A reinterpretation of the British Army's conduct in the crucial 1944-45 Northwest Europe campaign, this work examines systematically the Colossal Cracks operational technique employed by Montgomery's Anglo-Canadian 21st Army Group and demonstrates the key significance that morale and casualty concerns exerted on this technique. To ensure a full understanding of the campaign, one needs to look not only at Montgomery's methods but at those of his army commanders, Dempsey and Crerar; thus, this study addresses the scant attention to date paid to these two figures. Hart suggests that Montgomery and his two senior subordinates handled this formation more effectively than some scholars have suggested. In fact, Colossal Cracks, the concentration of massive force at a point of German weakness, represented the most appropriate weapon the 1944 British Army could develop under the circumstances.
Previous studies have been characterized by an overemphasis on Montgomery's role in the campaign, rather than a systematic examination of overall British methods. They have ignored the difficulties that the 1944 British Army faced given its manpower shortage, and they have underestimated the appropriateness of Monty's methods to the campaign war aims that Britain pursued: namely, the desire that Britain's modest military forces secure a high profile within a larger Allied effort. The cautious, firepower-laden approach used by the 21st Army Group was both crude and a double-edged sword; however, despite these weaknesses, Colossal Cracks represented an appropriate technique given the nature of British war aims and the relative capabilities of the forces involved. It proved to be just enough to defeat the Germans and keep alive British hopes that her war aims might be achieved.
About the Author:
STEPHEN ASHLEY HART is Senior Lecturer in the Department of War Studies, the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, at Camberley, United Kingdom. Prior to this, he lectured in the International Studies Department at the University of Surrey and in the Department of War Studies, King's College, London.