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Resignation by commanders


PhilB
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I recently read that Haig considered resigning when Nivelle was placed above him. It struck me as curious that he could just resign and go away if he wished and I wondered:-

1/ What ranks/posts had the option of resigning?

2/ Why weren`t they under the same compulsion to serve in their allotted post as everyone else?

3/ What was their official status after resigning?

4/ What would happen to the private soldier who walked into the Company Office and said "I`ve decided to resign my post as infantry squad member"?

Phil B

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Phil,

On 16th August 1915 this actually happened on Gallipoli

Hamilton sacked Stopford who was to be replaced by Byng

However until Byng arrived from the WF, de Lisle was put temp in charge of the command. Hamilton then asked that under these special circumstances, Mahon waive his seniority in favour of de Lisle.

Mahon replied “I respectfully decline to waive my seniority and to serve under the officer you name. [he could not even bring himself to write de Lisle’s name] Please let me know to whom I am to hand over the command of the division.” The Division in question was fully engaged with the enemy at that precise moment and Carlyon writes in his book ‘Gallipoli’

“If Mahon’s tantrum was disgraceful by the standards of any era, he didn’t suffer for it. He was in the club.”

It will be interesting to learn if there are any more examples

Regards

Michael D.R.

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I think it was Carlyon who also makes reference to the legality of Fisher's resignation as a result of the Dardanelles campaign ... or deserting his post and hiding himself away ... depending on which way you want to look at it.

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I can cite examples from the Yankee side. This is US Forces and not the Brits, but perhaps they had a similiar system.

If you are an OR or Officer and you have 20 years of service, you may resign (retire) and go home. It is not immediate however, like it apparently was in 1914-1918. You must finish your tour of duty.

If you are either enlisted or commissioned and have under 20 years of service, tough. You stay on service, unless you are a "regular" officer, then you may resign at the end of that particular tour of duty to which you are assigned. Resigning is not the same as retiring if you have less than twenty years. Same thing for enlisted. In wartime, however, you are, if enlisted, in for "the duration."

DrB

:)

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Thanks, gents, for those examples. I`m still mystified as to what the British/Imperial "rules of engagement" were for resigning during a war. Who could do it? What happened to them then? Can anyone shed light? Phil B

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Dr John Laffin described Mahon’s conduct as “inexcusable, and his departure from Kiretch Tepe Ridge while his troops were still fighting bravely and skilfully was disgraceful and tantamount to desertion under fire.”

I don’t know what the rules were for a General commanding a division, but I do know what they were for Sub-Lieutenant Edwin Dyett et al [RIP]

Regards

Michael D.R.

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I don’t know what the rules were for a General commanding a division, but I do know what they were for Sub-Lieutenant Edwin Dyett et al [RIP]

Regards

Michael D.R.

That`s the central point, Michael. Somewhere in the rank ladder things change from compulsion to "if it suits". There must surely be a ruling on it somewhere!

Or perhaps, not - maybe it was a case of unwritten rules for members of the club?

Phil B

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Hello All,

Tom Johnstoe in "Orange Green and Khaki" has a very different view on Mahon's resignation:

" Although there appears to have been no open friction between Mahon and Hamilton, undoubtedly Mahon was unwelcome at the Dardanelles and Hamilton tried to prevent his coming. Moreover in his letter from Imbros, Sir Ian informed Kitchener that Mahon, with five battalions, had failed to take Kireth Tepe Sirt held 'by only 500 Turks'.

Having failed to prevent his arrival, on the one hand Hamilton kept Mahon sweet with promises; on the other he sought to undermine his position by dividing his command and reporting unfavourably on him to London.

Some military commentators have assumed that Mahon, on learning both that Stopford had been sacked and that de Lisle had been given command of IX Corps, resigned and was sent by Gen. Hamilton to Imbros to 'cool his heels'. Lord Granard, in letters to his wife, casts doubt on this account. According to him, Mahon was sacked at the same time as Stopford and Hammersley. Restored to command on Kitchener's order, Mahon refused to serve under de Lisle, then resigned, but later changed his mind. What is certain is that Maj-Gen. W.E.Peyton assumed command of 10th Division from 19th-23 August.

