Top 10 British Generals, 1700 – 1945

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This list is specifically limited to the period between the beginning of the Spanish War of Succession and the end of the Second World War, and is restricted to generals who were born in the British Isles.  There are some controversial additions and the ranking is purely my own personal opinion.

10.  Henry Rawlinson – 1st Baron Rawlinson

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Rawlinson is a controversial addition to the list for those who know of him.  He was a First World War General and, above all else, the shadow of one battle hangs over his career – The Somme.  Rawlinson was the general most responsible for planning the battle of the Somme, and it was his army that bore the brunt of the fighting.

Yet despite the failures of the Somme, Rawlinson was a visionary.  It was he who planned and conducted the first night battle by a modern army, and it was Rawlinson who pioneered the idea of Combined Arms Operations.  His victory at Amiens – called “the Black Day of the German Army” by Erich Luddendorf – was the first battle in history where the efforts of infantry was closely supported by mass artillery bombardment, mass cavalry charges, mass armored advance and aerial support.  He showed the future of battlefield tactics and for that he makes my list.

9.  Edmund Allenby – 1st Viscount Allenby

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Allenby is widely regarded as one of the best commanders of the First World War and is certainly remembered as one of the most successful.  He had experience combat in the Boer War, with his Cavalry Column having been engaged in constant combat for two years.  During that war he had learned contempt for the established higher command and, on the Western Front, it was this contempt that saw him replaced by Byng after feuding with Haig despite having distinguished himself in combat.

He was reassigned to the Middle-East and there he would prove his worth.  He quickly gained the respect of the troops of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force by moving his HQ to a position closer to the front, visiting the troops regularly in the frontlines, reorganizing the EEF into an effective Corps system and imposing discipline and professionalism on the whole command.  He gave financial support to T.E. Lawrence’s efforts to unite the Arabs to revolt against the Ottoman Empire.  He showed capability in both strategy and tactics and, much like Rawlinson, he became a pioneer of modern warfare with his victory at Megiddo being considered the precursor of Blitzkrieg.

8.  Herbert Plumer – 1st Viscount Plumer

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Plumer looked the part of a typical First World War British General, with his receding chin and white moustache, yet he was anything but.  Plumer was a man who operated in prudent reality: he did not expect his army to break through the enemy lines and charge to Berlin, nor did he expect his men to be superhuman.  In his detailed plans he planned for only modest goals – keeping in mind the weather and terrain involved and the morale of his men – then trained his men thoroughly for the task he had set them.  “Daddy” Plumer was arguably the finest commander on the Western Front and his victory at Messines was one of the most complete in the entire war.

7.  Douglas Haig – 1st Earl Haig

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Haig is the most controversial addition to the list.  His reputation is a very bad one; he is characterized as a general who sat hundreds of miles behind the front and had a willful disregard for the lives of his men – the Donkey that commanded the Lions.  This is inescapable and there is some truth to it.

However Haig did accomplish a few positive things as well.  While he was not the most familiar with the modern science of warfare and slow to recognize their uses, he did encourage their development and supported subordinates who proved capable of using them.  Under Haig, the British Armies became the most mechanized force in the world.  While others relied more heavily on the outdated cavalry, he embraced the tank, enlarged the artillery and, in the final campaign of the war, oversaw the biggest victory ever achieved by Britain in any war in the Hundred Days Offensive, on a scale of men involved and territory fought in.

6.  Alan Brooke – 1st Viscount Alanbrooke

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Alan Brooke was the premier strategist at the Western Allies’ disposal in Europe in the Second World War.  He had proven himself to be an effective commander of troops when he was commander of the II Corps of the BEF in the Battle of France but he would prove his worth far greater as the Chief of the Imperial General Staff.  As CIGS, he was responsible for deciding what theatre got what in terms of manpower and logistics, and for choosing the commanders of the various theatres and armies.

