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RE: Best Generals of WW1

 
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RE: Best Generals of WW1 - 10/23/2004 4:37:55 AM   
EUBanana


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Dunno. It was Haig who, after the Somme, ordered 1000 tanks to be built.

And the first major use of the tank in WW1 was during the Battle of Cambrai - I've seen that in numerous sources - and that was in 1917, was proposed by General Fuller (not Monash), was approved by Haig, and, while much more successful than earlier debacles, was still ultimately a failure, or a pyrrhic victory at best.

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RE: Best Generals of WW1 - 10/23/2004 5:09:17 AM   
Kevinugly

 

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You have to looks at Cambrai as an experiment that failed. Although the tanks took some ground the British couldn't hold it, the 'combined arms' tactics that worked so well in 1918 were still not quite in place. Fortunately, the British drew the right conclusions from the battle whilst the Germans, seeing the tanks fail, did not regard them as potential war-winners and so declined to develop tanks of their own.

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RE: Best Generals of WW1 - 10/26/2004 6:40:24 AM   
Dirtdog20


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Kevinugly

You have to looks at Cambrai as an experiment that failed. Although the tanks took some ground the British couldn't hold it, the 'combined arms' tactics that worked so well in 1918 were still not quite in place. Fortunately, the British drew the right conclusions from the battle whilst the Germans, seeing the tanks fail, did not regard them as potential war-winners and so declined to develop tanks of their own.



Kevin,

May I say that you have it half right IMO.

The Germans having realized in late 1914 early 1915 that they could not win the war in the west quickly settled down to break the will of the British and French. That meant to dig in past the ears and let them come and dig us out. That was something that the Franco-Anglo arrmies failed to do for most of the war.

The lack of needing to capture territory ment that the Germans could work longer on developing thier tanks. They after all did start right after the start of the war but were insistant on having a weapon that could perform in a cavalry role instead of an infantry support. The problem they had with linking two engines to one drive shaft kept the A7V in development for two years.

While the British did draw some conclusions from the battle they failed to draw the one that the Germans realised before the war, decentralised command. Cambrai failed because the officers from Haig all the way down insisted on maintaining strict control. A control that was not possible in 1918 due to the state of Radio at the time. Also because of the basic training of the British Army, the Army was not capable of a war of manuver that left it in the dust of the French and American armies that it shared the western front with in 1918.

That is why as I have said before the Allies barely won the war on the land, it was at sea through the blocade that the will of the German people was broken. Read the closing pages of some of the memoirs, they predicted another war in 20 years because teh Army wasn't defeated and Germany wasn't occupied.

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RE: Best Generals of WW1 - 10/26/2004 4:36:19 PM   
Kevinugly

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Dirtdog20

quote:

ORIGINAL: Kevinugly

You have to looks at Cambrai as an experiment that failed. Although the tanks took some ground the British couldn't hold it, the 'combined arms' tactics that worked so well in 1918 were still not quite in place. Fortunately, the British drew the right conclusions from the battle whilst the Germans, seeing the tanks fail, did not regard them as potential war-winners and so declined to develop tanks of their own.



Kevin,

May I say that you have it half right IMO.

The Germans having realized in late 1914 early 1915 that they could not win the war in the west quickly settled down to break the will of the British and French. That meant to dig in past the ears and let them come and dig us out. That was something that the Franco-Anglo arrmies failed to do for most of the war.

The lack of needing to capture territory ment that the Germans could work longer on developing thier tanks. They after all did start right after the start of the war but were insistant on having a weapon that could perform in a cavalry role instead of an infantry support. The problem they had with linking two engines to one drive shaft kept the A7V in development for two years.

While the British did draw some conclusions from the battle they failed to draw the one that the Germans realised before the war, decentralised command. Cambrai failed because the officers from Haig all the way down insisted on maintaining strict control. A control that was not possible in 1918 due to the state of Radio at the time. Also because of the basic training of the British Army, the Army was not capable of a war of manuver that left it in the dust of the French and American armies that it shared the western front with in 1918.

