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

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 01 May 2021 16:48

daveshoup2MD wrote:
01 May 2021 03:26
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."
I dunno, I didn't make it. 8O

BTW have you accepted that the strength of the RN in 1944 wasn't based on the numbers of German capital ships swinging at the buoy in Norwegian fjords? Or noted that many of the older British warships were in fact decommissioned in 1943-44? Can we put all that behind us?

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Tom

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 01 May 2021 17:06

daveshoup2MD wrote:
01 May 2021 03:34
In that memo, does Grigg raise any questions about:

a) The Bevan'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?
It's Bevin, not Bevan.

a) British coal output fell during the war. Coal was needed for British industry and transport. Without British industry and transport, the British Army couldn't be supported in the field.
b) British AA units in the UK - didn't you refer earlier in this thread to the Germans raining down explosives on the UK?
c) What about the RAF Regiment? I think they manned light AA at RAF airfields and provided local security. Earlier in the war, these roles were provided by British army units.
d) Are you aware of the history of Northern Ireland?
e) Do you mean other than Americans?
f) I expect not, nor would I expect him to mention the number of German casualties suffered in the Italian campaign nor the numbers of Germans who moved into the Balkans and Dodecanese because Italy was knocked out of the war.

I also doubt if Grigg knew what date the war would end, that the atomic bomb would work, that the Russian summer campaign would go so well. that the Allied campaign in Normandy would be so successful, or that he would live for another 20 years. Maybe if he had the benefit of our 70-odd years of hindsight he might have been able to avoid being castigated for:
It's inexcusably bad planning and program management, frankly.
Didn't someone smart say:
"It's hard to make predictions - especially about the future."
And wasn't it Barbara Tuchman who said:
in the midst of war and crisis nothing is as clear or as certain as it appears in hindsight
Regards

Tom

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by daveshoup2MD » 01 May 2021 19:05

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
01 May 2021 16:48
daveshoup2MD wrote:
01 May 2021 03:26
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."
I dunno, I didn't make it. 8O

BTW have you accepted that the strength of the RN in 1944 wasn't based on the numbers of German capital ships swinging at the buoy in Norwegian fjords? Or noted that many of the older British warships were in fact decommissioned in 1943-44? Can we put all that behind us?

Regards

Tom
My apologies; that was for Gooner. Sincere apologies.

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by daveshoup2MD » 01 May 2021 19:09

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
01 May 2021 16:48
BTW have you accepted that the strength of the RN in 1944 wasn't based on the numbers of German capital ships swinging at the buoy in Norwegian fjords? Or noted that many of the older British warships were in fact decommissioned in 1943-44? Can we put all that behind us?

Regards

Tom
Would you agree that the British chose to put significant RN manpower into their capital ship, carrier, and cruisers in 1943-44, at the same time, essentially, the RM Division was broken up and thousands of RM personnel wee assigned to duties as landing craft crew?

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by daveshoup2MD » 01 May 2021 19:21

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
01 May 2021 17:06
daveshoup2MD wrote:
01 May 2021 03:34
In that memo, does Grigg raise any questions about:

a) The Bevin's Boys program?
b) British Army AA units in the UK?
c) The use of RM manpower as landing craft crews?
d) The RAF Regiment?
e) Conscription in Northern Ireland, for military OR labor service, thus freeing up British conscripts going to Bevan's program?
f) Further recruitment of personnel from outside the UK, for integration with the British Army OR labor service?
g) 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?
The questions here were for Gooner, who posted the reference. Do you have the memorandum?

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 01 May 2021 19:49

daveshoup2MD wrote:
01 May 2021 19:09
Would you agree that the British chose to put significant RN manpower into their capital ship, carrier, and cruisers in 1943-44
Um, yes, of course I would agree that the British chose to keep significant RN manpower in their capital ships, carriers and cruisers. They also, as EwenS pointed out in post #64 decommissioned many older capital ships, carriers and cruisers during this period. You pretty much ignored his rather informative post though. :wink:

viewtopic.php?p=2339689#p2339689
daveshoup2MD wrote:
01 May 2021 19:05
My apologies; that was for Gooner. Sincere apologies.
Don't worry about it. I'm not entirely sure what kind of basic training a RM went through before say 1942 when some began to be used to form RM Commando units and obviously went through much more intense light infantry training. It would be interesting to find out though.
daveshoup2MD wrote:
01 May 2021 19:21
The questions here were for Gooner, who posted the reference. Do you have the memorandum?
No, but it looks like you can download it for free at the moment (CAB 66/51/16):

https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov. ... r/C9080108

I think there was a higher level British Manpower Committee at which the kind of questions you are raising were more likely to be debated. That would be where decisions about distribution between armed forces and industry would be made.

