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.
Gooner1
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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Gooner1 » 29 Apr 2021 11:35

daveshoup2MD wrote:
28 Apr 2021 23:08
Okay, but given the realities of which Axis power was dropping high explosive on the UK, it hardly seems remarkable to suggest that:

a) RM light infantry should be used as light infantry, not landing craft crew;

b) RN sailors should be used as landing craft crew for the period in which they were needed in the ETO - 1944 - and then transferred to the fleet for the Pacific Campaign in 1945.

After - at the latest - mid-to-late 1942, there was no IJN threat to the Indian Ocean. QED, the RN's focus for the counteroffensives of late 1942 onwards aimed at the defeat of Germany should have been the priority; that would have - along with ASW - meant amphibious warfare.

Organizing and training combat divisions for a continental campaign, and then disbanding them to provide replacements, while excellent infantry are assigned as sailors and excellent sailors are assigned to guard against an enemy that wasn't a threat at sea was a self-inflicted wound.

[/quote]

The RM had 9 Commando's by wars end, not counting the RM brigades. My understanding is that the landing craft crews and other RM personnel who went onto form the 116th and 117th RM Brigades were not previously trained RM infantry.

The Royal Navy did very well as regards allocation of recruits in the mid years of the war, adding nearly 150,000 men net to their total strength between March 1943 and March 1944 (which was more than double their March '41 strength). In the same period the British Army added just a net 52,000 to their overall strength.

Gooner1
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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Gooner1 » 29 Apr 2021 15:20

daveshoup2MD wrote:
28 Apr 2021 23:11
Had the impression the former RAF Regiment troops transferred to the Army were well-regarded; recall some mention that a significant proportion were slotted into the replacement pool for the Guards.
I believe there was a boast in the RAF Regiment that every man there would be at least a rank higher if he were in the army.
Of the first tranche of 2,000 men transferred over 1,500 went to Guards battalions, (IIRC a large percentage of 2nd Scots Guards were ex-RAF)

On 18th Feb 1945 the strength of the RAF Regiment in North West Europe was six armoured car squadrons, 28 LAA squadrons and 31 rifle squadrons.
Almost enough riflemen to fill an infantry division.

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 29 Apr 2021 17:19

daveshoup2MD wrote:
28 Apr 2021 23:08
Okay, but given the realities of which Axis power was dropping high explosive on the UK, it hardly seems remarkable to suggest that:

a) RM light infantry should be used as light infantry, not landing craft crew;
b) RN sailors should be used as landing craft crew for the period in which they were needed in the ETO - 1944 - and then transferred to the fleet for the Pacific Campaign in 1945.
OK, but given the reality that the Japanese were actually occupying territory which pre-war had been some of the most profitable British colonies of the British Empire it hardly seems remarkable to suggest that the British government might want to use its naval power to begin the process of recovering them!

As for your next two points (and apologies, I couldn’t make mine a and b to match up for some reason):

1. You seem to be be misinformed about the difference between the current RM Commando force (elite light infantry) and the pre-war and early-war RM force (mostly not light infantry, elite or otherwise).
2. Um, RN sailors were used as landing craft crew in Europe in 1944 - you could equally ask why greater USN manpower resources weren’t deployed in Normandy but were used during the summer of 1944 in the Pacific - wasn’t the war according to you all all one way there after June 1942?
daveshoup2MD wrote:
28 Apr 2021 23:08
After - at the latest - mid-to-late 1942, there was no IJN threat to the Indian Ocean. QED, the RN's focus for the counteroffensives of late 1942 onwards aimed at the defeat of Germany should have been the priority; that would have - along with ASW - meant amphibious warfare.
In mid-1942, the British reacted to the reduced IJN threat in the Indian Ocean by moving capital units and other naval forces from the Eastern Fleet to higher priority areas, such as into the Mediterranean to support convoy runs to Malta including “Pedestal”.

