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940.933 K78m 







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* SEP 5<% 

The author when Chid" of tin* linprnal Grnerul Staff, 1947* 

The Memoirs 






Published by The World Publishing Company 
West Jioth Street, Cleveland z> Ohio 

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 58-9414 


The quotation on pages 72 and 73 is from The Hinge 

of Fate by Winston S, Churchill, copyright 195 by 

Houghton Mifliin Company. 

The quotation on pages 186 and 187 is from The 

Struggle for Europe by Chester Wihnot, copyright 

3952 by Chester Wilmot* reprinted by permission of 

HarpcT and Brothers. 

The quotations on pages afifi, 267, and 281 an* from 

Operation Victory by Sir Francis de Cmngand, copy 

right 1947 hy Charity Svribnt*r\H Sons, reprinted by 

]>(*nnissiou of the publisher ;md tb< author, 

The letters from Bernard Shaw are reproduced by 

permission of the Public TruMee and the Stxnely of 


Kxeerpts from this hook appeann! in Life, in the isMies 

of October 13, October 20, ,uul October ^7, i^S^ 

copyright i<)5& by liernanl Law, Vi.seouut Mont 

gomery of ALuttein. 

w 1*8 58 

Copyright &) 1958 ly 

Bernard Law, VLscount Motitgimiory f Alanunti. 
All rights reserved N f t> part of this book nuy IH roprmluwi in 
any form without written permission from the<?r itxcttpt 
for brief passages inehuU^l m u r4vu*\v ap{UMriitg in a news 
paper or magazine. Printed in tlu* t T ni(< ( <t States of America. 

Jet man is born unto trouble, as 

the sparks fly upward 

JOB 5, 7 


















The author when Chief of the Imperial General Staff, 1947. 

(Sylvia Redding photo) FRONTISPIECE 


1. My father at Cape Barren Island, on a missionary tour in 1895. (Beat- 
ties Studios, Hobart, Tasmania, photo) 

2. My mother, in the 19305. (Lafayette Ltd. photo) 

3. What I looked like when aged 9. 

4. Three Old Paulines in Arras in 1916. Left, my brother Donald, in the 
29th Bn Canadian Expeditionary Force. Centre, Major B. M. Arnold 
in the Artillery. Right, the author who was Brigade-Major 104 Inf. Bde. 
in the 35th (Bantam) Division. 

5. The author and his Brigadier, back from a tour of the trenches on the 
Arras front, 1916. 

6. ist Bn, Tlie Royal Warwickshire Regiment, in camp near the Pyramids 
outside Cairo in 1933. The author, the C.O., mounted in front of the 

7. My wife and her three sons, April 1930. Left to right Dick Carver, 
David, John Carver. 

8. My wife and David in Switzerland January 1936. 

9. The author and David in Switzerland January 1937. 

10. Lord Cort and Mr. Hore-Belisha visit the 3rd Division area in France. 
General Brooke can be seen behind and to the left of Hore-Belisha. 
The author is on the right in battle dress the first General Officer 
ever to wear that dress. Date 19 November 1939, (Imperial War 
Museum photo) 

11. In the desert, wearing my Australian hat, greeting the Commander of 
the Greek Brigade in the Eighth Army (Brigadier Katsotas)- August 
1942. The officer by the car door is John Poston. (Imperial War Mu 
seum photo) 

12. Map of Battle of Alam Haifa. 

13. The deception plan for Alamein. Dummy petrol station, with soldier 
filling jerry cans. 


14. Map of the Battle of Alamein Plan on 30 Corps Front. 

15. Address to Officers before the Battle of Alamein. 

16. Map of the Battle of Alamein-The Break Out. 

17. Battle of Alamein; observing operations from my tank. In rear, John 
Poston. (Imperial War Museum photo) 

18. Battle of Alamein; having tea with my tank crew. On right, John 
Poston. (Imperial War Museum photo) 

19. Map of the Pursuit to Agheila. 

20. A picnic lunch on the sea front in Tripoli with General Leese, after 
the capture of the town 23 January 1943. (Imperial War Museum 

21. The Prime Minister and General Brooke outside my caravans near 
Tripoli. (Imperial War Museum photo) 

22. The Prime Minister addresses officers and men of Eighth Army H.Q. in 
Tripoli. (Imperial War Museum photo) 

23. Map of the Battle of Mareth. 

24. Map of end of die war in Africa. 

25. Addressing officers of the New Zealand Division on 2 April 1943, after 
the Battle of Mareth. (Imperial War Museum photo) 

26. The Prime Minister inspecting troops of the Eighth Army in Tripoli. 
Lieut.-Gen. Sir Oliver Leese, 30 Corps, in the back seat with the P. M. 
John Poston driving. (Imperial War Museum photo) 

27. Eisenhower comes to visit me in Tunisia, 31 March 1943. On right, 
John Poston. (Imperial War Museum photo) 

28. Map of operations in Sicily. 

29. Speaking to the nth Canadian Tank Regiment near Lcntini, Sicily 
25 July 1943. (Imperial War Museum photo) 

30. A lunch party at my Tac H.Q. at Taormina, after the campaign in 
Sicily was over-29 August 1943. Seated, left to right-Patton, Eisen 
hower, the author. Behind Patton is Bradley, On extreme right, Demp- 
sey. (Imperial War Museum photo) 

31. Map of the invasion of Italy. 

32. With General Brooke in Italy 15 December 1943. (Imperial War 
Museum photo) 

33. At Tac H.Q. after my farewell address to the Eighth Army at Vasto 
30 December 1943. Left to right de Guingand, Broadhurst, the author, 
Freyberg, Allfrey, Dempsey. 

34. Map of mounting of Operation OVERLORD. 

35. Calling the troops round my jeep for a talk near Dover 2, February 
1944. (Imperial War Museum photo) 

3& The Prime Minister comes to dinner at my Tac H.Q. near Portsmouth 
19 May 1944. (Imperial War Museum photo) 

37. The King comes to my Tac H.Q. to say good-bye before we go to 
Normandy 22 May 1944. (Imperial War Museum photo) 

38. The King lands in Normandy to visit the British and Canadian forces 
16 June 1944. 

39. The Prime Minister at my Tac H.Q. at Blay, to the west of Bayeux, 
on a wet day 21 July 1944. (Imperial War Museum photo) 

40. Map of German Tank Deployment on eve of breakout in Normandy. 


41. Map of how the Army Plan worked out. 

42. Map of Eisenhower s Broad Front Strategy. Map of my conception 
of the Strategy. 

43. Map of Plan for Operation MARKET GARDEN (the Battle of Arnhem). 

44. Leaving the Maastricht Conference with General Bradley 7 December 

1944. (Imperial War Museum photo) 

45. Map of Battle of the Ardennes. 

46. In the Siegfried Line with General Simpson, Commander of the Ninth 
American Army 3 March 1945. (Imperial War Museum photo) 

47. Lunch on the east bank of the Rhine, with the Prime Minister and 
Field-Marshal Brooke 2,6 March 1945. (Imperial War Museum photo) 

48. The Germans come to my Tac H.Q. on Liineburg Heath to surrender 
3 May 1945. (Imperial War Museum photo) 

49. Reading the terms of surrender to the German delegation Luneburg 
Heath, 4 May 1945. Chester Wilmot is just to the right of the left-hand 
tent pole. (Imperial War Museum photo) 

50. Photo of the original surrender document that was signed by the 
Germans at 1830 hrs on 4 May 1945. 

51. Scene in the Champs Elys6es when I visited Paris on 25 May 1945. 
(Imperial War Museum photo) 

52. Field-Marshal Busch comes to my Tac H.Q. to be ticked off 11 May 

1945. (Imperial War Museum photo) 

53. In the Kremlin with Stalin, after dinner on 10 January 1947. 

54. David receives the Belt of Honour from his father, having passed out 
top from the OCTU. (P.A.-Reuter pJwto) 

55. Isington Mill, when purchased in February 1947. (R. Bostock plioto) 

56. Isington Mill in 1955, having been converted to a residence. (Taken 
by the author) 

57. The garden and mill stream at Isington Mill. (Taken ly the author) 

58. A joke with Ernie Bevin at the Bertram Mills Circus lunch 17 Decem 
ber 1948. (Keystone Press Agency Ltd. photo) 

59. David when at Trinity College Cambridge in 1950. Laying "the smelT 
for the Varsity Drag. (London News Agency Limited photo) 

60. A walk in Hyde Park with Mary Connell, who married David on 
27 February 1953. (Daily Graphic photo) 

61. The author enjoying the evening of life at Isington Mill. (J. Butler- 
Kearney, Alton, photo) 


THIS BOOK does not owe its inception to any personal inclination to 
authorship, or to any wish to achieve further publicity* I write it 
because of many suggestions that such a book of memoirs is needed. 
I aim to give to future generations the impressions I have gained in a 
life that has been full of interest, and to define the principles tinder 
which I have considered it my duty to think and act. 

Every word of the book was written in the first instance in pencil in 
my own handwriting. That being done, and the chapters typed in turn, 
they were read by three trusted friends whose opinions I value. The 
chapters were re-drafted by me in the light of their comments and 
suggestions. Finally, the complete book was read through by the same 
three, for balance and accuracy. 

Chief among the three was Brigadier E. T. Williams, Warden of 
Rhodes House, Oxford frequently referred to in the book as Bill 
Williams. I owe him a great debt of gratitude for the time he gave to 
reading and comment. 

Next was Sir James Grigg, also referred to in the book; his com 
ments and suggestions were invaluable. And last was Sir Arthur Bryant; 
this great historian gave much of his time to reading the chapters. 

To these three I extend my grateful thanks. 

I am grateful to those who typed the chapters and helped in 
organising the maps and photographs. Again, I extend my gratitude 
for permission to publish extracts from letters and books, and I apolo 
gise in any case where such permission has been overlooked. 

I recognise by the quotation which is at the beginning of this book 
that I have often been a controversial figure. But my thoughts, actions, 
mistakes have been but human. Throughout my life and conduct my 
criterion has been not the approval of others nor of the world; it has 
been my inward convictions, my duty and my conscience. I have never 
been afraid to say what I believed to be right and to stand firm in that 


16 Foreword 

belief. This has often got me into trouble. I have not attempted to 
answer my critics but rather to tell the story of my long and enjoyable 
military life as I see it, and as simply as possible. Some of my com 
rades-in-arms of the Second World War have told their story about 
those days; this is mine. 

I have tried to explain what seems to me important and to confine 
the story to matters about which my knowledge is first-hand. What 
ever the book may lack in literary style, it will therefore have, it is my 
hope, the merit of truth. 

_. P.M. 

Isington Mill, 
AIion > Hampshire 
September 1958 


Boyhood Days 

I WAS born in London, in St. Mark s Vicarage, Kennington Oval, 
on 17th November 1887. 
Sir Winston Churchill in the first volume of Marlborough, His 
Life and Times wrote thus about the unhappy childhood of some men: 
"The stern compression of circumstances, the twinges of adversity, 
the spur of slights and taunts in early years, are needed to evoke that 
ruthless fixity of purpose and tenacious mother-wit without which 
great actions are seldom accomplished/ 

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. If I could not be seen anywhere, she would say 
"Go and find out what Bernard is doing and tell him to stop it" But 
the constant defeats and the beatings with a cane, and these were fre 
quent, in no way deterred me. I got no sympathy from my two elder 
brothers; they were more pliable, more flexible in disposition, and they 
easily accepted the inevitable. From my eldest sister, who was next 
in the family after myself, I received considerable help and sympathy; 
but, in the main, the trouble had to be suffered by myself alone. I 
never lied about my misdeeds; I took my punishment. There were 
obvious faults on both sides. For myself, although I began to know 
fear early in life, much too early, the net result of the treatment was 
probably beneficial. If my strong will and indiscipline had gone 
unchecked, the result might have been even more intolerable than 
some people have found me. But I have often wondered whether my 
mother s treatment for me was not a bit too much of a good thing: 
whether, in fact, it was a good thing at all. I rather doubt it 


18 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

I suppose we were an average Victorian family. My mother was 
engaged at the age of fourteen and married my father in July 1881, 
when she was scarcely out of the schoolroom. Her seventeenth birth 
day was on the 2#rd August 1881, one month after her wedding day. 
My father was then Vicar of St. Mark s, Kennington Oval, and my 
mother was plunged at once into the activities of the wife of a busy 
London vicar. 

Children soon appeared. Five were born between 1881 and 1889, in 
which year my father was appointed Bishop of Tasmania five children 
before my mother had reached the age of twenty-five. I was the fourth. 
There was then a gap of seven years, when two more were bom in 
Tasmania; then another gap of five years still in Tasmania, when 
another boy arrived. The last, my youngest brother Brian, was bora 
after we had left Tasmania and were back in London. 

So my mother bore nine children in all. The eldest, a girl, died just 
after we arrived in Tasmania, and one of my younger brothers died in 
1909 when I was serving with my regiment in India. That left seven, 
and all seven are alive today. 

As if this large family was not enough, we always had other children 
living with us. In St. Mark s Vicarage in Kennington were three small 
boys, distant cousins, whose parents were in India. In Tasmania, 
cousins arrived from England who were delicate and needed Tas- 
manian air. In London after our return from Tasmania, there was 
always someone other than ourselves. 

It was really impossible for my mother to cope with her work as the 
wife of a London vicar or as a Bishop s wife, and also devote her time 
to her children, and to the others who lived with us. Her method of 
dealing with the problem was to impose rigid discipline on the family 
and thus have time for her duties in the parish or diocese, duties which 
took first place. There were definite rules for us children; these had 
to be obeyed; disobedience brought swift punishment A less rigid 
discipline, and more affectionate understanding, might have wrought 
better, certainly different, results in me. My brothers and sisters were 
not so difficult; they were more amenable to the regime and gave no 
trouble. I was the bad boy of the family, the rebellious one, and as a 
result I learnt early to stand or fall on my own. We elder ones cer 
tainly never became a united family. Possibly the younger ones did, 
because my mother mellowed with age. 

Against this curious background must be set certain rewarding facts. 
We have all kept on the rails. There have been no scandals in the 
family; none of us have appeared in die police courts or gone to 
prison; none of us have been in the divorce courts. An uninteresting 
family, some might say. Maybe, and if that was my mother s object 
she certainly achieved it But there was an absence of affectionate 

Boyhood Days 19 

understanding of the problems facing the young, certainly as far as the 
five elder children were concerned. For the younger ones things always 
seemed to me to be easier; it may have been that my mother was 
exhausted with dealing with her elder children, especially with myself. 
But when all is said and done, my mother was a most remarkable 
woman, with a strong and sterling character. She brought her family 
up in her own way; she taught us to speak the truth, come what may, 
and so far as my knowledge goes none of her children have ever done 
anything which would have caused her shame. She made me afraid of 
her when I was a child and a young boy. Then the time came when 
her authority could no longer be exercised. Fear then disappeared, and 
respect took its place. From the time I joined the Army until my 
mother died, I had an immense and growing respect for her wonderful 
character. And it became clear to me that my early troubles were 
mostly my own fault. 

However, it is not surprising that under suoh conditions all my 
childish affection and love was given to my father. I worshipped him. 
He was always a friend. If ever there was a saint on this earth, it was 
my father. He got bullied a good deal by my mother and she could 
always make him do what she wanted. She ran all the family finances 
and gave my father ten shillings a week; this sum had to include his 
daily lunch at the Athenaeum, and he was severely cross-examined if 
he meekly asked for another shilling or two before the end of the week. 
Poor dear man, I never thought his last few years were very happy; 
he was never allowed to do as he liked and he was not given the care 
and nursing which might have prolonged his life. My mother nursed 
him herself when he could not move, but she was not a good nurse. He 
died in 1932 when I was commanding the ist Battalion The Royal 
Warwickshire Regiment in Egypt. It was a tremendous loss for me. 
The three outstanding human beings in my life have been my father, 
my wife, and my son. When my father died in 1932, I little thought 
that five years later I would be left alone with my son. 

We came home from Tasmania late in 1901, and in January 1902 
my brother Donald and myself were sent to St. Paul s School in 
London. My age was now fourteen and I had received no preparation 
for school life; my education in Tasmania had been in the hands of 
tutors imported from England. I had little learning and practically 
no culture. We were "Colonials," with all that that meant in England 
in those days. I could swim like a fish and was strong, tough, and very 
fit; but cricket and football, the chief games of all English schools, 
were unknown to me. 

I hurled myself into sport and in little over three years became 
Captain of die Rugby XV, and in the Cricket XL The same results 
were not apparent on the scholastic side. 

20 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

In English I was described as follows: 

1902 essays very weak. 

1903 feeble. 

3.904 very weak; can t write essays. 

1905 tolerable; his essays are sensible but he has no notion of 

1906 pretty fair. 

Today I should say that my English is at least clear; people may 
not agree with what I say but at least they know what I am saying. 
I may be wrong; but I claim that I am clear. People may misunder 
stand what I am doing but I am willing to bet that they do not mis 
understand what I am saying. At least they know quite well what they 
are disagreeing with. 

After I had been three years at St. Paul s my school report described 
me as backward for my age, and added: "To have a serious chance 
for Sandhurst, he must give more time for work." 

This report was rather a shock and it was clear I must get down to 
work if I was going to get a commission in the Army, This I did, and 
passed into Sandhurst half-way up the list without any difficulty. 
St. Paul s is a very good school for work so long as you want to learn; 
in my case, once the intention and the urge was clear the masters did 
the rest and for this I shall always be grateful. I was very happy at 
St. Paul s School. For the first time in my life leadership and authority 
came my way; both were eagerly seized and both were exercised in 
accordance with my own limited ideas, and possibly badly. For the 
first time I could plan my own battles (on the football field) and 
there were some fierce contests. Some of my contemporaries have 
stated that my tactics were unusual and the following article appeared 
in the School magazine in November 1906. I should explain that my 
nickname at St. Paul s was Monkey, 


No. i The Monkey 

"This intelligent animal makes its nest in football fields, foot 
ball vests, and other such accessible resorts. It is vicious, of unflag 
ging energy, and much feared by the neighbouring animals owing 
to its xmfortunate tendency to pull out the top hair of the head. 
This it calls tackling/ It may sometimes be seen in the company 
of some of them, taking a short run, and, in sheer exuberance of 
animal spirits, tossing a cocoanut from hand to hand! To foreign 
fauna it shows no mercy, stamping on their heads and twisting 
their necks, and doing many other inconceivable atrocities with a 
view, no doubt, to proving its patriotism. 

To hunt this animal is a dangerous undertaking. It runs strongly 

Boyhood Days 21 

and hard, straight at you, and never falters, holding a cocoanut in 
its hand and accompanied by one of its companions. But just as 
the unlucky sportsman is expecting a blow, the cocoanut is trans 
ferred to the companion, and the two run past the bewildered 
would-be Nimrod. 

So it is advisable that none hunt the monkey. Even if caught 
he is not good eating. He lives on doughnuts. If it is decided to 
neglect this advice, the sportsman should first be scalped, so as to 
avoid being collared." 

I had little pocket money in those days; my parents were poor; we 
were a large family; and there was little spare cash for us boys. But 
we had enough and we all certainly learnt the value of money when 

I was nineteen when I left St. Paul s School. My time there was most 
valuable as my first experience of life in a larger community than was 
possible in the home. The imprint of a school should be on a boy s 
character, his habits and qualities, rather than on his capabilities 
whether they be intellectual or athletic. In a public school there is 
more freedom than is experienced in a preparatory or private school; 
the danger is that a boy should equate freedom with laxity. This is 
what happened to me, until I was brought up with a jerk by a bad 
report. St. Paul s left its imprint on my character; I was sorry to leave, 
but not so sorry as to lose my sense of proportion. For pleasant as 
school is, it is only a stepping stone. Life lies ahead, and for me the 
next step was Sandhurst. "When I became a man, I put away childish 
things" some of them, anyway. 

And so I went to Sandhurst in January 1907. 

Looking back on their boyhood, some people would no doubt be 
able to suggest where things might have been changed for the better. 
Briefly, in my own case, two matters cannot have been right: both 
due to the fact that my mother ran the family and my father stood 
back. First, I began to know fear when very young and gradually 
withdrew into my own shell and battled on alone. This without doubt 
had a tremendous effect on the subsequent development of my char 
acter. Secondly, I was thrown into a large public school without having 
had certain facts of life explained to me; I began to learn diem for 
myself in the rough and tumble of school life, and not finally until I 
went to Sandhurst at the age of nineteen. This neglect might have had 
bad results; but luckily, I don t think it did. Even so, I wouldn t let 
it happen to others. 

When I went to school in London I had learnt to play a lone hand, 
and to stand or fall alone. One had become self-sufficient, intolerant 
of authority and steeled to take punishment. 

By the time I left school a very important principle had just begun 

22 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

to penetrate my brain. That was that life is a stern struggle, and a 
boy has to be able to stand up to the buffeting and set-backs. There 
are many attributes which he must acquire if he is to succeed: two 
are vital, hard work and absolute integrity. The need for a religious 
background had not yet begun to become apparent to me. My father 
had always hoped that I would become a clergyman. That did not 
happen and I well recall his disappointment when I told him that I 
wanted to be a soldier. He never attempted to dissuade me; he accepted 
what he must have thought was the inevitable; and if he could speak 
to me today I think he would say that it was better that way. If I had 
my life over again I would not choose differently. I would be a soldier. 


My Early Life in the Army 

IN 1907 entrance to the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, was by 
competitive examination. There was first a qualifying examination 
in which it was necessary to show a certain minimum standard of 
mental ability; die competitive examination followed a year or so later. 
These two hurdles were negotiated without difficulty, and in the 
competitive examination my place was 72 out of some 170 vacancies. 
I was astonished to find later that a large number of my fellow cadets 
had found it necessary to leave school early and go to a crammer in 
order to ensure success in the competitive entrance examination. 

In those days the Army did not attract the best brains in the country. 
Army life was expensive and it was not possible to live on one s pay. 
It was generally considered that a private income or allowance of at 
least 100 a year was necessary, even in one of the so-called less 
fashionable County regiments. In die cavalry, and in the more fashion 
able infantry regiments, an income of up to 300 or 400 was de 
manded before one was accepted. These financial matters were not 
known to me when I decided on the Army as my career; nobody had 
explained them to me or to my parents. I learned them at Sandhurst 
when it became necessary to consider die regiment of one s choice, and 
this was not until about halfway through the course at the college. 

The fees at Sandhurst were 150 a year for the son of a civilian 
and this included board and lodging, and all necessary expenses. But 
additional pocket money was essential and after some discussion my 
parents agreed to allow me 2 a month; this was also to continue in 
die holidays, making my personal income 24 a year. 

It is doubtful if many cadets were as poor as myself; but I managed. 
Those were the days when the wrist watch was beginning to appear 


24 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

and they could be bought in die College canteen; most cadets acquired 
one. I used to look with envy at those watches, but they were not for 
me; I did not possess a wrist watch till just before the beginning of 
the war in 1914. Now I suppose every boy has one at the age of seven 
or eight. 

Outside attractions being denied to me for want of money, I plunged 
into games and work. On going to St. Paul s in 1902, I had concen 
trated on games; now work was added, and this was due to the sharp 
jolt I had received on being told the truth along my idleness at school 
I very soon became a member of the Rugby XV, and played against 
the R.M.A., Woolwich, in December 1907 when we inflicted a severe 
defeat on that establishment. 

In the realm of work, to begin with tilings went well. The custom 
then was to select some of the outstanding juniors, or first term 
cadets, and to promote them to lance-corporal after six weeks at the 
College. This was considered a great distinction; the cadets thus 
selected were reckoned to be better than their fellows and to have 
shown early the essential qualities necessary for a first class officer in 
the Army. These lance-corporals always became sergeants in their sec 
ond term, wearing a red sash, and one or two became colour-sergeants 
carrying a sword; colour-sergeant was the highest rank for a cadet 

I was selected to be a lance-corporal. I suppose this must have gone 
to my head; at any rate my downfall began from that moment The 
Junior Division of **B W Company, my company at the College, contained 
a pretty tough and rowdy crowd and my authority as a lance-corporal 
caused me to take a lead in their activities. We began a war with the 
juniors of "A" Company who lived in the storey above us; we carried 
the war into the areas of other companies living farther away down 
the passages. Our company became known as "Bloody B," which was 
probably a very good name for it. Fierce battles were fought in the 
passages after dark; pokers and similar weapons wore usx>cl and cadets 
often retired to hospital for repairs. This state of affairs obviously could 
not continue, even at Sandhurst in 1907 when the officers kept well 
clear of the activities of the cadets when off duty. 

Attention began to concentrate on "Blocxly B" and on myself. The 
climax came when during the ragging of an unpopular cadet I set fire 
to the tail of his shirt as he was undressing; he got badly burnt behind, 
retired to hospital, and was unable to sit down with any comfort for 
some time. He behaved in an exemplary manner in refusing to disclose 
the author of his ill-treatment, but it was no good; one s sins are 
always found out in the end and I was reduced to the ranks. 

A paragraph appeared in College Orders to the effect that Lauco- 
CoqDoral Montgomery reverted to the rank of gentleman-cadet, no 
reason being given. My mother came down to Sandhurst and discussed 
my future with the Commandant. She learnt that it had been decided 

My Early Life in the Army 25 

at one time to make me the next colour-sergeant of "B" Company. But 
this was all now finished; I had fallen from favour and would be lucky 
to pass out of the College at all. My Company Commander turned 
against me; no wonder. But there was one staunch friend among the 
Company Officers, a major in the Royal Scots Fusiliers called Forbes. 
He was my friend and adviser and it is probably due to his protection 
and advice that I remained at Sandhurst, turned over a new leaf, and 
survived to make good, if he is alive today and reads these lines he 
will learn of my debt to him and of my gratitude. I have often won 
dered what the future would have held for me if I had been made 
colour-sergeant of TT Company at Sandhurst I personally know of 
no case of a cadet who became the head of his company rising later 
to the highest rank in the Army. Possibly they developed too soon and 
then fizzled out. 

That was the second jolt I had received and this time it was clear 
to me that the repercussions could be serious. A number of selected 
cadets of my batch were to be passed out in December 1907, after one 
year at die College; my name was not included in the lucky number 
and I remained on for another six months. But now I had learnt my 
lesson, and this time for good. I worked really hard during those six 
months and was determined to pass out high. 

It had for some time been clear to me that I could not serve in 
England for financial reasons. My parents could give me no allowance 
once I was commissioned into the Army, and it would be necessary 
to live entirely on my pay. This would be 5s. 3d. a day as a second 
lieutenant and 6s. 6d. a day when promoted lieutenant; a young officer 
could not possibly live on this income as his monthly mess bill alone 
could not be less than 10. 

Promotion was not by length of service as it is now, but depended 
on vacancies, and I had heard of lieutenants in the Army of nineteen 
years service. In India it was different; the pay in the Indian Army 
was good, and one could even live on one s pay in a British battalion 
stationed in that country. I therefore put down my name for the Indian 
Army. There was very keen competition because of the financial 
reasons I have already outlined, and it was necessary to pass out within 
the first 30 to be sure of a vacancy; on very rare occasions No. 35 had 
been known to get the Indian Army. 

When the results were announced, my name was No. 36. I had 
failed to get the Indian Army. I was bitterly disappointed. All cadets 
were required to put down a second choice. I had no military back 
ground and no County connection; but it was essential to get to India 
where I could live on my pay in a British battalion, so I put my name 
down for the Royal Warwickshire Regiment which had one of its 
two regular battalions in that country. I have often been asked why 
I chose this regiment. The first reason was that it had an attractive 

26 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

cap badge which I admired; the second was that enquiries I then 
made gave me to understand that it was a good, sound English County 
Regiment and not one of the more expensive ones. My placing in the 
final list at Sandhurst was such that once the Indian Army candidates 
had been taken, I was certain of the regiment of my choice, provided it 
would accept me. Accept me it did; and I joined the Royal Warwick 
shire, the senior of a batch of three cadets from Sandhurst I have 
never regretted my choice. I learnt the foundations of the military 
art in my regiment; I was encouraged to work hard by the Adjutant 
and my first Company Commander. The former, Colonel C. R. Mac- 
donald, is now retired, being well over eighty, and he has always been 
one of my greatest friends; I hope that I have been able to repay in 
later life some of the interest and kindness received from him in my 
early days in the regiment. The future of a young officer in the Army 
depends largely on die influences he comes under when he joins from 
Sandhurst I have always counted myself hicky that among a some 
what curious collection of officers there were some who loved soldier 
ing for its own sake and were prepared to help anyone else who 
thought the same. 

And now I am the Colonel of my regiment, a tremendous honour 
which I never thought would come my way when I joined the ist 
Battalion at Peshawar, on the North- West Frontier of India, in Decem 
ber 1908. I was then just twenty-one, older than most newly joined 
subalterns. The reason was that I had stayed on longer than most at 
school because of idleness, and did not go to Sandhurst till I was over 
nineteen; and I had stayed on an extra six months at Sandhurst, also 
because of idleness. Twice I had nearly crashed and twice I had been 
saved by good luck and good friends. 

Possibly at tlxis stage of my life I did not realise how lucky I was. 
I had come from a good home and my parents had given me die best 
education they could afford; there had never been very much spare 
money for luxuries and that taught us children the value of money 
when young. I had no complaint when my parents could not give mo 
an allowance after I had left Sandhurst and joined the Army; it is very 
good for a boy when launched in life to earn his own living. My own 
son was educated at a first class Preparatory School, at Winchester, 
and at Trinity, Cambridge; it had always been agreed between us that 
on leaving Cambridge he would earn his own living, and he has done 
so without any further allowance from me. 

From the time I joined the Army in 1908 until die present day, I 
have never had any money except what I earned. This I have never 
regretted. Later on when I was Chief of the Imperial General Staff 
under the Socialist Government and worked closely widi my political 
masters in Whitehall, I sometimes reminded Labour Ministers of this 
fact when tfiey seemed to imagine that I was one of the "idle rich," 

My Early Life in the Army 27 

They knew I wasn t idle; but I had to assure them that I wasn t rich 

Life in the British Army in the days before World War I was very 
different from what it is now. Certain things one had to do because 
tradition demanded it When I first entered the ante-room of the 
Officers Mess of my regiment in Peshawar, there was one other officer 
in the room. He immediately said "Have a drink" and rang the bell for 
the waiter. It was mid-winter on the frontier of India, and intensely 
cold; I was not thirsty. But two whiskies and sodas arrived and there 
was no escape; I drank one, and tasted alcohol for the first time in my 

All the newly joined officers had to call on all the other units in the 
garrison and leave cards at the Officers Messes. You were offered a 
drink in each mess and it was explained to me that these must never 
be declined; it was also explained that you must never ask for a lemon 
squash or a soft drink. An afternoon spent in calling on regimental 
officers messes resulted in a considerable consumption of alcohol, and 
a young officer was soon taught to drink. I have always disliked alco 
hol since. 

I remember well my first interview with the senior subaltern of the 
battalion. In those days the senior subaltern was a powerful figure but 
has nowadays lost his power and prestige. 

One of the main points he impressed on us newly joined subalterns 
was that at dinner in the mess at night we must never ask a waiter for 
a drink till the fish had been served. I had never before attended a 
dinner where there was a fish course in addition to a main meat course, 
so I wondered what was going to happen. Dinner in the mess at night 
was an imposing ceremony. The President and Vice-President for the 
week sat at opposite ends of the long table which was laden with the 
regimental silver, all the officers being in scarlet mess jackets. These 
two officials could not get up and leave the table until every officer had 
left, and I often sat as a lonely figure in the Vice-President s chair 
while two old majors at the President s end of the table exchanged 
stories over their port far into the night. Sometimes a kindly President 
would tell the young Vice-President he need not wait, but this seldom 
happened; it was considered that young officers must be disciplined 
in these matters and taught to observe the traditions. Perhaps it was 
good for me, but I did not think so at the time. 

At breakfast in the mess nobody spoke. Some of the senior officers 
were not feeling very well at that hour of the day. One very senior 
major refused to sit at the main table; he sat instead at a small table 
in a corner of the room by himself, facing the wall and with his back 
to the other officers. Then there was the senior officer who wanted to 
get married. When he had located a suitable lady he would spend 
what he considered was a reasonable sum in her entertainment. His 

28 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

limit was 100; that sum spent, if the lady s resistance was not broken 
down, he transferred his amorous activities elsewhere. 

The transport of the battalion was mule carts and mule pack animals, 
and as I knew nothing about mules I was sent on a course to learn. At 
the end of the course there was an oral examination which was con 
ducted by an outside examiner. Since there appeared to be no suitable 
officer in die Peshawar garrison, an outside examiner came up from 
central India; he had obviously been very many years in the country 
and had a face like a bottle of port He looked as if he lived almost 
entirely on suction; nevertheless he was considered to be the greatest 
living expert on mules and their habits. 

I appeared before this amazing man for my oral examination. He 
looked at me with one bloodshot eye and said: "Question No. i: How 
many times in each 24 hours are the bowels of a mule moved?" 

This question was not one which I had expected, nor did it seem 
to me at the time that it was a problem which need receive any great 
attention by an ambitious young officer who was keen to get to grips 
with his profession. But I was wrong; it did matter. There was an 
awkward silence. My whole future was at stake; I had hoped that one 
day I might be a major with a similar crown to his on my shoulder; I 
saw my army career ending in disaster. In desperation I cast my mind 
back to the mule lines, with the animals patiently standing in the hot 
sun. How many times? Would it be three times in the morning, and 
three in the afternoon? And at night possibly the bladder but not the 

The examiner said: "Arc you ready?" I said: "Yes: six times/* 
He said: "No; Question No. i failed; no marks/ 
I said: "What is the right answer?* He told me it was eight times. 
I then said: "It doesn t seem to me, Sir, to matter very much whether 
it is six or eight." 

He replied: "Don t be impertinent, Question No. 2? 
I passed the examination in the end, and returned to my regiment 
with that crown seeming after all to be just possible but also with the 
firm hope that there would be no more hurdles of that sort to be 

Soldiering in India seemed to me at that time to lack something. 
I saw a good deal of the Indian Army. The men were splendid; they 
were natural soldiers and as good material as anyone coxJd want The 
British officers were not aU so good. The basic trouble was a beastly 
climate and the absence of contact with Europe; they tended to age 
rapidly after about forty-five. An expression heard frequently was 
that so-and-so was a "good mixer/ A good mixer of drinks, I came 
to believe, for it soon appeared to me that a good mixer was a man 
who had never been known to refuse a drink. My observations led me 
to think that a British officer would need to be a man of strong charac- 

My Early Life in the Army 29 

ter to spend, say, thirty years in the hot climate of India and yet retain 
his energy and vitality. Some did so and emerged as fit for the highest 
commands in peace and war; such a one was Slim. 

Overall, by the time I left India in 1913 I was glad that fate had 
decided against my passing high enough out of Sandhurst to be elected 
for the Indian Army. 

It was true that those who passed the highest out of Sandhurst were 
taken for the Indian Army; but all of those were not necessarily the 
best cadets. The good ones had to be supremely good to survive the 
conditions of life in India, and the climate, and few did so; I feel 
certain that I should not have done so myself. 

The battalion left Peshawar at the end of 1910 and moved to Bombay 
for the last two years of its foreign service tour. I had now begun to 
work hard and seriously. Looking back, I would put this period as the 
time when it was becoming apparent to me that to succeed one must 
master one s profession. It was clear that the senior regimental officers 
were not able to give any help in the matter since their knowledge was 
confined almost entirely to what went on at battalion level; they had 
little or no knowledge of other matters. When the battalion arrived at 
a new station the first question the C.O. would ask was: "How does 
the General like the attack done?" 

And the attack was carried out in that way; whatever might be the 
conditions of ground, enemy, or any other factor. At this time there 
did seem to me to be something lacking in the whole business, but I 
was not able to analyse the problem and decide what exactly was 
wrong; nor did I bother unduly about it. I was happy in the battalion 
and I had become devoted to the British soldier. As for the officers, it 
was not fashionable to study war and we were not allowed to talk 
about our profession in the Officers Mess. 

While in Bombay I got mixed up in a row at the Royal Bombay 
Yacht Club. An officer in the battalion, Captain R. Wood, a bachelor, 
gave a dinner party at the Club to three young subalterns, of whom 
I was one. Wood, being an old and staid captain, went home early and 
left us three subalterns to it. The next morning the senior of our party 
received the following letter from the Secretary of the Club: 

"It has been reported to me by several members of die club 
that last evening after dinner you and your friends behaved in a 
most ungentlemanly and uproarious way in the bar of the Royal 
Bombay Yacht Club between the hours of 10.30 p.m. and 2 a.m., 
shouting loudly, beating the brass topped bar tables and drum 
ming on them. This conduct caused great annoyance and disgust 
to members who were playing billiards and to other members 
playing cards upstairs. I am informed that your shouts and cries 
and drummings could be heard all over die club building. When 

30 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

the Hall Porter of the Club went to you, pointing out the rule 
which prohibits such disgraceful and unseemly proceedings in 
the Club, you apparently paid no attention to him but continued 
as before. The Hall Porter then reported to me. When I arrived 
I found that the officers concerned had left and the disturbance 
had, for the time, ceased. 

I have to refer you to By-Law VII which you have broken. 
The occurrence will be reported to the Committee of the Club 
and will be dealt with. The officer chiefly concerned in the up 
roarious proceedings, in addition to yourself, was Lieut. B. L. 

The battalion returned to England in 1913 and an officer of our 2nd 
Battalion was posted to it who had just completed the two-year course 
at the Staff College at Camberley. His name was Captain Lefroy. He 
was a bachelor and I used to have long talks with him about the Army 
and what was wrong with it, and especially how one could get to real 
grips with the military art. He was interested at once, and helped me 
tremendously with advice about what books to read and how to study. 
I think it was Lefroy who first showed me the path to tread and 
encouraged my youthful ambition. He was killed later in the 1914-18 
war and was a great loss to me and to the Army. 

All this goes to show how important it is for a young officer to come 
in contact with the best type of officer and the right influences early 
in his military career. In the conditions which existed in the British 
Army between the South African war and the 1914-18 war, it was 
entirely a matter of luck whether this would happen. In my case the 
ambition was there, and die urge to master my profession. But it 
required advice and encouragement from the right people to set me 
on the road, and once that was forthcoming it was plainer sailing. 

In August 1914, 1 was a full lieutenant of twenty-six. It was to take 
die experiences of the 1914-18 war to show me what was wrong in 
the Army. My battalion mobilised at Shorncliffe, The mobilisation 
scheme provided, amongst other tilings, that all officers swords were 
to go to the armourers shop on the third day of mobilisation to be 
sharpened. It was not dear to me why, since I had never used my 
sword except for saluting. But of course I obeyed the order and my 
sword was made sharp for war. The C.CX said that in war it was 
advisable to have short hair since it was then easier to keep it clean; 
he had all his hair removed with the clippers by the regimental barber 
and looked an amazing sight; personally I had mine cut decently by 
a barber in Folkestone. Being totally ignorant about war, I asked the 
C.O. if it was necessary to take any money with me; he said money 
was useless in war as everything was provided for you, I was some 
what uncertain about this and decided to take ten pounds with me in 

My Early Life in the Army 31 

gold. Later I was to find this invaluable, and was glad I had not 
followed his advice about either hair or money. 

We crossed over to France as part of the 4th Division. We missed 
the battle of Mons by a few days, and moved forward by march route 
up towards Le Gateau. On the early morning of the 26th August 1914, 
the icth Brigade to which my battalion belonged was bivouacked in 
the cornfields near the village of Haucourt after a long night march. 
One battalion was forward on a hill, covering the remainder of the 
brigade in the valley behind; we could see the soldiers having break 
fast, their rifles being piled. That battalion was suddenly surprised by 
the Germans and fire opened on it at short range; it withdrew rapidly 
down the hill towards us, in great disorder. 

Our battalion was deployed in two lines; my company and one 
other were forward, with the remaining two companies out of sight 
some hundred yards to the rear. The C.O. galloped up to us forward 
companies and shouted to us to attack the enemy on the forward hill 
at once. This was the only order; there was no reconnaissance, no 
plan, no covering fire. We rushed up the hill, came under heavy fire, 
my Company Commander was wounded and there were many casual 
ties. Nobody knew what to do, so we returned to the original position 
from which we had begun to attack If this was real war it struck me 
as most curious and did not seem to make any sense against the 
background of what I had been reading. 

The subsequent days were very unpleasant and the story of them 
is contained in what is known as the "Retreat from Mons/ For my 
part, the two forward companies which had made the attack I have 
just mentioned received no further orders; we were left behind when 
the retreat began and for three days we marched between the German 
cavalry screen and their main columns following behind, moving 
mostly by night and hiding by day. In command of our party was a 
first class regimental officer, Major A. J. Poole, and it was due entirely 
to him that we finally got back to the British Expeditionary Force and 
joined up with our battalion. We then heard that our C.O. had been 
cashiered, as also had another C.O. in the Brigade, and Poole took 
command. Our C.O. was Lieut.-Colonel Elkington; on being cashiered 
he joined the French Foreign Legion, where he made good in a 
magnificent manner. 

Such was the beginning of my experience of war. But it was not yet 
the end of the beginning. After some minor engagements on the Aisne 
front, the battalion was transferred with the remainder of the B.E.F. 
to the northern flank of the Allied front in the West. Some grim fighting 
then began and on the isth October the battalion was launched to the 
attack for the second time; but now Poole was in command, and 
there was a plan and there were proper orders. Two companies were 
forward, my company on the left being directed on a group of build- 

32 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

ings on the outskirts of the village of Meteren. When zero hour arrived 
I drew my recently sharpened sword and shouted to my platoon to 
follow me, which it did. We charged forward towards the village; 
there was considerable fire directed at us and some of my men became 
casualties, but we continued on our way. As we nearcd the objective 
I suddenly saw in front of me a trench full of Germans, one of whom 
was aiming his rifle at me. 

In my training as a young officer I had received much instruction 
in how to kill my enemy with a bayonet fixed to a rifle. I knew all 
about the various movements right parry, left parry, forward lunge. 
I had been taught how to put the left foot on the corpse and extract 
die bayonet, giving at the same time a loud grunt. Indeed, I had 
been considered good on the bayonet-fighting course against sacks 
filled with straw, and had won prizes in man-to-man contests in the 
gymnasium. But now I had no rifle and bayonet; I had only a sharp 
sword, and I was confronted by a large German who was about to 
shoot me. In all my short career in the Army no one had taught me 
how to loll a German with a sword. The only sword exercise I knew 
was saluting drill, learnt under the sergeant-major on the barrack 

An immediate decision was clearly vital. I hurled myself through 
the air at the German and kicked him as hard as I could in the lower 
part of the stomach; the blow was well aimed at a tender spot, I had 
read much about the value of surprise in war. There is no doubt that 
the German was surprised and it must have seemed to him a new 
form of war; he fell to the ground in great pain and I took my first 
prisoner! A lot of fighting wont on during the remainder of the day, 
our task being to clear the Germans from the village. During these 
encounters amongst the houses I got wounded, being shot through 
the chest But we did the job and turned the Germans out of the 
village. It was for this action at Meteren that I was awarded the D.S.O. 
I was still only a lieutenant. My life was saved that day by a soldier 
of my platoon. I had fallen in the open and lay still hoping to avoid 
further attention from the Germans. But a soldier ran to me and 
began to put a field dressing on my wound; he was shot through the 
head by a sniper and collapsed on top of me. The sniper continued to 
fire at us and I got a second wound in the knee; die soldier received 
many bullets intended for me. No further attempt was made by my 
platoon to rescue us; indeed, it was presumed we were both dead. 
When it got dark the stretcher-bearers came to carry us in; the soldier 
was dead and I was in a bad way. I was taken back to the Advanced 
Dressing Station; the doctors reckoned I could not live and, as the 
station was shortly to move, a grave was dug for me. But when the 
time came to move I was still alive; so I was put in a motor ambulance 
and sent back to a hospital. I survived the journey and recovered, I 

My Early Life in the Army 33 

think because I was very fit and healthy after two months of active 
service in the field. I was evacuated to hospital in England and for 
some months I took no further part in the war. I had time for reflection 
in hospital and came to the conclusion that the old adage was prob 
ably correct: the pen was mightier than the sword. I joined the staff. 

I returned to the Western Front in France early in 1916, this time 
as a brigade-major. During the Somme battle that summer an infantry 
brigade, which had better remain nameless, was to be the leading 
brigade in a divisional attack. It was important that the Brigade 
Commander should receive early information of the progress of his 
forward troops since this would affect the movement of reserves in the 
rear. The problem then arose how to ensure the early arrival of the re 
quired information, and intense interest was aroused at Brigade H.Q. 
when it was disclosed that a pigeon would be used to convey the news. 
In due course the bird arrived and was kept for some days in a special 
pigeon loft. When the day of the attack arrived the pigeon was given 
to a soldier to carry. He was to go with the leading sub-units and was 
told that at a certain moment an officer would write a message to be 
fastened to the pigeon s leg; he would then release the pigeon which 
would fly back to its loft at Brigade H.Q. The attack was launched 
and the Brigade Commander waited anxiously for the arrival of the 
pigeon. Time was slipping by and no pigeon arrived; the Brigadier 
walked feverishly about outside his H.Q. dugout. The soldiers anxiously 
searched the skies; but there was no sign of any pigeon. 

At last the cry went up: "The pigeon/ and sure enough back it 
came and alighted safely in the loft 

Soldiers rushed to get the news and the Brigade Commander roared 
out: "Give me the message.* 

It was handed to him, and this is what he read: 

"I am absolutely fed up with carrying this bloody bird about 

When the war broke out I was a platoon commander. When it 
ended I was Chief of Staff (GSO i ) * of a Division and rising thirty-one, 
well able to think clearly, although my mind was still untrained. To 
an ambitious young officer with an enquiring mind, many things 
seemed wrong. 

There was little contact between the generals and the soldiers. I 
went through the whole war on the Western Front, except during the 
period I was in England after being wounded; I never once saw the 
British Commander-in-Chief, neither French nor Haig, and only 
twice did I see an Army Commander. 

The higher staffs were out of touch with the regimental officers 
and with the troops. The former lived in comfort, which became 
* General Staff Officer. 

34 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

greater as the distance of their headquarters behind the lines increased. 
There was no harm in this provided there was touch and sympathy 
between the staff and the troops. This was often lacking. At most 
large headquarters in back areas the doctrine seemed to me to be that 
the troops existed for the benefit of the staff. My war experience led 
me to believe that the staff must be the servants of the troops, and that 
a good staff officer must serve his commander and the troops but 
himself be anonymous. 

The frightful casualties appalled me. The so-called "good fighting 
generals" of the war appeared to me to be those who had a complete 
disregard for human life. There were of course exceptions and I suppose 
one such was Plumer; I had only once seen him and had never spoken 
to him. There is the story of Sir Douglas Haig s Chief of Staff who was 
to return to England after the heavy fighting during the winter of 
1917-18 on the Passchendaelc front. Before leaving he said he would 
like to visit the Passchendacle Ridge and see the country. When he 
saw the mud and the ghastly conditions under which the soldiers had 
fought and died, he was horrified and said: "Do you mean to tell me 
that the soldiers had to fight under such conditions?" And when he 
was told that it was so ? he said: "Why was I never told about this 

The fact that the Chief of Staff of die British Armies in Europe had 
no idea of the conditions under wliich the troops had to live, fight, 
and die, will be sufficient to explain the uncertainties that were passing 
through my mind when the war ended. 

I remember a leave period spent in London. I went to a music hall 
one night and the big joke of the evening was when a comedian asked 
the question: "If bread is tile staff of life, what is the life of the staff?" 

He then gave the answer: "One big loaf." 

There was tremendous applause, in wliich I joined. In fact, the 
staff worked hard. Btit the incident made me think seriously, and 
from my own experiences I know sometliing was wrong. 

One further matter should be mentioned before leaving the First 
War period. For the last six months of the war I was GSO i of the 
47th (London) Division* I devoted much thought to the problem of 
how to get to Divisional Headquarters quickly the accurate informa 
tion of the progress of the battle which is so vital, and which enables 
a general to adjust his dispositions to the tactical situation as it devel 
ops. We finally devised a system of sending officers with wireless sets 
up to the headquarters of the leading battalions and they sent messages 
back by wireless. The difficulty in those days was to get reliable sets 
which could be carried by a man and would give the required range. 
Our system was very much a make-shift and often broke down; but 
it also often worked, and overall it produced useful results. This was 
the germ of the system I developed in the 1939-45 war, and wliich 

My Early Life in the Army 35 

finally produced the team of liaison officers in jeeps operating from 
my Advanced Tactical Headquarters, a technique which Sir Winston 
Churchill describes in his Triumph and Tragedy, Book Two, Chapter 5. 
In 1918 in the 4/th Division we were groping in the dark and trying 
to evolve ideas which would give increased efficiency to our operations. 

I have said enough to make it clear that by the time the 1914-18 
war was over it had become very clear to me that the profession of 
arms was a life-study, and that few officers seemed to realise this fact. 
It was at this stage in my life that I decided to dedicate myself to my 
profession, to master its details, and to put all else aside. 

It was not clear to me how all this would be done and I knew none 
of the top leaders in the Army. I was certain that the first step was 
to get to the Staff College; this was re-opened when the war ended 
and the first course was a short one in 1919, for which I was not 
selected. I fastened my hopes on the second course which was to 
assemble in January 1920, and to last for one year. When the names 
were announced for this course I was not selected. But all was not 
yet lost. 

The Commander-in-Chief of the British Army of Occupation in 
Germany at the time was Sir William Robertson. I did not know him. 
He was fond of tennis and I was invited one day to play at his house 
in Cologne; I decided to risk all and tell him my trouble. He had 
struggled a good deal himself in his youth and had a kind heart for 
the young; this I knew and I hoped for the best 

Shortly after that tennis party I heard that my name had been 
added to the list and I was ordered to report at the Staff College, 
Camberley, in January 1920. The C.-in-C. had done what was required. 
The way now seemed clear. But it was not to be so easy as all that. 
The story of my further progress in the Army, as subsequent chapters 
of this book will reveal, is one of constant struggle linked to many set 
backs and disappointments. I think that I can say now that the story 
has a happy ending, for me, anyhovg. 


Between the Wars 

Up TO this point in my career I had received no training in the 
theory of my profession; I had beliind me the practical experi 
ence of four years of active service in the field, but no theo 
retical study as a background to that experience. I had read somewhere 
the remarks of Frederick the Great when speaking about officers who 
relied only on their practical experience and who neglected to study; he 
is supposed to have said that he had in his Army two mules who had 
been through forty campaigns, but they were still mules. 

I had also heard of a German general who delivered himself of the 
following all-embracing classification about officers, presumably those 
of the German Army. I understand that he said this: "I divide my 
officers into four classes: the clever, the stupid, the industrious and the 
lazy, Eveiy officer possesses at least two of these qualities. Those who 
are clever and industrious are fitted for high staff appointments; use 
can be made of those who are stupid and lazy. The man who is clever 
and lazy is fitted for die highest command; he has the temperament 
and the requisite nerve to deal with all situations. But whoever is 
stupid and industrious is a danger and must be removed immediately/ 

I went to the Staff College at Camberley in Januaiy 1920 with no 
claim to cleverness. I thought I had a certain amount of common 
sense, but it was untrained; it seemed to me that it was trained com 
mon sense which mattered. 

I must admit that I was critical and intolerant; I had yet to learn 
that uninformed criticism is valueless. 

My fellow students at Camberley were all supposed to be the pick 
of the Army, men who were destined for the highest commands; very 
few of them ever reached there. The instructors also were picked 


Between the Wars 37 

men; but only one reached the top and that was Dill, who was a very 
fine character. Among my fellow students I was greatly impressed by 
one who had a first class brain and was immensely able, and that was 
the late George Lindsay in the Rifle Brigade; he was eventually retired 
as a major-general and I never understood why such an able officer 
was allowed to leave the Army. 

The "good fighting generals" of the war were in all the high 
commands. They remained in office far too long, playing musical 
chairs with the top jobs but never taking a chair away when the music 
stopped. Milne was C.I.G.S.* for seven years, from 1926 to 1933. 
After him the Army was unlucky in its professional chiefs. Milne was 
succeeded by Montgomery-Massingberd, who was in office at a most 
vital time in Army affairs, 1933 to 1936; his appointment was in my 
judgment a great mistake and under him die Army drifted about like 
a ship without a rudder. The right man for the job at that time was 
Jock Burnett-Stuart, the most brilliant general in the Army. It has 
always been a mystery to me why this outstanding soldier, with a 
quick and clear brain, was not made C.I.G.S. in 1933 instead of 
Montgomery-Massingberd. The Army would have been better pre 
pared for war in 1939 if he had been. 

Deverell succeeded Montgomery-Massingberd in 1936 but he had 
a very raw deal from the Secretary of State for War, Hore-Belisha, 
and was turned out after 18 months in office; he would have achieved 
something if he had been allowed to stay there. But Hore-Belisha 
preferred Gort. He was entirely unsuited for the job but he remained 
C.I.G.S. until the outbreak of war in September 1939. 

The result of all this was that the Army entered the Second World 
War in 1939 admirably organised and equipped to fight the 1914 war, 
and with the wrong officers at the top. 

Truly the ways of the British politicians in the days between the 
wars were amazing. It always seems to me that a political leader must 
be a good judge of men; he must choose the right men for the top 
Service jobs. In peace time he has to judge by character, ability, the 
drive to get things done, and so on. Between the wars they chose 
badly by any standard, if indeed they understood at all what standards 
were required. 

I passed out of the Staff College in December 1920. I believe I got 
a good report, but do not know as nobody ever told me if I had done 
well or badly: which seemed curious. However, I was sent as brigade- 
major to the i7th Infantry Brigade in Cork and went straight into 
another war the struggle against the Sinn Fein in Southern Ireland. 
In many ways this war was far worse than the Great War which had 
ended in 1918. It developed into a murder campaign in which, in 
the end, the soldiers became very skilful and more than held their 
* Chief of the Imperial General Staff. 

38 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

own. But such a war is thoroughly bad for officers and men; it tends 
to lower their standards of decency and chivalry, and I was glad when 
it was over. 

It was during this period that the Geddes axe began to operate in 
the Army, and every officer had to be reported on as to his fitness to 
remain. Opportunity was taken to get rid of a great deal of inefficient 
material in the lower ranks, but in the higher ranks much dead wood 
was left untouched. My own feeling now, after having been through 
two world wars, is that an extensive use of weedkiller is needed in the 
senior ranks after a war; this will enable the first class younger officers 
who have emerged during the war to be moved up. This did not 
happen after the 1914-18 war. I was in a position to see that it did 
happen after the 1939-45 war. 

After the Sinn Fein war was over in 1922, I held various staff ap 
pointments in England until January 1926, when I was sent as an 
instructor at the Staff College* 

The preceding five years had been for me years of hard work and 
intense study. I had served under some good and sympathetic generals 
who had encouraged the development of my ideas and had given me a 
free hand in carrying them out; these included General Sir Charles 
Harington, and Brigadier Tom Hollond, both good trainers. In this I 
was lucky, for it could so easily have been otherwise. Under them 
I was taught a high sense of duty; I also learnt that the discipline 
demanded from the soldier must become loyalty in the officer. I 
imagine that it was during this period that I began to become known 
as an officer who was studying his profession seriously, and this led 
to my appointment to the Staff College. I was glad as I felt the Cam- 
berley appointment put a hallmark on my Army career and my foot 
was now at last a little up the ladder. I doubt if I was right, but that 
is how it seemed to mo at the time. 

At certain moments in life an opportunity is presented to each one 
of us; some of us are not aware of the full significance of what has 
happened, and the moment is lost. Others, alert and enthusiastic, seize 
the opportunity with both hands and turn it to good advantage; these 
have ambition, as every man who is worth his salt should have not 
too much, but rather the determination to succeed by his own efforts 
and not merely by stamping on other people who get in the way, 

In my case it seemed that here was an opportunity for three years 
of hard study; I knew enough by then to realise that the teacher learns 
much more than his students. And these three years would be spent 
working closely with certain other instructors already there, ones who 
were known to me as some of the best officers in the Army: Brooke 
(now Lord Alanbrooke), Paget, Franklyn, and others. And by teach 
ing I would myself learn; I was conscious that I needed that learning, 

Between the Wars 39 

as a solid background which would enable me to handle bigger jobs 
later on with confidence. 

I must pass quickly over the next few years of my military life 
since they have no significant place in this book of memoirs. As the 
sparks flew upwards I was often in trouble, due to my habit of saying 
what I thought in no uncertain voice. But in 1930 I was selected by 
the War Office to re-write the manual of Infantry Training. This was 
a considerable compliment and I decided to make the book a compre 
hensive treatise on war for the infantry officer. All my work had to 
be approved by a committee in the War Office and some heated argu 
ments took place; I could not accept many of their amendments to 
my doctrine of infantry war. We went through the manual, chapter 
by chapter. I then recommended that the committee should disband 
and that I should complete the book in my own time; this was agreed. 
I produced the final draft, omitting all the amendments the committee 
had put forward. The book when published was considered excellent, 
especially by its author. 

Here I must turn aside to deal with something much more important 
than my military career, the ten short years of my married life. 

During the time I was an instructor at the Staff College, Camberley, 
I fell in love. We were married on the 27th July 1927. My son David 
was born on the i8th August 1928, My wife died on the igth October 
1937. 1 would like to tell the full story. 

In January 1926 I went to Switzerland for a holiday before begin 
ning work at the Staff College at the end of the month. I was then 
thirty-eight years old and a confirmed bachelor. Women had never 
interested me and I knew very few. I disliked social life and dinner 
parties. My life was devoted almost entirely to my profession and I 
worked at it from morning to night, sometimes taking exercise in the 
afternoon. I believe some ribald officer once said that the Army was my 
wife and I had no need for another! However that might be, I was 
intent on mastering my profession and was determined to do so. I 
was very certain that my country would be involved in another war 
and I had seen what had happened the first time. I was determined 
that whatever else might happen next time, at least I myself would 
be prepared, and trained, and ready when the call came. I had at times 
a kind of inward feeling that the call would come, to me personally, 
and in my prayers morning and evening I used to ask that I might be 
given help and strength so that I might not fail when put to the test. 
In Switzerland, at Lenk in the Bernese Oberland, I met Mrs. Carver 
and her two boys aged eleven and twelve. I have always been devoted 
to young people and I like helping them: possibly because of my 
own unhappy childhood. I soon made friends with the boys and with 
their mother, and the holiday passed pleasantly. Another friend I 

40 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

made that winter was Sir Edward Crowe; this acquaintance developed 
and he is now one of my most valued friends, though considerably 
older than I am. 

I decided to visit Lenk again in January 1927, with Sir Edward 
Crowe and his family and their friends. Mrs. Carver was there again 
with her two boys. Her husband had been killed in Gallipoli in 1915 
and the boys were taught to hate war and anything to do with soldiers. 
This time I saw a great deal of Betty Carver and by the time the 
holiday was over I had fallen in love: for the first and only time in 
my life. My love was returned in full measure, although I was a 
soldier, and we were married in Chiswick Parish Church on the 2/th 
July 1927. A time of great happiness then began; it had never before 
seemed possible that such love and affection could exist. We went 
everywhere, and did everything, together. We were parted only twice, 
the first time when I took my battalion to Palestine in January 1931 
and she followed later, and the second time when I had to send her 
and David home from Quetta after the earthquake in May 1935. On 
both occasions the parting was only for a short time. My wife was 
forty when David was born and she was never very strong afterwards; 
but she was always energetic and happy, and was never ill. 

She was a very good "Colonel s lad/ when I was commanding the 
ist Battalion of my regiment in Palestine and Egypt. I always remem 
ber how amused she was at one incident. In order to keep the soldiers 
happy and contented in the hot weather in Egypt I encouraged hob 
bies of every kind, and one of these was the keeping of pigeons; this 
was very popular and we kept some ourselves. One day the quarter 
master accused a corporal of having stolen one of his pigeons; the 
corporal denied the accusation and said the pigeon was his. I had to 
give judgment I asked both parties, the quartermaster and the cor 
poral, if a pigeon when released would always fly direct to its own 
loft; they both agreed this was so. I then ordered the pigeon to be 
kept for 24 hours in the Battalion Orderly Room. The next day at 
10 a.m. I released the pigeon; the whole battalion had heard of the 
incident and some 800 men watched from vantage points to see what 
would happen. The pigeon, when released, circled the barracks for a 
few minutes and then went direct to my own pigeon loft and remained 
there! This result was accepted by both parties, and the quartermaster 
withdrew his accusation. 

In the spring of 1934 the battalion was stationed at Poona in 
southern India and while there I was ordered to hand over command 
and go as Chief Instructor at the Staff College, Quetta, being promoted 
colonel. We spent three happy years in Quetta, except for the earth 
quake in May 1935, and I was then given command of the gth Infantry 
Brigade at Portsmouth. On anival in England we had two months 
leave. David was at his preparatory school at Hindhead and my wife 

Between the Wars 41 

and I went on a motor tour in the Lake District and visited our friends 
in the north of England. She seemed to be weaker than formerly and 
easily got tired; but she was always cheerful and happy. On return 
from the north I had to go into camp on Salisbury Plain with my 
brigade towards the end of August, and I sent Betty and David to a 
hotel at Burnham-on-Sea for the remainder of his school holidays. 

One afternoon when they were both together on the sands, Betty 
was stung on the foot by some insect; she could not say what sort of 
insect it was, and this was never known. That night her leg began to 
swell and became painful; a doctor was called in and he put her at 
once into the local Cottage Hospital, and sent for me. She got worse 
and the pain increased; at last came the time when the pain became 
too great and she had to have constant injections and was seldom 
conscious. By then I had moved into our house at Portsmouth; David 
had gone back to his school at Hindhead. I spent all the time that 
was possible at the Cottage Hospital; there were times when Betty was 
better and other times when there was cause for serious alarm. I 
was summoned frequently in the middle of the night and made many 
motor journeys to Buraham-on-Sea; the road became very familiar. 
The poison spread slowly up the leg. Then came the day when the 
doctors decided that the only hope was to amputate the leg; I agreed, 
and gained hope. But it was no good; nothing could stop the onward 
move of the poison; we could only wait. The doctors did everything 
that was possible; the nurses were splendid; but the septicaemia had 
got a firm hold. Betty died on the igth October 1937, in my arms. 
During her illness I had often read to her, mostly from the Bible. The 
last reading, a few minutes before she died, was the zycd Psalm. 

I buried her in the cemetery at Burnham-on-Sea. I would not let 
David attend the funeral and, indeed, would never let him come and 
see his mother at any time when she was in great pain and slowly 
dying. I could not bring myself to let him see her suffering. He was 
only nine years old and was happy at school; after the funeral I went 
to his school and told him myself. Perhaps I was wrong, but I did 
what I thought was right. 

After staying with David for a while I went back to my house in 
Portsmouth, which was to have been our home; I remained there 
alone for many days and would see no one. I was utterly defeated. 
I began to search my mind for anything I had done wrong, that I 
should have been dealt such a shattering blow. I could not under 
stand it; my soul cried out in anguish against this apparent injustice. 
I seemed to be surrounded by utter darkness; all the spirit was knocked 
out of me. I had no one to love except David and he was away at 

After a time I began to understand that God works out all these 
things in His own way, and it must be His will; there must therefore 

42 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

be no complaint, however hard it may seem at the time. I had duties 
to others, to my brigade and as the Commander of the Portsmouth 
Garrison. I realised that I must get on with my work. There was also 
David to be considered; we were now alone in the world, just the 
two of us, and he must be visited regularly at his school and well 
cared for in his holidays. 

And so after a few weeks I began to live again. I was much helped 
all this time by my brigade-major, an officer called Major F. W. 
Simpson; he was a tower of strength and took from my shoulders 
everything he could. "Simbo" was my Chief of Staff when I was a 
Corps Commander after Dunkirk, and he became my Vice-Chief when 
I was C.I.G.S. He developed into one of the most able and efficient 
staff officers in the Army. He is now General Sir Frank Simpson, and 
is retired. Helped by Simpson and others like him, I recovered. 

David had been handled in his early years almost entirely by his 
mother and he had at times somewhat resented any interference on 
my part in this procedure. He had a strong will and his mother was 
always defeated by him. Remembering my own boyhood, it was our 
plan that I should become the predominant partner in his upbringing 
when he went to his preparatory school. We had just started on this 
plan and the sparks used to fly when I insisted on obedience; then 
suddenly his mother died. He and I now had to make a new life to 
gether; the old troubles ceased very soon and he transferred his love 
and affection to me. We had some happy holidays together and became 
close friends; he was nine when his mother died and I was fifty. 

My friends were delighted that I began a normal life again and 
some even said that I would marry again. They little knew what they 
were saying. I do not believe a man can love twice, not really, in the 
way I had loved. 

I was now alone, except in the school holidays when David was 
with me, and I plunged into my work again with renewed vigour. 
I made the gth Infantry Brigade as good as any in England and none 
other could compete with us in battle on the training area. We were 
selected to carry out the special exercises and trials needed by the Wai- 
Office in 1937 and 1938, and generally were in the public eye a good 

During the years since the war ended in 1918, 1 had worked under, 
and with, very able officers at the Staff Colleges at Camberley and 
Quetta. By hard and continuous work, and by the experience gained 
in command, I had acquired a certain mastery of my profession; this 
gave me confidence in my ability to be able to handle most situations 
which might come my way. Maybe I was too confident, and showed 
it But I had received many rebuffs and there is no doubt they were 
good for me; they kept me from kicking over the traces too often 
and saved me from becoming too overbearing. I have a feeling that 

Between the Wars 43 

by the time I took over command o the Brigade at Portsmouth in 
1937 the worst was over; I had learnt my lesson and was sailing along 
with a fair wind. 

I had always lived a great deal by myself and had acquired the 
habit of concentration. This ability to concentrate, and to sort out the 
essentials from a mass of detail, was now made easier for me than 
formerly because of the intense loneliness that descended on me after 
my wife s death. I became completely dedicated to my profession. 

During my time at Portsmouth I got into severe trouble with the 
War Office and at one moment things began to look awkward for 
me. It occurred in this way. My Garrison funds were in need of a 
substantial increase because of certain improvements which were 
needed in the welfare services for the married families. I therefore 
decided to let the Clarence Football Field on Southsea Common to a 
Fair promoter for August Bank Holiday week; he offered me 1000 
and I finally closed with him for 1500. The Portsmouth City Coun 
cil heard of my plan and refused to agree to a Fair on Southsea Com 
mon. I then went privately to the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth and 
offered to give him 500 of the money for a pet project which he 
was promoting if he would get my project through the Council; he 
agreed. I concluded the deal, collected the ,1500, gave 500 to 
the Lord Mayor and spent the 1000 quickly on the Garrison welfare 
services. Then the War Office heard about it and pointed out that I 
had broken an Army Regulation in letting War Department land; 
they were prepared to overlook this provided I handed over the 
1500 at once. I replied that the 1500 had been spent; 500 had 
been paid to the Lord Mayor, and 1000 had been spent on the 
welfare of the married families. I produced all the receipts. The fur 
then began to fly. The Major-General i/c Administration Southern 
Command, Salisbury, came to see me and said that this incident had 
mined my chances of promotion in the Army. But General Wavell, 
G.O.C.-in-G* Southern Command, took a different view; he was really 
rather amused that I had improved the Garrison amenities, at the 
expense of the War Office, all square and above board. He backed 
me and kept the file on the move between the War Office and Salis 
bury. The file was growing rather large. Then I was suddenly pro 
moted, and I have never heard any more about that file since. But I 
was "dicky on the perch" for a while. 

In October 1938, after little more than a year at Portsmouth, I was 
ordered to Palestine to take command of the Army units in northern 
Palestine engaged in quelling the Arab rebellion; I was to form them 
into a new division, the 8th Division with headquarters at Haifa. This 
was a task greatly to my liking. I was now a major-general, in spite 
of my misdeeds at Portsmouth. But the journey to Palestine meant 
* General Officer Commanding-in-Chief. 

44 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

leaving David, and some kind friends at Portsmouth took charge of 
him for me. My son had an unsatisfactory life from then onwards, 
since war broke out in 1939 very soon after I had left Palestine. I was 
never able to make a home for him again until 1948. Two main factors 
play the major part in the moulding of personality and character: 
heredity and environment. David had the first one without any doubt; 
he came from a long line of ancestors who served either the church 
or state and did their duty. In environment he was unlucky after his 
mother died. For a few years he often had to spend his holidays in 
laoliday homes for children/ It was not until I went to Africa in 
August 1942 that he was finally placed with Major and Mrs. Reynolds 
at Hindhead, and those two noble people brought him up and helped 
to mould his character while I was away fighting. Major Reynolds was 
headmaster of David s preparatory school at Hindhead; he was an 
old and valued friend of many years standing and from 1942 to 1948 
that school building became David s home and mine. Major Reynolds 
died in 1953; he and his wife were responsible for developing the 
character of many boys on the right lines, and the nation lost in him 
a man of sterling character. I owe them much. And so does David; 
they developed his character in the difficult formative years and cared 
for him as if he was their own son. 

During the winter of 1938-39 while fighting in Palestine, I was 
informed that I had been selected to command the 3rd Division in 
England. This was a regular division, with headquarters on Salisbury 
Plain, and it contained the gth Infantry Brigade which I had com 
manded at Portsmouth before going to Palestine. I was delighted. 
The 3rd Division was port of the British Expeditionary Force to go to 
Continental Europe in the event of war. The war clouds were banking 
up and it looked as if it might begin to rain; it was necessary to ensure 
that our military umbrella was in good condition and that was a task 
I would enjoy. I was to take command of the 3rd Division in August 


But now a crisis arose and in May 1939 I suddenly became very ill; 
I was taken on a stretcher to the military hospital in Haifa and, since 
a patch was found on my lung, it was commonly supposed I had 
contracted tuberculosis. I got no better and finally demanded to be 
sent home to England. I was confident that once I got away from 
the hot and humid climate of Haifa, I should recover. I was sent to 
England in the charge of two nursing sisters and two men nursing 
orderlies, as I was judged to be desperately ill. I was. 

The sea voyage put me right and I walked off the ship at Tilbury 
in good health. I went direct to Millbank Hospital in London and 
asked for a thorough medical overhaul; this took three days and the 
verdict was that nothing was wrong with me. I asked about the 
patch on my lung; it had disappeared. 

Between the Wars ^ 45 

After a period of leave, I went to the War Office and asked if I 
could now go and take over command of the 3rd Division. The war 
clouds had indeed banked up and the Army was about to mobilise. 
I was told that on mobilisation all appointments made previously 
automatically lapsed, and those actually in the jobs remained there. 
The commander of the 3rd Division at the time had been selected as 
a Colonial Governor, and was even to go off to his Colony veiy 
shortly; he was now to remain in command of the division. 

I then said I would return to Palestine and resume command of 
the 8th Division; but the answer was "No," as a new commander had 
taken over that division. I was told I was to go into the pool of 
major-generals waiting for employment. This did not suit me at 
all; Britain was mobilising for war and I was in a pool of officers 
waiting for employment. I pestered the War Office. Eventually the 
general was sent off to take up his Colonial Governorship, a job for 
which he was well fitted and in which he rendered good service. I took 
over the 3rd Division a few days before war was declared. 


Britain Goes to War in 1939 

I HAP taken over command of the 3rd Division on the 28th August. 
Partial mobilisation was then in process and full mobilisation was 
ordered on the ist September, the day on which the Germans 
invaded Poland and an ultimatum was sent to Germany. 

In this chapter I shall confine myself solely to the actions of the 
British Expeditionary Force which went to France soon after the war 
began, and in which I was a Divisional Commander. I know nothing 
about what happened in other theatres during this period, e.g. Norway, 
except what I have heard or read. 

The full story of the transfer of the B.E.F. across the Channel to 
France in September and October, of the first winter of the war, and 
of the operations that began on the loth May 1940 and ended in 
June, has been told in the book entitled The War in France and 
Flanders 1939-1940, by Major L, F. Ellis, and published by the Sta 
tionery Office in 1953. It is a very good publication and the story is 
well told. But it is a large volume and contains a great deal of detail 
which will not be read by the general public. Furthermore, of neces 
sity it omits certain fundamental factors affecting the final issue; to 
raise them will be to place the responsibility for much of what hap 
pened squarely on the shoulders of the political and military chiefs 
in the years before the war. 

In September 1939 the British Army was totally unfit to fight a 
first class war on the continent of Europe. It had for long been con 
sidered that in the event of another war with Germany the British 
contribution to the defence of the West should consist mainly of the 
naval and air forces. How any politician could imagine that, in a 
world war, Britain could avoid sending her Army to fight alongside 
the French passes all understanding. 


Britain Goes to War in 1939 47 

In the years preceding the outbreak o war no large-scale exercises 
with troops had been held in England for some time. Indeed, the 
Regular Army was unfit to take part in a realistic exercise. The Field 
Army had an inadequate signals system, no administrative backing, 
and no organisation for high command; all these had to be improvised 
on mobilisation. The transport was inadequate and was completed on 
mobilisation by vehicles requisitioned from civilian firms. Much of 
the transport of my division consisted of civilian vans and lorries from 
the towns of England; they were in bad repair and, when my division 
moved from the ports up to its concentration area near the French 
frontier, the countryside of France was strewn with broken-down 

The anti-tank equipment of my division consisted of 2-pounder guns. 
The infantry armament against tanks was the 8-inch rifle. Some 
small one-pounder guns on little hand-carts were hurriedly bought 
from the French and a few were given to each infantry battalion. 
Apart from these, a proportion of the 25-pounders of my Divisional 
Artillery was supposed to be used in an anti-tank role, firing solid shot. 

There was somewhere in France, under G.H.Q., one Army Tank 
Brigade. For myself, I never saw any of its tanks during the winter 
or during the active operations in May. And we were the nation 
which had invented the tank and were the first to use it in battle, 
in 1916. 

It must be said to our shame that we sent our Army into that most 
modern war with weapons and equipment which were quite inade 
quate, and we had only ourselves to blame for the disasters which 
early overtook us in the field when fighting began in 1940. 

Who was to blame? In my view, successive British Governments 
between the wars and especially those from 1932 onwards, in which 
year the need for rearmament on a modern scale began to be discussed. 
Until 1938 it never got much beyond the range of discussion, and by 
the spring of 1939 it was still proceeding only on a small scale. Know 
ing the precise situation regarding the British Field Army in France in 
general, and in particular in my division, I was amazed to read in a 
newspaper one day in France in October 1939 the speech of the 
Secretary of State for War (Hore-Belisha) in Parliament when he was 
announcing the arrival of the B.E.F. in France. He gave Parliament 
and the British people to understand that the Army we had just sent 
to France was equipped "in the finest possible manner which could 
not be excelled. Our Army is as well if not better equipped than any 
similar Army." 

Now we must turn to the organisation for command and control in 
the field; in the last resort it is on this that everything depends, given 
adequate equipment and a good standard of training. Owing to the 
speed of operations, with a faulty command set-up all may well be 
lost in modern war. 

48 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

Probably three of the most important officers in the War Office at 
the outbreak of the war were the following. The Chief of the Imperial 
General Staff (Lord Gort), the professional head of the British Army. 
The word "Imperial" was added to the title in 1909; it now has no 
significance. The Director of Military Operations and Intelligence 
( Major-General Henry Pownall), who was responsible for all war 
plans, and for the Intelligence on which they were based. In those days 
one major-general was in charge of both branches, Operations and 
Intelligence; now they have been separated, each under a general 
officer. The Director-General of the Territorial Army (Major-General 
Douglas Brownrigg). This Army had been doubled in March 1939 
by a Cabinet decision taken without the advice or knowledge of 
the C.I.G.S. Gort, who was C.I.G.S. at the time, told me that he 
knew nothing about it until he saw it announced one morning in the 

All of these three officers left the War Office on the day war was 

Gort to become Commander-in-Chicf "] 

Pownall to become Chief of the General Staff t of the B.E.F. 

Brownrigg to become Adjutant-General j 

It is almost unbelievable that such a thing should have been allowed 
to happen. But it did. I understand that the War Office emptied in a 
similar way in 1914. 

It had always been understood in the Army that the G.O.C.-in-C. 
Aldershot Command was the C,-in-C. Designate of any British Army 
to be sent out of the country in war-time, and he was selected accord 
ingly. General Dill was at Aldershot in September 1939, and we all 
thought, and hoped, that ho would get the top command. But rumour 
had it General Ironside had been promised the command in the event 
of war, as some recompense for being passed over by Gort as C.I.G.S.; 
he was at that time Inspector-General of the Overseas Forces, a post 
that does not now exist. I heard a vague rumour that he had actually 
gone to Camberley and had begun to form his G.II.Q. in the buildings 
of Sandhurst a few days before war was declared. These two candi 
dates, Dill and Ironside, must have been astonished when a third 
candidate got the job: Gort, who was C.I.G.S. The Army was certainly 
amazed. And it was even more amazed when Ironside was made 
C.I.G.S., in place of Gort; in May 1940 he was removed from his 

Now let us look at the C.-ta-C. and liis General Headquarters. 
Gort was a most delightful person, a warm-hearted friend, sincere in 
his dealings, and incapable of anything mean or underhand. He was 
the perfect example of the best type of regimental officer; he knew 

Britain Goes to War in 1939 49 

everything there was to know about the soldier, his clothing and 
boots, and die minor tactics of his battlefield. The highest command 
he had ever held before had been an infantry brigade. He was not 
clever and he did not bother about administration; his whole soul 
was in the battle and especially in the actions of fighting patrols in 
no-man s-land. 

Gort established his G.H.Q. in and around Habarcq, the head 
quarters of the various Branches and Services occupying thirteen 
villages covering an area of some fifty square miles. This dispersed 
system called for a cumbersome network of communications. It was 
difficult to know where anyone was and command from the top 
suffered from the very beginning. It was an amazing layout. 

I have always held the opinion that Gort s appointment to command 
the B.E.F. in September 1939 was a mistake; the job was above his 
ceiling. One only has to read his instructions signed by Hore-Belisha, 
and dated 3rd September 1939, to see what he was in for; that 
directive is a pretty fair commentary on the command set-up and it 
would have taxed a much better brain than Gort s to deal with such 
a complicated problem. Furthermore, he was asked to attempt the 
impossible: his Headquarters had to act as a G.H.Q., and at the same 
time had to exercise direct command over the fighting and adminis 
trative forces allotted to him. The instructions to the C.-in-C. are 
given below. 



1. The role of the force under your command is to co-operate 
with our Allies in the defeat of our common enemy. 

2. You will be under the command of the French Commander-in- 
Chief North-East Theatre of Operations/ In the pursuit of 
the common object you will carry out loyally any instructions 
issued by him. At the same time, if any order given by him 
appears to you to imperil the British Field Force, it is agreed 
between the British and French Governments that you should 
be at liberty to appeal to the British Government before 
executing that order. While it is hoped that the need for such 
an appeal will seldom, if ever, arise you will not hesitate to 
avail yourself of your right to make it, if you think fit. 

3. Initially the force under your command will be limited to two 
corps of two divisions with G.H.Q., Corps and L. of C.* Troops 

* Line of Communication. 

Britain Goes to War in 1939 51 

together with a Royal Air Force Component of two bomber, 
four fighter and six Army co-operation squadrons. 

4. It is the desire of His Majesty s Government to keep the British 
Forces under your command, as far as possible, together. If at 
any time the French Commander-in-Chief North-East Theatre 
of Operations* finds it essential for any reason to transfer any 
portion of the British troops to an area other than that in 
which your main force is operating, it should be distinctly 
understood that this is only a temporary arrangement, and 
that as soon as practicable the troops thus detached should 
be reunited to the main body of the British forces. 

5. Whilst die Royal Air Force Component of the Field Force is 
included under your command, the Advanced Air Striking 
Force, which will also operate from French territory, is an 
independent Force under the direct control of the Air Officer 
Commanding-in-Chief, Bomber Command, in the United 
Kingdom. The War Office has nevertheless undertaken the 
maintenance of this Force from the common bases up to rail 
head and for this you, as Commander-in-Chief of die Field 
Force, will be responsible. You are not, however, responsible 
for the protection of the aerodromes or railheads of the Ad 
vanced Air Striking Force. This has been undertaken by the 
French. But should a situation arise which would make it 
necessary for you to assume responsibility for the protection 
of this Force, you will receive instructions from the War 

6. It is realised that you may require air co-operation beyond the 
resources of the Royal Air Force Component of the Field 
Force. Additional assistance may be necessary for the general 
protection of your Force against hostile air attack, for offensive 
air action in furtherance of military operations, or to establish 
local air superiority at certain times. You should apply for 
such assistance when you require it to the Air Officer Com 
manding Advanced Air Striking Force. 

(Signed) Leslie Hore-Belisha" 

Having read these instructions we should look at the command 
set-up in France, given on the opposite page. 

General Gamelin was the Supreme Commander. Th B.E.F. is 
shown as in Army Group No, i, under General Billotte. But the 
instructions to Gort placed him under the direct command of General 
Georges. Here were possibilities of trouble, and they descended on 
the North-Eastern front in full measure. 

Active operations began on the loth May 1940 and on the next 

52 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

day the line-up on die front from Longwy to the sea was as follows 

from south to north: 

General Billotte s Army Group No. i 
Second French Army 
Ninth French Army 
First French Army 

These armies held the front from Longwy northwards through 
Sedan to Wavre. The Ardcnnes-Meuse part of this front was 
held by the Second and Ninth Armies consisting mostly of 
second-grade divisions. The First Army was next to the B.E.F., 
and consisted mostly of first-grade divisions. 

The B.E.F. 

Not under General Billotte, but taking orders direct from 
General Georges. My 3rd Division was the left division of the 
B.E.F., with the Belgian Army on our left. 

The Belgian Army 
Independent, and commanded by the King of the Belgians. 

Seventh French Army (Girmid) 

Included in Army Group No. i and intended by General 
Georges to be held in reserve under him behind the left flank; 
this decision of Georges was correct. But Gamelin decided 
otherwise; he directed that this Army of seven divisions should 
operate forward across Belgium towards Antwerp in order to 
support the Belgian and Dutch forces. It suffered heavy losses 
and ran out of ammunition; it achieved nothing nor could it 
have done so. Its forward move was one of Gamelin s greatest 
mistakes since it unbalanced the whole North-East front. Things 
might have been not so bad as they were had this Army been 
kept in reserve behind the left flank. 

Quite apart from this faulty command set-up, the state of the sig 
nal communications did not tend to make things easier or to facilitate 
command. From the day war was declared the French had insisted 
on such a high degree of wireless silence that little or no practice of 
operators was possible, certainly not with the higher-powered sets. 
The result was that wireless communication within the B.E.F. was 
never efficient; outside the B.E.F. it hardly existed. Because of this, 
inter-communication within the Allied forces was almost entirely by 
civil telephone and this was always "insecure." 

Moreover, G,H,Q. of the B.E,R had never conducted any exer 
cises, either with or without troops, from the time we landed in France 
in 1939 up to the day active operations began in May 1940. The need 

Britain Goes to War in 1939 53 

for wireless silence was given as an excuse; but an indoor exercise 
on the model could easily have been held. The result was a total lack 
of any common policy or tactical doctrine throughout the B.E.F.; 
when differences arose these differences remained, and there was no 
firm grip from the top. 

On the 12th May it was agreed that the operations of the B.E.F. 
and of the Belgian Army would be "co-ordinated" by General Billotte 
on behalf of General Georges. This co-ordination never amounted to 
effective command of all the forces involved. In battle this is vital. 
General Billotte disappeared on the 2ist May, seriously injured in a 
motor accident, and died two days later. There was then nobody to 
co-ordinate French, British and Belgian operations. After three days 
delay General Blanchard of the First French Army was finally ap 
pointed to succeed Billotte; but it was then too late. 

The civil telephone was still the main channel of communication, 
supplemented by liaison officers and visits by Commanders and their 
staffs. From the i6th May onwards the German advance began to cut 
the land lines, and telephone communications ceased on that day 
between Supreme H.Q. (Gamelin) and H.Q. North-East Front 
(Georges). From the same date all direct communication ceased be 
tween General Georges and Army Group No. i (Billotte). Also, from 
the 17th May Gort had no land telephone lines to the Belgian H.Q. 
on his left, the First French Army on his right, and H.Q. North-East 
Front (Georges) behind. 

In fact, it may be said that there was no co-ordination between the 
operations of the Belgians, the B.E.F., and the First French Army; the 
commanders of these armies had no means of direct communication 
except by personal visits. 

Gort s plan was to go forward with a small Advanced H.Q. when 
active operations began, leaving his Main H.Q. at Arras. As time went 
on, more and more officers said it was essential that they should be 
at the Advanced H.Q.; this soon became so big that the project was 
dropped. The final plan was to have a small Command Post well 
forward. Since signal communications were so inadequate, the Com 
mand Post could be set up only at places few and far between 
where the international buried cable system came to the surface. 
There was also, naturally, a lack of security. The traffic consequently 
thrown on the wireless was too great for the few available sets to 
handle. And the size of the Command Post grew and grew. 

Finally, there was a breakdown in the Intelligence organisation. 
On the isth May the French began to be in difficulties on the right of 
the B.E.F. The break-through by the Germans had occurred on the 
front of the Ninth French Army, and G.H.Q. had no liaison officer 
at that H.Q. such as they had with the First French Army immediately 
on the right of the B.E.F. Anyhow, G.H.Q. was not given details 

54 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

about the break-through at once. It was clear that G.H.Q (Intel 
ligence) was not getting proper information from the French about 
the situation either of their own troops or of the enemy. An amazing 
decision was now taken. On the i6th May Gort took the head of 
his Intelligence Staff ( Major-General Mason-MacFarlane) and put him 
in command of a small force to protect the right rear of the B.E.F., 
and the general took with him a senior staff officer of his department 
as his GSO i for the force (Lieut-Colonel Gerald Templer). There 
after Gort was often without adequate information of the enemy. 
Overall, the distribution of staff duties between G.H.Q. and the 
Command Post was badly organised from the very beginning; the 
staff plan was amateur and lacked the professional touch. 

Enough has been said to show that from the point of view of 
command and control of the forces available in France in May 1940, 
the battle was really almost lost before it began. The whole business 
was a complete "dog s breakfast." 

Who must bear the chief blame? Obviously General Gamelin. He 
was Supreme Commander and, as such, was responsible. He did 
nothing to put it right. But I would also blame the British Chiefs of 
Staff. They should never have allowed the British Army to go into 
battle with such a faulty command set-up. It is clear that Gort and his 
Chief of Staff were also greatly to blame; knowing the hopeless 
organisation of the high command, they should have organised G.H.Q. 
in a more professional way. I never myself thought very much of the 
staff at G.H.Q. Nobody in a subordinate command ever does! 

My own divisional area was south of Lille. My operational task 
was to work on defences which were being undertaken in order to 
prolong the Maginot Line behind the Belgian frontier. Until the 
loth May Belgium was a strictly neutral country. Apart from the 
defensive tasks, I concentrated on training the division for the active 
operations which I was certain must come. My soul revolted at what 
was happening, France and Britain stood still while Germany swal 
lowed Poland; we stood still while the German, armies moved over to 
the West, obviously to attack t/s later on; we waited patiently to be 
attacked; and during all this time we occasionally bombed Germany 
with leaflets. If this was war, I did not understand it. 

I well remember the visit of Neville Chamberlain to my division; 
it was on the i6th December 1939. He took me aside after lunch and 
said in a low tone so that no one could hear: "I don t think the 
Germans have any intention of attacking us. Do you?" 

I made it quite clear that in my view the attack would come at the 
time of their own choosing; it was now winter and we must get ready 
for trouble to begin when the cold weather was over. 

The 3rd Division certainly put that first winter to good use and 
ttained hard. If the Belgians were attacked, we were to move forward 

Britain Goes to War in 1939 55 

and occupy a sector astride Louvain behind the River Dyle. I trained 
the division for this task over a similar distance moving westwards, 
i.e. backwards into France. We became expert at a long night move, 
and then occupying a defensive position in the dark, and by dawn 
being fully deployed and in all respects ready to receive attack. This 
is what I felt we might have to do; and it was. 

My Corps Commander was General Brooke (now Lord Alan- 
brooke). We had been instructors together at the Staff College and 
I knew him well. I had, and retain, a great liking and an enormous 
admiration and respect for him. I consider he is the best soldier that 
any nation has produced for very many years. I never worried him 
about things that didn t matter, and so far as I can remember I never 
asked him a question after he had given his orders even in the middle 
of the most frightful operational situations; there was never any need 
to ask questions since all his orders and instructions were very clear. 
He handled me very well in that he gave me a completely free hand 
as regards carrying out his orders. He saved me from getting into 
trouble on several occasions before the war ended, and always backed 
me when others wanted to "down" me. At times he would get angry 
and I received quite a few "backhanders" from him; but I would take 
anything from him and I have no doubt I deserved all I got. 

During the winter G.H.Q. arranged for divisions to send infantry 
brigades in turn down to the active front in the Saar, holding positions 
in front of the Maginot Line in contact with the German positions in 
the Siegfried Line. I went down there in January 1940 to visit one of 
my brigades and spent a few days having a look round. That was my 
first experience in the war of the French Army in action; I was seri 
ously alarmed and on my return I went to see my Corps Commander, 
and told him of my fears about the French Army and what we might 
have to expect from that quarter in the future. Brooke had been down 
there himself and had formed the same opinion. 

The popular cries in the Maginot Line were: Ils ne passer ont pas 
and On les aura. 

But the general attitude did not give me any confidence that either 
of these two things would happen. Brooke and I agreed not to talk 
about it to our subordinates; I believe he discussed the matter with 

I got into serious trouble during that first winter of the war. It 
happened in this way. After a few months in France the incidence of 
venereal disease in the 3rd Division gave me cause for alarm. To stop 
it I enlisted the aid of the doctors and even the padres; but all efforts 
were unsuccessful and the figures increased. Finally I decided to write 
a confidential letter to all subordinate commanders in which I analysed 
the problem very frankly and gave my ideas about how to solve it. 
Unfortunately a copy of the letter got into the hands of the senior 

56 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

chaplains at G.H.Q., and the Commander-in-Chief (Gort) was told 
of my action. My views on how to tackle the problem were not con 
sidered right and proper and there was the father-and-mother of a 
row. They were all after my blood at G.H.Q. But my Corps Com 
mander (Brooke) saved me by insisting on being allowed to handle 
the matter himself. This he did in no uncertain manner and I received 
from him a proper backhander. He said, amongst other things, that 
he didn t think much of my literary effort Anyhow it achieved what 
I wanted, since the venereal disease ceased, 

I do not propose to describe in any detail the operations of tihe 
3rd Division in the campaign which began on the loth May 1940. 
But certain episodes arc of interest. The first task we had to perform 
was exactly what I had expected; it was to move forward and occupy 
a sector on the River Dyle astride Louvain. The division executed the 
movement perfectly. The sector on the Dyle was occupied by a Belgian 
division, which was not at that moment in contact with the Germans. 
When the Belgian soldiers woke up on the morning of the nth May 
they found a British division doubled-up with them in the sector; we 
had arrived quietly and efficiently during the night, the Belgians 
being mostly asleeppresumably because there were no Germans 
about. I went to see the Belgian general, asked him to withdraw 
his division, and allow me to hold the front; he refused and said he 
had received no orders to that effect; furthermore, only Belgian troops 
could hold the ancient city of Louvain. The Germans were approach 
ing and the Belgian Army on the line of the Albert Canal in front 
was falling back fast; there were too many troops in the sector and 
I therefore withdrew my division into reserve behind the Belgian 
division. I decided that the best way to get the Belgians out and my 
division in was to use a little flattery. So I told the Belgian General 
that it was essential to have one responsible commander in the sector 
and it must be the general whose division was holding the front; 
I would therefore place myself under his orders. He was delighted! 
The news got to G.H.Q. and there was terrific consternation; my 
Corps Commander came to sec me. But I told him not to wony as 
I was about to get the Belgians out> and I would then be in front and 
be the responsible commander. When the Germans came within 
artillery range and shelling began I had no difficulty in taking over 
the front from the Belgian division; it moved into reserve and then 
went northwards and joined up with the main body of the Belgian 

It was during this campaign that I developed the habit of going to 
bed early, soon after dinner, I was out and about on the front all day 
long, saw all my subordinate commanders, and heard their problems 
and gave decisions and verbal orders. I was always back at my 
Divisional H.Q. about tea-time, and would see my staff and give 

Britain Goes to War in 1939 57 

orders for the night and next day. I would then have dinner and go 
to bed, and was never to be disturbed except in a crisis. I well re 
member how angry I was when I was woken up one night and told 
the Germans had got into Louvain. The staff officer was amazed when 
I said: "Go away and don t bother me. Tell the brigadier in Louvain to 
turn them out" I then went to sleep again. 

The story of the withdrawal of die B.E.F., the desperate fighting 
that took place, and the final evacuation from Dunkirk and its beaches, 
has been told many times. My division did everything that was de 
manded of it; it was like a ship with all sails set in a rough sea, 
which rides the storm easily and answers to the slightest touch on the 
helm. Such was my 3rd Division. There were no weak links; all the 
doubtful commanders had been eliminated during the previous six 
months of training. The drasion was like a piece of fine steel. I was 
intensely proud of it 

I think the most difficult operation we had to do was on the 2/th 
May when I was ordered to side-step the division to the left of the 
British front and fill a gap which had opened between the soth Divi 
sion and the Belgians. It involved a night move of the whole division 
within a couple of thousand yards of the 5th Division front, where a 
fierce battle had been raging all day and was still going on. If this 
move had been suggested by a student at the Staff College in a scheme, 
he would have been considered mad. But curious things have to be 
done in a crisis in war. The movement was carried out without a hitch 
and the gap was filled by daylight on the 28th May. Imagine my 
astonishment to learn at dawn on the 2,8th May that the King of the 
Belgians had surrendered the Belgian Army to the Germans at mid 
night on the 27th May, i.e. while I was moving my division into the 
gap! Here was a pretty pickle! Instead of having a Belgian Army on 
my left I now had nothing, and had to do some rapid thinking. 

During the operations the food situation became difficult and the 
whole B.E.F. was put on half -rations. It made little difference. The 
civil population were mostly moving out, leaving their farms; we 
lived on the country, giving requisition forms to mayors of villages 
when they could be found. We never were short of meat as my 
R.A.S.C.* used to requisition beef cattle and take it along with the 
division; "beef ration on the hoof." 

The last headquarters of the 3rd Division before it moved into 
the final Dunkirk bridgehead was in a portion of the Abbaye de S, 
Sixte, at Westvleteren in Belgium. I still had all my kit with me, 
and some interesting papers which were not secret but which I did 
not want to lose; I also had a very good lunch basket. So I asked 
the Abbot, Fr. M. Rafael Hoedt, if he could look after a few things 
for me; possibly they could be buried in the garden. He agreed to 
* Royal Army Service Corps. 

58 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

take a small box, and my lunch basket, and he had them bricked up 
into a wall of the abbey in a very clever manner. I told him we would 
return to Belgium in due course, and then I would come for my 
possessions. When we liberated Belgium in September 1944, the 
Abbot wrote to me and said he had my belongings ready for me; 
they had remained safely in their hiding-place and had never been dis 
covered by the Germans. I will always be grateful to the Abbot and 
his brave band of monks for their kindness in those days. They little 
knew the risks they were running; nor did I at that time. It is clear 
to me now that I should not have asked them to hide my belongings, 
which, in point of fact, were only of sentimental value to myself. 


G.H.Q. went to La Panne on the 28th May and remained there 
till the end. That place was chosen because the submarine cable to the 
U.K. entered the sea there; in consequence good telephone conversa 
tion was possible to Dover and London to the last. My 3rd Division 
moved into its position on the left of the Dunkirk bridgehead on the 
night 2Qth-30th May. We held the line of the canal between Fumes 
and Nieuport. My H.Q. were in the sand-dunes on the outskirts of 
La Panne. G.H.Q., or what was left of it, was in a house on the 
sea-front; it now consisted only of Gort himself and a few staff 

On the morning of the soth May, Brooke came to see me at my 
H.Q. in the sand-dunes. He told me he had been ordered to get back 
to England; he was terribly upset. We were great friends and I did 
my best to comfort him, saying it was clearly essential to get our best 
generals out of it as quickly as possible since there were many years of 
war ahead; if we were all to be lost, at least lie must be saved. He then 
told me that I was to take command of his corps, the 2nd Corps. This 
surprised me as I was the junior major-general in the corps, Brooke 
left for England that evening, 

Lord Gort held a final conference at his H.Q. on the sea-front that 
afternoon, the 3Oth May, to give his orders. Since I was now com 
manding the 2nd Corps, I attended. This was the first time I had 
seen him since the fighting began on the loth May. My H.Q. was 
quite near and I went along and had a talk with him before the con 
ference assembled; he was alone in the dining-room of the house 
and looked a pathetic sight, though outwardly cheerful as always. His 
first remark to me was typical of the man: "Be sure to have your 
front well covered with fighting patrols tonight." 

