|The Viscount Montgomery of Alamein|
|Birth name||Bernard Law Montgomery|
"The Spartan General"
17 November 1887|
Kennington, London, England
|Died||24 March 1976
Alton, Hampshire, England
|Buried at||Holy Cross Churchyard, Binsted, Hampshire|
|Years of service||1908–1958|
|Unit||Royal Warwickshire Regiment|
|Commands held||17th (Service) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers
1st Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment
9th Infantry Brigade
8th Infantry Division
3rd Infantry Division
21st Army Group
Chief of the Imperial General Staff
Deputy Supreme Commander Europe of NATO
|Awards||Knight of the Order of the Garter
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath
Distinguished Service Order
Mentioned in dispatches (9 times)
|Other work||Colonel Commandant, Royal Tank Regiment
Colonel Commandant, Parachute Regiment (−1956)
Representative Colonel Commandant, Royal Armoured Corps (1947-1957)
Colonel Commandant, Army Physical Training Corps (1946-1960)
Colonel Royal Warwickshire Regiment(1947-1963)
Deputy Lieutenant of Southampton (1958–)
Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, KG, GCB, DSO, PC (/ /; 17 November 1887 – 24 March 1976), nicknamed "Monty" and the "Spartan General", was a senior British Army officer who fought in both the First World War and the Second World War.
He saw action in the First World War as a junior officer of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. At Méteren, near the Belgian border at Bailleul, he was shot through the right lung by a sniper, during the First Battle of Ypres. He returned to the Western Front as a general staff officer and took part in the Battle of Arras in April/May 1917. He also took part in the Battle of Passchendaele in late 1917 before finishing the war as chief of staff of the 47th (2nd London) Division.
In the inter-war years he commanded the 17th (Service) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers and, later, the 1st Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment before becoming commander of 9th Infantry Brigade and then General Officer Commanding (GOC) 8th Infantry Division.
During the Second World War he commanded the British Eighth Army from August 1942 in the Western Desert until the final Allied victory in Tunisia in May 1943. This command included the Second Battle of El Alamein, a turning point in the Western Desert Campaign. He subsequently commanded the British Eighth Army during the Allied invasion of Sicily and the Allied invasion of Italy.
He was in command of all Allied ground forces during Operation Overlord from the initial landings until after the Battle of Normandy. He then continued in command of the 21st Army Group for the rest of the campaign in North West Europe. As such he was the principal field commander for the failed airborne attempt to bridge the Rhine at Arnhem, and the Allied Rhine crossing. On 4 May 1945 he took the German surrender at Lüneburg Heath in Northern Germany. After the war he became Commander-in-Chief of the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) in Germany and then Chief of the Imperial General Staff.
- 1 Early life
- 2 First World War
- 3 Between the world wars
- 4 Second World War
- 5 Montgomery's lack of diplomacy
- 6 Later life
- 7 Death
- 8 Legacy
- 9 Honours and awards
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 External links
Montgomery was born in Kennington, London, in 1887, the fourth child of nine, to an Anglo-Irish Church of Ireland minister, the Reverend Henry Montgomery, and his wife, Maud (née Farrar). The Montgomerys, an 'Ascendancy' gentry family, were the County Donegal branch of the Clan Montgomery. Henry Montgomery, Vicar of St Mark's Church, Kennington, at that time, was the second son of General Sir Robert Montgomery, a native of Inishowen in County Donegal, the noted soldier and proconsul in British India, who died a month after his grandson's birth. He was probably a descendant of Colonel Alexander Montgomery (1686–1729). Bernard's mother, Maud, was the daughter of the preacher Frederic William Farrar and was eighteen years younger than her husband. After the death of Sir Robert Montgomery, Henry inherited the Montgomery ancestral estate of New Park in Moville, County Donegal. There was still £13,000 to pay on a mortgage, a large debt in the 1880s, and Henry was at the time still only an Anglican vicar. Despite selling off all the farms that were at Ballynally, "there was barely enough to keep up New Park and pay for the blasted summer holiday" (i.e., at New Park).
It was a financial relief of some magnitude when, in 1889, Henry was made Bishop of Tasmania, then still a British colony and Bernard spent his formative years there. Bishop Montgomery considered it his duty to spend as much time as possible in the rural areas of Tasmania and was away for up to six months at a time. While he was away, his wife, still in her mid-twenties, gave her children "constant" beatings, then ignored them most of the time as she performed the public duties of the bishop's wife. Of Bernard's siblings, Sibyl died prematurely in Tasmania, and Harold, Donald and Una all emigrated. Maud Montgomery took little active interest in the education of her young children other than to have them taught by tutors brought from Britain. The loveless environment made Bernard something of a bully, as he himself recalled, "I was a dreadful little boy. I don't suppose anybody would put up with my sort of behaviour these days." Later in life Montgomery refused to allow his son David to have anything to do with his grandmother, and refused to attend her funeral in 1949.
The family returned to England once for a Lambeth Conference in 1897, and Bernard and his brother Harold were educated for a term at The King's School, Canterbury. In 1901, Bishop Montgomery became secretary of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, and the family returned to London. Montgomery attended St Paul's School and then the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, from which he was almost expelled for rowdiness and violence. On graduation in September 1908 he was commissioned into the 1st Battalion the Royal Warwickshire Regiment as a second lieutenant, and first saw overseas service later that year in India. He was promoted to lieutenant in 1910, and in 1912 became adjutant of the 1st Battalion of his regiment at Shorncliffe Army Camp.
First World War
The Great War began in August 1914 and Montgomery moved to France with his battalion that month, which was at the time part of the 10th Brigade of the 4th Division. He saw action at the Battle of Le Cateau that month and during the retreat from Mons. At Méteren, near the Belgian border at Bailleul on 13 October 1914, during an Allied counter-offensive, he was shot through the right lung by a sniper. Montgomery was hit once more, in the knee. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for gallant leadership: the citation for this award, published in the London Gazette in December 1914 reads:
Conspicuous gallant leading on 13th October, when he turned the enemy out of their trenches with the bayonet. He was severely wounded.
After recovering in early 1915, he was appointed to be brigade major first of 112th Brigade and then with 104th Brigade under training in Lancashire. He returned to the Western Front in early 1916 as a general staff officer in the 33rd Division and took part in the Battle of Arras in April/May 1917. He became a general staff officer with IX Corps, part of General Sir Herbert Plumer's Second Army, in July 1917.
