Tedder Memoirs

Discussion in 'Historiography' started by Tom OBrien, May 25, 2020.

  1. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    I've been reading back through my notes of Tedder's With Prejudice and am astounded with his cavalier attitude in places to historical reality. It must have been controversial when first published in 1966. A couple of examples:

    [Tedder telegram to Sir Archibald Sinclair (S of S for Air) of 12 Feb 42 in reply to UK press “half-baked criticism of the RAF”, with Auchinleck’s consent.]

    'You should know that the R.A.F. in the desert realise that they have saved the Army, both in the recent advance and in the withdrawal, and naturally resent any suggestion that the Army should control them.
    The R.A.F. have on this occasion given the Army, at great sacrifice, all the air support and protection they required. The German Air Force has interfered little with Army operations. Yet the Army continues to withdraw; therefore, the R.A.F. crews are perplexed and feel that their efforts have been wasted.’


    [Battle of Alamein]
    ‘In the last weeks of October [42], when our progress was slow, it was the efforts of British and American bombers which broke up an enemy counter-attack on Kidney Ridge before our land forces were engaged.’

    Amongst the exaggerated statements of the effectiveness of RAF operations, he does however raise several good points that made air support harder to provide to the Army in the desert:

    [After Tedder visit to Alamein line in early July 42]

    ‘I felt from these experiences that the working of what was known as air support was still far from satisfactory. Army support and co-operation were still lacking to a deplorable extent. Coningham had been obliged to rely almost entirely on his own sources of information in order to give effective support. The Army still seemed to be incapable of knowing the positions and movements of their own forces…’

    [Letter to Portal, 12 Jul 42]:

    ‘The complacency with which the Army Staff have frequently said that they really did not have any idea where our advanced forces were, has been at times quite infuriating.’

    Much more controversial was Tedder's influence on Eisenhower during the battle of Normandy, I'll post up a few of his comments over the next couple of days.

    Does anyone know if Tedder's papers (diaries, journal, letters, etc) have been published?


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  2. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    You can't see that he didn't warn us with the title!

    In early July around Alamein?

    Every possibility that some formations had lost track of the precise locations and numbers of some of their forces--they had just retreated in considerable disarray--but 'the Army' and 'still' seem embellishments (as if this was the prevailing situation across the whole branch up to this point and not a temporary aberration).

    I've never seen them, and I spend a disproportionate amount of time looking for such publications.

    If they have, it will have been an 'in service' RAF publication and nothing public.
    Last edited: May 25, 2020
  3. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    By the way, Tom, as a companion to this, there's a sixteen-page chapter covering Tedder's Correspondence with Portal in the following biography:

    Portal of Hungerford: The Life of Marshal of the Royal Air Force Viscount Portal of Hungerford KG, GCB, OM, DSO, MC by Denis Richards.

    Message me your email address if you need a copy.
  4. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian Patron

    Given the friction between Tedder and Raymond Collishaw I would not be surprised if Tedder took the credit for methods worked out by Collishaw or if he misrepresented what the air force were doing before he arrived.
  5. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Citing Charley in part:
    Well here is one RAF published paper (15k words) in 2014: 'Me, myself and I: How important were personality,ego and personal relationships to British Air Land Integration in the Western Desert and Normandy?'. The Abstract states:
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  6. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    If I remember correctly Prof Peter Grey, former Director of Defence Studies for the RAF when covering the historiography and sources for the Air War section of Wolverhampton's Second World War Studies MA, mentioned that there was very little in the way of Tedder archive material.
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  7. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    In 1995 a RAF Museum seminar on 'Air Leadership in War....' has a chapter and the introduction states:
    The author starts with:

    Vincent Orange published in 2004, paperback in 2006 under the title 'Tedder: Quietly in Command'. See: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tedder-Quietly-Command-Studies-Power/dp/071464367X Here is an American review: Project MUSE - Tedder: Quality in Command (review)
  8. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Last edited: May 25, 2020
  9. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    Firstly, many thanks to Charley for his kindness in sending over some Tedder related "stuff" - much appreciated.

    I've continued to look through my previous notes and found this section about Normandy which, given more recent studies is demonstrably false in facts and illustrates to what extent Tedder sought to undermine Montgomery's leadership of the campaign in Normandy. My additions in bold:

    ‘On 20 July, I spoke to Portal about the Army’s failure [to gain ground east of Orne during Goodwood for airfield construction]. We were agreed in regarding Montgomery as the cause.’ [not the Germans then clearly!]