That is why as I have said before the Allies barely won the war on the land, it was at sea through the blocade that the will of the German people was broken. Read the closing pages of some of the memoirs, they predicted another war in 20 years because teh Army wasn't defeated and Germany wasn't occupied.


I certainly agree with the last paragraph, it was the effect of the blockade that finally broke the will of the German people to continue the war. The lessons of Cambrai? Open to interpretation. The sources I have read indicate that the Germans failed to see the potential of the tank demonstrated in the battle although one could argue that they were seeking a different sort of weapon, one which the technology of the day was not capable of producing (which sort of agrees with my premise). I certainly don't agree that the British Army was 'incapable' of conducting a war of manoeuvre in 1918 nor were they 'left in the dust' by their allies. One only has to look at the maps of the 1918 campaigns to see that the British liberated at least as much, if not more, territory than the French and Americans combined. Not only that but they inflicted more casualties and took more prisoners too. Indeed it's possible to make a case that it represents the greatest victory that the British Army ever achieved (I don't agree with this incidentally but I've read it elsewhere).

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RE: Best Generals of WW1 - 10/27/2004 12:08:36 AM   
Dirtdog20


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Kevin,

Thank you for not taking my last post personally. It is always a risk that one runs on message boards.

I would submit that you last assertion about the caprute of territory in the last months of the war is a bit of a red herring. It is true in acreage the British / Colonial army did capture more. But it was land that the Germans were willing to concede. The Argonne front, and the AEF drive in particular, was right in front of a major rail head that the Germans were willing to fight to the end to keep. Hence the bulk of the reienforcents and the best Divisions left went there to try and stop that push.

I am in no way attempting to impune or play down the accomplishments of Tommy Atkins. In fact if not for the British Army in 1916-1917 there would have been no war for the Americans to join. What I am saying is that the training was focused for 8 weeks on trench fighting. The ideas of marksmanship, individual intiative, and field crafts not involved with getting from our trench to thiers were ignored. Even in late 1917 the Germans were spending 4 and 1/2 months in basic training. In 1918 it was dropped to 3 months and the professional officers were agast at the poor level of training.

The British Army was not equiped tacticly as a result of thier training to take advantage of the opportunities before them. From the accounts I have read it seems to me that the German reargards were encountered once they stopped retreating and allowed the British Army to catch up. Officers were constantly waiting for instructions from above unlike the French, American, and German Armies who by this time were handing squads to corporals and platoons to Sgt.s and young Lt's; trusting them to make the correct decisions at the point of attack instead of waiting on the plan to catch up.

That is why I say Kevin that the British Army was left behind by the other armys on the field. Not the quality of the private soldier, but the quality of his instruction and tactical leadership that left him behind his counterparts.

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RE: Best Generals of WW1 - 10/27/2004 1:20:31 AM   
anarchyintheuk

 

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Minor point but i wouldn't call verdun an example of the germans breaking the allies will by digging in and having the allies dig them out. You could make a case that were it not for verdun the brits probably wouldn't have launched an attack at the somme, the strongest part of the german line. I think politics may have forced a combined western offensive by the allies in 1916 and the somme was where the british and french lines joined. As verdun continued, the french were able to contribute less and less to the combined offensive for 1916. As far as the 1917 offensives go, they were to some extent influenced by the need keep german troops from being transferred to russia.


It's true that the will of the german people may have been broken by blockade not by military defeats, but it's also true that the german army was broken and defeated by the summer and fall offensives of the allies. I agree that the allies made a huge mistake by not showing that fact to the rest of germany by occupying it at least for a short while.

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RE: Best Generals of WW1 - 10/27/2004 2:39:20 AM   
Kevinugly

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Dirtdog20

Kevin,

Thank you for not taking my last post personally. It is always a risk that one runs on message boards.


