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While on holiday in Burnham-on-Sea in , Betty suffered an insect bite which became infected, and she died in her husband's arms from septicaemia following amputation of her leg. Much of his correspondence with his wife was destroyed when his quarters at Portsmouth were bombed during the Second World War. Both of Montgomery's stepsons became army officers in the s both were serving in India at the time of their mother's death , and both served in the Second World War, each eventually attaining the rank of colonel.

He was taken prisoner at Mersa Matruh on 7 November He eventually reached British lines on 5 December , to the delight of his stepfather, who sent him home to Britain to recuperate. In January Montgomery was promoted to brevet lieutenant colonel. On completion of his tour of duty in India, Montgomery returned to Britain in June [50] where he took command of the 9th Infantry Brigade with the temporary rank of brigadier.

He was promoted to major general on 14 October [52] and took command of the 8th Infantry Division [53] in Palestine. Britain declared war on Germany on 3 September During this time, Montgomery faced serious trouble from his military superiors and the clergy for his frank attitude regarding the sexual health of his soldiers, but was defended from dismissal by his superior Alan Brooke , commander of II Corps.

On his return Montgomery antagonised the War Office with trenchant criticisms of the command of the BEF [20] and was briefly relegated back to divisional command of 3rd Division. Montgomery was ordered to make ready his 3rd Division to invade the neutral Portuguese Azores. Montgomery was then ordered to prepare plans for the invasion of neutral Ireland and to seize Cork , Cobh and Cork harbour.

He was ruthless in sacking officers he considered would be unfit for command in action. He renamed his command the South-Eastern Army to promote offensive spirit. During this time he further developed and rehearsed his ideas and trained his soldiers, culminating in Exercise Tiger in May , a combined forces exercise involving , troops. A story, probably apocryphal but popular at the time, is that the appointment caused Montgomery to remark that "After having an easy war, things have now got much more difficult.

Montgomery's assumption of command transformed the fighting spirit and abilities of the Eighth Army. He ordered the creation of the X Corps , which contained all armoured divisions, to fight alongside his XXX Corps , which was all infantry divisions. This arrangement differed from the German Panzer Corps: one of Rommel's Panzer Corps combined infantry, armour and artillery units under one corps commander. The only common commander for Montgomery's all-infantry and all-armour corps was the Eighth Army Commander himself. Correlli Barnett commented that Montgomery's solution " He asked Alexander to send him two new British divisions 51st Highland and 44th Home Counties that were then arriving in Egypt and were scheduled to be deployed in defence of the Nile Delta.

He moved his field HQ to Burg al Arab, close to the Air Force command post in order to better coordinate combined operations. Montgomery was determined that the army, navy and air forces should fight their battles in a unified, focused manner according to a detailed plan. He ordered immediate reinforcement of the vital heights of Alam Halfa, just behind his own lines, expecting the German commander, Erwin Rommel , to attack with the heights as his objective, something that Rommel soon did. Montgomery ordered all contingency plans for retreat to be destroyed.

If we are attacked, then there will be no retreat. If we cannot stay here alive, then we will stay here dead", [70] he told his officers at the first meeting he held with them in the desert, though, in fact, Auchinleck had no plans to withdraw from the strong defensive position he had chosen and established at El Alamein. Montgomery made a great effort to appear before troops as often as possible, frequently visiting various units and making himself known to the men, often arranging for cigarettes to be distributed.

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Although he still wore a standard British officer's cap on arrival in the desert, he briefly wore an Australian broad-brimmed hat before switching to wearing the black beret with the badge of the Royal Tank Regiment and the British General Officer's badge for which he became notable. The black beret was offered to him by Jim Fraser while the latter was driving him on an inspection tour.

Rommel's forces had to withdraw urgently lest their retreat through the British minefields be cut off. A hasty counter-attack risked ruining his strategy for an offensive on his own terms in late-October, planning for which had begun soon after he took command. The conquest of Libya was essential for airfields to support Malta and to threaten the rear of Axis forces opposing Operation Torch. Montgomery prepared meticulously for the new offensive after convincing Churchill that the time was not being wasted.

