Who was the worst Brit general of WW II

I'm not the one who mentioned 4 or 5 Divs - but the whole of the AEF most certainly weren't decisively engaged in 1918 so listing every Division is disingenuous. Your 14 divisions at St Mihiel chimes with my 'low double figurers'.

The US contributed a great deal late in the war and their manpower was a decisive factor in eventual victory. However the US experience cannot be compared to that of the Empire, France, Germany or Russia. As a morbid example you need look no further than 1916 when the British Army sustained more casualties during the Somme battles than the AEF did for the entirety of their involvement in WW1. I say that not in a competitive sense but simply to highlight the different levels of involvement and sacrifice.
Pershing insisted in useing 1916 style tactics which the British and French pointed out, had not gone to well on the first day of the Somme, and at Verdun and Nivelle offensive. Hence the high AEF casualties in the last months of the war from August 1918 to November 1918 when they were fully engaged.
 
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.
Age estimates differ slightly, but to back up your father's recollections.

 
I realise it's vox pop, but Percival is the only Brit who makes it into the 'top 20'.

 
Possibly more - dont forget that about a 3rd of an Indians divisions strength was British

Either as a brigade or as elements in each brigade - paper often says the latter - logic suggests the former** and the few orbats ive seen support that

Edit - in retrospect I wonder if both weren't correct - and so pre war there was a mix of battalions in each brigade allowing for mixed rotations etc, then on commencement of hostilities and divisions deploying the decision was made to lump groups together.

**It makes mor sense to concentrate the Brits in one Group and the Indians in another if only for ease of communication.
The normal mix was for 1 British Battalion for the two Indian battalions in a Brigade. Of the two divisions in III Indian Corp there were only two in 11 Indian Division - 1 Leicesters and 2 East Surrey. In 9 Indian Division there was only 1 - 2 Argyles.

In the reinforcement 44 and 45 Indian Brigades there were no British battalions.

Prior to the arrival of the British 18th East Anglian Division in late January/early February 1942 the only other British battalions in theatre were 2 Loyals and 2 Gordons who were pre war regular battalions of the Singapore garrison. There was also 1 Manchesters who were a Machine Gun battalion manning fixed defences in pill boxes with Vickers MG.

A lot of the troops in Singapore in 1942 were logistics such as RAOC managing all the supply depots. There was a large number of the RA in the Coastal Artillery regiments, each had a RE Company attached to provide power supplies and other Sapper tasks.
 
The normal mix was for 1 British Battalion for the two Indian battalions in a Brigade. Of the two divisions in III Indian Corp there were only two in 11 Indian Division - 1 Leicesters and 2 East Surrey. In 9 Indian Division there was only 1 - 2 Argyles.

In the reinforcement 44 and 45 Indian Brigades there were no British battalions.

Prior to the arrival of the British 18th East Anglian Division in late January/early February 1942 the only other British battalions in theatre were 2 Loyals and 2 Gordons who were pre war regular battalions of the Singapore garrison. There was also 1 Manchesters who were a Machine Gun battalion manning fixed defences in pill boxes with Vickers MG.

A lot of the troops in Singapore in 1942 were logistics such as RAOC managing all the supply depots. There was a large number of the RA in the Coastal Artillery regiments, each had a RE Company attached to provide power supplies and other Sapper tasks.
You could have saved yourself a lot of typing.


 
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mcphee1948

War Hero
Pershing insisted in useing 1916 style tactics which the British and French pointed out, had not gone to well on the first day of the Somme, and at Verdun and Nivelle offensive. Hence the high AEF casualties in the last months of the war from August 1918 to November 1918 when they were fully engaged.
Can Pershing really be blamed for using 1916-style tactics, when he had no experience of battles like the Somme, or Verdun. Such battles ought to have given a lesson to European commanders like Nivelle. But I suppose the Americans couldn't be expected to know about that. They came over to join in the European war with a kind of naive optimism?
 
Would it have been possible for the British to continue fighting throughout the winter, especially since the flu pandemic was kicking in?
It was also kicking off in Germany. They were also on the brink of starvation due to the British blockade. Hence the mutiny by the High Seas fleet and the march on Berlin by the Volksmarine Division.
 
