who was the best Allied general?

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sunbury2
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Re: who was the best Allied general?

Post by sunbury2 » 22 Jul 2012 11:33

Fatboy Coxy wrote:
I still vote for Messervy, as much for his wide experience of level of command, enemy he faced, and whether his side was in the acendancy or not.

Steve
I can't agree, Messervy destroyed the 7th Armoured Division through his incompetency. He threw away overwhelming superiority by feeding tanks into battle in penny packets.

For a Divisional Commander, I want to propose Leslie Morshead, Commander of the 9th Australian Division. At Tobruk he took green (raw) troops and fashioned them into elite troops. What is also often overlooked is that at Tobruk, he and his men were in an unfamiliar place with very little time to organise a defence.

He was dubbed by the German propaganda broadcaster, Lord Haw Haw, 'Ali Baba Morshead and his 40,000 thieves'. Lord Haw Haw also gave those at Tobruk their most famous nickname, the 'Rats of Tobruk', by broadcasting that they were caught like 'rats in a trap'.

He was the first Allied General to defeat Blitzkrieg and for the bulk of 1941, until Crusader, the only successful general in the Western Desert against the Afrika Korp.

In 1942 at the Second Battle of El Alamein, the 9th Australian Division was given the hardest role in the Battle, attacking along the coast road. He proved himself more than equal to the task, proving himself a master of attack and defence against the Afrika Korp. His Division's "crumbling attack" drawing in the bulk of the Afrika Korp was crucial to the success of the Battle.

At one point he was Acting Commander of XXX Corp but the British Army did not promote colonial officers especially "part time soldiers" and the inexperienced British General Leese was brought out from Britian to command XXX Corp. Leese was "junior" to Morshead and had never commanded a Division in battle. The "Trade Union of British Generals" always protected their own. One legitimate complaint about the British is they were slow to sack incompetent Generals and always looked after their own interests.

NB It was General Thomas Blamey, commanding Australians in the Desert who commented on "the Bloody Trade Union of British Generals" after yet another fiasco that was being swept under the carpet.

Later Morshead commanded the Australian 2nd Corps in New Guinea, quickly defeating a major Japanese attack at Finschhafen. Later he took command of the the 2nd Army. He stepped down from that role as it was a non combat command and took charge of the 1st Australian Corp for the battles in Borneo.

Interestingly, yet again the British Army tried to impose a British general for the role, again with no combat experience against the Japanese, it was rejected. If the Atomic Bomb had not happened, Borneo would have been a springboard for Singapore. Hence the British Army meddling.

Morshead gave a lecture in 1947 on Rommel, and described "Blitzkrieg" as "a very limited tactical manoeuvre".

He is largely unknown outside Australia, indeed his private papers were not published (and only then partially) till 2006 in the book "Tobruk" by Peter Fitzsimmons.

The British do not like to be shown their failings and the Americans sadly rarely look beyond their own history.


http://www.ww2australia.gov.au/beyond/ali-baba.html
http://ww2db.com/person_bio.php?person_id=472

just for some fun a poem.
ALI BABA MORSHEAD
Anonymous
Jerry had us on the run, the news was far from hot,
He had his feet in Egypt and the Sphinx was on the spot,
So Auchinleck despondent sent signals out in sheaves
To Ali Baba Morshead and his twenty thousand thieves.

So Leslie called his officers and whispered in their ears,
And his message went to Auchy "Have a spot and drown your fears.
We'll make that blinking Rommel think he's got the desert heaves,
With Ali Baba Moorshead and his twenty thousand thieves."

So we travelled down from Syria by tank and truck and car,
Leaving Tel Aviv and Haifa and pleasant towns afar.
Both Cairo and Alex were left to grieve
For losing Ali Baba Moorshead and his twenty thousand thieves.

So we came back to the desert, well-known from days of yore,
And stopped the foe at Alamein close by the Meddy shore.
The Eyeties were pathetic, the Huns fell back like leaves
From Ali Baba Moorshead and his twenty thousand thieves.

Now Rommel's got a headache, his tanks can't take a trick,
His Afrik' Corps are not so hot and his air force makes us sick;
His dreams of looting Egypt are ditched and he is peeved
With Ali Baba Moorshead andhis twenty thousand thieves,

We have Kittyhawks and Hurricanes and bombers by the score,
Dropping loads on Jerry's bases and rushing back for more.
And it's sure that Rommel's stonkered, whatever plans he weaves
'Gainst Ali Baba Moorshead and his twenty thousand thieves.
Edited to fix my typos

Fatboy Coxy
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Re: who was the best Allied general?

