Who was the BEST British Commander?

#2
Is this best WW2 or best overall?

I'd second Slim as best Army commander in WW2. If it's one of the "other services" then Harris got the job done as did Cunningham for the matelots.

If its an all time thingy, then it must be the Duke of Boots, hands down...
 
#3
Best WW2, MONTY.....consider the advance of the 8th Army from Alamein, where the Axis powers where completely routed,he then defeated a reinforced Rommel at the Mareth line in March 43. He followed this up by another victory at Akirit thus capturing several Tunisian ports.He then chased Rommels army across Libya and Tripolitania and completed the conquest of Italy`s African empire.

He then led the Sicily Campaign followed in 44/45, by the battle for Europe,comanding 21 Army Gp, from Normandy to the Baltic.

Best ever....Wellington was a student of Marlborough,from whom Wellington learned of an area that Marlborough thought was best place in Europe to fight a battle.We know this site as Waterloo.

I am lead to believe that the likes of Paul Reed,historian and battle field guide and other battlefield guides who work for Leger Holidays, eg Graham Cooper,ex Green Howards, consider Marlborough to be the best British commander.
 
#4
Harris should have been sacked!

He was continually and deliberately insubordinate to the Chief of the Air Staff, who sadly tolerated this (perhaps because area bombing was originally his idea).

The area bombing raids made very little difference to Germany's war production and caused the deaths of 50,000 airmen and untold numbers of civilians.

The air power should have been used for flattening the Wehrmacht and for targets of proper strategic significance such as the oilfields in Romania.

For a light blue officer, try Hugh Dowding - he only saved the UK from the Luftwaffe (and potentially from invasion) because of a visionary air defence programme pre-dating 1940. And he was stabbed in the back for his troubles! There are some other good light blue, such as Tedder who pioneered tactical air power in the desert and worked for Eisenhower.

For dark blue from WW2, how about Mountbatten?
 
#5
For all time, Wellington has a definite claim because of his generalship in India and in the Peninsular Wars. Waterloo was the icing on the cake....courtesy of the Germans!
 
#7
Best of all time:

Cromwell.

An outstanding cavalry commander who formed the New Model Army and a genuinely gifted military planner and administrator. He turned down the Crown after the execution of Charles I and ran the country as Lord Protector in what historians recognise as an effective and popular rule until his death. After he died, it was decided that only a king could replace him, so Charles II was invited back.

For all Wellington's glory and talent, he was a crap PM so Cromwell wins!
 
#8
William Marshal, 1rst Earl of Pembroke.

also called William The Marshal marshal and then regent of England who served four English monarchs as a royal adviser and agent and as a warrior of outstanding prowess.
 
#9
JONESY24546113 said:
Best WW2, MONTY.....consider the advance of the 8th Army from Alamein, where the Axis powers where completely routed,he then defeated a reinforced Rommel at the Mareth line in March 43. He followed this up by another victory at Akirit thus capturing several Tunisian ports.He then chased Rommels army across Libya and Tripolitania and completed the conquest of Italy`s African empire.

He then led the Sicily Campaign followed in 44/45, by the battle for Europe,comanding 21 Army Gp, from Normandy to the Baltic.
Completely agree with all the above. Having said that, was he the best Commander, or the best Leader, or both? Have just had the pleasure of a Regt'l study day (CLM!) - as per SOP's, the "compare and contrast" between the Command and Leadership of Montgomery and Rommel was (I am surprised to admit) a thoroughly inspiring presentation (must have been - everyone stayed awake!!!) :wink:
 
#10
William 1st was the best. He was able to do such thing that nobody could repeat later (including Napoleon).
 

Nehustan

On ROPS
On ROPs
#11
MrPVRd said:
Best of all time:

Cromwell.

An outstanding cavalry commander who formed the New Model Army and a genuinely gifted military planner and administrator. He turned down the Crown after the execution of Charles I and ran the country as Lord Protector in what historians recognise as an effective and popular rule until his death. After he died, it was decided that only a king could replace him, so Charles II was invited back.

For all Wellington's glory and talent, he was a crap PM so Cromwell wins!
Do you know I think my vote goes with Cromwell too. I think his realisation about the importance of the crown, and thus in most Britons' minds the monarchy, and the subsequent re-establishment of the monarchy showed a deep insight into the national psyche. I often walk past Parliament and look at the Lord Protector's statue, and once lived opposite an island on the Thames where he was rumoured to have hidden, and thought of him often. We shall just have to choose not to discuss Ireland :?
 
#12
Bill Slim, succesfully controled a massive retreat, Moltkes mark of a great general, his victorys need no advertising.
Cunningham for the mataloes, When advised by his chief of staff that he must leave the army in Crete due to losses of 'Fleet' destroyers he said words to the effect of 'The navy has never deserted the army and I will not be the first.
Crabs are still working on it.
john
 
#13
One of the oddest British generals in World War II (but a genius for all that) was Orde Wingate. A latter day Cromwell, Wingate combined Christian fundamentalist beliefs with innovative tactical ideas. Wingate pioneered the setting up of large "strongholds" far behind enemy lines, containing airstrips, stores and thousands of troops.

Using hit and run raids from these strongholds, Wingate's Chindits disrupted the highly professional Japanese army in Burma, leading to its defeat in an epic campaign (often overlooked in the history books).