Both before and after mid-1942 the campaign against Germany and Italy was the RN’s focus. The priority assigned at Casablanca in January 1943 was the defeat of the U-boats. Into early 1944, the priority became OVERLORD. Hence the use of available naval manpower (both RN and RM) to increase the RN’s amphibious forces.

After mid-to-late 1942 it is true that there was a much reduced IJN threat in the Indian Ocean, and as the RN built up its forces there that’s why the initiative moved to the Allies. But your “QED” is based on 70 years of hindsight, not on the reality of the situation faced by senior Allied decision makers in the middle of a global war which was certainly in the balance all through 1942 and into 1943.

Regards

Tom

daveshoup2MD
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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by daveshoup2MD » 30 Apr 2021 05:37

Gooner1 wrote:
29 Apr 2021 11:35

The RM had 9 Commando's by wars end, not counting the RM brigades. My understanding is that the landing craft crews and other RM personnel who went onto form the 116th and 117th RM Brigades were not previously trained RM infantry.

The Royal Navy did very well as regards allocation of recruits in the mid years of the war, adding nearly 150,000 men net to their total strength between March 1943 and March 1944 (which was more than double their March '41 strength). In the same period the British Army added just a net 52,000 to their overall strength.
What is that understanding based on?

As far as the RN goes, seems like the best people to man landing craft would have been, in fact, sailors.
Last edited by daveshoup2MD on 30 Apr 2021 05:39, edited 1 time in total.

daveshoup2MD
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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by daveshoup2MD » 30 Apr 2021 05:38

Gooner1 wrote:
29 Apr 2021 15:20
daveshoup2MD wrote:
28 Apr 2021 23:11
Had the impression the former RAF Regiment troops transferred to the Army were well-regarded; recall some mention that a significant proportion were slotted into the replacement pool for the Guards.
I believe there was a boast in the RAF Regiment that every man there would be at least a rank higher if he were in the army.
Of the first tranche of 2,000 men transferred over 1,500 went to Guards battalions, (IIRC a large percentage of 2nd Scots Guards were ex-RAF)

On 18th Feb 1945 the strength of the RAF Regiment in North West Europe was six armoured car squadrons, 28 LAA squadrons and 31 rifle squadrons.
Almost enough riflemen to fill an infantry division.
Good duty if you can get it.

daveshoup2MD
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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by daveshoup2MD » 30 Apr 2021 05:48

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
29 Apr 2021 17:19
daveshoup2MD wrote:
28 Apr 2021 23:08
Okay, but given the realities of which Axis power was dropping high explosive on the UK, it hardly seems remarkable to suggest that:

a) RM light infantry should be used as light infantry, not landing craft crew;
b) RN sailors should be used as landing craft crew for the period in which they were needed in the ETO - 1944 - and then transferred to the fleet for the Pacific Campaign in 1945.
OK, but given the reality that the Japanese were actually occupying territory which pre-war had been some of the most profitable British colonies of the British Empire it hardly seems remarkable to suggest that the British government might want to use its naval power to begin the process of recovering them!

As for your next two points (and apologies, I couldn’t make mine a and b to match up for some reason):

1. You seem to be be misinformed about the difference between the current RM Commando force (elite light infantry) and the pre-war and early-war RM force (mostly not light infantry, elite or otherwise).
2. Um, RN sailors were used as landing craft crew in Europe in 1944 - you could equally ask why greater USN manpower resources weren’t deployed in Normandy but were used during the summer of 1944 in the Pacific - wasn’t the war according to you all all one way there after June 1942?
daveshoup2MD wrote:
28 Apr 2021 23:08
After - at the latest - mid-to-late 1942, there was no IJN threat to the Indian Ocean. QED, the RN's focus for the counteroffensives of late 1942 onwards aimed at the defeat of Germany should have been the priority; that would have - along with ASW - meant amphibious warfare.
In mid-1942, the British reacted to the reduced IJN threat in the Indian Ocean by moving capital units and other naval forces from the Eastern Fleet to higher priority areas, such as into the Mediterranean to support convoy runs to Malta including “Pedestal”.

