Talk:Bernard Montgomery

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Former good article nominee Bernard Montgomery was a Warfare good articles nominee, but did not meet the good article criteria at the time. There are suggestions below for improving the article. Once these issues have been addressed, the article can be renominated. Editors may also seek a reassessment of the decision if they believe there was a mistake.
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October 10, 2012 Peer review Reviewed
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Press conference text[edit]

I moved the lengthy text of Montgomery's press conference from the article on the Battle of the Bulge here. This article appears to be relatively "pro" Montgomery and until this point made no mention of his arraogance and conflicts with Eisenhower.. — btphelps (talk to me) (what I've done) 05:56, 22 September 2014 (UTC)

Is that particular quote of what he said from Monty's own book? If so, it's copyrighted, and cannot be used here. (Besides, primary sources are not preferred.) --A D Monroe III (talk) 22:20, 22 September 2014 (UTC)
Monty's "difficult" ways with people are mentioned in article. But it's meant to be a summary not replicate "lengthy" (as you put it )sections from other articles. GraemeLeggett (talk) 05:23, 23 September 2014 (UTC)
In fairness, there used - some years ago - to be a lengthy and in my view not unfair summary of Monty's personal oddities and spectacular ability to rub people up the wrong the way, as well as the way he handed his critics a gift by later pretending that everything at Second Alamein and Normandy (both of them difficult battles against an entrenched opponent which he handled far from badly in the circumstances) had gone perfectly according to plan. It got wiped for being "uncited". There is certainly room for more analysis and discussion of these things if somebody wants to take the trouble to write them.Paulturtle (talk) 11:02, 17 October 2014 (UTC)
The 'arrogance' often reported of Montgomery is people's POV and not necessarily true. There were many petty jealousies within the Allied High Command, and there is no doubt that Montgomery made enemies, however that is as much a reflection on the pettiness of some of Montgomery's colleagues as much as it is a reflection on Montgomery himself.
I added the lengthy quote on Montgomery's Ardennes speech simply because it disproves much that has been said and written about his conduct during and after the battle, much of which it would seem are either misunderstandings of a speech made in plain English, or else deliberate distortion of his conduct during the battle. These inaccuracies are it would seem, still repeated as fact.
The Battle of the Bulge was not Montgomery's fault, it was entirely due to the mishandling of the defences and absence of the American commanders when they were needed. Thus certain parties had plenty of good reasons to try and distract attentions away from themselves, and direct it elsewhere. As I wrote elsewhere, if the Allied commanders responsible for the Battle of the Bulge fiasco had been German, Hitler would have had them all shot.
... and if Montgomery had been in charge of the American lines in the Ardennes then the battle would never have been allowed to happen, they would have been properly defended. There, think that one over.
The only thing that comes out of all the rather petty attacks against Montgomery is that through all this he remained quiet and uncomplaining. Then again, for all the attacks against him, it would seem that his ego was not as fragile as those of some of his critics.
... and if you want opinions on Montgomery then get them from people who served under him and knew what they were facing, like Brian Horrocks, not people who were having it comparatively easy and thinking it the height of difficulty. That simple fact should illustrate how out of touch some of his critics were. Rather like an old whore being lectured and criticised on sex by a newly-deflowered virgin. Montgomery had come out of Dunkirk in 1940 when many of his critics had been sitting at home twiddling their thumbs. And Dunkirk wasn't any of his fault either.
BTW, in the unlikely event you want a positive thing to say about Montgomery then how about mentioning his successful planning and execution of Operation Overlord, aka, D-Day. Why - because if anyone else had planned the invasion it would have failed. Why - because Montgomery was the only Allied commander who had a clue what the invasion forces would be facing. Many of the others thought it was going to be easy. They for the most part were the same ones who later thought that fighting one-and-a-half panzer divisions was the height of difficulty. They should have tried the seven-and-a-half the British and Canadians were facing.

