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Watching Monty!

AFCDorset

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Monty our WWII Hero,Britain’s Greatest General? On Channel 5.
Montgomery's greatest talent was his ability to deal with politicians, to refuse to be rushed or bullied into doing anything before he and his troops were good and ready.

Worked to his advantage in North Africa, less so in Normandy.
 

borebage53

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Monty was aided brilliantly by his Chief of Staff,Major General “Freddie” de Guingand. Not only on the battlefield but also through his political and diplomatic skills in ‘smoothing over’ the countless “difficulties” Monty had with his superiors and Eisenhower and the Americans. His advice and diplomacy saved Monty’s job after the Battle of the Bulge when Eisenhower was about to sack him.He advocated the press corps to be more responsible in their reporting of Anglo/American relations.
“I do not know what I would do without him as he is quite 1st class”-Monty in a letter to Chief of the Imperial General Staff,General Alan Brooke in reference to de Guingand.
He survived a war time air crash.
He was created a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1944.
He was invested in the field with his Knighthood by King George VI at Eindhoven on 15th October 1944.
 

AFCDorset

Season Ticket Holder
Monty was aided brilliantly by his Chief of Staff,Major General “Freddie” de Guingand. Not only on the battlefield but also through his political and diplomatic skills in ‘smoothing over’ the countless “difficulties” Monty had with his superiors and Eisenhower and the Americans. His advice and diplomacy saved Monty’s job after the Battle of the Bulge when Eisenhower was about to sack him.He advocated the press corps to be more responsible in their reporting of Anglo/American relations.
“I do not know what I would do without him as he is quite 1st class”-Monty in a letter to Chief of the Imperial General Staff,General Alan Brooke in reference to de Guingand.
He survived a war time air crash.
He was created a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1944.
He was invested in the field with his Knighthood by King George VI at Eindhoven on 15th October 1944.
Indeed, he was very much the 'big picture' sort of general, relied a lot on his staff for the detail stuff which is as it should be.

Not so much love from the Americans though, they thought him too slow and cautious in the days and weeks after D-Day and blamed him for the failure of his forces to reach Falais and close 'the gap'. After that, they were always 'out to get him'.
 

borebage53

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Patton was OK racing over open country against relatively light opposition. When he got to Nancy and Metz he encountered the same problems that Monty had at Caen. Bradley hated Monty. The only Yank that Monty liked and worked well with was "Lightning Joe" Collins!
 

AFCDorset

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Patton was OK racing over open country against relatively light opposition. When he got to Nancy and Metz he encountered the same problems that Monty had at Caen. Bradley hated Monty. The only Yank that Monty liked and worked well with was "Lightning Joe" Collins!
I don't know whether it was the cause of the enmity between Bradly and Montgomery or the result of it but they blamed each other for the failure to close the 'Falais Gap'.

There is a school of thought that suggests that the hold up at Caen was mostly of the allies own making, the destruction of the city turning it into an impenetrable fortress. The Americans thought it could have been isolated and bypassed leading to a much earlier breakout, Montgomery thought differently.
 

borebage53

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I've got no time at all for Omar Bradley. He was a shit stirrer with very little backbone himself. In the opening days of the German Ardennes offensive he literally shit himself and spent days in a state of panic in his HQ in Luxembourg,prevaricating whether to evacuate or not. While the Bulge was a largely American battle at least Montgomery made sure he steadied the "Northern Shoulder" with his own British and the American troops under his command("Lightning Joe" Collins). He reinforced the River Meuse at Huy and Dinant effectively blocking the Germans from the ŕoute to their intended target of Antwerp.
My criticism of Monty is his inability to own up to any of his own mistakes like Operation Goodwood and other attempts to take Caen. Although he did "the hard miles" in Normandy.Plus he effectively distanced himself entirely from any responsibility for Market Garden and Arnhem.
But Montgomery was back on top form planning Operation Plunder the crossing of the Rhine at Rees and Wesel. And insisting on Operation Varsity the 17th Airborne Division element of it with 16000 paratroopers dropped on the other side of the Rhine. The largest Allied airborne operation of the war!
 

AFCDorset

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Thanks borebage, you really know your stuff in these matters.

My father was RAF, so my interest is mostly in that area. Never set foot outside the UK, though he did 'visit' Germany and occupied Europe over 20 times.
 

borebage53

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The first hours of that massive airdrop were horrendous in terms of casualties. But the Airborne lads succeeded in securing all of their planned objectives. I’ve been to Wesel scene of the main crossing and some locations for the airdrop.
I’ve been to Eindhoven,Nijmegen and Arnhem. The British LZ’s, the house where Major General Urquart had to hide for a while and Arnhem Bridge itself. Groesbeek Cemetery and also the splendid War Museum there.
Also the Bridge at Remagen where the Americans (unplanned and opportunistically) were actually the first to get over the Rhine. But Plunder and Varsity had already been planned by then and became the main substantial Rhine crossing.
I’ve stayed in Liege and visited most of the main points where fighting took place in the Battle of the Bulge. There is a massive Allied war memorial at Bastogne which is very moving to visit!
 

