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.
daveshoup2MD
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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by daveshoup2MD » 02 May 2021 19:57

Sheldrake wrote:
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.
The British contribution to the 21st AG was reduced in 1944, however; by (conservatively) two infantry divisions, an armored brigade, and a battalion each from two other armored brigades, for a total of some ~25 maneuver battalions - 10 infantry and one RAC in each of 50th and 59th divisions, three RAC in 1st Tank Brigade, and one RAC each from 33rd and 34th tank brigades; given the shifting back and forth from tank to armoured brigade structures, and moving various headquarters and constituent battalions in and out of the armoured engineer role in 79th Division, a specific "count" depends on the date, but it's a fair estimate that because of the poor use of Britain's manpower in 1943-44, roughly a corps equivalent was removed from 21st AG's "British" order of battle by the end of 1944, to be replaced (more or less) in 1945 by GOLDFLAKE (Cdn. I Corps and the British 5th Infantry Division), as well as organizing seven infantry brigades from British Army AA units and the 116th and 117th RM brigades.

In roughly the same period, the British 1st Armoured Division was broken up in Italy, with the loss of (at least) an infantry brigade equivalent, as well as some RAC elements, either disbanded for replacements or converted to armoured engineers.

As far as the rest, who has suggested "turning the navy into soldiers"? Seriously, where does that come from?

As far as using "some" sailors as landing craft crews for the invasion of Europe, and then transferring them back to the fleet, those sort of transfers are exactly what was done with the RMs being discussed, except they were transferred from infantry duties in the RM Division in 101 and 102 brigades in 1943, to landing craft crews in 1944, and then back to infantry duties in 116th and 117th infantry brigades in 1945...

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by daveshoup2MD » 02 May 2021 20:10

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
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
The fact that in September, 1943, Churchill wanted to "form a powerful fleet" against Japan says volumes about what Churchill didn't want to do in 1943-44, doesn't it?

The fact the RN's eastern Fleet did spend the rest of 1943-44 "loafing about in the Indian Ocean" (WSC's words, not mine) doesn't exactly support your point...

And I'm well aware of the complexities of manpower mobilization as the foundation of the Imperial war effort; very clear contrast with the "go where you're sent" policies of the Americans, British,(to their credit), and French.

However, none of the points above about British formations in the 21st AG have anything to do with conscripts from South African, Australia, or Canada (or Ulstermen, Indians, West Africans, East Africans, New Zealanders, Newfoundlanders, British West Indians, British High Commission territories in southern Africa, Mandated Palestinians, Fijians, or anyone else.)

All those being discussed were "British" resources, given we're talking about the British Army, RM, and RN (much less the RAF Regiment and Bevin's Boys) - all British, to a man...

As far as the Scheldt goes, good thing for Brooke and Montgomery they had the Canadian 1st Army to handle it for them, isn't it? Just imagine if they had to set aside MARKET-GARDEN...

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 02 May 2021 20:22

daveshoup2MD wrote:
02 May 2021 20:10
The fact that in September, 1943, Churchill wanted to "form a powerful fleet" against Japan says volumes about what Churchill didn't want to do in 1943-44, doesn't it?
No. It suggests Churchill wanted to form a powerful fleet in the Indian Ocean.
daveshoup2MD wrote:
02 May 2021 20:10
The fact the RN's eastern Fleet did spend the rest of 1943-44 "loafing about in the Indian Ocean" (WSC's words, not mine) doesn't exactly support your point...
So, when did the Eastern Fleet get to the Indian Ocean? When did the main strength of the Japanese fleet base itself in Singapore? Do you ever read anyone else's posts? Do some research dude! Check out Saratoga in Indian Ocean in 1944? Unlike in your world, it takes time to deploy RN assets from the UK to the Indian Ocean. :roll:

And of course, no one who had to make those decisions has your benefit of omniscient hindsight...
daveshoup2MD wrote:
02 May 2021 20:10
And I'm well aware of the complexities of manpower mobilization as the foundation of the Imperial war effort; very clear contrast with the "go where you're sent" policies of the Americans, British,(to their credit), and French.
So you do realise that much of what you have been arguing is nonsense then. :lol:
daveshoup2MD wrote:
02 May 2021 20:10
As far as the Scheldt goes, good thing for Brooke and Montgomery they had the Canadian 1st Army to handle it for them, isn't it?
Well, to be honest, that was a good thing for SHAEF in general wasn't it - so perhaps you should add Eisenhower, Bradley, etc to that list. :idea:

Regards

Tom

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by daveshoup2MD » 02 May 2021 20:27

wwilson wrote:
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.

