Sir General Miles Dempsey and Operation Goodwood

Discussion in 'Higher Formations' started by Drew5233, Nov 13, 2014.

  1. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    From CAB 106/1061

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  2. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

  3. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

  4. Rob Dickers

    Rob Dickers 10th MEDIUM REGT RA

    Don't know about the 25pdr 'Field' stuff, but he had plenty of 'Corps' Artillery at his disposal, but it was in the wrong place & out of range, except for the (4). 7.2 Heavy Btys & they were struggling to range & shoot.


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  5. Swiper

    Swiper Resident Sospan

    Interesting, you can see the problems emerging with the narrative on Goodwood from Liddel Hart's questions. By focusing on Goodwood in the way he does, he isolates it from the general continuation of British strategy...

  6. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

    Really excellent find and reading, Andy. It puts a lot of the criticisms of Goodward firmly into the 'dustbin'.

    Thanks for posting!


  7. Nijmegen

    Nijmegen Member

  8. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place....

    Thanks for this. The problem with an attack from the Orne bridgehead was always going to be artillery range. The Germans cunningly deployed in sufficient depth to ensure that their final line of defence was out of range.

    For the next 21 AG big push in this area Simmonds uses strategic bomber at night for close air support, followed by a phase 2 to hit well beyond artillery range towards Falaise. The fact that Totalize too does not deliver everything wshed does not diminish the achievement or tactical innovation.

    What is evident is that at the higher levels strategy in a democracy is not just about winning the war but selling the war in the right way. The debate about "Failure" at Caen is predicated on a view that war is about capturing territory rather than defeating an enemy.

    It is possible that Dempsey has been selective in his memory to protect Montgomery's reputation. But what purpose would this serve? He (or his widow) burned his own papers so we will never know. I suspect that he was a man of integrity and duty and his classified interview was probably his truthful interpretation. .
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  9. Pak75

    Pak75 Member

    Andy's determined to start a bonfire somewhere.... :)

    Dempsey was 'a man of integrity and duty' but was also extremely loyal to Montgomery, to the point of being subservient to him in NWE campaign.

    Dempsey to Lewin -" ... I will do anything I can to help you establish his (Monty's) genius as a commander in the field."
    See S Hart p128 Colossal Cracks

    The originals of LH's notes have been colour coded in places by Dempsey to highlight items that Dempsey did not want published, eg 12) Montgomery's reticence to Eisenhower, so Dempsey was very cautious in what he said post war (see LHCMA).

    RA plan doc very interesting - it has map references for Soliers, Four, Bourguebus and Hubert Folie on it as being 'on call.' Accounts often say advance of armoured divisions took them beyond AGRA range so why would they have these on the plan as 'on call'? I am not an artillery expert but I understand 4.5 in and 5.5 in guns had a range of at least 10 miles so could be reached from rear areas to north of Caen such as Bieville. Perhaps lack of support was more to do with FOOs being early casualties in the advance as pre-registration was forbidden by orders, rather than out of range?

    As the Allied bridgehead had been effectively contained by the Germans, the campaign thought to be close to stagnating by some and Montgomery being close to being dismissed, Goodwood was very much about territory - territory that included S. Caen (an untaken D-day objective) and room for airfields to be constructed to support further operations. It was because of the small beachhead that the term 'break-out' came to be applied in describing Goodwood and later operations. Whether that territory included SW Caen plain to Vimont and Falaise is a whole new thread.....
  10. idler

    idler GeneralList

    According to SHAEF, the Allies were effectively contained by the French at Torres Vedras...
  11. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

    Interesting viewpoint, Pak75.

    Regardless of pre-battle plans and preparations, once the first bullet is fired nothing goes to plan. A commander of battle then has to be flexible, amending plans in order to maintain the initiative, using available assets to optimise the chances of success, whilst fixing the enemy and inflicting irreversible damage on him... The Allied Armies in Normandy (all led by Monty until 1 September 1944) did all of that and more.

    I leave an overview of what the British, Canadian and US Armies achieved in Normandy to Professor Terry Copp, the very well respected Canadian military historian.

    That's what I call delivery/success; 'so what' if some plans didn't work as well as first wished for.


  12. Pak75

    Pak75 Member

    Thanks Steve Mac

    Certainly no-one can dispute the end result and as Montgomery was CinC he deserves the credit for the final victory. However the route taken to achieve this victory is certainly open to question with several battles that didn't go according to plan and a few missed opportunities, Goodwood being one such controversy and the topic of this thread.

    Dempsey seems to have modified his expressed views after the war.
    In a 1946 interview with Chester Wilmot, Dempsey:
    The attack we put in on the 18th July was not a very good operation of war tactically, but strategically it was a great success, even though we did get a bloody nose. (See in LHCMA and d'Este p387)

    By 1951 to LH
    Dempsey thought the operation highly successful (as above)

    Hopefully some of the gunners can answer my question about the corps artillery.


