Who was the worst Brit general of WW II

Yes it did from May,1939

80% of the Army was conscripted not volunteers

Yes I know -
The unwritten words in there are - in peacetime and small pool of trained reserves in comparison to those that maintained large standing armies.
France could expand rapidly because of Conscription - it also meant its expansion wasn't all raw.

Im guilty of poor writing - expecting everyone to know what I mean if I do.

I suspect most Brits on here did being more familiar with british history and thus being more familiar with the point I was making (or failing to).
 
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.
Except the fall of France and Dunkirk was not a British disaster - It was a French high command one - To whit - The failure to keep a strategic reserve and sufficiently equip and train those forces facing the Ardennes.

Neither The British nor the French were beaten and running for the beaches - The responsibility for which doesn't lie with british or French troops on the Dyle.

You also seem to be forgetting that troops were being landed elsewhere in France to reform the BEF even as it was being lifted off the beaches.

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.
Not at all - it doesn't do well before 1942 - when its a very inexperienced force being built around a rather small pool of experience, facing large experienced armies.

After 1942 it performs as well as anyone - it holds its own

IIt's alright blaming Churchill, or Rommel, or Guderian, or bad luck, or the supplies to Russia or Uncle Tom Cobbley and all,
Ignoring the fatuous points - the shifting of resources is a significant factor - Wavells force was critically weakened by the diversion of units to Greece - where they were unable to achieve anything as the Greek army collapsed .

Forces in the Far East were making do with 3rd or 4th rate equipment - stuff deemed obsolete in Europe and the pacific - but sent there prior to Japans involvement as better stuff was diverted to European allies and of course prior to Japans involvement Far East forces are being hollowed out because Britain is now the main land power and needs to rapidly expand - Indian Army units to the middle East is the immediate solution

the fact is that the British Army prided itself at the start of the war on being a superb, modern, efficient, professional army
Which it was in 1939 - However it was not equipped or organised to fight a continental war

In May 1940 reserves and conscripts had swelled its ranks but it still had its professional core - despite the Germans rolled through France and the BEF ran away mythology prevalent in the UK - The German army held a very different view of the BEFs performance and it has to be said Morale "British POWs were in good spirits and had no doubts that ultimately Britain would prevail.

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.
And Haig was also a donkey leading Lions. Of course UK high command had issues - everyone else had Armies in Peacetime - The British had one - it expanded about 500% in 3 years - I dont think it should surprise anyone that people rapidly promoted with little experience struggled a bit.

As for continually caught out
Dunkirk - No The BEF was in fact drawing up plans to evacuate before it advanced into Belgium - the old duffers with no imagination had forseen the flaws in the French Plan, Doctrine and command structure - They were in no position to influence this.

The Desert - not really a war of over extended supply lines where one side chased the other until over extended then was chased home again - Rommel being as guilty as anyone (yet the Germans were brilliant despite all the strategic defeats). Monty never fell into that trap so he is a dull unimaginative duffer.

The Jungle - An ill equipped trained and led force in Malaya against an experienced Japanese army
Burma - A fighting retreat - in 42 - followed by an Indian division formed / re rolled as a Jungle training school which all newly arrived "White" troops as well as Indian Forces went through** result Japan continuously pushed back through Burma (with the US repeating this in its Island hopping)

**Edit to ask did West African troops go through this - having been recruited in jungle regions - @Archimedes @jrwlynch as the most likely to know

Italy - Horrendously defensive terrain - but no disasters and the 2 big failures of leadership were both US generals

Normandy - Those duffers planned led and executed what was probably the worlds largest amphibious assault - despite the lack of imagination and troop quality it succeeded. Then ultimately smashed the uber troops opposing it despite the genius of its officers.

Its worth noting at this point that the bulk of forces in the ETO are still British - The US is still arriving.

Youre confusing the aggressors early success over an unprepared enemy with outright superiority and then seeming to completely miss the point that these superior troops were still ultimately beaten by the inferior allies.