At the conference he read us the telegram containing the final 
instructions of the Government. The instructions were as follows: 

Britain Goes to War in 1939 59 

"Continue to defend the present perimeter to the utmost in order 
to cover maximum evacuation now proceeding well* Report every 
three hours through La Panne. If we can still communicate we 
shall send you an order to return to England with such officers 
as you may choose at the moment when we deem your command 
so reduced that it can be handed over to a Corps Commander. 
You should now nominate this Commander. If communications 
are broken you are to hand over and return as specified when your 
effective fighting force does not exceed the equivalent of three 
divisions. This is in accordance with correct military procedure 
and no personal discretion is left you in the matter. On political 
grounds it would be a needless triumph to the enemy to capture 
you when only a small force remained under your orders. The 
Corps Commander chosen by you should be ordered to carry on 
the defence in conjunction with the French and evacuation 
whether from Dunkirk or the beaches, but when in his judgment 
no further proportionate damage can be inflicted on the enemy 
he is authorised in consultation with the senior French Com 
mander to capitulate formally to avoid useless slaughter." 

It is commonly supposed that at this final conference Gort "nomi 
nated" Major-General H. R. L. G. Alexander to command after he 
himself had left. This is not so; moreover, Alexander himself was not 
even present at the conference. I will describe what actually happened. 

The two Corps Commanders at the conference were Lieut-General 
M. G. H. Barker, ist Corps, and myself, who had just taken over 
command of 2nd Corps. Barker had been given command of ist 
Corps when Dill returned to England in April to become Vice-Chief 
of the Imperial General Staff. 

Gort s plan was based on the War Office telegram, and he ordered 
that I was to withdraw 2nd Corps the next night, 3ist May/ ist June, 
and that the ist Corps would then be left in final command. He in 
formed Barker that as a last resort he would surrender himself, and 
what remained of his corps, to the Germans. The conference then 
broke up. I stayed behind when the others had left and asked Gort 
if I could have a word with him in private. I then said it was my view 
that Barker was in an unfit state to be left in final command; what was 
needed was a calm and clear brain, and that given reasonable luck 
such a man might well get ist Corps away, with no need for anyone to 
surrender. He had such a man in Alexander, who was commanding 
the ist Division in Barker s corps. He should send Barker back to 
England at once and put Alexander in command of the ist Corps. 
I knew Gort very well; so I spoke very plainly and insisted that this 
was the right course to take. 

Gort acted promptly. Barker was sent off to England and I never 

60 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

saw him again. Alexander took over the ist Corps. The two corps 
were now commanded by two major-generals and we met the next 
day in La Panne to discuss the situation; we were both confident 
that all would be well in the end. And it was; "Alex" got everyone 
away in his own calm and confident manner. 

On the evening of the soth May I held a conference of the divisional 
commanders of the 2nd Corps and gave out my orders for the with 
drawal and evacuation from the beaches on the next night, the 3ist 
May. It was very unpleasant in La Panne that evening and shells were 
bursting all round the house in which I held the conference. I ordered 
that any men who could not be embarked from the beaches were to 
move along the beach to Dunkirk and get on board ships in the 

The next night I withdrew the 2nd Corps. The situation on the 
beaches was not good, for some of the improvised piers we had made 
began to break up; many had to walk to Dunkirk. While standing 
on the beach, my A.D.C. was wounded in the head by a splinter of 
shell. I cursed him soundly for not wearing his steel helmet, quite 
forgetting that I was not wearing one myself as he pointed out! He 
was Charles Sweeny, in the Ulster Rifles; he was with me for much 
of the war and was killed right at the end, in Germany. He was a 
delightful Irish boy and I loved him dearly. In the end we ourselves 
walked along the beach to Dunkirk, some five or six miles away, 
together with Brigadier Ritchie (now General Sir Neil Ritchie) and 
my batman. We got there at dawn -and embarked on a destroyer, 
landing in Dover on the morning of the ist June. 


I have already said that the appointment of Gort to command the 
B.E.F. was a mistake. I have never departed from that view, and 
am still of the same opinion today. 

The first point to understand is that the campaign in France and 
Flanders in 1940 was lost in Whitehall in the years before it ever 
began, and this cannot be stated too clearly or too often. One might 
add after Whitehall the words "and in Paris/* Therefore the situation 
called for two almost super-men from the British Army: one as 
C.I.G.S., and one to command the B.E.F* The two actually selected 
were Ironside and Gort, and in my opinion both appointments were 
unsuitable. Furthermore, these two appointments were not made till 
war was declared; this, of course, was monstrous. 

Gort then was faced with an almost impossible task. He faced it 
bravely and did his best; but, as we have seen, much that should have 
been done was not done. I would say myself that he did not choose 

Britain Goes to War in 1939 61 

his staff wisely; they were not good enough. He was a man who did 
not see very far, but as far as he did see he saw very clearly. When the 
crisis burst on the French and British armies, and developed in ever- 
increasing fury, he was quick to see that there was only one end to it: 
the French would crack and he must get as much of the British Army 
as he could back to England. Planning for the evacuation via Dunkirk 
was begun at G.H.Q., so far as I am aware, about the 2ist May. There 
after, Gort never wavered; he remained steady as a rock, and refused 
to be diverted from what he knew was the only right and proper 
course. When General Billotte disappeared on the 2ist May and co 
ordination broke down, Gort acted not on any definite orders but on 
what he considered to be his proper action in the spirit of the co 
ordination agreement. His action, as time went on, was more and 
more tempered by another consideration: his duty to H.M. Govern 
ment at home as being responsible for the safety of the B.E.F. And 
at the last moment he threw out Barker and put in Alexander to 
command the ist Corps and take charge of the final evacuation. 

It was because he saw very clearly, if only for a limited distance, 
that we all got away at Dunkirk. A cleverer man might have done 
something different and perhaps tried to swing back to the Somme, 
keeping touch with the French. If he had done this, the men of the 
B.E.F. might have found themselves eventually in French North 
Africa without weapons and equipment. 

Gort saw clearly that he must, at the least, get the men of the B.E.F, 
back to England with their personal weapons. For this I give him 
full marks and I hope history will do the same. He saved the men of 
the B.E.F. And being saved, they were able to fight again another 
day: which they did to some purpose, as the Germans found out. 


The Army in England After Dunkirk 

I ARRIVED in London on the evening of the ist June and went the 
next morning to the War Office to report myself to the CXG.S.: 
Jack Dill, an old friend. 

He was despondent and said: "Do you realise that for the first 
time for a thousand years this country is now in danger of invasion?" 

I had had a good night s sleep in a hotel and was feeling very full 
of beans. I laughed. This made Dill angry and he asked what there 
was to laugh about. I said that the people of England would never 
believe we were in danger of being invaded when they saw useless 
generals in charge of some of the Home Commands, and I gave him 
some examples. He could not but agree, but he ticked me off for 
speaking in such a way at such a time in our misfortunes, and said that 
remarks of that kind could only cause a loss of confidence. My answer 
was that plain speaking between the two of us, alone in his office, 
could do no harm. Again he agreed. But flic next day I received a 
letter telling me to stop saying such things, which of course I obeyed; 
but one by one the useless generals disappeared. 

Although I had been a Corps Commander at Dunkirk, I asked to 
be allowed, and was permitted, to go back to my 3rd Division, to 
reform it and get it ready for what lay ahead. 

The officers and men of the B.E.F. were now back in England, less 
many brave men who sacrificed themselves that the majority should 
get away. Except for personal weapons our armament and equipment 
was mostly left behind in France. 

There was in England sufficient transport and armament to re-equip 
one division completely, and no more. It was decided to give it to the 
3rd Division and to get that division ready to go back across the 


The Army in England After Dunkirk 63 

Channel and join up with the small British forces which were still 
fighting with tie French Army. This was a great compliment, although 
I don t think any of us had any delusion about what we might be in 
for a second time. However, Brooke was to be the new C,-in-C. and 
we of the 3rd Division were prepared to go anywhere under his 

We reformed in Somerset, received our new equipment, and were 
all ready to start back across the Channel by the middle of June. Then 
France capitulated on the i/th June. 

My division was then ordered to move to the south coast; we 
were to occupy a sector of the coast which included Brighton and the 
country to the west of it, and to prepare that area for defence against 
invasion which was considered imminent. So we moved to the south 
coast and descended like an avalanche on the inhabitants of that area; 
we dug in the gardens of the seaside villas, we sited machine-gun 
posts in the best places, and we generally set about our job in the way 
we were accustomed to do things in an emergency. The protests 
were tremendous. Mayors, County Councillors, private owners, came 
to see me and demanded that we should cease our work; I refused, 
and explained the urgency of the need and that we were preparing 
to defend the south coast against the Germans. 

The real trouble in England in the early days after the fall of 
France was that the people did not yet understand the full significance 
of what had happened, and what could happen in the future. The fact 
that the B.E.F. had escaped through Dunkirk was considered by 
many to be a great victory for British arms. I remember the disgust 
of many like myself when we saw British soldiers walking about in 
London and elsewhere with a coloured embroidered flash on their 
sleeve with the title "Dunkirk." They thought they were heroes, and 
the civilian public thought so too. It was not understood that the 
British Army had suffered a crushing defeat at Dunkirk and that our 
island home was now in grave danger. There was no sense of urgency. 
Churchill was to bring it home to the nation in words that rang and 
thundered like the Psalms. The spirit was there all right but it needed 
a Winston Churchill to call it forth. 

It was in that summer of 1940 on the south coast, near Brighton, 
that I first met Winston Churchill and his wife. We were to become 
great friends as the war went on, and today I regard him as chief 
among all my friends. Before proceeding with my story I would like 
to describe that first meeting, as my thoughts often return to it and 
he and I have often recalled it. 

My Divisional Headquarters were near Steyning, in a house lying 
to the north of the downs. I was told the Prime Minister wished to 
spend the afternoon of die 2nd July with my division; he would 
arrive by car and I was to finish the tour in Brighton, so that he could 

64 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

return to London by train in the evening. I was not impressed by 
politicians in those days; I considered that they were largely respon 
sible for our troubles. But I was keen to see this politician who had 
for many years before the war been telling a series of Governments 
what would happen; they had not listened, and now it had happened. 

He arrived with Mrs. Churchill, as she then was, and some others, 
one of whom was Duncan Sandys. I have never discovered what 
Churchill thought of me that day; I know I was immensely impressed 
by him. I showed him all that was possible in the time. I took him 
to Lancing College, inhabited by the Royal Ulster Rifles, and showed 
him a counter-attack on the small airfield on the coast below which 
was assumed to have been captured by the Germans; he was delighted, 
especially by the action of the Bren-gtm carrier platoon of the bat 
talion. We then worked our way along the coast, finishing up in 
Brighton at about 7.30 p.m. He suggested I should have dinner with 
him and his party at the Royal Albion Hotel, and we talked much 
during the meal. He asked me what I would drink at dinner and I 
repliedwater. This astonished him. I added that I neither drank nor 
smoked and was 100 per cent fit; he replied in a flash, that he both 
drank and smoked and was 200 per cent fit. This story is often told 
with embellishments, but the above is the true version. From the 
window of the dining-room we could see a platoon of guardsmen 
preparing a machine-gun post in a kiosk on Brighton pier, and ho 
remarked that when at school near there ho used to go and sec the 
performing fleas in the kiosk. Then we talked about my problems. 
The main thing which seemed curious to me was that my division 
was immobile. It was the only fully equipped division in England, 
the only division fit to fight any onomy anywhere. And hero we were 
in a static role, ordered to dig in on the south coast* Some other 
troops should take on my task; my division should be given buses, 
ami be held in mobile reserve with a counter-attack role. Why was I 
left immobile? There were thousands of buses in England; lot them 
give me some, and release me from this static role so that I could 
practise a mobile counter-attack role. The Prime Minister thought this 
was the cat s whiskers. I do not know what the War Office thought; 
but I got my buses. 

The planners were now getting busy in Whitehall and various 
schemes were being considered. When it came to deciding which 
troops would carry out these wild-cat schemes, the answer was always 
the same: it must be the 3rd Division since there was no other forma 
tion yet ready for active operations. And so the planners decided as 
a first step that I must be ready to take my division overseas to seize 
the Azores; this was duly worked out, models of the islands were 
prepared, and detailed plans worked out for the operation. 

The Army in England After Dunkirk 65 

Then I was told it was not to be the Azores, but the Cape Verde 
Islands. Then after much work, I was told to prepare plans for the 
seizure of Cork and Queenstown in Southern Ireland, so that the 
harbour could be used as a naval base for the anti-submarine war in 
the Atlantic. I had already fought the Southern Irish once, in 1921 and 
1922, and it looked as if this renewed contest might be quite a party 
with only one division. 

None of these plans came to anything and I imagine that any work 
we did on them is tucked away in a cupboard in the War Office 
which is labelled "war babies." I have seen that cupboard. It seemed 
curious to me that anyone in his senses could imagine that, at a time 
when England was almost defenceless, the Prime Minister would 
allow to leave England the only division he had which was fully 
equipped and fit to fight in battle. 

In July 1940 I was promoted to command the $th Corps and from 
that time begins my real influence on the training of the Army then 
in England. By this I mean that the 5th Corps gave a lead in these 
matters which had repercussions far beyond the corps area of Hamp 
shire and Dorset In April 1941 1 was transferred to command the 12th 
Corps in Kent, which was the expected invasion corner of England; 
and in December 1941 1 was promoted to command the South-Eastern 
Army which included the counties of Kent, Surrey and Sussex. So the 
ideas and the doctrine of war, and training for war, which began as far 
west as Dorset, gradually spread along the south of England to the 
mouth of the Thames. 

Let us examine those ideas; this is important for understanding, 
since it was the same doctrine which I carried with me to Africa in 
1942, to Sicily and Italy in 1943 and to Normandy in 1944. In fact, 
what happened in the various commands I held in England during 
the two years after Dunkirk was the basis of success in all that hap 
pened in the long journey from Alamein to Berlin. 

As time went on and my experience in command increased, so I 
was able to practise and confirm my ideas and to be ready when the 
call came to command the Eighth Army in August 1942. And I had 
served during those two years under some splendid officers, who had 
taught me much. In the 5th Corps I first served under Auchinleck, 
who had the Southern Command; I cannot recall that we ever agreed 
on anything. However, he soon went off as C.-in-C. in India and I 
then served in turn under Alexander and Paget; and Brooke was 
either C.-in-C. Home Forces or C.I.G.S. All these three were 
great friends and I held them all in high regard: as men and as 

The first point I tackled was the question of fitness: physical and 
mental. The Army in England was not fit and it must be made so. 

66 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

I often used to recall the lines of Kipling in his preface to Land and 
Sea Tales: 

"Nations have passed away and left no traces, 
And history gives the naked cause of it- 
One single, simple reason in all cases; 
They fell because their peoples were not fit." 

Training in the 5th Corps was ordered to be hard and tough; it 
must be carried out in all conditions of weather and climate; in rain, 
snow, ice, mud, fair weather or foul, at any hour of the day or night 
we must be able to do our stuff better than the Germans. If they 
could only fight well in fine weather and in daylight, and we could 
fight with the maximum efficiency in any weather and at any time of 
the day or night, then we would beat them. All training was to be 
organised to lead up to exercises at the higher level, and all exercises 
were to be staged in an imaginative way. The large-scale exercises 
from the divisional level upwards must be designed to ensure that 
commanders, staffs and troops wore capable of continuous and sus 
tained operations over prolonged periods, and that all responsible 
echelons understood how to organise the twenty-four hours so that 
this would be possible. 

Commanders and staff officers at any level who couldn t stand the 
strain, or who got tired, wore to be weeded out and replaced ruth 

Total war demanded total fitness from the highest to the lowest. 
As always happens, once active operations finished the paper work 
increus<xl and staff officers and clerks became tied to offices. I ordered 
that at every headquarters the whole staff, officers and men, would 
turn out on one* afternoon each week and do a seven-mile run. This 
applied to everyone under forty, and there would be no exception; 
those who didn t want to run the whole course could walk and trot, 
but they must go round the course even if they walked the whole 
way. There were many protests; but they all did it, even those over 
forty, and they enjoyed it in the end some of them. I remember die 
case of a somewhat stout old colonel who went to the doctor and 
said if he did the run it would kill him; the doctor brought him to 
sec me with a recommendation that he should be excused. I asked 
him if he truly thought he would die if he did the run; he said yes, 
and I saw a hopeful look in his eye. I then said that if he was thinking 
of dying it would be better to do it now, as he could be replaced easily 
and smoothly; it is always a miisancc if officers die when the battle 
starts and things arc inclined to be hectic. His state of health was 
clearly not very good, and I preferred him to do the run and die. 
He did the run and so far as I know he is still alive today* 

There was an urgent need to get rid of the "dead wood* which 

The Army in England After Dunkirk 67 

was hampering the initiative of keen and efficient young officers. 
There were old retired officers called up from the reserve; there were 
many inefficient regular officers from majors upwards who had never 
seen a shot fired in action and didn t want to. All these had to be 
weeded out and I made it my business to do so. I visited every unit 
and got to know all the senior officers and many of the junior ones; 
one by one the inefficient and lazy departed. 

A struggle took place over wives. It was the custom for wives and 
families of officers to accompany units, and live in the towns and 
villages on the coast where invasion was expected at any time. I 
ordered that all wives and families were to leave at once; they were 
not allowed to live in the area of divisions that had an operational 
role in repelling invasion. I gave my reasons, which were as follows. 

Invasion by the Germans was considered to be probable and we 
were all preparing to meet and defeat it. If an officer s wife and family 
were present with him in or near his unit area, and the attack came, 
an officer would at once be tempted to see to their safety first and to 
neglect his operational task; he would be fearful for their safety, 
amid all the shelling and bombing of the battle, and his thoughts 
would be with them rather than on the priority task of defeating the 
Germans. I was told that a good officer would never give a single 
thought to his wife and family in such conditions; his whole mind 
would be on the battle. I said that I did not believe it Anyhow, 
human nature was weak and I was not prepared to let an officer be 
tempted to fail in his duty. The whole future of England, and indeed 
civilisation, was at stake; I would remove temptation and then there 
would be no doubt. Moreover, since the men could not have their 
families with them, the officers shouldn t either. The wives must go. 
And they did. 

The command level was particularly important. A sense of urgency 
had to be instilled into officers and men and that precluded second- 
raters in command at any level. The unfit and incompetent had to be 

On the staff it was essential to ensure a standard of absolute service 
and technical efficiency. In fact, throughout the whole Army there 
was the definite necessity for physical and mental fitness, and for 
technical efficiency in the business of the conduct of battle. 

The first prerequisite at all levels were commanders who knew 
their stuff and who were determined in spite of all the difficulties to 
get their own way in the conditions which obtained in those very 
difficult days. So far as I was concerned, encouragement of the young 
at any level played a big part. 

There were certain dangers against which we had to guard. There 
was some danger that the staff might once again find themselves in 
the same position vis-&-vi$ the regimental officer as in the 1914-1918 

68 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

war. There was a danger that the administrative echelons and units 
might accept the position of being the weaker vessels and decide that 
fighting was not their business. Fighting was the business of everyone 
and all must be trained to fight; that was my philosophy and I 
preached it unceasingly. 

There was a danger that the few fighting units we had in the Army 
in England might think that the country and the British Army had 
"had it" (to use an expression dating I believe from this period) and 
that the Germans were invincible. 

Lastly, there was a real danger that after the comparative rigours 
of the Dunkirk campaign, the survivors would sink back into the 
bosoms of their families and pay too much attention to the question 
of personal comfort and amenities. On this subject I laid down that 
while officers and men were not allowed to have their wives and 
families with them, they were to have leave in the normal way so that 
they could visit their families as often as possible. Also that while 
training was to be hard and tough, when it was over the troops were 
to return to good billets and good food, with good facilities for hot 

And so slowly but gradually a sense of urgency was instilled into 
the Army in England, and officers and men began to understand what 
it was all about and to see the need for all these things. We gradually 
got everyone on their toes after Dunkirk. 

Some of the training exercises I organised and staged were harder 
and tougher than anything previously known in England. They were 
held in conditions of intense cold in the middle of winter, or in the 
heat of summer. When officers and men were exhausted, and com 
manders and staffs tired out, operational problems would flare up 
again with new situations developing in unexpected quarters. I re 
member one particular exercise very well, carried out in South-East 
England, in the spring of 1942. It was called "Exercise TIGER" and was 
the kst exercise I directed before I went to Africa later that year. It 
was during that exercise that I first met Eisenhower; he was a major- 
general and had been sent over from the U.S.A. with some other 
generals to see what was going on. He wrote his name in my auto 
graph book; the date was the a/th May 1942. 

I found myself in disagreement with the general approach to the 
problem of the defence of Britain and refused to apply it in my corps 
area, and later in the South-Eastern Army. The accepted doctrine was 
that every inch of tihe coastline must be defended strongly, the defence 
being based on concrete pill-boxes and entrenchments on a linear basis 
all along the coastline. 

There was no depth in the defensive layout and few troops available 
for counter-attack. Inland, "stop lines * were being dug all over Eng- 

The Army in England After Dunkirk 69 

land; when I asked what troops were available to man the stop lines 
I could get no clear answer. There were no troops. 

My approach was different. I pulled the troops back from the 
beaches and held them ready in compact bodies in rear, poised for 
counter-attack and for offensive action against the invaders. After a 
sea crossing, troops would not feel too well and would be suffering 
from reaction; that is the time to attack and throw the invader back 
into the sea. 

On the beaches themselves all I would allow was a screen of 
lightly equipped troops, with good communications and sufficient 
firepower to upset any landing and cause it to pause. 

My whole soul revolted against allowing troops to get into trenches 
and become "Maginot-minded"; any offensive action would then be 
out of the question, and once the linear defensive system was pierced 
it would all disintegrate. My idea of the defence was that it must be 
like a spider s web; wherever the Germans went they must encounter 
fresh troops who would first subject them to heavy fire and would 
then attack them. 

I rebelled against the "scorched earth * policy which had advocates 
in Whitehall; their reasoning was that as the Germans advanced inland 
towards London, so we would burn and destroy the countryside as 
we retreated. I said we would not retreat, nor would the Germans 
advance inland. Thus confidence in our ability to defeat the Germans 
was built up, at any rate in the area under my command. 

In fact I set out to produce troops who were imbued with that 
offensive eagerness and infectious optimism which comes from physical 
well-being. And whenever I inspected any unit I used to make the 
men remove their steel helmets: not, as many imagined, to see if they 
had their hair properly cut, but to see if they had the light of battle 
in their eyes. 

In 1942 the organisation of raiding operations on enemy coasts was 
one of the functions of Combined Operations Headquarters, die head 
of which was Admiral Mountbatten. In April 1942 the staff of that 
headquarters began work on a plan to raid Dieppe; I was made re 
sponsible for the Army side of the planning since I was then com 
manding the South-Eastern Army, from which the troops for the raid 
were to come. It was decided that the 2nd Canadian Division would 
carry out the raid, and intensive training was begun. The troops were 
embarked on the 2nd and 3rd July, and the raid was to take place on 
the 4th or one of the following days. Once embarked the troops were 
fully briefed, and were then "sealed" in their ships. The weather was 
unsuitable for launching the enterprise on the night of the 3rd July, 
and remained unsuitable till the 8th July the last day on which con 
ditions would permit it The troops were then disembarked and dis- 

70 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

persed to their camps and billets. All the troops had been fully 
informed of the objective of the raid and of the details connected with 
it; it was reasonable to expect that it was now a common subject of 
conversation in billets and pubs in the south of England, since nearly 
5000 Canadian soldiers were involved as well as considerable numbers 
of sailors and airmen. Once all this force was "unsealed" and dis 
persed, I considered the operation was cancelled and I turned my 
attention to other matters. 

But Combined Operations Headquarters thought otherwise; they 
decided to revive it and got the scheme approved by the British Chiefs 
of Staff towards the end of July. When I heard of this I was very upset; 
I considered that it would no longer be possible to maintain secrecy. 
Accordingly I wrote to General Pagct, C.-in-C. Home Forces, telling 
him of my anxiety, and recommending that the raid on Dieppe should 
be considered cancelled "for all time." If it was considered desirable 
to raid the Continent, then the objective should, not be Dieppe. This 
advice was disregarded. On the loth August I left England to take 
command of the Eighth Army in the desert. 

The raid was carried out on the igth August and we received the 
news about it that night, when the Prime Minister was staying with 
me at Eighth Army H.Q. 

The Canadians* and the Commandos working with them, fought 
magnificently, so did the Navy. But the Canadians lost heavily. The 
official history of the Canadian Army has the following remarks: 

"At Dieppe, from a force of fewer than 5000 men engaged for 
only nine hours, the Canadian Army lost more prisoners than in 
the whole cloven months of the later campaign in North-West 
Europe*, or the twenty months during which Canadians fought in 
Italy. Sadder still was the loss in killed; the total of fatal casualties 
was 56 officers and 851 other ranks. Canadian casualties of all 
categories aggregated 3369." 

Nearly 2000 of the total casualties were prisoners of war. Certain 
modifications had been introduced into the revived plan. The most 
important were first, the elimination of the paratroops and their 
replacement by commando units; secondly, the elimination of any 
preliminary bombing of the defences from the air. I should not myself 
have agreed to either of these changes. Commando units, if thought 
necessary, should have been an addition to, and not a replacement of, 
the paratroops; the demoralisation of the enemy defence by prelimi 
nary bombing was essential (as was done in Normandy in 1944) just 
before the troops touched down on the beaches. 

My own feeling about the Dieppe raid is that there were far too 
many authorities with a hand m it; there was no one single operational 
commander who was solely responsible for the operation from start 

The Army in England After Dunkirk 71 

to finish, a Task Force Commander in fact Without doubt the lessons 
learnt there were an important contribution to the eventual landing 
in Normandy on the 6th June 1944. But the price was heavy in killed 
and prisoners. I believe that we could have got the information and 
experience we needed without losing so many magnificent Canadian 

Early in August 1942 a large-scale exercise was to be held in Scot 
land and General Paget, then C.-in-C. Home Forces, suggested I 
should go up with him to see it. I was delighted to have an opportunity 
to see what other troops were doing and travelled north with Paget in 
"Rapier/* the C.-in-C/s special train (which I was myself to use in 
1944). Then things began to happen: one after another, and fast. On 
the second day of the exercise the War Office telephoned me to return 
to London at once; I was to take over Command of the First Army from 
Alexander, and begin work under Eisenhower on the plans for the 
landing in North Africa which was to take place in November 1942, 
under the code name TORCH. It was explained to me that Alexander 
had already gone to Egypt to become C.-in-C. Middle East; a brigadier 
would meet me in London and explain the situation. I returned to 
London at once, met the brigadier, who did not impress me, and then 
went to the War Office. I was there given more details and was told 
that the first thing I must do was to get Eisenhower to make a plan 
for the operation; time was getting on and the Chiefs of Staff could 
not get Eisenhower to produce his plan. The whole thing did not 
sound very good to me; a big invasion operation in North Africa in 
three months* time, and no plan yet made. Eisenhower I had barely 
met; I knew very few American soldiers and did not know how my 
methods would appeal to him. The crisis of the war was approaching 
and great events were to unfold. I was confident of being able to 
handle any job successfully if I was allowed to put into practice the 
ideas and methods that had become my military creed, and which by 
now I was convinced would bring us success in battle against the 
Germans. I returned to my Headquarters at Reigate hoping for the 
best; anyhow, I had now been two years in England and it was time 
to move on. 

The next morning (the 8th August) as I was shaving at about 7 a.m., 
the War Office telephoned and said the orders given me the previous 
day about the First Army and Operation TORCH were cancelled; I was 
to hold myself ready to proceed to Egypt at once to take command 
of the Eighth Army in the desert. 

Alexander was already in Egypt and I would be serving under him. 
I was told later in the morning that Gott had been selected to com 
mand the Eighth Army but he had been killed, and I was to take his 
place. " 

Instead of carrying out an invasion of North Africa under a C.-in-C. 

72 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

whom I barely knew, I was now to serve under a G-in-C. I knew well 
and to take command of an Army which was at grips with a German 
and Italian Army under the command of Rommel of whom I had 
heard great things. This was much more to my liking and I felt I could 
handle that business, and Rommel. 

It was true that I had never fought in the desert and I would have 
under me some very experienced generals who had been out there a 
long time. However, Rommel seemed to have defeated them all, and 
I would like to have a crack at him myself. 

I was particularly glad that Alexander was to be my C.-in-C., as 
I knew that we would get on well together. 

So it was with a light heart and great confidence that I made prepa 
rations for going to Africa. I was disturbed about my son David. 
When he was born I had entered him for Harrow, my father s school. 
But when the time came to send him to a public school in 1942 I 
decided against it; Harrow was too near London and the boys often 
had to sleep in the shelters. Instead I had sent him to Winchester. 
Some friends had suggested he should go to Canada with their boys; 
I declined the invitation; I wanted him in England, At the moment 
he was staying with friends for his summer holidays. I took a very 
quick decision and wrote to Major Reynolds, the headmaster of his 
former preparatory school, and asked if he and his wife would take 
charge of David for me, receive him into their family, and look after 
him till I returned from the war. I left for Africa before I received 
their reply but I had no fears; they took David in and treated him as 
their own son, I never saw him to say goodbye. 

Since I had few belongings, my preparations for leaving England 
had been very simple. Everything I possessed had been destroyed by 
enemy bombing in Portsmouth in January 1941. I was now going to 
be given the opportunity to get my own back on the Germans. 

A story is told by Sir Winston Churchill in The Hinge of Fate (Book 
Two, Chapter 3) about my departure: 

"Montgomery started for the airfield with Ismay, who thus had 
an hour or more to give him the background of these sudden 
changes. A story alas, not authenticated has been told of this 
conversation. Montgomery spoke of the trials and hazards of a 
soldier s career. He gave his whole life to his profession, and lived 
long years of study and self-restraint. Presently fortune smiled, 
there came a gleam of success, he gained advancement, opportu 
nity presented itself, he had a great command. He won a victory, 
he became world-famous, his name was on every lip. Then the 
luck changed. At one stroke all his life s work flashed away, per 
haps through no fault of his own, and he was flung into the endless 
catalogue of military failures. But,* expostulated Ismay, you 

The Army in England After Dunkirk 73 

ought not to take it so badly as all that. A very fine Army is 
gathering in the Middle East. It may well be that you are not 
going to disaster/ What! cried Montgomery, sitting up in the 
car. What do you mean? I was talking about Rommel! " 

Alas, not authenticated! I had not seen Ismay for many weeks when 
I left for Africa, and he did not go with me to fhe airfield. 

I left England by air on the night of the loth August and reached 
Gibraltar at dawn the next morning. We stayed at Gibraltar all that 
day and left in the evening of the nth August for Cairo. During the 
journey I pondered over the problems which lay ahead and reached 
some idea, at least in outline, of how I would set about the business. 


My Doctrine of Command 

I WAS leaving England to exercise high command in the field. The 
work and experience of many years were about to be put to the 
test. But I have not yet explained the general principles of com 
mand which had gradually evolved in my mind during the past years 
and which I had preached as far back as 1934 when Chief Instructor 
at the Quetta Staff College. It is my firm belief that these principles of 
command and leadership were the biggest factor in achieving such 
success as came. 

Although there is much to explain about my doctrine of command 
it can l>c summed up in one word: leadership. 

In his Memoirs, Harry Truman says he learned from a study of 
history that "a leader is a man who has the ability to get other people 
to do what they don t want to do, and like it" 

Leadership may be too complex for such a brief definition. On the 
other hand the word is often used somewhat loosely without its full 
meaning being understood. My own definition of leadership is this: 
"The capacity and the will to rally men and women to a common 
purpose, and the character which inspires confidence/ 

Merely to have the capacity is not enough; the leader must be willing 
to use it. His leadership is then based on truth and character; there 
must be truth in the purpose and will-power in the character. 

The need for truth is not always realised. A leader must speak the 
truth to those under him; if he does not they will soon find it out and 
then their confidence in him will decline* I did not always tell all the 
truth to the soldiers in the war; it would have compromised secrecy, 
and it was not necessary. 

I tolcl them all they must know for the efficient carrying out of their 


My Doctrine of Command 75 

tasks. But what I did tell them was always true and they knew it; that 
produced a mutual confidence between us. The good military leader 
will dominate the events which surround him; once he lets events get 
the better of him he will lose the confidence of his men, and when 
that happens he ceases to be of value as a leader. 

When all is said and done the leader must exercise an effective 
influence, and the degree to which he can do this will depend on the 
personality of the manthe "incandescence" of which he is capable, 
the flame which burns within him, the magnetism which will draw 
the hearts of men towards him. What I personally would want to 
know about a leader is: 

Where is he going? 

Will he go all out? 

Has he the talents and equipment, including knowledge, experi 
ence and courage? Will he take decisions, accepting full re 
sponsibility for them, and take risks where necessary? 

Will he then delegate and decentralise, having first created an 
organisation in which there are definite focal points of decision 
so that the master plan can be implemented smoothly and 

The matter of "decision" is vital. The modern tendency is to avoid 
taking decisions, and to procrastinate in the hope that things will 
come out all right in the wash. The only policy for the military leader 
is decision in action and calmness in die crisis: no bad doctrine for 
the political leader either. 

I hold the view that the leader must know what he himself wants. 
He must see his objective clearly and then strive to attain it; he must 
let everyone else know what he wants and what are the basic funda 
mentals of his policy. He must, in fact, give firm guidance and a dear 
lead. It is necessary for him to create what I would call "atmosphere," 
and in that atmosphere his subordinate commanders will live and work. 

I have known commanders who considered that once their plan was 
made and orders issued, they need take no further part in the pro 
ceedings, except to influence the battle by means of their reserves. 
Never was there a greater mistake. The modern battle can very quickly 
go off the rails. To succeed, a C.-in-C. must ensure from the beginning 
a very firm grip on his military machine; only in this way will his 
force maintain balance and cohesion and thus develop its fall fighting 
potential. This firm grip does not mean interference, or cramping the 
initiative of subordinates; indeed, it is by the initiative of subordinates 
that the battle is finally won. The firm grip is essential in order that 
the master plan will not be undermined by the independent ideas of 
individual subordinate commanders at particular moments in the 
battle. Operations must develop within a predetermined pattern of 

76 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

action. If this is not done the result will be a compromise between 
the individual conceptions of subordinates about how operations 
should develop; alternatively, operations will develop as a result of 
situations created by subordinate action and in a way which does not 
suit the master plan. A third alternative is that the initiative might 
pass to the enemy. The master plan must never be so rigid that the 
C.-in-C. cannot vary it to suit the changing tactical situation; but 
nobody else may be allowed to change it at will and, especially, not 
die enemy. 

It is essential to understand the place of the "conference" when 
engaged on active operations in the field. By previous thought, by 
discussion with his staff, and by keeping in close touch with his 
subordinates by means of visits, a commander should know what he 
wants to do and whether it is possible to do it. If a conference of his 
subordinates is then necessary, it will be for the purpose of giving 
orders. He should never bring them back to him for such a conference; 
he must go forward to them. Then nobody looks over his shoulder. 
A conference of subordinates to collect ideas is the resort of a weak 

It is a mistake to think that once an order is given there is nothing 
more to be done; you have got to see that it is carried out in the spirit 
which you intended. Once he has decided on his outline plan and 
how he will carry it out, the commander should himself draft the 
initial operational order or directive, and not allow his staff to do so. 
His staff and subordinates then begin their more detailed work, and 
this is based on the written word of die commander himself. Mistakes 
are thus reduced to a minimum, This was my method, beginning from 
the clays when I commanded a battalion. 

No leader, however great, can long continue unless he wins victories. 
The battle decides all. How docs one achieve success in battle? 

In Sir Winston Churchill s study of Marlborough we note that: 

*Thc success of a commander does not arise from following 
rules or models. It consists in an absolutely new comprehension 
of the dominant facts of the situation at the time, and all the forces 
at work. Every great operation of war is unique. What is wanted 
is a profound appreciation of the actual event. There is no surer 
road to disaster than to imitate die plans of bygone heroes and fit 
them to novel situations." 

In battle, die art of command lies in understanding that no two 
situations are ever the same; each must be tackled as a wholly new 
problem to which there will be a wholly new answer. 

I have always held the view that an army is not merely a collection 
of individuals, with so many tanks, guns, machine-guns, etc., and that 
the strength of the army is not just the total of all these tilings added 

My Doctrine of Command 77 

together. The real strength of an army is, and must be, far greater 
than the sum total of its parts; that extra strength is provided by 
morale, fighting spirit, mutual confidence between the leaders and the 
led and especially with the high command, the quality of comrade 
ship, and many other intangible spiritual qualities. 

The raw material with which the general has to deal is men. The 
same is true in civil life. Managers of large industrial concerns have 
not always seemed to me to have understood this point; they think 
their raw material is iron ore, or cotton, or rubber not men but com 
modities. In conversation with them I have disagreed and insisted 
that their basic raw material is men. Many generals have also not fully 
grasped this vital matter, nor understood its full implications, and that 
is one reason why some have failed. 

An army must be as hard as steel in battle and can be made so; 
but, like steel, it reaches its finest quality only after much preparation 
and only provided the ingredients are properly constituted and handled. 
Unlike steel, an army is a most sensitive instrument and can easily 
become damaged; its basic ingredient is men and, to handle an army 
well, it is essential to understand human nature. Bottled up in men 
are great emotional forces which have got to be given an outlet in a 
way which is positive and constructive, and which warms the heart 
and excites the imagination. If the approach to the human factor is 
cold and impersonal, then you achieve nothing. But if you can gain the 
confidence and trust of your men, and they feel their best interests 
are safe in your hands, then you have in your possession a priceless 
asset and the greatest achievements become possible. 

The morale of the soldier is the greatest single factor in war and the 
best way to achieve a high morale in war-time is by success in battle. 
The good general is the one who wins his battles with the fewest pos 
sible casualties; but morale will remain high even after considerable 
casualties, provided the battle has been won and the men know it was 
not wastefully conducted, and that every care has been taken of the 
wounded, and the killed have been collected and reverently buried 

Some think that morale is best sustained when the British soldier 
is surrounded by N.A.A.FJ.S,* clubs, canteens, and so on. I disagree. 
My experience with soldiers is that they are at their best when they 
are asked to face up to hard conditions. Men dumped in some out-of- 
the-way spot in the desert will complain less of boredom, because they 
have to shift for themselves, than those surrounded by a wide choice 
of amenities. The creation of the Welfare State in Britain after the 
Second World War led too many to think that social security and 
individual prosperity were the only things worth while. But this is 
not so. If man wants prosperity he must work for it or else go without 
it. He won t get it merely by voting for it The British soldier when 
* Navy, Army and Air Force Institute. 

78 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

properly led responds to a challenge and not to welfare benefits. Man 
does not live by bread alone. The soldier has to be kept active, alert, 
and purposeful all the time. He will do anything you ask of him so 
long as you arrange he gets his mail from home, the newspapers, and, 
curiously enough, plenty of tea. He then likes to know what is going 
on in the battle area and what you require him to do. He gets anxious 
if his home town is bombed and he cannot get any news about his 
girl, or his wife and children; that is one reason why letters and papers 
are so important. He leads a most unpleasant life in war. He will put 
up with this so long as he knows that you are living in relatively much 
the same way; and he likes to see the C.-in-C. regularly in the forward 
area, and be spoken to and noticed. He must know that you really 
care for him and will look after his interests, and that you will give 
him all the pleasures you can in the midst of his discomforts. 

It is essential to understand that all men arc different. The miners 
from Durham and Newcastle, the men from the Midlands, the Cock 
neys, the farmers from the West Country, the Scot, the Welshman- 
all are different. Some men are good at night; others prefer to fight in 
daylight. Some arc best at the fluid and mobile battle; others are more 
temperamentally adapted to the solid killing match in close country. 
Therefore all divisions are different In the 1914-18 war if ten divisions 
were needed for an offensive, the staff would take the ten most easily 
assembled. But a division develops an individuality of its own, which 
the higher commmander must study and thus learn the type of battle 
each is best at. Once I had grasped this essential fact of difference, 
I used to match the troops to the job; having studied the conditions 
of any particular battle which was impending, I would employ in it 
divisions whose men were best suited to those conditions, and preferred 

It is exactly the same with generals; all arc different. Some will 
handle well a mobile battle; others are best at the set-piece. Generals 
must also be matched to the job. In fact, I spent a great deal of time 
in consideration of this human problem; I always tused for each job in 
the master plan the general and the troops best fitted for that particular 
task. As a result each battle was already half -won before it ever began, 
because of the quality of my weapon vifrd-vis that of the enemy who, 
as far as I could discover, did not work on the same philosophy* 

The next point, still a human one, is the selection of commanders. 
Probably a third of my working hours were spent in the consideration 
of personalities. In dealing with subordinates, justice and a keen sense 
of fairness are essential as also is a full measure of human coasidera- 
tion, I kept command appointments in my own hand, right down to 
and including the battalion or regimental level. Merit, leadership, and 
ability to do the job, were the sole criteria; I made it my business to 
know all commanders, and to insist on a high standard. Good senior 

My Doctrine of Command 79 

commanders once chosen must be trusted and "backed" to the limit. 
Any commander is entitled to help and support from his immediate 
superior; sometimes he does not get it, a factor to be taken into account 
if the man fails. If, having received the help he might normally expect, 
a man fails then he must go. It is sometimes thought that when an 
officer is promoted to the next higher command, he needs no teaching 
in how to handle it. This is a great mistake. There is a tremendous 
difference between a brigade and a division, between a division and a 
corps; when an officer got promotion, he needed help and advice in 
his new job and it was up to me to see that he got it. 

Every officer has his "ceiling" in rank, beyond which he should not 
be allowed to rise particularly in war-time. An officer may do well 
when serving under a first class superior. But how will he shape when 
he finds himself the boss? It is one thing to be merely an adviser, with 
no real responsibility; it is quite another tiling when you are the top 
man, responsible for the final decision. A good battalion commander 
does not necessarily make a good brigadier, nor a good divisional 
general a good corps commander. The judging of a man s ceiling in the 
higher ranks is one of the great problems which a commander must 
solve, and it occupied much of my time. The same problem must arise 
in civil life. 

It is clear that my whole working creed was based on the fact that 
in war it is "the man" that matters. Commanders in all grades must 
have qualities of leadership; they must have initiative; they must have 
the "drive" to get things done; and they must have the character and 
ability which will inspire confidence in their subordinates. Above 
all, they must have that moral courage, that resolution, and that deter 
mination which will enable them to stand firm when the issue hangs 
in the balance. Probably one of the greatest assets a commander can 
have is the ability to radiate confidence in the plan and operations even 
(perhaps especially) when inwardly he is not too sure about the out 
come. A C.-in-C. or Army Commander must therefore be a good judge 
of men, and be able to have the right men in the right places at the 
right times. 

To work on this philosophy as regards all those under your com 
mand, you must watch your own morale carefully. A battle is, in 
effect, a contest between two willsyour own and that of the enemy 
general. If your heart begins to fail you when the issue hangs in the 
balance, your opponent will probably win. 

It is absolutely vital that a senior commander should keep himself 
from becoming immersed in details, and I always did so. I would 
spend many hours in quiet thought and reflection in thinking out the 
major problems. In battle a commander has got to think how he will 
defeat the enemy. If he gets involved in details he cannot do this since 
he will lose sight of the essentials which really matter; he will then be 

80 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

led off on side issues which will have little influence on die battle, 
and he will fail to be that solid rock on which his staff can lean. Details 
are their province. No commander whose daily life is spent in the con 
sideration of details, and who has not time for quiet thought and 
reflection, can make a sound plan of battle on a high level or conduct 
large-scale operations efficiently. 

This principle applies equally in civil life and especially in Govern 
mental affairs. I often think that the principle is not understood and 
applied by Cabinet Ministers, and by others who work in the Govern 
mental machine. Many politicians holding high Governmental posts 
might well have the following inscribed on their tombstones when 
they die: 

*Here lies a man who died of exhaustion brought about by pre 
occupation with detail. He never had time to think because he 
was always reading papers. He saw every tree, but never the whole 

On the operational side a C.-in-C. must draw up a master plan for 
the campaign he envisages and he must always think and plan two 
battles ahead the one he is preparing to fight and the next one so that 
success gained in one battle can be used as a spring-board for the next. 
He has got to strive to read the mind of his opponent, to anticipate 
enemy reactions to his own moves, and to take quick steps to prevent 
enemy interference with his own plans. lie has got to be a very clear 
thinker and able to sort out the essentials from the mass of factors 
which bear on every problem. If ho is to do these things he must be 
abstemious and not be a heavy smoker, or drink much, or sit up late 
at night He must have an ice-clear brain at all times. For myself, I do 
not smoke and I drink no alcohol of any sort; this is purely because 
I dislike both tobacco and alcohol, and therein I am lucky because I 
believe one is in far better health without them. In general, I consider 
that excessive smoking and drinking tend to cloud the brain; when 
men s lives are at stake tins must never be allowed to happen, and it 
does happen too often. You cannot win battles unless you ore feeling 
well and full of energy. 

The plan of operations must always be made by the commander 
and must not be forced on him by his staff, or by circumstances, or by 
the enemy. He has got to relate what is strategically desirable with 
that which is tactically possible with the forces at his disposal; if this 
is not done he is unlikely to win. What is possible, given a bit of luck? 
And what is definitely not possible? That is always the problem. The 
plan having been made, there will be much detailed work to be done 
before the operation is launched; this detailed work must be done by 
the staff. The commander himself must stand back and have time to 
think; his attention must be directed to ensuring that the basic founda- 

My Doctrine of Command 81 

tions and corner-stones of the master plan are not broken down by the 
mass of detail which will necessarily occupy the attention of the staff. 
If all these things are to be done successfully, a good Chief of Staff is 
essential. Fifty years ago a general could co-ordinate himself the work 
of his staff; today he cannot do so and must not try. The first piece of 
advice I would give any senior commander is to have a good Chief of 
Staff; I always did. 

The commander must decide how he will fight the battle before it 
begins. He must then decide how he will use the military effort at his 
disposal to force the battle to swing the way he wishes it to go; he 
must make the enemy dance to his tune from the beginning, and never 
vice versa. To be able to do this, his own dispositions must be so 
balanced that he can utilise but need not react to the enemy s move 
but can continue relentlessly with his own plan. The question of 
balance" was a definite feature of my military creed. Another feature 
was "grouping," i.e. seeing that each corps, which has to fight the 
tactical battle, is suitably composed for its task. Skill in grouping 
before the battle begins, and in re-grouping to meet the changing 
tactical situation, is one of the hall-marks of generalship. 

A commander must be very thorough in making his tactical plan; 
once made, he must be utterly ruthless in carrying it out and forcing 
it through to success. 

Before the battle begins an Army Commander should assemble all 
commanders down to the lieutenant-colonel level and explain to them 
the problem, his intention, his plan, and generally how he is going to 
fight the battle and make it go the way he wants. This practice is very 
necessary; if every unit commander in the army knows what is wanted, 
then all will fight the more intelligently and cohesion will be gained. 
Unit commanders must, at the right moment and having due regard 
to secrecy, pass on all relevant information to the regimental officers 
and men. Every single soldier must know, before he goes into battle, 
how the little battle he is to fight fits into the larger picture, and 
how the success of his fighting will influence the battle as a whole. 

The whole army then goes into battle knowing what is wanted and 
how it is to be achieved. And when the troops see that the battle has 
gone exactly as they were told it would go, the increase in morale and 
die confidence in the higher command is immense and this is a most 
important factor for the battles still to come. 

The troops must be brought to a state of wild enthusiasm before 
the operation begins. They must have that offensive eagerness and 
that infectious optimism which comes from physical well-being. They 
must enter the fight with the light of battle in their eyes and definitely 
wanting to kill the enemy. In achieving this end, it is the spoken word 
which counts, from the commander to his troops; plain speech is far 
more effective than any written word. 

82 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

Operational command in the battle must be direct and personal, by 
means of visits to subordinate H.Q. where orders are given verbally. 
A commander must train his subordinate commanders, and his own 
staff to work and act on verbal orders. Those who cannot be trusted 
to act on dear and concise verbal orders, but want everything in 
writing, are useless. There is far too much paper in circulation in the 
Army, and no one can read even half of it intelligently. 

Of course a commander must know in what way to give verbal 
orders to his subordinates. No two will be the same; each will require 
different treatment. Some will react differently from others; some will 
be happy with a general directive whilst others will like more detail. 
Eventually a mutual confidence on the subject will grow up between 
the commander and his subordinates; once this has been achieved 
there will never be any more difficulties or misunderstandings. 

Command must be direct and personal. To this end a system of 
liaison officers is valuable during the battle; I have always used such 
a system from the days when I was commanding an infantry brigade. 
It is essential to understand that battles are won primarily in the 
hearts of men. When Britain goes to war the ranks of her armed forces 
are filled with men from civil life who are not soldiers, sailors, or air 
men by profession: and who never wanted to be. It must be realised 
that these men are very different from the soldiers and sailors of the 
Boer War era, or even of the 1914 period. The young man today reads 
the newspapers. He goes to the cinema and sees how people live and 
behave in other countries; he has the radio and television; his visual 
world is therefore extensive and he can now measure his everyday 
environment in a way which was impossible in the Victorian era. He 
is daily taking in information and relating it to himself. 

He can think, he can appreciate, and ho is definitely prepared to 
criticise. He wants to know what is going on, and what you want him 
to do and why, and when. He wants to know that in the doing of it his 
best interests will be absolutely secure in your hands, 

If all these things axe understood by the military loader, and he acts 
accordingly, he will find it is not difficult to gain the trust and con 
fidence of such men* The British soldier responds to leadership in a 
most remarkable way; and once you have won his heart he will follow 
you anywhere. 

Finally, I do not believe that today a commander can inspire great 
armies, or single units, or oven individual men, and lead them to 
achieve great victories, unless he has a proper sense of religious truth; 
he must be prepared to acknowledge it, and to lead his troops in the 
light of that truth. He must always keep his finger on the spiritual 
pulse of his armies; he must be sure that the spiritual purpose which 
inspires thorn is right and true, and is clearly expounded to one and 
all. Unless he does this, he can expect no lasting success. For all loader- 

My Doctrine of Command 83 

ship, I believe, is based on the spiritual quality, the power to inspire 
others to follow; this spiritual quality may be for good, or evil. In 
many cases in the past this quality has been devoted towards personal 
ends, and was partly or wholly evil; whenever this was so, in the end 
it failed. Leadership which is evil, while it may temporarily succeed, 
always carries within itself the seeds of its own destruction. 

This is only a short explanation of a very big subject And I realise, 
of course, that it is very dogmatic. I have tried to state briefly, to boil 
down, what I believe to be the essence of the matter. But it may be 
enough to enable the reader to appreciate better what lay at the back 
of my mind when I arrived in Cairo on the morning of the lath August 


Eighth Army 

My Thoughts During the Flight to Egypt 

I WAS taking with me the military creed which I have just outlined. 
But how to apply it? 
The topography of North Africa was different from that to which 
I had been used. I had always been interested in the relationship 
between geography and strategy; this of course has to be carried a 
stage lower, and a relationship established between topography and 
the actual conduct of operations. As I understood it the objective was 
Tripoli, the next large port westwards from Alexandria. There were 
several small ports in between such as Tobruk, Benghazi, and other 
smaller ones. The country generally between Alamein and Tripoli 
was flat desert but three points of interest concerning it were upper 
most in my mind. 

Ftrrt The one metalled or tarmac road, which hugged the coast 
the whole way to Tripoli. This road was clearly a main supply axis, 
from port to port; but it was also an axis of main movement for forces. 

Second-The Jebel Akhdur (The Green Mountains), a hilly area 
lying roughly between Tobruk and Benghazi which was sometimes 
referred to as the Cyrenaica "bulge" or more usually as simply "the 

This was clearly an important area but in previous campaigns it 
had usually been outflanked. If held strongly, with forces trained to 
attack southwards from it, it would be a valuable feature to possess 
and could not be by-passed. 

Third The Agheila position, usually referred to by the Germans as 
Mersa Brega. This was an area of soft sand and salt pans at the south 
ernmost point of the Gulf of Sirte, and stretching inland to the south 
for many miles. There were only a few tracks through this sand sea, 


Eighth Army 85 

and so long as Rommel held the area he could hold up our advance, 
or alternatively could debouch at will against us. Our advance had 
taken us up to the Agheila position in February 1941 and again in 
early 1942; but on neither occasion had we been able to capture and 
to occupy the position in strength, and since March 1941 it had re 
mained in Rommel s possession. 

My thinking on topography left me with the conviction that the 
four main features that I must work into my plans were: the coast 
road to Tripoli, the ports along the coast, the Jebel between Tobruk 
and Benghazi, and die Agheila position. In my flight from Gibraltar 
to Cairo I was circling this very territory; the direct route was not 
safe for an aircraft flying alone and we took a detour to the south by 
night, to hit the Nile well south of Cairo in the early dawn. 

The next point in my thinking concerned the forces which would be 
available to me, and how best to relate them to this topography. 

From what I read and heard, Rommel s forces consisted of holding 
troops who manned static defence positions and held vital areas of 
ground, and mobile troops for counter-attack and to form the spear 
head of offensives. The holding forces consisted largely of Italians and 
were mostly unarmoured; the mobile forces were German and for the 
greater part armoured. The corps d&lite was the Panzer Army consist 
ing of i$th Panzer Division, 2ist Panzer Division, and goth Light 

I came to the conclusion that the Eighth Army must have its own 
Panzer Army a corps strong in armour, well equipped, and well 
trained. It must never hold static fronts; it would be the spearhead of 
our offensives. Because of the lack of such a corps we had never done 
any lasting good. The formation of this corps of three or four divisions 
must be a priority task. 

Then there was the question of morale. From what I had learnt 
the troops had their tails down and there was no confidence in the 
higher command. This would have to be put right at once, but until 
I had actually got the feel of things myself I could not decide how 
to set about it. 

These thoughts, and many others, passed through my mind on the 
journey and when I landed in Egypt the problem was beginning to 
clarify in my mind. I was confident that the answers to the problems 
would come to me once I got to real grips with them. 

I was not looking forward to my meeting with Auchinleck. I had 
heard certain things about his methods of command and knew that I 
could never serve happily under him. I also considered that he was a 
poor picker of men. A good judge of men would never have selected 
General Corbett to be his Chief of Staff in the Middle East. And to 
suggest that Corbett should take command of the Eighth Army, as 
Audhinleck did, passed all comprehension. 

86 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

Again, nobody in his senses would have sent Ritchie to succeed 
Cunningham in command of the Eighth Army; Ritchie had not the 
experience or qualifications for the job and in the end he had to be 
removed too. Later, after he had gained experience in command of a 
division and a corps, Ritchie did very well in the campaign in North- 
West Europe; he was put into an impossible position when he was 
sent to command the Eighth Army. 

On the 5th August 1942 the Prime Minister (Mr. Churchill) had 
visited General Auchinleck at H.Q, Eighth Army in the desert. 
Churchill was on his way to Moscow. Auchinleck had assumed direct 
command of the Eighth Army after he had relieved Ritchie of this 
command, and was also C.-in-C. Middle East. The Prime Minister was 
accompanied by the C.I.G.S. (Brooke). The general situation was 
investigated and it was pointed out to Auchinleck that he could not 
go on commanding the Middle East and also Eighth Army; he himself 
must return to G.H.Q. in Cairo and someone else must command the 
Eighth Army. Auchinleck agreed with Brooke s proposal that I should 
come to Egypt and command the Eighth Army. 

Field-Marshal Smuts was in Cairo at the time and the matter was 
discussed with him later that day. The Prime Minister and Smuts both 
favoured Gott, who had made a great name for himself in the desert 
and who was strongly backed by general opinion in the Middle East. 

On the 6th August the Prime Minister sent a telegram to the War 
Cabinet regarding the changes he proposed to make. These included 
the splitting-otf of Persia and Irak from the Middle East Command, the 
replacement of Auchinleck by Alexander, and the assignment of 
the command of the Eighth Army to Gott. But Gott was shot down in 
an aircraft and killed on the 7th August and next day I was ordered 
to take command. On the same day Brigadier Jacob (now Sir Ian 
Jacob of the B.B.C.) took a letter from the Prime Minister to General 
Auchinleck at H.Q, Eighth Army in the desert telling him he was to 
be relieved of his command. On the 9th August, Alexander arrived 
in Cairo and met Axtehinleck, who had by then come in from the 
desert, having handed over acting command of the Eighth Army to 
General Ramsclen, the commander of 30 Corps. 

It is now clear to me that the appointment of Gott to command 
the Eighth Army at that moment woxild have been a mistake. I had 
never met him; he was clearly a fine soldier and had done splendid 
work in. the desert. But from all accounts he was completely worn 
out and needed a rest. He himself knew this. He said to a mutual 
friend: "I am very tared. Also we have tried every club in the bag 
and have failed. A new brain is wanted out here on this job; it s an 
old job but it needs a new brain* If they want me to do it I will try. 
But they ought to get someone else, a new man from England." 

I arrived at an airfield outside Cairo early on the i2th August. I was 

Eighth Army 87 

met and taken to the Mena House Hotel near the Great Pyramid, 
where General Auchinleck had a room; there I had a bath and break 
fast, and was then driven to Middle East H.Q. in Cairo. I arrived there 
soon after 10 a.m. and was taken straight to see Auchinleck. It was 
very hot and I was wearing service dress as in England; I had seut 
my AJD.C. off to buy some desert kit. 

Auchinleck took me into his map-room and shut the door; we were 
alone. He asked me if I knew he was to go. I said that I did. He then 
explained to me his plan of operations; this was based on the fact that 
at all costs the Eighth Army was to be preserved "in being" and must 
not be destroyed in battle. If Rommel attacked in strength, as was 
expected soon, the Eighth Army would fall back on the Delta; if Cairo 
and the Delta could not be held, the army would retreat southwards 
up the Nile, and another possibility was a withdrawal to Palestine. 
Plans were being made to move the Eighth Army H.Q. back up the 

I listened in amazement to this exposition of his plans. I asked one 
or two questions, but I quickly saw that he resented any question 
directed to immediate changes of policy about which he had already 
made up his mind. So I remained silent. 

He then said I was to go down to the desert the next day and spend 
two days at Eighth Army H.Q., getting into the picture and learning 
the game. He was himself still commanding the Eighth Army, and he 
had ordered Ramsden to act for him, I was not to take over command 
till the isth August, the day on which he would himself hand over 
to Alexander; he wished these two events to be simultaneous. In the 
event of an enemy attack, or of some crisis occurring, he himself would 
at once come to Eighth Army H.Q. and take direct command again 
from Ramsden. It all seemed most peculiar and I got out of the room 
as soon as I decently could. 

I then went in search of Alexander; I soon found him in the head 
quarters, calm, confident and charming as always. 

I would like to make the point now, categorically, how lucky I 
was to have "Alex" as my C.-in-C. I could not have served under a 
better Chief; we were utterly different, but I liked him and respected 
him as a man. I will enlarge on this as my tale develops. 

I at once put to him my plan for creating a reserve corps for the 
Eighth Army, strong in armour, similar to Rommel s. He agreed; but 
he was not yet C.-in-C. It was obviously useless to discuss the matter 
with Auchinleck or his Chief of Staff; they were both to go. So I went 
off to find the Deputy Chief of the General Staff, Major-General (now 
Field-Marshal Sir John) Harding. He had been a student under me at 
the Camberley Staff College and I had the highest opinion of his 
ability* He did not know what Alexander and myself were doing in 
Cairo; so I told him. I then put the whole plan to him and asked if 

88 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

he could form the corps which I wanted from the bits and pieces 
scattered around Egypt; 300 new Sherman tanks were due at Suez 
from America on the 3rd September and these would provide the 
equipment for the armoured divisions. He said he would go into it 
and I arranged to come back and see him again at 6 p.m. that eve 
ning to get the answer, and said I would ask Alexander to come with 
me. Alexander and I then went off to lunch at Shepheard s Hotel, 
where we discussed the whole affair. I outlined to him my ideas and 
got his general agreement to the course of action I would pursue in 
the Eighth Army. I spent the afternoon buying clothes suitable for the 
desert in August; these were badly needed, as having spent a busy 
day in Cairo in August in English serge uniform I was more than hot! 
I had been asked to stay that night at the British Embassy in Cairo, 
and had arranged that the Brigadier General Staff, Eighth Army, was 
to meet me the next morning at the cross-roads west of Alexandria at 
9 a.m. and take me to Eighth Army H.Q. 

At 6 p.m. Alexander and I went back to G.H.Q. to see Harding; 
he said he could produce the corps we wanted* It would be 10 Corps 
and would consist of: 

ist Armoured Division] 

8th Armoured Division L Each of H 

loth Armoured Division J 

One armoured brigade 
One infantry brigade 
Divisional troops 

New Zealand Division Two infantry brigades and one 
armoured brigade 

This was splendid and we told him to go ahead. 

One more thing had to be done that day and that was to collect a 
second A.D.C. I had brought ouc with me from England, Captain 
Spooner in the Royal Norfolk Regiment; either he nor myself had 
campaigned in Egypt and I needed a second one who knew well the 
ways of life in the desert. I was told that Gott had recently taken on 
a young officer in the nth Hussars; he had not been in the aircraft 
when Gott was shot down, and was now in Cairo, and he might be 
what I wanted. He came to see me. His name was John Postou; he 
was a Harrow boy, and had hardly left school when the war began. 
He could see I was a lieut.-general and he knew I wanted an A.D.G; 
but he had never heard of me before and he did not know what I was 
doing in Egypt. I said to him: "My name is Montgomery. I arrived this 
morning from England and I am going down to the desert tomorrow 
to take command of the Eighth Army, I have not been in the desert 
before and I want an A.D.C. who will go about with me and geoerally 
help me. Will you come to me as my A.D.C.?" 

He was clearly somewhat startled; this was highly secret news, 
known to very few. 

He didn t answer at once; he just looked at me, straight in the face. 

Eighth Army 89 

He looked sad; he had just been with Gott, who was known all over 
the Middle East and was obviously a hero to all young officers. And 
now his master was dead. I said nothing, but just waited for his 
answer: looking into a pair of steady grey eyes. 

At last he said: "Yes, sir; I would like to come with you." 

I could not have made a better choice. We trod the path together 
from Alamein to the Elbe, fighting our way through ten countries. I 
was completely devoted to him. He was killed in Germany in the last 
week of the war. The Promised Land by then was not so very far 
away and he, who had travelled so far and fought so hard, gave his 
young life that others might enjoy it. 

At 5 a.m. on the 13th August I left the British Embassy by car to go 
down to the desert. 

The B.G.S.* of the Eighth Army was Brigadier (now Major-General 
Sir Francis) de Guingand. "Freddie" de Guingand and I were old 
friends; we had first met in York when I was a major and he was a 
newly-joined second-lieutenant; we had met again in Egypt in 1932 
and *933> to Quetta in 1935, and in 1939 when he was a sort of mill* 
tary assistant to Hore-Belisha, who was Secretary of State for War. 
He had a quick and fertile brain and I had in the past regarded "him 
as an outstanding young officer. There he was again, waiting for me 
as had been arranged at the cross-roads outside Alexandria, where 
the road from Cairo turned westwards along the coast. He looked thin 
and worried; he was obviously carrying a heavy burden. I realised 
at once it was essential to re-establish the former close friendship 
before tackling the main problem; so I made him get into my car and 
I talked about our past days together, and we had a good laugh over 
several episodes I recalled. He quickly became less tense and after a 
while I said: "Well, Freddie my lad, you chaps seem to have got 
things into a bit of a mess here. Tell me all about it." 

He then produced a document which he had written for me, giving 
the situation and all the relevant facts. I said: "Now, Freddie, don t 
be silly. You know I never read any papers when I can get the person 
concerned to tell me himself. Put that bumf away and unburden your 

He laughed and I saw at once I would now get a first class review 
of the present situation and the causes of it with nothing held back 
We sat dose together with a map on our knees and he told me the 
story; the operational situation, the latest intelligence about the enemy, 
the generals commanding in the various sectors, the existing orders 
of Audbinleck about future action, his own views about things. I let 
him talk on. Occasionally I asked a question but only to clarify some 
point. When he had done, there was silence for a moment or two: 
then I asked about the morale of the officers and men. He said it 
*Brigacher General Staff. 

90 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

wasn t good; the Eighth Army wanted a clear lead and a firm grip 
from the top; there was too much uncertainty and he thought the 
"feel of the thing" was wrong. I did not press him on this point; I 
knew he was trying to be loyal to his past chief. 

The time passed quickly and in due course we left the coast road 
and turned south along a track into the open desert. We were quiet 
now and I was thinking: chiefly about de Guingand, and I have no 
doubt he was thinking about me and his own future. 

The magnitude of the task in front of me was beginning to be appar 
ent I knew I could not tackle it alone; I must have someone to help 
me, a man with a quick and clear brain, who would accept responsi 
bility, and who would work out the details and leave me free to 
concentrate on the major issues in fact, a Chief of Staff who would 
handle all the detailed and intricate staff side of the business and leave 
me free to command. I knew that if I once got immersed in the details 
of the "dog s breakfast" that was being set in front of me, I would fail 
as others had failed before me. 

Was Freddie de Guingand this man? 

We were complete opposites; ho lived on his nerves and was highly 
strung; in ordinary life he liked wine, gambling, and good food. 
Did these differences matter? I quickly decided they did not; indeed, 
differences were assets. 

I have always considered that two people who are exactly the same 
do not make the best team. He was about 14 years younger than I 
but we had been great friends in the past and as I looked at him, thin 
and worried as he was, the old affection returned. And he had a first 
class brain, which was capable of working at high speed. Furthermore 
ho knew me and my ways, and that was important. If he was to be 
the man he must bo given the necessary power; he must be Chief of 
Staff, not just Chief of the General Stuff. 

But the British Army did not work on the Chief of Staff principle; 
u commander hud u number of principal staff officers under him and 
he was supposed to co-ordinate their activities himself. This was 
impossible in the situation now confronting me. How could I co-ordi 
nate all the staff work of the desert campaign? That is what all the 
others had done and it had led them to lose sight of the essentials; 
they had become immersed in details and hud failed. 

Before we arrived at Eighth Army ILQ. I had decided that de 
Guingand was the man; I would make him my Chief of Staff with full 
powers and together we would do the job. But I did not tell him then; 
I thought I would wait and announce it in front of the whole staff, so 
as to build him up in their eyes and make clear the difference the new 
appointment represented. 

I have never regretted that decision. Freddie de Guingand and I 
went through the rest of the war together. Wherever I went, he came 

Eighth Army 91 

as my Chief of Staff; we journeyed side by side from Alamein to 
Berlin. And as we went, he grew in stature and I realised how lucky I 
was. He was a brilliant Chief of Staff and I doubt if such a one has 
ever before existed in the British Army or will ever do so again: 
although of course here I am prejudiced. 

As we bumped over the desert track I came to the conclusion that 
I now had two tremendous assets. Behind me was Alexander, a firm 
friend and ally, who could be relied on to support me and do all that 
I asked of him so long as it was sound, and I was successful. And by 
my side would be de Guingand, my trusted Chief of Staff. What was 
necessary next was to get good and reliable subordinate commanders 
below me. 

With these thoughts in my mind I was quite cheerful when we 
arrived at the desert headquarters of the Eighth Army at about 11 a.m. 
The sight that met me was enough to lower anyone s morale. It was 
a desolate scene; a few trucks, no mess tents, work done mostly in 
trucks or in the open air in the hot sun, flies everywhere. I asked where 
Auchinleck used to sleep; I was told that he slept on the ground out 
side his caravan. Tents were forbidden in the Eighth Army; everyone 
was to be as uncomfortable as possible, so that they wouldn t be more 
comfortable than the men. All officers messes were in the open air 
where, of course, they attracted the flies of Egypt. In the case of the 
mess of senior officers which I was inheriting, a mosquito net had been 
erected round the table; but it didn t shade one from the sun and the 
flies, once inside, could not get out. I asked where was the Air Force 
H.Q. I was told they were many miles back on the sea-shore, near 
Burg-el-Arab; the Army and the Air Forces appeared to be fighting 
two separate battles, without that close personal relationship which is 
so essential. The whole atmosphere of the Army Headquarters was 
dismal and dreary. 

The acting Army Commander, Lt.-Gen. Ramsden, met me. I knew 
him of old since he had commanded the Hampshire Regiment in my 
8th Division in Palestine in 1938-39; he was a very good battalion 
commander in those days and I had not met him since. He explained 
the situation to me. I cross-examined him about the Army plans for a 
withdrawal if Rommel attacked; certain orders had been issued about 
the withdrawal but they were indefinite. There was an air of uncer 
tainty about everything in the operation line, nor was Army H.Q. in 
close touch with the H.Q. of the Desert Air Force. 

It was clear to me that the situation was quite unreal and, in fact, 
dangerous. I decided at once to take action. I had been ordered not 
to take over command of the Eighth Army till the 1561 August; it was 
still only the i3th. I knew it was useless to consult G.H.Q. and that 
I must take full responsibility myself. I told General Ramsden he was 
to return at once to his corps; he seemed surprised as he had been 

92 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

placed in acting command of the Army, but he went. I then had lunch, 
with the flies and in the hot sun. During lunch I did some savage 
drinking. After lunch I wrote a telegram to G.H.Q. saying that I had 
assumed command of Eighth Army as from 2 p.m. that day, the isth 
August; this was disobedience, but there was no comeback. I then 
cancelled all previous orders about withdrawal. 

I issued orders that in the event of enemy attack there would be 
no withdrawal; we would fight on the ground we now held and if we 
couldn t stay there alive we would stay there dead. I remembered an 
inscription I had seen in Greece when touring that country with my 
wife in 1933. It was carved by the Greeks at Thermopylae to com 
memorate those who died defending the pass over 2000 years ago, and 
its English version is well known: 

"Go, tell die Spartans, thou diat passeth by, 
That here, obedient to their laws, we lie/* 

We would do the same, if need be. 

I thought that was enough for the moment, until I had seen more 
of the ground and had met some of the subordinate commanders. I 
decided to leave the H.Q. quickly in case any repercussion came from 
G.H.Q. about my sudden seizure of command of the Eighth Army. 
But before going I told de Guingand to assemble the whole staff at 
6 p.m, that evening, so that I could speak to them. I had already met 
Ramsdon, Commander 30 Corps, on the northern flank. I now set 
out to H.Q. 13 Corps, on the southern flank, where I arranged to 
meet General Freyberg; his substantive command was the New 
Zealand division, but since the death of Gott he had been acting in 
command of 13 Corps. 

On the way to the H.Q. of 13 Corps I sat in the back of the car 
and studied the map. My guide, an officer of Army H.Q. whose job 
it was to know the way always to 13 Corps, sat in front with the 
driver. After a time the car stopped and I asked my guide if he knew 
where we were; he said he did not know and was lost. 

I then noticed we were inside a large wired-in enclosure and I 
asked what it was; he said we were in the middle of a minefield. I 
wasn t too pleased, I told the driver to back die car along our tracks 
till we were out of the minefield, by which time my guide had located 
himself and we started off again* 

I had a good talk with Freyberg, and later widi Morshcad, who 
commanded the gth Australian Division. Those two were fine soldiers, 
and I say this not only because diey both approved whole-heartedly 
of my ideas, which I outlined to them. 

I got back to Army H.Q. rather late and found die staff waiting 
for me. De Guingand had assembled them a few yards from the 

Eighth Army 93 

caravan which was my office; it was now 6.30 p.m., and in the cool 
of the evening I addressed my new staff. 

I introduced myself to them and said I wanted to see them and 
explain things. Certain orders had already been issued which they 
knew about, and more would follow. The order "no withdrawal" in 
volved a complete change of policy and they must understand what 
that policy was, because they would have to do the detailed staff work 
involved. If we were to fight where we stood the defences must have 
depth; all transport must be sent back to rear areas; ammunition, 
water, rations, etc., must be stored in the forward areas. We needed 
more troops in the Eighth Army in order to make the "no withdrawal" 
order a possibility. There were plenty of troops back in the Delta, 
preparing the defence of that area; but the defence of the cities of 
Egypt must be fought out here at Alamein. Two new divisions had 
arrived from England and were being used to dig positions to defend 
the Delta; I would get them out here. 

Then, from all the bits and pieces in Egypt I was going to form a 
new corps, the loth Corps, strong in armour; this would never hold 
the line but would be to us what the Africa Korps was to Rommel; 
the formation of this new 10 Corps had already begun. 

The policy of fighting the enemy in brigade groups, Jock columns, 
and with divisions split up into bits and pieces all over title desert was 
to cease. In future divisions would fight as divisions. 

I did not like the atmosphere I found at Army H.Q. No one could 
have a high morale at the headquarters if we stuck ourselves down in 
a dismal place like this and lived in such discomfort. 

We ought to have the headquarters by the sea; where we could 
work hard, bathe, and be happy. 

My orders from Alexander were quite simple; they were to destroy 
Rommel and his Army. I understood Rommel was expected to attack 
its shortly. If he came soon it would be tricky, if he came in a week, 
all rigjht, but give us two weeks and Rommel could do what he liked; 
he would be seen off and then it would be our turn. But I had no 
intention of launching our attack until we were ready; when that 
time came we would hit Rommel for six right out of Africa. 

There was clearly much work to be done and it couldn t be done 
where we were, in all this discomfort. The H.Q. would move as 
soon as possible to a site on the sea-shore near the Air Force H.Q.; 
together with the Air Force we would work out the plan for our 
offensive. The order forbidding tents was cancelled; let tents and mess 
furniture be got and let us all be as comfortable as possible. 

Finally, I explained my methods of working, and my dislike of 
paper and details. I appointed de Guingand to be Chief of Staff of 
the Eighth Army; every order given by him would be regarded as 

94 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

coming from me, and would be obeyed instantly; he had my com 
plete confidence and I gave him authority over the whole headquarters. 

My talk was listened to in complete silence. One could have heard 
a pin drop if such a thing was possible in the sand of the desert! But 
it certainly had a profound effect and a spirit of hope, anyway of 
clarity, was born that evening; one thing was very clear to the staff, 
there was to be no more uncertainty about anything. But the old 
hands thought that my knees were very white! 

My first day in the desert, the isth August, had been a good one, 
though long and tiring. Much had been achieved; but much still 
remained to be done. I knew I must be careful for one more day, 
until Auchinleck had departed on the i$th August; the existing 
regime at G.H.Q. regarded me as an unpleasant new broom* So far 
there had been complete silence from G.H.Q. so far as I was con 
cerned; but they had only been notified of certain orders I had issued 
and I had made no demands on them for anything. Once Alexander 
was C.-in-C. on the morning of the isth August all would be well. He 
would do all that we sought and would see it was done at once; I 
had no doubt on that score. On de Guingand s advice I decided to 
make no demands on G.H.Q. as a result of the change in policy till 
the evening of the 14th August He had great wisdom and his advice 
on these matters was always sound; as time went on he often restrained 
me from rushing my fences. We wanted a lot, but I also needed to do 
some reconnaissances before I could make ready my plan. 

I had a good talk that night with de Guingand. He now had con 
siderable powers and he wanted to know my views on certain matters, 
I was going to be out all day on 14th August and a great deal even 
after that; he was anxious to get hold of me in the evenings. By the 
time I went to bed that night I was tired. But I know that we were 
on the way to success, I m afraid that it was with an insubordinate 
smile that I fell asleep: I was issuing orders to an Army which someone 
else reckoned he commanded! 

I was woken up soon after dawn the next morning by an officer 
with the morning situation report. I was extremely angry and told 
him no one was ever to come near me with situation reports; I did 
not want to be bothered with details of patrol actions and things of 
that sort. He apologised profusely and said that Auchinleck was 
always woken early and given the dawn reports, 

I said I was not Auchinleck and that if anything was wrong the 
Chief of Staff would tell me; if nothing was wrong I didn t want to 
be told. The offending officer was very upset; so we had an early 
morning cup of tea together and a good talk, and he went away 
comforted. The Chief of Staff issued new orders about situation re 
ports and I was never bothered again. 

It was soon pretty clear to me, after talking with de Guingand, 

Eighth Army 95 

that all indications pointed to an early attack by Rommel; he would 
make a last attempt to get to Cairo and Alexandria, and secure the 
Delta, It was evident that if so, he would probably make his main 
effort on the south or inland flank, and would then carry out a right 
hook in order to get in behind the Eighth Army. 

He could not leave the Army intact and pass on towards the flesh- 
pots of Egypt; he must first destroy the Eighth Army, after which the 
flesh-pots were all his for the asking. 

That being the case, the outline of my plan was at once clear. 

The northern flank must be strengthened on the front of 30 Corps 
and made very strong with minefields and wire, so that it could be 
held with a minimum of troops; I need not visit that front for the 
moment. The southern flank demanded careful consideration; it was 
there I would go. I also wanted a new commander for 13 Corps on 
the flank; no one had yet been appointed to succeed Gott 

I spent the day examining the ground on the inter-corps boundary 
and on the southern flank, and at once saw the importance of two 
dominating areas of ground: the Ruweisat Ridge and the Alam Haifa 
Ridge. Both were important but the key to the whole Alamein posi 
tion was the Alam Haifa Ridge. This was several miles in rear of the 
Alamein Line and south-east from the Ruweisat Ridge; it was un 
defended, because there were no troops available. 

I had pondered deeply over what I had heard about armoured 
battles in the desert and it seemed to me that what Rommel liked 
was to get our armour to attack him; he then disposed of his own 
armour behind a screen of anti-tank guns, knocked out our tanks, 
and finally had the field to himself. I was determined that would not 
happen if Rommel decided to attack us before we were ready to 
launch a full-scale offensive against him. I would not allow our tanks 
to rush out at him; we would stand firm in the Alamein position, 
hold the Ruweisat and Alam Haifa Ridges securely, and let him beat 
up against them. We would fight a static battle and my forces would 
not move; his tanks would come up against our tanks dug-in in hull- 
down positions at the western edge of the Alam Haifa Ridge. 

During the day I met on the southern flank the general command 
ing the 7th Armoured Division, the famous Desert Rats. We discussed 
the expected attack by Rommel and he said there was only one ques 
tion to be decided: who would loose the armour against Rommel? 
He thought he himself should give the word for that to happen. I 
replied that no one would loose the armour; it would not be loosed 
and we would let Rommel bump into it for a change. This was a 
new idea to him and he argued about it a good deal. 

When I got back to my headquarters that night the outline of my 
immediate plans for strengthening the Alamein position were clear 
in my mind. I was determined to make the position so strong that we 

96 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

could begin our preparations for our own great offensive and not 
become preoccupied by any attack that Rommel might decide to 
make. All information seemed to suggest that he would attack towards 
the end of the month in the full moon period; I wanted to begin my 
preparations for the battle of Alamein before then, and to continue 
those preparations whatever Rommel might do. 

Therefore we must be strong, with our forces so "balanced" that I 
need never react to his thrusts or moves: strong enough to see him 
off without disrupting the major preparations. That was my object. 

I discussed the problem with de Guingand and we decided to ask 
G.H.Q. for the 44th Division to be sent to the Eighth Army at once, 
and to position it to hold die Alam Haifa Ridge. Once that ridge 
was securely held by a complete division, well dug in and properly 
supported by armour (not to be loosed), I really had not much more 
to bother about. I asked that another division, the sist, should be sent 
to me later; this division was beginning to arrive at Suez. The details 
of the tactical plan on the southern flank I must leave to 13 Corps. 
But at the moment I had no Corps Commander. I decided to ask 
Alexander to get General Horrocks flown out from England at once 
to command the 13 Corps. Horrocks had been in my 3rd Division as 
a battalion commander; I had got him a brigade and then a division 
in my corps in England; I now wanted him to have a corps in my 
Army. I knew I could not have a better man and so it turned out; 
he was exactly what was wanted for the job which lay ahead. 

We had a little trouble with the staff at G.H.Q. when do Guingand 
telephoned these requests that night I then got direct on to Alexander 
and he agreed to everything; I do not know if he consulted Audhinleck 
who was due to go the next morning. 

And so by the isth August, the day on which Auchinlcck had 
ordered me to assume command of the Eighth Army, I had already 
been in command for two clays and we had got things moving in the 
right direction. Above all, by taking grip we had already achieved a 
definite lift in morale. This was important as the spirit of the warrior 
is the greatest single factor in war. 

We now had to begin planning for what was to be known as die 
Battle of Alamein. Time was pressing and I already knew tliat I would 
be urged to attack in September. But before describing certain aspects 
of the preparation and conduct of that battle, we must have a quick 
look at the Battle of Alam Haifa which was a model defensive battle 
under the conditions in which it was fought, and which was from 
my point of view an essential preliminary to the Battle of Alamein. 
Without Alam Haifa, Alamein might not have been so successful. 

The Prime Minister visited the Eighth Army on the igth August 
on his way back from Moscow. I took him round the front and ex 
plained to him my plans for defeating Rommers expected attack and 

Eighth Army 97 

also my ideas about our own offensive. He stayed that night with me 
at our new headquarters on the shore near Burg-el-Arab, to which 
we had moved. He bathed in the Mediterranean before dinner; he 
had no bathing costume and I had some difficulty in keeping the Press 
away as he walked towards the sea in his shirt. He was interested in a 
group of soldiers in the distance and said how curious it was that they 
all wore white bathing trunks. I had to explain that no one wore any 
bathing kit in the Eighth Army. The soldiers wore shorts all day and 
often not even a shirt; their bodies got very brown from the sun. 
What in the distance looked like white bathing drawers was actually 
white flesh, which did not get brown because of the khaki shorts! 
We had great fun that night in our Mess and de Guingand had ar 
ranged suitable wine and old brandy for the Prime Minister. 

When he left the next day I asked him to sign my autograph book. 
He wrote this personal note. I had assumed command of the Eighth 
Army on the isth August, the anniversary of the Battle of Blenheim. 

"May the anniversary of Blenheim which marks the opening of 
the new Command bring to the Commander of the Eighth Army 
and his troops the fame and fortune they will surely deserve. 

Winston S. Churchill* 
aoth August 1942 


The Battle of Alam Haifa 

31st August to 6th September 1942 

IN ADDITION to the general plot which I have just outlined, I had 
also made it clear to the Eighth Army that "bellyaching" would 
not be tolerated. By this I meant that type of indiscipline which 
arises when commanders are active in putting forward unsound rea 
sons for not doing what they are told to do. In the Eighth Army orders 
had generally been queried by subordinates right down the line; each 
thought he knew better than his superiors and often it needed firm 
action to get things done. I was determined to stop this state of affairs 
at once. Orders no longer formed "the base for discussion/ but for 

What I now needed was a battle which would be fought in accord 
ance with my ideas and not those of former desert commanders; 
ftirthermore, it must be a resounding victory and would have to come 
before our own offensive, so that confidence of officers and men in 
the high command would be restored and they would enter on the 
stern struggle which lay further ahead with an enhanced morale. 
They must come to believe. 

I had taken command of truly magnificent material; it did not take 
me long to see that. The Eighth Army was composed of veteran fight 
ing divisions. But officers and men were bewildered at what had 
happened and this had led to a loss of confidence. "Brave but baffled" 
the Prime Minister had called them. 

This loss of confidence, combined with the bellyaching which went 
on and which was partly the cause of it, were becoming dangerous 
and could only be eradicated by a successful battle: a battle in which 
Rommel was defeated easily, and must be seen to have been beaten, 
and with few casualties to the Eighth Army. 


The Battle of Alam Haifa 99 

I could not myself attack; Rommel must provide that opportunity 
for me. But in order to reap the full benefit, I must correctly forecast 
the design of his expected attack and determine in advance how we 
would defeat it This was not difficult to do. 

My intelligence staff were certain the "break-in" to our positions 
would be on the southern flank; this would be followed by a left 
wheel, his armoured forces being directed on the Alam Haifa and 
Ruweisat ridges. I agreed, and my plans were based on this forecast. 
We were pretty clear about the timing, the direction, and the strength 
of his attack. The rest lay on my plate. 

I decided to hold the Alam Haifa Ridge strongly with the 44th 
Division and to locate my tanks just south of its western end. Once 
I was sure that the enemy main thrust was being directed against the 
Alam Haifa Ridge, I planned to move the armour to the area between 
the west of the ridge and the New Zealand positions in the main 
Alamein line. I was so sure that this movement of my own armour 
would take place that I ordered it to be actually rehearsed; and when 
it did take place on the morning of the ist September I had some 400 
tanks in position, dug in, and deployed behind a screen of 6-pounder 
anti-tank guns. The strictest orders were issued that the armour was 
not to be loosed against Rommel s forces; it was not to move; the 
enemy was to be allowed to beat up against it and to suffer heavy 

It was obvious to me that Rommel could not just by-pass my forces 
and go off eastwards to Cairo; if he did so, I could have descended on 
his rear with 400 tanks and that would have been the end of his Army. 

I then decided that my extreme south flank should be mobile; the 
7th Armoured Division would hold a wide front and, as the attack 
came, would give way before it. When the attack swung left-handed 
towards the Alam Haifa Ridge, the 7th Armoured Division would 
harry it from the east and south, and generally "shoot it up." 

General Horrocks had by now arrived from England to command 
13 Corps on my left flank and the details of the plan were placed 
in his very capable hands. I insisted that in fighting his battle he was 
not to allow 13 Corps, and particularly 7th Armoured Division, to 
get mauled. They would have a part to play in our own offensive 
in October, and I outlined to him the ideas which were forming in 
my mind about that offensive. He entered into it with his characteristic 

The sketch map (see Map, No. 12) will serve to illustrate the battle. 
The design of Rommel s attack was exactly as had been forecast to 
officers and men of the Eighth Army; we fought the battle as I had 
laid down. Once Rommel s forces had beaten up against our strong 
positions from the New Zealand Division area eastwards, they became 
unable to move. We then concentrated on shooting them up from all 

100 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

directions and the Desert Air Force in attacking them from the air. 
This was very successful and after a few days the enemy losses in 
tanks and soft-skinned vehicles were so severe that he had to consider 
a withdrawal. 

A most important factor which forced his eventual withdrawal was 
the action of the Desert Air Force under Air Marshal Coningham. 
Army and Air Force worked on one plan, closely knitted together, and 
the two headquarters were side by side. It had seemed to me when I 
arrived in the desert that the two Services were tending to drift apart 
and that the true function of ah* power was not appreciated by com 
manders in the Eighth Army. This battle brought us close together 
again and for the rest of my time in the Eighth Army we remained 

A major factor in the overall air plan was Tedder s decision to send 
his Wellingtons to bomb Tobruk behind Rommel s attack, so that his 
last quick hope of re-supply vanished. This was the operative point 
in Rommel s decision to call off the attack; he was already beaten, 
and lack of petrol meant that he couldn t resume the attack. Tedder 
bit his tail. 

Once the plan to deal with the expected attack had been made and 
preparations begun, I had tm*ned my attention to a consideration of 
our own offensive. 

Rommel s attack came on the night of the 3ist August. I had 
gone to bed at my usual time and was asleep when the attack began 
soon after midnight. De Guingand tells his own story about that night. 
He deckled he should wake me up and tell me the news; he said I 
merely replied "Excellent, couldn t be better" and went to sleep 
again at once, and had breakfast at the usual time in the morning. 
I don t remember but am prepared to believe him. I was confident 
that if everyone obeyed orders, we must win this battle; my main 
preoccupation was to see, in this my first battle with the Eighth Army, 
that it was fought in complete accord with my master plan. 

When I saw that Rommel s forces were in a bad way, I ordered a 
thrust southwards from the New Zealand Division area to close the 
gap through which they had entered our positions. The enemy reac 
tion was immediate and violent; they began to pull back quickly 
to the area of our minefield through which they had originally come. 
We left them there and I called off the battle* Moreover, it suited me 
to have their forces in strength on the southern flank since I was 
considering making my main blow, later on, on the northern part of 
the front. I remember Horrocks protesting to me that the enemy 
remained in possession not only of our original minefields but also of 
some good view points from which to observe his corps area. I replied 
that he should get busy and make new minefields for his corps. As 
regards the observation points, such as Himeimat, it suited me that 

The Battle of Alam Haifa 101 

Rommel should be able to have a good look at all the preparations for 
attack we were making on our southern flank: they were a feint 

I have sometimes been criticised for not following up Rommel s 
withdrawal by launching the Eighth Army to the attack. There were 
two reasons why I did not do so. First, I was not too happy about 
the standard of training of the Army and also the equipment situation 
was unsatisfactory; time was needed to put these right. And secondly, 
I was not anxious to force Rommel to pull out and withdraw "in 
being * back to the Agheila position. If we were to carry out the 
mandate, it was essential to get Rommel to stand and fight and then 
to defeat him decisively. This had never happened to him before; 
he had often retreated, but it was always for administrative reasons. 
It was obvious that we would prefer to bring him to battle, when we 
were ready, at the end of a long and vulnerable line of communications 
with oui-s short. Such would be his situation if he stood to fight 
at Alamein, 

Thus the Battle of Alam Haifa ended in the way we wanted. The 
action of 13 Corps on the southern flank was all that could be desired. 
Horrocks fought his battle in full accord with the master plan and 
he deserves great credit for his action that day. He tells a story of 
how I congratulated him when it was all over, and then proceeded 
to tell him what he had done wrong and to give him a talk on how 
to command a corps in battle. 

I was interested to read in 1955 a book called Panzer Battles by 
Von Mellenthin, who was on the operations staff of Rommel at this 
time. He describes Alam Haifa as: "the turning point of the desert 
war, and the first of a long series of defeats on every front which 
foreshadowed the defeat of Germany." 

On reflection, certain important lessons emerged from this battle. 
It was an "army" battle. The power of the Eighth Army was devel 
oped on a definite army plan and a firm grip was kept on the battle 
at all times by Army H.Q. This led to a recognition among officers 
and men of the necessity for one guiding mind which would control 
their destinies, and after this battle they accepted me as that one 

The Eighth Army consisted in the main of civilians in uniform, 
not of professional soldiers. And they were, of course, to a man, 
civilians who read newspapers. It seemed to me that to command 
such men demanded not only a guiding mind but also a point of focus: 
or to put it another way, not only a master but a mascot. And I 
deliberately set about fulfilling this second requirement. It helped, 
I felt sure, for them to recognise as a person as an individualthe 
man who was putting them into battle. To obey an impersonal figure 
was not enough. They must know who I was. This analysis may sound 
rather cold-blooded, a decision made in the study. And so, in origin, 

102 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

it was: and I submit., rightly so. One had to reason out the best way 
to set about commanding these men, to bring out their best, and to 
weld them into an effective and a contented team which could answer 
the calls I was going to make on them; and these were going to be 
increasingly arduous. But I readily admit that the occasion to become 
the necessary focus of their attention was also personally enjoyable. 
For if I were able thereby to give something to themand it was a 
sense of unity which I was trying to create I gained myself from the 
experience by the way it enabled me to get to know them too, to 
sense their morale and, as time went on, to feel the affection which 
they generously extended to me. I started in the Alam Haifa battle 
by wearing an Australian hat first of all because it was an exceedingly 
good hat for the desert, but soon because I came to be recognised by 
it: outside the Australian lines, anywayl Later as readers may know, I 
took a black beret, again for utilitarian reasons in the first place. 

And the twin badges in the beret were, in origin, accidental; but 
I quickly saw their functional result, and what started as a private joke 
with the tank regiment which gave it to me became in the end the 
means by which I came to be recognised throughout the desert. I soon 
learnt that the arrival of the double-badged beret on die battlefield 
was a help they knew that I was about, that I was taking an intense 
and personal interest in their doings, and that I was not just sitting 
about somewhere safe in the rear issuing orders. The beret was func 
tional in the way a "brass hat" could never have been. It became, if 
you like, my signature. It was also very comfortable. 

Then again I think the battle is noteworthy as heralding a reversal 
of the previously accepted doctrine of "loosing" our own tanks at 
Rommel s armour directly he attacked. With an imperfectly trained 
army and inferior equipment it is necessary to adjust the tactics 
accordingly. I refused to exploit our success as such action did not 
suit my long-term plans. 

And finally there was the raising of morale which follows a success 
ful battle, in which the high command has foretold what will happen. 
It had happened, and we had won with few casualties. In this case 
the effect on morale was of tremendous importance. In my first few 
days in the desert we had removed uncertainty by taking a tight grip 
from Army Headquarters, and announcing a reorganisation which 
was to hold our prospects of victory in the desert war. All this had 
caused a feeling of relief. But the general atmosphere was: it looks 
good, it sounds good, but will it work? There was of course a great 
willingness to try and make it work, and a growing belief as the days 
passed. But it was Alam Haifa which produced the final belief in me 
and my methods, if you like, my prophecies, which was to make 
Alamein possible. 

All in all, the battle had achieved what I wanted. Besides the re- 

The Battle of Alam Haifa 103 

covery in morale, the Eighth Army had been given a trial run under 
its new commander. Commanders, staffs, and troops, from myself 
downwards, had worked together with the Air Force and had won 

When the battle was over I wrote to a friend in England, as follows: 
"My first encounter with Rommel was of great interest. Luckily I 
had time to tidy up the mess and to get my plans laid, so there was no 
difficulty in seeing him off. I feel that I have won the first game, when 
it was his service. Next time it will be my service, the score being 

We resumed our preparations for the Battle of Alamein; but certain 
matters demanded immediate decision before they got properly under 

I had decided that in building up the Eighth Army for what lay 
ahead I would concentrate on three essentials: leadership, equipment, 
and training. All three were deficient. The equipment situation was 
well in hand and I knew that Alexander would see that we got all 
we needed. Training was receiving urgent attention. I soon realised 
that although the Eighth Army was composed of magnificent material, 
it was untrained; it had done much fighting, but little training. We 
had just won a decisive victory, but it had been a static battle; I was 
not prepared to launch the troops into an all-out offensive without 
intensive prior training. I remember the shock I received on visiting 
a certain unit and asking the C.O. if he trained his officers, and how it 
was done. The C.O. replied without hesitation that he had handed 
that task over to his second-in-command. I came across the second- 
in-command later in the day and said: "I understand you are re 
sponsible for training the officers in the unit. Tell me how you do it." 
He replied that he did not do so, and that it was done by the C.O. 
I ordered that a new C.O. be found for that unit at once; it was clear 
that nobody trained the officers. 

On the higher level I had to have three first-class Corps Com 
manders. I had one for 13 Corps in Horrocks, and he had proved 
himself in the Battle of Alam Haifa. I decided it was necessary to 
replace Ramsden in 30 Corps and I asked for Major-General Sir 
Oliver Leese who was commanding the Guards Armoured Division 
in England. He was flown out at once and I never regretted that choice; 
he was quite first class at Alamein and all through the campaign to 
Tunis and later in Sicily. After long consultation with Alexander I 
agreed to give 10 Corps, my corps d &lite which was to resemble 
Rommel s Panzer Army, to Lumsden; he had commanded the ist 
Armoured Division in the desert and was highly spoken of in Middle 
East circles. I hardly knew him and so could not agree with complete 
confidence; but I accepted him on the advice of others. I had already 
imported two new Corps Commanders from England and did not 

104 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

want to make the Eighth Army think that none of its senior officers 
was fit for promotion. I found it necessary to have a new commander 
for the 7th Armoured Division and asked for Harding from G.H.Q. 
in Cairo. 

If we were to successfully blow a gap in Rommers defences 
through which we could debouch, the artillery plan would be all- 
important I came to the conclusion that I must have a new head 
gunner at my headquarters. When I told this to a senior officer at 
G.H.Q., he remarked that the present man was a delightful person and 
was also a golf champion. I agreed he was delightful, but added that 
unfortunately the game we were about to play was not golf. I asked 
for Brigadier Kirkman from England whom I regarded as the best 
artilleryman in the British Army. (He is now General Sir Sidney 
Kirkman, and in charge of Civil Defence at the Home Office. ) 

I also wanted a first class senior chaplain. After considerable in 
vestigation we found the man I wanted in Hughes, who was the 
senior chaplain to a division. I never regretted that choice. Hughes 
remained with me for the rest of the war; he then became Chaplain 
General of the Army, being the first Territorial Army chaplain to do 
so. Today he is Dean of Ripon. He was the ideal of what an Army 
padre should be and became one of my greatest friends; he tells some 
amusing stories of his first interview with me. 

