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Who was the worst Brit general of WW II

#1
My choice

Percival.
Loss of Mayalisia and Singapore. Yes I know that Singapore could not be defended for any leangth of time as like Hong Kong the water supply came from the mainland.

Ritche.
The Gazala Battle and his attempt to defend Egypt at Mersa Matru.

Wavell.
I know he defeated the Italian army Cyrienaica and Somalia and gave Britian a much needed victory, but after that at the highest level he never delivered the goods.
john
 
#2
Don't agree with Wavell JW. His manoueverist approach was the right one, and he defeated a far larger and better equipped force, keeping them out of Kenya, and driving them North. By 1941, the Italian Army had been all but defeated in North Africa.

Percival on the other hand , dross.

Ritchie , not sure , He was up against Rommel .
 
#4
Wavell was at the very top and its as such that I judge him. Churchill sacked him following the loss of Greece and moved him India way into the next comming war. I read somewhere that jap invaded Burma to cut of the Ledo road to China and that this was to the fighting side of the jap army more important then the conquest of India. Wavell never apriciated what jap was after and the loss of Malaya, the naval port of Singapore led to the Brit being kicked out of Burma. Slim a fighting soldier saved the day.
Ah Rommel, a man admired by so many my self included. But Erwin was in his gambling stage at the time of Crusader and the Gazala battles. Ritches basic layout was wrong, Auchinlc didn't sack him even after he lost Tobruk but Mersa Matru was the last straw, that open flank showed Ritche had learned nothing from Gazala so he had to go.
john
 
#5
British generalship was not particularly good in World War 2, from the comfortable vantage point of the armchair historian.

I have read two facts by way of explanation that seem quite convincing.

1. The losses of World War 1 fell most heavily on the junior officer cadre, limiting the pool from which future generals would be drawn. It is probably down to luck that Slim and Montgomery survived the encounters that left them severely wounded.

2. British generals and their staff had no training in the control of large formations, unlike their German and Soviet counterparts.

Neither reason can explain the loss of Malaysia and Singapore!
 
#7
PVR
Its rather strange that come the end of WW I Britian had a very large army, probably the largest military formation in the world and despite the unbeilevable losses a Army with good moral.
Percival is the one who really Bugs me. If people will excuse my next line,
"He came from nowhere rocketed throught the system and when tested lost the plot."
I post hoping to learn I know the knowledge is out thre.
john
 
#8
Not sure at all about the British army being the largest in the world at the end of WWI although it was the largest it's ever been. I would have thought the French, Germans and perhaps even by that stage the yanks would have had larger armies.
 
#9
Percival

Personally a very brave soldier, IIRC he won the DSO and MC in WW1, having originally joined as a private. But, I feel, he was a staff officer type promoted beyond his level of competence. His credibility was not enhanced by the fact that he look like a rabbit on speed.

What makes him worse is that he had served in Malaya in the late 1930's and SHOULD already have had some idea of the problems he would have to face.


 
#10
I believe it was Percival who was taken prisoner by the IRA during the War of Independence and held in quite comfortable circumstances and treated as a gentleman. He responded by being an a***hole and when released at the cease-fire his departure was widely cheered by his captors.

Because of his attitude as their prisoner, one of his captors sent a telegram to him in Singapore at the fall, wishing him bad 'cess!
 
#11
If you want some insight into the key players, read FM Alanbrookes war diary. Very cutting and he is not affraid to give his opinion on other top brass.
 
#12
Lord gort seemed to never quite understand what was happening to him in 1940...but does that make him a bad general? He after all was a VC! 8O
 
#13
The Brit Army with the Empire was a massive Army and it was all controled by the Chief of the Imperial Genral Staff, a board historian will have to say its position in the worlds armys.
Some of you will probabaly have guessed I am not fan of Lt. Gen A.E. Percival.
I had heard, as a lad, that he was the man who lost Singapore and the contempt that went with that defeat. As I grew older I learned Singerpore was never meant to be defended from the land the planners had it wrong.
In about 68 I read a book called 'Barrys Flying Colum" by Commandant Tom Barry IRA.
Barry stated in the book that Brits troops taken prisoner where stripped, beaten and allowed to go, except for troops of the battalion commanded by Major Percival who where executed. Percivals battalion had a bad rep for executing Paddies so the compliment was returned. Barry made a comment that he considered percival to be disturbed or words to that effect and this may have influenced the Singapore loss.
Ritche was not up to the job and it's the old army truisam that most are promoted one rank beyond their capabilities.
john
I have not mentioned the name of the battalion commanded by Percival, its all in Google.
 
#14
Have to say, I agree with the consensus here - it has to be Percival. I saw a documentary on it (and then read a book about it) and it the information was there for all to see. IF they opened their eyes.