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?
Ultimately On a par with everyone else

Undoubtedly in 1940/41 its German - oh and Finnish
42 Germany - Japan
43 That's Probably British (Empire) and German still
June 44 - UK and USSR
Late 44 - 45 US USSR - war weariness and casualties are reducing the British forces willing.

Italy is never a contender nor any of the Eastern European Axis powers - poor equipment and poor leadership.

France - Inflexible Doctrine that refought WW1 - to be fair when they formed on the Weyland? line and forced the battle they trained for they gave the Germans a right bloody nose - once infiltrated and out flanked though the poor comms and inflexibility meant they were stuffed.
 
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But both Leigh-Mallory and Harris should also be up there for consideration.
They weren’t generals, just mere RAF wallahs, mediocrity is expected.
 

FORMER_FYRDMAN

LE
Book Reviewer
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?
Except that, to extricate the British Army in 1940 required considerable skill by a CoC that was under French command for much of the battle.

There's a huge cannon of WW2 memoirs which show that the Navy and the Airforce were just as hidebound as the Army and made potentially war-losing errors. By the same token, the Army could be as innovative as the other two services when the mood took it.

As far as best Navy is concerned, nothing comes close to the US effort in the Pacific - the sheer logistics involved were beyond the RN. The Americans were also up against a first class navy, not a collection of submarines and surface raiders struggling for the attention of their High Command.
 
Someone above mentioned jungle trained, the Argylls proved adept at jungle training while other British rgts less so.


 
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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.
Which Percival chose to ignore.

'Percival's troop dispersions reflected his belief that the Japanese would attack to the east of the Causeway. This was where the Naval Base was located and, throughout the Malayan Campaign, hs orders had been to defend it to the end. As he said in his Dispatch, 'the object of the defence was not to hold Singapore Island, but to protect the Naval Base'. How one could be achieved without the other was clear only to the GOC. It seemed to be ingrained in his mind that the base would be the main focus for the Japanese attack, even though it had been abandoned by the Royal Navy, its fuel tanks were ablaze and all of its working parts were being systematically destroyed by army demolition experts. Irrespective of the fate of Singapore, Arthur Percival would be able to record for posterity that he had carried out his orders.

'General Wavell had told Percival during his visit to Singapore on 20 January that in his opinion the Japanese would attack the north-west side of the island where the Strats were at their narrowest. His reasoning was simple: the Japanese had attacked all the way down the west coast of the Malay peninsula and were unlikely to vary their winning strategy by moving their entire invasion force across Johore from west to east in order to cross the straits at a wider point than was available in the west. Such a move did not make sense to anyone except Percival.'
 

Mölders 1

Old-Salt
Except that, to extricate the British Army in 1940 required considerable skill by a CoC that was under French command for much of the battle.

There's a huge cannon of WW2 memoirs which show that the Navy and the Airforce were just as hidebound as the Army and made potentially war-losing errors. By the same token, the Army could be as innovative as the other two services when the mood took it.

As far as best Navy is concerned, nothing comes close to the US effort in the Pacific - the sheer logistics involved were beyond the RN. The Americans were also up against a first class navy, not a collection of submarines and surface raiders struggling for the attention of their High Command.
The last paragraph of your comment is absolutely smack on!
 
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.
2nd Bn, Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders; undisputedly the most effective Allied unit in the campaign, and last across the causeway in the retreat onto Singapore Island.
 

AlienFTM

MIA
Book Reviewer
Yes I know -
The unwritten words in there are - in peacetime and small pool of trained reserves in comparison to those that maintained large standing armies.
France could expand rapidly because of Conscription - it also meant its expansion wasn't all raw.

Im guilty of poor writing - expecting everyone to know what I mean if I do.

I suspect most Brits on here did being more familiar with british history and thus being more familiar with the point I was making (or failing to).
I'll just throw this in here as an aside. 15/19H mobilised on (iirc) 1 Sep 39. Hundreds of reservists rolled up.

