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 » 04 May 2021 16:38

Rich,

Thanks, I’d thought searchlight tanks were just a British oddity. Were any of those battalions deployed in combat?

Regards

Tom

Richard Anderson
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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Richard Anderson » 04 May 2021 17:00

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
04 May 2021 16:38
Rich,

Thanks, I’d thought searchlight tanks were just a British oddity. Were any of those battalions deployed in combat?

Regards

Tom
No, not as a battalion.

The 736th was reorganized as a standard Tank Battalion (Comp) 23 October 1944, with Company C equipped with DD tanks 26 January 1945 for the Rhine crossing.
The 738th was reorganized with specialty mine-exploder tanks 24 September 1944; reorganized and redesignated 12 October 1944 as a Medium Tank Battalion, Special (Mine Exploder); reorganized and redesignated 16 July 1945 in Germany as an Amphibian Tank Battalion
The 748th was reorganized 23 October 1944 as a standard Tank Battalion (Comp); partially equipped in January 1945 with DD tanks to support the Rhine crossing.
The 701st was reorganized 31 October 1944 as a standard Tank Battalion (Comp).
The 739th was reorganized 24 September 1944 to operate mine-exploder tanks; reorganized and redesignated 12 October 1944 as a Medium Tank Battalion, Special (Mine Exploder); reorganized 11 July 1945 in Germany as an Amphibian Tank Battalion.
The 740th was reorganized 23 October 1944 as a standard Tank Battalion (Comp).

IIRC, some CDL tanks were reissued to the 748th for the Rhine crossing, while the 738th and 739th nominally retained some as specialty tank battalions.
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

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

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 04 May 2021 17:03

daveshoup2MD wrote:
04 May 2021 04:20
The except from Roskill is from the Admiralty's own communications to Somerville et al. Try again.
The “no evidence” comment is from the Admiralty assessment, the remark “the Japanese had indeed no large-scale offensive intentions” is obviously written by a historian with hindsight.

Obviously making intelligent comments about intelligence assessments is famously fraught with the danger of appearing to be use hindsight to unfairly castigate other intelligent people desperately trying to pierce the fog of war. That the Japanese had “no large-scale offensive intentions” to operate in the Indian Ocean is clear in hindsight, that the force they based in Singapore in February 1944 posed a significant threat in the opinion of the commander of the Eastern Fleet at that time is also clear.

Isn’t history full of commanders who accepted their intelligence officers’ assessment of enemy intentions only to have them proved wide of the mark.
daveshoup2MD wrote:
04 May 2021 04:20
Likewise, the UK was the country being hit by German missiles in 1944-45; one would have presumed protecting London by ABM warfare at the source would have been more important than anything else... that was the point of Germany First.
Well, I think the British government did have Cabinet meetings at which some ministers argued that protecting London should have overriding priority but that an informed decision was taken that making decisions aimed at finishing the war at the earliest opportunity was more important. Changing strategic plans in light of the V weapon campaign was, it was argued IIRC, allowing the German campaign to achieve its intended goal.

Regards

Tom

Richard Anderson
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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Richard Anderson » 04 May 2021 17:09

I'm a little surprised that no one seems to have brought up just how "minor" the requirement was to bring the "teeth" of the British divisions up to strength? According to Peaty it was just 121,600 infantry reinforcements required in 1944 in order for all the British divisions to be brought up to strength. Given the "combat strength" of the army was 1,719,961, the "total teeth" of the Army, amounted to 62.39% of the total army strength. Thus they needed a reinforcement of only 7.07% of the total, 121,600 men, in order to bring all formations up to strength.

Should have been simple and easy, eh?
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

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

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 04 May 2021 17:12

Richard Anderson wrote:
04 May 2021 17:00
IIRC, some CDL tanks were reissued to the 748th for the Rhine crossing, while the 738th and 739th nominally retained some as specialty tank battalions.
It seems that the Anglo-American CDL programme ended up in hindsight as a bit of a waste of money, industrial and intellectual effort. It must have had supporters though to get as much traction as it did. In light of the little operational use of CDL, I’m surprised that both the American or British armies persisted so long with it. Do you know if there was much argument about the worth of the project compared to other special armour projects?

Regards

Tom

Richard Anderson
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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Richard Anderson » 04 May 2021 17:51

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
04 May 2021 17:12
It seems that the Anglo-American CDL programme ended up in hindsight as a bit of a waste of money, industrial and intellectual effort. It must have had supporters though to get as much traction as it did. In light of the little operational use of CDL, I’m surprised that both the American or British armies persisted so long with it. Do you know if there was much argument about the worth of the project compared to other special armour projects?
The real issue seems to have been the lack of thought by both the British and Americans as to exactly how and when the tanks would be employed. Theoretically, in the American organization each of the two CDL Armored Groups would also have an Armored Infantry Battalion attached to it for infantry cooperation, but only one of the separate AIB, the 526th, was every so attached and went overseas...the only one of fifteen such battalions organized that went overseas. On top of that the intense secrecy behind the project meant that few army leaders were even aware of the project. None of the CDL units in Britain trained with the tactical units of the ETOUSA and I believe the same was true for the British units.

