Bernard Montgomery

Gen. Bernard Law Montgomery is bid a jolly farewell by Lt. Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., at the Palermo, Sicily airport after a visit by Gen. Montgomery. (28 Jul 43)
Gen. Bernard Law Montgomery is bid a jolly farewell by Lt. Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., at the Palermo, Sicily airport after a visit by Gen. Montgomery. (28 Jul 43)

Bernard Law Montgomery was born in November 1887 in London. In 1907, he entered the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst and was commissioned a lieutenant of infantry. During World War I he served with distinction and earned the D.S.O. for conspicuous gallantry after being wounded twice in the chest and knee in October 1914.

During the inter-war years, Montgomery steadily rose through the levels of British Army. He was the Chief of Staff for the 47th London Division at the age of 31. In 1939 he was given command of the 3rd Division of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF).

When the British Army was trapped at Dunkirk he was given command of the 2nd Corps.

By 1941, Montgomery commanded the South Eastern Army with troops stationed in the Home Counties of Surrey, Kent and Sussex.

His maxim of ‘training, training and more training’ combined with a penchant for organization helped rebuild and refit the British Army and helped alleviate the fears that Britain would be helpless against a German cross-channel invasion.

His skill and leadership style was not lost on his superiors, and on Aug. 10, 1942 Montgomery took command of the Eighth British Army in North Africa. The Eighth Army, after retreating hundreds of miles across Libya and Tunisia in the face of Rommel’s Afrika Corps, suffered from a lack of morale and decisive leadership. Like his resurrection of the South Eastern Army in England, Montgomery focused on training and military doctrine. His singular success was his integration of operations and command between the Army and Royal Air Force. He was put to the test two months after his arrival in Africa, when the British met the Afrika Corps at El Alamein in Egypt on Oct. 23, 1942. With this victory, Montgomery sounded the death knell for the German Army in Africa. Even with the brief resurgence of the Afrika Corps at Kasserine Pass on Feb. 20, 1943, Montgomery continued to exert pressure with his Eighth Army out of Egypt and constant harassment by the Desert Air Force. The Afrika Corps capitulated in March 1943 with Rommel being evacuated by air to Italy.

After his victory in North Africa, Montgomery was recalled to England to serve under General Dwight Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander. He commanded all Allied Ground troops during the D-Day invasion in June 1944. After the breakout of the Cherbourg Peninsula, he commanded an Army Group for the push up through Belgium and the Netherlands. In August 1944, he was promoted to Field Marshal and took command of all British and Canadian troops. Montgomery orchestrated Operation Market Garden, the largest airborne attack of WWII. The operation was an airborne attack deep in the enemy's rear areas to be launched in mid-September 1944, in conjunction with a ground offensive by the British Second Army. The idea was to attack through the Netherlands and attack Germany from the West, avoiding the heavily fortified Siegfried Line and isolating any German forces to the west along the coast. Operation ‘Market’ would entail capturing the bridges between Eindhoven and Arnhem by means of airborne landings of the 1st Airborne Corps of the 1st Allied Airborne Army. Operation ‘Garden’ would be the simultaneous advance of the 30th Army Corps of the 2nd British Army from Belgium across occupied bridges to Arnhem. The operation was a failure due to a combination of poor communications, the surprise presence of crack German troops in the vicinity and bad weather which prevented the reinforcement by air of the airborne contingent. However it did succeed in liberating the Southern Netherlands.

After the war Montgomery was made chief of the British Imperial Staff in 1946 as well as being named the 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein. He served as deputy commander of NATO from 1951 to 1958.

Show Full Article