15/19H had not got rid of their horses until 1938. By 1939 the regiment had barely converted to tanks. All their reservists turned up with their kit. Peace Time Unitorm, riding boots, spurs, etc.
 
I think you would be hard pressed to beat Lord Cornwallis for the title of worst British general of all time? However Percival certainly missed a trick or twenty-seven during the Japanese advance through Malaya. He was obviously ignorant of the concept of manoeuvre...or of the capability of bicycles in jungle!!
I think you would be hard-pressed to justify naming Cornwallis in the first place.
General William Elphinstone is the best candidate in the all-time stakes.
 
I think you would be hard-pressed to justify naming Cornwallis in the first place.
General William Elphinstone is the best candidate in the all-time stakes.
Particularly in a thread about WWII, but then, you are replying to a 15 year old post, from someone last seen on Arrse 5 years ago!
 

AlienFTM

MIA
Book Reviewer
the British Army prided itself at the start of the war on being a superb, modern, efficient, professional army
Ask a 15th/19th Hussars how he felt in Belgium on 17 May 40. He'd have told you just that. They really thought their Vickers VIbs and carriers were a match for anything the Germans had.

Ask him again how he felt on 19 May 40, after contact with German infantry.
 
Ask a 15th/19th Hussars how he felt in Belgium on 17 May 40. He'd have told you just that. They really thought their Vickers VIbs and carriers were a match for anything the Germans had.

Ask him again how he felt on 19 May 40, after contact with German infantry.
Possibly a bit shaken with the resolve to kick the hun repeatedly until they fecked off…..
 

Cold_Collation

LE
Book Reviewer
In his later years, Alan Whicker retraced some of his journeys. Coming up through Italy, he talked about Clark. He was polite but that only made his comments all the more damning.
 
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)
That may be full numbers in mid-late ‘18 but I shouldn’t think the US had more than very low double figures engaged at any one time, if that. All assistance gratefully received of course but there’s no equivalence between the US and British/French/German experience of WW1.
 

FORMER_FYRDMAN

LE
Book Reviewer
Possibly a bit shaken with the resolve to kick the hun repeatedly until they fecked off…..
I can't remember the reference but a German POR concluded that the British Regulars were highly professional while the territorial units had higher morale.
 

Themanwho

LE
Book Reviewer
As it is to ascribe all his actions to 'the pursuit of victory'. Let's call it 1:1 and go back to the military, rather than political, players.

E2A: ok, let's not then and start hitting the mong buttons as you've done. Returning the 'favour'; 1:1.
You might want to check your mong identification skills. For info: the big red cross means "disagree", no more.

The reason I disagreed was that pretty much everything Churchill did during the war, and especially this period, was intended to promote the defeat of Germany, and later Japan. He presided over the bankrupting of the nation to bring about eventual victory (rightly imho).

Churchill made many mistakes, but those mistakes were outweighed by his contribution to that victory. Your posts seem to me to suggest he was operating under some ulterior motive, hence the disagree.
 
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Particularly in a thread about WWII, but then, you are replying to a 15 year old post, from someone last seen on Arrse 5 years ago!
So I see, still right though.
 
Except the fall of France and Dunkirk was not a British disaster -
Loss of all BEF Artillery, Tanks (Save maybe 2 or 3) All motor T is hardly a victory. The material was mostly repaired and added to Wehrmacht stocks and used to kill British, Russian, troops

.
You also seem to be forgetting that troops were being landed elsewhere in France to reform the BEF even as it was being lifted off the beaches.
And was the landing of those troops ultimately a success or were they in their own POW camp basically?


As for continually caught out
Dunkirk - No The BEF was in fact drawing up plans to evacuate before it advanced into Belgium - the old duffers with no imagination had forseen the flaws in the French Plan, Doctrine and command structure - They were in no position to influence this.
Yet those "Old Duffers" forgot to plan to bring out the guns, hardly a victorious plan eh?

EDIT Oh look QRK@ is crayoning again like the little bitch he always is
 
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