There is a lot of truth in all that, but the fact remains that Monty was, throughout his career, an odd and very abrasive fellow (are you aware of the tale, reproduced by Nigel Hamilton, of how at Staff College somebody was made to sit next to him at breakfast as a punishment, and of how it was posted in the college magazine that the best thing about Armistice Day was that Monty would have to shut up for two minutes?), and it also appears that fame and success went to his head a bit. His speech after the Ardennes reads OK on paper but at the time it was very tactless; Churchill had to (as good as) apologise for it in the House of Commons, and he came very close to being sacked afterwards, having finally exhausted Eisenhower's patience after months of badgering. It was a coalition war and Britain was, to state the obvious, very much the junior partner by then.Paulturtle (talk) 00:42, 2 February 2015 (UTC)

"His speech after the Ardennes reads OK on paper but at the time it was very tactless;" - it was actually hurriedly written in response to scathing articles in the UK newspapers criticising the US handling of the situation. He wrote and made a speech that showered glowing praise on the US soldier and on Eisenhower - who the UK newspapers had been critical-of for not ensuring his US subordinates had kept a firm hand on the situation beforehand.
He did not mention that the whole Ardennes situation was of the American's own making, nor that at the time the two relevant US leaders were both away from the Front, one being in another country altogether - nor that they had actually been given forewarning of the possibility of a German attack. He also did not mention the considerable inconvenience to himself and the British forces who had to then go and get into positions to protect the Meuse crossings - something that never should have become necessary. And again, he also did not mention that because of this he then had to postpone his forthcoming Operation Valediction which then was forced to commence later than planned and after the frozen ground had started thawing, turning into mud that then hampered his armour. As a result of this, the US then criticised him for being 'slow'.
Most non-partisan people would say that in all that, he did in fact display considerable tact, not to mention patience and forbearing.
BTW, as a result of the newspaper reports and British public opinion Eisenhower came close to losing his job. Montgomery's speech stopped that. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 95.150.100.255 (talk) 10:34, 27 April 2016 (UTC)

Again, you are quite right that a lot of criticism of Monty for his alleged "slowness" was and is unfair, and that the British and US press spent a lot of the war slagging off one another's generals and fighting a vicious proxy war. Nonetheless, Monty managed to rub the Americans up the wrong way by his perceived egotism, talking of it being one of the most interest battles "I" have ever fought (I forget the exact phrase). As so often with political gaffes, it's often one or two phrases which get plucked out of context and repeated because they capture the tone of what was said. What is your source for the claim that Monty's speech stopped Ike from being sacked? (I'd have thought that if anyone was in danger of the sack it would have been Bradley, who was largely sidelined during the battle, but I'm happy to be corrected)Paulturtle (talk) 14:55, 22 May 2016 (UTC) Just had a flick through Anthony Beevor's recent "Ardennes 44" which discusses the criticism of US generals in the British press, and says that Monty's speech was written for him by Brigadier Williams, who thought it read well but dreaded how it would be received when delivered by Monty. His fears were justified, especially when Monty launched into an unscripted riff after reaching the end of his notes. Beevor then quotes a British Cabinet paper on the affair, mentioning that Monty's speech read well but had been marred by a certain "smugness of tone", as well as exaggerating the role played by British forces in the battle. That would seem to be the majority view.Paulturtle (talk) 20:39, 18 June 2016 (UTC)

Normandy[edit]

If you read Carlo D'Este's history of the Normandy battles, it's quite clear that Monty intended to take Caen early in the campaign; he was to push forward in his sector, while the Americans wheeled around to take the Cherbourg peninsula. His failure to take Caen for weeks was a major problem, sucking up tons of resources, air and ground, and to cover this failure (which, in fairness, was due to German resistance as much as British dilatoriness), after the war he invented the idea that Caen was a "holding" operation to cover the American advance, tying up German troops, etc etc. What this means is that the Normandy section of the article essentially swallows Monty's b.s. wholesale (as did the BBC in its docu-drama on the topic, From D-Day to Berlin). NB: I am using Frankfurt's definition of b.s., according to which the b.s.-er simply doesn't care whether what he is saying is true or false, he simply seeks to create an impression of himself as wonderful.Theonemacduff (talk) 16:26, 30 September 2014 (UTC)