Post by Fatboy Coxy » 23 Jul 2012 18:33

Hi Sunbury2, Morshead is a good call, and a good comparator to Messervy .

Messervy didn’t perform well as 7th Armoured Div commander, but he wasn’t exactly alone in struggling with managing armour, indeed I see in him an example of how badly the British were failing in understanding how to managing armour in general. But he did learn from this and as Director of Armoured Fighting Vehicles in India (1943) argued for their use in Burma, which was proven right in the fighting in 1944/45.

Morshead’s baptism of fire with the 9th Australian Div was at Tobruk. To his immense credit he knitted the 9th Australian’s, an inexperienced formation, with other units into an efficient defence of Tobruk. He was fortunate to fight from a fixed position, where he could use all his experience from the First World War fighting on the Western Front. His Sobriquet “Ming the Merciless” was well fitting.

After that Morshead was fortunate to fight battles with the tempo set by the Allies, the butchers bill at El Alamein was heavy, but with success so close, understandable. I have to confess to ignorance over his involvement in the SW Pacific, knowing little more than what Wikipedia might tell me.

February 1944 saw Messervy (7th Indian Div) fighting another battle set at the Japanese tempo which with Allied air support he was able to withstand, after which he went over to the offensive. And later they were redeployed to become part of the British counter attack at Kohima.

Both Morshead and Messervy were very good generals within the confines of what they knew. The mistakes Messervy made with the 7th Armoured could just as easily been made by Morshead, as neither had any previous experience of Armour. But both understood their respective troops well. As a one off example of generalship I would accept Morshead at Tobruk over Messervy at the Admin Box, but for variation of enemies, and the changing ebb and flow of fortunes of war within the different theatres they fought in, I would pick Messervy, for the difficulties he had to overcome.

Steve

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genstab
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Re: who was the best Allied general?

Post by genstab » 22 Sep 2012 21:53

Tom from Cornwall wrote:HodgeB,
I've just been reading Ralph Ingersoll's 'Top Secret'.

According to that book Monty's decisions lengthened the war by at least 6 months (due to halting the US advance into Germany) - and if the Americans hadn't managed to win the Battle of the Bulge, despite Monty, it could have lasted another year.
:lol: :lol: :lol:

Dear God, are you serious? Montgomery might have had his faults as a General, and even more as a person, but not even he deserved the traversty that is "Top Secret". My dear chap, Ingesoll was a journalist, need I say more!!

Regards

Tom
Hmmm- William L. Shirer was "a journalist" also, but he wrote one of the best factual historical books on Nazi Germany ever written before the ULTRA secret was exposed.

Best regards,
Bill in Cleveland (the big one)

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: who was the best Allied general?

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 25 Sep 2012 19:57

Bill,

I was perhaps being a little harsh on journalists in general (although I'm willing to debate that from a historical point of view), have you read "Top Secret" though? It is so biaised that I whilst reading it I did wonder whether Ingersoll was working for the Soviet Union and trying to split the US and UK up after WW2. Perhaps this was a bit harsh on the men, but as a historical source I would suggest that it should be treated with great care - perhaps it's only historical value is that it indicates the depth of anti-UK (and particularly anti-Montgomery) feeling held by some of the staff in 12 US Army Group. Certainly no indication that I have seen, of Eisenhower's alleged quote that you could call someone a "SOB" but he would send you home if you called someone a "British (or American) SOB" - at least that's what they say he said!
Hmmm- William L. Shirer was "a journalist" also, but he wrote one of the best factual historical books on Nazi Germany ever written before the ULTRA secret was exposed.
Hmmm - why would the exposure of the Ultra secret change a history of Nazi Germany? Do you mean he wrote one of the best 'factual historical books' using the sources open to him before 1972?

Regards

Tom

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genstab
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Re: who was the best Allied general?

Post by genstab » 25 Sep 2012 22:40

Yes, I read "Top Secret" because i was curious. Ingersoll was a left winger at the time when cooperation with the Soviet Union was popular, before the atrocities of Stalin were exposed. I agree he exaggerates though my memory of the book iis dim; I'm usually immersed in military histories written by professionals. I just wanted to point up what I believe to be true- some journalists know very well how to research and write a good work of general history. But then you get the doctors and professors all offended and huffing about credentials....talk about a tempest in a teapot, a revival of the attempted denigration of the fantastic Barbara Tuchman whose "Guns of August" was fascinating as well as some of her other works.

Yes, you are also right about ULTRA probably not affecting a comprehensive history of Nazi Germany as Shirer didn't write a military history for which he wasn't qualified- I did mean of the books completed before the time Winterbotham exposed the ULTRA secret and the history of World War II had to be drastically revised.