However, he was sometimes handicapped in this by Winston Churchill’s interference.  Brooke was famed amongst the British high command for his refusal to cave into Churchill’s desires; unless Churchill had an idea that was grounded in sound military thought, Brooke opposed it vehemently.  It was Alanbrooke who insisted that the Mediterranean was cleared for Allied shipping before any invasion of continental Europe took place, it was he who demanded that the Italians be knocked out of the war before an invasion of France took place, and finally it was he who insisted that the northern, cross-channel invasion of France received full support and that nothing be transferred to southern France.

He was constantly at odds with the American High Command – some of whom accused him of lacking aggression – and he clashed with Marshall and Eisenhower over Allied strategy, but nobody for the Western Allies had more influence in how the war in Europe unfolded than Alanbrooke.  With Churchill, he combined to create the most effective higher command of any nation of the war despite the sometimes flawed judgment and the increasing constraints it operated under.

5.  Robert Clive – 1st Baron Clive

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Clive of India, as is his most famous name, was the man most responsible for the conquest of India by the British Empire.  Before he arrived there were localized groups of armed troops defending commercial interests of the European nations, and he received his first taste of warfare in the First Carnatic War.  During that war he was taken ill and had to return to the UK to recuperate.  When he returned to India, the balance of power had shifted firmly in France’s favor. His first action was to take Arcot –the capital of the Canatic region – and hold it for 50 days in a siege against the ruler of the region, the French sympathetic Chanda Sahib.

This made Clive famous and led to the British being able to equalize power between them and the French in the region, an equality that only lasted until Clive’s absence when the French retook power.  In the Seven Years War, he returned to India.  There he retook Calcutta after it had fallen to Siraj Ud Daulah.  He then marched through the middle of the Nawab’s camp to break a siege where the enemy had 40,000 cavalry, 60,000 infantry and 30 cannons.  Meanwhile, Clive had but 540 British Infantry, 600 British Sailors, 800 Sepoys, 14 field guns and no cavalry.  Then he went on to win his decisive and most famous victory at Plassey, which ensured that British presence in India was unassailable.  While undoubtedly a daring and skilled tactician and a competent organizer, perhaps Clive’s greatest strength was his mastery of politics.

4.  William Slim – 1st Viscount Slim

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Bill Slim has been called the greatest commander of the 20th Century.  Unlike his high profile contemporary Montgomery, he was a humble man: self-depreciating and candid in talking about the mistakes he made and the lessons he learnt.  His 14th Army was an amalgamation of British, Australian, New Zealanders, Indian and African troops, yet he fostered a spirit of unity within them that was unequaled by any other army of the war.

He had the oldest equipment of any Allied army, and had to handle the most trying and difficult of logistical operations.  He was inventive with both tactical and strategic operations while not being reckless, and he held down significant numbers of Japanese troops which otherwise could have been used to oppose American operations in New Guinea, the Philippines, Iwo Jimo and Okinawa.  Nobody in the Second World War achieved more with less than William Slim.

3.  Bernard Montgomery – 1st Viscount Montgomery

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Montgomery is another controversial figure of history, with his legacy caught up in nationalistic arguments and his less flamboyant command style overshadowed by the Blitzkriegs of the day.

Monty was a thorough trainer and planner, a high class administrator, and a totally professional soldier and general.  However, he was a very difficult man to know and work with on a personal level; he always thought he was right and rarely compromised, usually having to have compromise forced upon him.  He was, quite simply, a self-obsessed and self-glorifying bully.

The balance between Monty’s professional virtues and personal faults was often difficult to maintain but usually his professional virtues outweighed his personal faults.  He was one of the few commanders to come out of the Battle of France with his reputation enhanced.  He beat Rommel at Alam el Halfa and El Alamein and never looked back.  He only lost one major engagement in the entire war – Market Garden– and played a major role in the successful execution of Overlord and the defeat of the Ardennes Offensive.

2.  Arthur Wellesley – 1st Duke of Wellington

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The Duke of Wellington was outstanding in everything he did.  He never lost a major battle to any opponent, he beat every commander ever sent against him and ruined many of their reputations and, most famously, defeated Napoleon at Waterloo – with help from the Prussians.

