British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Discussions on the economic history of the nations taking part in WW2, from the recovery after the depression until the economy at war.
Gooner1
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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Gooner1 » 03 May 2021 15:08

EwenS wrote:
03 May 2021 14:07

I think you need to differentiate the movement of the RN eastwards in the first place from the build up of the BPF, which itself did not come into existence on 22 November 1944.
Good information.

The Royal Navy did very well as regards manpower in the mid-war period though, expanding by over one-third in 1943 alone, from 566 thousand men to 756 thousand.

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by EwenS » 03 May 2021 16:15

But look what was added to the RN fleet in calendar year 1943 (excluding RAN and RCN ships):-

From Lend lease
67 DE as Captain class frigates (of an eventual 78)
26 CVE (of an eventual 32)
9 Colony class frigates (of an eventual 21)
14 Kil class PCE (of an eventual 15)
57 LST(2)
17 Catherine class minesweepers (of an eventual 22)

From U.K./Canadian yards
3 Colony class cruisers
4 mod Dido class cruisers
1 M class destroyer from pre-war order delayed through being bombed on slipway
29 Intermediate type destroyers (Q-W flotillas. Total 56 ships ordered 1940/41)
4 Hunt class destroyers
11 Black Swan class sloops (+4 RIN)
40 River & Loch class frigates
7 Castle class corvettes
41 trawlers
30 Algerine class minesweepers
3 Boxer class LST(1)

And that is before thinking about all the submarines, BYMS, MMS, LCT and derivatives, LCI(L) and myriad other alphabet soup types of craft accepted for service that year. And all with the prospect of many more ships to come in 1944 from those same building programmes (for example another 30 destroyers from the above noted classes plus the Z-Ca classes)

But at least we saved the personnel from crewing the cruiser Shropshire transferred to the RAN!

Compare those additions to the losses that year and you can see the need for the vastly increased numbers of personnel.

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Gooner1 » 03 May 2021 17:11

EwenS wrote:
03 May 2021 16:15
But look what was added to the RN fleet in calendar year 1943 (excluding RAN and RCN ships):-

Compare those additions to the losses that year and you can see the need for the vastly increased numbers of personnel.
Good information, but to play devils advocate, what would the impact have been had there been 50,000 fewer men in the Royal Navy come June 1944
i.e. 728,000 not 778,000?

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by EwenS » 03 May 2021 18:05

Just to complete the picture, the Eastern Fleet at the beginning of June 1944 comprised:-

Renown, QE and Valiant
Illustrious
3 heavy cruisers, Suffolk (on Station since mid 1943), with Cumberland and London joining in early 1944.
7 light cruisers. Newcastle and Kenya (on Station since mid 1943), Tromp (Dutch), Ceylon, Nigeria and Gambia (on Station since early 1944) and Phoebe which had arrived on 2 June after seeing service at Anzio.
5 Q, 8 R, 6 N (incl 2 Dutch manned) 4 P class destroyers (some of which were used for ASW work due to general shortage of escort ships-see below)
4 CVE. Battler (on Station from Oct 1943). Shah, Atheling and Begum (all arriving in theatre as aircraft transports). All 4 in use for trade protection by June.

Early 1944 saw an increase in U-boat activity in the IO supported by a couple of supply ships that were tracked down and sunk. In March /April another 6 boats were sent out eventually ending up at Penang or Batavia. The target was to intercept shipping on the routes from the Red Sea to the Persian Gulf and India. At the beginning of 1944 there were only about 15 escort vessels with the Eastern Fleet to cover the whole IO area. This grew to approx 50 by the end of the year, of which about 20% moved to the Pacific.

EwenS
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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by EwenS » 03 May 2021 18:09

Gooner1 wrote:
03 May 2021 17:11
EwenS wrote:
03 May 2021 16:15
But look what was added to the RN fleet in calendar year 1943 (excluding RAN and RCN ships):-

Compare those additions to the losses that year and you can see the need for the vastly increased numbers of personnel.
Good information, but to play devils advocate, what would the impact have been had there been 50,000 fewer men in the Royal Navy come June 1944
i.e. 728,000 not 778,000?
Well for starters there would not have been crews for the last group of Captain class frigates, which were brought across the Atlantic in early 1944 by either scratch crews or RCN crews coming over to pick up River/Loch/Castle class vessels.

Beyond that I can’t say.

