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Subject: How come there have been no " Great Captains" from Britain since the Duke of Wellington? rss

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Bill Lawson
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After all the threads on German Generals I was wondering why we never see similar threads about the Brits? Haig?? Monty?? ahem Gort? .
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Ted Torgerson
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Quote:
After all the threads on German Generals I was wondering why we never see similar threads about the Brits? Haig?? Monty?? ahem Gort?
.

Gort's beam weapon was inferior to the beam weapons developed by the Germans, but German technology was too little too late to turn the tide in the East, where the war was decided.
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1989Game wrote:
Quote:
After all the threads on German Generals I was wondering why we never see similar threads about the Brits? Haig?? Monty?? ahem Gort?
.

Gort's beam weapon was inferior to the beam weapons developed by the Germans, but German technology was too little too late to turn the tide in the East, where the war was decided.



 
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Ted Torgerson
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michael connor
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Does Capitan Kirk count??

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Because no one has heard of Field Marshal William, 1st Viscount Slim.

I also have a lot of respect for Wavell (130,000 Italian prisoners is no mean effort).
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Well interesting question. Not enough publicity from their enemies? Didn't Rommel get a lot of his fame from the British press? Besides Monty it is hard to think of another British general, again I think its because of not enough press.

Wavell was an excellent operational general don't you think?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archibald_Wavell,_1st_Earl_Wave...

I also really like Field Marshal Roberts
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Roberts,_1st_Earl_Rob...

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dmcamp wrote:
Well interesting question. Not enough publicity from their enemies? Didn't Rommel get a lot of his fame from the British press?


If the German newspapers did write much about some British general, would we know?
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WW1 soiled the whole notion of "Great British General." The best the best of WW2 could do was recover from that nadir.

Since then, the British haven't been involved in any "Generals' wars."
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I wouldn`t put the following down entirely to propaganda. The British Generals of World War One were largely respected during their time. (With noteable exceptions.)

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/41398/41398-h/41398-h.htm
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The Royal Navy and Royal Air Force have had some successful flag officers. Cunningham and Dowding just to provide one each.
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PaulWRoberts wrote:
WW1 soiled the whole notion of "Great British General." The best the best of WW2 could do was recover from that nadir.


Yes, but be clear. The revisionist historians were the ones who destroyed the notion of great British generals, not the generals themselves. We are slowly coming around to a point of balance, with the work of fellows like Corrigan who are viewing their work through the eyes of professionally trained staff officers.

The ability of the audience to recognize great generals has also diminished. Few people today have military experience, fewer still have served in a - in your very good phrase - "general's war." So your average layman has very little understanding of what a good general really does, or what differentiates a good one from a bad one. Many just read a couple of articles about Montgomery, Haig or Rawlinson and jump on the dog-pile.

The original question is, of course, a straw-man, since Britain has of course produced "Great Captains" of war, many of them. A horse may be led to water, but he will not be made to drink.

Quote:
Since then, the British haven't been involved in any "Generals' wars."


This is a very good point, though I would suggest a slight re-phrasing. Operation DESERT SABER and the liberation of Kuwait was very much a general's war. The overall concept was brilliant. The British were involved. They did not, however, have operational control at the strategic level.
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Well we didn't have a major civil war, (post 1815) mostly fighting small Imperial skirmishes. Not much scope for international fame there.

As for WW2, I don't want to get embroiled in a debate about Money but apart from Patton, America also lacked 'Great Captains'. Bradley, Clark, Eisenhower? Nothing exceptional about any of them. I guess you might talk about Macarthur, but I probably wouldn't bother. Post WW2 we have failure in Vietnam, stalemate in Korea and the equivalent of colonial wars in Iraq and Afghanistan where the technological advantage gave their opponents the same chance of winning as the Zulus who charged at Ulundi.

I guess this is the last time I get thumbed in this forum!



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The reason may be as simple as the fact that Britain have fought few wars against strong opponents since then. If I am not mistaken, they have only fought WW1, WW2 and the Crimean war against for the age developed nations in that timespan. When it comes to WW1 and the Crimean War, neither seems to be well known for good generalship, while in WW2 american and soviet generals seems to get all the fame.
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Ashiefan wrote:
Well we didn't have a major civil war, (post 1815) mostly fighting small Imperial skirmishes. Not much scope for international fame there.

As for WW2, I don't want to get embroiled in a debate about Money but apart from Patton, America also lacked 'Great Captains'. Bradley, Clark, Eisenhower? Nothing exceptional about any of them. I guess you might talk about Macarthur, but I probably wouldn't bother. Post WW2 we have failure in Vietnam, stalemate in Korea and the equivalent of colonial wars in Iraq and Afghanistan where the technological advantage gave their opponents the same chance of winning as the Zulus who charged at Ulundi.