The head of my administration was Brigadier Robertson, now Gen 
eral Sir Brian Robertson, the Chairman of the British Transport 
Commission. I know him well as he had been a student under me at 
the Staff College, Cambcrlcy; he was a most able officer and I had 
no fears on that side of the house. He hud under him a highly efficient 
assistant in Lieut-Colonel Miles Graham, now Major-General Sir 
Miles Graham; when Robertson left me on promotion, Graham took 
over his job and stayed with me to the end of the war. 

Another who must be mentioned is Belchem. He was in the Staff 
Duties and Organisation branch when I arrived in die desert; he was 
a brilliant officer and after a period away from me, first as a Brigade- 
Major and then in command of an armoured regiment, he rejoined my 
headquarters and remained with me for the rest of the war as head of 
my operations staff* 

Finally I cast my eye over the Intelligence organisation at my head 
quarters. I discovered there a major in the King s Dragoon Guards, 
by name Williams (now Brigadier E. T. Williams, and Warden of 
Rhodes House, Oxford). He was an Oxford don and had a brilliant 
brain; as we shall see later it was a conversation with him which gave 
me the idea which played a large part in winning the Battle of Alamein. 
He was not the head of my Intelligence Staff but I was determined 
that he soon must be. He went right through the rest of the war with 

The Battle of Alam Haifa 105 

Having checked over the leadership problem and made the necessary 
changes, I was satisfied that I had a team which would collectively 
handle the task that lay ahead without difficulty. Some of them re 
mained on my staff for the rest of the war: notably de Guingand, 
Graham, Hughes, Belchem and Williams. 

In war-time, when a successful commander has built up a highly 
efficient staff team, he must take the chief members of the team with 
him if he is moved to another appointment. The above five went with 
me to 21 Army Group when I left the Eighth Army; there would not 
have been time for me to have built up a new team before the landings 
in Normandy. 

Knowing what lay ahead, I pinned up three quotations in my 
caravan when the Battle of Alam Haifa was over. They remained there 
during the long journey from Alamein to Berlin and are still there, 
that caravan now being at my home in Hampshire. The quotations 
were as follows: 

Prayer of Sir Francis Drake on the 

morning of the attack on Cadiz 


O Lord God, when thou givest to Thy 
servants to endeavour any great matter, 
grant us also to know that it is not the 
beginning, but the continuing of the 
same, until it be thoroughly finished, 
which yieldeth the true glory. 

James Graham, Marquis of Montrose 

He either fears his fate too much, 
Or his deserts are small, 
Who dare not put it to the touch, 
To win or lose it all, 

Henry V, Act TV, Scene I 
O God of battles! steel my soldiers hearts- 


The Battle of Alamein 

23rd October to 4th November 1942 

ALM HALFA had interfered with the preparations for our own 
offensive, and delayed us. But the dividend in other respects 
had been tremendous. Before Alam Haifa there was already a 
willingness from below to do all that was asked, because of the grip 
from above. And for the same reason there was a rise in morale, which 
was cumulative. I think officers and men knew in their hearts that if 
we lost at Alam Haifa we would probably have lost Egypt. They had 
often been told before that certain things would happen; this time 
they wanted to be shown, not just to be told. At Alam Haifa the 
Eighth Army had been told, and then shown; and from the showing 
came the solid rocklikc confidence in the high command, which was 
never to be lost again. 

The basic problem that confronted us after the Battle of Alam Haifa 
was a difficult one. Wo were face to face with Rommel s forces be 
tween the sea and the Qattara Depression, a distance of about 45 
miles* The enemy was strengthening his defences to a degree previously 
unknown in the desert, and these included deep and extensive mine 
fields. There was no open flank. The problem was: 

FirstTo punch a hole in the enemy positions. 

SecondTo pass 10 Corps, strong in armour and mobile troops, 

through this hole into enemy territory. 
Third-Then to develop operations so as to destroy Rommel s 


This would be an immense undertaking. How could we obtain 
It seemed almost impossible to conceal from the enemy the fact 


The Battle of Alamein 107 

that we intended to launch an attack. I decided to plan for tactical 
surprise, and to conceal from the enemy the exact places where the 
blows would fall and the exact times. This would involve a great 
deception plan and I will describe later some of the measures we took. 
Next, a full moon was necessary. The minefield problem was such 
that the troops must be able to see what they were doing. A waning 
moon was not acceptable since I envisaged a real "dog-fight" for at 
least a week before we finally broke out; a waxing moon was essential. 
This limited the choice to one definite period each month. Owing to 
the delay caused to our preparations by Rommers attack, we could 
not be ready for the September moon and be sure of success. There 
must be no more failures. Officers and men of the Eighth Army had 
a hard life and few pleasures; and they put up with it. All they asked 
for was success, and I was determined to see they got it this time in 
full measure. The British people also wanted real success; for too long 
they had seen disaster or at best only partial success. But to gain 
complete success we must have time; we had to receive a quantity of 
new equipment, and we had to get the army trained to use it, and also 
rehearsed in the tasks which lay ahead. I had promised the Eighth 
Army on arrival that I would not launch our offensive till we were 
ready. I could not be ready until October. Full moon was the 24th 
October. I said I would attack on the night of 23rd October, and 
notified Alexander accordingly. The come-back from Whitehall was 
immediate. Alexander received a signal from the Prime Minister to the 
effect that the attack must be in September, so as to synchronise with 
certain Russian offensives and with Allied landings which were to 
take place early in November at the western end of the north African 
coast (Operation TORCH). Alexander came to see me to discuss the 
reply to be sent. I said that our preparations could not be completed 
in time for a September offensive, and an attack then would fail: if 
we waited until October, I guaranteed complete success. In my view 
it would be madness to attack in September. Was I to do so? Alexander 
backed me up whole-heartedly as he always did, and the reply was 
sent on the lines I wanted. I had told Alexander privately that, in view 
of my promise to the soldiers, I refused to attack before October; if a 
September attack was ordered by Whitehall, they would have to get 
someone else to do it. My stock was rather high after Alam Haifa! 
We heard no more about a September attack. 


The gossip is, so I am told, that the plans for Alamein, and for the 
conduct of the war in Africa after that battle, were made by Alexander 
at G.H.Q. Middle East and that I merely carried them out. This is not 

108 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

true. All the plans for Alamein and afterwards were made at Eighth 
Army H.Q. I always kept Alexander fully informed; he never com 
mented in detail on my plans or suggested any of his own; he trusted 
me and my staff absolutely. Once he knew what we wanted he sup 
ported us magnificently from behind; he never refused any request; 
without that generous and unfailing support, we could never have 
done our part. He was die perfect Commander-in-Chief to have in the 
Middle East, so far as I was concerned. He trusted me. 

The initial plan was made in the first days of September; immedi 
ately after the Battle of Alam Haifa was over. This plan was to attack 
the enemy simultaneously on both flanks. The main attack would be 
made by 30 Corps ( Leese ) in the north and here I planned to punch 
two corridors through the enemy defences and minefields. 10 Corps 
(Lumsden) would then pass through these corridors and would posi 
tion itself 011 important ground astride the enemy supply routes; 
Rommel s armour would have to attack it, and would, I hoped, be 
destroyed in the process. The sketch map (see Map, No. 14) shows 
the plan. It will be seen that the defended area, including minefields, 
through which the northern corridor was to be punched was 5 miles 

In the south, 13 Corps (Horrocks) was to break into the enemy 
positions and operate with 7th Armoured Division with a view to 
drawing enemy armour in that direction; this would make it easier for 
10 Corps to get out into the open in the north. 13 Corps was not to 
suffer heavy casualties, and in particular yth Armoured Division was 
to remain "in being * and available for the mobile operations after the 
break-out had been achieved. It will bo noted that my plan departed 
from the traditional desert tactics of staging the main offensive on 
the south or inland flank, and then wheeling towards the sea. I con 
sidered that if my main attack was in the south there was only one 
direction it could take after the break-inand that was northwards. 
The fact that a certain tactic had always been employed by all com 
manders in the desert seemed to me a good reason for doing something 
else* I planned to attack neither on my left flank nor on my right flank, 
but somewhere right of centre; having broken in, I could then direct 
my forces to the right or to the left us seemed most profitable. This 
decision was not popular with the staff at G.H.Q. and pressure was 
brought on rny Chief of Staff to influence me to change my mind. 
Alexander never joined in the argument; he understood all my pro 
posals and backed them to the hilt, 

I was watching the training carefully and it was becoming apparent 
to me that the Eighth Army was very untrained. The need for training 
had never been stressed. Most commanders had come to the fore by 
skill in fighting and because no better were available; many were 
above their ceiling, and few were good trainers. By the end of Sep- 

The Battle of Alamein 109 

tember there were serious doubts in my mind whether the troops would 
be able to do what was being demanded; the plan was simple but it 
was too ambitious. If I was not careful, divisions and units would be 
given tasks which might end in failure because of the inadequate 
standard of training. The Eighth Army had suffered some 80,000 
casualties since it was formed, and little time had been spent in train 
ing the replacements. 

The moment I saw what might happen I took a quick decision. 
On the 6th October, just over two weeks before the battle was to 
begin, I changed the plan. My initial plan had been based on destroy 
ing Rommel s armour; the remainder of his army, the un-armoured 
portion, could then be dealt with at leisure. This was in accordance 
with the accepted military thinking of the day. I decided to reverse 
the process and thus alter the whole conception of how the battle was 
to be fought. My modified plan now was to hold off, or contain, die 
enemy armour while we carried out a methodical destruction of the 
infantry divisions holding the defensive system. These un-armoured 
divisions would be destroyed by means of a "crumbling" process, the 
enemy being attacked from the flank and rear and cut off from their 
supplies. These operations would be carefully organised from a series 
of firm bases and would be within the capabilities of my troops. I did 
not think it likely that the enemy armour would remain inactive and 
watch the gradual destruction of all the un-armoured divisions; it 
would be launched in heavy counter-attacks. This would suit us very 
well, since the best way to destroy the enemy armour was to entice it 
to attack our armour in position. I aimed to get my armour beyond 
the area of the "crumbling" operations. I would then turn the enemy 
minefields to our advantage by using them to prevent the enemy 
armour from interfering with our operations; this would be done by 
closing the approaches through the minefields with our tanks, and we 
would then be able to proceed relentlessly with our plans. The success 
of the whole operation would depend largely on whether 30 Corps 
could succeed in the "break-in" battle and establish the corridors 
through which the armoured divisions of 10 Corps must pass. I was 
certain that if we could get the leading armoured brigades through 
the corridors without too great delay, then we would win the battle. 
Could we do this? In order to make sure, I planned to launch the 
armoured divisions of 10 Corps into the corridors immediately behind 
the leading infantry divisions of 30 Corps and before I knew the 
corridors were clear. Furthermore, I ordered that if the corridors were 
not completely clear on the morning of D+i, the 24th October, the 
armoured divisions would fight their own way out into the open 
beyond the western limit of the minefields. This order was not popular 
with the armoured units but I was determined to see that it was carried 
out to the letter. 

110 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

It will be seen later how infirmity of purpose on the part o certain 
senior commanders in carrying out this order nearly lost us the battle. 

I mentioned in Chapter 8 that there was a Major Williams on my 
Intelligence staff who appeared to me to be of outstanding ability. To 
all who served with me in the war he was known always as Bill 
Williams. In a conversation one day about this time, he pointed out 
to me that the enemy German and Italian troops were what he called 
"corsetted"; that is, Rommel had so deployed his German infantry 
and parachute troops that they were positioned between, and in some 
places behind, his Italian troops all along the front, the latter being 
unreliable when it came to hard fighting. Bill Williams s idea was that 
if we could separate the two we would be very well placed, as we could 
smash through a purely Italian front without any great difficulty. This 
very brilliant analysis and idea was to be a major feature of the master 
plan for the "crumbling" operations, and it paved the way to final 
victory at Alamein. 


The object of the deception plan was twofold: 

(a) To conceal from the enemy as long as possible our intention to 
take the offensive. 

(b) When this could no longer bo concealed, to mislead him about 
both the date and the sector in which our main thrust was to be 

This was done by the concealment of real intentions and real moves 
in the north, and by advertising false signs of activity in the south. 

The whole dec-option was organised on an "army* basis; tremendous 
attention to detail was necessary throughout, since carelessness in 
any one area might have compromised the whole scheme. To cany 
out such a gigantic bluff in the time available required detailed plan 
ning, considoniblc quantities of labour and transport, mass production 
of deception devices at the base, a large camouflage store with trained 
staff, and the co-ordinated movement of many hundreds of vehicles 
into selected areas. Because all these essentials were provided the 
scheme was entirely successful, and great credit is due to the camou 
flage organisation in the Middle East at the time. 

A feature of the "visual deception * was the creation and continued 
preservation of the layout and density of vehicles required for the 
assault in 30 Corps sector in the north; this was achieved by the ist 
October by the placing in position of the necessary dummy lorries, 
guns, ammunition limbers, etc. During the concentration of attacking 
divisions just before the day of the attack, the dummies were replaced 

The Battle of Alamein 111 

at night by the actual operational vehicles. The rear areas, whence 
the attacking divisions and units came, were maintained at their full 
visual vehicle density by the erection of dummies as the real vehicles 
moved out. The reason for all this visual deception was that enemy 
air photographs should continue to reveal the same story. The co 
ordinating brain behind this part of the plan was Charles Richardson, 
a very able officer in the planning staff of Eighth Army H.Q. (now 
Major-General C. L. Richardson, recently Commandant of the Military 
College of Science). 

In preparation for the offensive, dumps had to be made in the 
northern sector. For example, a large dump was created near the 
station of Alamein. This was to contain 600 tons of supplies, 2000 tons 
of P.O.L. (petrol, oil, lubricants), and 420 tons of engineer stores. It 
was of the utmost importance that the existence of these dumps should 
not become known to the enemy. The site was open and featureless 
except for occasional pits and trenches. Disguise provided the most 
satisfactory method of hiding the dumps, and the whole endeavour 
was a triumph for the camouflage organisation. 

Another example I will quote was the dummy pipeline in the south 
to cause the enemy to believe the main blow would be delivered on 
that flank. It was started late in September and progress in the work 
was timed to indicate its completion early in November. The dummy 
pipeline was laid for a length of about 20 miles, from a point just 
south of the real water point at Bir Sadi to a point 4 miles east of 
Samaket Gaballa. The pipe-trench was excavated in the normal way. 
Five miles of dummy railway track, made from petrol cans, were 
used for piping. The "piping" was strung out alongside the open 
trench. When each 5-mile section of the trench was filled in, the 
"piping" was collected and laid out alongside the next section. Dummy 
pump houses were erected at three points; water points and overhead 
storage reservoirs were made at two of these points. Work began on 
the 26th September and ceased on the 22nd October; it was carried 
out by one section of 578 Army Troops Company. 

There were of course other measures such as the careful planting 
of false information for the enemy s benefit, but I have confined this 
outline account to visual deception in which camouflage played the 
major part. The whole plan was given the code name BERTRAM and 
those responsible for it deserve the highest praise: for it succeeded. 

The R.A.F. was to play a tremendous part in this battle. The AOC * 
aimed to gain gradual ascendancy over the enemy fighters, and to 
have that ascendancy complete by the 23rd October. On that day the 
RA.F. was to carry out blitz attacks against enemy airfields in order 

* Air Officer Commanding. 

112 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

to finish off the opposing air forces, and particularly to prevent air 
reconnaissance. At zero hour the whole bomber effort was to be directed 
against the enemy artillery, and shortly before daylight on the 24th 
October I hoped the whole of the air effort would be available to 
co-operate intimately in the land battle, as our fighter ascendancy by 
that time would be almost absolute. 

I issued veiy strict orders about morale, fitness, and determined 
leadership, as follows: 


"This battle for which we are preparing will be a real rough 
house and will involve a very great deal of hard fighting. If we 
are successful it will mean the end of the war in North Africa, 
apart from general clearing-lip operations; it will be the turning 
point of the whole war. Therefore we can take no chances. 

Morale is the big tiling in war. We must raise the morale of our 
soldiery to the highest pitch; they must be made enthusiastic, and 
must enter this battle with their tails high iu the air and with the 
will to win. There must in fact bo no weak links in our mental 

But mental fitness will not stand up to the stress and strain of 
battle unless troops are also physically fit. This battle may go on 
for many days and the final issue may well depend on which side 
can best last out and stand up to the buffeting, the ups and downs, 
and the continuous strain of hard battle fighting. 

I am not convinced that our soldiery are really tough and hard. 
They are sunburnt and brown, and look very well; but they seldom 
move anywhere on foot and they have led a static life for many 
weeks. During the next months, therefore*, it is essential to make 
our officers and men really fit; ordinary fitness is not enough, they 
must be made tough and hard." 


"This battle will involve hard and prolonged fighting. Our troops 
must not think that, because we have a good tank and very power 
ful artillery support, the enemy will all surrender. The enemy will 
not surrender, and there will be bitter fighting. 

The infanhy must bo prepared to fight and kill, and to continue 
doing so over a prolonged period. 

It is essential to impress on all officers that determined leader 
ship will be very vital in this battle, as in any battle. There have 
been far too many unwounded prisoners taken in this war. We 
must impress on our officers, n.c.o.s. and men that when they are 
cut off or surrounded, and there appears to be no hope of survival, 
they must organise themselves into a defensive locality and hold 

The Battle of Alamein 113 

out where they are. By doing so they will add enormously to the 
enemy s difficulties; they will greatly assist the development of 
our own operations; and they will save themselves from spending 
the rest of the war in a prison camp. 

Nothing is ever hopeless so long as troops have stout hearts., 
and have weapons and ammunition. 

These points must be got across now at once to all officers and 
men, as being applicable to all fighting. * 


It was clear to me that we could not inform the troops about our 
offensive intentions until we stopped all leave and kept them out in 
the desert. I did not want to create excitement in Alexandria and 
Cairo by stopping leave with an official announcement. I therefore 
ordered as outlined below. Officers and men were to be brought fully 
into the operational picture as follows: 


C.O.s of R.E. units 

Uz8 September 
Unit commanders 10 October 

Company, battery, U October 
etc., commander level J 

Remaining officers "1 ~ ^ , 

, . & ^21 October 

and the men J 

On the 2ist October a definite stop was to be put to all journeys by 
officers or men to Alexandria, or other towns, for shopping or other 

On the 2ist October unit commanders were to stop all leave, quietly 
and without publishing any written orders. They were to give as the 
reason that there were signs the enemy might attack in the full-moon 
period, and that we must have all officers and men present. 

What it amounted to was that by the 2ist October everyone, 
including the soldiers, would be fully in the operational picture; no 
one could leave the desert after that. 

There was one exception. I ordered that troops in the foremost 
positions who might be raided by the enemy and captured, and all 
troops who might be on patrol in no-man s-land, were not to be told 
anything about the attack till the morning of the 23rd October: which 
was D-Day. 

114 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 


This was the grouping of divisions for the beginning of the battle: 

10 Corps 13 Corps 30 Corps 

i Armd Division 7 Armd Division 9 Aust Division 

8 Armd Division 44 Divison 51 (H) Division 

10 Armd Division 50 Division 2 N.Z. Division 

i S.A. Division 

4 (Indian) Division 

Extra Formations 
i Greek Brigade 

1 Fighting French Brigade 

2 Fighting French Brigade 
Fighting French Flying Column 

9 Armoured Brigade 
23 Armoured Brigade (Valentine tanks) 


This was to be an "Army" battle, fought on an Army plan, and 
controlled carefully from Army H.Q, Therefore every commander 
down to the lieut.-colonel level must know the details of my plan, 
how I proposed to conduct the fight, and how his part fitted in to the 
master plan. Only in this way could perfect co-operation be assured. 
I therefore assembled these commanders and addressed them on the 
following dates: 

13 Corps j Octobcr 

30 Corps J y 

10 Corps 20 October 

I still have the notes I used for the three addresses: written in pencil 
in my own handwriting. I reproduce them here (see illustration no. 
15), I took a risk in saying "Whole affair about 12 days." It will be 
seen that I originally wrote 10 days, and then erased the 10 and wrote 
12. 12 was the better guess. It will also be seen in para. 2 that I 
couldn t spell "Rommel" properly. 

Rough notes used by me for mij address to all 

senior officers before the Battle of Alamcin 

(code name "Lightfoot") 


1. Back history since August. The Mandate; my plans to carry 
it out; the creation of 10 Corps. 

2. Interference by Rommell on 31 Aug. 

The Battle of Alamein 

The basic framework of the Army plan for Lightfoot as issued 

on 14 Sep. To destroy enemy armour. 

Situation in early October. Untrained Army. 

Gradually realised that I must recast the plan so as to be 

within the capabilities of the troops. 

The new plan; the "crumbling" operations. 

A reversal of accepted methods. 

Key points in the Army plan. Three phases 

30 Corps break-in. 

10 Corps break-through. 

13 Corps break-in. 

The dog-fight, and "crum 

Fighting for position and the 
tactical advantage. 

:>ling" operations. 

The final "break" of the enemy. 

6. The enemy 

His sickness; low strengths; small stocks of petrol, ammunition, 


Morale is good, except possibly Italians. 

7. Ourselves 

Immense superiority in guns, tanks, men. 
Can fight a prolonged battle, & will do so. 
25 pdr 832 

6 pdr 753 1200 tanks (470 heavy) 

2, pdr 500 
Morale on the top line. 

8. General conduct of the battle 

Methodical progress; destroy enemy part by part, slowly and 

Shoot tanks and shoot Germans. 
He cannot last a long battle; we can. 

We must therefore keep at it hard; no unit commander must 
relax the pressure; Organise ahead for a "dog-fight" of a 
week. Whole affair about 10 days. (12). 
Don t expect spectacular results too soon. 
Operate from firm bases. 

Quick re-organisation on objectives. 

Keep balanced. 

Maintain offensive eagerness. 

If we do all 
> this victory is 

Keep up pressure. 

10. Moralemeasures to get it. Addresses. 
Every soldier in the Army a fighting soldier. 

No non-fighting man. All trained to kill Germans. 
My message to the troops. 

11. The issues at stake. 

12. The troops to remember what to say if they are captured. 
Rank, name, & number. 


116 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

Finally, I issued the following personal message to the officers and 
men of the army. 



"i. When I assumed command of the Eighth Army I said that the 
mandate was to destroy ROMMEL and his Army, and that it 
would be done as soon as we were ready. 

2. We are ready NOW. 

The battle which is now about to begin will be one of the 
decisive battles of history. It will be the turning point of the 
war. The eyes of the whole world will be on us, watching 
anxiously which way the battle will swing. 

We can give them their answer at once, It will swing our 

3. We have first-class equipment; good tanks; good anti-tank 
guns; plenty of artillery and plenty of ammunition; and we 
are backed up by the finest air striking force in the world. 

All that is necessaiy is that each one of us, every officer and 
man, should enter this battle with the determination to see it 
through to fight and to kill and finally, to win. 

If we all do this there can be only one result together we 
will hit the enemy for six, right out of North Africa. 

4. The sooner we win this battle, which will be the turning point 
of this war, the sooner we shall all get back home to our 
families . 

5. Therefore, let every officer and man enter the battle with a 
stout heart, and with the determination to do his duty so long 
as he has breath in his body. 


Let us all pray that the Lord mighty in battle will give us 
the victory, 

B. L, Montgomery, 

Lieutenant-General, G.O.C.-in-C., Eighth Army" 
Middle East Forces, 

After briefing the Press on the morning of the 23rd October, I went 
forward that afternoon to my Tactical H.Q. established near H.Q. 
30 Corps. In the evening I read a book and went to bed early. At 
9,40 p.m. the barrage of over one thousand guns opened, and the 
Eighth Army which included some 1200 tanks went into the attack. 
At that moment I was asleep in my caravan; there was nothing I could 
clo and I knew I would be needed later. There is always a crisis in 

The Battle of Alamein 117 

every battle when the issue hangs in the balance, and I reckoned I 
would get what rest I could, while I could. As it turned out, I was 
wise to have done so: my intervention was needed sooner than I 

The story of the battle has been told by me in Alamein to the River 
Sangro, and by General de Guingand in his book Operation Victory. 
My purpose now will be to explain the action I took at certain critical 
moments. Throughout the war I have kept a very precise diary and 
what follows is taken from notes made each day during the battle. 


The attack had gone in on the 23rd October in accordance with the 
plan I have just described. The whole area was one enormous minefield 
and the two corridors in the north had not been completely opened for 
the armoured divisions of 10 Corps by 8 a.m. on the 24th October. 
In accordance with my orders, I expected the armoured divisions to 
fight their way out into the open. But there was some reluctance to do 
so and I gained the impression during the morning that they were 
pursuing a policy of inactivity. There was not that eagerness on the 
part of senior commanders to push on and there was a fear of tank 
casualties; every enemy gun was reported as an 88-mm. (the German 
A. A. gun used as an anti-tank gun, and very effective). The loth 
Corps Commander was not displaying the drive and determination so 
necessary when things begin to go wrong and there was a general 
lack of offensive eagerness in the armoured divisions of the corps. 
Tliis was not the sort of battle they were used to. It was clear to me 
that I must take instant action to galvanise the armoured divisions 
into action; determined leadership was lacking. I therefore sent for 
Lumsden and told him he must "drive" his Divisional Commanders, 
and if there was any more hanging back I would remove them from 
their commands and put in more energetic personalities. This action 
produced immediate results in one of the armoured divisions; by 
6 p.m. that evening the armoured brigade of ist Armoured Division 
in the northern corridor was out in the open; it was then attacked by 
i5th Panzer Division, which was exactly what I wanted. 

Farther south the New Zealand Division began its movement to the 
south-west as part of the "crumbling" operations. And farther south 
still, 13 Corps was playing its part according to plan. 


I have always thought that this was when the real crisis in the battle 
occurred. At 2.30 a.m. 10 Corps reported that the break-out of loth 

118 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

Armoured Division in the southern corridor in 30 Corps sector was 
not proceeding well and that minefields and other difficulties were 
delaying progress. The Divisional Commander had said he did not 
feel happy about the operation, and that even if he did get out he 
would be in a very unpleasant position on the forward slopes of the 
Miteriya Ridge. His division was untrained and not fit for such difficult 
operations; he wanted to stay where he was. Lumsden was inclined 
to agree. In the northern corridor, 1st Armoured Division was out in 
the open and was being furiously attacked by the enemy armour; which 
was exactly what the doctor ordered; so long as I was the doctor in 
question. De Guingand rightly decided it was necessary for me to see 
the two corps commanders concerned and grip the situation; he issued 
orders for a conference at my Tactical H.Q. at 3.30 a.m. and then 
came and woke me and told me what he had done. I agreed. Leese and 
Lumsden arrived on time and I asked each to explain his situation. 
The "atmosphere" at that conference is described most vividly by 
de Guingand on page 200 of his book, Operation Victory. 

I discovered that in the loth Armoured Division, one of the ar 
moured regiments was already out in the open and that it was hoped 
more would be out by dawn. The divisional commander wanted to 
withdraw it all back behind the minefields and give up the advantages 
he had gained; his reason was that his situation out in the open would 
be very unpleasant and his division might suffer heavy casualties. 
Lumsden agreed with him; he asked if I would personally speak to 
the divisional commander on the telephone. I did so at once and 
discovered to my horror that he himself was some 16,000 yards (nearly 
10 miles) behind his leading armoured brigades. I spoke to him in no 
uncertain voice, and ordered him to go forward at once and take 
charge of his battle; he was to fight his way out, and lead his division 
from in front and not from behind. 

I then told both corps commanders that my orders were unchanged; 
there would be no departure from my plan. I kept Lumsden behind 
when the others had left and spoke very plainly to him. I said I was 
determined that the armoured divisions would get out of the minefield 
area and into the open where they could manoeuvre; any wavering or 
lack of firmness now would be fatal. If he himself, or the Commander 
loth Armoured Division, was not "for it," then I would appoint others 
who were. 

By 8 a.m. all my armour was out in the open and we were in the 
position I had hoped to have achieved at 8 a.m. the day before. 

At noon I had a conference of corps commanders at H.Q., 2nd 
N.Z. Division. It became clear that the movement south-west of the 
N.Z. Division would be a very costly operation and I decided to 
abandon it at once. Instead, I ordered the "crumbling" operations to 
be switched to the area of the gth Australian Division, working 

The Battle of Alamein 119 

northwards towards the coast; this new thrust line, or axis of opera 
tions, involved a switch of 180 degrees which I hoped might catch the 
enemy unawares. 


Hard fighting had been going on for the previous three days and 
I began to realise from the casualty figures that I must be careful. 
I knew that the final blow must be put in on 30 Corps front, but at 
the moment I was not clear exactly where. But I had to get ready 
for it. So I decided to turn my southern flank (13 Corps) over to the 
defensive except for patrol activities, to widen divisional fronts, and 
to pull into reserve the divisions I needed for the final blow. The N.Z. 
Division I had already got into reserve. 

We now had the whole of Rommers Panzer Army opposite the 
northern corridor and I knew we would never break out from there. 
So I made that area a defensive front and pulled ist Armoured 
Division into reserve. 

I also decided that for the moment I would use only 30 Corps to 
fight the battle in the north; so I pulled 10 Corps H.Q. into reserve, 
to get it ready for the break-out 

I ordered that operations by gth Australian Division towards the 
coast be intensified, my intention then being to stage the final break 
out operation on the axis of the coast road. 


During the morning it became increasingly evident that the whole 
of Rommers German forces were grouped in the northern part of the 
front. The action of ist Armoured Division in the northern corridor, 
and the operations of gth Australian Division northwards towards the 
coast, had clearly made him think that we intended to break out in 
the north along the coast, which was indeed my design at the time. 

But we had now achieved what Bill Williams had recommended. 
The Germans had been pulled against our right and were no longer 
"corsetting" the Italians. The Germans were in the north, the Italians 
together in the south; and the dividing line between them appeared 
to be just to the north of our original northern corridor. 

I at once changed my plan and decided to direct the final blow at 
this point of junction, but overlapping well on to the Italian front. 
I took this decision at 11 a.m., the &gth October, 

When could we stage the blow? 

I knew that Operation TORCH, mounted from England, was to land 
in the Casablanca-Oran area on the 8th November. We must defeat 

120 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

the enemy, and break up his army, in time to be of real help to TOBCH. 
Quite apart from wanting to get to Tripoli first! But more immediately, 
the timing was affected by the need to get the Martuba airfields so 
as to assist by giving air cover to the last possible convoy to Malta, 
which was short of food and almost out of aviation fuel. The convoy 
was to leave Alexandria about the middle of November. 

I decided that on the night 3Oth-3ist October the gth Australian 
Division would attack strongly northwards to reach the sea; this would 
keep the enemy looking northwards. Then on the next night, 3ist Octo 
ber/ ist November, I would blow a deep hole in the enemy front just 
to the north of the original corridor; this hole would be made by the 
2nd New Zealand Division which would be reinforced by the gth 
Armoured Brigade and two infantry brigades; the operation would 
be under command of 30 Corps. Through the gap, I would pass 10 
Corps with its armoured divisions. 

Tlie sketch map (see Map, No. 16) of the break-out shows the plan 
very clearly. 

We already had the necessary divisions in reserve and they had 
been resting and refitting. 

What, in fact, I proposed to do was to deliver a hard blow with 
the right, and follow it the next night with a knock-out blow with 
the left. The operation was christened SUPERCHARGE. 

During the morning I was visited at my Tactical H.Q. by Alexander, 
and by Casey who was Minister of State in the Middle East. It was 
fairly clear to me that there had boon consternation in Whitehall when 
I began to draw divisions into reserve on the 2/th and 28th October, 
when I was getting ready for the final blow. Casey had been sent up 
to find out what was going on; Whitehall thought I was giving up, 
when in point of fact I was just about to win. 

I told him all about my plans and that I was certain of sxiccess; 
and de Guingand spoke to him very bluntly and told him to tell 
Whitehall not to bellyache. I never heard what signal was sent to 
London after the visit and was too busy with SUPERCHARGE to bother 
about it. Anyhow, I was certain the C.I.G.S. (Brooke) would know 
what I was up to. 


I spent the morning writing out my directive for SUPERCHARGE. 
I always wrote such orders myself, and never let the staff do it. This 
was the master plan and only the master could write it. The staff 
of course has much detailed work to do after such a directive is issued. 
This procedure was well understood in the Eighth Army (and later, 
because of the experience in the Mediterranean, in 21 Army Group). 

The Battle of Alamein 121 

This is what I wrote: 




2,0 Oct. 1942 

"i. Operation SUPERCHARGE will take place on night 31 Oct/i Nov. 
The operation is designed to: 

(a) Destroy the enemy armoured forces, 

(b) Force the enemy to fight in the open, and thus make 
him use petrol by constant and continuous movement 

(c) Get astride the enemy supply route, and prevent move 
ment o supply services. 

(d) Force the enemy from his forward landing grounds and 

(e) Bring about the disintegration of the whole enemy 
army by a combination of (a), (b), (c) and (d). 


2. To attack by night from the present forward positions between 
the 297 and 301 Northing grids. Attack to penetrate Westwards 
to a depth of 4000 yds. 

3. On reaching the final objective, armoured and infantry patrols 
to push out farther to the West so as to cover the debouch 
ment of the armoured divisions and so enable them to get out 
and deploy the more easily. 

4. The flanks of die penetration to be held securely, and their 
Eastern extremities to be linked up firmly with our existing 

5. The whole area of penetration to be cleared, and organised 
for free movement, and to be held securely as a firm base 
from which to develop offensive operations. 


6. 10 Corps will break out into the open through the penetration 
made by 30 Corps. 

7. Armoured cars, at least two regiments initially, will be 
launched through the bridgehead area before daylight on 
ist November and will push out to the N.W., the West, the 
S.W., and the South. 

The task of the armoured cars will be to operate offensively 
on the enemy supply routes, destroy everything they meet, 
and prevent any supplies or reinforcements from coming 
forward, and prevent any movement from the forward areas 
to the rear. 

122 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

Armoured cars must be prepared to operate on their own 
for some days, keeping up the strangle-hold and making full 
use of enemy petrol and supplies. 

8. 10 Corps will secure as a first objective the general area Pt 46 
in 858299 Tell el Aqqaqir in 860297. Operations will then be 
developed so as to: 

(a) Destroy the enemy armoured forces. 

(b) Bring about the complete disintegration of the enemy s 
rear areas. 

9. The general axis of operations for 10 Corps, subject to the 
fulfilment of the task given in para. 8 (a), will be N.W. towards 
Ghazal Station, so as to get in behind the enemy forces in the 
Sidi Rahman area and cut them off. 

10. The forward movement of 10 Corps will be timed so that the 
area of the first objective is secured before daylight on ist 
November, and operations developed from that area as the 
sun is rising. 

11. It will be clearly understood that should 30 Corps not suc 
ceed in reaching the final objective vide paras. 2 and 3, die 
armoured divisions of 10 Corps will fight their way to the 
first objective. 


12. 30 Corps will hold N.Z. Div, in readiness to take over the area 
of 10 Corps first objective vide para. 8, so as to free 10 Corps 
for offensive operations against the enemy armoured forma 
tions or for a N.W. movement towards Ghazal Station. 

13. Very close touch, co-operation, and liaison will be required 
between 10 Corps and 30 Corps throughout the whole op 

14. This operation if successful will result in the complete dis 
integration of the enemy and will lead to his final destruction. 

It will therefore be successful* 

Determined leadership will be vital; complete faith in the 
plan, and its success, will be vital; there must be no doubters; 
risk must be accepted freely; there must be no ^bellyaching." 

I call on every commander to carry through this operation 
with determination, to fight their formations bravely, and to 
instil optimism and offensive eagerness into all ranks. 

SUPERCHARGE will win for us the victory* 


15. 13 Corps will do what is possible on the Southern flank 
before or after dark on 3ist October to make the enemy think 
an attack is coming on that flank. 

The Battle of Alamein 123 

16. The corps will be ready to take immediate action the moment 
it appears that the enemy is beginning to crack. 


17. 7th Arm. Div. (less 4th Lt Arm. Brigade). 

iSist Inf. Bde. (Queens). 

These two formations will be held in Army reserve ready 
for use as the situation develops. 


18. The R.A.F. are playing a great part in inflicting moral and 
material damage on the enemy. This is being intensified, from 
tomorrow inclusive onwards, and will reach its culminating 
point as SUPERCHARGE is launched. 


19. We know from all sources of intelligence that the enemy is in 
a bad way, and his situation is critical. The continued offen 
sive operations of Eighth Army and the R.A.F. have reduced 
him to such a state that a hard blow now will complete his 

The first stage in the blow is the operation being staged by 
gth Aus. Div. tonight on the North flank; success in this oper 
ation will have excellent repercussions on SUPERCHARGE. 

SUPERCHARGE itself, tomorrow night 3ist October/ist 
November, will be the second blow and a staggering one, and 
one from which I do not consider he will be able to recover." 


It was clear to me that the stage management problems in connec 
tion with SUPERCHARGE were such that if launched on this night it 
might fail. I therefore decided to postpone it for 24 hours to deliver 
the blow on the night ist-2nd November. This delay would help the 
enemy. To offset this, I extended the depth of penetration for a further 
2000 yards, making 6000 yards in all the whole under a very strong 

I should add that there were doubts in high places about SUPER 
CHARGE, and whisperings about what would happen if it failed. These 
doubts I did not share and I made that quite clear to everyone. 


At i a.m. SUPERCHARGE began and the attack went in on a front of 
4000 yards to a depth of 6000 yards. It was a success and we were all 

124 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

but out into the open desert. By dusk we had taken 1500 prison 


There were indications the enemy was about to withdraw; he 
was almost finished. 


At 2 a.m. I directed two hard punches at the "hinges" of the final 
break-out area where the enemy was trying to stop us widening the 
gap which we had blown. That finished the battle. 

The armoured car regiments went through as dawn was breaking 
and soon the armoured divisions got clean away into the open desert; 
they were now in country clear of minefields, where they could 
manoeuvre and operate against the enemy rear areas and retreating 

The armoured cars raced away to the west, being directed far 
afield on the enemy line of retreat. 

The Italian divisions in the south, in front of 13 Corps, had nothing 
to do except surrender; they could not escape as the Germans had 
taken all their transport. I directed Horrocks to collect them in, and 
devoted my attention to the pursuit of Rommel s forces which were 
streaming westwards. 


This was an organisation for intercepting the signals sent out by 
our own forward units and relaying them to Army and Corps H.Q. 
Wo called the service "J7 for short It was used for the first time in 
this battle. It was invented by a most able officer on my staff called 
Hugh Mainwaring; he was unfortunately captured with a reconnais 
sance party near Mersu Matruh early in November, and I then had to 
find another officer to operate the "J" Service. 

Receiving wireless sets "listened" on division, brigade, and armoured 
corps forward controls and broadcast the information obtained. This 
cut down the time-lag between the origination of information by the 
forward troops and its receipt at Army and Corps H.Q. "J" gives to a 
higher commander a good indication of the fighting spirit of his troops 
and, incidentally, although this was not its prime purpose, it could 
also help by spotting obvious breaches of security, It had the overall 
effect of tightening the entity of the Army; bringing it all closer to- 

The Battle of Alamein 125 

gether. Wireless links became intimate links between men engaged 
on the same enterprise. It ended the remoteness of the staff. 

It will be remembered that as a GSO i in 1918 I had devised a 
system of getting to Divisional H.Q. quickly the accurate information 
of the progress of the battle which is so vital. Then I used officers with 
wireless sets. The "J" Service invented by Hugh Mainwaring was a 
great improvement on my earlier attempts. 


A mass of detailed lessons will always emerge from any battle. In 
the British Army we are inclined to become immersed in details, and 
we often lose sight of the fundamentals on which the details are based. 

There were three distinct phases in this battle, and operations were 
developed accordingly. 
First: The break-in. 

This was the battle for position, or the fight for the tactical advan 
tage. At the end of this phase we had to be so positioned and bal 
anced" that we could begin immediately the second phase. We must 
in fact have gained the tactical advantage. 
Second: The "dog-fight." 

I use this term to describe what I knew must develop after the 
break-in and that was a hard and bloody killing match. During this 
we had so to cripple the enemy s strength that the final blow would 
cause the disintegration of his army. 
Third: The break-out. 

This was brought about by a terrific blow directed at a selected 
spot. During the dog-fight the enemy had been led to believe that 
the break-out would come in the north, on the axis of the coast road. 
He was sensitive to such a thrust and he concentrated his Germans in 
the north to meet it, leaving the Italians to hold his southern flank. 
We then drove in a hard blow between the Germans and Italians, 
with a good overlap on the Italian front. 

Determined leadership is vital throughout all echelons of command. 
Nowhere is it more important than in the higher ranks. 

Generals who become depressed when things are not going well, 
who lack the "drive" to get tilings done, and who lack the resolution, 
the robust mentality and the moral courage to see their plan through 
to the end are useless. They are, in fact, worse than useless they are 
a menace since any sign of wavering or hesitation has immediate 
repercussions down the scale when the issue hangs in the balance. 
No battle is ever lost till the general in command thinks it so. If I had 
not stood firm and insisted that my plan would be carried through, 
we would not have won at Alamein. 

126 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

If your enemy stands to fight and is decisively defeated in the 
ensuing battle, everything is added unto you. Rommel s doom was 
sounded at Alam Haifa; as Von Mellenthin said, it was the turning 
point of the desert war. After that, he was smashed in battle at Ala- 
mein. He had never been beaten before though he had often had to 
"nip back to get more petrol." Now he had been decisively defeated. 
The doom of the Axis forces in Africa was certain provided we made 
no more mistakes. 


Alamein to Tunis 

5th November 1942 to 7th May 1943 


THE PURSUIT proper began on the $th November with 10 Corps 
(Lumsden) in the van. I left 30 Corps (Leese) to reorganise to 
the west of the break-out area. 13 Corps (Horrocks) had the 
task of cleaning up the battle area of Alamein and of salving all the 
war material of the enemy and of our own forces. It also had to collect 
all the Italian prisoners; there were many of them and they sur 
rendered in droves, headed by the generals carrying their suit-cases. 

My ultimate objective was Tripoli; this had always been considered 
the objective of the Eighth Army. But unfortunately the operations 
to get tihere had become known as the "Benghazi Handicap." As one 
officer expressed it to me: "we used to go up to Benghazi for Christ 
mas and return to Egypt early in the New Year." 

I was determined to have done with that sort of thing. Egypt must 
be made secure for the duration of the war. I had long considered 
the problem, and when the pursuit began I was clear that the way to 
achieve this task was as follows: 

(a) To capture the Agheila position, and hold securely the ap 
proaches to it from the west. 

(b) To locate a corps strong in armour in the Jebel about Mekili, 
trained to operate southwards against any enemy force that 
managed to break through the Agheila position and make 
towards Egypt. 

(c) To get the AOC to establish the Desert Air Force on the 
Martuba group of airfields, and also to the south of Benghazi. 

The establishment of aircraft on the Martuba group was not just 
a long-term proposal; it was an immediate requirement since a convoy 


128 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

for Malta was due to leave Alexandria on the i6th November. That 
island was in dire straits with great shortage of food and fuel; it was 
vital the convoy should get through and it might fail to do so unless 
the Desert Air Force could provide fighter cover as it passed in day 
light through the narrow area between Crete and Cyrenaica. 

By the 15th November the air forces were established in the Mar- 
tuba airfields, in time to see the convoy safely on its way. 

For the development of these operations I agreed the following 
detailed plan with the AOC Desert Air Force (Coningham). We 
would use the air arm as the long-range hitting weapon, working in 
close co-operation with armoured car regiments; fighter squadrons 
would operate from advance landing grounds soon after the armoured 
cars had reported them clear, and well ahead of the main bodies. 
These tactics would lead to the enemy being shot up and harassed in 
his withdrawal, while good fighter cover was given to our own forces. 

I did not think we would have any serious fighting till we reached 
Agheila. Rommel would undoubtedly withdraw to that position and 
would endeavour to stop us there; his supply route would then be 
shortened while ours would be long, thus reversing the supply situa 
tion which had existed at Alamein. 

I therefore planned to leave 10 Corps to lead the pursuit as far as 
the Jebel, and to halt it there with orders to push light forces forward 
towards Benghazi and Agedabia. I considered Lumsden would handle 
these operations satisfactorily. I would then pass 30 Corps through 
to tackle the Agheila position and the movement to Tripoli, I also 
decided that as soon as 10 Corps was established in the Jebel I would 
bring Horrocks up to command it and would send Lumsden back to 
England. I had reached the conclusion that command of a corps in a 
major battle was above Lumsden s ceiling. On the other hand, he was 
a good trainer and as such he would be valuable back in England. I 
decided to ask for Dempsey to be sent out from England to take over 
13 Corps from Horrocks. I would then have three reliable Corps 
Commanders in Leese, Horrocks and Dempsey; they had all served 
under me before, and Leese and Dempsey had been students under me 
at the Staff College. All these moves were agreed by Alexander. 

The sketch map (see Map, No. 19) will serve to illustrate the devel 
opment of my plans up to the Agheila position. 

I gave precise instructions to Lumsden about the development of 
operations for the pursuit to Agheila, and kept a firm hand on the 
battle in order to ensure the master plan was not "mucked about" by 
subordinate commanders having ideas inconsistent with it. I knew well 
that, in the past, corps and divisional generals had had their own ideas 
about operations in the desert, and had not liked a firm grip from 
above; this was one reason why we had nearly lost Egypt. I made it 
very clear to Lumsden that this time all would carry out my orders; 

Alamein to Tunis 129 

I had promised the soldiers complete success and I was determined 
to see they got it. 

Soon after the pursuit began I was in danger of capture. A recon 
naissance party was sent forward to select a site for my headquarters 
in the Mersa Matruh area; two members of this party were Hugh 
Mainwaring and my stepson Dick Carver. On approaching Mersa 
Matruh the party took a road leading down to a place on the shore 
called Smugglers Cove, just to the east of the town. The enemy were 
still there; they should all have been rounded up by that time but, 
as will be seen later on, our forces moving across the desert were 
halted by heavy rain. The reconnaissance party was captured, I my 
self with a small escort was moving well forward in rear of the leading 
elements of the army and was about to take the road leading to 
Smugglers Cove. But at that moment I ran into a sharp engagement 
which was going on a few hundred yards in front; we had bumped 
into an enemy rearguard which was trying to hold us off while they 
cleared Mersa Matruh. If I had gone down the road to Smugglers 
Cove, it is possible I would have run into the enemy; if so, Tin pretty 
clear that I wouldn t be writing this book today. 

The other and more important operations developed successfully. 
Twice Rommers forces were saved from complete disaster by heavy 
rain. The first occasion was on the 6th and yth November when we 
had three divisions "bogged" in the desert, unable to move, and it 
was not possible even to get petrol to them; this setback saved Rom 
mers forces from complete encirclement at Mersa Matruh. The second 
occasion was when very heavy rain on the 15th, i6th and lyth Novem 
ber held up our forces moving across the desert towards Agedabia to 
cut off the enemy before he could reach the Agheila position. 

However, I "drove" the Eighth Army hard and the following 
figures will show how fast we moved: 

5th November Pursuit began from Alamein. 

nth November Reached Sollum (270 miles). 

12th November Reached Tobruk (360 miles). 

17th November Reached Msus (560 miles). 

It was good going to do 560 miles in 13 days; but the administrative 
situation quickly began to cause me anxiety. To get full value from 
having established the air forces in the Cyrenaica bulge about Martuba, 
they must be able to operate at full blast against Rommel s supply 
routes by sea across the Mediterranean, the port of Tripoli, and the 
enemy communications between Tripoli and Agheila. 

The air force daily requirements for these tasks were given to me 
as follows: 

By 28th November 400 tons. 
By 2nd December 800 tons. 

130 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

By gth December 1050 tons. 

By i6th December 1400 tons (1000 at Tobruk and 400 at 


These were big tonnages for the air forces alone. But if Rommel 
intended to stand and fight at Agheila, we should also have to build 
up army resources of supplies, petrol, and ammunition before we could 
attack. However, from the larger angle, it was clear that the air forces 
had to have all they wanted; they were the long-hitting weapon and 
their operations if successful would indirectly make the army task 
much easier. 

On the 12th November, when we had driven the enemy forces out 
of Egypt, I issued the following message to the Eighth Army: 

"i. When we began the Battle of Egypt on 23rd October I said 
that together we would hit the Germans and Italians for six 
right out of North Africa. 

We have made a very good start and today, lath November, 
there are no German and Italian soldiers on Egyptian territory 
except prisoners. 

In three weeks we have completely smashed the German 
and Italian Army, and pushed the fleeing remnants out of 
Egypt, having advanced ourselves nearly 300 miles up to and 
beyond the frontier. 

2. The following enemy formations have ceased to exist as effec 
tive fighting formations: 

Panzer Army 20th Italian Corps 

i5th Panzer Div. Ariete Arm. Div. 

2ist Panzer Div. Littorio Arm. Div. 

goth Light Div. Trieste Div. 

i64th Light Div. 
loth Italian Corps 2ist Italian Corps 

Brescia Div. Trento Div. 

Pavia Div. Bologna Div. 

Folgore Div. 

The prisoners captured number 30,000, including nine gen 

The amount of tanks, artillery, anti-tank guns, transport, 
aircraft, etc., destroyed or captured is so great that the enemy 
is completely crippled. 

3. This is a very fine performance and I want, first, to thank you 
all for the way you responded to my call and rallied to the 
task. I feel that our great victory was brought about by the 
good fighting qualities of the soldiers of the Empire rather 
than by anything I may have been able to do myself. 

4. Secondly, I know you will all realise how greatly we were 

Alamein to Tunis 131 

helped in our task by the R.A.F. We could not have done it 
without their splendid help and co-operation. I have thanked 
the R.A.F. warmly on your behalf. 

5. Our task is not finished yet; the Germans are out of Egypt but 
there are still some left in North Africa. There is some good 
hunting to be had farther to the West, in Libya; and our lead 
ing troops are now in Libya ready to begin. And this time, 
having reached Benghazi and beyond, we shall not come back. 

6. On with the task, and good hunting to you all. As in all pur 
suits some have to remain behind to start with; but we shall 
all be in it before the finish. 

B. L. Montgomery, 


G.O.C.-in-C., Eighth Army. 9 * 

It will be noticed from the signature of this message that I was 
now a general, having been a lieutenant-general when I arrived in 
the desert on the isth August. I was promoted General for "dis 
tinguished services in the field" after the Battle of Alamein, and 
appointed a K.C.B.* at the same time. 

A curious incident occurred as our light forces were moving forward 
south of Benghazi. I was right up behind the leading armoured cars, 
reconnoitring the area; I had a small escort with me. We had out 
stripped the fighter cover and from time to time enemy aircraft strafed 
the road; it was not a healthy place and I suppose that I ought not 
to have been there. 

Suddenly I saw a lorry coming up from behind, and on it a large 
boat; a naval Petty Officer sat with the driver and some sailors were 

I stopped the lorry and said to the Petty Officer: "What are you 
doing here? Do you realise that you are right up with the most 
forward elements of the Eighth Army, and you and your boat are 
leading the advance? This is a very dangerous area just at present, and 
you are unarmed. You must turn round and go back at once." 

He was dreadfully upset. He had been ordered to open up a 
"petrol point" at a small cove well to the north of Mersa Brega; small 
naval craft were to land petrol at this point in order that the leading 
armoured car regiments could refill their tanks; this was tie easiest 
way of getting petrol and oil to them. He explained this to me, look 
ing at me with pleading eyes rather like a spaniel asking to be taken 
for a walk to hunt rabbits. 

He then said: "Don t send me back, sir. If the armoured cars don t 
get their petrol, they will have to halt and you will lose touch with 
the Germans. Couldn t I go on with you? I would then be quite safe." 
* Knight Commander of the Bath. 

132 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

That Petty Officer was clearly a student of psychology! In point of 
fact I did not know about these small petrol points for the armoured 
cars; it was a staff plan and a very good one. I took the naval party 
forward with me and saw them safely to their cove, where I was their 
first customer for petrol. I have often thought of that Petty Officer; he 
was from the Merchant Navy and in the R.N.V.R.; * his sense of duty 
was of the highest order, and Britain will never lose her wars so long 
as the Royal Navy can count on men like him. 


As we approached the Agheila position I sensed a feeling of anxiety 
in the ranks of the Eighth Army. Many had been there twice already; 
and twice Rommel had debouched when he was ready and had driven 
them back I therefore decided that I must get possession of the 
Agheila position quickly; morale might decline if we hung about 
looking at it for too long. It was a difficult position to attack. 

I therefore decided to attempt bluff and manoeuvre, and to bustle 
Rommel to such an extent that he might think he would lose his 
whole force if he stood to fight He would be anxious too about the 
morale of his own troops; they had been retreating continuously since 
they were defeated at Alamein, more than 1000 miles away; they had 
been hustled out of every position on which they had tried to make a 
stand; they were continuously being "shot up" from the air. All this 
would tend to make Rommel s forces dispirited and defensively 
minded, looking over their shoulders for the next position to which 
to withdraw as had been the case in the Eighth Army once upon a 

In view of the awkward country to the south and the difficulty of 
a frontal attack, it would obviously be preferable to manoeuvre Rom 
mel out of the Agheila position and then attack him in the easier 
country to the west; in view of the probable decline in morale in his 
forces, I tihought this could be done if I did not delay too long. 

30 Corps had now taken over the lead from 10 Corps; I recon 
noitred the position with Leese in the last week in November and 
gave him my orders, leaving all the details in his capable hands. The 
main feature was to be a movement by Freyberg and his New 
Zealanders round the enemy south flank to a position north of Marada, 
and from thence to operate against the rear of Rommel s forces; this 
would be synchronised with a frontal attack by sist (Highland) 
Division and jth Armoured Division. I fixed the isth December as 
the date on which the operation would begin. The sketch map illus 
trates the plan. I then decided that I myself would fly back to Cairo 
to discuss further plans with Alexander; I also wanted to get some 
* Royal Navy Voluntary Reserve. 

Alamein to Tunis J33 

more clothes, and generally get cleaned up after nearly four months 
in the desert. I spent a very pleasant week-end in Cairo, staying at 
the British Embassy. I did not realise until I got to Cairo that I had 
suddenly become a somewhat "notorious character**; my appearance 
at SL George s Cathedral for the Sunday evening service, where I 
read the lessons, created quite a stir. It is a strange experience to 
find oneself famous and it would be ridiculous to deny that it was 
rather fun. 

When I got back to my headquarters just east of Benghazi, I found 
preparations for facing up to the Agheila position were well advanced. 
It seemed clear that the enemy was becoming nervous about our 
preparations, and had begun to ferry back his immobile Italian troops 
to the Buerat position the next good defensive position to the rear. 
I therefore decided to advance the proposed timing by two days. 

Everything went well. The enemy began to withdraw the moment 
our frontal attack developed; but the New Zealanders had got in 
behind them by the 15th December, and at one time we had the 
whole of Rommel s Panzer Army in between the New Zealand Division 
and 7th Armoured Division, which was advancing strongly. The Ger 
mans broke into small groups and burst their way through gaps in the 
strung-out New Zealand positions; fighting was intense and confused 
all day on the i6th December, and prisoners were captured and re 
captured on both sides. The Panzer Army finally got through to the 
west, but it was severely mauled by the New Zealanders and also 
suffered heavily from air attack. I ordered the New Zealand Division 
to halt and reorganise at Nofilia, and followed up Rommel s army with 
light forces, making contact with them in the Buerat position which 
they were holding strongly. 

The Battle of Agheila was now over; that position was firmly in 
our hands. 

I had 10 Corps (Horrocks), strong in armour, in the Jebel about 
Mekili. The Desert Air Force was vigorously supporting our operations 
from Martuba airfields and from airfields south of Benghazi about 

We had in fact achieved our purpose. 

I moved my advanced Tactical Headquarters forward to Marble 
Arch, near the Merduma airfields, close to H.Q. 30 Corps. From this 
area I was to be well placed to direct the reconnaissance of the 
Buerat position and to draw up the plan for the advance to Tripoli. 


We were now well into Tripolitania, and over 1200 miles from 
Alamein where we had started. Rommel and his Axis forces had been 
decisively defeated. Egypt was safe for the duration of the war. 

134 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

I decided that the Eighth Army needed a halt during which it could 
pull itself together and get ready for the final "jump" to Tripoli. 
Indeed, officers and men deserved a rest and I was determined they 
should have it. I ordered that we would halt where we stood, that no 
offensive operations would take place until after Christmas, and we 
would all spend that day in the happiest way that conditions in the 
desert allowed. It was very cold. Turkeys, plum puddings, beer, were 
all ordered up from Egypt and the staff concentrated on ensuring that 
it all arrived in time: and it did. 

I issued the following message to the Eighth Army: 

"i. The Eighth Army has turned the enemy out of the famous 
Agheila position and is now advancing into Tripolitania. It is 
wonderful what has been achieved since the 23rd October, 
when we started the Battle of Alamein. 

Before the battle began I sent you a message in which I said: 
Let us pray that "the Lord mighty in 
battle* will give us the victory. 

He has done so, and I know you will agree with me when 
I say that we must not forget to thank Him for His great 

2. It is now Chistmas time and we are all thinking about our 
families and friends in the home country. 

I want to send you all my very best wishes, and my hope 
that 1943 will be a very happy year for each one of you. 

3. I have received a Christmas Greeting from Hull, in Yorkshire. 
It is quite the nicest that I have ever received; my only regret 
is that I cannot answer it, as the writer gave no address. But I 
shall treasure it all my life. It is intended for you as well as for 
me, and is as follows: 

Dear Sir, 

To wish you and our lads of die EIGHTH ARMY a very 
happy Christmas. Good health. Good luck. And by the 
Grace of God VICTORY IN 1943. 

Keep ? em on the run, Monty. Best wishes from a York 
shire lass with a lad in the Eighth Army. 

4. What better Christmas greeting can I send on to you than the 
one from the Yorkshire lass? 

I would like to tell her, from us all, that we will do our best 
to Tceep em on the run/ 

5. Good luck to you! And in the words of Tiny Tim, in Dickens s 
Christmas Carol: God bless us all, each one of us.* " 

I realised later that I had misquoted Tiny Tim. But the misquota 
tion did the trick! 

Alamein to Tunis 135 

I enjoyed that Christmas in the desert; I think we all did. We had 
a feeling that we had achieved something. The Agheila bogey had 
been laid and we were leaguering as an Army beyond that once- 
dreaded position, where hitherto only our advanced patrols had pene 
trated. We had made the grade; and morale was high. 

De Guingand was not with me. He had borne a tremendous burden 
since we had met at the road junction outside Alexandria on the early 
morning of the isth August, and he collapsed during the preparations 
for the Battle of Agheila. I sent him back to Cairo for a rest; he had 
become engaged to be married and I said he should get married before 
he returned which he did. I borrowed Bobbie Erskine (now General 
Sir George Erskine) who was Chief of Staff to Leese in 30 Corps, 
and he acted as my Chief of Staff till de Guingand returned. 

Duncan Sandys, son-in-law to the Prime Minister, had been visiting 
me and when he returned to Cairo he sent us a bottle of port for 
Christmas. John Poston, my ADC told the mess corporal to take the 
chill off it before putting the bottle on the table. The corporal wanted 
to make certain there would be no mistake; so he boiled the port; 
steam came from the bottle when it was placed before me at dinner 
on Christmas night! 

I recall particularly one incident about which I heard shortly after 
wards. It took place in the Sergeants* Mess of a certain unit on Christ 
mas night. Toasts were being drunk. Some of the younger sergeants 
reckoned we would soon be in Tripoli and they were drinking to that 
day and to the end of our labours. To many who had served in the 
desert, Tripoli was the end of the road; once we got there, we should 
have done our share and could sit back. An old and seasoned sergeant- 
major, a veteran of many battles, watched the fun and the drinking 
and then got up to make a speech. He was much respected and there 
was instant silence when he rose. He spoke very quietly, outlining 
what had been achieved and what still remained to be done. He 
finished with these words: 

"Some of you think that when we have got to Tripoli, it will 
be the end of our labours. That is not the case. We went to war 
in 1939 to defeat Hitler and everything for which he stands. A 
long struggle lies ahead; when we have cleared die Axis Powers 
from Africa we shall have to carry the war into Europe, and finally 
into Germany. Only when we have defeated Germany in Europe, 
will we be able to return to our families honourable men." 

It will be remembered that the First Army (Anderson) had landed 
in Algeria on the 8th November and was developing operations to 
wards Bizerta and Tunis. 

Having secured these places, it was to be directed on Tripoli. There 
was considerable speculation in high places which Army would get 

136 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

to Tripoli first: the Eighth Army or the First Army. The idea that any 
Army except ourselves should capture Tripoli infuriated officers and 
men of the Eighth Army. For three years it had been the target; they 
weren t going to miss it this time. 

I wrote the following in my diary on Christmas Eve, the 24th 
December, 1942. 

"And so ends the first phase of this remarkable campaign. We 
have driven the enemy from Egypt from Cyrenaica, and across 
the border into Tripolitania. The next stage may be the most 

The war in Africa is not now so clear cut as it was in October 
and November; we are away in Tripolitania and are 1200 miles 
from where we started. 

Our war, and the Tunisian war, are now getting close to each 
other and require co-ordination. 

Vested interests are beginning to creep in. 

We want some very clear thinking; the object must be defined 
clearly and pursued ruthlessly; we must not be led away on ven 
tures that do not help in achieving the object. We really want 
unified command; you cannot conduct operations in a theatre of 
war with a committee. 

My own view is that die surest way of getting to Tripoli quickly 
is for the Eighth Army, with its accompanying Air Force, to 
drive* forward and that everything should be done to make this 

The operations of the First Army made our task easier, without 
any doubt 

But it was the relentless forward move of the Eighth Army which 
was eventually to save the First Army from serious disaster. 

Shortly after Christmas I received the following letter from a soldier 
in the Eighth Army. That letter, from an ordinary soldier, made me 
feel very happy. 

8/13056697, Pte. Glaister G., 

"A" Branch, Rear H.Q. 8th Army 

23 Dec. 42 

"To: General Sir Bernard L. Montgomery, K.C.B., D.S.O. 

General Officer Commanding Eighth Army. 

For a private soldier to write a personal letter to an Army 

Commander is perhaps most unusual, even if the Regulations don t 

wholly forbid it. But this isn t really a personal letter it is written 

on behalf of thousands of men in the Eighth Army. 

,On October aist 1942, I had been in the Services for 2?2 years 

Alamein to Tunis 137 

without feeling very concerned about it. I felt the successful run 
ning of the Army was more the business of its officers, not much 
being expected from its privates. 

But on October 2ist, the D.A.Q.M.G.* gathered us informally 
together, and read your message to us. 

There can never have been such a message read to troops 
before, with the trust and confidence it placed in them. This mes 
sage was a bond, and for the first time in my Army life I felt I 
belonged to something to some live force that had a job to do, a 
job so hard that even my work as a clerk had a place in a gigantic 
scheme. I know from talking to men in this and other units, that 
your speech a man to man speech, had a tremendous effect on 
their spirits. 

You achieved far more by your human, personal message than 
any Order of the Day could have done. For myself, thank you, 
Sir, for this new feeling. You have made us proud to belong to 
the 8th Army. 

And now you have sent us a Christmas message which, by its 
friendliness and references to his home, must have gone to the 
heart of each one of us. 

Because circumstances more or less compel troops as a whole 
to be inarticulate, I again on behalf of thousands of us here in 
Libya on behalf of this great brotherhood, thank you sincerely. 

In closing, may I wish you a very happy Christmas and a 
brilliant and successful 1943. 

God Bless you, Sir, and guide you at all times. 

Yours obediently and humbly, 

Geoffrey Glaister. 


When the enemy withdrew from the Agheila area he went back 
to the Buerat position and began to prepare that line for defence. 
The basis of my plan for dealing with that position was twofold: 

(a) I did not want the enemy to withdraw: I wanted him to stand 
there and fight If he did this, he could probably be destroyed, 
since the position could be outflanked to the south, I would 
therefore hold main bodies of attacking divisions at least 100 
miles behind the front, while we built up our administrative 
arrangements. The opening phases of the advance would 
then take the form of an encounter battle. 

* Deputy Assistant Quartermaster General. 

138 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

(b) When I attacked the Buerat position my plan must be such 
that we could go right through to Tripoli, without allowing 
the enemy to delay us or stop our movement. 

The essence of the whole operation must be speed, for the crux of 
the problem of getting to Tripoli was administration. I calculated that 
I must have enough petrol, ammunition, supplies, etc., for 10 days* 
fighting. My forces were based on Benghazi and Tobruk, and it was 
a long haul by road from them. A pause was now necessary to build 
up the administrative resources we needed; my staff told me the 
necessary dumping could be completed by the 14th January. I de 
cided to attack on the isth January. I well knew that if we did not 
reach Tripoli in 10 days I might have to withdraw for lack of sup 
plies. On arrival at Tripoli it would be vital to get the port open and 
working at full capacity very quickly; the enemy must not be allowed 
time to damage the port facilities unduly. 

My plan then was to complete dumping by the 14th January, to 
leap on the enemy in strength on the early morning of the 15th Jan 
uary, and to "crash" right thorough to Tripoli within 10 days. Adminis 
tratively, it was a considerable risk. 

On the 4th January very heavy gales began to rage in the Mediter 
ranean and these created havoc and destruction at Benghazi. Ships 
broke loose and charged about the harbour; heavy seas broke up the 
breakwater and smashed into the inner harbour; much damage was 
done to tugs, lighters and landing places. 

The capacity of the port, which had been brought up to 3000 tons 
a day, dropped at once to 1000 tons a day. The storms looked like 
continuing and all ships had to leave the harbour; Benghazi was 
practically "out" as a base port and indeed by the 12th January its 
capacity had fallen to 400 tons a day. 

Here was a "pretty how-de-do"! We were at once thrown back 
on Tobruk; which place was 1000 miles by road from Tripoli. And 
having got to Tripoli we would have to build up good dumps there 
for use in the operations beyond. 

G.H.Q. in Cairo got anxious and asked if I would now have to 
change my dates and thus put everything back. 

I decided there was only one thing to do to "crash" on to Tripoli 
with no change in the timing. To do this I decided to "ground" the 
three divisions of 10 Corps which were in the Jebel about Mekili, and 
use all their transport to lift forward from Tobruk and Benghazi the 
supplies. needed by the 14th January. 10 Corps must become Eighth 
Army s "Carter Paterson." 

I sent for Horrocks and put him in charge of the whole business; 
he entered into it with the greatest enthusiasm and organised a first 
class transportation service. We kept our dates. 

Alamein to Tunis 139 

I issued the following message to the Army on the 12th January. 

**i. The leading units of Eighth Army are now only about 200 
miles from Tripoli. The enemy is between us and that port, 
hoping to hold us off. 


3. Tripoli is the only town in the Italian Empire overseas still 
remaining in their possession. Therefore we will take it from 
them; they will then have no overseas Empire. 

The enemy will try to stop us. But if each one of us, whether 
front-line soldier, or officer or man whose duty is performed 
in some other sphere, puts his whole heart and soul into this 
next contest then nothing can stop us. 

Nothing has stopped us since the Battle of Alamein began 
on 23rd October 1942. Nothing will stop us now. 

Some must stay back to begin with, but we will all be in 
the hunt eventually. 


Our families and friends in the home country will be thrilled 
when they hear we have captured that place." 

The advance began on the isth January. Things went well to begin 
with and by the igth January we were up against the Homs-Tarhuna 
position, which the enemy clearly meant to hold if he could. On the 
axis of the coast road through Horns the 5ist (H) Division seemed to 
be getting weary, and generally displayed a lack of initiative and 
ginger. A note in my diary dated the aoth January reads as follows: 

"Sent for the GOC. 51 (Highland) Division and gave him an 
imperial rocket ; this had an immediate effect." 

The leading troops entered Tripoli at 4 a.m. on the ajjrd January 
1943, three months to a day since the beginning of the Alamein battle. 


We had a good reception from the population; the city was quiet 
and there was no panic. I myself arrived outside the city at 9 a.m. on 
the 23rd January and sent for the leading Italian officials to come and 
report to me. I gave them my orders about the city and requested 
their co-operation in ensuring the well-being of the population. I 
appointed Brigadier Lush, Deputy Chief Political Officer for Tripoli- 
tarria, to take over civil control as soon as he could working through 
the Italian authorities. I imposed a strict military control for the first 
24 hours, so as to establish a good degree of discipline; shops were 
shut, curfew was imposed at night, and so on. 

140 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

I foresaw certain dangers in the proximity of my army to a large 
city like Tripoli, Palaces, villas, flats, were available for officers. I 
myself was asked if I intended to live in the Governor s palace. I said 
"No/* and installed my headquarters in the fields some 4 miles outside 
the city. Much fighting lay ahead and I was not going to have the 
Eighth Army getting "soft/* or deteriorating in any way. I forbade 
the use of houses, buildings, etc., for headquarters and troops; all 
would live in the fields and in the desert, as we had done for many 
months. The army had to retain its toughness and efficiency. 

Having given orders about these things, I drove into the city with 
Leese and we sat in the sun on the sea front and ate our sandwich 
lunch. We were great friends, and we discussed together the past and 
the future. Our ADC s and police escort sat not far away, also having 
their lunch. I asked Leese what he thought they were talking about 
after many months of monastic life in the desert; he reckoned they 
were speculating on whether there were any suitable ladies in the city. 
I had no doubt that he was right. I decided to get the Army away from 
Tripoli as early as possible. 

Two days after we arrived in the city it was reported to me that 
the food situation was deteriorating among the civil population. I at 
once issued the following order: 

"i. The food situation in Tripoli is not good; the civil population 
is likely to be short of food very shortly, and then would have 
to be fed by the Army. This would be a commitment which 
would cause us serious embarrassment; it would therefore be 
exactly what the Germans would like to happen. 

2. The British Army, the Allied Air Forces, and the personnel of 
the Royal Navy in Tripoli, have their own rations and must not 
eat the food of the civil population. The enemy would make 
very good propaganda out of the fact that enough food was 
left by them and a good deal of it was eaten by the British 

3. It is therefore rny order that no member of the British forces 
in Tripolitania, whether officer or other rank, shall have any 
food breakfast, lunch, dinner or supper at hotels or restau 
rants in Tripoli. 

4. The only exception to this order will be that tea shops may, 
if they are able and willing, sell tea and buns to the troops. 

5. Officers and other ranks visiting Tripoli must take their rations 
with them. Arrangements are being made to establish clubs for 
officers and other ranks in Tripoli which will be run by the 
N.A.A.F.I., and these will be opened as soon as possible; it will 
not be possible to provide meals at these clubs, except possibly 
tea and buns. 

Alamein to Tunis 141 

6. Commanders will ensure that the terms o my order in para. 3 
above are brought to the notice of all officers and other ranks, 
together with the reasons for it. The D.C.P.O.* will ensure that 
hotel and restaurant managers receive orders not to serve meals 
to personnel of the British forces." 

The Prime Minister and the C.I.G.S. visited Tripoli on the 3rd 
and 4th February and we organised for them parades of the Highland 
Division and the New Zealand Division, with certain units of the 
Royal Armoured Corps and the R.A.S.C. 

Winston Churchill was immensely impressed, and was deeply 
moved when the troops marched past him: looking so fit and well, 
and with such a fine bearing. I felt a very proud man myself to be 
in command of such men. 

I asked him to address the officers and men of my headquarters, 
and it was then that he said: 

"Ever since your victory at Alamein, you have nightly pitched 
your moving tents a day s march nearer home. In days to come 
when people ask you what you did in the Second World War, it 
will be enough to say: I marched with die Eighth Army/* 

After getting to Tripoli on the 23rd January my main preoccupation 
was to get the harbour uncorked and ships inside, so as to get a good 
daily tonnage landed. This was the task of the Royal Navy, and no 
easy one to do quickly. Speed was vital; my chief engineer went to 
work with the Navy, and we helped with all our own resources. This 
made a great difference; the first ship entered the harbour on the 
3rd February and the first convoy on tie gth February. I was anxious 
to do away with the road link from Tobruk and Benghazi as soon as 
possible, abolish the "Carter Paterson" service, and maintain Eighth 
Army from the Tripoli base. 

The next tough battle would be on the Mareth Line; this was a 
very strong position and the main feature of the attack upon it would 
have to be an outflanking movement round its western flank I en 
visaged using the New Zealanders on this task and I had launched 
reconnaissances before Christmas, when we captured the Agheila 
position, i.e. nearly 3 months before the Battle of Mareth took place. 

Meanwhile our first task must be to push the enemy back on to the 
main position so that we could reconnoitre it. We also needed to 
secure the necessary road centres of communication at Ben Gardane, 
Foum Tatahouine and Medenine, and the lateral roads, and the air 
fields about Medenine. The sketch map (see Map, No. 23) makes the 
picture dear. 

Initially I used only 7th Armoured Division for this task But as our 
administrative situation eased so I began to build up strength in the 
* Deputy Chief Political Officer. 

142 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

forward area, sending up the $ist ( H ) Division and a further brigade 
of tanks. 

Towards the end of February the port of Tripoli was working well 
and we were discharging up to 3500 tons a day. My administrative 
anxieties were over and I could bring 10 Corps forward to Tripoli 
from the Tobruk-Benghazi area. 

I must mention that General Leclerc had joined me, having come 
up from Central Africa with his small French force. He put himself 
under my command. All he asked in return was that I should givaiam 
food, petrol and clothing: which I did, as I was glad to get the help 
of this remarkable man. 

In accordance with decisions taken at the Casablanca Conference, 
which had assembled in January, the Eighth Army was to come under 
General Eisenhower for the fighting in Tunisia; Alexander was made 
Deputy C.-in-C. and was to command the land forces. Tedder became 
C.-in-C. of all air forces in the Mediterranean theatre. This grouping 
was good, and if we played our cards properly the successful outcome 
of the operations in Tunisia was certain. The air power in Tunisia, 
in Malta, and with the Eighth Army could now be concentrated and 
the whole of it used to support any one operation. 

Coningham went over to join Tedder as commander of the Tactical 
Air Forces, and Harry Broadhurst took command of the Desert Air 
Force working with the Eighth Army. 

Alexander told me he had found things in a terrible mess when he 
went over to join General Eisenhower. The First Army was being 
heavily attacked on the southern part of its front and everything looked 
like sliding there. Generally, he found stagnation: no policy, no plan, 
the front all mixed up, no reserves, no training anywhere, no building 
up for the future, so-called reinforcement camps in a disgraceful state, 
and so on. He found the American troops disappointing; they were 
mentally and physically soft, and very "green." It was the old story: 
lack of proper training allied to no experience of war, and linked with 
too high a standard of living. They were going through their early 
days, just as we had had to go through ours. We had been at war a 
long time and our mistakes lay mostly behind us. 

Alexander worked day and night to get things right. But he had 
some anxious moments and he sent me a very real cry for help on the 
20th February, asking if I could do anything to relieve the pressure on 
the Americans. I replied that I would do all I could adding that if he 
and I exerted pressure at the right moments we might get Rommel 
running about like a "wet hen** between our respective fronts. My 
staff always used to refer to this message as the "wet hen" signal! 

I speeded up events and by the 26th February it was clear that our 
pressure had caused Rommel to break off his attack against the 
Americans. This gave Alexander the time he needed, and he wrote to 

Alaraein to Tunis 143 

me on the 5th March saying that he reckoned the patient had passed 
the crisis and was on the way to recovery; but the military body is 
always left with great weakness after such an illness. When the 
Americans had learnt their lesson, and had gained in experience, they 
proved themselves to be first-class troops. It took time; but they did 
it more quickly than we did. 

After Rommel had pulled out from the First Army front I thought 
it likely it would be my turn to be attacked next: and it was. We 
got indications of movement down to our front. I brought up the 
New Zealand Division from Tripoli and got ready to receive the blow 
which I was sure would come. I was not very strong on the ground 
at the time because I had taken certain risks in answer to Alexander s 
cry for help. Any setback we might receive would upset the prepara 
tions for our own attack against the Mareth Line, which was timed 
for about the igth March. Still, one cannot always get what one wants 
in war; the great thing is to turn every mischance into an advantage. 
Perhaps this might prove another Alam Haifa, a defensive battle which 
would help the offensive one which followed. 

On the evening of the 5th March all indications pointed to an attack 
the next morning. 


As expected, Rommel attacked early in the morning with three 
Panzer divisions: this attack was beaten off. He attacked again in the 
afternoon; again he was driven back. Our tank losses were nil; our 
total casualties in personnel were 130 all ranks. The enemy lost 52 
tanks, all knocked out by the anti-tank guns of the infantry, except 
seven which were destroyed by a squadron of Sherman tanks. 

I fought the battle in the same way as I had at Alam Haifa. I made 
up my mind that Rommers attack would be made in a certain way 
and I planned to receive it on ground of my own choosing. I refused 
to move to counter any of his thrusts. 

I refused to follow up when Rommel withdrew. And I proceeded 
with my plans for our own offensive when the battle was over. It 
lasted only one day. As Alam Haifa had helped Alamein, so Medenine 
was to help the Battle of Mareth. The 52 tanks which Rommel lost 
at Medenine would have .been of great value to him at Mareth. 


The Mareth Line had been constructed by the French in Tunisia 
as a defensive position in case of Italian aggression from Tripolitania. 
It was very strong naturally, and had been improved artificially by the 

144 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

French, and later by the Germans. Its eastern flank rested on the sea 
and its western flank on the mountain massif of Matmata. A switch 
line ran north-west from Matmata towards El Hamma. 

The country to the west of the Matmata hills was reported to be 
an impassable "sand sea," stretching away to the west for many miles. 
The French told me that any outflanking movement through this sand 
sea was impossible. I decided that a frontal attack against such a 
strong position would be unlikely to succeed by itself, for there was 
little room for manoeuvre between the Matmata hills and the sea. 
The main feature of my plan must be an outflanking movement to the 
west of the Matmata hills: to be synchronised with a limited frontal 

The problem then was: could a route through the sand sea be 

It will be remembered that I had launched reconnaissances into this 
area from the Agheila area before Christmas. A passable route was 
found by the Long Range Desert Group and the plan then took shape. 

My plan in outline was as follows: 

(a) 30 Corps to attack the eastern flank with three divisions. 
This would be a relentless pressure, with the right flank 
on the sea. Its object would be to draw the enemy reserves 
down to this part of the defensive line. 

(b) To launch the New Zealanders, heavily reinforced with other 
units, round the western flank and to "break-in" behind the 
Matmata massif. 

(c) To hold 10 Corps in reserve with two armoured divisions ( ist 
and yth), available to fling in on either flank as opportunity 
offered. This corps was so positioned that it protected all 
my "vitals/ and secured the important ground. 

(d) The whole operation to be supported by the concentrated and 
sustained effort of the air striking forces. 

The flank move by the New Zealanders was a force of 27,000 men 
and 200 tanks. It was assembled on our southern flank, without detec 
tion by the enemy, by dawn on the i8th March. On the night of the 
I7th-i8th March we carried out certain preliminary operations on 
our right flank to mislead the enemy about where the real blow 
would falL These operations were successful but during them 2Oist 
Guards Brigade ran into very extensive minefields which were defended 
by Germans: hand-to-hand fighting took place and the 6th Battalion 
Grenadier Guards lost 24 officers and 300 men. The Guards Brigade 
fought magnificently that night and made a notable contribution to 
the final success which was to come our way. 

The attack of 30 Corps on the right flank was timed to begin at 
10,30 p.m. on the 20th March. It was clear to me on the morning of 

Alamein to Tunis 

the 20th March that the enemy had discovered the New Zealand 
force lying concealed on my southern flank; I therefore ordered it to 
abandon any further attempt at concealment and to go Tike heir 
northwards and get on with the job: which it did. 

I issued the following message to the Army on the 2Oth March: 

**i. On 5th March Rommel addressed his troops in the mountains 
overlooking our positions and said that if they did not take 
Medenine, and force the Eighth Army to withdraw, then the 
day of the Axis forces in North Africa were numbered. 

The next day, 6th March, he attacked the Eighth Army. He 
should have known that the Eighth Army NEVER WITHDRAWS; 
therefore his attack could end only in failure which it did. 

2. We will now show Rommel that he was right in the statement 
he made to his troops. 

The days of the Axis forces in North Africa are indeed 

The Eighth Army and the Western Desert Air Force, to 
gether constituting one fighting machine, are ready to advance. 
We all know what that means; and so does the enemy. 

3. In the battle that is now to start, the Eighth Army: 

(a) Will destroy the enemy now facing us in the Mareth 

(b) Will burst through the Gabes Gap. 

(c) Will then drive northwards on Sfax, Sousse, and finally 

4. We will not stop, or let up, till Tunis has been captured, and 
the enemy has either given up the struggle or has been pushed 
into the sea. 

5. The operations now about to begin will mark the dose of the 
campaign in North Africa. Once the battle starts the eyes of the 
whole world will be on the Eighth Army, and millions of people 
will listen to the wireless every day hoping anxiously for 
good news, and plenty of it, every day. 

If each one of us does his duty, and pulls his full weight, 
then nothing can stop the Eighth Army. And nothing will 
stop it. 

6. With faith in God, and in the justice of our cause, let us go 
forward to victory. 


This battle has been described by several writers and it seems 
unnecessary to tell the detailed story again. The major tactics may be 
summarised as follows: 

(a) The battle opened with a hard blow on our right. 

Tlie Memoirs of Jbield-Marshal Montgomery 

(b) When this blow went in, a strong outflanking movement was 
set in motion on our left. 

(c) The blow on the right made good progress at first 

The threat here became so serious to the enemy that the 
available German reserves were drawn in to meet it. These 
reserves counter-attacked, drove us back, and we lost all our 
gains. We were back where we had started two days before. 
I well remember the Commander 30 Corps (Leese) coming 
to tell me this at 2 a.m. on the morning of the 23rd March. 
It is interesting to note that the crisis of the battle of Alamein 
also took place at 2 a.m. (on the 25th October). Leese was 
very upset. I said: "Never mind, this is where weVe got em; 
but you must keep the German reserves tied to your corps 

(d) I immediately decided to hold hard on the right, but to main 
tain such pressure there that the German reserves would be 
kept in that area. I also opened a new thrust line in the centre 
against the Matmata hills, using the 4th Indian Division. 

(e) I then sent the ist Armoured Division from my reserve round 
to join the New Zealand outflanking movement, which was 
gathering momentum. 

In short, I decided to reinforce success. I sent H.Q. 10 Corps 
(Horrocks) to take charge of this left hook, and while this 
reinforcement was moving to the left flank, we tee-ed up the 
blitz attack which was to go in when it arrived. 

(f) The enemy saw what was happening and tried to move his 
reserves from opposite our right to stop our now very power 
ful left thrust. They were too late. The blitz attack went in 
twenty minutes after the last vehicle of ist Armoured Division 
had arrived, and it swept everything before it. 

By 9 a.m. on the 28th March we were in full possession of 
the famous Mareth Line, after a battle lasting only one week. 
Having received a setback on our right, we recovered quickly 
and knocked the enemy out with a "left hook." 

We never lost the initiative: without which in war you cannot win. 
The enemy was made to commit his reserves in desperation and piece 
meal, as at Alamein; we committed ours in one concentrated blow on 
a narrow front. 

The outstanding feature of the battle was the blitz attack on the 
left flank, in daylight, on the afternoon of the 26th March. It was 
delivered at 4 p.m. with the sun behind it and in the enemy s eyes. 
A dust storm was blowing at the time, the wind also being behind 
us and blowing the dust on to the enemy. The enemy was making 

Alamein to Tunis 147 

ready for our usual night attack; instead he was assaulted in the 
afternoon with great ferocity. 

The attack was simply conceived; it was dependent on surprise, 
on complete integration of land and air forces, and on a willingness 
to take risks and to face casualties. 

The air forces played a notable part in the attack, using twenty-two 
squadrons of Spitfires, Kitty bombers and Hurricane tank-busters, 
operating in the area beyond the artillery barrage; in that area every 
vehicle, and anything that appeared or moved, was shot to pieces. 
Brilliant and brave work by the pilots completely stunned the enemy; 
our attack burst through the resistance and the battle was won. In 
this attack we took 2500 prisoners, all Germans; our own casualties 
were only 600, and we lost only 8 pilots. 

This blitz attack was the most complete example of the close inte 
gration of land and air power up to that time. It should be noted that 
there ware grave misgivings at the headquarters of the Tactical Air 
Forces; Coningham considered the risks were too great and an officer 
was sent over to try and stop the use of air power in this way. But the 
A.O.C. Desert Air Force (Harry Broadhurst) decided to accept the 
risks and refused to listen to the emissary. When it was all over and 
had been proved a great success with very small losses, he received 
many congratulations from Air Headquarters in Tunisia; and even 
from the Air Ministry! 


It was obvious that the end of the war in Africa would now come 
quite soon. 

The Eighth Army had only to burst through the Gabes gap and 
join hands with die American forces; the remaining enemy would 
then be hemmed in, and in an ever diminishing area. ( See Map, No. 


We had a stiff one-day battle on the line of the Wadi Akarit north 
of Gabes on the 6th April, where we took another 7000 prisoners. On 
the 8th April, we joined up with the American forces moving east 
wards from Gafsa. We were now taking prisoners at the rate of 1000 
a day, and no army can lose men at that rate for very long and remain 

Oil the loth April we captured Sfax. 

General Eisenhower s Chief of Staff, Bedell Smith, had visited me 
in Tripoli in February and we had discussed the problem of how soon 
the Eighth Army could join up with the First Army north of Gabes. 
I had said that I would be in Sfax by the 15th April Bedell Smith 

148 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

said that if I could do that, General Eisenhower would give me any 
thing I liked to ask for. I said I would do it, and would like an aero 
plane for my personal use. Bedell Smith agreed, willingly. 

On the morning of the loth April I sent a message to Eisenhower 
asking for the aircraft. It arrived on the i6th April, a 617 (a Flying 
Fortress). It made me a thoroughly mobile general. Later, I got prop 
erly ticked off by Brooke, the C.I.G.S., for my action in the matter. 
He said that it was all a joke on the part of Bedell Smith and that 
Eisenhower was furious when I demanded the aircraft I explained 
that it was very far from a joke on that day at Tripoli when the state 
ment was made. I don t think Bedell Smith had ever told Eisenhower 
about it, and he was suddenly confronted with having to pay. Brooke 
added that the R.A.F. could well have provided me with an aircraft; 
they certainly could, but didn t in spite of my repeated requests. 
Eisenhower produced it at once. And, being the great and generous 
man he is, he arranged that I was provided with an aircraft from 
American sources for the rest of the war; furthermore, he did this for 
my Chief of Staff also. He saw the need and acted promptly. 

On the loth April I wrote to Alexander saying a decision was 
required about which army should make the main effort for the final 
phase in Tunisia. I recommended that the First Army should do so; 
the plain west of Tunis was suitable ground for armour whereas my 
army was likely to be faced with difficult and mountainous country at 
Enfidaville and Takrouna. Alexander agreed and asked me to send the 
First Army one armoured division and one armoured car regiment; 
my task would be to exert pressure all the time, and make the enemy 
think the main attack would be delivered by the Eighth Army. I made 
my plans accordingly and attacked the Enfidaville position on the 
night of die igth-aoth April. It was difficult going in the mountains 
about Takrouna but we progressed about three miles. I regrouped and 
made plans to put in another attack after a week. I was not happy 
about these attacks and considered the main blow should be struck 
on the First Army front, where the ground was not so mountainous 
and armour could be used. 

But the initial attempt of the First Army to break through to Tunis 
was not successful. It took place on the 23rd April. 5 Corps attacked 
on a front of three divisions, each on a front of six miles, and each 
division with all three infantry brigades up; it was more of a partridge 
drive than an attack and had no hope of success. 9 Corps with two 
armoured divisions tried to break through somewhere else. I was in 
bed at the time with an attack of tonsilitis and influenza, and so I 
asked Alexander if he would come and see me at my headquarters 
near Sousse. He arrived on the soth April. I said it was essential to 
regroup the two armies, First and Eighth, so that the attack on Tunis 
could be made with the maximum strength in the most suitable area. 

Alamein to Tunis 149 

I suggested that I should send First Army the yth Armoured Divi 
sion, 4th Indian Division, soist Guards Brigade, and some extra 
artillery, together with a very experienced corps commander to handle 
the attack; I meant Horrocks. 

I finally said we really must finish off the war in Africa quickly. 
We were due to invade Sicily in July and there was much to do before 
we could tackle that difficult combined operation. Alexander thor 
oughly agreed. 

Horrocks went over to the First Army and staged the corps attack 
on Tunis on the 6th May; it was made in great strength at the selected 
point and broke clean through the enemy defences to the west of Tunis. 
Bizerta and Tunis were captured on the yth May and the enemy 
was then hemmed in to the Cap Bon peninsula. 

The first troops to enter Tunis were those of our own /th Armoured 
Division. They had earned this satisfaction. Organised enemy resist 
ance ended on the 12th May, some 248,000 being taken prisoner. 

And so the war in Africa came to a close. It ended in a major 
disaster for the Germans; all their troops, stores, dumps, heavy 
weapons, and equipment were captured. From a purely military 
point of view the holding out in North Africa once the Mareth Line 
had been broken through, could never be justified. I suppose Hitler 
ordered it for political reasons. It is dangerous to undertake tasks 
which are militarily quite unsound, just for political reasons; it may 
sometimes be necessary, but they will generally end in disaster. 

The contribution of the Eighth Army to the final victory in North 
Africa had been immense. It drove Rommel and his army out of 
Egypt, out of Cyrenaica, out of Tripolitania, and then helped the 
First Army to finish them off in Tunisia. Only first-class troops could 
have done it and I realised what an honour and what an excitement it 
was to command such a magnificent army at the time of its greatest 

Early in June the Prime Minister wrote the following in my auto 
graph book: 

"The total destruction or capture of all enemy forces in Tunisia, 
culminating in the surrender of 248,000 men, marks the triumphant 
end of the great enterprises set on foot at Alamein and by the 
invasion of N.W. Africa. May the future reap in the utmost full 
ness the rewards of past achievements and new exertions. 

Winston S. Churchill" 
Algiers. June 3, 1943 

Before closing this chapter I just want to mention certain matters 
which, cumulatively, played the major part in this amazing campaign. 
It is about 2000 miles from Alamein to Tunis, and we had got to 
Tripoli in three months and to Tunis in six. How was it done? 

150 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

First, I would say that the soldiery gave of their best I had told 
them in August 1942 that I would lead them to victory. There would 
be no setback, no failures; at all times when we were ready I would 
tell them what we were going to do, and we would then do it. I gave 
orders that the Press was to have the fullest facilities for finding out 
what was going on, and for reporting it. We went from one success 
to another; the Eighth Army developed a crusading spirit, and the 
soldiers began to think it was invincible. By the end of the campaign 
I believe they would have done anything I asked; they felt we were 
all partners in the battle and that they themselves "belonged/* and 
mattered. They gave me their complete confidence. What more can 
any commander want? My only fear was that I myself might fail these 
magnificent men. 

Next, I had a superb Chief of Staff. I have already referred to de 
Guingand. His fertile brain was full of ideas and he was never 
defeated by the difficulties of any problem. He could take from me 
an outline conception of a plan, work out the staff details, and let me 
know quickly if it was possible from the staff point of view: and if 
not, what changes in substance were desirable. He accepted responsi 
bility readily. I gave him full powers. If he couldn t get hold of me 
he would give a major decision himself, and I never once questioned 
any such decision. I trusted him completely; he seemed to know in 
stinctively what I would do in any given situation, and he was always 

With such a Chief of Staff I could keep clear of detail; I left that 
all to him. The first requirement in high command is to have a good 
Chief of Staff. Without de Guingand, I doubt if I could have done 
my part of the overall task. It was of course a fluke that I found him 
in Egypt when I arrived; but I took full advantage of that fluke. It 
was, of course, hardly a fluke that he was where he was when I 

Under de Guingand the Eighth Army staff developed into a splendid 
team. I have always been a great believer in youth: with its enthu 
siasm, its optimism, its original ideas and its willingness to follow a 
leader. Our staff was on the young side; many of them were not 
soldiers by profession. The only requirement needed for getting on my 
staff was ability to do the job; it mattered not whether a man was a 
regular, or a temporary soldier for the duration of the war. 

I arrived in the desert for die first time on the isth August 1942. 
They were veterans at the game, but they "accepted" me that every 
day (or perhaps the day after!) and they laboured unceasingly to 
carry out my plans and ideas. And de Guingand welded them into a 
devoted unity. 

As the campaign developed I learnt the value of Intelligence. Bill 
Williams was the main source of inspiration^ intellectually he was far 

Alamein to Tunis 151 

superior to myself or to anyone on my staff, but he never gave one 
that impression. He saw the enemy picture whole and true; he could 
sift a mass of detailed information and deduce the right answer. As 
time went on he got to know how I worked; he would tell me in ten 
minutes exactly what I wanted to know, leaving out what he knew I 
did not want to know. Once a commander and his intelligence chief 
have achieved this state of intimate co-operation, it is obvious they 
must not be parted; that is why he went right through to Berlin with 
me. He was "accepted" and trusted right through the Eighth Army. 
In this respect he was possibly helped by the fact that he wore a 
K.D.G.* badge in his cap and not that of the Intelligence Corps. In 
the Second World War the best officers in the Intelligence branch of 
the staff were civilians; they seemed to have the best brain for that 
type of work, trained in the "rules of evidence," fertile and with great 
imagination, and Bill Williams stood out supreme among them all* 

Then I must mention my system of personal command from a 
Tactical Headquarters, located well forward in the battle area. I 
divided my headquarters into three echelons: 

Tac H.Q. 
Main H.Q. 
Rear H.Q. 

Tac H.Q. was the headquarters from which I exercised personal 
command and control of the battle. It was small, highly efficient, and 
completely mobile on its own transport. It consisted chiefly of signals, 
cipher, liaison staff, defence troops, and a very small operations staff 
for keeping in touch with the battle situation. 

Main H.Q. was the central core of the whole headquarters organisa 
tion. I gave verbal orders to my subordinate commanders from Tac 
H.Q. The staff work consequent on those orders was done at Main and 
Rear. The Chief of Staff, and the senior administrative officer, both 
lived at Main. But the chief administrator had to have a good deputy 
at Rear and this is where Miles Graham began to reveal his capacity. 
Ultimately as I have said he succeeded Brian Robertson, and then 
"Rim" Lymer, in his turn, became Graham s deputy. 

Rear H.Q. was the administrative echelon of the headquarters 
organisation. There were located the "A" and "Q" branches, and the 
services and departments. 

We became very experienced in developing and using this type of 
organisation, and I took it with me to 21 Army Group when I left 
the Eighth Army. It is applicable from an Army Headquarters upwards; 
it is not applicable to a Corps H.Q., as a Corps Commander must 
have the full machinery of his Main H.Q. around him in order to fight 
the tactical battle. 
* Kings Dragoon Guards. 

152 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

An Army Commander can only produce the best results by working 
from a Tac H.Q. If he cannot acquire the Tac H.Q. mentality, he is 
not and never will be any good in command of an army. 

Finally, I must mention die constant advice I was given by all and 
sundry about how I should fight the battle, what I ought to do next, 
and so on. I suppose this used to go on with my predecessors in 
command of the Eighth Army, and possibly they accepted it. 

About the middle of November 1942 I wrote to the C.I.G.S. and 
I quote the following from that letter: 

"One of the most interesting points to my mind about this 
business of making war is the way people try and shake your 
confidence in what you are doing, and suggest that your plan is 
not good, and that you ought to do this, or that. If I had done 
all that was suggested I would still be back in the Alamein area!" 

One of the big lessons I learnt from the campaign in Africa was the 
need to decide what you want to do, and then to do it. One must never 
be drawn off the job in hand by gratuitous advice from those who are 
not fully in the operational picture, and who have no responsibility. 

My great supporter throughout was Alexander. He never bothered 
me, never fussed me, never suggested what I ought to do, and gave me 
at once everything I asked for having listened patiently to my explana 
tion of why I wanted it. But he was too big to require explanations; 
he gave me his trust. 

My upbringing as a child had taught me to have resource within 
myself. I needed it in the desert campaign. I was also taught to count 
my blessings, and this I certainly did. 