That is why I say Kevin that the British Army was left behind by the other armys on the field. Not the quality of the private soldier, but the quality of his instruction and tactical leadership that left him behind his counterparts.


(snipped for brevity)

Sometimes we all take things a little too personally - been there, done that and I know you're not knocking the British soldier. Even the army's biggest critics would find it hard not to admire the general discipline, stoicism and fighting quality of the average infantryman.

Regarding 'ground the Germans were prepared to give', I have a problem with that line of argument. Not just here, but in other threads on this and other forums on different subjects. What the British did in 1918 was to mount a series of 'set-piece' offensives, the best example being the breakthrough of the Hindenburg Line. The level of co-operation between the fighting arms would not be equalled until well into WW2.

The problem of leadership and training you allude to was largely down to the rapid expansion of the Army in 1915-16. The lack of experience, expecially of the officers, meant that they were not able to use initiative in the way that more experienced troops could. Hence the perceived necessity for higher command to issue quite detailed orders to their juniors. Whilst I suspect this was less of a problem in 1918 than it had been at the Somme say, it wouldn't surprise me to see overly detailed orders still being given.

It's good that WW1 still merits strong debate, especially with the 'old soldiers' being so few now. 'Lest we Forget'

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RE: Best Generals of WW1 - 11/3/2004 2:57:13 AM   
EUBanana


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I read the talk of donkey generals, and feel some Blackadder quotes coming on...

If there are any Blackadder experts out there, a thousand apologies for the misquotes, the last time I saw it was years and years ago....

---------

"Ten thousand men will die so that Field Marshal Haig can move his headquarters a hundred metres closer to Berlin."

---------
"Why do you think we fighting this war, Baldrick?"

"To defeat the imperialistic ambitions of the evil Hun, sir."

"Baldrick, the British Empire currently covers a quarter of the globe, whereas the German colonial possessions consists of a small sausage factory outside Boulogne. I think we can hardly complain about German imperialism."

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RE: Best Generals of WW1 - 11/3/2004 5:22:23 PM   
megalomania2003

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: EUBanana
I read the talk of donkey generals, and feel some Blackadder quotes coming on...

If there are any Blackadder experts out there, a thousand apologies for the misquotes, the last time I saw it was years and years ago....
---------

"Ten thousand men will die so that Field Marshal Haig can move his headquarters a hundred metres closer to Berlin."

---------

I think it was "Field Marshal Haig ia about to make another gargantuan effort to move his drinks cabinet 10 foot closer to Berlin"

What about

"A war which would be a lot easier if we stayed at home and shot fifty thousand of our young men each week"

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RE: Best Generals of WW1 - 11/3/2004 6:44:34 PM   
EUBanana


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quote:


I think it was "Field Marshal Haig ia about to make another gargantuan effort to move his drinks cabinet 10 foot closer to Berlin"




I think thats even more cutting than the way I remembered it...

quote:


What about

"A war which would be a lot easier if we stayed at home and shot fifty thousand of our young men each week"


Blackadder is pure genius. And Blackadder goes Forth is pure genius with a somewhat melancholy tinge.

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RE: Best Generals of WW1 - 11/3/2004 6:52:40 PM   
EUBanana


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Oh wow, I found a list of Blackadder quotes.

quote:


Melchett: There is, however, one small problem.
Blackadder: That everyone always gets slaughtered in the first ten seconds?
Melchett: That's right! And Field Marshal Haig is worried that this may be depressing the men a tad. So! He's looking to find a way to cheer them up!
Blackadder: Well, his resignation and suicide would seem the obvious answer.
Melchett: Interesting thought! Make a note of it, Darling!


quote:


Darling: Look, I'm as British as Queen Victoria!
Blackadder: So, your father's German, you're half-German, and you married a German?


...and apparently the final line, before they all go over the top and get killed is...

quote:


Blackadder: Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would've noticed another madman around here?


