British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Discussions on the economic history of the nations taking part in WW2, from the recovery after the depression until the economy at war.
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Sheldrake
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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Sheldrake » 22 Apr 2021 16:05

Gooner1 wrote:
22 Apr 2021 11:29
Well the Co-Belligerent Army of 6 'Combat Groups' was only formed from July 1944.
This was one way of solving the British manpower crisis. The combat groups were supported by British Artillery including the artillery group of the disbanded 1st Armoured Division. IRRC they claimed to capture some important Italian city in April 1945.

The story of co-belligerent army is a bit tortuous with a false start on Route 6. The rather arrogant view of the British advisors was that given a couple of years with British training and junior officers, the Italians would make fine soldiers. I.e. on the same lines as other native troops.

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Sid Guttridge » 22 Apr 2021 21:14

Hi Shelf
drake,

Do you have a source for, "The rather arrogant view of the British advisors was that given a couple of years with British training and junior officers, the Italians would make fine soldiers. I.e. on the same lines as other native troops."

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Gooner1 » 23 Apr 2021 14:11

Sheldrake wrote:
22 Apr 2021 16:05
This was one way of solving the British manpower crisis. The combat groups were supported by British Artillery including the artillery group of the disbanded 1st Armoured Division. IRRC they claimed to capture some important Italian city in April 1945.

The story of co-belligerent army is a bit tortuous with a false start on Route 6. The rather arrogant view of the British advisors was that given a couple of years with British training and junior officers, the Italians would make fine soldiers. I.e. on the same lines as other native troops.
I don't think there would be all that much disagreement to state that, in general, the officers in the old Italian Royal Army were pretty 'useless' and the standard of training for the soldiers very poor.
That was one the reasons it took the Co-belligerent Army so long to get into action. The British had been thinking about four months before taking their place in the line but the low standards for most of the combat groups, the exception being the Folgore, meant it wasn't until 1945 that this took place.

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Sheldrake
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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Sheldrake » 23 Apr 2021 21:14

Sid Guttridge wrote:
22 Apr 2021 21:14
Hi Shelf
drake,

Do you have a source for, "The rather arrogant view of the British advisors was that given a couple of years with British training and junior officers, the Italians would make fine soldiers. I.e. on the same lines as other native troops."

Cheers,

Sid.
War in Italy, 1943-45 A Brutal Story by Richard Lamb. Lamb was IRRC one of the British Liaison officers to the Italian Army

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Sid Guttridge » 23 Apr 2021 22:07

Double post
Last edited by Sid Guttridge on 24 Apr 2021 06:36, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Sid Guttridge » 23 Apr 2021 22:08

Hi Sheldrake,

Thanks.

I have that somewhere.

The question is, do I now spend a good hour or more going through the boxes in the garage, spend £5 buying it again on the internet, or invest in a couple of coffees at Costa instead?

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by daveshoup2MD » 24 Apr 2021 06:24

Sid Guttridge wrote:
22 Apr 2021 06:33
Hi daveshoup,

I stand corrected. Italy did have a coal mine developed in Sardinia in the late 1930s.

However, that doesn't alter my point at all. My guess is that, as Italy was a massive coal importer from Germany, its few coal miners were a reserved occupation and most were probably not called up into the armed forces. But even if they all were and were captured in the same proportions as other Italians, they would only have provided a few hundred miners as POWs. These would then have to be persuaded down British mines. They aren't going to provide the 16,000 men you are looking for.

By the way, you are actually looking for substantially more than 16,000 men, as they would need a replacement pool themselves.

Farming may or may not be easier than mining, but the working conditions are better and it is a lot healthier.

You ask, "Really?". Yes, really!

Cheers,

Sid.
At the scale of mobilization as practiced during WW II, a warm body was just that. If 16,000 physically fit Britons in 1944-45 were conscripted, rated as physically fit for hard labor, and sent to the mine labor pool, at the exact same time the British ground force dedicated to destroying Nazi Germany disbanded one of its five available armored divisions and two of its 17 available infantry divisions, that was a mistake. Especially given that the British formed six battalions of marine infantry and 21 battalion of Army AA troops converted at the same time and deployed to the continent in 1945. It's inexcusably bad planning and program management, frankly.

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Sid Guttridge » 24 Apr 2021 06:48

Hi daveshoup,

You post, "It's inexcusably bad planning and program management, frankly." I agree and have said as much above.

My point was that most of the sources you offered for alternative "warm bodies" were not practicable or really available.

