Criticism of British Infantry during Op Epsom

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Re: Criticism of British Infantry during Op Epsom

Post by Michael Kenny » 25 Nov 2021 01:57

Cult Icon wrote:
25 Nov 2021 01:28
EPSOM and the subsequent operations were little different from numerous offensives in the war that only produced a shallow penetration.
There appears to be a belief that an Allied 'win' can only be claimed if they surround and annihilate/capture the enemy in every single engagement. For the Germans any battle where they are not completely routed is considered a 'victory'. The group of authors who were writing the history of Normandy 1960-90s were almost all of this mindset. They were following the path laid out by the post-war memoirs of the surviving German Generals with their 'if it weren't for Hitler, being greatly outnumbered' cudda-shudda-wudda fantasies. By his relentless attacks Montgomery kept the Germans reacting to him and he never allowed them to set the agenda. EPSOM used to be always described as a Monty failure/German win when in fact it was the death ride of the German forces assembled in order to roll up the Allies and push them into the sea. 'Make peace you fools' was a direct result of this German defeat.

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Re: Criticism of British Infantry during Op Epsom

Post by sandeepmukherjee196 » 25 Nov 2021 08:07

"Make peace you fools" came from the same military sage who had pontificated "We Germans don't believe in the tired old Maginot Concept" .. to the international press, some months back.

Epsom didn't kill German hopes. They were killed within 48 hrs of D Day when no credible, ol' fashioned Panzer drive could be mustered. And that happened because the likes of Rundstedt, Schweppenburg, Guderian et al were in a Rip 'von' Winkle slumber for 2 years. Those years when the nature of warfare agnst western allies had changed in essence vis a vis the glory days of the Pz doctrine circa 1940-42.

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Re: Criticism of British Infantry during Op Epsom

Post by Michael Kenny » 25 Nov 2021 08:23

sandeepmukherjee196 wrote:
25 Nov 2021 08:07


Epsom didn't kill German hopes............
The destruction of the German amoured reserve during EPSOM did 'kill' the last hope for an attack to force The Allies out of Normandy. From now on it was a case of the Germans doing their best to mitigate the scale of the looming disaster when their front was finally ruptured. Before EPSOM they had dreams, after only nightmares.

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Re: Criticism of British Infantry during Op Epsom

Post by sandeepmukherjee196 » 25 Nov 2021 09:43

Michael Kenny wrote:
25 Nov 2021 08:23
sandeepmukherjee196 wrote:
25 Nov 2021 08:07


Epsom didn't kill German hopes............
The destruction of the German amoured reserve during EPSOM did 'kill' the last hope for an attack to force The Allies out of Normandy. From now on it was a case of the Germans doing their best to mitigate the scale of the looming disaster when their front was finally ruptured. Before EPSOM they had dreams, after only nightmares.

If fantasy = hope, then yes.

Even before EPSOM, the tattered German Pz Divs were no match for the Allied armour already lined up in the Commonwealth and US sectors. Neither was the artillery. Lets not even talk about the air forces.

The typical Monty style, rich man's battle of attrition could only have ONE outcome, given the force equations and reserves. A ll sides had come to fight to the best of their ability. Its easy to criticize with 20-20 hindsight. Monty fought the only way he knew how to. His job was to give the US armour a free ride down south. The series of Commonwealth sausage fests, EPSOM, Goodwood and such like, did just that.

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Re: Criticism of British Infantry during Op Epsom

Post by Sheldrake » 25 Nov 2021 10:17

Cult Icon wrote:
25 Nov 2021 01:28
Sheldrake wrote:
25 Nov 2021 00:43

BIzarrely IRRC that Russell Hart is a relation (brother??) of Stephen Hart, the Sandhurst academic and author of Colossal Cracks, which is the revisionist view of the British way to win in NW Europe.

By and large there is aconsensus that the Germans were jolly good at the contact battle especially in unstructured encounter battles. But the Monty method was not to play to the same rules. Instead he fought strutured battles that made the best of the Allied forces he commanded.

It is true that the British formations engaged in Op Epsom were inexperienced. This was the baptism of fire for the 15th , 43rd or 53rd infantry divisions and the 11th and Guards Armoured Divisions. About the only eperienced formation was the 4th Armoured Brigade.

However, the overall effect of Op Esom was to engage the German armoured reserves. It may not have been the stated aim of the operation which was stated kin geographical terms. However, at an operational level, the allies were winning all the time that the Germans could not throw them into the sea. Until Epsom, the Germans had some great plans for using the three panzer Corps they had assembled in some offensive operation. Instead they were frittered away in a counter attack against the Scottish corridor. The action on 1st July at Rauray was a slaughter of German armour comparable to Snipe at El Alamein. Whatever the limitations and failings of the British infantry, Epsom was a disaster for German hopes of winning in Normandy.
In reading Buckley books a while back I was struck at how he seemed to pestered by some UK-centric issues and viewpoints , not shared or considered by other camps such as the claim that the German is particuarly great at "close combat".

