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General Alexander and General Montgomery, 1942

General Alexander and General Montgomery, 1942


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General Alexander and General Montgomery, 1942

This picture shows the newly appointed British command team in the Middle East, with General Sir Harold Alexander, commander-in-chief in the Middle East, and General Bernard Montgomery, commander of the Eighth Army, on the right. Alexander and Montgomery replaced General Auchinleck, who had been serving in both roles, after the First Battle of El Alamain, and proved to be a very succesful team.


Bernard Law Montgomery was born in London in 1887. After attending the Royal Military College at Sandhurst, he was commissioned into the Royal Warwickshire Regiment.

Early in the First World War (1914-18), he was shot through the lung by a sniper during the First Battle of Ypres (1914). His wound was so severe that a grave was prepared for him. However, he went on to make a full recovery.

He saw out the rest of the war as a staff officer, serving in the Battles of the Somme (1916) and Passchendaele (1917). In this capacity, he observed the tactics used by generals like Sir Douglas Haig and became critical of their readiness to accept high casualties during campaigns.


Contents

Born the son of Archibald Graham Wavell (who later became a major general in the British Army and military commander of Johannesburg after its capture during the Second Boer War [4] ) and Lillie Wavell (née Percival), Wavell attended Eaton House, [5] followed by the leading preparatory boarding school Summer Fields near Oxford, Winchester College, where he was a scholar, and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. [6] His headmaster, Dr. Fearon, had advised his father that there was no need to send him into the Army as he had "sufficient ability to make his way in other walks of life". [4]

After graduating from Sandhurst, Wavell was commissioned into the British Army on 8 May 1901 as a second lieutenant in the Black Watch, [7] and joined the 2nd battalion of his regiment in South Africa to fight in the Second Boer War. [6] The battalion stayed in South Africa throughout the war, which formally ended in June 1902 after the Peace of Vereeniging. Wavell was ill, and did not immediately join the battalion as it transferred to British India in October that year he instead left Cape Town for England on the SS Simla at the same time. [8] In 1903 he was transferred to join the battalion in India and, having been promoted to lieutenant on 13 August 1904, [9] he fought in the Bazar Valley Campaign of February 1908. [10] In January 1909 was seconded from his regiment to be a student at the Staff College. [11] He was one of only two in his class to graduate with an A grade. [12] In 1911, he spent a year as a military observer with the Russian Army to learn Russian, [10] returning to his regiment in December of that year. [13] In April 1912 he became a General Staff Officer Grade 3 (GSO3) in the Russian Section of the War Office. [14] In July, he was granted the temporary rank of captain and became GSO3 at the Directorate of Military Training. [15] On 20 March 1913 Wavell was promoted to the substantive rank of captain. [16] After visiting manoeuvres at Kiev in summer 1913, he was arrested at the Russo-Polish border as a suspected spy, following a search of his Moscow hotel room by the secret police, but managed to remove from his papers an incriminating document listing the information wanted by the War Office. [17]

Wavell was working at the War Office during the Curragh incident. His letters to his father record his disgust at the Government's behaviour in giving an ultimatum to officers – he had little doubt that the Government had been planning to crush the Ulster Scots, whatever they later claimed. However, he was also concerned at the Army's effectively intervening in politics, not least as there would be an even greater appearance of bias when the Army was used against industrial unrest. [18]

Wavell was working as a staff officer when the First World War began. [19] As a captain, he was sent to France to a posting at General HQ of the British Expeditionary Force as General Staff Officer Grade 2 (GSO2), but shortly afterwards, in November 1914, was appointed brigade major of 9th Infantry Brigade. [20] He was wounded in the Second Battle of Ypres of 1915, losing his left eye [21] and winning the Military Cross. [22] In October 1915 he became a GSO2 in the 64th Highland Division. [6]

In December 1915, after he had recovered, Wavell was returned to General HQ in France as a GSO2. [23] He was promoted to the substantive rank of major on 8 May 1916. [24] In October 1916 Wavell was graded General Staff Officer Grade 1 (GSO1) as an acting lieutenant colonel, [25] and was then assigned as a liaison officer to the Russian Army in the Caucasus. [10] In June 1917, he was promoted to brevet lieutenant colonel [26] and continued to work as a staff officer (GSO1), [27] as liaison officer with the Egyptian Expeditionary Force headquarters. [10]

In January 1918 Wavell received a further staff appointment as Assistant Adjutant & Quartermaster General (AA&QMG) [28] working at the Supreme War Council in Versailles. [21] In March 1918 Wavell was made a temporary brigadier general and returned to Palestine where he served as the brigadier general of the General Staff (BGGS) with XX Corps, part of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force. [21]

Wavell was given a number of assignments between the wars, though like many officers he had to accept a reduction in rank. In May 1920 he relinquished the temporary rank of Brigadier-General, reverting to brevet lieutenant colonel. [29] In December 1921, still a brevet lieutenant colonel, he became an Assistant Adjutant General (AAG) at the War Office [30] and, having been promoted to full colonel on 3 June 1921, [31] he became a GSO1 in the Directorate of Military Operations in July 1923. [32]

Apart from a short period unemployed on half pay in 1926, [33] [34] Wavell continued to hold GSO1 appointments, latterly in the 3rd Infantry Division, until July 1930 when he was once again granted the rank of temporary brigadier and was given command of 6th Infantry Brigade. [35] In March 1932, he was appointed ADC to the King, [36] a position he held until October 1933 when he was promoted to Major-General. [37] [38] However, there was a shortage of jobs for Major-Generals at this time and in January 1934, on relinquishing command of his brigade, he found himself unemployed on half pay once again. [39]

By the end of the year, although still on half pay, Wavell had been designated to command 2nd Division and appointed a CB. [40] In March 1935, he took command of his division. [41] In August 1937 he was transferred to Palestine, where there was growing unrest, to be General Officer Commanding (GOC) British Forces in Palestine and Trans-Jordan [42] and was promoted to Lieutenant-General on 21 January 1938. [43]

In April 1938 Wavell became General Officer Commanding-in-Chief (GOC-in-C) Southern Command in the UK. [44] In July 1939, he was named as General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Middle East Command with the local rank of full General. [45] Subsequently, on 15 February 1940, to reflect the broadening of his oversight responsibilities to include East Africa, Greece and the Balkans, his title was changed to Commander-in-Chief Middle East. [46]

Middle East Command Edit

The Middle Eastern theatre was quiet for the first few months of the war until Italy's declaration of war in June 1940. [47] The Italian forces in North and East Africa greatly outnumbered the British and Wavell's policy was therefore one of "flexible containment" to buy time to build up adequate forces to take the offensive. Having fallen back in front of Italian advances from Libya, Eritrea and Ethiopia, Wavell mounted successful offensives into Libya (Operation Compass) in December 1940 and Eritrea and Ethiopia in January 1941. By February 1941, his Western Desert Force under Lieutenant General Richard O'Connor had defeated the Italian Tenth Army at Beda Fomm taking 130,000 prisoners and appeared to be on the verge of overrunning the last Italian forces in Libya, which would have ended all direct Axis control in North Africa. [48] His troops in East Africa also had the Italians under pressure and at the end of March his forces in Eritrea under William Platt won the decisive battle of the campaign at Keren which led to the occupation of the Italian colonies in Ethiopia and Somaliland. [49]

However, in February Wavell had been ordered to halt his advance into Libya and send troops to Greece where the Germans and Italians were attacking. He disagreed with this decision but followed his orders. The result was a disaster. The Germans were given the opportunity to reinforce the Italians in North Africa with the Afrika Korps and by the end of April the weakened Western Desert Force had been pushed all the way back to the Egyptian border, leaving Tobruk under siege. [50] In Greece General Wilson's Force W was unable to set up an adequate defence on the Greek mainland and were forced to withdraw to Crete, suffering 15,000 casualties and leaving behind all their heavy equipment and artillery. Crete was attacked by German airborne forces on 20 May and as in Greece, the British and Commonwealth troops were forced once more to evacuate. [50]

