Rommel vs. Montgomery

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der Bilderstürmer
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Post by der Bilderstürmer » 30 May 2004 03:18

Englander wrote:I guess it's common courtesy to respond. Of course you know the battles with the DAK kick off mid 1941.
So Andreas, cherry pick for me.

Mp40 vrs Sten
Numerous photographs imply that the U.S. Thompson was the standard submachine gun in the British Eighth Army. The early model with the pistol foregrip and drum magazine was probably the most common type in North Africa.
88' ATG vrs 6-pdrs... (the 17- pdrs didn't see much service during the desert war)
But the 17-pounder was a superior antitank gun, because it had a lower profile and less bulk. It was more difficult to conceal the standard Flak 88 from counterbattery fire and more time was needed to reposition the gun, which is especially bad if you are under fire.

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Post by Jon G. » 30 May 2004 03:20

I beg to differ on some of the analogies offered here, but mostly for reasons of chronology.
Andreas wrote:The Sten was reputedly susceptible to jamming, and I know nothing of the quality of the MP40...
I would instinctively assume the MP40 to be of at least better quality - but as you say, there would be few of these weapons around.
MG42 HMG vs. Vickers. I take the Vickers...
I doubt if there were any MG42s with the DAK. Not very many, in any case. If comparing the two, I'd definately take the MG42, particularly in the desert environment, where employing a heavy, water cooled weapon would be a clear drawback.
88s vs. 6pdrs. 6-pdr, no two ways about it. More mobile, much smaller, sufficient penetrating power to kill anything the Axis fields. Good enough is the enemy of perfect.
6-pdrs only became available in 1942, and then only in limited numbers, and initially only with AT ammo. It was clearly a leap forward for the 8th Army's AT arm, but not really for combined arms tactics. And in a straight comparison, the 88 of course outshoots the 6 pdr. by a big margin, as well as being useful against aircraft.
Panzer II/III/IV against Matilda, Crusader, Valentine, Grant, Honey. Here the Germans have the edge (mostly), but your idea that tanks are the primary weapon only holds true if your opponent is incapable of using combined arms properly - which the British in the desert were pre-Montgomery. The DAK lost a huge amount of tanks against the 6-pdrs in Outpost Snipe. The British lost huge amounts of tanks against DAK ATGs. So tanks are your primary weapon in attack, and ATGs in defense. Now, after that excursion:
O'Connor was quite capable of using combined armed tactics as early as 1940. For combined arms tactics involving air support, the 8th Army learned from the Germans and were probably superior to them by the time Montgomery took over.
Matilda - very decent tank, let down by the refusal of the twits at War Office to supply the 2-pdr with HE.
Yes. At least the later marks were good, if slow tanks.
Crusader - earlier marks unbelievably bad. Later marks, especially with 6-pdr, okayish.
Everything with a Meteor engine was unbelievably bad, as you say. Riveted armour was not cutting edge technology by 1941, and having a much better gun on later versions of the tank doesn't make it a better tank if it is still a mechanical nightmare.
Valentine - very decent tank, let down by the refusal of the twits at War Office to supply the 2-pdr with HE. With 6-pdr it became much better, despite the loss of the crewman.
Yes, a decent enough tank, and probably more serviceable than the Matilda. The drawbacks of no HE applied to the 6 pdr. in the beginning too, as noted above.
Grant - equal to the German tanks.
For armament only, probably superior, too. But with clear draw backs: useless in a hull-down position. Main armament doesn't traverse. Potential big loss of crew if hit... and also a big target in a theater where combat was often opened at extreme range.
Honey - while I have a soft spot for them, they are at best recce tanks.
When the 8th Army got them in 1941, they were actually pretty good in being both reasonably fast and mechanically a lot more reliable than the cruiser tanks.
Jerry cans - you just need to capture enough of them ;) If we go there, how about rations? :) ...
Well, if capturing jerry cans was fashionable, that does say something about how deplorable the flimsies were :) German rations didn't take the hot climate into account, and I at least think they had more cases of jaundice etc. as a result.
So all in all I think the Desert Army's gear was really not as bad as it was made out to be. The Desert Army lost not because of bad gear, and did not win despite bad gear. It lost when it was incapable to use combined arms tactics against an opponent who did, and so it got spanked repeatedly, more often then it spanked the Germans anyway. It won when it introduced combined arms tactics and forced the DAK to fight without proper logistical support.

