Eighth Army Composition November 1941

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Urmel
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Eighth Army Composition November 1941

Post by Urmel » 09 Jan 2022 22:21

The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

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Re: Eighth Army Composition November 1941

Post by daveshoup2MD » 09 Jan 2022 23:56

Urmel wrote:
09 Jan 2022 22:21
Some people might be interested.

https://crusaderproject.wordpress.com/2 ... y-in-1941/
It's interesting as a snapshot; going by the brigade equivalents, with the "usual" 1-2 ratio of British and Indian units in "Indian" brigades, it comes out about the same.

The fluidity of British, Indian, Gurkha, and ISF assignments to nominally "Indian" formations in both world wars makes that ratio suspect (as does the "Indianization" of nominally British formations, of course) but with cross-attachments (CANLOAN officers in British line infantry units, Rhodesian "whites" as rank and file in British battalions, etc.) the at times rather ad hoc organization of the British/ Commonwealth/ Imperial/ Colonial/ exile elements is makes trying to figure who was dying for King and Country at any given time an interesting question ... as do the citizens of the Irish Republic who fought for Britain, of course.

The organization/deployments of the British 1st, 2nd, 7th, 8th, and 10th Armoured and 5th, 6th/70th, 44th, 50th, 51st, and 56th infantry divisions to SW Asia/N. Africa notwithstanding, seems a fair statement the 8th Army was the most "mixed" of any of the (roughly) six field armies the Empire deployed in 1939-45, with the 14th Army certainly the second-most "mixed" and the British 2nd, Canadian 1st, and British 1st being almost equal, and then the Australian 1st being the least "mixed" by a long shot ... and of the six, the Australian headquarters was definitely the least exercised at army level, in terms of active operations

In an conflict defined by coalition warfare, it's an interesting issue to consider.

Of the US field armies, the 5th was undoubtedly the most "mixed" with the 1st, 3rd, 7th, and 9th following; the three Pacific armies - the 6th, 8th, and 10th were generally the least (depending on who one considers the USMC and the forces raised in the Philippines in 1944-45, of course).

The French 1st, although certainly mixed in terms of the origins of its "French" forces (Europe, North Africa, sub-saharan Africa, etc.) did not really have significant foreign national forces (as opposed the the Legion, etc.) units assigned, other than some US Army forces.

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Re: Eighth Army Composition November 1941

Post by Sheldrake » 11 Jan 2022 17:51

daveshoup2MD wrote:
09 Jan 2022 23:56
Urmel wrote:
09 Jan 2022 22:21
Some people might be interested.

https://crusaderproject.wordpress.com/2 ... y-in-1941/
It's interesting as a snapshot; going by the brigade equivalents, with the "usual" 1-2 ratio of British and Indian units in "Indian" brigades, it comes out about the same.

The fluidity of British, Indian, Gurkha, and ISF assignments to nominally "Indian" formations in both world wars makes that ratio suspect (as does the "Indianization" of nominally British formations, of course) but with cross-attachments (CANLOAN officers in British line infantry units, Rhodesian "whites" as rank and file in British battalions, etc.) the at times rather ad hoc organization of the British/ Commonwealth/ Imperial/ Colonial/ exile elements is makes trying to figure who was dying for King and Country at any given time an interesting question ... as do the citizens of the Irish Republic who fought for Britain, of course.

The organization/deployments of the British 1st, 2nd, 7th, 8th, and 10th Armoured and 5th, 6th/70th, 44th, 50th, 51st, and 56th infantry divisions to SW Asia/N. Africa notwithstanding, seems a fair statement the 8th Army was the most "mixed" of any of the (roughly) six field armies the Empire deployed in 1939-45, with the 14th Army certainly the second-most "mixed" and the British 2nd, Canadian 1st, and British 1st being almost equal, and then the Australian 1st being the least "mixed" by a long shot ... and of the six, the Australian headquarters was definitely the least exercised at army level, in terms of active operations

In an conflict defined by coalition warfare, it's an interesting issue to consider.

Of the US field armies, the 5th was undoubtedly the most "mixed" with the 1st, 3rd, 7th, and 9th following; the three Pacific armies - the 6th, 8th, and 10th were generally the least (depending on who one considers the USMC and the forces raised in the Philippines in 1944-45, of course).

The French 1st, although certainly mixed in terms of the origins of its "French" forces (Europe, North Africa, sub-saharan Africa, etc.) did not really have significant foreign national forces (as opposed the the Legion, etc.) units assigned, other than some US Army forces.
The 8th and 14th British armies may have been comprised of troops from many nations, but most of these were from British Dominions or Colonies. The 14th Army was mainly formed from Indian troops with only a minority of British and African forces. This was coalition warfare only as far as the relevant dominion government or colonial authorities exercised any strategic direction. Australia forced the repatriation of its army units after Pearl Harbour. The Canadian government imposed restrictions of Canadian deployment to Europe rather than the Middle East. The aftermath of the Dieppe raid exposed the differences between Canada and Imperial Britain. Some have argued that Freyburg curtailed the March 1944 once New Zealand casualties reached 1,000 as a national commander - "The Kiwis' would do their bit but no more...