Cheers,

Sid

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by daveshoup2MD » 24 Apr 2021 06:49

Gooner1 wrote:
22 Apr 2021 11:29
daveshoup2MD wrote:
22 Apr 2021 04:09
Physically fit to be a coal miner but not an infantry replacement? Okay...
Yes, problem there?
The Italians who wanted to volunteer for the Co-Belligerent Army could; whether they could get to Italy was a different question. However, an Italian POW in the UK, Canada, or South Africa who chose not to volunteer for the Italian Army could have been shipped wherever the Allies chose to ship them; Badoglio's government agreed to that in 1943.
Well the Co-Belligerent Army of 6 'Combat Groups' was only formed from July 1944.
Given the scale of mobilization in the west in WW II, any 18-25 year old conscript fit enough to sent to the mine labor pool would have been adequate to be an infantry replacement.

The Badoglio government agreed in October, 1943 that the Italian POWs in Allied hands in 1943 would continue to be placed at the disposal of the Allied government holding them, hence the creation of various auxiliary units (pioneers, service units, construction, etc.) by the British and Commonwealth/Empire), the Americans, and even the French. Given the treatment of the Italians taken prisoner by the Germans at the same time, the Allied-Italian agreement was entirely understandable.

There were 315,000 Italians in British/C/E hands in September, 1943, almost 80,000 in the UK already. Recruiting additional Italians, or transferring them from elsewhere in the Empire to the UK, would have met the labor needs of the British coal sector in 1944-45. Putting German POWs to work in the same way in 1944-45 was perfectly legal, other than for officer POWs. Conscripting British subject in Northern Ireland, recruiting mine labor in the Republic, from elsewhere in Europe or the Commonwealth and Empire, or deploying Canadian NRMA conscripts as labor in the UK, was all well within the realm of the possible.

Here's a source that sums it up for the Italians:

http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/90913/2/ ... sapora.pdf

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by daveshoup2MD » 24 Apr 2021 06:59

Sid Guttridge wrote:
24 Apr 2021 06:48
Hi daveshoup,

You post, "It's inexcusably bad planning and program management, frankly." I agree and have said as much above.

My point was that most of the sources you offered for alternative "warm bodies" were not practicable or really available.

Cheers,

Sid
Actually, all the potential sources outlined above were a) entirely practical and b) historically available. The British government, however, chose not to use them, instead disbanding combat divisions.

Again, to keep 1st Armoured, 50th Infantry, and 59th Infantry divisions in the Allied order of battle required 24 "extra" infantry battalion equivalents in 1944.

Historically, the British raised 27 "new" infantry battalions in 1944-1945 in the UK by reorganizing six Marine infantry battalions and converting 21 AA battalions to the continent in 1945 for active service. They also raised "new" battalions of the Parachute Regiment at the same time in an effort re-raise the 1st Airborne Division. Not throwing away four battalions in the Dodecanese in 1943, detaching the motor battalions from five separate armoured brigade groups, use of Pioneer Corps battalions in the beach groups in 1943-44, and not sending tens of thousands of physically fit conscripts to mine coal in 1944-45 would have provided more than enough manpower to keep all three divisions at full strength throughout 1944-45.

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by daveshoup2MD » 24 Apr 2021 07:05

Gooner1 wrote:
22 Apr 2021 11:29
daveshoup2MD wrote:
22 Apr 2021 04:09
Physically fit to be a coal miner but not an infantry replacement? Okay...
Yes, problem there?
The Italians who wanted to volunteer for the Co-Belligerent Army could; whether they could get to Italy was a different question. However, an Italian POW in the UK, Canada, or South Africa who chose not to volunteer for the Italian Army could have been shipped wherever the Allies chose to ship them; Badoglio's government agreed to that in 1943.
Well the Co-Belligerent Army of 6 'Combat Groups' was only formed from July 1944.
The "Liberation Corps" (a reinforced brigade equivalent of 5,000+) was in combat in Italy in 1943 and had expanded to a strength of 22,000 in the New Year; that's the equivalent of a heavily reinforced Allied triangular infantry division (and then some) or two "light division" equivalents. The Royal Army existed as an element of the Allied order of battle from Q4 of 1943, and any Italian who wished to fight had a place to go do so. If not, they could have been used as labor units anywhere the Allies wished; the Badoglio government had agreed to just that in October, 1943.

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Sid Guttridge » 24 Apr 2021 07:32

Hi Daveshoup,

Your link illustrates the difference between the UK and German use of POW labour. The British were trying to follow the 1929 Geneva Convention and the Germans not so much.

Your prescriptions are better suited to the German or Soviet situation than to the UK's.

The British could not force Italian POWs down the mines, even as POWs. How much use they would have been and how soon is another matter, given their lack of previous experience, motivation and language problems. I doubt the British coal industry had a surfeit of bilingual miners.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by daveshoup2MD » 24 Apr 2021 08:12

Sid Guttridge wrote:
24 Apr 2021 07:32
Hi Daveshoup,

Your link illustrates the difference between the UK and German use of POW labour. The British were trying to follow the 1929 Geneva Convention and the Germans not so much.

