Jump to content


Remembered Today:

Photo

ANZACS & Tommies


153 replies to this topic

#1 Craig P. Deayton

Craig P. Deayton

    Second Lieutenant

  • Old Sweats
  • 145 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 22 March 2010 - 12:41 PM

Some help please from the GWF wizards, your memory circuits and data banks!

I'm presently doing some research on the Australians in the battle of Messines for an upcoming book. 25 Division were part of II ANZAC Corps for that battle and their staff formed a very low opinion of 4 Australian Division on their right. The feeling was mutual.

One theme I want to explore is the often very low opinion - and mistrust - the Australians harboured for British units on their flanks. I realise this dates back to Gallipoli (and was at times justified), but the ubiquity of anti-English sentiment is as remarkable as it was unfair. Likewise the very real discipline problems in the AIF became folklore in British circles. Battle performance was no doubt just as uneven but apart from the comments from Gen. Bainbridge of 25 Division, I don't see as much acrimony going back the other way. I know that the flank unit is always to blame for any Army but these sentiments grew legs in post-war Australia and if you scratch the surface today....

Any examples of disparaging remarks, snits, quarrels and general grumbling (both by Australians about English and vice versa) would be greatly appreciated. With references if possible please! If not, then a rough idea of where to look for the reference will do.

So - help wanted from thick-skinned Poms please. Any mention of Botham, Headingly, 1981 or the last two Ashes series in England is completely unnecessary.

Craig

#2 burlington

burlington

    Brigadier-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 2,822 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Mid Wales
  • Interests:WW1 & WW2, horticulture, web design, photography

Posted 22 March 2010 - 12:59 PM

Craig

If you read Aussie E.P.F Lynch's 'Somme Mud', he has nothing but praise for the 'Tommies', and this attitude pervades the whole book.

Martin

#3 Ron Clifton

Ron Clifton

    Lieut-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 5,946 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Cambridge

Posted 22 March 2010 - 01:28 PM

Hello Craig

At the time of Messines, the experience of the Battle of Bullcourt in the previous month would have been in the forefront of Australians' minds. They thought that they had been badly mishandled by Gen Sir Hubert Gough and resented it bitterly.

Try to find a copy of Jonathan Walker's book "The Blood Tub: General Gough and the Battle of Bullecourt 1917" for an understanding of that action. Both the British and Australian Official Histories also cover it.

Coming on top of both their experiences at Gallipoli and their heavy losses at Pozieres on the Somme in 1915, the Aussies seemed to be confirmed in their distrust of British generalship (they distrusted the ordinary soldiers much less), and they were probably not slow to show it. Neighbouring British units would have picked up on their contempt and probably responded in similar vein. But later in the war, and in particular during the Hundred Days, mutual respect returned.

It still goes on, in a way - look at the comments passed when there is an Ashes Test series in progress!

Ron

#4 Heid the Ba'

Heid the Ba'

    Lieut-Colonel

  • Old Sweats
  • 960 posts

Posted 22 March 2010 - 04:23 PM

Craig

Before I chip in I just wanted to check; in the OP you seem to use British and English as synonyms, am I mis-reading the post?

#5 Phil_B

Phil_B

    Lieut-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 10,092 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Lancashire, England

Posted 22 March 2010 - 04:46 PM

QUOTE (Ron Clifton @ Mar 22 2010, 01:28 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Coming on top of both their experiences at Gallipoli and their heavy losses at Pozieres on the Somme in 1915,
Ron


And, of course, Fromelles.

#6 Craig P. Deayton

Craig P. Deayton

    Second Lieutenant

  • Old Sweats
  • 145 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 22 March 2010 - 08:29 PM

QUOTE (burlington @ Mar 22 2010, 01:59 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Craig

If you read Aussie E.P.F Lynch's 'Somme Mud', he has nothing but praise for the 'Tommies', and this attitude pervades the whole book.

Martin


Thanks Martin

I have Lynch's book and you're quite right. In fact the positive outweighs the negative overall in most contemporary accounts. Which makes the persistence of the negative all the more curious.

One further point about 'Somme Mud' though. I bought the book because I believed it gave eye-witness accounts of some very famous actions (one in particular that I needed for my own book). A bit of checking on Lynch's service record though had him recuperating in England when this particularly famous action was fought (Dernancourt) and which he described in such vivid detail. It is definitely in the category of 'faction'.