His victories at Assaye, Salamanca and Vitoria were as good as any won during the Napoleonic Wars.  His mastery of logistics and forward planning meant that he was never caught out by an enemy and usually picked the field of battle.  His insistence on keeping his army from harassing the local population saved him from having to deal with the problem of partisans.  His ability to maintain good relations with political elements in the UK as well as in Spain and Portugal ensured that he was never undermined for non-military reasons.  His record of success is greater than any other general of his era except Aleksandr Suvorov.

1.  John Churchill – 1st Duke of Marlborough

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The Duke of Marlborough was, by far, the greatest military man of his generation.  He was a ruthlessly ambitious man who was prepared to stoop to almost any level in pursuit of wealth and personal glory.  He had a grasp of both the immediate and wider strategic details, and was a master of maneuver and tactics.  A high class administrator and master logistician, he spent considerable concern on the welfare of his troops and when tested on the field of battle he always prevailed.  His great victories at Blenheim, Oudenarde and Ramilles were as great as any victory ever won on the European Continent and aided a great deal in the increase of Britain’s prestige and influence in Europe.

Written by Martyn Russel


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30 Comments

  1. What a joke. Wellesley won the Peninsular War. He was a genius and without him it would have been lost. He should be number 1. Monty should not even be on this list. Any books and opinions of historians and capable generals describe him as a glory hungry fool. Haig was so awful he should have been shot for war crimes. Either the lister got lazy or there are a shortage of British Generals here.

    • On the issue of Marlborough over Wellington:

      Trust me. There is very little between Wellington and Marlborough. Both were top notch, outstanding generals without whom the war they fought in would have been lost. Choosing Marlborough above Wellington is not a not an insult.

      On Monty:

      Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke – a supremely capable general – called Monty the best tactical general Britain had since Wellington but bemoaned the fact that Monty was completely ignorant of politics and almost incapable of dealing with others of a similar rank.

      American General James Gavin said that the 1st US Army’s staff regarded Monty as both a perculiar man and a highly competant officer and that he himself, despite not agreeing with all of Monty’s methods, believed him a capable commander who he had never lost fondness for.

      Eisenhower said of Monty: “General Montgomery is a very able, dynamic type of army commander. I personally think that the only thing he needs is a strong immediate commander. He loves the limelight but in seeking it, it is possible that he does so only because of the effect upon his own soldiers, who are certainly devoted to him. I have great confidence in him as a combat commander. He is intelligent, a good talker, and has a flare for showmanship.”

      Highly rated American Historian Carlo D’Este wrote: “Overall, historians have been unkind to Montgomery…these judgments are mostly superficial and as often as not, wrong. He had a personality we love to hate and a record of accomplishment few could claim.”

      There is hardly a concensus of Montgomery’s worth amungst historians or even his contemporaries, and given the abrasiveness of his personality it is not exactly clear how much personal animosity influenced the opinions of his contemporaries. The inescapable fact however is that Monty was successful more times that he failed and was a major factor in the successful execution of the Allied campaigns in North Africa and Europe.

      On Haig:

      Read the entries further down by Steven Scot and Lachlan to see that there is a good case to be made for Haig being a great commander.

  2. Great list – speaking as a Brit 🙂

    Haig should not be on here, nor should most of the WWI generals (respectfully).

    I’d swap them all out for the following:

    Orde Wingate – then a Brigadier, who organized the Chindits under Slim’s Burma campaign.

    The Auk – Claude Auchinleck – who really stopped the rot in North Africa in WWII until he got the boot from Churchill, which opened the door to Monty.

    Brian Horrocks – commander of XXX Corps who as a battalion commander covered the Dunkirk rettreat and as corp commander was responsible for commanding ground forces in the ill-fated Market Garden operation – but a very practical, truly human leader who deeply cared for his men and the plight of civilians.

    James Wolfe – who stormed the bluffs of the St Lawrence River to beat Montcalm and the French to take Quebec, kicking the French out of Canada and secured the northern frontier of the fledgling British colonies in America – which is why American readers ne c’est pas ecrire/lire en francais aujourd hui 🙂

    Great post – more please 🙂

    • You couldn’t really advocate Wingate and Horrocks above the men listed for the simple reason that every command in the list was an Army Commander at least while Horrocks only commanded a Corps and Wingate didn’t even manage that. It’s impossible to say that a Corps Commander was better than an army command because the Corps commander didn’t have to deal with the level of responsibility the Army Commander did and the high up in the chain or command you get the more difficult the job becomes.

