Who was the worst Brit general of WW II

He deserved the medal alright but arguably his loss freed 2 PARA from a stifling and overly complex 19 phase plan. The first thing Keeble did was allow the company commanders to get on with it, notably John Crosland.
Often the desperation of a last stand, or singular act is done out of neccessity. Medals for courage and heroism, not cunning plans....
 
Regardless of his faults as a General officer (and I do not deny their existence), IMHO Gort redeemed himself and saved the BEF by his decision to disobey orders on 25th May and conduct an orderly retreat on Dunkirk. It was an act of immense moral courage, and it was unquestionably the right thing to do.
I agree, Gort got the one decision that really countered right, then again his COS and other staff officers may well have equally highlighted the truth, that the belgians were finished and the french all over the place.
 
Churchill's selective memory, and penchant for throwing losing generals under the bus, on show again.

From Peter Thompson's 'The Battle For Singapore' - 'Even then it (Naval Base Sembawang) would lack many basic facilities which had been pruned from the blueprint by Winston Churchill as Chancellor of the Exchequer in Baldwin's Government from 1924 to 1929. The former First Lord go the Admiralty had reasoned that as the distance from Singapore to Tokyo was the same as that from Southampton to New York - some 3,000 miles - the chances of the Japanese mounting a surprise attack against the base were negligible and, in the event of a hostile move in Singapore's direction, there would be ample time to make good any deficiencies.'


Chancellor of the Exchequer

By 1924, Churchill had defected from the Liberals and rejoined the Conservatives, who won the general election. He was given the important post of Chancellor of the Exchequer, the U.K.’s equivalent of a Minister for Finance. He would set budget priorities for the new government.

Despite being an ex-Admiralty man, Churchill made deep cuts in the Navy to finance his spending plans, confident that the Washington Treaty would keep Japan in check. Not only did the Royal Navy shrink drastically, Churchill also urged the government to postpone its plans for fortifying and upgrading the naval base in Singapore, saying: “Why should there be a war with Japan? The Japanese are our allies. I do not believe there is the slightest chance of war (with Japan) in our lifetime.”

According to the biography Gandhi and Churchill by Arthur Herman: “His strategic miscalculations weakened the Royal Navy’s ability to patrol the globe, including the Pacific, and left Singapore virtually defenceless with fatal consequences later. If any single person can be blamed for the collapse of Britain’s East Asia empire in 1942, and for allowing Japan to advance to the gates of India, it is Chancellor Winston Churchill.”


From your cited source (my bold):

In 'The Hinge of Fate', Churchill ultimately took responsibility for the lack of permanent fortifications: “I do not write this in any way to excuse myself. I ought to have known. My advisers ought to have known and I ought to have been told, and I ought to have asked. The reason I had not asked about this matter, amid the thousands of questions I put, was that the possibility of Singapore having no landward defences no more entered into my mind than that of a battleship being launched without a bottom.”

'Churchill continued: “I am aware of the various reasons that have been given for this failure: the preoccupation of the troops in training and in building defence works in Northern Malaya; the shortage of civilian labour; pre-war financial limitations and centralized War Office control; the fact that the Army’s role was to protect the naval base, situated on the north shore of the island, and that it was therefore their duty to fight in front of that shore and not along it. I do not consider these reasons valid. Defences should have been built."
Churchill maintains that he had no idea that there were absolutely no static in depth defences on the northward side. He said he never thought to ask because it would would be like asking if a battleship had a bottom.


The 100,000 troops on the island could have contributed greatly to building tank traps, pill boxes, sangers, beach defences and so on but it seems that far too little was done far too late.

It is breath taking how easily the Japs walked into Singapore. A 100,000 high quality troops against a tired, under equipped force with a dangerously overstretched logistics chain defending a bloody island and it was all over within a week!
 
Most of which arrived in February, when it was too late.
Ironically, the 18th Eastern Division had been one of the outstanding British infantry divisions of the First World War (and coincidentally the parent formation of the two soldiers portrayed in the film 1917).