Churchill sent a telegram to Alexander on 23 September which began, "We are in your hands and of course a victorious battle makes amends for much delay. By the time the offensive was ready in late-October, Eighth Army had , men on its ration strength. The Second Battle of El Alamein began on 23 October , and ended 12 days later with one of the first large-scale, decisive Allied land victories of the war. Montgomery correctly predicted both the length of the battle and the number of casualties 13, Historian Corelli Barnett has pointed out that the rain also fell on the Germans, and that the weather is therefore an inadequate explanation for the failure to exploit the breakthrough, but nevertheless the Battle of El Alamein had been a great success.

Over 30, prisoners of war were taken, [81] including the German second-in-command, General von Thoma , as well as eight other general officers. Montgomery was advanced to KCB and promoted to full general.

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Montgomery considered the initial plans for the Allied invasion, which had been agreed in principle by General Dwight D. Eisenhower , the Supreme Allied Commander Mediterranean , and General Alexander, the 15th Army Group commander, to be unworkable because of the dispersion of effort. He managed to have the plans recast to concentrate the Allied forces, having Lieutenant General George Patton 's US Seventh Army land in the Gulf of Gela on the Eighth Army's left flank, which landed around Syracuse in the south-east of Sicily rather than near Palermo in the west and north of Sicily.

During late, Montgomery continued to command the Eighth Army during the landings on the mainland of Italy itself , beginning with Operation Baytown. Montgomery returned to Britain in January He envisaged a ninety-day battle, with all forces reaching the Seine. The campaign would pivot on an Allied-held Caen in the east of the Normandy bridgehead, with relatively static British and Canadian armies forming a shoulder to attract and defeat German counter-attacks, relieving the US armies who would move and seize the Cotentin Peninsula and Brittany , wheeling south and then east on the right forming a pincer.

During the ten weeks of the Battle of Normandy , unfavourable autumnal weather conditions disrupted the Normandy landing areas. The failure to take Caen immediately has been the source of an immense historiographical dispute with bitter nationalist overtones.

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Later, when this plan had clearly failed, Eisenhower wrote that Montgomery had "evolved" the plan to have the US forces achieve the break-out instead. As the campaign progressed, Montgomery altered his initial plan for the invasion and continued the strategy of attracting and holding German counter-attacks in the area north of Caen rather than to the south, to allow the US First Army in the west to take Cherbourg. A memo summarising Montgomery's operations written by Eisenhower's chief of staff , General Walter Bedell Smith who met with Montgomery in late June says nothing about Montgomery conducting a "holding operation" in the Caen sector, and instead speaks of him seeking a "breakout" into the plains south of the Seine.

O'Connor, at the cost of about 4, men, had won a salient 5 miles 8. It was only after several failed attempts to break out in the Caen sector that Montgomery devised what he later called his "master plan" of having the 21st Army Group hold the bulk of the German forces, thus allowing the Americans to break out. Montgomery drew what was the indisputably correct conclusion from these events.

If the British and Canadians could continue to hold the bulk of the German armoured divisions on their front through a series of limited attacks, they could wear down the Germans and create the conditions for an American breakout on the right. This is what Montgomery proposed in his Directive of June 30th and, if he and his admirers had let the record speak for itself, there would be little debate about his conduct of the first stages of the Normandy campaign. Instead, Montgomery insisted that this Directive was a consistent part of a master plan that he had devised long before the invasion.

Curiously, this view does a great disservice to 'Monty' for any rigid planning of operations before the German response was known would have been bad generalship indeed! Hampered by stormy weather and the bocage terrain, Montgomery had to ensure Rommel focused on the British in the east rather than the Americans in the west, who had to take the Cotentin Peninsula and Brittany before the Germans could be trapped by a general swing east.

Paul's conference as only one of four goals outlined in May had been achieved by 10 July. On 7 July, Montgomery began Operation Charnwood with a carpet bombing offensive that turned much of the French countryside and the city of Caen into a wasteland. The possibilities are immense; with seven hundred tanks loosed to the South-east of Caen, and the armoured cars operating far ahead, anything can happen.

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An American break-out was achieved with Operation Cobra and the encirclement of German forces in the Falaise pocket at the cost of British losses with the diversionary Operation Goodwood. Ahead of them the pathfinders were scattering their flares and before long the first bombs were dropping". Among the thunder of the explosions, we could hear the wounded scream and the insane howling of men who had [been] driven mad".

Initially, the three British armoured divisions assigned to lead the offensive, the 7th, 11th and the Guards, made rapid progress and were soon approaching the Borguebus ridge, which dominated the landscape south of Caen by noon. If the British could take the Borguebus Ridge, the way to the plains of northern France would be wide open, and potentially Paris could be taken, which explains the ferocity with which the Germans defended the Borguebus Ridge. He decided for the latter". I see men climbing out, on fire like torches, rolling on the ground to try and douse the flames".