The best source for the postwar discussion are in the USFET General Board Report No. 52, Armored Special Equipment.
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

EwenS
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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by EwenS » 04 May 2021 18:23

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
04 May 2021 17:03
daveshoup2MD wrote:
04 May 2021 04:20
The except from Roskill is from the Admiralty's own communications to Somerville et al. Try again.
The “no evidence” comment is from the Admiralty assessment, the remark “the Japanese had indeed no large-scale offensive intentions” is obviously written by a historian with hindsight.

Obviously making intelligent comments about intelligence assessments is famously fraught with the danger of appearing to be use hindsight to unfairly castigate other intelligent people desperately trying to pierce the fog of war. That the Japanese had “no large-scale offensive intentions” to operate in the Indian Ocean is clear in hindsight, that the force they based in Singapore in February 1944 posed a significant threat in the opinion of the commander of the Eastern Fleet at that time is also clear.

Isn’t history full of commanders who accepted their intelligence officers’ assessment of enemy intentions only to have them proved wide of the mark.
daveshoup2MD wrote:
04 May 2021 04:20
Likewise, the UK was the country being hit by German missiles in 1944-45; one would have presumed protecting London by ABM warfare at the source would have been more important than anything else... that was the point of Germany First.
Well, I think the British government did have Cabinet meetings at which some ministers argued that protecting London should have overriding priority but that an informed decision was taken that making decisions aimed at finishing the war at the earliest opportunity was more important. Changing strategic plans in light of the V weapon campaign was, it was argued IIRC, allowing the German campaign to achieve its intended goal.

Regards

Tom
I don’t believe your interpretation of the intelligence assessments as being by an historian with hindsight is correct. Willmott in “Grave of a Dozen Schemes” writes about Cunningham’s report to a routine meeting of the Chiefs of Staff on 25th Feb indicating that measures proposed by the planners that I outlined in a previous post were in hand and presented a Joint Intelligence Committee appreciation of enemy intentions and continues:-

“The latter (the JIC document) attached no great significance to the Japanese move, which it defined as defensive and caused by the need to avoid battle with the Americans but leave the fleet near sources of oil and rice. The Chiefs of Staff clearly accepted the gist of this analysis, and ordered the secretariat to forward this paper to the Prime Minister. The apparent lack of concern on the part of the service chiefs had been reflected in Brooke’s diary.”
The refs he gives are
CAB 119.17.88 Minutes of Joint Planning Staff meeting of 5 April 1944
CAB 119.174.162 Memorandum prepared for Captain Buzzard RN dated 16 April 1944
CAB 119.174.161 Paper prepared by the Strategical Section of the Joint Planning Staff dated 17 April 1944

A meeting with Churchill followed at 12 noon which was the first he had heard of the Japanese movements and pushed him into a terrible fury and a debate about British strategy for the Pacific over that and several other meetings on the subject through to midnight that day. Willmott then goes on

“The crisis provoked by the Japanese naval move lingered for a week or so, but after the twenty-fifth it amounted to little more than attention to points of detail.”

By 29th Cunningham was able to report on all the moves of ships and aircraft taken as a precautionary move.

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

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 04 May 2021 19:06

EwenS wrote:
04 May 2021 18:23
The refs he gives are
CAB 119.17.88 Minutes of Joint Planning Staff meeting of 5 April 1944
CAB 119.174.162 Memorandum prepared for Captain Buzzard RN dated 16 April 1944
CAB 119.174.161 Paper prepared by the Strategical Section of the Joint Planning Staff dated 17 April 1944
EwenS,

Thanks, I’ll go back and have another look. Are those refs for February or April? My reading of Boyd is that Somerville (I suppose with memories of April 1942) was less sanguine than those in London. :)

Regards

Tom

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

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 04 May 2021 19:11

Richard Anderson wrote:
04 May 2021 17:51
The real issue seems to have been the lack of thought by both the British and Americans as to exactly how and when the tanks would be employed.
Which is odd given the effort put into the other armoured engineer “funnies”. One of those curiosities of military history I suppose. A bit like the TOG. :lol:

Regards

Tom

Richard Anderson
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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Richard Anderson » 04 May 2021 19:43

