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General Auchinleck

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  • General Auchinleck

    i'm confused about Auchinleck, here is a general who rescued operation Crusader and won 1st El alamein yet he was sacked and his reputation has suuffered. Granted he made mistakes such as underestimating axis strength after Crusader and the uncoordinated counter attacks after 1st Alamein. The question is; does anyone have any insight into how good a general Auchinleck was?
    If the art of war were nothing but the art of avoiding risks,glory would become the prey of mediocre minds. Napoleon

  • #2
    Auchinleck simply didn't have the force of personallity needed to be a sucess against Rommel. Where he failed and where Montgomery succeded was in the stamping their personallities on the 8th Army.

    Auchinleck was sucessful early on due to Rommel overstretching himself and becuase, in those early moment, his Army had sucess against an enemy who had been constantly beating them he was popular but he failed totally in a crucial area and that where the Cult of Rommel was concered.

    Auchinleck allowed the Cult of Rommel to fester in his Army. He allowed his Army to worry more about what its enemy was doing than what it should be doing and a result of this was a distinct lack of confidence when the 8th Army faced the Afrika Korp.

    By contrast, when Montgomery turned up almost the first thing he did was to crush the Cult of Rommel within the 8th Army. After a quick survey of his new Army Monty found his Army obsessed with his enemy and subsequently released this statement:

    "I want to impose on everyone that the bad times are over, they are finished! Our mandate from the Prime Minister is to destroy the Axis forces in North Africa...It can be done, and it will be done!"

    Monty's confidence almost immediately rubbed off on his army. Very soon after Montgomery came to command the Cult of Rommel was all but gone in the 8th Army and had been replaced by the Cult of Montgomery.

    General Auchinleck may have been a good enough commander tactically, strategically and logistically to beat Rommel but because he was not able to stamp his personallity on his Army and because he allowed his Army to worry too much about its enemy he failed.
    Leadership is the capacity and will to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence - Field Marshall Bernard Law Montgomery

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Legate
      i'm confused about Auchinleck, here is a general who rescued operation Crusader and won 1st El alamein yet he was sacked and his reputation has suuffered. Granted he made mistakes such as underestimating axis strength after Crusader and the uncoordinated counter attacks after 1st Alamein. The question is; does anyone have any insight into how good a general Auchinleck was?
      Auchinleck's main failing came during the Gazala battles of May and June 1942. His appointment of general Ritchie to command 8th Army during the Crusader battles was meant to be a temporary state of affairs that was never corrected. Ritchie was (iirc) junior to both his corps commanders and failed to 'command' the army. As a result, 8th Army was run by committee with every order debated and parsed. This was clearly no way to run an army in the face of mobile operation against an opponent as tactically skilled and flexible as Rommel was that summer.

      Auchinleck failed to replace Ritchie until the allied army in Libya had been defeated in detail and was in full retreat to Alamein.

      I am not so sure one can claim that Auchinleck "won" 1st Alamein as both armies had simply fought themselves into a state of exhaustion and could no longer maintain offensive operations. First Alamein may more properly be considered a draw.
      The Purist

      Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

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      • #4
        Gentlemen, thanks for your input. It seems that Auchinleck had the intelligence but not the personality to be a great commander.You fellahs wouldn't happen to be showing a pro-Monty bias now would you?
        If the art of war were nothing but the art of avoiding risks,glory would become the prey of mediocre minds. Napoleon

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        • #5
          Another Auchinleck failing was poor choice of subordinates eg Corbett his Chief of Staff was described IIRC as the stupidest officeer in the Army, and his Deputy Chief of Staff Dorman-Smith was considered intelligent and imaginative but produced unrealistic plans.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by The Purist View Post
            I am not so sure one can claim that Auchinleck "won" 1st Alamein as both armies had simply fought themselves into a state of exhaustion and could no longer maintain offensive operations. First Alamein may more properly be considered a draw.
            It cost Auchinleck around the same number of Allied casualties ( approx 13,000) to hold Rommel at the First Battle of El Alamein, as it cost Monty to decisively defeat him in the Second Battle of El Alamein .

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Legate View Post
              Gentlemen, thanks for your input. It seems that Auchinleck had the intelligence but not the personality to be a great commander.You fellahs wouldn't happen to be showing a pro-Monty bias now would you?
              You could read some of Michael Carver's work. He's no fan of Montgomery but has little time or respect for Auchinleck and his method of exercising command.
              Signing out.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Full Monty View Post
                You could read some of Michael Carver's work. He's no fan of Montgomery but has little time or respect for Auchinleck and his method of exercising command.
                You got a link? Can't seem to find anything from him on Amazon.

                Of course Amazon's search fundamentally sucks, but anyway.