So I am sorry to have to say that I find this idea that the British had such bad kit just thoroughly unconvincing.
On a straight one-for-one comparison basis, I think the German gear was marginally better all round - but the 8th Army had a lot more kit to throw away (quite enough to equip Rommel's truck columns too for example), and most Axis kit was Italian - and markedly inferior to everything the Germans and the British fielded.

Neither Rommel nor Montgomery was the first to use combined arms tactics in the desert - that honour goes to O'Connor, but it's true that the British more or less forgot to employ successful combined arms tactics after O'Connor's early capture, just as they got a second 88 shock in the desert, even though this weapon had also been used against them with great effect at Arras in 1940.

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Post by Englander » 30 May 2004 11:26

Andreas, it is a British trait to make do with what you are issued. Still carries on to this day.
You make an admirable defence for the British equipment. But having pride in one's own equipment, is no substitute for having inadequate, unreliable, tanks. (My main bone of contention here) Particularly when you think, we invented the dam things!
Despite what you say, i still think 'in general', the Germans had the better equipment, which the British countered with quantity of equipment they had.
Sometimes reading post here on this forum, the British and the commonwealth, generally don't get the credit they truly deserved when defeating the Germans in battle, when thinking IMO they 'in general' had inferior equipment.
Shall we continue?

Bf109 vrs Hurricane, P40 kittyhawk

Pineapple grenade vrs Mills grenade

Tellermine vrs ..........I think I've proved my point.

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Post by Qvist » 30 May 2004 14:50

I think Andreas' point is basically valid - if there was any point during the war when the British Army fought with equipment that was relatively even in quality compared to what the Germans had, it was then. In late 1942, most of the generation of weapons that lifted German combat performance late in the war was not yet in place, whereas there were few new basic items added to the British inventory after that date. The Sherman f.e., which was by 1944 an inadequate weapon, outperformed the tanks DAK had available at that point.

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Post by Andreas » 30 May 2004 23:52

Englander wrote:Andreas, it is a British trait to make do with what you are issued. Still carries on to this day.
It is also a very British trait to grumble and knock things that don't deserve it. I am German by the way, but I outgrumble most of my British colleagues by the same margin that the Panther was, one for one, the better of the Crusader. :)

I don't disagree that the Desert Army had somewhat inferior equipment in some areas. I just don't agree with the notion that Monty won despite having 'crap' equipment.

Bf109 - Hurricane, I have no feel for that one. I think in general the Bf109 would win, but in the hands of the right pilot the Hurricane would give it a tough fight.

Grenades - I always thought the British 36 grenades were much better then the German potato masher types. Otherwise I know very little about them.


@ Shrek

Thanks for the corrections Shrek.

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Rommel vs Monty

Post by RedBaron » 01 Jun 2004 20:28

Ok, Rommel was,in a way, a gambler! He was a bold gen., maybe sometimes over-estimated his forces and logistics, but the facts remain.

