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Was Monty's finest hour just a pointless bloodbath?

Discussion in 'ETO, MTO and the Eastern Front' started by PzJgr, Oct 23, 2012.

  1. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor

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    For nearly two weeks, 200,000 men and officers from Britain and the Empire - without the Americans - fought against more than 100,000 Germans and Italians in one of the most bloody and attritional battles of the war. Although the Allies won, El Alamein would take a very high toll. The fighting would result in more than 13,500 Allied casualties, of whom some 4,500 were killed. The Allies lost nearly 500 tanks and 100 aircraft, as well as more than 100 pieces of artillery.

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    Battle of El Alamein: Was Monty's finest hour just a pointless bloodbath? | Mail Online

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  2. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

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    IMHO I think "crap" covers it. I didn't see a single detractor's name mentioned.
    "The Sahara is cold at night, and for the young soldiers waiting to go into battle, it felt perishing. Many, such as those in the Durham Brigade, were only wearing shirts, shorts and flimsy pullovers, and shivered while they clutched their rifles.

    Nearby were soldiers from an Australian battalion, one of whom, a Private Crawford, took pity on a youthful-looking private in the Durhams, and gave him his sweater.
    Two hours later, an enormous barrage started up from the British guns, the like of which had not been seen since World War I. The soldiers, many now trembling more from fear than cold, advanced into what swiftly became a terrifying and chaotic inferno.
    Bullets from German ‘Spandau’ machine guns cracked around them, and many found their targets. Scores of men soon lay on the desert sand, screaming for their mothers, their limbs ripped off by the terrific firepower of what the Germans grimly called ‘the bonesaw’.
    For those who were still going forward, the dust and smoke made it impossible to get their sense of direction. Men found themselves nearly alone, with perhaps three or four others around them. Incongruously, the sound of bagpipes could be heard above the sound of mortar and gun fire, geeing the men on as they haphazardly advanced.
    Among those who managed to keep going was Private Crawford, who would survive the horrors of that night and many more. But the following morning, as he walked around the battlefield looking at the dead, one body particularly grabbed his attention. It was that of the young lad from the Durhams.
    ‘For the little boy-faced Tommy there is no thrill of victory,’ Crawford later wrote, ‘no pride in a job splendidly done. He lies on his back as if asleep, still in my sweater, 100 yards off where I gave it to him. His chest is riddled but not very bloody; the holes are neat. Spandau Joe did not miss this time.’
    As one soldier later recalled: ‘We thought it would be a walkover,’ but the battle, which began exactly 70 years ago today near a dusty and insignificant Egyptian coastal railway station called El Alamein, 150 miles north-west of Cairo, was anything but.
    For nearly two weeks, 200,000 men and officers from Britain and the Empire — without the Americans — fought against more than 100,000 Germans and Italians in one of the most bloody and attritional battles of the war.
    Although the Allies famously won, El Alamein would take a very high toll. The fighting would result in more than 13,500 Allied casualties, of whom some 4,500 were killed. The Allies lost nearly 500 tanks and 100 aircraft, as well as more than 100 pieces of artillery.
    Despite these losses, El Alamein is regarded as a glorious chapter in the annals of British military history.
    For Winston Churchill, the battle marked what he called the ‘turning of the Hinge of Fate’ — the pivotal point at which the fortunes of war finally went against the Axis powers. ‘It may almost be said,’ he wrote later, ‘before Alamein we never had a victory. After Alamein we never had a defeat’.’
    Churchill ordered church bells to ring out throughout Britain in celebration of the battle and the subsequent Allied landings in North Africa. For many, El Alamein ranks as a victory alongside those of Trafalgar, Waterloo and the Battle of Britain.
    But today, seven decades after the event, others dispute that El Alamein really deserves its place in the pantheon of great British victories. These detractors maintain it was a pointless battle in a pointless campaign, fought for political reasons to boost morale throughout the Empire, and not from any great strategic necessity."
    Battle of El Alamein: Was Monty's finest hour just a pointless bloodbath? | Mail Online
     
  3. ptimms

    ptimms Member

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    Pile of arse, mind you read the Mail and you get junk.
     
  4. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    Ah - The Mail, again...:)...before we get well stuck in to another bout of Monty-bashing, can someone please answer the following question (something which, in my uneducated ignorance ) often confuses me about Mail articles.....

