Was Mounbatten appointed to Chiefs of Staff Committee in 1942?

Bit of an arcane question here for someone with access to accurate historical sources: (CPunk, are you out there?)

In 1942 (prior to the Dieppe raid) Mountbatten was head of Combined Operations HQ (COHQ). This post carried the title of "ACO" - Advisor on Combined Operations - to the Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC). Prior to July 1942, the chain of command for major operational decisions was COHQ to CoSC to the War Cabinet. On 27 July 1942, CoSC minutes record that Mountbatten no longer had to seek CoSC approval for all decisions (the reason for the subsequent fog around whether Op Rutter was approved by CoSC).

Many popular history resources (eg BBC) seem to claim that Mountbatten was actually appointed to the CoSC in 1942, with COHQ thus having a fourth "seat" alongside the heads of the Army, Navy and Air Force. A search of my own limited library of books by grown-ups doesn't throw up a confirmation of this, and my conclusion is that Mountbatten simply remained an "Advisor" to the CoSC, albeit a very powerful and well-connected one.

Any military historians able to slay this one?



Book Reviewer
Philip Zeigler's "Mountbatten" biography (Collins 1985) goes into this in some detail but the nub is "Mountbatten's slow progress towards de facto if never de jure status as a full member of the Chiefs of Staff can be charted in the minutes of their meetings".
Philip Zeigler's "Mountbatten" biography (Collins 1985) goes into this in some detail but the nub is "Mountbatten's slow progress towards de facto if never de jure status as a full member of the Chiefs of Staff can be charted in the minutes of their meetings".
Thanks; that tends to confirm that no formal appointment or "seat" was created on the CoSC, merely that Mountbatten acquired sufficient political clout to be able to impose his presence into the committee.
I would say the very difficult question was how to implement the whole concept of Special Forces and their place in modern warfare, among traditional ‘good ‘ole boys’ who had risen to power through long established formats and considered they had attained their position because they were exponents of that format.

To a great extent Churchill rode roughshod over much of this in the face of legions of entrenched establishment devotees. It was what they knew and were, in most cases. ‘For the common good’ v ‘it’s just not done old boy’.

Louis’s predecessor, Roger Keyes, never had anything like a fair crack of the whip to implement raiding, far from it. Fair to say there were substantial and significant ‘heavy weights’ out to get him, though I wouldn’t say in the main Keyes personally but rather the new formats he represented – i.e. change with someone else doing the driving. They eventually succeeded in that he (and Churchill) expended too much time in unsuccessful attempts to get co-operation of/break though the Army/Navy/Whitehall establishment.

Churchill achieved a great deal innovating new departments, which inevitably had to have an extent of executive power to function, but, which also often meant transplacing it from others. Combined Operations instantly brought a fine line between what they controlled and what the three major Services controlled. The more Combined Ops accrued their own forces, the more of an ‘empire’ threat they were perceived to be by the established majors. Even though the Commandos were under Combined Ops, Louis still had to have their use rubberstamped. To alleviate part of this frustration he ‘acquired’ the Small Scale Raiding Force from SOE which, while retaining paper designations on SOE’s list and also the Commandos, in real terms were Louis’s to deploy as he chose.

Eventually Churchill had to concede his Combined Ops/Raiding intentions were just not working out – or being allowed to work out – with Keyes at the helm. Not that Keyes was not talented or innovative enough. Louis had similar qualities to Keyes plus he was younger, flasher, arguably more charming, without a long baggage train of history, and better connected – cousin of the King and all that.

In October ’41, Louis replaced Keyes and came in as Captain the Lord Louis Mountbatten, GCVO, DSO, ADC, with the immediate promotion to Commodore, First Class. Installed he started to implement more of the plans formulated by Keyes, and produced the successful Vaagso raid.

The idea that Louis/Combined Ops officially increased the CoSC from three Services to four, is not evident. The fact that there was a increase in significance and ‘autonomy’ is. In March ’42, Louis was appointed Acting Vice-Admiral and his title was changed to Chief of Combined Operations. Simultaneously he was accorded honorary commissions of Lieutenant-General in the Army, and, Air Marshall in the RAF.

Ergo, arguably he was not a separate entity ‘advising’ 'other' Services, because he was a senior commander in all three.



Book Reviewer
Read Alanbrooke's diaries for an insiders view on Mountbatten's membership of the Chiefs of Staff's Committee. According to Alanbrooke, Churchill made him a member -but stated he was only to attend for 2 days a week. (The edition by Alex Danchev is truest to the original text).

Although Alanbrooke liked Mountbatten's company, he felt that he should not be a member of the COS Committee because he "frequently wasted both his time and ours". Alanbrooke - the consummate professional strategist - thought Mountbatten could not concentrate on the essentials and was too easily distracted by irrelevancies.

His attendance of the COS Committee would have ceased when he was appointed Supreme Commander South East Asia.

Whilst researching this, I came across this dissertation (link below). I don't know if the author, Ross Mahoney, is an Arrse-er, but he's done a cracking bit of work. The thesis is about the RAF component of Op Rutter, but the background look at Combined Operations HQ's work in driving doctrinal change is quite revealing. It shows that Mountbatten was probably the right man - able to go outside the chain of command in order to achieve the "proccess re-engineering" that was going on that time.

The Royal Air Force, Combined Operations Doctrine and the Raid on Dieppe, 19 August 1942 - eTheses Repository

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