Regards

Tom

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by daveshoup2MD » 01 May 2021 20:37

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
01 May 2021 19:49
daveshoup2MD wrote:
01 May 2021 19:09
Would you agree that the British chose to put significant RN manpower into their capital ship, carrier, and cruisers in 1943-44
Um, yes, of course I would agree that the British chose to keep significant RN manpower in their capital ships, carriers and cruisers. They also, as EwenS pointed out in post #64 decommissioned many older capital ships, carriers and cruisers during this period. You pretty much ignored his rather informative post though. :wink:

viewtopic.php?p=2339689#p2339689
daveshoup2MD wrote:
01 May 2021 19:05
My apologies; that was for Gooner. Sincere apologies.
Don't worry about it. I'm not entirely sure what kind of basic training a RM went through before say 1942 when some began to be used to form RM Commando units and obviously went through much more intense light infantry training. It would be interesting to find out though.
daveshoup2MD wrote:
01 May 2021 19:21
The questions here were for Gooner, who posted the reference. Do you have the memorandum?
No, but it looks like you can download it for free at the moment (CAB 66/51/16):

https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov. ... r/C9080108

I think there was a higher level British Manpower Committee at which the kind of questions you are raising were more likely to be debated. That would be where decisions about distribution between armed forces and industry would be made.

Regards

Tom
So the bottom line is in 1943-45, the British had sailors aboard large warships that were, to be frank, excess to Allied requirements after Italy's surrender and before the formation of the BPF for basing in Australia in the (northern hemisphere) winter of 1944-1945. Interesting the period of the ETO campaign that covers where landing craft crews would have been useful, isn't it? Glad we agree.

RMs serving as landing craft crews were, presumably, at least as useful as the re-purposed British Army AA troops and RAF Regiment personnel who filled the ranks in 21st AG in 1945, so whatever training the RMs had was as adequate as anyone else. QED

The Grigg memo is interesting reading; June, 1944, is a little late to be raising the issues, of course, but it is interesting he specifically called out the RAF Regiment and the British Army AA units (which apparently, everyone agreed could be tapped after the removal of the DIVER - V-1, apparently - threat; the uselessness of AA against the V-2 should have accelerated the desire to perform ABM at the source). Interestingly enough, he says nothing about Bevin's Boys, which would seem an obvious pool of physically fit manpower that was in the UK and available.

Along with the obvious question about diverting 48,000 physically fit British conscripts to the coal industry in 1944-45, the acknowledgement the British Army's AA forces were over strength, the questionable use of the RMs, RAF Regiment, and RN, conscription in Northern Ireland (for labor service, if not military service), Dominion and Commonwealth manpower, Italian ISRU and German POW personnel, and labor recruitment in European neutrals, what's clear is that decisions the British Army (meaning Brooke) made in 1943 - raising 6th Airborne Division, keeping separate armoured brigade groups with organic motor battalions in the order of battle, rather than organizing them as tank brigades for attachment to infantry divisions, throwing away a brigade+ of infantry in the Dodecanese, using Army infantry battalions in beach groups when British and colonial pioneer and labor units, or RN manpower, could have been at least partly substituted, the proliferation of special operations forces, etc. - all could have gone the other way and helped keep the 2nd and 8th armies (and Canadian 1st, for that matter) up to strength in the theater that actually mattered.

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Sheldrake
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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Sheldrake » 01 May 2021 23:21

daveshoup2MD wrote:
01 May 2021 20:37
So the bottom line is in 1943-45, the British had sailors aboard large warships that were, to be frank, excess to Allied requirements after Italy's surrender and before the formation of the BPF for basing in Australia in the (northern hemisphere) winter of 1944-1945. Interesting the period of the ETO campaign that covers where landing craft crews would have been useful, isn't it? Glad we agree.

