Who was the worst Brit general of WW II

From memory the casualties grim road to slim river were around 200 to 500 men, that including dead wounded and missing… The BBC did a good reconstruction a good few years back. The formation of Marines with the Argylls into the Plymouth Argylls did work, the football team is the legacy. Percival Gets the blame as GOC Malaya, yet Air Marshall Brook-Popham was the man in charge, the loss of fighter cover, captured intact airfields and the delay initiating Op Matador can not be heaped Percival alone.
The speed of the retreat to Singapore, can be argued over jungle trained lack of delaying actions and of course bad comns. If you break it down to two phases the loss of Malaya the Singapore surrender. Percival made mistakes that were downright negligence, he was not alone in making them.
Off topic i met Major Eric Moss A+SH, a piper who rose to pipe major then commissioned, he could have escaped he chose to stay. He retired to Ballachulish a place he left in 1925 as a boy piper in the 93rd.
 
From memory the casualties grim road to slim river were around 200 to 500 men, that including dead wounded and missing… The BBC did a good reconstruction a good few years back. The formation of Marines with the Argylls into the Plymouth Argylls did work, the football team is the legacy. Percival Gets the blame as GOC Malaya, yet Air Marshall Brook-Popham was the man in charge, the loss of fighter cover, captured intact airfields and the delay initiating Op Matador can not be heaped Percival alone.
The speed of the retreat to Singapore, can be argued over jungle trained lack of delaying actions and of course bad comns. If you break it down to two phases the loss of Malaya the Singapore surrender. Percival made mistakes that were downright negligence, he was not alone in making them.
Off topic i met Major Eric Moss A+SH, a piper who rose to pipe major then commissioned, he could have escaped he chose to stay. He retired to Ballachulish a place he left in 1925 as a boy piper in the 93rd.
Negligent or orders ? his force was configured to execute matador and defend the naval base and northern airbases... D+1, matador is cancelled, then the prince of wales disaster and the destruction of the RAF in the north.

His orders then were delay, but his troops weren't up to making a stand without being flanked. The reinforcements were even less well trained and its only the benefit of hindsight everyone suddenly thinks singapore northern shore should be defended.

Bataan is not Singapore and a million civilians needed feeding, water and we hadn't air cover. Only gamers who dont' consider the politics, really think the island was defencible..
 
Negligent or orders ? his force was configured to execute matador and defend the naval base and northern airbases... D+1, matador is cancelled, then the prince of wales disaster and the destruction of the RAF in the north.

His orders then were delay, but his troops weren't up to making a stand without being flanked. The reinforcements were even less well trained and its only the benefit of hindsight everyone suddenly thinks singapore northern shore should be defended.

Bataan is not Singapore and a million civilians needed feeding, water and we hadn't air cover. Only gamers who dont' consider the politics, really think the island was defencible..
There's a lot of good documentation about the attitude of both the political and military leadership and their attitude that preparing defences around and on Singapore island would be detrimental to morale, so work not undertaken until it was far too late to be effective.
 
Negligent or orders ? his force was configured to execute matador and defend the naval base and northern airbases... D+1, matador is cancelled, then the prince of wales disaster and the destruction of the RAF in the north.

His orders then were delay, but his troops weren't up to making a stand without being flanked. The reinforcements were even less well trained and its only the benefit of hindsight everyone suddenly thinks singapore northern shore should be defended.

Bataan is not Singapore and a million civilians needed feeding, water and we hadn't air cover. Only gamers who dont' consider the politics, really think the island was defencible..
Compare the defence plans for Hong Kong and Singapore, then look at terrain for offensive amphibious assault Vs drowning the bastards before they come ashore.
The Hong Kong garrison kinda hoped a Nationalist chinese army would relieve them.
Bataan is a totally different kettle of fish….
 
From memory the casualties grim road to slim river were around 200 to 500 men, that including dead wounded and missing… The BBC did a good reconstruction a good few years back.
Agree, the reconstruction was good from what I remember

The formation of Marines with the Argylls into the Plymouth Argylls did work, the football team is the legacy.
True that the formation worked but as a football team Plymouth Argyle (note spelling) became named as such in 1903.