Your prescriptions are better suited to the German or Soviet situation than to the UK's.

The British could not force Italian POWs down the mines, even as POWs. How much use they would have been and how soon is another matter, given their lack of previous experience, motivation and language problems. I doubt the British coal industry had a surfeit of bilingual miners.

Cheers,

Sid.
Even under Geneva, enlisted POWs could be made to work, and they were, as per the realities of Axis POW labor in Allied hands. MIning via hand labor, which is what the British conscripts were doing, does not require language fluency,

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Sid Guttridge » 24 Apr 2021 11:16

Hi daveshoup,

You appear to have little grasp of the problems, obstacles and complexities in raising what you propose as alternative "warm bodies" from outside the UK. You seem to think that one "warm body" was like any other "warm body" and that all were freely available at London's will without let or hinderance. I would suggest that this is simplistic.

You are now drifting towards where the real problem lay - the allocation of manpower within the British armed forces. This is where your criticism is more sensibly directed: "Historically, the British raised 27 "new" infantry battalions in 1944-1945 in the UK by reorganizing six Marine infantry battalions and converting 21 AA battalions to the continent in 1945 for active service. They also raised "new" battalions of the Parachute Regiment at the same time in an effort re-raise the 1st Airborne Division. Not throwing away four battalions in the Dodecanese in 1943, detaching the motor battalions from five separate armoured brigade groups, use of Pioneer Corps battalions in the beach groups in 1943-44...... would have provided more than enough manpower to keep all three divisions at full strength throughout 1944-45."

However, the use of these would also mean six less marine battalions, fewer paratroop battalions, five fewer armoured brigade groups, etc., etc. Not all military assets are held within divisions.

You also have to explain what was so magic about 1st Armoured, 50th Infantry, and 59th Infantry Divisions that they, not other formations and units, had to be conserved?

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by daveshoup2MD » 24 Apr 2021 23:58

Sid Guttridge wrote:
24 Apr 2021 11:16
Hi daveshoup,

You appear to have little grasp of the problems, obstacles and complexities in raising what you propose as alternative "warm bodies" from outside the UK. You seem to think that one "warm body" was like any other "warm body" and that all were freely available at London's will without let or hinderance. I would suggest that this is simplistic.

You are now drifting towards where the real problem lay - the allocation of manpower within the British armed forces. This is where your criticism is more sensibly directed: "Historically, the British raised 27 "new" infantry battalions in 1944-1945 in the UK by reorganizing six Marine infantry battalions and converting 21 AA battalions to the continent in 1945 for active service. They also raised "new" battalions of the Parachute Regiment at the same time in an effort re-raise the 1st Airborne Division. Not throwing away four battalions in the Dodecanese in 1943, detaching the motor battalions from five separate armoured brigade groups, use of Pioneer Corps battalions in the beach groups in 1943-44...... would have provided more than enough manpower to keep all three divisions at full strength throughout 1944-45."

However, the use of these would also mean six less marine battalions, fewer paratroop battalions, five fewer armoured brigade groups, etc., etc. Not all military assets are held within divisions.

You also have to explain what was so magic about 1st Armoured, 50th Infantry, and 59th Infantry Divisions that they, not other formations and units, had to be conserved?

Cheers,

Sid.
Spare the insulting tone, okay? Thanks.

The six Marine infantry battalions were organized by taking RM personnel assigned to naval duties and organizing them as infantry; 116th and 117th brigades were the result, and they served in 21st AG (source is Joslyn) in 1945; the 21 AA battalion re-organized for infantry duties formed 301st and 303rd-308th brigades and deployed to the continent, again in 1945 (also Joslyn). The point about trying to rebuild 1st Airborne in 1944-45 is that it was unnecessary, given the existence of 6th Airborne and the 2nd Parachute Brigade, much less al the other paratroopers in the Allied order of battle. Given that the British had enough separate tank and armored brigades to match - 1 to 1 - their remaining infantry divisions, as well as three armoured divisions in 21st AG and one in 8th Army, suggests that keeping 2nd, 7th, 8th, 9th, and 23rd armoured brigades as brigade groups, complete with a motor battalion, was also questionable, Likewise, diverting 10,000 or more physically fit British conscripts from the replacement pool to the coal sector, when ample numbers of men were available for non-combat labor service, was equally mistaken.

The importance of the 1st Armoured, 50th Infantry, and 59th Infantry divisions is that disbanding combat divisions in close contact with the enemy, while ample manpower was available to sustain them, was stupid and weakened the Allied field forces.

That's the "magic."

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