    ‘According to the diary of Eisenhower’s aide, Captain Butcher, I told the Supreme Commander on the evening of 19th July that Montgomery had, in effect, stopped his armour from going farther … [Again, a travesty of the truth, and a demonstration of Tedder's priority at this time]
    I had a shrewd idea that Bradley had been urging Eisenhower, now that it was clear there was going to be no breakthrough on the British front, to plan a breakthrough on the western flank.’ [A travesty of the plans that Montgomery had laid out and which (if bad weather hadn't interfered) would have seen Goodwood go in on 18 July and Cobra on 19 July]

    [Tedder letter to Eisenhower of 23 July]

    ‘On the eastern flank, despite our overwhelming superiority, we were apparently unable to exploit our advantage, and now, more than six weeks after the landing, one of our beaches, and the only port of any size, is still under enemy shell fire. I cannot forget, either, that one of the original objects underlying the selection of the point of attack was the seizure of the good airfield ground South-east as well as North-west of Caen, that the Airfield programme should have been completed by D plus 40, is still only half complete, and some of the airfields are still under shell-fire. These are no grounds for satisfaction. [all true and a fair statement of the facts]

    ‘It is clear that in the recent operation to the South of Caen, there was no intention to make that operation the decisive one which you so clearly indicated as necessary in your letters and signals to General Montgomery. [Which begs so many questions - especially of Tedder's understanding of the actual situation in Normandy] An overwhelming air bombardment opened the door, but there was no immediate determined deep penetration while the door remained open, and we are now little beyond the furthest bomb craters.’ [Again, I would have liked to see what the reaction of the tankies of 11 Armoured Division would have felt if told that they attempts had not been "determined" enough.]

    ‘In the new directive issued by Montgomery, I saw a return to the previous plan…’

    “…the enemy must be lead to believe that we are contemplating a major advance towards Falaise and Argentan, and he must be induced to build up his main strength to the East of the River Orne, so that our affairs on the Western flank can proceed with greater speed.”

    ‘I told Eisenhower that I had no faith in such a plan.’ [Hmmm, the plan that just days later led to the total defeat of German forces in Normandy and led to a series of rather successful operations which left the Allied armies on the borders of Germany just weeks later. I wonder if Tedder ever apologised to Montgomery for his lack of faith!]

    Given the extent to which Tedder clearly undermined Montgomery, it is perhaps not surprising that determined attempts were made to peddle the line that Bradley broke out because Montgomery failed. It is sad, though, that even today such tosh is still repeated.



    [descending from his soapbox!]
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  10. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Nigel Hamilton judged Tedder's behaviour to have been 'reprehensible' and I recall one author describing him as 'dripping poison' into Eisenhower's ear.

    I wonder what de Guingand has to say? I've a lot of time for him, but my copy of Generals at War went missing in the post! I'll check Operation Victory tomorrow, but that's the less gossipy account.
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  11. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    Apologies, but I've got to the point where Tedder describes the requests by First Canadian Army for heavy bomber support for operations to clear Scheldt, and have suffered another "I don't bloody believe it" moment - perhaps it's an age thing? Again my ranting in bold!

    [Tedder letter to Portal, 25 October 1944]

    ‘As you are aware, the British Army have for months now been allowed to feel that they can, at any time, call on heavy bomber effort, and it will be laid on practically without question.

    We are now, I am afraid, beginning to see the results in precisely that demoralisation of which you speak. [It would be very interesting to see Portal's remarks to which Tedder refers. I would suspect that the heavy casualties, the increasingly desperate fighting and the realisation that the Allies faced a long, hard winter slogging against a resilient enemy had more impact on the morale of the humble foot soldier at this point] The repeated calls by the Canadian Army for heavy bomber effort to deal with a part-worn battery on Walcheren, and the evacuation of Breskens because of intermittent harassing fire from this battery, is in my opinion only too clear an example. [I wonder if Tedder reconsidered his remarks on that "part-worn battery" in the light of the heavy casualties to the Royal Navy supporting squadron and to the First Canadian Army more broadly] It is going to be extremely difficult to get things back on to a proper footing. You can see the argument, ie Antwerp is vital, Antwerp cannot be used without Walcheren, Walcheren is vital, every possible effort must be directed towards Walcheren, therefore Bomber Command should continue bombs into the mud. [Well SHAEF were telling 21 Army Group that Antwerp was vital!]

    I am doing my best to get things straight, but I am sure you will realise that the Army having been drugged with bombs, it is going to be a difficult process to cure the drug addicts – particularly since the troops are undoubtedly getting pretty tired.’ [I do wonder how much effort Tedder went (as Eisenhower's supposed "deputy" commander) to visit front-line army units of any nationality]


  12. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    De Guingand says--in essence--that both Tedder and Eisenhower were both sweetness and light whenever they discussed Monty with him and that it was clear to all that Eisenhower was having problems with the U.S. press that would have been alleviated if the ground battle could move faster.

    Which makes me think that Tedder was likely being very two-faced.
  13. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Kay Summersby wrote in her diary: 'Letter from Tedder, greatly concerned regarding lack of progress on land front. . . . Tedder believes Monty is making a grave error in continuing to make only limited attacks on British fronts while professing to be seeking decisive results on American fronts. Tedder has written several letters on same subject.' The word professing was an indication of how low American esteem for Montgomery had fallen. But Eisenhower refused to be harried into premature criticism of the British commander. Years later, re-reading Tedder's intemperate letters shrieking for Montgomery's dismissal, Eisenhower would comment: 'From June PM onward I'd say that my most valued operational adviser was Bradley. Tedder's impatience was understandable, but his advice was often wide of the mark.' Omar Bradley, who well knew the grand strategy underlying Montgomery's operations, approved them - but kept quiet.

    The War Between The Generals
    by David Irving.
    Free here with all the usual caveats concerning the author:
    David Irving - The War Between the Generals
    Last edited: May 28, 2020
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  14. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

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