The Campaign in Sicily 

10th July to 17th August 1943 

ORDERS were received in North Africa in January 1943 that when 
the Axis Powers had been turned out of Africa, operations 
would be developed to knock Italy out of the war. It was 
decided that the first step was the capture of Sicily; the code name was 

On the i8th April, when the Eighth Army was still fighting in 
Tunisia, I sent a message to Alexander to say that in my opinion the 
situation regarding the planning for Operation HUSKY was becoming 
acute. I understood that a plan for the operation had been drawn up 
in London, which from what little I could learn about it did not sound 
a good one. It was urgently necessary that we should meet with 
Eisenhower, and reach decisions on certain vital matters. This was 
agreed at once and I flew to Algiers in my recently acquired Flying 
Fortress on the igth April 

The following were the notes I used at our conference, and I left 
a copy with Alexander: 

"i. The key dates for the Eighth Army are as follows: 

27th April Army admin, plan complete and handed to 
subordinate formations. 

15th May Tonnage allocations for stores in first three 
convoys passed to G.H.Q. 

17th May Subordinate formations submit plans of alloca 
tion of troops to ships, 

22nd May Consolidated plans, with allocations of troops 
to ships, sent to G.H.Q. 

ist June Start loading ships. 


154 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

2. The fallowing points need to be understood: 

(a) I myself, and my Army H.Q. staff, know very little about 
the operation as a whole, and nothing whatever about 
the detailed planning that is going on. 

(b) The following who are to take part in HUSKY are now 
involved in battle operations in TUNISIA.: 

Army H.Q. 

30 Corps H.Q. 

Three complete Divisions. 

Various Army and Corps Troops. 

(c) The Army staff who are responsible for, and must con 
trol, the operation are completely in the dark as to what 
is going on. 

(d) Detailed planning is being carried out by Staff Officers 
who are not in touch with battle requirements. 

(e) There is no responsible senior commander thoroughly 
versed in what happens in battle who is devoting his 
sole attention to the HUSKY operation. 

3. If we go on in this way much longer we may have a disaster. 
The preparations for the operation must be gripped firmly, and 
be handled in a sensible way. 

4. The crux of the matter is this: 

(a) The real and proper answer to the problem is to with 
draw from battle operations in Tunisia now Eighth Army 
H.Q. and all troops who are required for HUSKY. 

(b) If this is done, can we be certain of finishing the war in 
Tunisia in time to allow of HUSKY being launched? 

I do not know the answer to this. 

5. Possibly some sort of compromise will be necessary in order 
to get ourselves out of the mess we are now in. 

To compromise is a well-known British habit, and we shall 
have to adopt it. 

6. I consider that the following are the minimum requirements 
of the compromise, and that these requirements must be im 
plemented at once: 

(a) A Chief of Staff to be added to the establishment of H.Q. 
Eighth Army and to be given the acting rank of Major- 

(b) By means of this Chief of Staff, who will represent me 
in Cairo, and whose rank will enable him to carry the 
necessary weight and to force things through, I will keep 
my grip on what is going on. 

(c) I will, at my discretion, send to Cairo such members of 
my staff as I consider must be there, either permanently 
or temporarily. I will decide to what extent this can be 

The Campaign in Sicily 155 

done without affecting adversely the battle of Tu 

(d) The following to be withdrawn from the operations in 
Tunisia at once so that they can get down to HUSKY; 

Comd and ELQ. 30 Corps. 
5oth Div. complete. 
5ist Div. complete. 

(e) I myself to pay an early visit to Cairo to see that all is 
well. Thereafter I will fluctuate between Cairo and 
Tunisia at my discretion, as is indicated by the course 
of events. 

(f) The New Zealand Div. to be dropped from the initial 
operations. It has man-power problems which will 
take some time to settle. 

(g) 56th Div. to go into the battle in Tunisia. I cannot take 
on HUSKY a division that has never fired a shot in this 

The Inf. Bde. Group of 56th Div. now in Egypt, to join 

50th Div., so as to complete soth Div. to a three-brigade 

(h) ySth Division to be allocated as my reserve division. 

This division to be withdrawn from the battle in Tunisia 

during May. 

7. There will come a time when Eighth Army H.Q. must leave 
the battle in Tunisia. This will come fairly soon, and in any 
case very early in May. 

When that time comes, I suggest that H.Q. 10 Corps should 
be left in charge of the remaining Eighth Army troops, and 
come under First Army." 

Eisenhower and Alexander gave their full agreement to my pro 
posals, and a telegram was sent to the War Office asking for de 
Guingand to be given the official appointment of Chief of Staff Eighth 
Army with the rank of Major-GeneraL 

I left for Cairo on the 2;jrd April. As I flew there I pondered on the 
future. Private Glaister had referred to the Eighth Army as a "brother 
hood." He was right: we were a "brotherhood in arms." We did what 
we liked. We dressed as we liked. What mattered was success, and 
to win our battles with a minimum of casualties. I was the head of 
the brotherhood. I was pretty tough about mistakes and especially 
mistakes which cost lives; I would allow no departure from the 
fundamentals of the master plan. But I let subordinate commanders 
do as they liked about details and didn t fuss about the wrong things. 
Until we had burst through the Gabes gap and emerged into the plain 
of Tunisia, it was a private war run by the Eighth Army; we made 

156 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

our own plans and adjusted the time factor to suit the problems. 
Alexander let me run this private war in my own way and supported 
me to the hilt; we gave him success all along the road and he was 
content to leave well alone. 

But we were now round the corner and had joined the main body 
of the forces in North Africa. We had got to learn to adjust our way 
of doing things, our very behaviour, to a larger canvas to die war as 
a whole and this would often mean, would probably generally mean, 
compromise. The Eighth Army was now to be taken to sea by the 
Navy, and then had got to learn to fight in Europe, in close country. 
The desert which we knew so well, and which we had conquered, was 
to be left behind. We all knew that the Second Front in Europe, the 
invasion across the Channel, was looming ahead. Possibly Sicily was 
to be, in a sense, a rehearsal for the more serious operation which 
would come in 1944. 

Anyhow, the more I thought about it the more I realised that the 
freedom we had enjoyed in the desert was now over. We had got to 
learn to work with others, and many of our own ideas and concepts 
would possibly be brushed aside for the good of the whole. Even so, 
I was determined to ensure that the Eighth Army was never launched 
into battle with a bad plan, and that the lives of officers and men were 
not thrown away in unsound ventures. I had led the Army to victory 
across two thousand miles of Africa. I had promised officers and men 
there would be no more failures. And before we went to Sicily I 
would have to visit all my divisions and tell the soldiers that I was 
confident of success there. 

I knew from what de Guingand had told me that there had been 
already seven plans for the assault on Sicily. ( See Map, No. 28. ) 

Plan No. i was produced by the Joint Planning Staff in London in 
January 1943. This plan split the assaulting force up into a large 
number of landings between Catania on the east coast, southwards 
round the Pachino peninsula, and thence to a point far away at the 
western end of the island. To such a dispersion of effort we would 
never have agreed, but at that time we were fighting our way to 
Tripoli and I doubt if I even knew that Sicily was to be the next 
objective. This plan was apparently accepted in principle by Alex 
ander s headquarters in Tunisia in April, and his own staff produced 
Plan No. 2. This was a detailed plan which involved landings between 
Catania and Palermo, from D-Day to D-f 5. This was the basis of the 
plan which, with some modifications, was eventually submitted by 
General Eisenhower to the Combined Chiefs of Staff in Washington 
in April 1943, and which I shall call Plan No. 3 since it was the third 
plan that I knew about. 

So far I had not been consulted in any way, although the Eighth 
Army was to play a major part in the operations. 

Further detailed ways of invading Sicily were produced by various 

The Campaign in Sicily 157 

planning experts, some of whom came to see me, making a total of 
seven by the middle of April. This didn t look to me a good way of 
going about the operation; time was getting short and a firm plan 
was essential, and quickly. 

As I flew towards Cairo I began to see the future more clearly. 

Obviously there were rocks ahead and we would have to walk 
delicately and not force our desert ways down the throats of all and 
sundry. Also we must try and preserve our sense of humour and 
very important we must not get a name for non-cooperation. We 
mustn t "bellyache." But I was determined on one thing: I would 
never agree to compromise over vital issues. 

De Guingand met me at Cairo and the next day I was given a 
presentation of the plan for the invasion of Sicily as finally proposed 
by Alexander s headquarters. This could be called Plan No. 8. The 
naval commander responsible for landing the Eighth Army in Sicily 
was Admiral Ramsay, known as Bertie Ramsay. He was a grand 
person and I had known him when he was Flag Officer, Dover, and 
I had been commanding the South-Eastern Army. Later we worked 
together on the Normandy landings. It was a real tragedy for us all, 
and to me a great personal loss, when he was killed in an air crash in 
France early in 1945. *" 

I listened to the presentation of Plan No. 8 and quickly decided 
that it would not do. The Eighth Army was to land in the south-east 
of the island in a wide arc stretching from a point just south of Syra 
cuse, southwards round the Pachino peninsula, and then westwards to 
Gela. The Seventh U.S. Army was to land in the extreme north-west of 
the island, astride Trapani. Such dispersion was obviously based on 
meeting only very slight resistance. I had a good talk about it with 
Bertie Ramsay, and also with Leese and Dempsey who were to be 
my Corps Commanders for the campaign in Sicily. 

I decided to send a signal to Alexander saying I could not accept 
the proposed plan for the Eighth Army, and to put forward instead a 
new plan which put the Army ashore in a suitable area between a 
point just south of Syracuse and the Pachino peninsula inclusive. 

This was Plan No. 9 and was called by my staff the "Easter Plan," 
having been made during the Easter week-end. Plan No. 9 was the 
one finally agreed for the Eighth Army. I sent the following signal 
to Alexander on the 24th April: 

<c i. Am now in Cairo with my Corps Commanders and for the 
first time am able to investigate the problem confronting the 
Eighth Army in the invasion of Sicily. I send you the following 

2. The fact that I have not been able to devote my sole atten 
tion to this problem before today has affected all the work 

158 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

3. Planning to date has been on the assumption that resistance 
will be slight and Sicily will be captured easily. Never was 
there a greater error. Germans and Italians are fighting well 
in Tunisia and will repeat the process in Sicily. If we work on 
the assumption of little resistance, and dispense our effort as 
is being done in all planning to date, we will merely have 
a disaster. We must plan for fierce resistance, by the Germans 
at any rate, and for a real dog fight battle to follow the initial 

4. I am prepared to carry the war into Sicily with the Eighth 
Army but must really ask to be allowed to make my own 
Army plan. My Army must operate so concentrated that corps 
and divisions can co-operate. The whole initial effort of the 
Eighth Army should be made in the area between Syracuse 
and the Pachino peninsula. Subsequent operations will be 
developed so as to secure airfields and ports. The first thing 
to do is to secure a lodgement in a suitable area and then 
operate from that firm base. 

5. Time is pressing. If we delay while the toss is being argued in 
London and Washington, the operation will never be launched 
in July. All planning is suffering because everyone is trying 
to make something of a plan which they know can never 

6. I have given orders that as far as the Eighth Army is concerned 
all planning and work will proceed on the lines outlined in 
para. 4. 

7. Admiral Ramsay is in complete agreement with ine and to 
gether we are prepared to launch the operation and win. 

8. It is essential we have close and intimate air support and I 
must have the Desert Air Force working with me, with Broad- 
hurst and his staff and experienced squadrons. 

9. I must make it clear that the above solution is die only possible 
way to handle the Eighth Army problem with the resources 

It will be noted that my plan for the Eighth Army separated us still 
farther from the American landings in the north-west corner of the 
island, and it involved no troops landing in the Gulf of Gela to secure 
the airfields about that place. I had my own ideas about the American 
landings but did not think the moment was yet opportune to put 
them forward. I expected my signal to produce immediate repercus 
sions in Algiers, and it did! 

The next day, the 25th April, Ramsay received a proper "stinker" 
from Admiral Cunningham, the Naval C.-in-C. working with Alex- 

The Campaign in Sicily 159 

ander. He was rather upset; but we had a good laugh over it and he 
agreed that I should send the following signal to Alexander. 

"I hear that Cunningham and Tedder have told you they 
disagree completely with our proposed plan for the Eighth Army 
assault on Sicily. I wish to state emphatically that if we carry 
out the suggested existing plan it will fail. I state on whatever 
reputation I may have that the plan put forward by me and 
Ramsay will succeed. Would you like us both to come over and 
explain our plan. Meanwhile work is continuing on our plan as 
tune is short" 

I then left Cairo on the 26th April and returned to my H.Q. in the 
field in Tunisia. On arrival, I found I had a high temperature and went 
to bed in my caravan with influenza and tonsilitis. 

Meanwhile Alexander had called a conference at Algiers for the 
2gth April, which Ramsay and I were to attend. I was in bed so I 
wired to Cairo that de Guingand was to go in my place. His aircraft 
had a forced landing at El Adem, and he was removed to hospital 
with concussion. I then asked Oliver Leese to go and he got there 
safely, and in time. 

The conference produced no result Tedder said that if the initial 
bridgehead did not include the airfields at Comiso and Gela, then his 
air forces could not operate effectively. This led Cunningham to say 
that unless the air forces could keep the enemy air away, then the 
convoys could not operate. Alexander was unable to get inter-Service 
agreement, and the conference broke up without coming to any 

It will be remembered that I had previously wired to Alexander 
saying I was anxious to see him about what could be done to finish 
off the war in Tunisia quickly, so that we could get on with planning 
the Sicily campaign. He came to see me on the soth April. I was still 
in bed. When we had dealt with the war in Tunisia, he told me about 
the conference at Algiers the day before: the 2Qth April. I said some 
thing must be done, and suggested a full-scale conference at Algiers 
on the 2nd May; I would be well enough by then to fly over to Algiers 
and state my case. Alexander agreed. 


I arrived at Algiers on the 2nd May to find that Alexander could 
not get there; mist and low cloud prevented his flying from his head 
quarters* I suggested we might hold the conference without him, but 

160 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

Cunningham and Tedder would not agree; they were quite right, 
since to have done so would not have been fair to Alexander, 

I began to wonder what could be done. I went to look for Bedell 
Smith, Chief of Staff to Eisenhower. He was not in his office and I 
eventually ran him to ground in the lavatory. So we discussed the 
problem then and there. He was very upset; he said that for political 
reasons it was essential to reach a final decision and get on with the job. 
I said it was far more important to do so for military reasons, and that 
I could give him the answer to the problem at once; he asked me to 
do so. I said the American landings up near Palermo should be 
cancelled and the whole American effort put in on the south coast, 
astride Gela and west of the Pachino peninsula, with the object of 
securing the airfields that were considered so essential by our air 
forces. The Eighth Army and the Seventh U.S. Army would then 
land side by side, giving cohesion to the whole invasion. 

Bedell Smith said there would be no difficulty whatever in doing 
what I suggested. We then left the lavatory and he went off to 
consult Eisenhower, who liked the plan but quite rightly refused to 
discuss it with me unless Alexander was present. The air forces liked 
it. The navy planners were a bit suspicious, and were doubtful whether 
the American forces could be supplied over the beaches for any 
length of time. There was no good port on their front of assault, or 
anywhere else. 

I next persuaded Bedell Smith to assemble a conference. I said it 
could be a staff conference, and I would sit in with the staff; then 
when Alexander arrived the next day, the staff could present an agreed 
plan to him and his brother Commanders-in-Chief. 

So this was done. 

I presented my case; everyone agreed with it. I had now got Eisen 
hower and his Chief of Staff on my side. But Eisenhower quite 
rightly refused to come to a decision until the plan was recommended 
to him by Alexander and the other Commanders-in-Chief. This is 
what I said at the conference that day, in the form in which my 
remarks were taken down in shorthand: 

*i. I know well that I am regarded by many people as being a 
tiresome person. I think this is very probably true. I try hard 
not to be tiresome; but I have seen so many mistakes made 
in this war, and so many disasters happen, that I am desper 
ately anxious to try and see that we have no more; and this 
often means being very tiresome. If we have a disaster in 
Sicily it would be dreadful. 

2, We have now reached a very critical stage in the planning for 
the attack on Sicily. 

Unless some final decision is reached within the next few 

The Campaign in Sicily 161 

days it is very doubtful if we will be able to launch the 
operation in July. 

I would like to put before you the problem as it appears to 
me, the Commander of an Army which has got to be landed 
in Sicily and there fight a hard battle. 

3. Three outstanding factors are as follows: 

(a) The capture of Sicily will depend ultimately on the 
effective operations of the land forces. 

(b) These land forces have to be got there by the Navy, 
and the Navy has to be able to maintain them once 

(c) The above two things cannot possibly happen unless 
the air forces can operate effectively and they cannot 
do so unless suitable airfields are acquired quickly so 
that fighter squadrons can be stepped forward, and the 
enemy air is pushed well back and is generally domi 

4. We next want to be clear that enemy resistance will be very 
great; it will be a hard and bitter fight; we must go prepared 
for a real killing match. That is nothing new, and we have 
had many parties of that sort; but there are certain rules in 
that sort of game, or killing match, which have to be ob 
served; if you do not observe them then you lose the match. 

The outstanding and great rule is that dispersion of effort 
by the land forces leads to disaster. They must keep collected, 
with corps and divisions within supporting distance of each 

5. We next have to consider in what way the land forces must 
be put on shore by the Navy so that they are then well placed 
to develop their operations and to maintain themselves. 

The area selected must be inside fighter cover; a good port 
must be seized quickly; good airfields must be secured 
quickly for the air forces. 

The size of the initial bridgehead you can establish is lim 
ited by your resources. 

With limited resources you will be lucky if this bridgehead 
includes a good port and all the airfields you want; some may 
have to come later as operations are developed. Therefore it 
is very important that with limited resources, and against 
strong resistance you act as follows in the first instance: 

(a) Keep concentrated. 

(b) Secure a suitable area as a firm base from which to 
develop your operations. 

(c) Keep the initial operations within good fighter cover of 
vour own airfields. 

162 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

6. I have made it clear that the extent of the bridgehead is 
limited by your resources. 

What we must now be clear about is that the initial bridge 
head must include the immediate essentials, without which the 
whole combined operation would merely collapse. 

7. Let us now apply the above principles to Sicily the S.E. 
portion. The best place for the Eighth Army to be put ashore 
is between Syracuse and Pachino. 

This would meet every requirement that I have brought out 
in the preceding paragraphs, except one. 

And that one is very important; it does not secure sufficient 
airfields for the air forces or deny to the enemy the use of 
airfields from which he could interfere with our seaborne 
traffic and operations generally. The airfields in question are 
those in the general area Comiso-Gela. 

These airfields must, according to the air, be included in 
the initial bridgehead. 

In fact they are, as I have already said: 
Immediate essentials, without which the whole combined 
operations would merely collapse.* 

8. I must state here very clearly, and beyond any possibility of 
doubt, that I will never operate my Army dispersed in this 
operation. I consider that to do so would mean failure; and 
Sicily, instead of being a success, would involve the Allied 
Nations in a first class disaster; that is exactly what the Ger 
mans would like, and would be a shattering blow to Allied 
morale all over the world. 

It is not merely a matter of capturing some beaches, or 
some airfields, or some ports. It is a matter of the conduct 
of offensive operations in an enemy country; the objectives 
include airfields, ports, and so on, and finally we require the 
whole island. 

9. Are there any alternatives? 

(a) You could shift the whole bridgehead layout north 
wards to include the Catania area and the airfield 

This can be discarded at once, if only for the reason 
that it is outside fighter cover of our own air bases. 

(b) You could shift the whole layout westwards to the 
area of the Gulf of Gela. 

This gets the airfield we require. But you have no 
port, and the total forces could not be maintained for 
long only through the beaches. 

10. The whole point turns on the size of the initial bridgehead 
we can secure. 

The Campaign in Sicily 163 

The factors are as follows: 

(a) The Army won t have dispersion, and we must have a 

(b) A bridgehead to satisfy the Army can NOT include, 
with the resources available, certain airfields to the 
west which are essential for the air. 

(c) I understand the air point of view to be that these air 
fields must be denied to the enemy at once, and then 
quickly secured for our own use. Unless this is done 
tie air forces cannot guarantee air protection beyond 
the initial stage, i.e. for, say, the first 48 hours. 

11* It is therefore quite obvious that these airfields must be taken. 
But we have not any troops for the purpose. Two divisions, 
assault loaded, would be necessary, and they would carry out 
the landings in the Gulf of Gela. 

12. We have now reached the stage when we can say quite 
definitely that we require two more divisions, assault loaded 
and to be landed on D-Day in the Gulf of Gela, if the invasion 
of Sicily is to be a success. 

Given these two divisions, then all requirements of die 
Army, Air, and Navy are met and this very difficult and tricky 
operation will be a complete success. 

Without these two divisions, it would seem in view of 
what the air saythat we might well have a disaster. 

13. I consider that the answer to the problem is to shift the U.S. 
effort from the Palermo area, and to use it in the Gulf of Gela, 
to land on either side of Gela. 

The invasion of Sicily will then be a complete success." 

When the conference was over, I returned in the evening to my 
operational H.Q. in Tunisia to await events. 

At midnight the next day, the 3rd May, I received a signal from 
Alexander saying that Eisenhower had approved. At last we could 
get on with our work, with a firm plan. 

Having been woken up and given the signal, I went to sleep again 
feeling that fighting the Germans was easy compared with fighting for 
the vital issues on which everything depended. I wondered if the 
Germans went on like this in planning their operations. 

Two more things were necessary before I could feel happy about 
the invasion of Sicily. As a result of the acceptance by all concerned 
of the plan of attack, land operations by British and American forces 
really became one operation. Each would be dependent on the other 
for direct support in the battle; our administrative needs would also 
be interdependent. Time was pressing and it was clear that the co 
ordination, direction and control should be undertaken by one Army 

164 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

commander and a joint staff. I put this viewpoint to Alexander and 
he agreed; his view was that one Army H.Q. should handle the whole 
operation. Alexander put this to General Eisenhower, who did not 
agree. The organisation was to be two armies, one American and one 
British, under Alexander. 

Much more important was the second point. We were going to 
open up a new campaign in a new theatre. The planners, and every 
one else, had been concentrating on where to land; nobody had con 
sidered how the campaign in Sicily should be developed. We wanted 
to secure the island quickly and prevent the escape of its garrison 
back to Italy. To do this we must work to a master plan, which I sug 
gested should be the following. 

The two armies, landing side by side on the south coast, should 
push quickly northwards and cut the island in half. A defensive flank 
should then be formed facing west, and the combined efforts of both 
armies be concentrated on getting rapidly to Messina to prevent the 
get-away across the straits. The navies and air forces must co-operate 
to see that none of the enemy got away by sea. 

Although Alexander then agreed with this conception of how the 
campaign should be developed by his two armies, and with the role 
of the naval and air forces, in fact the campaign was not conducted in 
this way. By the time we had captured the whole island, the Germans 
had mostly got back to Italy. 


All resistance in North Africa ended on the 12th May. 

Field-Marshal Messe, the Italian C.-in-C. who succeeded Rommel 
in the overall command, surrendered to the Eighth Army on the 13th 
May; he had dinner with me that night before going off to his prison 
camp, and we discussed various aspects of the battles we had fought 
against each other. 

I decided then that I would go to England for a short holiday before 
the Sicily campaign began. I also wanted to see the ist Canadian 
Division which was to land direct on the Sicily beaches from the U.K. 
We should not see them until we were fighting alongside them. This 
obviously needed buttoning up beforehand. 

I left Tripoli in my "Flying Fortress" on the i6th May, arriving 
in England on the i/th. I enjoyed the visit, and especially my time 
with David. 

One thing made me feel lonely. A Thanksgiving Service for the 
end of the war in Africa was held in St. Paul s Cathedral on the igth 
May; I was in London but was not asked to attend. It was explained 
to me after the service that it was desired to keep my presence in 

The Campaign in Sicily 165 

England a secret. Yet to my delighted surprise, wherever I went I was 
followed by crowds. The incident made me realise that if I were 
pretty popular with a lot of people, I was not too popular in some 
circles. Perhaps the one explained the other. 

I returned to the Eighth Army via Algiers, and met the Prime Min 
ister and the C.LG.S. there on the 2nd June; I did the journey from 
London to Algiers in one day in the "Flying Fortress," in daylight. 

I gained the impression that the Prime Minister and the C.I.G.S. 
had come on to Algiers from Washington in order to ensure that the 
capture of Sicily should be pushed hard and exploited to the utmost; 
to do this was somewhat at variance with the decisions taken in 
Washington, and therefore they had persuaded General Marshall to 
come with them. The P.M. was determined to knock Italy out of the 
war. He cross-examined me a good deal about the plan for Sicily. I 
expressed confidence in our plan and in our ability to carry it out. 

This was only natural, since it was my plan! I also emphasised the 
need for a master plan which would ensure that, once ashore, the 
operations would be developed in the right way. 

While in England I had been told that the King was going to visit 
the forces in North Africa in June. He arrived in Africa on the 13th 
June and came to Tripoli on the 17th to see the Eighth Army, or as 
much of it as was there. He stayed with us in our camp on the sea 
shore some miles outside Tripoli, and I think he enjoyed the visit. We 
certainly enjoyed having him with us; he put us all at our ease and 
was in splendid form. 

I was anxious for his safety at one time as enemy parachutists were 
still at large, and Tripoli was full of Italians. When the King was 
actually in that town I confined all civilians to their houses; and on 
one day fire was opened on suspicious elements trying to break out. 

On the day he arrived, the igth June, he gave me the accolade of 
Knighthood in the lunch marquee near the airfield. 


On the Sth July the Prime Minister sent me a telegram: "Every 
good wish and all our confidence goes with you and your splendid 

On the same day I issued my usual personal message to the Eighth 

We landed in Sicily two hours before dawn on the loth July. The 
story of the campaign in that island has been told frequently and I 
have already described it myself in Alamein to the River Sangro. 

I had a difficult decision to make soon after we landed. General 
McNaughton, the G.O.C.-in-C. First Canadian Army (in England), 

166 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

had arrived in Malta about the middle of July with a party of staff 
officers and he asked to be sent over to Sicily to see the Canadian 

The ist Canadian Division had not been in action before and 
officers and men were just beginning to find their feet. Guy Simonds, 
the Divisional Commander, was young and inexperienced; it was the 
first time he had commanded a division in battle. 

I was determined that the Canadians must be left alone and I wasn t 
going to have Simonds bothered with visitors when he was heavily 
engaged with his division in all-out operations against first-rate Ger 
man troops. However, to make sure I went to see Simonds and asked 
him if he would like McNaughton to come to Sicily. His reply was im 
mediate "For God s sake keep him away." On that, I sent a message 
to Malta asking that the visit be postponed. When the campaign in 
Sicily was over, I invited General McNaughton to come and see the 
Canadian troops and he stayed with me at my Tac Headquarters at 
Taormina. I have not seen him since those days, although I have paid 
many visits to Canada since the war ended. It seemed to me that he 
had never forgiven me for denying him entry to Sicily in July 1943. 

The Canadians were magnificent in the Sicilian campaign. They 
had done no fighting before, but they were very well trained and they 
soon learnt the tricks of the battlefield which count for so much and 
save so many lives. When I drew them into reserve to prepare for the 
invasion of the Italian mainland, they had become one of the Eighth 
Army s veteran divisions. 

The men of the Eighth Army enjoyed Sicily after the desert. It 
was high summer; oranges and lemons were on the trees; wine was 
plentiful; the Sicilian girls were disposed to be friendly. It was very 
hot and the mosquitoes were unpleasant; indeed, they were a menace 
since they were the malarial type. Our medical discipline was not good 
as regards the regular parades for taking preventive medicines that are 
so necessary in such conditions; we suffered almost as many casualties 
from malaria as we did from enemy action. We were all used to the 
heat; but whereas the desert was dry, Sicily was humid. 

The men in back areas discarded all possible clothing and some 
even took to wearing the wide-brim Sicilian straw hat. I well re 
member an incident that occurred one day as I was driving in my 
open car up to the front. I saw a lorry coming towards me with a 
soldier apparently completely naked in the driver s seat, wearing a silk 
top hat. As the lorry passed me, the driver leant out from his cab and 
took off his hat to me with a sweeping and gallant gesture. I just roared 
with laughter. However, while I was not particular about dress so 
long as the soldiers fought well and we won our battles, I at once 
decided that there were limits. When I got back to my headquarters 

The Campaign in Sicily 167 

I issued the only order I ever issued about dress in the Eighth Army; 
it read as follows: "Top hats will not be worn in the Eighth Army." 

It was in Sicily that I gave up the "Flying Fortress" I had won at 
Sfax. We had got away from the large airfields of Africa and there 
were few in Sicily on which such a large aircraft could land safely. We 
nearly crashed the day I landed at Palermo to visit General Patton. So 
I asked Eisenhower if he would kindly change it, and he provided 
instead a Dakota with a jeep inside it which was far more useful. 

I think everyone admitted that we learnt a great deal in Sicily. In 
some cases possibly all that was learnt was how not to do certain 
tilings. But all in all, the experience was invaluable to us all: to the 
high command at Allied Force H.Q. in the Mediterranean theatre, 
to my staff and myself, and to every officer and man in the Eighth 
Army. But the campaign had an unsatisfactory ending in that most of 
the German troops on the island got away across the Straits of Messina 
to Italy, and this when we had complete air and naval supremacy. This 
was to cause us great trouble later on when we ourselves went into 
Italy. It seems to me worthwhile, therefore, to go back over the 
ground and try to discover what was wrong. 

The operation involved planning a major seaborne assault, incor 
porating the establishment of a beach-working system of maintenance, 
without any previous experience of an operation of this magnitude. 
Simplicity, care, and close co-operation between the Services and 
Allies, were absolutely vital. 

Although orders for the invasion of Sicily were received in North 
Africa in January 1943, the plan was not finalised till May, two months 
before D-Day. The main reasons for this delay were the following: 

(a) The responsible commanders-in-chief, and those who were 
actually to command in the field, were all engaged in current 
operations in North Africa. 

Planning was undertaken by ad hoc planning staffs which 
went to work without the guidance of commanders. 

A series of plans was produced; none of them was good 
since the planners were inexperienced. 

(b) When the field commanders were able to begin work on the 
plan, major alterations were necessary to make it a practical 
proposition. Meanwhile much time and effort had been 
wasted during the "absentee landlord" period. 

(c) The headquarters of the responsible C.s-in-C., and of the field 
commanders, were widely dispersed. For the major planning 
meetings, Naval and Army Commanders of the Eastern Task 
Force (the Eighth Army) had to fly from Cairo to Algiers, a 
distance of over 2000 miles. This led to inevitable delays. 

168 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

(d) Final decisions had to be made by the Supreme Commander. 
But he was deeply involved in political matters in North 
Africa and was not free to devote his entire energies to the 
campaign ahead. 

The responsibilities for the mounting of the operation, and em 
barkation ports, were most complicated. Troops of the Eighth Army 
had to be embarked from the following ports: 

Haifa, Canal Ports, Alexandria, and some of the follow-up from 

Tripoli. G.H.Q. Middle East in Cairo were responsible for 

all this loading. 
Sfax, Sousse, and Kairouan (for airborne troops). Supreme H.Q. 

at Algiers, and Alexander s H.Q., were responsible. 
Canadian Division and certain troops from the U.K. The War 

Office in London was responsible. 

Signals between Cairo, Algiers and London often overlapped or 
were contradictory. 

Above all, there was confusion in the army/air planning, and espe 
cially with regard to air photographs. There was a representative of 
the superior Air H.Q. (North Africa) at Eighth Army H.Q. in Cairo. 
But he had no executive powers and no experience in army/air opera 
tions. He did his best but there was great delay since he had to wait 
for answers to letters sent from Cairo to Algiers, whence they had 
to be referred to Malta. The executive air commander, who was sup 
posed to plan the assault and initial stages of the operation with my 
headquarters, was in Maltavery occupied with current operations. 
This air commander and his staff were expert in island defence and 
coastal operations; they had no experience of using air power to assist 
the tactical battle on land. The expert in working with the Eighth 
Army was the Commander of the Desert Air Force (Broadhurst) and 
he sat virtually unemployed in Tripoli; he did not come into the 
picture until we were firmly on shore and his squadrons could be 
moved to Sicily. 

It will always be a wonder to me how my staff competed with all 
these dreadful problems, many of which should never have been 
allowed to occur. It will be remembered that de Guingand was away 
for much of the time, recovering from his air crash at El Adem; but 
Belchem was a very able substitute and he handled the exasperating 
work splendidly. 

The intention of the three Commanders-in-Chief under Eisenhower 
(Alexander, Cunningham, and Tedder) covered only the assault of 
the island and the immediate seizure of airfields and ports. 

The method by which the campaign would be developed once the 

The Campaign in Sicily 169 

armies were on shore, and how the island would finally be reduced, 
was not decided. In fact, there was no master plan. As a result the 
operations and actions of the two Allied armies were not properly 
co-ordinated. The army commanders developed their own ideas of 
how to proceed and then "informed" higher authority. The Seventh 
U.S. Army, once on shore, was allowed to wheel west towards Palermo. 
It thereby missed the opportunity to direct its main thrust-line north 
wards in order to cut the island in two: as a preliminary to the 
encirclement of the Etna position and the capture of Messina. 

During the operations it was difficult to get things decided quickly. 
The responsible C.s-in-C. had their headquarters widely dispersed; 
they did not live together. Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander, 
was in Algiers; Alexander, in command of the land forces, was in 
Sicily; Cunningham, the Naval C.-in-C., was in Malta; whereas 
Tedder, the Air C.-in-C., had his headquarters in Tunis. When things 
went wrong, all they could do was to send telegrams to each other; 
it took time to gather them together for the purpose of making joint 

I once discussed this campaign with Admiral Morison, the United 
States naval historian. He holds the same view as myself about the 
iniquity of letting most of the Germans get away to Italy. 

Time was vital if we were to exploit success in Italy before the 
winter set in. We took some five weeks to complete the capture of 
Sicily and the Eighth Army suffered 12,000 casualties. With close co 
ordination of the land, air and sea effort we would, in my view, have 
gained control of the island more quickly, and with fewer casualties. 

Eisenhower came to stay with me in Sicily when the campaign was 
over; we always enjoyed his visits and he charmed us all with his 
friendly personality. He had only one A.D.C. with him, a naval 
officer called Captain Butcher. 

I had established my Tactical Headquarters at Taormina, in a lovely 
house overlooking the Straits of Messina. At dinner one night, dis 
cussion turned on how long the war would last and Eisenhower gave 
it as his opinion it would all be over before Christmas 1944. It was 
clear to me that it ought to be over by then. But after our experiences 
in the planning and conduct of the Sicily campaign I felt we had much 
to learn, and I believed in my heart that the Allies would make such 
mistakes that the war would go into 1945. 

So I asked Eisenhower if he would like to bet on it, as I would 
bet against it. He said he would and the bet was written out by Cap 
tain Butcher for a level 5, being signed on the nth October in Italy 
during his next visit. 

A few days before Christmas 1944 when we were fighting on the 
threshold of Germany, I sent Ike a message saying it looked as if he 

170 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

owed me 5. He replied saying he still had five days left and you 
never know what can happen in war. 

He sent me the 5 on the 26th December. 

We had much fun that night at Taormina and I remember asking 
Ike, to his great amusement, if he had ever been told that the final 
plan for Sicily had been put forward in an Algerian lavatory! 


The Campaign in Italy 

3rd September to 31st December 1943 

IF THE planning and conduct of the campaign in Sicily were bad, 
the preparations for the invasion of Italy, and the subsequent 
conduct of the campaign in that country, were worse still. 

It will be remembered that the next task after clearing the Axis 
Powers from Africa was to knock Italy out of the war. As a first step 
we were to capture Sicily but there was no plan for operations beyond. 
There should have been a master plan which embraced the capture 
of Sicily and the use of that island as a spring-board for getting quickly 
across to Italy, and exploiting success. 

We proposed to invade the mainland of Europe without any clear 
idea how operations were to be developed once we got there. The 
decision precisely where we were to land in Italy was not firm till the 
ijth August, the day on which the campaign in Sicily ended. So far 
as the Eighth Army was concerned I was to launch it across the Straits 
of Messina on the 30th August, but was given no "object." On the 
igth August I insisted that I must be told what I was to do in Italy, 
My object was given me on the 2Oth August, ten days before we were 
to land in Italy. (See Map, No. 31.) 

Originally it was intended that the invasion of the mainland was 
to be carried out by the Eighth Army only, on a two-corps front. 
Landings were to be made as follows: 

Operation BurnuESS, in the area of Gioia Tauro, on the north 

coast of the toe. 
Operation BAYTOWN, a direct assault across the Straits of Messina. 

Towards the end of July a third operation began to be considered 
in the Salerno area; this would be called Operation AVALANCHE. 


172 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

In my view, AVALANCHE was a good operation to carry out; every 
thing should have been put into it from the very beginning and all 
endeavours concentrated on making it a great success. This was not 

On the lyth August it was decided that BUTTRESS would not take 
place; my 10 Corps which was to have carried it out was put under 
the Fifth U.S. Army which was to carry out AVALANCHE. 

So by the ijth August it was decided that two armies would invade 
the mainland of Italy: 

Eighth Army, across the Straits of Messina Operation BAYTOWN. 
Fifth U.S. Army, at Salerno Operation AVALANCHE. 

Our troubles now began. 

In order to bolster up AVALANCHE, landing-craft began to be taken 
away from BAYTOWN. I could not proceed with the planning of BAY- 
TOWN because I had no senior naval officer, or any adequate naval 
planning staff. I protested, and got Alexander to add his protests to 
mine; but it was without result, and finally the carrying out of BAY- 
TOWN as envisaged became impossible. 

On the afternoon of the igth August, I sent this following signal 
to Alexander. 

**i. I have been ordered to invade the mainland of the continent 
of Europe on the 30th August. In the absence of information 
to the contrary, I must assume that some resistance will be 
offered by the enemy. 

2. I have been given no object for the operation. Is my object 
to secure the Straits for the Navy and to act as a diversion for 
AVALANCHE? If not, please define what it is. 

3. The landing-craft and naval personnel given me make an 
invasion of Europe with any object in the face of opposition 
quite impossible. 

4. The delays that have occurred make it impossible for BAYTOWN 
to take place on the 30th August. 

5. I agree that AVALANCHE must have priority but we do not 
want to start in Europe with a setback in the toe of Italy. 

6. I need definite orders as to the timing and object of any opera 
tion you want me to carry out across the Straits of Messina, 
and the object must be possible with the resources in craft 
and naval personnel given to me, assuming opposition to the 

7. Can you give me any information as to the degree of enemy 
resistance that is likely? 9 * 

This telegram produced immediate results. On the 2Oth August I 
received a statement from Alexander laying down the object of 

The Campaign in Italy 173 

Operation BAYTOWN: written in his own handwriting on a half -sheet 
of notepaper, which I still have. 

"Your task is to secure a bridgehead on the toe of Italy, to enable 
our naval forces to operate through the Straits of Messina. 

In the event of the enemy withdrawing from the toe, you will 
follow him up with such force as you can make available, bearing 
in mind that the greater the extent to which you can engage 
enemy forces in the southern tip of Italy, the more assistance 
will you be giving to AVALANCHE." 

This "object" is worth examining. No attempt was made to co 
ordinate my operations with those of the Fifth Army, landing at 
Salerno on the night gth-ioth September. It was not visualised that 
the Eighth Army would go further than the Catanzaro neck, a distance 
of about 60 miles from Reggio. Our resources were cut accord 

What actually happened is well known; the Salerno landings were 
very soon in difficulties; I was asked to push on and help the Fifth 
Army, and administrative troubles then built up around my Army. 

Eisenhower ordered a conference of his Commanders-in-Chief at 
Algiers on the 23rd August, and I was summoned to attend. At the 
conference I was asked to explain in outline my plan for Operation 
BAYTOWN. This I did. I said that the naval delays had made it impos 
sible for me to do the operation on the night soth-sist August. I had 
now got the necessary resources in craft and naval personnel, and could 
carry it out on the night 2nd~3rd September; the Navy, however, had 
told me the earliest they could manage was the night 4th-5th 

Eisenhower suggested to Cunningham that he should go at once 
to Sicily and sort it out, adding that we must aim to get the operation 
launched on the night 2nd-srd September. 

Cunningham left the conference at once, and flew to Sicily. As a 
result of his visit, the Navy agreed to do the operation on the night 
snd-grd September. 

Having settled that matter, Eisenhower told us of the negotiations 
going on with the Italian Government about an armistice. The Italians 
had said they were fed up with the war. It seemed that at a given 
moment they were prepared, if we would land on the mainland of 
Italy, to come in with us and fight the Germans. I remarked that this 
looked like the biggest double-cross in history. I argued that the 
Italians would never fight the Germans properly; if they tried to they 
would be hit for six; the most we could hope for from the Italian 
Army was assistance in our rear areas, and non-cooperation with the 
Germans in German-occupied areas. 

But if this was to be the general atmosphere, it looked as if the 

174 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

opposition I might expect to receive in BAYTOWN might not be so 
great after alL 

General Mark Clark, Fifth U.S. Army, explained his plan for the 
landing at Salerno on the night gth-ioth September. The Germans 
had some twenty divisions in Italy and at least four could be con 
centrated fairly quickly against the Fifth Army; I mentioned this, but 
everyone was so pleased about the Italians fighting on our side that it 
was considered the situation would be good. I was unable to agree. 


I issued the following personal message to the Army and it was read 
to officers and men on the 2nd September: 

"i. Having captured Sicily as our first slice of the Italian home 
country, the time has now come to carry the battle on to the 
mainland of Italy. 

2. To the Eighth Army has been given the great honour of being 
the first troops of the Allied Armies to land on the mainland of 
the continent of Europe. 

We will prove ourselves worthy of this honour. 

3. I want to tell all of you, soldiers of the Eighth Army, that I 
have complete confidence in the successful outcome of the 
operations we are now going to carry out. 

We have a good plan, and air support on a greater scale 
than we have ever had before. 
There can only be one end to this next battle, and that is: 


4. Forward to Victory! 

Let us knock Italy out of the war! 

5. Good luck. And God bless you all/* 

I looked forward to landing on the mainland of Europe on the 3rd 
September, the fourtb anniversary of the outbreak of the war. We 
were about to enter the fifth year of the war and there was still much 
to avenge. In May 1940 together with many others I had been pushed 
into the sea at Dunkirk by the Germans. In May 1943 I had the 
greafr 1 *^ -ure of helping to push the Germans into the sea in Tunisia. 
In &$ & 1943 I had the further pleasure of helping to push the 
German s *nto the sea in Sicily. 

Anyhow, Dunkirk was avenged. 

I wondered what the attitude of the Italians would be. A curious 
sight in Sicily was Italian soldiers in uniform, and carrying rifles, 
policing the embarkation beaches which we were using for the inva 
sion of their mainland. And during the advance in Sicily, Italian 

The Campaign in Italy 175 

Chilians accompanied our leading platoons and pointed out the sites 
of booby traps, mines, etc., thus saving many British lives. 

The story of the operations in Italy has been told by many writers 
and an Official History will doubtless appear in due course. But I 
have learnt that official histories, and dispatches, almost inevitably 
miss the "inside story." So let us have a look at it from the inside. 

The initial landing went well; there was little opposition and we 
were quickly on shore. But our troubles soon began once we had got 
some little distance northwards; the country generally was ideal for 
delay by the action of small units co-ordinated with skilfully sited 
demolitions, and the Germans took full advantage of this. 

On the 5th September Alexander flew to Reggio and I met him 
on the airfield. He told me the Italians had signed our armistice terms 
on the 3rd September, but no announcement was to be made at pres 
ent The further plans and arrangements were to be as follows: 

(a) At 1800 hours on the Sth September, Badoglio from Rome 
and Eisenhower from Algiers would broadcast the fact that 
the Italians had surrendered unconditionally. 

(b) At 2100 hours on the Sth September, American airborne 
troops would land near Rome. At the same time the city 
would be seized by the Italian divisions in the vicinity. 

(c) The Italian Army was to seize Taranto, Brindisi, Ban and 

(d) At 0430 hours on the 9th September the Allies would land as 

Fifth U.S. Army at Salerno, for Naples. 
5th British Corps at Taranto. 

Alexander was most optimistic and was clearly prepared to base 
his plans on the Italians doing all they said. I asked him to move away 
from the other officers who were with us, and then gave him my 
views. The following is the extract from my diary, written that night: 

"I told him my opinion was that when the Germans found out 
what was going on, they would stamp on the Italians. The Italian 
Army morale was now very low; that Army would not face up 
to the Germans. I said he should impress on all senior coror ^ders 
that we must make our plans so that it would make no J*_ * ,,ice 
if the Italians failed us, as they most certainly would. T^ ^y might 
possibly do useful guerilla work, sabotage, and generally ensure 
complete non-cooperation on the part of the local population. 
But I did not see them fighting the Germans. 

The Germans were in great strength in Italy and we were very 
weak. We must watch our step carefully and do nothing foolish. 
I begged him to be careful; not to open up too many fronts and 

176 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

dissipate our resources; and to be certain before we landed any 
where that we could build up good strength in that area. I said 
the Germans could concentrate against AVAJLANCHE quicker than 
we could build up; that operation would need careful watching. 
Rommel is in charge in Italy and I have fought against him a good 
deal; he has twenty divisions, of which five are armoured. If the 
landings at Salerno go against us, we will be in for a hard and 
long fight. We will have to fight the Germans by ourselves as the 
Italians will not do so not yet, at any rate. 

Before we embark on major operations on the mainland of 
Europe we must have a master plan and know how we propose 
to develop those operations. I have not been told of any master 
plan and I must therefore assume there was none/* 

I also discussed with Alexander the time factor. It was essential to 
do what we wanted in Italy before the winter set in. Also, we must 
be certain that our administration in rear was commensurate with what 
we were trying to achieve in front; but it wasn t. Alexander listened 
to what I said, but I do not think he agrejed. 

We all know what happened. The Germans dealt very effectively 
with the Italian armed forces in their own areas; they were all dis 

The Salerno landings soon got into trouble, and a critical stuation 
arose on the night I3th-i4th September when the Germans attacked 
the s6th American Division in strength. That Division was new to 
battle and the enemy thrust got within three miles of the beach and 
within two miles of Army H.Q. On the 14th September I received a 
cry for help from Alexander to push on and threaten the German forces 
opposite the Fifth Army. This I did, and I also sent a staff officer over 
to see General Clark. On the i6th September the leading troops of the 
Eighth Army joined hands with the right flank of the Fifth U.S. Army. 
General Clark wrote me a very nice letter congratulating us: "on the 
skilful and expeditious manner in which your Eighth Army moved up 
to the north." 

This was good to receive, but I have never thought we had much 
real influence on the Salerno problem; I reckon General Clark had 
got it well in hand before we arrived. But we did what we could. We 
marched and fought 300 miles in 17 days, in good delaying country 
against an enemy whose use of demolition caused us bridging prob 
lems of the first magnitude. The hairpin bends on the roads were such 
that any distance measured on the map as say I o miles was 20 miles 
on the ground and in some cases 25. But, in my view, Fifth Army did 
their own trick without our helpwilling as we were. 

After the first phase was over and the two armies had joined hands, 
I was ordered to transfer the operations of the Eighth Army to the 

The Campaign in Italy 177 

east or Adriatic side of the main mountain range of the Apennines. 
This involved switching our administrative axis from Calabria to the 
ports in south-east Italy, of which the most important were Taranto, 
Brindisi and Bait This was a major undertaking and took some con 
siderable time. When it was completed we began a movement north 
wards which involved capturing Foggia and its airfields, Termoli, 
and fighting severe battles on the lines of the rivers Trigno and Sangro. 

The weather began to break up at the end of October and veiy 
heavy rain descended on us. The rains continued and by the gth 
November the whole country was completely waterlogged, the mud 
was frightful, and no vehicles could move off the road, which was 
covered in "chocolate sauce." The wet season was on us, and on the 
Adriatic coast it became cold and damp. We now began to pay dearly 
for the loss of time in Sicily. 

I had a little trouble about the middle of September with the 
GOC * 7th Italian Army General Rizzio. He was the senior Italian 
officer in my area of operations, and the Italian Army had surrendered 
to the Allies unconditionally. I was then told that the Italians were 
now co-belligerents; I asked what was meant by ^unconditional sur 
render" and "co-belligerent" in one and the same case, but could 
get no clear answer. 

The Italian general did not seem to know either; he placed the 
emphasis on "co-belligerent" and wanted to forget everything else. 
He was inclined to think that since he was the senior Army general in 
southern Italy, the Eighth Army should therefore come under his 
command, as we were now Allies. I decided to go and see him and 
get the matter cleared up quickly, before trouble arose. I had written 
out some notes of what I would say to him, through an interpreter 
since neither of us could speak the other s language. I give these notes 
below but when I actually met him I decided to leave out para. 3; I 
saw at once there was no need for it as he was a very decent chap and 
only too willing to help in any way. 

"i. Delighted to meet him and feel sure he will co-operate whole 
heartedly in the defeat of our common enemy Germany. 

2. We do not yet know the exact details of Italian co-operation 
that have been settled by governments. But in order that our 
co-operation may be very good it is essential that we should 
all be quite dear as to our immediate general position. Any 
misunderstanding would merely tend to prejudice our early 
defeat of the Germans. 

3. The armed forces of Italy have been defeated in battle and 
have surrendered unconditionally to the Allies. 

* General Officer Commanding. 

178 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

We do not wish to cause any dishonour to the Italian Army, 
or to disarm the personnel. But the above basic factor must be 

4. Command in the zone of the armies, and on the lines of com 
munication must be exercised through British channels 
absolutely and completely, and in respect of any situation that 
may arise. 

5. Formations and units of the Italian Army will remain under 
their own commanders. Orders as to their action, or work, or 
general routine in garrisons and ports, will be communicated 
through the British command. 

All such orders must be obeyed instantly, and without com 
ment; only in this way will our operations against the Germans 
be able to develop their maximum power rapidly. 

Any representations regarding modifications, etc., will be 
submitted to the British command; these will always receive 
sympathetic consideration, and will always be complied with 
if this can be done without prejudicing the general war effort. 

6. In general, the active offensive against the Germans for the 
present will be conducted by the Allied British and American 
Forces, pending any other arrangements by governments con 

7. The contribution of the Italian Army will be confined to: 

(a) Defence of ports, and of the lines of communication, 

(b) Work on communications, roads, etc. 

(c) Provision of labour as necessary. 

It is particularly important that Italian A.A. artillery should 
be able to play its full part in the defence of ports and of the 
lines of communications. Detailed orders about this will be 
issued through the British command." 


I had built up a most efficient and experienced administrative staff 
in the Eighth Army, first under Brian Robertson and now under Miles 
Graham. This staff worked well with G.H.Q. Middle East in Cairo, 
each having full confidence in the other. When we got to Tunisia we 
came under Allied Force Headquarters, the administrative staff of 
which neither had the knowledge themselves, nor the courage and 
good sense to put their trust in the information they received from the 
well-tried and veteran administrative staff of the Eighth Army. We 
first began to be anxious soon after we reached Tripoli; we were 
very short of many essential needs and when we unloaded the first 

The Campaign in Italy 179 

ship that reached us under the auspices of A.F.H.Q.* we found that it 
contained 10,000 dustbins! We thought, in our arrogant way, that 
they probably needed them more than we did. 

A.F.H.Q. did not understand that an important principle of suc 
cessful administration during active operations is to put full confidence 
in the staff of the lower formation and to send up, where possible, 
without argument what is demanded from the front If the confidence 
is found to be misplaced, the only course is to sack the miscreants 
and put better men in their place. It is useless during battle operations 
to argue about what the lower formations should or should not have 
in stock; the time for such discussion is after the battle, and not before 
or during it. This is the system we worked on in the Eighth Army, 
and later in 21 Army Group. 

I must of course qualify this by saying that the Chief Administrative 
Officer of the higher formation must know his stuff, and must know 
the character and foibles of the administrative staffs below him; this 
can only be done by continual visits and by establishing friendly 
relations with individuals throughout the administrative chain. 

Allied Force H.Q. in Algiers failed in these respects and as a result 
we had to encounter very great difficulties. At a later stage in the 
operations in Italy, Robertson became Chief Administrative Officer 
to Alexander, and he quietly gathered the reins into his very able 
hands; then we had no more problems which could not be solved. 

The basic trouble was that we became involved in a major cam 
paign lacking a predetermined master plan. We had not made in 
advance the administrative plans and arrangements necessary to sus 
tain the impetus of our operations. The result was the administrative 
machine became unable to keep pace with the constantly widening 
scope of our operational commitments. It will be remembered that 
the "object" given me did not visualise my advancing beyond the 
neck of the toe of Italy, i.e. about 60 miles. But I drove the Eighth 
Army forward at great speed beyond this point in order to try to 
assist the operations of the Fifth U.S. Army at Salerno. In doing so I 
had been warned by my staff that I was taking big administrative 
risks. The advice was sound; so was my decision to ignore it. I at 
tempted to relieve the enemy pressure on the Fifth Army at Salerno, 
but paid the penalty of finding my own reserves were exhausted and 
that supplies to replenish them were not forthcoming. 

I then had to switch my administrative axis to the heel ports of 
south-east Italy. This should have been foreseen by A.F.H.Q., but it 
wasn t Our troubles then became intensified. 

On the 4th October we had only 21 tons of petrol in our depots, 
and my army was in danger of becoming immobilised. We had over 
* Allied Forces Headquarters. 

180 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

five hundred vehicles off the road wanting new engines; instead of 
having base workshops in Italy with a pool of spare engines, the 
vehicles had to be sent back to Egypt for repair, and returned later. 

A serious medical scandal was narrowly averted; we could not clear 
our sick and wounded from our hospitals and Casualty Clearing 

Convoys began to arrive in the "heel" ports of Italy loaded in bulk 
to stock up the depots in Sicily. We had to unload large quantities of 
stores, useless for the moment, in order to extract vital stores which 
were needed urgently. 

Later, when the Foggia airfields were captured, we had heavy 
demands for the Strategic Air Force. The question of priorities be 
tween the Army and the R.A.F. then became urgent. If the land armies 
were to maintain the impetus of their operations then they had to be 
supplied with what they needed for the job. Or the job must be 
changed. It was essential to get established in Italy a weapon which 
would be strong enough to get us forward to the line we wanted, if 
only to cover the strategic airfields. Presumably this was the "Rome 
Line" but I could get no clear statement on the subject from anyone. 
The two armies went "slogging" up Italy, with no master plan, and at 
the risk of a major administrative break-down. 


The 23rd October was the first anniversary of the Battle of Alamein. 
I issued an anniversary message to officers and men. Actually, the 
New Zealand Division was the only division then serving in the 
Eighth Army which had fought with me at Alamein, and even in that 
division many officers and men had not been there. So besides issuing 
the written order to be read out to the troops, I made a record which 
was broadcast by the B.B.C. 

I received two letters on the anniversary which gave me great 
pleasure, one from my Chief of Staff and one from the Supreme 
Commander in Yugoslavia Marshal Tito. 

I give them below, 

H.Q. Eighth Army 
23rd October, 1943 
"My dear General, 

On this first anniversary of the Battle of El Alamein, I would 
like, on behalf of your staff at Army H.Q., to send you our warm 
est good wishes on this great occasion; and to express our gratitude 
for leading us through the past year with such wisdom, inspira 
tion, and success. 

The Campaign in Italy 181 

We look forward to the future \vith solid confidence in your 

(Sgd.) F. W. de Guingand 
Chief of Staff" 

"The Commander of the Eighth British Army: 
General Montgomery. 

On the first anniversary of the glorious battle and big victory 
of Alamein, please accept, General, together with your officers and 
soldiers of the gallant Eighth Army, my very cordial congratula 

In the name of the National Army of Liberation of Yugoslavia, 
I express my joy that, as a result of your African victories, we are 
now within 200 kilometres of each other in our operations against 
the common enemy. 

Thus, with every day, the Allied armies engaged in the fight 
against the greatest foe humanity has ever had aggressive Ger 
man Fascism are becoming more closely knit into one continuous 

I am confident that the fraternity in arms, sealed with the blood 
of the finest sons of Great Britain and Yugoslavia, will not only 
contribute to a speedy triumph over detested German Fascism, 
but also foster full comprehension on the part of you personally, 
your soldiers and the whole British nation of the aspirations which 
permeate the nations of Yugoslavia. 

In the name of these aspirations, a sea of blood of our best sons 
has been shed. These aspirations are for a new, free and truly 
democratic federal Yugoslavia, built on the fraternity and equality 
of all nations in our country. 

Kindly accept my respectful regards. 

The Supreme Commander N.L.A. and P.G.Y. 

(Signed) Tito" 


When the winter closed in on us, with the constant rain and appal 
ling mud, I wrote to the War Office and asked the C.I.G.S. if he 
could send me out a waterproof suit, jacket and trousers, of some 
mackintosh material. The Bishop of Southwark was to visit the Eighth 
Army to hold confirmations before Christmas, and he was given the 
suit to bring out to me. The following signal was sent me from the 
War Office when the suit had been handed over to the Bishop. 

I was told that the poem eventually found its way into an English 

182 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

newspaper, but I am not certain about this; nor do I know who 
wrote it 

From: War Office. 

To: Eighth Army, 

Personal for General Montgomery. 

Following to be read as verse. 

We ve despatched, pour la guerre, 

A mackintosh pair 
Of trousers and jacket, express; 

They are coming by air 

And are sent to you care 
Of the Bishop of Southwark, no less. 

So wherever you go 

From Pescara to Po, 
Through mud and morasses and ditches, 

You undoubtedly ought 

To be braced by the thought 
That the Church has laid hands on your breeches. 

We think they ll suffice 

(As they should at the price) 
To cover your flanks in the melee, 

And avert the malaise 

(In the Premier s phrase) 
Of a chill in the soft underbelly. 

According to Moss 

(The outfitting Bros.) 
Twon t matter, so stout is their fibre, 

If you happen to trip 

And go arse over tip, 
Like Horatius, into the Tiber. 

And you ll find so we hope- 
When you call on the Pope, 

That his blessing s more readily given 
On learning the news 
That your mackintosh trews 

Were brought down by a Bishop from Heaven. 


Veiy early in the morning of the 24th December, I was woken up 
to be given a signal from the War Office to say I was to return to 

The Campaign in Italy 183 

England to succeed General Paget in command of 21 Army Group, 
the British Group of Armies preparing to open a "second front" across 
the Channel. Though sad of course to leave the Eighth Army, I was 
naturally delighted to have been selected for the great task ahead: the 
full-scale invasion across the Channel which would truly avenge 
Dunkirk. It was a relief and an excitement: a relief because I was not 
too happy about the overall situation in Italy and considered we had 
only ourselves to blame for the situation which now faced us. No 
grand design for the opening of a new theatre of operations; no master 
plan; no grip on the operations; a first class administrative muddle- 
all these had cumulatively combined to impose such delay on the 
operations that we failed to exploit the initial advantages which we 
had gained before the winter closed in upon us. 

It was, of course, true that in under six months we had: 

(a) Captured Sicily. 

( b) Knocked Italy out of the war. 

(c) Got the Italian fleet locked up in Malta. 

(d) Captured about one-third of Italy, including Naples and the 
Foggia airfields. 

These were spectacular results, but they were all at the expense of 
the Italians. Our real enemy was Germany; we had failed to bring 
real discomfort to that enemy before the weather broke, because we 
had not handled the business properly. For these reasons I was not 
sorry to leave the Italian theatre. I made a quiet resolve that when we 
opened the second front in North-West Europe we would not make 
the same mistakes again: so long as I had any influence in the respon 
sible circles concerned. 

General Eisenhower had been appointed Supreme Commander for 
the Second Front some days earlier, and there had been tremendous 
speculation throughout the Eighth Army about who would go with 
him as his Commanders-in-Chief, and who would succeed him in the 
Mediterranean theatre. The favourite for Supreme Commander, Medi 
terranean theatre, was Jumbo Wilson who was C.-in-C. Middle East. 

On the afternoon of the 24th December, Christmas Eve, the new 
appointments were announced by the B.B.C. and we picked it up in 

Wilson to succeed Eisenhower. 
Alexander to remain in his present job. 
Myself C.-in-C. 21 Army Group. 

So far I had not mentioned to anyone the signal I had received in 
the small hours of that morning; I wanted to discuss things first with 

184 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

da Guingand, but he was on leave and was to return to my main H.Q. 
in the evening. I knew there would at once be great discussion about 
whom I would take with me to my new staff in England, and I wanted 
to get it settled. 

I was quite clear myself about whom I wanted at once: 

de Guingand as Chief of Staff. 

Graham as Chief Administrative Officer. 

Williams as head of the Intelligence, 

Richards as tank adviser. 

Hughes as head chaplain. 

There were others I would like to come later. I at once signalled 
the War Office for permission to bring these five home with me. I also 
wanted Belchem to be head of the operations staff; moreover, he was 
an excellent man to have handy in case de Guingand went sick, as he 
sometimes did after too much hard work and strain. For I worked him 
to the bone; and he would have done that himself even without my 
pressure. Belchem was quite capable of acting as Chief of Staff at 
any time. But I couldn t very well remove too many all at once, as 
this would not have been fair on my successor; I therefore left Belchem 
out of the first request and decided to rope him in later. 

The War Office approved de Guingand, Williams, and Richards 
without delay. They did not approve Graham and Hughes. I decided 
to take Graham home with me, and chance the anger in London. I 
would send for Hughes and Belchem later, when I had sorted tilings 
out in London. 

I spent Christmas Day quietly at my Tactical H.Q., with the officers 
and men who had been with me since Alamein. I told de Guingand 
I wanted to see him and he came up in the afternoon from Main H.Q. 
After tea I took him to my caravan and told him he was to go back 
with me to England and be my Chief of Staff in 21 Army Group; I 
also told him of the others who would go with me. He said he was 
delighted. I was glad to know that; I could not possibly have handled 
the gigantic task that lay ahead without the trusted Chief of Staff who 
had been at my side since Alamein. 

He knew me and my ways, and that was all-important. 

Oliver Leese had been appointed to succeed me and he was to 
arrive on the 3oth December. I settled to leave myself on the sist 
December. Leese knew the Eighth Army well and he would not want 
a long hand-over. 

I flew to Algiers on the 27th December to see Eisenhower and 
Bedell Smith, who was to go with Eisenhower as his Chief of Staff. 

Eisenhower told me that he wanted me to take complete charge 

The Campaign in Italy 185 

of the initial land battle, and that he would place the American armies 
in England under my command for the landing and subsequent opera 
tions. We discussed the type of command set-up I would want and 
what Americap officers we would need at the new Army Group H.Q. 
I got back to Tac H.Q, in Italy on the afternoon of the a8th Decem 

The problem of a farewell message to my beloved Eighth Army 
was causing me seriously to think; I had only just issued a Christmas 
message. I wrote the farewell message in the air on the 28th December 
during the flight back from Algiers, and arranged that it should be 
read to officers and men on the ist January 1944, after I had gone. 
This is what I said: 

"i. I have to tell you, with great regret, that the time has come 
for me to leave the Eighth Army. I have been ordered to take 
command of the British Armies in England that are to operate 
under General Eisenhowerthe Supreme Commander. 

2. It is difficult to express to you adequately what this parting 
means to me. I am leaving officers and men who have been 
my comrades during months of hard and victorious fighting, 
and whose courage and devotion to duty always filled me 
with admiration. I feel I have many friends among the 
soldiery of this great Army. I do not know if you will miss 
me; but I will miss you more than I can say, and especially 
will I miss the personal contacts, and the cheerful greetings 
we exchanged together when we passed each other on the 

3. In all the battles we have fought together we have not had 
one single failure; we have been successful in everything we 
have undertaken. 

I know that this has been due to the devotion to duty and 
whole-hearted co-operation of every officer and man, rather 
than to anything I may have been able to do myself. 

But the result has been a mutual confidence between you 
and me, and mutual confidence between a commander and 
his troops is a pearl of very great price. 

4. I am also very sad at parting from the Desert Air Force. This 
magnificent air striking force has fought with the Eighth 
Army throughout the whole of its victorious progress; every 
soldier in this Army is proud to acknowledge that the support 
of this strong and powerful air force has been a battle-winning 
factor of the first importance. We owe the Allied Air Forces 
in general, and the Desert Air Force in particular, a very great 
debt of gratitude. 

186 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

5. What can I say to you as I go away? 

When the heart is full it is not easy to speak. But I would 
say this to you: 

You have made this Army what it is. You have made its 
name a household word all over the world. Therefore, You 
must uphold its good name and its traditions. 

And I would ask you to give to my successor the same 
loyal and devoted service that you have never failed to give 
to me. 

6. And so I say GOOD-BYE to you all. 

May we meet again soon; and may we serve together again 
as comrades-in-arms in the final stages of this war/* 

The really great hurdle which faced me was to say good-bye to 
the officers and men of Eighth Army H.Q., so many of whom had been 
with me since Alamein. I said I would do this on the soth December 
at Vasto, in which town was my Main H.Q. De Guingand suggested 
the Opera House; it had been knocked about somewhat, but he 
thought it would do for the purpose. I knew it would be a very diffi 
cult moment for me when I got on the platform to speak, and it was. 
I told de Guingand he was to go with me to the hall and take me 
in; I knew I would need some close and faithful friend to be near me, 
ready to lend a hand if I faltered. 

I had asked my Corps Commanders to attend, Dempsey and Allfrey, 
and of course Freyberg of the New Zealand Division, and Broadhurst 
of the Desert Air Force. There was a great gathering in the hall. 

I should have difficulty myself in describing the occasion. This is 
Freddie de Guingand s account of it, taken from Operation Victory: 

"I drove with him to the hall, feeling as I always do on such 
occasions, sad and sentimental. My Chief was very quiet and I 
could see that this was going to be the most difficult operation he 
had yet attempted. We arrived inside and he said, Freddie, show 
me where to go/ I led him to the stairs leading up to the stage. 
He mounted at once, and to a hushed audience commenced his 
last address to the officers of the Army which he loved so well. 

He started very quietly, apologising in case his voice might 
let him down for, as he said, this is not going to be easy, but I 
shall do my best. If I happen to find difficulty in speaking on 
occasions, I hope you will understand/ I felt a lump coming in 
my throat, and one could feel every one of his audience was 
perfectly tuned into his mood. He then very simply and rather 
slowly explained about his coming departure, and what responsi 
bilities lay ahead. He touched on the pastupon the successes 
we had gained together, and of the things which he considered 
important, and which guided him during his command. He 

The Campaign in Italy 187 

summed up the situation, and expressed his thanks to everyone 
for the support he had received, and for the way they had fought. 

He then asked them to follow the new Army Commander, 
Leese, as they had followed him. There were no great feats of 
oratory and no false note. It was exactly right and I found it 
intensely moving. He finished quietly by reading his last of 
many personal messages to the Army his message of farewell. 

We cheered him and then he walked slowly out to his car. 
I followed feeling very uncomfortable, for I had tears on my 
cheeks and we were riding in an open car. We drove back to 
Main Headquarters, which was only a few hundred yards away, 
where some of the senior commanders had been asked to come 
and have a chat. It was a wonderful gathering of old friends. 
As my Chief talked to this trusted few I could not help thinking 
of Napoleon and his Marshals, for here surely there was to be 
found the same relationship, born and tempered by mutual 
esteem and success in battle. Later Freyberg, Dempsey, Allfrey 
and the others departed, and I had a feeling that something 
rather terrible was happening I was leaving this great family. 
But then again I remembered that I was leaving in company with 
the one who had given us that inspiration, and that guidance, 
and so although sad I felt content with fate." 

Oliver Leese arrived that night and I handed over to him. 

The next morning, the sist December, I took off in my Dakota 
aircraft from the air strip near my Tactical H.Q. We had a heavy 
load, as besides myself and my A.D.C.S there were de Guingand, 
Graham, Williams and Richards. We also had with us five soldiers, 
quite a lot of luggage, and a full load of petrol. The air strip was 
small and I asked the pilot if we would get off. He said he thought we 
should just manage it; and we did, but only just. 

We headed for Marrakesh. The Prime Minister was there, con 
valescent from his recent illness, and I was to spend the night with 
him, and also New Year s Day, and go on to England on the night 
ist-2nd January 1944. 

As we flew across the Mediterranean I pondered over the past and 
thought of the future; and especially of my bet with Eisenhower, and 
his insistence that the war would be over by Christmas 1944. I was 
certain that it could be, but only if we conducted it in the right way; 
and I was not so certain that we would. 

At Marrakesh on New Year s Day the Prime Minister wrote this 
in my autograph book: 

The immortal march of the Eighth Army from the gates of 
Cairo along the African shore through Tunisia, through Sicily has 
now carried its ever-victorious soldiers and their world-honoured 

188 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

Commander far into Italy towards the gates of Rome. The scene 
changes and vastly expands. A great task accomplished gives 
place to a greater in which the same unfailing spirit will win for 
all true men a full and glorious reward. 

Winston S. Churchill" 


In England Before D-Day 

2nd January to 6th June 1944 

WHEN i ARRIVED at Marrakesh on the evening of the 3ist 
December, I found the Prime Minister studying a copy of the 
plan for OVERLORD the code name given to the invasion of 
Normandy. He gave it to me to read and said he wanted my opinion 
on the proposed operation. I replied that I was not his military 
adviser; OVERLORD was clearly a combined operation of the first magni 
tude and I had not seen the plan, and had not even discussed the 
subject with any responsible naval or air authority. He agreed but 
said he would like me to study the plan nevertheless, and give him 
my "first impressions." I said I would take it to bed with me and give 
him some impressions in the morning; he knew that I liked to go to 
bed early. 

Eisenhower had arrived in Marrakesh that afternoon. He was on 
his way to the United States for talks with the President before taking 
up his new appointment as Supreme Commander for OVERLORD. I 
had seen him in Algiers a few days earlier; he had then told me he 
had only a sketchy idea of the plan and that it did not look too good. 
He directed me to act as his representative in London until he himself 
could get there; I was to analyse and revise the plan and have it ready 
for him on his arrival in England about the middle of January. I 
replied that I thought his Chief of Staff, Bedell Smith, should be in 
London with me since he was much more in the general picture than 
I was. I also asked that he should give Bedell a statement in writing 
that I was to act for him until he himself arrived. All this had been 
agreed in Algiers. I had only time for a short talk with Eisenhower 
in Marrakesh and he took off for the United States at daylight on the 
ist January. 


. 190 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

That night was New Year s Eve and we had an amusing dinner 
with the Prime Minister and his staff, and Mrs. Churchill. Lord 
Beaverbrook was there; I had never met him before and what I had 
heard had not been very complimentary. After that first meeting I 
disagreed, for I found him most agreeable. He had at heart the best 
interests of the Allies in general and of the British peoples in particu 
lar; he was all out to win the war as soon as possible. 

I knew the dinner-party would go on late and that the Prime 
Minister would certainly stay up to salute the New Year. So I asked 
permission to go to bed soon after dinner on the plea that I had to 
read the OVERLORD plan. I spent some time on this and wrote out mv 
first impressions; these were typed before breakfast and I took them 
in to the Prime Minister as soon as the paper was ready. He was in bed 
and read my paper at once. The important paragraphs to my mind 
were the first four, which ran as follows: 

*i. The following must be clearly understood: 

(a) Today, ist January, 1944, is the first time I have seen the 
Appreciation and proposed plan or considered the prob 
lem in any way. 

(b) I am not as yet in touch with Admiral Ramsay and have 
not been able to consult any naval expert. 

(c) I have not been able to consult the Air C.-in-C., or any 
experienced air officer. 

(d) Therefore these initial comments can have little value. 
They are merely my first impressions after a brief study 
of the plan. 

2. The initial landing is on too narrow a front and is confined 
to too small an area. 

By D+i2 a total of 16 divisions have been landed on the 

same beaches as were used for the initial landings. This would 

lead to the most appalling confusion on the beaches, and the 

smooth development of the land battle would be made 

extremely difficult if not impossible. 

Further divisions come pouring in, all over the same beaches. 

By D+24 a total of 24 divisions have been landed, all over 

the same beaches; control of the beaches and so on would be 

very difficult; the confusion, instead of getting better, would 

get worse. 

My first impression is that the present plan is impracticable. 

3. From a purely Army point of view the following points are 

(a) The initial landings must be made on the widest pos 
sible front 

(b) Corps must be able to develop their operations from 

In England Before D-Day 191 

their own beaches, and other corps must NOT land 
through those beaches. 

(c) British and American areas of landing must be kept 
separate. The provisions of (a) above must apply in 
each case. 

(d) After the initial landings, the operation must be devel 
oped in such a way that a good port is secured quickly 
for the British and for American forces. Each should 
have its own port or group of ports. 

4. The type of plan required is on the following lines: 

(a) One British army to land on a front of two, or possibly 
three, corps. One American army similarly, 

(b) Follow-up divisions to come in to the corps already on 

(c) The available assault craft to be used for the landing 
troops. Successive flights to follow rapidly in any type 
of un-armoured craft, and to be poured in. 

(d) The air battle must be won before the operation is 
launched. We must then aim at success in the land 
battle by the speed and violence of our operations/* 

The Prime Minister was intensely interested. He said he had always 
known there was something wrong in the proposed plan, but that the 
Chiefs of Staff had agreed with it and that left him powerless. Now a 
battlefield commander had analysed it for him and had given him the 
information he needed and he was grateful. I asked for my paper 
back, saying it was written entirely without inter-Service discussion 
and I did not want to start my new job by troubles with the planners 
in London. But he kept it, promising to use it himself only as back 
ground information. I had the subsequent impression that the back 
ground was liable to intrude into the foreground. 

Later in the morning we started out for a picnic lunch in the 
country at Mrs. Churchill s suggestion. I drove with the Prime Minister 
in his car and he continued to discuss OVERLORD, and my comments. 
I said one of the lessons I had learnt in the war was the need to get 
experienced fighting commanders "in on" future operational plans 
early; if left too late it might be impossible to change the layout of 
the operation. In all the operations in which I had had a share so far, 
changes in the plan had been necessary and there had been all too 
little time, e.g. HUSKY in May 1943, and now OVERLORD which did not 
look too good 

We had a quiet and refreshing day in the sunshine and warmth of 
the Moroccan countryside in winter, and much stimulating conversa 
tion. I got to know the Prime Minister and Mrs. Churchill well 
during that short visit to Marrakesh, and it was the beginning of a 

192 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

friendship which developed into my becoming a close friend of them 

That night after dinner I left Marrakesh for England. Eisenhower 
had refused to allow me to do the journey in my Dakota two-engine 
aircraft, although I had had extra fuel tanks fitted. So I transferred to 
an American four-engine 0/54 aircraft. I filled my own plane with 
oranges and told the pilot to make his way to England. He followed 
the next night. I reached London on the 2nd January. 

Freddie de Guingand, and the other members of my staff whom I 
was bringing from the Eighth Army, had arrived in London some 
24 hours before me. Headquarters 21 Army Group was in St. Paul s 
School, West Kensington, where I had been as a boy. My office was 
located in the room of the High Master. Although I had been a school 
prefect, captain of the ist XV, in the cricket XI and in the swimming 
team I had never entered that room before. I had to become a Com- 
mander-in-Chief to do so. Many of the people living in that part of 
London wrote letters asking me to go away. There was a certain 
amount of enemy bombing going on and we actually suffered some 
casualties in the Headquarters. The inhabitants considered that our 
presence there was the cause of the bombing, but there was no 
evidence to justify that deduction. 

Our "A" Mess was established in Latymer Court, a block of fiats 
across the road from the school; I lived in one of them. I asked 
Admiral Ramsay, the Naval C.-in-C. for OVERLORD, to live in the Mess, 
and to bring with him Admiral Creasy, his Chief of Staff. We were a 
most cheerful party and at dinner each evening the conversation 
roamed over a wide field. Discussion often ended in bets being laid. 
I suggested we should keep a betting book in which all bets would be 
entered and signed by both sides. I have the book beside me and it 
is of considerable historical interest. Some of the bets deal with 
political and other personalities and will not bear publication not 
yet, anyhow. Bets made during our time in the Eighth Army were 
copied into the book. I never laid any bets myself but was prepared 
to accept those that looked promising; by this means I made quite a 
lot of money so that charities in which I was interested benefited. Most 
of the bets I accepted concerned the ending of the war. I held the view 
that having now knocked Italy out of the war and got well established 
in that country, and once a second front was opened in North-West 
Europe, we should be able to bring the German war to a successful 
conclusion by the end of 1944. That had been my opinion for some 
time. But by the autumn of 1943 I had seen a good deal of the 
higher conduct of the war during the campaigns in Sicily and Italy 
and the experience did not fill me with confidence. While I con 
sidered the Allies could win the war by the end of 1944, I was fairly 
certain we would "muck it up" and would not do so. 

In England Before D-Day 193 

My Chief of Staff, de Guingand, was the first to be optimistic 
unduly so. On the 4th March 1943, when we will still fighting in 
Africa, he laid bets with me that: "the German Army will not be 
fighting as a co-ordinated body by the dates stated: 

ist January 1944 Even 5. 

ist April 1944 Even 5. 

ist April 1944 5 to 15. 

ist February 1945 ^ 1 5 to &5- 

20th March 1945 5 to 10." 

General Eisenhower was the next. I have already referred to the 
bet he laid on the nth October 1943 in Italy, that: "the war with 
Germany will end before Christmas 1944 an even 5." 

Encouraged by Eisenhower s confidence, General Freyberg laid me 
an even 10 on the 3ist October 1943 in Italy that: "the war will be 
over by 2400 hrs. October 31, 1944 Japan excluded/ 

All tie above bets were made in my Mess in the Eighth Army. The 
scene now changes to England, to my Mess in 21 Army Group. Ad 
miral Ramsay, when shown some of the past bets, said he would 
certainly enter the lists. On the 26th January 1944 he bet me an even 
5 that: "the war with Germany will be over by January ist, 1945." 

Not to be outdone by his C.-in-C., Admiral Creasy bet me in April 
1944, two months before D-Day, that: "organised German resistance 
will have ceased by 1200 hrs. on the ist December 1944." 

General Crerar, Canadian Army, was the next victim. I was not 
able to place the First Canadian Army in command of the left flank 
of the British front in Normandy till the 23rd July, over six weeks 
after we had landed in Normandy and just before the break-out from 
the bridgehead began. Crerar was fearful lest the war should end 
before he could command the Canadian Army in battle, and he used 
to press me to let him assume command. On the 24th June he laid me 
a bet that: "the war with Germany will be over by 1-9-44, i.e. that 
Germany will have asked for an armistice by that date." 

I had some interesting bets with General George Patton, of the 
Third American Army. On the ist June 1944, he laid me two bets 
which I quote in full: 

"General Patton bets General Montgomery a level 100 that 
the armed forces of Great Britain will be involved in another war 
in Europe within ten years of the cessation of the present hos 

"General Patton bets General Montgomery that the first Grand 
National run after the present war will be won by an American- 
owned horse an even 10." 

194 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

One bet involved the Speaker of the House of Commons. Sir Alan 
Herbert was a personal friend and often visited me; he always arrived 
dressed as a Naval petty officer. In February 1945 he was staying a 
night at my Tac Headquarters and an argument about bees developed 
between AJP.H. and Lieut.-Colonel Dawnay of my personal staff. 
Dawnay said the drone was sexless and A.P.H. protested it was not. 
A bet was laid and I said it must be referred for a ruling to the 

His reply was as follows: 


Speaker s House, 



"Naturally I am flattered by the faith that you display in Mr. 
Speaker s impartiality. But at the same time I think that this is the 
first time since the days of Cromwell that the Speaker has been 
detailed off for a job by the C.-in-C.! However, I will do my best. 

Dawnay versus A.P.H. 

1. The drone is surely not without sexhe is a male. When 
swarming, the mass of bees are males seeking to enjoy the 
Queen and the lucky one that does so dies at once. 

2. Sexless does not mean without sex. Sex may be there but 
dormant and this condition is then sexless; in short, it is an 
adjective which applies to a mental state and not to a 
physical condition. 

3. I have forgotten the exact words of the bet but my impres 
sion is that under the above (i and 2) A.P.H. wins/ 

I know nothing about bees. But I upheld the Speaker s ruling; and 
Dawnay paid up. 

Not all our time was taken up in making bets. It had soon become 
clear to me v on arriving home that we were confronted with a task 
of great difficulty. I had been appointed to act as Land C.-in-C. for 
a combined operation of greater magnitude than had ever been 
attempted in the whole history of warfare. The greater portion of the 
troops and of the subordinate headquarters, though well trained, 
lacked battle experience. The operation had to be undertaken just 
over five months later. 

Headquarters 21 Army Group had been formed out of G.H.Q. 
Home Forces and as such had been in existence for nearly four years. 
It was a well dug-in static headquarters which had never been overseas 
and had never had any operational experience. Many of the senior 
officers had served in the headquarters a long time and had become 

In England Before D-Day 195 

set in their outlook. Into this somewhat hidebound "staff atmosphere" 
it was vital to inject new blood, and to bring in senior staff officers 
with battle experience who knew my methods and would get on with 
the job without bellyaching. This was done, and the senior officers I 
had brought back with me from Italy at once took over the top 
jobs and began work under de Guingand. All this was unpopular and 
ribald remarks were made in the London clubs, to the effect that "the 
Gentlemen are out and the Players are just going in to bat/ 

General Paget had been in command of 21 Army Group until I 
arrived from Italy. We had been at Sandhurst together and were 
great friends. It could not have been pleasant for him to be superseded 
in command of the forces he had trained so well just when they were 
about to be employed in battle, and to have seen so many changes 
made so quickly. Although I have never discussed it with him, I have 
always been under the impression that Paget regarded his replacement 
by somebody like myself, with recent battle experience, as inevitable 
in the circumstances. What he did not like was the manner in which 
it was done, since it was at first proposed to relegate him to the 
relatively unimportant command of Gibraltar. In the end he was 
given the command in the Middle East vice Wilson. 

The army then in England lacked battle experience and had tended 
to become theoretical rather than practical. Officers did not understand 
those tricks of the battlefield which mean so much to junior leaders 
and which save so many lives. In the last resort the battle is won by 
the initiative and skill of regimental officers and men, and without 
these assets you fail however good the higher Command. Some very 
experienced fighting formations had returned to England however 
from the Mediterranean theatre at the end of the Sicily campaign. By 
exchanging officers between these formations and those which had 
never left the country, I tried to spread such battle experience as was 
available over the widest possible area. Again, this was unpopular, 
but was more readily accepted when I had explained the reason. 

Another major problem which caused me many initial headaches 
was the tightness of the control exercised by the War Office over the 
activities of the army in the United Kingdomfar tighter than that 
over an army on active service in the field. I held the view that the 
armies in 21 Army Group were already, in effect, on active service 
and had to be prepared to challenge the veteran German Army in the 
very near future. These armies, lacking battle experience, needed firm 
guidance and quick decisions in order to ensure that they would fight 
successfully and triumph on the continent of Europe; there was no 
time for indecision, hesitation, or waiting for approval for essential 
minor modifications in organisation or doctrine. We had got beyond 
the text book. I tackled this problem at once. I summoned all the 
general officers of the armies in England which were under my com- 

196 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

mand, to a conference at St. Paul s School on the 13th January. There 
I addressed them, gave my views on battle fighting and explained 
my methods of working; in short, I gave them the "atmosphere" in 
which, from then onwards, we would all work, and later would fight 
During the subsequent discussion it emerged that if divisions were to 
fight in the way I had outlined, certain minor changes in organisation 
would be necessary. The need for these changes was agreed by all 
the generals present; some of them had already been put forward to 
the War Office, with no result. I at once approved the necessary 
changes in organisation and ordered them to be implemented imme 

Some officers from the War Office were present at the conference; 
they evidently regarded me as a new broom and an unpleasant one at 
that My action was at once reported to their superiors. There was 
quite a storm and I was informed by Brooke that the Secretary of 
State for War, Sir James Grigg, strongly disapproved of my apparent 
disregard for War Office authority. I was disturbed at this, since 
without full War Office support I could not get the armies ready in 
time. Brooke suggested that Grigg should ask me to lunch so that we 
could have a good talk; I did not then know Grigg very well, and 
welcomed the suggestion. At that lunch meeting I explained how 
much had to be done and how little time there was in which to do it 
I apologised for going too fast and asked Grigg to trust my judgment 
on the operational necessity for what I had done; if I went too fast 
again I was quite prepared to be sent for by him and "ticked off." 

This talk did a great deal to clear the air. It was the beginning of 
a friendship between Grigg and myself, and he and his wife are today 
two of my greatest friends. I regard him as the best Secretary of State 
we have ever had at the War Office within my personal knowledge. 

As regards the replacement of unsuitable senior commanders, I 
asked the War Office for only one change: to bring General Dempsey 
home from Italy, where he was commanding a corps in the Eighth 
Army, and give him command of the Second Army. I had the greatest 
admiration for Dempsey, whom I had known for many years. He took 
the Second Army right through to the end of the war and amply 
justified this confidence in his ability and courage. 

Concurrently with these worries and changes, I found myself in 
volved in a series of conferences on OVERLOBD as soon as I arrived in 
London. Luckily Bedell Smith was there with me and he proved a 
tower of strength. 

Much has been written about the plan for the invasion of Normandy, 
and the story of how it was gradually built up has been told by 
many writers. I do not want to go over all the ground again. I just 
want to discuss those matters which were my main preoccupation at 

In England Before D-Day 197 

that time, and explain certain points which were uppermost in my 
own mind. 

For a considerable time prior to 1944 a planning headquarters in 
London, organised on an Allied basis and answerable to the Combined 
Chiefs of Staff in Washington, had been studying the problem of the 
re-entry of the Allied forces into North-West Europe. The head of this 
planning staff was General Freddie Morgan, whom I knew well; he 
had often complained to me how difficult it was to plan properly with 
out a commander. He did a good job nevertheless, and produced 
an outline plan for OVERLOAD which served as a basis for future 
planning. He had to work on information supplied by the Combined 
Chiefs of Staff as to the forces which would be available; he had no 
alternative. And he had no experienced operational commander to 
guide and help him. 

The more I examined the proposed tactical plan of 21 Army Group, 
based on Morgan s outline plan, the more I disliked it. The front of 
assault was too narrow; only one Corps H.Q. was being used to 
control the whole front, and the area of landing would soon become 
very congested. 

No landing was being made on the east side of the Cherbourg pen 
insula, although the early capture of the port of Cherbourg was vital 
to our needs. My approach to the problem was based on lessons learnt 
in the stern school of active battle fighting, of which the following 
were always to the fore in my mind: 

First It is essential to relate what is strategically desirable to 

what is tactically possible with the forces at your disposal. 
SecondTo this end it is necessary to decide the development of 

operations before the initial blow is delivered. There must be a 

direct relationship between the two. 
Third If your flanks and rear are secure, you are well placed for 

Fourth Simplicity is vital in the planning of operations. Once 

complications are allowed to creep in, the outcome is in danger. 

There did not seem to be any clear idea how operations would be 
developed once the armies had been put on shore in Normandy. We 
were proposing to open up a new theatre of war on the continent of 
Europe. The campaign would involve the whole problem of the 
conduct of offensive operations on land in Western Europe with the 
final object of destroying the enemy s armed forces and occupying 

Therefore, the first need was to decide how the operations on land 
were to be developed, and then to work backwards from that to ensure 
that we landed on the beaches in the way best suited to the needs of 

198 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

the master plan. We seemed to be tackling it the other way round. So 
far as we knew at that time (January 1944) there were over fifty 
German divisions in France and some of these, probably six, were 
Panzer type. Bill Williams calculated that we might be fighting hard 
against six German divisions by the evening of D-Day. We could take 
no chances; if we failed in Normandy the war might drag on for years. 

We would have to blast our way on shore and get a good lodgement 
before the enemy could bring up sufficient reserves to turn us out. 
We must gain space rapidly and peg out claims well inland. And while 
doing this, the air would have to hold the ring, and hinder and make 
difficult the movement of enemy reserves by train or road towards 
the lodgement area. 

We needed an initial assault by at least five divisions, with additional 
airborne divisions dropped on the flanks so as to secure us from flank 
interference while we pushed quickly inland. We would need a 
build-up which would give us, say eight divisions on shore by the 
evening of D-Day and twelve by the evening of D+2 (these figures 
to include the airborne divisions). We should aim to have eighteen 
divisions on shore by about the end of the first week. 

All this would be an immense undertaking and it would be necessary 
to get additional landing-craft from the Mediterranean theatre; we 
would also need an air lift for three airborne divisions. 

Eisenhower had appointed me to act for him and I had many con 
ferences with the Naval and Air C.s-in-C., and our respective staffs. 
We were convinced in all our work that full weight must be given 
to the fact that OVERLORD marked the crisis of the European war. 
Every obstacle must be overcome, every inconvenience suffered, every 
priority granted, and every risk taken to ensure our blow was decisive. 
We could not afford to fail. 

We formed a revised plan and it at once became clear that our 
success was going to depend on whether operation ANVIL could be 
reduced to a threat and the landing-craft thereby saved transferred 
to OVERLORD. Operation ANVIL was a proposed landing in the South of 
France, to the east of Toulon. The Allied forces, American and French, 
were to come from the Italian theatre. It was an American idea and 
so far as I was aware it was never liked by any British political or 
military authority. The American view was that OVERLORD and ANVIL 
must be viewed as one whole, and that ANVIL would contain enemy 
forces in the south of France, and thus help OVERLORD. The French 
liked it since de Gaulle wanted to have a French Army under a French 
C.-in-C. liberating French soil. Stalin liked it, I imagine, since it would 
obviously hinder progress on the Italian front by Alexander, and thus 
enable the Russians to reach Vienna before the Western Allies. 

I didn t like it: nor did Winston Churchill. 

In England Before D-Day 199 

The discussions about ANVIL went on well into August; indeed, 
they were still going on when we were finishing off the Germans 
trapped in the Falaise pocket. 

For some reason unknown to me the operation had then been 
renamed DRAGOON. 

I personally had always been opposed to ANVIL from the beginning, 
and had advocated its complete abandonment for two main reasons. 
First, we wanted the landing-craft for OVERLORD; and second, it weak 
ened the Italian front at the very time when progress there had a 
good chance of reaching Vienna before the Russians. (Failure to do 
this was to have far-reaching effects in the cold war that broke out 
towards the end of 1945. ) 

In the end we got the landing-craft we needed for OVERLOJRD by 
postponing the target date for Normandy from the ist May till early in 
June, and by getting ANVIL postponed till August. But ANVIL (or 
DRAGOON) went in on the isth August and in my view was one of the 
great strategic mistakes of the war. Eisenhower had a tremendous 
argument about it with the Prime Minister at the end of July and early 
in August. He thought it would help him with the Prime Minister if 
he could say that I agreed with him that ANVIL must be launched in 
August as planned. 

By then I was willing to concur since it was already early August, 
all the forces were assembled ready to go, and it was obviously im 
possible to stop it and to land usefully anywhere else. It was to have 
its effect in broadening the front tremendously; it emphasised the drag 
south, and thus eventually aided a further strategical mistake when 
we came to advance towards the German frontier. I wish now as I 
have often wishedthat I hadn t half-heartedly concurred that early 
August day. But I wanted to show willing to Ike; I had been show 
ing unwilling in other matters, and I sensed then that there were 
more of these "other matters" to come. 

Eisenhower approved our revised plan for OVERLORD at a conference 
in London on the 2ist January. From then onwards, the plan developed 
steadily as all the details were gradually worked out and fitted into 
their right places in the grand design. The work involved was terrific 
and the strain on the staffs was very great. I used to think, in those 
days, that my experienced staff under de Guingand played a major 
part in ensuring that the problems which arose were handled in a 
practical and realistic manner. I doubt if a better and more experienced 
planning team existed anywhere in those days than de Guingand, 
Graham, Belchem and Williams: to whom the addition of Herbert 
(now Lieut-General Sir Otway Herbert) in the Staff Duties branch 
was a tower of strength (he had already won a D.S.O. and bar and 
was a terrific worker). A colossal amount of paper was in circulation 

200 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

and everything was Secret or Top Secret. Hughes, our head chaplain, 
asked if he should mark his files SACRED and Top SACRED!! 

In order that the reader may understand fully what happened later 
in Normandy, I want particularly at this stage to draw attention to 
the fundamental framework of the plan for the development of opera 
tions once we were ashore and firmly established, since it was uncer 
tainty on this issue which was to lead to trouble later on. 

Our intention was to assault, simultaneously, beaches on the Nor 
mandy coast immediately north of the Carentan estuary and between 
that area and the River Orne, with the object of securing as a base 
for further operations a lodgement area which was to include airfield 
sites and the port of Cherbourg. The left or eastern flank of the lodge 
ment area was to include the road centre of Caen. ( See Map, No. 34. ) 

General Eisenhower had placed me in command of all the land 
forces for the assault. For this we had two armies the Second British 
Army under Dempsey and the First American Army under Bradley. 
Later, two more armies would come into being the First Canadian 
under Crerar and the Third American under Patton. It is important 
to understand that, once we had secured a good footing in Normandy, 
my plan was to threaten to break out on the eastern flank, that is in 
the Caen sector. By pursuing this threat relentlessly I intended to draw 
the main enemy reserves, particularly his armoured divisions, into 
that sector and to keep them there using the British and Canadian 
forces under Dempsey for this purpose. Having got the main enemy 
strength committed on the eastern flank, my plan was to make the 
break-out on the western flank using for this task the American forces 
under General Bradley. This break-out attack was to be launched 
southwards, and then to proceed eastwards in a wide sweep up to the 
Seine about Paris. I hoped that this gigantic wheel would pivot on 
Falaise. It aimed to cut off all the enemy forces south of the Seine, the 
bridges over that river below Paris having been destroyed by our 
air forces. 

All our work was linked to this basic plot, which I explained at 
many conferences from February onwards. On the 7th April, I 
assembled all the general officers of the four Field Armies at my 
headquarters in London and gave out my plan in outline, and then 
in detail. The Naval and Air C,s-in-C. also outlined their plans. 

Having got an agreed plan (or so I thought at the time!) I left the 
details to de Guingand and his staff and devoted my main efforts to 
ensuring that the weapon we were to use would be fit for battle. I 
had already outlined to all general officers my views on tactical doc 
trine, and training was proceeding accordingly. Confidence in the 
high command by one and all was the next essential, and was vital. 
I wanted to see the soldiers and, probably more important, I wanted 

In England Before D-Day 201 

them to see me; I wanted to speak to them and try to gain their trust 
and confidence. 

I had the use of a special train called "Rapier" and in it I toured 
England, Wales, and Scotland, visiting every formation which was to 
take part in OVERLORD. My method of inspection was characterised 
by informality and was, I suppose, unusual; it certainly astonished 
some of the generals who did not know me well. I inspected two, and 
often three, parades a day, each of 10,000 men or more. They were 
drawn up in a hollow square and I first spoke individually to the unit 
commanders. I then ordered the ranks to be turned inwards and 
walked slowly between them, in order that every man could see me; 
the men "stood easy" throughout so that they could lean and twist, 
and look at me all the time if they wished toand most did. This in 
spection of the men by me, and of me by them, took some little time; 
but it was good value for all of us. It was essential that I gained their 
confidence. I had to begin with their curiosity. When the appraisal 
was over I stood on the bonnet of a jeep and spoke to officers and men, 
quietly and very simply using a loudspeaker or not, according to the 
conditions. I explained how necessary it was that we should know 
each other, what lay ahead and how, together, we would handle the 
job. I told them what the German soldier was like in battle and how 
he could be defeated; that if we all had confidence in the plan and in 
each other, the job could be done. I was their Commander-in-Chief 
and we had now had a good look at each other. As a result of the 
meeting between us, I had absolute confidence in them, and I hoped 
they could feel the same about me. 

By the middle of May I had visited every formation in the United 
Kingdom. I had been seen by practically every officer and soldier who 
was to take part in the invasion of Normandy, and they had heard me 
talking to them. I must have inspected, and been inspected by, well 
over one million men. In this way I strove to gain the confidence 
of all who were to serve under my command British, Canadian, 
American, Belgian, Polish, Free French and Dutch. It was an immense 
undertaking but I believe that it paid a good dividend. The reaction 
on the British soldier I could gauge fairly well, as my military life had 
been spent with him. Of the American soldier I was not so sure. 
However, I need have had no fear. Shortly after we landed in 
Normandy, General Bedell Smith wrote me the following letter: 

22 June 1944 
"Dear General, 

I have just received from a most reliable and intelligent source 
a report on attitude and state of mind of American troops in 
action. The writer is completely unbiased, and his report contains 

202 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

the following paragraph, which I hope will give you as much 
pleasure as it has given me: 

Confidence in the high command is absolutely without paral 
lel* Literally dozens of embarking troops talked about General 
Montgomery with actual hero-worship in every inflection. And 
unanimously what appealed to them beyond his friendliness, 
and genuineness, and lack of pomp was the story (or, for all 
I know, the myth) that the General Visited every one of us 
outfits going over and told us he was more anxious than any 
of us to get this thing over and get home/ This left a warm 
and indelible impression. 