Percival Gets the blame as GOC Malaya, yet Air Marshall Brook-Popham was the man in charge, the loss of fighter cover, captured intact airfields and the delay initiating Op Matador can not be heaped Percival alone.
Definitely, there's a reason B-P was known as "Old Pop-off" - he spent too much time at up country airfields and not enough looking at the overall air picture.

The speed of the retreat to Singapore, can be argued over jungle trained lack of delaying actions and of course bad comns. If you break it down to two phases the loss of Malaya the Singapore surrender. Percival made mistakes that were downright negligence, he was not alone in making them.
Off topic i met Major Eric Moss A+SH, a piper who rose to pipe major then commissioned, he could have escaped he chose to stay. He retired to Ballachulish a place he left in 1925 as a boy piper in the 93rd.
Agree, but also when someone wrote back a page or two that some Japanese officer said that "all the British needed to do" was slow them down on the advance through Malaya, I did think "all" was a very small word doing a lot of heavy lifting
 
Sorry we had a good number of divisions in place in France in 1918 and more in the USA not the 4 or 5 hell

I get why the typical British poster want to minimize any US contribution to the War effort but every one of these units actually fought in France (Less 83rd whose infantry fought in italy) some of the divisions fought alongside and attached to the British Army (27th, 28th, 30th, 33rd) in fact the first US casualties were men of the 11th railway engineers* with the British 3rd Army in 1917 @ Gouzeaucourt.

Meuse- Argonne 15 US divisions fought
2nd battle of the Marne 8 US divisions 4British, 44 French
Saint-Mihiel 14 US divisions


*
11th Engineers displayed great bravery and fortitude in the face of an intense German counterattack. On 20 November, the British Army attacked toward Cambrai with over 300 tanks in the lead. The Germans counterattacked and penetrated toward Gouzeaucout, where the 11th Engineers were building a rail yard.

Engineers working on the rail yard joined British forces, took up rifles, or helped dig foxholes. Some engineers were captured and others scattered into nearby fields. Seven officers and 265 engineers armed with rifles reported to the headquarters of the British 20th Division. They acted as a reserve and dug in new positions. When the British attacked the Germans in the afternoon engineers from the work site went with them and helped free a number of their comrades captured earlier. The British army recognized their contribution in an official communication to the AEF.


“I desire to express to you my thanks and that of the British forces engaged for the prompt and valuable assistance rendered, and I trust that you will be good enough to Colonel Hoffman and his gallant men how much we all appreciate his and the prompt and soldierly readiness to assist in what for a time was a difficult situation,” -Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig

in a letter to General of the Armies John J. Pershing regarding the 11th Engineers.
I won't downgrade the numbers nor contribution of the American forces, especially since US divisions were twice the size of British divisions, something that comparing number of divisions doesn't allow for. However despite being as individually brave as anyone else, US soldiers were tactically inept and poorly served by their staff. Being unable to evacuate your own wounded after an attack in September 1918 is frankly ridiculous, yet this happened with the Americans.

That this was recognised at the time is evidenced by the fact that on 11th November 1918, thousands of American officers were undergoing staff training in England. I don't doubt that had the war gone on into 1919 then it would have been won by a tactically competent US Army with an inexperienced but properly trained staff corps.
 
There's a lot of good documentation about the attitude of both the political and military leadership and their attitude that preparing defences around and on Singapore island would be detrimental to morale, so work not undertaken until it was far too late to be effective.
Agreed...... Percival, like most british army generals have to operate under civilian authority and its aims are determined by theatre command, war office and politicians. Why I defend him so much...... Contrast my criticism of Gort, who similarly had to operate under french command. I'm probably being unfair and that was just a name chucked on the table...

The true test of a commander is in retreat. But, I have often thought that quote is wrong. Going back to the thread point. I suppose 'worst' has to be considered, in how much freedom a commander has and how much more of an advantage they're have, opposed to the enemy.

