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32Bravo
12-04-2007, 04:00 AM
Monte & Slim.

Monte is sometimes over-rated by the layperson and, arguably, under-rated by the informed, but which was the better general? What if roles had been reversed? Would Slim have faired so well in the Western Desert (just a note for the curious minded, that didn’t know this – the Western Desert is so named as it is west of the Nile), or would he have been out-manoeuvred? Would Monte have been able to cope with the scarcity of recourses experienced by Slim in the early days of the Burma Campaign?
I’m sure we all have our opinions, but how about some comparisons to substantiate those opinions?

Rising Sun*
12-04-2007, 05:20 AM
Monte & Slim.

Monte is sometimes over-rated by the layperson and, arguably, under-rated by the informed, but which was the better general? What if roles had been reversed? Would Slim have faired so well in the Western Desert (just a note for the curious minded, that didn’t know this – the Western Desert is so named as it is west of the Nile), or would he have been out-manoeuvred? Would Monte have been able to cope with the scarcity of recourses experienced by Slim in the early days of the Burma Campaign?
I’m sure we all have our opinions, but how about some comparisons to substantiate those opinions?


Monty, unlike Slim, was never Governor-General of Australia nor, as far as I am aware, a candidate for it when our PM wanted someone of great achievement and stature for the post.

Whether not being G-G of Oz is a condemnation or is in favour of a man is a matter of opinion. :D

I suspect that Slim's capacity for fairly objective self-criticism, possibly unduly harsh, as exemplified by his self-criticism over being unduly cautious at Gallabat against the Italians in 1940, demonstrates a capacity that I think Monty lacked.

Slim learnt from his mistakes.

I think Monty tended to have a blinkered self-belief that, like modern politicians and captains of industry, resorts to blaming others when his own actions produced adverse results, as they did in Market Garden which led him to blame others. It’s never convincing when a man is always responsible for successes under his command, but failures are caused by external factors, at least incompetence and often conspiracy by others.

Slim, I think, seemed genuinely to care more for his men, in harsher and worse conditions in every respect than Monty ever faced, although both he and Monty were very good at raising morale by getting around among the troops.

It’s virtually impossible to compare the situations Monty faced in North Africa and Slim in the Far East, although there were similarities.

Both faced previously invincible forces. Both triumphed over them, but Slim had the longer and harder campaign.

The dissimilarities all worked against Slim. He wasn’t facing enemy troops who relied upon sea transport for men and materiel which the Allies could attack, where Monty had the Med on his flank. Monty wasn’t facing Japanese troops who needed to hold Burma to support their actions in China, but pretty much Germans who were there because the Italians had embarked upon one of their magnificently incompetent excursions which drew Germany in, but apart from that it wasn’t strategically critical for Germany to hold North Africa.

Monty benefited from Churchill’s and later the English – US “Germany first” policy, which gave him resources Slim lacked during the early part of the war.

I’m inclined to think that Slim’s self-criticism over Gallabat, where he was fighting in the Sudan and therefore similar to North African warfare, would have made him more adventurous as a commander if he replaced Monty in North Africa. Whether he would have been bolder than Monty is impossible to know. I doubt he would have been less bold, or less able, or less effective.

Putting Monty into Slim’s position would, I suspect, have produced lesser results than Slim did. Monty was more of a politician and more impatient for advancement than Slim. I doubt he would have had the self-effacing determination and stamina Slim displayed in building his forces over several years for the push into Burma.

There are also aspects about the political situations each had to confront which make comparison difficult, notably the Indian nationalist movements which didn’t have a parallel in Monty’s time in North Africa.

Monty also commanded primarily British troops with some useful Commonwealth additions (and, luckily, Australians who were the first to stop the invincible Germans as they were the first to stop the invincible Japanese later, but it would be unseemly to brag :D), where Slim had a mix of British and Indian Army troops with, in the critical campaigns in Burma, Indian National Army brigades on the Japanese side.

I confess that my views are probably biased in favour of Slim as I think he was the better man, possibly the better commander, and free of Monty’s unappealing pettiness and willingness to thrust himself forward in pursuit of his personal military – political ambitions.

P.S. Weather getting a bit cold up there, is it, Sport? More time indoors, with sleet and snow threatening? More inclined to get onto the internet? I'll think of you as I'm cooling off in my swimming pool. :D

32Bravo
12-04-2007, 08:31 AM
I find it interesting that both generals began their 'come-back' campaigns with defensive battles of attrittion, and followed up with the counter-attack. 'Monty' was well placed at El Alamein to hold Rommel, as Slim was at Kohima and Imphal.

According to Slim, his strategy was inspired by the Chinese, who had been succesful using the same methods against the Japanese. Perhaps, the only successful 'Beau Geste' fortress in the Western Desert, was Tobruck, but it was able to be supplied from the sea. The Kohima and Imphal models, would not have been the recipe for success in the desert.