*sigh* Wonder if its on DVD...

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RE: Best Generals of WW1 - 11/3/2004 11:58:15 PM   
Lannes


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Hello,

For me it's Joffre, because save France in the Battle of Marne and allow a allied victory. I don't think that england win the WW1 alone.

Lannes

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RE: Best Generals of WW1 - 11/4/2004 1:59:57 AM   
Dirtdog20


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quote:

ORIGINAL: EUBanana

Oh wow, I found a list of Blackadder quotes.



*sigh* Wonder if its on DVD...



Yes, all the Black Adder episodes are available from the BBC shop on line. My beautiful bride bought me my copy for Christmas last year. O Yes, and it also contains "A Black Adder Christmas Carol" and "Time Machine "

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RE: Best Generals of WW1 - 11/4/2004 6:46:39 PM   
Kevinugly

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Lannes

Hello,

I don't think that england win the WW1 alone.

Lannes


You are right there (although technically it's 'Britain and her Empire', but that's just me being pedantic), it was an Allied victory - we can just idly squabble over who made the biggest contribution

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RE: Best Generals of WW1 - 11/4/2004 9:03:10 PM   
Manfred

 

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I think Foch was one of the best generals of WWI.
1914-15 : he stops the german advance in Lorraine, then he takes command of the north front, and prevent the german to win the "race to the sea".
1918 : Commander in chief for all allied armies, he stopped the Ludendorff's march offensive. After the breakthrough of the franco-brit front, he won the second "bataille de la Marne" despite a very serious situation. In July, he blocks another german offensive in the Champagne, then he takes the offensive, making a great usage of the new tanks & planes, and doing a great job to coordinate the 3 allied armies.
after the september offensive, nearly all the french territory is liberated, and the german army is bloodless...

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RE: Best Generals of WW1 - 11/11/2004 11:21:31 PM   
spence

 

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Did anyone mention Allenby - seems he did some good stuff - for sure in the Middle East and I think on the Western Front too but I don't have any references with me here so I could be wrong.
Given the nature of the warfare on the Western Front I guess I'd also like to nominate the guy, whoever he was, who planned and managed the mine attack at Ypres - admittedly a limited objective attack but still pretty well done I think.

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RE: Best Generals of WW1 - 11/14/2004 4:03:39 AM   
EUBanana


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I think that was General Plumer. He captured the Messines Ridge.

He was one of the better British generals.

We should nominate the worst general, that'll be easier. :)

The guy who commanded Gallipoli, Hunter-something, he's my nomination for biggest donkey.

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RE: Best Generals of WW1 - 11/14/2004 4:05:11 AM   
EUBanana


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Hunter-Weston?

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RE: Best Generals of WW1 - 11/15/2004 3:36:11 PM   
GWL_Tim


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Ian Hamilton. Very inept indeed - however he did have the whole ill planned fiasco forced on him. Plumer gets my vote for Messines. Allenby ( a cavalry man by profession) did superbly in the Middle East but was less successful on the Western Front. In facti think he was sacked and moved to the Middle East as he wasn't great (could be wrong on that one).

Another General who seems to get praise from various historians is Smith-Dorian of Le Cateau fame. He was actually sacked by Sir John French but this is put down to personal jealousy.

On a tactical level Ludendorf gets my vote. Not brilliant strategically, however he could blame those errors on Hindenburg.

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RE: Best Generals of WW1 - 11/15/2004 5:47:51 PM   
Kevinugly

 

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Allenby is one of the WW1 generals who found it very difficult to adjust to the static nature of war on the Western Front. Transferred to the ME he had the opportunity to show his true qualities.

I think Allenby's case shows the difficulty of assessing best/worst commanders of WW1. Far more than WW2, the different theatres of war often required vastly different tactics and troop mixes. A general such as Lettow-Vorbeck fought an entirely different war to, say, Hindenburg so how can they be compared? It's fun trying though

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RE: Best Generals of WW1 - 11/16/2004 1:15:35 AM   
KaiserWilly

 

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After the release of the game, it will be me...




