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Bernard Law Montgomery, universally known as Monty (1887 - 1976) was a British soldier that became a general in World War II.

Early life and career

Born in Hammersmith in London, Montgomery spent his early childhood in Tasmania, before returning to Hammersmith as a day boy at St Paul's School. After leaving St Paul's School, Montgomery easily gained a place at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, quickly showing his leadership qualities,[N 1] graduating 36th out of 150 candidates. After Sandhurst, Monty joined the Royal Warwickshire Regiment [3] as a Second Lieutenant, shortly before the unit was posted to India.

By the start of World War I, Montgomery was a full Lieutenant. The Royal Warwickshires were soon posted to France, with Montgomery's battalion joining the 10th Brigade in the retreat from Mons. Following bitter fighting at La Cateau, Montgomery spent three days leading his company back to the British lines, avoiding detection by hiding during the day and only moving under cover of darkness.

In October 1914, Montgomery's battalion went into action on the outskirts of the village of Meteren, located on the Northern flank to the Allied front. After the village was seized, a German sniper wounded Montgomery, and killed the soldier sent to aid him. As a result of heavy enemy fire, the battalion had to wait for nightfall before they could collect Montgomery and transfer him to a forward dressing station. Despite the serious nature of his wounds, Montgomery survived and was sent home to England to recover. During his convalescence, he received word that he had been promoted to the rank of Captain, and awarded the Distinguished Service Order.

Returning to France, Montgomery ended the war as a Brigade-Major on the General staff. While serving in Germany with the Occupation forces after the war, he decided to seek assistance in furthering his career by attending the Staff College at Camberley. To this end, Montgomery approached Sir William Robertson, the C-in-C British Army of Occupation, for assistance, a meeting which resulted in Montgomery joining the staff college in 1920. After graduation, Montgomery served in England, Ireland, India and Palestine, receiving rapid promotion so that, by 1938, Montgomery held the rank on Major-General. In August 1939, Montgomery was placed in command of the Third Division, based in France, following the bloodless occupation of Austria and Czechoslovakia.[2]

World War II

Phoney War and the Blitzgrieg

After the capitulation of Poland, Montgomery and the Third Division took up a position south of Lille, tasked with prolonging the Maiginot Line behind the Belgian frontier. Following the German invasion of France and the Low Countries Montgomery, now commanding 2nd Corps, was among those evacuated during Operation Dynamo.[2]

North Africa

On August 9th 1942, only a few hours after receiving orders to take command of the 1st Army, prior to the launch of an invasion of French North Africa,[2] Lieutenant General Montgomery was given command of the Eighth Army, after Lieutenant General W.H.E. Gott, the officer originally scheduled to take command, was killed during an attack by German fighters against the aircraft transporting him.[4] Montgomery assumed command on August 15th,[5] and ordered the destruction of all retreat orders.[2] Four days later, Montgomery received a directive from General Alexander, Middle East Commander-in-chief, to hold the El Alamein line, and delay offensive operations until completion of the buildup of manpower.[6]

On October 6th Montgomery issued orders for a major offensive, to be directed against El Alamein.[7] Three weeks later, Montgomery used his knowledge of Axis plans to change his offensive strategy, by directing his next attack against the Italians in the south, with Australian forces on the northern flank holding the Germans in a counterattack. This led to a major attack by the Eighth Army during October 30th-31st, and Operation Supercharge on November 2nd. On the 3rd Montgomery deployed forces to outflank the Germans, forcing the Axis into full retreat,[8] culminating in the end of enemy resistance in North Africa on 12 May 1943, by which time Montgomery held the rank of General.[2]

Sicily

After the conclusion of the North African Campaign, Montgomery commanded the Eighth Army during their participation in the invasion of Sicily, which began on 10 July 1943. When this ended on 17 August, Montgomery received orders from General Alexander to secure a bridgehead on the toe of Italy, thus allowing Allied naval forces to operate safely through the Straits of Messsina.[2]

Liberation of Mainland Europe

On 1 September 1944 Montgomery, to his intense frustration, lost formal command of SHAEF ground forces to General Eisenhower. Prime Minister Winston Churchill responded by promoting Montgomery to the rank of Field Marshal as compensation.[N 2]

During the latter period of World War 2, the General's personal transport aircraft was Miles M38 Messenger RG333,[10] which he used until it was written off, after crashing due to engine failure, at Oldenburg on 22 August 1945.[11]

After World War II

Following Germany's surrender, Montgomery was appointed commander of the British zone in Germany, before becoming Chief of the Imperial General Staff in 1946, a post he held until 1948. Between 1951 and 1958, he was Deputy Supreme Commander of NATO. Montgomery died in 1976.[3]

Personality

Eisenhower once described Montgomery as 'a good man to serve under, a difficult man to serve with, and an impossible man to command'.[12]

References

Notes

  1. This was demonstrated when he led 'B' Company on a night attack against 'A' Company. Although B Company won the battle, the incident resulted in Montgomery not being selected as the new Colour Sergeant for 'B' Company.[2]
  2. This placed Montgomery one rank above Eisenhower, and resulted in the sudden creation by the United States of the new five star rank of General of the Army.[9]

Sources

  1. Government Auctions
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Makins, Clifford. High Command. Dragon's Dream. 1981. ISBN 90 6332 851 6.
  3. 3.0 3.1 McGovern, Una - Editor. Chambers Biographical Directory 7th Edition. Chambers Harrap publishers Ltd. 2002. ISBN 0550 10051 2 Page 1071
  4. Goralski, Robert. World War II Almanac 1931-1945. Hamish Hamilton Ltd. 1981. ISBN 0 241 10573 0 Page 227
  5. Goralski, Robert. Page 229
  6. Goralski, Robert. Page 230
  7. Goralski, Robert. Page 236
  8. Goralski, Robert. Page 240
  9. Badsey, Stephen. Normandy 1944 - Allied landings and breakout. Osprey Publishing. 2004 reprint. ISBN 0 85045 921 4 Page 87
  10. Aeroplane Monthly. Key Publishing. Summer 2014 Pages 98-99
  11. http://aviation-safety.net/wikibase/wiki.php?id=46077
  12. Farrington, Karen. D-Day to Berlin - From the Normandy Landings to the fall of the Reich (70th Anniversary Special Edition). Arcturus Publishing Limited. 2014. ISBN 978 1 78404 052 9 Page 17

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