WONDER WARLORDS; Battle over List of the World's 100 Top Generals

By Shaw, Adrian | The Mirror (London, England), September 16, 1997 | Go to article overview
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WONDER WARLORDS; Battle over List of the World's 100 Top Generals


Shaw, Adrian, The Mirror (London, England)


Britons rule the world on the battlefield. Nineteen of our commanders win places in the top 100 list of the globe's military leaders - more than any other country.

Cromwell, Wellington, Nelson and Montgomery are among the 19, in a book by an American battle veteran and historian that sparked a furious war of words yesterday.

The author, Lieut-Col Michael Lanning, puts his own nation's first president George Washington at No.1. Napoleon is second and Alexander the Great, third. Hitler is listed at 14 and Saddam Hussein at 81 in rankings which include those who dominated their time for good or evil.

Sir Winston Churchill is left out on the basis that he was a political rather than military leader.

Field Marshal Montgomery, his fellow Second World War hero, only makes No.63.

But Colonel Bob Stewart, who commanded British forces in Bosnia, yesterday led criticism of the list.

He said: "Washington at number one? He must be joking. The book is for the American market, so it has to have him top."

Stewart said Napoleon should have displaced Washington, adding: "Forget Waterloo, we only won because we were saved by the Prussians. Napoleon was a stunningly successful leader."

The rankings cover conflicts from the fifth century BC to the Gulf War in 1991.

And despite the US's brief 200 years as a fighting nation, 16 other Americans apart from War of Independence commander Washington make the top 100.

That puts America second to Britain, followed by France 12, Germany, nine, and Russia, four.

China also has four, including Chairman Mao. Spain, Sweden and Turkey have three each

Writer Lanning, a highly decorated Vietnam veteran, agreed his book was biased towards Americans, but said of Washington: "He kept the American army together.

"Without him, there wouldn't be a United States today."

Gulf war commander General "Stormin" Norman Schwarzkopf is No.49.

Cromwell, who beat the Royalists in the Civil War of the 17th century, is highest ranking Brit at 19.

The Duke of Wellington, Napoleon's conqueror at Waterloo, is 22. The Duke of Marlborough is 31 and Admiral Nelson 35.

Field Marshal Alan Brooke - later Viscount Alanbrooke - is listed 44 in recognition of his First World War exploits and his role in the Second as commander of all British troops. Fellow Field Marshal William Slim, commander of the forgotten 14th Army in Burma who beat the Japanese, is surprisingly excluded from Lanning's book, called The 100 Most Influential Military Leaders.

Among British experts taking issue with the choices yesterday was General Jeremy Thompson, who led 3 Para in the Falklands.

He said: "No.1 should be Alexander the Great. He was only 26 when he started and left a huge amount of cultural Greek imprints on large areas of the world.

"He is talked about to this day all over the world, about 2,500 years after it all happened."

Thompson added: "He is right not to include Churchill, but if he is going to include Hitler, then he should include Stalin.

"And Montgomery should be a lot higher than 63."

Military historian General Sir Anthony Farrar-Hockley named General MacArthur, head of American forces in Korea, as "probably the greatest" US leader of modern times. He is listed at 20.

Mark Seaman, historian at London's Imperial War Museum, said: "If you asked 10 military historians to come up with their top 100, you would find reasonable similarity, but never the same order."

1 George Washington, 1732-1799.

2 Napoleon, 1769-1821.

3 Alexander the Great, 356-323 BC.

4 Genghis Khan, 1167-1227. Mongol leader.

5 Julius Caesar, 100-44 BC.

6 Gustavus Adolphus, 1594-1632. Swedish king.

7 Francisco Pizarro, 1475-1541. Beat Incas.

8 Charlemagne, 742-814. Holy Roman Emperor.

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