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
04 May 2021 19:11
Richard Anderson wrote:
04 May 2021 17:51
The real issue seems to have been the lack of thought by both the British and Americans as to exactly how and when the tanks would be employed.
Which is odd given the effort put into the other armoured engineer “funnies”. One of those curiosities of military history I suppose. A bit like the TOG. :lol:
Well, I know more about the American than the British effort, but I suspect that given the similar results, the British followed the same policy of obsessive secrecy. For the Americans, the CDL units organized were kept physically isolated during training in a remote encampment, Camp Bouse in Arizona, which was quite literally in the middle of nowhere, 18 miles from the tiny jerkwater railway town of Bouse and 50 miles from Phoenix on the eastern edge of the vast expanses of the Mojave Desert. AFAICT, Rosebush, Puncheston, and "Quarry" (possibly an actual quarry rather than a village?) in Pembrokeshire was also pretty much the middle of nowhere.

On top of that, the 9th Armored Group and later 10th Armoured Group and its attached units were assigned directly to the ETOUSA and were, insofar as I can tell, never directly attached to any army, corps, or division for training or familiarization before D-Day...and after, things were rather too busy for much of that sort of thing.

Essentially, the hyper sense of secrecy attached to the project resulted in it falling between the cracks, especially when the urgent requirement for standard tank battalions for attachment to infantry divisions trumped any perceived advantage its technology may have had.
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

EwenS
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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by EwenS » 04 May 2021 20:58

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
04 May 2021 19:06
EwenS wrote:
04 May 2021 18:23
The refs he gives are
CAB 119.17.88 Minutes of Joint Planning Staff meeting of 5 April 1944
CAB 119.174.162 Memorandum prepared for Captain Buzzard RN dated 16 April 1944
CAB 119.174.161 Paper prepared by the Strategical Section of the Joint Planning Staff dated 17 April 1944
EwenS,

Thanks, I’ll go back and have another look. Are those refs for February or April? My reading of Boyd is that Somerville (I suppose with memories of April 1942) was less sanguine than those in London. :)

Regards

Tom
Sorry I can't tell you any more about the refs. I had a quick look at the TNA site but I can't find them there. Probably have to wait until the weekend for a deeper dive.

Re Somerville, you may well be right but I'm having trouble reconciling sources about what the EF was doing in Feb/Mar 1944.

According to Willmott, Somerville on hearing of the news about the Japanese fleet took his fleet west of the Maldives and was prepared to withdraw to Mombasa rather than accept battle with a superior force. He also added one of Illustrious' fighter squadron to Ceylon's air defences.

Looking at the FAA squadron histories sure enough 1830 was ashore from 14 Feb to 21 Mar. The other squadrons, 1833, 810 and 847, all returned on board on 22 Feb and remained there for varying lengths of time from 8 Mar onwards.

The history of Illustrious that I have says she spent 13 days at sea carrrying out flying practice in company with QE, Valiant, Gambia, London, Emerald & Tromp + escorts. That took her south to within 600 miles of the Sumatran coast searching for submarines! Another sweep was then started on 10 March for an undetermined length of time. Her next sortie was on 21 March when she went south looking for the Japanese cruisers and to hook up with Saratoga coming up from Australia. But everything in the late Feb / early Mar period suggests that the main purpose of these sorties was to work up her air group, which hadn't been possible before she left the UK at the end of Dec.

Looking at the individual ship histories over on the RN warship site, https://www.naval-history.net/xGM-aContents.htm it seems the capital ships never left Ceylon in the period after 20 Feb until the 21 March sortie, one problem being a shortage of destroyers for escort purposes. The cruiser stories are a mixed bag. Emerald and London note nothing. Gambia notes a sorrtie with Illustrious on 22 Feb along with Sussex, which agrees with Gambia, and a couple of destroyers looking for a blockade runner. But that site while generally accurate, does contain errors.

I haven't found anything that suggests that Somerville had his whole fleet at sea either looking for a Japanese fleet or hiding from it. And the Maldives to Sumatra is 2000 miles so how can he be west of the Maldives and 600 miles from Sumatra?

So we have the carrier & some support ships at sea from 22nd Feb seemingly for training or something else but the JIC report is presented on the 25th in London. So the question is when did Somerville become aware of its contents.

Do you have the page refs in Boyd for me to follow up? It is some time since I looked at it.

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

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 04 May 2021 22:20

EwenS wrote:
04 May 2021 20:58
Do you have the page refs in Boyd for me to follow up? It is some time since I looked at it.
Yes, I’ll post tomorrow when I get home. It was in his book on Naval Intelligence rather than his “Eastern Waters”.