Oadlad

Season Ticket Holder
For students of Generalship there is fascinating (to me) lecture to US cadets on youtube by Thomas E. Ricks
titled Why our Generals were more successful in Korea, Vietnam, Afghan and Iraq than WW2.
It is American aimed but touches on the relationship with the Brits in WW2.
You will need an hour...
PS Didn't they get kicked out of all those paces?
 

borebage53

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I tend not to generalise at all about Anglo/American relations in WWII. Much prefer to view all the soldiers involved as brave young men fighting in a common cause. The Eighth Army fighting through North Africa,Sicily and Italy were made up of British,Australian,New Zealand,Indian,Canadian and South African troops. And then alongside the Americans and Polish. With General Harold Alexander as overall Commander in Chief,through Sicily/Italy, and who was another great “diplomat” in dealing with the American General Mark Clark.
It’s just a simple fact that apart from D-Day1 itself when slightly more British and Canadians stormed the beaches than Americans,thereafter the bulk of the reinforcements and war materials came from America. With British manpower shortage causing concerns.
That was the main reason why Montgomery advocated spearhead advances like Arnhem while the Americans and Eisenhower wanted a broad front strategy. Plus the Allied Airborne Divisions were fresh and raring to go and Montgomery wanted to use them as much as possible to alleviate his manpower problems. Even Monty’s brilliant crossing of the Rhine was partly augmented by General Simpson’s American 9th Army. The Allied airborne assault over the Rhine was under the overall command of US Lieutenant General Matthew B Ridgeway with 2 Divisions of his own 17th Airborne and one Division of the British 6th Airborne. Again the British Para’s were the more veteran contingent and the Americans were supplying the more untried Paratroopers but having the manpower resources that the British by then had no longer got!
 

borebage53

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It was far more important earlier to clear the Germans out of the northern shore of the Scheldt Estuary and fully open up the port of Antwerp than to go for Market Garden and Arnhem. But here again Montgomery hadn’t the resources to do both so he chose to go for Arnhem. When Arnhem failed he left the Canadians to clear the Scheldt and Walcheren Island with a few British Commandos and Marines to make it look a bit more like a joint effort. The Canucks had a terrible time clearing the Germans out of their fortifications and they had opened dykes and flooded areas to make it more difficult. It took weeks before the Germans were forced to pull back. Again by this stage manpower concerns are affecting Monty’s decision making!
 

kendalfox

Season Ticket Holder
My stepbrother told me a few stories about his time in Korea and his associations with the Yanks there and he was not very happy with most of them he was a Sergeant in the Gloucesters.
 

Oadlad

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borbage - thanks for your undoubted and hard won expertise on these areas of the war.
It is often forgotten that the bulk of the American manpower on DDay was very green and unproven.
All the more credit for them stepping up and getting the job done (see Band of Brothers and Private Ryan).
There was some US presence in Sicily as units of the 82nd Airborne (later out of Quorn and Oadby) were diverted from there to assist the struggling Salerno landings (starring my father) and as a result of that were held back in Oadby from DDay and rejoined the war on the Rhine in September. Valuable experience missing from Normandy...
 
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borebage53

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Order of battle on Sicily,Allied 15th Army Group.

US 9th Infantry Division
US 82nd Airborne Division
46th British Infantry Division
US 7th Army (Patton)
US 2nd Corps (Bradley)
US 1st Infantry Division
US 45th Infantry Division
US 2nd Armored Division
US 3rd Infantry Division
British 8th Army (Montgomery)
British XIII Corps
British 5th Infantry Division
British 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division
British 78th Infantry Division
British 1st Airborne Division
British 4th Armoured Brigade
British XXX Corps
1st Canadian Infantry Division
1st Canadian Tank Brigade
British 51st (Highland) Infantry Division
British 23rd Armoured Brigade
British 231st Infantry Brigade
 

borebage53

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……to break that down further into individual Regiments
and Battalions would take me all week. But all the iconic names would be there. Plus the huge Naval operation involved and the total Air superiority of the RAF!
 

LGFOX

Season Ticket Holder
Fascinating stuff guys. You really are a font of knowledge on the subject borebage.
Interestingly I was watching a programme only last night about the very top of the Nazi party and how it unwound due to the autocratic power within coupled with complete narcissism. They concentrated on 5 men. Hitler, Goebbels, Himmler, Goering and Borman. Thank goodness they were like they were and thus through idiotic decisions lost the war. Sadly their actions as we know killed millions.
 