Events in Greece provoked a pro-Axis faction to take over the government of Iraq. Wavell, hard pressed on his other fronts, was unwilling to divert precious resources to Iraq and so it fell to Claude Auchinleck's India Command to send troops to Basra. Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister, saw Iraq as vital to Britain's strategic interests and in early May, under heavy pressure from London, Wavell agreed to send a division-sized force across the desert from Palestine to relieve the besieged British air base at Habbaniya and to assume overall control of troops in Iraq. By the end of May Quinan's forces in Iraq had captured Baghdad and the Anglo-Iraqi War had ended with troops in Iraq once more reverting to the overall control of GHQ in Delhi. However, Churchill had been unimpressed by Wavell's reluctance to act. [50]

In early June Wavell sent a force under General Wilson to invade Syria and Lebanon, responding to the help given by the Vichy France authorities there to the Iraq Government during the Anglo-Iraqi War. Initial hopes of a quick victory faded as the French put up a determined defence. Churchill determined to relieve Wavell and after the failure in mid June of Operation Battleaxe, intended to relieve Tobruk, he told Wavell on 20 June that he was to be replaced by Auchinleck, whose attitude during the Iraq crisis had impressed him. [51] Rommel rated Wavell highly, despite Wavell's lack of success against him. [52]

Of Wavell, Auchinleck wrote: "In no sense do I wish to infer that I found an unsatisfactory situation on my arrival – far from it. Not only was I greatly impressed by the solid foundations laid by my predecessor, but I was also able the better to appreciate the vastness of the problems with which he had been confronted and the greatness of his achievements, in a command in which some 40 different languages are spoken by the British and Allied Forces." [53]

India Command Edit

Wavell in effect swapped jobs with Auchinleck, transferring to India where he became Commander-in-Chief, India and a member of the Governor General's Executive Council. [54] Initially his command covered India and Iraq so that within a month of taking charge he launched Iraqforce to invade Persia in co-operation with the Russians in order to secure the oilfields and the lines of communication to the Soviet Union. [51]

Wavell once again had the misfortune of being placed in charge of an undermanned theatre which became a war zone when the Japanese declared war on the United Kingdom in December 1941. He was made Commander-in-Chief of ABDACOM (American-British-Dutch-Australian Command). [55]

Late at night on 10 February 1942, Wavell prepared to board a flying boat, to fly from Singapore to Java. He stepped out of a staff car, not noticing (because of his blind left eye) that it was parked at the edge of a pier. He broke two bones in his back when he fell, and this injury affected his temperament for some time. [56]

On 23 February 1942, with Malaya lost and the Allied position in Java and Sumatra precarious, ABDACOM was closed down and its headquarters in Java evacuated. Wavell returned to India to resume his position as C-in-C India where his responsibilities now included the defence of Burma. [57]

On 23 February British forces in Burma had suffered a serious setback when Major-General Jackie Smyth's decision to destroy the bridge over the Sittang river to prevent the enemy crossing had resulted in most of his division being trapped on the wrong side of the river. The Viceroy Lord Linlithgow sent a signal criticising the conduct of the field commanders to Churchill who forwarded it to Wavell together with an offer to send Harold Alexander, who had commanded the rearguard at Dunkirk. Alexander took command of Allied land forces in Burma in early March [57] with William Slim arriving shortly afterwards from commanding a division in Iraq to take command of its principal formation, Burma Corps. Nevertheless, the pressure from the Japanese Armies was unstoppable and a withdrawal to India was ordered which was completed by the end of May before the start of the monsoon season which brought Japanese progress to a halt. [58]

In order to wrest some of the initiative from the Japanese, Wavell ordered the Eastern Army in India to mount an offensive in the Arakan, which commenced in September. After some initial success the Japanese counter-attacked, and by March 1943 the position was untenable, and the remnants of the attacking force was withdrawn. Wavell relieved the Eastern Army commander, Noel Irwin, of his command and replaced him with George Giffard. [58]

In January 1943, Wavell was promoted to field marshal [59] and on 22 April he returned to London. On 4 May he had an audience with the King, before departing with Churchill for America, returning on 27 May. He resided with (Sir) Henry 'Chips' Channon MP in Belgrave Square and was reintroduced into Society. Churchill nursed "an uncontrollable and unfortunate disapproval – indeed jealous dislike – of Wavell" [60] and had several spats with him in America. [61]

On 15 June Churchill invited Wavell to dinner and offered him the Viceroyalty of India in succession to Linlithgow. Lady Wavell joined him in London on 14 July, when they took up a suite at the Dorchester. Shortly afterwards it was announced that he had been created a viscount (taking the style Viscount Wavell of Cyrenaica and of Winchester, in the county of Southampton) [62] He addressed an all-party meeting at the House of Commons on 27 July, and on 28 July took his seat in the House of Lords as "the Empire's hero". [63] In September, he was formally named Governor-General and Viceroy of India. [64]

One of Wavell's first actions in office was to address the Bengal famine of 1943 by ordering the army to distribute relief supplies to the starving rural Bengalis. He attempted with mixed success to increase the supplies of rice to reduce the prices. [65] During his reign, Gandhi was leading the Quit India campaign, Mohammad Ali Jinnah was working for an independent state for the Muslims and Subhas Chandra Bose befriended Japan "and were pressing forward along India's Eastern border". [66]

Although Wavell was initially popular with Indian politicians, pressure mounted concerning the likely structure and timing of an independent India. He attempted to move the debate along—with the Wavell Plan and the Simla Conference—but received little support from Churchill (who was against Indian independence), nor from Clement Attlee, Churchill's successor as prime minister. He was also hampered by the differences between the various Indian political factions. At the end of the war, rising Indian expectations continued to be unfulfilled, and inter-communal violence increased. Eventually, in 1947, Attlee lost confidence in Wavell and replaced him with Lord Mountbatten of Burma. [52] [67]


Contents

Brian Gwynne Horrocks was the only son of Colonel Sir William Horrocks, a Lancashire born doctor in the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC), and his wife, Minna Horrocks, "who had all the gaiety and charm of the Irish". Born in Ranikhet in British India on 7 September 1895, young Brian—after having had "particularly happy memories of the four years spent at Gibraltar when my father was working on the causes of Malta fever"—returned to Britain, where he was educated at Bow School, Durham, later Uppingham School, Rutland, an English public school, "where I gravitated automatically into the army class. There was never any question of my entering a profession other than the army." [9] [10] Of his childhood, he claimed to have had "an extremely happy childhood". Horrocks later wrote that, as his life was devoted almost entirely to sport, he had very little aptitude for hard work. [9]

He entered the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, in October 1912, "bottom but one". [11] Horrocks's time at Sandhurst was, by his own admission, not very distinguished. "Let me be quite honest about it I was idle, careless about my turnout—in army parlance, scruffy—and, due to the fact that I am inclined to roll when I walk, very unsmart on parade". [12] His score was sixth-lowest of the 167 successful applicants for cadetships—even after the addition of 200 bonus points for an Officer Training Corps (OTC) certificate, which not all the other candidates had. [13] An unpromising student, he might not have received a commission at all but for the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914. [14] [15]

Horrocks was commissioned as a second lieutenant into the Middlesex Regiment, a line infantry regiment of the British Army, on 8 August 1914. [16] Horrocks, in charge of a ninety-five-man draft of replacements, joined the 1st Battalion of his regiment as part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) during the BEF's retreat following its baptism of fire at the Battle of Mons. By the time he and his men had got to Southampton his ninety-five-man draft had increased to ninety-eight, with three others, in their keenness to get into the war, having sneaked in. [14] He described the feeling at the time: "This was, I should think, the last time there was any romance attached to war. It is impossible now after the bitter experience of two world wars to recapture the spirit of this country in August, 1914. As I marched through those cheering crowds I felt like a king among men. It was all going to be over by Christmas and our one anxiety was whether we would get over there in time. And all ranks felt the same." [17]

