Why British and American Tank tactics were so bad

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Lars EP
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Postby Lars EP » 23 Feb 2004 03:17

Darrin wrote:
Mak Los Mien Schnitzel wrote:define "bad", remember the americans won the war! :D

it was their policy to produce so many tanks that they'd outnumber panzers 1:4 anyhow.



And did it with loss rates from 44 on of around 2 des bad western tanks with bad crews for each des ger supermachine and supermen. This includes TDs and even light tanks and was a feat rus never managed to match.


Somebody asks a question about US tanks, and Darrin immidiatly uses it to once again attack Soviet tanks and tank-warfare... do you never get tired of repeating yourself?

Regards --- Lars

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Qvist
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Postby Qvist » 23 Feb 2004 10:23

Kunikov:

Considering the fact that they fought for less than a year, that number doesn't seem like anything special. Plus, the fact that they faced second rate units for the most part, unlike the elite lost in the Eastern Front speaks volumes.


This is an invalid generalisation. Unit quality in the West certainly varied more than in the East in the summer of 1944, but there were more than a few first-rate German units in the West. From the start of 1944, you no longer see the general tendency to use the West as a rebuilding ground for shattered formations from the East.

Elite units were gone by the end of 1943 on the Eastern Front.


Which "elite units" were "gone" by the end of 1943?

why don't you show the number of Panzer divisions in the Easter front after Operation Bagration.


Can be found here (as of september):

viewtopic.php?t=31600&start=0

Michael:

Total tanks in France May 1944=1355
Total tanks in The East May 1944=1370


An interesting reflection on the priority given to the West in early 1944, considering the number of Panzer Divisions were much higher in the East! Thanks for good info BTW - I would be grateful if you could post this also on the thread in the link above!

stephan:

There is at least one more, important factor why the american didn´t have had equivalents to all german tanks.

What is the purpose with tanks? To fight other tanks? Not necessarily, it is more to get through enemy lines!!! To fight other tanks is most important if you lack other anti-tank weapons, but in 1944 americans HAD other means. They had at least 90% supremacy in the air. They had good artillery, the infantery had bazookas and so on. They were no longer forced to use tanks as main weapon against other tanks.


That was exactly the philsophy that underlay American tank development, and it was rather universally condemned as perhaps the biggest failure of US doctrine as experience suggested precisely that tanks needed to be able to fight other tanks successfully. Neither air power, indirect artillery or bazookas were any sort of replacement for this.

Darrin:

On the 22 nd of jun 44 the number of panzer divs in the west was almost equal to the number of panzer div in the east. Please define and prove what you mean by elite units


See Michael's comments here - he is of course right.

Daan:

Germany could never replace the lost tanks and StuG's at the rate they were lost.


Actually, I believe production exceeded losses during parts of the war.



cheers

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Postby Kunikov » 23 Feb 2004 14:37

Qvist wrote:Kunikov:

Considering the fact that they fought for less than a year, that number doesn't seem like anything special. Plus, the fact that they faced second rate units for the most part, unlike the elite lost in the Eastern Front speaks volumes.


This is an invalid generalisation. Unit quality in the West certainly varied more than in the East in the summer of 1944, but there were more than a few first-rate German units in the West. From the start of 1944, you no longer see the general tendency to use the West as a rebuilding ground for shattered formations from the East.


Who manned the atlantic wall? As far as I can recall there were nationalities from Eastern Europe to the Far East. How many units were made up of 'ear and stomach' battalions? How many just rebuilt? Even if in the beginning of 1944 no more units came from the East to be rebuilt, what about those that came earlier? Surely, it takes at least a few months for units to be rebuilt. Also, I do keep hearing about the 'few first-rate' German units, who were they and why were they first rate?

Elite units were gone by the end of 1943 on the Eastern Front.

Which "elite units" were "gone" by the end of 1943?


All of them, most of the formations that began the war in 1941 were 'elite' in my view, they had plenty of war experience and the equipment to fight the coming war, by the end of 1943 there were none left. They had already been rebuilt in one way or another and had lost most of their veteran soldiers and officers. Plus, the constant changes in command on the higher level didn't go for the better either.