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by daveshoup2MD » 04 May 2021 04:11

wwilson wrote:
03 May 2021 08:15
@daveshoup2MD
The British then formed/reformed nine infantry brigades, two from RMs and seven from British Army AA units, and deployed them to the continent in 1945 to fill holes in their order of battle.
I don't think it was that many brigades, at least, not that many were sent to NW Europe. What was sent to Europe stayed mostly behind the front from what I understand. I'll glance at Joslen and get back to you in this thread. Canadian I Corps filled some of the order of battle gap.

A corps headquarters, British I Corps, was also effectively sidelined, becoming involved with LoC activities in the Netherlands.

The real crux was the supply of infantry "reinforcements" as the British termed them. Part of that issue IMO is that by 1944, the British Army had an imbalance in terms of the number of armour and infantry brigades it fielded; as in too many of the former.

Yes, different decisions could have been made, but to have made the correct decisions is to assume they had a foresight which was not available at the time. I think it is realistic to say better decisions regarding force structure could have been made, but beyond that, one has to account for what the British fellows commenting here have mentioned -- huge political influences, postwar concerns, the ongoing war with Japan, etc.

Another uniquely British aspect of this situation is how the "reinforcements" were tied to particular regiments. That complicated matters, and made cross-leveling of any surplus reinforcements impractical.

Cheers

ETA. The brigades. Per Joslen, six brigades went to NW Europe. Of the six, only one, the 115th, appears to have been in areas in which significant operations were taking place. The rest were subordinated as LoC units directly to 21st Army Group or "Netherlands District".

Key:

Brigade Number; Date arrived in NW Europe; Provenance

115; 12 Feb 45; infantry regiments
116; 20 Feb 45; Royal Marines
305; 20 Apr 45; AA troops
306; 07 May 45; AA troops
307; 23 Apr 45; AA troops
308; 29 Apr 45; AA troops

The second RM brigade, the 117th, was in the UK until the war ended in Europe.
I'm looking at Joslen, pages 308-309, and pages 397-404:

116th Infantry Brigade (RM) formed Jan 4, 1945; to 21st AG on Feb. 16, 1945;
117th IB (RM) formed Jan. 15, 1945, to 21st AG May 10, 1945;
301st - Jan 15, 1945; 21st AG, May 9, 1945;
303rd - Jan. 22; Norway, June 9, 1945;
304th - Jan. 22; Norway, June 6, 1945;
305th - Jan. 22, 21st AG, April 18, 1945;
306th - Jan. 22, 21st AG, April 5, 1945;
307th - Jan. 22; 21st AG, April 23, 1945;
308th -- Jan. 22; 21st AG, April 27, 1945.

Nine brigades, 27 battalion equivalents, of which 21 went to 21st AG and six to Norway.

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by daveshoup2MD » 04 May 2021 04:13

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
02 May 2021 20:22
daveshoup2MD wrote:
02 May 2021 20:10
The fact that in September, 1943, Churchill wanted to "form a powerful fleet" against Japan says volumes about what Churchill didn't want to do in 1943-44, doesn't it?
No. It suggests Churchill wanted to form a powerful fleet in the Indian Ocean.
daveshoup2MD wrote:
02 May 2021 20:10
The fact the RN's eastern Fleet did spend the rest of 1943-44 "loafing about in the Indian Ocean" (WSC's words, not mine) doesn't exactly support your point...
So, when did the Eastern Fleet get to the Indian Ocean? When did the main strength of the Japanese fleet base itself in Singapore? Do you ever read anyone else's posts? Do some research dude! Check out Saratoga in Indian Ocean in 1944? Unlike in your world, it takes time to deploy RN assets from the UK to the Indian Ocean. :roll:

And of course, no one who had to make those decisions has your benefit of omniscient hindsight...
daveshoup2MD wrote:
02 May 2021 20:10
And I'm well aware of the complexities of manpower mobilization as the foundation of the Imperial war effort; very clear contrast with the "go where you're sent" policies of the Americans, British,(to their credit), and French.
So you do realise that much of what you have been arguing is nonsense then. :lol:
daveshoup2MD wrote:
02 May 2021 20:10
As far as the Scheldt goes, good thing for Brooke and Montgomery they had the Canadian 1st Army to handle it for them, isn't it?
Well, to be honest, that was a good thing for SHAEF in general wasn't it - so perhaps you should add Eisenhower, Bradley, etc to that list. :idea:

Regards

Tom
Any reason not to invade NW Europe, apparently.