What seems to have gone wrong in Malaya/Singapore was the abandonment of the first Principle of War, Selection and Maintenance of the Aim. Whether Percival was directly to blame for it or not, the forces available ended up being split between the defence of greater Malaya and the integrity of Singapore. Those committed to Malaya were deployed too far forward, making them vulnerable to air attack and outflanking from the sea. They were also insufficiently mechanised and with no clear plan for a phased withdrawal down the peninsula. But, the principal tactical failing lay in the air - it is probable that an additional strong RAF Group of modern mid-performance fighters (with appropriate support), kept at the maximum operating range of the Japanese, would have made a significant short-term difference - but again, not available.

Probably more to the point, Britain simply did not have the strategic reach to sustain Singapore even had it held out, without committing significant air and naval forces, which were not available in any quantity until much later in the war. Like Sevastopol in 1942, it would at best have become a huge, barely self sustaining open prison.
 
I agree, Gort got the one decision that really countered right, then again his COS and other staff officers may well have equally highlighted the truth, that the belgians were finished and the french all over the place.
that's a tough one though isn't it - which would boil down to "all the mistakes before that are owned by Gort, getting the big one right was because the COS and other staff officers were good"

which seems unlikely....
 

Themanwho

LE
Book Reviewer
that's a tough one though isn't it - which would boil down to "all the mistakes before that are owned by Gort, getting the big one right was because the COS and other staff officers were good"

which seems unlikely....
Agreed, and regardless, it was Gort who took the decision.
 
Often the desperation of a last stand, or singular act is done out of neccessity. Medals for courage and heroism, not cunning plans....
Without wishing to drag the thread completely off topic a cynic might suggest that the VC was a nice way of covering up the absolute dog's breakfast that Goose Green turned out to have been.

Certainly the citation gives the impression that Jones single-handedly swung the entire course of the battle with his hare-em scare-em dash at the enemy lines, and that the Argies, who unlike unarmed Ulster civilians had hitherto refused to follow the script and lie down and die for the Paras, when confronted with such valour immediately and rather obligingly threw in the sponge, and the stout hearted fellows of 2 Para then rushed forward to claim their well-deserved laurels.

Which isn't what happened.

But like I say that would drag the thread off topic so I won't suggest it.
 
Most of which arrived in February, when it was too late.
Incorrect: the 53rd Bde was employed on the Malay peninsula along with the 2A&SH, while the Fortress Singapore Div is self-explanatory. So along with the 2 British bns which were part of the Indian 11th Inf Div, you have 8 British inf bns in Malaya Command in Jan 42; 2 more than the AIF.

Deflect away again, as usual.

 
Blindly charging a machine gun nest hardly fits the description of a CO's duties on a battlefield I would humbly suggest.
Not normally, but when the world's gone to hell in a handcart - as it had in Duncan's case, and was on the verge of doing at Goose Green, it may be necessary for the CO to look round him, pick up a rifle and say 'Right chaps. Follow me!'

Linked to this because it's illustrative of @Lindermyer's point about how myth enters history, in John James's entertaining book The Paladins (about the early years of the RAF), he recounts how General Thompson Capper, GOC 1 Div, was killed leading his men in battle in 1914 (leading to the appointment of David Henderson, then serving as the GOC RFC, to the Division, an appointment over-ruled by Kitchener who decreed Henderson was too important to the RFC to be let go, although his promotion to 2* was confirmed). He speculates on what this tells us about the mentality of the senior officer.

The only slight problem is that Capper was GOC 7 Dvn, killed by a sniper as he toured the front line, and in 1915. 1 Dvn's GOC was Samuel Lomax, and he was killed by German artillery fire brought down on his HQ when a German aircraft spotted it.