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Postby Qvist » 23 Feb 2004 15:11

Who manned the atlantic wall? As far as I can recall there were nationalities from Eastern Europe to the Far East. How many units were made up of 'ear and stomach' battalions? How many just rebuilt? Even if in the beginning of 1944 no more units came from the East to be rebuilt, what about those that came earlier? Surely, it takes at least a few months for units to be rebuilt. Also, I do keep hearing about the 'few first-rate' German units, who were they and why were they first rate?


Well, I didn't say your point had no relation to reality, just that it was an invalid generalisation :D .

1. Most of the infantry divisions manning the atlantic wall were substandard formations.

2. However, by the autumn of 1944, the majority of these had been destroyed. The new divisions that replaced them were not of inferior quality compared to the new units deployed to the East.

3. Also, they were already in the summer of 1944 supplemented by a considerable number of very good formations - including, 1st, 2nd, 9th, 10th and 12th SS Panzer Divisions, 2nd, 9th, 11th, 21st, 116th and 130th ("Lehr") Panzer Divisions and 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Divisions. As you see from Michael's post, these had a tank strength comparable to all the Pz divisions in the East, despite the fact that the number of Pz divisions in the East was some 50% higher. Their overall standard of equipment, and above all the degree to which they were at or close to full strength, is probably unrivalled in the latter half of the war. You will be familiar with the combat record of most of these formations, so I see little need to go into details there.

4. The West had priority for more than half a year prior to the invasion - thus the considerably better state of the Panzer divisions in the West in June, all of whom were either new units or arrived from the East some months prior to D-Day in a very battered state, and then rebuilt in anticipation of the summer season, obviously receiving priority in personnell and equipment replacements.

5. Rebuilt point: Units did arrive from the East to be rebuilt in early 1944. But whereas earlier they were generally dispatched back East or to other active fronts as soon as they were ready, from the start of 1944 they were retained in France in anticipation of the invasion. After the Normandy campaign, there was of course no question of using WE as a resting and training ground, and from this time on the EF no longer contains the overwhelming part of German forces - just the majority of them.

All of them, most of the formations that began the war in 1941 were 'elite' in my view, they had plenty of war experience and the equipment to fight the coming war, by the end of 1943 there were none left. They had already been rebuilt in one way or another and had lost most of their veteran soldiers and officers. Plus, the constant changes in command on the higher level didn't go for the better either.


This is again too simplistic I think! Sorry, but I am always annoyed by this tendency to think that the soldiers who crossed the border in 1941 was somehow of an entirely incomparable callibre compared to those who joined the ranks later, and that the fighting quality of the WH can more or less be measured by how many of them were still on active duty. Codswallop in my opinion, though personnell quality certainly became an issue eventually (but hardly as early as this).

Anyway, most of the 1941 formations were still in existence at the end of 1943, without having been rebuilt. They had of course suffered casualties and absorbed replacements, but there's nothing unusual about that. And if they were experienced in 1941, they certainly were in 1943.


cheers

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Postby RichTO90 » 23 Feb 2004 16:52

Michael Kenny wrote:Total tanks in France May 1944=1355
Total tanks in The East May 1944=1370

However by September 1944:

Tanks in The West=371
Tanks in The East=1549

This ratio of East to West continues to the end of the War. Only during the Bulge Campaign do the West's Figures rise to 60% of the Eastern numbers.

So it seems that:

"the number of panzer divs in the west was almost equal to the number of panzer div in the east"

is not correct and the parity of numbers for the short Summer period is not quite the whole story.


Sorry Michael, but this is a little fuzzy to say the least. :D The actual numbers as reported on 31 May for the total of operational and in repair armor vehicles (Panzer/Stug & Stuh) by theater was:

East 1479/1580 = 3059
West 1466/345 = 1811
Southwest 548/452 = 1000
Norway 146/52 = 198
Southeast 65/212 = 277

As reported on 30 September they were:

East 1691/1665 = 3356
West 402/168 = 570
Southwest 266/256 = 522
Norway 129/52 = 181
Southeast 18/47 = 65

"Norway" includes Denmark and the Netherlands.