The above is an exact quotation. Having spent my life with 
American soldiers, and knowing only too well their innate distrust 
of everything foreign, I can appreciate far better than you can 
what a triumph of leadership you accomplished in inspiring such 
feeling and confidence. 



After I had been a few weeks in England, the Ministry of Supply 
asked me to visit factories in various parts of the country which were 
engaged in the production of equipment for the armies. In many cases 
such equipment was urgently required for OVERLORD and men and 
women were working overtime to produce it for us. 

These visits brought me into contact with a large public outside 
the army, and I was asked to address the workers at each factory. I 
used to tell them that we were all one great army, whether soldier on 
the battle front or worker on the home front; their work was just as 
important as ours. Our combined task was to weld the workers and 
soldiers into one team, determined to destroy German domination of 
Europe and of the world. 

On the 22nd February, I addressed at Euston Station a representa 
tive gathering of railwaymen from all over England. The Secretaries of 
the Railway Trades Unions were present, all the men s leaders, and, in 
fact, a selection from every type of railway official. I spoke for i& 
hours, and told them of our problems in what lay ahead and how they 
could help. I said we now had the war in a very good grip and the bad 
days were over; we must all rally to the task and finish off the war. 
When I had finished speaking the Secretaries of the Trades Unions 
pledged their full support. 

On the 3rd March I was asked to go to the London Docks, where 
I addressed some 16,000 dockers, stevedores and lightermen. My 
theme was the same as to the railwaymen there is a job to be done 
and together we will do it. 

In England Before D-Day 203 

As a result of these visits during which I talked to many people, I 
gained the impression that the mass of the people were jaded and 
war-weary. The miners, the factory workers, the dockers, the railway- 
men, the housewives all had been working at high pressure for over 
four years. It was difficult to get away for holidays. The blackout 
added a dismal tone. It seemed to me more than ever necessary to end 
the war in Europe in 1944. The people needed it and I made a vow 
to do all I could to finish the German war by Christmas; I was sure it 
could be done if we made no mistakes. 

In my journeying round the country I was seen by the civil popula 
tion and received everywhere with great enthusiasm. The people 
seemed to think I had some magic prescription for victory and that I 
had been sent to lead them to better things. I sensed danger in this 
and knew my activities would not be viewed favourably in political 
circles. Nor were they. 

I received an intimation that I should lay off" these visits to which 
I paid no attention, beyond replying that I had been asked to under 
take them by certain Ministries in Whitehall. 

In point of fact, the working population wanted to have their spirits 
raised and to be made enthusiastic for the cause. They wanted a new 
subject of conversation. It was generally considered that the invasion 
would be a blood bath, with fearful casualties; I assured them it 
would not be so. All this could only be done by personal contact, and 
my visits helped in that respect 

The National Savings Committee chose this period to launch a new 
savings appeal throughout the country on the lines of their "Wings 
for Victory" and "Navy Week" campaigns. This latest appeal was 
given the title of "Salute the Soldier." 

After years of peace-time neglect by the public, culminating in early 
disasters in the war, a revival in the Army s prestige was long overdue. 
Alamein, and the victories in Africa, Sicily and Italy, had restored pub 
lic confidence in the ability of the Army to achieve results. The British 
public now saw their Army preparing to go forth to battle from 
English soil. It was a moment of great psychological importance. The 
"Salute the Soldier" campaign brought into being in every town and 
village throughout the country, committees not only to raise money, 
but also to show the unity of purpose of the country with the Army 
in the task which lay ahead. The culminating point in the campaign 
was a luncheon on tie 24th March at the Mansion House in London, 
at which the main speakers were to be the Secretary of State for War 
(Sir James Grigg) and myself. I decided that rny speech would be a 
call to the Nation to inspire the Army going forth to battle with the 
greatness of its cause. It was the first public speech I had ever made, 
except to soldiers. It has been published already but I make no 

204 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

apology for including it here since it shows the way my mind was 
working in March 1944 when preparing for the great adventure in 

"I would like to speak to you today about the soldier about the 
fighting men who came from all parts of the Empire to answer the 
call of duty. It has been my great honour and privilege to com 
mand a large Imperial Army overseas in Africa, and in the Italian 
campaign. The men of the British Empire make magnificent 
soldiers. In the business of war, it is the man* that counts; and it 
seems to me it must be the same in civil life. The employer must 
gain the confidence of his men; together they constitute one team, 
and it is team work* that wins battles and hence wins wars. 


When great forces assemble for battle it is obvious that the armies 
must be properly equipped, and be supplied with the best pos 
sible weapons and equipment. We need not look far back in 
history to see what happens when this is NOT done. And in this 
respect it must forever redound to our shame that we sent our 
soldiers into this most modern war with weapons and equipment 
that were quite inadequate; we have only ourselves to blame for 
the disasters that early overtook us in the field. Surely we must 
never let this happen again; nor will we. And we can show our 
earnestness in this respect during this Salute the Soldier* Cam 


But the key to success in battle is not merely to provide tanks, and 
guns, and other equipment. Of course we want good tanks, and 
good guns; but what really matters is the man inside the tank, 
and the man behind the gun. It is the man* that counts, and not 
only the machine. The tank, and the men inside it, are a team; 
the best tank in the world is useless unless the crew inside it are 
well trained and have stout hearts. One of the chief factors for 
success in battle is the human factor. A commander has at his 
disposal certain human material; what he can make of it will 
depend entirely on himself. If you have got men who are mentally 
alert, who are tough and hard, who are trained to fight and kill, 
who are enthusiastic, and who have that infectious optimism and 
offensive eagerness that comes from physical well being, and you 
then give these men the proper weapons and equipment there is 
nothing you cannot do. 
There are two essential conditions. 

In England Before D-Day 205 

First -Such men must have faith in God and they must think 

rightly on the moral issues involved. 

Second You must have mutual confidence between the com 
manders and the troops; any steps you take to establish 
this confidence will pay a very good dividend; and once 
you have gained the confidence of your men, you have a 
pearl of very great price. 

A sure method of gaining the confidence of soldiers is success. And 
I suppose the methods you adopt to obtain success are a life 
study. I suggest that a study of the military disasters that have 
overtaken us in our history will reveal that they have been due, 
basically, to: 

faulty command 

bad staff work 


neglect of the human factor, 
and sometimes possibly to all three. 

If you tell the soldier what you want, and you launch him prop 
erly into battle, he will always do his part he has never let the 
side down. The British soldier is easy to lead; he is very willing 
to be led; and he responds at once to leadership. 
Once you gain his confidence he will never fail you. 
Amongst races of fighting men he is superb. And when the fight 
ing men of the Empire assemble for the fray, the final result can 
never be in doubt. 


The Army in this country has had a difficult time since the Dun 
kirk days. It has had none of the excitements, and the interests, of 
active service overseas. And yet it has retained its keenness and 
its efficiency. I would like to pay tribute to my predecessor in 
command, General Paget, who gave of his best in order that the 
Army in England should stand ready at all times to answer the 
call of duty. 

I find the Army in England in very good trim. I believe that when 
it goes into battle it will prove to be the best Army we have 
ever had. 


I would like to plead for the help of the whole nation in the task 
of inspiring the soldiers of our land at this momentous time. 
The task of influencing an Army which dwells among an alien 

206 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

population is easy; the thinking and way of life of the people is 
mainly irrevelaiit; our own chaplains are the main influence in 
religious thought. 

But an Army which dwells among its own folk is a wholly different 
proposition. It both regards and understands the people amongst 
whom it dwells, and they pour their ideas and thoughts into the 
receptive minds of soldiers all day from every home, club, church, 
chapel, restaurant, and so on. Some of these ideas are inimical to 
battle and to battle morale. The chaplains are not the main in 
fluence on men s religious thinking; they are only one element 
and not the most powerful. 

When overseas I called on my chaplains to help me in my task; 
and right well did they answer the call. In the Eighth Army the 
inspiration had its roots in my call to the soldiers before Alamein: 
The Lord mighty in battle* will give us the victory. 
But today my devoted brotherhood of chaplains are faced with a 
different problem; something more is needed and something far 
beyond what they can do alone. The inspiration of the Armies 
requires the inspiration of the Nation of the whole populace in 
whose houses and homes it lives, and who are their fathers, 
mothers, brothers, sisters, friends, and so on. 
We must call the whole people to our help, as partners in the 
battle; only from an inspired Nation can go forth, under these 
conditions, an inspired Army. 

It is absolutely vital that we realise that: The tide in the affairs 
of man which talcen at the flood leads on. to fortune* will not be 
for this Nation on Armistice Day or on Victory Day. 
It will be when our men go forth to battle on this great endeavour. 
The tide will flow then, or not at all. That is the time when there 
must swell up in the Nation every noble thought, every high 
ideal, every great purpose which has waited through the weary 
years. And then, as the sap rises in the Nation, the men will feel 
themselves to be the instrument of a new-born national vigour. 
The special glory of the whole endeavour must be a surge of the 
whole people s finest qualities, worthy to be the prayer: Let 
God arise and let His enemies be scattered. 
AH this is a necessity. A special gallantry is required of our sol 
diers. The Promised Land is not now so far off; if necessary we 
have got to hazard all, and give our lives, that others may enjoy 
it. From a consecrated Nation, such men will abundantly come. 
And The Lord mighty in battle will go forth with our Armies 
and His special providence will assist our battle. 
The substance of the tide which has to turn and flow is quite clear; 
it is not a personal fad or a one-man doctrine; it is the tide which 
has borne the Nation through its history. 

In England Before D-Day 207 

It is found in the Coronation Service of our King and Queen. 

The Nation s Church handed to our King from the Altar of 

Westminster Abbey the Sword of State: With this sword do 

justice, stop the growth of iniquity/ 

The task now in hand is the use of His Majesty s consecrated 

sword in the reawakened spirit of that day. 

There is no fear that the spirit which is alive with that resolution 

will fail, falter, or fade, on the day of victory. All must help, and 

the Nation s Church must give the lead. 


I have nearly finished. 

The Army is preparing to do its duty, and to play its full part in 
what may come this year. Every soldier knows that if the Army 
is to pull its full weight it must have the wholehearted co-operation 
of the Navy and tie R.A.F.; and he also knows that that co 
operation will be given in full measure. 

I would add to this that the fighting services cannot pull their full 
weight on the battle front without the full co-operation of the 
home front. We are all one great team and we are preparing to 
take part in the biggest tug-of-war the world has ever seen. We 
lost the first few pulls but we are now leading; if we win this pull, 
we win the match. 

If any of us should fail, or should let go of the rope, or should fall 
off the rope, then we lose the match. 
Can you imagine this conversation in after years? 
"What did you do in the World War?* 

1 pulled hard to start with; but after a time I began to lose 
interest and I let go of the rope. I thought I wanted a rest; and 
I wanted more pay/ 
And did you win?* 

*No, we lost I let go of the rope, and we lost the match. God 
forgive me; we lost the match/ 

Is it possible that such a conversation could apply to us British? 
No. It is impossible; thank God it is impossible. 
Then let us all stand to* and get on the rope. How long will 
the pull last? No one can say for certain; it may last a year; it 
may take longer. But it will be a magnificent party*; and we 
shall win. The real burden of this war is borne by the women; 
the women want us to win this pull; they are all helping al 

So we must get right down to it; it will be a proper job for 
proper men. 

The task now in hand is the use of His Majesty s consecrated 
sword; With this sword do justice, stop the growth of iniquity/ 

208 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

Together the whole Empire team will see this thing through to 
the end. It is a proper job for proper men.* 

In February I began sittings for a portrait which I wanted for my 
son David, in case I did not survive the war. Augustus John was 
approached and agreement was reached on the financial side. After a 
time, I found it difficult to give any further sitting, and finally had to 
say I could not attend his studio any more. 

He then asked me to come once more so that he could do a pencil 
sketch, from which he would complete the portrait and this I did. 

On the 26th February, Bernard Shaw looked in at the studio for a 
chat with Augustus John and remained there during the remainder 
of the sitting. I had never met him before and found him most amusing, 
and with a penetrating brain. That night Shaw wrote the following 
letter to Augustus John: 

26th February 1944 
"Dear Augustus John, 

This afternoon I had to talk all over the shop to amuse your 
sitter and keep his mind off the worries of the present actual 
fighting. And as I could see him with one eye and you with the 
other: two great men at a glance I noted the extreme unlikeness 
between you. You, large, tall, blonde, were almost massive in 
contrast, with that intensely compact hank of steel wire, who 
looked as if you might have taken him out of your pocket. 

A great portrait painter always puts himself as well as his sitter 
into his work; and since he cannot see himself as he paints (as I 
saw you) there is some danger that he may substitute himself for 
his subject in the finished work. Sure enough, your portrait of 
B.L.M. immediately reminded me of your portrait of yourself in 
the Leicester Gallery. It fills the canvas, suggesting a large tall 
man. It does not look at you, and Monty always does with intense 
effect. He concentrates all space into a small spot like a burning 
glass; it has practically no space at all: you haven t left room for 

Now for it. Take that old petrol rag that wiped out so many 
portraits of me (all masterpieces), and rub out this one till the 
canvas is blank Then paint a small figure looking at you straight 
from above, as he looked at me from the dais. Paint him at full 
length (some foreground in front of him) leaning forward with 
his knees bent back gripping the edge of his camp stool, and 
his expression one of piercing scrutiny, the eyes unforgettable. The 
background: the vast totality of desert Africa. Result: a picture 
worth 100,000. The present sketch isn t honestly worth more 
than the price of your keep while you were painting it. You really 
weren t interested in the man. 

In England Before D-Day 209 

Don t bother to reply. Just take it or leave it as it strikes you. 
What a nose! And what eyes! 
Fancy a soldier being intelligent enough to want to be painted 
by you and to talk to me! 

Always yours, 


He obviously gave the matter further thought, and wrote the fol 
lowing letter to Augustus John on the 27th February: 

"My dear John, 

Having slept on it I perceive that part of my letter of yesterday 
must be dismissed as an ebullition of senile excitement; for as a 
matter of business the portrait as it stands will serve as the regula 
tion one which its buyers bargained for and are entitled to have 
(plenty of paint and die sitter all over the canvas). And between 
ourselves it has a subtle and lovely Johannine color plan which 
must not be thrown away. 

The moral would seem to be to finish the portrait for your 
customers and then paint the picture for yourself. Only, as he 
certainly won t have time to give you a second set of sittings you 
must steal a drawing or two made from the chair in which I sat. 

The worst of being 87-88 is that I never can be quite sure 
whether I am talking sense or old man s drivel. I must leave the 
judgment to you. 

as ever, but doddering. 
(Sgd) G. Bernard Shaw" 

I did not like the portrait when completed since I reckoned it was 
not like me. I was not sure of the drill on such occasions so I ap 
proached Augustus John about whether I need take delivery. This 
was his reply. 

May 19, 1944 
"My dear General, 

Although I haven t succeeded in pleasing you, I am amply 
rewarded in having had the privilege of painting you and making 
your acquaintance. I don t think you are right in rejecting the 
picture, which some good judges have greatly admired, but I 
wouldn t dream of insisting on your taking a picture against your 
will. I have no doubt I have missed some aspect of you which 
many people might prefer. Another sitting or two would probably 
have resulted in a more sympathetic likeness. The enclosed letter 
indicates that you and Colonel Dawnay are not alone in con 
demning the work. I am deeply grateful to you for giving me so 

210 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

much, of your time while being occupied in far more important 

Thanks for your letter. 

Yours sincerely 
Augustus John * 

Letter enclosed by Augustus John 

May i6th, 1944 
"Dear Sir, 

It was with great indignation I saw your picture, in The Lis 
tener of May 4th of General Montgomery. 

I should think you took your copy of Old Gandi or a man of 
100 years old. 

I call it an insult to The General, he looks like a dead man 
instead of a living one. 

Of course they had to accept your painting or you would have 
made the fuss like you did a time before when your picture was 
not hung. 

It is also time you took a back place, and gave room for those 
younger ones. 


Mrs. M. E. Tozer" 

The portrait, and the pencil sketch, were both exhibited in the 
Royal Academy Show in the early summer. Both were sold, and the 
portrait now hangs in an art gallery in Glasgow. [Augustus John writes: 
"G.B.S. didn t come for a chat with me. I got him to come to meet 
Monty at the latter 4 *s request. There was no sitting or painting during 
the interview which lasted an hour. The portrait was acquired by the 
University of Glasgow (at a good price.) ] 


By the end of March everything was "set" for OVERLORD and the 
armies were on the move to concentration areas. These moves were 
to take some time and had to begin early; they would seriously test 
the transportation and railway services. 

D-Day was fixed for the 5th June. 

The whole of April was taken up with exercises, culminating in a 
very large "grand rehearsal" by all assault forces between the 3rd and 
5th May. 

I held a two-day exercise at my headquarters in London on the 
7th and 8th April, which was attended by all the general officers of 
the Field Armies. My object was to put all senior commanders and 
their staffs completely into the whole OVERLORD pictureas affecting 

In England Before D-Day 211 

the general plan, the naval problem and plan, and the air action. This 
was done on the first day. On the 8th April we examined certain 
situations which might arise during the operation either during the 
approach by sea or after we had got ashore. The Prime Minister 
attended on the first day and spoke to all the assembled officers. 

On the 28th April my headquarters moved to Southwick House 
in the Portsmouth area, which was to be our operational headquarters 
on D-Day. My "A" Mess was established nearby, in Broomfield House. 

It was during April that I issued the last tactical instruction to the 
two Armies which were to land in Normandy. This is what I wrote, 
dated the 14th April. 

"i. In operation OVERLORD an uncertain factor is the speed at 
which the enemy will be able to concentrate his mobile and 
armoured divisions against us for counter-attack. 

On our part we must watch the situation carefully, and 
must not get our main bodies so stretched that they would be 
unable to hold against determined counter-attack; on the other 
hand, having seized the initiative by our initial landing, we 
must ensure that we keep it. 

2. The best way to interfere with the enemy concentrations and 
counter-measures will be to push forward fairly powerful 
armoured-force thrusts on the afternoon of D-Day. 

If two such forces, each consisting of an armed bde group, 
were pushed forward on each Army front to carefully chosen 
areas, it would be very difficult for the enemy to interfere 
with our build-up; from the areas so occupied, patrols and 
recces would be pushed further afield, and this would tend to 
delay enemy movement towards the lodgement area. 

The whole effect of such aggressive tactics would be to 
retain the initiative ourselves and to cause alarm in the minds 
of the enemy. 

3. To be successful, such tactics must be adopted on D-Day; to 
wait till D plus i would be to lose the opportunity, and also 
to lose the initiative. 

Armoured units and Bdes. must be concentrated quickly 
as soon as ever the situation allows after the initial landing 
on D-Day; this may not be too easy, but plans to effect such 
concentrations must be made and every effort made to carry 
them out; speed and boldness are then required, and the 
armoured thrusts must force their way inland. 

4. The result of such tactics will be the establishment of firm 
bases well in advance of our main bodies; if their location 
is carefully thought out, the enemy will be unable to by-pass 
them. I am prepared to accept almost any risk in order to 

212 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

carry out these tactics. I would risk even the total loss of the 
armoured brigade groups which in any event is not really 
possible; the delay they would cause to the enemy before 
they could be destroyed would be quite enough to give us 
time to get our main bodies well ashore and re-organised for 
strong offensive action. 

And as the main bodies move forward their task will be 
simplified by the fact that armoured forces are holding firm 
on important areas in front. 

5. Army Commanders will consider the problem in the light of 
the above remarks, and will inform me of their plans to carry 
out these tactics." 

I sent the Prime Minister a copy. This was his reply: 

"For what my opinion is worth, it seems to be exactly the spirit 
in which the execution should proceed, and I only wish that a 
similar course had been attempted when the forces landed at 

During May I had frequent talks with Bill Williams, who was now 
brigadier and head of my Intelligence staff. In February Rommel had 
taken command of the coast sectors between Holland and the Loire. 
After his appearance, obstacles of all types began to appear on the 
beaches and it was clear he intended to deny any penetration, and to 
aim at defeating us on the beaches. Williams was very good at sifting 
the intelligence we got, at discarding what was of little value, and 
finally, giving me a considered enemy picture. His view was that 
Rommel would aim to defeat us on the beaches and that we must be 
prepared for stiff resistance in the bocage country as we pushed in 
land. If Rommel failed to "see us off" on the beaches, he would try to 
"rope us off" in the bocage. I laid my plans accordingly. 

On the 15th May Supreme Headquarters staged a final presentation 
of our combined plans. It was held in St. Paul s School, and was 
attended by the King, the Prime Minister, General Smuts, and the 
British Chiefs of Staff. 

Throughout the day Eisenhower was quite excellent; he spoke 
very little but what he said was on a high level and extremely good. 
The King spoke before he left; he made a first class impromptu speech, 
quite short and exactly right. At the end of the day Smuts spoke, and 
finally the Prime Minister. Altogether, this was a very good day. 

Shortly after this final review of plans. Smuts asked me to lunch 
with him in London. We had a most interesting talk, and this is what 
I wrote about it in my diary that night. 

"Smuts is worried we may lose the peace. Britain, with American 
aid, won the 1914/18 war. But when it was over we were tired 

In England Before D-Day 213 

and we stood back, allowing France to take first place in Europe. 
The result was the present war. 

He then went on to say that we cannot allow Europe to dis 
integrate. Europe requires a structure a framework on which to 
rebuild itself. A good structure must have a firm core. 

France has failed dismally. 

Britain must stand forward as the corner stone of the new 
structure. Nations that want security must range themselves on the 
side of Britain; there can be no more neutrals. 

It is Britain that stood alone in 1940/41 and then, with Amer 
ican aid, stemmed the tide. Britain is a continental nation. Britain 
must remain strong and must keep up small, but highly efficient, 
forces which are capable of rapid expansion. The keynote of the 
armed force necessary in peace time must be air power; the army 
can be relatively small. 

Smuts said that statesmen cannot always say things like this. He 
said I had made a great name, and would make a greater one still 
I could say practically what I liked; my position with the public 
in England was secure and they would swallow* whatever I said. 
He was emphatic that when the war was over, I must speak out 
and say these things, and give a lead in the matter. 

By the end of lunch I was rather startled. I am not convinced 
it is right for the soldier to lay down the law on such matters; it 
is more in the sphere of his political masters. However, it cer 
tainly gives one seriously to think." 

It has been written that I had a row with the Prime Minister shortly 
before D-Day, and even threatened to resign. This is untrue. I would 
like to tell the true story. Here it is. 

For some time before D-Day the P.M. had not been satisfied that 
we had the right balance between fighting troops and vehicles for the 
initial landing on the Normandy beaches. He reckoned there were not 
enough men with rifles and bayonets, and too many lorries, radio 
vehicles, and so on. He gave out that he would come to my Head 
quarters near Portsmouth and investigate the matter with my staff. 
On that, I invited Him to dinner to meet my senior staff officers. 

He came on the igth May 1944. The photograph reproduced here 
as illustration no. 36 was taken on his arrival. I asked him to come to 
my study for a short talk before meeting the others. Having got him 
comfortably seated I said: 

"I understand, sir, that you want to discuss with my staff the pro 
portion of soldiers to vehicles landing on the beaches in the first 
flights. I cannot allow you to do so. My staff advise me and I give 
the final decision; they then do what I tell them. 

"That final decision has been given. In any case I could never 

214 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

allow you to harass my staff at this time and possibly shake their 
confidence in me. They have had a terrific job preparing the invasion; 
that work is now almost completed, and all over England the troops 
are beginning to move towards the assembly areas, prior to embarka 
tion. You can argue with me but not with my staff. In any case it is 
too late to change anything. I consider that what we have done is 
right; that will be proved on D-Day. If you think it is wrong, that 
can only mean that you have lost confidence in me.** 

A somewhat awkward silence followed these remarks. The P.M. 
did not reply at once, and I thought it best to make a move! So I 
stood up and said that if he would now come into the next room I 
would like to introduce him to my staff. He was magnificent. 

With a twinkle in his eye he said: "I wasn t allowed to have any 
discussion with you gentlemen/* 

We had a most amusing dinner and when he left I went to bed 
feeling what a wonderful man he was too big to stand on his dignity, 
or not to see when he was on a bad wicket. 

At the end of this chapter will be found the page he wrote in my 
autograph book after dinner. 

King George came to lunch with me at Broomfield House on the 
22nd May, to say good-bye. On the next day I was to start on my final 
tour of the armies to address all senior officers and I gave the King a 
copy of my notes (which are reproduced below) for those talks. 

On the 23rd May I started on that final tour. As I have already 
said, D-Day was to be on the 5th June and I had to be back in good 
time. I was determined to address all officers down to the lieut.- 
colonel level, and to get over to them the main issues involved in the 
tremendous operation on which we were about to embark. 

I visited every corps and divisional area, and spoke to audiences 
of from 500 to 600 officers at a time. On each occasion it was essential 
that I should go "all out"; if one does this properly, energy goes out 
of you and leaves you tired at the end. It took eight days in all and 
was an exhausting tour. 

But I am sure it did good and instilled confidence, and that was 
vital as the day grew near. 

The notes I used for all the addresses ran as follows: 

*!. Before I launch troops into battle I make a point of speaking 
personally to all senior officers down to the It.-col. rank in 
clusive. In this way I can get my ideas across, and ensure a 
common line of approach to the problem that lies ahead of 
us; and at a final talk, like this one, I can emphasise certain 
essential features, and give you some points to pass on to your 
men. In fact I use these occasions in order to influence the 
Armies, to instil confidence, and thus to help win the battle. 

In England Before D-Day 215 

2,. I would like to talk to you today on the following subjects: 

(a) The past very briefly. 

(b) The present state of the war. 

(c) The future prospects. 

(d) The task immediately confronting us. 

(e) Basic essentials for success. 


3. We have been through some very bad times in this war. In 
our darkest days we stood alone against the combined might 
of the axis powers; we suffered some great shocks and some 
bad disasters. But we stood firm on the defensive, but 
striking blows where we could. 

Then America joined us; but that great Nation was not 
immediately ready to strike heavy blows, and required time 
to develop her strength. 

Then the two of us America and the British Empire 
gradually began to fight back. Slowly, but surely and re 
lentlessly, the lost ground was recovered and we began to 
pass from the defensive to the offensive. 

4. Since that time we have been working throughout on the 
same strategy. This has been: 

(a) To clear the enemy out of Africa. 

(b) To knock Italy out of the war, and open the Mediter 
ranean for our shipping. 

(c) To bring Turkey into the war. 

(d) To defeat Germany, while containing Japan. 

5. That has been the broad strategy of the Allies, and we have 
stuck to it and never wavered. 

We are now about to reap the harvest. 


6. How do we stand today? 

Of the four basic points in our strategy (vide para. 4), 
the first two are achieved. 

(a) The Germans are out of Africa. 

(b) Italy is out of the war, and the Mediterranean is open 
for our shipping. 

These are great achievements, of which we may well be 
proud and we are. 

7. We failed in the third point. 

Turkey has not reacted in the way we hoped. But the 
Allies have done so well in other directions that it has not 
mattered overmuch; and the day may well come when 

216 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

Turkey will regret her present attitude, and will wish she had 
come in with the Allieswho are now going to win. 

8. We are now about to embark on the final phase of the fourth 

To defeat Germany; that is the crux of the whole matter. 

After 4& years of war the Allies have, by hard fighting 
on sea, land and in the air, worked themselves into a position 
where they cannot lose. That is a very good position to reach 
in any contest; but the good player is never content *to 
draw he wants to win. And so we must now win, and 
defeat Germany. And while doing that, we are doing more 
than contain Japan. That country is now definitely on the 
defensive and in the S.W. Pacific the American and Australian 
forces are gradually working their way towards the Philip 
pines and Formosa, and are killing great numbers of Japanese 
in the process. 


9. Germany is now fighting on three fronts: in Russia, in Italy, 
and in the Balkans. Soon she will have a fourth front in 
Western Europe. 

She cannot do this, successfully. 

She has a large number of divisions, but they are all weak 
and below strength. Everything is in the shop window; there 
is nothing *in the kitty/ 

Her cities and industries are being devastated by bombing; 
this will continue on an ever increasing tempo all this year; 
by next winter there will be little left of her more important 

The Allies have the initiative and Germany is ringed 
round; she is about to be attacked from Russia, from the 
Mediterranean front, and from England; and all the time 
the bombing will go on relentlessly. 

10. A very great deal depends on the success of our operations. 
If they succeed, I consider that Germany will then begin to 
crack. They will succeed; and the bombing will go on, every 
day and all around the clock. Germany will not be able to 
stand it. 

If we do our stuff properly and no mistakes are made, then 
I believe that Germany will be out of the war this year. And 
Japan will be finished within six months after we have put 
Germany out. 

11. But the essential condition is that the Second Front should be 
a great success. And that brings me to my next point. 

In England Before D-Day 217 


is. When the time comes for us to operate on the Continent, no 
one will claim that our task will be easy. 

The enemy is in prepared positions; he has protected his 
beaches with obstacles; we cannot gain close contact and 
recce his position carefully, so as to examine the problem and 
ensure we have the right solution. There are, and there are 
bound to be, many unknown hazards. He has reserves posi 
tioned for counter-attack. 

13. We have a long sea journey, and at the end of it we will have 
to land on an enemy coast in the face of determined opposi 

During all this there is bound to be a certain loss of cohe 
sion in assaulting units; and even reserves coming ashore 
will require a little time to collect themselves. 

The enemy will know every inch of the ground; we shall 
be operating in a strange country. 

14. But we have certain very great assets, and they are the ones 
that matter. 

We have the initiative; the enemy does not know where, 
or when, we shall land. 

We have great fire-power to support our WHal landing, 
from the sea and from the air. 

We have a good and simple plan. 

We have well-trained troops, who are spoiling for a fight. 

15. We have available to see us on shore, the whole of the allied 
air power in England, and this air power will continue to 
support our operations and to bomb Germany. 

Its strength is terrific. 

There are some 4500 fighters and fighter-bombers; and 
about 6000 bombers of all types. 

Nothing has ever been seen like it before. 

16. Unknown hazards must have no terrors for us. We have first 
class engineers, and every kind of mechanical and special 

All we need is a very robust mentality; as difficulties ap 
pear, so they must be tackled and stamped on. 

17. What we have to do is to blast our way on shore, and gain 
ground inland quickly so that we secure a good and firm 
lodgement area before the enemy has time to bring his re 
serves into action against us. 

The violence, speed, and power of our initial assault must 
carry everything before it 

218 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

The enemy reserves will be closely watched from the air; 
when they sacrifice concealment and begin to move, they will 
be bombed and shot-up from the air without ceasing, and 
enemy reserve units will be in poor shape when they reach 
the battle area. 


18. I would like now to give you a few points which I regard 
as terribly important. Obviously such points must be few in 
number, since everything cannot be important. I consider 
that compliance with the following points is essential for 

19. Allied solidarity. 

We are a great team of allies, British and American. There 
must be throughout this team a friendly spirit; we must have 
confidence in each other. 

As a British general I regard it as an honour to serve under 
American command; General Eisenhower is captain of the 
team and I am proud to serve under him. And I regard it as 
a great honour to have American troops serving under my 

When we visit each other there should be only one idea; 
and that is how can I help the other chap. Let us have no 
suspicion, and no petty jealousy. 

Let us have, throughout, complete mutual confidence and 
goodwill, all pulling together as one great team. 

20. Offensive eagerness. 

This is vital. 

Once on land and the battle starts we must be offensive, 
and more offensive, and ever more offensive as the hours go 
by. We must call on the soldiers for an all-out effort. 

Every officer and man must have only one idea, and that 
is to peg out claims inland, and to penetrate quickly and 
deeply into enemy territory. After a long sea voyage and a 
landing followed by fighting, a reaction sets in and officers 
and men are often inclined to let up and relax. This is fatal; 
senior officers must prevent it at all costs on D-Day and on 
the following days. The first few days will be the vital ones; 
it is in those days that the battle will be won, and it is in 
those days that it could well be lost. 

Great energy and drive* will be required from all senior 
officers and commanders. 

. I consider that once the beaches are in our possession, 
success will depend largely on our ability to be able to con- 

In England Before D-Day 219 

centrate our armour and push fairly strong armoured columns 
rapidly inland to secure important ground or communication 
centres. Such columns will form firm bases in enemy territory 
from which to develop offensive action in all directions. Such 
action will tend to throw the enemy off his balance, and will 
enable our build-up through the beaches to proceed un 
disturbed; it will cut the ground from under the armoured 

Offensive eagerness is not only necessary in the soldier; 
it is essential in the officer, and especially in the senior officer 
and commander. 

Inaction, and a defensive mentality, are criminal in any 
officer however senior. 

21. Enthusiasm. 

Every officer and man must be enthusiastic for the fight, 
and have the light of battle in his eyes. We must send our 
soldiers into this encounter completely on their toes; they 
must be imbued with that infectious optimism that comes 
from physical well-being and absolute conviction in a great 
and righteous cause. 

22. Confidence. 

I want you, and every soldier, to know that I have com 
plete and absolute confidence in the successful outcome of 
the operations that will shortly begin. 

With stout hearts, and with enthusiasm for the contest, 
let us go forward, to victory. 

23. An all-out effort. 

Everyone must go all out 

And, as we enter battle, let us recall the words of a famous 
soldier, spoken many years ago: 

He either fears his fate too much, 
Or his deserts are small, 
Who dare not put it to the touch 
To win or lose it all/ 

24. Good luck to each one of you. 

And good hunting on the mainland of Europe." 

It will be noted that in para. 10 I made a definite statement that 
we could win the German war in 1944 and we would defeat Japan 
six months later. We did not win the German war till May 1945, and 
I will have something to say about that later. But we finished the 
Japanese war three months after the end of the German war. 

220 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 


As I pondered over all that had taken place since I arrived in 
England on the 2nd January, I realised how much I owed to the War 
Office. So I wrote the following letter to Sir James Grigg. 

i June, 1944 
"My dear Secretary of State, 

In January last I came home from Italy to take command of the 
Field Armies in England and to prepare for operations in western 
Europe. The past 5 months have been a strenuous and a difficult 
time; but the planning and the preparation are now completed 
and we are ready for the great adventure. 

2. Before we start, I would like to tell you how very grateful I 
am for all the help and guidance I 7 and my staff, have received 
from the War Office. It has not been an easy period for any 
of us, and I know that at times I have myself been impatient 
and critical and have frequently upset you all by my methods! 
Now that we have finished the job, and can look back on it 
calmly, I would like to say that where friction has occurred, 
and tempers have run high, it has nearly always been my 
fault; the War Office, from top to bottom, has been splendid, 
and every section, both military and civil, has spared no effort 
to help us to get ready for the battle. 

3. The great lesson left in my mind is that the War Office, and 
the Commanders-in-Chief in the field, are together one team; 
between them there must be complete mutual confidence and 
trust. In periods of stress it is all too easy to allow differences of 
opinion to magnify themselves, and so to drive a wedge 
between the two branches of the team. You and the War Office 
have given us a good example of how to work in such a team; 
on our part, we have done our best and I hope that you have 
not found us too bad. 

4. At this moment, therefore, when our preparations are com 
pleted and before battle is joined, I would like, through you, 
to express the gratitude of myself and my staff to every mem 
ber of the War Office military and civil for the kindly con 
sideration you have shown us, and for your never failing help 
and guidance in our difficulties. 

If we gain successes in the field, they will be successes 
gained by the whole team as much yours as ours. 
5* I felt that I must say this to you as the head of the War 
Office. And I hope that you will convey my deep gratitude to 
all who work under you. 

Yours ever, 

B. L. Montgomery** 

In England Before D-Day 221 

This was his reply. 

3rd June, 1944 
"My dear Montgomery, 

Thank you for what you have said in your letter of 1st June 
and for the way in which you have said it. It can seldom have 
happened that the War Office has received such a generous 
expression of appreciation from a Commander in the field. 

From top to bottom, soldier and civilian alike, the War Office 
has one main aimto see that the needs of the Army are met so 
that the Army may, with the help of the other Services and our 
allies, bring the war to a speedy and successful conclusion. 

We are glad to know that you are satisfied that we have been 
able to give you what you want; we are confident that, if your 
Army has that, we can safely leave it to you and them to do the 
rest, and we wish you every one of you the best of luck in the 

Yours sincerely, 

P. ]. Grigg" 

About this time, the 1st June, we began to scan the weather fore 
casts anxiously. There were only four days in early June when OVER 
LORD was possible, for the following reasons: 

(a) There were a lot of obstacles on the beaches and we had to be 
able to tackle them dry, i.e. not under water. 

(b) At least 30 minutes had to be available to allow for this. 

(c) In order to get full value from the naval and air bombard 
ment, we needed at least one hour of daylight In certain 
conditions we could accept less, but we did not want more if it 
could be avoided. 

(d) We needed about three hours of rising tide after the leading 
craft touched down on the beaches. 

Allowing for all these factors it was dear that the first dates and 
times for the operation in June were as follows, civil twilight being 
0515 hours. 

Period after 

D-Day H-Hour civil twilight 

4th 0530 15 minutes 

5th 0610 55 minutes 

6th 0635 80 minutes 

7th 0715 120 minutes 

It was my view that the 4th June was unacceptable. That date did 
not allow us time to get full value from our great air superiority only 

222 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

about 5 minutes, since bombing by the R.A.F. could not begin till 
civil twilight plus 10 minutes. 

It will be seen that the 5th June was the best date, and that date 
had been agreed for D-Day some months earlier. 

The 6th June was quite acceptable. 

The 7th June was not good because it gave two hours of daylight 
before touch-down on the beaches; but it could be managed. 

After that date, the next possible period would not occur for a 
fortnight. The prospect of having to disembark all the troops after 
they had been fully briefed, and to wait for two weeks, was full of 
terrors; we had, however, worked out all details of how it would be 
done, if the weather forced a long postponement upon us. 


On the and June, I addressed all officers of my headquarters Tac 
and Main at Southwick House near Portsmouth in the morning, and 
those of Rear H.Q. in London in the afternoon. 

That night Eisenhower dined quietly with me at Broomfield House 
and after dinner we went up to Southwick House for a conference 
with the Meteorological experts on the weather. The weather looked 
reasonable, but the experts were worried about a depression over 
Iceland. It was decided to lay on the operation for the 5th June, with 
out any change, with another Meteorological conference at 9.30 p.m. 
on the 3rd June. 


The weather forecast was not good. The depression over Iceland 
began to spread southwards and the high-pressure system which was 
coming up our way from the Azores was being pushed back. This 
meant that the prospect of a good belt of high pressure over the 
Channel area on the night 4th-5th June, and on the 5th June, was 

This was awkward, and I noted in my diary that some big decisions 
might be necessary. I added: 

"My own view is that if the sea is calm enough for the Navy to 
take us there, then we must go; the air forces have had very 
good weather for all its preparatory operations and we must 
accept the fact that it may not be able to do so well on D-Day/ 7 

We had our conference at 9.30 p.m. and decided to make no changes. 
But we knew that a final decision regarding postponement must be 
taken early on the 4th June, and even then some of the convoys would 
have sailed. 

In England Before D-Day 223 


We met at 4 a.m. at Southwick House. Some of the convoys had 
already sailed, working to a D-Day of the 5th June. The weather 
reports were discouraging. The Navy reckoned the landing was possible 
but would be difficult; Admiral Ramsay would not commit himself 
one way or the other. I was for going. Tedder, Deputy Supreme Com 
mander, was for postponement. 

Weighing all the factors, Eisenhower decided to postpone D-Day 
for 24 hours; it would now be on the 6th June. 

We met again at 9.30 p.m. in the evening; the weather reports were 
still bad and we agreed to assemble again at 4 a.m. the next morning. 


We met at 4 a.m. A heavy storm was blowing in the Channel and 
it was dear that if we had persisted with the original D-Day of the 
5th June, we might have had a disaster. 

But the Met. reports indicated a slackening of the storm, and a 
period of reasonable weather on the 6th June. Indeed, the experts 
predicted reasonable weather for some days after the 6th June before 
the next period of unsettled weather arrived. 

On that Eisenhower decided to go. We were all glad. This con 
ference did not last more than 15 minutes. Eisenhower was in good 
form and made his decision quickly. 

I went up to Hindhead that evening to see Major and Mrs. Reynolds 
and to make final arrangements with them about David. I had not 
seen him recently and did not want to indicate the nearness of D-Day 
to all the boys at Winchester by going there to say good-bye to him. 
Mrs. Reynolds told me afterwards that she knew it was the eve of 
D-Day not from anything I said or from the way I behaved, but 
because I had taken my plain clothes there and had put them away 
in a wardrobe. 


I spent the day in the garden at Broomfield House. After breakfast 
I made a record for the B.B.C. of my personal message to the armies, 
which had been read to the troops when they were embarked. As the 
morning wore on, it was clear that we were ashore, and that all was 
going well as far as we knew. I decided my place was in Normandy; 
I could do no good just outside Portsmouth. So I sailed at 9.30 that 
evening in the destroyer H.M.S. Faulknor ( Captain C. F. H. Churchill, 
R.N.) which was standing by in the dockyard to take me across. It 

224 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

was nearly six months before I saw England again. I was anxious to 
make personal contact with the two Army Commanders, Dempsey 
and Bradley, who were afloat in their command ships with their 
Naval counterparts. 

Discussion with them was the next need. 

This is what the Prime Minister wrote in my autograph book when 
he came to dinner with me at Broomfield House on the igth May: 

"On the verge of the greatest Adventure with which these 
pages have dealt, I record my confidence that 

all will be well 

and that the organisation and equipment of the Army will be 
worthy of the valour of the soldiers and the genius of their chief. 

Winston S. Churchill" 


The Battle of Normandy 

6th June to 19th August 1944 

WE NOW come to events which were to have a marked influ 
ence on the future course of the war. Much has been written 
about the campaign in North- West Europe and it will be a. 
happy hunting ground for historians for many years to come. National 
feelings on the subject have tended to run high and in particular 
American writers have launched heavy attacks on the British conduct 
of operations in general and on myself especially. The seeds of trouble 
were sown in Normandy so that will be my starting point My friend 
Ike has agreed that it is now my turn to put my own point of view. 
I will try and tell the story truthfully. 

On the morning of the /th June, which was D+i, H.M.S. Faulknor 
arrived off the beaches and then proceeded westwards into the 
American area. We located U.S.S. Augusta in which was General 
Bradley, and I had a good talk with him about the situation of the 
First American Army. Bradley was concerned about the operational 
situation on OMAHA, his eastern beach. We discussed his problem 
and agreed on how it could be solved. Faulknor then returned to the 
British sector and we located H.M.S. Scylla and H.M.S. Bulolo, lying 
dose together. From these ships, General Dempsey and Admiral Vian 
came on board Faulknor and I discussed with them their situation and 
problem; all was going according to plan on the British beaches and 
there was no cause for anxiety. Just at that time General Eisenhower 
and Admiral Ramsay arrived off the British sector in the latter s flag 
ship, and I went on board and had a talk with them. I then asked 
Captain Churchill to return to the American sector so that I could 
have another talk with General Bradley in Augusta. This we did. The 
news from OMAHA beach was now better and General Bradley had 


226 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

gone ashore; but his Chief of Staff came on board Faulknor and gave 
me the situation. We then returned to the British sector. 

The wind and sea had now dropped, the sun was shining, and the 
"round the Fleet * trips in the destroyer were delightful; there was 
plenty to look at, ships everywhere, and blockships and artificial 
harbours starting to arrive. There was no enemy air action and few 
signs of battle on sea or land. It was difficult to imagine that on 
shore a battle was being fought which was deciding the fate of Europe. 
We anchored off the British beaches at about 8.30 p.m. and I asked 
Captain Churchill if he could put me on shore at 7 a.m. the next 
morning, the 8th June. 

We got under way at 6.30 a.m. and began to move in towards the 
beach on which I had asked to be landed. It was low water and, as 
I had asked we should get as close in as possible, the captain began 
sounding with hand leads and started the echo sounder. All beach- 
marks were obliterated by smoke-screens. The next thing that hap 
pened was that a slight shudder went through the ship; we were 
aground aft on some outlying sandbank or boulders. I was on the 
quarter deck with an A.D.C., and I sent him up to the bridge to ask 
if we were going to get any closer to the shore. This was not well 
received by the captain. Meanwhile the facts were being explained 
to me on deck by tihe first lieutenant. When he told me we were 
aground I am reported to have said: "Splendid. Then the captain has 
got as close in as he possibly can. Now, what about a boat to put me 
on shore?" 

I was eventually taken off in a landing craft by some of my staff 
who were already on shore, and the destroyer was refloated shortly 
afterwards with the aid of a tug which pulled her stern round. They 
tell me that this grounding incident, well exaggerated on its journey, 
no doubt, went round the ward-rooms of the Navy. 

Our assault on D-Day had achieved tactical surprise. The weather 
was bad and the sea rough, but the troops were landed in good heart 
and at the right places. Slowly and relentlessly we made ground and 
extended the lodgement area. 

On D+i we were five to six miles inland. By D+4 (loth June) 
the lodgement area was joined up into one continuous whole; it was 
sixty miles long and varied in depth from eight to twelve miles; it was 
firmly held and all anxiety had passed. There had been considerable 
cause for alarm on OMAHA beach in the early stages; but that situation 
was put right by the gallantry of the American soldiers, by good 
supporting naval fire, and by brave work by fighter-bomber aircraft. 

The Prime Minister and General Smuts visited me in Normandy 
on the i2th June. The P.M. was in first class form. For once he was 
prepared to admit that I was in charge in the battle area and he must 

The Battle of Normandy 227 

do what he was told! Before leaving he again wrote in my autograph 

"France: June 12, 1944 
As it was in the beginning so may it continue to the end. 

Winston S. Churchill" 

Underneath it, Smuts wrote: 

"And so it will! 

J. C. Smuts 

At this time my Tac Headquarters was located in the gardens of 
the cMteau at Creuilly, a small village a few miles east of Bayeux. 
The owner of the estate, Madame de Druval, was still living in the 
chateau itself. I thought my caravan contained all that I wanted when 
we left Portsmouth but found that one article was still needed a 
jerry, or what the French call a pot-de-chambre. So I told my A.D.C. 
to ask Madame if she could supply the article on loan. After some 
discussion it was agreed the situation was delicate, and that he had 
better ask Madame if she would lend the Commander-in-Chief a vase. 
Madame said she would be delighted and collected all available flower 
vases in the chateau and asked my A.D.C. to select the one he liked 
best. He looked over them very carefully and said he thought none 
was really suitable for the general s flowers. Were there any other 
types? Madame, having great intuition and no small sense of humour, 
immediately sensed what was wanted which was of course a vase- 
de-nuit. She told my A.D.C. she thought she could find one more 
type of vase, rather unusual but which would possibly be suitable for 
a soldier. She left the room and returned after a few minutes carrying 
a small white pot-de-chambre, ornamented with pink flowers. This 
she placed proudly in the middle of the now large collection of flower 
vases and said: *I think that is exactly what the general would like 
for his flowers." The A.D.C. agreed that it was exactly right and would 
look very well in the general s caravan! 

Madame still lives in the chateau and I visit her there from time 
to time. Every visitor is told the story of the general s vase, and most 
people in Normandy know it by now. I expect the story expands con 
siderably in the telling. I should add that Madame insisted I should 
keep "the vase," and it now occupies a suitable position in my home 
in Hampshire. 

But to return to the campaign. 

My master plan for the land battle in Normandy I have described 
already. Briefly, it was so to stage and conduct operations that we 
drew the main enemy strength on to the front of the Second British 

228 The Memoirs ol Field-Marshal Montgomery 

Army on our eastern flank, in order that we might the more easily gain 
territory in the west and make the ultimate break-out on that flank- 
using die First American Army for the purpose. I events on the 
western flank were to proceed rapidly it meant that we must make 
quick territorial gains there. 

On the eastern flank, in the Caen sector, the acquisition of ground 
was not so pressing; the need there was by hard fighting to make the 
enemy commit his reserves, so that the American forces would meet 
less opposition in their advances to gain the territory which was vital 
on the west. 

In this master plan we were greatly assisted by the immense 
strategic importance of Caen. It was a vital road and rail centre 
through which passed the main routes leading to our lodgement area 
from the east and south-east As the bulk of the German mobile 
reserves were located north of the Seine, they would have to approach 
our bridgehead from the east and would thus converge on Caen. To 
the south-east, between Caen and Falaise, was good ground for air 
fields. I was convinced that strong and persistent offensive action in 
the Caen sector would achieve our object of drawing the enemy 
reserves on to our eastern flank: this was my basic conception. From 
the beginning it formed the basis of all our planning. Once on shore 
and firmly established, I began to get this strategy working and after 
the heavy battles in the Caen area, and the overrunning of the Cher 
bourg peninsula, it began to take shape. 

I never once had cause or reason to alter my master plan. Of course 
we did not keep to the times and phase lines we had envisaged for the 
benefit of administrative planning, and of course, too, we didn t hesi 
tate to adjust our plans and dispositions to the tactical situation as 
it developedas in all battles. Of course we didn t. I never imagined 
we would. But the fundamental design remained unchanged; it was 
to that that I pinned my hopes and clung to resolutely, despite increas 
ing opposition from the fainter-hearted. We did not capture Caen, 
for instance, till the loth July and we did not finally clear the eastern 
suburbs till the aoth July. It had been my original intention to secure 
the high ground between Caen and Falaise as early as possible, as 
being a suitable area for the construction of airfields; but this was 
not vital, and when I found it could not be done in accordance with 
the original plan without suffering unjustified casualties, I did not 
proceed with that venture. This was not popular with the Air 

It was indeed a fundamental object of my strategy on the eastern 
flank to establish a force strong in armour to the south-east of Caen 
in the area about Bourguebus; this was the key to ensuring that we 
kept the bulk of the German armour on the eastern flank, and thus 
helped the American expansion on the west. We did not get on to this 

The Battle of Normandy 229 

high ground until Second Army launched Operation GOODWOOD on 
the iSth July, with armoured forces. As soon as the armoured advance 
came to a standstill because of determined enemy resistance, and 
also because heavy rain turned the whole area into a sea of mud, I 
decided to abandon that thrust. Many people thought that when 
Operation GOODWOOD was staged, it was the beginning of the plan 
to break out from the eastern flank towards Paris, and that, because 
I did not do so, the battle had been a failure. But let me make the 
point again at the risk of being wearisome. There was never at any 
time any intention of making the break-out from the bridgehead on 
the eastern flank. Misunderstandings about this simple and basic con 
ception were responsible for much trouble between British and Amer 
ican personalities. Here, for example, is an extract from page 32 of 
Eisenhower s report on the campaign, dated the isth July 1945, to 
the Combined Chiefs of Staff: 

"Nevertheless, in the east we had been unable to break out 
towards the Seine, and the enemy s concentration of his main 
power in the Caen sector had prevented us from securing the 
ground in that area we so badly needed. Our plans were sufficiently 
flexible that we could take advantage of this enemy reaction by 
directing that the American forces smash out of the lodgement 
area in the west while the British and Canadians kept the Germans 
occupied in the east. Incessant pressure by the Second Army to 
contain the enemy was therefore continued by Field-Marshal 
Montgomery during July." 

The impression is left that the British and Canadians had failed in 
the east (in the Caen sector) and that, therefore, the Americans had 
to take on the job of breaking out in the west. This reflection on 
Dempsey and the Second Army is a clear indication that Eisenhower 
failed to comprehend the basic plan to which he had himself cheer 
fully agreed. 

AH through the fierce fighting which took place in Normandy, there 
was never any intention of breaking out on the eastern flank towards 
the Seine; reference to all the orders and instructions which I issued 
makes that abundantly clear. This false conception existed only at 
Supreme Headquarters, and none of the senior officers responsible for 
the conduct of the actual fighting in Normandy, Bradley included, 
had any doubt about the true plan. The misconception led to much 
controversy and those at Supreme Headquarters who were not very 
fond of me took advantage of it to create trouble as the campaign 

One of the reasons for this in my belief was that the original COSSAC* 
plan had been, in fact, to break out from the Caen-Falaise area, on^ 
* Code-name for Planning Headquarters for Operation Overlord. 

230 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

our eastern flank. I had refused to accept this plan and had changed 
it General Morgan who had made the COSSAC plan was now at 
Supreme Headquarters as Deputy Chief of Staff. He considered 
Eisenhower was a god; since I had discarded many of his plans, he 
placed me at the other end of the celestial ladder. So here were the 
seeds of discord. Morgan and those around him (the displaced 
strategists) lost no opportunity of trying to persuade Eisenhower 
that I was defensively minded and that we were unlikely to break out 

In all the "cufuffle" which developed on this issue Morgan was 
assisted by the airmen, because most understandably, they wanted the 
airfields on the eastern flank beyond Caen. And some airmen were 
only too glad to be able to suggest that something had gone wrong. 
One of the difficulties lay in the command set-up itself. In the desert, 
Maori" Coningham and I had been equal partners he commanding 
the Desert Air Force and I the Eighth Army. After the capture of 
Tripoli he went off to work with Alexander in North Africa, and we 
didn t join forces again until both of us were back in England in 1944. 
And even then we were not equal partners. Not only did I have two 
badges in my beret: I was wearing two berets. I was at once C.-in-C. 
21 Army Group and the Ground Force Commander for Normandy. 
So I had two Air Force opposite numbers: Leigh-Mallory, who was 
Air C.-in-C., and "Maori" Coningham in command of 2nd Tactical 
Air Force working with 21 Army Group. "Maori" was particularly 
interested in getting his airfields south-east of Caen. They were 
mentioned in the plan and to him they were all-important. I don t 
blame him. But they were not all-important to me. If we won the 
battle of Normandy, everything else would follow, airfields and all 
I wasn t fighting to capture airfields; I was fighting to defeat Rommel 
in Normandy. This Coningham could scarcely appreciate: and for 
two reasons. First, we were not seeing each other daily as in the 
desert days, for at this stage I was working direct to Leigh-Mallory. 
Secondly, Coningham wanted the airfields in order to defeat Rommel, 
whereas I wanted to defeat Rommel in order, only incidentally, to 
capture the airfields. "Maori" and Tedder were old friends. They had 
spent those crucial years in the Middle East together. So "Maori" 
bad Tedder s ear they were both good airmen. All this, as I reckon, had 
its effect on Tedder and thereby provided Morgan at SHAEF with an 
ally who had an advantage which he himself lacked experience of 
war, though not of war on land. 

By the middle of July there developed a growing impatience on 
the part of the Press; it appeared to them that stagnation gripped our 
lodgement area. Bradley*s first attempt at the break-out, made towards 
Coutances early in July, had failed. Then came Operation GOODWOOD 

The Battle of Normandy 


in the Caen section and the Press regarded this as an attempt to break 
out on the eastern flank; and, as such, that operation, too, appeared 
to have failed. This was partly my own fault, for I was too exultant 
at the Press conference I gave during the GOODWOOD battle. I realise 
that now in fact, I realised it pretty quickly afterwards. Basically 
the trouble was this both Bradley and I agreed that we could not 
possibly tell the Press the true strategy which formed the basis of all 
our plans. As Bradley said, "we must grin and bear it." It became 
increasingly difficult to grin. 

By the iSth July Operation COBRA, the final break-out on the 
American front, was planned and I had approved the scheme. 

I should mention at this stage that the weather was generally very 
much against us. Between the igth and 22nd June we had a gale of 
unprecedented violence. Just when we needed fresh divisions to pro 
ceed with our plans and retain the initiative, those divisions were in 
ships anchored off the beaches and unable to land. On the 2Oth June 
we had four divisions in that situation, two American and two British. 
The First American Army suffered particularly badly; the American 
artificial harbour (the "Mulberry") off OMAHA beach had to be aban 
doned, American ammunition expenditure had to be rationed, and 
Bradley became a week behind schedule in his planned build-up. 

While our operations were developing according to plan, I kept in 
close touch with our casualty figures. These were as follows: 




22nd June 

Killed Wounded 
2,006 8,776 

3,012 15,362 

loth July 

Killed Wounded 
3,894 18,314 

6,898 32,443 

igth July 
Killed Wounded 

6,010 28,690 

10,641 51,387 




In addition, by the igth July we had evacuated 11,000 sick from the 
British sector. 

232 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

Meanwhile the First American Army was working itself into a 
position from which it could stage the break-out operation. We had 
hoped originally to launch the operation from the line St. L6-Coutances. 
This concept had to be given up and Bradley finally decided to launch 
it from the general line of the road St. L6-Periers. Our hope was to 
reach this line by D+5 (nth June); it was not finally reached till the 
iSth July. 

All this time the British forces were steadily playing their part on 
the eastern flank. By hard and continuous fighting they had kept the 
main enemy strength occupied in the Caen sector. The greater the 
delay on the American front, the more I ordered the British forces to 
intensify their operations; and there was never any complaint from 
Dempsey. ( See Map, No. 40. ) The following table serves to show how 
well the British Second Army performed its task. 

Enemy strength opposite Enemy strength opposite 
First U.S. Army Second British Army 

Panzer Infantry Panzer Infantry 

Divisions Tanks Battalions Divisions Tanks Battalions 

i5th June 70 63 4 520 43 

20th June i 210 77 4 430 43 

25th June i 190 87 5 530 49 

30th June % 140 63 fA 725 64 

5th July X 215 63 7% 690 64 

loth July 2 190 72 6 610 65 

15th July 2 190 78 6 630 68 

20th July 3 190 82 5 560 71 

25th July 2 190 85 6 645 92 

The enemy had attempted to "rope us ofp in the "bocage" country 
some 15 to 20 miles inland from the assault area. For a time this 
policy was successful; but it was only successful by a continuous 
expenditure of reserves to plug holes in his defences and at a heavy 
cost in men and materials. These enemy reserves prevented any sub 
stantial gain on our part east and south of Caen, but in doing this 
they were not available to counter the thrusts on the western flank, 
In short, they were being committed. As at Alamein, we had forced 
the enemy to commit his reserves on a wide front; we were now 
ready to commit ours on a narrow front, and so win the battle. 

Operation COBRA, was due to be launched on the 20th July; this 
was the day on which I had ordered Operation GOODWOOD on the 
eastern flank about Caen to be closed down. But again the weather 
delayed us and COBRA was not actually launched till the 25th July. 

It was clear to me that as the American attack gathered momentum 

The Battle of Normandy 233 

there would be severe repercussions all along the enemy front The 
enemy line would be bent back and he would try and re-establish a 
front based on certain strong hinges. I decided those hinges would be 
three in number: 

1. At Caumont 

2. On the River Ome. 

3. The high ground between Caen and Falaise. 

I therefore planned to knock out in succession the key rivets in the 
north on which, I reckoned, the enemy would try to "hinge back" his 
left flank. I gave orders accordingly, and the Second Army began 
at once to re-group and to transfer its weight from its extreme left 
south-east of Caen to its extreme right at Caumont This movement 
was a major undertaking and Second Army organised it beautifully. 

The attack at Caumont (Operation BLUECOAT) was to be delivered 
by six divisions on the 2nd August. But because of the unexpected 
speed of the American advance, with Dempsey s agreement I advanced 
the date to the soth July. 

Thus, on the 25th July, the day on which the American break-out 
began, we were on the threshold of great events. We were now to 
reap where we had sown; the strategy of the Battle of Normandy was 
about to achieve decisive success. And then, without warning, a cloud 
descended on our affairs. 

On the 26th July, Eisenhower had lunch in London with the Prime 
Minister. Exactly what was said at that lunch party I don t know. But 
Eisenhower wrote to me that evening and one sentence in his letter 
caused me misgivings., knowing the feeling that existed against me 
among his staff at Supreme Headquarters. That sentence read: 

"He [the P.M.] repeated over and over again that he knew 
you understood the necessity for ^keeping the front aflame/ while 
major attacks were in progress." 

It seemed to me that Eisenhower had complained to the Prime 
Minister that I did not understand what I was doing. Actually, as I 
heard later, he had told the Prime Minister he was worried at the out 
look taken by the American Press that the British were not taking 
their share of the fighting and of the casualties. He gave the Prime 
Minister to understand that in his view the British forces on the 
eastern flank could and should be more offensive; they were not 
fighting as they should, and he quoted the casualty figures to prove 
his case. This sparked off quite a lot of trouble. The next night, the 
27th July, the Prime Minister summoned a few responsible persons to 
meet Eisenhower at dinner. I very soon heard what had taken place. 

Eisenhower complained that Dernpsey was leaving all the fighting 

234 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

to the Americans. His attention was drawn to my basic strategy, i.e. 
to fight hard on my left and draw Germans on to that flank whilst I 
pushed with my right It was pointed out that he had approved this 
strategy and that it was being carried out; the bulk of the German 
armour had continuously been kept on the British front. Eisenhower 
could not refute these arguments. He then asked why it was we could 
not launch major offensives on each army front simultaneously as 
the Russians did. It was pointed out to him that the German density 
in Normandy was about 2/2 times that of the Russian front, and our 
superiority in strength was only in the nature of some 25 per cent as 
compared to the 300 per cent Russian superiority on the eastern front. 
We clearly were not in a position to launch an all-out offensive along 
the whole front; such a procedure would be exactly what the Germans 
would like and would not be in accord with our agreed strategy. We 
had already (on the 25th July) launched the break-out operation on 
the right flank. It was an all-out offensive; it was gathering momentum 
rapidly. The British Second Army was fighting to keep the Germans 
occupied on the left flank. Our strategy was at last about to reap its 
full reward. What was the trouble? 

It was then pointed out to Eisenhower that if he had any feelings 
that I was not running the battle as he wished, he should most cer 
tainly tell me so in no uncertain voice; it was for him to order what 
he wanted, and to put all his cards on the table and tell me exactly 
what he thought. Eisenhower clearly was shy of doing this. He was 
then asked if he would like the C.LG.S. to help. Would Eisenhower 
like the C.I.G.S to tell me what he had said? Would Eisenhower like 
the C.LG.S to accompany him on a visit to me? Eisenhower didn t 
take to any of these suggestions. 

In a few days time we were to gain a victory which was to be 
acclaimed as the greatest achievement in military history. The British 
had had the unspectacular role in the battle, and in the end it would 
be made to appear in the American Press as an American victory. All 
that was accepted. But we all knew that if it had not been for the 
part played by the British Second Army on the eastern flank, the 
Americans could never have broken out on the western flank. The 
strategy of the Normandy campaign was British, and it succeeded 
because of first class team-work on the part of all the forces engaged 
British and American. But just when final victory was in sight, 
whispers went round the British forces that the Supreme Commander 
had complained that we were not doing our fair share of the fighting. 
I do not think that great and good man, now one of my greatest 
friends, had any idea of the trouble he was starting. From that time 
onwards there were always "feelings" between the British and Amer 
ican forces till the war ended. Patton s remarks from time to time did 
not help. When stopped by Bradley at Argentan he said: "Let me go 

The Battle of Normandy 235 

on to Falaise and well drive the British back into the sea for another 
Dunkirk. 9 * 

It was always very clear to me that Dee and I were poles apart 
when it came to the conduct of war. My military doctrine was based 
on unbalancing the enemy while keeping well-balanced myself. I 
planned always to make the enemy commit his reserves on a wide 
front in order to plug holes in his defences; having forced him to do 
this, I then committed my own reserves on a narrow front in a hard 
blow. Once I had used my reserves, I always sought to create fresh 
reserves quickly. I gained the impression that the senior officers at 
Supreme Headquarters did not understand the doctrine of "balance" in 
the conduct of operations. I had learnt it in battle fighting since 1940, 
and I knew from that experience how it helped to save men s lives. 

Eisenhower s creed appeared to me to be that there must be aggres 
sive action on the part of everyone at all times. Everybody must attack 
all the time. I remember Bedell Smith once likened Eisenhower to a 
football coach; he was up and down the line all the time, encouraging 
everyone to get on with the game. This philosophy was expensive in 
life, as is brought out by the figures I have given earlier in this chapter. 
On the nth August, when the Battle of Normandy was nearing its 
end, the total casualties were: 

British and Canadian 68,000 

American 102,000 


We then had thirty-seven divisions in France, as follows: 

12 (U.S.) Army Group 21 

21 Army Group 16 

These differences in military outlook were of course used by my 
critics at Supreme Headquarters to make trouble, and I always thought 
it was they who persuaded Eisenhower to complain to the Prime 
Minister on the 26th July that the Second Army wasn t fighting as it 
should. Such action was the greatest disservice that could ever have 
been done to the Allied cause. And the real pity was that there was 
no need for it victory was in our grasp, and was achieved in full 
measure a few days later. The trouble which began in this way in 
Normandy was to grow and develop into storms which at times 
threatened to wreck the Allied ship. 

The Battle of Normandy can be said to have ended on the igth 
August as it was on this day that we finally cleaned up the remnants of 
the enemy trapped in the "pocket" east of Mortain. (See Map, No. 41.) 
The final victory was definite, complete, and decisive. The following 
table shows the enemy losses in the battle. 

236 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

Enemy Losses: Battle of Normandy 
6th June to igth August 1944 

Army Commanders "1 

Corps Commanders ^Killed or captured 20 

Divisional Commanders J 

Army Commanders wounded 

(Rommel; Hausser) 2, 

Supreme Commanders dismissed 

(von Rundstedt; von Kluge) 2 

Divisions eliminated or savagely mauled About 40 

Total enemy losses: Difficult to estimate accurately. Prob 
ably about 300,000 but some German 
authorities would put the total at 
under 200,000 

Guns captured and destroyed Over 3,000 

Tanks destroyed Over 1,000 

I do not want to end this chapter on a bitter note. I have been 
accused of many things in Normandy. Perhaps the most amazing was 
when I was confronted officially by one of my own staff officers at my 
Tac Headquarters and accused of not only condoning looting but 
being concerned in it Here is the story of how it happened. 

At the end of July the Foreign Office wrote to the C.I.G.S. saying 
it had come to its attention from certain private sources that there had 
been some rather bad cases of looting by British troops in Normandy. 
The F.O. asked that the matter be investigated and put right, since the 
French were complaining about it. I took the matter up at once with 
M. Coulet, General de Gaulle s representative in the lodgement area, 
and was informed by him that he had received no complaint and that 
I could rest assured that the allegations were without f oundation. But 
there is seldom any smoke without a fire and it was clear to me that 
the rumours were being spread in London by a colonel that I had 
removed from my Tac Headquarters. Early in July one of my A.D.C.s 
had rounded up and shot with his revolver a pig belonging to a local 
farmer which was careering round my camp and could not be caught. 
The colonel dealt with the matter, tie farmer was paid for the pig, 
and it was eaten by the soldiers. 

Later, certain other officers in my team of liaison officers were 
accused by the colonel of collecting livestock in their journeys round 
the forward areas; the peasants had left their farms, and rabbits, 
chickens, etc., were running wild all over the place. 

The Battle of Normandy 237 

The colonel came to see me about it. I knew nothing of the incidents 
and asked for details. It was a very worrying moment in the battle and 
I finally told the colonel he must see the Chief of Staff about it. He then 
became somewhat argumentative and hinted that I myself obviously 
condoned this action on the part of my personal staff, and was even 
quite prepared to take part in it myself. That was too much. I tele 
phoned my Chief of Staff, and said the colonel must be removed from 
my Tactical Headquarters at once. This was done. On his arrival in 
London later in July the stories began to circulate and the colonel 
made a written report to the War Office. 

I read the War Office file on the subject when I was C.I.G.S. after 
the war. It must have been the first time in the history of war that a 
Commander-in-Chief in the field was accused of looting by one of his 
own staff officers. But no doubt it kept the War Office busy. 


Allied Strategy North of the Seine 

THE GERMAN situation in France in the middle of August 1944 
was desperate. 
Paris fell on the 25th August and the next day the Intelligence 
Summary issued by Supreme Headquarters contained the following 

"Two and a half months of bitter fighting, culminating for the 
Germans in a blood-bath big enough even for their extravagant 
tastes, have brought the end of the war in Europe within sight, 
almost within reach. The strength of the German Annies in the 
West has been shattered, Paris belongs to France again, and the 
Allied armies are streaming towards the frontiers of the Reich." 

An operational instruction issued by Supreme Headquarters shortly 
afterwards began with these words: 

"Enemy resistance on the entire front shows signs of collapse. 
The bulk of the remaining enemy forces, estimated as the equiva 
lent of two weak panzer and nine infantry divisions, are north 
west of the Ardennes but they are disorganised, in full retreat, 
and unlikely to offer any appreciable resistance if given no respite. 
South of the Ardennes the enemy forces are estimated as the 
equivalent of two panzer grenadier and four poor infantry divi 
sions. A heterogeneous force withdrawing from south-west France 
may number some one hundred thousand men but its fighting 
value is estimated as the equivalent of about one division. The 
equivalent of one-half panzer and two infantry divisions are being 
driven northwards up the Rhone valley. The only way the enemy 
can prevent our advance into Germany will be by reinforcing his 


Allied Strategy North of the Seine 239 

retreating forces by divisions from Germany and other fronts and 
manning the more important sectors of the Siegfried Line with 
these forces. It is doubtful whether he can do this in time and in 
suffiicent strength." 

That was the picture. It was my view that the end of the war in 
Europe was most certainly "within reach." But what was now needed 
were quick decisions, and above all a plan. And so far as I was aware 
we had no plan. During the Battle of Normandy we had drawn in 
nearly every division the Germans had in France; we had enticed our 
enemy to battle south of the Seine, and there defeated him decisively. 
The battle decides all; but it must be followed up. 

I had a plan ready ( see Map, No. 42) and, before the final operations 
of the Normandy fighting were completed, I decided to visit Bradley 
and try to get his agreement. On the i/th August my Tac Headquarters 
was at Le Beny Bocage and I flew on that day to see Bradley, who had 
his headquarters north of Fougeres. I put to him the following outline 

"i. After crossing the Seine, 12 and 21 Army Groups should keep 
together as a solid mass of some forty divisions which would 
be so strong that it need fear nothing. This force would move 

2. 21 Army Group, on the western flank, to clear the channel 
coast, the Pas de Calais, West Flanders, and secure Antwerp 
and South Holland. 

3. 12 Army Group to form the eastern flank of the movement 
and to move with its right flank on the Ardennes being 
directed on Aachen and Cologne. 

4. The whole movement would pivot on Paris. A strong American 
force to be positioned in the general area Orleans-Troyes- 
CMlons-Reims-Laon, with its right flank thrown back along 
the R. Loire to Nantes. 

5. The Dragoon force coming up from southern France to be 
directed on Nancy and the Saar. We ourselves must not reach 
out with our right to join it and thus unbalance our strategy. 

6. The basic object of the movement would be to establish a 
powerful air force in Belgium, to secure bridgeheads over the 
Rhine before the winter began, and to seize the Ruhr quickly." 

In its simplest terms this was the German "Schlieffen Plan" of 1914 
in reverse, except that it would be executed against a shattered and 
disorganised enemy. Its success depended on the concentration of 
Allied strength, and therefore of maintenance resources, on the left 
wing. At the same time, Bradley agreed entirely with this outline plan. 

On the 20th August Eisenhower held a staff meeting at his Advanced 

240 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

H.Q. in Normandy to collect ideas for the future conduct of the war. 
My Chief of Staff attended. Certain decisions were reached. Briefly 
these were: 

(a) To change the system of command on the ist September, 
Eisenhower taking personal command himself of the Army 

(b) 12, Army Group to be directed towards Metz and the Saar, 
where it would link up with the Dragoon force. 

The staff then began work on a directive to be sent to me. De 
Guingand suggested it might be as well to consult me before any 
action was taken; this was agreed, and he came to my Tac Headquarters 
that night. 

As I did not agree with the decisions which had been reached, I sent 
de Guingand back to see Eisenhower and gave him some notes on the 
problem to take with him. He spent two hours with Eisenhower on 
the 22nd August trying to persuade him on certain points of principle. 
Eisenhower was given the notes I had written and was told that on 
the lyth August Bradley had expressed his complete agreement with 
my suggested plan. These were my notes: 

*"i. The quickest way to win this war is for the great mass of the 
Allied armies to advance northwards, clear the coast as far as 
Antwerp, establish a powerful air force in Belgium, and 
advance into the Ruhr. 

2. The force must operate as one whole, with great cohesion, 
and be so strong that it can do the job quickly. 

3. Single control and direction of the land operations is vital for 
success. This is a WHOLE TIME job for one man. 

4. The great victory in N.W. France has been won by personal 
command. Only in this way will future victories be won. If 
staff control of operations is allowed to creep in, then quick 
success becomes endangered. 

3. To change the system of command now, after having won 
a great victory, would be to prolong the war." 

De Guingand reported to me the result of his talk with Eisenhower, 
which was negative, and I decided that I must see him myself. So I 
asked him if he would come to lunch with me at my Tac Head 
quarters the next day, the 23rd August, at Cond6-sur-Noireau. He 
accepted gladly. 

I was anxious to have a further talk with Bradley before seeing 
Eisenhower. He had moved his headquarters to Laval and I flew there 
on the morning of the 23rd August, early. I f ound to my amazement 
that Bradley had changed his mind; on the iTth August he had agreed 
with me, on the 23rd he was a whole-hearted advocate of the main 

Allied Strategy North of the Seine 241 

effort of his Army Group being directed eastwards on Metz and the 
Saar, I returned to my headquarters in time to meet Eisenhower, who 
had brought Bedell Smith with him; this was the first time I had seen 
Bedell since I left England on the night of the 6th June. 

I asked Eisenhower if I could see him alone as I wanted his decision 
on certain vital matters of principle; these we must discuss alone, and 
his Chief of Staff could come in later. He agreed, and we talked alone 
for one hour. I gave him my views about the immediate need for a 
firm and sound plan. I said that he must decide where the main effort 
would be made and we must then be so strong in that area that we 
could be certain of decisive results quickly. I outlined the administra 
tive situation and said we would soon be very stretched; we must 
concentrate our petrol and ammunition resources behind his selected 
thrust line, and if we spread them evenly all along the front we should 
fail to achieve a decision. I then described to him my own suggested 
plan, which had originally been agreed by Bradley. I sketched in the 
details on a map and showed that it offered good prospects of success. 

I said that if he adopted a broad front strategy, with the whole line 
advancing and everyone fighting all the time, the advance would 
inevitably peter out, the Germans would be given time to recover, and 
the war would go on all through the winter and well into 1945. 

I also said that he, as Supreme Commander, should not descend 
into the land batde and become a ground C.-in-C. The Supreme Com 
mander must sit on a very lofty perch in order to be able to take a 
detached view of the whole intricate problem which involves land, 
sea, air, civil control, political problems, etc. Someone must run the 
land battle for him. We had won a great victory in Normandy because 
of unified land control and not in spite of it. I said this point was so 
important that, if public opinion in America was involved, he should 
let Bradley control the battle and I would gladly serve under him; this 
suggestion produced an immediate denial of his intention to do any 
thing of the sort 

After further talk, Eisenhower agreed that 21 Army Group was not 
strong enough to carry out the tasks on the northern thrust, alone and 
unaided. He agreed that whatever American assistance was necessary 
must be provided. He agreed that the task of co-ordination and 
general operational direction on the northern thrust must be exercised 
by one commander: me. 

I said I wanted an American army of at least twelve divisions to 
advance on the right flank of 21 Army Group. He said that if this were 
done then 12 Army Group would have only one Army in it, and public 
opinion in the States would object 

I asked him why public opinion should make us want to take 
military decisions which were definitely unsound. Possibly I went a 
bit far in urging on him my own plan, and did not give sufficient 

242 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

weight to the heavy political burden he bore. To adopt my plan he 
must stop the man with the ball: Patton, and his Third American 
Army. Looking back on it all I often wonder if I paid sufficient heed 
to Eisenhower s notions before refuting them. I think I did. Anyhow 
he listened quietly. Ike is now one of my dearest friends and I never 
cease to marvel at his patience and forbearance with me on that 

But my arguments were of no avail. The "broad front" strategy was 
to be adopted and 12 Army Group, while thrusting forward on its left 
to support 21 Army Group, was to direct its main effort eastwards 
towards Metz and the Saar. I was to have authority to effect "opera 
tional co-ordination * between 21 Army Group and the left wing of 
12 Army Group; the term "operational direction" was cut out of the 
directive. But a later directive issued by Eisenhower when he had 
assumed direct command of the land armies on the ist September, 
laid down that 12 Army Group was to ensure that its troops operating 
against the Ruhr on my right were ^adequately supported" logistically. 

And so we all got ready to cross the Seine and go our different ways. 

Optimism was in the air, the whips were got out, and the Supreme 
Commander urged everyone on all along the front. Everyone was to 
be fighting all the time. But the trouble was we had no fundamental 
plan which treated the theatre as an entity. Our strategy was now to 
become "unstitched." I was determined to play my full part in the 
business; the British forces would show, and did show, that when it 
came to the mobile battle they were just as good as the next man. But 
I had great misgivings. All my military training told me we could not 
get away with it, and then we would be faced with a long winter 
campaign with all that that entailed for the British people. 

In the middle of all these troubles and disappointments I received 
the following message from the Prime Minister on the evening of the 
3ist August: 

"It gives me great pleasure to tell you that on my submission His 
Majesty has been graciously pleased to approve your promotion to 
the rank of Field-Marshal with the date of September ist, thus 
recognising your outstanding service in the memorable and pos 
sibly decisive battle which you have personally conducted in 

Later Sir Alan Lascelles, who was then Private Secretary to the 
King, told me the following story of the circumstances in which 
the submission appointing me a Field-Marshal was signed. Towards the 
end of August the Prime Minister had returned from Italy and was 
ordered to bed by his doctor, since he had a temperature of 103. On 
the morning of the 3ist August the King, accompanied by Sir Alan 
Lascelles, drove to the annexe in Storey s Gate where the P.M. was 

Allied Strategy North of the Seine 243 

lying up and found him in good spirits, robed in a sumptuous pale 
blue dressing-gown of Oriental design. The P.M. had the submission 
ready and he asked the King to sign it then and there which he did, 
using the pillow as a table. It would be interesting to know if a British 
general has ever before been promoted to Field-Marshal in the middle 
of a battle, that appointment being signed by his Sovereign on the 
Prime Minister s pillow. 

This was the second time during the war that I had been promoted 
on the battlefield. It was announced publicly on the B.B.C. news 
bulletin the next morning. At once, and characteristically, Eisenhower 
sent me a telegram of generous and warm-hearted congratulation. 

The more I considered what we were setting out to do, the more 
certain I was that it was wrong. The British economy and man-power 
situation demanded victory in 1944: no later. Also, the war was bearing 
hardly on the mass of the people in Britain; it must be brought to a 
close quickly. Our "must" was different from the American must: a 
difference in urgency, as well as a difference in doctrine. This the 
American generals did not understand; the war had never been 
brought to their home country. Why should we throw everything 
away for reasons of American public opinion and American electioneer 
ing (1944 was the Presidential election year)? The strategy we were 
now to adopt would mean more casualties in killed and wounded. 
The armies were not being deployed on a broad front for any reasons 
of safety; our southern flank was quite secure and could almost be 
held by air power alone, with a small military backing. If Dragoon 
had done nothing else, at least it had achieved that. There was no 
real risk in doing what I suggested. Indeed my plan offered the only 
possibility of bringing the war to a quick end. 

I was beginning to get information from my liaison officer at Bradley s 
headquarters that the American forces on my right were not getting 
any priority in maintenance resources. Eisenhower s plan of two thrusts, 
one to the Ruhr and one to the Saar, meant that everything had to be 
.split forces, air, maintenance, transport, rolling stock, etc. We were 
throwing overboard the principle of concentration of effort. 

Eisenhower had his headquarters at Granville, on the west side of 
the Cherbourg peninsula. This was possibly a suitable place for a 
Supreme Commander; but it was useless for a land force commander 
who had to keep his finger on the pulse of his armies and give quick 
decisions in rapidly changing situations. He was over four hundred 
miles behind the battle front. Furthermore he was laid up with a 
bad knee. There were no telephone lines, and not even a radio-tele 
phone, between his H.Q. and Bradley and myself. In the early days 
of September he was, in fact, completely out of touch with the land 
battle, as far as I could see. 

I decided to make one more approach to Eisenhower, in my efforts 

244 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

to get a sound plan adopted. I sent him the following message on the 
4th September, the day we captured Antwerp and Louvain: 

"I would like to put before you certain aspects of future operations 
and give you my views. 

1. I consider we have now reached a stage where one really 
powerful and full-blooded thrust towards Berlin is likely to 
get there and thus end the German war. 

2. We have not enough maintenance resources for two full- 
blooded thrusts. 

3. The selected thrust must have all the maintenance resources it 
needs without any qualification and any other operation must 
do the best it can with what is left over. 

4. There are only two possible thrusts: one via the Ruhr and the 
other via Metz and the Saar. 

5. In my opinion the thrust likely to give the best and quickest 
results is die northern one via the Ruhr. 

6. Time is vital and the decision regarding the selected thrust 
must be made at once and para. 3 above will then apply. 

7. If we attempt a compromise solution and split our maintenance 
resources so that neither thrust is full-blooded we will prolong 
the war. 

8. I consider the problem viewed as above is very simple and 
clear cut 

9. The matter is of such vital importance that I feel sure you will 
agree that a decision on the above lines is required at once. If 
you are coming this way perhaps you would look in and dis 
cuss it. If so delighted to see you lunch tomorrow. Do not feel 
I can leave this battle just at present" 

In point of fact, it was now almost too late. The Saar thrust had 
begun and Patton had been given the necessary resources for his drive 
on Metz. On my right, the First American Army found itself having 
to cover Pattern s advance and was unable also properly to support 
my operations as had been ordered. But there was still time to save 
something from the wreck, if only we could get a decision at once. 

Eisenhower received my message on the 5th September. At 7.45 p.m. 
that day he sent me his reply. The signal communications at his 
Forward H.Q. at Granville were so inadequate that his reply reached 
me in two parts. Paras. 3 and 4 came first and arrived at 9 a.m. on 
the 7th September; paras, i and 2, reached me at 10.15 a.m. on the 
morning of the gth September. Here is his message in full, as it was 
eventually pieced together. 

"Part i (Received 1015 hr$ 9 September 1944) 
i. While agreeing with your conception of a powerful and full- 
blooded thrust towards Berlin I do not agree that it should be 

Allied Strategy North of the Seine 245 

initiated at this moment to the exclusion of all other manoeu 

2. The bulk of the German Army that was in the West has now 
been destroyed. Must immediately exploit our success by 
promptly breaching the Siegfried Line, crossing the Rhine on 
a wide front, and seizing the Saar and the Ruhr. This I intend 
to do with all possible speed. This will give us a stranglehold 
on two of Germany s main industrial areas and largely destroy 
her capacity to wage war whatever course events may take. It 
will assist in cutting off forces now retiring from south-west 
France. Moreover it will give us freedom of action to strike 
in any direction and will force the enemy to disperse over a 
wide area such forces as he may be able to assemble for the 
defence of the West. 

Part 2 (Received 0900 hrs 7 September 1944) 

3. While we are advancing we will be opening the ports of Havre 
and Antwerp, which are essential to sustain a powerful thrust 
deep into Germany. No reallocation of our present resources 
would be adequate to sustain a thrust to Berlin, 

4. Accordingly my intention is initially to occupy the Saar and 
the Ruhr, and by the time we have done this, Havre and 
Antwerp should be available to maintain one or both of the 
thrusts you mention. In this connection I have always given 
and still give priority to the Ruhr RPT Ruhr, and the northern 
route of advance, as indicated in my directive of yesterday 
which crossed your telegram. Locomotives and rolling stock 
are today being allocated on the basis of this priority to main 
tain the momentum of the advance of your forces, and those 
of Bradley north-west of the Ardennes. Please let me know at 
once your further maintenance requirements for the advance." 

On the 7th September I had only received Part 2 of the reply, but it 
was enough to make me realise that we were unlikely to get the 
decision needed. I therefore sent him the following. 

"Have Just received paras. 3 and 4 of your message of 5 Septem 
ber. First part of message has not arrived yet so do not know 
what it contains. My maintenance is stretched to the limit. First 
instalment of 18 locomotives only just released to me and balance 
still seems uncertain. I require an air lift of 1000 tons a day at 
Douai or Brussels and hi last two days have had only 750 tons 
total. My transport is based on operating 150 miles from my 
ports and at present I am over 300 miles from Bayeux. In order 
to save transport I have cut down my intake into France to 6000 
tons a day which is half what I consume and I cannot go on for 

246 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

long like this. It is clear therefore that based as I am at present 
on Bayeux I cannot capture the Ruhr. As soon as I have a Pas de 
Calais port working I would then require about 2500 additional 
3-ton lorries plus an assured air lift averaging minimum 1000 
tons a day to enable me to get to the Ruhr and finally Berlin. 
I submit with all respect to your para. 3 that a reallocation of our 
present resources of every description would be adequate to get 
one thrust to Berlin. It is very difficult to explain things in a 
message like this. Would it be possible for you to come and 
see me?" 

Meanwhile I had been consulting with Bradley about the parlous 
state of our logistics and we had agreed that we must cancel all our 
plans for airborne drops to help the advance, and put all available air 
craft on to transport work. This was no great sacrifice because the 
speed of our advance since crossing the Seine had been so great that 
we did not need parachute troops to help. Ever since the Battle of 
Normandy had been won my eyes had been fixed on the Rhine and 
the Ruhr; I knew that we should require all our airborne resources 
to ensure we got over the Meuse and the Rhine. I had been allotted 
the First Allied Airborne Corps and on the 3rd September, the day 
we liberated Brussels, I had asked its commander (General Browning) 
to come and see me, so that we might discuss the general axis of the 
thrust towards the Rhine and the best areas in which to drop the 
airborne divisions. 

On the gth September I received information from London that 
on the previous day the first Vz rockets had landed in England; it 
was suspected that they came from areas near Rotterdam and Amster 
dam and I was asked when I could rope off those general areas. So far 
as I was concerned that settled the direction of the thrust line of my 
operations to secure crossings over the Meuse and Rhine; it must be 
towards Arnhem. Dempsey and Browning came to see me again on 
the morning of the loth September to discuss the Arnhem operation; 
but I knew that the maintenance situation would be the limiting factor 
in deciding when it could be launched. 

In response to the request in my signal three days before, Eisen 
hower flew to Brussels on the afternoon of the loth September. 
Tedder was with him and we had a good talk in Eisenhower s aircraft; 
he could not get out since he was still very lame. 

I explained my situation fully. I told him about the Va rockets 
which had started to land in England, and from whence they came. He 
said he had always intended to give priority to the Ruhr thrust and the 
northern route of advance, and that this was being done. I said that 
it was not being done. He then said that by priority he did not mean 

Allied Strategy North of the Seine 247 

"absolute priority," and he could not in any way scale down the 
Saar thrust I told him that enemy resistance was stiffening on the line 
of the Albert Canal; that there was a steady consumption of petrol 
and ammunition; and that we were outstripping our maintenance. 
It was becoming clear that I would not be able to launch the large- 
scale operation towards Arnhem as soon as I had hoped and that this 
would give the enemy more time to recover. Since crossing the Seine 
my headquarters had moved northwards, and Bradley s eastwards. 
The land battle was becoming jerky and disjointed. I said that so long 
as he continued with two thrusts, with the maintenance split between 
the two, neither could succeed. I pointed out that Antwerp, and the 
approaches to the port which we had not yet got, lay behind the thrust 
on die left flank which I had advocated on the 23rd August nearly 
three weeks ago. There were two possible plans Bradley *s and mine. 
It was essential "to back" one of them. If he tried to back both, we 
couldn t possibly gain any decisive results quickly. The quickest way 
to open up Antwerp was to back my plan of concentration on the left 
which plan would not only help our logistic and maintenance situa 
tion but would also keep up the pressure on the stricken Germans in 
the area of greatest importance, thus helping to end the war quickly. 
It was essential for him to know my views; the decision about the 
action to be taken was then his. It was obvious that he disagreed with 
iny analysis. He repeated that we must first close to the Rhine and 
cross it on a wide front; then, and only then, could we concentrate 
on one thrust. We parted without any clear decision, except that, as 
I understood it, the "broad front" strategy was to remain in operation. 
But Eisenhower agreed that 21 Army Group should strike northwards 
towards Arnhem as early as possible, and he admitted that successful 
operations in that direction would open up wide possibilities for 
future action. 

The next day, the nth September, I sent Eisenhower the following 

**I have investigated my maintenance situation very carefully 
since our meeting yesterday. Your decision that the northern thrust 
towards the Ruhr is NOT repeat NOT to have priority over other 
operations will have certain repercussions which you should know. 
The large-scale operations by Second Army and the Airborne 
Corps northwards towards the Meuse and Rhine cannot now take 
place before 23 Sep. at the earliest and possibly 26 Sep. This delay 
will give the enemy time to organise better defensive arrange 
ments and we must expect heavier resistance and slower progress. 
As the winter draws on the weather may be expected to deteri 
orate and we then get less results from our great weight of air 

248 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

power. It is basically a matter of rail and road and air transport 
and unless this is concentrated to give impetus to the selected 
thrust then no one is going to get very far since we are all such 
a long way from our supply hases. We will do all that is possible 
to get on with the business but the above facts will show you 
that if enemy resistance continues to stiffen as at present then no 
great results can be expected until we have built up stocks of 
ammunition and other requirements." 

This message produced results which were almost electric. Bedell 
Smith came to see me next day to say that Eisenhower had decided 
to act as I recommended. The Saar thrust was to be stopped. Three 
American divisions were to be grounded and their transport used to 
supply extra maintenance to 21 Army Group. The bulk of the logistic 
support of 12 Army Group was to be given to the First American 
Army on my right and I was to be allowed to deal direct with General 
Hodges (the GOC First American Army). 

As a result of these promises I reviewed my plans with Dempsey 
and then fixed D-Day for the Arnhem operation (MARKET GARDEN) 
for Sunday i/th September. 

I did not know until later (and perhaps it was as well that I didn t) 
that when General Patton heard of these decisions he decided, with 
Bradley s agreement, to get the Third American Army so involved 
beyond the Moselle that Supreme Headquarters would be able neither 
to reduce its maintenance nor to halt it. 

On the 15th September, Eisenhower wrote me as follows: 

"Dear Montgomery, 

We shall soon, I hope, have achieved the objectives set forth 
in my last directive (FWD 13765) and shall then be in possession 
of the Ruhr, the Saar and the Frankfurt area. I have been consider 
ing our next move. 

As I see it, the Germans will have stood in defence of the Ruhr 
and Frankfurt and will have had a sharp defeat inflicted on them. 
Their dwindling forces, reinforced perhaps by material hastily 
scratched together or dragged from other theatres, will probably 
try to check our advance on the remaining important objectives 
in Germany. By attacking such objectives we shall create oppor 
tunities of dealing effectively with the last remnants of the Ger 
man forces in the West. Moreover, we shall be occupying further 
key centres and increasing our stranglehold on the German 

Clearly, Berlin is the main prize, and the prize in defence of 
which the enemy is likely to concentrate the bulk of his forces. 
There is no doubt whatsoever, in my mind, that we should con 
centrate all our energies and resources on a rapid thrust to Berlin. 

Allied Strategy North of the Seine 249 

Our strategy, however, will have to be co-ordinated with that 
of the Russians, so we must also consider alternative objectives. 

There is the area of the Northern ports, Kiel-Lubeck-Hamburg- 
Bremen. Its occupation would not only give us control of the 
German Navy and North Sea bases, of the Kiel Canal, and of a 
large industrial area, but would enable us to form a barrier against 
the withdrawal of German forces from Norway and Denmark. 
Further, this area, or a part of it, might have to be occupied as 
flank protection to our thrust on Berlin. 

There are the areas Hanover-Brunswick and Leipzig-Dresden. 
They are important industrial and administrative areas and centres 
of communications on the direct routes from the Ruhr and Frank 
furt to Berlin, so the Germans will probably hold them as inter 
mediate positions covering Berlin. 

There are the Nurnberg-Regensburg and the Augsburg-Munich 
areas. Apart from their economical and administrative importance, 
there is the transcending political importance of Munich. More 
over, there may be an impelling demand to occupy these areas 
and cut off enemy forces withdrawing from Italy and the Balkans. 

Clearly, therefore, our objectives cannot be precisely deter 
mined until nearer die time, so we must be prepared for one or 
more of the following: 

(a) To direct forces of both Army Groups on Berlin astride 
the axes Ruhr-Hanover-Berlin or Frankfurt-Leipzig-Berlin, 
or both. 

(b) Should the Russians beat us to Berlin, the Northern Group 
of Armies would seize the Hanover area and the Hamburg 
group of ports. The Central Group of Armies would seize 
part, or the whole, of Leipzig-Dresden, depending upon 
the progress of the Russian advance. 

(c) In any event, the Southern Group of Armies would seize 
Augsburg-Munich. The area Nurnberg-Regensburg would 
be seized by Central or Southern Group of Armies, depend 
ing on the situation at the time. 

Simply stated, it is my desire to move on Berlin by the most 
direct and expeditious route, with combined U.S.-British forces 
supported by other available forces moving through key centres 
and occupying strategic areas on the flanks, all in one co-ordi 
nated, concerted operation. 

It is not possible at this stage to indicate the timing of these 
thrusts or their strengths, but I shall be glad to have your views 
on the general questions raised in this letter. 


(Sgd) Dwight D. Eisenhower" 

250 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

I considered this letter very carefully and sent him the following 
reply on the i8th September: 

**My dear Ike, 

I have received your letter dated 15-9-44, and I give below my 
general views on the questions you raise as asked for by you. 

1. I suggest that the whole matter as to what is possible, and 
what is NOT possible, is very closely linked up with the ad 
ministrative situation. The vital factor is time; what we have 
to do, we must do quickly. 

2. In view of para, i, it is my opinion that a concerted operation 
in which all the available land armies move forward into 
Germany is not possible; the maintenance resources, and the 
general administrative situation, will not allow of this being 
done QUICKLY. 

3. But forces adequate in strength for the job in hand could be 
supplied and maintained, provided the general axis of ad 
vance was suitable, and provided these forces had complete 
priority in all respects as regards maintenance. 

4* It is my own personal opinion that we shall not achieve what 
we want by going for objectives such as Nurnberg, Augsburg, 
Munich, etc., and by establishing our forces in central Ger 

5. I consider that the best objective is the Ruhr, and thence on 
to Berlin by the northern route. On that route are the ports, 
and on that route we can use our sea power to the best 
advantage. On other routes we would merely contain as 
many German forces as we could. 

6. If you agree with para. 5, then I consider that 21 Army Group, 
plus First U.S. Army of nine divisions, would be adequate. 
Such a force must have everything it needed in the mainte 
nance line; other Armies would do the best they could with 
what was left over. 

7. If you consider that para. 5 is not right, and that the proper 
axis of advance is by Frankfurt and central Germany, then I 
suggest that 12 Army Group of three Armies would be used 
and would have all the maintenance. 21 Army Group would 
do the best it could with what was left over; or possibly the 
Second British Army would be wanted in a secondary role 
on the left flank of the movement. 

8* In brief, I consider that as time is so very important, we 
have got to decide what is necessary to go to Berlin and 
finish the war; the remainder must play a secondary role. It 
is my opinion that three Armies are enough, if you select the 
northern route, and I consider that, from a maintenance point 

Allied Strategy North of the Seine 251 

of view, it could be done. I have not studied the southern 

9. I consider that our plan, and objectives, should be decided 
NOW, and everything arranged accordingly. I would not my 
self agree that we can wait until nearer the time, as suggested 
in your letter. 

10. Finally to sum up. 

I recommend the northern route of advance via the Ruhr, 

vide para. 5. 

Para. 6 would then apply. 

11. I hope the above is clear. 

It represents my views on the general questions raised in your 

12. The above is actually in accordance with the general views I 
expressed to you in my telegram M 160 dated 4 Sep. 

Yours ever 

(Sgd) B. L. Montgomery** 

Eisenhower replied to this letter on the aoth September, as follows: 

"Dear Monty, 

Generally speaking I find myself so completely in agreement 
with your letter of 18 September (M-5^6) that I cannot believe 
there is any great difference in our concepts. 

Never at any time have I implied that I was considering an 
advance into Germany with all armies moving abreast. 