The truth was more prosaic and simple than these clever seeming theories. It was summer. Long days, short nights. Good for flying. The LW had been removed as an important factor in the campaign. The Allied air forces controlled the roads/lines of communication by day with an incredible amount of fighter-bomber and recon/artillery sorties. They also created highly responsive artillery systems that be ordered from the ground and the air. Both areas were fed by extreme numerical superiority. This created a state of insecurity, paralysis and inefficiency among the far smaller equipped German formations as they had the threat of a high powered artillery strike or fighter attack. The Germans were also devoid of numerical superiority that they needed in the theatre to succeed offensively.

The wounds were self-inflicted to the point where the next great "show" relied on a plan that based on weather conditions to ground the Allied air forces so the ground force could operate more normally. The advance of the 5th Panzer Army in Dec 1944 presented a brief return to the classic ol' German offensive operation.

EPSOM and the subsequent operations were little different from numerous offensives in the war that only produced a shallow penetration. The high CW casualties indicate that they did fight as hard as anyone else. Operationally, they did not achieve anything that the Soviets did not.
Buckley is far from unique in recognising German competence in infantry and armoured combat. The RMAS academic team made this point. Hastings's key point is how much worse the troops of the democratic states were than those with faith in the fUhrer. There is a lot of statistical evidence for German prowess in combat.

You are right to point put the allied use of firepower. If you were playing soccer or rugby against the worlds best teams in high tempo open play you instruct your team play a style that breaks up play and slowing the tempo, forcing restarts and relying on set pieces. Not pretty, but effectiv e. And thats what the allies did, or at least those commanded by Montgomery. Montgomery's unpleasent personality prevents many from acknowleding the logic behind his methods, which delivered victory at an acceptable cost. His methods made the most of allied strengths and minimised their weaknesses.

Agreed, the Master said that command of the air was the new first peinciple of war, but the role of close air support has been exagerated. Look at the analysis by Zetterling and errr Townend and Baldwin in Gunners in Normandy.

Perhaps I am doing you an injustice, but your last paragraph suggests a superfical interpretation of the nature of war. The ground won is a very crude measure of success. War is a two sided activity. The enemy gets a say in what happens.

Any battle is a contest of strength. An attacker makes a move. The defender can contest or give ground. If the defender can commit the resources to stop the attack the attack will reach a culminating point at which it halts. If the defender lacks key resources or runs our of reserves the attack becomes a pursuit. C20th industrial powers could quickly generate reserves and reinforcements. its what happened one the western front in WW1 and what happened in WW2 once anti tank weapons became widespread once the characteristics of mid C20th warfare had been understood.

Montgomery declaimed that there would be a bweak in, a dog fight and a bweak out. He was paraphrasing Field Service Regulations. The dog fight was the middle bit - an attritional struggle - the killing bit, There could not be a Bweak out until the defenders had no more reserves with which to plug gaps or made some fundamental error.

After the break in on D Day, Normandy was a long attritional struggle, with the allies benefitting from command of the air which reduced the flow of German resources. Unlike in Italy the Germans could not trade ground for lives. They were ordered to fight for every inch. Although the allied losses were higher than the Gwermans, the allies could afford the losses from their larger force. When the Germans ran out of resources the allies broke out. The allied autumn offensives all culminated on the German border. The Germans could plug the gaps in the Netherlands, Aachen and the Hurtgen forest, Lorraine and Alscace. The German Ardennes offensive culminated well short of its objectives. The battles ot clear the western bank of the Rhine were attritional struggles. The break out occurred once the allies were across the rhine. The reserves that might have contested the crossing had been lost in the Ardennes.
Last edited by Sheldrake on 25 Nov 2021 19:37, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Criticism of British Infantry during Op Epsom

Post by Sheldrake » 25 Nov 2021 10:29

sandeepmukherjee196 wrote:
20 Nov 2021 20:34

6th RSF casualties till evening when relieved by 6 KSOB -21 killed (including CO?), 113 wounded and 9 missing

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These were high casualties. Although an infantry battlaion had C 800 men, 143 casualties were mainly from the C.430 men in the rifle platoons of the rifle companies, which were down to 2/3 strength after their first day of battle. For the infantyr battlaions, Normandy was as bloody as the Somme in 1916. Lower overall casualties, but from fewer infantrymen.

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Re: Criticism of British Infantry during Op Epsom

Post by Michael Kenny » 25 Nov 2021 18:03

sandeepmukherjee196 wrote:
25 Nov 2021 09:43


Even before EPSOM, the tattered German Pz Divs were no match for the Allied armour already lined up in the Commonwealth and US sectors....................
How did they get 'tattered'?
What caused 12th SS to drop from 98 fit Pz IV to 58 and Lehr to drop from 97 to 33?