Once we had the advantage, none of our senior officers were unable to grind out a victory. So the question of worst, turns to the butchers bill to attain that victory and on that score I don't think any of our seniors really failed...
 
I won't downgrade the numbers nor contribution of the American forces, especially since US divisions were twice the size of British divisions, something that comparing number of divisions doesn't allow for. However despite being as individually brave as anyone else, US soldiers were tactically inept and poorly served by their staff. Being unable to evacuate your own wounded after an attack in September 1918 is frankly ridiculous, yet this happened with the Americans.

That this was recognised at the time is evidenced by the fact that on 11th November 1918, thousands of American officers were undergoing staff training in England. I don't doubt that had the war gone on into 1919 then it would have been won by a tactically competent US Army with an inexperienced but properly trained staff corps.
Ooh, I do actually. Being of the Forgotten Victory school I reckon the British army would have been in Berlin before the Americans were needed (as in required, in numbers, at the front other than in the French sector). Arguably the fact that "we" didn't do it set the events in train for the next round in 1939.

I have no doubt that the Americans would have been very useful, very welcome, and tactically much more "ept" by that stage, but the British army (1914-18 usage so fully inclusive of the colonial brethren) was on a romp to victory by November 1918. IMO it would have taken about another 2-3 months and been the kind of shoeing of a collapsing foe that would have exceeded the wildest dreams of those rushing to the colours in 1914.

I don't say that to be jingoistic - I've spent long enough in dusty archives (and indeed in the forces) to have lost that. I genuinely believe it's the way the wind was blowing.
 
Ooh, I do actually. Being of the Forgotten Victory school I reckon the British army would have been in Berlin before the Americans were needed (as in required, in numbers, at the front other than in the French sector). Arguably the fact that "we" didn't do it set the events in train for the next round in 1939.

I have no doubt that the Americans would have been very useful, very welcome, and tactically much more "ept" by that stage, but the British army (1914-18 usage so fully inclusive of the colonial brethren) was on a romp to victory by November 1918. IMO it would have taken about another 2-3 months and been the kind of shoeing of a collapsing foe that would have exceeded the wildest dreams of those rushing to the colours in 1914.

I don't say that to be jingoistic - I've spent long enough in dusty archives (and indeed in the forces) to have lost that. I genuinely believe it's the way the wind was blowing.
I'd like to agree with you, but by the time the Germans sued for peace we were coming to the end of the fighting season and I made my previous comments on the basis that the war would be on "tick over" until the spring of 1919, as had been the case in previous winters. Would it have been possible for the British to continue fighting throughout the winter, especially since the flu pandemic was kicking in?
 
Ooh, I do actually. Being of the Forgotten Victory school I reckon the British army would have been in Berlin before the Americans were needed (as in required, in numbers, at the front other than in the French sector). Arguably the fact that "we" didn't do it set the events in train for the next round in 1939.

I have no doubt that the Americans would have been very useful, very welcome, and tactically much more "ept" by that stage, but the British army (1914-18 usage so fully inclusive of the colonial brethren) was on a romp to victory by November 1918. IMO it would have taken about another 2-3 months and been the kind of shoeing of a collapsing foe that would have exceeded the wildest dreams of those rushing to the colours in 1914.

I don't say that to be jingoistic - I've spent long enough in dusty archives (and indeed in the forces) to have lost that. I genuinely believe it's the way the wind was blowing.
All very counter-factual, but a lot there I can agree with. The questions it raises though, are whether Allied logistics could have kept up with the scale of manoeuvre warfare that would have entailed (my feeling is probably 'yes') and would the attitude of German troops changed, for better or worse, once fighting on German, rather than French or Belgian, soil?

I'd like to agree with you, but by the time the Germans sued for peace we were coming to the end of the fighting season and I made my previous comments on the basis that the war would be on "tick over" until the spring of 1919, as had been the case in previous winters. Would it have been possible for the British to continue fighting throughout the winter, especially since the flu pandemic was kicking in?
E2A: EO's point above about the Spanish Flu is certainly topical, but the pandemic would have, IMHO, affected a retreating and demoralized German Army much more detrimentally, both physically and psychologically, than a victorious, 'on-the'front-foot' Allied one.