      Wolfe only really had one independent command and while that was Quebec his part in it gets caught up in the romantic iconography of him dying as he won the battle. And it was arguably Jeffrey Amherst who was the most important British General for the victory in the French and Indian War.

      As for the Auk, he may have had some success in the Desert but he picked poor army commanders – Ritchie in particular was chosen just to be his mouthpiece – and failed to conduct a coordinated defence against Rommel at any stage prior to 1st El Alamein and even 1st El Alamein was muddled affair where much went wrong. He tried to make th 8th Army a mobile army similiar to the Wehrmacht despite it lacking the equipment, training and doctrine to do so and this turn led to the 8th playing Rommel’s game and being drive back to the gates of Cairo. He was not good at communicating his plans or intentions to subordinates or superiors and it is little wonder that he lost the trust of the 8th, Alanbrooke and Churchill when he couldn’t even make his corps and division commanders aware the role they were supposed to play. He never lost the 8th respect as a soldier but he lost their trust as a general.

      • Horrocks and Wingate do qualify – there is nothing that says they had to be army commanders rather than generals.

        Wingate in particular deserves a listing – there was, and still is in some sections, inbuilt prejudice against anything “special” or non conventional in the British Army. Wingate inspired ordinary soldiers, with the benefit of intense training, to go into the Japanese jungle , take them on and beat them.

        No mean feat and without that spirit and model leadership, India may very well have fallen, putting an entirely different blush on the eventual outcome.

        Horrocks was a superb tactical general, hidden by Monty’s shadow in many respects, and he deserves recognition (though I may be stretching it to ask for him to be included).

        I concede on Wolfe, but I take issue with the exclusion of the Auk and your comments. North Africa was poorly supplied, poorly staffed and the Auk did what he could under exceptionally straightened circumstances. He achieved some success which appeared to be a watershed, only to be given the boot because of Churchill’s whimsy. I agree the Auk had his faults, but he had the understanding during Op Crusader to continue the attack – his failure was believing the enemy was defeated and returning command to Ritchie when Afrika Korps were in fact reinforcing (and that was more a failure of intelligence than generalship). It also did not help that the Auk was an Indian Army officer rather than a British Army one, and I do believe there was significant prejudice amongst senior staff officers and politicos who preferred to be armchair generals rather than letting the professionals get on with it (churchill not least).

        • I’m not arguing that Wingate wasn’t a uniquely inspired man who did something very unauthodox to the British system and did it very well but the contribution of his Chindits did not outweight the contribution of the 14th Army, and Bill Slim was far more important to the victory in that theater than Wingate.

          Wingate, by my assesment, falls into the same category as Robert Baden-Powell, and T.E. Lawrence. That is the category of a maverick who achieved significant success in the field by being unathodox and breaking away from the traditional methods of the British military but each of them operated in a vaccum and never had the chance to prove themselves at a higher level.

          Horrocks, If I remember correctly , was recognized by Eisenhower as the best Corps Commander in the Western Allied Army Groups and Monty certainly rated him highly. Eery British General of WW2 is in Monty’s shadow but when one looks past that shadow people do get the credit they deserve.

          The Auk was sacked because he didn’t capitolize on his original successes and was driven back to the gates of Cairo. Furthermore the confusion that reigned in the 8th army, the failure of the Auk stamp his personality upon the 8th, the failure of his hand picked army commanders to do the job and the desperate political situation at home of the need for a decisive victory over the Germans for British morale and prestiege – before the Americans got involved – meant that Auk was far from fired on a whim, and had it just been a whim Alanbrooke would not have allowed it.

          One of the main things Alanbrooke did when he became CIGS was to ignore the prejudices of the old order and promote the most capable men for the job and had the Auk proven himself he would have supported him not matter what but the Auk foolishly told CIGS that the Afrika Korp were hard pressed and being beaten then lost the battle of Gazala and lost Brookies confidence forever. The nail in the Auk’s coffin was the loss of trust from the 8th Army for its commander.