Arriving in France, Horrocks was assigned to No. 16 Platoon of the 1st Battalion, Middlesex, with Captain Edward Stephen Gibbons (who was killed in 1918) as his company commander. The battalion was part of the 19th Independent Brigade, which was not assigned to a division. Horrocks wrote that his "chief memory of those days, and the memory retained by all platoon commanders, was of marching—endless and exhausting marches. I had never realised before that it was possible to go to sleep while the legs continued automatically to function." He found comfort in "that priceless Cockney sense of humour. A small private soldier in the rank in front of me looked up at his neighbour, who was blessed with a long lugubrious face, and said, Why don't you give your face a holiday, chum? Try a smile." [17] [15] He also came to greatly admire Captain Gibbons, along with his platoon sergeant, Sergeant Whinney. Once, while it was pouring with rain, the officers of the battalion were offered billets in a comfortable farmhouse, while the other ranks slept in a field covered with manure which had recently been departed by some cows Captain Gibbons was furious, insisting that the officers should share in the misery of their subordinates. "My heart sank but I knew instinctively that he was right", Horrocks later wrote. [18] Douglas Delaney writes that the "willingness of soldiers to follow was constructed on gestures like this. It is interesting how some events, though seemingly insignificant in the bigger scheme of things, become embedded in memory, making lifelong memories of themselves." [15] Horrocks was not to last much longer in battle, as on 21 October, at the Battle of Armentières, his platoon was surrounded, and Horrocks, while defending the town of Maisnil against a German attack, received a bullet wound through the lower abdomen and upper thigh, and was taken prisoner. "The war for me was over and my active military career had stopped for four years." [18] [19]

Incarcerated in a military hospital, he was repeatedly interrogated by his German captors, who believed that the British were using expanding bullets in contravention of the 1899 Hague Convention. [20] Horrocks' captors refused to change his clothes or sheets, and denied him and a fellow officer basic amenities. Both had temporarily lost the use of their legs, and were forced to crawl to the toilet, which caused Horrocks' wounds to become infected. [21] Conditions improved after his discharge and transfer to a prisoner of war camp. On his way to the camp, Horrocks befriended his German escort—he attributed their rapport to the mutual respect that front line troops share. [22] He was promoted to lieutenant on 18 December 1914, [23] despite being in enemy hands, and often tried to escape, once coming within 500 yards (460 m) of the Dutch border before being recaptured. [24] He was eventually placed in a compound for Russian officers, in the hope that the language barrier would hinder his escape attempts Horrocks used the time to learn the Russian language. Years later, working in the House of Commons, he startled Nikita Khrushchev and Nikolai Bulganin by greeting them in their native tongue. [25] In the latter part of the war he was held in Holzminden prisoner-of-war camp. His resistance in captivity would earn him the Military Cross (MC), awarded in 1920 and backdated to 5 May 1919. [26]

Repatriated at the end of the war, Horrocks had difficulty adapting to a peacetime routine. He went on sprees in London, spending four years of accumulated back-pay in six weeks. [27]

Russia Edit

In 1919 Horrocks was posted to Russia as part of the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War. After landing at Vladivostok on 19 April, he was briefed at British headquarters. The White Army under Admiral Kolchak, with the help of released Czechoslovak Legion prisoners, had driven the Red Army out of Siberia. Kolchak's Czech troops were returning home, and the British military contingent was urgently trying to replace them with Russians. To accomplish this, the British had only two infantry battalions and two small administrative missions, one charged with training and arming the Russians with British war-surplus equipment, and the other with improving the White Army's communications. [28]

Horrocks' first task, along with a party of 13 British officers and 30 other ranks, was to guard a train delivering 27 carriages of shells to the White Army in Omsk, 3,000 miles (4,800 km) away on the Trans-Siberian Railway. [29] The journey took more than a month, and as the only party member fluent in Russian, Horrocks had to deal with many of the difficulties encountered. At every station, he had to ward off station masters intent on acquiring the carriages. While stopped in Manchuli, the British officers' presence provoked a duel between two Cossack officers. Horrocks accepted an invitation to act as a second, but the pair were arrested before the duel could take place. He managed to defuse the situation before it came to trial, by claiming his faulty Russian had been the cause of the misunderstanding. [30]

His next assignment was in Yekaterinburg in the Urals, where he was appointed second in command of a training school for non-commissioned officers attached to the Anglo-Russian Brigade. [31] He found this post frustrating, having to dismiss nearly a third of his initial cadre on medical grounds, and struggling to get supplies and support from the White Army authorities. [32] Despite this, he developed a rapport with his men and an admiration for the Russian soldier. [33]

Although British forces were ordered home shortly afterwards, Horrocks and another officer, George Hayes, remained to advise the First Siberian Army. [34] The White Army was in retreat, and Horrocks joined them as they fell back to Vladivostok, 3,000 miles (4,800 km) away. He was captured by the Red Army on 7 January 1920, in the town of Krasnoyarsk, [35] and spent 10 months as a prisoner, narrowly surviving severe typhus. [36] The British government negotiated a prisoner release, and Horrocks left Russia on 29 October, returning home on the Royal Navy cruiser HMS Delhi. [37]

Back home Edit

Horrocks rejoined his regiment, based in Germany with the British Army of the Rhine, and followed it to Ireland, then embroiled in the Anglo-Irish War. His duties included searching for arms and dealing with ambushes and roadblocks, which he called "a most unpleasant form of warfare". [38] This was followed by a short period in Silesia to deal with tensions between the Polish and German populations.

On his return to Britain, Horrocks took up the modern pentathlon. He competed successfully in army tournaments, and was picked for the British Olympic team for the 1924 Paris Olympics, where he finished 19th out of 38. [39] Horrocks spent the remainder of the inter-war years in postings that included adjutant for the 9th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment of the Territorial Army (1926–1930) [40] student at the Staff College, Camberley (1931–32) [41] Staff Captain at the War Office (1934–36) [42] brigade major with the 5th Infantry Brigade (1936–38) [43] and instructor at the Staff College. [44] The Territorial Army posting, which Horrocks considered to be among his happiest periods, provided experience in dealing with citizen soldiers, which would prove highly valuable during the Second World War. [45] He received a brevet majority in 1935, and was promoted to substantive major in 1936, and brevet lieutenant colonel in 1937. [46]

In 1928, Horrocks married Nancy Kitchin, daughter of an architect for the Local Government Board. They had one child, a daughter named Gillian, who drowned in 1979 while swimming in the River Thames. [47]

At the outbreak of the Second World War, Horrocks was working as an instructor at the Staff College, Camberley, where he had taught since 1938. [48] After helping organise a new, shorter, officer-training course, [49] in December 1939 he was promoted to substantive lieutenant colonel. [50] The following May, he was despatched to France to command the 2nd Battalion, Middlesex Regiment, a machine-gun battalion directly subordinate to the 3rd Division headquarters of Major-General Bernard Montgomery. British doctrine at the time retained heavy machine guns under the direct command of a corps or division, rather than as an organic part of subordinate formations. [51] He joined the battalion during its retreat to Dunkirk, and after only 17 days had impressed his superiors sufficiently to be given the temporary rank of brigadier, and the command of 11th Brigade. The brigade's previous commander, Kenneth Anderson, had been promoted to General Officer Commanding (GOC) 3rd Division during the evacuation, when Lieutenant-General Alan Brooke, commander of II Corps, was recalled to the United Kingdom and Montgomery took over the corps. [7] On Horrocks' return to Britain, he was given command of 9th Brigade and assigned to defend against a possible German invasion. [7] A short stint as Brigadier General Staff of Western Command followed, before promotion to acting major-general and command of 44th (Home Counties) Infantry Division on 25 June 1941. [52] He was promoted to substantive colonel on 28 May 1941 (with seniority backdated to 1 July 1940). [53]

