Who was the worst Brit general of WW II

FORMER_FYRDMAN

LE
Book Reviewer
General Sir Richard O'Connor.
You're correct of course. An interesting question for this thread is why he failed to deliver the similar sort of results in 44/45 that he delivered in 40/41
 
Ego? Hardly. They were sacked because they didn't provide victories. Whether thst was their fault or not is different matter, but their departure was not down to Churchill's ego, but to his ruthless pursuit of victory.

Not necessarily a bad thing, imho.
Military realism v political jingoism in the 20th century. Nothing about relief, hope or victory; all about reputation.

From Peter Thompson's 'The Battle For Singapore', apparently on 9 Feb, but in any case chronologically after the Japanese crossing of the straits and lodgement on the island - '... telegram from Churchill. "There must at this stage be no thought of saving the troops or sparing the population", the Prime Minister cabled. "The battle must be fought to the bitter end at all costs. Commanders and senior officers should die with their troops. The honour of the British Empire and of the British Army is at stake."
 
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OneTenner

LE
Book Reviewer
OK, to back up my nomination... Auchinleck's use of intel was poor (as in he relied on one, optimistic source and didn't validate it), he reported that Axis forces were 'feeling the strain' and were 'hard pressed' where they had just tactically withdrawn to allow the loggies to catch up.. He was also a poor judge of men, he appointed commanders that were not up to the task or had poor knowledge / skills of the units they were given command of. He also badly misread the situation at Gazala where his forces were outflanked, Richie took the blame for that one. Even after a weak victory at the first battle of El Alamein, Auchinleck failed to press home the advantage on the weakened, under-supplied Axis forces and the poorly coorinated counter attacks just wasted men and resources whilst allowing the Axis forces to concentrate on resup. Bradley's nomination is purely down to his lack of command during the Ardennes offensive by a under strength and under supplied piecemeal operation mounted as a matter of desperation by OKW, where all the commanders saw no possibility of success - yet they managed to push Bradley back to near collapse until Montgomery & Patton took decisive action.
Happy to take it on the chin, none of this is in my comfort zone!
 
My choice

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

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

Wavell.
I know he defeated the Italian army Cyrienaica and Somalia and gave Britian a much needed victory, but after that at the highest level he never delivered the goods.
john
Bomber Harris
 
Bomber Harris
While I'm no fan of Harris, what campaign or theatre did he lose to the Allied war effort as opposed to Percival who lost SE Asia? As this is a thread about British generals, I won't talk about MacArthur and the Philippines.
 

Penfold

Swinger
German intelligence was reading the American cable traffic & secured a lot of prime information regarding Empire formations in the desert. Rommel used this information very well. Once the US embassy changed their military attache & cipher this info dried up.

It has already been mentioned up thread that the forces in Malaya had been raided to assist units elsewhere, notably the Middle East. What was left in place was also handicapped by the governor general ordering the army not to train in jungle combat for fear of adverse impact on native morale. The book I have on this (The War in the Far East by Basil Collier published in 1969) did state that one battalion disobeyed the order & comprehensively defeated the Japanese attack on their position. Not read it for years, so cannot remember exact details.
 
Linking back to the European side of WW2, one driving force behind Market Garden was all those paratroopers - and their transport aircraft - sitting idle,
Those transport aircraft could have been used to supply urgently needed fuel and ammunition in August/September as the Allied armies outran their logistics, but the Americans would not release them as they had been earmarked for operations by 1 Allied Airborne Army.
 
The UK was at a particular disadvantage
1) It did not use conscription
2) It was not intended to bear the brunt of the war effort in Europe - hence the Indian Army at this point isn't called up
Yes it did from May,1939

80% of the Army was conscripted not volunteers

 
As the 1945 Royal Commission correctly found, Bennett was an odious self-server, but to suggest that the Australian who 'commanded' 6 bns on Singapore Island was worse than the British general (as per the thread title) commanding the whole operation is bolleaux.
Percival, for all his faults didnt leave his men and run for safety, Bennett did
 
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German intelligence was reading the American cable traffic & secured a lot of prime information regarding Empire formations in the desert. Rommel used this information very well. Once the US embassy changed their military attache & cipher this info dried up.