Both before and after mid-1942 the campaign against Germany and Italy was the RN’s focus. The priority assigned at Casablanca in January 1943 was the defeat of the U-boats. Into early 1944, the priority became OVERLORD. Hence the use of available naval manpower (both RN and RM) to increase the RN’s amphibious forces.

After mid-to-late 1942 it is true that there was a much reduced IJN threat in the Indian Ocean, and as the RN built up its forces there that’s why the initiative moved to the Allies. But your “QED” is based on 70 years of hindsight, not on the reality of the situation faced by senior Allied decision makers in the middle of a global war which was certainly in the balance all through 1942 and into 1943.

Regards

Tom
No hindsight necessary to understand putting armor and infantry into action to defeat Germany in 1943-45 and sustaining those units in combat was far more important than multiple plans for counteroffensives in SEAC that were cancelled because there wasn't anything of comparable strategic significance in that theater to France, Belgium, the Ruhr, and Berlin.

The US didn't have to disband one in five of its armored divisions and two of its 15 infantry divisions in the priority theater in 1944, however, simply to provide infantry replacements to keep what was left in the fight...

wwilson
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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by wwilson » 30 Apr 2021 07:59

No hindsight necessary to understand putting armor and infantry into action to defeat Germany in 1943-45
Not so sure about that.

Bear in mind, the war against Japan was, at that point, still of undefined length and a casualty generator of unknown potential.

The other bit is that Churchill had his eye on postwar Europe. He knew relations with the Soviets would be troubled. IMO, he was doing all he could to preserve British manpower resources because of the challenges posed by Japan and the USSR.

Cheers

Sid Guttridge
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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Sid Guttridge » 30 Apr 2021 11:39

Hi daveshoup2MD,

I am not sure that "As far as the RN goes, seems like the best people to man landing craft would have been, in fact, sailors." is true.

Landing craft are used at the interface between sea and land warfare. There seems a certain logic to using Marines, the "sea-soldiers", in this role.

The Marines were part of the Navy. Whoever is used, the same number of men from the Navy's manpower pool were likely to be involved.

Cheers,

Sid.

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 30 Apr 2021 13:21

daveshoup2MD wrote:
30 Apr 2021 05:48
No hindsight necessary to understand putting armor and infantry into action to defeat Germany in 1943-45 and sustaining those units in combat was far more important than multiple plans for counteroffensives in SEAC that were cancelled...
Counteroffensives that were cancelled because the necessary resources were directed to NW Europe as it was judged higher priority by the British COS.
daveshoup2MD wrote:
30 Apr 2021 05:48
The US didn't have to disband one in five of its armored divisions and two of its 15 infantry divisions in the priority theater in 1944, however, simply to provide infantry replacements to keep what was left in the fight...


Perhaps not, but the US also went through an infantry replacement crisis in Europe in the late autumn of 1944 (see Ruppenthal Vol II, pp.321-323). Dealing with which in December 1944 involved, amongst other emergency measures, stripping nearly 2,000 "basics" from 42nd, 63rd,and 70th Divisions and sending them as replacements to 3rd US Army and taking 25% of the T/O enlisted strength of the 3 regiments in 69th Division and sending them as replacements to 1 and 9 US Armies.

The numbers of infantry replacements required to replace front-line infantry casualties in NW Europe clearly surprised both the British and US armies. With hindsight we now realise that both were misled by previous experience in the Mediterranean theatre. It would be interesting to know if the US Army and USMC faced a similar replacement crisis in the Pacific at the same time or if there were thousands of US infantry/marine replacements available but just in the wrong theatre.

Regards

Tom

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 30 Apr 2021 13:54

daveshoup2MD wrote:
30 Apr 2021 05:37
What is that understanding based on?
That the Royal Marines at the beginning of WW2 weren't the elite force of RM Commandoes that they are now?