In March 1942, Horrocks was given command of the newly formed 9th Armoured Division and gained the temporary rank of major-general on 27 June. [54] Horrocks, an infantry soldier with no experience in dealing with cavalry, was an unusual choice for commander of an armoured division. [55] He trained the division hard, organising exercises to improve the effectiveness of his troops, and to familiarise himself with armoured warfare. [56] Despite never having commanded a division in battle, he was further promoted to acting lieutenant-general and sent to Egypt to command the Eighth Army's XIII Corps, under Montgomery. [57] General Sir Harold Alexander and Lieutenant-General Montgomery had decided to make a "clean sweep" when replacing the dismissed Claude Auchinleck as Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) Middle East and Eighth Army commander respectively. Officers perceived to have failed under the old regime were removed, and Montgomery's favoured commanders were brought in. Among these was Horrocks, an officer who, Montgomery felt, was "exactly what was wanted for the job that lay ahead". [58]

North Africa Edit

On arriving in North Africa, Horrocks' corps was ordered to defend the Alam el Halfa ridge in northwestern Egypt from an expected attack by the Afrika Korps. Concerned that heavy casualties would jeopardise his planned El Alamein offensive, Montgomery instructed Horrocks to repel Erwin Rommel's forces "without getting unduly mauled in the process". [59] Horrocks prepared for a purely defensive battle, with his armour dug in around the ridge. When the Germans attacked on 30 August, they failed to lure the British tanks towards their 88 mm guns—a tactic that had previously been used with great success—and found themselves battered by both artillery and the Desert Air Force (DAF). [60] The battle ended with the Germans in control of Himeihat hill, but at a high cost, and the Allied forces unwilling to try to re-take it after a failed attack by the 2nd New Zealand Division. [61] The army's defensive success raised morale, [62] and Horrocks was praised by his subordinate, Brigadier George Roberts, for his "wonderful knack of inspiring confidence and enthusiasm wherever he goes". [63] Montgomery, too, was pleased, saying "he deserves great credit for his action on that day". [64]

Horrocks was offered the command of X Corps, an armoured corps, in the planned Alamein battle. He refused it, believing that Major-General Herbert Lumsden, a cavalry officer, would be more suited to the role. [65] Instead he retained command of XIII Corps, and was given the task of making a feint to the south to deceive Axis forces, while the main thrust was made by XXX Corps and X Corps to the north. [65] Montgomery told Horrocks that he was not to incur tank losses, so XIII Corps' offensive operations were limited to raids. [66] In the aftermath of the landmark British victory that followed, Horrocks' corps was assigned to the reserve and was reduced in size while the rest of the Eighth Army pursued the retreating Axis forces. At one point the only formation under his command was a salvage unit clearing the wreckage of the battlefield, which he visited daily. [67] In December, he relinquished command of XIII Corps to Lieutenant General Miles Dempsey and took over command of X Corps, the lead corps in the advance of the Eighth Army, after Lumsden's dismissal for his perceived poor performance during the pursuit. [68] Horrocks was appointed a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order on 31 December 1942. [69] [70]

Following the fall of Tripoli in January 1943, the remaining Axis forces retreated to defensive positions in Southern Tunisia, in front of the Mareth Line built by France before the war. Here in March, Horrocks carried out one of his most successful actions. His corps, composed of the 1st Armoured Division, a Free French brigade and the attached New Zealand Corps (which included the 2nd New Zealand Division and the British 8th Armoured Brigade), was ordered to attack as part of Operation Supercharge II after XXX Corps failed to breach the line. [71] He carried out a flanking manoeuvre through a pass judged by the Germans to be impenetrable, rendering the Mareth position untenable and forcing the Axis into another retreat. Three Italian divisions were destroyed, and the German 15th and 21st Panzer Divisions and the 164th Division were heavily depleted. [72] Horrocks was then transferred to the First Army to take over IX Corps after its previous commander, Lieutenant-General John Crocker, was wounded in a training accident. He led this corps in the final Allied offensive in Tunisia during April and May 1943, capturing Tunis and accepting the surrender of the remnants of Rommel's Army Group Africa. [73] He was mentioned in despatches on 24 June, [2] and for his service in Tunisia, was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath on 5 August. [74] He was also given the rank of temporary lieutenant-general and war substantive major-general. [75]

In June 1943, after returning to command of X Corps, Horrocks sustained serious injuries during an air raid at Bizerte, while watching an amphibious rehearsal by the 46th Infantry Division for Operation Avalanche, the Salerno landings. [76] Bullets from a strafing German fighter struck his upper chest and carried on through his body, piercing his lungs, stomach and intestines. [77] He underwent five operations and spent fourteen months recovering. [47] He was replaced as commander of X Corps by Lieutenant-General Sir Richard McCreery. [78]

Northwest Europe Edit

It was a year before Horrocks recovered sufficiently to tell Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS), that he was "very anxious to be given another corps". [79] Restored to the acting rank of lieutenant-general in August 1944, [80] he was sent to France to assume command of XXX Corps during the cataclysm engulfing the trapped German 7th Army and 5th Panzer Army in the Falaise Pocket. Montgomery had been dissatisfied with the performance of the corps and its GOC, Gerard Bucknall, a fellow Middlesex Regiment officer, since the landings in Normandy two months earlier. [81] Horrocks retained control of XXX Corps during the advance through Belgium, taking Brussels, and at one point advanced 250 miles (400 km) in only six days. [82] Supplies were a constant concern the major French deep-water ports were still in German hands, and Allied supply lines stretched back to the Normandy beaches. Montgomery's 21st Army Group was by now operating 300 miles (480 km) from its ports—twice the distance logistical planners had accounted for—so XXX Corps was diverted towards Antwerp to secure its docks and harbour. [83] The city and port fell to the 11th Armoured Division in early September, but Montgomery halted XXX Corps for resupply short of the wide Albert Canal to the north of the city, which consequently remained in enemy hands. [84] Horrocks regretted this after the war believing that his corps might have advanced another 100 miles (160 km) with the fuel available. [85] Although some doubt this could have been achieved without delays, [83] it is now known that XXX Corps was opposed by only one German division, although Allied forces were unaware of this at the time. [86] The pause allowed the Germans to regroup around the Scheldt River, and by the time the Allies resumed their advance, the First Paratroop Army (General Kurt Student) had arrived and set up strong defensive positions along the opposite side of the canal. [87] The task of breaking the strengthened German line, which stretched from Antwerp to the North Sea along the Scheldt River, would fall to the First Canadian Army in the month-long, costly Battle of the Scheldt. [88] By mid-September, XXX Corps had been diverted again, this time to the east.

In September, Montgomery, now a field marshal, made his ambitious thrust across the Rhine and into the German industrial heartland, codenamed Operation Market Garden, a priority for 21st Army Group. XXX Corps under Horrocks was to lead the ground assault, passing along a corridor held by airborne forces to link up with the British 1st Airborne Division in Arnhem within four days. [89] In any event XXX Corps never arrived and although 1st Airborne clung on to their tenuous position for a further five days, by 21 September almost three-quarters of the division was destroyed or captured. [90] Postwar analyses have been divided, some stressing a perceived lack of urgency on the part of Horrocks' men, while others note that German defences in the area were severely underestimated by First Allied Airborne Army intelligence. [91] Particularly important was the failure to identify the remnants of two SS Panzer divisions, which after Normandy had been sent to the Arnhem area for rest and refitting intelligence had stated that only "a few infantry units and between 50 and 100 tanks" were in the Netherlands. [92] Counter-attacks by Army Group B under Generalfeldmarschall Walter Model kept Horrocks' units on the defensive, and delayed their advance by forcing the British to halt and secure their flank. The terrain over which Horrocks' men had to move was unsuitable, restricting the vanguard (the Guards Armoured Division) to a single narrow raised highway through flat or flooded countryside. [93] The Nijmegen Bridge, just 8 miles (13 km) from Arnhem, was not captured by the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment on the first day as planned, and XXX Corps had to assist in its capture on their arrival in Nijmegen two days later, causing a further delay of 36 hours. [94] Horrocks was not personally blamed for the operation's failure during this period Brigadier General James Gavin's U.S. 82nd Airborne Division came under Horrocks' command, and Gavin later wrote

He was truly a unique general officer and his qualities of leadership were greater than any I have ever seen. In lecturing at the American service school I stated frequently that General Horrocks was the finest general officer I met during the war, and the finest corps commander. [95]

During the Battle of the Bulge, Horrocks was temporarily relieved of his command of XXX Corps by Field Marshal Montgomery and sent back to Britain to rest. Montgomery had taken this move because Horrocks had become "nervy and difficult with his staff" and had "attempted to act foolishly" with XXX Corps. [96] The corps was temporarily commanded by Major-General Ivor Thomas, GOC of the 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division.