Attachment (1)

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RE: Best Generals of WW1 - 11/17/2004 1:28:02 AM   
Kevinugly

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: KaiserWilly

After the release of the game, it will be me...





Now there's a challenge to live down to

See, someone does respond to a 'Newbie' post

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RE: Best Generals of WW1 - 11/22/2004 6:51:34 PM   
Kereguelen


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There were some good French generals:

Petain (even if there was given much credit to Nivelle, it was due to Petain that the French won at Verdun) and Fayolle. Both cared for their soldiers and did not waste their men in senseless mass attacks (at least they tried to minimize losses). Quite different from most other WW1 generals. And Petain managed to end the French troop mutinies (IMHO Petain does not get enough credit for his role in WW1 because of his role in WW2, but that's a different story).

K

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RE: Best Generals of WW1 - 7/3/2007 2:08:50 AM   
Sardonic

 

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The criticism of Haig that is most damning is his delibrate falsification of records in the post-war era.
Since the establishment was behind him, his glaring failures were hidden for years.


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RE: Best Generals of WW1 - 6/15/2009 6:48:21 AM   
The Almighty Turtle

 

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OK, I am getting SICK of the Littlewoodizing of history here.

Firstly, let me say that the myth of the invincible Germans is wearing more than a little thin, considering the grievous tactical and strategic maulings they recieved almost everywhere they fought on the Western Front.

The simple fact is that no, the Germans did NOT develop the "winning strategy" of the war early while the Western Allies plodded along far behind.

If they had, they probably would have USED it.

The simple fact is that the German military, for whatever its strong suits, simply began to loose whatever advantages it possessed at the outbreak of the war VERY quickly.

The "Grand Offensive?"

Kaput at the Marne

The "Prussian Superiority in training and tactics?"

Even if we DO accept the idea that they possessed it at one time, three or so years of continuous batterings pretty much put an end to that, and the rate of casualties meant that the dedicated NCO cadres that Germany needed simply could not form on the Western Front (there is a reason they transported most of the German military in Eastern Europe to the Western Fronts in 1917 other then the reason that they could: the armies in the East represented the relatively "elite" units the German military still had, and even THEN those reserves largely were a one-shot deal, after they suffered through the offensives of early 1918).

The "Superior Military Thinking?"

They certainly had their share of bright leaders, yes, but the fact remains that by the end of the war, Haig, Plumer, Foch, Petain, etc. had proven more than the equal of the best the Germans could offer.

The bottom line is that the German military and those of her allies squandered their chances at rates that would have made the Germans standing outside Dunkirk, St. Malo, and countless other French ports in 1940 feel justifiably superior (after all, the later at least were ordered to stop by higher command as opposed to squandering the high command they held). And as a result, the German military in the field was pretty much destroyed in the later months of 1918, and the few fanatical enough to resist into 1919 and 1920 were swept aside quite decisively, even though they often were well armed and suprisingly well organized (and far more numerous than one may think: the Western Allies spent more than four years sweeping up around a quarter of a million holdouts in the old occupied territories and in the Rhineland).

Ok, now that we know that the Germans were hardly the superior force in the fight,

The best British General is a tought one, but for those from the Heartland (ie the UK proper), I would have to say it is a flip between Haig (yes, Haig), Plumer, or Allenby.

Canadian?

Currie. No doubt.

ANZAC?

Monash.

Best French General? Foch or Joffre, with Petain as a dark horse.