But your implication (as I read it) that the decrease of strength in the west was somehow linked to the maintenance of strength in the east is a little deceptive. In fact it was entirely due to the huge losses in armored vehicles inflicted upon the German forces in France, to wit (Panzers/Stug, Stuh & JgPz):

June 225/27
July 291/68
August 120/98
September 1299/472
Total 1935/665 = 2600

The Germans also suffered losses in Italy that were severe as well in comparison withthe numbers committed there, beginning with the Allied DIADEM offensive beginning 13 May 1944:

May 15/11
June 282/91
July 102/39
August 12/18
September 86/22
Total (not including May) 228/170 = 398

These may be compared to losses in the east as follows:

June 42/79
July 743/910
August 646/298
September 324/387
Total 1755/1674 = 3429

So strength in the east increased by 297 against losses of 3429 implying replacements of 3726. In the west strength declined 1241 against losses of 2600 implying replacements of 1359. And in Italy strength declined 478 against losses of 398 (due to transfers of the HG PzD to the east, 3 and 15 PzGd to the west). Which simply shows that the prioritization of replacements was to the east following the reports of massive losses during July and August was higher since the losses registered in the west (and to a lesser extent Italy) were much less. Which is what one would expect.

By 15 December the strength situation was:

East 1858/2053 = 3911
West 1126/598 = 1724
Southwest 279/334 = 613
Norway 69/42 = 111
Southeast 0/28 =28

Losses during the period were recorded as:

East
October 448/410
November 134/130
Total 582/540 = 1122

West
October 73/147
November 93/92
Total 166/239 = 405

Southwest
October 14/9
November 7/3
Total 21/12 = 33

So strength in the east increased by 555 against losses of 1122, implying replacements of 1677. In the west strength increased 1154 against losses of 405, implying replacements of 1559 and in the southwest increased by 91 against losses of 33, implying replacements of 124. So on the whole the priority appears to have been pretty evenly balanced and greatly reduced - vis a vis the east - from the previous period.

Hope this is interesting. :D

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Postby Michael Kenny » 23 Feb 2004 20:50

Quote:

"Sorry Michael, but this is a little fuzzy to say the least"

Total tanks in France May 1944=1355
Total tanks in The East May 1944=1370



True in respect that I should have said tanks in France and only Pz IV, PzV and Pz VI. I did not include any SP's.

Your figure of 'West 1466/345 = 1811' gives 1466 against my 1355 a difference of 111 and I did not include Pz III's

Later in June the total for France rose to 1515 (Pz's IV,V and VI only)

By the time of The Bulge the numbers in the West did rise but after the offensive the numbers in the East rose dramaticaly and by the end of the war the ratio East to West was 4:1.
All I intend to show was the East nearly always (except summer 1944) had a greater number of tanks than the West.

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Postby Kunikov » 23 Feb 2004 23:16

Qvist, thanks for the info (Some I agree with some I don't) but I'm sorry to say I can't handle such long and detailed arguments right now (Midterm week), so I'll generally answer your points...


Qvist wrote:
Who manned the atlantic wall? As far as I can recall there were nationalities from Eastern Europe to the Far East. How many units were made up of 'ear and stomach' battalions? How many just rebuilt? Even if in the beginning of 1944 no more units came from the East to be rebuilt, what about those that came earlier? Surely, it takes at least a few months for units to be rebuilt. Also, I do keep hearing about the 'few first-rate' German units, who were they and why were they first rate?


Well, I didn't say your point had no relation to reality, just that it was an invalid generalisation :D .

1. Most of the infantry divisions manning the atlantic wall were substandard formations.

2. However, by the autumn of 1944, the majority of these had been destroyed. The new divisions that replaced them were not of inferior quality compared to the new units deployed to the East.


What about the older units in the east? I would doubt they were better than those.

