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Thursday, 28 November 2013


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Duffers, Duffers, have you never talked to men who fought? My father told me that the Germans were better soldiers than the men of the democracies, largely (he suspected) because the Germans, especially the NCOs, were taught to take responsibility and to improvise.

Even in the First World War where we eventually beat the buggers, it wasn't by out-killing them, it was because once we'd got 'em on the retreat they started surrendering in huge numbers.

Manners, manners. I forgot to say thanks for the reference.

Yes, and of course your old Dad would know better than most having been 'up the sharp end'. Actually, it's fairly obvious when you think about it because us and the Yanks produced truly *civilian* armies, men taken from desks, shops, factories and farms, given a rifle plus what laughably passes as military instruction and then sent to war. Thank God for our secret weapon - Adolf Hitler!


The Dupuy brothers are always good reading, I forget which one wrote what.

The point about the German army giving more latitude to subordinates I have seen many places. One explanation I have seen is that in the for cultural and class reasons and a German officer/NCO could delegate authority and expect to recover it when necessary. An American "90 day wonder" of the same background as his men selected for Officer Candidate School on the basis of an aptitude score felt considerable doubt about recovering delegated authority so they tended no to.

I spoke to an old Normandy veteran who had the lower part of his left leg blown away. He was with the Black Watch. He said his battalion was always put against a certain German unit when practicable. He said the Germans always tidied up their trenches when they abandoned them. They swept the ground and piled up the spent cases and left little friendly notes behind. They never left boobie traps. He had a certain admiration towards them inspite of having to kill them.

Hank, I only have his initials - 'T.N.'.

Jimmy, there was, I understand, a considerable difference in feelings across no-man's-land on the western and eastern fronts. Perhaps the ruthlessness in the east stemmed from the tendency on both sides not to take prisoners - a truly dumb attitude!

Hank, it probably came down to military doctrine plus the fact that the Germans would have spent time doing "national service", so learning soldiering before the war even started. That would apply to both world wars. In the First, our tiny professional army was pretty much annihilated in '14, then the reserve forces went into action and took a pasting, then the volunteers, then we turned to conscripts. By contrast the German lads had all had a couple of years full time training after they left school, and later weekend camps and so on to keep them up to par. There's also the consideration that the army in Germany was a high status career that attracted able people. We always looked down on soldiers: able people might join the navy but mainly avoided the army.

All considered, the fact that by the end of that war our army beat theirs was enormously to their credit. The French and their supporting Americans tied down the Germans on the right of the Allied trench lines, and the British on the left first put up a good fighting retreat and then reversed it, advancing day after day and harvesting droves of prisoners. That was, at the very least, a triumph of logistics and of all-arms fighting.

Everything was different in the Second war because of the completely unexpected and catastrophic collapse of the French. Like the Germans they used "national service', they'd fought doggedly in the First war, but in the Second they blew away like a dandelion head.

An excellent summary, DM. I would only add that much of the German expertise arose from their remarkable General Staff where officers were trained to the highest degree in all aspects of land warfare, and this training changed over time to allow for changes in technology. It is an irony tinged with tragedy that whilst all that expertise allowed them to win battles, it never won them a world war!

Tactically excellent, strategically bone-headed.

David. The problem with the Eastern Front was that old Adolf told his soldiers and German people that the Russkie Slavs were sub human like the Jews. The German army with their allies went on an orgy of killing unprecedented in human warfare.
I had to laugh when I think it was Max Hastings that said the Soviet army was cruel to the Germans after Stalingrad.

As always, DM, you have it in a nutshell!

Well, they were, Jimmy, because cruelty is cruelty irrespective of the truth that often times cruelty begets cruelty.

David. It was the expected order of things. Hello dear Nazi thanks for invading my country and raping and slaughtering my people, please have a bowl of soup and go home to your wife all is forgiven.

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