Specifically I agree with you in the following: My choice of 
routes for making the all-out offensive into Germany is from the 
Ruhr to Berlin. A prerequisite from the maintenance viewpoint 
is the early capture of the approaches to Antwerp so that that 
flank may be adequately supplied. 

Incidentally I do not yet have your calculations in the tonnage 
that will be necessary to support the 21 Army Group on this move. 
There is one point, however, on which we do not agree, if I inter 
pret your ideas correctly. As I read your letter you imply that all 
the divisions that we have, except those of the 2ist Army Group 
and approximately nine of the isth Army Group, can stop in 
place where they are and that we can strip all these additional 
divisions from their transport and everything else to support one 
single knife-like drive towards Berlin. This may not be exactly 
what you mean but it is certainly not possible. 

What I do believe is that we must marshal our strength up 
along the Western borders of Germany, to the Rhine if possible, 
insure adequate maintenance by getting Antwerp working at full 
blast at the earliest possible moment and then carry out the drive 
you suggest All of Bradley s Army Group, except his left Army, 

252 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

which makes his main effort, will move forward sufficiently so as 
always to be in supporting position for the main drive and to pre 
vent concentration of German forces against its front and flanks. 

I have already directed the Chief of Staff to arrange for the 
earliest possible meeting with all Army Group commanders and 
with supply people. I am quite confident that we see this thing 
almost identically. I merely want to make sure that when you 
start leading your Army Group in its thrust on to Berlin and 
Bradley starts driving with his left to support you, our other 
forces are in position to assure the success of that drive. Otherwise 
the main thrust itself would have to drop off so much of its 
strength to protect its rear and its flanks that very soon the drive 
would peter out. 

As you know I have been giving preference to my left all the 
way through this campaign including attaching the First Airborne 
Force to you and adopting every possible expedient to assure your 
maintenance. All other forces have been fighting with a halter 
around their necks in the way of supplies. You may not know 
that for four days straight Patton has been receiving serious 
counterattacks and during the last seven days, without attempting 
any real advance himself, has captured about 9000 prisoners and 
knocked out 270 tanks. 

I saw Bradley today and in furtherance of the general plan for 
building up the left we are moving the Brest divisions up to take 
over the defensive region east of Luxembourg so that Hodges can 
concentrate his full strength on his left in his drive forward to 
wards the Rhine. When we get to the Rhine the next concern of 
Bradle/s will be to put a strong fully equipped Army on his left 
to accompany you to Berlin. 


(Sgd) Dwight D. Eisenhower" 

I replied at once (2ist September) to this letter by sending Eisen 
hower the following signal: 

"Dear Ike, thank you very much for your letter of 20 Sep sent 
via Gale. I cannot agree that our concepts are the same and I am 
sure you would wish me to be quite frank and open in the matter. 
I have always said stop the right and go on with left, but the right 
has been allowed to go on so far that it has outstripped its mainte 
nance and we have lost flexibility. In your letter you still want to 
go on further with your right and you state in your para. 6 that 
all of Bradley s Army Group will move forward sufficiently etc. 
I would say that the right flank of 12 Army Group should be given 
a very direct order to halt and if this order is not obeyed we shall 

Allied Strategy North of the Seine 253 

get into greater difficulties. The net result of the matter in my 
opinion is that if you want to get the Ruhr you will have to put 
every single thing into the left hook and stop everything else. It 
is my opinion that if this is not done then you will not get the 
Ruhr. Your very great friend Monty." 

Eisenhower then summoned a conference at his headquarters at 
Versailles for the afternoon of the 22nd September, to decide on a 
plan for the further conduct of the war. The situation at Arnhem was 
not good on that day, and further south the Germans had cut the 
corridor and established themselves on the main road between Veghel 
and Grave, south of Nijmegen. I decided that I could not leave the 
battle front and told de Guingand to represent me at the conference. 
Moreover, I knew I was not popular at either Supreme Headquarters, 
or with the American generals, because of my arguments about the 
conduct of the war; I thought it best to keep away while the matter 
was being further argued. 

That night de Guingand sent me a message from Versailles to the 
effect that Eisenhower had supported my plan one hundred per cent, 
and that the northern thrust was to be the main effort and get full 
support. I received this message early on the 23rd September. By that 
date the Arnhem situation was really bad; the corridor leading to 
Nijmegen was again cut and it looked as if we would have to with 
draw the remnants of the ist British Airborne Division back over the 
Neder Rijn. The division was in fact so withdrawn on the 2$th 

I could not help going back in my mind to my meeting with Eisen 
hower at my Tac Headquarters at Conde on the 23rd August, when 
I had asked him to take the decision to support my plan. He had 
refused. Now at last, on the 23rd September, I was told he had agreed 
and would support my plan. He had taken the decision exactly one 
month too late. Nothing could now prevent events taking the course 
which I had predicted a month before. 

The maintenance situation all along the front got progressively 
worse. The First American Army on my right was, by the 6th October, 
unable to develop its operations according to plan, because it had not 
got the necessary ammunition. On the jth October I reported from 
Eindhoven the situation on the northern flank very fully to Eisenhower 
and said I could not continue the planned operations to gain the line 
of the Rhine unless the maintenance resources allotted to these opera 
tions could be stepped up. I said I had asked Bradley to come and see 
me the next day, the 8th October, to discuss the situation. 

Knowing that Bradley would be with me at Eindhoven on the 
8th October, Eisenhower sent us both a message giving his views on 

254 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

the problem that confronted us all. His message began with tie 
following sentence (the italics are mine): 

"Basic difficulty on northern flank appears to be lack of strength 
in view of enemy reinforcement. Consequently, the plan for co 
ordinated attack to Rhine must be postponed until strength can 
be gotten up which must come from U.S. divisions on the beach, 

Nevertheless, plans of both Army Groups must retain as -first 
mission the gaining of the line of the Rhine north of Bonn as 
quickly as humanly possible." 

Bradley and I were unable to agree with the statement. It was our 
definite opinion that we must reduce the tempo of our operations 
towards the Rhine until we could improve the maintenance situation. 
I reported to Eisenhower accordingly and said I had stopped the 
operations of the Second Army towards the Ruhr and was now going 
to concentrate on opening up the approaches to Antwerp so as to 
get that port working fully. 

The next day, the gth October, I received a message from Eisen 
hower in which he stated (again the italics are mine) : 

"Unless we have Antwerp producing by the middle of Novem 
ber, entire operations will come to a standstill. 

I must emphasise that, of all our operations on our entire front 
from Switzerland to the channel, I consider Antwerp of first im 
portance! 9 

This was a fundamental change from the message of the day before, 
in which the first mission of both Army Groups was given as "the 
gaining of the line of the Rhine north of Bonn as quickly as humanly 
possible/* However, we did now all seem agreed on what was to be 

General Marshall had come with Bradley to my headquarters on 
the 8th October and I had a long talk with him, alone in my office 
caravan. I told him that since Eisenhower had himself taken personal 
command of the land battle, being also Supreme Commander of all 
the forces (land, sea, and air), the armies had become separated na 
tionally and not geographically. There was a lack of grip, and opera 
tional direction and control was lacking. Our operations had, in fact, 
become ragged and disjointed, and we had now got ourselves into a 
real mess. Marshall listened, but said little. It was clear that he entirely 

Later in the month, when I had settled future plans with Dempsey, 
I moved into Brussels and joined up with my Main H.Q, At Brussels 
I was better placed to exercise personal direction of the operations to 
open up the approaches to Antwerp, which was the task of First 

Allied Strategy North of the Seine 255 

Canadian Army under Simonds. Crerar had been evacuated sick to 
On the 3rd November I informed Eisenhower: 

"I have to report to you that the approaches to Antwerp and the 
Scheldt estuary are now completely free from enemy interference. 
Our troops on Walcheren are now in possession of the coast from 
Domburg to West Kapelle and round to the east of Flushing the 
whole of which town is in our hands and we have captured all 
enemy coastal positions and guns. Our minesweepers are now at 
work in the estuary and some have reached Terneuzen. We own 
the whole of North Beveland and South Beveland. There are still 
some enemy remaining on the northern and north-eastern parts 
of Walcheren Island but these cannot interfere with shipping in 
the estuary and they are being mopped up. All enemy resistance 
on the mainland south of Walcheren and in the Knocke area has 
now ceased and we have captured 14,000 prisoners in this area 
since crossing the Leopold Canal. The full and free use of the port 
of Antwerp is now entirely a naval matter.** 

The reply came: 

"Dear Monty: The capture of the Antwerp approaches will have 
the utmost significance for us and I am profoundly grateful to you 
personally for the energy you put into this matter. Will you please 
convey to the Commanding General of the Canadians my thanks 
and congratulations. (Signed) Dee.** 

The proper development of allied strategy north of the Seine will 
become one of the great controversies of military history. In the end 
it was the Germans who benefited from the argument. At the time, 
I was, and I remain, of the opinion that in September 1944 we failed 
to exploit fully the German disorganisation consequent on their crush 
ing defeat in the Battle of Normandy in August The quickest way to 
end the German war was not merely to have the free use of Antwerp, 
as some have alleged. It was to act quickly in the middle of August, 
using the success gained in Normandy as a spring-board for a hard 
blow which would finish off the Germans and at the same time give 
us the ports we needed on the northern flank. To do these things we 
had to have a plan and concentration of effort; we had neither. I am 
still firmly convinced that had we adopted a proper operational plan 
in the middle of August, and given it a sound administrative and 
logistic backing, we should have secured bridgeheads over the Rhine 
and seized the Ruhr before the winter set in. The whole affair if 
properly handled would not only have shortened the war; it would 
also have held out possibilities of bringing it to an end in Europe with 

256 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

a political balance very much more favourable to an early and stable 
peace than that which has actually emerged. 

Some have argued that I ignored Eisenhower s orders to give 
priority to opening up the port of Antwerp, and that I should not have 
attempted the Arnhem operation until this had been done. This is 
not true. There were no such orders about Antwerp and Eisenhower 
had agreed about Arnhem. Indeed, up to the 8th October 1944 in 
clusive my orders were to gain the line of the Rhine "as quickly as 
humanly possible/* On the gth October Antwerp was given priority 
for the first time as will be seen from the orders quoted above. 

The trouble was that Eisenhower wanted the Saar, the Frankfurt 
area, the Ruhr, Antwerp, and the line of the Rhine. I knew how 
desperately the Germans had fought in Normandy. To get all these 
in one forward movement was impossible. If Eisenhower had adopted 
my plan he could at least have got Antwerp and the Ruhr, with 
bridgeheads over die Rhine in the north, and would then have been 
very well placed. Or if he had adopted Bradley s plan he could have 
got the Saar and the Frankfurt area, with bridgeheads over the Rhine 
in the centre and south. But he was too optimistic. He compromised. 
He failed to get any of his objectives, and was then faced with a 
frustrating situation. 

I was, of course, greatly disappointed. I had hoped that we might 
end the German war quickly, save tens of thousands of lives, and bring 
relief to the people of Britain. But it was not to be. 

When I think back I am more and more convinced that the argu 
ments, and difficulties of understanding, about die strategy after cross 
ing the Seine have their origin in terminology. The matter has been 
argued under the labels "narrow versus broad front." My plan was 
described by Eisenhower as a "pencil-like thrust/ and on another 
occasion as a "knife-like drive." But a strong thrust by forty divisions 
can hardly be described as "a narrow front"; it would represent a 
major blow. I was expounding die doctrine of die single punch against 
an enemy who was now weak on his pins. It was on the lines of the 
"left hook" of the desert batdes, leading to the knock-out blow; after 
all I knew something about diat sort of diing. Once we can disabuse 
ourselves of the word "narrow," all sorts of arguments go by the board, 
e.g. pencil-like, knife-like and so on. 

The dismal and tragic story of events after die successful batBe in 
Normandy may be boiled down to one fundamental criticism. It is 
thiswhatever die decision, it wasn t implemented. In Normandy our 
strategy for the land batde, and the plan to achieve it, was simple 
and clear-cut The pieces were closely "stitched" together. It was 
never allowed to become unstitched; and it succeeded. After Nor 
mandy our strategy became unstitched. There was no plan; and we 
moved by disconnected jerks. 

Allied Strategy North of the Seine 257 

The lightness or wrongness of the decision taken is, of course, open 
to argument But what cannot be disputed is that when a certain 
strategy, right or wrong, was decided upon, it wasn t directed. We 
did not advance to the Rhine on a broad front; we advanced to the 
Rhine on several fronts, which were un-coordinated. And what was 
the German answer? A single and concentrated punch in the Ar 
dennes, when we had become unbalanced and unduly extended. So we 
were caught on the hop. 

On the 6th November I left Brussels for a few days leave in Eng 

It had been a difficult time for us all since we landed in Normandy 
on the 6th June, exactly five months earlier. I reckoned that I had 
earned a short rest. 

On arrival in England I went at once to see the Prime Minister, 
to tell him about OUT affairs and also that he must now expect the war 
to go on all through the winter and well into 1945. 

This is what my autograph book says: 

"The Supreme Battle of Normandy carried with it the Liberation 
of France. The conquest of Germany remains. Between these two 
decisive struggles, the Liberation of Belgium and the opening of 
the Scheldt as the main supply channel of the Allies constitutes 
a victory of high consequence gained by the 21 Army Group and 
its Commander. 

Winston S. Churchill 

I returned to my headquarters at Brussels on the loth November. 


The Battle of Arnhem 

17th to 25th September 1944 

IN OUR move forward on the northern flank to secure the Ruhr in 
accordance with Eisenhower s orders, we were confronted with 
two major river obstacles the Meuse and the Rhine. Whatever 
route we took, there would be additional obstacles in the form of 
large canals. 

My plan was to drive hard for the Rhine across all these obstacles, 
and to seize a bridgehead beyond the Rhine before the enemy could 
reorganise sufficiently to stop us. 

I had been allotted the First Allied Airborne Corps under Lieut- 
General Browning. This Corps consisted of: ist British Airborne 
Division, 82nd U.S. Airborne Division, loist U.S. Airborne Division, 
and the Polish Parachute Brigade. I placed it under the command of 
Second Army (Dempsey). 

I have already explained that the direction of the thrust would be 
towards Arnhem, and why. The essential feature of the plan was the 
laying of a "carpet" of airborne forces across the five major water 
obstacles which existed on the general axis of the main road through 
Eindhoven to Uden, Grave, Nijmegen, and thence to Arnhem. 

30 Corps (Horrocks) was to operate along the axis of the "carpet," 
link up with the ist British Airborne Division in the Arnhem area, 
and establish a bridgehead over the Neder Rijn north of that place. 

Second Army was then to establish itself in the general area between 
Arnhem and the Zuider Zee, facing east, so as to be able to develop 
operations against the northern flank of the Ruhr. (See Map, No. 43.) 

As 30 Corps moved northwards along the axis of the airborne 
"carpet," two other corps were to widen the axis of advance 8 Corps 
(O Connor) on the east and 12 Corps (Ritchie) on the west 


The Battle of Arnhem 259 

The whole operation as I have said already was given the code 
name of MARKET GARDEN. It was certainly a bold plan. Indeed, Gen 
eral Bradley has described it as "one of the most imaginative of the 
war." But the moment he heard about it he tried to get it cancelled, 
lest it should open up possibilities on the northern flank and I might 
then ask for American troops to be placed under my command to 
exploit them. He was an advocate of the double thrust the Saar and 
the Ruhr. So was Patton. Whenever Eisenhower appeared to favour 
the Ruhr thrust, Patton used to say he was the best general the British 

But Eisenhower believed in Operation MARKET GARDEN. It will be 
recalled that he had met me in Brussels for a conference on the loth 
September, and had agreed my plans for the operation. On page 307 
of his book Crusade in Europe he has described that conference, and 
wrote as follows: 

*After completion of the bridgehead operation he [Mont 
gomery] was to turn instantly and with his whole force to the 
capture of Walcheren Island and the other areas from which the 
Germans were defending the approaches to Antwerp." 

Now this point was not, in fact, ever mentioned at our conference 
on the loth September. In my memory his intention was always to 
occupy the Saar and the Ruhr and, while advancing to do this, to be 
opening the ports of Havre and Antwerp. So far as his orders to me 
were concerned he never deviated from this intention. Indeed, his 
orders issued on the 8th October were that the plans of both Army 
Groups "must retain as first mission the gaming of the line of the 
Rhine north of Bonn as quickly as humanly possible," and the word 
Antwerp does not appear in those orders. It was not until the gth 
October that for the first time he named the free use of Antwerp as 
having priority over all other missions. 

The orders issued by me on the 14th September are interesting as 
showing how I was trying to carry out his intentions. I give them in 
full below. Paras. 2, and 10 seem to be especially important. 


**i. Now that Havre has been captured, we are in a better posi 
tion to be able to proceed with operations designed to lead 
to the capture of the Ruhr. 

2. We have captured the port of Antwerp, but cannot make use 
of it as the enemy controls the mouth of the Scheldt; opera 
tions to put this matter right will be a first priority for Cana 
dian Army. 

3. On our right flank, First U.S. Army has entered Germany and 
is in contact with the defences of the Siegfried Line. 

260 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

And away to the south, Third U.S. Army has bridgeheads 
over the Moselle. 

4. Together with 12 Army Group, we will now begin operations 
designed to isolate and surround the Ruhr; we will occupy 
that area as we may desire. 

Our real objective, therefore, is the Ruhr. But on the way to 
it we want the ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam, since the 
capture of the Ruhr is merely the first stop on the northern 
route of advance into Germany. 


5. To destroy all enemy west of the general line Zwolle-Deven- 
ter-Cleve-Venlo-Maastricht, with a view to advancing east 
wards and occupying the Ruhr* 


6. Between 21 Army Group and 12 Army Group. 
All inclusive 12 Army Group: 

Hasselt-Sittard-Garzweiler-Leverkusen (on the Rhine). 
All inclusive 21 Army Group: 

Opladen (on the Rhine) -Warburg-Brunswick. 

7. This boundary is given only as a general basis on which to 
work. The general direction of movement of Second British 
Army is northwards, and then eastwards round the northern 
face of the Ruhr; the general direction of movement of First 
U.S. Army is eastwards round the southern flank of the 
Ruhr. The two armies will therefore tend to separate, and 
they will have to take special measures to watch their inner 


8- Complete the capture first of Boulogne, and then of Calais. 
9. Dunkirk will be left to be dealt with later; for the present it 

will be merely masked. 
10. The whole energies of tie Army will be directed towards 

operations designed to enable full use to be made of the port 

of Antwerp. 

Airborne troops are available to co-operate. 

Air operations against the island of Walcheren have already 

commenced and these include: 

(a) the isolation of the island by taking out road and rail 

(b) attacks on coast defence guns. 

(c) attacks on the artillery, including flak. 

The Battle of Arahem 261 

11. H.Q. i Corps, and 49* DIv., wiU be brought up from the 
Havre area as early as possible, to the Antwerp area. 

5ist Div. will be grounded completely in the Havre peninsula, 
and its transport used to enable the above move to take place; 
the division will remain grounded as long as its transport is 
required by Canadian Army for maintenance or movement 

12. Canadian Army will take over the Antwerp area from Second 
Army beginning on ijth September. 

The boundary between the two armies on completion of this 
relief will be as decided by Canadian Army; Second Army to 

13. Having completed the operation for the opening of Antwerp, 
vide para. io ? Canadian Army will operate northwards on the 
general axis Breda-Utrecht-Amsterdam. 

Inter-Army boundary, all inclusive Canadian Army: 

Herenthals-Turnhout-Tilburg-s Hertogenbosch-Zaltbommel- 

Task: To destroy all enemy to the west of the Army boundary, 

and open up the port of Rotterdam. 

14. Subsequently, Canadian Army will be brought up on the left 
(or northern flank) of Second Army, and will be directed on 
Bremen and Hamburg. 


15. The first task of the Army is to operate northwards and secure 
the crossings over the Rhine and Meuse in the general area 
Arnhem-Xijmegen-Grave. An airborne corps of three divisions 
is placed under command Second Army for these operations. 

16. The Army will then establish itself in strength on the general 
line ZwoUe-Deventer-Arnhem, facing east, with deep bridge 
heads to the east side of the Ijssel river. 

From this position it will be prepared to advance eastwards to 
the general area Rheine-Osnabruck-Hamm-Miinster. 
In this movement its weight will be on its right and directed 
towards Hamm, from which place a strong thrust will be 
made southwards along the eastern face of the Ruhr. 

17. The thrust northwards to secure the river crossings, vide para. 
15, will be rapid and violent, and without regard to what is 
happening on the flanks. 

Subsequently the Army will take measures to widen the area 
of the initial thrust, and to create a secure line of supply. 

18. D-Day for these operations is Sunday ijth September. Bad 
weather for airborne operations may possibly cause a post 

262 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 


19. First U.S. Army is to move eastwards as follows: 

(a) 5 Corps directed on Bonn. 

(b) 7 Corps directed on Cologne. 

(c) 19 Corps carrying out flank protection on the northern 
flank of the Army, along the inter-Army Group bound 
ary. See para. 7. 

20. The Army is to capture Bonn and Cologne, and to establish a 
deep bridgehead, some 10 miles in depth, on the east side of 
the Rhine. 

21. The Army is then to advance eastwards round the south face 
of the Ruhr. This operation will be timed so as to be co 
ordinated carefully with the move of Second British Army 
round the north face of the Ruhr. 

There will be very close touch between General Bradley and 
myself during these operations. 


22. Attention is drawn to para. 15 of M.$23 dated 3-9-44. When 
we enter Germany, headquarter leaguers, and unit and sub- 
unit areas, will require to be tighter, and special arrangements 
will have to be made to prevent spies and gestapo agents get 
ting in. Sniping may be a problem, and senior officers must 
exercise due care when travelling about their areas. 

Once we are in Germany the true form will probably very 
quickly be apparent, and we must then adopt measures suit 
able to the problem." 

Eisenhower s reaction to these orders was immediate. He wrote me 
by return a letter to say how completely he agreed. There was no 
need for him to have done this. But it shows the wonderful humanity 
of the man. He obviously thought I would value such a letter, know 
ing what a lot of argument we had had over the past few weeks 
and I did value it. This is what he said: 

16 September, 1944 
**Dear Monty, 

Your M. 525 has just arrived here and I must say that it not 
only is designed to carry out most effectively my basic conception 
with respect to this campaign but is in exact accordance with all 
the understandings that we now have. 

I sent a senior staff officer to General Bradley yesterday to see 
that all of his intentions both with respect to application of his 
forces and distribution of his supplies will co-ordinate completely 
with this idea. While he had issued a temporary directive on Sep- 

The Battle of Arnhem 263 

tember 10 that on the surface did not conform clearly to this con 
ception of making our principal drive with our left, the actual 
fact is that everything he is doing will work out exactly as you 
visualize it. 

I believe the enemy is capable of only one more, all-out de 
fensive battle in the West His major forces will, I feel, try to 
cover the Ruhr. When our present pushing and thrusting has 
forced him to his stand we shall close on him rapidly. It is my 
concern so to shape our operations that we are concentrating for 
that purpose, and by concentrating I include all troops and sup 
plies that can be efficiently employed in the battle. So Bradley s 
left is striking hard to support you; Third Army is pushing north 
to support Hodges; and Sixth Army Group is being pushed up 
to give right flank support to the whole. 

I hear that our frantic efforts to scratch together ad hoc truck 
companies to deliver you 500 tons a day did not get the supplies 
flowing on September 15. However, I am assured that the first 
batch will arrive there tomorrow morning, September 17. 

My new headquarters will open at Versailles on Wednesday 
morning. Personally I will be there only a few days and am going 
forward wherever I can locate a really good landing ground some 
where in the Compiegne-Reims area. I will give you the exact 
location later. 

Best of luck. 


(Signed) D wight D. Eisenhower 
A copy of this will go to Bradley," 

It will be noted that I instructed my subordinate commanders to 
be careful about their security arrangements and personal safety when 
we entered Germany. A copy of my orders was taken back to the War 
Office by an officer who had come over to see me. They produced the 
following telegram, by return: 

"Personal jar P.M. Montgomery from V.C.I.G.S.* 

Have just read your M-525. Reference para. 22 hope you realise 
that you yourself have conspicuous appearance and dress and are 
therefore obvious target for the enemy. 

Little doubt that definite and concerted efforts will be made by 
desperate men to kill you. 

It is therefore your duty to put aside your feelings and take most 
stringent and thorough steps for your personal safety. You can no 
longer afford to be casual in these matters. 

Please regard this message not as a suggestion but as a definite 
order from C.I.G.S." 
* Vice Chief of the Imperial General Staff. 

264 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

Operation MABKET GAKDEN was duly launched on the i/th Sep 
tember 1944. It has been described by many writers. Probably the best 
and most complete account is that by Chester Wilmot in The Struggle 
for Europe. I will not go over it aU again. We did not, as everyone 
knows, capture that find bridgehead north of Arnhem. As a result we 
could not position the Second Army north of the Neder Rijn at Arahem, 
and thus place it in a suitable position to be able to develop operations 
against the north face of the Ruhr. But the possession of die crossings 
over the Meuse at Grave, and over the Lower Rhine (or Waal as it is 
called in Holland) at Nijmegen, were to prove of immense value later 
on; we had liberated a large part of Holland; we had the stepping 
stone we needed for the successful battles of the Rhineland that were 
to follow. Without these successes we would not have been able to 
cross the Rhine in strength in March 1945 but we did not get our 
final bridgehead, and that must be admitted. 

The following signal was received from the ist Airborne Division 
at Arnhem on the night of the 24th September: 

"Must warn you unless physical contact is made with us early 
25 Sep. consider it unlikely we can hold out long enough. All 
ranks now exhausted. Lack of rations, water, ammunition, and 
weapons with high officer casualty rate. . . . Even slight enemy 
offensive action may cause complete disintegration. If this hap 
pens all will be ordered to break towards bridgehead if anything 
rather than surrender. Any movement at present in face of enemy 
is not possible. Have attempted our best and will do so as long 
as possible." 

We could not make contact with them in sufficient strength to be 
of any real help, and I gave orders that the remnants of the division 
were to be withdrawn back over the Neder Rijn at Arnhem, and into 
our lines, on the night of the 25th September. Some 2000 wounded 
who were unable to be moved were left behind with doctors and 
nursing orderlies, and these were taken prisoner by the Germans. 

Of the senior officers in the division we got back only the Divisional 
Commander (Urquhart), one Brigadier (Hicks) and the C.R.A. 
(Loder-Symonds). All the battalion commanders were lost, except 

Of the other officers, and men, we recovered: 125 officers, 400 
glider pilots, 1700 N.C.O.S and men. I sent them all back to England 
at once. 

General Urquhart came to stay with me at my Tac Headquarters 
before returning to England. He asked me to give him a letter which he 
could read out to the division when it re-assembled in England. I 
gave him the following, dated the 28th September 1944: 

The Battle of Arnhem 

**i. I want to express to you personally, and to every officer and 
man in your division, my appreciation o what you all did at 
Arnhem for the Allied cause. 

I also want to express to you my own admiration, and the 
admiration of us all in 21 Army Group, for the magnificent 
fighting spirit that your division displayed in battle against 
great odds on the north bank of the Lower EJbine in Holland. 

2. There is no shadow of doubt that, had you failed, operations 
elsewhere would have been gravely compromised. You did 
not fail, and all is well elsewhere. 

I would like all Britain to know that in your final message 
from the Arnhem area you said: All will be ordered to break 
out rather than surrender. We have attempted our best, and 
we will continue to do our best as long as possible.* And all 
Britain will say to you: Ifou did your best; you all did your 
duty; and we are proud of you/ 

3. In the annals of the British Army there are many glorious 
deeds. In our Army we have always drawn great strength and 
inspiration from past traditions, and endeavoured to live up 
to the high standards of those who have gone before. 

But there can be few episodes more glorious than the epic of 
Arnhem, and those that follow after will find it hard to live 
up to the standards that you have set. 

4. So long as we have in the armies of the British Empire officers 
and men who will do as you have done, then we can indeed 
look forward with complete confidence to the future. 

In years to come it will be a great thing for a man to be able 
to say: 1 fought at Arnhem/ 

5. Please give my best wishes, and my grateful thanks, to every 
officer and man in your division." 

There were many reasons why we did not gain complete success 
at Arnhem. The following in my view were the main ones. 

First. The operation was not regarded at Supreme Headquarters as 
the spearhead of a major Allied movement on the northern flank 
designed to isolate, and finally to occupy, the Ruhr the one objective 
in the West which the Germans could not afford to lose. There is no 
doubt in my mind that Eisenhower always wanted to give priority 
to the northern thrust and to scale down the southern one. He ordered 
this to be done, and he thought that it was being done. It was not 
being done. We now know from Bradley s book (A Soldiers Story), 
page 412, that in the middle of September, there was parity of logistic 
resources between the First and Third American Armies in 12 Army 

266 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

Eisenhower is a thoroughly genuine person; he is the very incar 
nation of sincerity and he trusts others to do as he asks. But in this 
instance his intentions were not carried out. The following quotation 
from page 531 of The Struggle for Europe by Chester Wilmot is of 

"If he [Eisenhower] had kept Patton halted on the Meuse, and 
had given full logistic support to Hodges and Dempsey after the 
capture of Brussels, the operations in Holland could have been an 
overwhelming triumph, for First U.S. Army could have mounted 
a formidable diversion, if not a successful offensive, at Aachen, 
and Second British Army could have attacked sooner, on a wider 
front and in much greater strength.** 

Second. The airborne forces at Arnhem were dropped too far away 
from the vital objective the bridge. It was some hours before they 
reached it. I take the blame for this mistake. I should have ordered 
Second Army and i Airborne Corps to arrange that at least one 
complete Parachute Brigade was dropped quite close to the bridge, 
so that it could have been captured in a matter of minutes and 
its defence soundly organised with time to spare. I did not do so. 

Third. The weather. This turned against us after the first day and 
we could not carry out much of the later airborne programme. But 
weather is always an uncertain factor, in war and in peace. This 
uncertainty we all accepted. It could only have been offset, and the 
operation made a certainty, by allotting additional resources to the 
project, so that it became an Allied and not merely a British project. 

Fourth. The 2nd S.S. Panzer Corps was refitting in the Arnhem 
area, having limped up there after its mauling in Normandy. We knew 
it was there. But we were wrong in supposing that it could not fight 
effectively; its battle state was far beyond our expectation. It was 
quickly brought into action against the ist Airborne Division. 

As after Normandy, so again after Arnhem, I was bitterly disap 
pointed. It was my second attempt to try to capture the Ruhr quickly. 
Bill Williams used to tell me that the Germans could not carry on the 
war for more than about three months after they lost the Ruhr. But 
we still hadn t got it 

And here I must admit a bad mistake on my part I underestimated 
the difficulties of opening up the approaches to Antwerp so that we 
could get the free use of that port. I reckoned that the Canadian Army 
could do it while we were going for the Ruhr. I was wrong. 

I will close this chapter with a final quotation on the battle from 
Chester Wilmot (The Struggle for Europe, page 528). This what he 
wrote about it: 

"It was most unfortunate that the two major weaknesses of the 
Allied High Command-the British caution about casualties and 

The Battle of Arnhem 267 

the American reluctance to concentrateshould both have exerted 
their baneful influence on this operation, which should, and could, 
have been the decisive blow of the campaign in the West. This 
was no time to count the cost, or to consider the prestige of rival 
commanders. The prize at issue was no less than the chance of 
capturing the Ruhr and ending the war quickly with all that 
meant for the future of Europe.** 

In my prejudiced view, if the operation had been properly backed 
from its inception, and given the aircraft, ground forces, and admin 
istrative resources necessary for the job it would have succeeded 
in spite of my mistakes, or the adverse weather, or the presence of 
the 2nd S.S. Panzer Corps in the Arnhem area. I remain MAJRKET 
GARDEN S unrepentant advocate. 


Prelude to the Ardennes 

THE BATTLE of the Ardennes, which began on the i6th December 
1944 and continued to the i6th January 1945, has aroused such 
bitter feelings between Britons and Americans that I cannot dis 
regard it But I think we must first describe the events which led up 
to it, since this examination will show that the battle could so easily 
have been avoided. 

On the 28th November Eisenhower came to stay a night with me 
at my Tac Headquarters at Zonhoven. We had long talks that night 
and die nest morning, in the course o which we discussed the situation 
in which we found ourselves at that time which, to say the least of it, 
was far from good. 

The war of attrition in the winter months, forced on us by our 
faulty strategy after the great victory in Normandy,, was becoming 
very expensive in human life. In the American armies there was a 
grave shortage of ammunition. The rifle platoons in all divisions were 
under strength and the reinforcement situation was bad. American 
divisions in the line began to suffer severely from trench-foot as the 
winter descended on us. In my own Army Group I was concerned 
about the growing casualties. I give below the cumulative casualties, 
by divisions, from the 6th June or date of arrival in the theatre, up to 
the ist October: 

Formation Casualties 

11 Armd Div 3,825 

Guards Armd Div 3?38s 

7 Armd Div 2,801 

3 Brit Inf Div 7,342 

15 Inf Div 7,601 


Prelude to the Ardennes 269 

Formation Casualties 

43 Inf Div 7,605 

49 Inf Div 5,894 

50 Inf Div 6,701 

51 Inf Div 4,799 
53 Inf Div 4,984 
59 Inf Div 4,911 

2 Cdn Inf Div* 8,211 

3 Cdn Inf Div 9,263 

4 Cdn Armd Div** 3,135 
Polish 1,861 

During my talk with Eisenhower I gave it as my opinion that 
Bradley s 12 Army Group did not look to me to be very well "balanced," 
tactically. I suggested that to restore tactical balance some of Patton s 
divisions should be moved up to the north, and that his offensive in 
the south should be cancelled. These views were passed on to Bradley 
and on the 3rd December he wrote me a letter to the effect that he 
could not do this, giving his reasons. This letter is important in view 
of what was to happen later, and I give below the relevant extracts 
from it. 


"Ike told me of his recent conference with you and I am glad 
that we are going to have a chance to get together later this week 
to discuss future operations. 

I thought you might like to have a few facts about our present 
situation and our prospects for the future. 

The question of whether I should transfer some of Patton s 
divisions to the north was given careful consideration prior to our 
recent jump-off. He had only six infantry divisions and he held a 
front line of over seventy miles, and this front included the con 
taining of the fortress of Metz. I felt that even though he remained 
on the defensive I could not take away more than one infantry 
division, or at the outside two, without too much weakening his 
front. This would have left him in a position where he would be 
unable to launch any offensive and thus co-operate with the Sixth 
Army Group on the south. I therefore decided not to take any 
divisions away from him so that he could launch an attack in 
conjunction with Devers, with the hope of cleaning up Lorraine 
and, if possible, the Saar. As of midnight November 30 he had 
taken over 25,500 prisoners, and the total losses of the enemy for 
this period of time must have been much greater. 

Because of our inability to receive, equip, and supply troops 

* Canadian Infantry Division, 
* tt Canadian Armoured Division. 

270 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

through our Channel ports, it has been necessary to divert seven 
divisions to Devers* Army Group. Naturally we wanted to get 
as much use out of these divisions as possible, and the attack of 
the Sixth Army Group, in conjunction with Patton s attack, has so 
far achieved very satisfactory results. I believe that between the 
Seventh Army and the Third Army this very important attack can 
be kept up." 

I reminded Eisenhower that, overall, we had so far failed to carry 
out the plan laid down in his directive of the 28th October, i.e. to 
secure the Ruhr and the Saar. We now needed a new plan. 

Before he left me on the 2Qth November, I suggested to him that 
what was now indicated was a meeting between himself, Tedder, 
Bradley, and myself; we could then all give our views and he could 
give us his plan for the next phase. He agreed; he fixed the confer 
ence for the 7th December, at Maastricht. We all four met there at 
10.30 a.m. on the 7th December. 

The following is the record of the conference I made in my diaiy 
that night 


"He reviewed the past from about early Sept. onwards. 

He then made the point that the recent operations had been 
well worth while, and were going well. 

One gained the impression that this part of his statement was 
not very genuine, and that he was trying hard to put up a good 
case to off-set what he knew I was going to say. 

He finished by saying that the purpose of the meeting was to 
air our views, and to give him ideas which he could think over. 
He said he did not propose to issue any definite orders before we 
dispersed; if any further orders were needed, they were to be 
issued later. 

He then asked me to give my views on the problem confronting 


I said that in order to win the war quickly there were two main 
factors which must influence the solution to the problem: 
First: The only real worth-while objective on the western front 
is the Ruhr. If we cut it off from the rest of Germany the 
enemy capacity to continue the struggle must gradually 
peter out. 

Second: It is essential that we force mobile war on the Germans 
by the spring or early summer. They have little transport, 
little petrol, and tanks that cannot compete with ours in 

Prelude to the Ardennes 271 

the mobile battle. Once the war becomes mobile, that is 

the end of the Germans. 

These two factors are basic and fundamental It is impossible to 
argue against them. 
It follows: 

(a) that the Ruhr must be our strategic objective. 

(b) that our main effort must be made in the north as it is 
there, and only there, that suitable country exists for a 
mobile campaign, i.e. to the north of the Ruhr. 

Any other routes into Germany will produce no results as the 
country is difficult and very suited for defensive war; to pursue 
other routes will merely prolong the war; it is the static defensive 
battle that suits the enemy. 

We must be so strong in the north that we can produce decisive 
results without any possibility of failure. 

We were at present working on the plan contained in his direc 
tive of the 28th Oct. That plan had failed to mature. 

We require now a new plan, and the successive stages in this 
plan must be objectives towards attainment of the master plan. 

The new master plan* must cater for continuing the battle all 
through the winter months so as to wear down the enemy s 
strength. There will be difficulties caused by mud and by lack of 
air support, but we must continue throughout the winter to con 
duct any operations which: 

(a) gain intermediate objectives towards the Ruhr; 

(b) wear down the enemy s strength at a greater rate than our 

(c) place us in a good jumping-off position for a mobile cam 
paign in the spring. 

A highly important factor in the winter operations will be to 
draw into the battle, and to defeat decisively, the enemy 6 Pz. 
Army. This is his only strategic reserve on the western front, and 
it contains the only divisions which could make any show at all in 
a mobile campaign. These divisions must therefore be so mauled 
during the winter months that they are out-of-action when spring 

The Germans will fight hard to keep us from the Ruhr, and to 
keep the war static. At all costs they must stop the war from 
becoming mobile. 

So there will be no difficulty in bringing them to battle west of 
the Rhine. 


12 and 21 Army Groups both to operate north of the Ardennes. 
The right flank of 12 Army Group to be about Prum. A strong 

272 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

thrust on the axis Prum-Bonn would have good country for opera 
tions and would avoid existing defence lines and obstacles. 

12 Army Group to operate towards the Rhine on two main 
axes: Prum-Bonn, Duren-Cologne. 

The left Army of at least ten divisions to operate northwards to 
wards the thrust of 21 Army Group coming southwards between 
the rivers Meuse and Rhine. 

12 Army Group to be made up to a strength of some thirty-five 

21 Army Group to re-group and launch a strong offensive from 
the Nijmegen area, southwards between the rivers, with the 
object of securing all ground between the Rhine and Meuse as 
far south as the line Orsoy-Venlo. 

This would be the only offensive action on the front of 21 Army 
Group; everything would be put into it; it would continue slowly 
during the winter months. Target date: ist January. 

21 Army Group, reinforced by American divisions as necessary 
and by airborne divisions, to cross the Rhine at selected places 
between Wesel and NijmegeiL Then to develop mobile operations 
north of the Lippe canal and river, designed to outflank the Ruhr 
from the north and to penetrate into Germany. This might happen 
in March 1945. 

12 Army Group to cross the Rhine in the Bonn area and 
develop outflanking operations against the Ruhr from the south. 

6 Army Group, based on Marseilles, to continue operations in 
the Saar as far as its strength and resources will allow. 

I said that it was difficult at this stage to say exactly how the 
operations outlined above would develop. 

The two Army Groups north of the Ardennes, 12 and 21, must 
first advance to battle west of the Rhine, draw in on them all the 
German strategic reserves and maul them, and then close up 
to the Rhine. The rest could not be decided in detail at this 

But I considered that one commander should be in operational 
control and direction of all forces north of the Ardennes. That 
commander must either be myself or Bradley. I would willingly 
serve under Bradley. 


He said that we must not put too much stress on the Ruhr; it 
was merely a geographical objective; our real objective was to 
kill Germans and it did not matter where we did it. 

I disagreed with this and said we would find more Germans to 
kill if we went for the Ruhr than anywhere else; we should also 
at the same time be gaining objectives towards the capture or 

Prelude to the Ardennes 273 

isolation of the Ruhr and towards the attainment o the master 

He said he agreed that the left wing of 12 Army Group must 
certainly be made strong enough to get to the Rhine. 

But he did not agree that we should shift the whole of 112 Army 
Group to the north of Prum. 

He said that he considered the right wing of 12 Army Group 
should be strong, and should advance to the Rhine at about 
Worms, and should then develop a strong thrust on the axis 

This was a new one on me. 

He said his general conception of the campaign was as follows: 

(a) In the north should be 21 Army Group with Ninth U.S. 
Army of ten divisions under command. 

The southern boundary of 21 Army Group should be on 
the Rhine about Orsoy, at the N.W. corner of the Ruhr. 
The task of this force would be to cross the Rhine and 
outflank the Ruhr from the North. 

(b) The left wing of 12 Army Group would be a containing 
force, not to cross the Rhine in strength, but to make feints 
and threats in the Cologne-Bonn area and south of it. In 
other words, no strong thrust here. 

(c) On the southern flank, the right wing of 12 Army Group 
should develop a strong thrust on the axis Franldrurt-Kassel. 

(d) The general pattern of thfg plan is two offensives: one 
round the north of the Ruhr vide (a), and one away in the 
south vide (c). In between these two thrusts will be threats 
and feints. 

12 Army Group would stretch from Orsoy astride the 
Ardennes to Worms. 


Eisenhower asked me what I thought of his plan, and said he 
thought it differed from my ideas only very slightly. 

I said that we must be clear that we differed, not slightly, but 
widely and on fundamental issues. 

I said I was quite unable to agree with his plan. If we split our 
resources, neither thrust would be strong enough to obtain decisive 
results; this is what we had done in the past, and we were now 
paying for our mistakes; I hoped we would not do it again. 

I said that we suffered at present from a faulty command set-up; 
his plan made it no better. In fact it would make it worse. 

Bradley would obviously stay at Luxembourg in the south, for 
the Frankfurt thrust. I had moved my Tac H.Q. to Zorihoven so 
as to be near Bradley; but he had never come north. 

274 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

I should now have to move up north of Eindhoven so as to be 
near my own offensive. 

I pleaded again for myself to take charge north of the Ardennes, 
and Bradley south of the Ardennes. On his plan I would have 
the northern offensive, and Bradley the southern or Frankfurt 

As things were now going to be, Bradley would be concerned 
in both offensives and there would be much waste of time when 
a quick decision was wanted. 

I finished up with a strong plea for the concentration of all 
available strength in the north, and for making the northern 
offensive so strong that success was certain. 

I also put in a strong plea for a sound set-up for command. 

I gave it as my opinion that, unless we did these two things, 
we would not succeed, and we would arrive at the spring not 
ready to get on with the business. 

Eisenhower did not agree with my views. He considered the 
way to win the war was to have two strong thrusts: 

(a) one round the north of the Ruhr, 

(b) one on the axis Frankfurt-KasseL 

In between these two thrusts the plan would be to threaten, 
and make feints. 

It is clear that, although the present plan has failed, we are still 
to continue to consider it has not failed and are to work on it. 9 * 

And so we really achieved nothing at the Maastricht conference on 
the 7th December. I had hoped to get agreement that we would shift 
our main weight towards the north. I then wanted the activities of 
12 and 21 Army Groups to be directed against the Ruhr, and to the 
task of imposing mobile war on the enemy in the north German plain 
in the early spring. But no decision was given. 

Meanwhile Bradley s 12 Army Group was disposed in two main 
concentrations, each deployed for attack. In between was a gap of 
some 100 miles, held by 8 American Corps of four divisions under 


The Battle of the Ardennes 

16th December 1944 to 16th January 1945 

ON THE morning of the i6tli December I felt in need of relaxation. 
So I decided to fly up to Eindhoven in my Miles light aircraft, 
land on one of the fairways of the golf course, and play a few 
holes of golf. The H.Q. of the Air Force Group supporting Second 
Army was in the Club House, and Dai Rees the well-known golf 
professional was there as driver of the AOC.S car. I knew Rees very 
well and we were great friends; we had been through the desert 
together. His civil job was professional at Hindhead Golf Club and he 
used to give lessons to my son David when the war was over, and 
before he moved to South Herts. He is a most likeable character. I 
did not realise then that he was to become the best match player in 

I asked if Rees could meet me when I landed with a club or two. 
AH was arranged satisfactorily and we began to play. But our game 
was soon interrupted by a message to say that the Germans had 
launched a heavy attack that morning on the front of the First Amer 
ican Army, and the situation was obscure. I said good-bye to Rees and 
flew straight back to my Tac Headquarters at Zonhoven. 

The blow had fallen mainly on the part of the First Army front 
that was thinly held by 8 Corps under Middleton in the Ardennes., 
and a great "bulge 9 * or salient was being made in the American line. 

I think the less one says about this battle the better, for I fancy that 
whatever I do say will almost certainly be resented. All those with 
whom I was associated during the battle have now retired Bradley, 
Hodges, Simpson, Ridgway, Collins, and Gerow. And Patton is dead. 
So I will just mention the highlights as they appeared to me at the 


276 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

The situation deteriorated rapidly and finally Bradley s 12 Army 
Group was split in two. His headquarters were at Luxembourg, whence 
he could not control the northern half of his Army Group. I kept in 
close touch with the situation by means of my team of Liaison Officers. 
And I took steps to ensure that the right flank and right rear of 21 
Army Group would be secure, whatever might happen. 

At 10.30 a.m. on the 2oth December Eisenhower telephoned me 
from his headquarters and ordered me to take command at once of 
all American forces on the northern flank of the bulge. That order put 
two American armies under my command: Ninth Army (Simpson) 
on my immediate right, First Army (Hodges) to the right of Ninth 

The First Army was fighting desperately. 

Having given orders to Dempsey and Crerar, who arrived for a 
conference at 11 a.m., I left at noon for the H.Q. of the First Army, 
where I had instructed Simpson to meet me. I found the northern 
flank of the bulge was very disorganised. Ninth Army had two corps 
and three divisions; First Army had three corps and fifteen divisions. 
Neither Army Commander had seen Bradley or any senior member 
of his staff since the battle began, and they had no directive on which 
to work. 

The first thing to do was to see the battle on the northern flank as 
one whole, to ensure the vital areas were held securely, and to create 
reserves for counter-attack. ( See Map, No. 45. ) 

I embarked on these measures. 

I put British troops under command of the Ninth Army to fight 
alongside American soldiers, and made that Army take over some of 
the First Army front. I positioned British troops as reserves behind the 
First and Ninth Armies until such time as American reserves could be 
created. Slowly but surely the situation was held, and then finally 
restored. Similar action was taken on the southern flank of the bulge 
by Bradley, with the Third Army. 

I must mention a joke on my part which was not considered funny 
in Whitehall. The War Office were very naturally worried and I sent 
a telegram to the C.I.G.S. giving the whole story of what happened 
and telling him what I was doing about it. The last sentence read: 
"We cannot come out through Dunkirk this time as the Germans still 
hold that placed 

My telegram was sent on to the Prime Minister but with the last 
sentence cut out! 

The battle may be said to have ended in the middle of January. 
On the 14th January I sent the following letter to General Bradley. 

"My dear Brad, 
It does seem as if the battle of the salient* will shortly be 

The Battle of the Ardennes 277 

drawing to a close, and when it is all clean and tidy I imagine that 
your armies will be returning to your operational command. 
I would like to say two things: 
First : What a great honour it has been for me to command 

such fine troops. 
Second; How well they have all done. 

2. It has been a great pleasure to work with Hodges and Simp 
son; both have done very well. 

And the Corps Commanders in the First Army (Gerow, 
Collins, Ridgway) have been quite magnificent; it must be 
most exceptional to find such a good lot of Corps Commanders 
gathered together in one Army. 

3. All of us in the northern side of the salient would like to say 
how much we have admired the operations that have been 
conducted on the southern side; if you had not held on firmly 
to Bastogne the whole situation might have become very awk 

4. My kind regards to you and to George Patton. 

Yrs very sincerely, 

(Signed) B. L. Montgomery" 

On the i6th January I regarded the battle as over. Eisenhower had 
ordered me to return the First Army to Bradley on the ijth January, 
the Ninth Army to remain under my command. I sent the following 
message to Eisenhower on the i6th January: 

"I have great pleasure in reporting to you that the task you 
gave me in the Ardennes is now concluded. First and Third Armies 
have joined hands at HouflFaHze and are advancing eastwards. It 
can therefore be said that we have now achieved tactical victory 
within the salient. I am returning First Army to Bradley tomorrow 
as ordered by you. I would like to say what a great pleasure it 
has been to have such a splendid army under my command and 
how very well it has done." 

Eisenhower answered this telegram with a letter dated the 17th 
January in which he said: 

"Thank you again for the way you pitched in to help out during 
the German thrust. Some day I hope I can show my appreciation 
in a more lasting manner." 

There is one characteristic story about General Horrocks and his 
30 Corps at this period which I often recall I had ordered Second 
Army to position 30 Corps behind the Meuse in the general area 
between Louvain and Namur. Its role was to prevent any German 
units crossing the Meuse. I went to see Horrocks in order to make 

278 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

certain he was clear about his orders. He was full of enthusiasm, as 
always, and had great ideas that he would let the Germans over the 
river and then win the final battle of the war on the field of Waterloo 
which was not far away! I told Dempsey that on no account was 
Horrocks to allow any Germans over the river. 

I should also mention that on the ist January the Germans carried 
out large-scale attacks on our airfields in Holland and Belgium. My 
aircraft, the Dakota given me by Eisenhower in Sicily in August 1943 
in exchange for the Flying Fortress, was shot to pieces. He replaced 
it at once and I was so touched that I sent him the following message 
on the 6th January: 

"M 424 Personal for Eisenhower from Montgomery. 

My dear Ike, Have received the new 0/47 you have so kindly 
lent me and I understand you have sent me one that was intended 
for yourself. Such spontaneous kindness touches me deeply and 
from my heart I send you my grateful thanks. If there is anything 
I can ever do for you to ease the tremendous burden that you 
bear you know you have only to command me. And I want you 
to know that I shall always stand firmly behind you in everything 
you do." 

I will conclude this chapter with an account of the Press conference 
I held on the yth January about the battle. I was perturbed at this 
time about the sniping at Eisenhower which was going on in the 
British press. So I sent a message to the Prime Minister and said that 
in my talk to British and American correspondents about the battle I 
proposed to deal with the story of the battle. I would show how the 
whole Allied team rallied to the call and how team-work saved a 
somewhat awkward situation. I suggested I should then put in a strong 
plea for Allied solidarity. Nothing must be done by anyone that tends 
to break down the team spirit. It is team-work that pulls you through 
dangerous times. It is team-work that wins battles. It is victories in 
battle that win wars. 

The Prime Minister agreed and said he thought what I proposed 
would be invaluable. 

I held the conference. Many stories have been told about it, and 
many quotations have been taken out of their context and published. 
Nobody has ever published the full text of the notes from which I 
spoke and which were given to the Press afterwards. Here they 

*i. Object of this talk 

I have asked you to come here today so that I can give you 
some information which may be of use to you, and also to 
ask you to help me in a certain matter. 

The Battle of the Ardennes 279 

2. Tfie story of the present battle 

Rundstedt attacked on 16 Dec; he obtained tactical surprise. 
He drove a deep wedge into the centre of the First US Army 
and split the American forces in two. The situation looked 
as if it might become awkward; the Germans had broken 
right through a weak spot, and were heading for the Meuse. 

3. As soon as I saw what was happening I took certain steps 
myself to ensure that if the Germans got to the Meuse they 
would certainly not get over that river. And I carried out 
certain movements so as to provide balanced dispositions to 
meet the threatened danger; these were, at the time, merely 
precautions, i.e., I was thinking ahead. 

4. Then the situation began to deteriorate. But the whole allied 
team rallied to meet the danger; national considerations 
were thrown overboard; General Eisenhower placed me in 
command of the whole Northern front. 

I employed the whole available power of the British Group 
of Armies; this power was brought into play very gradually 
and in such a way that it would not interfere with the 
American lines of communication. Finally it was put into 
battle with a bang, and today British divisions are fighting 
hard on the right flank of First US Army. 
You have thus the picture of British troops fighting on both 
sides of American forces who have suffered a hard blow. 
This is a fine allied picture. 

5. The battle has been most interesting; I think possibly one of 
the most interesting and tricky battles I have ever handled, 
with great issues at stake. The first thing to be done was to 
laead off the enemy from the tender spots and vital places. 
Having done that successfully, the next thing was to see him 
off,* i.e. rope him in and make quite certain that he could 
not get to the places he wanted, and also that he was slowly 
but surely removed away from those places. 

He was therefore ^headed off,* and then *seen off/ 

He is now being written off/ and heavy toll is being taken 

of his divisions by ground and air action. You must not 

imagine that the battle is over yet; it is by no means over 

and a great deal still remains to be done. 

The battle has some similarity to the battle that began on 

31 Aug 1942 when Rommel made his last bid to capture Egypt 

and was *seen off 7 by the Eighth Army. But actually all battles 

are different because the problem is different, 

6. What was Rundstedt trying to achieve? No one can tell for 

The only guide we have is the message he issued to his 

280 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

soldiers before the battle began; he told them it was the last 

great effort to try and win the war, that everything depended 

on it; that they must go all out. 

On the map you see his gains; that will not win the war; he 

is likely slowly but surely to lose it all; he must have scraped 

together every reserve he could lay his hands on for this job, 

and he has not achieved a great deal. 

One must admit that he had dealt us a sharp blow and he sent 

us reeling back; but we recovered; he has been unable to 

gain any great advantage from his initial success. 

He has therefore failed in his strategic purpose, unless the 

prize was smaller than his men were told. 

He has now turned to the defensive on the ground; and he 

is faced by forces properly balanced to utilise the initiative 

which he has lost. 

Another reason for his failure is that his air force, although 

still capable of pulling a fast one, cannot protect his army; 

for that army our Tactical Air Forces are the greatest terror, 

7. But when all is said and done I shall always feel that Rund- 
stedt was really beaten by the good fighting qualities of the 
American soldier and by the team-work of the Allies. 

I would like to say a word about these two points. 

8. I first saw the American soldier in battle in Sicily, and I 
formed then a very high opinion of him. I saw him again in 

And I have seen a very great deal of him in this campaign. 
I want to take this opportunity to pay a public tribute to 

He is a brave fighting man, steady under fire, and with that 
tenacity in battle which stamps the first class soldier; all these 
qualities have been shown in a marked degree during the 
present battle. 

I have spent my military career with the British soldier and 
I have come to love him with a great love; and I have now 
formed a very great affection and admiration for the American 
soldier. I salute the brave fighting men of America; I never 
want to fight alongside better soldiers. Just now I am seeing 
a great deal of the American soldiers; I have tried to feel that 
I am almost an American soldier myself so that I might take 
no unsuitable action or offend them in any way. 
I have been given an American identity card; I am thus 
identified in the Army of the United States, my finger prints 
have been registered in the War Department at Washington 
which is far preferable to having them registered at Scotland 

The Battle of the Ardennes 281 

g. And now I come to the last point. 

It is team-work that pulls you through dangerous times; it 
is team-work that wins battles; it is victories in battle that 
win wars. I want to put in a strong plea for Allied solidarity 
at this vital stage of the war; and you can all help in this 

Nothing must be done by anyone that tends to break down 
the team spirit of our Allied team; if you try and get at* the 
captain of the team you are liable to induce a loss of con 
fidence, and this may spread and have disastrous results. I 
would say that anyone who tries to break up the team spirit 
of the Allies is definitely helping the enemy. 
10. Let me tell you that the captain of our team is Eisenhower. 
I am absolutely devoted to Ike; we are the greatest of friends. 
It grieves me when I see uncomplimentary articles about him 
in the British Press; he bears a great burden, he needs our 
fullest support, he has a right to expect it, and it is up to all 
of us to see that he gets it. 

And so I would ask all of you to lend a hand to stop that sort 
of thing; let us all rally round the captain of the team and 
so help to win the match. 

Nobody objects to healthy and constructive criticism; it is 
good for us. 

But let us have done with destructive criticism that aims a 
blow at Allied solidarity, that tends to break up our team 
spirit, and that therefore helps the enemy.** 

Not only was it probably a mistake to have held this conference at 
all in the sensitive state of feeling at the time, but what I said was 
skilfully distorted by the enemy. Chester Wilmot (The Struggle for 
Europe, page 611) has explained that his dispatch to the B.B.C. about 
it was intercepted by the German wireless, "re-written to give it an 
anti-American bias and then broadcast by Arnhem Radio, which was 
then in Goebbels* hands. Monitored at Bradley s H.Q., this broadcast 
was mistaken for a B.B.C. transmission and it was this twisted text 
that started the uproar.** 

Distorted or not, I think now that I should never have held that 
Press conference. So great was the feeling against me on the part of 
the American generals, that whatever I said was bound to be wrong, 
I should therefore have said nothing. Secondly, whatever I said (and 
I was misreported) the general impression I gave was one of tremen 
dous confidence. In contradistinction to the rather crestfallen American 
command, I appeared, to the sensitive, to be triumphant not over the 
Germans but over the Americans. This was a completely false picture. 
But I had also described the battle as "interesting." Those who did not 

282 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

know me well could hardly be expected to share my professional 
interest in the art of war and were, not unnaturally, aggrieved by 
this phraseology; they were too sore to find the battle "interesting" as 
an objective enterprise. In fact, not only should I not have held the 
conference, but I should have been even more careful than I was 
trying to be. All of which shows that I should have held my tongue. 
The "best laid" Press conferences of "mice and men gang aft agley." 
What I did not say was that, in the Battle of the Ardennes, the Allies 
got a real "bloody nose/* the Americans had nearly 80,000 casualties, 
and that it would never have happened if we had fought the campaign 
properly after the great victory in Normandy, or had even ensured 
tactical balance in the dispositions of the land forces as the winter 
campaign developed. Furthermore, because of this unnecessary battle 
we lost some six weeks in time with all that that entailed in political 
consequences as the end of the war drew nearer. 


The End of the War in Europe 


IT WILL be manifest to the reader that from the 1st September 1944 
onwards I was not satisfied that we had a satisfactory organisation 
for command or operational control I wrote a paper on tie subject 
entitled "Notes on Command in Western Europe * and sent it to Bedell 
Smith on the loth October; he showed it to Eisenhower. It will be 
remembered that I had given my views on the subject to General 
Marshall in no uncertain voice when he visited me at Eindhoven on 
the 8th October. My main criticism stemmed from the fact that direct 
operational command of land armies in war involved close touch with 
subordinate commanders and therefore was a whole-time job; the 
commander must be well forward and have a good grip on the battle. 
In Normandy I had done this job; now nobody was doing it, and we 
were getting into trouble. Having been shown my paper Eisenhower 
replied to me direct in a letter dated the isth October. In this letter 
he stated that he did not agree that one man could direct the land 
battle intelligently on the long front from Switzerland to the North 
Sea. It required an overall commander **to adjust the larger boundaries 
to tasks commensurate to the several groups operating in the several 
areas/* That overall commander must be tie Supreme Commander. 
The letter also referred to the question of nationalism, as opposed to 
purely military considerations. 

It was a difficult time and Eisenhower was faced with the precise 
situation which I had outlined to him at our meeting at my Tac Head 
quarters on the 23rd August; his strategy, and the lack of any plan, 
had led to our present frustrating situation in October. He was clearly 
unhappy about the whole affair. 


284 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

I therefore decided to drop the subject of a single command on land 
and on the i6th October I sent him the following message: 

"Dear Ike, I have received your letter of 13 October. You will 
hear no more on the subject of command from me. I have given 
you my views and you have given your answer. That ends the 
matter and I and all of us up here will weigh in one hundred per 
cent to do what you want and we will pull it through without a 
doubt. I have given Antwerp top priority in all operations in 21 
Army Group and all energies and efforts will be now devoted 
towards opening up that place. Your very devoted and loyal 
subordinate Monty.** 

Eisenhower s reply was immediate and ran as follows: 

"Dear Monty, Thank you for your very fine message. Looking 
forward very much to seeing you tomorrow. As ever, Ike." 

That issue was now closed. What remained was to try and get a 
sound plan for the winter campaign that lay ahead the campaign in 
the Rhineland and to get proper co-ordination of effort throughout 
the Allied forces. 

During the Battle of the Ardennes the remorseless march of events 
had forced Eisenhower to do what I had always suggested; I was 
placed in operational command of the left flank of the Allies, with two 
American armies under my command. This could not have been 
pleasant for my critics at Supreme Headquarters, or for the American 
generals who opposed my ideas. It had taken a major crisis to do what 
I had been asking for ever since August 

On the 28th December Eisenhower visited the northern flank and 
I had a long talk with him in his special train at Hasselt The Ardennes 
battle was then well in hand and our conversation turned mainly on 
what was to be done when it was over. I again gave it as my opinion 
that the Ruhr was the immediate objective; all available power must 
be concentrated to secure it; operational control of the forces involved 
must be exercised by one commander. 

The next day, sgth December, I sent Eisenhower the following 

"My dear Ike, 

It was very pleasant to see you again yesterday and to have a 
talk on the battle situation. 

2. I would like to refer to the matter of operational control of all 
forces engaged in the northern thrust towards the Ruhr, i.e. 
12 and 21 Army Groups. 
I think we want to be careful, because we have had one very 

The End of the War in Europe 285 

definite failure when we tried to produce a formula that would 
meet this case; that was the formula produced in SHAEF 
FWD 15510 dated 23-9-44, which formula very definitely did 
not work. 

3. When you and Bradley and myself met at Maastricht on 7 
December, it was very clear to me that Bradley opposed any 
idea that I should have operational control over his Army 
Group; so I did not then pursue the subject. 

I therefore consider that it will be necessary for you to be 
very firm on the subject, and any loosely worded statement 
will be quite useless. 

4. I consider that if you merely use the word co-ordination/ it 
will not work. The person designated by you must have powers 
of operational direction and control of the operations that will 
follow on your directive* 

5. I would say that your directive will assign tasks and objectives 
to the two Army Groups, allot boundaries, and so on. 

Thereafter preparations are made and battle is joined. 

It is then that one commander must have powers to direct 
and control the operations; you cannot possibly do it yourself, 
and so you would have to nominate someone else. 

6. I suggest that your directive should finish with this sentence: 

12 and 21 Army Groups will develop operations in accord 
ance with the above instructions. 

From now onwards full operational direction, control, and 
co-ordination of these operations is vested in the C.-in-C. 
21 Army Group, subject to such instructions as may be 
issued by the Supreme Commander from time to time/ 

7. I put this matter up to you again only because I am so anxious 
not to have another failure. 

I am absolutely convinced that the key to success lies in: 

(a) all available offensive power being assigned to the north 
ern line of advance to the Ruhr; 

(b) a sound set-up for command, and this implies one man 
directing and controlling the whole tactical battle on the 
northern thrust. 

I am certain that if we do not comply with these two basic 
conditions, then we will fail again. 

8. I would be grateful if you would not mention to Bradley the 
point I have referred to in para. 3. I would not like him to 
think that I remembered that point and had brought it up. 

Yours always, and your very 
devoted friend 


286 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

When Eisenhower got back to his headquarters and had received 
my letter, he found waiting for him a telegram from General Marshall 
saying that he had seen certain statements and articles in the British 
press which were critical of American command. The telegram went 
on to say that both the President of the United States and Marshall 
himself had complete confidence in him (Eisenhower) and that the 
appointment of a British officer to hold operational command or con 
trol over Bradley would be entirely unacceptable in America. 

I have always been under the impression that Eisenhower did not 
know I had been told about Marshall s telegram. That telegram finished 
the issue of "operational control 7 as far as I was concerned and I knew 
it would be useless to open it again. 

My Chief of Staff, Freddie de Guingand, was at Supreme Head 
quarters when Eisenhower returned from his tour and studied my 
letter which I have quoted above. They discussed the question at 

De Guingand was impressed by how greatly "het up" Eisenhower 
was about the whole thing, and he came at once to my Tac Head 
quarters to tell me about it. It was from him that I learnt about 
Marshall s telegram. I decided at once to "pipe down." I sent Eisen 
hower the following message on the 3ist December. 

"Dear Ike, I have seen Freddie and understand you are greatly 
worried by many considerations in these very difficult days. I 
have given you my frank views because I have felt you like this. 
I am sure there are many factors which have a bearing quite 
beyond anything I realise. Whatever your decision may be you 
can rely on me one hundred per cent to make it work and I know 
Brad will do the same. Very distressed that my letter may have 
upset you and I would ask you to tear it up. Your very devoted 
subordinate Monty." 

Eisenhower s reply dated the ist January was as follows: 

"Dear Monty, I received your very fine telegram this morning. 
I truly appreciate the understanding attitude it indicates. With 
the earnest hope that the year 1945 will be the most successful for 
you of your entire career, as ever Ike." 

Meanwhile, Eisenhower had been working on an outline plan of 
his own composition. On the 3ist December, the day I had sent him 
my message, he wrote me a personal letter in his own handwriting, 
which ran as follows: 

"Dear Monty, 

Enclosed is my outline plan covering operations as far as they 
can be foreseen. The immediate thing is to give the enemy in the 

The End of the War in Europe 287 

salient a good beating, destroying everything we can. Following 
upon that, the plan concentrates everything for the destruction of 
the enemy north of Pram-Bonn, and gives to you and Bradley 
each a specific task. The plan also provides for great strength 
north of the Ruhr when the Rhine is crossed. In these principal 
features it exactly repeats my intentions as I gave them to you 
verbally on the train, on the 28th. 

In the matter of command I do not agree that one Army Group 
Commander should fight his own battle and give orders to another 
Army Group Commander. My plan places a complete U.S. Army 
under command of 21 Army Group, something that I consider 
militarily necessary, and most assuredly reflects my confidence in 
you personally. If these things were not true this decision would, 
in itself, be a most difficult one. 

You know how greatly IVe appreciated and depended upon 
your frank and friendly counsel, but in your latest letter you dis 
turb me by predictions of failure unless your exact opinions in 
the matter of giving you command over Bradley are met in detail. 
I assure you that in this matter I can go no further. 

Please read this document carefully and note how definitely I 
have planned, after eliminating the salient, to build up the 21 
Army Group, give it a major task, and put that task under your 
command. Moreover, Bradley will be close by your H.Q. 

I know your loyalty as a soldier and your readiness to devote 
yourself to assigned tasks. For my part I would deplore the devel 
opment of such an unbridgeable group of convictions between us 
that we would have to present our differences to the Combined 
Chiefs of Staff. The confusion and debate that would follow would 
certainly damage the goodwill and devotion to a common cause 
that have made this Allied Force unique in history. 

As ever, your friend, 



31 December, 1944 


"My outline plan of operations, based on the current situation 
and prospects, is as follows: 

Basic plan to destroy enemy forces west of Rhine, north of the 

Moselle, and to prepare for crossing the Rhine in force with the 

main effort north of the Ruhr. The several tasks are: 

a. To reduce the Ardennes salient by immediate attacks from 

north and south, with present command arrangements undis- 

288 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

turbed until tactical victory within the salient has been assured 
and the Third Army and Collins* Corps have joined up for a 
drive to the north-east. Bradley then to resume command of 
the First U.S. Army. ( Enemy action within the salient indicates 
his determination to make this battle an all-out effort with his 
mobile forces. Therefore we must be prepared to use everything 
consistent with minimum security requirements to accomplish 
their destruction.} 

b. Thereafter First and Third Armies to drive to north-east on 
general line Prum-Bonn, eventually to Rhine. 

c. When a is accomplished, 2ist Army Group, with Ninth U.S. 
Army under operational command, to resume preparations for 

d. All priorities in building up strength of U.S. Annies in per 
sonnel, material and units, to go to 12th Army Group. 

e. The front south of Moselle to be strictly defensive for the 

/. I will build up a reserve (including re-fitting divisions) which 

will be available to reinforce success, 
g. As soon as reduction of Ardennes salient permits, H.Q. i2th 

Army Group will move north, in close proximity to 2ist Army 

Group H.Q. 
h. From now on, any detailed or emergency co-ordination required 

along Army Group boundaries in the north will be effected by 

the two Army Group commanders with power of decision 

vested in C.G,, 21 Army Group. 

The one thing that must now be prevented is the stabilization 
of the enemy salient with infantry, permitting him opportunity 
to use his Panzers at will on any part of the front. We must regain 
the initiative, and speed and energy are essential. 

At conclusion of the battle for the salient, assignment of Divi 
sions to Army Groups and changes in boundaries will be an 

Dwight D. Eisenhower" 

I studied this outline plan. It did all I wanted except in the realm 
of operational control, and because of Marshall s telegram that subject 
was closed. It put the weight in the north and gave the Ninth American 
Army to 21 Army Group. It gave me power of decision in the event 
of disagreement with Bradley on the boundary between 12 and 21 
Army Groups. In fact, I had been given very nearly all that I had been 
asking for since August Better late than never. I obviously could 
not ask for more and I sent Eisenhower the following reply on the 
and January 1945. 

The End of the War in Europe 289 

Thank you for your outline plan dated 31 Dec and letter. I sug 
gest that tactical victory within the salient is going to take some 
little time to achieve and that there will be heavy fighting. Also it 
is all bound to get somewhat untidy in that area and I think we 
want to be very careful to ensure that the moment for changes in 
command is wisely chosen. I also feel that after we have achieved 
tactical victory in the salient there may be a considerable interval 
before other offensive movements begin to develop though I 
think it is important to try and stage Operation VERITABLE earliest 
possible. Apart from these few ideas which occur to me I have no 
comments on the outline plan and details can be worked out later 
on. You can rely on me and all under my command to go all out 
one hundred per cent to implement your plan/* 

I should explain that Operation VERITABLE was the attack south 
wards of the Canadian Army from the Reichswald Forest, with a 
view to securing possession of all ground west of the Rhine. The next 
operation was to be the actual crossing of the Rhine by Second Army, 
and this was to be planned while Operation VERITABLE was in progress. 

All was now agreed in outline. 

There were many details to be filled in and a detailed plan to be 
drawn up; work on those details went on during January. Major- 
General Whiteley, a British member of the Staff at Supreme Head 
quarters, was a great help in ensuring that the fundamentals of the 
plan were not lost sight of in all the detailed staff work that was 
necessary; he succeeded. 

We launched Operation VERITABLE into the Reichswald Forest 
east of Nijmegen on the 8th February, driving southwards with our 
left flank on the Rhine. 

The Ninth American Army attacked northwards, with its right 
directed on Dusseldorf, on the 2;jrd February, in conjunction with the 
Canadian Army attack. 

By the loth March, the troops of the Ninth American Army and 
21 Army Group were lined up along the west bank of the Rhine 
from Neuss (opposite Dusseldorf) to Nijmegen, all bridges over the 
river being destroyed. Meanwhile, on the 7th March First American 
Army had secured intact the railway bridge at Remagen and at once 
formed a bridgehead on the east bank. The importance of this bridge 
head to our subsequent operations was very great. Not only did it 
lock up a considerable number of surviving enemy divisions in that 
area, but more important, it loosened up the whole campaign by pro 
viding a brideghead which could be exploited at will. By the third 
week in March the Allied armies had closed to the Rhine throughout 
its length from Switzerland to the sea. 

290 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

In October I had dropped the question of who was to command 
the ground forces; but I did not simultaneously give up the question 
of how to command. The argument about a sound strategy continued. 
The essential change was to abandon the doctrine of a single ground 
force commander and to try to get Eisenhower to take a firm grip 
himself, rather than let his ground armies swarm all over the place 
without co-ordination. In other words the purpose remained un 
changed but the method of achieving it had, for personal and political 
reasons, to be argued differently. 

Tedder s role as Deputy Supreme Commander was never very 
clear to me and, finally, being an airman, he found himself employed 
to co-ordinate the air operations, 

I never thought that this was what he was originally meant to do. 
But it was what he became because of the never-ceasing rows between 
the lords of the air, each with his own strategic conceptions and with 
great jealousies between them. 

The generals were little better. So while Tedder dealt with the air 
barons, Eisenhower dealt with the warring tribes of generals. The 
result was really no strategy at all, and each land army went as far as 
it could until it ran out of gas or ammunition, or both. 

Insofar, then, as I was concerned the "ground force command" 
problem was closed by the end of 1944, as I have already explained. 
But to my amazement it was re-opened in February 1945, by the 
Prime Minister, who had discussed it I suppose with the British Chiefs 
of Staff. 

It was considered in London that Field-Marshal Alexander would 
be a better Deputy Supreme Commander than Tedder, since he would 
be able to relieve Eisenhower of his preoccupations with the land 
battle, which Tedder could not do. I was consulted privately on this 
proposal by the Prime Minister and by the C.LG.S. My answer was 
immediate if Alexander were brought to Supreme Headquarters there 
would be storms, both in the Press and with the American generals. 
However, the proposal was put to Eisenhower. He asked me to meet 
him on the 14th February at some suitable place half-way between 
his headquarters and mine, and we met at my old Tac Headquarters 
at Zonhoven. The British and American delegations to the Yalta Con 
ference early in February 1945 had been having preliminary talks in 
Malta on their way to the Crimea; certain remarks made in Malta had 
been reported to Eisenhower, who had not gone himself to the 
talks but had sent Bedell Smith. I wrote the following in my di 
ary after Eisenhower had left Zonhoven to return to his headquar 

Eisenhower turned the subject to the question of command. 
He said that the P.M. at Malta had told the President (or 


* ;.->;..*/ 

: a|/. 


L My father at Cape Barren Island, on a missionary tour in 1895. 

2. My mother, in the 19305. 



3, What I looked like when aged 9. 

4 Three Old Paulines in 
Arras in 1916. Left, my 
brother Donald, in the 2gth 
Bn Canadian Expeditionary 
Force. Centre, Major B. M. 
Arnold in the Artillery. Right, 
the author who was Brigade- 
Major 104 Inf. Bde. in the 
35th (Bantam) Division. 

5. The author and his Briga 
dier, back from a tour of the 
trenches on the Arras front, 








.3 g 

g a 






7. My wife and her three sons, April 1930. 
Left to right-Dick Carver, David, John Carver, 

8. My wife and David in Switzerland 
January 1936. 

9. The author and David in Switzerland 
January 1937. 

10. Lord Gort and Mr. Hore-Belisha visit the 3rd Division area in France. General 

Brooke can be seen behind and to the left of Hore-Belisha. The author is on the 

right in battle dress-the first General Officer ever to wear that dress. 

Date-ig November 1939. 

11. In the desert, wearing my Australian hat, greeting the Commander of the 

Greek Brigade in the Eighth Army (Brigadier Katsotas) -August 1942. 

The officer by the car door is John Poston. 



5 SO 






12. Map of the Battle of Alam Haifa. 















14. Map of the Battle of Alamein-Plan on 30 Corps Front. 






tow: 1 

15. Address to OflBcers before the Battle of Alamein. 




L . /, I 2 3 4 











Map of die Battle of Alamein-The Break Out. 

,*/// " 

17. Battle of Alamein; observing operations from my tank. In rear, John Poston. 

18. Battle of Alamein; having tea with my tank crew. On right, John Poston. 



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21. The Prime Minister and 

General Brooke outside my 

caravans near Tripoli. 

20, A picnic lunch on the sea 
front in Tripoli with General 
Leese, after the capture of 
the town 23 January 1943. 

22. The Prime Minister ad 
dresses officers and men of 
Eighth Army H,Q. in Tripoli. 



20 10 







201 GDS BDE 


10 APR *^ 

24. Map of the end of the war in Africa. 

25. Addressing officers of the New Zealand Division on 2 April 1943, 
after the Battle of Mareth. 

26. The Prime Minister inspecting troops of the Eighth Army in Tripoli. Lieut.-Gen. 
Sir Oliver Leese, 30 Corps, in the back seat with the P.M. John Boston driving. 

27. Eisenhower comes to visit me in Tunisia, 31 March 1943, 
On right, John Poston. 




29. Speaking to the nth Canadian Tank Regiment near Lentini, Sicily- 

25 July 1943. 

30. A lunch party at my Tac H.Q. at Taormma, after the 

campaign in Sicily was over 29 August 1943. Seated, left 

to right-Patton, Eisenhower, the author. Behind Patton is 

Bradley. On extreme right, Dempsey. 


*###&# ALL GROUND 
#$&$*" OVER 600 N 

31. Map of the invasion of Italy. 

32. With General Brooke in Raly-15 December 1943. 

33. At Tac H.Q. after my farewell address to the Eighth Army at Vasto- 

30 December 1943. Left to right-de Guingand, Broadhurst, 

the author, Freyberg, Allfrey, Dempsey. 


35. Calling the troops round my jeep for a talk near Dover-2 February 1944. 

36. The Prime Minister comes to din 
ner at my Tae H.Q. near Portsmouth 
-19 May 1944. 

37. The King comes to my Tac H.Q. 

to say good-bye before we go to 

Normandy-22 May 1944. 

38. The King lands in Nor 
mandy to visit the British 
and Canadian forces 
16 June 1944. 

39. The Prime Minister at my 

Tac H.Q. at Blay, to the west 

of Bayeux, on a wet day 

21 July 1944. 



24 JULY 1944 


40. Map of German Tank Deployment on eve of breakout in Normandy. 

..... ./v 2 

.V.V.ViV.-.V. .V. < 



42. Map of Eisenhower s Broad Front Strategy. 
Map of my conception of the Strategy. 


/ BR AB 

92 US AB 






/<?/ US AB 


BY 30 SEP 

17 SEP 

43. Map of Plan for Operation MARKET GARDEN (the Battle of Arnhem) . 

44. Leaving the Maastricht Conference with General Bradley-/ December 1944. 




16 DEC. IV 

20 DEC. Illlill 







3 JAN 

45. Map of Batde of the Ardennes, 

46, In the Siegfried Line with General Simpson, Commander of the 
Ninth American Army 3 March 1945, 

47. Lunch on the east bank of the Rhine, with the Prime Minister 
and Field-Marshal Brooke-26 March 1945. 

48. The Germans come to my Tac H,Q, on Liineburg Heath to surrender- 

3 May 1945. 

49. Reading the terms of surrender to the German delegation-Limeburg Heath, 
4 May 1945. Chester Wilmot is just to the right of the left-hand tent pole. 

" All Canaan aimed forces in HdlATID, 
nortfeg&t Gegmaaiy Ifldudiag all 


. .- ! H 


The Gerwan Goesaand agrees to the wrreisder of all Serwn azraed 
in HOUAKDj IB nortlBfeirf; CSBttKr inclwdin^ the* 
i HBXSm&HD and all other islands, in 3C " " 
IK, apd in BB1&BK, to the C.-in-C^21 Any Group* , 

fbese forces to lay dowi their aras mi to swrr4er acooditiooa23y 

All hostilities on land, oa t saa, or ^ the air by Gerjaon force* 

5n tto above areas to cease at DD hrs, British Dwble Stiir 7ie 
on Saturday 5 ita 

?he Geiwan ooowund to oaray out at oa a e zu-sd without ar^^ent or 
ooa3nt, all further cr^rs thit will b ^^uua !>; the Alliad 

s, on ar 

Disobedience of ordere, or f^Siuir* to ooopl? with thm, will M 
re^ai-ded as a bfe&ch of the* nr*ifir ter and will be dealt 
with by the /Olied rowrs IT, a^oorOa^cse viith the noo82?td 
and usajges of nar* . * 

This instrraent of rri4er i& 5iyid;erant 

- to, and will be su A eredftd b^ ^ jr.l i 
i^-osed by or en behalf of ,h *Olia Bwwrs jad 
and the >2eriiuti amaJ foraft- a* a "i 

of surrender 

fhis instrutaent of surrender i* writ*. en in 2*c 

The Brlish version i& the awiSiejitio text. 


7i^ decision of the .Jliod Powara -ill I ^isi;.l i" ui^," cA3M or 

dilute arises aa to t*. .ae^iinj or iilter^ rotation of the c^rrender 
, terms* 

50. Photo of the original surrender document that was signed by the Germans 
at 1830 hrs on 4 May 1945. 

51. Scene in the Champs 
Elysees when I visited Paris 
on 25 May 1945. 

52. Field-Marshal Busch 

comes to my Tac H.Q. 

to be ticked off- 

11 May 1945. 

53. In the Kremlin with 
Stalin, after dinner on 
10 January 1947. 

54. David receives the Belt of Honour from 

his father, having passed out top 

from the OCTU. 

55. Isington Mill when purchased 
in February 1947. 

56. Isington Mill in 1955, 

having been converted 

to a residence. 

57. The garden and mill stream at Isington Mill. 

58. A joke with Ernie Bevin at the Bertram Mills Circus lunch- 
17 December 1948, 

59. David when at Trinity College 
Cambridge, in 1950. Laying 
"the smell" for the 
Varsity Drag. 

60. A walk in Hyde Park with Mary Connell, who married David on 
27 February 1953. 

61. The author enjoying the evening of life at Isington Mill. 

The End of the War in Europe 291 

Marshall) that he (Ike) did not visit me enough, and implied that 
the British side o the party was being neglected. 

This hurt him a good deal and he went on to say he was always 
being bullied by Marshall and the U.S. Chiefs of Staff for being 
too British, or by the P.M. and the British Chiefs of Staff for being 
too American and for neglecting to visit me. 

I am sorry this was said at Malta; it got back to Ike very 
quickly, and was no doubt attributed to me; he is such an awfully 
decent chap that I hate to see him upset 

Ike then asked me for my views on the present command set-up; 
I do not know the reason behind this. 

I gave him my views as follows: 

(a) I understood that he himself wished to handle the land 
operations and to command the three Army Groups; he 
did not want a land force commander between him and 
the Army Groups. 

(b) He had now divided his theatre into fronts* which had 
a definite relation to strategical and geographical objec 
tives; and he had allotted resources to each front in 
accordance with the task. 

(c) My front* was to make the main effort. In order that one 
commander should command all the forces engaged in the 
main effort, he had placed an American Army under my 
command. I also had an American Airborne Corps of two 
U.S. airborne divisions and one British airborne division. 

(d) Having in view (a) above, I therefore considered that the 
command set-up was now satisfactory. 

(e) I then said that having arrived at the present command 
situation I hoped it would remain unchanged till the war 
was over which should be in the spring. 

Re-grouping might be necessary from time to time, and 
resources would then be allotted to fronts* in accordance 
with their tasks. The great point was for one commander 
always to be responsible for all the forces engaged in the 
main effort; we should not depart from this principle. 
Ike was delighted that I was happy about the present command 
situation. There is no doubt that he was worried about something 
when he arrived at Zonhoven, and appeared so during our talk. 

I have even now no idea what is at the bottom of his worry. 
But it was very obvious that as soon as I had said I was very well 
satisfied with the present situation about command, he became a 
different man; he drove away beaming all over his f ace.* 

Having got me to state that I was satisfied with the existing com 
mand set-up, Eisenhower wrote to the C.I.G.S. telling him of this and 

292 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

asking him to consider the following points before advocating the 
proposed change of the Deputy Supreme Commander: 

(a) He (Eisenhower) ran the campaign. The Deputy Supreme 
Commander handled air problems, since he was an airman. 
He was responsible also for the administration in rear areas 
and for planning certain matters such as the Control Com 
mission for Germany; this is all he would ever allow Alex 
ander to do if he came to our theatre. 

(b) On no conditions would he agree to have anyone between 
him and his Army Group Commanders. 

(c) If this change was made, there would be great speculations as 
to the reasons for it. The American generals would quite 
possibly think that the British were resorting to further pres 
sure in order to get their policy adopted. 

On the ist March Eisenhower visited me again and told me all 
he knew about the proposal to get Tedder "out" and Alexander "in." 
He asked me for my views. I gave them as follows: 

1. The Allies had been through very difficult and stormy times. 

2. We had weathered these storms successfully, and the end of 
the war was in sight. 

3. If Alexander were now appointed Deputy Supreme Com 
mander, it would be resented in certain American quarters; a 
further great storm would arise and all the old disagreements 
would be revived. 

4. For goodness sake let us stop any further causes of friction at 
all cost. We are just about to win the German war. Let Alex 
remain in Italy. And let Tedder see the thing through to the 
end as Deputy Supreme Commander. 

Eisenhower agreed whole-heartedly with my views. 

The Prime Minister visited me on the 2nd March and I told him 
of my conversation with Eisenhower. He was not very pleased! He 
went on to see Eisenhower. On the nth March the Prime Minister 
wrote to me to say "the matter is now closed/* 

During March, and before crossing the Rhine, I checked up on 
our administrative situation. This was good. We had ample supplies 
of petrol, ammunition and food. The health of the armies was excel 
lent and the sick rate was no more than 6.75 per thousand per week. 
During the whole winter we had a total of only 201 cases of trench- 

Our total battle casualties since D-Day the 6th June 1944 were on 
the 22nd March 1945 as follows: 

The End of the War in Europe 293 

Nationality Casualties 

British 125,045 

Canadian 37,528 

Polish 4,951 

Dutch 125 

Belgian 291 

Czech 438 

TOTAL 168,378 
The division of this total was: 

Killed Wounded Missing 

35>825 114.563 17,990 

The total prisoners captured by 21 Army Group were approxi 
mately 250,000. 

About 4000 officers and men per day were going to the U.K. on 
leave. We planned to step this number up to 6000 per day on the 
ist April. The following letter of appreciation about leave facilities 
was received by me from a mother of two of my soldiers: 

92 Long Street, 

Nr Tamworth, 


As a Mother who is lying ill with Cancer and whose two boys 
are serving overseas, I feel I must write to express my deep appre 
ciation of the splendid arrangements that were made for leave for 
boys from the B.L.A.* 

My younger son has just spent seven days at home and now he 
has returned to the Western Front. I think you would like to 
know that he and his friends were loud in their praise of the 
arrangements on his journey. Everything possible was done for 
their comfort, even to the issue of new clean battledress to come 
home in and refreshments on the journey. 

No wonder the armies under your command have proved in 
vincible in this war. Your men are treated like human beings. 

I wish you every possible luck in your campaign and, if it is 
not a presumption, may I congratulate you on your brilliant 
personal achievements. 

With heartfelt gratitude, 
I am, Sir, 

Your Obedient Servant, 

(Mrs.) A. D. Lear" 

* British Liberation Aimy. 

294 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

I issued the following message to the armies on the 23rd March. 

That night we began Operation PLUNDER, the crossing of the Rhine 
in strength on a wide front between Rheinberg and Rees with the 
Ninth American Army on the right and the Second Army on the left. 
The Canadian Army had an important role on the left flank, north 
of Rees. 

"i. On the yth February I told you we were going into the ring 
for the final and last round; there would be no time limit; 
we would continue fighting until our opponent was knocked 
out. The last round is going very well on both sides of the ring 
and overhead. 

2. In the West, the enemy has lost the Rhineland, and with it the 
flower of at least four armies the Parachute Army, Fifth 
Panzer Army, Fifteenth Army, and Seventh Army; the First 
Army, farther to the south, is now being added to the list. 

In the Rhineland battles, the enemy has lost about 150,000 
prisoners, and there are many more to come; his total casual 
ties amount to about 250,000 since 8th February. 

3. In the East, the enemy has lost all Pomerania east of the Oder, 
an area as large as the Rhineland; and three more German 
armies have been routed. The Russian armies are within about 
35 miles of Berlin. 

4. Overhead, the Allied Air Forces are pounding Germany day 
and night. It will be interesting to see how much longer the 
Germans can stand it. 

5. The enemy has in fact been driven into a corner, and he can 
not escape. 

Events are moving rapidly. 

The complete and decisive defeat of the Germans is certain; 
there is no possibility of doubt on this matter. 


The enemy possibly thinks he is safe behind this great river 
obstacle. We all agree that it is a great obstacle; but we will 
show the enemy that he is far from safe behind it. This great 
Allied fighting machine, composed of integrated land and air 
forces, will deal with the problem in no uncertain manner. 

7. And having crossed the Rhine, we will crack about in the 
plains of Northern Germany, chasing the enemy from pillar 
to post. The swifter and the more energetic our action, the 
sooner the war will be over, and that is what we all desire; 
to get on with the job and finish off the German war as soon 
as possible. 

8. Over the Rhine, then, let us go. And good hunting to you all 
on the other side. 

The End of the War in Europe 295 

g. May The Lord mighty In battle* give us the victory in this 
our latest undertaking, as He has done in all our battles since 
we landed in Normandy on D-Day." 

The Prime Minister stayed with me at my Tac Headquarters and 
watched the airborne divisions land beyond the river on the morning 
of the 24th March- We were now fighting deep in Germany and I 
asked the Prime Minister when British troops had last fought on 
German soil. He told me it was when the Rocket Brigade, now *O W 
(Rocket) Battery R.H.A.,* fought in the Battle of Leipzig on the 
i8th October 1813. The Rocket Brigade was the only British unit in 
that battle. It was commanded by 2nd Capt Richard Bogue, who 
was killed in the battle at a place called Pounsdorff. The Brigade was 
attached to the Swedish Army and was fighting with Prussians, 
etc., against French, Saxons, Westphalians, etc. There were thus "Ger 
mans * both with us and against us. I consulted the senior artillery 
officer at my headquarters and told the Prime Minister that "<T Bat 
tery (Rocket Troop) R.HA. was now in the ist R.H.A. in Italy, 
under Field-Marshal Alexander. They have always been extremely 
proud of their title of "The Rocket Troop,** and in 1930 were invited 
by the German Army to send representatives to Leipzig for the un 
veiling of the Memorial which I believe was supposed to have been a 
centenary celebration, but was delayed until that year. They took 
with them Horse Artillery trumpeters who sounded the Last Post and 
who were dressed in full dress. They were the guests of the German 
Army at Leipzig. 

It is interesting to note that gunners once again used rockets on 
the Continent after a lapse of over 130 years. They were used by the 
Canadians on the Meuse and were manned by personnel of a Light 
A.A. Regiment. Second Army also used them at die Rhine crossing. 

I asked the Prime Minister if he would send a message to the 
soldiers of 21 Army Group, who had just crossed the Rhine. He 
wrote the following: 

"I rejoice to be with the Chief of the Imperial General Staff 
at Field-Marshal Montgomery s Headquarters of 21 Army Group 
during this memorable battle of forcing the Rhine. British Soldiers 
it will long be told how, with our Canadian brothers and valiant 
United States Allies, this superb task was accomplished. Once the 
river line is pierced and the crust of German resistance is broken 
decisive victory in Europe will be near. May God prosper our 
arms in this noble adventure after our long struggle for King and 
country, for dear life, and for the freedom of mankind. 

(Sgd) Winston S. Churchill, 
Prime Minister & Minister of Defence" 
* Royal Horse Artillery. 

296 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

When the Prime Minister left me on the 26th March to return to 
London, he wrote the following in my autograph book: 

"The Rhine and all its fortress lines lie behind the 2ist Group of 
Armies. Once again they have been the hinge on which massive 
gates revolved. Once again they have proved that physical bar 
riers are vain without the means and spirit to hold them. 

A beaten army not long ago master of Europe retreats before 
its pursuers. The goal is not long to be denied to those who have 
come so far and fought so well under proud and faithful leader 
ship. Forward on wings of flame to final Victory. 

Winston S. Churchill" 

Once over the Rhine I began to discuss future operational plans 
with Eisenhower. We had several meetings. I had always put Berlin 
as a priority objective; it was a political centre and if we could beat 
the Russians to it things would be much easier for us in the post-war 
years. It will be remembered that in his letter to me dated the 15th 
September 1944 (Chapter 15) Eisenhower had agreed with me about 
the great importance of the German capital, and had said: 

"Clearly, Berlin is the main prize. 

There is no doubt whatsoever, in my mind, that we should con 
centrate all our energies and resources on a rapid thrust to Berlin." 

But now he did not agree. His latest view was expressed in a 
message he sent me on the sist March 1945 which ended with the 
following sentence: 

"You will note that in none of this do I mention Berlin. That 
place has become, so far as I am concerned, nothing but a geo 
graphical location, and I have never been interested in these. My 
purpose is to destroy the enemy s forces and his powers to resist." 

It was useless for me to pursue the matter further. We had had so 
much argument already on great issues; anyhow, it was now almost 
too late. But after the victory in Normandy my point was that the 
final defeat of the German armed forces was imminent in a few more 

The important point was therefore to ensure that when that day 
arrived we would have a political balance in Europe which would 
help us, the Western nations, to win the peace. That meant getting 
possession of certain political centres in Europe before the Russians 
notably Vienna, Prague and Berlin. If the higher direction of the war 
had been handled properly by the political leaders of the West, and 
suitable instructions given to Supreme Commanders, we could have 
grabbed all three before the Russians. But what happened? The pos- 

The End of the War in Europe 297 

sibility of seizing Vienna disappeared when it was decided to land 
the Dragoon force in southern France; the troops for the landing 
were taken from Field-Marshal Alexander s force in Italy and that put 
a brake on his operations. It should be noted that Stalin whole-heart 
edly approved the Dragoon landing. Of course he did. It made certain 
that his forces would get to Vienna before ours! 

As regards Prague, the Third American Army was halted on the 
western frontier of Czechoslovakia towards the end of Aprilfor 
reasons which I have never understood. When finally allowed to cross 
the frontier early in May, Bradley states in A Soldiers Story, page 
549, that it was ordered not to advance beyond Pilsen "because 
Czechoslovakia had already been earmarked for liberation by the Red 
army. 9 * He goes on to say that had SHAEF remanded its order, Patton 
"could probably have been in Prague within 24 hours." 

Berlin was lost to us when we failed to make a sound operational 
plan in August 1944, after the victory in Normandy. 

The Americans could not understand that it was of little avail to 
win the war strategically if we lost it politically; because of this curious 
viewpoint we suffered accordingly from VE-Day onwards, and are 
still so suffering. War is a political instrument; once it is clear that 
you are going to win, political considerations must influence its further 
course. It became obvious to me in the autumn of 1944 that the way 
things were being handled was going to have repercussions far beyond 
the end of the war; it looked to me then as if we were going to 
"muck it up.* 7 I reckon we did. 

There is not much more to tell which has not already been narrated 
by others. With the Rhine behind us we drove hard for the Baltic. 
My object was to get there in time to be able to offer a firm front to 
the Russian endeavours to get up into Denmark, and thus control the 
entrance to the Baltic. In order to speed up the rate of advance, 
divisions operated in great depth on narrow thrust lines; enemy areas 
of resistance were by-passed by armoured spearheads and were later 
attacked from the flank or rear by other troops coming on behind - 

As we moved eastwards, the Prime Minister and Eisenhower both 
became anxious lest I might not be able to "head off* the Russians 
from getting into Schleswig-Holstein, and then occupying Denmark. 
Both sent me messages about it. I fear I got somewhat irritated and 
my replies possibly showed it! To Eisenhower I replied on the 27th 
April that I was very well aware what had to be done, but he must 
understand that when he had removed the Ninth American Army 
from my command (which he had done on the 3rd April) the tempo 
of operations slowed down automatically on the northern flank. In 
the end we beat the Russians to it. We reached the Baltic at Wismar 
and Lubeck on the 2nd May and thus sealed off the Danish peninsula 
with about six hours to spare, before the Russians arrived. We estab- 

298 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

lished an eastern front from Wismar on the Baltic to the Elbe at 
Domitz; German troops and civilians were surging against this flank, 
trying to escape from the Russians. We had a western front from 
Liibeck, westwards to Bad Oldesloe and thence south to the Elbe. In 
between these two fronts was great congestion and confusion; the 
roads were crowded with German soldiers and civilians who had come 
in from the east. On the 2nd and 3rd May the prisoners taken by 
Second Army totalled nearly half a million. 

It was interesting to consider the difference in the two major 
catastrophes the Germans had suffered at the hands of the Western 
Allies since June 1944. In August 1944 they had suffered a major defeat 
in Normandy; but they were allowed to recover and their man-power 
situation was such that they could form and equip new divisions. 
Their present defeat in March/April 1945 was not comparable to that 
suffered in Normandy; they had lost so heavily in personnel and 
territory that they could not again form and equip new divisions. They 
would never again have uninterrupted communications and assured 
mobility. Therefore their cause was lost and the German war had 
reached its last moments. Hitler s Germany now faced utter disaster. 


