Criticism of British Infantry during Op Epsom

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Sid Guttridge
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Re: Criticism of British Infantry during Op Epsom

Post by Sid Guttridge » 08 Jun 2023 12:14

Hi Westphalia 1812,

No, just metropolitan British troops.

Cheers,

Sid.

Sid Guttridge
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Re: Criticism of British Infantry during Op Epsom

Post by Sid Guttridge » 08 Jun 2023 12:38

Hi sheldrake,

I tend to agree. The overstretched UK was primarily concerned with retaining what it had. To do so, its global lines of communications and responsibilities outweighed even the USA's and were extraordinarily demanding of manpower and shipping.

Being chucked off the continent of Europe so early rather dictated that inordinate emphasis be placed on striking back through air power until a continental return could be managed.

It also dictated an exceptional number of resources be devoted to defensive anti-aircraft artillery, though for most of 1941-44 the Luftwaffe threat was small.

Similarly, the U-boat war dictated that enormous resources be devoted to the defensive tasking of the Royal Navy.

The build up of tanks may well be the result of low expenditure due to fighting comparatively small campaigns.

Rommel, with just two German divisions, kept sufficient Italians in the field in North Africa to occupy the entire ground attentions of the entire British Empire for a full year - not only that, but he tended to beat superior numbers of Commonwealth troops.

I would also suggest that the Dominions suffered from some of the same flaws as the UK.

It seems to me that the relatively small British Army did not make up for its lack of quantity with a compensating rise in quality or battlefield results. It was certainly never built on such a scale that it could have attempted the exploitation of a successful landing on the continent without US manpower.

On top of all this, we seem to have a more significant desertion problem than either our main foe or nearest ally.

All that said, the UK seems to have fought a fairly smart war in which (as usual) we got our allies to deal with our main foes. The problem was that this time we bankrupted ourselves doing so.

Cheers,

Sid

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Sheldrake
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Re: Criticism of British Infantry during Op Epsom

Post by Sheldrake » 08 Jun 2023 15:08

Sid Guttridge wrote:
08 Jun 2023 12:38
On top of all this, we seem to have a more significant desertion problem than either our main foe or nearest ally.
Are we sure we are comparing like for like? Did the US and UK have the same definitions of Desertion and Absence Without Leave? Could the difference in numbers be accounted for my different ways of treatings men absent without leave?

I understand that a US soldier who surrenders himself was counted as AWOL even if they had been absent for over 30 days. So a US soldier who went AWOL in 1944 in France or Italy and became a bandit could in theory turn himself in after VE day and claim he was merely AWOL.

The 1908 Kings Regulations Para 514 and KR 1935 para 595 states that every man who is abscent for over 21 days should be considered a deserter. Did that apply in 1944?

Where did most desertions occur? In the home country or overseas?

Gooner1
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Re: Criticism of British Infantry during Op Epsom

Post by Gooner1 » 08 Jun 2023 15:31

Sid Guttridge wrote:
08 Jun 2023 07:15
Hi Gooner,

I think you will find that only ten of the Chindit battalions were British. The rest were Gurkhas and West Africans. Furthermore, they were almost all pre-war regular battalions found within theatre. Only two were wartime-raised Territorial battalions. The Chindits probably did not impact directly on manpower allocations in the UK. However, they probably did impact the British presence in Indian Army divisions. Slim complains in his memoirs about the diversion of quality manpower to the Chindits at the expense of the rest of 14th Army.

Cheers,

Sid.
Hi Sid, I make it 11 British infantry battalions plus a recce. regiment and an RA 'battalion', 3 battalions of the Nigeria Regiment and 4 battalions of Gurkhas for Operation Thursday.
Six of the British battalions and 45th Recce. Regt. were found by breaking up 70th Division.

Another brigade, 23rd, formerly of 70th Division, were trained as Chindits but used conventionally at Kohima.

Michael Kenny
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Re: Criticism of British Infantry during Op Epsom

Post by Michael Kenny » 08 Jun 2023 19:24

Sid Guttridge wrote:
08 Jun 2023 12:38


On top of all this, we seem to have a more significant desertion problem than either our main foe or nearest ally.

Try Monty's Men by Buckley.
Page 142, June to Sept 1944. From a total of 420,000 men in France 978 cases of AWOL and Desertion.

Please adjust your claims in the light of this new information

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: Criticism of British Infantry during Op Epsom

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 08 Jun 2023 20:13

Sid Guttridge wrote:
07 Jun 2023 19:16
Certainly 4.6 million men served in the British Army and "only" about 100,000 deserted.
Sid,

I'm not sure those figures for "desertion" are accurate

Some figures for desertion and AWOL from Fennell's Fighting the People's War, pp.568-569.

'Between July 1944 and April 1945 there were 5,737 convictions in 21st Army Group.' [Administrative History of 21 AG.]

'Courts martial for desertion among British troops in Italy, between October 1943 and June 1945, came to a further 5,694. The total number of cases of AWOL and desertion by British troops reported to GHQ 2nd Echelon for the Central Mediterranean Force (CMF) July 1943 to June 1945 (which included Sicily, Italy, North Africa and Greece) came to a remarkable 12,929'. [NA CAB 106/453 pp.10-13.]