Best regards,
Bill in Cleveland (the big one)

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: who was the best Allied general?

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 26 Sep 2012 19:41

Bill,

I agree with all that you wrote - and concede that some "some journalists know very well how to research and write a good work of general history" - I just don't count Ingersoll's "Top Secret" as either a "good work" or even "history". :)

BTW why is Cleveland the "Big One" - is there a little one?

Regards

Tom

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Urmel
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Re: who was the best Allied general?

Post by Urmel » 28 Sep 2012 20:47

Fatboy Coxy wrote: I still vote for Messervy, as much for his wide experience of level of command, enemy he faced, and whether his side was in the acendancy or not.

Steve
Don't know Steve. He managed to lose two armoured divisions, so that has to count against him.
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

Fatboy Coxy
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Re: who was the best Allied general?

Post by Fatboy Coxy » 05 Oct 2012 22:01

Hi Urmel

Let’s put Messervy's failure with the 1st and 7th Armoured divisions into perspective.

Having no previous experience commanding armoured formations, Messervy was "parachuted into 1st Armoured, Jan 42, when its commander Herbert Lumsden was wounded, probably because with Rommel's offensive coming that same month, an experienced desert commander was thought needed, to help steady it, having only just arrived less than three months earlier. That the division didn't perform well is in part due to Messervy, but also due to the inexperience of the division, and the general British tank operating doctrine. Messervy wasn't going to be the last British general taught a lesson by Rommel. In March 42 He handed back command to Lumsden on his return to duty.

End of Feb 42, the divisional commander for 7th Armoured Div, Jock Campbell, had been killed. Messervy was moved straight into command of this division. Three months later Messervy's 7th Armoured was fighting the Battle of Gazala, where British tactics were again shown up by Rommel. Part of 7ths poor performance can be attributed to Messervys command post being surprised by the German 90th Light Div, Messervy spent two days escaping capture, and not commanding when they need direction most. In late June 42, Ritchie relieved him of his command.

With the end of the Battle of Gazala, the loss of Tobruk, and finally the shoring up of the British lines in the First Battle of El Alamein, the British were able to reflect. Auchinleck was relieved of command. Too many appointments of commanders had been failures, Richie promoted to Eight Army commander, not having commanded a Corps, was later, after a natural progression of commanding a division, proved to be an able Corps commander. Gott, an able Armoured Div Commander, had been promoted to command an Infantry Corps, are other examples of placing officers into roles they had no experience of, and subsequently were found wanting.

If you can name a general placed in similar position to what happed to Messervy, and show me a success, I’d have to reconsider Messervy’s claim, but I don’t think anyone else could of done much better!

Steve

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Urmel
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Re: who was the best Allied general?

Post by Urmel » 06 Oct 2012 06:32

I know the context.

I'm just saying that in order to have a claim to be the best general, he probably should have done better with the divisions.

Me, I'm partial to Hobart. Trained two very good armoured divisions to high effectiveness (7 and 11 Armoured) and apparently ran 79 Armoured extremely well.
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

Fatboy Coxy
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Re: who was the best Allied general?

Post by Fatboy Coxy » 15 Oct 2012 21:22

Hobart is a very interesting character, didn’t have enough combat experience to quality as a candidate for best general IMHO, but as an innovator and adaptor of the use of tanks, he was superb. I don’t think he has a comparator in any of the armies, for what he was doing. I’d guess his previous experience in the Royal Engineers must have helped him enormously.

Clearly he had great difficulty persuading the establishment on how best to use tanks, with Wavell dismissing him, and Brooke going close, saved by a “happy brainwave”. Having Monty as a brother in law couldn’t have hurt, but I’m not sure Monty understood tanks anything like “Hobo” did. In the wider field Liddell Hart championed him, and apparently Guderian took note of him. One wonders what he would have done if he was German!

Now if Wavell hadn’t dismissed him, and his health and age held up, how much better might the British had been in tank warfare, earlier on in the North African campaign? Maybe he could have been the best Allied General!

Steve

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Re: who was the best Allied general?

Post by redcoat » 16 Oct 2012 21:16

Fatboy Coxy wrote:Having Monty as a brother in law couldn’t have hurt, but I’m not sure Monty understood tanks anything like “Hobo” did. Steve
They didn't like each other. The only thing the two had in common was a reputation for being 'difficult'.

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Re: who was the best Allied general?