Hmm, well you could look at for example the history of 47 RM Commando (From Omaha to the Scheldt) by John Forfar. He records how the two separate roles of the RM's (sea soldier and naval artillery) were finally brought together in the 1920's and how during the inter-war period it was the latter that became the RM's normal role. At the start of WW2, large numbers of RMs were brought together to form two brigades and a RM Division whose purpose was poorly defined and which remained unused. The first RM commando was not formed until Feb 1942. He then relates how 47 (RM) Commando was born out of the larger 10th Battalion Royal Marines on 1st August 1943.

Regards

Tom

Gooner1
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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Gooner1 » 30 Apr 2021 18:18

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
30 Apr 2021 13:21
The numbers of infantry replacements required to replace front-line infantry casualties in NW Europe clearly surprised both the British and US armies. With hindsight we now realise that both were misled by previous experience in the Mediterranean theatre.
Regards

Tom
Hi Tom, the proportion of casualties suffered by the infantry (and armour) may have come as a bit of a surprise but not the overall levels of casualties to be expected.

Check P.J. Grigg's (Secretary of State for War) 'Manpower Requirements for the Army 1944' (October 1943) CAB 66/42/14 and also CAB 66/51/16, CAB 66/54/3 and CAB 66/59/5

Grigg's memorandum of 12th June 1944 (CAB 66/51/16) is particularly incisive.

"The broad points which emerge from this paper are as follows:-

1. On the assumptions which are made in this paper, there is a possibility that the fighting elements of as many as five divisions and four armoured brigades may have been lost by the end of the year.

2. There are no means by which we can save all these divisions unless casualties are very much less than we expect. It looks like two out of the five must disappear in any case."

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 30 Apr 2021 19:45

Gooner1 wrote:
30 Apr 2021 18:18
Hi Tom, the proportion of casualties suffered by the infantry (and armour) may have come as a bit of a surprise but not the overall levels of casualties to be expected.
Hi,

Yes, thank you for the useful reference. That was the point I was trying to make, and one that I now realise I only obliquely made reference to:
Tom from Cornwall wrote:
30 Apr 2021 13:21
The numbers of infantry replacements required to replace front-line infantry casualties in NW Europe clearly surprised both the British and US armies. With hindsight we now realise that both were misled by previous experience in the Mediterranean theatre.
I meant that the % of infantry replacements within the prediction of total required replacements was too low due to the previous Allied experience in the Mediterranean. 'Intense' and 'Double Intense' etc...

Regards

Tom

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by daveshoup2MD » 01 May 2021 03:13

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
30 Apr 2021 13:21
daveshoup2MD wrote:
30 Apr 2021 05:48
No hindsight necessary to understand putting armor and infantry into action to defeat Germany in 1943-45 and sustaining those units in combat was far more important than multiple plans for counteroffensives in SEAC that were cancelled...
Counteroffensives that were cancelled because the necessary resources were directed to NW Europe as it was judged higher priority by the British COS.
daveshoup2MD wrote:
30 Apr 2021 05:48
The US didn't have to disband one in five of its armored divisions and two of its 15 infantry divisions in the priority theater in 1944, however, simply to provide infantry replacements to keep what was left in the fight...


Perhaps not, but the US also went through an infantry replacement crisis in Europe in the late autumn of 1944 (see Ruppenthal Vol II, pp.321-323). Dealing with which in December 1944 involved, amongst other emergency measures, stripping nearly 2,000 "basics" from 42nd, 63rd,and 70th Divisions and sending them as replacements to 3rd US Army and taking 25% of the T/O enlisted strength of the 3 regiments in 69th Division and sending them as replacements to 1 and 9 US Armies.