The objectives of Operation Goodwood were all achieved except the complete capture of the Bourgebus Ridge, which was partially taken. The operation was a strategic Allied success in drawing in the last German reserves in Normandy towards the Caen sector away from the American sector, greatly assisting the American break out in Operation Cobra. By the end of Goodwood on 25 July , the Canadians had finally taken Caen while the British tanks had reached the plains south of Caen, giving Montgomery the "hinge" he had been seeking, while forcing the Germans to commit the last of their reserves to stop the Anglo-Canadian offensive.

The British and Canadian armies were to decoy the enemy reserves and draw them to their front on the extreme eastern edge of the Allied beachhead. Thus, while Monty taunted the enemy at Caen, we [the Americans] were to make our break on the long roundabout road to Paris. When reckoned in terms of national pride, this British decoy mission became a sacrificial one, for while we tramped around the outside flank, the British were to sit in place and pin down the Germans.

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Yet strategically it fitted into a logical division of labors, for it was towards Caen that the enemy reserves would race once the alarm was sounded. The long-running dispute over what Montgomery's "master plan" in Normandy was, led historians to differ greatly about the purpose of Goodwood. The British journalist Mark Urban wrote that the purpose of Goodwood was to draw German troops to their left flank to allow the Americans to breakout on the right flank, arguing that Montgomery had to lie to his soldiers about the purpose of Goodwood as the average British soldier would not have understood why they were being asked to create a diversion to allow the Americans to have the glory of staging the breakout with Operation Cobra.

American military writer Drew Middleton wrote that there is no doubt that Montgomery wanted Goodwood to provide a "shield" for Bradley, but at the same time Montgomery was clearly hoping for more than merely diverting German attention away from the American sector. While Collins was hoisting his VII Corps flag over Cherbourg, Montgomery was spending his reputation in a bitter siege against the old university city of Caen. For three weeks he had rammed his troops against those panzer divisions he had deliberately drawn towards that city as part of our Allied strategy of diversion in the Normandy Campaign.

Although Caen contained an important road junction that Montgomery would eventually need, for the moment the capture of that city was only incidental to his mission. For Monty's primary task was to attract German troops to the British front that we might more easily secure Cherbourg and get into position for the breakout.


While this diversion of Monty's was brilliantly achieved, he nevertheless left himself open to criticism by overemphasizing the importance of his thrust toward Caen. Had he limited himself simply to the containment without making Caen a symbol of it, he would have been credited with success instead of being charged, as he was, with failure.

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With Goodwood drawing the Wehrmacht towards the British sector, the First American Army enjoyed a two-to-one numerical superiority with General Omar Bradley accepting Montgomery's advice to begin the offensive by concentrating at one point instead of a "broad front" as Eisenhower would have preferred. Operation Goodwood almost cost Montgomery his job, as Eisenhower seriously considered sacking him and only chose not to do so because to sack the popular "Monty" would have caused such a political backlash in Britain against the Americans at a critical moment in the war that the resulting strains in the Atlantic alliance were not considered worth it.

Eisenhower was under the impression that Goodwood was to be a break-out operation. There was a miscommunication between the two men or Eisenhower did not understand the strategy. Alan Brooke, chief of the British Imperial General Staff, wrote: "Ike knows nothing about strategy and is quite unsuited to the post of Supreme Commander. It is no wonder that Monty's real high ability is not always realised". Both men would not give away to the press the true intentions of their strategy. Many American officers had found Montgomery a difficult man to work with, and after Goodwood, pressured Eisenhower to fire Montgomery.

Patton , Eisenhower wrote to Montgomery: "Am delighted that your basic plan has begun brilliantly to unfold with Bradley's initial success". Hitler waited too long to order his soldiers to retreat from Normandy, leading Montgomery to write: "He [Hitler] refused to face the only sound military course.


As a result the Allies caused the enemy staggering losses in men and materials". It is no wonder that Monty's real high ability is not always realised. Especially so when 'national' spectacles pervert the perspective of the strategic landscape". Too much discussion on Normandy has centered on the controversial decisions of the Allied commanders. It was not good enough, apparently, to win such a complete and spectacular victory over an enemy that had conquered most of Europe unless it was done perfectly.