Montgomery and "colossal Cracks": The 21st Army Group in Northwest Europe, 1944-45

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Greenwood Publishing Group, 2000 - 214 pages
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A reinterpretation of the British Army's conduct in the crucial 1944-45 Northwest Europe campaign, this work examines systematically the Colossal Cracks operational technique employed by Montgomery's Anglo-Canadian 21st Army Group and demonstrates the key significance that morale and casualty concerns exerted on this technique. To ensure a full understanding of the campaign, one needs to look not only at Montgomery's methods but at those of his army commanders, Dempsey and Crerar; thus, this study addresses the scant attention to date paid to these two figures. Hart suggests that Montgomery and his two senior subordinates handled this formation more effectively than some scholars have suggested. In fact, Colossal Cracks, the concentration of massive force at a point of German weakness, represented the most appropriate weapon the 1944 British Army could develop under the circumstances.

Previous studies have been characterized by an overemphasis on Montgomery's role in the campaign, rather than a systematic examination of overall British methods. They have ignored the difficulties that the 1944 British Army faced given its manpower shortage, and they have underestimated the appropriateness of Monty's methods to the campaign war aims that Britain pursued: namely, the desire that Britain's modest military forces secure a high profile within a larger Allied effort. The cautious, firepower-laden approach used by the 21st Army Group was both crude and a double-edged sword; however, despite these weaknesses, Colossal Cracks represented an appropriate technique given the nature of British war aims and the relative capabilities of the forces involved. It proved to be just enough to defeat the Germans and keep alive British hopes that her war aims might be achieved.

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The Maintenance of Morale
Casualty Conservation
Colossal Cracks I The SetPiece Battle
Colossal Cracks II The Other Elements
Dempsey and the Second British Army
Crerar and the First Canadian Army
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Page 25 - At the best it will fall so very far short of the expectation of the bulk of the people, namely all those who know nothing about its difficulties. At the worst it may well be the most ghastly disaster of the whole war.
Page 61 - Passchendaele in 1917 had forgotten "that the whole art of war is to gain your objective with as little loss...
Page 86 - my general object is to pull the Germans on to Second Army so that First [US] Army can extend and expand."42 Montgomery largely stuck to this broad plan and resisted pressures from the Americans, and from Dempsey in "Goodwood," to radically alter this conception.
Page 160 - July, after sorting out the affair; 'he [Crerar] had a row with Crocker the first day and asked me to remove Crocker. I have spent two days trying to restore peace, investigating the quarrel and so on. As always there are faults on both sides, but the basic cause was Harry; I fear he thinks he is a great soldier, and he was determined to show it the moment he took over command at 1200 hrs on 23 July. He made his first mistake at 1205 hrs; and his second after lunch...
Page 126 - Julian Thompson, The Lifeblood of War: Logistics in Armed Conflict (London: Brassey's, 1991).
Page 37 - Montgomery is of different caliber from some of the outstanding British leaders you have met. He is unquestionably able, but very conceited. For your most secret and confidential information, I will give you my opinion which is that he is so proud of his successes to date that he will never willingly make a single move...
Page 161 - Montgomery; consequently, the British commander backed down.19 Crerar later told Colonel Stacey, the Canadian Official Historian, that he had discerned then a pattern that was to be often repeated: Montgomery would "always go through a yellow light: but when the light turned red, he...
Page 82 - ... MA, Lt-Colonel Dawnay, later recognized: I think he had given the RAF a totally false impression, at St Paul's and elsewhere, as to when he was going to get those airfields, south of Caen — a totally false impression. Because when we got there [to Normandy] we realized quite clearly that he didn't care a damn about those airfields, as long as he could draw all the German armour on to that [eastern] side and give a chance for his right swing to break out!1 In Dawnay's view Monty later did himself...
Page 70 - Goodwood' offensive not be misunderstood: General Montgomery has to be very careful as to what he does in his Eastern flank because on that flank is the only British Army there is left in this part of the world. On the security and firmness of the Eastern flank depends the security of the whole lodgement area, Dawnay emphasized.
Page 140 - ... commander, General Bucknall, an officer henceforth treated with suspicion by Dempsey and Montgomery. Dempsey said: This attack by yth Armoured Division should have succeeded. My feeling that Bucknall and Erskine would have to go started with that failure. Early on the morning of...

About the author (2000)

STEPHEN ASHLEY HART is Senior Lecturer in the Department of War Studies, the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, at Camberley, United Kingdom. Prior to this, he lectured in the International Studies Department at the University of Surrey and in the Department of War Studies, King's College, London.

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