In early 1945, XXX Corps took part in Operation Veritable, during which the German Army was forced back over the Rhine. The corps employed firepower on a massive scale, [97] and "every trick that had been learnt during the past two and a half years was brought into play, and several new ones added". [98] For a short period XXX Corps had nine divisions under its command. [99] Before the operation, Horrocks accepted an offer to use Bomber Command to attack the town of Cleves, assisting the advance of the 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division. The bombers released 1,384 long tons (1,406 t) of high explosive that devastated the town. Horrocks later said that this had been "the most terrible decision I had ever taken in my life" and that he felt "physically sick" when he saw the bombers overhead. [100] Operation Veritable was successful by the evening of 9 February (D+1) XXX Corps had broken through the Siegfried Line and into Germany with only light casualties. [98] Bremen was captured on 26 April, exposing the Sandbostel concentration camp, Stalag X-B. The corps had reached Cuxhaven by the time hostilities ceased. [99]

Horrocks received two further mentions in despatches for his service in north-west Europe on 22 March [3] and 9 August 1945, [4] and was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire on 5 July. [102] He was honoured by the governments of Belgium (the Croix de Guerre 1940 with Palm and Grand Officer of the Order of the Crown with Palm), France (Croix de Guerre and Commandeur of the Légion d'honneur), the Netherlands (Knight Grand Officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau), Greece (Commander of the Order of King George I), and the United States (Legion of Merit). [103] [104]

Horrocks continued to serve in the armed forces after the war, initially as General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Western Command, [105] receiving substantive promotion to lieutenant-general in 1946, with seniority backdated to 29 December 1944. [106] He briefly commanded the British Army of the Rhine, until he fell ill in August 1948 [107] he was invalided out of the service early in January 1949 by the lingering effects of the wounds he had received in North Africa. [108] Promoted to Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in the King's Birthday Honours that year, [109] he served as Honorary Colonel of a Territorial Army unit of the Royal Artillery. [110]

In 1949 he was appointed Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, [111] a post traditionally held by retired officers this appointment was confirmed on the accession of Elizabeth II in 1952. [112] Black Rod has the responsibility of supervising the administration of the House of Lords, controlling admission to it, and taking part in ceremonies. In 1957, Horrocks had the unusual duty of ordering Vivien Leigh out of the House when she interrupted proceedings to plead that the St James's Theatre be saved from demolition. [113] On other occasions, because the Black Rod had to remain in place during long debates, Horrocks relieved his boredom by completing football pools coupons. This had the advantage of looking like note-taking to the assembled lords. [114] Horrocks held the post of Black Rod until 1963. [115]

Horrocks became interested in writing, and submitted articles about military matters to newspapers and magazines including the Picture Post and The Sunday Times. This led to a short but successful career as the presenter of a series of television programmes, British Castles (1962), Men in Battle and Epic Battle, produced by Huw Wheldon. In these, Horrocks lectured on great historical battles, "highlighting excitement and interest" to allow the programmes to appeal to the widest possible audience. [116] He was interviewed extensively for the Thames Television series, The World at War, and, to his embarrassment, appeared on the cover of the BBC's Radio Times magazine. [117]

After his television career ended, Horrocks served on the board of the housebuilding company Bovis, and continuing to write, contributing a column to The Sunday Times and editing a series of British Army regimental histories. [118]

In 1968 Horrocks collaborated with J & L Randall as editor of the board game Combat, made by the Merit company. Horrocks' portrait and signature appear on the box and his introduction to the game states: "In war no two battles are ever the same because the terrain is always different and it is this, more than anything else, which influences the composition of the different armies and the tactics employed by the rival Commanders".

His autobiography, A Full Life, was published in 1960, [119] and he co-authored Corps Commander, an account of his battles in north-west Europe, published in 1977. [120]

Horrocks acted as a military consultant for the 1977 film A Bridge Too Far, based on Operation Market Garden. [121] Horrocks was also a character in the film, played by Edward Fox. Fox later commented:

I enjoyed all of the films but A Bridge Too Far is the one I enjoyed the most because of the character I had to play, Lieutenant-General Brian Horrocks. Brian was alive then and I knew him well – we were friends until his death. He was a very particular type of general and it was important that I play the role correctly. [122]

Horrocks died on 4 January 1985, aged 89. [123] The memorial service, held at Westminster Abbey on 26 February, was attended by Major-General Peter Gillett and Secretary of State for Defence Michael Heseltine, who represented the Queen and Prime Minister respectively. Thirty regiments and many other formations and associations were represented at the service. [124]


Field Marshal Montgomery Dead at 88

LONDON, Wednesday, March 24 — Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery, the most famous British soldier of modern times, died early today, the Ministry of Defense announced. He was 88 years old.

Lord Montgomery died in his sleep at his country home in the south of England where he had been bedridden for several years. A military funeral will be held at Windsor.

Controversial Militarist

General Montgomery's victory over the Germans and Italians at El Alamein in Northern Egypt in November 1942 was a major and decisive battle in history, for before it, the Germans had not lost a major battle In World War II.

But the controversial, cantankerous, and stubborn general bore a major responsibilty for one of the war's most tragically executed blunders. It was an operation code‐named “Market‐Garden,” of which he was the major architect, designed to seize from the Germans, in 1944, five major Dutch bridges and cross the Rhine into German territory.

But the bridge at Arnhem the last in the battle, the one later dubbed by the historian Cornelius Ryan as “A Bridge Too Far,” could not be taken, and the result was a major setback with all its consequences, including horrendous casualties, The Allies did not, in fact, cross the Rhine until March 1945.

Although General Montgomery frankly, in his memoirs, abandoned his usual reluctance to admit error and conceded “I take the blame for this mistake” of not getting sufficient paratrooper forces close enough to the bridge in time, and said “I must admit … I underestimated the difficulties,” he laid most of the blame for the rout to American generals led by Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The matter of blame‐taking and finger‐pointing, regarding the controversial Battle of Arnheim, has been the subject of continuous debate by the generals involved, military and political historians, and armchair strategists ever since the war.

But it is pretty well agreed that General Montgomery's essential point was that General Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander, did not give him suffcient support in the part of his “Market‐Garden” strategy that called for going straight for, and in the end controlling Germany's Ruhr Valley, over Europe's northern rim.

In his “Memoirs,” published In 1938, General, Montgomery indicated that he felt General Eisenhower had mistakenly put too much trust in two of his generals, Omar N. Bradley and George S. Patton Jr., for helping to carry out the Montgomery‐inspired Ruhr strategry.

The British general wanted to go at the industrially essential Ruhr with 40 divisions, operating on a relatively narrow front, with himself, presumably, in command.

The enormous self‐assurance of General Montgomery — he later became a field marshal and a viscount—communicated itself to his countrymen at a time when that was exactly what they needed. This self‐confidence permeated his extensive, pogtwar memoirs and journalistic writings and irritated many of his wartime colleagues, some of whom he criticized With almost insulting offhandedness.