borebage53

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The Salerno Mutiny in Italy, 16th September 1943. 1500 men of the Northumbrian and Highland Divisions were waiting to be sent back to their units after being cleared from casualty stations and sick leave. All 8th Army men they had been promised that they would eventually follow Montgomery back to England to be trained for “Overlord” with their original units.
Then the Army decided that they were all needed by the 46th Infantry Division depleted by heavy casualties and were to be relocated there. The men believed they had been deliberately misled. Around 1000 of them decided to obey orders and comply. 500 8th Army veterans still refused orders. Then this was whittled down to 300 billeted in tents in a nearby field.
They were addressed,en masse in the field,by the Commander of the 46th Division Lieutenant-General Richard McCreery. While he admitted that a mistake had been made he promised the men that they would rejoin their old units after Salerno was secure. He then warned them of the consequences of Mutiny in wartime.
A further 108 then decided to follow orders leaving a hard core of 192 still refusing.
They were all charged with Mutiny under the Army Act.
This was the largest number of men accused of Mutiny at any one time in all of British Military history.
The accused were all shipped back to North Africa and tried by courts martial towards the end of October. All were found guilty and three Sergeants were sentenced to death.The sentences were subsequently commuted to 12 years forced labour and eventually suspended.
Years later in the House of Commons in March 2000 Aberdeen MP Anne Begg requested an official pardon citing that the men indicted were not refusing to fight but merely requesting a promise made by Higher Command. The Minister of the Armed Forces denied this request by indicating that however unfair the order to proceed to combat in other units seems,the refusal to do so in war time situations constitute a grave crime not to be pardoned!
 

Oadlad

Season Ticket Holder
Yes, that particular incident was hushed up at the time as were several more minor mutinies in France at the end of the Great war, encouraged by the success of the Russian revolution. Also they came close to a revolt when plans for a gradual demob back to England were judged too slow. It was speeded up and my father was back by August 45.
And there was the Navy Spithead thing. Do you have any gen on that? The so called leader came from Leicester and lived in Moscow for a long time.
PS
Am I right in thinking the Germans pulled out of Sicily with not much of a fight so ironically the 8th Army mutineers were not really needed?
 

borebage53

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Sicily ‘43 : The First Assault On Fortress Europe.
James Holland
The Germans put up the same superbly defensive fight on Sicily as they did everywhere else by that stage of the War. But the Italians on Sicily were not of the same calibre and didn’t.
“Smiling Albert” Kesselring took over the command of the Axis forces on Sicily. Unusual because he was a Luftwaffe General.
The great British deception ‘Operation Mincemeat’ when they floated a recently deceased corpse,dressed as a Royal Navy officer,from a submarine onto the coast of Spain near Huelva like he had been in an air crash,with an attaché case chained to his wrist was the greatest ‘ruse’ of all time. The attaché case contained detailed plans for the imminent Allied invasion to be targeted on Greece and not Sicily and with enough personal effects in his wallet,recent cinema tickets,letters from and photos of his ‘girlfriend’,bus and train tickets,etc,to make the whole thing very convincing.
Of course the British knew that the Spanish would eventually let the German Abwehr intelligence in Spain view the ‘evidence’. Just enough diplomatic pressure was cleverly put on the Spanish by the British Embassy and Ambassador in Madrid while at the same time conveying an illusion that Britain was extremely worried.
The Germans fell for it hook,line and sinker. Hitler moved troops away from Sicily to Greece and the Balkans.
“Smiling Albert” was in a no win situation on Sicily but put up a great defensive fight before eventually brilliantly evacuating his forces over the Straits of Messina to the Italian mainland.
Kesselring’s counter attack later at Salerno was repulsed but then he brilliantly organised a succession of defense lines (including Monte Cassino) all the way back to the Gustav Line.
US General Mark Clark could and should have cut off the German forces at one critical stage but went for the “glory” of liberating Rome instead. Much to the dismay of C-in-C Italian campaign, British General Harold Alexander.
How many avoidable Allied losses did that cause for the sake of a few “tourist photos”!
 

Oadlad

Season Ticket Holder
In the interests of accuracy I reaquainted myself with the Naval mutiny sloshing about in the far reaches of my memory.
It was Invergordon in 1931, So, wrong place, wrong century. Widespread and a reaction to large pay cuts. And successful.
The alleged leader/fall guy from Leicester was Len Wincott who sought asylum in Russia (!) where he was sent to the Gulag for 'spying for Britain'. Arriving back in Leicester in the fifties the Mercury dug up a crusty old soldier nobody had heard of to trash him.
 

LGFOX

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Not sure if you’re aware but Operation Mincemeat is being released as a new film starring Colin Firth in January 2022. Looking forward to seeing it
 

borebage53

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Yes Simon thanks I was aware of the new film coming out. I have got the book Operation Mincemeat by Ben MacIntyre and also seen his documentary on television.
The film the Man Who Never Was (1956) starring Clifton Webb is the same story!
Not sure if you’re aware but Operation Mincemeat is being released as a new film starring Colin Firth in January 2022. Looking forward to seeing it
 

borebage53

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The 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the US 82nd Airborne accomplished their famous “Oil Drum night drop” on Sept 13th 1943 at Salerno. Oil drums filled with gasoline soaked sand were lit to guide in the C47 transport aircraft to a landing zone only 1200 yards long and 800 yards wide close to the imperilled beachhead at night. The drums were ignited every 50 yards when signalled. 1300 paratroopers made the epic drop!
 

Oadlad

Season Ticket Holder
What a fascinating detail. I prepared a talk in the block where I live on those Reg's in Shady Lane.
Sadly it was a victim of Covid...
PS Ever thought of giving talks?
 
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