Bernard Law Montgomery

Colin F. Baxter

in Military History

ISBN: 9780199791279
Published online February 2012 | | DOI:
Bernard Law Montgomery

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One of the most colorful and controversial commanders of World War II, Bernard Law Montgomery commanded Allied armies in two of the decisive battles of the war: El Alamein and Normandy. In 1942 few people outside the British Army had heard of him. His victory at El Alamein against German and Italian forces commanded by the Field Marshal Erwin Rommel made his name a household word among millions, and a public figure approaching the wartime popularity of Churchill in Britain, Roosevelt in America, and Stalin in Russia. Two years later, Montgomery commanded Allied ground forces in the pivotal battle of Normandy. In between these two decisive battles, the British general fought in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy. In 1946 the field marshal was raised to the peerage as Viscount Montgomery of Alamein. Opinions on Montgomery, among contemporaries and historians alike, have differed widely. A maverick and outspoken to a fault, he did not conform to the stereotype of a British general: physically large, “a nice chap,” and modest. At his most casual, he wore baggy corduroy trousers, a grey turtleneck sweater, and the famous non-regulation black beret with two badges. When asked to name the three greatest generals in history, Montgomery replied, quite seriously, “The other two were Alexander the Great and Napoleon.” His critics have been legion: American historian Martin Blumenson once called him “the most overrated general of World War II.” His official British biographer, Nigel Hamilton, however, considered him a “Master of the Battlefield.” In a new century, the American military historian Carlo D’Este would write “Monty: World War II’s Most Misunderstood General.” German Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt observed that generals were like race horses—that they were supposed to win—and Montgomery won most of the time. The British public, however, remains unaware of Montgomery’s accomplishments, and opinion polls conducted by Britain’s National Army Museum reflect a lack of historical perspective. In a 2011 poll to determine “Britain’s Greatest General,” Montgomery’s name was not among the finalists! In a 2013 online poll to determine Britain’s greatest battles, El Alamein was not even among the top five “Greatest British Battles.” Between El Alamein and Normandy, Montgomery fought in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy. He commanded British, Canadian, and Polish forces in the Northwest Europe campaign, receiving the surrender of the German northern armies at Lüneberg Heath on 4 May 1945. He was raised to the peerage as Viscount Montgomery of Alamein in 1946. This bibliography makes no claim to be exhaustive or definitive, and consists of printed English-language sources.

Article.  10759 words. 

Subjects: Military History ; Pre-20th Century Warfare ; First World War ; Second World War ; Post-WW2 Military History

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