Some of those so criticized pointed out that his victory at El Alamein, as well as certain other successes, was won over foes greatly inferior in manplower and materiel.

Nevertheless, Field Marshal Montgomery was one of Britain's‐ genuine heroes in World War II. Then in his fifties, he was a slightly built, wiry man with what has been described as a “rigid, almost fanatical, set of the head.” He had high cheekbones, a needle nose and pale blue eyes that had a way intensely irritating to some, of Iooking through and past the person with whom he was conversing. He was dour and somewhat eccentric. He neither smoked nor drank and had a mania for physical fitness.

‘Monty’ to His Men

At the time of the desert fighting in Africa the men of General Montgomery's Eighth Army saw him in swirls of dust waving to them from command cars or from an open tank turret. Sometimes he wore the beret of the Royal Tank Corps with two regimental badges pinned to it. Again he would appear in a big Australian campaign hat covered with badges. Usually he wore an old turtleneck sweater, To his men, and to a good part of the world, he became “Monty.”

His complete self‐assurance, the touch of showmanship that appealed to the Tommies and, above all, his way of taking them into his confidence gave them faith in themselves and in their commanders. (Some squirmed, however, at the schoolboyish phrases in his message on the eve of the battle of‐El Alamein, such as “hit the Hun for six” and “good hunting, chaps.”)

In his memoirs Field Marshal Montgomery recalled that when he was at the front in France in World War I he never once saw the British commander in chief. It was his policy not to let this happen when he was in high command. Of his policy of dealing with troops, he said, “Tell them the truth. Warm their hearts. Excite their imagina tions.” As a colleague said, all this “made Monty the best known, if not the best liked, field commander since Wellington.”

Field Marshal Montgomery was an exponent of muscular Christianity. His father, who became an Anglican bishop, established a record at Cambridge University of jumping up the 10‐foot‐long and 4‐foothigh steps of Trinity College. When General Montgomery took command of the Eighth Army in Egypt in 1942 he made his officers run up and down stairs to keep in condition.

At his retirement in September, 1958, Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery of Alamein had completed 50 years of active duty. Since 1855, no British Army officer is known to have had a longer unbroken period of active duty.

His memoirs, published in 1958, were critical of his allies and of many of his brother officers. After calling his former superior officer, General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower, “a remarkable and most lovable man,” he wrote:

“He had never seen a shot fired in war till the landings in North Africa and he never commanded troops in battle. I would not class Ike as a great soldier. He might have become one if he had ever had the experience of exercising direct command of a division, corps and army—which unfortunately did not come his way.”

Controversial Travels

After Lord Montgomery left the army he traveled extensively and wrote for various British publications about what he had seen and the persons with whom he had talked. In his writing he could boil down a world crisis into a kind of schoolboy insolence that made amusing and instructive reading. Once when tensions were building up between Britain and West Germany, Lord Montgomery had seen Chancellor Konrad Adenauer. At a dinner he told 400 senior officers of the Royal Military College of Science that Dr. Adenauer “needed a dose of weed killer.” He added that “a small dose would do.”

Born in London

Bernard Law Montgomery, third son in a big family, was born Nov. 17, 1887, at Kennington, London, where his father, the Rev. Henry Hutchinson Montgomery, was vicar. His mother, the former Maud Farrar, was a daughter of the Very Rev. F. W. Farrar, Dean of Canterbury. Dr. Farrar wrote religious and inspirational books for children. One of these, “Eric or Little by Little,” became one of the most widely circulated books of its kind in the English‐speaking world.

Like several other great British soldiers of his generation, Field Marshal Montgomery came of a Northern Irish family. His father inherited the family estate at New Park, Donegal.

Bernard Montgomery spent his early childhood in Hobart, the neat little capital of Tasmania, where his father was appointed bishop in 1889. When he was 14, the family returned to England and settled in Chiswick, London.

Of his early years Field Marshal Montgomery wrote:

“Certainly I can say that my own childhood was unhappy. This was due to a clash of wills between my mother and myself. My early life was a series of fierce battles, from which my mother invariably emerged the victor.” He wrote of “constant defeats and the beatings with a cane.” He recalled that his mother ran all the family finances and “gave my father 10 shillings a week” and that “he was severely cross‐examined if he meekly asked for another shilling or two before the end of the week.”

At 14 he entered St. Paul's School in London, which was near home and much less expensive than Harrow or Eton. He entered the Royal Military College, now the Royal Military Academy, at Sandhurst in 1907.

His departure from Sandhurst narrowly missed being premature “when,” as he later recounted, “during the ragging of an unpopular cadet I set fire to the tail of his shirt as he was undressing: he got a badly burned behind, retired to the, hospital, and was unable to sit down in comfort for some time.”

Served in India

Second Lieutenant Montgomery was accepted by the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, whose cap badge he admired and whose mess bills were low. By the beginning of World War I in 1914 he was 26, had served in India and was a full lieutenant.

In action near Meteren at the first battle of Ypres early in the war, Lieutenant Montgomery, sword in hand, led his platoon in a charge. But, he explained later, he had never been taught to do anything with his sword except salute, and so he felled and captured his first German by kicking him in the groin.

Later in this fight Lieutenant Montgomery was shot through the chest. He survived only because one of his men who had come to help him was fatally shot and fell across him, thus protecting him from further bullets. The Distinguished Service Order was awarded to Lieutenant Montgomery for his courage and leadership on that day.

After the war he completed the course at the Staff College at Camberley in 1920.

Headed Third Division

At the beginning of World War II Major General Montgomery went to France in command of the Third Division.

Of the French‐British defeat that led to the evacuation at Dunkirk in 1940, Lord Montgomery wrote:

“The battle was lost before it began. The whole business was a complete ‘dog's breakfast.’”

He got his outfit out through Dunkirk in such relatively good shape that the Third Division was selected to receive reserve equipment, of which there existed in Britain at that time just enough for one division.

In 1942 Lieut. Gen. W. H. E. (Straffer) Gott was selected to command the Eighth Army in Egypt. He was killed in an airplane accident before he could assume his command and Lieutenant General Montgomery was ordered to fill the post.

He arrived in Cairo and arbitrarily took command of the Eighth Army two days before he had been authorizd to do so.

Revived Eighth Army

Once he had achieved command, General Montgomery set about revivifying the Eighth Army, which he said he found with its “tail down.” He chased officers and other ranks around in violent physical exercise. When he turned his pale gaze to look through an officer and said, “You're no use to me, no use at all,” the officer knew he was as good as on a boat headed for home.

Heedless of home front clamor for action, General Montgomery built up his force and battle equipment with care. His opponent, General Rommel, had inflicted serious reverses on a series of previous Eighth Army commanders.

The British were in the course of overwhelming General Rommel with a supply build‐up and the German knew that he had to bring the matter to the touch. He attacked, and General Montgomery defeated him. As the British commander put it, he “saw him off” at a shrewdly fought defensive battle in Alam Halfa. The stage was set for the battle of El Alamein.

On Oct. 23, 1942, after a strong air and artillery preparation, the British launched night assault from their positions in front of El Alamein. By Nov. 7 they had broken through and the world rang with the news of the desert victory. General Montgomery was made a full general and knighted.

The Eighth Army, directed from Cairo by Gen. Sir Harold Alexander (later a field marshal and Earl Alexander of Tunis) and in the field by General Montgomery, drove the Axis forces back from the gates of Egypt to Tripoli in 30 days. The Americans under General Eisenhower landed in North Africa to attack from the opposite direction.

U.S. Generals Irked

This brought the first clash of views between the British and American commanders. As one who had been doing so well, General Montgomery thought that resources allocated to the landing should have been placed at his disposal. He criticized the conduct of operations under General Eisenhower—unkindly in the opinion of Gen. Sir Francis de Guingand, General Montgomery's chief of staff. This had little effect on General Eisenhower but clearly irked Generals Bradley and Patton, and Americans commanding in Algeria and Tunisia. The pattern was to be repeated in Europe.