The numbers of infantry replacements required to replace front-line infantry casualties in NW Europe clearly surprised both the British and US armies. With hindsight we now realise that both were misled by previous experience in the Mediterranean theatre. It would be interesting to know if the US Army and USMC faced a similar replacement crisis in the Pacific at the same time or if there were thousands of US infantry/marine replacements available but just in the wrong theatre.

Regards

Tom
If an amphibious operation is cancelled because of a lack of amphibious ships, one can suggest having the covering forces swinging around the hook with trained sailors looking for something worth risking their lives and ships over (and not finding it) is hardly a desirable goal.

The Americans did, however, find the manpower to meet the need, and did so without disbanding combat divisions; the British did not. It's hardly heresy to question the decisions regarding manpower they made both before the crisis in 1944 that could have been avoided, especially since they involved such questionable uses of military manpower (British Army, RM, and conscripts available for either) as are widely known, and the fact that they ended up filling the gaps in 21st AG's order of battle with the ad hoc formations they (historically) threw into the line in 1945.

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by daveshoup2MD » 01 May 2021 03:26

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
30 Apr 2021 13:54
daveshoup2MD wrote:
30 Apr 2021 05:37
What is that understanding based on?
That the Royal Marines at the beginning of WW2 weren't the elite force of RM Commandoes that they are now?

Hmm, well you could look at for example the history of 47 RM Commando (From Omaha to the Scheldt) by John Forfar. He records how the two separate roles of the RM's (sea soldier and naval artillery) were finally brought together in the 1920's and how during the inter-war period it was the latter that became the RM's normal role. At the start of WW2, large numbers of RMs were brought together to form two brigades and a RM Division whose purpose was poorly defined and which remained unused. The first RM commando was not formed until Feb 1942. He then relates how 47 (RM) Commando was born out of the larger 10th Battalion Royal Marines on 1st August 1943.

Regards

Tom
Your first sentence is not anything that's been suggested; simply that riflemen are better used as riflemen than boatmen, and vice-versa.

Having said that, my question was actually to your statement: "My understanding is that the landing craft crews and other RM personnel who went onto form the 116th and 117th RM Brigades were not previously trained RM infantry."

What is that understanding based upon?
Last edited by daveshoup2MD on 01 May 2021 03:34, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by daveshoup2MD » 01 May 2021 03:34

Gooner1 wrote:
30 Apr 2021 18:18
Tom from Cornwall wrote:
30 Apr 2021 13:21
The numbers of infantry replacements required to replace front-line infantry casualties in NW Europe clearly surprised both the British and US armies. With hindsight we now realise that both were misled by previous experience in the Mediterranean theatre.
Regards

Tom
Hi Tom, the proportion of casualties suffered by the infantry (and armour) may have come as a bit of a surprise but not the overall levels of casualties to be expected.

Check P.J. Grigg's (Secretary of State for War) 'Manpower Requirements for the Army 1944' (October 1943) CAB 66/42/14 and also CAB 66/51/16, CAB 66/54/3 and CAB 66/59/5

Grigg's memorandum of 12th June 1944 (CAB 66/51/16) is particularly incisive.

"The broad points which emerge from this paper are as follows:-

1. On the assumptions which are made in this paper, there is a possibility that the fighting elements of as many as five divisions and four armoured brigades may have been lost by the end of the year.

2. There are no means by which we can save all these divisions unless casualties are very much less than we expect. It looks like two out of the five must disappear in any case."
In that memo, does Grigg raise any questions about:

a) The Bevin's Boys program?
b) British Army AA units in the UK?
b) The use of RM manpower as landing craft crews?
c) The RAF Regiment?
d) Conscription in Northern Ireland, for military OR labor service, thus freeing up British conscripts going to Bevan's program?
e) Further recruitment of personnel from outside the UK, for integration with the British Army OR labor service?
f) Or - just for curiosity's sake - does he mention the British Army casualties sustained in the Dodecanese, and/or Italy, since the end of the North African campaign?

Thanks
Last edited by daveshoup2MD on 01 May 2021 19:11, edited 1 time in total.

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