You could argue that Wingate's ideas set the trend for counter- terrorist warfare in the future. He died, aged 41, in a plane crash. :(
If there was a "British Army eccentric geniuses" thread, Wingate would top it, closely followed by Col T.E. Lawrence!
 
#14
A footnote to his extraordinary life is that for obvious enough reasons, but unusually for a British Maj Gen, Orde Wingate is buried with the others on his aircraft at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
 
#15
Wingate !
I assume you have never read John Masters 'The Road Past Mandalay'.
Masters states that Wingate went in to panic mode when he thought the jap had found one of his landing sites during 'Launch' of the second Chindit raid.
Only the intervention of Slim prevented Wingate abandoning the assault.
john
 
F

fozzy

Guest
#16
MrPVRd said:
For a light blue officer, try Hugh Dowding - he only saved the UK from the Luftwaffe (and potentially from invasion) because of a visionary air defence programme pre-dating 1940. And he was stabbed in the back for his troubles!
Agree 110% He was the architect of what today would be called an IADS. Also made the thing work. He was a very astute commander in not letting the Lufwaffe fight the battle it wanted to fight - I know he had ULTRA to help , but he still pulled it off

Disgracefully shafted by jealousy and career merchants.

The jury for Harris is still out :D
 
#17
wingate. agree with last, he tried to usurp command of 14th army and turn it into a force of irregulars. the early chindit ops were costly yet had a strategic point. after that he merely pushed for diminishing returns and cost a lot of quality formations. reference masters, or 'slim: master of war'.

Mountbatten! He did one good thing in the war which was to protect Slim. He was a liability whenever he actually got involved in planning or commanding. Not many blokes get promoted after having two ships sunk from underneath them! Dieppe?
 
#18
Jonwilly - your points are mentioned in Fire in the Night, by John Bierman and Colin Smith, pp381-387. In Field Marshal Slim's memoirs he did indeed portray Wingate as panicking and "in an emotional state" at the launch of Operation Thursday. But other senior officers present disagreed, saying Wingate was calm and businesslike. A matter of perception, I say, but I can't prove you wrong.

Wingate was not advocating irregular, guerrilla forces. His tactics were "more akin to the cavalry raids of the American Civil War, whereby regular troops penetrated enemy territory to wreak havoc behind his lines".

With 6 brigades of 12,000 men, Wingate tied down the Japanese 15th Army, mauling its elite 18th Chrysanthemum Division. 15th Army Commander Lt Gen Mutaguchi said: "Gen Wingate's airborne tactics put a great obstacle in the way of our Imphal plan and were an important reason for its failure".

Hope this doesn't sound argumentative!
 
#19
Mountbatten.
I have heard too many unconfirmed bad tales on him. Mainly his private life and I have though for many years it was Uncle Dickys influence that has had such a bad effect on Chols and his judgement.
john
 
#20
The line of Admiral Cunningham's is: "It takes three years to build a ship but three hundred years to build a tradition. The evacuation continues." Better, I think he was at sea at the time off Crete, so in the target area. Balls like footballs, and pretty smart too.

But as Naval leaders go, Bertram Ramsay ought to be considered. He was one of the very, very few peacetime sailors to study amphibious ops when it was seen as bad for promotion, and was on the point of retirement at the outbrea of war. Retained, he became CinC Dover station in time to use his amphibious knowledge in the reverse sense, organising the Dunkirk evacuation. He did the famous "last tour" of the beaches with a string of boats, yelling through a loud hailer for any more evacuees.

Later in the war, he planned all the Atlantic/Med amphibious jobs, from TORCH to OVERLORD. He effectively commanded what the navy would call the inshore squadron off North Africa, Sicily and south Italy before preparing and commanding Operation NEPTUNE, the navy half of OVERLORD and probably the biggest op ever launched by British forces, as the great majority of the ships were RN or UK-flagged and the rest were under his command anyway. Even the sigs section of the NEPTUNE op order ran to over 300 pages. And it all worked.

He was killed in late 1944 in an air accident, on his way to 21 Army Group to work out logistics problems with Monty and Bradley - that late, the advance was still supplied over the beach, through Ramsay's system that had done far better than planned.

But...Ramsay, though, saw far less combat than some. The Navy could put in claims for a few others - Max Walker, the anti-submarine commander of the Western Approaches, had a huge role, but success in that battle was determined very much by shipbuilding and codebreaking.

It's hard to argue against Slim. And what about Alexander? Last commander at Dunkirk. Decorated on the Retreat from Mons as a 2Lt, on the Somme as a Capt, in the March 1918 Kaiserschlacht as a Major leading a temporary brigade. Got the army out of Rangoon in 1942 and did the march over the mountains to India. Dealt with the yanks running away at the Kasserine Pass, late '42 and won Tunisia, then had to cope with the initial clustershag at Salerno. Can't have been that stupid.

Dowding saw no combat at all in WW2, unless you include being a target, which he shared with the whole population of the UK, but he also won one of the 2 great strategic victories of the war. Among the RAF, you hear nothing of Keith Park, the commander of the key 11 Group under Dowding (that is, the defence of London and the SE) - who went and did it again, as a bureaucrat by shaking up RAF Flying Training into a wartime mentality, and as a leader by commanding the air defence of Malta.

There's also David Stirling, who has a claim for both direct leadership and also for originality, founding a new arm of the forces that has endured to today with success. And, unlike all other candidates, he was a wartime volunteer.
 

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