          The Auk did contribute positively to the victory in North Africa but he failed to capitolize on his early successed and keeping him any longer would have invited ruin.

  3. In 1918, the American General John Pershing, remarked that Haig was “the man who won the war”.

    When Haig died in 1928 he was treated as a hero by the British people.

    Haig was the commander of British forces that saw the greatest series of victories in the British army.

    It was only about 40 years after WWI during the 1960s that revisionists rewrote history and attacked Haig.

    Everyone has heard of the phrase “Lions led by donkeys” which was supposedly said by an anonymous German general.

    In fact, Alan Clark made the phrase up entirely when he wrote the book ‘The Donkey’ in 1961. He later in life admitted he just liked the sound of it and had made it up.

    Historians on the other hand however have been robustly defending Haig since the 1980s. However, this has still not entirely reached the public perception of Haig, with his name is still somewhat blackened by 1960s flower power propaganda.

    I am surprised that the author of this article has reflected neither current thinking on Haig nor the perception of Haig during and after WWI.

    Rather Haig is portrayed in the manner revisionists perceived him in the 1960s.

    By the way, Allenby wasn’t moved to the Middle East “after feuding with Haig despite having distinguished himself in combat”.

    In actual fact, while Allenby did distinguish himself in the open spaces of the Middle East, he certainly didn’t do so on the Western Front.

    • The entry on Haig was neither a positive nor a negative position. It recognized that his reputation isn’t good and that that reputation is not wholely undeserved but also regonized that Haig did accomplish significant things in the field and in administration that led to the ultimate victory over the Germans. It was not a detailed assessment but few Top Ten lists are. Perhaps the referance to the “Lions led by Donkeys” phrase threw you but the entry on Haig in this list does not portray him as the “Butcher” that his greatest critics do.

      And if the portrayal of Haig here was, as you put it, the revisionist 1960’s version then he surely would not have been in the list at all because, as your said, Haig’s reputation as a capable commander was destroyed in the 1960’s.

    • “In 1918, the American General John Pershing, remarked that Haig was “the man who won the war”.

      The opinion of Pershing is more than debatable, Ferdinand Foch, the supreme Allied commander, is generally considered the man most responsible for victory by historians (though maybe not by British historians obviously.)

      • Yes Foch may have been Supreme Allied Commander, but, when Pershing made that remark he was refering the Hundred Days Offensive, of which Foch played little part except for giving the plan presented by Haig the go-ahead.

        • “the Hundred Days Offensive, of which Foch played little part except for giving the plan presented by Haig the go-ahead.”

          Claiming Foch played a little part in it is kind of pushing it in a biased way, he was essential for the dynamic of the Allied strategy towards the end of the war.

        • No. Foch played little part in the conduct of Hundred Days Offensive. The Hundred Days Offensive was primarilly an operation conducted by the troops of Britain and its Dominions. The part Foch played in that was to approve it being undertaken, and coordinate it with the operations of the French and American in the Muese-Argonne Offensive to overwhelm the German Line.

          In that respect cetainly Foch’s role was crucial, but he cannot claim the credit due to Haig and the British/Dominion for the operational conduct of their armies during that offensive, which was the point I was making, that Pershing called Haig the man who won the war because of his tactical successes in the Hunded Days Offensive and that Foch played little part in those tacticall successes.

  4. I agree wholeheartedly with Steven Scot’s post. FM Haig has been given a bad deal since the post-WW2 period. He wasn’t a foolproof genius. Who could be ? He was commanding by far the biggest and most diverse British, Dominion and Empire force ever committed to fighting a war until that time, over which he took command in December 1915. Nothing like it had been seen before and there was no formal training for commanding such a large army and its demands. Up to mid-1916, he presided over an army made mainly up of men with no previous military experience and who had to be made battle-ready in a pressingly short time and the eager new men of 1915-16 were not the skilled professionals of 1914.