Best Italian General? Armando Diaz hands down no contest. This was a man who managed to reorganize the Italian military that Cadorna had systematically wrecked while hundreds of thousands of Austro-Hungarians and Germans were bearing down on Venice, and afterwards litterally wrecking the Austro-Hungarians and the handful of remaining Germans in the Mont Grappa-to-Vittorio campaign at a time when the enemy was quite confident (the Austro-Hungarians were hardly the demoralized SOBs that much contemporary history paints them as during this point in time, as they were- if nothing else- still "high" off the victory over Russia and at Caporetto and still rather well equiped from Romanian, Russian, and Italian war stocks) is quite amazing when you examine it.

Best Belgian General?

With lack of a better option, I'm going to have to go with King Albert, whose career ranged from Brussels to the final offensive to liberate Flanders, and who by all accounts was quite competent.

Best German General?

Ludendorff, Hindenburg, or Vorbeck.

Best Austrian (read: Hapsburg Imperial) general?

For lack of many options, I'll go with Boroevic.

Best Turkish General?

I'll have to go (belatedly) with Kemal Mufasta: the man's accomplishments may have been magnified out of all proportion (coughcoughGallipolicoughcough) and his failures mysteriously deemphasized (the 1917-18 Palestinian Campaign comes to mind, though to be fair generals far more competent than he would have had difficulty riding that particular pony), that doesn't make either any less real, and those coupled with the distinct lack of truly independent Turkish high commanders forces me to go with him.

American?

Not much of a choice here, is there?

Pershing.

The bottom line is that WWI almost always was bloody and messy, but the idea that it was entirely like Littlewood's fantasies is... foolish, to say the least. It is true that many mistakes were made and battles lost and young men and a few women killed by the hundreds of thousands.

But that does not change reality.

And the reality is that WWI was far less of a series of futile disasters than it was a series of missed oppertunities between two strong antagonists that tried desperately to be the first to come up with a game-winning plan. Hell, even battles that are often considered futile and ill-concieved massacres like Loos, the Somme, and Chemin de Dames often had the chance to be the decisive victory the attack wanted them to be (hell, Loos almost was save for the fact that, when the critical moment arrived and it was time to charge through the enemy gaps into the rear- whoops, no reserves, they were all used up creating the gaps).

But, ultimately, it was the Western Allies- not the Germans, not the Armenians, not the Poles, and CERTAINLY not the Turks, Austrians, or Russians- who came up with a game-winning strategy first, while Germany's bold and frequently innovative strategies ultimately fell flat on their face for many of the same reasons the Western Allied and Russian strategies did. But unlike the Central powers or Slavic allies (and Romania), the Western Allies finally got it as close to right as humanly possible. And the result can be seen all too clearly on the fields of Amiens, in the hills of Vittorio-Veneto, and in the desert sands around Megiddo.

To pretend otherwise is to ignore history and to insult the hundreds of thousands of dead on both sides: the Allied dead (particularly the Western Allied dead) by denigrating their genuine accomplishments, and the Central dead by acting like some of the most imposing war machines in history were destroyed by idiots who were more of a danger to themselves than to the enemy.

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RE: Best Generals of WW1 - 6/15/2009 10:47:24 AM   
JeffroK


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??

A post that makes sense

??

One thing missed in these answers is that comparing a Corps Commander with 4-5 Divisions against a Commander like Haig who commanded ?70-80?? Divisions is hard.

Monash was excellent, and added to the barriers he hurdled was that he was an amateur soldier at the beginning of the war, led 4th Bde at Gallipoli(not very well though), 3rd Division then Australian Corps.
The other Australian who rates well as a Corps Commander was Chauvel of the Desert Mounted Corps.
Allenby in The Sinai/Palestine & Maude in Mesopotamia led well though both had the advantage of increased support arranged by their predecessor.

In France, Corps Commanders (on all sides) had little chance to shine except if like Monash & Currie they came from outside the Tranditional  Army systems.

In the end, IMHO, Haig should have been replaced after the Somme, and definatly after Paschendaele.

.



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Interdum feror cupidine partium magnarum Europae vincendarum

(in reply to The Almighty Turtle)
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