Post by Urmel » 19 Oct 2012 20:02

Fatboy Coxy wrote:Having Monty as a brother in law couldn’t have hurt, but I’m not sure Monty understood tanks anything like “Hobo” did. Steve
But there was no need for him to do so. He was an infantry man, and he was good at fighting major combined arms battles. That's what they employed him for. If anyone had thought he was good with tanks, they would've given him an armoured division.
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

Aber
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Re: who was the best Allied general?

Post by Aber » 28 Oct 2012 17:47

Fatboy Coxy wrote: Part of 7ths poor performance can be attributed to Messervys command post being surprised by the German 90th Light Div,
Being surprised in the desert in daylight, does not reflect well on the general in charge...

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Re: who was the best Allied general?

Post by Freebird » 27 Aug 2019 09:19

Michael Kenny wrote:
15 Sep 2011 20:21
More Newspaper articles.

SUPREME HEADQUARTERS
Allied Expeditionary Force.
Paris, Jan 5
Field Marshal Sir Bernard L. Montgomery has been commanding the United States First and Ninth Armies and all forces north of the German bulge into Belgium for more for more than two weeks, with Lieut. Gen. Omar N. Bradley commanding forces only on the southern flank, Supreme Headquarters disclosed today.
The quick change of commands was ordered by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower when the German offensive threatened to split the allies in two
Colorful, confident Marshal .Montgomery personally took command in the north at midnight Dec. 20, and rushed to the front to direct the American blows that halted the German plunge toward Liége and now are hitting southward at the German salient, a field dispatch from Wes Gallagher, Associated Press correspondent, said. The British Second and Canadian First Armies already were under his direction, so Marshal Montgomery now is leading four armies. General Bradley, whose Twelfth Army Group had included the American First, Ninth and Third Armies, took the southern command, directing the Third Army’s assault northward against the German penetration. General Bradley’s new command also includes one Division of the United States Seventh Army.
Two American air groups also come under Marshal Montgomery’s command by the shift. He and General Bradley are still directly responsible to General Eisenhower.
While Mr. Gallagher said Marshal Montgomery took over on Dec. 20- 21 during the most critical stage, Gen. George C. Marshall, United States Army Chief of Staff, in Washington said the British leader assumed charge on the second night of the German offensive, which was launched Dec. 16. Supreme Headquarter's announcement said simply: When the German penetration through the Ardennes created two fronts, one substantially facing north and the other south, by instant agreement of all concerned that portion of the front facing south was placed under
command of Field Marshal Montgomery and that facing north under command of General Bradley. By this change, there still would be coordinated self-contained armies in the north and south if the Germans had won a complete break-through, it was explained.
Marshal Montgomery has raced about the front, personally giving instructions, visiting Lieut. Gen. Courtney Hodges of the First Army and Lieut. Gen. William H. Simpson of the Ninth Army and all corps commanders, fixing the northern defenses to his own tastes and planning counterblows. He was well received by American troops and officers. Some Ninth Army divisions helped oppose the German push at the start. Some British forces were thrown in as long as a week ago. It was the first time since the burst out of Normandy, when General Bradley assumed equal status with Marshal Montgomery as an Army Group Commander
that the Briton, who won a brilliant reputation in Libya, has had any sizable American forces under his direction.

Devers’ Group Not Changed
Lieut. Gen. Jacob L. Devers’ Sixth Army Group farther south, which includes the American Seventh Army and the French First Army, remained unchanged in this shuffle. The high tide of German reconquest began to recede the day after Marshal Montgomery took charge on the north. He mapped out the counterblows. He is used to planning operations in detail, leaving little to the judgment of Army commanders or other subordinates and he followed this policy in directing his enlarged command. Prime Minister Churchill, General Eisenhower and Gen. Charles de Gaulle conferred at Supreme Headquarters last Wednesday, in a session that presumably determined greater participation by the French Army on the Western Front. Mr. Churchill and General Eisenhower were said to have assured General de Gaulle that the French would be helped to form a large army. No details were disclosed officially by London or Supreme Headquarters. The German Christmas onslaught carried the gravest threat to Allied communications. By the change, putting the First and Ninth Armies under Marshal Montgomery, there still would have been a coordinated force in northern Belgium and the Netherlands even if the Germans had smashed on to the Channel. It would have been supplied through Antwerp.
In the south the Third Army of Lieut. Gen. George S. Patton-—the only army left under General Bradley’s former command-—also was a self-contained unit, linked with General Devers’ Sixth Army Group on its flank. Had the Germans achieved complete success, General Eisenhower still would have had three self-contained forces ready to continue the fight. For the same tactical reasons, the United States Twenty-ninth and Ninth Tactical Air Commands, which supported the Ninth and First Armies, were placed under control of the British Second Tactical Air Force, which operates with Marshal Montgomery’s British-Canadian Armies. The Twenty ninth and Ninth Tactical Air Commands are two or three fighter·bomber components of the United States Ninth Tactical Air Force. The Nineteenth Tactical Air Command of the Ninth Air Force supports the United States Third Army. Marshal Montgomery had control of American Armies on the Western Front until August, when he relinquished control to General Bradley, when Americans began considerably to outnumber British forces on the Western Front. Since then small force of one or two American divisions have been under British Second Army or Canadian First Army control for short periods in cases of emergency. Some British units, particularly flame-throwers, have been working for months with American infantry and armor on the Western Front.