3. Also, they were already in the summer of 1944 supplemented by a considerable number of very good formations - including, 1st, 2nd, 9th, 10th and 12th SS Panzer Divisions, 2nd, 9th, 11th, 21st, 116th and 130th ("Lehr") Panzer Divisions and 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Divisions. As you see from Michael's post, these had a tank strength comparable to all the Pz divisions in the East, despite the fact that the number of Pz divisions in the East was some 50% higher. Their overall standard of equipment, and above all the degree to which they were at or close to full strength, is probably unrivalled in the latter half of the war. You will be familiar with the combat record of most of these formations, so I see little need to go into details there.


How many of them were just rebuilt tho? I lack in my western front knowledge :D
4. The West had priority for more than half a year prior to the invasion - thus the considerably better state of the Panzer divisions in the West in June, all of whom were either new units or arrived from the East some months prior to D-Day in a very battered state, and then rebuilt in anticipation of the summer season, obviously receiving priority in personnell and equipment replacements.


Understandable, but could one compare new personnell to veterans? I can understand some were coming out the hospitals, but did they have the experience those units in the East had?
5. Rebuilt point: Units did arrive from the East to be rebuilt in early 1944. But whereas earlier they were generally dispatched back East or to other active fronts as soon as they were ready, from the start of 1944 they were retained in France in anticipation of the invasion. After the Normandy campaign, there was of course no question of using WE as a resting and training ground, and from this time on the EF no longer contains the overwhelming part of German forces - just the majority of them.


OK, that I was familiar with.

This is again too simplistic I think! Sorry, but I am always annoyed by this tendency to think that the soldiers who crossed the border in 1941 was somehow of an entirely incomparable callibre compared to those who joined the ranks later, and that the fighting quality of the WH can more or less be measured by how many of them were still on active duty. Codswallop in my opinion, though personnell quality certainly became an issue eventually (but hardly as early as this).


I think after Stalingrad the majority of those who crossed the border in 1941 were actually gone, at least more than 1/3 for sure. But I am of the opinion the 1941 Wehrmacht was the best out of all the years, perhaps we can agree to disagree on this issue.

Anyway, most of the 1941 formations were still in existence at the end of 1943, without having been rebuilt. They had of course suffered casualties and absorbed replacements, but there's nothing unusual about that. And if they were experienced in 1941, they certainly were in 1943.

cheers


I tend to think 'unit cohension' went down a great degree from that of 1941, sure they were more experienced, so was the Red Army, but the Red Army of 1941 was the best as well...until perhaps the end of 1943 and beginning of 1944.
Last edited by Kunikov on 24 Feb 2004 13:36, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Caldric » 24 Feb 2004 09:35

Kunikov wrote:How many of them were just rebuilt tho? I lake in my western front knowledge :D


Really? You lack in your Western Front knowledge? No way!



/sarcasm off

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Postby Qvist » 24 Feb 2004 12:42

Hello Kunikov

What about the older units in the east? I would doubt they were better than those.


Most new units raised at this late stage were not of the same quality as their earlier compatriots. The point was rather that after Normandy, the Germans were no longer posting second rate formations West and prime formations East. In other words - the tendency to send the better units East only lasted as long as there was no serious threat of major action in the West.

How many of them were just rebuilt tho? I lake in my western front knowledge


Just 21st PzD, if you mean completely re-formed from scratch (the old unit was completetly destroyed in Tunisia).

Understandable, but could one compare new personnell to veterans? I can understand some were coming out the hospitals, but did they have the experience those units in the East had?


Well, how do you think the divisions in the East were kept on their feet? They too neccessarily absorbed large amounts of replacement manpower. If they had the opportunity to refit in the way that these divisions did, receiving replacements and training them in relative peace and quiet, they were lucky. The alternative was to absorb replacements and new equipment while in action, or during short lulls. Not a good alternative.

And anyway, the veteran/new dichotomy is really not so unproblematically sharp. It could well be argued, for example, that the two German divisions who gave the best account of themselves in Normandy was Panzer Lehr and 12th SS PzD - both of whom were new units, but who had had adequate time to train and work up and were built around a core of experienced officers and NCOs. All in all, fresh troops, if well-led and trained, may not have been at much of a disadvantage compared to veterans who had been through the meatgrinder for years.