Lord Granard wrote in an undated letter, probably 15th August: ' I am sorry to tell you that General Mahon leaves the Division tomorrow for England. I cannot tell you what I think of the way he has been treated'.

On 16th August he wrote again: ' De Lisle has just been put over Mahon's head and he has resigned. I shall probably do the same as the treatment accorded to him and his 10th Division makes it impossible for me to stay on. Mahon was asked by de Lisle to serve on but he refused.'

On 25th August, Lord Granard again wrote on the subject; ' you will be glad to hear that General Mahon, who had been ordered home by General Hamilton, has been put back in command of his division by Lord Kitchener. Everyone is delighted'

Whatever happened, it is apparent that considerable indignation existed in 10th Division at the treatment of Mahon and his division, which is hardly surprising. Fragmented, the 10th was destroyed piecemeal to little purpose; concentrated at Suvla, it might have changed the course of history."

It would seem from the above that rather than resenting the fact that Mahon had resigned, many of his officers backed him. What the PBI in the 10th thought of the whole affair, I don't know. They were probably too busy trying not to be killed to care.

Regards from an exhausted two finger typist, :blink:

Liam

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I find this action almost more reprehensible than say stupid murderous tatics adopted by others. They invariably were atleast still there with the men. But to leave your men because you did not like someone is beyond me. Many of the men probably did not like him but what not able to exercise their right.

That is close to desertion surely, regardless of the real reason being not cowardess.

amazed

Arm.

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Liam,

At the risk of going seriously off topic can I comment on the author/book which you quote from. ‘Orange, Green and Khaki’ is on my book shelf and it serves a useful purpose in covering a neglected aspect of WWI ie Ireland’s very valuable contribution. Having said that however I have had some difficulties with the author whom another Pal has previously described as ‘none PC.’

http://1914-1918.org/forum/index.php?showtopic=15685

This link will take you to a topic where I quoted from another work by Mr Johnstone only to have Dave [Heritage Plus] point out that in this case both sides of the story had not been told. And I think that this sums up the problem which I have with his work; he seems to be too selective in his retelling of history. It would be an over simplification to say that it is a problem of religion or nationalism, for I have written to his publisher on another case where I found that in one book he quoted a certain priest’s remarks on a fellow RC chaplain, when there was evidence available that the former was mistaken.

Probably a lot of historians have a particular point of view, but if it should interfere with their writing then, caveat emptor and pass the salt please.

The subject of Hamilton and Mahon has been covered previously and can be read here

http://1914-1918.org/forum/index.php?showtopic=5080 where you will see that the source of the friction went back to South Africa and a similar incident when Hamilton thought that Mahon had let Kitchener down

History, particularly that of Gallipoli, is full of ‘what ifs.’ If only Hamilton could have had Mahon’s division without the general who raised it. It was because they were coming with Mahon that there was such a struggle by Kitchener and Hamilton [ both hide bound (particularly the former) by the Army’s rigid etiquette] to find a force commander who was his senior. And so we ended-up with the totally unsuitable Stopford.

Again, my apologies for drifting OT

Regards

Michael D.R.

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Hello Michael and apologies to Phil B for hijacking his thread,

I tend to agree with you on Tom Johnstone's book - it is an excellent first port of call for information on the Irish contribution, but I do sometimes find myself questioning some of the opinions he holds. This from a man who, as you probably have guessed, does not underreport the contribution of Irish soldiers to the conflict :D

A classic example is the final line I quoted above i.e. " Concentrated at Suvla, it [10th Irish Division] might have changed the course of history". I doubt this somehow; they were only short one brigade and they were predominantly inexperienced soldiers. Could the 10th (Irish) Division, concentrated at Suvla, have swung the Gallipoli campaign? I personally doubt it.

On Mahon/Hamilton, I didn't know of the background animosity between the two. I suspect that Mahon was seen as an ideal C.O. for the 10th as he had good "green" credentials; an Irish name, background in the Connaught Rangers,etc. It may well have been good politics to have such a man at the head of the Division, particularly for recruitment in the South - it might have been a case of "join up with the 10th and serve under an Irish officer!".

Regards and apologies to Phil B!

Liam.