ROOSEVELT EXPLAINS SHIFT
Jan. 5—President Roosevelt made it clear today that Field Marshal Sir Bernard L. Montgomery’s new command over American troops was no infringement on Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Supreme Command, and Gen. George C. Marshall backed this up by asserting that it was a “normal" action necessitated by the battle crisis in the west.
In addition to these on-the-record statements by the Commander in Chief and the Chief of Staff of the Army, it was authoritatively learned that the official view of the War Department concerning the transfer of the major part of Lieut. Gen. Omar N. Bradley’s command to the British leader can be summed up in four words: "Don’t sell out Bradley." There was a strong implication in War Department circles that inall probability the reduction
of General Bradley’s command would be temporary rather than permanent. At least, that is what responsible sources here profess to think. There also was a reassertion of the War Department atti- tude that any British effort to lessen General Eisenhower’s command would meet with strong opposition.
At his news conference President Roosevelt was questioned about the transfer of command of the American Ninth Army and the major portion of the First Army north of the German Ardennes salient to Marshal Montgomery. The switch, the President asserted, does not mean that Marshal Montgomery has become Deputy Commander to Eisenhower. The appointment of a British Deputy Commander to assist General Eisenhower in carrying out his tremendous responsibilities has been the subject of considerable agitation in Britain. British sources have suggested that Field Marshal Sir Harold L. G. Alexander, who was second in command to General Eisenhower in the North African campaign, with the then General Montgomery as third man in the successful triumvirate, be moved up to a similar position in the European campaign.

Eisenhower Directed Shift
President Roosevelt went on to say that General Eisenhower had directed the transfer, and that it was a regular field operation. Asked if it should be considered a promotion for Marshal Montgomery, he replied in the negative. Then the President said that he was in Washington, not in Europe, and that further information should come from General Eisenhower’s headquarters. General Marshall was at the White House to attend a medal presentation and later to confer with the President. He disclosed that the transfer of command took place on the night of Dec. 17, the second day of the German offensive. Announcement had been withheld, he stated, because "we did not want to convey to the Ger- mans" what had taken place.
Neither President Rossevelt nor General Marshall discussed General Bradley’ status, but other sources said that the War Department did not view the command shift as a slap at him.- It was suggested that General Bradley organized the details neccessary to back up General Patton's smash into the German salient at Bastogne and that he was engaged in protecting the flanks of General Patton’s spearhead. It was asserted that the War Department view was that General Bradley would not diminish in stature.

London Press Hails ‘Monty’
Saturday, Jan. 6-
The news that Marshal Montgomery had received command of all Allied forces, including two American armies north of the bulge created in the Western Front by Marshal von Rundstedt’s offensive was hailed joyously by the London press. At the same time the papers expressed regret because the official announcement that British troops were helping Americans destroy the German salient under the Field Marshal’s command was held up until after its premature publication in the United States and broad hints from the German radio that that was what the "regrouping" meant.
The British press has been giving some broad hints in the past few days. There have been stories from correspondents at the front suggesting that the defensive tactics being employed against Marshal von Rundstedt had the “Monty touch" and there have been many editorials declaring that what General Eisenhower should do in the crisis was to call on the hero of El Alamein for aid and advice.
The Daily Mail, praising General Eisenhower for the "moral courage" he showed in giving the British field marshal such vast authority at such a crucial time, said it was "perhaps a little unfortunate that the change had to be made at a time when signs are not lacking of nerves on edge between Britain and America" But it expressed confidence that the American people, with characteristic "justice and common sense," would approve.




Fake ‘BBC’ Hails Montgomery
LONDON, Jan. 12 -The fake German "BBC station" was back on the air tonight praising Field Marshal Sir Bernard L. Montgomery for "behaving wonderfully" during the uproar that the false station created earlier this weék when it pretended to be the British Broadcasting Corporation.
Many thanks for posting the this!

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