RMs serving as landing craft crews were, presumably, at least as useful as the re-purposed British Army AA troops and RAF Regiment personnel who filled the ranks in 21st AG in 1945, so whatever training the RMs had was as adequate as anyone else. QED

......... - all could have gone the other way and helped keep the 2nd and 8th armies (and Canadian 1st, for that matter) up to strength in the theater that actually mattered.
As ever, you seem to miss the point.

British strategy was in pursuit of British objectives. The British were never going to decommission major warships. Not only were these the symbols of naval power, but they were an important bargaining chip in the context of the Pacific. The British Pacific Fleet was irrelevant to the defeat of Japan, but not to British prestige.

As I have already pointed out, the British only needed enough troops in NW Europe to command a seat at the post war negotiations. No amount of additional troops in 21st Army Group would alter the command roles or outcome. Fewer British troops = fewer casualties. For which the wives and mothers of Britain were very grateful.

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by daveshoup2MD » 02 May 2021 04:30

Sheldrake wrote:
01 May 2021 23:21
daveshoup2MD wrote:
01 May 2021 20:37
So the bottom line is in 1943-45, the British had sailors aboard large warships that were, to be frank, excess to Allied requirements after Italy's surrender and before the formation of the BPF for basing in Australia in the (northern hemisphere) winter of 1944-1945. Interesting the period of the ETO campaign that covers where landing craft crews would have been useful, isn't it? Glad we agree.

RMs serving as landing craft crews were, presumably, at least as useful as the re-purposed British Army AA troops and RAF Regiment personnel who filled the ranks in 21st AG in 1945, so whatever training the RMs had was as adequate as anyone else. QED

......... - all could have gone the other way and helped keep the 2nd and 8th armies (and Canadian 1st, for that matter) up to strength in the theater that actually mattered.
As ever, you seem to miss the point.

British strategy was in pursuit of British objectives. The British were never going to decommission major warships. Not only were these the symbols of naval power, but they were an important bargaining chip in the context of the Pacific. The British Pacific Fleet was irrelevant to the defeat of Japan, but not to British prestige.

As I have already pointed out, the British only needed enough troops in NW Europe to command a seat at the post war negotiations. No amount of additional troops in 21st Army Group would alter the command roles or outcome. Fewer British troops = fewer casualties. For which the wives and mothers of Britain were very grateful.
Fewer British troops in 21st AG = more British civilian casualties in the UK. 30,000 civilian casualties and hundreds of thousands left homeless, according to the IWM: https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/the-terr ... 0homeless.

What objective did that achieve for the British, do you think?

Not sure how prestigious that result was to anyone, much les the average Briton; they certainly gave Churchill's government the heave ho fast enough in the July, 1945 election, and by quite the landslide...

As far as the RN goes, the period where having RN personnel manning landing craft (and not RMs) would have been the end of 1943 and the first half of 1944; after the Italians surrendered in 1943, Scharnhorst was sunk, and Tirpitz was turned into a floating POW camp.

Once 21st AG was ashore, the RN landing craft sailors could go back to the fleet, the landing craft tied up, and the RMs could have been used as infantry, not "Special Service" troops.

Since Fraser didn't make it to Australia until December, 1944, and the BPF's first operations as such did not occur until 1945, it is quite clear the available RN personnel could have been used more effectively in 1943-44 than they were, historically.

Allied strategy was defeat Germany first; the RN had an important role to play in that - it just wasn't by preparing for Jutland II with the IJN. The USN had already taken care of that problem.
Last edited by daveshoup2MD on 02 May 2021 19:38, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Sheldrake » 02 May 2021 09:34

daveshoup2MD wrote:
02 May 2021 04:30
Fewer British troops in 21st AG = more British civilian casualties in the UK. 30,000 civilian casualties and hundreds of thousands left homeless, according to the IWM: https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/the-terr ... 0homeless.

What objective did that achieve for the British, do you think?