  13. m kenny

    m kenny Senior Member

    Monty's route to victory may be 'open to question' to some but by and large those people generaly have an over-inflated view of the German military. At the end of the day these people are doing no more than try to salvage some honour for the comprehensively defeated German army by claiming that they should have been beaten sooner and more comprehensively. I call them the German "didn't they do well'ers"
    Minor strategic details like the rout of the Germans and the clearing of most of France in under 3 months do not figure large in this universe. There have more important things to think about like 'did the Allies fight fairly' or 'German General X could have done that with half the men in a third of the time and with a tenth of the casualties'. All questions as to the style of victory are presented in a manner that gives advantage to the German method of warfare and woe betide any General who refuses to fight a battle in way the Germans can easily repulse . That simply is not acceptable. In short these naysayers would not be content with anything less than a full capitulation of Rommel on June 10th.
  14. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place....


    Not all of the On call targets might have been in range for all of the fire units. At least some were as, throughout the afternoon of the 18th, the CRA 11 Armd Div ordered Mike targets on several villages including Cagny (BUCCANEER) on the target list. Some units might need to move to be able to engage them.

    65 Med were ordered forwards but were not readyin their new positions until 0400 on the 19th.

    Re Dempsey, i am not sure that the distinction between loyalty and subservience is anything other than a critical comment by those disagree with his loyalty!. Montgomery was a dominant force in the land battle and had forceful ways of dealing with subordinates who bellyached or dissented from his "Master plan." Of course Dempsey had his job because he did as he was told. He also said that he believed in Monty's genius.

    He was well aware of the politics, particularly by the aviatiors who resisted calls for strategic bombers to be diverted to support the land battle. There was an institutional incentive to present Op Charnwood and Goodwood as failures. It seems clear from the documents that Montgomery over promised in order to get the resources for Goodwood and that Monty seems to have carried the can for this risking his reputation for what he believed was tactgically necessary.

    Dempsey was well aware of the need for an attritional battle against the Germans. That was firmly within the April concept for battle. The decision about whether the allies would gain ground was not wholly in the allies gift. The Germans had a say. They decided where they would dispose their troops and whether they woudl trade ground for casualties. The Germans decided that Caen was the vital sector and maintained strong defences in that sector at the expense of the area West of st lo. Op Cobra and Goodwood were similar in concept. Had Cobra Been called off at the end of the 1st day it would have been judged a failure. Had the German defences been transposed Op Goodwood would have been the breakout.

    Dempsey was doing more than being loyal to his boss. He was protecting the reputation of the British army,, which had been under attack since the end of the War.
  15. Pak75

    Pak75 Member

    A cursory glance at a Caen map would seem to indicate that as all artillery was West of Orne, if Cagny could be engaged, so could Soliers, Four, Bras and Ifs, maybe even Bourgubus. Does anyone have the battery locations?

    Re Dempsey, Dempsey's subservience seems to have gone beyond that of a junior officer. S Hart makes the points that Montgomery bypassed Dempsey on numerous occasions to talk to Corps commanders and interfered in staff replacements. Hart also reminds us that Dempsey had not commanded an army before and thus worked very closely with Monty. To be fair, we have few records of the man and Dempsey undoubtedly made a large contribution to Normandy campaign in planning Goodwood and Bluecoat.

    No-one one is above criticism and there are many instances in Normandy where outcomes did not match intentions or claims and many Allied soldiers were killed or wounded, perhaps unnecessarily. To be able to discuss these I thought was a function of this forum, WW2talk. To make out that critics of the performance of Montgomery and co are generally 'Didn't they do well-ers' doesn't add much to the discussion. Goodwood was controversial, if for nothing else than Montgomery's communications to Brooke during the battle and subsequent press releases.

    Back to Dempsey:
    Dempsey claims that Goodwood was a success because it used tanks and saved the lives of the infantry. In fact, MORU Goodwood report has Goodwood casualties of 4011 men, while 21 AG WD has 5537 men lost in same period which is min 9% max 12% of all casualties incurred to date in Normandy which is hardly casualty conservation at a time when manpower was major problem! Dempsey's statement also ignored the fact that for every tank knocked out, statistically one man was killed and another wounded.
  16. Rob Dickers

    Rob Dickers 10th MEDIUM REGT RA

    I have looked at the diaries of; 8AGRA, 9AGRA & of the 107 Med,146 Med, 53 Hvy. Which were all ordered forward, but were unable to do so untill the 19th.July,
    61 Med, 63 Med, 77 Med were also having trouble shooting on their 'Yoke' Targets.
    5 + 16 Hvy 155mm Btys from 9AGRAs,1st Hvy Regt, were attached & placed 'on call'.
    Don't know about the 25th A/Field.