Montgomery knew well what the opposition was like, he had been fighting them for a number of years, and so he would have been well aware that the likely outcome of any attempt at taking Caen would be a hard and lengthy slogging match, possibly taking far longer than he would like. To suggest that a battle against the likes of the forces he was facing, including almost all the German the armour in the invasion area, made up of several Waffen-SS panzer divisions, would go exactly as planned, is ludicrous. The simple point is that if the German defenders had withdrawn then Monty's forces would have taken Caen. Monty however knowing the opposition forces, would have expected to be there far longer than he may have stated in his plans. He also would probably not have told anyone that he expected to be around Caen for quite a time. That would have been bad for morale.
To have expected otherwise shows an ignorance of the opposing forces facing the respective national armies. Montgomery eventually had seven-and-a-half full-strength Panzer divisions facing his forces, including all the best Waffen-SS ones, the Americans had one-and-a-half facing them. Of course taking Caen took a long time. What did they expect. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 95.148.220.15 (talk) 11:38, 23 January 2015 (UTC)
Enemy strength opposite US First Army Enemy strength opposite Second British Army
Date Panzer Divisions Tanks Infantry Battalions Panzer Divisions Tanks Infantry Battalions
15th June none 70 63 4 520 43
20th June 1 210 77 4 430 43
25th June 1 190 87 5 530 49
30th June 1/2 140 63 7 1/2 725 64
5th July 1/2 215 63 7 1/2 690 64
10th July 2 190 72 6 610 65
15th July 2 190 78 6 630 68
20th July 3 190 82 5 560 71
25th July 2 190 85 6 645 92

[1]

Montgomery`s "I`ve torn up all withdrawl plans"[edit]

I have to say I`m surprised that any informed observer could dispute the fact that Montomery announcing that he`d "torn up all plans for withdrawl" were anything other than bunkum and self aggrandisement. The fact that The Auk had no plans to withdraw and had carefully chosen the EA position as being the most defensible is in every book on the subject, the last one I read Gordon Corrigan`s World War II. It was also in Dimbleby`s TV programme on the desert war which has only just been on the TV ! But, in actual fact, there`s a reference to it on the same "Montgomery" page ! :

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 Eighth Army was "rested and regrouped

This last reversion really is going a bit far...... --JustinSmith (talk) 09:17, 19 November 2014 (UTC)

So cite it. Whether as a statement of Monty to impress his new staff, or that there were no plans to withdraw, even contingency ones. GraemeLeggett (talk) 12:44, 19 November 2014 (UTC)

I don`t understand what you`re asking. Cite what ? If you`re saying you insist on a citation for what every historian and his dog knows to be true there`s one on the same page under "Later Life". You don`t even have to look it up because I`ve quoted it for you in the opener. --JustinSmith (talk) 13:36, 19 November 2014 (UTC)

A motivational speech intended to impress - related to this declaration? BBC School radio or this to the troops. GraemeLeggett (talk) 16:58, 19 November 2014 (UTC)
I have added the cite myself. WP:SOURCE requires all material to be properly cited. I spent some time inserting citations and generally improving the article such that it achieved "B" assessment sometime ago. So please don't add uncited material to an assessed article. Noted that I would not be regarded as "an informed observer"! Best wishes. Dormskirk (talk) 22:43, 19 November 2014 (UTC)

Jolly good.--JustinSmith (talk) 17:48, 20 November 2014 (UTC)