As for the weather:

'It was in the best interests of the Allies that the weather stayed fair so that they had the best possible conditions in which to try to push eastwards before military operations were once again slowed by poor weather, which might have meant the war dragging on through another winter of stalemate.

'In early September it was indeed favourable, with high pressure often dominating to leave what one observer at the time described as ‘unprecedented dryness’ – although possibly only unprecedented compared with the years 1915 to 1917. However, not long after the first week of September 1918 the weather turned stormier and wetter, slowing the Allied advance but not stopping it because there were still some fine spells in between, particularly during the second and third weeks, and around the turn of the month into October. Moreover, the scent of looming victory no doubt made it a little easier for the troops to push on through conditions such as those on 30 September, when according to a cable there were ‘wintry winds and rains, sweeping in from the North Sea’.

'October and November brought more rain, strong winds and even sleet and snow, and a correspondent mentioned on 15 October that ‘the battle may be said to be almost as much as against the weather and the mud…’ There was fog at times, too, although this served less as a hindrance than a help on occasions when units of tanks could burst out of the gloom onto enemy lines unobserved. Heavy rain continued periodically to sweep across the theatre of war into the first week of November, interspersed with thick fogs that were by now more of a nuisance, when airborne observers lost sight of retreating troops.

'Despite these setbacks, the Allied advance was sufficient to ensure the signing of the armistice in that railway carriage in the chilly, drizzly Compiègne Forest on 11 November 1918. And as high pressure settled over the Continent in the following days the sun came out.'


 
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I won't downgrade the numbers nor contribution of the American forces, especially since US divisions were twice the size of British divisions, something that comparing number of divisions doesn't allow for. However despite being as individually brave as anyone else, US soldiers were tactically inept and poorly served by their staff. Being unable to evacuate your own wounded after an attack in September 1918 is frankly ridiculous, yet this happened with the Americans.

That this was recognised at the time is evidenced by the fact that on 11th November 1918, thousands of American officers were undergoing staff training in England. I don't doubt that had the war gone on into 1919 then it would have been won by a tactically competent US Army with an inexperienced but properly trained staff corps.
Not to mention the fact the US had to be equipped on landing...

 

Themanwho

LE
Book Reviewer
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.
Similarly, I won’t drag the thread off by calling you a provo loving bellend who was just waiting to steer this into something about the brave republicans and the evil Paras.

Away with you, troll.
 
Which suggest that while he was doubtless a very brave officer, his efforts should have been to act as a senior officer planning and directing, rather than acting as a highly-paid subaltern.
He was attempting to break out of an encirclement. The Japanese launched an attack on his rear Brigade HQ. His Brigade consisted of Green barely trained reinforcements.

What did you expect him to do?
 
Didn't they give a VC to a bloke in the Falklands for doing something equally daft?
What was daft in leading a bayonet charge in a counter attack against your HQ when you are attempting to fight your way out of an encirclement.

Brigadier Lawson, a Canadian officer, did something similar in Hong Kong

Brigadier Lawson

Even Major General's got in on the act in the Battle of The Admin Box, Arakan February 1944:

"A few hours before dawn on 6 February the Japs attacked 7 Div H.Q. Div Commander Maj-General F.W. Messervy, C,B.. DSO., with his staff, narrowly escaped capture—or, more probable, massacre. Grenade in hand he led a party along the bed of a chaung to, the Admin area, where he re-formed his HQ. Fresh parties kept coming in for several days, and throughout this period a Soldiers’ Battle raged. Signallers, sappers, cooks, clerks, all seized the rifle and fought like veteran infantry. Gradually the enemy was halted, though not before he had practised appalling atrocities against our wounded."
 
From wiki: "
During the
retreat from the Muar River

in Malaya on 19 January, Duncan was badly concussed during an air attack on his headquarters. The following day, during an attempt to break out of a Japanese encirclement in concert with Australian forces, he was killed while mounting a bayonet charge counter-attack against a Japanese attack on the brigade's rear."