The German Surrender 

ON THE ayth April I received a report from the War Office that 
on the 24th Himmler had made an offer of capitulation through 
the Swedish Red Cross. 

Himmler stated that Hitler was desperately ill and that he (Himm 
ler) was in a position of full authority to act. I did not pay much 
attention to this report. So far as I was concerned the oncoming 
Russians were more dangerous than the stricken Germans. I knew the 
German war was practically over. The essential and immediate task 
was to push on with all speed and get to the Baltic, and then to form 
a flank facing east; this was the only way to stop the Russians getting 
into Schleswig-Holstein and thence into Denmark. 

Events now began to move rapidly. Late on the ist May we picked 
up an announcement on the German wireless that Hitler had died 
at his command post in Berlin and that he had appointed Admiral 
Doenitz to succeed hi as Fuhrer. No mention was made of Himmler; 
one of my liaison officers later saw him at Doenitz s headquarters at 
Flenshurg and gathered that he was no longer playing a leading part 
in the direction of affairs. 

On the afternoon of the 2nd May General Blumentritt, who was 
commanding all the German land forces between the Baltic and the 
River Weser> sent a message to Second Army headquarters that he 
proposed to come in the next morning to offer the surrender of his 
forces. He did not appear but instead sent a message to the effect that 
negotiations were to be conducted on a higher level. 

On the 3rd May Field-Marshal Keitel sent a delegation to my head 
quarters on Liineburg Heath, with the consent of Admiral Doenitz, 


300 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

to open negotiations for surrender. This party arrived at 11.30 hrs. 
and consisted of: 

General-Admiral von Friedeburg, C.-in-C. of the German Navy. 
General Kinzel, Chief of Staff to Field-Marshal Busch, who was 

commanding the German land forces on my northern and 

western flanks. 
Rear-Admiral Wagner. 
Major Freidel, a staff officer. 

This party of four was later joined by Colonel Pollek, another staff 

They were brought to my caravan site and were drawn up under 
the Union Jack, which was flying proudly in the breeze. I kept them 
waiting for a few minutes and then came out of my caravan and 
walked towards them. They all saluted, under the Union Jack. It was a 
great moment; I knew the Germans had come to surrender and that 
die war was over. Few of those in the signals and operations caravans 
at my Tac Headquarters will forget the thrill experienced when they 
heard the faint "tapping" of the Germans trying to pick us up on the 
wireless command link to receive the surrender instructions from 
their delegation. 

I said to my interpreter, "Who are these men?" He told me. 

I then said, "What do they want?" 

Admiral Friedeburg then read me a letter from Field-Marshal Keitel 
offering to surrender to me the three German armies withdrawing in 
front of the Russians between Berlin and Rostock. I refused to con 
sider this, saying that these armies should surrender to the Russians. 
I added that, of course, if any German soldiers came towards my 
front with their hands up they would automatically be taken prisoner. 
Von Friedeburg said it was unthinkable to surrender to the Russians 
as they were savages, and the German soldiers would be sent straight 
off to work in Russia. 

I said the Germans should have thought of all these things before 
they began the war, and particularly before they attacked the Russians 
in June 1941. 

Von Friedeburg next said that they were anxious about the civilian 
population in Mecklenburg who were being overrun by the Russians, 
and they would like to discuss how these could be saved. I replied 
that Mecklenburg was not in my area and that any problems connected 
with it must be discussed with the Russians. I said they must under 
stand that I refused to discuss any matter connected with the situation 
on my eastern flank between Wismar and Domitz; they must approach 
the Russians on such matters. I then asked if they wanted to discuss 
the surrender of their forces on my western flank. They said they did 

The German Surrender 301 

not But they were anxious about the Chilian population in those 
areas, and would like to arrange with me some scheme by which 
their troops could withdraw slowly as my forces advanced. I refused. 
I then decided to spring something on them quickly. I said to 
von Friedeburg: 

Will you surrender to me all German forces on my western and 
northern flanks, including all forces in Holland, Friesland with 
the Frisian Islands and Heligoland, Schleswig-Holstein, and Den 
mark? If you will do this, I will accept it as a tactical battlefield 
surrender of the enemy forces immediately opposing me, and 
those in support in Denmark 3 * 

He said he could not agree to this. But he was anxious to come to 
some agreement about the civilian population in those areas; I refused 
to discuss this. I then said that if the Germans refused to surrender 
unconditionally the forces in the areas I had named, I would order the 
fighting to continue; many more German soldiers would then be 
killed, and possibly some civilians also from artillery fire and air 
attack. I next showed them on a map the actual battle situation on the 
whole western front; they had no idea what this situation was and 
were very upset. By this time I reckoned that I would not have much 
more difficulty in getting them to accept my demands. But I thought 
that an interval for lunch might be desirable so that they could reflect 
on what I had said. I sent them away to have lunch in a tent by them 
selves, with nobody else present except one of my officers. Von 
Friedeburg wept during lunch and the others did not say much. 

After lunch I sent for them again and this time the meeting was 
in my conference tent with the map of the battle situation on the table. 
I began this meeting by delivering an ultimatum. They must sur 
render unconditionally all their forces in the areas I had named; once 
they had done this I would discuss with them the best way of occupy 
ing the areas and looking after the civilians; if they refused, I would 
go on with the battle. "They saw at once that I meant what I said. 
They were convinced of the hopelessness of their cause but they said 
they had no power to agree to my demands. They were, however, 
now prepared to recommend to Field-Marshal Keitel the uncondi 
tional surrender of all the forces on the western and northern flanks 
of 21 Army Group. Two of them would go back to O.K.W., see Keitel, 
and bring back his agreement. 

I then drew up a document which summarised the decisions reached 
at our meeting, which I said must be signed by myself and von 
Friedeburg, and could then be taken to Flensburg, and given to 
Keitel and Doenitz. 

302 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

It read as follows: 

tt i. All members of the German armed forces who come into the 
21 Army Group front from the east desiring to surrender will 
be made Prisoners of War. 

An acceptance by 21 Army Group of the surrender of a com 
plete German Army fighting the Russians is not possible. 

2. No discussion about civilians possible. 

3. Field-Marshal Montgomery desires that all German forces in 
Holland, Friesland (including the islands and Heligoland), 
Schleswig-Holstein and Denmark lay down their arms and 
surrender unconditionally to him. 

He is prepared when the surrender has been agreed to dis 
cuss the method of occupying the areas, dealing with civilians, 

4. General-Admiral Von Friedeburg is not at present empowered 
to give the agreement of surrender as in para. 3. He will there 
fore send two officers ( Rear-Admiral Wagner and Major 
Freidel) to the Oberkommando of the Wehrmacht to obtain 
and bring back the agreement. 

He requests Field-Marshal Montgomery to make available 
an aircraft for the two officers as transport by road is too slow, 
and requests that Admiral Von Friedeburg and General Kinzel 
remain at Field-Marshal Montgomery s H.Q. in the meantime." 

Actually it was von Friedeburg and Freidel who went back to 
Flensburg, and they went by car. They were escorted through Ham 
burg and into the German lines by Lieut-Colonel Trumbull Warren, 
my Canadian ADC. I said they must be back at my Tac Head 
quarters by 6 p.m. the next day, 4th May. Kinzel and Wagner re 
mained at my headquarters. 

I was certain von Friedeburg would return with full powers to 
sign. I therefore decided to see the Press at 5 p.m. on the 4th May 
and to describe to the correspondents all that had happened in the 
last few days, and to tell them about what I hoped was going to happen 
at 6 p.m. that evening. 

It has been said that I was not usually very good at Press confer 
ences. At the end of this one I received the following letter from 
Alan Moorehead, who was the unofficial spokesman for the Press at 
my headquarters. 

"Dear Field-Marshal, 

May I, on behalf of the correspondents, offer our thanks for 
the admirable conference you gave us today? 

We are most grateful for your interest especially at this historic 
moment, and it only remains to us to offer our heartiest con- 

The German Surrender 303 

gratulations on the brilliant end of your long journey from the 

We have all tonight tried to do justice to the story we have 
waited so long to write, the best story probably of our lives. 

I wonder, as one more kindness, would you sign the enclosed 
copies of your armistice. 

With all good wishes, 

(Signed) Alan Moorehead" 

Von Friedeburg and Freidel got back to my headquarters while 
the Press conference was in progress. I saw Colonel Ewart, my staff 
officer, enter the tent and knew he had the answer. But I finished my 
talk and then asked Ewart if von Friedeburg was back. He said he 
was. I told the correspondents they could all go with me to my con 
ference tent and witness the final scene. 

The German delegation was paraded again under the Union Jack, 
outside my caravan. I took von Friedeburg into my caravan, to see 
him alone. I asked him if he would sign the full surrender terms as I 
had demanded; he said he would do so. He was very dejected and 
I told him to rejoin the others outside. It was now nearly 6 p.m. I 
gave orders for the ceremony to take place at once in a tent pitched 
for the purpose, which had been wired for the recording instruments. 
The German delegation went across to the tent, watched by groups of 
soldiers, war correspondents, photographers, and others all very ex 
cited. They knew it was the end of the war. 

I had the surrender document all ready. The arrangements in the 
tent were very simple a trestle table covered with an army blanket, 
an inkpot, an ordinary army pen that you could buy in a shop for 
twopence. There were two B.B.C. microphones on the table. The 
Germans stood up as I entered; then we all sat down round the table. 
The Germans were clearly nervous and one of them took out a 
cigarette; he wanted to smoke to calm his nerves. I looked at him, 
and he put the cigarette away. 

In that tent on Luneburg Heath, publicly in the presence of the 
Press and other spectators, I read out in English the Instrument of 
Surrender. I said that unless the German delegation signed this docu 
ment immediately, and without argument on what would follow their 
capitulation, I would order the fighting to continue. I then called on 
each member of the German delegation by name to sign the document, 
which they did without any discussion. I then signed, on behalf of 
General Eisenhower. 

The document was in English, and the delegation could not under 
stand it; but I gave them copies in German. A photograph of the 
original appears here as illustration no. 50. It will be noticed that when 
adding the date I wrote 5 May, then tried to change the 5 to a 4, then 

304 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

crossed it out and initialled it, and wrote 4 alongside. The original is 
typed on an ordinary sheet of army foolscap. I was asked to forward 
it to Supreme Headquarters. Instead I sent photostat copies. The 
original is in my possession and I will never part with it; it is a historic 
document. I do not know what happened to the pen we all used; I 
suppose someone pinched it. 






1. The German Command agrees to the surrender of all German 
armed forces in Holland, in northwest Germany including the 
Frisian Islands, and Heligoland and all other islands, in Schles- 
wig-Holstein, and in Denmark, to the C.-in-C. 21 Army Group. 
This to include all naval ships in these areas. 

These forces to lay down their arms and to surrender uncon 

2. All hostilities on land, on sea, or in the air by German forces in 
the above areas to cease at 0800 hrs. British Double Summer 
Time on Saturday 5 May 1945. 

3. The German Command to carry out at once, and without 
argument or comment, all further orders that will be issued by 
the Allied Powers on any subject. 

4. Disobedience of orders, or failure to comply with them, will be 
regarded as a breach of these surrender terms and will be dealt 
with by the Allied Powers in accordance with the accepted 
laws and usages of war. 

5. This instrument of surrender is independent of, without 
prejudice to, and will be superseded by any general instrument 
of surrender imposed by or on behalf of the Allied Powers and 
applicable to Germany and the German armed forces as a 

6. This instrument of surrender is written in English and in 

The English version is the authentic text. 

7. The decision of the Allied Powers will be final if any doubt or 
dispute arises as to the meaning or interpretation of the sur 
render terms. 

B. L. Montgomery Kinzel 

Field-Marshal Wagner 

4 May 1945 Pollek 

1830 hrs Freidel 

The German Surrender 305 

Of the four Germans who arrived at my Tac Headquarters on 
Liineburg Heath on the 3rd May, only one is alive today. He is 
Rear-Admiral Wagner, who is now Deputy Head of the Naval De 
partment of the West German Ministry of Defence. The other three 
died violent deaths. Von Friedeburg poisoned himself, Kinzel shot 
himself, and Freidel was killed in a motor accident shortly after 

Following the signing of the Instrument of Surrender there was 
much to be done. I had ordered all offensive action to cease on the 
3rd May when the Germans first came to see me; I knew it was the 
end and I did not want any more casualties among the troops entrusted 
to my care. I now sent out a cease fire order to take effect at 8 a.m. 
on Saturday 5th May 1945. 

I felt that I must at once speak to the Commanders and troops 
under my command who had come so far and fought so well. Victory 
was far more due to their efforts than to anything I had been able to 
do myself. The first message was to my senior commanders, and ran 
as follows: 

"The German armed forces facing 21 Army Group have sur 
rendered unconditionally to us. At this historic moment I want to 
express to Army Commanders and to the Commander L. of C. my 
grateful thanks for the way they and their men have carried out 
the immense task that was given them. I hope to express myself 
more adequately later on but I felt that I must at once tell you all 
how well you have done and how proud I am to command 21 
Army Group. Please tell your commanders and troops that I 
thank them from the bottom of my heart." 

I then spent some time in drafting a personal message to the officers 
and men of 21 Army Group. Many had been with me in the Eighth 
Army. It was not an easy message to write and I pondered long over 
para. 5. In para. 7 I wrote: "We have won the German war. Let us 
now win the peace." 

I often wonder if we have won the peace. In fact, I do not think 
we have. 


*i. On this day of victory in Europe I feel I would like to speak 
to all who have served and fought with me during the last few 
years. What I have to say is very simple, and quite short. 
2. I would ask you all to remember those of our comrades who 
fell in the struggle. They gave their lives that others might 
have freedom, and no man can do more than that. I believe 
that He would say to each one of them: 
Well done, thou good and faithful servant/ 

306 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

3. And we who remain have seen the thing through to the end; 
we all have a feeling of great joy and thankfulness that we 
have been preserved to see this day. 

We must rememher to give the praise and thankfulness 
where it is due: 

This is the Lord s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes/ 

4. In the early days of this war the British Empire stood alone 
against the combined might of the Axis powers. And during 
those days we suffered some great disasters; but we stood firm; 
on the defensive, but striking blows where we could. Later 
we were joined by Russia and America; and from then onwards 
the end was in no doubt. Let us never forget what we owe to 
our Russian and American allies; this great allied team has 
achieved much in war; may it achieve even more in peace. 

5. Without doubt, great problems lie ahead; the world will not 
recover quickly from the upheaval that has taken place; there 
is much work for each of us. 

I would say that we must face up to that work with the same 
fortitude that we faced up to the worst days of this war. It may 
be that some difficult times lie ahead for our country, and for 
each one of us personally. If it happens thus, then our dis 
cipline will pull us through; but we must remember that the 
best discipline implies the subordination of self for the benefit 
of the community. 

6. It has been a privilege and an honour to command this great 
British Empire team in Western Europe. Few commanders can 
have had such loyal service as you have given me. I thank 
each one of you from the bottom of my heart. 

7. And so let us embark on what lies ahead full of joy and 
optimism. We have won the German war. Let us now win the 

8. Good luck to you all, wherever you may be." 

Then there were the other Services. 

No one knew better than I how much we soldiers owed to the 
Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force since the war began in 1939. 
My relations with the R.A.F. had been very close throughout; I had 
not seen so much of the Navy. 

I sent each Service a message from us all, which I reproduce below. 


"Personal for Admiral of the Fleet Sir Andrew Cunningham 
from Field-Marshal Montgomery 

i. As C.-in-C. of the armies of the British Empire in Western 
Europe I would like today to salute you and the Royal Navy. 

The German Surrender 307 

2. Throughout our long journey from Egypt to the Baltic any 
success achieved by the British Armies has been made possible 
only by the magnificent support given us by the Royal Navy. 
With unfailing precision we have been put ashore, supported, 
and supplied. Our confidence has been such that the Army has 
never questioned the certainty of a safe landfall nor of the 
safe arrival of our reinforcements and supplies across the 

3. I want to thank you and all those gallant sailors who have 
supported us with such valour. We soldiers owe the Royal 
Navy a great debt of gratitude and we will never forget it. 

4. Would it be possible for you to convey the gratitude of myself 
and all those serving under me to all your Flag Officers and 
Captains and to all ranks and ratings of the Royal Navy. We 
wish the Royal Navy the best of luck." 


*i. On behalf of all officers and men of the Royal Navy I thank 
you for your generous message. 

2. Ever since the summer of 1940 the Royal Navy has been 
eagerly looking forward to the day when we could land the 
Armies of the British Empire once again on the continent of 

3. We sailors never doubted that, when the day came, the soldiers 
would, however hard the struggle, achieve ultimate victory in 

4. We have watched with profound admiration the progress of 
your operations which have now inflicted on the enemy an 
overwhelming and decisive defeat. 

5. Our warmest congratulations and best wishes to you and all 
ranks serving under your command." 


"Following for Sir Charles Portal from 
Field-Marshal Montgomery 

1. In 21 Army Group we have no Germans left to fight in Western 

2. At this historic moment I feel I would like to express to you, 
the head of the Royal Air Force, the deep sense of gratitude 
that we soldiers owe to you and your splendid Force. The 
mighty weapon of air power has enabled us firstly to win a 
great victory quickly and secondly to win that victory with 
fewer casualties than would otherwise have been the case. We 
are all deeply conscious of these facts. The brave and brilliant 

308 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

work of your gallant pilots and crews and the devotion to duty 
of the ground staffs have aroused our profound admiration. 
3. I would be grateful if you would convey the gratitude of my 
self and of all those serving under me to all your commanders 
both senior and junior and to all ranks throughout the Royal 
Air Force. And perhaps you would include a special word of 
greeting and good wishes from myself personally to every 
officer and man in the Royal Air Force." 


*1 am profoundly moved by your most generous message which 
will be passed to all ranks in the Royal Air Force. From the 
landing in Normandy until this hour of Victory all of us in the 
Royal Air Force have felt the highest admiration for the endur 
ance, courage and skill of the officers and men of 21 Army Group 
and for the wonderful success of the battles they have fought 
under your brilliant leadership. We count it a high honour to 
have had the opportunity to speed your advance and the thought 
that we may have been able to reduce the casualties suffered by 
your gallant men has given us all the greatest possible satisfaction. 
Your splendid tribute will be received with deep pride and grati 
tude by all ranks of the Royal Air Force and of the Dominion 
and Allied Air Forces who have served with us. May I on their 
behalf send you and all your men our heartfelt congratulations on 
the greatest achievements of 21 Army Group/* 

I would like to quote one of the many messages of congratulation 
I received that from the Army Council. I do so because at an earlier 
stage in my career I had been informed of the displeasure of the Army 

This message seemed to cancel the previous one! 

"The Army Council congratulate you and all ranks of 21 Army 
Group on the magnificent success achieved today. The Liineburg 
capitulation marks the culmination not only of the brilliant cam 
paign of the last eleven months, but also of the long years of 
preparation that passed between the withdrawal of our armies 
from north-west Europe when the British peoples were left to 
uphold alone the cause of freedom, and the day of your trium 
phant return. Now, in company with the Forces of great Allies, 
you have liberated the territory of our friends, confounded the 
armed might of the enemy and freed the people of this country 
from a terrible ordeal and the threat of one still worse. 

To your own unerring leadership, and to the skill and courage 
of your soldiers, the gratitude of the nation is due. Never has 

The German Surrender 309 

Britain had such great need of her Army: never has it served her 

The immediate problem that now faced us was terrific. We had in 
our area nearly one and a half million German prisoners of war. There 
were a further one million German wounded, without medical supplies 
and in particular with a shortage of bandages and no anaesthetics. In 
addition, there were about one million civilian refugees who had fled 
into our area from the advancing Russians; these and "Displaced 
Persons* 9 were roaming about the country, often looting as they went. 
Transportation and communication services had ceased to function. 
Agriculture and industry were largely at a standstill. Food was scarce 
and there was a serious risk of famine and disease during the coming 
months. And to crown it all there was no central government in being, 
and the machinery whereby a central government could function no 
longer existed. 

Here was a pretty pickle! 

I was a soldier and I had not been trained to handle anything of this 

However, something had to be done, and done quickly. 

Meanwhile I will close this chapter by quoting the last entry made 
in my autograph book by the Prime Minister. It will be noticed that 
this entry is headed "Chapter X," and the Prime Minister refers to a 
"tenth chapter." This is because he wrote, in his own handwriting, 
ten pages in my autograph book between August 1942 and May 1945. 
Each one was at a definite milestone in the long journey from Alamein, 
and was given the title of a chapter. These pages were later photo 
graphed and were published by me in a litde booklet entitled Ten 
Chapters (Hutchinson and Co.) in June 1946. The autograph book 
itself is in my possession and very precious it is. 


At last the goal is reached. 

The terrible enemy has unconditionally surrendered. In loyal 
accord with our splendid American Ally, full and friendly contact 
has been made with the Russians advancing from the East. 

The 2ist Group of Armies, wheeling and striking to the north 
had the honour of liberating Holland and Denmark and of receiv 
ing and gathering as captive in the space of three or four days 
upwards of two millions of the once-renowned German Army. 
This record of military glories, predicted or celebrated, now in its 
tenth chapter, reaches its conclusion. The fame of the Army Group 
like that of the Eighth Army will long shine in history, and other 
generations besides our own will honour their deeds and above 
all the character, profound strategy and untiring zeal of their 

310 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

Commander who marched from Egypt through Tripoli, Tunis, 
Sicily and southern Italy, and through France, Belgium, Holland 
and Germany to the Baltic and the Elbe without losing a battle 
or even a serious action. 

Winston S. Churchill 
MayS, 1945" 


Some Thoughts on High Command 

in War 

IT HAS been iny unique privilege to have commanded during my 
career every echelon from a platoon up to and including a Group 
of Armies. I say "unique" because I doubt if there is any other 
soldier today still serving on the active list in the free world who has 
had the same experience. 

Times have changed since the campaigns of Marlborough and 
Wellington; it could almost be said that they won their campaigns 
single-handed. Certainly they were not bothered with the enormous 
amount of detailed staff work involved in modern armies. Today a 
C.-in-C in the field is the captain of a team, and a large team at that 
In the summer of 1945 the question arose whether the nation should 
make grants of money to the principal commanders in the field in 
recognition of their services, following the precedent of previous wars. 
But in modern war, once you start picking out individuals who have 
really made a first class contribution to the war effort, great problems 
arise. What about those responsible for radar, anti-submarine devices, 
intelligence, medical work, and the many whose devoted work in 
lower grades made possible the winning of the contest? It was mainly 
for these reasons that I made it known in September 1945 that, if 
offered a monetary award, I would not accept it. There were, of 
course, other reasons. 

We were then, financially, almost a bankrupt nation and could 
hardly afford to spend about a million sterling on such a purpose. 
The average ex-serviceman, officer or other rank, was going to find 
life pretty difficult in the immediate post-war years. It would not be 
good for him to read of individual soldiers, however much he might 
admire and respect them, being given say 100,000 or 50,000 in 


312 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

addition to their pensions when he (the ex-serviceman) was hard put 
to it to support his own wife and family. Millions of people were 
going to starve in various parts of the world. I would not have been 
able to square my conscience if so large a sum had been given to me, 
simply for doing my duty to the best of my ability as so many others 
had also done. My view was, and is, that monetary awards, as distinct 
from honours from the Crown, are out of date. 

High Command today is more complicated than formerly and a 
C.-in-C. has got to have a good staff, and a superb Chief of Staff to 
co-ordinate its activities. He must also pick his subordinate com 
manders with the greatest care, matching the generals to the jobs. He 
must know his soldiers, and be recognised by them. I do not believe 
the leadership displayed on the Western Front in World War I would 
have succeeded in World War II. I would remind the reader that in 
World War I although I served in France, I never once saw French 
or Haig. 

An army today is a self-contained community; it contains every 
thing its members need for war, from bullets to blood banks. I will 
always remember Churchill s anger when he heard of several dentist s 
chairs being landed over the beaches in Normandy! But we have 
learnt since the 1914-18 war that by caring for a man s teeth, we keep 
him in the battle. The good general must not only win his battles; 
he must win them with a minimum of casualties and loss of life. 
I learnt during die 1939-45 war that four things contributed to the 
saving of life: 

1. Blood transfusion. 

2. Surgical teams operating well forward in the battle area, so 
that a badly wounded man could be dealt with at once without 
having to be moved by road to a hospital. 

3. Air evacuation direct to a Base hospital many hundreds of 
miles in rear, thus saving bumpy journeys by road or raiL 

4. Nursing sisters working well forward in the battle area. When 
I joined the Eighth Army in 1942, nursing sisters were not 
allowed in the forward battle area. I cancelled the order. Their 
presence comforted and calmed the nerves of many seriously 
wounded men, who then knew they would be properly nursed. 
No male nursing orderly can nurse like a woman, though many 
think they can. 

All these things, and many others like them, have to be in the mind 
of the modern general. 

On the administrative side there must be a clear-cut, long-term 
relationship established between operational intentions and admini 
strative resources. Successful administrative planning is dependent on 

Some Thoughts on High Command in War 313 

anticipation of requirements. A C.-in-C. in the field must, therefore, 
always keep his staff fully in his mind as regards forward intentions, 
so that the essential administrative preparations can be completed in 
time. Many generals have failed in war because they neglected to 
ensure that what they wanted to achieve operationally was com 
mensurate with their administrative resources; and some have failed 
because they over-insured in this respect. The lesson is, there must 
always be a nice balance between the two requirements. The acid test 
of an officer who aspires to high command is his ability to be able to 
grasp quickly the essentials of a military problem, to decide rapidly 
what he will do, to make it quite clear to all concerned what he intends 
to achieve and how he will do it, and then to see that his subordinate 
commanders get on with the job. Above all, he has got to rid himself 
of all irrelevant detail; he must concentrate on the essentials, and on 
those details and only those details which are necessary to the proper 
carrying out of his plan trusting his staff to effect all the necessary 
co-ordination. When all is said and done the greatest quality required 
in a commander is "decision"; he must then be able to issue clear 
orders and have the "drive" to get things done. Indecision and hesita 
tion are fatal in any officer; in a C.-in-C. they are criminal. 

No modern C.-in-C. can have any success if he fails to understand 
the human approach to war. Battles are won primarily in the hearts 
of men; if he loses the battle for the hearts of his men he will achieve 
little. This approach, and my general philosophy about command, I 
have already tried to explain in Chapter 6. 

Throughout any force the organisation for command and control 
must be simple and clear cut. In the desert campaign, in Sicily and in 
Italy it was so. In the campaign in North- West Europe the organisation 
worked well at the start, and with it we won one of the greatest 
battles of modern times in Normandy. Then it was changed, and 
smooth and efficient command and control disappeared as we have 

A commander of national forces is always within his rights to make 
dear his views on operational policies to his superior; indeed, it is his 
duty to do so. But once his superior commander has given his decision, 
there can be no further argument. In this connection I reproduce 
below a letter written to me by Eisenhower in February 1946, after 
I had sent Mm a copy of a book I had just published. The letter is 
noteworthy as making comments on many matters of great interest. 

"Dear Monty, 

I am truly grateful to you for sending me your book, El Alamein 
to the River Sangro. I will carry it home with me tonight and will 
start reading it at once. Naturally I take instant advantage of your 
kind offer to send me 100 additional copies. Please send them on 

314 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

in my care and I will distribute them to various military schools, 
including West Point, where they will be of the greatest value 
and interest. 

Your reaction to the book Soldiers of Democracy is of course 
exactly what I should expect. There is nothing I deplore so much 
as the writing of so-called military history by people who are con 
cerned mainly with rushing, into print so as to catch a market that 
is still fresh. It happens that the author of this particular book 
dropped in to see me yesterday and I complained about the poor 
light in which several very great men were portrayed. He pro 
tested that these persons were brought into the book, merely 
incidentally, in order to illustrate some particular point and with 
no thought of attempting to judge their contributions to the war 

The comments you make with respect to that book are even 
more applicable to one that is now being published in serial form 
and written by my former Naval Aide, Captain Butcher. It is 
called My Three Years with Eisenhower. He used the confidential 
position he had with me to form his own conclusions about a great 
number of things, including personalities and operations, and does 
not hesitate to give his judgments with an air of the greatest 
authority. Upon reading a portion of the book in Saturday Eve 
ning Post I was so embarrassed that I had some correspondence 
with Mr. Winston Churchill about the matter and he understands 
that I deplore the whole thing as much as he does. Fortunately 
he does not hold it against me, as the statements in the book were 
made without consultation with me or by my consent. My real 
error seems to be that I selected a man to act as my confidential 
Aide without checking up to see whether he wanted to be a 
"writer" after the war. 

I am truly sorry that people like yourself, Alex, Tedder, Brad 
ley, Cunningham and so on, cannot, because of holding official 
positions, undertake now to write the true story about an un 
paralleled experience in international co-operation and under 
standing. The fact is that the tremendous accomplishment of the 
Allied force is, through its handling by narrow-minded people, 
being made to look small and insignificant; great concessions on 
the part of two governments in order to establish, field unity are 
lost sight of in die anxiety to put over some pettifogging little 
idea held in the mind of a writer. 

To you personally I can say no more than I have said time and 
time again: I have always admired you for definitely outstanding 
characteristics that were of the most tremendous value in whip 
ping the Germans. Moreover, whenever any question or problem 
came to the point that definite decision by me was necessary, you 

Some Thoughts on High Command in War 315 

never once failed to carry out that decision loyally and with 100 
per cent of your effort regardless of what your prior opinions and 
recommendations had been. I have written this to you before and 
I meant it then just as I mean it now, and if ever you have time to 
write anything of your experiences you are at liberty to quote me 
verbatim on the subject. 

Entirely aside from the damage to British-American friendly 
relationship that hundreds of loyal officers labored so hard to 
advance, I have the personal fear that writers of the kind we are 
now talking about will succeed in damaging warm friendships 
that I have formed with men for whom I will always have the 
highest regard and admiration. The whole thing makes me a 
trifle ill. 

Incidentally, one of the defenses made by one of these authors 
when I taxed him for bad judgment and inaccuracy, was to pull 
out a bunch of clippings taken from the British papers about the 
time of the Bulge battle. He said: British writers did not hesitate 
to criticize you bitterly and unjustly. Why should we be so shy 
and retiring?* My answer of course was that those reporters wrote 
during the heat of action and were motivated to some extent by 
fear. Moreover, in later writings they did their utmost to correct 
what they themselves must have felt to have been hasty judgment. 
This was an entirely different thing from writing deliberately and 
from the attitude of pure history/ which these books are cer 
tainly not. 

I suppose there is no use saying anything further on the point 
except that you are free to express my sentiments to anyone who 
wants to talk to you about the subject. 

Thank you again for sending me the book and I assure you 
that I will make excellent use of the additional copies you send 
me, when it is convenient for you to do so. 

As ever, your friend 


The point is that honest differences of opinion are almost inevitable 
among experienced commanders, especially if they are also men with 
very definite views of their own. But such differences must never be 
allowed to overshadow the supreme need of Allied co-operation; this 
co-operation was brought to great heights under Eisenhower. The 
final achievement in the second World War resulted from the good 
will of the governments themselves, and from the bigness of the men 
who were selected to act in the critical positions amongst whom 
Eisenhower was a shining example. 

In November 1945, 1 gave a lecture at the University of St. Andrews 
entitled Military Leadership. I tried to equate the lessons of the past 

316 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

with the experience of the present To illustrate my arguments I 
chose three great captains of the past and examined briefly why they 
were leaders, how they led their men, and how as leaders they suc 
ceeded or failed. The three I selected were Moses, Cromwell and 
Napoleon. The lecture was subsequently included in Forward from 
Victory, a book published by me in October 1948 (Hutchinson & Co.). 
Each of these three men exercised high command. They had in com 
mon an inner conviction which, though founded (and very closely) 
on reason, transcended reason. It was this which enabled them at a 
certain point the right one-to take a short cut which took them 
straight to their objective, more swiftly and surely than equally careful 
but less inspired commanders. 
One might put it this way. 

There are three types of commanders in the higher grades: 

1. Those who have faith and inspiration, but lack the infinite 
capacity for taking pains and preparing for every foreseeable 
contingency which is the foundation of all success in war. 
These fail. 

2. Those who possess the last-named quality to a degree amount 
ing to genius. Of this type I would cite Wellington as the 
perfect example. 

3. Those who, possessing this quality, are inspired by a faith and 
conviction which enables them, when they have done every 
thing possible in the way of preparation and when the situa 
tion favours boldness, to throw their bonnet over the moon. 
There are moments in war when, to win all, one has to do this. 
I believe such a moment occurred in August 1944 after the 
Battle of Normandy had been won, and it was missed. Nelson 
was the perfect example of this when he broke the line at 
St. Vincent, when he went straight in to attack at the Nile 
under the fire of the shore batteries and with night falling, 
and at the crucial moment at Trafalgar. 

No commander ever took greater care than Nelson to prepare 
against every possible contingency, but no one was ever so well able 
to recognise the moment when, everything having been done that 
reason can dictate, something must be left to chance or faith. No 
commander was ever so careful to ensure that "every captain knew 
what was in his Admiral s mind.** 

In my own limited experience certain "moments * come to mind 
at Mareth when we switched the main thrust line to the western 
flank on the 23rd March 1943, in Normandy on the 23rd August 1944 
when I advocated a strong thrust on the left flank of the Allied advance 
to finish the war quickly, and at Arnhem on the i/th September 1944. 

Moses and Cromwell believed intensely in a divine mission, which 

Some Thoughts on High Command in War 317 

never failed them in battle; Napoleon in a human destiny, which in 
the end did. 

I believe that the one great commander who did not possess this 
quality of inner conviction was Wellington. One cannot too much 
admire his foresight, industry, patience and meticulous care. Yet he 
sometimes lost part of the fruits of victory through an inability to 
soar from the known to seize the unknown. Napoleon never surpassed 
Wellington s flawless handling of his command at Salamanca and 
Vittoria, but the defeated French after Vittoria would never have 
escaped to fight another day had Napoleon or Cromwell been in 

To exercise high command successfully one has to have an infinite 
capacity for taking pains and for careful preparation; and one has also 
to have an inner conviction which at times will transcend reason. 
Having fought, possibly over a prolonged period, for the advantage 
and gained it, there then comes the moment for boldness. When that 
moment comes, will you throw your bonnet over the mill and soar 
from the known to seize the unknown? In the answer to this question 
lies the supreme test of generalship in high command. 


The Control of Post- War Germany: 
The First Steps 


a THE 8th May 1945 the war in Europe ended officially, repre 
sentatives of the German High Command having signed the 
act of military surrender. But it must be noted that this sur 
render was made by the high command and not by the German 
Government of Admiral Doenitz which, after Hitler s reported death 
in Berlin, claimed to represent the German nation. Indeed, the Allies 
refused to recognise such a government and it was later arrested at 
Flensburg. We were therefore faced with a situation very different 
from that which had been envisaged at the meetings between 
Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin when they had discussed the Allied 
organisation for the occupation of Germany. They had agreed that a 
Control Council should be set up in Berlin consisting of a British, 
an American, a Russian and a French member. Each was to have 
under him a Deputy and his own civil and military staff, with a cen 
tral inter-allied secretariat. The four members, meeting together in 
Berlin, were to dictate to a central German government how the 
country was to be run. Furthermore, Germany was to be divided into 
zones; each of the Allies would occupy a zone within which it would 
supervise the execution of the dictates of the Control Council, which 
would come into being on the unconditional surrender of the German 

However, when the time came the Allies did not recognise any 
German government which could surrender and therefore the Control 
Council could not automatically come into operation. No central gov 
ernment machine existed through which the Control Council could 
work. Berlin had been so destroyed that the Russians said it was not 


The Control of Post-War Germany: The First Steps 319 

possible to govern Germany from it Although Eisenhower had been 
appointed a member of the Control Council, no British or Russian 
member had yet been nominated. In the area occupied by the Western 
Allies, therefore, SHAEF continued to function as an operational 
headquarters, and we had to begin to govern Germany with the 
Military Government machine. 

This was, of course, the direct result of the policy of "unconditional 
surrender," which policy was, in my opinion, a very great mistake 
and was now to be proved so. 

In the area occupied by 21 Army Group there were appalling 
civilian problems to be solved. Over one million civilian refugees 
had fled into the area before the advancing Russians. About one 
Trillion German wounded were in hospital in the area, with no medical 
supplies. Over one and a half million unwounded German fighting 
men had surrendered to 21 Army Group on the 5th May and were 
now prisoners of war, with all that that entailed. Food would shortly 
be exhausted. The transport and communication services had ceased 
to function, and industry and agriculture were largely at a standstill. 
The population had to be fed, housed, and kept free of disease. It was 
going to be a race for time whether this could be achieved before the 
winter began; if by that time the population was not fed, and housed, 
famine and disease would run riot through Germany and that would 
prove a most serious embarrassment to the western Allies. 

Finally, there was the impact of the Russians on the Western forces. 
From their behaviour it soon became clear that the Russians, though 
a fine fighting race, were in fact barbarous Asiatics who had never 
enjoyed a civilisation comparable to that of the rest of Europe. Their 
approach to every problem was utterly different from ours and their 
behaviour, especially in their treatment of women, was abhorrent to 
us. In certain sectors of the Russian Zone there were practically no 
Germans left; they had all fled before the onward march of the bar 
barians, with the result that in the Western zones the crowd of refugees 
was so great that the problems of food and housing seemed almost 
insoluble. I wrote the following in my diary at that time: 

"Out of the impact of the Asiatics on the European culture, a 
new Europe has been born. It is too early yet to say what shape 
it will take. One can only say it will be wholly unlike the old 
Europe. Its early infancy and growth will be of supreme impor 
tance to our civilisation." 

It was vital to tackle this vast problem with the greatest boldness 
and speed. Before the war ended I had foreseen this need, and on the 
24th April had informed the War Office that in my opinion the man 
who was to be C.-in-C. of the British Zone, and British member of the 
Control Council, must be appointed at once. Meetings and conferences 

320 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

in connection with Control Commission matters were taking place 
daily at my headquarters in Germany and also in London, and no 
body knew who was going to be the boss. We learnt by bitter ex 
perience in the war that to work on the principle of the absentee 
commander is most dangerous and always leads to trouble. 

But I could not get Whitehall to take any action in the matter. 
However, for the time being I was the boss and I decided to get on 
with the job in my own way. If, later, someone else was appointed, 
good luck to him. Such procrastination on the part of the British 
Government at this time was, of course, annoying to me personally; 
but it could become dangerous to the cause. What was needed was 
decision, followed by action. I therefore decided to make my own 
plan for the British Zone and to implement it without further delay. 

The first thing was to issue very strict orders about looting and 
the use of German transport facilities. In the heat of battle certain 
actions are often overlooked which in peace conditions constitute a 
most serious offence. Many units had taken German staff cars into use, 
and one or two generals were driving about in the captured cars of 
German field-marshals. I decided that one and all must be pulled up 
with a jerk; if Germany was to recover quickly, she would need trans 
port for communication and distribution purposes. 

On the 6th May I therefore issued orders on these matters. Looting 
by individuals, or bodies of individuals, was of course forbidden at 
any time and I made it dear that any contravention of this order 
would be tried by court martial, whatever the rank of the individual 
concerned. If any commander or unit wanted something for the col 
lective use of officers or men, application would be made to the 
proper authority and the articles in question would then be requisi 
tioned in a constitutional manner. The same rules would apply to motor 
cars and other vehicles. 

The basis of my plan in the British Zone was to work through the 
German command organisation in the first instance, and to issue my 
orders regarding the disposal of the German forces to Field-Marshal 
Busch, the German C.-in-C. in N.W. Europe. He was to have his 
headquarters in Schleswig-Holstein. His Chief of Staff, General Kinzel, 
with a small staff and a team of liaison officers, would be at my main 

Busch was to have under "him; 

General Lindemann commanding the German forces in Den 
mark, who would work under the SHAEF mission in Copen 
hagen (in charge of General Dewing). 

General Blumentritt commanding the German forces between 
the Baltic and the Weser, who would be under Second British 
Army (General Dempsey). 

The Control of Post-War Germany: The First Steps 321 

General Blaskowitz commanding the German forces between the 
Weser and Western Holland, who would be under First Cana 
dian Army (General Crerar). 

German army boundaries were to be altered to coincide with 
British boundaries. All German troops were to be moved into penin 
sulas along the coastline, and then sealed off in those peninsulas with 
their backs against the sea. There was no other way of dealing with a 
million and a half prisoners; we could not put such a number into 
camps or P.O.W. cages. The selected peninsulas were on the east and 
west coastlines of Schleswig-Holstein, in the Cuxhaven area, and 
about Wilhelmshaven and Emden. 

Once in these areas, prisoners were to be documented and checked 
over. They were then to be demobilised and directed back to their 
civil vocations, as and when they were needed and work became 
available the farmers, the miners, the post office workers, the civil 
servants, etc., etc. When they left the P.O.W. areas to go back to civil 
work, they were to be dressed in plain clothes. 

I then organised the British Zone into Corps Districts for occupa 
tional duties, as follows: 

Berlin District Certain troops to be held ready to go 

(General Lyne) to Berlin when Russian agreement 

was obtained. 

Schleswig-Holstein 8 Corps, with two divisions, and one 

(General E. H. Barker) armoured brigade. 

Hanover 30 Corps, with three divisions and one 

(General Horrocks) armoured brigade. 

Westphalia i Corps, with four divisions and one 

(General Crocker) armoured brigade. 

Certain other formations were kept by me as reserve in case trouble 
developed. I had also been given a "stand still" order regarding the 
destruction of German weapons and equipment, in case they might 
be needed by the Western Allies for any reason, and all these had to 
be guarded. 

My purpose was to re-establish orderly local government in the 
British Zone by using my military command organisation of corps, 
division, brigade and regimental headquarters. These would have 
areas corresponding to the local civil counties, boroughs, rural districts, 
etc., and in all cases would work through the appropriate civil organ 
isations. I laid it down that the requirements of the civilian popula 
tion were to be met in the following order: food, housing, and the 
prevention of disease. Thereafter, transportation and many other 
problems would have to be tackled. 

The greatest problem was food and much would depend on the 

322 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

coming harvest. I ordered that the armed forces were not to purchase 
or requisition any foodstuffs from the civil population; the latter would 
need it all themselves. 

It seemed to me that only by working on these lines could we 
establish quickly some form of orderly control and get a grip on the 
chaotic situation that existed in the British Zone. I had suddenly 
become responsible for the government and well-being of about 
twenty million Germans. Tremendous problems would be required 
to be handled and if they were not solved before the winter began, 
many Germans would die of starvation, exposure and disease. 


The Russian forces in contact with 21 Army Group belonged to the 
White Russian Army Group commanded by Marshal Rokossovsky, 
who later became Minister of Defence in Poland. On the 7th May he 
had visited me at Wismar, where I entertained him and some of his 
officers to lunch. Rokossovsky was an imposing figure, tall, very good- 
looking, and well dressed; I understand he was a bachelor and was 
much admired by ladies. He invited me to visit him at his H.O. 
about twenty miles inside the Russian area, and I accepted for the 
loth May. The Russians were clearly anxious to make a good impres 
sion and they sent a special envoy to the H.Q. of the 6th Airborne 
Division in Wismar to find out what sort of entertainment I liked, 
and what were my tastes and habits. The envoy began by asking what 
sort of wine I preferred; he was told that I disliked wine, never drank 
any alcohol, and preferred water. He then said they proposed to 
produce some very fine cigars at lunch. Did I like cigars? He was told 
I did not smoke. By this time he was somewhat shaken; but he had 
one more suggestion to make. They had some very fine women and 
dancing girls and they would produce these for the Field-Marshal 
He was told that the Field-Marshal did not like women. That finished 
him and he exclaimed: "He doesn t drink, doesn t smoke, and doesn t 
like women. What the devil does he do all day?" 

However, an agreed programme was drawn up without difficulty 
and I motored into the Russian Zone to visit Rokossovsky at the H.Q. 
of the White Russian Army Group. 

Two things interested me during that drive I did not see one single 
German civilian as they had all fled into the British area; and secondly, 
I was impressed by the Russian women police, whose traffic control 
was most efficient The visit was a great success, and after an enor 
mous feast the Russians produced a concert party which entertained 
us for about an hour with songs and dancing. 

The Control of Post-War Germany: The First Steps 323 

Among the staff that accompanied me was a young gunner major 
who had recently joined the team of liaison officers at my Tac Head 
quarters. He was a delightful person, very popular with everyone, 
and the Russian set out to make him drunk and they succeeded. 
This was concealed from me and when it was time to leave he was 
taken ahead and put on board my aircraft before I arrived, being 
deposited in the lavatory at the rear end of the cabin. When I arrived 
and boarded the aircraft I asked if we were all present, and was told 
we were. As I did not see the young major I asked where he was, and 
was told he was in the lavatory; I then gave the order to take off. 
As we taxied to the end of the runway the Russian fired a salute of 
21 guns. The major in the lavatory considered he must take part, so 
he drew his revolver and fired it through the window, round for round 
with the Russian artillery. When he had finished his six rounds, he 
continued to operate his revolver and "clicking* noises were heard 
coming from the lavatory for some time. I understand that an ADC 
finally persuaded him to discontinue and to go to sleep in the lavatory. 
When he arrived at our own airfield and disembarked, I was some 
what suspicious and asked to see the young major. I was told he was 
not well and he would be taken back to Tac Headquarters in an 

There are occasions in this life when it is advisable to leave things 
alone and say nothing. But on arrival back at Tac Headquarters I 
demanded to be told the trutL I then said I would see tie officer 
concerned but was asked if I would delay the interview for forty-eight 
hours; he had consumed so much vodka, and had mixed his drinks to 
such an extent, that it was considered by experts that it would be 
two days before he "surf aced." That delay was good for all of us. The 
interview duly took place and he was very upset I explained that I 
could not have officers on my staff at Tac Headquarters who were 
not able to go anywhere with me and be able to carry out their duties 
at all times; he had failed to measure up to this standard, and would 
have to go. But as I looked at him my heart warmed towards him; 
he was the very best type of young British officer who might well rise 
to the highest ranks in the Army, and I could not let one indiscretion 
ruin a promising career. On leaving me he would lose his temporary 
rank of major and revert to his substantive rank. I told him I would 
send him back to regimental duty with orders that he was to be given 
the command of a battery as early as possible, which would thus make 
him a major again, and that no official report would be made of the 
incident He was, of course, delighted, and we parted good friends. 
The next time I met him he was an instructor at the Royal Military 
Academy, Sandhurst: conspicuously sober and with no revolver! 

I had one further experience of ceremonial Russian visits; this took 

324 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

place on the loth June at Supreme Headquarters at Frankfurt. A few 
days earlier, on the 5th June, the Allied Commanders-in-Chief had 
met in Berlin to sign a declaration regarding the defeat of Germany 
and the assumption of joint responsibility with regard to that country 
by the Governments of the United Kingdom, U.S. A., U.S.S.R., and 
France. At that meeting Zhukov informed Eisenhower and myself 
that Stalin had conferred on each of us the Order of Victory, a Soviet 
decoration which had never been given previously to any foreigner. 
Apart from the honour, the decoration is of great intrinsic value, being 
in the form of a five-pointed star beautifully set with rubies and 
diamonds. After some discussion Eisenhower invited Zhukov to visit 
his headquarters at Frankfurt for the presentation ceremony. I said 
that as I had served throughout the campaign in Europe under Eisen 
hower s command, I would like to receive the decoration at the same 
time, and this was agreed. 

Eisenhower had his headquarters at the I.G. Farben building in 
Frankfurt, a magnificent modern building on high ground overlooking 
the desolate and bombed city; the building itself had received prac 
tically no damage. On arrival there early on the loth I had a short 
private talk with Eisenhower, during which he gave me the Distin 
guished Service Medal, the highest American decoration which can be 
conferred on a soldier of another nation. I had already been made a 
Chief Commander of the American Legion of Merit, Eisenhower 
having pinned that Presidential order on me in Sicily in 1943. Later in 
the morning Zhukov arrived with a large entourage, composed mostly 
of photographers and pressmen. The decoration ceremony took place 
in Eisenhower s office. Then on a large balcony outside Zhukov pre 
sented medals to twenty-four British and American officers of Supreme 
Headquarters; this was a most disorganised and undignified spectacle, 
the photographers all jockeying for position. However, the decorations 
were in the end conferred without mishap although it seemed to me 
that some may easily have got handed medals who were not meant to 
get them! 

Before lunch some 1700 American and British aircraft flew past in 
formation giving an impressive display of Western air power which 
was not lost on the Russians. During lunch the Americans produced a 
coloured cabaret show, with swing music and elaborate dancing by 
Negro women who were naked above the waist line. The Russians had 
never seen or heard anything like this before and their eyes almost 
popped out of their heads! Nonetheless they enjoyed it thoroughly and 
encored every time. The whole organisation of the day was on a 
most elaborate scale, so was the lavishness of the welcome extended 
by the Americans. It was a day which revealed undeniably the wealth 
and power of the United States. 

The Control of Post-War Germany: The First Steps 325 


On the yth June I flew to Antwerp to receive the freedom of the 
city. After the ceremony there was a civic luncheon at the Hdtel de 
Ville; this was a tremendous affair, with very rich food and many 
courses. Rich food always upsets me and it certainly did so on this 
occasion; I began to feel ill soon after lunch and asked that the 
remainder of the programme should be cut short, so that I could return 
to the airfield and fly back to my headquarters in Germany. This was 
at once arranged, my car was summoned, and I drove through streets 
lined by cheering citizens with myself sitting on the floor of the car 
being violently sick. That sickness was exactly what was needed, and 
once it had taken place I felt well again. But the floor of the car was 
not in a good state and I apologised very humbly to the driver, who 
belonged to the local military headquarters and who had never driven 
me before. When I apologised for the mess in his car, he drew himself 
up, looked me in the face, and said: "Sir, it s an honour." And he 
meant it 



As the days passed after the end of the German war I became 
increasingly worried at the lack of any proper organisation to govern 

I had been informed privately in April that I would probably be 
made responsible for the long-term government of the British Zone; 
but the proposed appointment was delayed, with the result that there 
was a serious lack of co-ordination between the British section of the 
Control Commission in London and the Military Government staff 
working under me in Germany. I therefore flew to London on the 
i4th May to impress on the Prime Minister the urgent need for a 
decision in the matter, so that the man appointed could co-ordinate 
the planning of the Control Commission with the practical activities 
of Military Government. I arrived in England at a politically unfavour 
able moment The Coalition Government was coming to its expected 
end and the prospects of an early general election discouraged Cabi 
net Ministers from taking any but the most vital decisions. My task 
was to persuade the Prime Minister that the problems of government 
in Germany were of such importance that an immediate decision was 
vital. I succeeded. The Prime Minister decided to appoint me Com- 
mander-in-Chief of the British Forces of Occupation and British 
Member of the Allied Control Council in Germany. I asked that Lieut- 

326 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

General Sir Ronald Weeks, D.C.I.G.S. at the War Office (now Lord 
Weeks), should be appointed as my Deputy, and this was agreed. The 
announcement of these appointments was made on the 2sfod May. 

The next day I assembled in London the heads of the British civil 
divisions of the Control Commission and spoke to them of the existing 
problems in Germany. We did not know each other and it was essential 
that they should hear from me personally, in broad outline, how I 
proposed to tackle these problems. 

I explained that having conquered Germany, all we could do imme 
diately was to impose Military Government on it, and that that was 
being done through the Army. But that must not be allowed to last 
too long; we must get civil control re-established and that would mean 
the civil divisions of the Control Commission dealing with the Germans 
themselves. It was therefore essential that the short-term planning of 
the Military Government regime should have a definite relation to the 
long-term planning of the civil divisions. To achieve this object, we 
must all be together. We would make little progress so long as the 
civil divisions remained in London; my object was to get them de 
ployed in Germany as quickly as possible. They could not go to Berlin 
yet; that could come later. But they could come to the British Zone 
at once and, after all, that was where the problem lay. I then explained 
my own methods of working, and how I used the Chief of Staff system. 

This talk did good. It showed the civilian element in the Control 
Commission that we wanted them to join us in Germany as soon as 
possible, because without them we couldn t do the job. 


Having given orders about the deployment in Germany of the 
British element of the Control Commission, so that we could all be 
together, I returned to my headquarters via Paris. I had been asked 
to open the British Military Exhibition in that city on the 25th. Paris 
turned out en masse and he reception I received was stupendous. I 
was decorated by General de Gaulle with the Grand Croix of the 
Legion of Honour at a colourful parade in the courtyard of the 
Involutes, and later in the day I opened the exhibition. I decided to 
speak mainly in English but occasionally to turn over to French, as 
I thought this would please the audience. I had some difficulty com 
posing the French sentences as my knowledge of that language was 
still of the English schoolboy type; however, with the assistance of 
certain members of my staff who professed to be fluent in the language, 
the French sentences were drafted. This is what I said: 

"i. It is my privilege and a great pleasure to speak to you today 
in your famous capital this fair city which, better than any 

The Control of Post-War Germany: The First Steps 327 

other, exemplifies the spirit of our long European history. To 
my shame I have to confess that I have not visited Paris for 
ten years. 

2. Today I come here to open this British Military Exhibition. 
In it we seek to show you something of the part played by the 
armies of the British Empire in this war which now happily 
is ended in Europe. 

In the early days of the war the British and French Empires 
suffered some grievous wounds, and to many of our enemies 
those wounds looked mortal. The British Empire reeled from 
these blows, but in due course managed to fight back. 

France was struck a heavy blow, and for a while the home 
country lay prostrate under the heel of the invader. But though 
you can occupy a country you cannot quell the spirit of a 
fighting race. Elsewhere the fight went on, and it grew in 
volume as the years passed. 

I/esprit frangais vivait toujours. Cette flamme sacree n*a 
jainais 6te eteinte. On nourrissait la flamme. Cette flamme a 
jailli finalement des abimes lorsque vous et vos allies avez 
chasse Tennemi du sol ensanglante de la France: magnifique 
episode dont la France a bien le droit d etre fiere. 

Je salue les soldats de la France, mes compagnons d armes 
de tant de batailles. 

3. I have many friends among the soldiers of France. And of the 
ones I have known best in this war I would mention General 
Leclerc. This gallant man fought his way with a small force 
from Central Africa and joined the Eighth Army in Tripoli in 
January 1943. With no obligation to do so, he freely placed 
himself under my command; he played a notable part in the 
Mareth battle and in the advance to Tunis, and was in at 
the kill* in Africa. A fine story and typical of a soldier of 

4. But it is not only of your fighting men that I would speak 
today. The liberation of France has restored to us that inex 
haustible well of literature, art, and science from which we 
have drawn so freely in the past. The achievements of the 
French genius, of Racine, Cezanne, Berlioz and Pasteur, are 
part of the heritage of our civilization: above all for the com 
patriots of Shakespeare and Newton. 

At this moment Europe needs France. We need not only 
your soldiers, your writers, your scientists, but also the simple 
but enduring virtues of French family life. 

It is not surprising that France has played such a notable 
part in these fields. Great arts flourish only among fighting 
peoples, and the people of France are a fighting race. 

328 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

5. Des ces jours qui suivent la defaite totale de TAllemagne vous 
reprenez votre destin historique. Pendant les siecles passes les 
Anglais et les Frangais se sont souvent regard^s en adversaires. 

AujourdTmi nous marchons ensemble. 

Vive La France!" 

Later in the day large crowds assembled outside the British Embassy 
where I was staying, and kept calling for me. Finally I went out on 
a balcony to thank them. I made a very short speech in English; but 
the crowd still kept cheering and showed no signs of dispersing; so 
I made a second appearance on the balcony and said: "Allez-vous-en." 
That finished it! There were shouts of laughter and they all went 
away, seemingly quite happy. 


I got back to Germany on the 26th May and learnt that there was 
disquiet in the German prisoner-of-war camps and among the German 
population of the British Zone; they did not know how they were 
to be treated in the future. I should explain that I had already experi 
enced trouble with the German military command organisation, which 
I had kept "in being" in order to implement the surrender and to deal 
with the enormous numbers of prisoners. 

The German military leaders, having been saved from the Russians, 
were only too willing to be friends with the British and to do what 
ever was wanted. But in return for this co-operative attitude they 
expected to be treated as allies of the British against the Russians, and 
in some cases my orders had been queried and delay had occurred in 
carrying them out. On the nth May I had sent for Field-Marshal 
Busch, the German C.-in-C. in North-West Europe, and told him that 
this attitude was entirely unacceptable. I explained that I was making 
use of him and his headquarters so long as the job of implementing 
the surrender could be more efficiently carried out by that method. 
If he did not carry out his orders promptly and efficiently, I would 
remove him from his command and find some other senior German 
officer to do the job. In the last resort the British Army would do the 
job themselves; but this method would result in delay which could 
only cause further hardship to the German civil population, and this 
I was anxious to avoid. He was to understand that the German Army 
had been utterly defeated in the field and must now accept the con 
sequences of that defeat. 

After this I had no more trouble with Busch or with any other Ger 
man commander. When therefore I discovered at the end of May that 
the Germans generally in the British Zone were becoming restive, and 

The Control of Post-War Germany: The First Steps 329 

anxious about their future, I decided to issue them a message which 
would tell them what I proposed to doin exactly the same way that 
I had issued personal messages to the soldiers in the armies under 
my command during the war. The war messages called forth no 
political comment so far as I was aware. But these messages to the 
twenty million Chilian Germans in the British Zone were viewed with 
some mistrust in Whitehall. Was I becoming a military dictator who 
would seize power? And so on. Later the need for them was queried 
by the Labour Government. But I stuck to my guns and refused to be 
"seen off" by my political masters; so long as I was responsible I was 
determined to use my own methods. I give the first message in full 

30TH MAY 1945 

**i. I have been appointed by the British Government to command 
and control the area occupied by the British Army. 

This area will be governed for the present by Military 
Government under my orders. 

2. My immediate object is to establish a simple and orderly life 
for the whole community. 

The first step will be to see that the population has: 

(a) food 

(b) housing 

(c) freedom from disease 
The harvest must be gathered in. 

The means of transportation must be re-established. 
The postal services must be restarted. 
Certain industries must be got going again. 
All this will mean much hard work for everyone. 

3. Those who have committed war crimes according to inter 
national law will be dealt with in proper fashion. 

The German people will work under my orders to provide 
the necessities of life for the community, and to restore the 
economic life of the country. 

4. There are in the British Area a very large number of German 
soldiers, sailors and airmen, and all these are now being as 
sembled in certain localities. 

The German Wehnnacht, and other armed forces, will be 
disarmed and disbanded. 

All German soldiers, sailors, and airmen, are being sorted 
out by trades and occupations. In a few days they will start 
to be discharged from the armed forces so that they can get on 
with the work. The most urgent need is the harvest; therefore 
workers on the land are going first; men of other occupations 

330 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

and trades will be discharged to work as soon as it can be 

5. I will see to it that all German soldiers and civilians are kept 
informed by radio and newspapers of how the work is going 
on. The population will be told what to do. I shall expect it to 
be done willingly and efficiently." 


In March 1945, prior to the assault across the Rhine and when it 
was clear that the German war was coming to an end, I began to 
consider the problems which would arise when our soldiers were 
living amidst the German population under peace conditions. To what 
degree should we fraternise with our former enemies? I decided that 
one and all must be given guidance in this very difficult matter. We 
should be firm to begin with, and later could relax our rules; a reverse 
procedure would be unsound. And so I decided to issue a personal 
letter to officers and men under my command. It was printed in card 
form so that it was easily carried in the pocket of the battledress tunic. 
The object of the letter was to explain the problem to officers and 
men before it became a serious issue, and to give them a doctrine on 
which to base their actions. 

I told them that if we mixed freely with the Germans, went to 
their houses, danced with their girls, and so on, it would be resented 
by our own families in England and by millions of people who had 
suffered under the Gestapo. When we entered Germany it would be 
too soon to distinguish between good and bad Germans; we must 
hold back and not fraternise until we could see our way clear. 

The soldiers accepted the basic doctrine laid down in the letter, and 
we started well. But when fighting ceased and the peace-time occupa 
tion of Germany was becoming established, it was clear to me that we 
must review our orders about fraternisation. While the soldier was 
fighting his opportunities for friendly intercourse with the civil popu 
lation were in any event restricted; but when the fighting ended, and 
the soldier had some leisure for recreation, it became necessary to 
"let-up" by degrees on the rule of complete non-fraternisation. Such 
an order would simply not be obeyed. We must be sensible about it. 
Furthermore, if we were ever to re-educate the German population it 
would be a good thing to mix freely with them and teach them our 
standards of freedom and individual responsibility. I had already 
given the Germans "the form" in my first message. It is now necessary 
to tell them why we did not fraternise with them. And so I decided 
to issue a message on this subject to the German people and it ran as 

The Control of Post-War Germany: The First Steps 331 


lo-m JUNE 1945 

"You have wondered, no doubt, why our soldiers do not smile 
when you wave your hands, or say Good morning; in the streets, 
or play with the children. It is because our soldiers are obeying 
orders. You do not like it. Nor do our soldiers. We are naturally 
friendly and forgiving people. But the orders were necessary; 
and I will tell you why. 

In the last war of 1914, which your rulers began, your Army 
was defeated; your generals surrendered; and in the Peace Treaty 
of Versailles your rulers admitted that the guilt of beginning the 
war was Germany s. But the surrender was made in France. The 
war never came to your country; your cities were not damaged, 
like the cities of France and Belgium; and your armies marched 
home in good order. Then your rulers began to spread the story 
(legend) that your armies were never really defeated, and later 
they denied the war guilt clauses of the Peace Treaty. They told 
you that Germany was neither guilty nor defeated; and because 
the war had not come to your country many of you believed it, 
and you cheered when your rulers began another war. 

Again, after years of waste and slaughter and misery, your 
armies have been defeated. This time the Allies were determined 
that you should learn your lesson not only that you have been 
defeated, which you must know by now, but that you, your 
nation, were again guilty of beginning the war. For if that is not 
made clear to you, and your children, you may again allow your 
selves to be deceived by your rulers, and led into another war. 

During the war your rulers would not let you know what the 
world was thinking of you. Many of you seemed to think that 
when our soldiers arrived you could be friends with them at once, 
as if nothing much had happened. But too much has happened 
for that. Our soldiers have seen their comrades shot down, their 
homes in ruins, their wives and children hungry. They have seen 
terrible things in many countries where your rulers took the war. 
For those things, you will say you are not responsible it was 
your rulers. But they were found by the German nation; every 
nation is responsible for its rulers, and while they were successful 
you cheered and laughed. That is why our soldiers do not smile 
at you. This we have ordered, this we have done, to save your 
selves, to save your children, to save the world from another war. 
It will not always be so. For we are Christian forgiving people, 
and we like to smile and be friendly. Our object is to destroy the 
evil of the Nazi system; it is too soon to be sure that this has 
been done. 

332 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

You are to read this to your children, if they are old enough, 
and see that they understand. Tell them why it is that the British 
soldier does not smile." 

My next object was to relax by stages the complete non-fraternisa 
tion order and, while doing so, to keep in the closest agreement with 
Eisenhower s policy in the American Zone. The British soldier has 
always been fond of children and on the 12th June I relaxed the order 
to the extent that soldiers might speak to, and play with, children. 
They were, of course, doing it anyway. 

In July I relaxed the rules still further, allowing conversation with 
Germans in the streets and public places but forbidding troops to 
enter German homes. Finally in September 1945 I raised the subject 
in the Control Council and got it agreed that tie ban on fraternisation 
should be lifted, the rules to be the same in each zone. 

We were then left with only two rules no members of the armed 
forces were to be billeted with Germans, nor were they allowed to 
marry them. 

It was a great relief to get this matter settled. I had never liked the 
orders which we had had to issue; but it was the Allied policy. After 
the German war had been over for some weeks it became practically 
impossible to enforce the non-fraternisation orders. The British soldier 
is an intensely friendly person; he is kind and gentle in victory, and 
is chivalrous to his enemies. He is usually liked by the inhabitants of 
other countries because of his knack, despite his ignorance of the local 
language, of fitting in with the people and making himself at home: 
which is sometimes called "getting his feet under the table." That is 
why he is such a good representative of his country abroad. It was 
almost hopeless to stop him talking to the Germans. 


In the days that followed the surrender, the general attitude of the 
Germans, both civilians and soldiers, was on the whole correct. They 
were willing to carry out whatever orders were issued to them, their 
chief fear being that they might be handed over to the Russians. The 
arrest and interrogation of Himmler is of interest in this connection. 
He left Flensburg on the gth May under an assumed name, intending 
to roam the country for some weeks until the tumult of victory had 
died down. He then hoped to obtain an interview with me so that he 
could expound his views on the situation. He was, however, arrested 
by a British patrol on the 2ist May and taken to an internment camp 
where he eventually disclosed his identity. He needed no encourage- 

The Control of Post- War Germany: The Fkst Steps 333 

ment to speak. He said that before leaving Flensburg he had called 
off all German resistance movements and that for some time before 
then he had been urging the conclusion of peace with the Western 
Allies. His purpose in seeking an interview with me was to stress that 
sooner or later there would be another war to stop the march of the 
Asiatic hordes into Western Europe, led by Russia, Now that Ger 
many was beaten, Britain was left alone to face the Asiatic onslaught. 
It was essential to save the fighting man-power of Germany from 
falling into Russian hands, since it would be needed to fight with the 
British against the Russians in the near future such a war, in his view, 
being inevitable. This attitude of mind as expounded by Himmler was 
general throughout the civilians in the British Zone. Subsequently, 
while being searched to ascertain if he carried poison, Himmler bit 
on a concealed phial and committed suicide. 

At the end of 1945 ^ e following conversation between a British 
officer and a German boy was published, in translation, in the Rhine 
Army Intelligence Review. It shows the type of young chap we had 
to deal with. 


"He is 19 years old, fair haired, well built, good-looking. An 
officer saw him in an internment camp and the following con 
versation ensued: 

O: Why are you here? 

SS: Waffen SS, sir. 

O: Did you volunteer or were you put into it? 

SS: Volunteered 

O: Why? 

SS: Most of my friends were already in it, so I joined too. 

O: Did you see any atrocities? 

SS: I never saw any myself, but I know they have happened. 

O: Did you believe in National Socialism? 

SS: Of course I did. What else do you expect? My father was 
an admiral. Both my parents were convinced Nazis. At school I 
was taught National Socialism; in the Hitler Youth I was taught 
National Socialism; in the SS I was taught National Socialism. 

O: How were you arrested? 

SS: I was wounded and in hospital near our home. As an SS 
man I was under arrest there. My parents came to see me. My 
father said SS men would be imprisoned for twenty years; he 
heard it over the wireless. There was no alternative for me, I 
should escape, he said; and my mother agreed. Then they went 
away and committed suicide. I have always obeyed my parents 
and it was their last wish that I should escape, and I did not want 
to be imprisoned for twenty years. I fled. I tried to get a job as 

334 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

a forestry apprentice. It didn t work eventually I was arrested 

O: Do you still believe in Nazism? 

SS: No, but I am trying to sort it out You see, for the first 
time in my life I hear the other side. I am 19. I only knew one 
thing National Socialism; now I begin to see other things. For 
the first time in my life I am going to church. My parents had not 
allowed it Now I think I can find something there. I don t know 
yet. But, for God s sake, give me a chance. 

O: But has it never occurred to you that there was something 
inherently bad in National Socialism? 

SS: No, I did not know about the concentration camps and of 
the atrocities. I only heard at the very end. 

O: What about -the injustice of the racial theory? 

SS: Why injustice? 

O: Well, why should a man be treated differently just because 
he belongs to another race? 

SS: But if it s an inferior race? 

O: This is quite a wrong term; we are all human beings. 

SS: No, I don t agree. You cannot tell me that you believe a 
Negro is not inferior to usto you and me. 

O: He might be in some ways, but not because he is a Negro. 
He may perhaps be less civilised, or less intelligent or of lower 
moral character, but he is still a human being and has to be treated 
as such. 

SS: But surely you cannot treat all men alike. 

O: No, but it is not a question of race, but, as I have tried to 
explain, a question of individual value. I prefer a decent Negro to 
a criminal Englishman. I treat everybody according to his moral 
value. It may be that there are more valuable people among the 
English who have the benefit of an old culture and education than 
among the Negroes. Even so, I respect the uncivilised Negro as a 
human being, perhaps more than the uncivilised Englishman. 

SS: I see what you mean. In effect by treating them as individ 
uals it sorts itself out anyhow that more Englishmen deserve 
recognition as Valuable than Negroes, but the principle remains 
you do not go by race but by an ethical conception of the individ 
ual. I think you are right 

O: You only need to think and you will see the gross injustices 
and immorality of Nazism. 

SS: But how could it ever occur to me? The only time I came 
into conflict with the Nazi organisation was over something quite 
plain that I could see. 

O: What was it? 

SS: I am very keen on tennis. But, whenever I wanted to play, 

The Control of Post-War Germany: The First Steps 335 

there was always duty in die Hitler Youth. The duty was silly 
and I did not go. There was a lot of fuss over it, but in the end 
I won. 

O: You should now think and have the courage to come to 
decisions just in the same way. 

SS: Yes, that is what I am trying to do. But what have I to look 
forward to? My parents are dead and I am a prisoner. Germany 
is destroyed. Do you think I ll ever get out? 

O: Yes. 

SS: But don t you think my attempted escape will be held 
against me? It was very silly, but I told you how it came about. 

O: I certainly think it will be held against you. However, if 
you have not committed any crime I am certain that you will 
eventually be released. In the meantime you have leisure to think 
and to continue on the lines you told me about The main thing 
is not to lose courage. You have been misled, now find your own 
way out, keep trying and help to rebuild from the debris. 

SS: I have every intention of doing so. But you must under 
stand, most of us here, especially the younger ones, are in the same 
fix as I am. We cannot teach each other much, we have no books 
or things to read and no lectures from outside. I wish you could 
do something about this. So far my mind has been made up for 
me; now I want to make it up myself." 


Difficulties with the Russians Begin 

ON- THE asrd May 1945, & e K^g signed a declaration giving me 
full powers under the Great Seal to sign the Allied declaration 
regarding the defeat and unconditional surrender of Germany, 
and to negotiate with other Powers and States about all matters rela 
tive to that surrender. I was later directed to ensure that the provisions 
of the declaration were strictly carried out The actual signing cere 
mony, and the inaugural meeting of the Control Council, were to 
take place in Berlin on the 5th June, so I arrived at the Templehof 
airfield at i p.m. on that day, having flown up from the British Zone. 
I was met by a number of senior Russian officers in the midst of a 
jostling crowd of pressmen of every nationality. After inspecting a 
guard of honour of tough-looking young soldiers, the British delegation 
was driven to a group of small villas in a suburb which had been 
placed at our disposal. We were then left to ourselves, with one 
Russian officer as our host. I asked to see Marshal Zhukov but was 
told he was busy. I then became very insistent and said that if I was 
not taken to see the Marshal I would leave Berlin and return to the 
British Zone which, of course, I could hardly have done! 

However, this did the trick and I was taken to Marshal Zhukov s 
residence, which was in fact quite close to our group of villas. I was 
delighted to meet the man about whom I had heard so much and we 
had an interesting conversation. He suggested that the declaration 
should be signed by the four Allies at 4 p.m. The ceremony would be 
followed by an official dinner after which General Eisenhower pro 
posed to leave Berlin. I said this would suit me and that I also must 
leave Berlin that evening. 

I then began to discuss with Zhukov the stages by which the 


Difficulties with the Russians Begin 337 

machinery of the Control Council could be built up, and how the 
Council would operate. I suggested that the first need was for a 
Secretariat in Berlin, and that the Deputies should meet at once to 
examine the many pressing problems awaiting attention and to prepare 
the ground prior to the meeting of the four members of the Council. 
Zhukov disagreed. His view was that no useful work could begin until 
the Western Allies had handed over to the Russians those portions of 
the Russian Zone which they still occupied; in other words, we must 
withdraw at once within the Zonal boundaries that had been agreed 
at the Yalta Conference. During the fighting of the last few weeks of 
the war the British and American forces had advanced far beyond 
them. I pointed out that there were many problems of disentangle 
ment which would have to be solved before the withdrawal to our 
own zones could take place, and that the date of handing over would 
have to be decided by our Governments. Zhukov agreed with this. 
But he counter-attacked by saying that Berlin would not be in a fit 
state to receive any part of the Allied Control Council for some weeks. 
This sounded ominous to me. 

When I left Zhukov I went at once to visit Eisenhower at his villa; 
I wanted to discuss with him the result of my talk with Zhukov and 
the trouble which seemed to be looming ahead. It was obvious that we 
would not be able to do any business with the Russians until we had 
withdrawn back within our own zones. 

The boundaries of these zones had been agreed by the European 
Advisory Commission in London on the 12th of September 1944, and 
its findings had been approved by the three Governments. 

At the Yalta Conference the following statement had been issued 
by the Prime Minister, President Roosevelt and Marshal Stalin on the 
nth February 1945: 

"Under die agreed plans the forces of the Three Powers will 
each occupy a separate zone of Germany. Co-ordinated adminis 
tration and control has been provided for under the plan through 
a Central Control Commission consisting of the Supreme Com 
manders of the Three Powers with Headquarters in Berlin. 

It has been agreed that France should be invited by the Three 
Powers, if she should so desire, to take a zone of occupation, and 
to participate as a fourth member of the Council Commission. 
The limits of the French Zone will be agreed by the Four Govern 
ments concerned through their representatives on the European 
Advisory Commission." 

The agreement regarding the boundaries of the French Zone were 
not decided by the European Advisory Committee until the 26th July 
1945, ie. until after the Potsdam Conference had assembled on the 
i6th July. 

338 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

But in spite of these international agreements the British Govern 
ment considered, and instructed me accordingly on the day before I 
went to Berlin, that the de facto occupation hy British and American 
armies of large parts of the Russian Zone was an important bargaining 
counter for obtaining satisfaction from the Soviet Government on a 
number of outstanding questions, such as our policy towards Germany 
and its treatment as one whole economic unit, the problems of Poland, 
the Balkans, and Austria, and other related matters. 

I knew that the Prime Minister (Churchill) attached the utmost 
importance to the British and American armies standing firm on the 
existing tactical boundary line reached by VE Day; he reckoned that 
they should not withdraw until the impending meeting of the three 
Heads of Government in Berlin (the Potsdam Conference), when 
these and other questions could be discussed and settled. 

I also knew that the attitude of the American Government was 
different While they would have liked to reach a settlement of the 
German and Austrian problems before withdrawing the American 
armies, they were not prepared to link any outside question such as 
Poland or the Balkans with the question of withdrawal; nor would 
they give an assurance to stand firm until the Heads of Governments 
had met. Indeed, the American Government had said that if the 
Russians insisted on an immediate execution of the zones agreement, 
they would not delay their own withdrawal. 

All this looked a bit awkward to me. I discussed with Eisenhower 
the divergent views of our two Governments. His view was that we 
could not challenge the pledged word of our respective Governments; 
to do so would wreck any possibility there might be of working in 
friendly co-operation with the Russians. I agreed with him, especially 
after my talk with Zhukov. But I was of course bound by the instruc 
tions I had received from my Government; if the question was raised 
I was to say it was a matter for inter-governmental decision. Eisen 
hower agreed to adopt the same line. 

Meanwhile Eisenhower and I were waiting impatiently at his villa 
for information about the signing of the declaration. He was getting 
very angry at the delay; so was L Finally we sent a combined ulti 
matum to Zhukov that we would both return to our own zones unless 
the four Commanders-in-Chief met at once. That produced quick 
results and we were summoned to the conference, which was held in 
a clubhouse nearby. But, on arrival, there was further delay owing to 
a Russian objection to one word in the English text which disagreed 
with the Russian version* I had no idea what the word was, or what 
effect it had on the general problem. But I was so fed up with the 
whole affair that I suggested the offending word be deleted from the 
text; this suggestion was at once agreed by the Russians and by every 
one else, and to this day I do not know what difference it made. 

Difficulties with the Russians Begin 339 

The declaration was then signed at 4.30 p.m. in a blaze of arc lamps 
and before a milling crowd of pressmen and photographers. 

Following the formal signing, the four members of the Control 
Council and their advisers withdrew for a private meeting. Eisenhower 
began the discussion by saying that the Four Power Declaration we 
had just signed made the four Commanders-in-Chief, in effect, a 
governmental autonomy. We must now decide on the machinery 
which would make the governmental autonomy work. He suggested 
that our staffs should at once begin the study of Control Council 
problems and, upon approval by the Council, the results would be 
submitted to Governments. 

But Zhukov made it very clear that the setting up of the Control 
Council machinery could not begin until the British and American 
forces had withdrawn to their own zones; until this was done there 
could not even be any joint exploratory work by the Deputies or staffs. 
I explained that all our troops had arrived in their present positions 
as a result of the war, and that it would take some time to sort them 
out and get them back into their proper areas. Zhukov asked how 
long this would take. I said at least three weeks. He accepted this at 
once, and added that during those weeks the four Commanders-in- 
Chief could gather together their staffs for the Control Council. He 
indicated that in due course he would have no objection to the Control 
Council being in Berlin. 

Eisenhower then made a very good speech which brought the 
meeting to a close. He said that he had come to the meeting with the 
definite view that the setting up of the machinery of the Control 
Council, and the withdrawal of the Western forces from the Soviet 
Zone, could be done simultaneously. It was now clear from Zhukov s 
remarks that this was not so, and that the Russians were not prepared 
"to play** on Control Council matters until the British and American 
forces withdrew to their proper zones. There was therefore nothing 
further that could be done at the moment, other than to report to our 
respective Governments what had taken place and to ask for new 

We were then taken to a room nearby to partake of a large banquet. 
It was now 6 p.m. There were many speeches and we developed into 
a sort of mutual congratulation society. Soon after 7 p.m. Eisenhower 
insisted on leaving for the airfield and we left the banquet, which by 
that time was beginning to get lively. Eisenhower, Zhukov and I all 
crowded into one car and drove at high speed through Berlin to the 
Templehof airfield; there we had very friendly farewell greetings 
with Zhukov and took off for our respective headquarters. 

The direct result of the meeting in Berlin on the sth June was to 
make the Russian position crystal clear. They were not prepared to 
operate the machinery of the Control Council, or even to begin staff , 

340 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

discussions on the many problems that lay ahead in Germany, until 
the Western Allies had handed over those portions of the Russian 
Zone they still occupied. No central organisation for the control of 
Germany was therefore possible for the time being. I reported accord 
ingly to the British Government and gave it as my view that, because 
of the Russian attitude, we should get back into our agreed zones at 
once. If we had captured Vienna, Prague and Berlin before the Rus 
sians, as we could have done (see Chapter 19), the position would 
possibly have been different. We now had to begin to pay the price 
for that failure. There were no military reasons for staying where we 
were; there were many political reasons for withdrawing, and unless 
we did so we couldn t even begin to control the Germany we had 

The Prime Minister did not agree with this view; indeed, as I have 
already indicated, his opinion was that we should stay where we were 
until the Russians had become more amenable. I remember discussing 
the subject with Eisenhower when I was staying with him in Wash 
ington in 1946; he was then Chief of Staff of the American Army, and 
I was C.LG.S. On reflection he reckoned that if we had stood firm the 
Russians would eventually have given in, and if they had used force to 
make us go back, we would have fought them. I could not agree. The 
British people were completely fed up with war and would never 
have been persuaded to fight the Russians in 1945. The Russians had 
been built up as heroes during the German war, and any British 
Government that wanted to fight them in 1945 would have been in 
for trouble at home. Furthermore, Britain had reached the limit of 
her man-power resources and could not have sustained further active 
operations in Europe; the American armies in Europe were being 
rapidly re-deployed for the intensifying of the war against Japan. And 
whatever I may have said in Paris, on the 26th May, France was still 
down and out. 


As we have seen, the first meeting of the Allied Commanders-in- 
Chief had not achieved results. The Russian attitude, though out 
wardly friendly, was very uncertain and difficult to fathom. There 
were definite indications of Russian communist propaganda in certain 
areas of the British Zone, and "cells" were being formed in all the areas 
occupied by the Western Allies. This needed most careful watching 
since communist cells would "turn the heat on" whenever there were 
signs of dissension in the Western camp. Communist propaganda was 
particularly active in our Displaced Persons* camps. 

The food position was causing me concern and, unless it could be 

Difficulties with the Russians Begin 341 

improved, we were to be faced with serious famine in the winter. 
The British Zone could not at any time produce even half the food 
needed for its twenty million inhabitants. The present ration was only 
1200 calories a day; if we were to step this up to about 1800 calories 
a day we would require two million tons of imports of wheat equiva 
lent during the next twelve months. Furthermore, much would depend 
on transportation and distribution, and facilities for these were lacking. 

The great and crying need everywhere was going to be coal. We 
had 140 mines working, producing 40,000 tons a day; not nearly 
enough. If we wanted more coal, we would have to feed the miners 

Then we had two and a half million German prisoners of war; these 
were being discharged to work at the rate of 12,000 a day. My policy 
regarding these prisoners was to discharge the harmless ones to work, 
to keep the S.S. in camps, and to disperse those of the General Staff 
in camps on the lines of communication. 

In addition to these prisoners, we had over one million Displaced 
Persons, nearly all from the East. Some 400,000 of these were Russians 
and we could reasonably hope that Zhukov would take these off our 
hands. But the remaining 600,000 would probably remain with us for 
all time. 

It was obvious to me that we must get the Germans down to hard 
work; only in this way could we get things right. The Russians were 
encouraging Trade Unions; I decided not to do so. I was anxious the 
Unions should grow slowly and naturally, and not be "forced"; this 
policy would, I hoped, ensure that the right leaders would be thrown 
up gradually as time went on; if we proceeded too quickly, the Unions 
might get into the wrong hands and we would then be in for trouble. 

If we were to get the Germans all working to resuscitate their 
country, we had to stop cursing them. The German war was over. We 
must give them definite orders and see they were obeyed; we must be 
very firm., but just It would be important to get our propaganda across 
to the Germans by the use of newspapers and cinemas, keeping at all 
times a tight control over editors and cinema managers. It would be 
useless to try to make the Germans like unto ourselves, as some people 
wanted to do; our aim should be rather to turn them into good and 
right-thinking Germans. 

I then had to turn my mind to our own army. We must not let the 
soldiers become fed up with occupational duties, or weary them with 
too many guard duties. We could not watch everything, and I decided 
that we would only guard food, explosives and certain weapons, and 
dangerous prisoners. The British soldier was to have at least three 
nights in bed out of four. 

I explained to the troops that Germany was in a bad way; great 
privations, and probably actual starvation, would be undergone by 

342 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

many of the people. There would be much hardship all over Europe, 
and definitely so in the British Isles. Our own living standards and 
habits must be simple and not extravagant We ourselves were well 
off in Germany; we must not flaunt our well-being in the sight of the 
impoverished and hungry inhabitants. 

Britain was still at war in the Far East. In order to prosecute that 
war, and to accelerate reconstruction at home, economy was essential. 
Sports and games would be on a wartime, and not peacetime, basis. 
There would be no hunting or racing for the time being. 

Then there was the problem of wives. I decided that for the time 
being no wives or families would be allowed in Germany, or anywhere 
else in North- West Europe. This order was to be 100 per cent, and to 
apply to Navy, Army, Air Force, and civilians; it would obviously be 
reviewed should conditions change. Military wives would of course be 
allowed, i.e. those who were in the Services and worked in uniform; 
but these were not to be in the same area as their husbands, i.e. they 
must not set up house together. I may say that this order was not 

As regards leave to the U.K., I ordered that there must be a fair 
deal to everyone. Our figures early in June were 7500 daily, which 
gave each officer and man leave about once every 5 months. It would 
be necessary to step up the leave facilities in the Italian theatre, and 
the overall problem for both theatres would be affected by the rolling 
stock situation. 

The release scheme was beginning to operate. I did not feel I could 
let those who had fought so well go away without some word of thanks 
for what they had done. I decided to give to each officer and man a 
personal message, which was printed on a card and ran as follows: 

c l feel I cannot let you leave 21 Army Group on your return to 
civil life without a message of thanks and farewell. Together we 
have carried through one of the most successful campaigns in 
history, and it has been our good fortune to be members of this 
great team. 

God bless you and God speed/* 

Finally I decided that, as the atmosphere in Germany was highly 
charged with electricity and politicians were eyeing us with suspicion 
now the war was over, all Press conferences by commanders were 
forbidden. The background would be given to the Press by my Chief 
of Staff and by no one else. 

Immediately after our conference in Berlin on the 5th June, I had 
decided to deploy the Main Headquarters of the Control Commission 
(Military and Civil Divisions) in the British Zone between Hanover 
and Osnabriick. Berlin was clearly impossible at present. I decided to 
have a Tac Headquarters with the Americans at Frankfurt, and 

Difficulties with the Russians Begin 343 

Eisenhower welcomed this move. By this means I hoped to get orderly 
government working in the British Zone as quickly as possible and 
at the same time to keep in step with the Americans. When we were 
allowed into Berlin, I would move there the Tac Headquarters from 
Frankfurt. In fact, I proposed to keep the main body of the Control 
Commission "built-in" in the British Zone, since there was where the 
problems lay. What we kept in Berlin was entirely our own affair and 
I was not going to submit to Russian dictation on that score. 


Having given orders on all these, and many other, matters I went 
to London on the i6th June to try and get decisions on certain matters 
of policy. The major problems I raised were the following three: 

(a) The Russians would not co-operate with us on Control Com 
mission matters, or allow reconnaissance parties into Berlin, 
until all the Allies withdrew into their proper zones. There was 
no military reason for staying where we were, and the man 
power situation made it disadvantageous to do so. It was 
essential to begin discussions on Control Commission matters 
as soon as possible; much valuable time had already been lost, 
and many decisions were being held up pending discussion by 
the Control Commission. I therefore strongly recommended 
the agreement of an early date by which the withdrawal to 
agreed zones should be completed. 

(b) The intended operation of the release scheme was such that, 
unless a large number of officers were retained under the 
military necessity clause, certain branches of the staff would 
lose the majority of their trained officers, and their quick 
replacement would be a matter of the greatest difficulty. 

(c) Immense quantities of German arms and equipment were 
being collected, and, in addition to all his other commitments, 
the British soldier was now having to guard these dumps of 
arms. Owing to the number and size of these dumps, adequate 
guards were difficult to arrange, and there was a serious 
danger that a number of the weapons would find their way 
back into enemy hands. I had been told that these weapons 
were to be kept intact I pressed that this order be cancelled 
so that I could destroy the weapons. 

While in London I made clear to the British Government the prob 
lems with which we were faced, and the impossibility of making 
much progress in the government of Germany until the machinery of 
the Central Commission could be got going. I learnt that discussions 

344 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

were then in progress between the Prime Minister, President Truman 
and Marshal Stalin, on the occupation of agreed zones both in Ger 
many and also in Austriawhere the Russians had to hand over a 
considerable area to the Western Allies. On the igth June, I was in 
formed that Marshal Stalin had agreed to the simultaneous withdrawal 
into agreed zones in Germany and in Austria, and to the move of 
Anglo-French-American garrisons into Berlin, such moves to begin 
about the ist July. Considerable importance was attached to this 
agreement, since the Big Three Conference had been arranged for the 
middle of July in Berlin, and it was considered that the Allies should 
all have occupied their agreed zones by that date. 

Following this agreement by Governments to the simultaneous 
withdrawal to agreed zones, General Weeks and General Clay, the 
British and American Deputies on the Control Commission, flew to 
Berlin on the 2Qth June, for a conference with Marshal Zhukov to 
settle how the withdrawal should be carried out. At this conference 
it was agreed that withdrawals should commence on the ist July; the 
British would evacuate the Wismar "cushion" in one day, and the 
Magdeburg "bulge" in two days; the Americans would evacuate their 
portion of the Russian Zone in six to nine days. British and American 
advance parties would take over their sectors in Berlin on the ist 
July, and main bodies to occupy Berlin would follow on the 4th July. 
There was considerable discussion about communications from the 
British and American zones to their sectors in Berlin. The necessity 
for free and unhampered access was emphasised, and the Russians 
agreed to the allotment of a road and a railway over which the British 
and Americans would have full running rights, the Russians retaining 
responsibility for maintenance and control. The allotment of an airfield 
for the period of the Big Three Conference was also agreed, but the 
subsequent allotment of airfields was reserved for further discussion. 
An air corridor to Berlin twenty miles wide was to be established, 
and the free use of this corridor was permitted subject to one hour s 
notice being given to the Russians of an aircraft entering their zone. 

As a result of this conference, withdrawals to agreed zones began 
on the ist July and on the same day advance parties started for Berlin. 
Arrangements for the Big Three Conference in Berlin were also agreed, 
and work on the British sector in Berlin for the conference was pushed 
ahead. The hand-over of the Wismar and Magdeburg areas to the 
Russians went smoothly and was completed on the 4th July. At the 
same time, a force drawn mainly from yth Armoured Division went 
to occupy the British Sector in Berlin. This force took over the sector 
from the Russians, who withdrew the majority of their troops; but 
they refused to withdraw their troops carrying out Military Govern 
ment there unless the British would take over the responsibility for 
feeding the 900,000 Germans living in the sector. The Americans were 

Difficulties with the Russians Begin 345 

faced with a similar request in their sector. Berlin as a whole had 
normally drawn its food from the area within 50 miles of the capital, 
all of which was now occupied by the Russians; this therefore seemed 
an unreasonable request After considerable discussion and several 
conferences, it was finally agreed that the British and the Americans 
would provide food for one month for the population in their sectors 
of Berlin, without prejudice to any future decision on the question of 
principle which would be discussed at the Big Three Conference. 


Meanwhile the future of Germany and the function of the Control 
Council was left to be decided at the Big Three Conference, due to 
open in Berlin on the i6th July. It was already clear to me that the 
Russians were not going to agree to the reconstitution of Germany as 
one economic whole. In their zone the Russian armies were living off 
the country, which they had systematically sacked, I wrote the fol 
lowing in my diary at the end of June 1945: 

"The immensity of the problem of the future of Germany, and 
of Europe, to be settled at the Big Three Conference is becoming 
clear. So is the divergence between the views of the Western 
Allies and the Russians as regards the solution. It remains to be 
seen whether a workable solution can be achieved. It is far more 
likely that eastern Europe up to the line from Liibeck to Trieste 
will fall under solely Russian domination, and will remain so for 
many years." 

Following my nomination as British Member of the Allied Control 
Council, I had received a wide and loosely worded directive to cover 
the course of action I was to pursue. This directive assumed that the 
Control Council would be functioning and would by unanimous deci 
sion settle all problems which arose. The situation however was, in 
fact, other than that which the politicians had envisaged. The Russians 
were not prepared for the Control Council to begin to operate; fur 
thermore, no central authority existed in Germany through which the 
Control Council could function. To meet this situation I required 
further guidance from Whitehall on the course of action which I 
should pursue. Eventually I received authority from the Secretary of 
State for War to act on my own initiative but to endeavour to work in 
line with the Americans as far as possible. I subsequently issued a 
series of memoranda to my staff giving them my general policy for 
the government of the British Zone of Germany. These memoranda 
showed at once how different from the problems of war were those 
with which I now had to deal. It was brought home to me every day 

346 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

that I had much to learn. But I had some first-class civilian advisers 
My Chief of Staff, General Weeks, was a tower of strength. Then the 
heads of the civil divisions of the Control Commission were the best 
that Whitehall could produce for me. The ones with whom I dealt the 
most were: 

Political Adviser Sir William (now Lord) Strang. 

Political Division Christopher Steel (now Sir Christopher). 

Finance S. P. Chambers. 

Industry Sir Percy (now Lord) Mills. 

Transport Robert Inglis (now Sir Robert). 

Labour R. W. Luce. 

I could not have had a better team; each was an expert in his own 
particular sphere. 

As the summer of 1945 wore on it became clear that things were 
not going to work out in the way we had hoped. This was due to 
trouble with the Russians and also to somewhat divergent viewpoints 
among the Western Allies. We were committed to the Potsdam Proto 
col which entailed, among other things, the provision of reparations 
from the British Zone to Russia, the settlement of refugees in the 
British Zone, and the treatment of Germany as an economic whole 
under a central German administration. Because the British Zone 
never had been economically self-sufficing and because, owing to the 
past bombing and future reparations, it would become eventually 
even further from that desirable state, we obviously wanted Germany 
treated as one economic entity. For us, the battle of the winter lay 

A further trouble was the fact that if Germany was to pay for the 
cost of the British occupation, she must be made capable of doing so. 
But her industrial capacity was to be immensely reduced, her shipping 
removed and her foreign assets frozen. There was to be an influx of 
refugees into Western Germany; this would entail a larger population 
to feed, a greater population for which to find employment, and an 
inability to export. Unless Germany could rebuild her foreign exchange 
position, she could not pay. 

The Russians did not mind that. For them Germany must pay by 
immediate reparations in machinery and labour; a dismembered and 
discontented Germany would help the spread of Communism. The 
French saw the British point of view but were suspicious of any 
attempt to rebuild Germany, their ancient foe. The Americans were 
not sympathetic to a viewpoint which might put Germany on its feet 
with American aid, merely to provide a market for Britain or to save 
the British taxpayer. 

Failing Quadripartite control, we would presumably run our zone 
like a colony, and the French would act the same way in their zone. 

Difficulties with the Russians Begin 347 

But the difference in our colonial theories was considerable; the 
French would run their zone by holding it down and we would try 
to hold ours up. 

The job of the Control Council was to evolve a new Europe, and 
one in which seventy million Germans would live peaceably as one 
entity. We could achieve this only by Quadripartite control of a 
central German Government. Upon our ability to succeed rested more 
futures than Germany s alone. 

What would happen if we failed? 

That is how it appeared to me in the summer of 1945. Possibly my 
impressions were painted with too broad a brush, and possibly the 
colours used were too obviously red, white and blue. Anyhow, it was 
becoming obvious that we were going to fail in our aim of Quad 
ripartite government of Germany. However, my immediate concern 
was with the British Zone, in trying to establish there some order out 
of the existing chaos, and in getting our twenty million Germans 
through the winter which lay ahead. I did not propose to be drawn 
away from that purpose because of difficulties with the Russians. 


The Struggle to Rehabilitate Germany 

IN THE middle of July 1945, SHAEF was disbanded, but Eisen 
hower remained as C.-in-C. and Military Governor of the American 
Zone. I have always considered this to have been a major error 
on the part o the Western Allies. The whole of eastern Germany was 
one zone controlled by one man (Zhukov); we split western Germany 
into three separate zones, each controlled by a separate Military 
Governor. I hold the view that Eisenhower should have been left in 
overall control of the western half of Germany; we would then have 
confronted the Russians with a united front. We were to pay the 
penalty for this nationalistic self-importance. 

When Supreme Headquarters was disbanded, Eisenhower wrote 
me the following letter: 

"Dear Monty, 

Combined Command terminates at midnight tonight, 13 July 
1945, and brings to a close one of the greatest and most successful 
campaigns ever fought. 

History alone will judge the Allied Expeditionary Force in its 
true perspective, but we, who have worked and struggled to 
gether, can feel nothing but pride in the achievements of the men 
we have been honoured to command, and sadness at having to be 
parted now. 

Whatever history may relate about the exploits of this Allied 
Force, and the memory of man is short and fickle, it is only we, at 
this time, who can fully appreciate the merit and due worth of the 
accomplishments of this great Allied team. 

These accomplishments are not limited to the defeat of the Nazi 


The Struggle to Rehabilitate Germany 349 

hordes in battle a continent has been liberated from all that is 
an antipathy to the ideal of democracy which is our common 
heritage. Above all, we have proved to the whole world that the 
British and American peoples can for ever be united in purpose, 
in deed and in death for the cause of liberty. 

This great experiment of integrated command, whose venture 
was cavilled at by some and doubted by many, has achieved 
unqualified success, and this has only been made possible by the 
sympathetic., unselfish and unwavering support which you and 
ail other commanders have wholeheartedly given me. Your own 
brilliant performance is already a matter of history. 

My gratitude to you is a small token for the magnificent service 
which you have rendered, and my simple expression of thanks 
sounds totally inadequate. Time and opportunity prohibit the 
chance I should like to shake you and your men by the hand, and 
thank each one of you personally for all you have done. I can do 
nothing more than assure you of my lasting appreciation, which I 
would ask you to convey to all those under your command for 
their exemplary devotion to duty and for the most magnificent 
loyalty which has ever been shown to a commander. 

