Ignorant tosser

Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, has had enough of the bombast. “But if we’re using war analogies,” she says, “there have been times during this crisis which have had the feeling of the first world war, with the army generals camped hundreds of miles from the front line ordering troops over the top.”

Ypres is 139 miles from London so unless the generals were in Reading or points west then that didn’t happen, did it?

37 thoughts on “Ignorant tosser”

  1. ‘TUC boss says that working people can’t pay the price for recovery from coronavirus’

    Uhhh . . . working people pay for EVERYTHING.

    ‘Black people in England and Wales are more than four times as likely to die of coronavirus, with poverty and health inequality mooted as possible reasons.’

    NHS is racist. Still clapping?

  2. Surely if we were going to go all the way with that analogy, we’d say our Field Marshall, far from leading from the rear, was severely wounded on active service and then went straight back to the front lines?

    Sure, he’s fucked most things up, but you can’t claim he hid from the virus.

  3. Kitchener was the grand panjandrum until he was killed in action. Perhaps to die at sea doesn’t count?

  4. Gamecock

    Uhhh . . . working people pay for EVERYTHING.

    Yeah, but Frances Is really only talking about Public sector workers. The rest of us don’t count (we’re only here to cough up the taxes to pay for Frances and her chums)

  5. The pedant in me wishes to point out that 1.39 hundred miles does merit a plural as the number is more than 1.

  6. Bloke in North Dorset

    Generals really can’t be trained, they need experience and then get selected. You really don’t want them jetting killed in battle as they are difficult to replace. You also want them in a position where they can keep an overview of the whole battle, quite difficult when they’re dodging artillery shells.

    Yes, when push comes to shove they have to fight, but even Col H wasn’t in the front lines, he came from the rear to relieve his men who were pinned down.

  7. Kitchener was based in the North Downs, an easy drive to Folkestone to catch the ferry. Imdeed a lot of the HQs were in Folkestone.
    Anyway WW1 becane a logistics exercise in its own right, the fighting was just a disyraction.

  8. Just to inject a little fact, 78 British and Dominion officers of the rank of Brigadier General and above died on active service in the First World War, while a further 146 were wounded.

  9. @Jason Lynch

    Indeed. The ‘Lions lead by donkeys’ trope only really began with the rise of the pacifist movement in the 1930s onwards.

    Far from being hated, when Field Marshall Haig died in 1928, a day of national mourning was announced, he was granted a state funeral and an estimated one million people lined the route of the funeral procession.

    The ‘100 Days Offensive’ which brought WWI to an end is regarded as one of the finest and best organised achievements in British Military history.

  10. ‘“The big challenge is what happens next and it’s important to have representatives of the workforce at the table to figure that out,” says O’Grady, speaking exclusively to the Guardian.’

    From hundreds of miles away? A remote general she is herself.

  11. Can you link to that fact please, Jason?

    Could come in useful when having to listen to Aussies whinge on about how they were cannon fodder for British Generals.

  12. “Just to inject a little fact, 78 British and Dominion officers of the rank of Brigadier General and above died on active service in the First World War, while a further 146 were wounded.”

    Well… rapid promotion in the field was a bit of a Thing in that scrap… So was Unfortunate Accidents befalling unpopular officers..

  13. “Yes, when push comes to shove they have to fight, but even Col H wasn’t in the front lines, he came from the rear to relieve his men who were pinned down.”
    Usual British Army problem though, isn’t it? The troops go to ground until the officers get them back on the move again. The casualty list at Goose Green makes seniority look like what we now refer to as a “pre-existing condition”.

  14. “Life expectancy” for a British second lieutenant in WWI was measured in weeks – but actually that was a median not a mean and it referred to the time before being killed, wounded so badly that he was invalided out, or taken prisoner. The mortality rate for officers was far, far higher than for Other Ranks. I don’t know how many Generals we had but 222 (78 killed and 146 wounded) sounds an awful lot, equivalent to 1.56 million men killed and 2.9 million wounded, whereas 0.7 million men were killed less than ha1f that number.