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                • #9
                  Try looking for

                  Dilemmas of the desert war

                  Paperback 2003, from $4.50

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Aber View Post
                    Try looking for

                    Dilemmas of the desert war

                    Paperback 2003, from $4.50
                    One of the best books on the War in the Western Desert in the pre-Montgomery era I've read.
                    Signing out.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Aber View Post
                      Try looking for

                      Dilemmas of the desert war

                      Paperback 2003, from $4.50
                      Thanks for the recomendation,the book is on order.
                      If the art of war were nothing but the art of avoiding risks,glory would become the prey of mediocre minds. Napoleon

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Legate View Post
                        Thanks for the recomendation,the book is on order.
                        You'll enjoy it. Carver was a staff officer in the Western Desert and has a good reputation as a military historian too. If you already have a working knowledge of the campaign you'll get more out of the book than you would otherwise but the blow-by-blow account of the command failings that led to the near disaster at Gazala is both revealing and compelling.
                        Signing out.

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                        • #13
                          Auchinleck got credit for Norway Campaign but actually performance was also not very good IMO.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Legate View Post
                            i'm confused about Auchinleck, here is a general who rescued operation Crusader and won 1st El alamein yet he was sacked and his reputation has suuffered. Granted he made mistakes such as underestimating axis strength after Crusader and the uncoordinated counter attacks after 1st Alamein. The question is; does anyone have any insight into how good a general Auchinleck was?
                            The best insights into Auchinleck’s qualities as a General would be those who had the opportunity to fight under him. After reviewing their opinions one will find that the opinion of his qualities was generally quite low, particularly from the allied forces that made up a significant part of the Eighth Army. These include Divisions from Australia, South Africa and New Zealand.

                            From the official New Zealand military history one can glean some idea of how little confidence they had in Auchinleck.

                            About a third of the way down the following page link:

                            nzetc.org

                            General Auchinleck had managed during July to regain a measure of control over his command. This he did more by his determination to hit the enemy ‘whenever and wherever possible’1 than by any policy designed to weld his army into a whole. As he mounted attack after attack in July, none gaining worthwhile ground but all adding to the list of casualties, especially in prisoners, the lack of co-ordination became more and more obvious. Both the Australian and New Zealand divisions, which had not endured the long retreat but had come into the fighting fresh and sanguine, began to suffer in morale, while the cynicism of the mass of the army towards its leadership became very pronounced, bringing with it a rise of inter-service criticism.
                            In the space of seventeen days up to 27 July, when Operation MANHOOD2 broke down, General Auchinleck had ordered an almost continuous series of attacks, using Australian, British, Indian and New Zealand formations. They brought Eighth Army about 12,500 casualties, about a third of whom came from the New Zealand Division, for a nearly equivalent casualty total in the German-Italian army.
                            If, as Auchinleck implied in his despatch, the July operations were designed to withhold the initiative from the enemy, they were successful. But, with this simple aim, they could have been just as great a success with much less loss. Designed as they were with a much wider aim, they demanded a degree of co-ordination which the formations within the Eighth Army were unable to offer. Though minor criticisms of the handling of brigades and divisions at this period might be made, they would have little value, as the conduct of the operations was strictly conditioned by the plans issued by Army Headquarters and accepted by the two corps.
                            And a little bit further down:

                            Analysis of the events leads to the conclusion that the principal factor responsible for the mounting casualty lists of July lay in Auchinleck's failure, in his role as army commander, to understand early enough the limitations of the armour, a purely British command, and the lack of training in co-operation throughout his army.
                            The July battles roused considerable criticism within the army, criticism not confined to the three Dominion divisions involved. For the New Zealanders' part this culminated in the statement by Major-General Inglis,1 then commanding the Division, to Lieutenant-General Gott, commander of 13 Corps, that he would have to refuse the use of his division in another operation if the plans followed those of Ruweisat and El Mreir.2 The sum of such criticism was probably as much a factor as the state of the army in persuading Auchinleck to go over to the defensive at the end of July.

                            The lack of confidence in Auchinleck by the Australian, New Zealand and South African Divisions of the Eighth Army would have been reported, through their respective national military commands and diplomatic liaison officers, so both Churchill and General Brooke were aware of these sentiments.

                            Also, it should not be forgotten that Auchinleck’s primary role was overall theatre commander of Middle East forces as far away as Iraq, not as field commander a position he proposed to fill with General Corbett, regarded by many as fairly incompetent. As Montgomery said of Auchinleck in one of his milder criticisms of him, Auchinleck was: "a very bad picker of men".

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                            • #15
                              some salient lessons on the principles of higher command to be found here.........

                              Comment

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