No, try reading Roskill on the non-existent IJN threat to the Indian Ocean in 1943-44.

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by daveshoup2MD » 04 May 2021 04:20

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
03 May 2021 09:29
daveshoup2MD wrote:
02 May 2021 21:02
Huh, what had happened before February, 1944 in the Pacific that "encouraged" the IJN to move its main fleet units out of the Central Pacific?
I dunno, I’ve always regarded the entire Pacific War as an unnecessary distraction to the main business in NW Europe. :D Seriously though, I think the IJN moved to Singapore essentially to get away from the USN and to seek to operate somewhere where they had a better chance of success.
daveshoup2MD wrote:
02 May 2021 21:02
Your own source goes on (p. 348): "... there was no evidence (the Admiralty) said, that the move to Singapore was linked with any offensive intentions in the Indian Ocean ... the Japanese had indeed no large-scale offensive intentions. Their force had been sent to Singapore because the American carrier raids were making the Carolines and Marianas unsafe, and because Singapore possessed the only large dock outside of Japan. Moreover, as they were finding it increasingly difficult to transport oil to their homeland, it was easier and more economical to replenish and refit ships at that base."
“No evidence” - fine. But “the Japanese had indeed no large-scale offensive intentions” is obviously written by a historian with hindsight. Somerville wasn’t so complacent about the threat posed by the Singapore based IJN (Andrew Boyd, p.542 suggests that initially the Americans thought that the Japanese were “contemplating” an IJN sortie into the Indian Ocean).

Rather than “loafing”, Boyd also records that between April and October 1944 the Eastern Fleet conducted ‘eight increasingly ambitious carrier strikes on Southeast Asia targets, two accompanied by shore bombardments by battleships’ and through this experience had, by the end of 1944, become ‘a highly professional force’ capable of conducting ‘complex multi-carrier operations’ at long-range from their base. And, therefore, a valuable British Empire asset for the continuing war in the Far East which was expected to last into 1946. The incompetent fools... :roll:
daveshoup2MD wrote:
02 May 2021 21:02
Presumably, some of those sailors and quite a few of the ships could have been more profitably employed in European waters in 1944.
In your humble opinion? Presumably much of the USN and USMC could have been more profitably employed in European waters in 1944? The prosecution of the war against Japan could have been conducted almost entirely as a blockade on its oil supplies through the the USN submarine offensive and the Eastern Fleet’s raids on the oil refineries of what was the Dutch East Indies. QED. :roll:

Regards

Tom
The except from Roskill is from the Admiralty's own communications to Somerville et al. Try again.

The US Army, of course, didn't have to break up combat divisions in the face of the enemy because of a lack of replacements; the British Army did, hence the title of this thread.

Likewise, the UK was the country being hit by German missiles in 1944-45; one would have presumed protecting London by ABM warfare at the source would have been more important than anything else... that was the point of Germany First.

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by daveshoup2MD » 04 May 2021 04:22

EwenS wrote:
03 May 2021 10:14
daveshoup2MD wrote:
02 May 2021 19:57
Sheldrake wrote:
02 May 2021 09:34
daveshoup2MD wrote:
02 May 2021 04:30
Fewer British troops in 21st AG = more British civilian casualties in the UK. 30,000 civilian casualties and hundreds of thousands left homeless, according to the IWM: https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/the-terr ... 0homeless.

What objective did that achieve for the British, do you think?

Not sure how prestigious that result was to anyone, much les the average Briton; they certainly gave Churchill's government the heave ho fast enough in the July, 1945 election, and by quite the landslide...

As far as the RN goes, the period where having RN personnel manning landing craft (and not RMs) would have been the end of 1943 and the first half of 1944; after the Italians surrendered in 1943, Scharnhorst was sunk, and Tirpitz was turned into a floating POW camp.

Once 21st AG was ashore, the RN landing craft sailors could go back to the fleet. the landing craft tied up, and the RMs could have been used as infantry, not "Special Service" troops.