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.
Similar I should imagine to Mosley and Co's** arguments - in that they may well have disliked the current system but their 1st loyalty was to their country.


**Hitler thought the British fascists would make a 5th column or the basis of an occupation government - in which he would have been sorely disappointed - The British bit took precedent over the fascist bit.
 
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.
Yasmin Khan's THE RAJ AT WAR covers this - Indian Army recruiting was mostly carried by fairly high status farming families, very often soldiers father and son, skewed to some quite tightly defined areas of the subcontinent (Rajputana was very important) but WW2 expansion of the force rapidly went past the numbers this could provide.

This meant first of all trying to squeeze harder - which meant quality was a big problem, but also led to hardship in those communities and a breakdown of trust in the recruiters - and then re-orienting the basis of recruiting towards the big cities - which worked in raising Slim's army but had other consequences, like putting training and firearms into the hands of people who weren't usually picked, extending government recognition (for what it was still worth) to people who were usually left out, having to listen to their leaders.

In her telling this had a big influence on the politics of the run into Independence and Partition.
 
Can Pershing really be blamed for using 1916-style tactics, when he had no experience of battles like the Somme, or Verdun. Such battles ought to have given a lesson to European commanders like Nivelle. But I suppose the Americans couldn't be expected to know about that. They came over to join in the European war with a kind of naive optimism?
And therefore, he should have learned from the experience of his allies.
 
Pershing insisted in useing 1916 style tactics which the British and French pointed out, had not gone to well on the first day of the Somme, and at Verdun and Nivelle offensive. Hence the high AEF casualties in the last months of the war from August 1918 to November 1918 when they were fully engaged.
Whilst hes criticised for such - I do wonder if its as unfair as the lambasting of Haig on the same matter

The British used those tactics in 1916 because the army was raw and not really fully trained it had undergone massive expansion so ncos and captains etc were oft no more experienced than the privates - Simple tactics which adapted throughout the somme as units learned where the only way to avoid fratricide and a break down of commands.
Haig didn't want to commit to an offensive until 1917 the decision to do so was political**

I wonder if Pershing wasn't in much the same boat - circumstances necessitated in US troops seeing action in 1918 before they were ready - perhaps if they had been kept in reserve and just rotated through the trenches until the 1919 spring offensive they would have been using 1918s tactics from the off.


**Something Lloyd Georges memoirs curiously omit
 

mcphee1948

War Hero
It was also kicking off in Germany. They were also on the brink of starvation due to the British blockade. Hence the mutiny by the High Seas fleet and the march on Berlin by the Volksmarine Division.
As you say. I think that perhaps by 1918 everyone, on both sides, was so sick of the war, that they just wanted it to end.
 

Mr_Relaxed

War Hero
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'.
It’s an excellent book, very illustrating and Is a good counter for people who like to quote “lions led by donkeys” etc.
 
At the time of the fall of Singapore, the Japs were virtually out of supplies and reinforcements. Percival surrendered a viable force that could have held out longer, allowing reinforcements to arrive. Those that did arrive were, in some cased captured without a shot being fired.
Yes I have heard this however because of this thread, I have just spent the entire day reading accounts of the battle and it seems that things were much more complicated than they seemed at first and i'm less inclined to be so hard on Percival as others are.

For example, the day before the surrender, he had each of the three sector commanders over to his HQ for a chat. He laid out two options.

1) A massive counter attack to retake the *reservoirs since they were virtually out of water and retake one of the large ration dumps than had been left behind after one of the withdrawals.
2) Surrender

All of the sector commanders (Bennet among them) told him that they should surrender. None of them suggested that they should fight on or came up with any alternative options.

The usually, very high quality Australian soldier appeared to be absent from this battle. A series of unnecessary withdrawals in the North West sector by the 3 Australian brigades (little more than battalion strength) backed off from invading japs even though they had the upper hand and the higher ground. The jap commander watching from rooftops across the straight could not believe it.

5th column, there were a number of very effective spies and traitors operating in our lines who fed back and accurate, details and up to date intelligence picture for the japs. They knew everything.