Yet thanks to James, the legend of an early-war example of a 2* being killed leading a charge (in some accounts it says he did so with his sword waving about his head) still persists in certain (very small) pockets of family historians with an interest in the war (and more interested in their Great Uncle Bert than who, exactly, was commanding which division at a particular point in the war) as a sign of how tactical naive and 'donkey-ish' the senior officers were. Yet it's completely and utterly made up.

(It took until Gp Capt Fin Monaghan did his PhD on the early RAF for the extent to which James' book was an interesting admixture of decent history and a right load of old pap)
 
In my eyes Harris/Bomber Command was extravagant with the lives of his Bomber Crews. All too often a major raid on a Germany City would be ineffective and yet dozens and dozens of Bombers would be lost in the process, (The Nuremberg Raid, March 30-31 1944 for example).

Harris persisted with Area Bombing even after D-Day when it was clear that his plan to bomb Germany into surrender had failed.

Bomber Command consumed enormous Aircrews, Aircraft and other resources that could have been put to better use in fighting the war in Europe.
While Bomber Harris was a long way from winning the war by area bombing, it was successful in reducing the manufacturing, transport and command and control capabilities of the Germans. To back off would have been to release the grip around the throat of the Germans. It had to continue until it no longer mattered.

They sowed the seeds.
 
Ironically, the 18th Eastern Division had been one of the outstanding British infantry divisions of the First World War (and coincidentally the parent formation of the two soldiers portrayed in the film 1917).

What seems to have gone wrong in Malaya/Singapore was the abandonment of the first Principle of War, Selection and Maintenance of the Aim. Whether Percival was directly to blame for it or not, the forces available ended up being split between the defence of greater Malaya and the integrity of Singapore. Those committed to Malaya were deployed too far forward, making them vulnerable to air attack and outflanking from the sea. They were also insufficiently mechanised and with no clear plan for a phased withdrawal down the peninsula. But, the principal tactical failing lay in the air - it is probable that an additional strong RAF Group of modern mid-performance fighters (with appropriate support), kept at the maximum operating range of the Japanese, would have made a significant short-term difference - but again, not available.

Probably more to the point, Britain simply did not have the strategic reach to sustain Singapore even had it held out, without committing significant air and naval forces, which were not available in any quantity until much later in the war. Like Sevastopol in 1942, it would at best have become a huge, barely self sustaining open prison.
Previous performance is no guarantee, particularly when you're talking about a generational difference! In the same campaign, look at Australian Maj-Gen Gordon Bennett: in WWI Mentioned In Dispatches 8 times for actions on Gallipoli and the Western Front, awarded the DSO, and at age 29 the youngest one star in the Australian Army, but as a divisional commander in WWII, a complete disgrace.
 
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Incorrect: the 53rd Bde was employed on the Malay peninsula along with the 2A&SH, while the Fortress Singapore Div is self-explanatory. So along with the 2 British bns which were part of the Indian 11th Inf Div, you have 8 British inf bns in Malaya Command in Jan 42; 2 more than the AIF.

Deflect away again, as usual.

1. Zero british troops at kota bharu.
2. Two Battalions wit 11th Indian Division. Gutted and later merged.
3. Slim River, you had a tired Argylls Battalion which was badly damaged.
4. The defence of Johore you had a fresh off the boat British Brigade throwing into a cauldron after indian troops had already being defeated at muar.
5. You include fortress troops, but most of them were only deployed to malaya, see point 4.
5. What % of the 85,000 prisoners were british and the bulk of those were fresh off the boat.

The moral of the story, was percival was dealt an appalling hand.... But as I said, the instant we lost lost air and naval control, the place was finished. His strategic and tactical intent was delay and wait for reinforcement, then wavell without a clue of the situation ordered a defence of northern johore which was the real mistake.
 
The errors were quite often lower down the chain, as an example the Australians were well dug in to defend Singapore island with trenches and searchlights, and should have repulsed the Japanese night time assault. But no-one ordered the searchlights turned on to illuminate the boats, im not sure you can blame Percival for that!
Further to your assertion; my bold.

