Role of the British Liaison elements in the Co-belligerent Forces

Discussions on all aspects of Italy under Fascism from the March on Rome to the end of the war.
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jwsleser
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Role of the British Liaison elements in the Co-belligerent Forces

Post by jwsleser » 11 Feb 2020 16:42

Internet discussions can quick go off track through misunderstandings and cross-posting. What I am offering here is my understanding of the discussion. It is quite possible that there are misunderstandings on both sides, and the reality is that there is very little disagreement. I hope this clarifies what I have been addressing.

The start of this discussion was in the Italian "Allied" forces absent the 1943 invasion and co-belligerent status thread. During that discussion, the book War in Italy by Lamb was cited, discussing the Italian Co-belligerent Force. I have since obtained a copy of Lamb's book.
Sheldrake wrote:
08 Feb 2020 09:13
The light Italian divisions or legions fitted into the British Imperial model of "Native Troops", as Italian units and formations had British advisers absent from Free French or Polish forces. The Italian artillery was complemented by the abundant British artillery. In Autumn 1944 the British Army was very short of infantrymen. The two RHA Regiments of the disbanded 1st Armoured Division ended up supporting the Italians. In 1944-45 Italian partisans were an effective distraction for the German and RSI forces in Northern Italy.
The key terms in the statement above that shaped my participation are ‘advisors’ and ‘British Imperial Model’. These two terms, when used together, connotate a different role for the advisors.

Advisors. When the decision to use advisors is one taken willing without outside pressure/force, they offer experience and different points of view to the leader/commander/staffs. The significant point here is that their advice can be accepted or rejected and they have no command authority. When they act, they act under the authority given by the leader/commander. They don't have any authority of their own. They can be ignored/dismissed at will.

When I read the term coupled with British Imperial Model, I understand it in a different way. Here the advisors are not a voluntary aspect limited to offering experience and different points of view, but they have actual command authority that is outside the normal chain of command. In the British Imperial Model, these officers can/often occupy TO&E command/staff positions in the force.

The phrase British Imperial Model, by itself, implies a greater degree of control that is more than what is normal in a military superior/subordinate relationship. An example is how regular officers are senior to Indian officers of the same grade.

That is the crucial bit I am addressing.

If there has been a misunderstanding, I feel strongly that this is the source. But if the opposite position is that the British Liaisons did have authority outside the Co-belligerent Army’s chain of command, then that is what needs to be discussed.

Pista!
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Re: Role of the British Liaison elements in the Co-belligerent Forces

Post by jwsleser » 11 Feb 2020 21:27

The following pages are from the Italian Army's official history, I gruppi di combattamento Ceremona - Friuli - Folgore - Legnano - Mantova - Piceno (1944-1945) USSME Roma 1951. Text in [ ] is mine, added to make better sense in English. Any errors in translation are mine alone.
Pp. 13-14 [On the formation of the gruppi]
c) For the technical training on the new armament of the combat groups, courses would have to be carried out at the English training schools, in which the Italian officers would participate, who, in turn, in this way, would provide instruction to the specialists and the minor units. In addition, the various English regulations would be translated into Italian and distributed.

P. 21
The English training would be provided by a British instruction team, made up of officers and non-commissioned officers who have been equipped with the necessary equipment to monitor and follow the training program. British Liaison Units (British Liaison Units: B.L.U.) would have issued the necessary instructions and would have checked, together with the officers of the Allied Directorate of Military Training (D.M.T.), the training of the Groups.

Pp. 22-24
British Liaison Units (B.L.U.) - A British Liaison Unit (B.L.U.) was attached to each Group headquarters, which would have carried out its duties "with the English procedure" ensuring that:

- "the orders received were understood and executed;
- "the information requested by the higher authorities was carefully provided, translated and transmitted;
- "Training was maintained and improved when and where possible;
- "the administrative services and maintenance tasks were efficiently and economically satisfied;
- "circumstances that could have detracted from the combat or administrative efficiency of the Groups, or the morale of their troops were promptly prevented, removed or reported to the competent authorities;
- "during the fight, links were maintained with the formations on the sides and the rear”.

These British Liaison Units (B.L.U.) were also to be "the primary means of communication between the Italian command and the superior and flanking formations in all matters concerning the Italian units in their role as part of the ally”.

In addition, a liaison officer of the M.M.I.A. [Missione Militare Alleata, Allied Military Mission] would be seconded to each Group headquarters with the task of dealing with "all matters concerning Italian personnel in their role as an integral part of the Italian Army” and keeping in close contact with the officers of the B.L.U. (British Liaison Units) to ensure "that the most essential issues were adequately dealt without overriding or wasting time and energy”.

In addition, during the groups’ training phase, the director of military training (D.M.T.), had the task of providing "the training staff during the initial phase of reorganization and training to increase the training given to Italian instructors in English schools, and to supervise and do training status report “. Said personnel would have been withdrawn only when the Combat Group had reached "the conditions of being able to act under the supervision of the B.L.U. "

Regarding the issuance of orders and their translation, the following was provided:
-That the orders and letters were written in the language of the country of origin;
-that the translation in Italian belonged to the receiving Italian command;
-that the translation into English of letters and documents addressed to English authorities by the Combat Groups, [would] belong to the B.L.U., which, for this purpose, would have availed itself of the work of the interpreters, prepared in sufficient numbers.

The whole organization plan of the Groups, in its general lines, is rationally set up; only, however, that some parts proved not to be free of secrecy and poor tact.
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Re: Role of the British Liaison elements in the Co-belligerent Forces

Post by Sheldrake » 11 Feb 2020 22:12

jwsleser wrote:
11 Feb 2020 16:42
Advisors. When the decision to use advisors is one taken willing without outside pressure/force, they offer experience and different points of view to the leader/commander/staffs. The significant point here is that their advice can be accepted or rejected and they have no command authority. When they act, they act under the authority given by the leader/commander. They don't have any authority of their own. They can be ignored/dismissed at will.

When I read the term coupled with British Imperial Model, I understand it in a different way. Here the advisors are not a voluntary aspect limited to offering experience and different points of view, but they have actual command authority that is outside the normal chain of command. In the British Imperial Model, these officers can/often occupy TO&E command/staff positions in the force.

The phrase British Imperial Model, by itself, implies a greater degree of control that is more than what is normal in a military superior/subordinate relationship. An example is how regular officers are senior to Indian officers of the same grade.

That is the crucial bit I am addressing.

If there has been a misunderstanding, I feel strongly that this is the source. But if the opposite position is that the British Liaisons did have authority outside the Co-belligerent Army’s chain of command, then that is what needs to be discussed.

Pista!
One of the purposes of military terminology is to bring precision to a chaotic activity. Command relationships, doctrinal terms. Very NATO, Germanic and US.

Relationships with allies or co-belligerents are different. Titles and superficial command relationships are influenced by political, cultural and diplomatic factors.

Liaison is a wonderfully ambiguous term. Liaison parties merely represent their own commander. Their power and influence reflects that between the commanders. The Italians co-belligerent forces were under British Command. The Liaison Units were the main channel of communication to the Italian formations and responsible for ensuring that these orders were carried out.

"I'm from head office and here to help" ;)

Lamb's account is very sympathetic to the Italians. His account is very critical of some of the British Liaison Staff Officers - failures at unit command, bigoted, culturally insensitive and boorish.

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