Singapore had been established as a Naval base and, at the time it was set up, was only possible to be attacked from the sea. However, during the 1930's, there was a lot of logging done in the jungle. Logging that required rods to be built to move those felled trees. (All it all seems blindingly obvious, doesn't it?) Despite this, Percival refused to countenance any kind of landward defensive line whatsoever. I'm not suggesting Singapore could not be held indefinitely. But, with proper defences, it could have held long enough for either reinforcements to arrive, or evacuation to happen. Its rapid fall was preventable and was entirely Percivals fault.

He was the worst British general of the last century, if not of all time.
 
#15
El Gringo said:
(Percival)
He was the worst British general of the last century, if not of all time.
I think you would be hard pressed to beat Lord Cornwallis for the title of worst British general of all time? However Percival certainly missed a trick or twenty-seven during the Japanese advance through Malaya. He was obviously ignorant of the concept of manoeuvre...or of the capability of bicycles in jungle!!
 

Ventress

LE
Moderator
#16
Cuddles said:
Lord gort seemed to never quite understand what was happening to him in 1940...but does that make him a bad general? He after all was a VC! 8O
I think Viscount John Standish Surtees Prendergast Vereker Gort VC GCB, CBE, DSO & 2 Bars, MVO, MC was a figthing man not a REMF General, he needed to be with his troops as a CO as he was in 1918. Also WW2 was very different to WW1 in all aspects, which may have caught Lord Gort VC GCB, CBE, DSO & 2 Bars, MVO, MC on the back foot.

His VC citaion speaks volumes:

On 27th September 1918 at the Canal du Nord near Flesquieres, France, Lieutenant Colonel Gort led his battalion under very heavy fire and although wounded, when the Battalion was held up, he went across open ground to obtain assistance from a tank and personally led it to best advantage. He was again wounded but after lying on a stretcher for a while, insisted on getting up and directing the further attack which resulted in the capture of over 200 prisoners, two batteries of field guns and numerous machine-guns. He refused to leave the field until the success signal had gone up on the final objective.

Not great but not rubbish by a long way.
 
#17
Gents lets not confuse personnal bravery with the ability to Command Armies at the highest level.
Some very couragous officers never made as leaders at the top, does not degenerate their previous abilities.
I know that many senior officers where 'Beyond' it when their turn came many years later.
Memory says the Isrealis 'chop' officers early, 40 for most.
john
 
#18
El Gringo said:
Have to say, I agree with the consensus here - it has to be Percival. I saw a documentary on it (and then read a book about it) and it the information was there for all to see. IF they opened their eyes.

Singapore had been established as a Naval base and, at the time it was set up, was only possible to be attacked from the sea. However, during the 1930's, there was a lot of logging done in the jungle. Logging that required rods to be built to move those felled trees. (All it all seems blindingly obvious, doesn't it?) Despite this, Percival refused to countenance any kind of landward defensive line whatsoever. I'm not suggesting Singapore could not be held indefinitely. But, with proper defences, it could have held long enough for either reinforcements to arrive, or evacuation to happen. Its rapid fall was preventable and was entirely Percivals fault.

He was the worst British general of the last century, if not of all time.
Slightly off subject but below is an interesting website on the fall of S'pore below:

http://www.s1942.org.sg/dir_defence5.htm

IMHO I think the crucial factor that was missed by Percival in preventing the rapid fall was the absence of any real air power on the island. The allied aircraft available at that time were not only insufficent in number but also much inferior to the japanese equivalents. As such the japanese had free access to bomb any location on the island.

I think this explains why Singapore in the present maintains a more advanced air force than any of its immediate neighbours.

lancslad
 
#19
Commanding Officer 12 Division on being sent to France in 1940 left his Artillery, Machine Guns, officers Pistols all the Radios and Compasses behind. As the Division was to be used only for "labour duties" and couldn't possibly be expected to fight.

Fight they did, after Dunkirk, using every weapon and bitof kit they could beg borrow and steal.

Lt Gen Petre.

Took him all of three days to loose control of his Div and then blamed the men for his failiure.

James
 
#20
JFKDorset said:
Commanding Officer 12 Division on being sent to France in 1940 left his Artillery, Machine Guns, officers Pistols all the Radios and Compasses behind. As the Division was to be used only for "labour duties" and couldn't possibly be expected to fight.
Well that may sound bad but his division had only recently been formed. It was like many of the labour divisions, a 2nd line territorial division (duplicate of 44 Home counties). Not many of these survived 1940, the only ones I'm aware of was 9 (Highland) Div reformed as 51 (Highland) Div (the 1st line div being captured in France) and 15 (Scottish) Div duplicate of 52 (Lowland)