  15. If we’re using war analogies, in what war do generals ever lead from the front. If your general is at the front line then he isn’t in a position to ensure you have the supplies and information you need to keep fighting.

  16. @ Agammamon
    You should read some reports of the greatest general in recorded history: Alexander repeatedly rode Bucephalus into battle at the head of his cavalry, most famously charging through the Persian ranks at Issus to attack Darius personally, whereat Darius turned and fled resulting in a panic among parts of the Persian army which far outnumbered the Macedonians (probably by around 2:1 although some accounts claim 15:1)
    The supplies are the responsibility of the quartermaster

  17. Bloke in North Dorset

    DocBud,

    I dont know where Jason got the numbers from but the subject is very well covered in the chapter The Donkeys in the book Mud, blood and Poppycock by Gordon Corrigan.

  18. Reminds me of the Director of International Rescue telling us recently how awful it must be for there to be a Covid-19 cluster in a Rohingya refugee camp.
    From his office in New York.
    And making an appeal for us to help these people defeat this disease using a strategy undefined by asking people who can’t defeat the disease either by sending a donation c/o International Rescue, New York, New York, United States of America.

  19. Yes, generals led troops in antiquity. No more.

    Patton and Kurt Meyer were great tactical generals. Near the front. Eisenhower was a logistics general. He got gas to Spa.

  20. So Much For Subtlety

    Bloke in North Dorset – “Generals really can’t be trained, they need experience and then get selected. You really don’t want them jetting killed in battle as they are difficult to replace. You also want them in a position where they can keep an overview of the whole battle, quite difficult when they’re dodging artillery shells.”

    There is quite a large body of evidence that says Generals can be trained. That is why the first thing the allies do after beating Germany is close down their War Academy and General Staff. There are many books on the General Staff and why it was so good at what it did including people like Trevor Dupuy. He is hardly a bleeding heart liberal, but he too wanted the US Army to train Generals.

    And yes, getting your generals shot is not a good thing. But the cohesiveness of an Army depends on the willingness of officers to die. You can’t order soldiers to advance. You have to lead them. War is a matter of leadership, not management.

    The higher you go, the more officers have to stand back – although I do feel sorry for one of the last German officers turned down for a medal in WW2 – Lt Col Morkos was told that leading his men in a counter attack with a machine gun and hand grenades was a self-evident duty for a German officer and so did not deserve any sort of special recognition. But the Germans also said up to the level of General, the officer needs to be on the battlefield to get a personal view. Manyh did. Rommel personally lead his men across some French river or other.

  21. So Much For Subtlety

    Jason Lynch May 20, 2020 at 11:28 am – “Just to inject a little fact, 78 British and Dominion officers of the rank of Brigadier General and above died on active service in the First World War, while a further 146 were wounded.”

    But we would need to know how other, perhaps more competent, people did. How many German officers of those ranks died? Rumour has it that half of all Israeli casualties have been junior officers.

    Somewhere I have a publication by a US Army officer from their own press who argues that the Germans performed so well in WW2 because so many of their generals died. Conversely he specifically says that not enough American generals were willing to take risks to make the US Army fight properly.

    Andrew C May 20, 2020 at 12:18 pm – “The ‘100 Days Offensive’ which brought WWI to an end is regarded as one of the finest and best organised achievements in British Military history.”

    There is damning with faint praise and then there is this. If you and four of your mates get into a brawl with a little scrappy feller and he beats the crap out of you until you get six more mates to join you, and then you kick the snot out of him, I don’t think that would cover you in glory.

    The fact is that a small, poor, virtually indefensible country like Germany took on four of the five veto powers in 1914. They crushed one so badly that it ceased to exist. They bled another so badly that it more or less gave up. They inflicted such harsh wounds on Britain that it all but died – certainly never recovered. And they were only defeated because America can in with its massive economic power at the last minute.