Montgomery served at the Battle of Passchendaele in late 1917 before finishing the war as General Staff Officer 1 and effectively chief of staff of the 47th (2nd London) Division, with the temporary rank of lieutenant colonel. A photograph from October 1918, reproduced in many biographies, shows the then unknown Lieutenant Colonel Montgomery standing in front of Winston Churchill (Minister of Munitions) at the parade following the liberation of Lille.
Between the world wars
After the First World War Montgomery commanded the 17th (Service) Battalion the Royal Fusiliers, a battalion in the British Army of the Rhine, before reverting to his substantive rank of captain (brevet major) in November 1919. He had not at first been selected for Staff College (his only hope of ever achieving high command). But at a tennis party in Cologne, he was able to persuade the Commander-in-Chief of the British Army of Occupation, Sir William Robertson, to add his name to the list.
After graduating from Staff College, he was appointed brigade major in the 17th Infantry Brigade in January 1921. The brigade was stationed in County Cork, Ireland, carrying out counter-insurgency operations during the final stages of the Irish War of Independence.
Montgomery came to the conclusion that the conflict could not be won without harsh measures, and that self-government for Ireland was the only feasible solution; in 1923, after the establishment of the Irish Free State and during the Irish Civil War, Montgomery wrote to Colonel Arthur Percival of the Essex Regiment:
Personally, my whole attention was given to defeating the rebels but it never bothered me a bit how many houses were burnt. I think I regarded all civilians as 'Shinners' and I never had any dealings with any of them. My own view is that to win a war of this sort, you must be ruthless. Oliver Cromwell, or the Germans, would have settled it in a very short time. Nowadays public opinion precludes such methods, the nation would never allow it, and the politicians would lose their jobs if they sanctioned it. That being so, I consider that Lloyd George was right in what he did, if we had gone on we could probably have squashed the rebellion as a temporary measure, but it would have broken out again like an ulcer the moment we removed the troops. I think the rebels would probably [have] refused battles, and hidden their arms etc. until we had gone.
In May 1923, Montgomery was posted to the 49th (West Riding) Division, a Territorial Army formation. He returned to the 1st Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment in 1925 as a company commander. In January 1926, having been promoted to major in July 1925, he was appointed Deputy Assistant Adjutant General at the Staff College, Camberley in the temporary rank of lieutenant-colonel, a position he held until January 1929 by which time he had been made a brevet lieutenant-colonel.
In 1927, he met and married Elizabeth Carver, née Hobart, widow of Oswald Carver, Olympic rowing medallist who was killed in the First World War. Their son, David, was born in August 1928. Elizabeth Carver was the sister of the Second World War commander Percy Hobart.
He returned to 1st Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment again, as Commander of Headquarters Company in January 1929 and went to the War Office to help write the Infantry Training Manual in mid-1929. In 1931 Montgomery was promoted to lieutenant colonel commanding the 1st Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment and saw service in Palestine and British India. He was promoted to colonel in June 1934 (seniority from January 1932). He attended and was then recommended to become an instructor at the Indian Army Staff College (now the Pakistan Army Staff College) in Quetta, British India.
On completion of his tour of duty in India, Montgomery returned to Britain in June 1937 where he became commanding officer of the 9th Infantry Brigade with the temporary rank of brigadier, but that year saw personal tragedy when his wife died. While on holiday in Burnham-on-Sea, she had suffered an insect bite which became infected, and she died in his arms from septicaemia following an amputation. The loss devastated Montgomery, but he insisted on throwing himself back into his work immediately after the funeral."
In 1938, he organised an amphibious combined operations landing exercise that impressed the new commander-in-chief, Southern Command, General Wavell. He was promoted to major-general in October 1938 and took command of the 8th Infantry Division in Palestine. There he quashed an Arab revolt before returning in July 1939 to Britain, suffering a serious illness on the way, to command the 3rd (Iron) Infantry Division. On hearing of the rebel defeat in April 1939, Montgomery said, "I shall be sorry to leave Palestine in many ways, as I have enjoyed the war out here".
Second World War
British Expeditionary Force
Retreat to Dunkirk and evacuation
Britain declared war on Germany on 3 September 1939. The 3rd Division was deployed to Belgium as part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). During this time, Montgomery faced serious trouble from his military superiors and the clergy for his frank attitude regarding the sexual health of his soldiers, but was defended from dismissal by his superior Alan Brooke, commander of II Corps. Montgomery's training paid off when the Germans began their invasion of the Low Countries on 10 May 1940 and the 3rd Division advanced to the River Dijle and then withdrew to Dunkirk with great professionalism, entering the Dunkirk perimeter in a famous night-time march which placed his forces on the left flank which had been left exposed by the Belgian surrender. The 3rd Division returned to Britain intact with minimal casualties. During Operation Dynamo — the evacuation of 330,000 BEF and French troops to Britain — Montgomery assumed command of the II Corps.
On his return Montgomery antagonised the War Office with trenchant criticisms of the command of the BEF and was briefly relegated back to divisional command of 3rd Division. He was made a Companion of the Order of the Bath. 3rd Division was at that time the only fully equipped division in Britain.
Montgomery was ordered to make ready his 3rd division to invade the neutral Portuguese Azores. Models of the islands were prepared and detailed plans worked out for the invasion. The invasion plans did not go ahead and plans switched to invading Cape Verde island also belonging to neutral Portugal. These invasion plans also did not go ahead. Montgomery was then ordered to prepare plans for the invasion of neutral Ireland and to seize Cork, Cobh and Cork harbour. These invasion plans like those of the Portuguese islands also did not go ahead and in July 1940, Montgomery was appointed acting lieutenant-general, placed in command of V Corps, responsible for the defence of Hampshire and Dorset, and started a long-running feud with the new commander-in-chief, Southern Command, Claude Auchinleck.
In April 1941, he became commander of XII Corps responsible for the defence of Kent. During this period he instituted a regime of continuous training and insisted on high levels of physical fitness for both officers and other ranks. He was ruthless in sacking officers he considered would be unfit for command in action. Promoted to temporary lieutenant-general in July, in December Montgomery was given command of South-Eastern Command overseeing the defence of Kent, Sussex and Surrey.