I guess this is the last time I get thumbed in this forum!





I'll gladly thumb you any time! This thread isn't about American Generals though. They've been trashed repeatedly and recently in this forum.
The Brits have some quite competent Generals , Admirals, and Air Marshals .
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I would have liked General Powell as American president.
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billyboy wrote:
Ashiefan wrote:
Well we didn't have a major civil war, (post 1815) mostly fighting small Imperial skirmishes. Not much scope for international fame there.

As for WW2, I don't want to get embroiled in a debate about Money but apart from Patton, America also lacked 'Great Captains'. Bradley, Clark, Eisenhower? Nothing exceptional about any of them. I guess you might talk about Macarthur, but I probably wouldn't bother. Post WW2 we have failure in Vietnam, stalemate in Korea and the equivalent of colonial wars in Iraq and Afghanistan where the technological advantage gave their opponents the same chance of winning as the Zulus who charged at Ulundi.

I guess this is the last time I get thumbed in this forum!





I'll gladly thumb you any time! This thread isn't about American Generals though. They've been trashed repeatedly and recently in this forum.
The Brits have some quite competent Generals , Admirals, and Air Marshals .


I tip my hat to you sir
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Ashiefan wrote:
Well we didn't have a major civil war, (post 1815) mostly fighting small Imperial skirmishes. Not much scope for international fame there.


Is the conversation about press coverage, or professional ability?

Incidentally, anyone looking for a definition of "Great Captain" on Wikipedia is led to the article on Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba. Wellington's article does not mention the term. Someone may want to reframe the discussion so we all have a common definition to work from.

Quote:
As for WW2, I don't want to get embroiled in a debate about Money but apart from Patton, America also lacked 'Great Captains'. Bradley, Clark, Eisenhower? Nothing exceptional about any of them.


Their successes were exceptional.
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Depends on one's definition of 'great captain', of course, but how often does history throw up a Napoleon 1 (thankfully?)or Alexander of Macedon?
Pretty much every nation throws up talented generals, but some get more publicity than others, or have the luck to be in the right place at the right time.
How about generals Slim, Alexander and O'Connor from WW2, or, say, Napier or Roberts from Victorian times?
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England had at least one great captain after Wellington...

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One thing that has changed is how we talk about war. Whether we support or oppose a particular war, we talk about the soldiers themselves or about the politicians who made it all happen. Generals are somehow seen as managers who translate policy, not deciders of it.

Who was the last general we really identified with a war's progress? Westmoreland maybe? Norman Schwarzkopf got lots of praise for Desert Storm, but even so I think that was somehow seen as George H. W. Bush's campaign.
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PaulWRoberts wrote:
Who was the last general we really identified with a war's progress? Westmoreland maybe? Norman Schwarzkopf got lots of praise for Desert Storm, but even so I think that was somehow seen as George H. W. Bush's campaign.


And Colin Powell's.
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As is mentioned, Britain has been good at not putting itself into situations where they need a Wellington. Only three major wars in a period of nearly 200 years is quite an accomplishment for a nation with ambitions of being a global superpower. And only two domestic disputes that approached open warfare (both in Ireland).

The problem with Montgomery was his ego. He knew he was brilliant and convinced himself that he was always right. His confidence led him to success, but also got him in trouble and led him to make serious operational errors like Market-Garden.

Unfortunately, among Americans he is about the only British general that the average person knows very much about. In World War II, the generals who were subordinate to overall command labored largely in anonymity unless they were such colorful figures that you couldn't ignore them if you tried (Patton). Thus we know a lot more about Eisenhower and MacArthur than of the generals who worked under them to make the grand schemes work. Eisenhower and MacArthur were household names to the point that they became important factors in post-war politics (Eisenhower became one of the more successful postwar Presidents, while MacArthur famously and publicly declined the opportunity to go into politics -- in a situation where he would have been a strong contender for the Presidential election that Eisenhower ended up winning).
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PaulWRoberts wrote:
Generals are somehow seen as managers who translate policy, not deciders of it.


Which British General gets most references in Winston Churchill's History of the Second World War? Obviously I haven't done a count, but I'm fairly sure the answer is Hastings Ismay (I had to look up the Hastings - and then reading his Wikipedia article learned a lot more about him).

Not a famous general. But important, and apparently pretty good at his job.
 
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Michael Hopcroft wrote:
Only three major wars in a period of nearly 200 years is quite an accomplishment for a nation with ambitions of being a global superpower.


I think it was more than just ambition. Between the Seven Year's War and World War I, pretty much Top Nation (to quote 1066 And All That - which if not familiar with, worth rectifying).
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