It has already been mentioned up thread that the forces in Malaya had been raided to assist units elsewhere, notably the Middle East. What was left in place was also handicapped by the governor general ordering the army not to train in jungle combat for fear of adverse impact on native morale. The book I have on this (The War in the Far East by Basil Collier published in 1969) did state that one battalion disobeyed the order & comprehensively defeated the Japanese attack on their position. Not read it for years, so cannot remember exact details.
Bonner Fellers was the US Liaison officer. He was forced to send his telegrams via a state department code which had been broken by the eyeties. he believed it compromised but was ordered to continue using it over his strenuous objections.
 
IMHO Auckinleck, and Wavell, were both sacrificed on the altar of Churchill's ego. As for the Americans, in Europe at least, I'd call out Mark Clark well before considering Omar Bradley.
Not much choice for Clark though. Italy wasnt exactly maneuver country and it was easy for Kesselring to know where the 5th army would have to attack. Clarks greatest failure was his vanity in going for Rome and allowing the germans to escape behind another defence line
 
I think you may be wrong there! The British army was the only one of the armies in France in 1918 that was stronger than it was in 1914, and could have gone on for six more months, It's morale was good and with about 65 trained fighting Divisions, it was a formidable force. In addition the army were still policing the Empire World Wide. I seem to remember that there were about 5 million men in in the British army in France and Belgium and elements in the UK. I'll have to get onto Wiki for the US Army strength, but they only had about 4 or 5 Divs in France and men at trg establishments in the US.
AEF ORBAT 1918

1st Div
2nd Div
3rd Div
4th Div
5th Div
6th div
7th Div
8th Div
9th Div
26th Div
27th Div
28th Div
29th Div
30th Div
31st Div
32nd Div
33rd Div
35th Div
36th Div
37th Div
41st Div
42nd Div
77th Div
78th Div
79th Div
80th Div
81st Div
82nd Div
83rd Div
84th Div
89th Div
90th Div
91st Div
92nd Div (Buffalo Soldiers)
 
While I'm no fan of Harris, what campaign or theatre did he lose to the Allied war effort as opposed to Percival who lost SE Asia? As this is a thread about British generals, I won't talk about MacArthur and the Philippines.
Harris frittered away valuable aircrew and fought Coastal Commands need for 4 engine aircraft that arguably did more for the war effort than his area bombing, which had little effect on actually destroying manufacturing and more for revenge terror bombing for the UK publics morale. Then when some of his aircrew had too much he shamed them as LMF and cowards which they most certainly were not

Percival was promised all manner of support and it was given away to russia or kept in the UK for cross channel sweeps that wasted good fighter pilots and aircraft.

Sent virtually untrained troops to bolster his few regulars, Brewster Buffalos instead of Spitfires being wasted on Rhubarbs and Rodeos

His regular units used as sources of NCO's for new units reducing their readiness
 

Themanwho

LE
Book Reviewer
Harris frittered away valuable aircrew and fought Coastal Commands need for 4 engine aircraft that arguably did more for the war effort than his area bombing, which had little effect on actually destroying manufacturing and more for revenge terror bombing for the UK publics morale.
As did Portal, for longer and arguably more effectively.
 

Mölders 1

Old-Salt
Harris frittered away valuable aircrew and fought Coastal Commands need for 4 engine aircraft that arguably did more for the war effort than his area bombing, which had little effect on actually destroying manufacturing and more for revenge terror bombing for the UK publics morale. Then when some of his aircrew had too much he shamed them as LMF and cowards which they most certainly were not

Percival was promised all manner of support and it was given away to russia or kept in the UK for cross channel sweeps that wasted good fighter pilots and aircraft.