He renamed his command the South-Eastern Army to promote offensive spirit. During this time he further developed and rehearsed his ideas and trained his soldiers, culminating in Exercise Tiger in May 1942, a combined forces exercise involving 100,000 troops.
North Africa and Italy
Montgomery's early command
In 1942, a new field commander was required in the Middle East, where Auchinleck was fulfilling both the role of Commander-in-chief Middle East Command and commander Eighth Army. He had stabilised the Allied position at the First Battle of El Alamein, but after a visit in August 1942, the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, replaced him as Commander-in-chief with General Sir Harold Alexander and William Gott as commander of the Eighth Army in the Western Desert. After Gott was killed flying back to Cairo Churchill was persuaded by Brooke, who by this time was Chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS), to appoint Montgomery, who had only just been nominated to replace Alexander as commander of the British ground forces for Operation Torch.
A story, probably apocryphal but popular at the time, is that the appointment caused Montgomery to remark that "After having an easy war, things have now got much more difficult." A colleague is supposed to have told him to cheer up – at which point Montgomery said "I'm not talking about me, I'm talking about Rommel!"
Montgomery's assumption of command transformed the fighting spirit and abilities of the Eighth Army. Taking command on 13 August 1942, he immediately became a whirlwind of activity. He ordered the creation of the X Corps, which contained all armoured divisions to fight alongside his XXX Corps which was all infantry divisions. This was in no way similar to a German Panzer Corps. One of Rommel's Panzer Corps combined infantry, armour and artillery units under one corps commander. The only common commander for Montgomery's all infantry and all armour corps was the Eighth Army Commander himself. Correlli Barnett commented that Montgomery's solution "... was in every way opposite to Auchinleck's and in every way wrong, for it carried the existing dangerous separatism still further." Montgomery reinforced the 30 miles (48 km) long front line at El Alamein, something that would take two months to accomplish. He asked Alexander to send him two new British divisions (51st Highland and 44th Home Counties) that were then arriving in Egypt and were scheduled to be deployed in defence of the Nile Delta. He moved his field HQ to Burg al Arab, close to the Air Force command post in order better to coordinate combined operations.
Montgomery was determined that the Army, Navy and Air Forces should fight their battles in a unified, focused manner according to a detailed plan. He ordered immediate reinforcement of the vital heights of Alam Halfa, just behind his own lines, expecting the German commander, Erwin Rommel, to attack with the heights as his objective, something that Rommel soon did. Montgomery ordered all contingency plans for retreat to be destroyed. "I have cancelled the plan for withdrawal. If we are attacked, then there will be no retreat. If we cannot stay here alive, then we will stay here dead", he told his officers at the first meeting he held with them in the desert, though, in fact, Auchinleck had no plans to withdraw from the strong defensive position he had chosen and established at El Alamein.
Montgomery made a great effort to appear before troops as often as possible, frequently visiting various units and making himself known to the men, often arranging for cigarettes to be distributed. Although he still wore a standard British officer's cap on arrival in the desert, he briefly wore an Australian broad-brimmed hat before switching to wearing the black beret (with the badge of the Royal Tank Regiment next to the British General Officer's badge) for which he became notable. The black beret was offered to him by Jim Fraser while the latter was driving him on an inspection tour. Both Brooke and Alexander were astonished by the transformation in atmosphere when they visited on 19 August, less than a week after Montgomery had taken command.
First battles with Rommel
Rommel attempted to turn the left flank of the Eighth Army at the Battle of Alam el Halfa from 31 August 1942. The German/Italian armoured Corps infantry attack was stopped in very heavy fighting. Rommel's forces had to withdraw urgently lest their retreat through the British minefields be cut off. Montgomery was criticised for not counter-attacking the retreating forces immediately, but he felt strongly that his methodical build-up of British forces was not yet ready. A hasty counter-attack risked ruining his strategy for an offensive on his own terms in late October, planning for which had begun soon after he took command. He was confirmed in the permanent rank of lieutenant-general in mid October.
The conquest of Libya was essential for airfields to support Malta and to threaten the rear of Axis forces opposing Operation Torch. Montgomery prepared meticulously for the new offensive after convincing Churchill that the time was not being wasted. (Churchill sent a telegram to Alexander on 23 September 1942 which began, "We are in your hands and of course a victorious battle makes amends for much delay.") He was determined not to fight until he thought there had been sufficient preparation for a decisive victory, and put into action his beliefs with the gathering of resources, detailed planning, the training of troops—especially in clearing minefields and fighting at night—and in the use of 252 of the latest American-built Sherman tanks, 90 M7 Priest self-propelled howitzers, and making a personal visit to every unit involved in the offensive. By the time the offensive was ready in late October, Eighth Army had 231,000 men on its ration strength.
The Second Battle of El Alamein began on 23 October 1942, and ended 12 days later with one of the first large-scale, decisive Allied land victories of the war. Montgomery correctly predicted both the length of the battle and the number of casualties (13,500). Soon after Allied armoured units and infantry broke through the German and Italian lines and were pursuing the enemy forces at speed along the coast road, a violent rainstorm burst over the region, bogging down the tanks and support trucks in the desert mud. Montgomery, standing before his officers at headquarters and close to tears, announced that he was forced to call off the pursuit. Historian Corelli Barnett has pointed out that the rain also fell on the Germans, and that the weather is therefore an inadequate explanation for the failure to exploit the breakthrough, but nevertheless the Battle of El Alamein had been a great success. Over 30,000 prisoners of war were taken, including the German second-in-command, General von Thoma, as well as eight other general officers. Rommel, having been in a hospital in Germany at the start of the battle, was forced to return on 25 October 1942 after Stumme – his replacement as German commander – died of a heart attack in the early hours of the battle.
Montgomery was advanced to KCB and promoted to full general. He kept the initiative, applying superior strength when it suited him, forcing Rommel out of each successive defensive position. On 6 March 1943, Rommel's attack on the over-extended Eighth Army at Medenine (Operation Capri) with the largest concentration of German armour in North Africa was successfully repulsed. At the Mareth Line, 20 to 27 March, when Montgomery encountered fiercer frontal opposition than he had anticipated, he switched his major effort into an outflanking inland pincer, backed by low-flying RAF fighter-bomber support. For his role in North Africa he was awarded the Legion of Merit by the United States government in the rank of Chief Commander.