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Re: Criticism of British Infantry during Op Epsom

Post by Michael Kenny » 25 Nov 2021 18:14

sandeepmukherjee196 wrote:
25 Nov 2021 09:43


The typical Monty style..................Monty fought the only way he knew how to.
Incorrect. Monty fought in a way which he knew would defeat the Germans. He studied the enemy, identified its weaknesses and formed a balanced Army which would negate any German advantage. The Germans were essentially 'smash-and-grab' merchants and whilst it worked very well in 1939-40 this strategy failed catastrophically in Russia in 1941.

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Re: Criticism of British Infantry during Op Epsom

Post by sandeepmukherjee196 » 26 Nov 2021 04:12

Sheldrake wrote:
25 Nov 2021 10:29
sandeepmukherjee196 wrote:
20 Nov 2021 20:34

6th RSF casualties till evening when relieved by 6 KSOB -21 killed (including CO?), 113 wounded and 9 missing

Cheers
Sandeep
These were high casualties. Although an infantry battlaion had C 800 men, 143 casualties were mainly from the C.430 men in the rifle platoons of the rifle companies, which were down to 2/3 strength after their first day of battle. For the infantyr battlaions, Normandy was as bloody as the Somme in 1916. Lower overall casualties, but from fewer infantrymen.
Yes. After Normandy the British Army couldn't afford any more intense infantry actions. XXX Corps' style of operations in Op MG displayed that I guess. Something which the Americans didn't fully understand or appreciate.

Cheers
Sandeep
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Re: Criticism of British Infantry during Op Epsom

Post by sandeepmukherjee196 » 26 Nov 2021 04:25

Michael Kenny wrote:
25 Nov 2021 18:03
sandeepmukherjee196 wrote:
25 Nov 2021 09:43


Even before EPSOM, the tattered German Pz Divs were no match for the Allied armour already lined up in the Commonwealth and US sectors....................
How did they get 'tattered'?
What caused 12th SS to drop from 98 fit Pz IV to 58 and Lehr to drop from 97 to 33?
How they got tattered pre EPSOM is for another thread .. One that would discuss German approach pre D Day, which kept Panzers far away from the MLR, in some unfounded hope of concentrating agnst allied breakouts inland .. a la the irrelevant past glory of the Pz doctrine..long since antiquated.

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Re: Criticism of British Infantry during Op Epsom

Post by sandeepmukherjee196 » 26 Nov 2021 04:34

Michael Kenny wrote:
25 Nov 2021 18:14
sandeepmukherjee196 wrote:
25 Nov 2021 09:43


The typical Monty style..................Monty fought the only way he knew how to.
Incorrect. Monty fought in a way which he knew would defeat the Germans. He studied the enemy, identified its weaknesses and formed a balanced Army which would negate any German advantage. The Germans were essentially 'smash-and-grab' merchants and whilst it worked very well in 1939-40 this strategy failed catastrophically in Russia in 1941.
"Incorrect" or not, in this case, depends on conjecture. And intelligent conjectures can only be made on the basis of studying a commander's pattern of operations. From Alamein to Goodwood, Monty displayed only one style, the rich man's profligate style.

After Normandy he wasn't a rich man anymore. So he fought Op MG like an ex rich man, now fallen on bad days, riding on the shoulders of a rich friend.

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Re: Criticism of British Infantry during Op Epsom

Post by Michael Kenny » 26 Nov 2021 05:36

sandeepmukherjee196 wrote:
26 Nov 2021 04:34
From Alamein to Goodwood, Monty displayed only one style, the rich man's profligate style.
One of the reasons Monty gets so much flak is he consistently beat the Germans. There are those who can not accept this can happen 'in a fair fight' so they have to come up with a scenario that can lessen or even explain away his success. A myriad of excuses (outnumbered/out-supplied/out-gunned/out-aircrafted/out-navied, absolutely anything other than out-fought) is advanced to explain away the German defeat and disparage the Allied success.
sandeepmukherjee196 wrote:
26 Nov 2021 04:34
After Normandy he wasn't a rich man anymore.................
You had better tell the rest of the believers that because I see a lot of them claiming (for example) The Rhine Crossing was 'massive over-kill'. The particulars of the different specific excuses used to explain away/mitigate the German defeat do not really matter because no matter how many of them are shown to be untrue there is always another laundry-list waiting in reserve.