He was beaten at El Alamein, but it was, once again, the only option, to try and reach Cairo, to take advantage of a the situation leading to this battle. I've read his memoires about the battles in N. Africa. He often said things like "if we wouldn't have acted like that... the advantage gained by the previous action would have been lost" or "we must avoid static battles/war, we can not afford them". The 1st battle of El Alamein was the correct choice! For the 2nd battle of El Alamein, don't forget that Rommel was not in Africa at that moment!!! He wrote his oppinions about this 2nd battle and I'm not sure it would have been such a big Allied success if Rommel wuld have been there.
To say something like this: Monty won, Rommel lost... no comment! We can't reduce the situation to that statement, imo.
And another thing, don't forget that the Matilda was the best tank in N. Africa going as far as operation Crusader! Rommel's tanks Panzer II luchs, Panzer III, Italian tanks were no match in armour, guns and numbers more importantly! Lets not get confused here! Of course, not all british tanks were Matilda tanks, but I refuse to belive that the bristish had "crap" equipment!
Rommel's early success was partially due to the decision of Churchill to transfer a part of the british forces in Africa, to Greece. He was a better general than Monty, from the point of view of the qualities needed for a "good general". He became a legend because he always had the outsider chance, let's say, in his battles against the british and won. Of course, not always it was so, but in most cases still.
With one thing I agree: Rommel's pourpose in Africa was not to drive away the Allies from this continent. It was quite the reverse situation, to keep the italians "in the war". But his ambition almost did just that! With some "backup" he would have reached Cairo. And don't forget, his actions made Churchill neglect the 2nd war theatre (Asia-Singapore), from the point of view of importance, with regards to Africa (see operations Crusader, etc).

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Post by Polynikes » 03 Jun 2004 13:14

Sturmmann_Fritz

...but from what I read in 'How great generals Win" it looked as though my mom could have won...

You draw the wrong conclusion.

Could your mom have assembled & organised that many men?

The preparation was more important that the battle itself. The same with D-Day, it was Montgomery's plan - that was his skill. He was a planner.

Market Garden is his only real stain. It was a hastily assembled gamble rather than the meticulously planned operation like El Alamein.

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Post by Polynikes » 03 Jun 2004 13:16

When writing about Rommel, I am struck by one strange thing...

That at the TWO times he fought crucial battles, he was an absent commander.

At El Alamein, he wasn't present and on June 5th 1944, he'd decided to drive all the way to Germany for his wife's 50th birthday which was on June 6th 1944.

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Post by RedBaron » 03 Jun 2004 13:19

Polynikes wrote:When writing about Rommel, I am struck by one strange thing...

That at the TWO times he fought crucial battles, he was an absent commander.

At El Alamein, he wasn't present and on June 5th 1944, he'd decided to drive all the way to Germany for his wife's 50th birthday which was on June 6th 1944.
Yeah, that's coincidence for you... :?

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Post by Polynikes » 03 Jun 2004 13:44

Andreas

The Sten was reputedly susceptible to jamming, and I know nothing of the quality of the MP40. But few soldiers would have these SMGs anyway, so I guess it comes down to Lee-Enfields vs. K98. I guess that is a toss-up, and if in doubt I take the Lee-Enfield, thank you very much.

The MP40 beats the STEN anyday and the two bolt action rifles were about equal. The Thompson M1 was the best SMG of the war but relatively few were used by the 8th army.

MG34 vs. Bren or Vickers. I take the Bren or Vickers anyday. But don't take my word for it, check what Sydney Jary has to say on the matter, in '18 Platoon'. The MG34 is of course more scary then the Vickers, and enables different tactics, but it has its drawbacks, and I am inherently conservative.

MG42 HMG vs. Vickers. I take the Vickers. Less trouble with ammo, more reliable. Again, the Vickers is less useful on the attack, but that is what you have 25-pdrs for anyway.


Here I take issue.

The Vickers was a fine gun in a defensive battle but completely outclassed by the new breed of general purpose machine guns that Germany produced.

The machine gun was the real killing weapon of any infantry unit. It comes down to logistics really - if well supplied, I'd go for belt fed over box fed every time.

The MG34 & MG42 were exceptional weapons.

88s vs. 6pdrs. 6-pdr, no two ways about it. More mobile, much smaller, sufficient penetrating power to kill anything the Axis fields. Good enough is the enemy of perfect.

The comparison is not valid. The British had no answer to the 88mm. Where it was fielded, the British couldn't compete. The 3.7" might have been used in this role but never was.

The German PAK38 was perfectly adequate to deal with any British tank - the British had to make do with the rather poor 2lb gun for the early battles with nothing to back it up - unlike the DAK with their 88's.