    Willing but unskilled and not fully trained by mid 1916, Haig’s training period for his new armies was squeezed by the pleas of the French suffering at Verdun. This factor, along with the heavy trench and weapon supplies carried by the assault and follow-up waves plus the promise of a heavily shelled, demoralized enemy, helped contribute to the decision to utilize the disastrous stand-up and walk tactics of 1st July 1916 at the Somme. However, over the months, the Tommies gained experience and improved. The war escalated in unprecedented destructive power and methods of delivering death and new methods of neutralizing any enemy advantage and creating new advantages had to be constantly revised. The war did not stand still and what was tried last time may not work next time. Haig knew that and with his commanders tried again and again to introduce new approaches to battle tactics, techniques and weapons. Some worked and some didn’t, but in the end, the learning curves and evolved training, experience and intelligent use of new weapons all led to the events of 8th August 1918.

    It should also be remembered while the British were criticized for blunders, the enemy was making costly blunders too, such as the staggeringly bloody Verdun offensive and the lacklustre defence of April 1917 at Arras, the latter for which Von Falkenhayn lost his job.

    As for Allenby, I understand that he was re-assigned after his Third Army suffered what was considered exceedingly heavy losses at Arras, after initial gains. Yet he is seen today as the victor of Damascus, which he was. The problem is, Haig was CEO and as it is in any large corporation, lack of success leads to criticism and/or dismissal of the CEO. As it happened, Haig couldn’t be sacked by his biggest critic, the Manchester-Welsh politician Lloyd George, as LG knew he didn’t have anyone better than Haig. As a politican, Lloyd George was not above diverting attention for failures from himself onto others. LG’s with-holding of reinforcements in latter 1917-early 1918 is an example, for which the whistle-blower General Frederick Maurice, was forced to quit his job in a cover-up.

    As to the revisionists of the 1950’s and 1960’s, Britain was in a cold war with the Soviet Union, ban the bomb activism was at its height and in 1964, the 50th anniversary of the Great War was looming. Left-wing figures like AJP Taylor and Joan (Oh ! What A Lovely War) Greenwood had their own agenda, not obviously wanting a terrible war (as if any of us did ?). Inspired possibly by Alan Clark (who was an unorthodox Conservative), their works took a highly critical stance of British generalship of WW1 and the loss of a generation. Some families suffered grievously without a doubt, possibly some through the Pals’ Battalions.

    Strangely enough, I had 7 grandfathers and great uncles who all went to the Western Front – of whom one uncle received the MC with the Royal Warwicks, a granddad and gt uncle were in the 51st Highland Division, a granddad was in the 52nd Lowland Division, a gt uncle was in the 9th Scottish Division, a gt uncle was in the RAMC and another was in the RE’s. All but one returned alive and in one piece from the war. The one gt uncle who was killed died on 3rd May 1917, at Roeux, Arras (3rd Battle of the Scarpe) with the 8th Black Watch, 9th Scottish Division.

    • This is a list about “Generals” not “Admirals”. The two words describe different jobs and are not interchanable. An Admiral could not do the same job as a General nor could a General do the same job as an Admiral, as such you cannot compare Admirals to Generals simply because the skills required for their jobs are almost totally different.

  5. Just one thing about the entry for Slim: there weren’t many Australians and New Zealanders in the 14th Army. In fact no official units IIRC, just some individuals who found themselves serving in (e.g.) the RAF as pilots. You might have seen 14th Army soldiers wearing slouch hats and taken them for antipodeans but they’re most likely British.

  6. About Wellington:
    “His record of success is greater than any other general of his era except Aleksandr Suvorov.”

    I have a problem with this. Napoleon won far more major battles than both of them combined, he did lose battles (always heavily outnumered) but claiming his record is worse than Wellington’s and Suvorov’s is more than debatable.

    Who is the greater general, the one who win 25 out of 25 battles or the one who wins 145 out of 150 battles ?

  7. Funny …………..
    Where is Nelson ?
    That man defeated Napoleon at Abu Gair in Egypt and destroyed him again in Trafalgar ,, wins Copenhagen battle & many Sea’s battles

    • Nelson was an Admiral, not a General. Admiral and General are words which describe two entirely different jobs, and require different skill-sets. They are not interchangable.