    The question is why didn’t a bigger (if you count the Empire) and richer (by at least 50%) Britain didn’t beat Germany *on*its*own*. As it should have been able to.

    You know, I am all for patriotism. But we ought to heed the words of Kipling,

    Let us admit it fairly, as a business people should,
    We have had no end of a lesson: it will do us no end of good.

    Everything is true right up to that semi-colon.

  22. In the U.S. military, and in U.S. corporations, at the top of the hierarchy, it’s mostly political. The higher you go up in the organization, the less the people know what the organization does.

  23. So Much For Subtlety

    It is interesting to see that one of the common criticisms of the German General Staff was that it was not political enough. They warned Hitler about fighting the rest of the world. They opposed pretty much everything he told them to do – from the Rhineland, to the invasion of France, to Barbarossa.

    But they were professionals and politics was not their business. So they got on with it. As professionals should.

    I really like the German requirements for officers. Strangely enough intelligence was never really one of them. Character was. Their instructions say that an officer had to be a leader. He should be morally impeccable. He should be as physically fit as his soldiers. He should know more about their weapons than they did. Above all he should be willing to take responsibility.

    I often think of the Other Tim’s oil company experience, and my own little career as a cog in an impersonal machine, and I think I would love a manager who knew what they were doing. Maybe even one who felt a little verantwortungsfreudigkeit.

    Whatever the Germans did, it worked. Desertion was a trivial problem in WW2 – perhaps less than in any other war Germany fought – right to the end.

  24. So Much For Subtlety

    Too many posts in an old thread, but one last one. On the place of Generals on the battlefield. One of the best British generals of WW2 was General Richard N O’Connor. Tragically not given to personal publicity so not well known. But Correlli Barnett quotes a Brigadier saying:

    “One night about three weeks after the first Libyan campaign, while I was commanding all our forward troops beyond the frontier wire, it was reported to me by 11th Hussars that one of their forward patrols had reported that General O’Connor had, in his staff car, come on the armoured car patrol from the west, i.e. from the enemy’s direction. I did NOT like this.”

    So it is one of those mixed outcomes. On the one hand he did almost drive the Axis powers out of North Africa on a shoe string. On the other he was eventually taken prisoner. But I bet his soldiers liked him.

  25. Reminds me of the Director of International Rescue telling us recently how awful it must be … From his office in New York.

    Shouldn’t he have stayed on Tracey Island?

  26. “Nothing is so good for the morale of the troops than occasionally to see a dead general.”

    General Bill Slim

  27. So Much For Subtlety

    You realize that Germany was fighting with Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire. The Germans also made use of slave labour of course.

    Not only that, American troops didn’t begin to arrive in large numbers until 1918. Britain only had a small Army for the first couple of up years of the war. And during the Spring offensive, after Russia dropped out Germany had an overwhelming advantage in numbers which should have resulted in victory.

    Allied victory had very little to do with American manpower btw. It was mainly down to the the great battles on the Somme and Passchendaele and a Verdun that wore the Germans down and destroyed most their best troops and then the newly learnt fighting skill of the British Army during the Hundred Days.

    Between July 18 and the end of the war, the French, American and Belgian armies combined captured 196,700 prisoners-of-war and 3,775 guns, while British forces, with a smaller army than the French, engaged the main mass of the German Army and captured 188,700 prisoners and 2,840 guns.

    Let me repeat that: the French, American and Belgian armies combined captured 196,700 prisoners-of-war and 3,775 guns, while British forces captured 188,700 prisoners and 2,840 guns.

    British forces captured only 8,000 fewer prisoners and 935 less guns than the other allies combined
    In other words the British Army took just under 50% of the prisoners and just over 40% of the guns.