......The DAK lost a huge amount of tanks against the 6-pdrs in Outpost Snipe.

Define "huge"

The DAK didn't ever field large ammounts of tank forces due to supply problems.

A key factor was their ability to retain ownership of the battlefield after a fight thus being able to repair damaged tanks, whereas damaged British tanks were left where they stopped.

Matilda - very decent tank, let down by the refusal of the twits at War Office to supply the 2-pdr with HE.

A fine tank indeed in France 1940 (possibly even the best tank in the world at that time).
By the Desert War though it was outclassed.

Crusader - earlier marks unbelievably bad. Later marks, especially with 6-pdr, okayish.

Valentine - very decent tank, let down by the refusal of the twits at War Office to supply the 2-pdr with HE. With 6-pdr it became much better, despite the loss of the crewman.


Both the Crusader and Valentine suffered from mechanical problems and were a little too small. The 8th army only really matched the DAK for armour with the arrival of the M4 Sherman.

25-pdr vs. German lFH18. Not even a contest, particularly in a fast-moving theatre like the desert.

I like the 25lb gun. It was a little on the heavy side though - I like the Aussie modification with the shorter barrel and minus the shield even better.

The 25lb gun was a little on the light side though in terms of calibre. The German 105mm & 150mm were a better calibre.

The British had possibly the best field gun of the war with the 5.5" gun.

I could also mention armoured cars and infantry transport. The British used armoured touring cars - definitely the DAK had an edge here.

The British also relied on trucks to move infantry in its mobile foramtions rather than the DAK's half tracks.

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Post by Andreas » 05 Jun 2004 12:36

Polynikes wrote:The Vickers was a fine gun in a defensive battle but completely outclassed by the new breed of general purpose machine guns that Germany produced.
I point you towards my Vickers thread in the Allied Equipment section. Water-cooled HMGs have their advantages. In particular note the line 'Two men could carry the Vickers'. How many could carry the HMG34/42 configuration? One or two?
Polynikes wrote:88s vs. 6pdrs. 6-pdr, no two ways about it. More mobile, much smaller, sufficient penetrating power to kill anything the Axis fields. Good enough is the enemy of perfect.

The comparison is not valid. The British had no answer to the 88mm. Where it was fielded, the British couldn't compete. The 3.7" might have been used in this role but never was.
Well not quite. The correct answer to the 88 is a battery of 25-pdrs. I.e. proper combined arms tactics. It has little to do with equipment.
Polynikes wrote:The German PAK38 was perfectly adequate to deal with any British tank - the British had to make do with the rather poor 2lb gun for the early battles with nothing to back it up - unlike the DAK with their 88's.
I am not sure that the PAK38 could actually deal with either the Matilda or the Valentine at other then close distances.

The 2-pdr was adequate until additional bolt-on armour appeared. There was apparently an issue with the round penetrating, but the tracer breaking off, going skywards, making the gunners believe that no penetration had occured, leading to a bad reputation for the gun. The real let-down was the absence of APHE for the 2-pdr.
Polynikes wrote:......The DAK lost a huge amount of tanks against the 6-pdrs in Outpost Snipe.

Define "huge"

The DAK didn't ever field large ammounts of tank forces due to supply problems.

A key factor was their ability to retain ownership of the battlefield after a fight thus being able to repair damaged tanks, whereas damaged British tanks were left where they stopped.
This official history says that the 2nd RB was allowed 32 tank kills, presumably most, if not all from ATGs. One single 6-pdr accounting for nine tanks. Stirring stuff, and the Battalion CO received the VC for the action. Add to that 10-12 additional claims from tank forces. I think in the context of low DAK tank strength, 32 losses qualifies as "huge". In the context of Kursk, it would be miniscule
Polynikes wrote:Matilda - very decent tank, let down by the refusal of the twits at War Office to supply the 2-pdr with HE.
A fine tank indeed in France 1940 (possibly even the best tank in the world at that time).
By the Desert War though it was outclassed.[/quote]