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Re: Criticism of British Infantry during Op Epsom

Post by sandeepmukherjee196 » 26 Nov 2021 08:19

Michael Kenny wrote:
26 Nov 2021 05:36
sandeepmukherjee196 wrote:
26 Nov 2021 04:34
From Alamein to Goodwood, Monty displayed only one style, the rich man's profligate style.
One of the reasons Monty gets so much flak is he consistently beat the Germans. There are those who can not accept this can happen 'in a fair fight' so they have to come up with a scenario that can lessen or even explain away his success. A myriad of excuses (outnumbered/out-supplied/out-gunned/out-aircrafted/out-navied, absolutely anything other than out-fought) is advanced to explain away the German defeat and disparage the Allied success.
sandeepmukherjee196 wrote:
26 Nov 2021 04:34
After Normandy he wasn't a rich man anymore.................
You had better tell the rest of the believers that because I see a lot of them claiming (for example) The Rhine Crossing was 'massive over-kill'. The particulars of the different specific excuses used to explain away/mitigate the German defeat do not really matter because no matter how many of them are shown to be untrue there is always another laundry-list waiting in reserve.

Ascribing reasons and motives don't take away from facts though. And facts on the ground, right from Palestine-1938, through the western campaign 1940 to Alamein and Normandy, speak for themselves.

Monty's perverse pleasure in putting down the Palestinian rebellion (classic case of the rich man whacking the serfs) to his 3 Div's richness in motorised infantry transport (at the Yser salient, May 40, for instance) saving the day ... to his well known, inexhaustible riches at Alamein, the story is the same.

How one wishes, Monty had come up against any typical German formation in Russia, 1941 or even faced Rommel in Africa, at Gazala or even during Battleaxe or Crusader.

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Re: Criticism of British Infantry during Op Epsom

Post by Sheldrake » 26 Nov 2021 09:21

sandeepmukherjee196 wrote:
26 Nov 2021 04:34
Michael Kenny wrote:
25 Nov 2021 18:14
sandeepmukherjee196 wrote:
25 Nov 2021 09:43


The typical Monty style..................Monty fought the only way he knew how to.
Incorrect. Monty fought in a way which he knew would defeat the Germans. He studied the enemy, identified its weaknesses and formed a balanced Army which would negate any German advantage. The Germans were essentially 'smash-and-grab' merchants and whilst it worked very well in 1939-40 this strategy failed catastrophically in Russia in 1941.
"Incorrect" or not, in this case, depends on conjecture. And intelligent conjectures can only be made on the basis of studying a commander's pattern of operations. From Alamein to Goodwood, Monty displayed only one style, the rich man's profligate style.

After Normandy he wasn't a rich man anymore. So he fought Op MG like an ex rich man, now fallen on bad days, riding on the shoulders of a rich friend.
That is an attrempt to fit the history to a blinkered stereotype rather than an intelligent conjecture.

Sure Monty's methods took advantage of firepower and logistic advantages. But that was British and US national policies to spend steel before the blood of their democratic electorates. If that was the rich-man;'s war, the Germans shoudl not have gone to war against a world that could put pruduce them. Lots of Generals failed to take advantage of allied superiority from F1940 onwards. Montrgomery used a technique that delivered the results at an acceptable cost in casualties. Far from being profligate Monty's tifghtly controlled operations were intended to minimise casaulties. If Montgomery was so profligate , why was he accused by Eisenhower of pulling punc hes at Caen?

Montgomery displayed a variety of tactics. The defensive actions at Alem Halfa and Meddenine were as good a way to stop blitzkrieg dead as any found by the allies. The Americans would have done better at Kasserine if they had listened a little more. \

Montgomery was willing to take risks when he thought it worth while. His broad front advance on Catania, like Market Garden was a gamble using airborne troops.

This would be a better informed discussion if more forum members had read Stephen Ashley Hart's Colossal Cracks https://www.amazon.co.uk/Colossal-Crack ... 811733831s.

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Re: Criticism of British Infantry during Op Epsom

Post by Gooner1 » 26 Nov 2021 13:44

sandeepmukherjee196 wrote:
26 Nov 2021 08:19
Monty's perverse pleasure in putting down the Palestinian rebellion (classic case of the rich man whacking the serfs)
Monty did an excellent job, as usual, in (helping) putting down the Arab revolt. I can't consider any pleasure he got from the job of restoring peace to Palestine as to be perverse :milsmile:

to his well known, inexhaustible riches at Alamein, the story is the same.
If the opposition considered his forces at Alamein to be inexhaustible then he was doing his job well. As anyone with more than the simplest knowledge of the battle would realise, or indeed any of the campaigns after.
How one wishes, Monty had come up against any typical German formation in Russia, 1941 or even faced Rommel in Africa, at Gazala or even during Battleaxe or Crusader.
Well in Russia is fanciful but he faced Rommel in Africa between August '42 and March '43 and beat him in every battle. The force ratios were less favourable to Eighth Army at Alan Halfa than they were for Crusader or Gazala.

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