The next major Allied attack was the Allied invasion of Sicily (Operation Husky). Montgomery considered the initial plans for the Allied invasion, which had been agreed in principle by General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander Mediterranean, and General Alexander, the 15th Army Group commander, to be unworkable because of the dispersion of effort. He managed to have the plans recast to concentrate the Allied forces, having Lieutenant General George Patton's US Seventh Army land in the Gulf of Gela (on the Eighth Army's left flank, which landed around Syracuse in the south-east of Sicily) rather than near Palermo in the west and north of Sicily. Inter-Allied tensions grew as the American commanders, Patton and Omar Bradley (then commanding US II Corps under Patton), took umbrage at what they saw as Montgomery's attitudes and boastfulness.
During late 1943, Montgomery continued to command the Eighth Army during the landings on the mainland of Italy itself, beginning with Operation Baytown. In conjunction with the Anglo-American landings at Salerno (near Naples) by Lieutenant General Mark Clark's US Fifth Army and seaborne landings by British paratroops in the heel of Italy (including the key port of Taranto, where they disembarked without resistance directly into the port), Montgomery led the Eighth Army up the toe of Italy. Montgomery abhorred the lack of coordination, the dispersion of effort and the strategic muddle and opportunism he saw in the Allied effort in Italy and was glad to leave the "dog's breakfast" on 23 December 1943.
Montgomery returned to Britain in January 1944. He was assigned to command the 21st Army Group which consisted of all Allied ground forces that would take part in Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy under overall direction of the Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Forces, American General Dwight D. Eisenhower. At St Paul's School on 7 April and 15 May he presented his strategy for the invasion. He envisaged a ninety-day battle, ending when all the forces reached the Seine, pivoting on an Allied-held Caen, with British and Canadian armies forming a shoulder to attract and defeat the main German counter-attacks, while the US armies took the Cotentin Peninsula and Brittany, wheeling south and then east on the right.
During the hard fought two and a half month Battle of Normandy that followed, the impact of a series of unfavourable autumnal weather conditions disrupted the Normandy landing areas. Montgomery's initial plan was for the Anglo-Canadian troops under his command to break out immediately from their beachheads on the Calvados coast towards Caen with the aim of taking Caen on either D Day or two days after D-Day. Depending on the historical interpretation he was unable or unwilling to do so. Montgomery's attempt to follow up the D-Day landings with an attempt to take Caen with the British 3rd Division, British 50th Northumbrian Division and Canadian 3rd Division was stopped on 7–8 June by 21st Panzer Division and 12th Waffen SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend who hit the advancing Anglo-Canadian troops very hard. To follow up this victory Rommel ordered the 2nd Panzer Division to Caen while Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt asked for and received permission from Hitler to have the elite 1st Waffen SS Division Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler and 2nd Waffen SS Division Das Reich to be sent to Caen with the aim of driving the Anglo-Canadian forces back into the sea. Montgomery thus had to face what the British historian Stephen Badsey called the "most formidable" of all the German divisions in France. The 12th Waffen SS Division drawn entirely from the more fanatical elements of the Hitler Youth and commanded by the very ruthless General Kurt Meyer, aka "Panzer Meyer" was in the words of the Canadian historian Colonel John English "the scourge of Canadian arms throughout the Normandy campaign" as time after time Meyer foiled Montgomery's attempts to have his Canadian soldiers take Caen.
The failure to take Caen immediately has been the source of an immense historiographical dispute with bitter nationalist overtones. Broadly, there has been a "British school" which accepts Montgomery's post-war claim that he never intended to take Caen at once, and instead the Anglo-Canadian operations around Caen were a "holding operation" intended to attract the bulk of the German forces towards the Caen sector to allow the Americans to stage the "break out operation" on the left flank of the German positions, which was all part of Montgomery's "Master Plan" that he had conceived of long before the Normandy campaign. By contrast, the "American school" argued that Montgomery's initial "master plan" was for the 21st Army Group to take Caen at once, move his tank divisions into the plains south of Caen to stage a breakout that would lead the 21st Army Group into the plains of northern France and hence into Antwerp and finally the Ruhr.
As the campaign progressed Montgomery altered his initial plan for the invasion and switched to a strategy of attracting and holding German counter-attacks in the area north of Caen, which was designed to allow the United States Army in the west to take Cherbourg. A memo summarising Montgomery's operations written by Eisenhower's chief of staff, General Walter Bedell Smith who met with Montgomery in late June 1944 says nothing about Montgomery conducting a "holding operation" in the Caen sector, and instead speaks of him seeking a "breakout" into the plains south of the Seine. On 12 June, Montgomery ordered the 7th Armored Division into an offensive against the Panzer Lehr Division that made good progress at first, but ended when the Panzer Lehr was joined by the 2nd SS Division. At the celebrated tank action at Villers Bocage on 14 June, the British lost twenty Cromwell tanks to five Tiger tanks led by SS Obersturmführer Michael Wittmann in about five minutes. Despite the setback at Villers Bocage, Montgomery was still optimistic as the Allies were landing more troops and supplies than they were losing in battle, and through the German lines were holding, the Wehrmacht and Waffen SS were taking terrible causalities to hold their positions. On 18 June, Montgomery ordered Bradley to take Cherbourg while the British were to take Caen by 23 June. In Operation Epsom, the British VII Corps commanded Sir Richard O'Connor attempted to outflank Caen from the west by breaking through the dividing line between the Panzer Lehr and the 12th SS to take the strategic Hill 112. Epsom began well with O'Connor's assault force, the British 15th Scottish Division breaking through, and joined by the 11th Armored Division stopping the counterattacks of the 12th SS Division. General Friedrich Dollmann of the 7th Army had to commit the newly arrived II SS Corps to stop the British offensive. Dollmann, fearing that Epsom would be a success, committed suicide and was replaced with the SS General Paul Hausser. O'Connor at the cost of about 4, 000 men had won a salient of 5 miles deep and 2 miles wide, but placed the Germans into an unviable long-term position. But at the time, there was a strong sense of crisis in the Allied command as the Allies had only advanced about 15 miles inland at a time when their plans called for them to had already taken Rennes, Alençon and St. Malo.
It was only after several failed attempts to break out in the Caen sector that Montgomery devised what he later called his "master plan" of having the 21st Army Group hold the bulk of the German forces and thus allowing the Americans to break out. The Canadian historians Terry Copp and Robert Vogel wrote about the dispute between the "American school" and "British school" after having suffered several setbacks in June 1944:
"Montgomery drew what was the indisputably correct conclusion from these events. If the British and Canadians could continue to hold the bulk of the German armored divisions on their front through a series of limited attacks, they could wear down the Germans and create the conditions for an American breakout on the right.