I think after Stalingrad the majority of those who crossed the border in 1941 were actually gone, at least more than 1/3 for sure. But I am of the opinion the 1941 Wehrmacht was the best out of all the years, perhaps we can agree to disagree on this issue.


Actually not far from a third of them would have become casualties already during 1941. The point is not really if the Wehrmacht of 41 was better than in later years as an organisation. Even if they were, this would not neccessarily mean that there was a very big difference in the quality of each individual soldier in that year and in others. All armies take casualties and have to replace them.

I tend to think 'unit cohension' went down a great degree from that of 1941, sure they were more experienced, so was the Red Army,


Of course - unit cohesion inevitably dropped as an increasing number of formations were ripped apart or destroyed - but that, again, is something else than the quality of the soldiery.

but the Red Army of 1941 was the best as well...until perhaps the end of 1943 and beginning of 1944.


You know, that's an interesting question. I'm plainly speculating now, but I might be inclined to agree with you there.

cheers

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Postby Andreas » 24 Feb 2004 12:44

Qvist wrote:
Elite units were gone by the end of 1943 on the Eastern Front.


Which "elite units" were "gone" by the end of 1943?


The general feeling about the quality of replacements was that these were not as high as the original soldiers of the Ostheer - this was especially seen as a problem with soldiers of specialist trades (pioneers in particular). This can be seen in reports as early as autumn 1941 (I have some evidence on this from 1. Gebirgsdivision). IIRC it was Halder who said after the Winter 1941/2 battles that they would never get a Heer of the quality of the summer 1941 again. Coming into 1943, in particular the high losses of officers and NCOs are a problem in the sources I have read, with e.g. 12.PD soldiers refusing in March/April in the Orel sector to attack or defend unless 'Waffengewalt' is used on them. From later that year, the increasing drafting of Volksdeutsche creates language and motivation problems.

I have been told a very thorough treatment of this can be found in Vol.5 (I and II) of the MGFA publication 'Germany and the second world war', which is (at a price) available in English. A very interesting table is in Vol. 4 'The attack on the Soviet Union', showing a comparison of the divisional combat capability status in the Ostheer between June 41 and May 42, IIRC.

Some anecdotal evidence: von Plato (Ia 5.PD, later Generalleutnant in the Bundeswehr) is on the record as saying that while Soviet junior officer training improved appreciably throughout the course of the war, German officer training declined (in Glantz 'The early period of war'). I believe there was also a reduction in the time of infantry training. Jary in '18 Platoon' comments that German sections seemed to fold when they lost the support of their squad MG - he was not impressed with the performance of German infantry.

It is, IMO not a case of specific elite units going, but instead the quality of the Heer as a whole being ground down in the relentless fighting in the east, with some fire-brigade units being kept up to better levels, while others are just allowed to whither on the vine.

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Postby Andreas » 24 Feb 2004 13:14

Englander wrote:Also in the battle of France the Germans discovered a mean tank killing weapon,namely the 88 flak cannon.


Mr. Picky says that this is not quite correct. The 88 was already recognised as a very helpful AT weapon, which is shown by the establishment of at least one AT Abteilung equipped with these prior to the start of the campaign. I can look up name and attachment tonight - it is shown in a unit diagram of one of the Panzerdivisionen in Friesner 'Blitzkrieg Legende'.

What could be said though is that the campaign in France confirmed the correctness of this decision.

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Postby Kunikov » 24 Feb 2004 13:27

Caldric wrote:
Kunikov wrote:How many of them were just rebuilt tho? I lake in my western front knowledge :D


Really? You lack in your Western Front knowledge? No way!



/sarcasm off


Doesn't have the same interest for me. Abuse me while you can, and while I let you...
Last edited by Kunikov on 24 Feb 2004 13:36, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Kunikov » 24 Feb 2004 13:35

Qvist wrote:Hello Kunikov

What about the older units in the east? I would doubt they were better than those.