Cheers

Craig

#7 Craig P. Deayton

Craig P. Deayton

    Second Lieutenant

  • Old Sweats
  • 145 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 22 March 2010 - 08:53 PM

QUOTE (Heid the Ba' @ Mar 22 2010, 05:23 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Craig

Before I chip in I just wanted to check; in the OP you seem to use British and English as synonyms, am I mis-reading the post?


Not very clear is it?

English certainly. In fact one of the interesting sidelights is a very obvious Australian admiration and affection for the Scots. I'm not sure the Welsh were distinguished much from the English and I haven't found any references to the Irish.

So - yes - English.

By the way, if we lose at cricket, its because of the South Africans, Indians and sundry others who qualified to play for England because they once passed through Heathrow - and if we win, the side is blue-blood English to the core!

Craig


#8 Gibbo

Gibbo

    Lieut-Colonel

  • Old Sweats
  • 860 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Edinburgh

Posted 22 March 2010 - 09:38 PM

Did the perceived Australian lack of antipathy towards Scots extend to Douglas Haig and Ian Hamilton (born in Corfu but the son of an officer of the Gordon Highlanders, the regiment he later joined)? And later there's Douglas Jardine, captain of the England cricket team in the Bodyline Series.

That sounds a bit sarcastic, but I'm genuinely wondering if there might be an assumption that 'we like the Scots, we don't like the English, therefore anybody British that we don't like must be English'?

#9 Craig P. Deayton

Craig P. Deayton

    Second Lieutenant

  • Old Sweats
  • 145 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 22 March 2010 - 09:53 PM

QUOTE (Ron Clifton @ Mar 22 2010, 02:28 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Hello Craig

At the time of Messines, the experience of the Battle of Bullcourt in the previous month would have been in the forefront of Australians' minds. They thought that they had been badly mishandled by Gen Sir Hubert Gough and resented it bitterly.

Try to find a copy of Jonathan Walker's book "The Blood Tub: General Gough and the Battle of Bullecourt 1917" for an understanding of that action. Both the British and Australian Official Histories also cover it.

Coming on top of both their experiences at Gallipoli and their heavy losses at Pozieres on the Somme in 1915, the Aussies seemed to be confirmed in their distrust of British generalship (they distrusted the ordinary soldiers much less), and they were probably not slow to show it. Neighbouring British units would have picked up on their contempt and probably responded in similar vein. But later in the war, and in particular during the Hundred Days, mutual respect returned.

It still goes on, in a way - look at the comments passed when there is an Ashes Test series in progress!

Ron


Thanks Ron

Couldn't agree more. I have read parts of Walker's excellent book on Bullecourt and I suppose after their experiences there, at Fromelles and the other battles you mention the antipathy to British leadership is unsurprising (in fact maybe surprising it wasn't worse!).

But Bullecourt is also an interesting case for the Australians' problems with 61 Division on their left flank. When the attack was cancelled on the 10th of April, 4 Australian Division staff failed to inform 61 Division that they would not attack. 61 Division attacked Bullecourt on the 10th without support on their right flank and were repulsed with heavy loss. On the 11th, unjustified blame was directed at the (now depleted) 61 Division for failing to adequately support the Australians.

I know to some extent every unit looked to their flanks for blame in the event of a failure. The persistence of this sentiment in Australian history has many causes and British generalship is a well deserved target, as was the failure of the 5th Army in March-April 1918 (although also unfair).

You may recall Prime Minister Paul Keating's anti-English rant in 1993 (?) about the failure of the English to 'defend the Malay Peninsula' - ignoring the loss of an Army at Singapore and slandering the English yet again. It's a side issue, but a persistent and interesting one.


Craig


#10 Craig P. Deayton

Craig P. Deayton

    Second Lieutenant

  • Old Sweats
  • 145 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 22 March 2010 - 11:21 PM

QUOTE (Gibbo @ Mar 22 2010, 10:38 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Did the perceived Australian lack of antipathy towards Scots extend to Douglas Haig and Ian Hamilton (born in Corfu but the son of an officer of the Gordon Highlanders, the regiment he later joined)? And later there's Douglas Jardine, captain of the England cricket team in the Bodyline Series.

That sounds a bit sarcastic, but I'm genuinely wondering if there might be an assumption that 'we like the Scots, we don't like the English, therefore anybody British that we don't like must be English'?


Good point. I think 'we like anyone who also has an axe to grind with the English' i.e. everyone! but individuals we don't like become magically anglicised wherever they were born.