This is what Montgomery proposed in his Directive of June 30th and, if he and his admirers had let the record speak for itself, there would be little debate about his conduct of the first stages of the Normandy campaign. Instead, Montgomery insisted that this Directive was a consistent part of a master plan that he had devised long before the invasion. Curiously, this view does a great disservice to 'Monty' for any rigid planning of operations before the German response was known would had been bad generalship indeed!".
Hampered by stormy weather and the bocage terrain, Montgomery had to ensure Rommel focused on the British in the east rather than the Americans in the west, who had to take the Cotentin Peninsula and Brittany before the Germans could be trapped by a general swing east. Montgomery told General Sir Miles Dempsey, the commander of the 2nd British Army: "Go on hitting, drawing the German strength, especially some of the armour, on to yourself-so as to ease the way for Brad [Bradley]." The Germans had deployed 12 divisions, of which 6 were Panzer divisions against the British while deploying 8 divisions, of which 3 were Panzer divisions against the Americans. By the middle of July Caen had not been taken, as Rommel continued to prioritise prevention of the break-out by British forces rather than the western territories being taken by the Americans. This was broadly as Montgomery had planned, albeit not with the same speed as he outlined at St Paul's.
On 7 July, Montgomery began Operation Charnwood with a carpet bombing offensive that turned much of the French countryside into a wasteland. The German resistance was extremely fierce with Kurt "Panzer" Meyer at one point fighting in the streets of Caen with a panzerfaust (anti-tank rocket projector) to inspire his men to keep fighting. The British and Canadians succeeded into advancing into northern Caen before the Germans who used the ruins to their advantage and stopped the offensive. On 14 July 1944, Montgomery wrote to his patron Brooke, saying he had chosen on a "real show down on the eastern flanks, and to loose a Corps of three armored divisions in the open country about the Caen-Falaise road...The possibilities are immense; with seven hundred tanks loosed to the South-east of Caen, and the armored cars operating far ahead, anything can happen."
An American break-out was achieved with Operation Cobra and the encirclement of German forces in the Falaise pocket at the cost of British sacrifice with the diversionary Operation Goodwood. On the early morning of 18 July 1944, Operation Goodwood began with British heavy bombers beginning a carpet bombing attacks that turned what was left of Caen and the surrounding countryside into a wasteland. A British tankman from the Guards Armored Division later recalled: "At 0500 hours a distant thunder in the air brought all the sleepy-eyed tank crews out of their blankets. 1, 000 Lancasters were flying from the sea in groups of three or four at 3, 000 feet. Ahead of them the pathfinders were scattering their flares and before long the first bombs were dropping". A German tankman from the 21st Panzer Division at the receiving end of this bombardment remembered: "We saw little dots detach themselves from the planes, so many of them that the crazy thought occurred to us: are those leaflets?...Among the thunder of the explosions, we could hear the wounded scream and the insane howling of men who had driven mad". The British bombing had badly smashed the German front-line units with German tanks thrown up on the roofs of French farmhouses, and initially the three British armored divisions assigned to lead the offensive, namely the 7th, 11th and the Guards made rapid process and were soon approaching the Borguebus ridge, which dominated the landscape south of Caen by noon. If the British could take the Borguebus ridge, the way to plains of northern France would be wide open, and potentially Paris could be taken, which explains the ferocity which the Germans defended the Borguebus ridge. One German officer, Lieutenant Baron von Rosen recalled that to motivate a Luftwaffe officer commanding a battery of four 88mm guns to fight against the British tanks that he had to hold his handgun to his head "...and asked him whether he would like to be killed immediately or get a high decoration. He decided for the latter". The well dug in 88mm guns around the Borguebus ridge began taking a toll on the British Sherman tanks and the countryside was soon dotted with dozens of burning Shermans. One British officer reported with worry: "I see palls of smoke and tanks brewing up with flames belching forth from their turrets. I see men climbing out, on fire like torches, rolling on the ground to try and douse the flames". Despite Montgomery's orders to try to press on, fierce German counterattacks stopped the British offensive.
Operation Goodwood was a British defeat in operational terms, but a strategic Allied success in that it drew the last German reserves in Normandy towards the Caen sector and thus greatly helped the Americans break out with Operation Cobra. By the end of Goodwood on 25 July 1944, the Canadians had finally taken Caen while the British tanks had finally reached the plains south of Caen, giving Montgomery the "hinge" he had been seeking while forcing the Germans to commit the last of their reserves to stop the Anglo-Canadian offensive. On the other hand, during Goodwood the British had lost 413 tanks destroyed, taken about 5,500 casualties while gaining only seven miles of ground. The long running dispute over what Montgomery's "master plan" in Normandy was, led historians to differ greatly about the purpose of Goodwood. The British journalist Mark Urban wrote that the purpose of Goodwood was to draw German troops to their left flank to allow the Americans to breakout on the right flank, arguing that Montgomery had to lie to his soldiers about the purpose of Goodwood as the average British soldier would not have understood why they were being asked to create a diversion to allow the Americans to have the glory of staging the breakout with Operation Cobra. By contrast, the American historian Stephen Power argued that Goodwood was intended to be the "breakout" offensive and not a "holding operation", writing: "It is unrealistic to assert that an operation which called for the use of 4,500 Allied aircraft, 700 artillery pieces and over 8,000 armored vehicles and trucks and that cost the British over 5,500 casualties was conceived and executed for so limited an objective". Power noted that Goodwood and Cobra were supposed to take effect on the same day, 18 July 1944, but Cobra was cancelled owing to heavy rain in the American sector, and argued that both operations were meant to be breakout operations to trap the German armies in Normandy. American military writer Drew Middleton wrote that there is no doubt that Montgomery wanted Goodwood to provide a "shield" for Bradley, but at the same time Montgomery was clearly hoping for more than merely diverting German attention away from the American sector. With Goodwood drawing the Wehrmacht towards the British sector, the 1st American Army enjoyed a two to one numerical superiority and General Omar Bradley had accepted Montgomery's advice to begin the offensive by concentrating at one point instead of a "broad front" as Eisenhower would have preferred.
