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Remembered Today:

Command on the Western Front


armourersergeant

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armourersergeant

Command on the Western Front, the military career of Sir Henry Rawlinson 1914-18 by Robin Prior and Trevor Wilson.

Published June this year as a reprint by Pen and Sword Military classics.

The book originally written was envisaged by the authors as a book that by studying one man (Rawlinson) would show how the BEF and its commanders learnt on a striaght upward curve of learning.

By the completion they found that this was far from the truth and so did i when i read it. My perception was very different to what i had thought i would feel once i had finished reading it.

I am left with something of a strange feeling that if anything this book has made me consider that Rawlinson was even less of an able commander than i had him down as and that often rather than being of good intelliegence and an astute military thinking he often ignored the lessons he had seen work even when he knew they worked and did somerthing different.

There seems to be many quotes from official diaries or his personell one that say he beleives one thing and then he does another. this seems to be driven by his wanting to conform to his orders above and other times almost as if he forgets what he has learnt.

To be fair to him he does learn the correct methods and uses the means and the men below him well in 1918 but still i seem to have an impression that this is more as he allows them to get on with it and only occassionally does he actually get involved, for instance expanding a plan of Monash that was too limited.

He lets commanders who he knows to be useless or burnt out continue and as a consequence men suffer as does the attack and he seems to spend alot of the time of the Somme not learning anything quickly. I find it almost incrediable that he survives to make the attacks of 1918 and that he is given his head above the other four commanders on the western front, especially as i get the impression that Haig and he do not get on.

From my own personel knowledge of Rawlinson before this book i had him down as a vain somewhat dishonest man who was nonetheless an adequate commander. I am now left with an opinion that adds to that he was also very slow to learn his lessons or at the very least lucky to stay where he did.

What the book did give to me was that the progress of the BEF was sound and that the lower commanders and the staff learnt methods and implimented them adequately when allowed. Especially the artillery how much better it performed in 1918 than in 1916 as they had learnt their lessons. I get the distinct opinion that whilst Rawlinson saw these lessons and understood them he would have easily slipped back to the old ways if the going had got really tough.

Perhaps here i should state that in the attacks of 1918 he does on occasions speak out about an advance or some such operation and postpones or stops it happening but i perahps with an over view and hindsight of time do not find myself completely trusting him.

I appraoched the book with an open mind, as much as i could not liking the man much ;) and wanting to be convinced of his ability. But found that if anything he moved down a few notches in my estimation.

As for the book, i found it a very knowledgable read that showed that teh army as a whole progressed perhaps more on a rising curve than did its commanders above them. A good read that i would recommend to anyone wanting to see how the army and tatics were implimented from 1914 to 1918.

regards

Arm

Ps would be interested if this opinion differs from others who have read the book as i may just have missed the point!

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Ps would be interested if this opinion differs from others who have read the book as i may just have missed the point!

G'day Arm,

I read most of your postings, but have no desire to read this book.

Your signature, "Out of rumour myths & legends are created, but out of fact history should be made" strikes a particular bell with me.

Without denigrating any other opinions, I would like to again express mine; that History as a topic seems to be more concerned with the latest interpretation of the past than with what actually happenned.

That your opinion differs from one that might be expected or 'in vogue' should not,IMHO, cause you any concern about missing THE point.

ooRoo

Pat

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Quote Arm Sarge: - i found it a very knowledgable read that showed that the

army as a whole progressed perhaps more on a rising curve than did its commanders above them - end quote.

I get that impression too.

Good one.

Des

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armourersergeant
That your opinion differs from one that might be expected or 'in vogue' should not,IMHO, cause you any concern about missing THE point.

Pat,

My concern that I may be missing the point came not from disappointment or bucking the trend (i am a rebel at heart) but more from the fact that before i read the book i had the impression that this would reinforce an opinion that the Generals did on the whole a reasonable job. The impression i get after finishing it is almost the opposite, certainly as far as Rawlinson goes.

Regards/ooRoo

Arm.

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armourersergeant
I read most of your postings

Oh and by the way flattery will get you everywhere :D

But a tad concerned that you are personelly editing me by only reading most of my posts!

Arm.

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I agree that this is a very important book. It deals with a lot more than just the career of the rather mercurial Rawlinson. Its section on the Somme and his relationship with Haig is most illuminating as is their dealing with the nature of attacks on the Somme in mid-campaign. A "must have" book, I think.

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