said "Before Alamein we never won, after we never lost." He's beloved because he gave us the belief that we could win which is a precious thing in and of itself. It certainly doesn't justify his own, and later pronouncements that essentially state that without his genius we never could have won.

This isn't to take away from his handling of the vast bulk of German Panzer forces in the west, as stated earlier, I think he was the perfect Commander of those available to handle that scenario - a safe pair of hands. Had Patton been on that flank for instance, I think he could have been in deep trouble quickly given the Germans love of combined arms counter attack - that or the Air Forces would have had a much busier time hauling his irons out of the fire. That isn't to criticise Patton, merely to say that the way the Normandy battlefield panned out the right commanders for the allied cause were in the right place at the right time.
 

Toptotty

Old-Salt
How about Lords Lucan,Cardigan, Raglan and Chemsford? Would have thought that the Charge of the Light Brigade and Islawanda were pretty bad stuff ups? In addition, how about Bonnie Prince Charlie and Lord Murray they messed up quite a bit?

Oh yea, how about Gordon Bennett?

I would agree with you on Bonnie Prince Charlie, but not so sure you are right about Murray. Capable commander and strategist who was often overruled by that Italian fop of a prince.
 
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bokkatankie

Guest
And this is where and why his star was formed. Churchill said "Before Alamein we never won, after we never lost." He's beloved because he gave us the belief that we could win which is a precious thing in and of itself. It certainly doesn't justify his own, and later pronouncements that essentially state that without his genius we never could have won.

This isn't to take away from his handling of the vast bulk of German Panzer forces in the west, as stated earlier, I think he was the perfect Commander of those available to handle that scenario - a safe pair of hands. Had Patton been on that flank for instance, I think he could have been in deep trouble quickly given the Germans love of combined arms counter attack - that or the Air Forces would have had a much busier time hauling his irons out of the fire. That isn't to criticise Patton, merely to say that the way the Normandy battlefield panned out the right commanders for the allied cause were in the right place at the right time.

It is often forgotten that Monty commanded all ground troops in Normandy (including the American forces) until 1 September 1944, so his strategy on the British flank was in fact part of his overall strategy for the breakout battle for all forces in Normandy.

The overall plan for the landings was his plan.

Like much else this has been washed out of history by the Americans.
 
It is often forgotten that Monty commanded all ground troops in Normandy (including the American forces) until 1 September 1944, so his strategy on the British flank was in fact part of his overall strategy for the breakout battle for all forces in Normandy.

The overall plan for the landings was his plan.

Like much else this has been washed out of history by the Americans.

None of which takes away from my points earlier. I don't dismiss his achievements, but he was not as good as he later claimed he was, and the main reason he is disliked by the Americans was his claim to have won the battle of the Bulge when in fact he had very little to do with it. As far as his plan in Normandy was concerned until his failure to take Caen (supposed to be achieved on D+3 IIRC) was absolutely clear, he always intended the breakout to be in the BRITCAN sector as they were closest to the German Border and the therefore their industry etc.

Once he was wrapped up in the attritional confrontation that the British battle became, it was clear that the break out would have to be in the American sector. At this point he claimed to Ike - and anyone who would listen to him, that this had been his plan all along - which is just self serving rubbish I'm afraid. He was a good Commander, excellent at instilling spine into troops, a superb set piece battle Commander and very good at self publicity. But he was nowhere near as good as he believed himself to be and his ability to let others take the credit for success was near non existent.
 
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bokkatankie

Guest
None of which takes away from my points earlier. I don't dismiss his achievements, but he was not as good as he later claimed he was, and the main reason he is disliked by the Americans was his claim to have won the battle of the Bulge when in fact he had very little to do with it. As far as his plan in Normandy was concerned until his failure to take Caen (supposed to be achieved on D+3 IIRC) was absolutely clear, he always intended the breakout to be in the BRITCAN sector as they were closest to the German Border and the therefore their industry etc.

Once he was wrapped up in the attritional confrontation that the British battle became, it was clear that the break out would have to be in the American sector. At this point he claimed to Ike - and anyone who would listen to him, that this had been his plan all along - which is just self serving rubbish I'm afraid. He was a good Commander, excellent at instilling spine into troops, a superb set piece battle Commander and very good at self publicity. But he was nowhere near as good as he believed himself to be and his ability to let others take the credit for success was near non existent.

So much of that perception of self publicity and stealing of the limelight was in itself generated by the Americans post war as it seemed very difficult for them to admit that any mistakes had been made at all; by them!

As to Battle of Bulge, the effective Counter Pen set up by Monty on the left flank enabled Patton to launch his CS against Bastogne area on the right. The lack of effective and clear leadership, by Eisenhower and his staff, at this crucial time (and from 1 Sept when he took overall command of the ground troops in France) is what should be the subject of closer examination and debate.
 

alib

LE
I nominate Mark W. Clark, liberator of Rome in WWII, a far worse general than Monty.
 
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bokkatankie

Guest
None of which takes away from my points earlier. I don't dismiss his achievements, but he was not as good as he later claimed he was, and the main reason he is disliked by the Americans was his claim to have won the battle of the Bulge when in fact he had very little to do with it. As far as his plan in Normandy was concerned until his failure to take Caen (supposed to be achieved on D+3 IIRC) was absolutely clear, he always intended the breakout to be in the BRITCAN sector as they were closest to the German Border and the therefore their industry etc.

The fact that Caen was not taken on D+3 led to a change of plan and overall strategy, good leadership?

The actual plan called for breakouts in both sectors (especially to capture ports on the right flank), the storm a few days after the landings (and the failure to take Caen) caused a change of plan and adoption of new overall strategy for the breakout campaign. But again he was in overall command so had the ability to make such changes.
 