The failure of Goodwood almost cost Montgomery his job, as Eisenhower seriously considered sacking him and only chose not to do so because to sack the popular "Monty" would have caused such a political backlash in Britain against the Americans at a critical moment in the war that the resulting strains in the Atlantic alliance were not considered worth it. Many American officers had found Montgomery a difficult man to work with, and after Goodwood, pressured Eisenhower to fire Montgomery. Though the Eisenhower-Montgomery dispute is sometimes depicted in nationalist terms as being an Anglo-American struggle, it should be noted that it was the British Air Marshal Tedder who was pressing Eisenhower most strongly after the failure of Goodwood to fire Montgomery. An American officer wrote in his diary that Tedder had come to see Eisenhower to "pursue his current favourite subject, the sacking of Monty". With Tedder leading the "sack Monty" campaign, it encouraged Montgomery's American enemies to press Eisenhower to fire Montgomery. Brooke was sufficiently worried about the "sack Monty" campaign to visit Montgomery at his Tactical Headquarters (TAC) in France and as he wrote in his diary; "warned [Montgomery] of a tendency in the PM to listen to suggestions that Monty played for safety and was not prepared to take risks". Brooke advised Montgomery to invite Churchill to Normandy, arguing that if the "sack Monty" campaign had won him over, then his career would be over as having Churchill's backing would give Eisenhower the political "cover" to fire Montgomery. On 20 July, Montgomery met with Eisenhower and on 21 July with Churchill at the TAC in France. One of Montgomery's staff officers wrote afterwards that it was "common knowledge at Tac that Churchill had come to sack Monty". No notes were taken at the Eisenhower-Montgomery and Churchill-Montgomery meetings, but Montgomery was able to persuade both men not to fire him. With the success of Cobra, which was soon followed by unleashing the 3rd American Army under the aggressive General George Patton, Eisenhower wrote Montgomery: "Am delighted that your basic plan has begun brilliantly to unfold with Bradley's initial success". Once the 3rd American Army arrived, Bradley was promoted to take command of the newly created 12th Army Group consisting of 1st and 3rd American Armies. Following the American breakout, there followed the Battle of Falaise Gap as the British, Canadian and Polish soldiers of 21st Army Group commanded by Montgomery advanced south while the American and French soldiers of Bradley's 12th Army Group advanced north to encircle the German Army Group B at Falaise as Montgomery waged what Urban called "a huge battle of annihilation" in August 1944. Hitler waited too long to order his soldiers to retreat from Normandy, leading Montgomery to write: "He [Hitler] refused to face the only sound military course. As a result the Allies caused the enemy staggering losses in men and materials". The so-called "Falaise Gap" was closed on 22 August 1944, but several American generals, most notably Patton accused Montgomery of being insufficiently aggressive in closing it, noting when the "Falaise Gap" was closed, about 60, 000 German soldiers were trapped in Normandy, but before 22 August, about 20, 000 Germans had escaped through the "Falaise Gap" to fight another day.
Following the successful conclusion of the Normandy campaign saw the beginning of the debate between the "American school" and "British school" as both American and British generals started to advance claims about who was most responsible for this victory. Brooke wrote in defense of his protégée Montgomery: "Ike knows nothing about strategy and is quite unsuited to the post of Supreme Commander. It is no wonder that Monty's real high ability is not always realised. Especially so when 'national' spectacles pervert the perspective of the strategic landscape". About Montgomery's conduct of the Normandy campaign, Badsey wrote:
"Too much discussion on Normandy has centered on the controversial decisions of the Allied commanders. It was not good enough, apparently, to win such a complete and spectacular victory over an enemy that had conquered most of Europe unless it was done perfectly. Most of the blame for this lies with Montgomery, who was foolish enough to insist that it had been done perfectly, that Normandy-and all his other battles-had been fought accordingly to a precise master plan drawn up beforehand, from which he never deviated. It says much for his personality that Montgomery found others to agree with him, despite overwhelmingly evidence to the contrary. His handling of the Battle of Normandy was of a very high order, and as the person who would certainly have been blamed for losing the battle, he deserves the credit for winning it".
Advance to the Rhine
General Eisenhower took over Ground Forces Command on 1 September, while continuing as Supreme Commander, with Montgomery continuing to command the 21st Army Group, now consisting mainly of British and Canadian units. Montgomery bitterly resented this change, although it had been agreed before the D-Day invasion. The British journalist Mark Urban writes that Montgomery seemed unable to grasp that as the majority of the 2.2 million Allied soldiers fighting against Germany on the Western Front were now American that it was politically unacceptable to American public opinion to have Montgomery remain as Land Forces Commander as "Politics would not allow him to carry on giving orders to great armies of Americans simply because, in his view, he was better than their generals".
Winston Churchill had Montgomery promoted to field marshal by way of compensation. Montgomery was able to insist Eisenhower adopt his strategy of a single thrust to the Ruhr with Operation Market Garden in September 1944. It was uncharacteristic of Montgomery's battles: the offensive was strategically bold. Montgomery either did not receive or ignored ULTRA intelligence which warned of the presence of German armoured units near the site of the attack.
When the surprise attack on the Ardennes took place on 16 December 1944, starting the Battle of the Bulge, the front of the US 12th Army Group was split, with the bulk of the US First Army being on the northern shoulder of the German 'bulge'. The 12th Army Group commander, General Omar Bradley, was located south of the penetration at Luxembourg and command of the US First Army became problematic. Montgomery was the nearest commander on the ground and on 20 December, Eisenhower (who was in Versailles) temporarily transferred Courtney Hodges' US First Army and William Simpson's US Ninth Army to Montgomery's 21st Army Group until the "bulge" could be reduced and a simpler line of communications restored, despite Bradley's vehement objections on national grounds.[nb 1] When Bradley learned that Montgomery had been given command of two American armies totalling some 200,000 men, he phoned Eisenhower to say: "I cannot be responsible to the American people if you do this. I resign!" Eisenhower sharply responded that Bradley was in fact responsible to him and "Your resignation means absolutely nothing...Well, Brad, these are my orders." Montgomery grasped the situation quickly, visiting all divisional, corps, and field army commanders himself and instituting his 'Phantom' network of liaison officers. He grouped the British XXX Corps as a strategic reserve behind the Meuse and reorganised the US defence of the northern shoulder, shortening and strengthening the line and ordering the evacuation of St Vith. The German commander of the 5th Panzer Army, Hasso von Manteuffel said:
The operations of the American 1st Army had developed into a series of individual holding actions. Montgomery's contribution to restoring the situation was that he turned a series of isolated actions into a coherent battle fought according to a clear and definite plan. It was his refusal to engage in premature and piecemeal counter-attacks which enabled the Americans to gather their reserves and frustrate the German attempts to extend their breakthrough.