Most new units raised at this late stage were not of the same quality as their earlier compatriots. The point was rather that after Normandy, the Germans were no longer posting second rate formations West and prime formations East. In other words - the tendency to send the better units East only lasted as long as there was no serious threat of major action in the West.


But this only covers those units which were rebuilt and sent, if one compares overall the units in the West and in the East, which do you think would have more experience and be considered better?

Just 21st PzD, if you mean completely re-formed from scratch (the old unit was completetly destroyed in Tunisia).


Just one division? I can't believe that, and I don't mean built from scratch, I mean taken losses 50% and over and sent to the West for replacements and R&R.

Well, how do you think the divisions in the East were kept on their feet? They too neccessarily absorbed large amounts of replacement manpower. If they had the opportunity to refit in the way that these divisions did, receiving replacements and training them in relative peace and quiet, they were lucky. The alternative was to absorb replacements and new equipment while in action, or during short lulls. Not a good alternative.


Well that's a given, but these divisions were beaten down to the level of needing to be sent to the West to be 'rebuit', so I would believe a difference existed.
And anyway, the veteran/new dichotomy is really not so unproblematically sharp. It could well be argued, for example, that the two German divisions who gave the best account of themselves in Normandy was Panzer Lehr and 12th SS PzD - both of whom were new units, but who had had adequate time to train and work up and were built around a core of experienced officers and NCOs. All in all, fresh troops, if well-led and trained, may not have been at much of a disadvantage compared to veterans who had been through the meatgrinder for years.


I just wonder how well they would have done in the East against the more experienced of their enemies.

Actually not far from a third of them would have become casualties already during 1941. The point is not really if the Wehrmacht of 41 was better than in later years as an organisation. Even if they were, this would not neccessarily mean that there was a very big difference in the quality of each individual soldier in that year and in others. All armies take casualties and have to replace them.


Yes in 1941 around 800,000 were already casualties but I was thinking more in terms of KIA, those who were WIA could be treated and released to their units again. And soldiers aren't who I am talking about per se, more so the divisional units, their cohesion, battle worthiness, etc.

Of course - unit cohesion inevitably dropped as an increasing number of formations were ripped apart or destroyed - but that, again, is something else than the quality of the soldiery.


But it goes to show that the Wehrmacht of 1941 could never be duplicated, and their 'successes' of 1941 never again achieved.

You know, that's an interesting question. I'm plainly speculating now, but I might be inclined to agree with you there.

cheers


Don't worry, about the East I know enough to have made that statement with some confidence :D

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Postby Tony Williams » 24 Feb 2004 13:57

The question of the effectiveness of units is an interesting one. There is some evidence that it followed a curve; a new, inexperienced unit usually didn't perform well (unless given a core of good officers and NCOs). The troops learned from their early experiences and became steadily better. However, after a while war-weariness tended to set in, particularly as they realised that the longer they spent in the front line, the more likely they were to be killed.

There is one incident I recall about an elite British armoured unit which had performed well for some time in the Med theatre. When they were told that they would lead the Normandy invasion, they nearly rebelled; they argued that they'd done their bit and it was time for some of the troops who had been lounging about at home to get in there and take the risks!

Tony Williams

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Postby Jon G. » 24 Feb 2004 14:44

Tony Williams wrote:The question of the effectiveness of units is an interesting one. There is some evidence that it followed a curve (snip!)


Yes, the progression from greenhorn to old lag status was recognized already in the American Civil War, where veterans were found much less inclined to take risks than new troops were. Partly because they knew the risks better of course, but also for reasons of simple self-preservation.

The British broke up several of their divisions prior to the end of WWII; I think - correct me if I am wrong - that the famous 51st Highland Division, who had an impressive battle record, was broken up due to battle-weariness. Maybe this is the backside of the regimental system? The 'we-have-done-our-part-now-it's-someone-else's-turn' attitude seemed pretty widespread in Commonwealth/British units towards the end of the war.

Also, and perhaps paradoxically, soldiers who know that they are winning, and that the war is soon at an end, are noted to be much less likely to accept risks. Nobody wants to be the last one to die.


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