Which was the best British army?

#1
Wandering through a debate on 'small is better/quantity has a quality all of its own', I began wondering which was the best army these islands have ever produced.

Was it the New Model Army, which conquered England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, under more than one general?

Was it Wellington's Peninsular army, or were they only as good as the man who led them?

Was it the BEF of 1914, small but ever so perfectly formed?

What about the men who stood ready on 5th June 1944; they were pretty good, too.

Let's all accept that the people we've got defending us now are something special, and just look backwards :wink:
 
#2
I think comparisons across the ages are near impossible.

I would prefer to simply remember them as those we came after, remembering the hertitage and traditions they have set for us to embrace, live up to and add to.

I agree with your final comment - the current torch bearers are pretty special.
 
#3
What about the BEF of 1918? I reckon its between them and the Peninsular Army...
 
#5
British Army at the end of the Great War.
 
#6
I'd say a close run between the BEF of 1914 and the field army of 1918.

The BEF was probably the apogee of the professional, veteran, regimental system - experienced in numerous small and colonial wars, officers and SNCOs selected over the course of long careers.


The army of 1918 - c.3 million men carrying out sophisticated combined operations - the end result of four years' intense warfare. When you look at the scope and complexity of the staffwork alone they were doing - e.g. for logistics, personnel, medical, fireplanning, etc - in an age of pencil, paper and typewriter, it makes you wonder whether we could replicate it even with our modern computer systems...
 
#8
My military history interests have largely been confined to WW2 and post WW2 conflicts and the Napoleonic wars. Although I've obviously watched and read things about WW1, it's not something I've sought out - can someone recommend a good book to fill in the gaps in my knowledge? :?

Edited once for fat fingers
 
#9
I don't think the British Army of 1940 was a good army at all, brave men but low standards, unprofessional officers and no modern doctrine, not as good as the 1914 or 1918 armies, indeed the story of the British Army as an institution in WW2 is a story of trying to overcome years of neglect between the wars.

And we shall shock them
 
#10
Very much subjective but the one that strikes a cord for me is the Falklands. For a number of reasons! But mainly there were so many opportunities for it to go horribly wrong and for the men to end up being at the other side of the world with little hope of 'Dunkirk style' help.

1. CLOSE CALL: A few successful exocets and the task force offshore may have been seriously scuppered to the point where its of little use to those onshore.

2. SUPPLIES AND DISTANCE: Anytime I here the "Whats the point in 48Km tabs with Bergans we've got transport" point I always think of Falklands where it was back to basics soldiering becuase of the disruption to the supplies.

3. HARD TIMES: Given state of Govt/Economy/Defence Cuts it seemd very much a shoe string affair "here lads, don't break it there's nowt left in stores".

4. Perhaps its the bias of recent accounts that I've been reading but it felt alot more hand to hand then other conflicts I've read about.

Then again any of the above can be applied to most conflicts. When was the last time the Forces were told 'blank cheque'.

EDITED for spelling and clarifications
 
#11
Yeah, the Falklands men were a damn good army! Showed the absolute importance of getting the basics right, the level of fitness gave them the option to tab instead of flying, which other armies may not have been able to handle...good small unit tactics, skill at arms, fitness, NCOs, officers, they had everything right, and it made them much more flexible...
 
#12
in_the_cheapseats said:
I think comparisons across the ages are near impossible.

I would prefer to simply remember them as those we came after, remembering the hertitage and traditions they have set for us to embrace, live up to and add to.

I agree with your final comment - the current torch bearers are pretty special.
!00% agree.

But if I have to make a historical choice :D - the 1918 BEF and the Empire troops. They absorbed the Kaisersclacht and then went on the Offensive and broke the Germans.
 
#13
as some has said, its impossible to compare, but were ever they've gone the soldiers have done the best of there ability.

even if we did have a considerable advantage- rifles etc against spears and arrows

maybe not so in America- regulars fighting irregulars doesn't go to well
 
#14
The forgotten Army under Slim. Arguably the toughest theatre of all in WW2
 
#15
to compare the army we need a basic understanding of clauswitz's trilogy and the relationship between the people, the goverment and the Army.

Until very recently the army had the full support of the goverment (finance, will, understanding, many MPs had served etc) and the people fully understood the need for an army ie, it was absolutley necessary for national defence, one might argue, right up until berlin wall came down. therefore the army had better morale and support, it fought wars that (in the opinion of the masses) were worth fighting. Consider all this against the backdrop of the today's army in today's f*cked up britain.

Personally i think the army today, considering all of the above, is better than its ever been. Smaller, more agile, better equiped than ever before, bet G/J1 support (and to the families), more capable and more experienced than any other peacetime army in british history.

What we don't have is a society conducive to recruitiing for army life, a goverment that will back bold military decisions or the number of troops that we would like.
 
#16
Danny_Dravot said:
to compare the army we need a basic understanding of clauswitz's trilogy and the relationship between the people, the goverment and the Army.

