Bernard Montgomery

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Sir Bernard Montgomery (around 1943)

Bernard Law Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein KG , GCB , DSO , PC (born November 17, 1887 in Kennington / London ; † March 24, 1976 in Isington Mill , Hampshire ) was a British career officer . In 1944 he was from Churchill to Field Marshal ( Field Marshal appointed).

As the victor over Erwin Rommel's Panzer Army Africa in the Second Battle of El Alamein , Montgomery achieved world fame and became the most popular British military leader of World War II (his nickname in the British Army and the Allied Forces was "Monty"). In the further course of the war he was Commander-in-Chief of the British ground troops in the Allied landing in Normandy , Operation Market Garden and the occupation of Germany.

Because of his military merits, Montgomery was raised to the hereditary nobility and held the post of British Chief of Staff and high positions in NATO .

Early years

Bernard Law Montgomery was born the fourth of nine children to Anglican priest Henry Montgomery and his wife Maud. With the appointment of the father as Bishop of Tasmania in 1889, the family moved to this island, where Montgomery spent most of his childhood.

In 1901 the family returned to London. After graduating from St. Paul's School , Montgomery pursued a career as a professional officer and was accepted into the Sandhurst Royal Military Academy . Although he almost had to leave the academy due to bad behavior, he passed the final examination and was accepted as a second lieutenant in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment in September 1908 . First he was transferred to British India and returned in 1912 as a lieutenant to his garrison in Shorncliffe .

Military career

First World War

After the outbreak of World War I , Montgomery and his regiment were sent to the emerging Western Front in France in August 1914 . In the plains of Flanders and Northern France, he got to know the reality of trench warfare and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his achievements . On October 13, 1914, Montgomery was seriously wounded by a shot in the lung during an offensive near Bailleul and was only able to resume service after his full recovery in the spring of 1915.

He was first used as an instructor in a training unit in Lancashire and returned to the Western Front in 1916 as a staff officer in the 33rd Division. In July 1917, Montgomery was assigned to the staff of the 2nd Army under General Herbert Plumer . In July 1918, Montgomery was temporarily promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and appointed Chief of Staff of the 47th Division.

Interwar period

In accordance with the provisions of the Compiègne armistice, Montgomery advanced with the British occupation troops ( British Army of the Rhine ) in the German Empire and occupied the left bank of the Rhine .

In 1919 he was temporarily seconded to Staff College in Camberley for further training and then served in various units in Great Britain and Ireland (use in the Irish War of Independence ). After his promotion to major , Montgomery himself lectured as a lecturer at Staff College from 1926 to 1929, and in this role worked out education and training programs for the infantry.

In 1931 he was promoted to colonel and assumed command of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment with periods of service in Palestine and again British India. From 1934 to 1937 Montgomery was a lecturer at Indian Staff College in Quetta . In 1937 he returned to Great Britain and as a brigadier of the 9th Infantry Brigade, he organized a combined landing with amphibious vehicles in one maneuver , which impressed the Chief of Staff of the Southern Command, General Archibald Wavell . Therefore, Montgomery was promoted to major general in October 1937 and again transferred to Palestine. As commander of the 8th Infantry Division he took part in the suppression of the Arab uprising before returning to Great Britain in July 1939 due to illness.

Second World War

On September 3, 1939, in response to the attack on Poland , the British Empire declared war on the German Reich . Montgomery, as commander of the 3rd Division , was relocated to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) to support the allies in the event of a German invasion. After months of seated warfare, fighting began in the west with the German attack on May 10, 1940 , during which the Allied forces had to quickly withdraw to the Channel coast . Through a clever retreat tactic, Montgomery managed to move his division to Dunkirk without significant losses , from where it was evacuated to Great Britain as part of Operation Dynamo . After the defeat of France, the British government feared a German invasion of the British Isles and organized their defense. Montgomery was to take over the defense of Hampshire and Dorset . He presented himself once more as an officer who repeatedly resolved disagreements with his superiors. From December 1941 he was in charge of a possible defense of the counties of Kent , Sussex and Surrey as commander of the South-Eastern Command . He renamed this command to the South-Eastern Army in order to illustrate its offensive character. During this time he carried out the military maneuver Exercise Tiger with 100,000 soldiers involved.