Cheers
In a global war that depended on mass mobilization, the bottom line was - one a formation was created - keeping it in the line with replacements for combat casualties. The British could not do that in the most important theater - the ETO - to the extent that one of the five armoured divisions (two brigade equivalents) and two of the 15 infantry divisions (six brigade equivalents) the British put ashore on the European continent in 1943-45 had to be broken up for replacements before the end of 1944. The British then formed/reformed nine infantry brigades, two from RMs and seven from British Army AA units, and deployed them to the continent in 1945 to fill holes in their order of battle.

One can suggest this was, perhaps, not the best staff work imaginable, and wonder if there were better ways to use what manpower was available.

Yes, GOLDFLAKE brought the Canadian I Corps (two divisions and a separate brigade, six brigades total) and the British 5th Division (3 brigades) from the MTO to 21st AG - which makes clear, after all, the British recognized that breaking up 50th and 59th divisions was a negative impact to their army's combat effectiveness. It is also with noting that GOLDFLAKE occurred (more or less) at the same time the British III Corps (4th Infantry, 4th Indian, 46th Infantry divisions, 23rd Armoured Brigade, and the remaining Greek brigade, so 11 brigades total) were deployed to Greece from Italy.

So the shortfalls were manifest in both theaters; interestingly enough, the historical response also makes clear that by turning to various "additional" manpower pools (the RM and Brtish Army AA units, the Canadian NRMA conscripts who were, after much "discussion", sent to the 21st AG, the Jewish Brigade's deployment to Italy in the winter of 1944, the German POWs who "became" Poles and filled up the Polish 3rd and 5th divisions, the "combat groups" - "light divisions" - of reorganized Italian Royal Army, etc.) everyone involved understood that disbanding combat units to provide replacements was not desirable.

So the question is, what could the British have done "differently" in 1943-44, to either avoid or improve upon the expedients of 1944-45?

The answer is, it appears, quite a lot...

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by daveshoup2MD » 02 May 2021 20:34

Sheldrake wrote:
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.
That's not in dispute, other than why RM infantry from 101 and 102 brigades in the RM division in 1942 were converted to "SS/commandos" in 1943; as far as the RM landing craft crews go, what the point of using infantry as sailors in 1944 when there were other sources of sailors, and then re-rolling them back to infantry in 1945, remains unanswered.

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by daveshoup2MD » 02 May 2021 21:02

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
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
Huh, what had happened before February, 1944 in the Pacific that "encouraged" the IJN to move its main fleet units out of the Central Pacific?

Your own source goes on (p. 348): "... there was no evidence (the Admiralty) said, that the move to Singapore was linked with any offensive intentions in the Indian Ocean ... the Japanese had indeed no large-scale offensive intentions. Their force had been sent to Singapore because the American carrier raids were making the Carolines and Marianas unsafe, and because Singapore possessed the only large dock outside of Japan. Moreover, as they were finding it increasingly difficult to transport oil to their homeland, it was easier and more economical to replenish and refit ships at that base."

And as far as February, 1944, goes, turning back to Roskill (page 221-222) it's pretty clear the British saw no threat from the IJN:

"... to return to the main body of the Eastern Fleet, in September (1943), although still far to weak to undertake any offensive operations, it moved from Kilindini (East Africa) back to Colombo... luckily the Japanese regarded the Indian ocean as secondary to the Pacific theater. They had a cruiser squadron of five ships at Penang and a few others at Singapore" and this with a force of Ramillies, Battler (arrived in October), nine cruisers, and 13 destroyers...[/i]

Of course, flipping back to 347, here's what the British planned to send east, as of January, 1944, over the next four months: three capital ships, two fast carriers, 14 cruisers, 24 fleet destroyers, 54 escorts, 27 minesweepers, 17 submarines, and five repair and depot ships .., the capital ships and Illustrious all arrived in Ceylon in January, 1944...