Until very recently the army had the full support of the goverment (finance, will, understanding, many MPs had served etc) and the people fully understood the need for an army ie, it was absolutley necessary for national defence, one might argue, right up until berlin wall came down. therefore the army had better morale and support, it fought wars that (in the opinion of the masses) were worth fighting. Consider all this against the backdrop of the today's army in today's f*cked up britain.

Personally i think the army today, considering all of the above, is better than its ever been. Smaller, more agile, better equiped than ever before, bet G/J1 support (and to the families), more capable and more experienced than any other peacetime army in british history.

What we don't have is a society conducive to recruitiing for army life, a goverment that will back bold military decisions or the number of troops that we would like.
Sorry mate I cannot agree with you particularly on finance. The 1970's and 80's were grim - pay was cr@p and so was equipment. In GW 1 we stripped BAOR bare of lots of things including CR1 powerpacks and ammo.

The recent papers released under the 30 year rule shows that Government of the day knew we weren't geared up to take on the Sovs but did the square root of feck all to do anything about it.

The Spending Moratorium in 1983 caused chaos.

About todays army - outstanding.
 
#17
Danny_Dravot said:
to compare the army we need a basic understanding of clauswitz's trilogy and the relationship between the people, the goverment and the Army.

Until very recently the army had the full support of the goverment (finance, will, understanding, many MPs had served etc) and the people fully understood the need for an army ie, it was absolutley necessary for national defence, one might argue, right up until berlin wall came down. therefore the army had better morale and support, it fought wars that (in the opinion of the masses) were worth fighting. Consider all this against the backdrop of the today's army in today's f*cked up britain.

Personally i think the army today, considering all of the above, is better than its ever been. Smaller, more agile, better equiped than ever before, bet G/J1 support (and to the families), more capable and more experienced than any other peacetime army in british history.

What we don't have is a society conducive to recruitiing for army life, a goverment that will back bold military decisions or the number of troops that we would like.
You what.....

Which parallel dimension do you inhabit? Can I come?

For the first half of my service I was supported by a Manning and Records systems that:

1. Knew who I was.
2. Knew who all my soldiers were, their strengths and weaknesses and could advise me instantly over the phone.
3. Paid me correctly, on time EVERY time...
4. Career managed both myself and my soldiers.

Explain, please, how Glasgow and the blessed JPA manages to do this anyhow, anywhere, anytime...?

Better J1 Pah....
 
#18
HE117 said:
Danny_Dravot said:
to compare the army we need a basic understanding of clauswitz's trilogy and the relationship between the people, the goverment and the Army.

Until very recently the army had the full support of the goverment (finance, will, understanding, many MPs had served etc) and the people fully understood the need for an army ie, it was absolutley necessary for national defence, one might argue, right up until berlin wall came down. therefore the army had better morale and support, it fought wars that (in the opinion of the masses) were worth fighting. Consider all this against the backdrop of the today's army in today's f*cked up britain.

Personally i think the army today, considering all of the above, is better than its ever been. Smaller, more agile, better equiped than ever before, bet G/J1 support (and to the families), more capable and more experienced than any other peacetime army in british history.

What we don't have is a society conducive to recruitiing for army life, a goverment that will back bold military decisions or the number of troops that we would like.
You what.....

Which parallel dimension do you inhabit? Can I come?

For the first half of my service I was supported by a Manning and Records systems that:

1. Knew who I was.
2. Knew who all my soldiers were, their strengths and weaknesses and could advise me instantly over the phone.
3. Paid me correctly, on time EVERY time...
4. Career managed both myself and my soldiers.

Explain, please, how Glasgow and the blessed JPA manages to do this anyhow, anywhere, anytime...?

Better J1 Pah....
You old F@rt :D
 
#19
FRED KARNO'S ARMY - "A humorous nickname applied to the new British army raised during the First World War, in allusion to Fred Karno, the comedian and producer of stage burlesques, whose real name was Frederick John Westcott (1866-1941). At the time Fred Karno's company was a household name through its high-spirited and eccentric performances. The well-known Army chorus, sung to the tune of 'The Church's One Foundation,' runs:

We are Fred Karno's army,
Fred Karno's infantry;
We cannot fight, we cannot shoot,
So what damn good are we?
But when we get to Berlin
The Kaiser he will say
Hoch, hoch, mein Gott
Vot a bloody fine lot
Fred Karno's infantry.

There are variations, of course, and in the Second World War 'Old Hitler' was substituted for 'The Kaiser.' The name is also applied derisely to other nondescript bodies. Karno himself adopted his stage name, when he and two gymnast colleages filled in at a music hall for an act called 'The Three Carnos.' His agent Richard Warner, suggested they change the 'C' to a more distinctive 'K.' See also Harry Tate's Navy." From "Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable" revised by Adrian Room (HarperCollinsPublishers, New York, 1999, Sixteenth Edition).
 
#20
My take on Wellington's men in the Peninsular is that they were the best fighting men but a damned indisciplined lot. Wellington himself described them as the dregs. They survived in dreadful conditions with very little support from Commissary or medical corps. They frequently ignored orders and descended into undisciplined charges almost like running amok. The officer system was rubbish where commissions were bought and sold.
But - when it came to doing what they were there for - fighting and winning - they were superb.
 

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