I didn't know Jardine was a Scot - there you go, another cherished myth blown to bits!

Craig


#11 John Hartley

John Hartley

    General

  • Old Sweat
  • 15,030 posts

Posted 22 March 2010 - 11:37 PM

Craig

In the immediate aftermath of the well documented Battle of the Wazza in Cairo in 1915, the men of 6th Manchesters found themselves confined to barracks over the Easter weekend (as I imagine were most other, erm, non-rioting units). It didnt endear the Aussies to the Brits.

John

#12 melwar

melwar

    Second Lieutenant

  • Old Sweats
  • 112 posts
  • Gender:Female
  • Location:Adelaide
  • Interests:Currently researching the battles for Mouquet Farm Aug-Sept 1916 for a PhD thesis.

Posted 23 March 2010 - 12:01 AM

QUOTE (Craig P. Deayton @ Mar 23 2010, 09:51 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
individuals we don't like become magically anglicised wherever they were born.


That works in reverse, too. Birdwood and Sinclair-McLagan were considered Australianised quickly and rarely considered Brits.

#13 Waddell

Waddell

    Lieut-Colonel

  • Old Sweats
  • 1,187 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Sydney, Australia
  • Interests:East yorkshire Regiment, Gordon Highlanders, New South Wales Battalions of the 1st AIF, Lovats Scouts, RFC.

Posted 23 March 2010 - 12:10 AM

QUOTE (Craig P. Deayton @ Mar 23 2010, 07:29 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
One further point about 'Somme Mud' though. I bought the book because I believed it gave eye-witness accounts of some very famous actions (one in particular that I needed for my own book). A bit of checking on Lynch's service record though had him recuperating in England when this particularly famous action was fought (Dernancourt) and which he described in such vivid detail. It is definitely in the category of 'faction'.

Hi Craig,

I think that is why Edward Lynch created the character of Nullah to be able to do this. There are a couple of other things that don't line up, but having heard Will Davies speak about the book this allowed Lynch to include the odd story that he would have come across whilst at the front. I don't believe it makes the book any less worthy but needs to be kept in mind. One of the reasons Lynch wrote it was to bring a little more money in for his family as he was a school teacher working in the NSW bush during the twenties and thirties, so it makes sense that he would include them.

Regarding the Australian attitude to British troops I've recently been looking at "Saving the Channel Ports-1918" by W D Joynt VC, printed in 1975. The book is pretty scathing about British troops and in particular their leadership- Joynt had some issues with the "officer class" and didn't mind saying so. I don't agree with all his comments, but I guess for the purposes of your book it does provide the thoughts of a distinguished Australian officer who was actually there and fought all the way through the Western Front battles and had something to say, even 57 years later.

Scott


#14 nigelfe

nigelfe

    Lieut-Colonel

  • Old Sweats
  • 1,322 posts

Posted 23 March 2010 - 08:52 AM

Of course you also have to factor in exactly how 'Australian' the AIF was. Bearing in mind it was a volunteer force so the Irish were under-represented, its generally said that 1/3 had arrived in Australia from the British Isles as children and another 1/3 as adults. An unknown is how many had previously served in the British army (or RN) as a regular or TF/militia, etc.

I believe the Australians were paid more, particularly I suspect compared to British conscripts (assuming European practices were followed in this regard as they were later), so this could be a point of friction.

#15 Craig P. Deayton

Craig P. Deayton

    Second Lieutenant

  • Old Sweats
  • 145 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 23 March 2010 - 08:54 AM

QUOTE (John Hartley @ Mar 23 2010, 12:37 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Craig

In the immediate aftermath of the well documented Battle of the Wazza in Cairo in 1915, the men of 6th Manchesters found themselves confined to barracks over the Easter weekend (as I imagine were most other, erm, non-rioting units). It didnt endear the Aussies to the Brits.

John



Ah yes - weren't some of them turned out bayonets fixed to quell the riot also? I'm sure someone will know. I seem to remember accounts from some wide-eyed North country lads giving character references on the Australians in Cairo.

Craig

#16 Jonathan Saunders

Jonathan Saunders

    Lieut-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 5,207 posts

Posted 23 March 2010 - 09:11 AM

Just a couple of things for you to consider. Apologies for haste and if I am repeating, as I have rushed through the comments made already.

