Who was the worst Brit general of WW II

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.
German manufacturing output INCREASED during Harris's brutally clumsy bombing campaign



When diversion f resources is mentioned it usually along the lines of So many men and AA guns needed to defend the reich which could have been used elsewhere...

well the same can be said for Bomber Commands waste of Lives, and Harris's curmudgeonly belittling of other commands need for 4 engine bombers/patrol aircraft

Coastal Command did more for the war effort than Bomber Commands morale missions.

The war was won or lost not over the Ruhr at night (Or day by the USAAF), but by how much shipping made it to the UK. Intensely boring Sunderland, Catalina Stranraer , London and Whitley missions kept U Boats at bay (note I dont say they kept every ship safe ) but the typical U Boat skipper didnt like patrol aircraft over convoys.

Again thats not to say the Bomber Command crews were cowards but used unwisely and wasted over a mans ego that he and only he alone could win the war given enough bombers.
 
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
I found it interesting to read the history and how they're were to use the terminology of the day: filleted.... The problem of holding a position in a jungle has always being a difficult one and rather than a conventional linear defence, you need echeloned, all around defence with a very active patrolling and ambush to cover the flanks. I suspect the argylls were tired and without their C.O (who had being promoted to brigade command), were having an off day.

On the subject; one has to highlight the poor leadership of both the 11th Division Commander and the australian division. In both cases, Percival was not well served by his subordinates.. The only criticism I can muster is once Wavell had sidelined him in Johore, command returned to him on the island and here you would expect him to be very active and try to get a proper grip of his subordinates, or start sacking them off and taking personal command....

He seemed to spend far too much time in discussions with the civil service and london and is a classic staff officer, promoted beyond his ability... Our small army, expanded probably had a lot of officers like that.
 
German manufacturing output INCREASED during Harris's brutally clumsy bombing campaign
At the same time it has to be remembered Germany was switching to a wartime economy and massively ramping up production. So whilst it increased was growth stunted by the allied bomber offensive.

Like yourself I think (with the benefit of hindsight) to many resources were placed in the bomber offensive - it has to be said though many papers and statistics are highly partisan and presented more to support the authors view than genuinely research the issue.

Theres also the argument that regardless of its effectiveness in terms of destruction - the resources it diverted may well have kept Russia in the war in the dark days of 1941 -

Ditto the Panzer divisions diverted to North Africa -
 
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At the same time it has to be remembered Germany was switching to a wartime economy and massively ramping up production. So whilst it increased was growth stunted by the allied bomber offensive.

Like yourself I think (with the benefit of hindsight) to many resources were placed in the bomber offensive - it has to be said though many papers and statistics are highly partisan and presented more to support the authors view than genuinely research the issue.
The Bomber Offensive was certainly deeply inconvenient to the german war effort and every little helps.. I always thought the question, was the amount of resources expended.. As a cost benefit analysis, it was probably a success after 1941, as we could afford the effort.

The question was in pre-war up to 1941, was the investment really worth the cost ? that leads back to the thread topic and whether the 'worst' tag can ever really be attached to a military officer, as the politicians signed the cheques.
 
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 think you need to go back and read again mate. For a starter, the Australian 8th Division in the Malaya Campaign only consisted of 2 brigades - 22nd and 27th. Both brigades had been involved in the debacle on the mainland prior to withdrawal onto the island.

 
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The bomber offensive consumed about nine percent of the UK's war effort in WW2, and suffered proportionately more casualties - those fifty thousand men, being like infantry officers of WW1, would have made an immense difference to the quality of the rest of our forces. I have never understood why Churchill considered the Battle of the Atlantic to be the key to winning WW2 but led that ******** Harris have his own way so often. There were four ways of reducing or slowing Germany's war effort: destroying their synthetic oil capability; disrupting their railway maintenance capacity; preventing the transport of iron ore from Sweden; and breaking or mining their canal network. And they were linked, the last two especially.
 
The Japanese had such a low regard for Percival, they gave his own 'command' in captivity at one … tending the goats as an insult. His conduct in general during captivity was as poor as his 'leadership' at Singapore, morose, disinterested in goings on around him, self focused, utterly disinterested in what had happened to the men under his command.
He was no General Wainwright who spent his captivity agonising about the welfare of his men and his behaviour in the defence of the Philippines.
 