Since Fraser didn't make it to Australia until December, 1944, and the BPF's first operations as such did not occur until 1945, it is quite clear the available RN personnel could have been used more effectively in 1943-44 than they were, historically/

Allied strategy was defeat Germany first; the RN had an important role to play in that - it just wasn't by preparing for Jutland II with the IJN. The USN had already taken care of that problem.
No one is suggesting that the land contribution to 21 Army Group should have been reduced. Nor is there any evidence that turning the navy into soldiers was going to eliminate the threat of V Weapons. The only opportunity to eliminate the V2 threat was for Op Market Garden to succeed. Logistics prevented more that a single corps deploying.

The idea that the big ships of the RN could be laid up while their crews took a six month sabbatical in landing craft ignores training times for both small craft operation and for working up the big ships. It also removes important units from the gun line of ships offering naval gunfire support.

Prestige mattered to Churchill and those in government that hoped to restore the British Empire, and maintain Britain's top table relationship in the post war world. Churchill lost the 1945 election on domestic matters. The Labour party offered a programme of social reform that was very popular, including the National Health Service which remains very popular to this day.
The British contribution to the 21st AG was reduced in 1944, however; by (conservatively) two infantry divisions, an armored brigade, and a battalion each from two other armored brigades, for a total of some ~25 maneuver battalions - 10 infantry and one RAC in each of 50th and 59th divisions, three RAC in 1st Tank Brigade, and one RAC each from 33rd and 34th tank brigades; given the shifting back and forth from tank to armoured brigade structures, and moving various headquarters and constituent battalions in and out of the armoured engineer role in 79th Division, a specific "count" depends on the date, but it's a fair estimate that because of the poor use of Britain's manpower in 1943-44, roughly a corps equivalent was removed from 21st AG's "British" order of battle by the end of 1944, to be replaced (more or less) in 1945 by GOLDFLAKE (Cdn. I Corps and the British 5th Infantry Division), as well as organizing seven infantry brigades from British Army AA units and the 116th and 117th RM brigades.

In roughly the same period, the British 1st Armoured Division was broken up in Italy, with the loss of (at least) an infantry brigade equivalent, as well as some RAC elements, either disbanded for replacements or converted to armoured engineers.

As far as the rest, who has suggested "turning the navy into soldiers"? Seriously, where does that come from?

As far as using "some" sailors as landing craft crews for the invasion of Europe, and then transferring them back to the fleet, those sort of transfers are exactly what was done with the RMs being discussed, except they were transferred from infantry duties in the RM Division in 101 and 102 brigades in 1943, to landing craft crews in 1944, and then back to infantry duties in 116th and 117th infantry brigades in 1945...
Given your argument that Britain misused its manpower, I thought you would have been delighted at the breakup of 1st Army Tank Brigade, and probably wished it had happened sooner.

It was not your typical tank/armoured Brigade. It was part of 79th Armoured Division’s “Funnies”. In June 1944 two thirds of its strength was in the form of Grant CDL, a vehicle that ultimately very little use was made of in 1944/45 despite so much effort having been expended on its development and construction in both Britain and the US. The result was it became a prime target for re-roling. Some of its gun tanks and crews were passed to other units from Aug 1944 to replace losses.

While the Brigade itself was disbanded, one unit, 11 RTR, was re-equipped with LVT in time to join operations in the Scheldt in Oct/Nov. Another unit, 49th RTR, was reduced to only 2 squadrons (from 3), renamed 49 Armoured Personnel Carrier Regt and given Ram Kangaroos and entered combat in Nov. Only 42 RTR was completely disbanded.

The US Army also had a number of CDL Batts in NWE, which it gradually began to find other uses for from late summer 1944.
Maintaining 1st Tank as an actual armoured brigade presumably would have been even more effective. The British had an entire brigade of RE for the armoured engineer role.

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by daveshoup2MD » 04 May 2021 04:33

EwenS wrote:
03 May 2021 11:36
Be careful to ensure that Churchill’s “loafing” comment is read in context. It was probably one born of frustration at the lack of action regarding his plans for the Indian Ocean that lasted from the Quadrant Conference in Quebec in Aug 1943 until the Octagon Conference, again in Quebec, in Sept 1944 when British eyes moved to the Pacific.

The best read on this period is Willmott’s “Grave of a Dozen Schemes”
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Grave-Dozen-Sc ... oks&sr=1-1

One of the decisions of the Quadrant Conference was for planning to take place for Operation Culverin, an amphibious landing to secure Northern Sumatra as a springboard towards the recapture of Singapore. It was very much one of Churchill’s pet projects of the period. It was pencilled in for Feb 1944 but was a non starter due to lack of amphibious shipping which was needed for Overlord and of course the attempted Japanese invasion of India.