32Bravo
12-04-2007, 08:35 AM
P.S. Weather getting a bit cold up there, is it, Sport? More time indoors, with sleet and snow threatening? More inclined to get onto the internet? I'll think of you as I'm cooling off in my swimming pool. :D

I love the cold and lashing rain. Dartmoor is fabulous in this weather. A good yomp accross the moor, and then a few hot toddies in front of the log fire - life is wonderful!

I had drifted away a little - probably on account of the mist :) - and had to find my way back. That was easy though - I just marched on the sound of the guns!

pdf27
12-04-2007, 08:52 AM
I had drifted away a little - probably on account of the mist :) - and had to find my way back. That was easy though - I just marched on the sound of the guns!
Given that your location is listed as Manchester that's perhaps understandable ;)

32Bravo
12-04-2007, 11:21 AM
Given that your location is listed as Manchester that's perhaps understandable ;)


You’re absolutely right, PD. I popped out for a quick stroll on Saddleworth Moor, the mist came down, and before you could salute, I was having creamed teas at Two Bridges Hotel on Dartmoor – so much for marching on the sound of the guns – those bloody, Marine Shelldrakes…. pain in the arse! 

redcoat
12-19-2007, 06:23 PM
Putting Monty into Slim’s position would, I suspect, have produced lesser results than Slim did. Monty was more of a politician and more impatient for advancement than Slim. I doubt he would have had the self-effacing determination and stamina Slim displayed in building his forces over several years for the push into Burma.
Monty a politician????
Monty was many things, but a politician wasn't one of them.
Monty like Slim was a professional soldier, and Monty remained a soldier until the end of his career. At no time did he seek a political position.

redcoat
12-19-2007, 06:31 PM
Monty also commanded primarily British troops with some useful Commonwealth additions I doubt the US forces under his command during his time in NW Europe as Allied Ground Commander of the Normandy campaign would like to be considered as useful Commonwealth additions ;)

32Bravo
12-20-2007, 04:04 AM
I doubt the US forces under his command during his time in NW Europe as Allied Ground Commander of the Normandy campaign would like to be considered as useful Commonwealth additions ;)

They might not have liked it, but, sometimes, the truth hurts. :)

Rising Sun*
12-20-2007, 04:26 AM
Monty a politician????
Monty was many things, but a politician wasn't one of them.
Monty like Slim was a professional soldier, and Monty remained a soldier until the end of his career. At no time did he seek a political position.

I was using politician in the wide sense, as in office politics, rather than the narrow sense of parliamentary politics.

My point was that Monty was more of a military politician compared with Slim, in the same way that MacArthur was more of a military politician compared with just about every other American commander. Not that I'm putting Monty in Mac's league. I wouldn't insult any British, or probably any other American, commander by equating them with Mac. In the same way that I wouldn't dignify Mac by equating his leadership with commanders like Slim, who did more with less and with a bloody sight less self-promotion.

2nd of foot
01-20-2008, 08:41 AM
The one big advantage that Slim would have would be his ability to work with the septics. To a certain extent Slim was his own boss in hte14th army. In Europe you had a lot of commanders all wanting the lime light and trying to out do each other. Who was the knob who though that being the first to Rome was so important. They were all as bad as each other in that way.

Would Slim have been able to hold a united front and not be part of the one-up-man-ship that went on in NEU.

Slim was certainly an innovator and thinker. He had thought about and planed for air resupply long before the war when at staff college in India.

32Bravo
01-20-2008, 04:12 PM
The one big advantage that Slim would have would be his ability to work with the septics. To a certain extent Slim was his own boss in hte14th army. In Europe you had a lot of commanders all wanting the lime light and trying to out do each other. Who was the knob who though that being the first to Rome was so important. They were all as bad as each other in that way.

Would Slim have been able to hold a united front and not be part of the one-up-man-ship that went on in NEU.

Slim was certainly an innovator and thinker. He had thought about and planed for air resupply long before the war when at staff college in India.


As you have Slim as your Avatar, it's easy to work out where your loyalties lie. :)

A part of his leadership skills was that he was open to ideas of others and was not averse to adapting their methods etc. into his planning and innovation. You mention air re-supply, he also had parachutes made from jute produced to assist in expediting this.

32Bravo
02-07-2008, 03:28 PM
Eventually, Montgomery became 'Monty' to the wider British public. For both sides until then, the most famous genereal in the desert had been Rommel.

Auchinlek had become so concerned about the 'Rommel cult' that he sent out a written order forbidding senior officers to use the R-word when the 'enemy' or the 'Axis Forces' would do. 'There exists a real danger that our friend Rommel is becoming a kind of magician or bogey-man to our troops'.

Montgomery decided to tackle the charisma problem head on. What his soldiers needed, he decided, was "not only a master but a mascot. The Eighth Army consisted in the main of uniformed civilians, not professional soldiers (he would recall). And they were, of course, to a man, civilians who read newspapers. It seemed to me that to command such men demanded not only a guiding mind but a point of focus....And I deliberately set out fulfilling this second requirement. It helped, I felt sure, for them to recognize as a person...the man who was putting them into battle."