The bomber offensive consumed about nine percent of the UK's war effort in WW2, and suffered proportionately more casualties - those fifty thousand men, being like infantry officers of WW1, would have made an immense difference to the quality of the rest of our forces. I have never understood why Churchill considered the Battle of the Atlantic to be the key to winning WW2 but led that ******** Harris have his own way so often. There were four ways of reducing or slowing Germany's war effort: destroying their synthetic oil capability; disrupting their railway maintenance capacity; preventing the transport of iron ore from Sweden; and breaking or mining their canal network. And they were linked, the last two especially.

Although relatively ineffective in strict military terms, bombing the crap out of Germany had a number of key achievements.

1: It allowed the public to feel the Germans were 'getting it'. People can put up with a lot if they think they are getting payback.

2: It tied up vast amounts of German equipment and men, at one point, @ a million men and women were occupied in the defence of the Reich along with many tens of thousands of AA guns and fighters.

3: It gave the Germans no rest and freedom of movement and production in the Fatherland. Britain could build new factories on green field sites in plain sight, Germany was forced to bury them under mountains.


Battle of the Atlantic?
We were never even close to losing it. If we had been, Harris would have been fired and the RAF ordered to bomb U Boat pens 24/7 no matter the cost.
Even in May 1943, the worst month of the U Boat campaign, Allied shipping looses didn't exceed 2% of sailings.
 
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Themanwho

LE
Book Reviewer
The bomber offensive consumed about nine percent of the UK's war effort in WW2, and suffered proportionately more casualties - those fifty thousand men, being like infantry officers of WW1, would have made an immense difference to the quality of the rest of our forces. I have never understood why Churchill considered the Battle of the Atlantic to be the key to winning WW2 but led that ******** Harris have his own way so often. There were four ways of reducing or slowing Germany's war effort: destroying their synthetic oil capability; disrupting their railway maintenance capacity; preventing the transport of iron ore from Sweden; and breaking or mining their canal network. And they were linked, the last two especially.
Apologies for the long post; the following is an extract from an essay I wrote a decade back on the effectiveness of strategic bombing:

Churchill wrote on 8 July 1940: ‘But when I look round to see how we can win the war I see that there is one sure path...there is one thing that will bring him down , that is an absolutely devastating exterminating attack by very heavy bombers from this country on the Nazi homeland. We must be able to overwhelm him by these means, without which I do not see a way through.’ Churchill seized on the bomber offensive as a way of demonstrating that Britain was capable of, if not defeating Germany alone, at least staying in the war for the foreseeable future. He believed this was particularly vital not only to bolster morale at home, but also when considering the isolationist attitude of the USA prior to Pearl Harbour, upon whose entry the only realistic hope of victory rested. Churchill’s full hearted backing of the Bomber offensive was reflected in his support of the RAF’s expansion plan – a design to create a fleet of heavy bombers which would soak up a large portion of the industrial production of Britain for the rest of the war. Following the invasion of Russia and Pearl Harbour, he became less interested in the bomber offensive. Churchill wrote in 1942: ‘In the days when we were fighting alone, we answered the question “How are you going to win the war?” by saying, “We will shatter Germany by bombing.” Since then, the enormous injuries inflicted on the German army by the Russians, and the accession of manpower and munitions from the United States have rendered other possibilities open
At this point, a new figure took command of Bomber Command: Air Marshal Sir Arthur Harris. Harris was a gifted leader as well as a blunt and direct speaker, famed for his distrust of the other services. He was also highly critical of the Ministry of Economic Warfare’s varying lists of targeting priorities which seemed to change continuously to new areas of industry, promising much, and delivering little. He referred to any tactic but a concentration on bombing cities as “Panaceas”, believing (with some justification) that the evidence so far showed that no other targeting policy had borne worthwhile fruit. ‘These were targets which were supposed by the economic experts to be such a vital bottle neck in the German war industry that when they were destroyed the enemy would have to pack up.
Harris became the personification of Bomber Command; his famous quote made in a propaganda film: “They have sown the wind; they shall reap the whirlwind” became the call for ever greater efforts to wreak vengeance on Nazi Germany by bombing. His stubbornness meant that his forces could concentrate on the new tactics without diversion to “panacea targets”, giving them achievable short term objectives of his choosing, rather than dashing from one panacea to another as before. The new streaming tactics were found to be effective, and the combination of navigation aids and target marking maximised the accuracy of the bombers. An example of this was the first 1000 bomber raid carried out on Cologne on the night of 30 May 1942. The magical figure of 1000 planes was purely a propaganda tool; the damage however was something that the Germans had not before experienced. Jackson states: ‘Over 600 acres of Cologne’s built up area had been destroyed; the raid had caused almost as much as much devastation as all previous raids on all German towns put together.’ Bomber Command now had effective tools with which to carry out a job that they could do successfully.
The destructive power of area bombing and the growing proficiency of Bomber Command was illustrated by the assault on Hamburg in 1943. 23 square kilometres of the city were destroyed by fire, and firestorms reaching temperatures of 1000oc killed 42,000 residents. Albert Speer, the Nazi Minister for Munitions wrote: ‘Hamburg put the fear of God in me... I pointed out: “If the air raids continue on the present scale, we shall be relieved of a number of questions we are at present discussing. We will simply be coasting downhill.’