By what exactly? Panzer IVs with 75L24 or Panzer III with 50L42? From 1942 onwards, yes. But the desert war with the Germans started in February 1941.
Polynikes wrote:Both the Crusader and Valentine suffered from mechanical problems and were a little too small. The 8th army only really matched the DAK for armour with the arrival of the M4 Sherman.
Well, I think from that time on they had a decided edge, since the Mk IV Specials were always few and far between in the desert, until Tunisia. The Sherman beats the Panzer III 50L60 on all counts. I think they moved to evens when the Grants arrived, but am not too hung up about that.
Polynikes wrote:25-pdr vs. German lFH18. Not even a contest, particularly in a fast-moving theatre like the desert.

I like the 25lb gun. It was a little on the heavy side though - I like the Aussie modification with the shorter barrel and minus the shield even better.

The 25lb gun was a little on the light side though in terms of calibre. The German 105mm & 150mm were a better calibre.
The 25-pdr had other advantages, especially its low signature, and the 360 degree mounting, that made rapid target switching unproblematic, removed the firing arc restriction, and allowed very rapid deployment from the march (drop the gun, turn it, fire). It also has a low signature, enabling it to at least dabble at being an AT gun. The British used US 105 SP guns for a while, but dropped this calibre, because of disappointing results and supply issues, AFAIK. The lower weight of shell was presumably more then made up for by having twice the number of guns in a battery.
Polynikes wrote:The British had possibly the best field gun of the war with the 5.5" gun.
Don't know much about medium guns, but I thought in the desert the standard was the 4.5" gun?
Polynikes wrote:I could also mention armoured cars and infantry transport. The British used armoured touring cars - definitely the DAK had an edge here.
Yep, granted.
Polynikes wrote:The British also relied on trucks to move infantry in its mobile foramtions rather than the DAK's half tracks.
How many HTs made it to the desert? I thought there were only few numbers?

Another item with a clear Commonwealth advantage - 3" mortar. Packs a far heavier shell then the German 81mm mortar.

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Post by brau meister » 14 Jun 2004 20:54

One reason Monty waited to launch his attack at El Alamein was to incorporate 500 sherman tanks into his forces. They arrived from the US after Rommel was stopped. Once incorporated, they comprised nearly half of all of British armor during the offensive and gave them a clear edge technologically as well as numerically.

As far as Monty v. Rommel, I think it can be said that Rommel could have done what Monty did but monty would have been unable to do what Rommel did.

Another note: not only was Rommel absent from the front when Monty attacked in the desert, but he was sick and hospitalized in Germany. He had to get Hitlers permission to leave the hospital and resume duty. I don't know what was wrong with him but it was clear that he wasn't well.

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Post by Achtacht » 15 Jun 2004 10:37

I have read this with great interest.

1st point, Allied and Axis weapons

When the sherman tank made its appearance in North Africa it couldmatch the Panzer II , III and IV as the 75MM on the Sherman could match all 3 with the short barrels, however when the Long barrelled Mark IV appeared, as they where in such small numbers in North Africa and Tunisia, the Sherman began to show its weakness, when the ministry appeared in North Africa to check on the reliability of the Sherman, every person that they asked on the operations of the Sherman including the 75mm, all replied that the Tank was more than satisfactory and could cope with the Panzer. This is where the ministry made the mistake and never reviewed this again, until after Normandy!? hence why allied tanks where fitted with the 75mm.
An interview once with a captured british officer and Rommel,
British officer complained of the "unfairness on using 88mm for anti tank operations against the infantry tank( Matilda II)"
Rommel replied " It is unfair to use tanks that only the 88mm could penatrate at a reasonable distance!".

Sten V Mp40: Mp40 by far as did not have a habit of jamming or going off on its own accord!

Bren V Mg34 : More difficult, Bren was far more accurate and 750 rpm
Mg34 900 rpm, but still quite accurate but could lay down more support fire.

Mg42: though not around in the desert campaigns, was and still is a class of its own.