Redeployment of the RN to the IO began in late 1943. Renown, QE, Valiant, Illustrious and the maintenance carrier Unicorn left the U.K. at the end of Dec 1943 and arrived at Trincomalee at the end of Jan 1944. The build up then continued through the year with the next major deployment being Victorious, Indomitable and Howe in June/July.

On 21 Feb 1944 a large part of the Japanese fleet began to arrive in the Singapore area. This was done for two reasons. Firstly its main base at Truk was becoming exposed to US carrier raids as evidenced by Operation Hailstone on 17th Feb. Secondly, it placed the fleet nearer its oil supplies. It remained in the Singapore area until 11 May when it moved forward to Tawi-Tawi, when the threat to the IO receded.

Its arrival at Singapore caused a mild panic in the Eastern Fleet in the short term. By 23 Feb plans were being made by the Chiefs of Staff to counter it. While many options were looked at, three things came out of it. Firstly the transfer of 4 fighter and 4 TBR FAA squadrons in Britain to southern India with loading beginning 26 Feb. They finished unloading in India in mid April. Secondly a request to the US to agree to transfer FNS Richelieu from the Home Fleet to the Eastern Fleet. She sailed mid March and arrived at Trincomalee on 10 April. And thirdly, a request to a US for a carrier to reinforce Illustrious as Britain had none to spare (3 Armoured carriers being in refit at the time, and Indefatigable just about to complete). That request resulted in Saratoga leaving Majuro atoll on 4 March to join the Eastern Fleet on 27 Mar where she remained until 18 May when she returned to the US to refit.

Meanwhile after the initial panic Allied intelligence was able to report that the Japanese move was less of a threat than it could have been, being largely a defensive move on their part. Despite that 3 Japanese cruisers, Tone, Chikuma and Aoba, did sortie from the Singapore area into the IO in March but they only managed to sink a single ship, the Behar. The Eastern Fleet sought unsuccessfully to intercept them.

Between the beginning of 1944 and the end of the war, there were only a couple of months where the RN surface ships and aircraft were not actively engaged in some kind of offensive action against the Japanese in the IO. The subs were in action throughout and had some notable successes including the sinking of the cruiser Kuma in Jan 1944 and the Ashigara in Jun 1945, to add to the Haguro by destroyers in May 1945.

It wasn’t until late 1944 that assault shipping began to be released from European waters to allow amphibious operations in the IO to be carried out.

One final effect of the lack of available LSTs via Lend Lease in late 1943 for IO operations was the design and build of the LST(3) in British and Canadian yards for use in the IO in 1945. This at the expense of other types of both naval and merchant shipping.

It should also be noted that for most of 1944 only two KGV class battleships were in service at any one time due to refits needed to prepare them for service in the Far East. Howe and KGV went first, followed by Anson and DoY later in the year. After Overlord, the RN began to withdraw destroyers and cruisers for refit to be sent east. The first cruiser refits completed in spring/summer 1945 with the ships arriving in Australian waters just as the war was ending.
And so if some or all of Renown, QE, Valiant, Illustrious and Unicorn don't go to the Indian Ocean in Dec. 1943, what of it? Somerville was in East Africa with Ramillies and a trade protection force of cruisers, destroyers, and escorts, and the IJN was working it way towards the debacles of mid-1944 against the USN.

If necessary to wave the flag, send Renown and Illustrious east to have a balanced force in East Africa, send Ramillies home to be laid up, and keep the other capital ships in UK waters until after the major amphibious operations were over in the summer, which frees up as much or as little of the RN to go east as anyone could wish for ... again, the Japanese weren't bombing the UK in 1944-45; the Germans were...

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by daveshoup2MD » 04 May 2021 04:39

Gooner1 wrote:
03 May 2021 12:54
Sheldrake wrote:
01 May 2021 23:21
As ever, you seem to miss the point.