Montgomery in an M3 Lee / Grant tank in North Africa
Montgomery (left) meets the captured General Wilhelm von Thoma (right) (1942)

Prime Minister Winston Churchill appointed Montgomery on August 13, 1942 as Commander-in-Chief of the 8th Army , which had to withdraw from the Axis Powers under Erwin Rommel as far as Egypt in the North African theater of war . Churchill had deposed Montgomery's predecessor in office, Claude Auchinleck , because he refused to lead the long-requested major offensive at el-Alamein in an insufficiently prepared manner. He was initially replaced by General Harold Alexander as Commander in Chief Middle East and by Lieutenant-General William Gott as Commander in Chief of the 8th Army. However, God died shortly afterwards in a plane crash, after which Montgomery was appointed commander of that army.

One of the tasks of Montgomery was to defend the Suez Canal, which was vital to the Empire . He immediately went to his army and restructured his units, because he was of the opinion that the Army , Navy and Air Force should act together. By frequent visits to soldiers at the front, "Monty", as he was called by them, succeeded in raising the battered morale . Montgomery carried out the extensive reconstruction of the army with the assistance of Alexander. At Churchill's request for an offensive to begin in September, Montgomery and Alexander announced that they had estimated the attack for the end of the following month.

In the Second Battle of El Alamein , the German and Italian troops could not withstand the superior strength of the Commonwealth troops and had to withdraw. The nimbus of Rommel, who was considered invincible, was broken and the 8th Army pushed the opposing troops back to Tunisia in the course of the year , where their remnants surrendered in May 1943. With this victory, especially in the Battle of El Alamein, Montgomery became one of Britain's most popular war heroes and was celebrated by propaganda . In recognition of his achievements, Montgomery was raised to the personal nobility on November 11, 1942 as Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath and from then on carried the suffix "Sir".

Together with the US troops that landed in Morocco and Algeria in November 1942 ( Operation Torch ), Montgomery's 8th Army crossed over to Sicily in the summer of 1943 ( Operation Husky ). Under the Allied High Command Dwight D. Eisenhower , Montgomery and US General George S. Patton conquered Sicily, whereby the need for recognition of both military leaders led to a race with unnecessarily high losses. The Allied invasion of southern Italy finally led to Italy's departure from the alliance of the Axis powers and Mussolini's deposition on July 25, 1943. Even in the further course of the war there was often a competition between the two Allied military leaders.

In early January 1944, Montgomery was recalled from his post as Commander in Chief of the 8th Army and ordered back to Great Britain, where preparations for an Allied landing in France were in full swing. As a result, he was instrumental in planning Operation Overlord . Eisenhower became commander in chief of all allied forces in Europe , while Montgomery was given command of the ground forces ( 21st Army Group ). At the same time he was appointed Field Marshal by Churchill . The landing in Normandy ( June 6, 1944 ) was successful and after fierce defensive battles ( Battle of Caen , breakthrough at Avranches , Falaise pocket ) the Allied armies advanced on Paris, which was liberated on August 25 . Then Montgomery was responsible for the air-to-ground operation Market Garden (September 1944), which was unsuccessful and cost heavy losses. There were differences with the Americans when Montgomery announced victory in a press conference after the German Ardennes offensive in the winter of 1944/45, while the Americans were of the opinion that he had withheld his forces for too long.

Admiral von Friedeburg and Field Marshal Montgomery signing the declaration of partial surrender on the Timeloberg on May 4, 1945

The Allies reached the Rhine in Germany in February / March 1945 and on March 23, Montgomery and his army group crossed over to the right bank ( Operation Plunder ). Then he moved north, occupied u. a. Hamburg and thus prevented the Red Army from entering Denmark . During the advance through northern Germany, his units liberated the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp (April 15, 1945). On May 4, 1945, Montgomery accepted the partial surrender of the Wehrmacht for northwest Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands , authorized by Karl Dönitz , in his Lüneburg headquarters on the Timeloberg near Wendisch Evern . His troops arrested members of the Dönitz government in Flensburg - Mürwik on May 23, 1945 .

Sometimes it was criticized that Montgomery's plans were unimaginative and rigid, so he usually only began a battle when his own superiority was already overwhelming and the outcome of the battle was clear from the outset. If he could attack with superior forces, careful, low-casualty planning had a positive effect. His opponent Rommel ruled in his memoir that Montgomery had risked nothing; bold solutions were completely alien to this.

After the German total surrender ( VE-Day ), Montgomery remained Commander-in-Chief of the British occupation forces in Germany until the end of January 1946 and was thus part of the Allied Control Council . During this time he lived in Lübbecke and lived there in the Villa August Wilhelm Blase . His second quarter was the Ostenwalde estate in Oldendorf in the district of Osnabrück, which he lived in between 1945 and 1946.