Not sure how prestigious that result was to anyone, much les the average Briton; they certainly gave Churchill's government the heave ho fast enough in the July, 1945 election, and by quite the landslide...

As far as the RN goes, the period where having RN personnel manning landing craft (and not RMs) would have been the end of 1943 and the first half of 1944; after the Italians surrendered in 1943, Scharnhorst was sunk, and Tirpitz was turned into a floating POW camp.

Once 21st AG was ashore, the RN landing craft sailors could go back to the fleet. the landing craft tied up, and the RMs could have been used as infantry, not "Special Service" troops.

Since Fraser didn't make it to Australia until December, 1944, and the BPF's first operations as such did not occur until 1945, it is quite clear the available RN personnel could have been used more effectively in 1943-44 than they were, historically/

Allied strategy was defeat Germany first; the RN had an important role to play in that - it just wasn't by preparing for Jutland II with the IJN. The USN had already taken care of that problem.
No one is suggesting that the land contribution to 21 Army Group should have been reduced. Nor is there any evidence that turning the navy into soldiers was going to eliminate the threat of V Weapons. The only opportunity to eliminate the V2 threat was for Op Market Garden to succeed. Logistics prevented more that a single corps deploying.

The idea that the big ships of the RN could be laid up while their crews took a six month sabbatical in landing craft ignores training times for both small craft operation and for working up the big ships. It also removes important units from the gun line of ships offering naval gunfire support.

Prestige mattered to Churchill and those in government that hoped to restore the British Empire, and maintain Britain's top table relationship in the post war world. Churchill lost the 1945 election on domestic matters. The Labour party offered a programme of social reform that was very popular, including the National Health Service which remains very popular to this day.

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 02 May 2021 11:45

daveshoup2MD wrote:
01 May 2021 20:37
So the bottom line is in 1943-45, the British had sailors aboard large warships that were, to be frank, excess to Allied requirements after Italy's surrender and before the formation of the BPF for basing in Australia in the (northern hemisphere) winter of 1944-1945. Interesting the period of the ETO campaign that covers where landing craft crews would have been useful, isn't it? Glad we agree.
Oh yes, we agree that the British had sailors aboard large warships... :lol:

But you seem to be again doing everything in your rhetorical arsenal to avoid recognising the details in EwenS's post that lays out how the British responded to the surrender of Italy and the lessening of the risk to Allied shipping from capital ship raids.

Anyway, lets see how a real-world decision maker reacted to the news of the Italian surrender rather than us armchair critics who have the benefit of 70 years of history and hindsight (Churchill - 7 Sep 43):
Of course I am immediately thinking of forming a powerful fleet against Japan. It is not much use keeping such a fleet loafing about in the Indian Ocean until our amphibious operations in 1944 are due. It would have a great moral effect both upon Japanese enemy and upon all our friends in America if we sent a strong squadron round Australia to do a spell of say four months in the Pacific. Alternatively they could come through the Panama Canal, which would be an eye opener for the American public and make so many other things easier. I have asked Admiral King to think out what he really wants and in what way we can best help.


As for your statement that:
daveshoup2MD wrote:
02 May 2021 04:30
Fewer British troops in 21st AG = more British civilian casualties in the UK. 30,000 civilian casualties and hundreds of thousands left homeless, according to the IWM:
Thanks, I'll add that to the hindsight list:
I doubt if the British COS knew how the German V-weapon programme would turn out or that Grigg knew what date the war would end, that the atomic bomb would work, that the Russian summer campaign would go so well. that the Allied campaign in Normandy would be so successful, or that he would live for another 20 years.
daveshoup2MD wrote:
02 May 2021 04:30
Allied strategy was defeat Germany first; the RN had an important role to play in that - it just wasn't by preparing for Jutland II with the IJN. The USN had already taken care of that problem.
Ooops, I'd better add that to the hindsight list too... :roll:

Or we could ask why the USN didn't transfer entirely to the European theatre if the IJN was such an insignificant threat by September 1943.