The 2nd Polish Corps accepted the suicidal role of a direct assault on the Monte Cassino feature for the May 1944 offensive because they knew that it would put Poland on the front pages in a way that a subsidiary and less dangerous role would not.

Mark Clark seems to have struggled with the burden of coalition command of "Mark Clark's Fifth US Army", which had some of the most mixed forces. His nominally US Army included two US one French and one British Corps . TThe Fifth Army troops would eventually include Black and Japanese Americans, Brazilians, South Africans British and Italians.

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Re: Eighth Army Composition November 1941

Post by daveshoup2MD » 11 Jan 2022 23:23

Sheldrake wrote:
11 Jan 2022 17:51
The 8th and 14th British armies may have been comprised of troops from many nations, but most of these were from British Dominions or Colonies. The 14th Army was mainly formed from Indian troops with only a minority of British and African forces. This was coalition warfare only as far as the relevant dominion government or colonial authorities exercised any strategic direction. Australia forced the repatriation of its army units after Pearl Harbour. The Canadian government imposed restrictions of Canadian deployment to Europe rather than the Middle East. The aftermath of the Dieppe raid exposed the differences between Canada and Imperial Britain. Some have argued that Freyberg curtailed the March 1944 once New Zealand casualties reached 1,000 as a national commander - "The Kiwis' would do their bit but no more...
[/quote]

Don't think we disagree. 5th and 8th armies each had some significant issues with various "national" contingents that had to be handled carefully, for a variety of reasons. One can compare Clark, Truscott, Montgomery, Leese, and McGarry, and try to rank them, I suppose, but that wasn't really the point.

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Re: Eighth Army Composition November 1941

Post by Urmel » 11 Jan 2022 23:49

Coalition warfare hobbled the ability of Eighth Army not inconsiderably from the word 'Go'. Freyberg insisting that 4 Armoured Brigade guards his flank, as he didn't feel like being overrun by German tanks. The Australians insisting on removing their division from Tobruk at not inconsiderable cost. The South Africans... Well let's just throw the mantle of polite silence over the South Africans. The French... Let's not get going on the French and Spears.
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

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Re: Eighth Army Composition November 1941

Post by daveshoup2MD » 12 Jan 2022 03:18

Urmel wrote:
11 Jan 2022 23:49
Coalition warfare hobbled the ability of Eighth Army not inconsiderably from the word 'Go'. Freyberg insisting that 4 Armoured Brigade guards his flank, as he didn't feel like being overrun by German tanks. The Australians insisting on removing their division from Tobruk at not inconsiderable cost. The South Africans... Well let's just throw the mantle of polite silence over the South Africans. The French... Let's not get going on the French and Spears.
Well, true, but it raises the question if the British could have held the eastern Mediterranean absent the dominion and Allied forces.

No South Africans means the British expeditionary force in Italian East Africa is roughly half the size it was historically; no Australians or New Zealanders means COMPASS ends at Sidi Barrani, and that Syria and Lebanon remain in Vichy's hands.

Presumably, given what the British were (historically) able to send east in 1940-41, they might have the following by the end of 1941, and that's presumably if fortune smiles upon the British and they don't go west of Sidi Barrani or intervene in Greece; presumably they could have done Italian Africa, but it would have taken even longer:

1st, 2nd, 7th, and (maybe) 10th Armoured divisions (might still be 1st Cavalry Division); 6th/70th Infantry Division; 4th, 5th, 8th, and 10th Indian divisions; and what - maybe an Indian armoured/cavalry division in the offing?

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Re: Eighth Army Composition November 1941

Post by Urmel » 12 Jan 2022 11:19

daveshoup2MD wrote:
12 Jan 2022 03:18
Well, true, but it raises the question if the British could have held the eastern Mediterranean absent the dominion and Allied forces.
I think it's clear they couldn't have. The British forces were overcommitted.
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

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Re: Eighth Army Composition November 1941

Post by daveshoup2MD » 13 Jan 2022 01:02

Urmel wrote:
12 Jan 2022 11:19
daveshoup2MD wrote:
12 Jan 2022 03:18
Well, true, but it raises the question if the British could have held the eastern Mediterranean absent the dominion and Allied forces.
I think it's clear they couldn't have. The British forces were overcommitted.
Agree, to a point. Given the dates when various forces arrived in the theater(s) in 1940-41, I think they could have held against the Italians after a limited offensive (Sidi Barrani) and - perhaps - cleared up East Africa, even without the South Africans, but other than that? Probably not.

Even with the Dominion and Allied forces, they could have a) held on in Cyrenaica, OR b) intervened in Greece, but not both. The Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Iran campaigns, although sideshows, were significant sideshows ... if they hadn't been taken care of in 1941, the British/Imperial response to Japan's entry into the war would have been even more limited.

W Force's deployment into Greece was a forlorn hope, given the lack of airpower, and even as close as they came to driving the Axis into Tripolitania after CRUSADER, staying on the defensive in the Med after COMPASS, not committing ground forces to Greece, and cleaning up the eastern Med littoral/southwest Asia would have been a better path.

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