Presumably, some of those sailors and quite a few of the ships could have been more profitably employed in European waters in 1944.

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by daveshoup2MD » 02 May 2021 21:04

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
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
Those were RN personnel, however, not the RMs under discussion.

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by wwilson » 03 May 2021 08:15

@daveshoup2MD
The British then formed/reformed nine infantry brigades, two from RMs and seven from British Army AA units, and deployed them to the continent in 1945 to fill holes in their order of battle.
I don't think it was that many brigades, at least, not that many were sent to NW Europe. What was sent to Europe stayed mostly behind the front from what I understand. I'll glance at Joslen and get back to you in this thread. Canadian I Corps filled some of the order of battle gap.

A corps headquarters, British I Corps, was also effectively sidelined, becoming involved with LoC activities in the Netherlands.

The real crux was the supply of infantry "reinforcements" as the British termed them. Part of that issue IMO is that by 1944, the British Army had an imbalance in terms of the number of armour and infantry brigades it fielded; as in too many of the former.

Yes, different decisions could have been made, but to have made the correct decisions is to assume they had a foresight which was not available at the time. I think it is realistic to say better decisions regarding force structure could have been made, but beyond that, one has to account for what the British fellows commenting here have mentioned -- huge political influences, postwar concerns, the ongoing war with Japan, etc.

Another uniquely British aspect of this situation is how the "reinforcements" were tied to particular regiments. That complicated matters, and made cross-leveling of any surplus reinforcements impractical.

Cheers

ETA. The brigades. Per Joslen, six brigades went to NW Europe. Of the six, only one, the 115th, appears to have been in areas in which significant operations were taking place. The rest were subordinated as LoC units directly to 21st Army Group or "Netherlands District".

Key:

Brigade Number; Date arrived in NW Europe; Provenance

115; 12 Feb 45; infantry regiments
116; 20 Feb 45; Royal Marines
305; 20 Apr 45; AA troops
306; 07 May 45; AA troops
307; 23 Apr 45; AA troops
308; 29 Apr 45; AA troops

The second RM brigade, the 117th, was in the UK until the war ended in Europe.

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Sheldrake
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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Sheldrake » 03 May 2021 08:40

wwilson wrote:
03 May 2021 08:15
Another uniquely British aspect of this situation is how the "reinforcements" were tied to particular regiments. That complicated matters, and made cross-leveling of any surplus reinforcements impractical.
Cheers
I don't think that by August 1944 there was much attempt to reinforce by cap badge. Some of the amalgamated battalions seem to have tried to establish companies by original affiliation. Lots of the reinforcements were from different arms - Gunners or services such RM or RAF Regiment.

Typically these were men who had been trained originally as infantrymen. This was happening in Italy as well as NW Europe. A few years ago I helped a family research an ancestor who died as a lance corporal section commander in the Gothic line battles. He had originally joined the Lancashire Fusiliers as a Bandsman. His unit had been converted to Light AA in 1941-2 and then he was posted to the Royal Fusiliers in July 1944.

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 03 May 2021 09:29

daveshoup2MD wrote:
02 May 2021 21:02
Huh, what had happened before February, 1944 in the Pacific that "encouraged" the IJN to move its main fleet units out of the Central Pacific?
I dunno, I’ve always regarded the entire Pacific War as an unnecessary distraction to the main business in NW Europe. :D Seriously though, I think the IJN moved to Singapore essentially to get away from the USN and to seek to operate somewhere where they had a better chance of success.
daveshoup2MD wrote:
02 May 2021 21:02
Your own source goes on (p. 348): "... there was no evidence (the Admiralty) said, that the move to Singapore was linked with any offensive intentions in the Indian Ocean ... the Japanese had indeed no large-scale offensive intentions. Their force had been sent to Singapore because the American carrier raids were making the Carolines and Marianas unsafe, and because Singapore possessed the only large dock outside of Japan. Moreover, as they were finding it increasingly difficult to transport oil to their homeland, it was easier and more economical to replenish and refit ships at that base."
“No evidence” - fine. But “the Japanese had indeed no large-scale offensive intentions” is obviously written by a historian with hindsight. Somerville wasn’t so complacent about the threat posed by the Singapore based IJN (Andrew Boyd, p.542 suggests that initially the Americans thought that the Japanese were “contemplating” an IJN sortie into the Indian Ocean).