Bloody fonts. Anyway, the point I'm trying to get across is that at the time, nobody really knew what would work. Even Speer thought strategic bombing might end the war in Europe. One should always be aware of twenty -twenty hindsight when judging our forebears. Harris said something along the lines of "Many say that a war has never been won by bombing. To them I say: We shall see".
 
Apologies for the long post; the following is an extract from an essay I wrote a decade back on the effectiveness of strategic bombing:

An example of this was the first 1000 bomber raid carried out on Cologne on the night of 30 May 1942. The magical figure of 1000 planes was purely a propaganda tool; the damage however was something that the Germans had not before experienced. Jackson states: ‘Over 600 acres of Cologne’s built up area had been destroyed; the raid had caused almost as much as much devastation as all previous raids on all German towns put together.’ Bomber Command now had effective tools with which to carry out a job that they could do successfully.
If you accept that the aim and intent was 'dehousing' German workers as the means to achieve victory, rather than destroying industrial complexes, oil refineries or rail hubs.
 
Churchill wrote on 8 July 1940: ‘But when I look round to see how we can win the war I see that there is one sure path...there is one thing that will bring him down , that is an absolutely devastating exterminating attack by very heavy bombers from this country on the Nazi homeland. We must be able to overwhelm him by these means, without which I do not see a way through.’

Churchill seized on the bomber offensive as a way of demonstrating that Britain was capable of, if not defeating Germany alone, at least staying in the war for the foreseeable future. He believed this was particularly vital not only to bolster morale at home, but also when considering the isolationist attitude of the USA prior to Pearl Harbour, upon whose entry the only realistic hope of victory rested.

Churchill’s full hearted backing of the Bomber offensive was reflected in his support of the RAF’s expansion plan – a design to create a fleet of heavy bombers which would soak up a large portion of the industrial production of Britain for the rest of the war. Following the invasion of Russia and Pearl Harbour, he became less interested in the bomber offensive. Churchill wrote in 1942: ‘In the days when we were fighting alone, we answered the question “How are you going to win the war?” by saying, “We will shatter Germany by bombing.” Since then, the enormous injuries inflicted on the German army by the Russians, and the accession of manpower and munitions from the United States have rendered other possibilities open’

At this point, a new figure took command of Bomber Command: Air Marshal Sir Arthur Harris.
Harris was a gifted leader as well as a blunt and direct speaker, famed for his distrust of the other services. He was also highly critical of the Ministry of Economic Warfare’s varying lists of targeting priorities which seemed to change continuously to new areas of industry, promising much, and delivering little. He referred to any tactic but a concentration on bombing cities as “Panaceas”, believing (with some justification) that the evidence so far showed that no other targeting policy had borne worthwhile fruit. ‘These were targets which were supposed by the economic experts to be such a vital bottle neck in the German war industry that when they were destroyed the enemy would have to pack up.’

Harris became the personification of Bomber Command; his famous quote made in a propaganda film: “They have sown the wind; they shall reap the whirlwind” became the call for ever greater efforts to wreak vengeance on Nazi Germany by bombing.
His stubbornness meant that his forces could concentrate on the new tactics without diversion to “panacea targets”, giving them achievable short term objectives of his choosing, rather than dashing from one panacea to another as before.

The new streaming tactics were found to be effective, and the combination of navigation aids and target marking maximised the accuracy of the bombers. An example of this was the first 1000 bomber raid carried out on Cologne on the night of 30 May 1942. The magical figure of 1000 planes was purely a propaganda tool; the damage however was something that the Germans had not before experienced.
Jackson states: ‘Over 600 acres of Cologne’s built up area had been destroyed; the raid had caused almost as much as much devastation as all previous raids on all German towns put together.’ Bomber Command now had effective tools with which to carry out a job that they could do successfully.