* Presumably, the water treatment and pumping station to bring fresh water form the lakes to the taps had been put out of action?
Why could they not have used the geylang river as a watersource?

Fuel was out, all gone and there were huge numbers of deserters roaming the city looking for food, water and shelter from the shelling, discipline had all but gone out of the window and the troops that remained at their posts were shattered.

They had enough .303 to last a while longer but were out of AA gun ammo and had only a couple of hours of artillery rounds left. This goes to show how hard they had fought up until then. Organising an alternative water source was beyond their means and so a large counter attack was just not viable however, as the Japs advanced, they wreaked death and destruction on unarmed civi's and wounded. They walked into a hospital and bayoneted the doctors, staff (nurses had been evacuated after what the japs did in Hong Kong) and then the wounded, they even bayoneted people who were on the surgeons table.

Counter attacking may have cost many lives but as we know (and they knew too) surrendering to the Japanese would cost many lives too.

With the benefit of hindsight, a series of counter attacks could well have delayed the jap advance to the point where they could no longer sustain the casualties, fuel, food and ammo.

I'd rather have taken my chances being shot or blown up than starved, experimented on, left to catch malaria and dysentery and all the other gifts of the jungle and then being worked to death building a fcuking railway for them.

I suppose more civi's survived it this way though.

Then, the possibility of help arriving by sea was again a possibility although I have yet to discover what we had available in Java, not much by the sounds of it.
 
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!
Percival was not taken prisoner by the IRA he did however survive several attempts to murder him including one in London
He was a hate figure for the IRA however being a leading Intelligence officer with None other than Tom Barry being tasked to Kill Him.
 
Yes I have heard this however because of this thread, I have just spent the entire day reading accounts of the battle and it seems that things were much more complicated than they seemed at first and i'm less inclined to be so hard on Percival as others are.

For example, the day before the surrender, he had each of the three sector commanders over to his HQ for a chat. He laid out two options.

1) A massive counter attack to retake the *reservoirs since they were virtually out of water and retake one of the large ration dumps than had been left behind after one of the withdrawals.
2) Surrender

All of the sector commanders (Bennet among them) told him that they should surrender. None of them suggested that they should fight on or came up with any alternative options.

The usually, very high quality Australian soldier appeared to be absent from this battle. A series of unnecessary withdrawals in the North West sector by the 3 Australian brigades (little more than battalion strength) backed off from invading japs even though they had the upper hand and the higher ground. The jap commander watching from rooftops across the straight could not believe it.

5th column, there were a number of very effective spies and traitors operating in our lines who fed back and accurate, details and up to date intelligence picture for the japs. They knew everything.

* Presumably, the water treatment and pumping station to bring fresh water form the lakes to the taps had been put out of action?
Why could they not have used the geylang river as a watersource?

Fuel was out, all gone and there were huge numbers of deserters roaming the city looking for food, water and shelter from the shelling, discipline had all but gone out of the window and the troops that remained at their posts were shattered.

They had enough .303 to last a while longer but were out of AA gun ammo and had only a couple of hours of artillery rounds left. This goes to show how hard they had fought up until then. Organising an alternative water source was beyond their means and so a large counter attack was just not viable however, as the Japs advanced, they wreaked death and destruction on unarmed civi's and wounded. They walked into a hospital and bayoneted the doctors, staff (nurses had been evacuated after what the japs did in Hong Kong) and then the wounded, they even bayoneted people who were on the surgeons table.

Counter attacking may have cost many lives but as we know (and they knew too) surrendering to the Japanese would cost many lives too.

With the benefit of hindsight, a series of counter attacks could well have delayed the jap advance to the point where they could no longer sustain the casualties, fuel, food and ammo.

I'd rather have taken my chances being shot or blown up than starved, experimented on, left to catch malaria and dysentery and all the other gifts of the jungle and then being worked to death building a fcuking railway for them.

I suppose more civi's survived it this way though.

Then, the possibility of help arriving by sea was again a possibility although I have yet to discover what we had available in Java, not much by the sounds of it.
The issue revolving round Singapore's drinking water is often overlooked in the rush to condemn Percival
With such Exposed Infrastructure Singapore was a far easier target than many realise.
 