Rather than “loafing”, Boyd also records that between April and October 1944 the Eastern Fleet conducted ‘eight increasingly ambitious carrier strikes on Southeast Asia targets, two accompanied by shore bombardments by battleships’ and through this experience had, by the end of 1944, become ‘a highly professional force’ capable of conducting ‘complex multi-carrier operations’ at long-range from their base. And, therefore, a valuable British Empire asset for the continuing war in the Far East which was expected to last into 1946. The incompetent fools... :roll:
daveshoup2MD wrote:
02 May 2021 21:02
Presumably, some of those sailors and quite a few of the ships could have been more profitably employed in European waters in 1944.
In your humble opinion? Presumably much of the USN and USMC could have been more profitably employed in European waters in 1944? The prosecution of the war against Japan could have been conducted almost entirely as a blockade on its oil supplies through the the USN submarine offensive and the Eastern Fleet’s raids on the oil refineries of what was the Dutch East Indies. QED. :roll:

Regards

Tom

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by EwenS » 03 May 2021 10:14

daveshoup2MD wrote:
02 May 2021 19:57
Sheldrake wrote:
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.
The British contribution to the 21st AG was reduced in 1944, however; by (conservatively) two infantry divisions, an armored brigade, and a battalion each from two other armored brigades, for a total of some ~25 maneuver battalions - 10 infantry and one RAC in each of 50th and 59th divisions, three RAC in 1st Tank Brigade, and one RAC each from 33rd and 34th tank brigades; given the shifting back and forth from tank to armoured brigade structures, and moving various headquarters and constituent battalions in and out of the armoured engineer role in 79th Division, a specific "count" depends on the date, but it's a fair estimate that because of the poor use of Britain's manpower in 1943-44, roughly a corps equivalent was removed from 21st AG's "British" order of battle by the end of 1944, to be replaced (more or less) in 1945 by GOLDFLAKE (Cdn. I Corps and the British 5th Infantry Division), as well as organizing seven infantry brigades from British Army AA units and the 116th and 117th RM brigades.

In roughly the same period, the British 1st Armoured Division was broken up in Italy, with the loss of (at least) an infantry brigade equivalent, as well as some RAC elements, either disbanded for replacements or converted to armoured engineers.

As far as the rest, who has suggested "turning the navy into soldiers"? Seriously, where does that come from?

As far as using "some" sailors as landing craft crews for the invasion of Europe, and then transferring them back to the fleet, those sort of transfers are exactly what was done with the RMs being discussed, except they were transferred from infantry duties in the RM Division in 101 and 102 brigades in 1943, to landing craft crews in 1944, and then back to infantry duties in 116th and 117th infantry brigades in 1945...
Given your argument that Britain misused its manpower, I thought you would have been delighted at the breakup of 1st Army Tank Brigade, and probably wished it had happened sooner.

It was not your typical tank/armoured Brigade. It was part of 79th Armoured Division’s “Funnies”. In June 1944 two thirds of its strength was in the form of Grant CDL, a vehicle that ultimately very little use was made of in 1944/45 despite so much effort having been expended on its development and construction in both Britain and the US. The result was it became a prime target for re-roling. Some of its gun tanks and crews were passed to other units from Aug 1944 to replace losses.

While the Brigade itself was disbanded, one unit, 11 RTR, was re-equipped with LVT in time to join operations in the Scheldt in Oct/Nov. Another unit, 49th RTR, was reduced to only 2 squadrons (from 3), renamed 49 Armoured Personnel Carrier Regt and given Ram Kangaroos and entered combat in Nov. Only 42 RTR was completely disbanded.

The US Army also had a number of CDL Batts in NWE, which it gradually began to find other uses for from late summer 1944.

