Bernard Law Montgomery was born in 1888. He came from the United Kingdom. His stock was Irish and English. His name relates to a place in Wales. For short he was known as Monty.
Monty’s father was a clergyman in the Church of England. This man was a very engaging preacher and was zealous in charitable work. He had a parish at Kennington in London. The church stands to this day. He was such an effectual cleric that he was promoted to be a bishop.
Monty attended St Paul’s School in London. This is one of the most distinguished schools in the kingdom. The school was then situated in an area called Hammersmith. He then went to Sandhurst Royal Military Academy. He passed out with distinction after the standard two years. He was commissioned into an infantry regiment.
The first years of Monty’s service were in India. He was posted to Quetta – now in Pakistan. He rode to the hounds a lot there.
The First World War broke out. Monty was posted to the Western Front. He was unafraid of death and acquitted himself commendably.
In 1920 Monty was sent to Ireland. There was an insurgency there. He said that such conflicts ”tend to lower standards of chivalry”. He also commented that ”the belief that we should not sort the wolves from the sheep is fundamentally wrong.”
The conflict ended in negotiation in 1921. Monty wrote, ”I consider Lloyd George to be write in doing what he did.” Lloyd George was the prime minister.
Monty was involved in reorganising the much reduced British Army after the Great War. He was forward looking. He was notably lax about dress. Monty did not drink or smoke which was highly unusual at the time.
The Second World War started in 1939. Monty was promoted again. He was sent to North Africa. Several British generals had failed to dislodge the Germans from Libya. Monty organised things meticulously. He also lobbied London effectually. He convinced them of how crucial the war in the Western Desert was. Monty was sent ample men and supplies.
The German general was Erwin Rommel. Rommel was perhaps the ablest German commander of the war. He was known as the Desert Fox. He was cunning and honourable. Rommel said this was ”war without hate”. There were no atrocities on this front. Monty was promoted field marshal whilst he fought Rommel.
In November 1942 the Germans and Italians invaded Egypt. They fought around a railway station named El Alamein. To the north was the sea. To the south was the Al Qattara Depression which was almost impassable. Monty was well prepared. He had many boxes. These were squares surrounded by barbed wire. Inside would be several soldiers and perhaps a machinegun or piece of artillery. These units were lined up diagonally. They had interlocking fields of fire. The Axis found them time consuming and costly to storm. They could be bypassed but then the Axis would have enemy to their rear.
Rommel was seriously ill and had to fly to Germany for medical treatment. This impacted on his performance. His second – in – command was not as able as he was.
In November 1942 Monty sent out a message to his troops. He said the aim was ”to hit Rommel for six.” He added, ”Let no man surrender unless he is wounded and cannot fight.” Rommel went on morale boosting snap inspections of his men. He also had a double. His lookalike – an Australian actor – flew around to confuse the Germans as to Monty’s whereabouts. This actor drank and smoked a lot. He had to give up when impersonating Monty. He had been ding impressions of Monty on stage when he was given this secret assignment. To get him into the mindset he was given a field marshal’s pay for the days he played Monty.
The Allies had a two to one advantage in men. The Axis was very short of fuel. The Allies had men from India, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. They began Operation Supercharge. The Allies had repelled the Axis attack. The Allied counterattack smashed the Axis lines.
Before long the Axis were in full retreat. Monty pursued Rommel. However, he did not chase the German too closely. He was war lest a trap be set. Some have castigated Monty for not pursuing the enemy faster when the enemy was in a rout.
Churchill had said ”I cannot get the victories”. Then El Alamein had come. Churchill later said ”Before Alamein never a victory. After Alamein never a defeat.”
The Axis forces did not stop until they got to Tunisia. The Americans had stormed Morocco and Algeria. Many of the Vichy French had become Free French by then.
Monty teamed up with the American Eisenhower. They closed in on the Axis. The Axis forces were soon compelled to evacuate to Italy. Many Axis soldiers did not make it and hundreds of thousands were taken prisoners.
Monty went back to the UK. Church bells had been rung in celebration at the victory. He was put in charge of British troops for Operation Overlord. His commander was the American Dwight D Eisenhower. He sometimes argued with him. Eisenhower would chide him, ”Monty you cannot say that to me. I am your boss.”
On 6 June D Day went ahead. The Western Allies landed in Normandy. The fighting was heavy but they gained a foothold. They soon broke out of Normandy and drove the Germans back.
Monty was noted for his caution. He waited until he had all the troops and equipment he needed. Only then did he attack. Some have excoriated him as overly circumspect. He missed golden opportunities by being too risk averse.
In late 1944 Monty conceived an audacious plan to end the war that year. The aim was for paratroopers to land in the Netherlands and seize the bridge over the Rhine at Arnhem. They would have to hold the town for two days. Troops in Belgium would fight their way through to link up with the men at Arnhem. From there the Allies would attack into Germany. The North German Plain was much less defensible territory than further south.
This was an uncharacteristically daring gambit. It was tried in September 1944. It was called Operation Market Garden. Allied parachutists landed at Arnhem. They took the town with difficulty. The SS happened to be nearby. These crack troops were a very tough match. The SS general Sepp Dietrich was there.
The Dutch resistance came into the open to assist the Allies. They wore orange armbands to identify themselves.
The Allied troops in Belgium strove to fight their way through. They had to cross several bridges to reach Arnhem. The Germans surrounded the paratroopers at Arnhem. They Germans also destroyed bridges in between Belgium and Arnhem. The paratroopers held out for seven days. They surrendered when their ammunition was exhausted.
The plan had failed. Monty still had a major role in the invasion of Germany.
AFter the war he was chief of imperial general staff. Later he was elevated to the peerage. Earl Montgomery of Alamein spoke up for apartheid. He was horrified at the notion that sodomy would be legalised. ”This is the sort of thing the French might tolerate but we are still British thank God”. He died in 1976.
- Which nationality was Montgomery?
- What was Montgomery’s nickname?
- What was the profession of Monty’s father?
- Which school did Monty enroll at?
- Which military academy did Monty attend?
- In which Asian country did Monty serve?
- Where was Monty right after the First World War?
- What was Monty’s highest rank?
- Which country is El Alamein in?
- Who was Monty’s nemesis in the Western Desert?
- What was Rommel’s nickname?
- In which country did Monty corner the Axis forces?
- In North Africa the Axis forces were which two nationalities? Two marks.
- Which land did Monty lead men into in June 1944?
- What was Operation Market Garden? Five marks.
- Who was Monty’s American superior?#
- Why did Operation Market Garden fail?
- What was Monty’s attitude to the legalisation of sodomy?
- When did he die?
- What is your opinion of him? Five marks.