The destructive power of area bombing and the growing proficiency of Bomber Command was illustrated by the assault on Hamburg in 1943. 23 square kilometres of the city were destroyed by fire, and firestorms reaching temperatures of 1000oc killed 42,000 residents. Albert Speer, the Nazi Minister for Munitions wrote: ‘Hamburg put the fear of God in me... I pointed out: “If the air raids continue on the present scale, we shall be relieved of a number of questions we are at present discussing. We will simply be coasting downhill.’


Bloody fonts. Anyway, the point I'm trying to get across is that at the time, nobody really knew what would work. Even Speer thought strategic bombing might end the war in Europe. One should always be aware of twenty -twenty hindsight when judging our forebears. Harris said something along the lines of "Many say that a war has never been won by bombing. To them I say: We shall see".
@Themanwho - I was forced (crap eyes) to format in order to read it - I figured others may need to also, so I copied it in its entirety above - I trust ive caused no offence



Ref My Bold - people criticise the lack of focus or choice of targets - it seems interference from above and possibly competing needs of other services may be more responsible than any lack of direction from RAF command
 

Themanwho

LE
Book Reviewer
If you accept that the aim and intent was 'dehousing' German workers as the means to achieve victory, rather than destroying industrial complexes, oil refineries or rail hubs.
Certainly, my understanding from my fairly extensive reading on the subject is that was indeed the aim and intent. By today's sensibilities in a western democracy, such a thing appears abhorrent and a war crime. In the stark era of total war, it was considered a necessary evil. Not that there weren't many doubts and moral questions at the time, some within Bomber Command.
 

Themanwho

LE
Book Reviewer
[QUOTE="Lindermyer, post: 9944973, member: 97493"]
@Themanwho - I was forced (crap eyes) to format in order to read it - I figured others may need to also, so I copied it in its entirety above - I trust ive caused no offence



Ref My Bold - people criticise the lack of focus or choice of targets - it seems interference from above and possibly competing needs of other services may be more responsible than any lack of direction from RAF command
[/QUOTE]
No problem at all, and thank you; I'm skiving on my work laptop, and it has certain quirks I haven't quite worked out!

Re: your bold: In Chapter 10 of his memoire "Bomber Offensive," Harris goes into some detail over the "panacea targets" which were regularly identified by the Ministry of Economic Warfare, citing examples of molybdenum and ball bearings:

"The enthusiasts who wanted us to concentrate on one particular class of target throughout Germany almost always failed to realise how many factors there were to make such a scheme impracticable." He lists these in detail, the main ones being firstly weather, and the absolute reliance on good conditions to allow attacking a specific target, enemy identification of our targeting plan, defending accordingly and dispersing assets before a programme of bombing can have effect , and of course the limitations of navigation for most of the war.
 
No problem at all, and thank you; I'm skiving on my work laptop, and it has certain quirks I haven't quite worked out!

Re: your bold: In Chapter 10 of his memoire "Bomber Offensive," Harris goes into some detail over the "panacea targets" which were regularly identified by the Ministry of Economic Warfare, citing examples of molybdenum and ball bearings:

"The enthusiasts who wanted us to concentrate on one particular class of target throughout Germany almost always failed to realise how many factors there were to make such a scheme impracticable." He lists these in detail, the main ones being firstly weather, and the absolute reliance on good conditions to allow attacking a specific target, enemy identification of our targeting plan, defending accordingly and dispersing assets before a programme of bombing can have effect , and of course the limitations of navigation for most of the war.
Among Harris' problems, was his apparent unwillingness or inability to see the value in other people's ideas. If I remember correctly, he was extremely reluctant to divert Bomber Command effort away from dehousing in order to target transport in support of NEPTUNE/OVERLORD, which proved highly effective in disrupting German logistics and troop flows in response to the landings.
 
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.
Right and Percival took command in what, April 41? He might have paid more attention to building up Singapore but his orders were to prevent the fall of Malaya. The Garrison in Singapore's orders were to defend the Naval base, not the city.

I noted that the Governor escaped blame even though he was responsible for water and utility distribution and civilian labour (scarce) which was needed to construct static defences.

By the time the fighting reached Singapore, it was already over as the very thin and exposed line was simply indefensible. The North West sector in which the Jap's landed was swamp and mangrove which prohibited the building of static defences and the lie of the land forced the defending Australian's to spread out far too thin with several hundred yards between sangers and no interlocking fields of fire.