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by EwenS » 03 May 2021 11:36

Be careful to ensure that Churchill’s “loafing” comment is read in context. It was probably one born of frustration at the lack of action regarding his plans for the Indian Ocean that lasted from the Quadrant Conference in Quebec in Aug 1943 until the Octagon Conference, again in Quebec, in Sept 1944 when British eyes moved to the Pacific.

The best read on this period is Willmott’s “Grave of a Dozen Schemes”
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Grave-Dozen-Sc ... oks&sr=1-1

One of the decisions of the Quadrant Conference was for planning to take place for Operation Culverin, an amphibious landing to secure Northern Sumatra as a springboard towards the recapture of Singapore. It was very much one of Churchill’s pet projects of the period. It was pencilled in for Feb 1944 but was a non starter due to lack of amphibious shipping which was needed for Overlord and of course the attempted Japanese invasion of India.

Redeployment of the RN to the IO began in late 1943. Renown, QE, Valiant, Illustrious and the maintenance carrier Unicorn left the U.K. at the end of Dec 1943 and arrived at Trincomalee at the end of Jan 1944. The build up then continued through the year with the next major deployment being Victorious, Indomitable and Howe in June/July.

On 21 Feb 1944 a large part of the Japanese fleet began to arrive in the Singapore area. This was done for two reasons. Firstly its main base at Truk was becoming exposed to US carrier raids as evidenced by Operation Hailstone on 17th Feb. Secondly, it placed the fleet nearer its oil supplies. It remained in the Singapore area until 11 May when it moved forward to Tawi-Tawi, when the threat to the IO receded.

Its arrival at Singapore caused a mild panic in the Eastern Fleet in the short term. By 23 Feb plans were being made by the Chiefs of Staff to counter it. While many options were looked at, three things came out of it. Firstly the transfer of 4 fighter and 4 TBR FAA squadrons in Britain to southern India with loading beginning 26 Feb. They finished unloading in India in mid April. Secondly a request to the US to agree to transfer FNS Richelieu from the Home Fleet to the Eastern Fleet. She sailed mid March and arrived at Trincomalee on 10 April. And thirdly, a request to a US for a carrier to reinforce Illustrious as Britain had none to spare (3 Armoured carriers being in refit at the time, and Indefatigable just about to complete). That request resulted in Saratoga leaving Majuro atoll on 4 March to join the Eastern Fleet on 27 Mar where she remained until 18 May when she returned to the US to refit.

Meanwhile after the initial panic Allied intelligence was able to report that the Japanese move was less of a threat than it could have been, being largely a defensive move on their part. Despite that 3 Japanese cruisers, Tone, Chikuma and Aoba, did sortie from the Singapore area into the IO in March but they only managed to sink a single ship, the Behar. The Eastern Fleet sought unsuccessfully to intercept them.

Between the beginning of 1944 and the end of the war, there were only a couple of months where the RN surface ships and aircraft were not actively engaged in some kind of offensive action against the Japanese in the IO. The subs were in action throughout and had some notable successes including the sinking of the cruiser Kuma in Jan 1944 and the Ashigara in Jun 1945, to add to the Haguro by destroyers in May 1945.

It wasn’t until late 1944 that assault shipping began to be released from European waters to allow amphibious operations in the IO to be carried out.

One final effect of the lack of available LSTs via Lend Lease in late 1943 for IO operations was the design and build of the LST(3) in British and Canadian yards for use in the IO in 1945. This at the expense of other types of both naval and merchant shipping.

It should also be noted that for most of 1944 only two KGV class battleships were in service at any one time due to refits needed to prepare them for service in the Far East. Howe and KGV went first, followed by Anson and DoY later in the year. After Overlord, the RN began to withdraw destroyers and cruisers for refit to be sent east. The first cruiser refits completed in spring/summer 1945 with the ships arriving in Australian waters just as the war was ending.