Few laurels were gained by General Montgomery or any other Allied commander in the capture of Sicily or in the dull plodding through Italy. General Montgomery bade farewell to his Eighth Army and went to England, where he exercised field command over the British and United States armed forces during the Allied landings in Normandy in 1944 and in the early stages of the fighting in France.

On D‐Day, June 6, 1944, British and United States forces stormed across the Normandy beaches. General Montgomery's British and Canadian forces were held near the landing places by the Germans longer than the United States forces were, a situation that General Montgomery said had been planned by the Allied strategists. Neither General Eisenhower nor General Bradley, commander of the assaulting United States forces, fully concurred in this interpretation of the battle plan.

During the 1944‐45 Battle of the Bulge in Belgium, General Eisenhower found it advisable for tactical purposes to place part of General Bradley's forces under Montgomery, now promoted to field marshal. When the German thrust failed Field Marshal Montgomery held a press conference in which he gave the impression that he had come to the rescue of the foundering United States Army, and not a minute too soon.

In his memoirs, General Eisenhower wrote:

“This incident caused me more distress than any similar one in the war. I doubt if Montgomery ever came to realize how deeply resentful some American commanders were.”

In his war recollections, General Bradley wrote:

“But Montgomery unfortunately could not resist the chance to tweak our Yankee noses. General Eisenhower held his tongue only by clenching his teeth.”

After V‐E Day, Field Marshal Montgomery was appointed commander in chief of the British Forces of Occupation, Military Governor of the British Zone of Occupied Germany and British member of the Allied Control Council of Germany. In June, 1946, he became Chief of the Imperial General Staff, the ranking uniformed post in the British Army. He had been elevated to the peerage as Viscount Montgomery of Alamein on Jan. 31, 1946.

Chief Deputy

When General Eisenhower was appointed commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces, Field Marshal Montgomery became his chief deputy, a post that he held until 1958.

Time mellowed Lord Montgomery very little. In June, 1964, in a radio broadcast linked with commemorative ceremonies in Normandy on the 20th anniversary of the D‐Day landings, he said that General Eisenhower, who had been in overall command of the operation, “never understood the Normandy strategy at all” and that “he got the whole thing muddled up.”

Lord Montgomery returned to this refrain in a supposed tribute on the death of General Eisenhower, referring again to the latter's alleged lack of understanding of the Normandy situation. But he added in warmer tones that the Supremo Commander, while “not a great soldier in the true sense of the word,” was “a great human being” whose qualities of patience and forbearing had “kept the peace between the warring tribes of generals and air barons.”

In 1927, when he was 39 years old and an instructor at the Staff College, Colonel Montgomery married Mrs. Oswald A. Carver, widow of an army captain killed in World War I. One son, David, was born to them. Mrs. Montgomery died in 1937.


75 Comments

Montgomery demonstrated the insececurity of a short man at almost every opportunity .While choosing in Africa to build up a public persona , Rommel’s legend is strictly accomplishment based .While seeking out ways to annoy superiors , he demanded unconditional obediance from subordinates .Eisenhower’s task was far above anything a Montgomery could have accomplished because of his insecurities .He wasn’t interested in getting the job done , but claiming the creadit for it was his aim as well as denying that credit to others .A small man in many ways , very similar to Patton and McCarthur . Average generals not in the catagory of a Rommel or a Zukov

Ah, bull. Another cad who watched the film “Patton” and things Monty climbed to the top of the mountain by falling there. Montgomery was the best general of WWII and would even be effective in the modern era.

His sucesses in North africa, Monty is an incredibly overrated general, in part because the British Army of the time was not willing to take risks that other generals would. He failed to close the gap at Falaise when Patton could have if Bradley had not been so timid & his arrogance in Demanding that Market Garden go on despite the presence of German armor is one of his greatest failures. Never aggressive enough and always waiting for everything to be in place. Reminds me in many ways of McClellan. – I once knew a survivor of the British 1st who was still so bitter some 8 ars after the battle that he refused to talk about it.

Not in the category of a Rommel. Didn’t Montgomery defeat Rommel twice? Alamein and in Normandy?

For all of you who are so impressed that Montgomery defeated Rommel, here is a little test. Imagine Monty in command of the Afrika Korps – outnumbered, low on supplies and equipment, including tanks, fuel and air cover. Now imagine his opponent – Rommel in command of the allied forces, swimming in fuel, no supply problems, air superiority, complete naval superiority, out numbering the Afrika Korps in tanks, men artillery and everything else. How long do you think Monty’s Afrika Korps would have lasted against Rommel’s 8th Army?

No one has mentioned a quite important detail about Montgomery’s successes in North Africa intelligence. Due to cracking the German enigma code, Montgomery knew in advance much of Rommel’s plan. And the British were hesitant to share that information initially with their allies.

Three times: at Alam el Halfa awa well.

Well considering at Alamein he had superior numbers in infantry tanks artillery aircraft and the short supply line. Anybody of even moderate competence would have broken through. In Normandy you do realize it wasn’t just Monty fighting the Germans right?

Monty beat Rommel…EVERY time they came up face to face. Monty’s Market Garden was almost successful, while Patton was mired down in Metz for 3 months.

Bottom line: You cannot judge a person’s skill based upon their personality. Sometimes, real @#@[email protected]’s are the best at what they do.

Logistics beat Romel far more than Monty.
“When one comes to consider that supplies and materiel are the decisive factor in modern warfare, it was already becoming clear that a catastrophe was looming on the distant horizon for my army.”
I.Rommel

Oh and I suppose Montgomery had nothing to do with ensuring the 8th Army and 21st Army Group where properly equipped.

Rommel was not that good he knew his supplies were limited he over reached and took a drubbing. I prefer General Cooper Clarkes opinion of Montgomery he served under him at the latter stages of the battle of St Vith.

“General Montgomery’s plan was a failure. It not only failed to encircle and trap the Germans, it also failed in that it lost and wasted thousands of tons of supplies that could have been used by other armies (especially the Third Army) to continue their successful attacks. Because none of the plans were accomplished, it was also a waste of many soldier’s lives. Lastly, it caused unnecessary destruction in the Netherlands. After it was all over, Prince Bernard of the Netherlands said, “My country can never again afford the luxury of another Montgomery success.””

The 3rd Army, under Patton, did well when mopping up scattered fleeing Germans. When it hit Metz, it hit a brick wall, a wall Monty would have crumbled in the 1/3rd of the time.

“Eisenhower’s decision created a shortage of gasoline and other necessary supplies that were badly needed by the Third Army to keep up its fast-paced advance. Without these supplies the Third Army was forced to slow down and finally to halt its rapid advance.

This was another decision made by Eisenhower and his officers at SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force) that would become very controversial later. Many people thought, and still think, that if the Third Army had not been stopped when it was, it might have been able to bring the war to a close by the end of 1944, instead of the middle of 1945.”

Monty kept on taking supplies that Patton needed to keep advancing. If he hadn’t, Metz would have been taken much faster. And on another note, the 3rd army was on the front lines, not “mopping up fleeing germans.” They left the up to the other armies. They were always advancing, and had the BEST record of any army of WWII.

Your comments seemed based on British national pride rather than reality. Monty had a history of ignoring orders, causing massive loss of life and allowing German armies to escape solely because of his ego.

His record as a commander has consistently been under attack by objective historians who correctly view him as a general who would rather prolong the war and cause mass death rather than have anyone become vicorious other than him and his army no matter what the cost. The Americans should have insisted that Monty be relieved of command in order for continued financial and armament support to the British.

Montgomery brazenly trashed American fighting capabilites when the reality was that the Americans were the best fighting men in the world in World War II and did not allow the Germans time to dig in and rearm themselves while they took a day off “for tea”. American generals would have never said such things about British soldiers as did Monty about the Americans.