The Japanese were left to use the high ground across the causeway in Johor (roof top of government building) and had a very clear view of the front line from this perfect OP. The 15 inch guns at the Naval base could traverse to cover the whole island and yet they were not used to flatten the the high points. Percival stated in a memo to Wavel that the Naval guns had too flat a trajectory and so could not be used for counter battery work, presumably this prevented them from being used to neutralise the Johor area, high ground and causeway.

Running out of fuel when you have enough fuel oil the docks to keep the entire RN at sea for 6 months was a major blunder. Fuel supplies should have been dealt with and managed well in advance of the invasion.

The battle was a series of minor failures than when combined lead to a catastrophic defeat. Can we blame Percival for all of it? I don't expect him to have micro managed things like fuel, water, ammo and food, his Brigade logistics staff should have taken care of this and the garrison should have given them a head start from the get go as the withdrawal from Malaya was happening.

Were there any Royal Engineers on the island? It really sounds like we could have done with some because the causeway demolition was blundered, easily repaired by the japs under fire and all of the pressure brought about by the lack of water, food and fuel might have been solved by better utilising the Engineers, not to mention static defences.

Loosing the far east the way we did was embarrassing and a major fcuk up but i cant lay the blame for it at Percival's feet.
 

Themanwho

LE
Book Reviewer
Among Harris' problems, was his apparent unwillingness or inability to see the value in other people's ideas. If I remember correctly, he was extremely reluctant to divert Bomber Command effort away from dehousing in order to target transport in support of NEPTUNE/OVERLORD, which proved highly effective in disrupting German logistics and troop flows in response to the landings.
Whilst the stubbornness of Harris was essential for the maintenance of Bomber Command's aim at the outset of his command (warding off the panaceas, both good and bad), you are absolutely right in that he fiercely resisted any detraction from hammering German cities. One of Bomber Command's greatest achievements, w
hich Harris had to be directly ordered to act on,
was (in conjunction with 8th USAAF - also under duress) the "Transport Plan", preparatory bombardment of French communications in the months prior to D Day. It was a stunning success, and these ops were immensely popular with the Bomber crews, not only because they meant not having to battle the night fighter and AA defences over Germany, but also because it was often something they could see would have an immediate and tangible contribution to victory.
 
Battle of the Atlantic?
We were never even close to losing it. If we had been, Harris would have been fired and the RAF ordered to bomb U Boat pens 24/7 no matter the cost.
Even in May 1943, the worst month of the U Boat campaign, Allied shipping looses didn't exceed 2% of sailings.
Oh i think the men, manning the ships under the red duster / white ensign would disagree with you….it wasn't until the air patrol gap was covered that total protection was assured. The USN provided escorts so far then handed over to the RN escorts. Theres a good few well written books based on first hand experience.

Yankee RN is a good starting point.
The battle of the atlantic kept the island fed supplied and informed that the free world was still helping.
 
Whilst the stubbornness of Harris was essential for the maintenance of Bomber Command's aim at the outset of his command (warding off the panaceas, both good and bad), you are absolutely right in that he fiercely resisted any detraction from hammering German cities. One of Bomber Command's greatest achievements, w
hich Harris had to be directly ordered to act on,
was (in conjunction with 8th USAAF - also under duress) the "Transport Plan", preparatory bombardment of French communications in the months prior to D Day. It was a stunning success, and these ops were immensely popular with the Bomber crews, not only because they meant not having to battle the night fighter and AA defences over Germany, but also because it was often something they could see would have an immediate and tangible contribution to victory.
And you could also argue that, from the Lindemann (Cherwell) Memorandum, de-housing was also a 'panacea' target, but one that Portal (and Harris) found useful to promote the strategic bombing force concept, with all the resources that went with it.
 
Oh i think the men, manning the ships under the red duster / white ensign would disagree with you….it wasn't until the air patrol gap was covered that total protection was assured. The USN provided escorts so far then handed over to the RN escorts. Theres a good few well written books based on first hand experience.

Yankee RN is a good starting point.
The battle of the atlantic kept the island fed supplied and informed that the free world was still helping.
Not only that, but 2% is an utterly unhelpful statistic. That 2% mounts up steadily, and each one is a ship that can't sail again, never mind the lost cargo. Battle of the Atlantic vessel losses are better viewed as inverse force multipliers (force detractors??).

I can't remember the stat off hand, but I'm pretty sure it was only losses of 3-4% that meant we'd lose.

It's a bit land centric (dare I say it) to think that 2% is tiny because people are used to odds of 2:1 or whatever. In shipping or logistic terms 2% is not fun in the slightest.
 

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