Not a personal attack, but it's very easy to pontificate on the duties of a senior officer from the remove of a keyboard
. I doubt any Brigade Commander would lead a bayonet charge unless the situation was extremely desperate, which according to wiki once more, it was:


"On 17 January, the surviving units of 45th Indian Brigade, with the Australian 2/19th and 2/29th Battalions serving as reinforcements, were dispatched to re-capture Muar.[5] They rallied around Bakri and organised a rough perimeter defence of it. The 2/29th, led by Lieutenant Colonel John Robertson MC VD, dug in around Bakri-Muar Road with anti-tank, anti-aircraft and mortar emplacements. The commander of the 45th Indian Brigade, Brigadier Herbert Duncan, planned a three-pronged advance from Bakri to Muar; up the main road between the towns, from the jungle island, and along the coast road. The attack went wrong before it could be launched. The 45th brigade ran into one of the Japanese ambushes, and the counter-offensive was cancelled.[5]

The next day at 0645, General Nishimura ordered his own three-pronged attack on Bakri. It was spearheaded by nine Type 95 Ha-Gō light tanks under Captain Shiegeo Gotanda. However, Captain Gotanda, inspired by the Japanese tank's success at Slim River, advanced without infantry against the 2/29th Battalion, and was wiped out.[9] In a repeat performance of the Australian gunners at Gemas, Lieutenant Bill McClure's two anti-tank guns (also from the 2/4th Australian Anti-Tank Regiment) destroyed all nine of Gotanda's tanks. Sergeant Clarrie Thornton, commanding the first gun received a Mention in Dispatches, and Sergeant Charles Parsons, commanding the second gun was awarded the DCM.[5] Thornton's gun fired over seventy rounds during the engagement.[20] Lieutenant Colonel John Robertson, commander of the 2/29th Battalion, was killed soon after, shot while retreating from an attack on a Japanese roadblock. Major Olliff detailed Sergeant Mick Gibbins and a party of three men to bury the battalion commander. Deprived of tank support, the Japanese infantry were unable to break through, an engagement Nishimura later described as "severe and sanguinary".[5] By dawn on the 19th the Japanese were in action on the main road, nearly surrounding the 45th Brigade.[citation needed]

The 6th Norfolk Battalion of the 53rd British Brigade was defending a ridge about 8 km (5 mi) west of Yong Peng, covering the line of retreat for the 45th Brigade, which was already a practically encircled area.[21] Early in the afternoon of 19 January, two battalions of the Japanese 4th Guards Regiment attacked and drove them off the ridge. The British retired up through the thick jungle to the summit of the northern ridge. The Norfolks were unable to inform headquarters of their position as they had no wireless.[5]

At dawn of 20 January, the 3/16th Punjab Regiment, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Henry Moorhead (who took part in Operation Krohcol), was ordered to recapture the ridge. By the time they reached it, they came under friendly fire from the Norfolks, who had mistaken them for the Japanese, causing several casualties.[21] After losses on both sides, it was later sorted out. But before a proper defence could be organised, the Japanese attacked, killing Moorhead and driving both the Norfolks and Indian troops off the hill.[9] The 45th Brigade and the two Australian battalions at Bakri were now in danger of being cut off.[citation needed]

That same day, Brigadier Duncan, who had recovered from his concussion and was commanding the rear guard,[9] was killed when he led a successful bayonet charge to recover lost vehicles."


By the time of Duncan's bayonet charge, there was little left of the Brigade.
And according to all the pundits on here, there was little fighting in the Malayan campaign, all was all a walkover for the Japanese.

44 and 45 Indian Brigades were barely trained young Indian recruits, taken from 17th Indian Division and sent to Singapore as reinforcements.

53 Infantry Brigade was part of the British 18th East Anglian Division and consisted of pre war TA battalions who had been at sea for several months. The Brigade was detatched from the division in Mombassa and sent to Singapore as reinforcements. The division was trained for desert warfare and was on its way to the Middle East when it was diverted to Singapore.