British strategy was in pursuit of British objectives. The British were never going to decommission major warships. Not only were these the symbols of naval power, but they were an important bargaining chip in the context of the Pacific. The British Pacific Fleet was irrelevant to the defeat of Japan, but not to British prestige.
I think it's a fair point that the build-up of the BPF could have waited until after the landings in NWE when personnel could have been released not only fron landing craft duties but also, to an extent, convoy escort duties.
As I have already pointed out, the British only needed enough troops in NW Europe to command a seat at the post war negotiations. No amount of additional troops in 21st Army Group would alter the command roles or outcome.
At then end of September 1944 the British Army had fewer troops in North West Europe (the main front) than it had in the Mediterranean. Would fresher divisions have made a difference for Market Garden? A stronger 1st Canadian Army could probably have liberated the Scheldt unassisted leaving 2nd British Army to continue operations eastwards. Perhaps Operation Veritable launched in December 1944.
Cancelling or reducing the late 1943- early 44 naval reinforcements to the Eastern Fleet means more sailors for the ETO invasion forces, which means more soldiers (and Marines) for the ETO expeditionary forces; combine that with cancelling MARKET-GARDEN, and Antwerp and the Scheldt can be cleared - both of German troops ashore and German obstacles in the maritime approaches to Antwerp - that much sooner. Once Brussels, Antwerp, Paris, Marseilles, and Toulon are in hand, the British could have sent every capital ship they wished to the Indian Ocean ...

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by wwilson » 04 May 2021 05:33

@daveshoup2MD
117th IB (RM) formed Jan. 15, 1945, to 21st AG May 10, 1945;
301st - Jan 15, 1945; 21st AG, May 9, 1945;
303rd - Jan. 22; Norway, June 9, 1945;
304th - Jan. 22; Norway, June 6, 1945;
Yes, I saw those. I did not include those four because they arrived on the continent -after- hostilities had concluded. Thus, they could have no influence on the number of troops that 21st Army Group could put into battle. Those brigades were sent for the purpose of keeping order in the wake of the Reich's collapse.

Cheers

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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by EwenS » 04 May 2021 09:35

daveshoup2MD wrote:
04 May 2021 04:22
EwenS wrote:
03 May 2021 10:14
daveshoup2MD wrote:
02 May 2021 19:57
Sheldrake wrote:
02 May 2021 09:34
daveshoup2MD wrote:
02 May 2021 04:30
Fewer British troops in 21st AG = more British civilian casualties in the UK. 30,000 civilian casualties and hundreds of thousands left homeless, according to the IWM: https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/the-terr ... 0homeless.

What objective did that achieve for the British, do you think?

Not sure how prestigious that result was to anyone, much les the average Briton; they certainly gave Churchill's government the heave ho fast enough in the July, 1945 election, and by quite the landslide...

As far as the RN goes, the period where having RN personnel manning landing craft (and not RMs) would have been the end of 1943 and the first half of 1944; after the Italians surrendered in 1943, Scharnhorst was sunk, and Tirpitz was turned into a floating POW camp.

Once 21st AG was ashore, the RN landing craft sailors could go back to the fleet. the landing craft tied up, and the RMs could have been used as infantry, not "Special Service" troops.

Since Fraser didn't make it to Australia until December, 1944, and the BPF's first operations as such did not occur until 1945, it is quite clear the available RN personnel could have been used more effectively in 1943-44 than they were, historically/

Allied strategy was defeat Germany first; the RN had an important role to play in that - it just wasn't by preparing for Jutland II with the IJN. The USN had already taken care of that problem.
No one is suggesting that the land contribution to 21 Army Group should have been reduced. Nor is there any evidence that turning the navy into soldiers was going to eliminate the threat of V Weapons. The only opportunity to eliminate the V2 threat was for Op Market Garden to succeed. Logistics prevented more that a single corps deploying.

The idea that the big ships of the RN could be laid up while their crews took a six month sabbatical in landing craft ignores training times for both small craft operation and for working up the big ships. It also removes important units from the gun line of ships offering naval gunfire support.

Prestige mattered to Churchill and those in government that hoped to restore the British Empire, and maintain Britain's top table relationship in the post war world. Churchill lost the 1945 election on domestic matters. The Labour party offered a programme of social reform that was very popular, including the National Health Service which remains very popular to this day.
The British contribution to the 21st AG was reduced in 1944, however; by (conservatively) two infantry divisions, an armored brigade, and a battalion each from two other armored brigades, for a total of some ~25 maneuver battalions - 10 infantry and one RAC in each of 50th and 59th divisions, three RAC in 1st Tank Brigade, and one RAC each from 33rd and 34th tank brigades; given the shifting back and forth from tank to armoured brigade structures, and moving various headquarters and constituent battalions in and out of the armoured engineer role in 79th Division, a specific "count" depends on the date, but it's a fair estimate that because of the poor use of Britain's manpower in 1943-44, roughly a corps equivalent was removed from 21st AG's "British" order of battle by the end of 1944, to be replaced (more or less) in 1945 by GOLDFLAKE (Cdn. I Corps and the British 5th Infantry Division), as well as organizing seven infantry brigades from British Army AA units and the 116th and 117th RM brigades.