To be frank, David, you seem to have very little idea of how complicated direction of the British Empire war effort actually was. The South Africans didn't want their army to operate outside Africa, the Canadians insisted on moving Canadian forces into the Mediterranean, the Australians insisted on recalling their divisions home to Australia, etc, etc. Sadly for the omniscient critic 70 years later, it was seldom as simple as:
daveshoup2MD wrote:
02 May 2021 04:30
Once 21st AG was ashore, the RN landing craft sailors could go back to the fleet. the landing craft tied up, and the RMs could have been used as infantry, not "Special Service" troops.
I can just imagine what Brooke would have said to those ideas. It can also be argued that "once 21st AG was ashore", the RMs were mainly used as infantry rather than as "Special Service" troops. :roll: Oh, and without an amphibious force, how would the Allies have cleared the Scheldt Estuary?

Regards

Tom

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by wwilson » 02 May 2021 11:56

Some apples and oranges here.

Units like the brigades sent late in the war weren't that much in action, were they? I thought most of those units were security for the LoC.

Also notable that 21st AG -was- reinforced by bringing Canadian I Corps from Italy.

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Sheldrake » 02 May 2021 12:14

daveshoup2MD wrote:
01 May 2021 19:09
Would you agree that the British chose to put significant RN manpower into their capital ship, carrier, and cruisers in 1943-44, at the same time, essentially, the RM Division was broken up and thousands of RM personnel wee assigned to duties as landing craft crew?
Until 1943 the Royal Marine Division took part in operations at Dakar and was held ready to intervene in amphibious contingency operations against the Azores or Canaries in the event of Portuguese or Spanish intervention. The Army Commandos formed in 1940 and expanded during the war years developed the amphibious raiding capability claimed by the Royal Marines, but with arguably less rigorous training than that developed by the Army Commandos. Only No 40 RM Commando was formed entirely from volunteers.

In 1943 the two infantry brigades of the RM division became No 3 and 4 Special service (Commando) brigades, while the gunners of the division became the RMASG which manned the 80 Centaurs, the AA regiment manned landing craft Flak and the Machine gun battalion close support craft. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Marines_Division
By and large the fighting troops of the Royal Marine Division were deployed in highly appropriate combat roles.

The extra landing craft crews were recruited from elsewhere.

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 02 May 2021 19:18

daveshoup2MD wrote:
02 May 2021 04:30
Allied strategy was defeat Germany first; the RN had an important role to play in that - it just wasn't by preparing for Jutland II with the IJN. The USN had already taken care of that problem.
Dave,

You might want to check where the main strength of the IJN was based in February 1944 - "five battleships, three carriers, eighteen cruisers and a number of smaller ships" based at Singapore according to Roskill p.347. Of course, with 70 years of hindsight we know that, although superior to the Eastern Fleet, they had no offensive intentions in the Indian Ocean but I don't think that was known to the Allies at the time. In response to this redeployment of Japanese naval power, the USN sent a carrier and 3 destroyers to support the RN's Eastern Fleet and the joint USN-RN force took part in raids into what was the Dutch East Indies. These provided excellent experience which was used to inform the multi-carrier operations conducted by the British Pacific Fleet in 1945.

I also noted that on 7th December 1943, Mountbatten was ordered to send 15 LSTs and 6 LSIs (over half of his landing craft according to Roskill p.345) back to Europe when the British Chiefs of Staff managed to persuade the US Chiefs of Staff that operations in Europe were more important than an amphibious operation (BUCCANEER) in Burma to free up the Burma road (same source and page).

Regards

Tom

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 02 May 2021 19:35

Sheldrake wrote:
02 May 2021 12:14
The extra landing craft crews were recruited from elsewhere.
Indeed. Some notes from Roskill Vol III-II, p.10
The Admiralty estimated their additional needs for 'Neptune' at 35,000 men and 10,000 women...In the end the Admiralty decided to lay up four of the older battleships, five small cruisers and forty destroyers to release their crews. The First Minelaying Squadron was also disbanded, and the last of the Armed Merchant Cruisers were recalled and paid off. But even these measures were not enough, and to meet the additional requirements for 'Neptune' some soldiers and airmen had to be transferred to the Navy.
When the decision was made to widen the initial invasion front 'an appeal for reinforcements was therefore made to our American Allies'.

Regards

Tom

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