Gooner1
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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Gooner1 » 03 May 2021 12:54

Sheldrake wrote:
01 May 2021 23:21
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.
I think it's a fair point that the build-up of the BPF could have waited until after the landings in NWE when personnel could have been released not only fron landing craft duties but also, to an extent, convoy escort duties.
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.
At then end of September 1944 the British Army had fewer troops in North West Europe (the main front) than it had in the Mediterranean. Would fresher divisions have made a difference for Market Garden? A stronger 1st Canadian Army could probably have liberated the Scheldt unassisted leaving 2nd British Army to continue operations eastwards. Perhaps Operation Veritable launched in December 1944.

EwenS
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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by EwenS » 03 May 2021 14:07

Gooner1 wrote:
03 May 2021 12:54
Sheldrake wrote:
01 May 2021 23:21
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.
I think it's a fair point that the build-up of the BPF could have waited until after the landings in NWE when personnel could have been released not only fron landing craft duties but also, to an extent, convoy escort duties.
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.
At then end of September 1944 the British Army had fewer troops in North West Europe (the main front) than it had in the Mediterranean. Would fresher divisions have made a difference for Market Garden? A stronger 1st Canadian Army could probably have liberated the Scheldt unassisted leaving 2nd British Army to continue operations eastwards. Perhaps Operation Veritable launched in December 1944.
I think you need to differentiate the movement of the RN eastwards in the first place from the build up of the BPF, which itself did not come into existence on 22 November 1944.

Looking at those BPF ships that went to Australia in Jan/Feb 1945 very few went east before D-Day. Illustrious, Gambia, 5 Q and 4 N class and some escort ships are all that comes to mind.

Victorious and Indomitable left Britain in June, Howe in July, KGV in Oct. The cruisers Argonaut and Black Prince had been present at both the Normandy and South of France landings and operations in the Aegean before going east in Oct/Nov. Swiftsure only completed in June 1944, Euryalus completed a refit in June, going east in Dec, Uganda and Newfoundland were repairing in the USA and only went east at the end of the year. Achilles was repairing until June. U class destroyers and Kempenfelt took part in D-Day support before going east. The rest of the W class were incomplete or working up by D-Day. The T class were in the Med. A couple of the escort carriers had been operating the Atlantic while one was under repair and the rest were ferrying aircraft from the US in June 1944.

Nothing could be released from convoy duties in 1944. The battle against the U-boats was getting more difficult with the arrival of the snorkel boats and the move to inshore British waters. The bulk of the escorts that were earmarked for BPF weren’t released to refit until after the end of the European war. The first ships to be released from escort duties were the old destroyers and pre-war sloops from about March 1945 (Edit:- which went to reserve and then to the scrapman).

More / fresher troops in NWE in Sept 1944 would not have helped. Those units already there had outrun their supply lines that trailed all the way back to the Normandy beaches, Mulberry B and Cherbourg. That necessary pause gave the Germans just enough breathing space to recover and stop Market Garden and make life clearing the Scheldt much more difficult.
Last edited by EwenS on 03 May 2021 16:36, edited 1 time in total.

Gooner1
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Location: London

Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Gooner1 » 03 May 2021 14:59

wwilson wrote:
03 May 2021 08:15
The real crux was the supply of infantry "reinforcements" as the British termed them. Part of that issue IMO is that by 1944, the British Army had an imbalance in terms of the number of armour and infantry brigades it fielded; as in too many of the former.

Yes, different decisions could have been made, but to have made the correct decisions is to assume they had a foresight which was not available at the time. I think it is realistic to say better decisions regarding force structure could have been made, but beyond that, one has to account for what the British fellows commenting here have mentioned -- huge political influences, postwar concerns, the ongoing war with Japan, etc.
Not sure if there was a particular imbalance between armour and infantry at roughly one brigade of armour for one division of infantry. In terms of manpower at the end of September 1944 the Royal Armoured Corps was slightly smaller than the Ordnance Corps (122,770 vs 123,679) and nearly 25% smaller than REME (151,706).

There probably was an imbalance between the number of AA regiments and infantry battalions, something like one AA regiment for every two infantry battalions in 21st AG. Also, arguably, too many anti-tank guns. Something like 1,350 men in the infantry divisions serving 110 anti-tank guns which was way more guns than any other nation fielded in their infantry divisions.

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