Sarimbun_battle.jpg


'While Percival had relatively plenty of troops available, Singapore was still a large Island to defend and he did not have sufficient numbers to be strong everywhere. He split the island up into areas, assigning specific formations to the defence of each. Defying what even then was conventional military doctrine, he deployed the majority of his strength in forward areas rather than adopting a screen of troops with a strong defence in depth.

'The Japanese could attack from the north east, the north or the north west. Percival predicted that the attack would come from the north east, and positioned his best force, the new and fresh British 18th Division in this sector. The north west area was held by the Australian 8th Division, now severely depleted in numbers and equipment and very tired after the intensive fighting on the mainland. The Johore Strait was at its narrowest opposite the Australian positions. The northern corridor between these two formations was held by the 11th Indian Division. Percival guessed wrong, and the Japanese assault fell on the 22nd Australian Brigade.

'The 22nd Brigade was defending the extreme north west corner of Singapore Island. With manning levels at almost half strength, it was expected to hold a 15 kilometre frontage, composed of mangrove swamp, creeks and tidal inlets. Consequently, no reserve could be maintained. The Japanese, who had carefully observed the defensive positions, were well aware of the available entry points between the defenders’ positions. At 10.30 p.m., on the 8th of February, preceded by a heavy bombardment, the Japanese 5th and 18th Divisions launched the attack. The Australians put up a stiff resistance, causing many casualties, but limited numbers and the lack of a reserve enabled the Japanese to infiltrate through their forward positions and forced them to pull back towards the airfield at Tengah.

'The next night, the Japanese Imperial Guards Division attacked the 11th Indian Division in the causeway area and, despite a gallant defence forced them to withdraw from the coastal defensive line. Percival’s failure to keep strong reserves available meant he had no forces available to recover from these setbacks. Defending units were defeated piecemeal while others were left unengaged. (The 18th Division remained uncommitted throughout the first, critical 48 hours.)


http://www.defence.gov.au/army/ahu/HIST ... gapore.htm
 
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Two points for those interested

In the postwar trilogy of the Gordon’s by GMF, the colonel is Reggie Lees who did indeed go into the bag at Singapore surviving to take over postwar
The book on the Gordon’s is a good read

The 2nd Argyll’s won the following battle honours
North Malaya, Grik Road, Central Malaya, Ipoh, Slim River, Singapore Island, Malaya 1941–42.
Their experience on the NW frontier helped, the fact they held on to their lanchesters also mattered. The pathe videos show jocks from both capbadges prior to the fall.

Of all the rgt paintings the blowing of the Singapore causeway is the rarest print to acquire. I only ever saw two, the original in the castle the other in the cpls mess.
 
Not normally, but when the world's gone to hell in a handcart - as it had in Duncan's case, and was on the verge of doing at Goose Green, it may be necessary for the CO to look round him, pick up a rifle and say 'Right chaps. Follow me!'

Linked to this because it's illustrative of @Lindermyer's point about how myth enters history, in John James's entertaining book The Paladins (about the early years of the RAF), he recounts how General Thompson Capper, GOC 1 Div, was killed leading his men in battle in 1914 (leading to the appointment of David Henderson, then serving as the GOC RFC, to the Division, an appointment over-ruled by Kitchener who decreed Henderson was too important to the RFC to be let go, although his promotion to 2* was confirmed). He speculates on what this tells us about the mentality of the senior officer.

The only slight problem is that Capper was GOC 7 Dvn, killed by a sniper as he toured the front line, and in 1915. 1 Dvn's GOC was Samuel Lomax, and he was killed by German artillery fire brought down on his HQ when a German aircraft spotted it.

Yet thanks to James, the legend of an early-war example of a 2* being killed leading a charge (in some accounts it says he did so with his sword waving about his head) still persists in certain (very small) pockets of family historians with an interest in the war (and more interested in their Great Uncle Bert than who, exactly, was commanding which division at a particular point in the war) as a sign of how tactical naive and 'donkey-ish' the senior officers were. Yet it's completely and utterly made up.