The fact that Caen was not taken on D+3 led to a change of plan and overall strategy, good leadership?

The actual plan called for breakouts in both sectors (especially to capture ports on the right flank), the storm a few days after the landings (and the failure to take Caen) caused a change of plan and adoption of new overall strategy for the breakout campaign. But again he was in overall command so had the ability to make such changes.

The reason Caen was not taken by D+3 was due to poor direction. The German screen round Caen was paper thin, but after a rude repulse on D+1 when we got a bloody nose, we became massively cautious and instead of pressing home an attack that may have been costly in lives and materiel Monty asked that the RAF flatten the gaff and made Caen a defenders dream - hardly the actions of a thruster. Did the eventual butchers bill cost more than that initial attack may have cost? Who knows, but one thing is certain. Monty INSISTED that Caen was pivotal for the entire plan, and had it been taken in time then it may have relieved pressure in the Bocage - where lets not forget casualty rates were higher than those on the Ostfront.

Have it your way. He wasn't bold enough, nor was he comfortable outside of the attritional set piece, but perhaps the greatest accusation that can be laid at his door is that his interpersonal relationships with fellow commanders were almost uniformly terrible. That all said, he did an incredible job - as did they all from Field Marshal down to the lowest Private.
 
As I have already said my dad was in Egypt for 4 years from 1942 to 1945 and earned the Africa Star.

I remember him telling me that his local branch of the RBL had some raffle in the 1950s, so my dad wrote to Monty asking him if he would be willing to donate something as a raffle prize. Monty said No. My dad was rather cross about that.

So Monty was sometimes not very good with inter-personal relationships. He could be rather abrasive and sharp.

Who remembers the TV programmes were Monty talked thru the WW2 battles?
 
he also could heal the affwicted by touching them.....

I don't know about the afflicted gb, but you are surely aware that the WW2 British Tommy could be healed of most ills by having 10 Players Navy Cut thrown at him by a General from his staff car?
 
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bokkatankie

Guest
The reason Caen was not taken by D+3 was due to poor direction. The German screen round Caen was paper thin, but after a rude repulse on D+1 when we got a bloody nose, we became massively cautious and instead of pressing home an attack that may have been costly in lives and materiel Monty asked that the RAF flatten the gaff and made Caen a defenders dream - hardly the actions of a thruster. Did the eventual butchers bill cost more than that initial attack may have cost? Who knows, but one thing is certain. Monty INSISTED that Caen was pivotal for the entire plan, and had it been taken in time then it may have relieved pressure in the Bocage - where lets not forget casualty rates were higher than those on the Ostfront.

Have it your way. He wasn't bold enough, nor was he comfortable outside of the attritional set piece, but perhaps the greatest accusation that can be laid at his door is that his interpersonal relationships with fellow commanders were almost uniformly terrible. That all said, he did an incredible job - as did they all from Field Marshal down to the lowest Private.

Now this is good debate! Interesting thought, if Caen had fallen and BRITCAN had broken out, how well balanced would the landings have been when the Germans launched the counter attack, as it was at least we had a defensible line (sometimes with terrible casualties) but a line that could be held and was. Also, that, as you say and I agree with, attritional warfare developed the Germans choose to play a game that allowed it to develop at such huge cost to them.
 
IMHO the list is a bag of shit. Patton should definitely be there, and where is Napoleon?

Ill thought out, obvious personal opinion and quite frankly a bag of shit.
 
Agree, the list doesn't include the real incompetents like Elphinstone (already mentioned by someone), Sackville who failed to lead the cavalry forward at Minden, court martialled and dismissed but then popped up again to contribute to the defeat in the American War of Independence. Then there's Achille Bazaine, serial snatcher of defeat from the jaws of victory, French CiC in 1870, his comment on hearing that France was going to war was: "Nous marchons a une desastre". At his Court Martial, asked why he hadn't deployed his reserve, the Imperial Guard Corp, to support St Privat he offered the bizarre excuse that it was up to Bourbaki, the Corp Commander, to make that decision. Sentenced to death, he then found enough initiative to escape to Mexico, where he lived out the rest of his life.
 
what about one or more of the argentinian generals or admirals?

General Belgrano for example.
 
Lists aren't history, and the 'analysis' seems to be channelling Joan Littlewood:

Under his auspicious leadership, some 800,000 British soldiers would ultimately die. Remarkably, Haig came home a hero after the war and is still considered to have been a competent military commander by many today (mostly by people who never served under him, one might assume). While no commander on either side during that war comes off looking good when it came to incurring casualties, what makes Haig stand out is his seeming indifference to the carnage and an unwillingness to learn the hard lessons required to fight a twentieth-century war.
 

alib

LE
Then there's Admiral John Byng, shot by firing squad pour encourager les autres. The RN had the good manners to promote to full admiral just beforehand.
 
Re. Montgomery

Can't find a link at the moment, but I believe that despite the taking of Caen being so much later than the plan, the actual situaation by D+50 was amlost exactly as had been predicted for that date by Monty.
 
The List makes me wonder how Generals were chosen. I could name a dozen US generals who could fit the bill easily

Lloyd Fredendall II Corps commander
John Lucas VI Corps Cdr
Eugene Landrum 90th Div Cdr
Holland M. Smith USMC
Edwin Walker
And Lastly, not a fan of Omar Bradley

McClellan as previously noted
Meagher
Burnside
Bragg CSA
David E. Twiggs USA who surrendered all his men to the CSA for political reasons, then joining the CSA
Horatio Gates
Plus Mark Clark, who fought the Second World War for and on behalf of - Mark Clark.

Among other self-centred decisions, he let Kesselring's forces escape so that he could "liberate" the open city of Rome - and did so against orders!
 

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