Late years

The extremely popular Montgomery was solemnly named Viscount Montgomery of Alamein , of Hindhead in the County of Surrey, by King George VI on January 31, 1946 . raised to hereditary peer and thereby became a member of the House of Lords . On December 3, 1946 he was accepted into the Order of the Garter. In 1948 he was accepted as an external member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts . From 1946 to 1948 he held the highest military post in the British armed forces ( Chief of the Imperial Staff ). After the attacks on the King David Hotel by the Irgun in 1946 , he accused the Attlee government of failing to give the army the necessary powers to restore order in the Mandate Palestine . Montgomery said that if there was no political will, Britain should pull out of the area altogether.

He then commanded the land forces of NATO , from 1951 to 1958 he was Deputy Commander in Chief of NATO. In 1958, after a total of 50 years in active military service, the 71-year-old Montgomery retired from the Army.

End of life

After retiring from service, Montgomery wrote various works about his war experiences: El Alamein (1948), The Memoirs of Field Marshal Montgomery (1958) and Normandy to the Baltic (1968). He also wrote the military history work A History of Warfare (1968)

On March 24, 1976 Montgomery died at his home in Isington Mill , near Alton in the county of Hampshire at the age of 88 years. After a ceremony in St George's Chapel in Windsor , he was buried in the Holy Cross Churchyard in Binsted .

Orders and decorations

Coat of arms of the Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, as a Knight of the Order of the Garter


  • 1948: El Alamein
  • 1951: Normandy to the Baltic. Hutchinson
  • 1958: The memoirs of field-marshal the Visc. Montgomery of Alamein . Collins, also Cleveland, The World Publishing Company. Republished 2005: ISBN 978-1-84415-330-5 , Pen & Sword Books; German translation: 1958: Marshall Montgomery - Memoirs. Paul List Verlag, Munich
  • 1961: The Path to Leadership. London, UK: Collins. ISBN 81-8158-128-8 .
  • 1968: A Concise History of Warfare. Wordsworth Military Library. Ware, Herts, UK: Wordsworth Editions. ISBN 978-1-84022-223-4 .
  • 2008: Stephen Brooks (Ed.), Bernard L. Montgomery (Author): Montgomery and the Battle of Normandy: A Selection from the Diaries, Correspondence and Other Papers of Field Marshal the Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, January to August 1944. Army Records Society series, 27. Stroud, UK: Sutton Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7509-5123-4 .


  • Four warlords against Hitler - Bernard L. Montgomery: Lost in Triumph by Wolfgang Schoen , TV Schoenfilm D 2001


  • Alun Chalfont (Lord Chalfont): The victor of El Alamein. Field Marshal Montgomery, the opponent of Rommel (= Ullstein No. 33150 contemporary history ). Ullstein, Frankfurt am Main a. a. 1991, ISBN 3-548-33150-5 (Original edition: Montgomery of Alamein. Weidenfeld & Nicholson, London 1976, ISBN 0-297-77081-0 ).

Web links

Commons : Bernard Montgomery  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ The London Gazette : No. 30884 (Supplement), p. 10505 , September 3, 1918.
  2. Tom Segev: Once upon a time there was a Palestine . 4th edition. Munich 2006, p. 473 f.
  3. Reinhard Stumpf: The War in the Mediterranean Area 1942/43. Operations in North Africa and the Central Mediterranean. In: The German Reich and the Second World War. Volume 6. Ed. Military History Research Office, Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, Stuttgart 1990, ISBN 3-421-06233-1 , p. 695.
  4. a b c d e Knights and Dames: MIG-OS at Leigh Rayment's Peerage
  5. John Connell: Auchinleck: A biography of Field-Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck. Cassell, London 1959.
  6. ^ The London Gazette: No. 36680 (Supplement), p. 4055 , August 29, 1944.
  7. Erwin Rommel: War without hatred. African memoir . Editors: Lucie-Maria Rommel, Fritz Bayerlein. Heidenheimer Zeitung publishing house, Heidenheim, Brenz 1950.
  8. ^ The London Gazette: No. 37461, p. 864 , February 8, 1946.
  9. Peerage: Montgomery of Alamein at Leigh Rayment's Peerage
  10. Tom Segev : Once upon a time there was a Palestine . Munich 2006, p. 522 f.
  11. ^ TV Schoenfilm ( Memento from January 18, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) see filmography
predecessor Office successor
–– Military governor in the British Zone of Occupation
Sir Sholto Douglas
Alan Brooke Chief of the Imperial General Staff
William Slim
New title created Viscount Montgomery of Alamein
David Montgomery