Montgomery's 21st Army Group advanced to the Rhine with operations Veritable and Grenade in February 1945. A meticulously planned Rhine crossing occurred on 24 March. While successful, it was two weeks after the Americans had unexpectedly captured the Ludendorff Bridge and crossed the river on 7 March with less than a battalion. Montgomery's river crossing was followed by the encirclement of the German Army Group B in the Ruhr. Initially Montgomery's role was to guard the flank of the American advance. This was altered to forestall any chance of a Red Army advance into Denmark, and the 21st Army Group occupied Hamburg and Rostock and sealed off the Danish peninsula. On 4 May 1945, on Lüneburg Heath, Montgomery accepted the surrender of German forces in north-west Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands.
Montgomery's lack of diplomacy
Montgomery was notorious for his lack of tact and diplomacy. Even his "patron," the Chief of the Imperial General Staff Lord Alanbrooke, frequently mentions it in his war diaries: "he is liable to commit untold errors in lack of tact" and "I had to haul him over the coals for his usual lack of tact and egotistical outlook which prevented him from appreciating other people's feelings". One incident that illustrated this occurred during the North African campaign when Montgomery bet Walter Bedell Smith that he could capture Sfax by the middle of April 1943. Smith jokingly replied that if Montgomery could do it he would give him a Flying Fortress complete with crew. Smith promptly forgot all about it, but Montgomery did not, and when Sfax was taken on 10 April he sent a message to Smith "claiming his winnings". Smith tried to laugh it off, but Montgomery was having none of it and insisted on his aircraft. It got as high as Eisenhower who was said to be absolutely furious, but with his renowned skill in diplomacy he ensured Montgomery did get his Flying Fortress, though at a great cost in ill feeling. Even Alanbrooke thought it "crass stupidity".
In August 1945, whilst Alanbrooke, Andrew Cunningham and Charles Portal were discussing their possible successors as "Chiefs Of Staff" they concluded that Montgomery would be very efficient as CIGS from the Army's point of view but that he was also very unpopular with a large proportion of the Army. Despite this Cunningham and Portal were strongly in favour of Montgomery succeeding Alanbrooke after his retirement. Prime Minister Winston Churchill, by all accounts a faithful friend, is quoted as saying of Montgomery, "In defeat, unbeatable; in victory, unbearable."
After the war Montgomery became the Commander in Chief of the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR), the name given to the British Occupation Forces, and was the British member of the Allied Control Council. He was created 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein in 1946. He was Chief of the Imperial General Staff from 1946 to 1948, succeeding Alanbrooke. As CIGS, Montgomery toured Africa in 1947 and in a secret 1948 report to Attlee's government proposed a "master plan" to exploit the raw materials of Africa, thereby counteracting the loss of British influence in Asia. Montgomery held racist views towards Africans, describing them as "complete savages" incapable of developing their own countries. As CIGS, Montgomery identified himself as a supporter of the "continental commitment" (i.e. maintaining large numbers of British soldiers in western Germany to fight World War III should it break out), an approach that clashed with the RAF and the Royal Navy who favored a policy of "limited liability" in Europe and a focus on defending the empire throughout the world, especially the Middle East. Montgomery as CIGS was largely a failure as the role required strategic and political skills he did not possess. He was barely on speaking terms with his fellow chiefs, sending his VCIGS to attend their meetings and he clashed particularly with Arthur Tedder, who as Deputy Supreme Commander had intrigued for Montgomery's dismissal during the Battle of Normandy, and who was by now Chief of the Air Staff. When Montgomery's term of office expired, Prime Minister Clement Attlee appointed Sir William Slim from retirement with the rank of Field Marshal as his successor; when Montgomery protested that he had told his protégé John Crocker, a former corps commander from the 1944–45 campaign, that the job was to be his, Attlee is said to have given the memorable retort "Untell him".
He was then appointed Chairman of the Western European Union's commanders-in-chief committee. Volume 3 of Nigel Hamilton's Life of Montgomery of Alamein gives an account of the bickering between Montgomery and his land forces chief, a French general, which created splits through the Union headquarters. He was thus pleased to become Eisenhower's deputy in creating the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation's European forces in 1951. He continued to serve under Eisenhower's successors, Matthew Ridgway and Al Gruenther, until his retirement, aged nearly 71, in 1958. His mother Maud, Lady Montgomery, died at New Park in Moville in Inishowen in 1949; she was buried alongside her husband in the 'kirkyard' behind St. Columb's Church, the small Church of Ireland church beside New Park, overlooking Lough Foyle. Lord Montgomery did not attend the funeral, claiming he was "too busy".
He was chairman of the governing body of St. John's School in Leatherhead, Surrey, from 1951 to 1966, and a generous supporter. Lord Montgomery was an Honorary Member of the Winkle Club, a noted charity in Hastings, East Sussex, and introduced Sir Winston Churchill to the club in 1955.
Montgomery's memoirs (1958) criticised many of his wartime comrades in harsh terms, including Eisenhower, whom he accused, among other things, of prolonging the war by a year through poor leadership — allegations which ended their friendship, not least as Eisenhower was still US President at the time. He was threatened with legal action by Field-Marshal Auchinleck for suggesting that Auchinleck had intended to retreat from the Alamein position if attacked again, and had to give a radio broadcast (20 November 1958) expressing his gratitude to Auchinleck for having stabilised the front at the First Battle of Alamein. The 1960 paperback edition of his memoirs contains a publisher's note drawing attention to that broadcast, and stating that in the publisher's view the reader might reasonably assume from Montgomery's text that Auchinleck had been planning to retreat "into the Nile Delta or beyond" and pointing out that it had been Auchinleck's intention to launch an offensive as soon as the Eighth Army was "rested and regrouped". Montgomery was stripped of his honorary citizenship of Montgomery, Alabama, and was challenged to a duel by an Italian officer.
