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Remembered Today:

Armchair Generals


Skipman
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There's quite a lot of talk on this Forum about " Armchair Generals " The war would have been over in a couple of weeks, if I had been CIC (we'd have lost, mind.) :whistle:

This is the first use of the term I can find. British Newspaper Archive Western Gazette - Friday 22 December 1899

At the Annual dinner of I Company of Dorset Volunteers held at the Grosvenor Arms Hotel, Lord Stalbridge proposed

" The Army, Navy, and Reserve Forces. " He did not suppose there was a toast which would be received with more interest at the present time than the toast of the Army, Navy, and Reserve forces. The eyes of Great Britain, and not only Great Britain, but of the word, were fixed upon their Generals in South Africa. That success was what they wished for them, and that success they would have there was not the slightest doubt. (Applause) They were rather too apt, in time of war, to think they were every one of them at least generals, if not Field Marshals, and perfectly able to criticise every move which was made upon that board 6000 miles away. They were all armchair generals in miniature, and their criticisms were sometimes a little wanting in point from the fact that they were not fully aware of the whole situation. (Hear hear) When they read the news of a success they were very glad, but for anything in the shape of a repulse or even a check they were too apt at once to blame a General, and from their limited knowledge to say " If I had been a General I should never have put troops in that position. " But that, to his mind, was not the way Englishmen as a rule looked at things. They have a knack of hearing both sides of every question-(hear, hear)-and of considering every question fully and fairly. . Englishmen were the last people in the world to condemn anybody unheard. Applause) They knew great Generals in times past had made mistakes. It was said that the most successful General was he who made fewest mistakes, and that was most wonderfully true. Anyone who had studied the campaigns of the post had seen what mistakes, some of them almost fatal, had been made, from time to time. Mistakes would continue to be made, and there would continue to be checks and repulses, but they might depend upon it that the mind of the nation and the mind of the Army was set on it attaining its present object, and they would attain it. (Applause) etc etc.......

Field Marshal Haigh

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I wonder if the news of 'Black Week' had reached Lord Stalbridge before he made the speech?

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I wonder if the news of 'Black Week' had reached Lord Stalbridge before he made the speech?

Now that I've googled it, I reckon you might be right. We're going off topic a bit though :whistle:

Mike

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Don't tell the Mods!

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Mark Twain used the term but I'd need to dig to find the date

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Perhaps we should also remember the old saying that, whilst armchair generals study strategy (and pontificate about it), real generals study logistics.

Ron

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Perhaps we should also remember the old saying that, whilst armchair generals study strategy (and pontificate about it), real generals study logistics.

Ron

Or the operational arts

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Certainly I heard Richard Holmes make the quote that most military historians study battles, good generals study logistics. I have never forgotten it.

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I wonder if 'retired' Generals, made good Armchair Generals. Did French, or Smith-Dorrien etc meddle at all, after being removed? Any examples of General X saying General Y should have done ......

Mike

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Let us not forget the origin of the word strategy, to mean trickery. Good strategy is to trick your opponent into believing or doing something you want him to do. So whether armchair of practical, a good general can see the way to trick his opponent into loosing the game, logistics notwithstanding, although they cannot be ignored. Logistics were more than adequate on 6 June 1944, but logistics would have been of little use if the overall strategy of tricking AH and his minions into believing the invasion would come elsewhere had failed.

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I wonder if 'retired' Generals, made good Armchair Generals. Did French, or Smith-Dorrien etc meddle at all, after being removed? Any examples of General X saying General Y should have done ......

Mike

French did, certainly, although he may have allowed himself to be used by Lloyd George. Henry Wilson's name also comes to mind, as a general who was not noticeably successful in the field, but nevertheless became CIGS.

Ron

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What terms predate armchairs? Sun Tzu would certainly have understood the analogy.

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Sedan chair generals?

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Lee was provided with an armchair at Appomattox Court House but one wouldn't normally think of him as an armchair general. I believe that Vinegar Joe Stillwell was a rocking chair enthusiast.


Sedan chair generals?

Does that include Napoleon III?

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