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Friday, 17 February 2012


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I think you are onto something here; the German office does seem to have seen himself far more as a technician than as a leader.

Manstein was indeed a great general; but when approached by anti-Hitler conspirators, he is supposed to have said 'Prussian field-marshals do not mutiny', which seems a peculiarly narrow conception of duty under the circumstances (and did not the revered field marshal Yorck commit mutiny when he chose to fight on the Russian side in the Napoleonic wars, technically disobeying his sovereign but choosing to serve the greater good?).

Hitler himself said 'my generals have no understanding of the economic dimensions of war'.

Another, junior, captured German general clearly gave the matter some thought in pow camp in Britain, saying that it was mysterious that a country located right in the middle of Europe and dependent on trade with all its neighbours should have expended so little effort on the arts of diplomacy and peace and so much on the narrowly technical art of waging war.

Is there a rule of war in which the Brits (or the English, according to taste) feature?

W - it appears David is off looking for an email address for that lovely "Chub" featured below so...

"All the business of war, and all the business of life, it to endeavour to find out what you don't know by what you do; that's what [I] called 'guessing what was at the other side of the hill.'"

After you've found 'er David, send me "the usual" in the plain brown envelope won't you?

I was just given this book two weeks ago, with highest recommendation, by a friend who knows of my interest in all things WWII. Haven't started it yet, but I'm glad to see you liked it too.

H, I guess if you are good enough at war, diplomacy gets a lot easier.

Sorry, gentlemen, I have had my nose stuck in the damned book all evening!

'H', you are right in suspecting that Manstein is a perfect example of the technocratic (but brilliant) German officer which the Prussian/German General Staff system produced so well. A moral and indeed a Christian gentleman, he was all too aware of the dangers of Hitler and his machinations but in judging him we have to remind ourselves that we know what happened where-as he didn't - until it was too late. I intend to post on that sort of moral dilemma tomorrow.

'W', yes, there is such a rule because I have just invented it. It goes something like this: Don't mess with the Brits, not because they're particularly dangerous themselves but they're bloody good and crafty at getting big allies to come and do their dirty work for them - or something like that!

Money's in the post, JK!

Malcolm, I have just heard that it has won an award by the United States Society of Military History. I think the fact that it is a biography gives it a human element usually missing from straightforward military histories. Please let me know what you think of it when you get going. Your response to 'H' was very Rooseveltian, er, that's Teddy by the way, not Franklin!

Max Hasting's latest on WWII is very firm that the Germans were easily the best soldiers (throughout the ranks) and yet the stupidest as strategists. But if that hadn't been so, we wouldn't be writing here in English.

Yes, DM, it has long been acknowledged that the German army out-performed everyone of its opponents because for several generations they had out-thought all their opponents on the nature of war. They learned (from Napoleon) the immense power of combined arms formations in which all the military elements work together thus becoming stronger than the sum of their parts.

They also valued the virtue of aggression even down to squad level. Whenever a German unit, however small, came up against an enemy strongpoint, it would maintain the pressure whilst simultaneously seeking an open flank as a way of working around it and behind it.

But Hastings is right, when it came to the really big geo-strategic decisions, like should we really invade Russia? they were hopeless - for reasons which I hope Gen. Melvin will make clear in this first-class book.

Blitzkreig was a good tactic especially against a politically and weak opposition. The French mobilisation was a shambles. The British sacrifised many good men of the BEF just to give political support to the Frogs. The BEF should have stayed in the UK. That cunt De Gaulle never appreciated anything done by the Brits.

Jimmy, you're not a man of nuance, I gather! If we were going to fight a war with Germany then we had to support the French. If Lord Halifax had taken over we probably would not have done either. You choose!

David. Winston did mention the virtues of Halifax.

And so he should (although I bet he had his fingers crossed behind him!) because Halifax was a master of real-politik which, of course, strongly indicated that we should cut a deal with Hitler and let him get on with the Russians who were his main enemy. Only the romantic Churchill stopped him from that course.

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