  8. The defence of World War 1 generals is just plain wrong. It cannot be disputed that their incompetence and disregard for human life led to unnecessary casualties. The only thing that can be disputed is exactly how many. Was it tens of thousands of young men or hundreds of thousands? This may have been up to 10% of our fighting youth.
    Had the generals been better organised and more caring with regards to our young soldiers casualties would have been reduced significantly.
    Yes I accept that it was a massive unprecedented campaign and yes these generals were probably products of military institution that regarded soldiers as expendable, pawns on a chess board but does that make it right? It certainly doesn’t make them great!!
    I also accept that maybe some of these unfortunate Generals contributed (eventually) to the allied victory but to put laud them as some of our very best? Really?
    A great General must now be measured by his ability to adapt to the theatre of war as it changes through the ages, the ability to keep the men under his control as safe as reasonably possible and ultimately his success in battle (preferably a speedy victory).
    A visionary General may be to much to ask for but don’t insult the brave men who wallowed in mud sometimes up to their knees, soldiers that fought and died gallantly in conditions we can never truly appreciate. While these Generals dined grandly in safety planning and playing at war.
    Just don’t do that. Its wrong.

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  10. Excellent post, and good on you for not avoiding controversy. Appreciate the nods to Allenby and Slim, who often get lost in the shuffle. Though Allenby had the fortune to be placed in a theater where his talents and training (eg. cavalry work) could be put to great use.

    I wrote a Worst British Generals list for Listverse a few years back and got lots of flak for excluding Haig. I wouldn’t put him on my “best” list either, but so many criticisms of him are overblown or originate with Alan Clark’s book. The German generals who stage-managed Verdun, say, don’t get anywhere near the hatred Haig and French endure.

    Your analysis of Monty is very shrewd. I’d rank him good rather than great, if only for his lackluster performance in France in ’44, but you’re absolutely right about his personality causing so many problems. SHAEF was absolutely brimming with ego cases though, Monty was only the most pronounced.

  11. Lauence Robinson on

    I am surprised that EM Dill is not on the list. He was the vital link between the Americians and the British besides being CIGS in 1940a nd 1941.

  12. Lauence Robinson on

    I would put Brooke above Monty. With Brookes support, Monty would not have been in command for very long!

  13. A very good list. Monty should be on he was a great general and your comments about him were spot on. The Americans did not like him because he was right and it is they that have blackened his name.

  14. Arsenal1Again on

    I would definitely rate General Charles Gordon above Monty and Haig.

    Without him we would not have had Hong Kong, or kept intact half our empire. He came out of retirement to evacuate British civillians from Egypt which he did successfully and stayen in Khartoum to protect the local population from Muslim jihadists (yes, it was the same crap then). Parliament demanded he return to Blighty and he refused to leave the people there to face certain death. The Muslims beseiged Khartoum for almost a year and General Charles Gordon repelled these vastly superior numbers all this time. The whole of Britain natiowide was in uproar and demanded parliament send him reinforcements. They arrived just too late. The Muslims killed him, stripped him naked, defiled his body, caeved his head off and plaved it on a spike. To this day there is a shrine to General Gordon maintained in Khartoum. He is a national hero, a great general, had a staue in Tafalgar sqaure as testement to this and …… isn’t on the list? ROFLMAO

  15. Montgomery was very competent in north Africa, but as his reputation increased he lost the plot, and thought he could walk on water and was unbeatable, his planning was very poor in Normandy and Arnhem was a complete disaster, how haig and Rawlinson didn’t get sacked after the battle of the somme is a mystery, and both wer very lucky to have brilliant planners like plumer,monash, curry and byng to regain their reputation in the victories in 1917-18, as they couldn’t plan dinner never mind a major battle. plumer should have been SBO, and monash, curry, byng and horne should have commanded 4 armies. I think Joffre, Allenby, and smith dorrien were very good generals and the worst were nivelle, pershing,French, gough and Rawlinson who would not listen or take advise from anyone.

  16. No where is Lord Roberts mentioned, his turning at Kimberley is one beautiful military movement in history. Earl was one of the greats!

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