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No apologies necessary gents. It looks like nobody knows what the "rules for resignation" are, so we might as well discuss specific cases. They are proving quite interesting! Phil B

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No apologies necessary gents. It looks like nobody knows what the "rules for resignation" are, so we might as well discuss specific cases. They are proving quite interesting! Phil B

So, with your permission Phil

I put General Mahon into Google and the following is from the very first article which came up. It seems that Gen Mahon had a very short memory indeed and, a poor eye for the ironic!

Quote:

“An excerpt from a soon-to-be-published book on Limerick men who died in the Great War reveals that Pte Downey had failed to fall-in on parade when ordered by his sergeant-major on November 26, 1915, and had refused to put on his cap when ordered by a captain.

The 19-year-old Vizes Field man pleaded guilty at his trial on December 1, and was executed by firing squad on December 27…………………………………………...

Lieutenant-General Mahon, Commander of the British Forces in Salonika, wrote to General Monroe, the commander-in-chief, that he would have hesitated to recommend the death sentence because the "plea of guilty has erroneously been accepted by the court".

But poor discipline in the battalion warranted making "an exemplary punishment highly desirable", he wrote.

General Monroe confirmed the death sentence, despite the concerns to its legality. The deputy judge advocate, commenting in his War Diary noted that the sentence was particularly requested by General Mahon, "in view of the marked tendency towards insubordination".

[my emphasis]

For the full article see

http://www.limerick-leader.ie/issues/20011110/news09.html

Regards

Michael D.R.

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Hello all,

Now there's a coincidence. I held the said book in my hand not 3 hours ago and had a quick scan through it, noting the section on the execution of Pte Downey and saw a copy of Mahon's comments. I even thought of this thread. Half thought of buying it, but it was €30 (about £20), a bit steep for me at the moment -I'll wait until it turns up in the second hand bookshops. It's called "The Widow's Penny" and covers casualties from Limerick in the Great War. Author is a fella called McNamara.

Regards,

Liam.

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Hi Phil,

Don't know whether this fits your criteria-but time expired terriers were allowed to resign at the end of their period of service.

Jim

Thanks for that, Jim, but not quite the same as resigning when it suits you! Phil B

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  • 1 year later...

I`m bringing this up again as it`s nearly 2 years since it was raised and there have been thousands of new members, so maybe someone can say:-

Who did Army Regulations allow to resign if they weren`t happy and who couldn`t? Phil B

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Here's another instance of what I would think is special privilege.

Digby in 'Pyramids and Poppies - the 1st SA Infantry Brigade in Libya, France and Flanders' writes that in March 1918 "Major general Lukin now opted for a period of duty in England because his wife had been seriously ill. He did not return."

This got my goat for a number of reasons:

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This is a continuation of my last post. I pushed the wrong button by mistake. Where is my white stick when I need it.

My goat is got for the following reasons"

1) The greatest majority , if not all, of the South Africans who served with the British Army did not have wives anywhere near them. Their wives and families had to be left behind many thousands of miles away.

2) Lukin had certainly not been in the thick of anything. He was really, it seems in my humble opinion, one of those who relayed on the message "fight to the end" "you may not withdraw"

3) This was March 1918. The German advance was expected. And off he goes. Just in time for the SAI to be decimated at Gauche Wood with the few survivors taken POW and the SAI ceasing to exist as an independant entity for some time.

4) Intrestingly, I recently discovered that a good friend of mine from Oxford days who has retired back to SA is a niece of Gen Lukins wife - the ill one - and both aunt and uncle lived many happy years after the war in SA.

Kathie

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It would seem from the above that rather than resenting the fact that Mahon had resigned, many of his officers backed him. What the PBI in the 10th thought of the whole affair, I don't know. They were probably too busy trying not to be killed to care.

Liam

In his book on the Battle of the Bulge McDonald (who was a company commander there) comments on the famous row between Patton and Montgomery that:

1. The PBI had only the newspapers produced by the army and in the front line these were invariably four or five days late and probably incomplete, anyway.

2. Few men really knew who was there army commander (with the exception of Patton who was liable to be found in front of the front foxholes yelling a t you to get your a.... out and start fighting), so a row between two generals was of less than interest.

3. With the bullets flying around their ears what two generals got up to way back in the rear was of no interest whatsoever.

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