Field Marshal Montgomery at Chartwell
Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, KG, GCB, DSO, PC, DL (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.
Son of a bishop, Montgomery entered the army in 1908 and saw action in the First World War as a junior officer of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. 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 served in India, Egypt and Palestine and his ability was recognised, although his curt and abrasive manner made him enemies and detractors. In 1927 he married Elizabeth Carver and they had one son before she died tragically from an insect bite in 1937.
In France in 1940, Montgomery’s conduct and ability in the crisis were observed by his then corps commander, Lieutenant-General Brooke; promotion and high commands followed.
From December 1941 Montgomery commanded South Eastern Command, from where he was summoned to Egypt in August 1942 to take command of the Eighth Army 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.
In 1945, Churchill said of Montgomery, 'in defeat, unbeatable; in victory, unbearable’. He was created 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein in 1946.
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 (1946–1948). He then served as Deputy Supreme Commander of NATO in Europe 1951-1958.
Monty’s personal relations with Winston Churchill were essentially good and after the war and Churchill’s fall from power he established himself as a loyal personal and family friend. Clementine liked him very much, but never hesitated to rebuke him when he made some typically intolerable remark, which he always took well as he liked and admired her.
Mary Soames wrote ‘one sensed he was a lonely man and he valued the warm affection of a family group’.