In retirement he publicly supported apartheid after a visit to South Africa in 1962, outraging much British liberal opinion, and after a visit to China declared himself impressed by the Chinese leadership. He spoke out against the legalisation of homosexuality in the United Kingdom, arguing that the Sexual Offences Act 1967 was a "charter for buggery" and that "this sort of thing may be tolerated by the French, but we're British – thank God". Biographer Nigel Hamilton has suggested Montgomery may have been a repressed homosexual; in the late 1940s Montgomery maintained an affectionate friendship with a 12-year-old Swiss boy. One biographer called the friendship "bizarre", although not "improper", and a sign of "pitiful loneliness."
He twice met with Israeli general Moshe Dayan. After an initial meeting in the early 1950s, Montgomery met Dayan again in the 1960s to discuss the Vietnam War, which Dayan was studying. Montgomery was harshly critical of US strategy in Vietnam, which involved deploying large numbers of combat troops, aggressive bombing attacks, and uprooting entire village populations and forcing them into strategic hamlets. Montgomery said that the Americans' most important problem was that they had no clear-cut objective, and allowed local commanders to set military policy. At the end of their meeting, Montgomery asked Dayan to tell the Americans, in his name, that they were "insane".
During a visit to the Alamein battlefields in May 1967, he bluntly told high-ranking Egyptian Army officers that they would lose any war with Israel, a warning they ignored to their cost only a few weeks later.
Montgomery died from unspecified causes in 1976 at his home Isington Mill in Isington, near Alton in Hampshire, aged 88. After his funeral at St George's Chapel, Windsor, Montgomery was interred in Holy Cross churchyard, Binsted. His Garter banner, which hung in St. George's Chapel in Windsor during his lifetime, is now on display in St Mary's, Warwick.
- Montgomery's portrait by Frank O. Salisbury (1945) hangs in the National Portrait Gallery.
- A statue of Montgomery stands outside the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall, alongside those of Field Marshal Lord Slim and Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke.
- Montgomery gave his name to the French commune Colleville-Montgomery in Normandy.
- The Imperial War Museum holds a variety of material relating to Montgomery in its collections. These include Montgomery's Grant command tank (on display in the atrium at the Museum's London branch), his command caravans as used in North West Europe (on display at IWM Duxford), and his papers are held by the Museum's Department of Documents. The Museum maintains a permanent exhibition about Montgomery, entitled Monty: Master of the Battlefield.
- The World Champion Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band from Northern Ireland is named after him.
- Montgomery's Rolls-Royce staff car is on display at the Royal Logistic Corps Museum, Deepcut, Surrey.
- The Montgomery cocktail is a martini mixed at a ratio of 15:1, facetiously named that because Montgomery supposedly refused to go into battle unless his numerical advantage was at least that high. Ironically, following severe internal injuries received in the First World War, Montgomery himself could neither smoke nor drink.
- In the 1998 documentary Live At Aspen during the US Comedy Arts Festival, the British comedy troupe Monty Python explained how they came up with their name, saying that the name Monty "... made us laugh because Monty to us means Lord Montgomery, our great general of the Second World War".
Honours and awards
- Viscountcy (UK, January 1946)
- Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter (UK, 1946)
- Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (UK, 1945) KCB – 11 November 1942, CB – 11 July 1940
- Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (UK, 1914)
- Mentioned in Despatches (UK, 17 February 1915, 4 January 1917, 11 December 1917, 20 May 1918, 20 December 1918, 5 July 1919, 15 July 1939, 24 June 1943, 13 January 1944)
- Distinguished Service Medal (US, 1947)
- Chief Commander of the Legion of Merit (US, 10 August 1943)
- Member of the Order of Victory (USSR, 21 June 1945)
- 1st class of the Order of Suvorov (USSR, 16 January 1947)
- Croix de Guerre (France, 1919)
- Knight of the Order of the Elephant (Denmark, 2 August 1945)
- Grand Commander of the Order of George I (Greece, 20 June 1944)
- Silver Cross (V Class) of the Virtuti Militari (Poland, 31 October 1944)
- Grand Cross of the Order of the White Lion (Czechoslovakia, 1947)
- Grand Cordon of the Seal of Solomon (Ethiopia, 1949)
- Grand Officer with Palm of the Order of Leopold II (Belgium, 1947)
- Croix de Guerre 1940 with Palm (Belgium)
- Grand Cross of the Order of the Netherlands Lion (Netherlands, 16 January 1947)
- Grand Cross of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav (Norway) (1951)
- Médaille militaire (France, 1958)
- Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour (France, May 1945)
- War Cross 1939 (Czechoslovakia, 1947)
Viscount Montgomery's ribbons as they would appear today, not including campaign or other awards.
- Afrika Korps
- M. E. Clifton James (Montgomery's double during the war)
- Tex Banwell (another double)
- Irish military diaspora
- Panzer Army Africa
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bernard Montgomery.|
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Bernard Montgomery|
- Montgomery and Anglo Polish relations during WWII
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by the Viscount Montgomery of Alamein
- Biography of Montgomery, Jewish Virtual Library website; accessed 10 April 2014.
- Profile, desertwar.net; accessed 10 April 2014.
- Viscount Montgomery of Alamein interview on BBC Radio 4 Desert Island Discs, December 20, 1969
|Commander, 9th Infantry Brigade
5 August 1937 – 28 October 1938
|Commander, 8th Infantry Division
28 October 1938 – 23 August 1939
|GOC, 3rd Infantry Division
28 August 1939 – 21 July 1940
Sir Alan Brooke
|GOC, II Corps, British Expeditionary Force
30 May 1940 – 1 June 1940
Sir Claude Auchinleck
|GOC, V Corps
22 July 1940 – 1 April 1941
Sir Edmond Schreiber
|GOC, XII Corps
1 April 1941 – 17 November 1941
|GOC-in-C, South-Eastern Command
17 November 1941 – 7 August 1942
Sir Claude Auchinleck
|GOC-in-C, Eighth Army
13 August 1942 – 31 December 1943
Sir Oliver Leese
Sir Bernard Paget
|GOC-in-C, 21st Army Group
January 1944 – August 1945
|Commander-in-Chief of the British Army of the Rhine
Sir Richard McCreery
The Lord Alanbrooke
|Chief of the Imperial General Staff
Sir William Slim
|Peerage of the United Kingdom|
|New creation||Viscount Montgomery of Alamein