Given those figures, it seems unlikely that desertion alone even across the rest of the war and across all fronts could have reached 100,000. As, I think, Rich's figures show - those figures are for both AWOL and desertion.
Sid Guttridge wrote:
07 Jun 2023 19:04
Several other divisions designated for combat never even left the UK because their infantry was drained off as replacements.
Can you name any infantry divisions which were assigned to 21st Army Group in 1944-45 but that never left the UK because their infantry was drained off as replacements?

Regards

Tom

paulrward
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Re: Criticism of British Infantry during Op Epsom

Post by paulrward » 08 Jun 2023 20:24

Hello All :

Mr. Sheldrake Posted:
I understand that a US soldier who surrenders himself was counted
as AWOL even if they had been absent for over 30 days. So a US soldier who
went AWOL in 1944 in France or Italy and became a bandit could in theory
turn himself in after VE day and claim he was merely AWOL.
No.

If you go AWOL, or, in the case of an Officer, Absent Your Post, and turn yourself in
up to 30 days later, you are either AWOL or AYP. This means, 29 days, 23 hours,
59 minutes, you are AWOL. Once minute later, you are a Deserter.....

The difference in the legal ramifications are massive for the offender. The penalties for
desertion are long prison sentences followed by a Bad Conduct Discharge ( Which, in the
United States, means that you become a Convicted Felon ! ) And, if you desert in the
face of the enemy, you can be shot. Just ask Private Edward Slovik !

A number of U.S. Soldiers in France got tired of fighting, got a Paris Leave, and never
returned. Some of them turned themselves in after the war was over, and tried to get
home. They got long sentences in the Stockade, and then BCDs. Some of them tried to
get these overturned, and had zero luck in the years after the war. They spent the rest
of their lives as convicted felons. That makes it hard to get a job, you can't own a Gun
or serve on a Jury, work for the United States Government, or get bonded for any type
of job such as Accountant or Bank Teller. And, back then, most colleges would not allow
you to enroll. A felony conviction in the U.S. is basically The Mark Of Cain.

On the other hand, in the late 1930s, there was a convict serving a long sentence in a
Federal Prison for Bank Robbery who escaped. He was on the run for a few years, and
then the United States entered the War, and he enlisted in the Army. He served honorably
throughout the war, and in fact, was in line for a Field Promotion to Lieutenant. This was
when the Army found out he was a Convicted Felon and an Escaped Convict !

Phone calls were made, letters sent, arms twisted, and the Army got a Judge to commute
his sentence to ' time served in the U.S. Army ' . He was promoted to Lieutenant, left
the Army after the War with an Honorable Discharge, and lived out the rest of his life as
an honest civilian.


Respectfully

Paul R. Ward

And as a side note, During WW2, at total of appx 20,000 U.S. Servicemen of all branches were
tried for Desertion. I have no figures for AWOL or AYP, as these were normally handled at the
Division level or lower.
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Re: Criticism of British Infantry during Op Epsom

Post by Gooner1 » 08 Jun 2023 20:31

From the Peaty thesis:

TABLE XVI DESERTION AND ABSENCE WITHOUT LEAVE: THE BRITISH ARMY IN ITALY: BY FORMATION, AUGUST-DECEMBER 1944

Infantry
1st Infantry Division 626
4th Infantry Division 664
46th Infantry Division 1059
56th Infantry Division 990
78th Infantry Division 927 (October-December only)
1st Guards Brigade 81
24th Guards Brigade 102

Armour
1st Armoured Division 95
6th Armoured Division 220
2nd Armoured Brigade 30
7th Armoured Brigade 4
9th Armoured Brigade 13
25th Tank Brigade 3

A sample found over 80% of the deserters/AWOLers were from the infantry

Richard Anderson
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Re: Criticism of British Infantry during Op Epsom

Post by Richard Anderson » 08 Jun 2023 20:51

As of 30 November 1944, the German Heer recorded a total of 593 known deserters who were still at large (as were 107 KM and 32 LW). Another 7,810 (as well as 728 KM and 975 LW), mostly deserters, had been executed by that date. By the end of the war, about 50,000 death sentences had been handed down and about 33,000 had been carried out. Estimates of the total number of deserters from the Heer are as high as 300,000 to 500,000 by the end of 1944 and may have approached a million by the end of the war.
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Geoffrey Cooke
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Re: Criticism of British Infantry during Op Epsom

Post by Geoffrey Cooke » 09 Jun 2023 02:00

Of course the problem with German desertion numbers is how they are defined. When large numbers are giving up and surrendering to the Allies in 1945, are they “deserting”or just “captured” or both? Did the Germans have a methodology for working out the number from the missing numbers? And for that matter how did the Allies work out the difference in regards to their own? I suppose if its a non-battle situation it is simpler.

Sid Guttridge
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Re: Criticism of British Infantry during Op Epsom

Post by Sid Guttridge » 09 Jun 2023 04:48

Hi Sheldrake,

A fair point that British and US may have had different definitions of "desertion".

I got the information from: Deserter: The Last Untold Story of the Second World War by Charles Glass. However, I don't have the book to hand, so I can't tell you how he addressed this issue.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: Criticism of British Infantry during Op Epsom

Post by Westphalia1812 » 19 Jun 2023 12:02

Sid Guttridge wrote:
08 Jun 2023 12:14
Hi Westphalia 1812,

No, just metropolitan British troops.

Cheers,

Sid.
Thanks :)
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