    Those 'historians' they refer to....'these detractors'.....'others dispute'.....'they add'......

    I just can't find any reference in the article to WHO THE HECK ARE "THEY" ?

    ( Oh, and I'd just like to add...I dispute.....I detract....that the pic showing British troops 'advance to El Alamein' behind the Panzer III was long ago exposed as a fake....)
     
  5. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    Defeating the Africa Korps and her Italian allies could never be called 'pointless'.

    That being said I have read accounts that have questioned if Monty's tactics were a little straitforward and hard, excessively hard on his troops. Perhaps he felt it was neccasary as they still had some phobia about going up against the Desert Fox. I also question if he pursued the defeated enemy with the same level of vigor the Rommel would have had the situation been reversed.

    But this critique falls under the heading what could have been. Wars are filled with battles that could have been fought better or with less cost if a commander done something a little different.If Monty was perfectly candid I'm sure he could point to one or two things he might have done differently knowing what he knows now.

    No revisionist history can alter the fact that Monty engineered a major victory against one of the best Axis generals.

    Enough said.
     
  6. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    Monty would'nt be my first choice to command a Allied army, but isn't this piling on?
     
  7. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

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    No mention of them at all, Martin, so it's just one "expert's" opinion.....:rolleyes:
     
  8. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

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    :mad:Aye, ain't hindsight wunnerful?!
     
  9. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    "Britain and the Empire" alone isn't entirely correct, one shouldn't forget the Free French and the Free Greeks

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  10. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    Threads merged as they are the same topic.
     
  11. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor

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    Thanks Jeff. Gordon and I must have been on at the same time. I will defer the DM stuff to him. :salute:
     
  12. 36thID

    36thID Member

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    I must be confused. I always thought this was a turning point in WW 2.
     
  13. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    Shouldn't that be 'believed to be no mention of them...' :p
     
  14. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    After a near unbroken string of Nazi victories on the field of battle, Winston Churchill (the great wordsmith) who took the English language to war, put it best (paraphrasing); "...this is not the beginning of the end, it may well be the end of the beginning". It may have been more of a morale victory than a military one, even though it was a major reversal for the Desert Fox and the Axis forces. Simply the number of well trained troops lost to Germany and Italy as prisoners of war was a blow from which recovery was slow.

    Coupled with the Luftwaffe's failure in the Battle of Britain in the skies over Britain, and the cancellation of "Operation Sealion", the bells rang out in Great Britain with good cause.
     
  15. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    Montgomery's brief was to attack and defeat Rommel's Panzerarmee. One could argue that this was unnecessary, that in view of the pending invasion of French North Africa the British could have stood on the defensive in Egypt, which would require considerably less troops and supplies to be shipped all the way around Africa; but that was a decision for the highest levels of the Allied command, Roosevelt and most of all Churchill.

    Given that one had to attack the prepared Axis defenses at Alamein, I'm not sure anyone could have done better than Montgomery. There was little opportunity for the classic sweep around the desert flank, and that might have been just as well - 8th Army's performance to date in mobile warfare against Rommel was hardly confidence-inspiring. In fact their only offensive success had been the latter phase of Operation Crusader, when it became a slogging match conducted mainly on the British side by infantry and artillery - sound familiar? The initial armored battle had been another debacle, a force of over 500 tanks reduced at one point to a few dozen (though as at Alamein most of the 'destroyed' tanks were later salvaged) and saved only by Rommel's "Run for the Wire" giving them a break. Montgomery's losses at Alamein were fewer than in Crusader, but the result was decisive.
     
  16. scipio

    scipio Member

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    What a load of codswallop! I will refrain from going into detail. The bit about the decisive role of the RAF made me laugh!

    It always seems to me that double standards are used in judging Montgomery and El Alamein.

    Rommel had tried twice, firstly against Aukinlech and then against Montgomery to breakthrough the line at El Alamein and had failed both times.

    It was a very very strong position (I can only think of the Mannerheim Line as having the same natural advantages for the defence).

    It was always going to be a WW1 type battle and punching through with only a two to one advantage (and a mutinous tank commander in Lumsden - deservedly sacked afterwards) was good going.

    Losses were not great - just try substituting a German general or better still a Russian one for Monty and there would have been mountains more blood on the carpet.
     

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