Yes I have heard this however because of this thread, I have just spent the entire day reading accounts of the battle and it seems that things were much more complicated than they seemed at first and i'm less inclined to be so hard on Percival as others are.

For example, the day before the surrender, he had each of the three sector commanders over to his HQ for a chat. He laid out two options.

1) A massive counter attack to retake the *reservoirs since they were virtually out of water and retake one of the large ration dumps than had been left behind after one of the withdrawals.
2) Surrender

All of the sector commanders (Bennet among them) told him that they should surrender. None of them suggested that they should fight on or came up with any alternative options.

The usually, very high quality Australian soldier appeared to be absent from this battle. A series of unnecessary withdrawals in the North West sector by the 3 Australian brigades (little more than battalion strength) backed off from invading japs even though they had the upper hand and the higher ground. The jap commander watching from rooftops across the straight could not believe it.

5th column, there were a number of very effective spies and traitors operating in our lines who fed back and accurate, details and up to date intelligence picture for the japs. They knew everything.

* Presumably, the water treatment and pumping station to bring fresh water form the lakes to the taps had been put out of action?
Why could they not have used the geylang river as a watersource?

Fuel was out, all gone and there were huge numbers of deserters roaming the city looking for food, water and shelter from the shelling, discipline had all but gone out of the window and the troops that remained at their posts were shattered.

They had enough .303 to last a while longer but were out of AA gun ammo and had only a couple of hours of artillery rounds left. This goes to show how hard they had fought up until then. Organising an alternative water source was beyond their means and so a large counter attack was just not viable however, as the Japs advanced, they wreaked death and destruction on unarmed civi's and wounded. They walked into a hospital and bayoneted the doctors, staff (nurses had been evacuated after what the japs did in Hong Kong) and then the wounded, they even bayoneted people who were on the surgeons table.

Counter attacking may have cost many lives but as we know (and they knew too) surrendering to the Japanese would cost many lives too.

With the benefit of hindsight, a series of counter attacks could well have delayed the jap advance to the point where they could no longer sustain the casualties, fuel, food and ammo.

I'd rather have taken my chances being shot or blown up than starved, experimented on, left to catch malaria and dysentery and all the other gifts of the jungle and then being worked to death building a fcuking railway for them.

I suppose more civi's survived it this way though.

Then, the possibility of help arriving by sea was again a possibility although I have yet to discover what we had available in Java, not much by the sounds of it.
The bit about the fifth column reminded me of a story of (I think) a British ex public school type who was feeding the Japs intel from just after Pearl Harbor. He was caught and executed by the British military just before the fall of Singapore.

Mention should also be made of the poor equipment in Malaya, as they were perceived as being low-priority.

Also the Japs planned to murder all the POWs- and quite likely just about everyone else in the event of an invasion.

Those 2 nukes were a godsend. There are those in Korea who said it was a pity that 20 nukes weren't dropped on Japan.
 
The bit about the fifth column reminded me of a story of (I think) a British ex public school type who was feeding the Japs intel from just after Pearl Harbor. He was caught and executed by the British military just before the fall of Singapore.
Patrick Heenan? Made the fatal error of taunting his guards about how they would soon be prisoners and he'd be free.

Unfortunately for Heenan, this annoyed his guards immensely, and he was taken to Keppell Harbour. One account suggests he thought he was going to be freed, but was forced to his knees on the edge of the jetty and a single .455 round put into the back of his head from point blank range. After watching the last of the ripples from where his corpse had toppled into the water subside, his guard headed off to assist in the defence of Singapore.

For obvious reasons, the tale is unconfirmed, but enough information survived for him to be recorded by the CWGC as having died around 15 Feb 1942.
 
At the time of the fall of Singapore, the Japs were virtually out of supplies and reinforcements. Percival surrendered a viable force that could have held out longer, allowing reinforcements to arrive. Those that did arrive were, in some cased captured without a shot being fired.
Reinforcements from where?

that Percival was sent units of men barely trained on the individual level shows he was last priority.

troopships trying to get past the IJNAF when battleships couldn't escape
 

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