While the Americans had their prima donnas, Patton and McArthur, these generals are largely lauded by historians, particularly in their effective use of military strategy. No general in the Allied Forces is more loathed by history than Montgomery.

You mean Monty would have taken Metz the way he took Caen? And as I recall, Montgomery’s “Operation Market Garden” was a catastrophic failure as well, costing the Britain her 1st Para’s Division and accomplished very little else except emptying an asylum and killing thousands of allied soldiers.


Fact File : Battle of Alam Halfa

Theatre: North Africa
Location: Around the Egyptian town of El Alamein, 100km (60 miles) west of Alexandria.
Players: Allies: General Bernard Montgomery's 8th Army comprising 13th Corps and 30th Corps. Axis: General Erwin Rommel's Armeegruppe Afrika including Panzerarmee Afrika, Deutsches Afrika Korps and the Italian 10th, 20th and 21st Corps.
Outcome: An Allied defensive victory. 8th Army maintained its position in the face of a major German attack.


General Bernard L. Montgomery watches his tanks advance toward German lines, North Africa, November 1942©

Auchinleck was relieved of his 8th Army command and his position as Commander-in-Chief Middle East on 6 August the latter post was taken by General Harold Alexander, the former by General Sir William Gott. The following day Gott was killed when his aeroplane was shot down. His replacement was Montgomery.

Montgomery arrived at El Alamein on 18 August and promptly told Alexander that all withdrawal plans had been destroyed. His determination, and the reinforcements which had been building up since July, were tested two weeks later.

On the night of 30 August Rommel advanced around the southern end of the British line he aimed to repeat the approach that had succeeded at Gazala, forcing the British to choose between encirclement and retreat.

However, Montgomery had recognised Rommel's superiority in manoeuvre and responded accordingly. East of the line, the tanks of 13th Corps were deployed on and around the Alam Halfa Ridge, in effect serving as anti tank guns.

Rommel's advance was blocked with fuel running low, he called off the attack on 2 September. No great victory for the British, Alam Halfa was nevertheless a bruising defeat for Rommel and a boost for Montgomery and the 8th Army.

The fact files in this timeline were commissioned by the BBC in June 2003 and September 2005. Find out more about the authors who wrote them.


Mark W. Clark: A General Reappraisal

S trictly speaking, Mark W. Clark was not a controversial general. &ldquoControversial&rdquo implies a significant divergence of opinion on a subject, and historians seem to have made up their collective mind about Clark. If there is a Pantheon of Bad Commanders, most scholars of World War II use him as exhibit A. Frankly, they should stop it. Clark certainly was no Napoleon, but neither was he particularly incompetent. In fact, he was a perfectly representative general for a U.S. Army in 1943 that was still feeling its way toward excellence.

The indictment usually begins with his personality. Clark was a blatant careerist and glory hog, his legion of attackers claim, whose ambition exceeded all bounds. He cared more about public relations and cultivating a heroic image than he did about fighting wars. He only let photographers shoot his &ldquogood side&rdquo (his left, for the rec-ord). He was cocky to the point of arrogant, dubbed Marcus Aurelius Clarkus by some cynical subordinates. He was peremptory with his subordinates. He was inexperienced, and was jumped up over more experienced and deserving officers. He was a hard-core Anglophobe, distrusting his British allies while commanding a campaign in which cooperation was essential.

In reality, every one of these accusations is specious. Was Clark any more of an egotistical glory hound than Patton? Generalship within the U.S. Army is practically defined by overweening ambition. Was Clark really more interested in cultivating his image than, say, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel? No one loved photographers more than the Desert Fox. Was he really promoted too rapidly? In February 1941, Dwight D. Eisenhower was a lieutenant colonel. Two short years later, he was a four-star general, perhaps the world&rsquos record for rapid promotion. By way of comparison, Clark was a lieutenant colonel in July 1941 and a three-star general by November 1942. In a wartime army expanding as rapidly as this one was, just about everyone was going to be promoted early. The personal arguments&mdashand there are vast numbers of those who worked with Clark who contradict all this and who liked him just fine&mdashsimply don&rsquot hold water.

There is another accusation against Clark, however, a much more serious one: that he was incompetent. Here, the allegations range all over the map. He charged ashore too impetuously at Salerno, many say, pushing inland without consolidating his beachhead. He then proved too dilatory and unimaginative in the drive north. Before the Anzio landing, his advice to Major General John P. Lucas was hardly the stuff of the Great Captains: &ldquoDon&rsquot stick your neck out, Johnny,&rdquo he said. Lucas didn&rsquot, the Anzio landing went nowhere, and Clark relieved him of duty. By contrast, Clark again reverted to being too impetuous. He launched the 36th &ldquoTexas&rdquo Division in a frontal assault against murderous German fire in a futile attempt to cross the Rapido River. It was an operational disaster that led to postwar Congressional hearings and for which Texas has still not forgiven him. Finally, the main indictment: his decision to drive for Rome after the Anzio breakout rather than encircling the German Tenth Army, which was at that moment retreating north in some confusion.

But this accusation, too, fails the evidence test. After all, surrounding a maneuver-trained German field army was not as easy as it sounds. How many times did the Western Allies ever succeed in doing so? Don&rsquot try too hard, it&rsquos an easy answer. Before the final German collapse in 1945: zero.

So if Clark is culpable for failing to encircle a German army in battle, he has some very fine company: Generals Dwight D. Eisenhower, Omar Bradley, Courtney Hodges, and George S. Patton Jr. It was possible to beat the Germans, yes. Outside of a few extraordinary circumstances in this war, however, they usually maneuvered rapidly enough to prevent themselves from being encircled&mdashand that is exactly what they did in Italy.

Salerno certainly tested Clark, and he appeared at times to be overwhelmed. But he spent the night of September 13 doing what he had to do: taking stock and taking a sober view of things. He also spent two difficult days&mdashSeptember 13 and 14&mdashrotating between his command post and tours of the front where he braved heavy enemy fire to rally the troops, just like all those heroic commanders who populate the history books. &ldquoHe shared the dangers of his men,&rdquo one biographer wrote, and that is all anyone can ask. In the end, Fifth Army managed to ward off fierce German attacks, to defend its bridgehead, and to drive inland from Salerno.

Clark&rsquos real problem was quite simple: it was his fate in 1943 to command an American army in the Mediterranean Theater. The inland sea had already become a graveyard of American military reputations: Major General Lloyd Fredendall of Kasserine Pass, the currently disgraced Patton, the soon-to-be disgraced Major General Ernest J. Dawley, and the later disgraced General Lucas. A year later in Western Europe, by contrast, all the commanders miraculously wound up looking pretty good. Perhaps the Mediterranean weeded out the weaklings in the officer corps. Perhaps it lacked the full attention of the U.S. high command, now deep in the planning cycle for Operation Overlord in Normandy. Perhaps it was just the luck of the draw.

In the end, Clark was no military genius&mdashfew commanders in history are&mdashbut he led his army as well as the difficult theater of operations and the current skill level of the U.S. Army would permit. Judging whether he was a &ldquogood&rdquo or &ldquobad&rdquo general has to take a number of thorny and intertwined factors into consideration, but the real issue was time. The U.S. Army, top to bottom, was going to get a lot better by 1944, and every general looks better when the formations, staff, and support systems under his command&mdashall of an invasion force&rsquos moving parts&mdashare more experienced. While it&rsquos impossible to say with certainty, Clark likely would have been no exception.


Selected 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)
  • Distinguished Service Medal (US, 1947)
  • Chief Commander of the Legion of Merit (US, 10 August 1943)
  • Croix de Guerre (France, 1919)

Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “Biography of Bernard Montgomery”, Oxford, UK. www.biographyonline.net , Published 1st Feb 2010. Last updated 30th January 2017.

Monty – The Battles of Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery

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Watch the video: General Montgomery takes over in North Africa 1942 (December 2022).

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