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  17. m kenny

    m kenny Senior Member

    Outcomes do not match intentions or claims for many generals and armies in Normandy. However many seem to concentrate their carping on one general in particular. For decades there has been an isidious and insulting way of disparaging Montgomery and the Commonwealth forces in Normandy and if I upset those making the criticism them I say now you know how it feels.
    For example could you be so good as to critique the German SS counter-attack delivered whilst EPSOM was in progress?
    Do you consider it 'matched intentions'?
    Could you give an overview of its progress and could you compare how this German attack would have fared if it was planned and carried out by Montgomery. Use British methods of warfare as the yardstick and see how far the Germans fell short of it. The mirror image of how every British action is judged by what the Germans would have done.
  18. m kenny

    m kenny Senior Member

    Whilst this was true for the war in General for GOODWOOD the numbers were significantly lower. A good number of tank crew casualties were caused by the Luftwaffe night bombing hitting an 'unhorsed' crew collection area but still the total losses were 413 tanks & 449 casualties. 117 KIA 281 WIA 51 MIA.
    Accounts claiming GOODWOOD was the 'Death Ride' of the Armoured Divisions are hopelessly innacurate.

    The final tally of destroyed tanks is unclear but the numbers would be c.150-200. Within a week all 3 Armoured Divisions were back up to more or less strength with only 11th showing around a 22 gun tank tank and 16 Stuart deficit from 38 on 17th July. The Stuart shrinkage seems to be deliberate because 11th never had more than 30 on strength from then on (for only 3 days) whilst the norm was <23.
  19. Pak75

    Pak75 Member

    Thanks Rob

    Much appreciated. Are you able to verify RA regiment locations at all for Goodwood?

    Re Epsom
    Not sure this is on topic but off the top of my head, the German counterattack was characterised by rapid deployment off the march, poor infantry/ tank co-ordination, poor co-ordination generally and the healthy intervention of the 2nd Tactical Air force. Von Schweppenburg was also critical of the chosen axes of attack but at this point both Rommel and von Rundstedt were meeting Hitler in Germany, and Army Group B command was in chaos. The German commanders are open to as much criticism as the Allied, but this is Dempsey/Goodwood thread.
  20. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place....

    Sorry, but if subservience means "putting up with your boss micromanaging and occasionally by passing you" then I think Dempsey is far from alone in the civilian as well as the military worlds!
    Certainly almost every German officer who served under Rommel would have been familiar with him issuing orders by passing the chain of command and contradicting previous orders. That is judgement on the boss not the subordinate. If the boss gets it deadfully wrong then there is a duty to say soi, but there isn't a Caine mutiny moment in NWE in 1944-45 between the Army and Army Group. Montgomery's faut pas are in the PR and personal relationships sphere.

    .Montgomery regarded dissent with his views "bellyaching" and a route to a desk elsewhere. I donlt think Monty may have always been the easiest person to work for. I think that must have put Dempsey in a difficult position, but no more "subservient" than anyone else.

    I agree that op Goodwood still incurred heavy infantry losses, mainly by the flanking attacks by 3rd Infantry and the Canadian 2nd and 3rd Divisions. .But the casualties would have been even higher had they employed more infantry in the central thrust - as 2nd Candian Division incurred over the following two weeks.

    Op Goodwood removed one German infantry division from the Order of Battle. The remnants of the 16th Luftwaffe Division's infantry were used to reinforce the 21st Panzer Division. .

    What Dempsey and Montgomery's critics fail to offer is an alternative to Op Goodwood. Doing nothing was not an option. The British had to launch some form of major attack to keep the German reserves on their sector.

    As a concept of operations it would have worked on a weaker enemy. A very similar operation worked jolly well for Bradley. Even then Op Cobra looked like failure until day 2. . There were indeed problems with the execution. Three weeks later Op Totalise made provision to bring lots more infantry forward in APCs.

    PS re artillery targets: CRA Guards Armoured Division was not using the artillery to engage "Four, Bras and Ifs, maybe even Bourgubus" Instead he but CRA ordered a series of Mike targets, on Cagny, Hameau de Francqueville, Vimont, Chicheboville and Frenouville, answered by 8 AGRA, 153 Fd and 51 Hy Regts.

    On the 11 Armoured Division front the fire was mainly DFs to break up German counterattacks. 13 RHA were pushed forwards in support of 11 Armoured Division to provide close support for their armour..

    If you plot the number of villages and the number of batteries in range, I suspect there is a shortfall - hence the use of bombers to provide fa fireplan for phase 2 of Op Totalize..

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