88mm took the allies several attempts to match this gun, I believe was still the better weapon and held in great respect by the allies. However after capturing 3.7 ack ack guns at Dunkirk, the Germans could never work out why the british never used this gun in the same way they used the 88?

Lee Enfield V K98 : K98 Rifle by far as a more powerful round 7.92 and longer range, much prefered weapon by snipers once fitted with a telescopic sight, and in some countries even today it still well thought of by these unique soldiers.

As for Rommel V Monty?

Rommel was a Gambler and quick to read a battlefield, could also be very flexible hence the turnaround after Operation Battle axe, in this operation the British had an advantage in Tank Numbers by I think 3 to 1.
But the British still lost!. Rommel also became very obsessed with taking Tobruck on two occasions, but it is strongly felt he could caused more damage to the British if he had pushed on more.
If Hitler had not been so obsessed with Russia and listened to Rommel, as Rommel believed that North Africa was the answer of defeating Britian by driving through North Africa and onto the Oil fields, then onto the Caucases in Russia, for Churchill, in his memoirs, wrote that this was his worst fear.

Monty came to the Desert with allready prepared positions at El Alemien, as General Auckinleck had decided to make a stand there, but Monty also inherited a rather demoralised Army, to which to his credit he turned round and did defeat the DAK , with a larger force than the DAK, this had allready been tried once by the British with larger numbers and been defeated, but Monty won the day as he chose the battle field and not Rommel and he dictated the battle as well, but lets not forget that the DAK where not a pushover, and this is what Monty Knew.
We also forget that in principle Operation Market Garden was a bold move, but if two SS Panzer Divisions wern't on the planned route and various Fallschmjager units all elite, perhaps it may of been different.
D day + 90 Monty planned for the Allies to be on the River Seine, the Allies where, Monty has taken a lot of stick over Normandy, but don't forget out of the 11 Panzer Divisions in Normandy the British and Canadians where facing 9 of the 11, Only in the attack at Mortain did the allies have equal Numbers and by which time operation Cobra was wll in advance.

If Rommel had not been restricted by the German High Command would the outcome be different, I personally think not, as the Germans had allready felt the power of Naval bombardments, which did help save the Beachhead at Gela in Sicily and Selerno in Italy and the full weight of Allied airpower.

I think both were great Generals in their own right.

Andy

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Post by Andy H » 17 Jun 2004 20:07

When people focus on the battle at El Alamien, they seem to focus on numbers and nothing else.

Yes the Allies had numbers on there side but not in the usual 3:1 ratio in all area's if any as dictated in military doctrine which would usually ensure a victory.

Monty understood his strengths and his weaknesses. He knew that his troops were'nt as effective as the Germans in armoured warfare, and that by throwing his armour after the Germans they would more than likely receive several bloody noses.

From the breakout on November 5th, the 8th Army advanced some 650 miles in 15 days, with the supply route being mainly restricted to the coastal road. There is an arguement that better use of air supply woulkd have helped matters, but still, to advance some 650miles in 15days is a great achievement, especially given the rearguard defences of the German engineers who slowed the advance with mines etc.

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Post by Qvist » 18 Jun 2004 12:41

Yes the Allies had numbers on there side but not in the usual 3:1 ratio in all area's if any as dictated in military doctrine which would usually ensure a victory
Sorry Andy but my bile rises every time I see a reference to the idiotic "3-1 rule" in a context of historical explanation, which has no correlation with reality and is infinitely more misleading than illuminating. The history of the NA campaign, WWII and other wars are replete with examples of victories won at much lower superiority rates than this (and with inferiority for that matter). It's one thing to teach officers that a superiority of this order is what one should generally strive for in order to be reasonably sure that force alone will guarantee success all other things being equal (which of course they never are), as a sort of starting point reference. But it's not as if offensive success at lower odds than this is the exception or it is particularly impressive to win with a somewhat less than 3-1 advantage - particularly when one is talking about force levels on army or theatre levels.


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