Thanks for all the great research too, very interesting. My point is not to deny that over time (whether days, weeks or longer) allied intelligence coalesced around a consensus that the IJN’s immediate intentions were not offensive in the Indian Ocean more that the the IJN retained the potential capability to do so, and one that couldn’t simply be dismissed except with the benefit of hindsight. The British are, after all, much criticised for allegedly complacent intelligence assessments of the threat from the Japanese armed forces prior to the outbreak of war.

It would be interesting to know whether the 3 IJN carriers at Singapore had full air groups onboard and what allied intelligence assessed their effectiveness levels to be. Interesting especially when compared to the details you provide about the state of Illustrious’ air group.

Regards

Tom

daveshoup2MD
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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by daveshoup2MD » 04 May 2021 22:53

EwenS wrote:
04 May 2021 09:35
daveshoup2MD wrote:
04 May 2021 04:22
EwenS wrote:
03 May 2021 10:14
daveshoup2MD wrote:
02 May 2021 19:57
Sheldrake wrote:
02 May 2021 09:34


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.
Maintaining 1st Tank as an actual armoured brigade presumably would have been even more effective. The British had an entire brigade of RE for the armoured engineer role.
Let’s not muddy the waters. The CDL and AVRE were completely different vehicles with totally different purposes.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canal_Defence_Light
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armoure ... _Engineers

Not sure what you mean about “maintaining 1st Tank Brigade as an actual armoured brigade” as the 3 Armoured regiments making it up had been CDL equipped (Matildas then Grants) since 1942 either in the Med with 1st Tank Brigade or in U.K. with 35th Tank Brigade. It hadn’t had any gun tank units so far as I can see since before El Alamein.

Other than the manpower issue, there is also the small problem of finding another 160+ gun tanks for it plus enough to bring those other units that received those it had up to strength.

Incidentally the B squadron 49RTR retained its Grant CDLs and used them at the crossing of the Rhine.

And the US deployed 6 batts of CDLs to Europe in time for D-Day.
Given the possibility of three more maneuver battalions or three more "funny" battalions, the effects are the same. Less teeth and more tail.

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by daveshoup2MD » 04 May 2021 22:56

wwilson wrote:
04 May 2021 05:33
@daveshoup2MD
117th IB (RM) formed Jan. 15, 1945, to 21st AG May 10, 1945;
301st - Jan 15, 1945; 21st AG, May 9, 1945;
303rd - Jan. 22; Norway, June 9, 1945;
304th - Jan. 22; Norway, June 6, 1945;
Yes, I saw those. I did not include those four because they arrived on the continent -after- hostilities had concluded. Thus, they could have no influence on the number of troops that 21st Army Group could put into battle. Those brigades were sent for the purpose of keeping order in the wake of the Reich's collapse.

Cheers
They speak to the available manpower in raw battalion equivalents, however.

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by daveshoup2MD » 04 May 2021 23:03

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
04 May 2021 17:03
daveshoup2MD wrote:
04 May 2021 04:20
The except from Roskill is from the Admiralty's own communications to Somerville et al. Try again.
The “no evidence” comment is from the Admiralty assessment, the remark “the Japanese had indeed no large-scale offensive intentions” is obviously written by a historian with hindsight.

Obviously making intelligent comments about intelligence assessments is famously fraught with the danger of appearing to be use hindsight to unfairly castigate other intelligent people desperately trying to pierce the fog of war. That the Japanese had “no large-scale offensive intentions” to operate in the Indian Ocean is clear in hindsight, that the force they based in Singapore in February 1944 posed a significant threat in the opinion of the commander of the Eastern Fleet at that time is also clear.

Isn’t history full of commanders who accepted their intelligence officers’ assessment of enemy intentions only to have them proved wide of the mark.
daveshoup2MD wrote:
04 May 2021 04:20
Likewise, the UK was the country being hit by German missiles in 1944-45; one would have presumed protecting London by ABM warfare at the source would have been more important than anything else... that was the point of Germany First.
Well, I think the British government did have Cabinet meetings at which some ministers argued that protecting London should have overriding priority but that an informed decision was taken that making decisions aimed at finishing the war at the earliest opportunity was more important. Changing strategic plans in light of the V weapon campaign was, it was argued IIRC, allowing the German campaign to achieve its intended goal.

Regards

Tom
Given what Roskill did for a living, that's your interpretation. If there was a threat, and the British believed they could not counter it, they certainly had the 1942 option: withdraw to East Africa and let the Japanese swing at the air.

The Eastern Fleet spent most of 1942-43 based in Kenya; they still launched the 1942-43 Arakan offensive under Irwin, LONGCLOTH in 1943 under Wingate, and THURSDAY in 1944; none of them ended well, but the availability (or not) of Somerville et al didn't make a difference.

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