On the point of "and had to give a radio broadcast..." Since the BBC have their "genome" project to list every programme they have broadcast, I wondered what the programming was on 20 November 1958. The best match on the day in question is a nominally 45 min "Memoirs of Field Marshall Montgomery". The current phrasing makes it sound more like a modern mea culpa through press conference, though given the length of the programme was it more likely the case that Monty had to include it in an already planned broadcast about the book? Could that be checked in the sources by someone.
The google search for more about the broadcast turned up this. The Tablet has this to say in their book review from the 8th November edition "It is natural, but hardly relevant, for Field Marshal Auchinleck to say, as he has done recently, that there was no intention to withdraw behind the Nile; that there were plans to attack Rommel, and that new divisions, tanks and guns were flowing into Egypt to ensure success. The point is that the troops on the ground outside Alexandria did not know this. Rightly or wrongly they assumed that they were going to retreat again. There were rumours that new Headquarters for the Eighth Army had been set up in Jerusalem. No troops could win in such a mood. The new General changed all that."
That backs up the morale speech angle. a poor OCR of the memoirs at archive.org gives what presumably Auchinleck objected to "Lt.-Gen. Ramsden, ...explained the situation to me. I cross-examined him about the Army plans for a withdrawal if Rommel attacked; certain orders had been issued about the withdrawal but they were indefinite. There was an air of uncertainty about everything in the operation line" and "During lunch I did some savage drinking. After lunch I wrote a telegram to G.H.Q. saying that I had assumed command of Eighth Army .... I then cancelled all previous orders about withdrawal. I issued orders that in the event of enemy attack there would be no withdrawal; we would fight on the ground we now held and if we couldn t stay there alive we would stay there dead". GraemeLeggett (talk) 19:06, 20 November 2014 (UTC)
Or perhaps more likely this bit from another OCR of the memoirs "Auchinleck took me into his map-room and shut the door; we were alone. He asked me if I knew he was to go. I said that I did. He then explained to me his plan of operations; this was based on the fact that at all costs the Eighth Army was to be preserved "in being" and must not be destroyed in battle. If Rommel attacked in strength, as was expected soon, the Eighth Army would fall back on the Delta; if Cairo and the Delta could not be held, the army would retreat southwards up the Nile, and another possibility was a withdrawal to Palestine. Plans were being made to move the Eighth Army H.Q. back up the Nile". GraemeLeggett (talk) 19:15, 20 November 2014 (UTC)
I don't know who was doing the 'savage drinking', but it wouldn't have been the teetotal Monty. Valetude (talk) 01:26, 9 January 2015 (UTC)

"Savage thinking" in the original. On the topic of withdrawal plans, Auchinleck's memory played him false. Plans to reorganize Eighth Army into battlegroups and conduct some kind of fighting withdrawal certainly did exist before Monty had them torn up and traces of them survive in unit diaries. Indeed, contingency plans to defend the Delta still survived above Monty's pay grade. It's worth remembering that at Alam Halfa Rommel had just been resupplied and reinforced, and Eighth Army did not yet enjoy the material superiority of Second Alamein. I was preparing some material on this over Christmas before Real Life intervened, but I'll get there eventually.Paulturtle (talk) 00:15, 2 February 2015 (UTC)

"I have to say I`m surprised that any informed observer could dispute the fact that Montomery announcing that he`d "torn up all plans for withdrawl" were anything other than bunkum and self aggrandisement." - have you read his memoirs?
For the interested among you, before publication he sent the manuscript of his memoirs to the following people for comments and to ensure its accuracy and fairness, and revised the text on their suggestions:

claiming the credit[edit]

Didn't Montgomery claim the credit for winning the Battle of the Bulge.

As the Africa corps was the smallest corp and regarded by Hitler as unimportant and Ultra had told Churchill and Montgomery that Rommel was running out of fuel and ammunition so why was El alamein even fought? — Preceding unsigned comment added by AT Kunene 123 (talkcontribs) 11:07, 29 December 2014 (UTC)

"Didn't Montgomery claim the credit for winning the Battle of the Bulge."
No he didn't, but some Americans either misunderstood the speech he made at the time, or else for whatever reasons decided to attempt to blacken his name. And it wasn't Montgomery who let it (the battle) happen in the first place.
El Alamein was fought because Rommel's army was trying to gain access to the Suez Canal, and the canal was a vital lifeline for British ships coming from India. The eventual German plan was for German forces to get as far as Iran and Iraq, and from there eventually link up with Japanese forces that were intending to invade India. The battle was also fought to give Britain a victory when she had recently suffered defeats in Singapore, Malaya, and Hong Kong, and to destroy as much of Rommel's forces as possible, while pushing him back as far west as they could, eventually forcing him from Africa completely. This they did. Rommel may have been running out of fuel and ammunition but that was only while his convoys from Italy and Sicily could be successfully interdicted by the RAF and RN. His shortage therefore could not be relied upon to be permanent, as it was possible some of his supply ships might get through. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 95.148.220.15 (talk) 11:17, 23 January 2015 (UTC)
It's never a good idea to feed the trolls. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 82.19.93.193 (talk) 00:22, 24 January 2015 (UTC)
I agree but it's the humanity in me. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 95.148.220.15 (talk) 10:17, 24 January 2015 (UTC)

