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Old January 28th, 2018, 01:04 AM   #1
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What were the biggest strategic mistakes of Churchill during World War 2 ?


Churchill as both Prime Minister and Minister of Defence interfered British strategy a lot and not always with best outcome. What were his most strategic mistakes with worst outcome during the war ?

1) Balkan Campaign : Although taking out British/Dominion forces from Western Desert after fall of Benghazi and El Aghelia and sending them to Greece was a major setback at first , when you look hindsight even if British cleaned out North Africa by capturing Tripoli in February 1941 this would not get them anyywhere in battle tactics and effectiveness in action. Two year Campaign against Afrikakorps and then Panzer Army Africa in Tunisia was a necessary live training from British and Americans about German tactics , operational effectiveness and material equipment. Better to suffer first land defeats and setbacks on unit to unit basis and eliminate bad or mediocre commanders on North Africa where they could limit damage rather than Europe

2) Weakening defences of Far East and South East colonies in Malaya , Singapore and Burma to reinforce North Africa and Middle East. Result was fall of Malaya and Singapore (biggest surrender of British Army) and losing Malaya

3) Insisting to hold on Tobruk after battle of Gazala although General Auckinleck CiC Middle East knew better than holding the place where minefields and fortifications were largely dismantled in 1942 summer he bowed to Churchill. As a result when Tobruk fell 32.000 British/Dominion soldiers were captured inglominously. I am really suprised Rommel did not send a letter of thanks to Churchill.

4) Dordoneccesse Campaign : Churchill's obsessşon of Eastern Mediterranean led his decision to capture and hold isolated Italian held Greek islands with British troops such as Leros and Kos after surrender of Italy in September 1943. An entire personnel of a brigade and several vessels of Royal Navy were lost in this futile campaign

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Old January 28th, 2018, 01:41 AM   #2

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The second option in reverse: sending to the Far East the Prince of Wales battleship and its group with little planing or idea about the situation
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Old January 28th, 2018, 01:44 AM   #3
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Before discussing his failings it is worthwhile reflecting on some of his attributes:

Churchill was the greatest leader in war that Britain has ever had. He showed a remarkable strategic grasp of warfare and tried hard to avoid the sort of casualties Britain had suffered in WW1 where he was eye-witness to the destruction.
His greatest achievement is that he ensured there were none of the tensions between military and civilian leaders which had marred all other British wars.
It was Churchill who insisted that a second front in Europe could only be launched when the battle for air superiority had been won.


That said, his reliance on the air war and obliteration bombing to defeat the German people was arguably his most controversial strategy but it did put a ceiling on German war production.

Ironically, if it weren't for Hitler, heŽd never have been PM, still less war leader.

Last edited by FMHOPE; January 28th, 2018 at 02:09 AM.
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Old January 28th, 2018, 02:47 AM   #4

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We should also remember that Churchill didn't have the benefit of hindsight and had to deal with problems as they developed.

He did not 'weaken' the defences in Malaya but didn't re-enforce them enough (they were adequate on paper) and sending of two major warships was hopefully a gesture to impress the Japanese.
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Old January 28th, 2018, 02:48 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FMHOPE View Post
Before discussing his failings it is worthwhile reflecting on some of his attributes:

Churchill was the greatest leader in war that Britain has ever had. He showed a remarkable strategic grasp of warfare and tried hard to avoid the sort of casualties Britain had suffered in WW1 where he was eye-witness to the destruction.
His greatest achievement is that he ensured there were none of the tensions between military and civilian leaders which had marred all other British wars.
It was Churchill who insisted that a second front in Europe could only be launched when the battle for air superiority had been won.


That said, his reliance on the air war and obliteration bombing to defeat the German people was arguably his most controversial strategy but it did put a ceiling on German war production.

Ironically, if it weren't for Hitler, heŽd never have been PM, still less war leader.

I agree. He had limited military resources in multiple theatres of conflict; strengthening one invariably led to the weakening of others. Churchill's biggest attribute was in keeping the war going until he had helped persuade the US to join in a ground war against Germany (although Pearl Harbour and Hitler's declaration of war did help!).

Biggest mistake? Possibly Dieppe, but then again how much was learned from this to aid in D Day? It's easy with hindsight to say what should and shouldn't be done - the Dambusters raid could have been seen as foolhardy if it had failed, Market Garden as a brilliant decision if it had succeeded.
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Old January 28th, 2018, 03:11 AM   #6

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Certainly didn't hurt to have naval superiority.
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Old January 28th, 2018, 04:28 AM   #7

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Someone on a speculative thread commented that airpower wasn't so vital in WW2.

In the case of the UK, air power was essential to their survival. But that's due to better physicists and engineers, nothing to do with a politician.

Point being, naval warfare is being revolutionized, so possessing the greatest navy might not be the most cost-efficient strategy when you can simply defend against naval invasions with superior air power.
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Old January 28th, 2018, 04:53 AM   #8

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The British and later American navy was vital in striking back at the axis.
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Old January 28th, 2018, 07:46 AM   #9

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank81 View Post
The second option in reverse: sending to the Far East the Prince of Wales battleship and its group with little planing or idea about the situation
IIRC there was supposed to be a carrier escort but it had mechanical issues.

I read somewhere, Churchill took resources out of North Africa to reinforce the Greeks, and that led to Rommel's taking of Tobruk, which was supposed to be a major bastion. ultimately futile as Greece fell anyway.

Everything I've read about Malaysia indicates there were (military) resources but the command was completely inept.

Last edited by sailorsam; January 28th, 2018 at 07:47 AM. Reason: add line
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Old January 28th, 2018, 08:25 AM   #10
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I wonder if another British PM would have authorised the sinking of the French fleet?
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