To the best of my knowledge, very rarely did ANZAC and British forces "fight" side by side at Gallipoli. RM and RN battalions spent about 12 days up between Lone Pine and the Chessboard, and Hampshires and Cheshire etc at Rhododendron Ridge and The Farm. Although there was British inactivity at Suvla, the forces, again to best of my knowledge, were not in contact (ie not directly protecting a flank as such).

The other point I wanted to makle is in 1915 a large percentage of the ANZACs would have been British born - Im not sure how many, but my memory leads me to believe 30% in April 1915? Probably half of them had previous service in the British forces.

Where this is leading me, is that I think any criticism, warranted or mythical, would have arisen after/during the Australian involvement on the Somme. Again from memory, British units such as Ox & Bucks, also took heavy casualties fighting for Pozieres for example. I think the "mistrust" for want of a better word, came with Bullecourt and Im not sure that referred to Tommy Atkins, but more likely Bloody Red Tabs.

Just thoughts - again apologies for haste and not having time to add something more coherent.

Regards,

Jonathan S

#17 Blackblue

Blackblue

    Major-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 3,385 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Canberra, ACT, Australia
  • Interests:Lancashire Fusiliers (9th & 1/5th Battalions)
    Australian Imperial Force

Posted 23 March 2010 - 09:14 AM

QUOTE (nigelfe @ Mar 23 2010, 09:52 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Of course you also have to factor in exactly how 'Australian' the AIF was. Bearing in mind it was a volunteer force so the Irish were under-represented, its generally said that 1/3 had arrived in Australia from the British Isles as children and another 1/3 as adults. An unknown is how many had previously served in the British army (or RN) as a regular or TF/militia, etc.

I believe the Australians were paid more, particularly I suspect compared to British conscripts (assuming European practices were followed in this regard as they were later), so this could be a point of friction.


I think the figure across the AIF was more like 20% British born.... but the figure declined a little as the war went on. Some units had even higher percentages at the start of the war.

#18 DavidB

DavidB

    Major-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 3,413 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Interests:genealogy and classical music.

Posted 23 March 2010 - 09:17 AM

And I would hazard a guess that nearer 90 percent of them were first or second generation Aussies, I feel that the root cause of any trouble would have been
the attitude to the Colonel Blimps who were in charge.
David

#19 Ron Clifton

Ron Clifton

    Lieut-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 5,946 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Cambridge

Posted 23 March 2010 - 12:20 PM

QUOTE (melwar @ Mar 23 2010, 12:01 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
That works in reverse, too. Birdwood and Sinclair-McLagan were considered Australianised quickly and rarely considered Brits.

And, of course, John Simpson (Kirkpatrick) - "the man with the donkey". IIRC he came from Newcastle, or one of the other towns in the North-East.

As others have commented, a good proportion of the AIF would have either been British-born themselves, or the sons of British-born parents. In many cases these came from Irish stock, many of whom had no reason to love the English. In the Canadian EF, over 50% are thought to have been British-born, mostly Scots.

As Jonathan and David have said, I would place the problem of British generalship, rather than English troops in general, at the root of the Australian bias. Conversely, the increased pay given to the Aussies, and their perceived slackness in discipline out of action, cannot have endeared them to the British neighbours.

The important factor, then as now, is that when the chips were down, both nations (and the other Dominions) rallied round to fight for the "Imperial" cause.

Ron

#20 Auimfo

Auimfo

    Brigadier-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 2,208 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Queensland, Australia

Posted 23 March 2010 - 12:40 PM

My Grandfather, his three brothers and their father all served in the AIF but were English born. My Grandfather served throughout the entire war starting at the landing at Anzac and finishing on the Western Front in Nov 1918.

Interestingly, he had a great deal of praise for any professional 'regular' units of the British Army no matter whether they were Scots, English etc. (not that many were left) but regarded the the later conscripts and Kitchener's Army as very poor and untrusworthy indeed.

Strangely, he couldn't abide Monash one little bit but I suspect that had more to do with Monash being of German Jewish descent rather than a judgement of his ability.

Cheers,
Tim L.

P.S. Jonathon, you're only looking at British units that fought at Anzac. Don't forget that the 2nd Brigade AIF (and the NZ's) also fought and distinguished themselves at Helles (2nd Battle of Krithia).

