The Principles of War Podcast
Montgomery takes command of Eighth Army
Podcast The Battles of El Alamein

84 – Montgomery, Fighting Power and turning moral around in the 8th Army

This is our 4th episode of our 2nd Battle of El Alamein series.  This episode looks at when LT GEN B L Montgomery took command of 8th Army.  He didn’t like what he saw, so using the concept of Fighting Power, we look at the changes that he took to increase Fighting Power and to get the Army ready to take on the Desert Fox.

We start by looking at the sacking of Auchinleck.  Thomas E Ricks discusses battle success during WW2 and the correlation between that and the fact that Generals could be sacked.

Montgomery took over when there was incredible pressure to achieve a victory.

The way that Montgomery turned the fortunes of 8th Army around is similar to the way that Mathew B Ridgeway turned around the Eighth US Army in Korea after the death of Walton Walker.  Both experienced a similar situation as they needed to rapidly turn around the fortunes of the Armies they now commanded.  Both looked at the components of Fighting Power and how they could rapidly influence them.

Montgomery got Freddie de Guingand as his Chief of Staff.  He was only promoted to Major in 1938, but as we often see in wartime, promotions followed quickly.  He was critical in ensuring that orders were prepared and this allowed Montgomery to travel around Eighth Army and ensure that his intent was very clearly understood.

Rommel was going to attack at Alam Halfa because he was being impaled on a temporal dilemma.  His supply situation was worsening, whilst that of 8th Army was improving.  This forced him to attack when he wasn’t ready.  Montgomery received the plan of 

We discuss Montgomery’s 8 point plan for Alam Halfa.  

  1. No withdrawal – transport for the withdrawal moved to the rear, defences strengthen and Class 1 3 and 5 stockpiled.  Rations, PoL and ammunition.
  2. No jock columns – fight as an army with centralised artillery.
  3. Build up to a strong balanced force
  4. Develop a Corps de Chasse under Gen Lumsden (hunting corps)
  5. If Rommel attacked during the August full moon period he would be confronted by dug in AT guns and hull down tanks. 
  6. Colocation of 8th Arny HQ with DAF HQ
  7. No more bellyaching and orders were to be treated as orders, not the basis for further discussion.
  8. No more failure.  Risks wereto be minimised and there were no shortcuts to victory.

8th Army and Fighting Power

LWD 1 describes the generation of Fighting Power being the integration of physical, moral and intellectual components.  

We look at how Monty improved the moral, intellectual and physical components so that when Fighting Power was generated, it would be superior to that of Rommel and the DAK.

Training was a key component of the way that Montogmery improved 

We look at LT GEN Leslie Morshead, ‘Ming the Merciless’ the Commander of the 9th Aus Division and how he used tough training to prepare 9th Div for combat.

 

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