Sent virtually untrained troops to bolster his few regulars, Brewster Buffalos instead of Spitfires being wasted on Rhubarbs and Rodeos

His regular units used as sources of NCO's for new units reducing their readiness
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 I'm no fan of Harris, what campaign or theatre did he lose to the Allied war effort as opposed to Percival who lost SE Asia? As this is a thread about British generals, I won't talk about MacArthur and the Philippines.
Wavell was in overall command of operations in SE Asia. He made a number of visits to Singapore during the Malayan campaign where he gave direction to Percival. His last visit was on the 10 February 1942 after the Japanese had landed on the island in Bennets sector. Five days before the surrender on the 15th February.
 
The British army that performed well in France - that British Army ?
Lets not confuse a massive strategic blunder with poor performance of troops (french or British) facing the Germans in Belgium.
The retreat to Dunkirk was necessitated by an unopposed German Army approaching the rear of those formations.



Except where they did of course


The same high command that is savaged unmercifully for the Gamble that was Arnhem.


You appear to be subscribing to the - Every one was shit because the Germans ran over them in days and then could hold them off at 3 to 1 for years despite the enemy's massive superiority.
Its a common trope but more usefully written thus - the battle hardened and experienced German Army made short work of unready and doctrinally poor opposition at the start of the war - by 1942 when everyone else could finally field experienced forces the Germans were relentlessly pushed back even though they frequently occupied terrain massively advantageous to the defender**. Come late 1944 when US forces start to arrive in the ETO significant numbers Germanys fate is sealed.

The UK was at a particular disadvantage
1) It did not use conscription
2) It was not intended to bear the brunt of the war effort in Europe - hence the Indian Army at this point isn't called up

Both these factors result in a small army which following Frances withdrawal needs to rapidly expand and learn its trade. When you factor in the problem that heavy fighting tends to remove significant numbers of the trained strength far more so for the army than the other forces and statistically harder on its experienced leaders - it then becomes an uphill battle to expand - The opening up of a new theatre in India only exacerbates this with troops not able to pass along experience.
This was the crippler for the British army it innovated many techniques in North Africa - but the failure was to disseminate these back home. Hence the need not for the "New" Normandy formations to learn the Afresh.

Perhaps the british army would have been better served by rotating more units and personnel through Egypt /Italy despite the obvious issues.


**You can apply this to the Japanese as well.
I accept, of course, that the disaster in France wasn't the fault of the individual troops or their commanders and it would be unfair to judge the entire British Army in WWII on one colossal failure but a) it was nonetheless a colossal failure by the Army that meant the war was to grind on for six years with Britain almost continually on the back foot almost until the end and b) rather more pertinently, it was only one of many such colossal failures.

It's not as if France 1940 was the one glaring exception to a long string of magnificent and brilliant strategic British Army victories in WWII, was it? One must face facts, for the most part the story of the British Army in WWII is of one catastrophic disaster or appalling muddle after another and someone has to take the blame for these things.

It's alright blaming Churchill, or Rommel, or Guderian, or bad luck, or the supplies to Russia or Uncle Tom Cobbley and all, the fact is that the British Army prided itself at the start of the war on being a superb, modern, efficient, professional army and when the crunch came the high command were for the most part a shower of hopeless duffers who seemed to be continually caught flat footed and without an imaginative or brilliant thought in their heads.

The same cannot be said for the Navy or the Air Force, yes they made mistakes, lots of them, but they learned from them quickly and adapted new ideas. Sharp young officers who weren't afraid of making themselves unpopular moved up the ranks quickly. The Navy and Air Force positively itched to get their hands on the latest high-tech equipment so they could use them on the front line as quickly as possible. They both got stuck into the enemy at every opportunity.

When it comes to the analysis at the end of the war you would undoubtedly say that the Royal Navy were far and away the best navy. The Americans would probably claim first place when it comes to air forces deployed but that would be a factor more of quantity rather than quality and the RAF would certainly give them a run for their money.

The British Army? If one were to make a league table of the quality of armies deployed in WWII, anyone want to give an overall place to the British Army?
 
The very same. A prize, glory-seeking cock (IMHO), and a top five contender for the worst Allied commander of WWII.
Possibly only saved in the ETO by Lucas

The man who very nearly managed to Turn an Inchon* into complete rerun of Gallipoli



*Yes I know Inchons several years later and another war.
 

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