#21 PJA

PJA

    Major-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 3,637 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:London

Posted 23 March 2010 - 01:23 PM

This is a phenomenon more apparent - and here I'm venturing a suggestion rather than stating a certainty - in the last generation than it was in the Great War itself. Mel Gibson syndrome has a lot to do with it. I have actually heard Aussie youngsters express the view that Australia was left alone to fight at Gallipoli. There is also a mantra which states that Australia had the highest military death rate per capita of any belligerent in the war - a preposterous assertion, as a quick glance at Franco-German statistics will prove. In fact, the UK had a higher per capita mortality rate than Australia, as did New Zealand. It is true that the overall Australian casualty rate, assessed against the number who actually "took the field", was extremely high....but this does not justify the statistical sleight of hand given by commentators as renowned as Hugh Thomas. In a sense, this anti English Australian bias is a reflection of the Lions led by Donkeys school of thought that developed over here in the sixties and seventies. The British Empire was reviled, and the perception of Diggers being callously exploited by English "toffs" sat well with the repudiation of Imperial tradition. It's gratifying to note that recent Australian military history has refuted much of this.

Phil

#22 Peter Doyle

Peter Doyle

    Lieut-Colonel

  • Old Sweats
  • 909 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:London (but a Birkenhead lad)

Posted 23 March 2010 - 02:54 PM

This old chestnut again... The Gibson factor certainly has a lot to do with it. At least some diggers thought themselves 'Britons' fighting for 'Empire'
Peter

Attached Files



#23 Craig P. Deayton

Craig P. Deayton

    Second Lieutenant

  • Old Sweats
  • 145 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 24 March 2010 - 05:36 AM

QUOTE (Waddell @ Mar 23 2010, 01:10 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Hi Craig,

I think that is why Edward Lynch created the character of Nullah to be able to do this. There are a couple of other things that don't line up, but having heard Will Davies speak about the book this allowed Lynch to include the odd story that he would have come across whilst at the front. I don't believe it makes the book any less worthy but needs to be kept in mind. One of the reasons Lynch wrote it was to bring a little more money in for his family as he was a school teacher working in the NSW bush during the twenties and thirties, so it makes sense that he would include them.

Regarding the Australian attitude to British troops I've recently been looking at "Saving the Channel Ports-1918" by W D Joynt VC, printed in 1975. The book is pretty scathing about British troops and in particular their leadership- Joynt had some issues with the "officer class" and didn't mind saying so. I don't agree with all his comments, but I guess for the purposes of your book it does provide the thoughts of a distinguished Australian officer who was actually there and fought all the way through the Western Front battles and had something to say, even 57 years later.

Scott


Hi Scott

Thanks for that. One further point on 'Somme Mud' which I was curious about was when Davies believed the MS was written. The description of Dernancourt contains an obscure incident which (I am 99% sure) can only have come from the Official History which - if that was a source for Somme Mud' puts it late 1930's. It is a good read, but the slightly concerning issue is that one is not sure which aspects are faction and which authentic and which aspects may owe something to the OH.

Thank you very much for pointing me to Joynt's book - a excellent example of just what I'm looking for!


Craig


#24 Dolphin

Dolphin

    Major-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 3,810 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Castle Hill, NSW, Australia

Posted 24 March 2010 - 05:51 AM

For what it's worth, I can throw in my memories of the Gallipoli and Western Front veteran who lived next door when I was growing up in Mosman, NSW, in the early 1960s. Unfortunately, I only knew him as "Mr Williams" and I haven't been able to identify him or his unit. I do remember him telling me that the Australians generally respected the British soldiers - especially the Guards - but not the Generals. He was especially scathing in his opinion of FM Haig. In particular, he said that while the Australians felt that while it was their right to criticise the British Army among themselves, they would strongly defend the fighting ability of the Tommies if they were criticised by anyone else, such as the Americans.

Gareth

#25 nigelfe

nigelfe

    Lieut-Colonel

  • Old Sweats
  • 1,322 posts

Posted 24 March 2010 - 07:46 AM

I've always had difficulty with the whole concept of anybody in any army below field rank being competant to critique, never mind criticise, generals commanding at div, corps, army or theatre level at the time. To my mind its fanciful to give such comments any credence, and I don't care who's grandfather it was.

The generals (and their staffs) were having to learn on the job, like the rest of the army, new type of war, new conditions, larger scale than they'd ever imagined. However, the great thing about the training of British officers was that they were encouraged to think and act offensively and not sit on their backsides waiting for something to turn up.

Frankly, I regard the contemporaneous criticism at the time as the same as in any organisation, everybody down to the most useless teaboy knows better than the guys actually responsible for running the show. It's probably been like this since the beginning of time.