In roughly the same period, the British 1st Armoured Division was broken up in Italy, with the loss of (at least) an infantry brigade equivalent, as well as some RAC elements, either disbanded for replacements or converted to armoured engineers.

As far as the rest, who has suggested "turning the navy into soldiers"? Seriously, where does that come from?

As far as using "some" sailors as landing craft crews for the invasion of Europe, and then transferring them back to the fleet, those sort of transfers are exactly what was done with the RMs being discussed, except they were transferred from infantry duties in the RM Division in 101 and 102 brigades in 1943, to landing craft crews in 1944, and then back to infantry duties in 116th and 117th infantry brigades in 1945...
Given your argument that Britain misused its manpower, I thought you would have been delighted at the breakup of 1st Army Tank Brigade, and probably wished it had happened sooner.

It was not your typical tank/armoured Brigade. It was part of 79th Armoured Division’s “Funnies”. In June 1944 two thirds of its strength was in the form of Grant CDL, a vehicle that ultimately very little use was made of in 1944/45 despite so much effort having been expended on its development and construction in both Britain and the US. The result was it became a prime target for re-roling. Some of its gun tanks and crews were passed to other units from Aug 1944 to replace losses.

While the Brigade itself was disbanded, one unit, 11 RTR, was re-equipped with LVT in time to join operations in the Scheldt in Oct/Nov. Another unit, 49th RTR, was reduced to only 2 squadrons (from 3), renamed 49 Armoured Personnel Carrier Regt and given Ram Kangaroos and entered combat in Nov. Only 42 RTR was completely disbanded.

The US Army also had a number of CDL Batts in NWE, which it gradually began to find other uses for from late summer 1944.
Maintaining 1st Tank as an actual armoured brigade presumably would have been even more effective. The British had an entire brigade of RE for the armoured engineer role.
Let’s not muddy the waters. The CDL and AVRE were completely different vehicles with totally different purposes.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canal_Defence_Light
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armoure ... _Engineers

Not sure what you mean about “maintaining 1st Tank Brigade as an actual armoured brigade” as the 3 Armoured regiments making it up had been CDL equipped (Matildas then Grants) since 1942 either in the Med with 1st Tank Brigade or in U.K. with 35th Tank Brigade. It hadn’t had any gun tank units so far as I can see since before El Alamein.

Other than the manpower issue, there is also the small problem of finding another 160+ gun tanks for it plus enough to bring those other units that received those it had up to strength.

Incidentally the B squadron 49RTR retained its Grant CDLs and used them at the crossing of the Rhine.

And the US deployed 6 batts of CDLs to Europe in time for D-Day.

Richard Anderson
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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by Richard Anderson » 04 May 2021 16:19

EwenS wrote:
04 May 2021 09:35
And the US deployed 6 batts of CDLs to Europe in time for D-Day.
Minor correction, but it was four actually:

736th Medium Tk (Med Tk) Bn (Special (S)) was at Quarry, Pembrokeshire, departed NYPOE 31 March 1944; arrived in the UK 6 April 1944
738th Med Tk Bn (S) was at Puncheston, Pembrokeshire, departed NYPOE 22 April 1944; arrived Liverpool, England, 30 April 1944
748th Med Tk Bn (S) was at Quarry, Pembrokeshire, departed NYPOE 31 March 1944; arrived in the UK 6 April 1944
701st Med Tk Bn (S) was at Rosebush, Pembrokeshire, departed NYPE 22 April 1944; arrived in the UK 30 April 1944

739th Med Tk Bn (S), departed NYPOE 26 July 1944; arrived in the UK 6 August 1944
740th Med Tk Bn (S), departed NYPOE 26 July 1944; arrived in the UK 6 August 1944
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

EwenS
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Re: British Manpower shortages by the end of WW2

Post by EwenS » 04 May 2021 16:25

Thanks for the correction, and the batt numbers. I don’t think I’d managed to get the full list before.

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