There have been occasional suggestions that Second Alamein "need never have been fought" but that view is not widely held, and certainly wasn't at the time. Rommel had, after all, briefly held enough of an advantage to attack again as recently as Alam Halfa, before the Shermans turned up. "Torch" was also far from a foregone conclusion - it was felt at the time that a clear victory at Alamein would encourage the defection of Vichy forces in Algeria over to the Allied side.Paulturtle (talk) 00:07, 2 February 2015 (UTC)

Montgomery took over the 8th Army with orders to destroy Rommel and his Army. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 95.150.100.255 (talk) 17:47, 26 April 2016 (UTC)

Character assassination[edit]

I may be wrong, but having read a good deal of history and military history for some decades (but not being a professional in any way, or pursuing primary sources), and having read this article, I feel it is to a considerable extent a character assassination. The effort of trying to correct the issues against the constant coutner-effort of the authors who wish to see their views present is of course costly, unrewarding and unremitting, so I'm not going to do so; I will merely say - to begin with, read his own memories. That thorws about a third of the article into question, and then the rest of it naturally enough is questioned also. 92.251.3.177 (talk) 11:24, 19 January 2016 (UTC)

I don`t think the article is guilty of character assassination. It is well known that Monty was a rather flawed character, particularly in his lack of diplomacy. In some ways the absolute opposite of Eisenhower, certainly in that respect.
You are thinking of his genuine flaws. Discussion of such is not character assassination. 92.251.3.177 (talk) 17:00, 20 January 2016 (UTC)
Monty`s memoirs would, I feel, not be an unbiased reference on this point......--JustinSmith (talk) 10:24, 20 January 2016 (UTC)
I agree with JustinSmith. Rjensen (talk) 10:51, 20 January 2016 (UTC)
I thought someone might say this. It would be superficial to take his memories at face value. Every book must be weighed and considered in relation to itself (internal consistency) and with regard to other sources. His memoirs are, I argue, enough *even by themselves*, taking into account that they are a single source and so with the limits imposed thereby on how much we can take from them, to bring a good part of this article into question, and so then by proxy the rest also. 92.251.3.177 (talk) 17:00, 20 January 2016 (UTC)
Much of the criticism of Montgomery is ill-informed and perhaps due to the critic's lack of knowledge of factors that Montgomery himself was aware of at the time. The existence of ULTRA - of which Montgomery was aware - was not revealed publicly until 1973, some three years before Montgomery's death, and he himself was banned by the Official Secrets Act from even mentioning it. With the exception of Eisenhower few of his most vocal critics were aware of ULTRA, and the extent to which Montgomery knew what the opposition was doing and going to do.
BTW Montgomery was a professional solder, and not a diplomat. He did however often display the patience of a saint. Despite all the petty bickering and sniping against himself he remained silent. He also never criticised subordinates who deviated from his carefully-laid plans - made will the full benefit of ULTRA - thereby semi-ruining them while they themselves thought they were being clever.

Did Montgomery have Aspergers syndrome?[edit]

Towards the end of 2015, it was mentioned on the Radio Four Today programme that the military historian Anthony Beevor has written a book claiming that Montogomery had Asperger's syndrome. The programme mentioned that Montgomery was very tactless. I also said that he was an arrogant man who kept a lot of photographs in his house of himself with heads of state such as Winston Churchill. I really think that his ought to be added to the section of this article which is sub-titled "Montgomery's lack of diplomacy". Vorbee (talk) 20:43, 20 April 2016 (UTC) I believe the book is called "Ardennes 1944". This book is reviewed in the New York Times and you can read a review of it if you click on the link to its website. Vorbee (talk) 04:24, 21 April 2016 (UTC)

Eh. It's just one source, and I don't see what it may add to the article. Besides, with the subject long dead, it's basically just guessing now. --A D Monroe III (talk) 21:39, 21 April 2016 (UTC)
    • ^ "The Memoirs of Field-Marshall Montgomery", Collins, 1958, p.259