(It took until Gp Capt Fin Monaghan did his PhD on the early RAF for the extent to which James' book was an interesting admixture of decent history and a right load of old pap)
If you can find it 'Bloody Red Tabs' is an excellent reference of British senior officer casualties in WW1 (over 200 Brig Gen and above I think). Likewise Terraine's 'The Smoke and the Fire'.
 
Ironically, the 18th Eastern Division had been one of the outstanding British infantry divisions of the First World War (and coincidentally the parent formation of the two soldiers portrayed in the film 1917).

What seems to have gone wrong in Malaya/Singapore was the abandonment of the first Principle of War, Selection and Maintenance of the Aim. Whether Percival was directly to blame for it or not, the forces available ended up being split between the defence of greater Malaya and the integrity of Singapore. Those committed to Malaya were deployed too far forward, making them vulnerable to air attack and outflanking from the sea. They were also insufficiently mechanised and with no clear plan for a phased withdrawal down the peninsula. But, the principal tactical failing lay in the air - it is probable that an additional strong RAF Group of modern mid-performance fighters (with appropriate support), kept at the maximum operating range of the Japanese, would have made a significant short-term difference - but again, not available.

Probably more to the point, Britain simply did not have the strategic reach to sustain Singapore even had it held out, without committing significant air and naval forces, which were not available in any quantity until much later in the war. Like Sevastopol in 1942, it would at best have become a huge, barely self sustaining open prison.
Its a classic british failing to have an overstretched commitment and hope that buggering on, or in the case of some, blaming the fella on the ground dealt the appalling choices, but still expected to hold a forward defence. The US Naval commander at pearl harbour was dealt a similar hand.

The obsession with race is also interesting. People can't accept the simple premise that a poorly trained soldier will always operate badly. The australians straggling into singapore, or indians switching sides is not surprising.. The british soldier had less choice and operated in a more disciplined army.
 
1. Zero british troops at kota bharu.
2. Two Battalions wit 11th Indian Division. Gutted and later merged.
3. Slim River, you had a tired Argylls Battalion which was badly damaged.
4. The defence of Johore you had a fresh off the boat British Brigade throwing into a cauldron after indian troops had already being defeated at muar.
5. You include fortress troops, but most of them were only deployed to malaya, see point 4.
5. What % of the 85,000 prisoners were british and the bulk of those were fresh off the boat.

The moral of the story, was percival was dealt an appalling hand.... But as I said, the instant we lost lost air and naval control, the place was finished. His strategic and tactical intent was delay and wait for reinforcement, then wavell without a clue of the situation ordered a defence of northern johore which was the real mistake.
So then, defend your own words - 'Percivals army was untrained indian and australians,'.
 
The average rainfall for Singapore is 2340mm ( 92 inches in old money )
As it was a fortress , thought should have been given to harvesting and storing that rainfall .
If it could have been resupplied by sea ,could it have held out ?
If there had been an MTB flotilla and some submarines based there , they could have been a thorn in the side of the Japanese for a while by sinking shipping and carrying out commando raids .
 
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If there was an Indian Division - There were British troops and certainly at this point of the War British command above battalion level*

* By wars end there's at least 1 Indian Brigadier -
 
So then, defend your own words - 'Percivals army was untrained indian and australians,'.
You do understand that your only as strong as the weakest link ? and yes, the defence of malaya was conducted largely by undertrained indians and australians. I might add two of three british battalions were shells after jitra and the argylls went the same way on the slim river and the 18th Division had being sat on boats for months and were throwing straight into action.

The failure of the Far East campaign had nothing to do with percival.. IF your desperate to call him a worst general, then maybe you should look at the signature leadership failure of the campaign i.e. the failure to provide a decent air force and Wavell insisting on a defence of the indefencible northern johore position.
 

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