    Historian John Terraine on the Hundred days

    ‘The toughest assignment in modern British military history (i.e. since the creation of our first real Regular Army, the New Model) has been high command in war against the main body of a main continental enemy. Three British officers have undertaken such a task and brought it to a successful conclusion: the Duke of* *Marlborough, the Duke of Wellington and Field-Marshal Lord Haig.
    And in that Final Offensive, which ended with a German delegation crossing the lines with a white flag to ask for an armistice, the British Armies under Field-Marshal Sir Douglas Haig captured 188,700 prisoners and 2840 guns. All the other Allies together, French, Americans, Belgians, captured 196,500 prisoners and 3775 guns. In other words, the British took just under 50% of all the prisoners and just over 40% of all the guns.

    That was the achievement of the British Citizen Army; I have called it, more than once, the ‘finest hour’ of the British Army. There has never been anything like that ‘100 Days’ Campaign’ of continuous
    victory in the whole of our military history. In the words of one who served from 1916 to 1918 and died only recently, Professor C. E. Carrington:

    In our thousand years of national history there has been one short period (1916-1918) when Britain possessed the most effective army in the world, and used it to win decisive victory.
    The most sinister of all the delusions within the trauma was to lose sight of that.

    What was the position of Haig’s army on that day? It amounted to nearly two million men of the British Empire – the largest land force in the Empire’s history. And they had just reached the end of a ‘Hundred Days’ Campaign’ as glorious and decisive as that of 1815 which concluded the Battle of Waterloo – but infinitely less known.

    It was, in fact an unparalleled achievement in the history of the British Army, revealed by the stark statistics. And this was done in nine successive victories which were largely instrumental in bringing the war to an end in 1918 – and a consummation that Haig was determined to bring about.

    These victories should be as famous as Blenheim, Ramillies, Oudenarde, and Malplaquet or Talavera, Salamanca, Vittoria and Waterloo. Instead, they are forgotten and unknown, so I will list them now:

    ♦ The Battle of Amiens, 8 August 1918 (‘the black day of the German Army’);

    ♦ The Battle of Albert, 21 August (the day on which Haig told Churchill ‘we ought to do our utmost to get a decision this autumn’);

    ♦ The Battle of the Scarpe, 26 August;

    ♦ The Battles of Havrincourt and Epehy, 12 September (the approaches to the HindenburgLine);

    ♦ The Breaking of the Hindenburg Line, 27 September – 5 October (35,000 prisoners & 380 guns
    taken, the British Army’s greatest feat of arms in all its history);

    ♦ The Battle of Flanders, 28 September;

    ♦ The Second Battle of Le Cateau, 6 October;

    ♦ The Battle of the Selle, 17 October;

    ♦ The Battle of the Sambre, 1-11 November.

    These were Haig’s victories, handsomely acknowledged by Marshal Foch:
    Never at any time in history has the British Army achieved greater results in attack than in this unbroken offensive …. The victory was indeed complete, thanks to the Commanders of Armies, Corps and Divisions, *thanks above all *to the unselfishness, to the wise, loyal and energetic policy of their Commander-in-Chief, who made easy a great combination and sanctioned a prolonged and gigantic effort.’

    In 1918, the British Army was the only Allied army capable of mounting a massive and sustained offensive.

  28. So Much For Subtlety

    And Germany were on the defensive of course, for most of the war, with all the advantages that entails and excellent defense terrain often on the high ground overlooking the Allies.

  29. “These victories should be as famous as Blenheim, Ramillies, Oudenarde, and Malplaquet or Talavera, Salamanca, Vittoria”

    Huh?

    “And in that Final Offensive, which ended with a German delegation crossing the lines with a white flag to ask for an armistice, the British Armies under Field-Marshal Sir Douglas Haig captured 188,700 prisoners and 2840 guns.”

    Leave it to a Brit to call accepted surrender “captured.”

    How much help did this vaunted British army get from the Spanish . . . flu?

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