It was sent almost immediatly to Johore against advice and without time to aclimatise and retrain. They were reinforced by the remains of the British Battalion and 2 Loyal Regiment- pre war regulars who had been in Singapore since the late thirties.
 

wildbill99

Swinger
My father's memoirs of the Malayan Campaign make the point of the weakness of the Indian units by the time the fighting on the island started. He rejoined his battalion in Singapore (after a little detour via Sumatra whilst escaping from being cut off at Jitra) and reports that the battalion, having started with 900 men, was down to 187 by that time.
A draft of new reinforcements (about 200) did join them on the island, but not only had they had very limited training, many if not most were significantly under age.

The latter point was common with Indian troops during the war. For second and subsequent sons of poor farmers, the Army was a very attractive prospect - no famines, regular pay, etc. In peacetime, recruitment from the relevant areas of the country was done by a party under a British Officer, but more importantly with several Indian SNCOs. No one turning up to enlist had a birth certificate, but the SNCOs knew the area, often knew the families and could usually weed out the underage. Overall at that time there were usually far more men applying to join than were required, so the recruiting parties could afford to be very picky.

Once the war started, the demand for a huge expansion of the Indian Army meant that selection became much less rigorous.

The actual age of the new recruits in Singapore is not explicitly mentioned in the memoirs, but I do remember him saying that he thought most of the draft were no more 14 or 15 years of age.
 
Delaying actions are actually far harder to carry out than people assume... Especially as the japanese were adept at flinging out a flanking force to cut the road, behind the block. Only the argylls really perfected it all that well.
The Argyles fought well especially in the battle at Grik in Northern Malaya. However they were overrun in the Battle of Slim River with few managing to escape.

The survivors made it to Singapore where they were almalgamated with the Royal Marine survivors of HMS Prince of Wales and Repulse to form the Plymouth Argyls.

Battle of Slim River


Plymouth Argles
 

4(T)

LE
Would it have been possible for the British to continue fighting throughout the winter, especially since the flu pandemic was kicking in?
They were out of the trenches and on hard unspoiled countryside then, and would have been advancing through undamaged (at least since 1914) villages towns and cities.
 
My father's memoirs of the Malayan Campaign make the point of the weakness of the Indian units by the time the fighting on the island started. He rejoined his battalion in Singapore (after a little detour via Sumatra whilst escaping from being cut off at Jitra) and reports that the battalion, having started with 900 men, was down to 187 by that time.
A draft of new reinforcements (about 200) did join them on the island, but not only had they had very limited training, many if not most were significantly under age.

The latter point was common with Indian troops during the war. For second and subsequent sons of poor farmers, the Army was a very attractive prospect - no famines, regular pay, etc. In peacetime, recruitment from the relevant areas of the country was done by a party under a British Officer, but more importantly with several Indian SNCOs. No one turning up to enlist had a birth certificate, but the SNCOs knew the area, often knew the families and could usually weed out the underage. Overall at that time there were usually far more men applying to join than were required, so the recruiting parties could afford to be very picky.

Once the war started, the demand for a huge expansion of the Indian Army meant that selection became much less rigorous.

The actual age of the new recruits in Singapore is not explicitly mentioned in the memoirs, but I do remember him saying that he thought most of the draft were no more 14 or 15 years of age.
The Indian Army strengh at the start of the war was about 155, 000 men. At the end of the war it consisted of 2 million men, all volunteers, from all castes and religions in British India and was a formidable force. Obviously it had growing pains in 1941/42.

This chap is an example of an Indian officer of that time :

Sam Manekshaw

Here is another example, Battle of Hong Kong:

Captain Ansari

Apparently before the battle he upset the old British officers in the mess as he was an agitator for Indian Independance. It might be thought that he would have been an ideal candidate for the INA. The Japanese thought so. They were to be sadly disappointed.

The Stanley Military cemetery where he is buried is just outside Stanley Fort, the home of the British battalion of the Hong Kong garrison prior to 1997, now home to the PLA.
 

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