Eighth and First Army friction

Discussion in 'Higher Formations' started by Chris C, Sep 29, 2018.

  1. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Yeah, they sound vaguely familiar.

  2. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

    None that I am aware of. There are some ‘names’ I recognise but they did not serve in NW Europe.
  3. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Interestingly, I've just read in Hamilton's biography of Monty that Alexander's original suggestion was to dispatch Freyberg to oversea the final push in Tunisia, but Monty (in person) talked him out of it, arguing (I paraphrase) that he was a good man but, when it came down to it, not that bright and that Horrocks was a better choice.

    One wonders whether the initial choice might have ruffled fewer feathers.
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  4. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    How's this for a pithy summing up?

    P7900445 copy.JPG

    Penned by Lieut-Gen Sir Francis Tuker, former commander of 4th Ind Div, which was transferred from 8th to 4th Army for the end in Africa.

    CAB 140-145: Lt-Gen Tuker on Mediterranean and Middle East, Vol 4 Feb 1959-Oct 1961
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  5. HAARA

    HAARA Well-Known Member

    " Sicily looked like a long grey line on the horizon shimmering in the heat. As we got nearer we could make out clusters of white faced houses against the brown and olive of the countryside. Syracuse loomed with its appearance as a fortified port standing serenely above the clear bluey grey of our smooth sea. The quayside was colourful with a line of orange trees and coloured clothes. The quay was busy. Heavy vehicles darting too and fro loaded with wooden crates or crammed with troops. We had to wait our turn and we stood looking at this activity, so like Algiers in its earnestness and bustle, yet so different. There were many of the Eighth Army there too, the people we’d always wanted to meet. Their dress seemed so different somehow, and their manner too, very hail fellow well met. We had come from England but a short while before, straight from a period of intense training – or so it seemed compared with them. Our training was still fresh in our souls, and as part of it only issue clothing was worn. With the 8th we saw many variations never before dreamed of by us. Coloured silk scarves, shirts of blue, grey, and all shades of khaki – tailored trousers and tropical jackets and sun faded peak caps. The old desert boots caught our eyes, a bright ginger suede affair turning down at the ankles. We were impressed because it seemed so naughty and daring to us. Rather as if we were witnessing a fashion parade. We’d seen nothing like this before, and we secretly hoped we’d be allowed to “get away with it”. One or two tried but had their knuckles rapped and we were told that we’d not to go “gor blimey” till we’d been blooded. As Colonel Smith, our Commanding Officer, said, we had to set an example to the population of how smart the British Tommy was. I have wondered if he too would have like to branch out as the 8th did. He loved his red and blue “fore and aft” hat, and carried brightly coloured silk handkerchiefs always, though he did not wear them."

    Extract from "Ever your own, Johnnie, Sicily and Italy 1943-45"
  6. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    A much respected General it's true but not quite sure that he would be in the best position to judge the performance of the 1st Army during the November 1942 to March 1943 period.
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  7. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles


    And I'm not saying it's my own view either.

    There's a lot more in that file, incidentally, but it's most handwritten and hard to decipher. I'll get back to you with it when I retire!
  8. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian researcher

    That is a wonderful account to go along with that comic of "the Two Types" talking about official uniforms :)
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  9. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    I'd have liked to hear him say that in front of the Argylls who had taken Longstop.
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  10. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    An unworthy statement indeed...I'm "sure" he had his reasons.... a few of my Dad's mates from Belfast, Derry, Omagh, Dublin and Cork, as well as London, Glasgow and Cardiff. might well have had a word too, hundreds of these men lie at rest in the cemeteries of Tunisia.

    We should, of course, be remembering with respect all the men who broke the German defensive lines right across the Djebels north and east of Medjez in April 1943.

    The hardy 1st Army lads, brushed themselves down and fought on..all the way from Syracuse to Austria.
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2019
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  11. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Here's another perspective on the rivalary.

    SmartSelect_20190303-224138_Gallery.jpg SmartSelect_20190303-224056_Gallery.jpg

    From: The Last Great Cavalryman: The Life of General Sir Richard McCreery. Commander Eighth Army by Richard Mead.
  12. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

  13. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    I don't wish to denigrate Francis Tuker. He was a sharp observer and a good commander. He was also outspoken and he was sometimes wrong. He once referred to the Lee-Enfield as "a club of a rifle," when it was actually one of the two best rifles in general use in WWII (the M1 Garand was the other). Like some others, he had his share of 8th Army parochialism. That said, it is true that 1st Army had a lot to learn when it arrived in Tunisia and it went through a very costly and painful learning period. I read Blaxland's book on the campaign long ago and the early chapters are a depressing tale of one failure or frustration after another. This is a little surprising in the light of the fact that three of 1st Army's five divisions (1st, 4th, 46th) had already seen action in 1940, as had many of the component units of 6th Armoured and 78th. I haven't read any detailed studies on the question but it would seem that training in the UK had failed to keep either the commanders or the troops sufficiently sharp in the two and a half years between campaigns. There is a good book (can't recall title or author) on British military training during the war, and assimilating and disseminating lessons learned from the forces overseas to those in Britain was often a problem. This was not peculiar to 1st Army, of course. The divisions of 8th Army had all gone through similar hard times and difficult adjustments after they reached the Western Desert, and later on those divisions did not always find it easy to adjust to the more difficult and constricted terrain and higher defensive densities of Tunisia, Italy, and NW Europe. 8th Army's April and May attacks (56th Div, 2nd NZ) got nowhere and had to be shut down. Three 8th Army divisions played important roles in 1st Army's final drive, but the remainder of the attacking force in VULCAN-STRIKE consisted of the same 1st Army outfits which had fought all the hard, unglamorous, but very necessary attritional battles for control of the jebels in the weeks prior to the offensive. Both the US II Corps and French XIX Corps underwent costly baptisms in Tunisia at the same as the 1st Army, and it should be noted that all three forces had overcome their most significant problems by the closing weeks of the campaign. For all four Allied forces, Tunisia was the school of the soldier.
  14. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Well-Known Member


    I think the book you cannot remember is 'Military Training in the British Army, 1940-1944: From Dunkirk to D-Day' by Timothy Harrison Place (Pub. in paperback in 2000). Read it in hardback long ago from a specialist London library.

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