As ever 


I had always had a tremendous admiration for Eisenhower and his 
intensely human qualities; now, in the middle of 1945, that admiration 
was turning to a personal devotion that was to grow as the years 
passed, and today I count him one of my closest friends. In November 
1945 he left Germany to return to Washington as Chief of Staff, U.S. 
Army. I then lost his wise counsel and willing assistance and it was 
brought home to me very forcibly what to use Mary Martin s words 
in Sotfth Pacific "SL wonderful guy" he was. 


By the time SHAEF had ceased to exercise control, each of the 
four occupying Powers had already taken over its zone in Germany 
and Military Government was becoming well established. Free move 
ment within and between the zones of the Western Allies was per 
mitted, but access to the Russian Zone was still not allowed. In order 
to reach their sectors in Berlin, the Russians had allotted a road, 
railway and air route for the use of the Western Allies, but no deviation 
off this route could be made. Only within Berlin was circulation 
between all Allied sectors allowed. 

In the zones of the Western Allies close liaison on all matters of 

350 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

high policy was being maintained. The British section of the Control 
Commission kept a strong liaison detachment with the American Head 
quarters at Frankfurt, and General Weeks paid frequent visits there 
for meetings to co-ordinate British, American and French policy. No 
liaison on similar lines had as yet been arranged with the Russians. 

In the British Zone the disbandment of the German Army was 
proceeding well, and sufficient men had been discharged for work on 
the land to ensure adequate labour for the harvest. But to offset this, 
large numbers of fresh prisoners were arriving from Norway, and the 
total number of German prisoners held in the British Zone now 
amounted to 1,850,000. Coal production was slowly being raised as 
more food was given to the miners, and the services of transportation 
and distribution were being restarted as the supply of vehicles and the 
repair of roads and railways permitted. The fishing industry had been 
revived all round the coast and stocks of food were being supplemented 
from this source. The problem of Displaced Persons, of which some 
1,300,000 remained for disposal, was still a very difficult one; the 
Russians were most irregular in their acceptance of Russian D.P.S, 
and in any event refused to accept Polish D.P.S until all their own had 
been repatriated. 

Furthermore, it was now becoming clearer how the Russians were 
governing their zone in Germany. On the cessation of hostilities the 
Russians had systematically plundered it, removing and sending east 
wards all machinery and stocks on which they could lay their hands. 
They regarded this action as partial reparation for what they had 
suffered at German hands, and for what the Germans had looted in 
Russia. In addition, the Russian Army was living off the country and 
thus eating up food supplies in their zone. Finally, all territory east of 
the Oder-Neisse line had been given by the Russians to Poland. Many 
of the Germans in this region, which before the war supported about 
ten million people, were being evicted by the Poles into the Russian 
Zone in Germany, and the small remaining population in this rich food- 
producing area was now unlikely to be sufficient to cultivate the area 
to anywhere near its previous productivity. From this it was clear that 
far from having a surplus of food, as in the past, to feed western 
Germany, the Russian Zone in Germany was likely to go very hungry 
and might well starve. Furthermore, the industrial capacity of eastern 
Germany in the future would be negligible. 


The Prime Minister, President Truman and Marshal Stalin arrived 
in Berlin for the conference at Potsdam on the isth July. I went up 
to Berlin to receive the Prime Minister on his arrival, and took the 

The Struggle to Rehabilitate Germany 351 

opportunity then, and on the following day before the conference 
began, to inform him, Anthony Eden, and the C.I.G.S. of the problems 
of government in the British Zone in Germany, and of the questions 
which urgently required a decision at the forthcoming conference. 
The main question was whether there was in future to be one Germany 
or two. I gave it as my opinion that if Germany was to be treated 
as one administrative and economic whole, then the following implica 
tions of this decision would have to be accepted: 

(a) Free circulation of Allied nationals between all zones. 

(b) A central German administrative machine, to deal in particu 
lar with finance, transportation and communications. 

(c) A common policy regarding the reconstruction of industries, 
wage rates, and price controls. 

(d) The exchange of resources and services, including food, be 
tween zones so as to preserve a balanced economy throughout 

(e) Consequential on (d), global demands on outside sources to 
make up deficits. 

Just when the conference looked like reaching some decisions on 
these matters, the British delegation had to return to England for the 
opening on the 26th July of the ballot boxes in order to discover the 
results of the General Election. All arrangements were however made 
for the return of Mr. Churchill and his delegation on the morning of 
the 27th July. But it was not to be. 

The decisive defeat of the Churchill government came as a great 
surprise to all, and the formation of a new government caused a slight 
delay in the return of a British delegation to Potsdam. There was not 
unnaturally some uncertainty about the effect that the change of 
government would have on the deliberations of the conference. All 
doubts were, however, set at rest when Mr. Attlee and Mr. Bevin 
arrived in Potsdam; these two grasped the problems with both hands 
and created a very good impression on everyone. 

The results of the conference appeared on the surface to be gratify 
ing. The main results as far as they affected Germany were as follows: 

(a) The establishment of a Council of Foreign Ministers to pre 
pare peace treaties with Italy and with the Axis satellites; to 
prepare a peace settlement with Germany, for use when a 
German Government was ultimately set up; and to consider 
certain European territorial questions. 

(b) Three-Power agreement to treat the German population uni 
formly throughout Germany, as far as practicable; to remove 
all Nazis from office; to permit freedom of speech, of the 
Press and of religion, and the formation of free trades unions, 

352 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

subject to military security; and to decentralise the political 
structure no central German government being contem 
plated for the time being. 

(c) Agreement that Germany should be treated as an economic 
unit; that the German economy should be decentralised and 
that the first charge on the proceeds of exports from current 
production and stocks should be the payment for essential 
imports approved by the Control Council. 

(d) A settlement was reached whereby the occupying authorities 
should take reparations from Germany in the form of capital 
goods to the extent of Germany s ability to surrender indus 
trial equipment. 

(e) Agreement to transfer to Germany the populations remaining 
in Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary; this to be effected 
in an orderly and humane manner. 


All this looked good to me too good, and I could not see much of 
it happening. However, the great point now was to push ahead and 
I relied very much on Eisenhower to give a lead in the matter. He 
played up well and insisted that the Control Council should now meet 
and get on with the job. The Council held its first executive meeting 
in Berlin on the 30th July. 

No central machinery for governing Germany any longer existed. 
But, largely due to the great energy of General Weeks, Chief of Staff 
British Zone, various boards on a Tripartite basis had been set up to 
ensure that at least in the British, American and French zones, the 
Military Governments of each zone were marching in step and that 
the economic problems within these zones were being considered as 
a whole. However, these boards now ended with the setting up of 
the Quadripartite machinery. 

The Quadripartite machinery began to function after our meeting 
on the soth July, the whole organisation being called the "Allied 
Control Authority." This was divided into three bodies: 

The Council The heads of the British, American, Rus 

sian and French zones. 

The Co-ordinating 

Committee Their four deputies. 

The Control Staff Divided into twelve divisions, and working 

frequently together to evolve an agreed 

At the end of July, General Weeks was forced by ill-health to resign 
his post as my Deputy, and Chief of Staff of the British Zone. His 

The Struggle to Rehabilitate Germany 353 

departure was a great blow to me. Apart from our friendship, I was 
to lose his wise counsel. It is not too much to say that without his 
efforts we would not have progressed so far as we had in the organisa 
tion of government in the British Zone, and in the initial arrangements 
for getting the Control Commission organised in Berlin. I was lucky 
to secure as his successor General Sir Brian Robertson, who had served 
with me in the Eighth Army. 

Meanwhile I was pondering deeply over the problem of the rehabili 
tation of the mentality of the German people on the right lines. There 
must be a plan for this, and at present we had none. I therefore 
decided on the following outline plan; 

(i) To allow the people to discuss their problems amongst 
themselves, and generally to set on foot measures for self- 

(ii) To eradicate the best allies of Nazism idleness, boredom, 
and fear of the future and to replace them by good ideas 
and by hope, 
(iii) To work particularly on the youth of the German nation. 

The next thing was to tell the Germans about this plan. While the 
Potsdam Conference was in session I had written a third message to 
the German people in the British Zone. It was dated the 2$th July, 
1945, but I held it up until the results of that conference were pub 
lished and it was finally issued on the 6th August. It ran as follows: 


**i. Three months have now passed since Germany surrendered 
and your country passed to the control of the Allied Nations. 
The Allies are proceeding to the complete disarmament and 
demilitarisation of Germany and to fie final destruction of 
the Nazi Party and its affiliated organisations. These aims will 
be carried through to the end. 

S. During this time the British Zone has been under Military 

Members of the German armed forces have been sorted out 
by trades and occupations; many thousands have been dis 
charged to work on the land and in other spheres, and this will 

There is every prospect of a good harvest, and you must see 
that it is all gathered in. 

My officers have been active in their endeavours to arrange 
that the German population have adequate food and housing 
and are kept free from disease. 

The first stage in the rehabilitation of Germany is under way. 

354 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

3. I am now going to proceed with the second stage of the Allied 

In this stage it is my intention that you shall have freedom 
to get down to your own way of life: subject only to the pro 
visions of military security and necessity. 

I will help you to eradicate idleness, boredom, and fear of 
the future. Instead, I want to give you an objective, and hope 
for the future. 

4. I will relax by stages the present restrictions on the freedom 
of the Press. 

It is Allied policy, subject to the necessity for maintaining 
military security, to encourage the formation of free trade 
unions in Germany. 

It is also Allied policy to encourage the formation in Ger 
many of democratic political parties, which may form the 
basis of an ordered and peaceful German society in the future. 

We aim at the restoration of local self-government through 
out Germany on democratic principles. And it is our intention 
that Nazis removed from office shall be replaced by persons 
who, by their political and moral qualities, can assist in 
developing genuinely democratic institutions in Germany. It 
is our purpose also to reorganise the judicial system in accord 
ance with the principles of democracy, of justice under law 
and equal rights for all citizens without distinction of race, 
nationality or religion. 

You may hold public meetings and discussions; I am anxious 
that you should talk over your problems among yourselves, 
and generally set on foot measures to help yourselves. 

5. Your children are at present lacking juvenile organisations 
and facilities for education. 

I intend to encourage the forming of such organisations, on 
a voluntary basis, for the purpose of religious, cultural, health 
or recreational activities. Educational facilities will be pro 
vided at a relatively early date. 

6. I have relaxed the rules about fraternisation. Members of the 
British Forces are now allowed to engage in conversation with 
the German people in streets and in public places; this will 
enable us to have contact with you and to understand your 
problems the more easily. 

7. The coming winter will be a difficult time; there is much to 
mend and put right and time is short. We are faced with the 
probability of a shortage of food, a shortage of coal, insuffi 
cient accommodation, and inadequate services of transporta 
tion and distribution. It is well that you should realise this now. 

The Struggle to Rehabilitate Germany 355 

I will do all I can to get the population of the British Zone 
through the coming winter. But you, the German people, 
must plan for these contingencies now; you must work to help 

8. I will continue to see that you are all kept informed by radio, 
and by the newspapers, of how we are progressing; I -will 
give you German news as well as foreign news. 

9, I expect the co-operation of you all in the second stage of the 
Allied policy." 

I then began to consider German education. We were opening 
schools and universities as soon as possible. New school books must 
be printed which were not tainted with Nazi ideologies, and all Nazi 
teaching and ideas must be eradicated from educational establish 
ments. There would be a shortage of suitable teachers and that matter 
must be tackled energetically. 


On the zsnd August I flew in my light aircraft, a Miles Messenger, 
to visit the 3rd Canadian Division (General Yokes). As we were cir 
cling the airfield preparatory to landing, the engine cut out; we had the 
flaps down and so lost speed rapidly. My pilot could not make the 
airfield and we crash-landed nearby; the plane was completely written 
off, but the pilot, and an ADC who was with me, were unhurt I 
was not so lucky, being severely shaken and bruised and breaking two 
lumbar vertebrae. It was a lucky escape but, with a less skilful pilot, 
the results might have been much more serious. 

I managed to begin my address to the officers of the 3rd Canadian 
Division but had to break off in the middle as I felt too ill. It was sug 
gested that I should return to my headquarters (about 100 miles) by 
car. I refused, as I could not face a car journey of that distance with a 
damaged back; I said I would fly back in another light aircraft This 
upset the Canadians who said I might have another crash. I replied 
that no one had ever crashed twice in the same day and the flight 
back to my headquarters would, therefore, be the safest I would ever 

It took me some time to recover and during the winter of 1945-46 
I got frequent attacks of influenza and finally contracted pleurisy. I 
suppose my resistance to illness had become weakened during five 
years of war, and the aeroplane crash was the last straw. Finally, in 
February 1946, 1 had to go to Switzerland for a month to recover my 
health. My back continued to give trouble and some years later I 

356 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

began to get arthritis. An X-ray examination then showed that my 
spine had been left somewhat out of shape; this was dealt with, but 
it was some } ears before I fully recovered. 


Early in October 1945 the London Conference of Foreign Ministers 
ended in disagreement. It had been assembled to prepare the way for 
the peace treaties with ex-enemy States, as agreed at the Potsdam 
Conference. It was now fairly clear that we were heading for trouble 
in a big way. 

About the same time the Control Council machine in Berlin came 
up against serious obstacles and a position near deadlock had been 
reached. The immediate cause of this was the opposition of France to 
the creation of central German administrations; having been attacked 
three times in a century France wanted security above all else, and a 
dismembered Germany was held to be less dangerous. Furthermore 
the French wished the Ruhr area, which contained a very substantial 
part of Germany s war potential, to be separated from Germany and 
internationalised, and they considered that the setting up of central 
German administrations while the Ruhr remained within Germany 
would prejudge its fate. 

All the really important work in progress within the Quadripartite 
machine had been based upon the idea of establishing central German 
administrations. The effect of putting this idea into cold storage would 
virtually bring the Quadripartite machine to a standstill. The results 
of the last meetings of the Control Council and Co-ordinating Com 
mittee had proved this. Every measure of consequence at those 
meetings was blocked either by French opposition to central admin 
istrations or by Russian intransigence, for the Russians took full advan 
tage of the fact that they were no longer the only or even the chief 
obstruction to progress and agreement. A continuation of this state 
of affairs would put a strain on this delicate machine from which it 
might never recover. The importance of this consideration would de 
pend upon the value which was attached to Quadripartite working in 
Germany as a prelude to inter-Allied co-operation in wider fields. 

The Russians were creating a desert in their zone; anything in it 
of value was being sent to Russia, and conditions were already appal 
ling ia the area. Our reconnaissance parties in search of routes and 
camps for Poles returning to Poland reported that the Germans in 
the area were living like beasts on whatever they could get, and that 
starvation was already evident. 

As a result of the terrible conditions in the Russian Zone, and 

The Struggle to Rehabilitate Germany 357 

because of the eviction of Germans from the territory given by the 
Russians to Poland, from Czechoslovakia, and from elsewhere, 40,000 
German refugees were infiltrating into the British Zone weekly; and 
this movement looked likely to continue. 

The Russians had altered the gauge of the German railways in their 
zone to the Russian gauge. This was an ominous step. The only railway 
as yet unaltered was that leading from the western zones to Berlin, 
which was being used for the transport of supplies to Berlin. 

When the Foreign Ministers failed to reach agreement about Ger 
many, I went to London to see the Prime Minister (Attlee). I saw 
him early in October 1945 and gave him my views as follows: 

(a) I had once thought Four-Power government of Germany was 
possible. I now considered that it could never be made to 
work. Agreement could not be reached in the Council, and 
the Americans in particular were becoming restless. They had 
now tabled a motion that, when unanimous agreement in the 
Council was not possible, each zone might act as it thought 
best This was the first rift in the lute. It was clear to me that 
the Western Powers must now prepare for a continuous strug 
gle with the communist East, which would last for many 
years. Basically, this struggle would be for "the soul" of 
Germany. We had got half of Germany and we must hang 
on to it 

(b) It seemed to me, as a soldier, that it was not really a prac 
ticable proposition to de-industrialise the Ruhr, when Ger 
many and all the Allied States on her frontiers were suffering 
great privations due to the destruction of industrial potential. 
Provided the industry of the Ruhr was properly controlled it 
would fulfil a very useful function in supplying the needs of 
the Western Allies, and thereby indirectly in providing food 
for starving Germans. 

(c) Having in view the troubles that were descending on us, did 
Britain really want a unified Germany just at present? If 
Germany was unified too quickly, the British Zone would have 
to supply the desert in the Russian Zone, and those living in 
the Russian Zone would all want to come into the British 
Zone which we hoped eventually would become a thriving 

(d) The Russians were very difficult people to deal with, and we 
must be very sure about what points in our strategy mattered 
and what points did not matter. In my opinion, Western 
Germany, the Mediterranean, especially the eastern part, and 
Libya mattered; for the present the Balkans did not matter 

358 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

since Russia had too firm a grip on that area for us to do 
anything about it. 

(e) Finally it was vital at the present time to maintain adequate 
strength in the fighting services. If we did not do this, we 
should cut no ice with anyone, particularly the Russians. It 
was therefore most important to reach a decision about Na 
tional Service in peace-time as soon as possible. 

I made it dear to the Prime Minister that the immediate bar to 
Quadripartite progress was the French opposition to central German 
administrations. The Russian "iron curtain" policy, if it was continued 
indefinitely, would later be the real obstacle, since without freedom 
of movement of Allied and German officials, Press and aircraft, central 
German administrations could not work. If the Russians insisted on 
keeping the "iron curtain" drawn over their zone, there was no hope 
for the continuance of Quadripartite control. 

A quick solution had to be found to our problems, as Germany 
was drifting towards economic chaos. This could only be avoided if 
important decisions were quickly taken on currency, taxes, loans, etc., 
establishing for the purpose either a central financial administration or 
zonal administrations. The choice must be made soon; once taken it 
could not easily be reversed. 


With the approach of winter all my apprehensions about epidemics 
of disease appeared likely to be fulfilled. Food was very short; owing 
to bad weather the harvest had been poor, contrary to my earlier hopes, 
and no coal would be available for the heating of private houses. The 
German people had not the resistance to withstand any serious epi 
demic. In addition, reports from the Russian Zone indicated that many 
Germans, especially children, were akeady slowly starving in parts of 
Eastern Germany; epidemics starting in that area would be likely to 
spread rapidly among people seriously weakened by hunger and with 
out adequate housing, clothes or fuel. 

From the point of view of our own organisation, things were going 
smoothly. A gradual transition was taking place from the completely 
military machine set up by 21 Army Group to an eventual civilian 
organisation in which there would be a German administration with 
British control at the top. Two important steps had been taken: the 
Control Commission and Military Government had been integrated, 
and civilians had been brought out from England. The future develop 
ment of the organisation would be gradual and would continue slowly 
until completed. It would start at the bottom and work up, and 

The Struggle to Rehabilitate Germany 359 

eventually the Corps Commanders would have to be withdrawn from 
the administrative machine and become exclusively commanders of 
troops. It was unlikely that this would happen until the "Battle of 
the Winter" was over; or before the problems of Displaced Persons 
and prisoners of war were more manageable; or before the German 
administrative machine was capable of functioning without large-scale 
assistance from Corps Districts. 

Meanwhile I had issued a directive on the evolution of Government 
in the British Zone. It was based on the principle that Military Gov 
ernment of Germany must be succeeded as soon as possible by a 
system of control on a Chilian basis. The speed with which this change 
took place would depend on the progress made in demilitarisation, 
denazification, and the foundation of a democratic system of admin 
istration. In order to enable the process of change to proceed smoothly, 
a phased programme was to begin at once. In the first phase Corps 
District Commanders were already dealing with their Military Gov 
ernment responsibilities through their own Military Government staffs. 
In the second phase Regional Commissioners would be trained to 
replace Corps District Commanders as Military Governors. In the 
third phase Corps District Commanders would cease to be Military 
Governors. And in the fourth phase personnel of Military Government 
detachments would gradually be transferred to a civilian status and 
their strengths much reduced. On the completion of Phase Four, the 
Germans would be governing themselves, subject to a general super 
vision by us, and the head of the administration would be a civilian 
and not a soldier. Phases three and four were very important and 
this is how I described them, 


"At this stage Corps District Commanders cease to be the Mili 
tary Governors of their Corps Districts. They will have no respon 
sibility for civil administrations other than as Commanders of 
troops which may be required to act in support of the civil power 
or to assist the civil administrations with the administrative re 
sources at their disposal. This question of assistance is important. 
At present Military Government relies a great deal on the assist 
ance which it obtains from the troops. This is one of the reasons 
why Phase III cannot take place immediately. The degree of 
assistance which will be required when the change does take 
place will be considerably less than it is now, but the need for 
some assistance will remain and Corps District Commanders will 
have a responsibility to furnish it so far as their resources permit. 

A Regional Commissioner will be appointed at each Provincial 
Headquarters, including Hamburg. 

360 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

I am not prepared at this moment to fix the date on which 
Phase III will take place, but I shall aim at putting it into force 
in April 1946. 


This involves the gradual transference of the personnel of Mili 
tary Government Detachments from a military to a civilian status, 
and a reduction in the size of these Detachments at lower levels. 
The reason for such reduction is that the principle of civil control 
implies an exercise of control over German administrations at 
higher levels, while at the lower levels no control will eventually 
be exercised other than such inspection as may be necessary to 
ensure that instructions given to the higher echelons of adminis 
tration are being faithfully executed by the lower. 

It is not necessary to fix any time for this Phase at present. It 
will be carried out by the Regional Commissioners after they have 
assumed their responsibilities. 

I am holding a Corps District Commanders* Conference on the 
14th December. An opportunity will then be provided for dis 
cussing the detailed implications of the plan which I have set out 
above. It must, however, be clearly understood that the general 
framework of this plan is a matter on which I have already made 
my decision. 

Finally I want to emphasise that the essence of the change from 
Military Government to civil control does not lie in the substitu 
tion of civilians for soldiers in administrative appointments. It 
is desirable that the principal appointments should be handed over 
to civilians because this emphasises the fact of the change and has 
a psychological importance. 

The real essence of the change, however, is that under Military 
Government we govern our zone through the Germans. Our gov 
ernment depends on the Commander-in-Chief and his Corps 
District Commanders and it is supported immediately by our 
military forces. Civil control, on the other hand, means that the 
Germans govern themselves, subject to control and supervision by 
us, that our administration is headed by someone other than the 
Commander of the troops and that military forces are regarded 
as a reserve to be used in support of our administration in 
emergency only. 

I have thought it important to emphasise this point because it is 
not my intention that officers who are doing a competent job in 
Military Government now should automatically be replaced merely 
because they are not civilians/ 

The Struggle to Rehabilitate Germany 361 


In November, just when I was thinking we were beginning to get 
our affairs in the British Zone into good working order, Zhukov 
circulated a memorandum to the Control Council in which he accused 
me of retaining organised units of the former German Army in the 
British Zone. 

The presence of organised disarmed units of the German Army in 
the British Zone had first been discussed in the Co-ordinating Com 
mittee on the 17th September; had again been brought up on the 
23rd October; and had been the subject of two letters by General 
Robertson to Marshal Zhukov and General Sokolovsky. 

The question had originally been discussed in relation to the "Law 
for the Elimination and Limitation of Military Training," but it had 
become apparent that the Soviet authorities were suspicious of the 
intentions of the British Government in retaining in their zone large 
numbers of ex-Wehrmacht personnel, and Marshal Zhukov s memo 
randum was, in effect, a direct attack upon us. It was based on the 
Potsdam Declaration which laid down that all German units and 
headquarters must be immediately disarmed and disbanded* The 
memorandum alleged that organised German headquarters with full 
"operations" staffs existed from army group level down to the military 
and air districts into which the British Zone was divided. It also 
claimed that two corps groups existed, each 100,000 strong; that 
tank detachments were in being; and that we were maintaining con 
siderable numbers of Baits and Hungarians in organised units. In 
conclusion, the memorandum stated that it considered it imperative 
that a commission of the Control Council should visit the British 
Zone to examine the situation on the spot. 

This meeting was the first occasion on which one Ally had criticised 
the conduct of another in the Control Council. It was important to 
allay at once all Russian suspicions of our good faith, but at the same 
time the Russian method of approach and the direct challenge thrown 
out called for a blunt reply. I decided that a heavy counter-attack must 
be launched against the Soviet delegation. 

There were two main reasons for the presence of the 700,000 ex- 
Wehrmacht personnel in concentration areas awaiting disbandment. 
First, we had nowhere to put them if they were disbanded, and we 
could not guard them if they were dispersed in prison camps over our 
area- Second, the British Government required 225,000 Germans as 
reparations labour for the United Kingdom. All had been disarmed, 
and their headquarters only had sufficient staffs to enable them to 
administer their troops. I cabled my views to London, and at the 

362 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

Control Council meeting on the soth November I read out a statement 
in which, after expressing my astonishment that Marshal Zhukov 
should have ignored General Robertson s letters and chosen to directly 
challenge British policy, the following main points were made: 

(a) Ex-Wehrmacht personnel were not described as Prisoners of 
War because we did not wish to apply the Geneva Conven 
tion to them. 

(b) German headquarters were retained for administrative pur 
poses, since it was ridiculous to employ British to administer 

(c) The numbers contained in the Soviet memorandum were 
grossly exaggerated: there was only one corps with 99,000 
personnel in it. 

(d) There was no army group headquarters in the British Zone; 
none of the staffs had operational branches; and none of them 
was capable of doing anything but administrative work. 

(e) The military and air districts only administered labour gangs, 
and the tank detachments were all completely disarmed and 
waiting in concentration areas to be discharged. 

(f) The presence of Hungarians and Baits was extremely unwel 
come to the British, and in the case of the Hungarians the 
only reason for their continued presence in the British Zone 
was the refusal of the Soviet authorities to afford them trans 
port facilities through the Russian Zone. 

(g) The proposal to send a Commission was accepted on two 
conditions: first, that it visit all zones, and, secondly, that it 
be the forerunner of similar commissions which would in 
vestigate other matters within the scope of the Control 

Marshal Zhukov in his reply to this statement accepted the idea of 
a Commission to visit all zones but rejected the second condition. He 
re-affirmed that in his opinion the British were not fulfilling the terms 
of the Potsdam Agreement It was finally agreed, on my proposal, 
that the matter should be referred to the Co-ordinating Committee for 
consideration, and that the British Delegation should submit to the 
Co-ordinating Committee full facts and figures. 

The meeting was throughout very friendly. But it was undeniable 
that, in spite of the excellent personal relationship existing between 
Marshal Zhukov and myself, the Soviet authorities were deeply suspi 
cious of our holding of 700,000 German troops. The Control Council 
meeting had not gone badly for us, but it was now essential to disband 
the German headquarters and to discharge all German disarmed 
personnel held in concentration areas. I therefore urgently requested 

The Struggle to Rehabilitate Germany 363 

permission to be relieved of the order which made me hold 225,000 
Germans as reparations labour for the United Kingdom. 

Without waiting for authority from London, I gave out orders to 
my Chief of Staff to organise the disbandment of all ex-Wehrmacht 
personnel held in concentration areas. Conferences were immediately 
held at H.Q. British Army of the Rhine, and on the loth December 
Operation CLOBBER began. The object of the operation was to disband 
the German headquarters and to discharge the personnel by the 3oth 
January. After that date the only Germans held by us would be those 
required by the three services and certain categories that could not 
be discharged without trial. It was hoped to persuade our Allies to 
accept Austrians, and to induce the Russians to grant transport facil 
ities for Hungarians and Rumanians. The matter was thus brought to 
a successful conclusion, and it had been done without upsetting 
friendly personal relations on the Control Council which had always 
been good. 

THE WINTER OF 1945-46 

Towards the end of the year I pondered deeply over the progress, 
or lack of progress, we were making in the British Zone. The "Battle 
of the Winter" was proceeding and I reckoned that we would win it. 
The Control Commission was well established, and was working. We 
seemed to be marching forward. Our danger now was complacency; 
we had made a good beginning but there was still much to be done. 
I saw stormy weather ahead. 

While we had been proceeding methodically with our plans to 
rehabilitate Germany, the British Zone had remained quiet; the Ger 
mans were busy with their own immediate troubles, chiefly concerned 
with getting food and keeping warm. But I considered that our conflicts 
with them lay ahead. If we could get them safely through the winter, 
they would be feeling better in 1946. They would then see their fac 
tories and coal being removed, and would realise that they themselves 
were not to be allowed to benefit from the recovery of their country. 
Our industrial and economic policy was such that there was bound 
to be widespread unemployment in Germany as time went OIL We 
had removed from positions of responsibility large numbers of Nazi 
Germans, many of them immensely capable people and first class 
organisers; these people were now idle and might well cause unrest 
We had demobilised into the zone about two million fighting men and 
another half million remained to be added to the figure. Clearly there 
was much fertile ground in which evil persons could sow the seeds of 
discontent and trouble. 

364 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

As these thoughts passed through my mind I came to the conclusion 
that we must not let the strength of our armed forces in Germany run 
down too quickly. We must keep sufficient troops to back up the 
police in maintaining law and order, and to aid the civil power should 
things show signs of getting out of hand. 

There were so many possibilities of trouble, and so many things 
that could go wrong, that I decided we must be sure of our ground 
as we went along, llie tendency in Whitehall was to push things along 
quickly. My view was that to go too quickly might involve us in 
unpleasant repercussions. 

For instance, to me it was clear that political and trades union 
activities should be allowed to grow from below, steadily and pro 
gressively. We had planted the seeds; if they were "watered" unduly 
they might grow too quickly and become unpleasant weeds. If they 
maintained a sturdy growth from below, throwing up the right type 
of leader, then all would be well. But if we tried to hasten the crop 
by imposing a top dressing from above, we might well land ourselves 
in trouble. But my Socialist political masters in Whitehall did not 
altogether agree, saying they knew more about politics and trades 
unions than I did which was of course true. But I was responsible 
for what might happen. So I stuck to my guns and refused to change 
my policy, though I understand things were pushed along a bit more 
quickly after I left Germany in May 1946. 


Last Days in Germany 

Ox THE 26th January, 1946, I received official intimation that I 
had been selected for the appointment of Chief of the Imperial 
General Staff and was to take over the post on the 26th June. 
It was of course an immense honour to become professional head of 
the British Army; I little thought in my Sandhurst days that I would 
ever rise to that position. Nor did anyone else. I wondered how I 
would get on with my new political masters. I had already had deal 
ings with Atdee and Bevin which had given me much confidence* But 
I was not so sure about other personalities in the Socialist hierarchy. 
In August 1945, very soon after the new government assumed office, 
two Socialist M.P.S (one a junior Minister) visited the British forces 
in Germany and stayed a night with me at my Tac Headquarters. The 
next day they left on a tour of army units and I had agreed that they 
could address gatherings of officers and men if they wished. I was 
informed the next day that at the first unit, they had asked the officers 
to leave the hall so that they could speak to the soldiers alone, and 
that had been done. I was extremely angry and at once issued an order 
to all British forces in Germany forbidding such action. I was respon 
sible for discipline in the armed forces in Germany and I was not 
going to have it undermined by wandering Members of Parliament. 
I had these views conveyed to the two M.P.S concerned, explaining 
that I had no objection to their addressing the troops, but it must be 
in the presence of their officers. I also heard that one of the M.P.S had 
asked the batman to the general with whom he was staying the night, 
what he thought of the general. The batman rightly reported the con 
versation. These incidents had disturbed me. I well knew that good 
and friendly relations between Service chiefs and their political masters 


366 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

were essential. My dealings with members of the Conservative Gov 
ernment had always been most friendly. In January 1946 I had sent 
Churchill a copy of my book Alamein to the River Sangro and had 
written in it a tribute to him; I wanted him to realise how much we 
all owed to him, even though he was no longer our political master. 
I give below the reply he had sent me. The book he refers to (in his 
second paragraph ) was my autograph book which I have quoted in 
earlier chapters. 

28, Hyde Park Gate, 
London, S.W.y. 
January 8, 1946. 
"My dear Monty, 

I am most deeply obliged to you for sending me a copy of the 
story of your Campaign from Alamein to the Sangro River, and 
particularly touched by the all too kind and complimentary in 
scription which you have written in it. This is indeed a most 
generous tribute from a great Commander to his Political Chief, 
Certainly the relations which I had with you, with Alexander, and 
with the High Command of the three Services generally, were of a 
most friendly and intimate character in spite of the great stresses 
through which we went. How different from the rows of the 
frocks* and Brass hats* which characterised the last War! I am 
proud that you feel that contribution of the Minister of Defence 
made your great task easier of accomplishment. 

I hope one day that your book, in which I wrote so many 
entries will be published in facsimile to a wide public. There is set 
out, milestone by milestone, the glorious advance of the Eighth 
Army and of the British Army of the Rhine, and almost all the 
forecasts of the Political Chief were vindicated superbly by the 
sword of the Commander. 

I am so glad we had that day on the Rhine together and saw a 
few shells playing about. 
With every good wish, 

Believe me, 

Yours very sincerely, 

(Signed) Winston S. Churchill" 


As I was to leave Germany in a few months, I turned my attention 
to the two matters which in my opinion were the root of the whole 
matter the problem of the German people, and the evolution of 
government in the British Zone in order to cope with that problem. 

Last Days in Germany 367 

In my opinion one of our most important objects in Germany was 
to change the heart, and the way of life, of the German people. For 
the past thirteen years the Germans had had nationalistic and dic 
tatorial ideas forced into their minds; the authority of the family had 
been minimised, the influence of the Church reduced, and the power 
of the State had increased. This period had been one of full employ 
ment and a high standard of living for the German people. Now there 
was nothing but misery. There was a danger that the people would 
soon begin to look back with longing on die old regime; my informa 
tion was that a large percentage, probably 60 per cent were out-and- 
out Nazis. Opinion in the zone was hardening against the British and 
a subversive organisation had recently been uncovered. The fact was 
that we had some twenty million Germans in the British Zone who, 
due to the shortage of food, were going to experience a hard time. 
Without doubt conflicts with these people lay ahead; in some way 
they must be influenced for good so that they would not cause trouble 
in the future. How was this to be done? 

It seemed to me that we could divide this mass of human material 
into three categories for the purpose I wanted to achieve. 

First, there were the children. These should not be difficult to 
handle, though of course there was always the danger of a bad home 
influence if the elder members of the family were Nazis. Then came 
the young men, and young women too, between the ages of say 18 
to 25. Here was a much more difficult problem and this age group 
was probably the crux of the problem; they had been brought up in 
an atmosphere of National Socialism having been taught it at school, 
in the Hitler Youth, and many of them in the S.S. also. And lastly 
there were the older people; amongst these were many who could 
probably be got on our side. 

I decided that the best way to begin influencing all these groups 
was through economics; this was probably the foundation of the 
overall solution. We must give the German people hope for the future; 
they must be made to realise that they could reach a worthwhile 
future only by their own work. That meant fixing the level of industry 
so that there would be a decent standard of living with the minimum 
of unemployment If this were not done the Germans would merely 
look to the past and be ready to follow any evil leader who might arise. 

With this foundation, and having got the Germans down to work, 
we must then tackle the political problem. On the practical side, this 
meant the decentralisation of the Government and the Civil Service. 
I also reckoned that we should encourage contacts with the outside 
world so that the Germans could study a new ideology to replace that 
of the Nazis. On the psychological side, we must tell the Germans 
when the process of de-nazification would be completed. 

And then there was the educational problem. For children still at 

368 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

school we must ensure a good supply of books, reliable and trust 
worthy teachers, and decent buildings. The troops were living in many 
of the school buildings; they must hand them back to the Germans 
at once. Of the age group 18 to 25, a small minority were being 
educated in universities. But the vast majority of this group were un 
touched by such advantages; for them the important things were good 
cinemas, the Press, books, and so on, all controlled and run by the 
Germans themselves. I thought selected members of this age group 
might well be sent to England to learn a new way of life, and one 
which they had never known; they had been children when Hitler 
came to power and National Socialism was the creed in which they 
had been brought up. 


I had already ordered that on the 15th April 1946, Corps Com 
manders were finally to hand over their responsibilities for civil admin 
istration. Phase Three of my instructions issued in December 1945 
would then be complete. It was now necessary to issue instructions 
to initiate the execution of Phase Four, and on the 2561 March 1946 
I circulated a memorandum which was intended to do so. In the 
memorandum I pointed out that the "Battle of the Winter * had been 
won. No epidemics had broken out and the general health of the 
German people had been maintained. But the outlook for the future 
was now worse than ever before. The food situation overshadowed 
everything else, and other factors would soon aggravate the situation. 
The future level of German economy would cause distress and un 
employment; the influx of refugees was just beginning; all stocks of 
consumer goods had now been used up. The next battle was going to 
be more serious than the "Battle of the Winter" just concluded. It 
could not be tackled by Military Government because of the drastic 
cuts in establishment and the speed of demobilisation. It must be 
tackled by the Germans themselves, but with our aid, especially by 
the import of food. Moreover, we must give them clear orders on 
such questions as de-nazification. In order to make my scheme possible 
we should have to build up German administrations, staffed by vigorous 
men who must be supported by us. The most important of these ad 
ministrations was the Zonal Advisory Council which I had had formed. 
All domestic matters should be put to it for advice, it should be 
encouraged to discuss as many matters as possible, and its advice 
accepted whenever we could do so. These principles also applied to 
the other functional bodies which were being gradually set up in 
the zone. All these administrations should eventually be given execu 
tive power. What it really amounted to was that the Germans must 

Last Days in Germany 369 

now be entrusted with the responsibility for their own problems. We 
would have to help them, but also continue to supervise and control 
their activities indirectly. 


I was to leave Germany on the 2nd May 1946, being due to take 
up my new duties at the War Office in June. After prolonged thought 
I decided it was my duty to prepare a memorandum for the British 
Government on the situation in Germany as I believed it to be. 

My time in Germany since the war ended had convinced me that 
a united Germany was at preesnt not possible. I doubted if it would 
ever be possible without fighting. But the Western Allies had half of 
Germany, and they would have to continue to strive for a united 

Our object must now be to bring the Western Germans into the 
community of Western nations, and to make their territory so attractive 
and prosperous that the Eastern Germans would regard it enviously 
when comparing it with their own miserable lot But if we were to 
do this, we would have to grasp the nettle firmly with both hands. 
Courageous decisions would be necessary and without delay. 

I devoted my last day in Germany to writing the memorandum. 
I took it to England with me on the 2nd May and handed it personally 
to the Prime Minister. This is what it said: 

**i. I leave Germany tomorrow. I have set out below a concise 
statement of the situation as I believe it to be. I am not 
happy about it. I consider the general overall picture is 
sombre, if not black. 

For the present the food crisis overshadows all else, but it is 
not by any means the only serious factor in the situation. 

2. We have a sick economy. 

Coal is short; only the basic industries can be developed; 
the others lie idle, and there are few consumer goods being 
produced, and nothing in the shops for people to buy. 
We have reached agreement on the future level of the German 
economy; there will soon begin the removal and destruction 
of a large part of German industry; this will cause distress to 
the German people and may produce unemployment on a 
large scale in the British Zone. 

The present level of production is such that our exports do 
not pay for our imports. 

3. A sick economy means that we cannot have a sound currency. 
There is little to buy with marks and the people are tending 
to use a system of barter to get food. Marks are gradually 

370 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

becoming of no value to people. Under such a system indus 
try cannot be got going, since there is no incentive; this is 
the beginning of inflation, i.e. the phase when money begins 
to lose its value. 

4. In my Memorandum entitled "Hie Problem in Germany: 
February 1946," I dealt with the subject of how we should 
handle the great mass of human material we have in Ger 
many. I said we must work on a definite and concrete plan 
designed to bring about a change of heart in the German 

I stated that the foundation of the plan must be the economic 
line of attack. 

I said that the Germans must know what is to be the future 
of their country; they must be given a reasonable standard of 
living; they must be given some hope for a worthwhile future. 
I gave it as my opinion that if we did not do this, we would 
fail in Germany. 

We have not done it and I would say that at the moment 
there is a definite danger that we may fail. By that I mean 
there is a danger that if things do not improve the Germans 
in the British Zone will begin to look East. When that hap 
pens we shall have failed, and there will exist a definite 
menace to the British Empire. In this connection, much com 
munist propaganda is coming westwards over the iron curtain. 

5. If we are to progress at all we must have: 

a sound economy, 

a balanced budget, 

central financial control. 
We must produce more consumer goods. 
The essential financing of the cost of reparations must be 
borne by Germany as a whole; at present it falls heavily on 
the British Zone, which has most of the industries. 
I still consider that the real answer to the problem is con 
tained in my memorandum of ist Feb. 1946 (see page 366 
The Problem in Germany: February 1946). But adequate 
economic conditions must be established before we can make 
any progress with the plan set out in that memorandum; at 
present these conditions do not exist. 

6. While we are in this sorry economic condition, good progress 
is being made with the formation of political parties and 
trades unions. But we want to be clear that herein lies a 
possible danger. 

There is no doubt that in a contented Germany, a strong 
Social Democratic party would be a great asset and one 
making for peace and security in Western Europe. 

Last Days in Germany 371 

But, if the Germans become discontented and we get organ 
ised hostility of the people against the occupying Power, then 
they have machinery in the political and trades union spheres 
which could be used to implement their nefarious purposes. 
This aspect of the problem needs to be carefully watched 
during the next few years; close touch must be kept with 
propaganda coining from the Russian Zone. 


7. We must decide what is to constitute "Germany." The eastern 
frontier of Germany was agreed at Potsdam. The western 
frontier is not yet agreed; it is wrapped up in the whole 
problem of the future of the Saar, the Ruhr and the Rhine- 

We must tell the German people what Germany is to consist 

8. The people living inside that Germany must be given a 
reasonable standard of living, and hope for a worthwhile 
future. A reasonable standard of living can be set up in 
Germany on the basis of the level of industry which has been 
agreed, but only under certain conditions. These conditions 
were emphasised in our acceptance of the level of industry 
agreement The principal one is that Germany should be 
treated as one economic whole* This is not happening at 
present, firstly on account of French opposition and, secondly, 
because of the attitude of the Russians. I do not feel confident 
that die Russians ever intend to treat Germany as an eco 
nomic whole as we understand that phrase. I am certain that 
they will not do it unless we join with the other Allies in 
exerting strong pressure upon them. 

9. The whole country is in such a mess that the only way to put 
it right is to get the Germans "in on it" themselves. This is 
being done by Zonal Advisory Councils; but fhig is not 

It means Central Administrations; we do not have these; we 
must have them. We must secure French agreement to their 
establishment We must then take great care to ensure that 
they are set up under genuine Quadripartite control, and that 
neither their constitution nor their functions shall be such as 
to make them susceptible to the influence of one Power more 
than of others. 

10. We must decide whether we are going to feed the Germans, 
or let them starve. Basically, we must not let them starve; 
if we do, then everything else we do is of no avail. 
It does not look at present as if we can increase the ration 

372 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

beyond the present rate o 1042 calories; this means we are 
going to let them starve: gradually. 

In spite o the difficulties of the world food situation, we must 
get back to a reasonable ration standard in the British Zone 
as quickly as possible. The discrepancies which exist between 
the standard of feeding in our zone and that in other zones 
must be removed by agreement on a common standard. 


11. I regard the four points outlined in paras. 7 to 10 as the four 
pillars on which we must build the new Germany out of the 
ruins of the old. The master pillar is the fourth, or food pillar; 
if that breaks, the other pillars fall down. 

12. So far, the four pillars do not exist. Therefore we cannot 

13. We must start to build the four pillars. And above all, we 
must tell the German people what is going to happen to them 
and to their country. If we do not do those things, we shall 
drift towards possible failure. That "drift" will take the form 
of an increasingly hostile population, which will eventually 
begin to look East. 

Such a Germany would be a menace to the security of the 
British Empire. 

14. On the other hand, a contented Germany with a sound 
political framework, could be a great asset to the security of 
the Empire and the peace of the world." 


Prelude to Whitehall 

IN MY farewell address to the officers of the British Army of the 
Rhine I referred to the fact that I had reached a stage in my career 
when I would not again exercise direct command of British sol 
diers. This made me sad. On the other hand, as C.I.G.S. I would be 
responsible for the organisation of the Army and the welfare of every 
one in it There were some seven weeks before I was to begin work 
at the War Office and I decided to use that period as a time for think 
ing about how I would tackle the job, and for trying to fit myself for 
my new task. 

While in Germany I had been observing the political and military 
scene in Britain. Political minds seemed to be concentrated on the 
creation of a welfare state, on a complete reorganisation of industry 
moving towards nationalisation, and on the raising of the school 
leaving age all these to be carried out simultaneously and as quickly 
as possible. The state of the world, British commitments overseas, 
and a long-term plan for the armed forces all seemed to have been 
pushed into the background; I had been chafing at the way the 
pressure of home events had forced delay in the consideration of these 
problems. It seemed to me important to clear my own mind, to 
formulate a policy and prepare the way so that no time would be lost 
when I took office as Chief of the Imperial General Staff on the 26th 
June 1946. The British Army must not, as after World War I, be 
allowed to drift aimlessly without a policy or a doctrine. 

Looking back, I reckon that the seeds of anything I was able to 
achieve during my two and a half years at the War Office were sown 
during the first six months: in 1946. These were months of terrific 
work and during them we made definite progress and, because of 


374 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

my direct methods of tackling problems, I made many enemies. I 
propose to deal, very fully, with those first six months, and thereafter 
to select for mention only certain important subjects which require to 
be followed up in order to present a balanced picture of the whole 
period up to the end of October 1948 when I left the War Office. 

On my return from Germany I went to live at Hindhead, in the 
house of my friends Major and Mrs. Reynolds. That had been my 
home all through the war and they had looked after David for me, 
who was now seventeen and still at Winchester. I had no other place 
to go to, and they allowed me to continue on there until I could make 
a home for David and myself somewhere else. I had brought my 
caravans back from Germany and parked them in the grounds. I was 
supposed to be on leave; but I soon realised that no rest was possible; 
there was too much to be done. I worked all day and every day, in 
my office caravan. 

Certain matters were essential and urgent and, so far as I know, 
no action was being taken about them. There was a grave danger that 
the Army would drift along, shaping itself to events as they occurred; 
this was not at all what I had in mind. Therefore, the first point to 
tackle was the organisation of the post-war British Army, in order to 
design it on a sound basis which would last for the next ten to fifteen 
years. It was vital to have a long-term plan. And so I began work on 
a paper called The Problem of the Post-War Army and decided to pro 
duce it for Army Council approval the day I became C.I.G.S. In this 
paper I also described how we must modernise the way of life of 
officers and men, and create an efficient army with a high morale to 
which all would be proud to belong. I planned to do this not only by 
action within the War Office, but also by enlisting the aid of the 
Press and by taking advantage of official occasions when I had to 

Then it would be necessary to evolve a broad tactical doctrine for 
the Army, which would be capable of application in all theatres, with 
variation in detail according to local topographical and climatic condi 
tions. This would obviously take time. I decided to tackle this problem 
by holding a series of exercises at the Staff College, Camberley, which 
would be attended by all general officers in the Army at home and 
overseas, and to which Chiefs of Staff of Dominion armies would be 
invited. The first thing was obviously to get inter-Service agreement 
to the fundamental principles of modern war, and I drafted out these 
principles as I saw them, and got them agreed by the First Sea Lord 
(John Cunningham) and the Chief of the Air Staff (Tedder). I then 
began work on the first War Office Exercise, which I planned to hold 
in August, six weeks after I had become C.LG.S. The object of this 
exercise was: 

Prelude to Whitehall 375 

"To take the basic principles of modern war and, with that back 
ground, to study the stage-management and conduct of offensive 
land operations, and to enunciate in broad outline a tactical doc 
trine for the Army." 

Finally, it was my aim to obtain a personal grip on the Army; I 
must be the commander to whom all C.s-in-C. looked for orders. This 
would have to wait until I became C.I.G.S. But I decided to hold 
conferences of home Army Commanders every three months, at the 
War Office. At these conferences I would give a general survey of 
world affairs, and my main plans and orders for the future. The com 
manders would produce their problems and the War Office would 
give decisions where they were needed. In general, I decided that I 
would spend two months in the United Kingdom followed by one 
month on tour overseas, and on this basis I planned tours up to the 
end of 1947. These tours took in every part of the British Empire, 
some of which had never before been visited by a CJ.G.S. when in 

All the foregoing concerned me in my capacity as professional 
head of the British Army but not in my capacity as a member of the 
Chiefs of Staff Committee. In this latter respect I realised that I would 
be required immediately on taking up my duties in Whitehall to give 
my views and assist in making decisions about problems in all parts of 
a troubled world. Without visiting the countries concerned, it would 
clearly be impossible to speak with the authority which was essential. 
I came to the conclusion that I ought to visit at least the Mediterranean 
countries where British troops were stationed Malta, Egypt, Palestine, 
Greece and Italy, and also look in on Trans-Jordan and that I should 
do so before beginning work in Whitehall. This would enable me to 
absorb the atmosphere in which the problems were evolving in those 
countries, and meet the men who were grappling with them; I would 
then be better able to advise about the problems on a Chiefs of Staff 
and Cabinet level after I had become CJ.G.S. And so I intensified 
the work in my caravan at Hindhead, and completed it in time to set 
off on this tour on the gth June. The tour was planned to end on the 
22nd June. But when I arrived in Cairo a signal was received from the 
Viceroy of India, my old friend Archie Wavell, asking me to visit him 
in Delhi and discuss urgent matters with him and Auchinleck (who 
was C.-in-C., India). I accepted the invitation and did not arrive back 
in London till the evening of the 26th June having become C.I.G.S. 
that morning. The tour was absolutely invaluable as a preparation for 
meeting the many difficult problems looming ahead. But it was tiring 
and I was not exactly fresh when I entered the War Office on the 
27th June. 

376 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 


At the time o my visit, June 1946, die Treaty negotiations had been 
going on for some time and had reached a temporary standstill. I 
knew enough about the Middle East to realise that in war, or threat 
of war, we would require similar facilities to those which we had 
enjoyed under the existing Anglo-Egyptian Treaty. In peace it was 
necessary to have the use of the Suez Canal and such other facilities as 
we needed for our imperial communications to India, Australasia and 
the Far East; we must also be able to maintain our base installations 
for use by our forces in war, and have the right to station forces in 
strategic areas and to move them in and through the Middle East 

But the British Delegation, then in Egypt, had reported that any 
attempt to insist upon our full requirements would lead to grave 
disorders, to the necessity to use force and, ultimately, to reference to 
the Security Council of the United Nations. As the (seemingly) only 
possible alternative, they had suggested that we should propose to 
withdraw all British armed forces from Egyptian soil, and then 
negotiate with the object of making satisfactory alternative arrange 
ments. It was considered that this alternative would be the lesser of 
two evils. An announcement to this effect was accordingly made, but 
it did not achieve the desired results; the Egyptians displayed no sense 
of gratitude nor did they show any intention of meeting us half 

By the time I was due to leave England on the gth June the nego 
tiations had reached a standstill. The Foreign Secretary (Bevin) 
wanted to start the ball rolling again and he saw me in London on 
the 8th June. He said we must stand firm on our basic requirements, 
but asked me to investigate and if possible "ginger up" the evacuation 
of the Delta cities; he hoped by this demonstration of the sincerity of 
our intentions to get the Egyptians to advance some way towards 
meeting our requirements. 

With this background I arrived in Egypt on the loth June, having 
spent the previous night in Malta. I had long talks with the British 
Ambassador (Sir Ronald Campbell), with the C.-in-C. Middle East 
(General Sir Bernard Paget), and also with the King of Egypt and his 
Prime Minister (Sidky Pasha). To the two latter I spoke very plainly. 
I said that what was wanted in Egypt was a clear understanding that, 
in the event of world war, it was to the best interests of Egypt that 
British forces should co-operate with Egyptian forces in maintaining 
the integrity of Egypt and of the Arab States in the Middle East. It 
followed that there must be maintained in peace-time adequate base 
facilities for the British forces, and that these must be maintained on 

Prelude to Whitehall 377 

a scale commensurate with war needs; if this was not done, both 
countries would start the war with a series of disasters from which they 
might not recover. The base must be in Egypt The details about 
exactly what base facilities were required for the British forces was 
a matter for careful examination by the Service Chiefs of the two 
delegations, and discussions to this end should be going on with great 
intensity. But nothing was happening because the Egyptian Service 
Chiefs had no clear terms of reference from their political chiefs. 

I rubbed into the King and to Sidky that both sides must approach 
the problem in an atmosphere of mutual confidence; the Egyptians 
should realise that the British desire for a base to be maintained in 
Egypt in peace-time was exactly what they themselves should most 
desire, and that the more such a base could be on a regional basis, 
with other Arab States showing interest and approval, the better for 
all concerned. The natural custodians of the base would be the Egyp 
tians, since it was in their country; but we would like to have repre 
sentatives in touch with it so that when an emergency appeared on 
the horizon we could all get busy and thus be well prepared should 
war break out later. 

The King didn t seem interested in all this; he kept on saying that 
what Egypt was suffering from was forty years of British misrule! So 
I did not waste any more time on him. Sidky displayed much more 
understanding. He agreed with my presentation of the problem and 
promised to co-operate. I said that we would evacuate the Delta cities 
as soon as possible; a plan to do so would be begun at once, and we 
might hope to be out in two to three months. The rapidity of this 
move would possibly lead to a longish time being required to evacuate 
from the Canal Zone, and this might take anything up to five years- 
depending on how the international situation was developing. 

I made it clear to the British commanders in Egypt that the business 
of evacuation from the Delta cities to the Canal Zone was a live and 
pressing question; it was to be tackled earnestly and at once, and that 
when I became C.LG.S. on the 26th June I would want to see definite 

I reported to Whitehall the result of my talks in Egypt. 

As a result of my visits to Malta and Egypt I came to the conclusion 
that, without occupying Egypt, we could still dominate the eastern 
Mediterranean and be in a position to protect our vital interests in 
war, provided that we could ensure the following minimum require 

(a) Some agreement by which we had full rights to station such 
forces as we wished in Libya. This was a good base for 
air forces. With Malta in our possession, and with air and 

378 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

ground forces in Libya, we would be well placed to pro 
tect our vital interests in the Mediterranean and in North 

(b) Advanced forces, air and ground, in Cyprus and air forces in 
Trans-Jordan, by agreement. 

(c) The retention of full military rights in Palestine. 

(d) The right to return to Egypt on the threat of war, a nucleus 
of our base requirements being maintained for us in peace-time 
by the Egyptians. 

(e) It was vital to remain strong in the Sudan, in case of difficulties 
with the Egyptians. The weaker our position in Egypt the 
greater our need for strength in the Sudan so as to be able to 
control the Nile, the life-blood of Egypt. 

My last engagement in Cairo was to address a gathering of about 
one thousand British officers of the Middle East Command. I outlined 
the steps I proposed to take to try and make the Army more attractive 
for officers and men in peace-time, and how I was going to work to 
shape it into an efficient fighting machine for a generation ahead. 


My next port of call was Palestine. For many months the situation 
here had been deteriorating and acts of terrorism were being perpe 
trated by illegal Jewish armed organisations, such as the Irgun and the 
Stern Gang. Shortly before my visit the Anglo-American Committee 
had issued its report, advocating amongst other things the immediate 
admission of 100,000 Jews, and the report was still under consideration. 
Its issue had caused a temporary lull in terrorism; but there were 
signs that the Jews were becoming impatient at the delay in an 
announcement in their favour, and it seemed that the quietness would 
not continue much longer* 

I was much perturbed by what I heard and saw. A political decision 
was, of course, needed in Palestine but the terms of it were not at the 
moment my concern. What was very definitely my concern was the 
action of the Army in aiding the civil power to maintain law and order, 
and in this respect the outlook was dismal. The High Commissioner 
seemed to me to be unable to make up his mind what to do. Indecision 
and hesitation were in evidence all down the line, beginning in White 
hall; a policy was required, and then decisions. The Palestine Police 
Force was 50 per cent below strength, and this at a time when the 
situation was clearly about to boil over; its morale was low and it was 
considered as a force to be no more than 25 per cent effective through 

Prelude to Whitehall 379 

no fault of its own. All this had led to a state of affairs in which British 
rule existed only in name; the true rulers seemed to me to be the 
Jews, whose unspoken slogan was "You dare not touch us.** 

I made it very clear to the G.O.C. in Palestine (Lieut-General Sir 
Evelyn Barker) that this was no way to carry on. The decision to re 
establish effective British authority was a political one; we must press 
for that decision. If this led to war with the Jews, from the Army s 
point of view it would be a war against a fanatical and cunning enemy 
who would use the weapons of kidnap, murder and sabotage; women 
would fight against us as well as men, and no one would know who 
was friend or foe. All this demanded a drastic revision of the way of 
life of the serviceman in Palestine; social activities would have to 
cease, the fullest precautions must be taken and, generally, everyone 
must be given a proper understanding of the task that lay ahead. I 
would insist that the Police and the Army be given a firm and very 
clear directive, and I would then give the troops the fullest support in 
their difficult job. Before leaving Palestine I expressed my views very 
forcibly by cable to Whitehall. As I had done in Cairo, my last act 
was to address a large gathering of officers in Sarafand Camp, at which 
I told them what was going on and my ideas about the future. 


Before leaving for India, I flew to Amman and had lunch with 
King Abdullah, who was an old friend. We had a tremendous recep 
tion in Amman, which was a welcome experience after the somewhat 
chilly atmosphere of Cairo and Jerusalem. The King said he would use 
all his influence to support the British cause among the Arab States. 
He added that a decision on Palestine in favour of the Arabs was 
essential to British interests in the Middle East I said this was a 
matter for politicians and that I would pass on his remarks to the 
British Prime Minister which I did. 


I stopped for one night in Basra on the way to India. The main 
preoccupation here was the alarming way in which events were 
developing in Persia, and, in particular, in the south Persian oilfields. 
The Tudeh party, through Russian influence and support, had set up 
its own Government in the newly declared autonomous province of 
Azerbaijan and was engaged in furthering Russian policy throughout 
the rest of Persia; this included attempts to embarrass British interests 

380 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

in the oilfields. I discussed the problem with the O.C.* British Troops 
in Iraq; he had the task of protecting British and Indian lives and 
interests in Abadan, and in the five main oilfields about 150 miles to 
the north-east and east of Abadan. He had insufficient troops for these 
two tasks and needed an additional infantry brigade. I agreed and 
reported accordingly to London, recommending that the brigade 
should be located at Shuaiba, with an air lift for one battalion. The 
climate in this part of the world was not suitable for young British 
soldiers for any length of time and I decided to ask the Viceroy and 
the C.-in-C. India if they would send an Indian brigade, as the 
importance of these oilfields was as great for India as for Britain. (This 
wks later agreed, and the brigade sailed from India early in August 


The major military problem in India was dependent on future 
political decisions. Wavell told me that he was convinced the British 
would have to hand over the country to the Indians; there had been 
no recruitment into the civil service and we could not continue to 
govern it much longer. He wanted to do it gradually, beginning in the 
south; the British Government wanted it done quickly. The Cabinet 
Mission was in Delhi at the time. I was concerned with the military 
repercussions of whatever plan was finally adopted. If developments 
resulted in civil disturbances, then the military would be faced with 
the task of safeguarding British lives and interests; in this connection 
the attitude of the Indian Army would be a factor of the greatest 

In addition to long talks with the Viceroy and Auchinleck, I had 
discussions with the late Maulana Azad, leader of the Congress Party, 
and with Mr. Jinnah of the Muslim League. Mr. Gandhi sent his 
regrets that he could not get to Delhi to see me as he was attending 
a meeting of the Congress Higher Committee. 

While talking with Maulana Azad I overheard him say something 
to his interpreter about British troops; the Maulana did not know I 
could speak Urdu. (I had passed an examination in that language in 
Peshawar in 1910.) I at once asked him if he supported the popular 
demand for tie withdrawal of British troops from India, and he said 
he did. At this I expressed delight and, referring to the extensive 
demands on British man-power in other parts of the world, I asked 
him if he would agree to their immediate withdrawal; if so, I would 
begin at once to get them away. Azad was horrified and said: "No, 
no; not for a long time/* He replied in the same terms to my re- 
* Officer Commanding. 

Prelude to Whitehall 381 

quest that he should agree to release British officers from the Indian 

Jinnah, in his talk, made it very clear that he would never tolerate 
Hindu rule over Moslems. He gave it as his opinion that collaboration 
between the two was impossible. When I asked why this must be so 
he said: "How can the two lie down together; the Hindu worships 
the cow, I eat it." Jinnah also said that civil war was inevitable if British 
troops were withdrawn. 

These talks were of great value to me, not only as background to 
what might come but also because they revealed that, whatever they 
said in public, the political leaders of both parties were equally desir 
ous for the continued presence of British troops in India. 

I myself was uneasy in my mind at the treatment British troops 
would receive in India if and when a purely Indian Government took 
over the reins. It seemed to me that Auchinleck was wrapped up 
entirely in the Indian Army and appeared to be paying little heed to 
the welfare of the British soldiers in India. I therefore decided, with 
the full approval of Wavell, to arrange for the appointment of a 
"Major-General, British Troops" at G.H.Q. in Delhi, and to get him 
sent to India at once. This was agreed in London and I nominated 
Major-General Whistler for the job; he was a first-rate infantry soldier 
who had served under me during the war, and he proved to be the 
right man. 

All these talks in Delhi were crammed into two days. But they gave 
me a good picture of the general situation in India, and the extension 
of my tour had been shown to be well worth while. 


My return journey to England lay by way of Athens and Naples. 
But I decided to halt for an hour at Lydda, in Palestine, for a further 
talk with General Barker. I had also asked General Paget to meet me 
there. I re-emphasised that there must be no weakening towards the 
maintenance of law and order as regards terrorist outrages. I said that 
General Barker, as the confirming authority for death sentences on 
Jews convicted by military tribunals, must not be deterred from his 
duty by threats of the murder of five British officers who had been 
kidnapped since my visit a few days earlier. This did a good deal to 
strengthen his resolve. Barker was suffering from a lack of support 
by the Government authorities; I promised him my full support in 
his difficult task. 

And so on to Athens, with a halt for refuelling in Cyprus. I wrote 
in my diary: 

382 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

"The atmosphere in Cyprus was indeed one of peace and quiet; 
there were no problems (as yet) to disturb the even tenor of the 
daily round." 


The situation in Greece was explained to me by the British Ambas 
sador, Sir Clifford Norton, and by General Crawford, the GOC. 
There was a great lack of faith in paper money. 

The struggle between "Right" and "Left** was becoming a serious 
problem, and the atrocities committed by left-wing elements during 
the recent elections had given rise to deep bitterness against the 
Communists on the part of the majority of the Greek people. But for 
the presence of British troops, the Communist minority, supported by 
Russian influence, might have succeeded in seizing power by terrorism 
and force of arms. At this time the Greek police, even with the support 
of the Greek Army, were not capable of keeping law and order. 
British civil and military authorities in Greece considered that there 
was a real danger of external interference in Greek affairs by Yugoslavs, 
Bulgarians, or Russians. I was told that the size of the British Army 
in Greece must depend, amongst other things, on the need to prevent a 
coup $&tat backed by foreign arms. But I pointed out that our policy 
in Greece must be based on the fact that it was the task of the Greeks 
to maintain law and order in their country, and that this was their 
first responsibility. Man-power would not permit of British forces 
remaining in Greece indefinitely; the most pressing task of the British 
Army in Greece was to assist in the training of the Greek Army, with 
a view to fitting it in the shortest possible time to control the internal 
situation in the country. External aggression was unlikely to materialise 
unless grave and uncontrollable internal disorders broke out. 

Before leaving Greece, after only two days, I inspected a parade 
of the Greek Army. The smartness, fitness and enthusiasm of the 
soldiers contrasted sharply with the adiposity and lethargy of many 
of the senior officers; at dinner that night I commented jokingly on 
this to the Greek C.-in-G, and recommended that physical training 
should be made compulsory for the senior ranks in the Army. 

After the parade, at which I was decorated with the Gold Medal 
for Gallantry by the War Minister, I addressed the assembled senior 
officers. I stressed the need for high morale, discipline and the pro 
duction of the basic qualities of leadership. I also laid it down as an 
axiom that an army must be above politics and must be loyal to the 
Government of the day; a soldier s allegiance is given to the State and 
it was not open to him to change his allegiance because of his political 
views. I did not say in my address that this quality of loyalty to the 

Prelude to Whitehall 383 

Government of the day had not been much in evidence among Greek 
armies of the past. 

Finally, I addressed in Athens a large gathering of British officers, 
my talk being on the same lines as those given in Cairo and Palestine. 
I had been greatly impressed by the high standard of smartness and 
turn-out of die British forces in Greece, and this was a striking testi 
mony to their high morale and also a good example to the Greeks. 


The alteration in the tour to include a visit to India had resulted 
in reducing the time in Italy to eighteen hours, in order that I could 
arrive back in England on the 26th June the day I was to take up 
my new appointment After landing at Naples we drove to Caserta 
and began work at once. The great fear in Italy was of a Yugoslav 
invasion into Venezia Giulia; this was emphasised by Allied army, navy 
and air force speakers, who all emphasised the weakness of their forces. 
Just as in Greece, a far more serious view was taken of the local picture 
than was justified; the Russian war of nerves, or battle of wits, was 
looked on not as a bluff but as an indication that hostilities would 
break out at any moment 

I said that there could be no minor war with Yugoslavia which 
would not entail a major world war; and that the other side knew 
that very well. If we were forced to fight for Venezia Giulia it would 
be the duty of the Western Allies to ensure that our forces were in a 
position to meet the enemy on advantageous terms; this was not at 
present the case. I promised to keep the matter under continual review 
and to get agreement for the evacuation of Pola, a commitment which 
was unacceptable from a military point of view. It seemed to me that 
the commitments in Austria and Italy were closely connected, and 
I agreed to reduce the British troops in Austria and thus provide extra 
strength in Venezia Giulia. Finally, I gave it as my opinion that, 
apart from minor incidents and terrorist activities designed to work to 
the disadvantage of the West, I did not believe that Tito would receive 
sufficient Russian backing to allow him to pull off or even attempt a 
coup in Venezia Giulia. In my view there was no danger of open war 
at present. 

Later, after Tito had broken 3 * with Russia, he invited me to visit 
him in Yugoslavia as his personal guest; the visit was repeated every 
year and we became and remain very good friends. 

I left Italy on the morning of the 26th June and arrived back in 
London later that day tired, but feeling that I was now far better 
equipped to advise on the handling of our external problems than I 

384 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

had been when I left Germany in May. I had learnt that our senior 
commanders overseas were grappling with many difficult problems 
and generally with totally inadequate forces. Everywhere I endeav 
oured to instQ confidence, and I promised my help in solving the 
problems and my support in facing up to unpleasant situations. 


Beginnings in Whitehall 

I HAD never before served in the War Office and knew little about 
its organisation nor how it conducted its business. I was soon to 
learn about the great work it had done during the war, and before 
I left it in 1948 I had come to the conclusion it was easily the best 
Ministry in Whitehall. I was once asked which was the worst, and 
replied without any hesitation: the Colonial Office. 

I should begin by saying that I served under three Secretaries of 
State in succession. The first was Jack Lawson, now Lord Lawson 
and Lord Lieutenant of Durham. One could not have had a nicer boss; 
he had been a miner in his early days and his book about it, called 
A Mans Life, is one of the best of its type that I have read. In the 
autumn of 1946, Lawson was obliged to resign owing to ill health and 
was succeeded by Fred Bellenger. He also was easy to work with and 
had possibly a better brain than Lawson. I often used to think he was 
not very popular with the Cabinet; he got rough-housed by the 
Prime Minister quite a bit and this had its repercussions on the War 
Office. But we liked him and he fought our battles in Parliament with 
considerable success, at any rate, to begin with. 

The third one was Emanuel ShinwelL I would describe him as the 
best of the three, and this is no reflection on the other two. Shinwell 
had a quick and clear brain and his heart was in the right place; he 
could understand and decide, quickly. Once we had satisfied him that 
some line of action was essential, he would fight for it in the Cabinet 
and in Parliament. He and I became great friends. I used to tell him 
that when he was in his chair in the War Office from Monday to 
Friday he was excellent, and just what we wanted as our political 
chief; I added that he slipped back when he went to his constituency 

386 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

in the week-ends and made political speeches. He would retaliate 
by saying that I was much the same, my reply being that I never made 
political speeches. 

Overall, therefore, I was lucky in my political masters at the War 
Office. The same was generally true of the Junior Ministers, except in 
one case. This one had planned an overseas tour, and he took it on 
himself to issue an order to the Adjutant General telling the latter to 
lay on the tour and giving the most amazing instructions about how 
he was to be treated. The following are some extracts: 

"I give advance warning that from time to time I shall see 
troops without officers being present. 

My working day will be from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

I should like to lunch sometimes with officers, sometimes with 
other ranks. 

I want no guards of honour, special parades, special meals. This 
is to be treated as an order which I expect to be obeyed. 

It will generally be desirable for me to meet as early as possible 
... the C.-in-C. 

I shall listen to complaints on any military subject from any rank. 

I wish Commands to be prepared to answer detailed questions." 

This order caused the father-and-mother of a row. The Adjutant 
General went to see the Secretary of State and tendered his resignation 
unless the letter was withdrawn; he then blew in to my office. My 
reactions were a mixture of anger and amusement The letter was too 
silly to cause anger; it could only have been written in colossal igno 
rance or colossal conceit, and it seemed more charitable to accept the 
former, I saw the Secretary of State myself and made it clear to him 
that, quite apart from the other considerations of this case, on no 
account would any outside agent ever be allowed to address bodies of 
troops in the enforced absence of their officers. The letter was can 
celled. The Junior Minister then requested me to detail a General Staff 
officer to accompany him, and asked for an operational brief covering 
the theatres he proposed to visit I refused both requests. Finally, in 
order to clarify his position I informed C.s-in-C. overseas that the 
Junior Minister s job was to look into all matters connected with the 
living conditions and general welfare of the troops. He was in no sense 
the "superior officer" of any C.-in-C. He was a civilian and was only 
empowered to tour in his capacity as a civilian member of the Army 
Council. He was in no way a proper person with whom to discuss 
operational or strategic matters. I think the real trouble was that the 
Junior Minister had once been brigade major to one of the generals 
in the War Office, and he reckoned the time had now arrived when he 
would give orders to generals. 

Beginnings in Whitehall 387 

But in spite of all this I was determined there should be no rift 
between the civil and military sides of the War Office. Being well 
aware that those on the civil side were apprehensive of what I might 
do, I took great trouble to put them at their ease. In particular, I made 
friends with the Permanent Under-Seeretary (Sir Eric Speed) and he 
lunched with me every Monday at my flat, when we would discuss 
our problems and agree on plans to solve them. This human approach 
I carried a stage further. If the policy was to promote high morale 
throughout the Army, the War Office must itself set the tone. For 
this reason I started the custom of addressing gatherings of staff officers 
and civilians in a nearby cinema hired for the purpose. I outlined 
the steps which were being taken to improve conditions and my 
general plans for the Army, calling for a great effort from the team 
as a whole. I said it should be regarded as an honour to serve in the 
War Office and proposed the introduction of a formation sign to be 
worn by all military personnel, and by those civilians who wished 
to do so; this sign has been worn ever since. 

At one of these addresses I described the unsatisfactory state of 
affairs by which unmarried officers posted to the War Office were left 
to their own devices to find accommodation. Apart from the difficulty 
of finding anywhere to live, these officers had a lonely life once their 
day s work was over. We tackled this problem energetically and 
arranged that the former Royal Military Academy at Woolwich should 
be organised as a mess for 250 officers. 

These talks to War Office audiences had never been given before; 
they produced a good dividend as they ensured that everyone knew 
what was going on. All agreed that my proposals ware excellent; but 
there were some who said: "it sounds good, but we must wait and see." 
The quick arrangements for the unmarried officers were a good tonic 
for the doubters. 

I used to address the War Office audience whenever I returned from 
an overseas tour, and would tell them of the local problems, of the 
decisions I had given, and what further action was necessary in the 
War Office. 

Turning to the wider sphere outside the War Office, I appointed a 
special committee under Major-General Macmillan to examine the way 
of life in barracks of the British soldier, and to recommend in what 
respects it could be made more in keeping with the times; the com 
mittee was also to bear in mind the needs of the young officer. 

I regarded all these human problems as immensely important and 
they were the first to be tackled by me when I went to the War Office. 

At the first meeting of the Army Council which I attended, I 
presented my paper on The Problem of the Post-War Army which 
I had prepared at Hindhead immediately on my return from Germany 

388 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

in May 1946. In introducing it I said that I had attempted to include 
in one document the main problems that would affect the post-war 
Army; some such document was necessary for planning purposes, so 
that everyone might work to a common target I realised that action 
was already being taken on a number o points, and that other points 
would require considerable investigation and discussion. But mean 
while I asked the Army Council to give general approval to the paper 
so that it could be used as a basis for planning within the War Office, 
and this was agreed. Among the points covered in the paper were 
the following: 

(a) The need for agreement on the shape of the Army for the next 
ten to fifteen years. 

(b) The importance of a contented army and the factors necessary 
to this end. 

(c) The regular and citizen Armies together to form one balanced 

whole, capable of the necessary action quickly on the outbreak 
of war. Specialised units which could not be economically 
maintained within the man-power ceiling of the regular 
Army to be provided by the citizen Army. 

(d) The need for good liaison with Dominion armies. 

(e) The shape and size of the regular Army; garrison and internal 
security troops throughout the Empire, with strategic reserves 
in the U.K. and Middle East. 

(f ) The shape, size, and role of the citizen Army. 

(g) The importance of scientific research and development; the 
Army must be able to take the field with confidence against 
any enemy. 

(h) The conception of modern war; a clear doctrine to be evolved 
from the lessons of the past and to be taught throughout the 

(j) Collective training to be imaginative, realistic, in keeping with 
modern battle conditions, and to be carried out in all seasons 
of the year and not only in the summer, as had been the pre 
war custom. 

(k) Army schools to cover the over-all education of the officer, not 
only in his own arm but also in a wider sphere embracing the 
the co-operation of all arms, organisation, and administration. 

(I) Training in command for senior officers, and the training of 
higher commanders. 

(m) Morale: the need to study this subject, and to teach how to 
create high morale. 

(n) The importance of developing close co-operation with the 
Royal Air Force. 

Beginnings in Whitehall 389 

Attached to the document were notes on the fundamental principles 
of war. There was also a memorandum on staff organisation in which 
I urged the introduction of the Chief of Staff system in the Army, The 
existing British system placed on the commander the responsibility for 
co-ordinating the work of his staff; the experiences of World War II 
had convinced me that this system was out of date. A commander has 
got to be left free to tackle the essentials of the problems which con 
front him, together with those details, and only those details, which are 
vital. It is only in these conditions that the plan can be made by the 
commander himself; nobody else can make it and it must not be forced 
on him by his staff, or by circumstances, or by the enemy, I stated that 
our existing staff system did not produce the best results, senior 
commanders becoming involved in far too much detail and thus being 
liable to neglect the major considerations; details were the province 
of the staff, and a Chief of Staff was essential in order to free the 
commander for quiet thought and reflection. There was much opposi 
tion in the War Office to this change in the staff system, both on the 
military and civil sides. Believing as I did that it was vital for successful 
administration in peace and command in war, I finally said that if the 
Chief of Staff system was not introduced into the British Army, I would 
resign and the Prime Minister could get another C.LG.S. That finished 
the argument and the change was introduced; but it took me some 
few months to get it. 

After a few weeks in the War Office I reached the conclusion that 
there was no clear policy between scientific research and the need to 
go into production at some date; a never-ending tug-of-war seemed 
to be going on* I realised it was useless to ask the politicians for 
guidance on this subject After studying all relevant reports, and think 
ing the matter over, I laid it down that the Regular Army must within 
five years (by 1951) be adequately equipped to handle any small 
troubles which might arise. I further said that the balanced whole, 
Regular and Territorial Armies, must be ready within fifteen years 
(by 1961) as regards equipment, man-power, ammunition, reserves, 
etc., to fight a major war, and thereafter must be kept so ready. To get 
a firm decision on this matter was a great relief to all in the War Office. 
I naturally informed the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for 
War, and the Chiefs of Staff Committee of the ruling I had given. 
There was no comment Later, I informed General Eisenhower, and 
the Chiefs of Staff of the Dominion Armies, of my action; they all 
agreed. So much for the shaping of the Army; the biggest step had 
been taken. 

I next came to the conclusion that there was in ministerial and 
military circles in Whitehall no clear conception about how we would 
fight a major war. In a paper on Imperial Defence written prior to 

390 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

my becoming a member of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, the Middle 
East had been classified as one of our vital "main support areas." The 
Prime Minister (Attlee) had not accepted this contention, and had 
argued against it at the first meeting I had with him. After that meet 
ing I told my two colleagues that the Chiefs of Staff should write a 
paper on western strategy in a major war, and submit it to the Prime 
Minister. They did not agree, pleading lack of sufficient evidence of 
the power of future weapons and lack of time for their staffs; I then 
said I would produce the paper in the War Office within a week. In 
accordance with my usual practice I gave my staff the framework of 
the paper on the following lines: 

(a) We must plan to build up the strength of our potential allies 
in Europe and establish a strong western bloc, so as to protect 
the peoples, territories and civilisation of the western world 
against any invasion from the east. We ourselves must be 
prepared to fight on the mainland of Europe, alongside our 
Allies, with aU that that entailed. 

(b) We must ensure our freedom to use the major oceans and 
seas. In particular we must fight for the North African coast 
line and thus enable our communications through the Mediter 
ranean to be kept open. 

(c) We must fight for the Middle East, which, with the United 
Kingdom and North Africa, would provide the bases for the 
launching of a tremendous air offensive against the territory 
of any aggressor from the east. The Army must maintain a 
Corps H.Q. in the Middle East, available to go off anywhere 
to handle an emergency. 

The paper was written in a week and I sent copies to the First Sea 
Lord and the Chief of the Air Staff; although these two disagreed 
with me only on the first of the points set out in the paper, they were 
unwilling to adopt it as a Chiefs of Staff memorandum for submission 
to the Prime Minister. Such was the beginning of my struggle in 
Whitehall to get an agreed British strategy on which all would work; 
it was also the beginning of much friction in the Chiefs of Staff 

I continued unceasingly to advocate the need for a Chiefs of Staff 
memorandum on the lines outlined above. But my colleagues did not 
agree with me about the need to be prepared to fight in the mainland 
of Europe alongside our Allies. They agreed with the second and third 
points. Indeed, in January 1947, when the Prime Minister challenged 
the Chiefs of Staff about the necessity to hold the Middle East, I asked 
them if they were prepared, with me, to resign rather than give way 
over that area. I added that I would do so, with or without them. 

Beginnings in Whitehall 391 

They both agreed whole-heartedly and this information was conveyed 
privately to Attlee. We heard no more about it. In the end the strategy 
advocated by the War Office in July 1946 was the one eventually 

A major point of disagreement in the Chiefs of Staff Committee 
was on the subject of how to handle future planning. I maintained that 
the Chiefs of Staff should provide broad outline guidance to the Joint 
Planners when the latter were asked to examine problems, and particu 
larly when the problems involved strategy and the conduct of war. 
My two colleages considered it was preferable to let the planners 
tackle the problems with an open mind. I argued that when it came 
to consideration of problems involving the handling of vast armies, 
air forces and navies, it was preposterous to ask junior officers to begin 
work without some guidance; it was our duty to lay down in broad 
outline the general direction in which the answer lay. My arguments 
failed to influence the other Chiefs of Staff and, consequently, no 
official guidance was ever given to the Joint Planners. However, I 
informed my colleagues that, whilst I was C.I.G.S., the Army repre 
sentatives on all joint planning endeavours would always be given my 
views on the subjects under consideration. As the planners from the 
other Services were not given the opinion of their own Chiefs, the 
War Office views generally swung the discussion in the way we 

One further point of disagreement must be mentioned. There was 
uneasiness on both sides of the Atlantic about where our troubles with 
the Russians might eventually lead us, and it became clear early in 
August 1946 that the British and Americans ought to engage in some 
combined thinking. Discussion about this had been going on with the 
Americans but on a low level; the top level had not yet been brought 
in and nothing definite had emerged. My colleagues on the Chiefs of 
Staff Committee considered that we must first make a short-term 
review of world problems, and use that as an introduction to a long- 
term review which might follow later. This was also the American 
view, as disclosed by the low-level talks that had been going on. I 
disagreed. I argued that it was unsound to consider local operations 
in Venezia Giulia, or Germany, or elsewhere except within the frame 
work of our strategy for a possible third World War; local fighting 
might spark off a major war, and our local plans must fit into the wider 
picture. After much argument I got the First Sea Lord to agree with 
the War Office view, and the Chief of the Air Force then withdrew 
his opposition. 

The points covered so far in this chapter will be sufficient to explain 
my activities both inside the War Office and in the Chiefs of Staff 
Committee up to the igth August 1946, on which date I sailed from 

392 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

Liverpool for Canada to pay visits to that country and to the 

My visits to these two countries resulted from invitations extended 
respectively by Mr. Mackenzie King, on behalf of the Government of 
Canada, and by General Eisenhower. The original intention was to 
enable me to see these two countries, which I had never yet 
visited and whose armies had at varying times served under my 
command during the war; naturally there were, in both cases, more 
important subjects with which I proposed to deal. In the event, cir 
cumstances provided me with the opportunity to go far beyond the 
field originally envisaged and to initiate action which at the outset of 
the tour was thought to be quite out of the question. 

The Canadian tour embraced visits to the capitals of each Province, 
and to Ottawa the Canadian capital. I met all the Lieutenant-Gov 
ernors, civic officials and Veteran organisations, and many prominent 
Canadians who did not figure in official civic circles. I met so many 
people, and learnt so much from them about Canadian thinking, that I 
had little time to consider it all quietly and make up my mind about 
what should be the next steps. However, the programme allowed for 
two days* rest at Jasper National Park in the Rockies, and we arrived 
there on the 5th September. That gave me the time I needed to consider 
the future. In Ottawa I had discussed the standardisation of weapons, 
equipment, and operational procedures between Britain, Canada and 
the U.S.A. I had reported to the Chiefs of Staff in London, suggesting 
that the top level should now be brought in so as to thrash out the 
whole business, and asking if there was any Whitehall objection to my 
discussing the matter in Washington. On arrival at Jasper I received a 
cable giving permission for me to go ahead on the lines I had proposed. 
But my thoughts at Jasper went well beyond standardisation. The idea 
matured in my brain that the time had come for Britain, Canada, and 
the U.S.A. to co-operate closely in all defence matters; discussions 
should deal not only with standardisation but should cover the whole 
field of co-operation and combined action in the event of war. 
Obviously it would save time, and help me when I got to Washington, 
if I could get the agreement of the Canadian Prime Minister before I 
left Canada. I therefore asked if I could stop for a couple of hours at 
Ottawa on my journey to the U.S.A. and see Mr. Mackenzie King, 
and this was arranged. He agreed in all respects with my suggestions 
and authorised me to inform the President of the United States 
accordingly. I reported the result of this meeting to the Chiefs of Staff 
in London, and wondered how my activities would be viewed in 
Whitehall circles. 

On leaving Canada, I was asked if I would make a nation-wide 
broadcast. I agreed and wrote it at Jasper in the Rocky Mountains. 

Beginnings in Whitehall 393 

Since that first tour I have paid many visits to Canada, and I often 
recall my broadcast message to the people of Canada made in Septem 
ber 1946. This is what I said: 

"It is difficult for me to express adequately my feelings on leaving 

I have travelled your country from coast to coast, from the Mari- 
times to British Columbia. My object was clearly stated at Halifax: 
to see in their home surroundings the men who fought with me on 
the battlefields of Europe, to see something of the life of the 
people, to capture something of the Spirit of Canada.* 
I like to feel that I have succeeded in part. I have met a very 
large number of my old comrades in arms; I have talked with 
many people in every Province and have gained an impression, 
possibly a small one, of the life of the people. I could not have 
done more in the time. 

Always during my travels I have searched for the spirit of Canada. 
And while resting for a day in your Rocky Mountains of super 
lative beauty, I reflected on all I had seen and I feel that I caught 
a fleeting glimpse of the spirit I sought. 

I saw a great and wonderful country; a land containing in its soil 
everything that man desires; a proper land, fit for proper men to 
live in and to prosper exceedingly. 

And I saw that this country produced a people of sturdy independ 
ence, of enterprising versatility, of robust mentalitya people of 
great courage and character. 

The former Canadian son of two good bloods, French and British, 
has grown to full manhood; a worthy son has now become a full 
partner, whose advice and counsel is eagerly sought in the old 
home and whose strong right arm is ever ready to be raised in the 
cause of freedom. But how few are the people living in this 
country: this country with such limitless possibilities! 
In the distance I seem to catch a glimpse of a great nation of 50 
million people, and more; a virile people, ideally located, who 
through its strength enjoy peace and security. This great Nation, 
joined by close ties of blood and battle to the Old World and the 
New World, seems to me to form a hinge between the two. 
You may say that all this is but a vision, the daydream of a soldier 
resting for a day in the Rockies of Canada. 

But we soldiers try to reduce every problem to its simplest form 
and to avoid all complications. 

Twice in a generation we have taken part in a great World War. 
In each case we entered it with high resolve and determined 
resolution, and we fought through to victory with great devotion 

394 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

to the cause; in each case the youth of our Nations have willingly 
given their lives that our countries might survive; in each case the 
harvest o victory has been difficult to gather in. 
We do not want it all to happen again. Our young men died on 
the battlefields in World Wars I and II in order that the present 
youth of our Nations might grow up as citizens of free countries in 
a peaceful world. 
We want peace. 

There could be no stronger factor for peace than the working 
together of the English speaking peoples; all bound together by 
common language, the same common law, the same religious 
tolerance, the same love of democracy and the freedom of men. 
Such a partnership would be a strong shield against the evil things 
we have fought to overcome. These evil things might well rise 
up again and spread: unless faced by a union of free and freedom- 
loving peoples, which could be linked to any peace-loving Nations 
within the framework of the United Nations Organisation. 
And in such a conception there seems to stand poised the Spirit 
of Canada/ a hinge between the Old World and the New: a 
priceless hinge of pure gold. 

On my departure from Canada I want to thank the Prime Minister 
and the Government for having invited me, and the people of 
Canada for the wonderful welcome I have received wherever I 
have been. 
I shall never forget my first visit to Canada. 9 

I arrived in the United States on the loth September. My tour 
was to include visits to the major military installations, and time was 
allowed for talks in Washington with the President and the American 
Chiefs of Staff. Whilst in the U.S.A. I was the guest of General Eisen 
hower and the American Army. 

On arrival in Washington I received a reply to my message to the 
British Chiefs of Staff, in which I had reported my discussions with 
Mr. Mackenzie King. I was urged to confine my talks to the American 
Chiefs of Staff, and on no account to make any reference of my ideas 
to the President of the United States; it was stated that no Ministers 
knew what was going on. This reply was in the nature of a damper 
on my activities, but it did not deter me in any way. I discussed the 
whole matter with Eisenhower as soon as we were alone in his house, 
where I was going to stay, and told him of my talk in Canada with 
Mackenzie King. Eisenhower agreed that the time had come to get 
down to the study and planning of combined action, not only in 
standardisation but in all aspects of defence and preparedness. He said 
that, contrary to the information available to the British Chiefs of 
Staff, in Washington the Secretaries of the Army and Navy were fully 

Beginnings in Whitehall 

in the picture about what had already been going on below the surface, 
and he thought it was high time the Heads of State were brought in. 
He did not wish to approach the President himself, but urged me to 
do so when I saw him at the White House the next day. And this I 
was determined to do, in spite of the rebuff from London. 

I saw the President the next morning; we were alone. I opened 
the conversation by saying that Eisenhower and I considered the time 
had come to begin discussions covering the whole field of defence. 
Seeing at once that I was on very receptive ground, I went on to tell 
the President of Mackenzie King s approval. I finally said that if the 
Heads of State would merely give their approval, die military staffs 
would get on with the job at once. The President replied without 
hesitation: "That s O.K. by me, go right ahead/* 

I had met Mr. Truman before at the Potsdam Conference but had 
not talked with him; I was much impressed. He seemed to me to be 
alert and vigorous, and had the great quality of decision. After our 
talk we went out to the rose garden where the photographers were 
waiting. He told me about the White House, saying it was in bad 
repair and needing rebuilding. I said that perhaps I should apologise 
for the burning of the house by British troops many years ago, and he 
replied: "No need for that; as far as I am concerned you can burn 
it again." 

After leaving the White House I went back to Eisenhower and told 
him of my talk with the President. He was delighted and at once began 
to arrange for me to meet the American Chiefs of Staff. He had to 
be careful and so the meeting was to be represented as a social gather 
ing on board the S.S. Sequoia, during which we were to cruise down 
the Potomac and have a look at George Washington s house at Mount 
Vernon. I reported all these happenings to the British Chiefs of Staff 
and asked them to tadde the Prime Minister. I received in reply a 
second "cold breeze," which showed apprehension and a lack of a 
full appreciation of the earnestness of the Americans to sit round the 
table with us and discuss these matters. This telegram was followed by 
one from the Prime Minister; he stated that he fully realised the 
importance and potential value of the issues being raised, and that 
while there was no objection to further exchanges of information and 
of methods of procedure, he asked me to avoid entering into any 
specific commitments. I replied saying that I fully understood the 
situation and that, being on a private visit, I had no power to negotiate. 

The next day, the i6th September, we boarded the Sequoia for our 
"social gathering" on the Potomac. The American Chiefs of Staff 
were represented by Admiral Leahy who was present in his capacity 
as Chief of Staff to the President, General Eisenhower, Admiral 
Nimitz, and General Spaatz. We reached agreement that discussions 
should begin as soon as possible and should cover the whole strategic 

396 The Memoirs of Jtueld-Marsiial Momgomeiy 

concept of the West in a third World War, together with the best way 
of handling the business of standardisation and combined action. It 
was agreed that the first meeting might well be held in Washington 
and that a planning staff from Canada should be included. 

I asked the American Chiefs of Staff what value, if any, they 
attached to Middle East oil; the reply was immediate and unanimous 

A most interesting feature of the meeting was the immediate and 
favourable reaction of the American Chiefs of Staff, and their appre 
ciation of a direct approach on this subject; they said with one voice 
that they had been hoping and waiting for such an approach for a 
long time. 

That evening I reported the results of the meeting to the British 
Chiefs of Staff and asked that the Prime Minister be informed. In the 
telegram I said that all further action should now be handled by them. 
I reckoned I had done my bit, in spite of cold showers from Whitehall! 
I added that our team of planners from London must not arrive in the 
U.S.A. without the clear and definite views of the British Chiefs of 
Staff about the grand strategy of the West in the event of war. For 
them to arrive with an open or blank mind would be useless and 
would create a bad impression. I thought it wise to make this point 
at once since I knew the other two members of tie Chiefs of Staff did 
not agree with my views on this point. 

And so ended a remarkably successful visit successful beyond my 
wildest dreams. It had been established that the continued functioning 
of the machinery of the Combined Chiefs of Staff was accepted with 
out question by the President and the American Chiefs of Staff. 
Although I had to represent myself as being engaged on nothing but 
a private visit, I had managed to do an enormous amount for the 
British Chiefs of Staff. It was obvious to me from the many telegrams 
which had passed, that I had stepped into the middle of the political 
stage, and there was apprehension in the Chiefs of Staff Committee, in 
the War Office, in the Foreign Office, and at No. 10 Downing Street, 
about what I was doing and what I would do next. The truth was that 
they, sitting in England, could not catch the same spirit of enthusiastic 
realism which was to be found in Canada and the U.S.A. They had 
had to deal with the American politicians for so long on a sticky wicket, 
that they were mentally unprepared to find that it was the Americans 
who were now wondering when on earth the British would face 
realities and frankly broach the question of co-operation in all spheres 
of defence. 

The fact remained that within a matter of a few days I had managed 
to obtain the approval of the Heads of State and the Chiefs of Staffs of 
Canada, America and the United Kingdom to the opening of military 
discussions on a wide basis, and this should now lead to the unification 

Beginnings in Whitehall 397 

of the defence policy and plans of the British Empire and the United 
States before another war was thrust on us. Indeed, such unity might 
well prevent the outbreak of just such a war. 

I left Washington by air for London on the afternoon of the igth 
September. As we flew eastwards, I wondered what my reception 
would be in Whitehall. I didn t fancy that the red carpet would be 
out; some form of mat, perhaps. 


Overseas Tours in 1947 

DCJRING the war I had commanded military contingents from 
Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Southern 
Rhodesia, India, and many of the Colonies. When the war 
ended I received invitations from die Governments of these countries 
to visit them. I was delighted, since this would enable me to meet in 
their home surroundings my former comrades-in-arms and also to dis 
cuss future problems on a Chiefs of Staff level. I am not so certain 
that my colleagues on the British Chiefs of Staff were equally pleased 
they were apprehensive of what I might be up to. However, I got 
Governmental agreement to the visits and made my plans. 

But first there was an urgent matter that had to be settled quickly, 
and that was the problem of a home for myself and David. We could 
not continue to live with the Reynolds much longer; it would not 
be fair to them. 

For the period of my time at the War Office I had taken a flat in 
Westminster Gardens. But although I am a Londoner by birth, I like 
the country and everything that goes with it. And so, after due 
reconnaissance, I found what I wanted in Hampshire an old mill on 
the River Wey, Isington Mill. Once I had established that the main 
structure was sound, I bought the mill, the meadow in which it stood, 
and a field or two on either side. The mill itself was full of machinery 
and nobody had ever lived in it. "Main" supplies of water, gas, and 
electricity would have to be brought some distance, the electric "grid" 
being a mile away; whereas the outer shell of the building was intact 
it needed repair, and the inside would have to be turned into a resi 
dence. I decided to go ahead. One of my friends said "You are mad." 
And when one surveyed the scene, there was some justification for his 


Overseas Tours in 1947 399 

remark But I had a good architect (Robert Bostock) and a good 
builder (Mardon Ball of Farnham) and we agreed I was not mad yet 

But how to get a licence for the work? That was the immediate 
problem, since in the first few years after the war ended there was a 
scarcity of materials and labour, and all building was strictly controlled 
by the Minister of Health (Mr. Aneurin Bevan). 

I applied for a licence to the Alton Rural District Council, in whose 
area the mill was; my application was referred to the Regional Head 
quarters at Reading, and was refused. I then wrote direct to Aneurin 
Bevan and asked him to intervene on my behalf. He was very sympa 
thetic but said I placed him in a constitutional difficulty; if he took 
the initiative and asked the local authority to grant a licence in my 
particular case, it would stimulate the liveliest curiosity and publicity 
and neither he nor I would benefit from the result; he advised me to 
wait until the edge had been taken off the housing shortage a little 
further. Finally I appealed to the Prime Minister and explained that 
all I wanted was to be allowed to spend my personal savings on 
making a home for myself and my son, and that the licenceable portion 
of the work was small. My only alternative would be to live in my 
war caravans in the meadow by the mill stream. I was given the 

The photographs of Isington Mill and meadow, before and after, 
show what we were able to achieve. The interior owes much of its 
character to the timber presented to me by various organisations in 
Australia and Tasmania, all handled by the late Mr. Chifley the then 
Commonwealth Prime Minister. The whole of the flooring is Tasmanian 
oak, and the stairs, doors, and built-in cupboards are mountain ash 
from Victoria, The Australian Government also gave me the barn 
in which my war caravans are housed, except the roof which is of 
cedar shingles given by the Canadian Government Australia and 
New Zealand, knowing that I had no furniture for my home, both 
gave me various articles. So while I had some difficulty in getting the 
British Government of the day even to let me spend some of my own 
savings on a home, all my worldly possessions having been destroyed 
by German bombing during the war, the Dominion Governments did 
their best to help me as soon as they heard of my plight. 

It will be convenient to describe my main overseas tours in the 
order in which they were carried out excluding that in Canada and 
the U.S.A., which has already been dealt with in an earlier chapter. 


At the Potsdam Conference in July 1945 I had got to know Marshal 
Stalin, and he had invited me to visit him in Moscow at some future 

400 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

date. The Prime Minister (Churchill) had agreed. Later, when I left 
Germany in May 1946, General Sokolovsky said that Stalin had been 
enquiring when I was going to visit him. I informed the Foreign 
Office; they replied on the 25th September 1946 to the effect that 
Anglo-Soviet relations had so deteriorated that they doubted whether 
the invitation was still valid. 

However, I decided, with the approval of the Prime Minister and 
the Foreign Secretary (Mr. Ernest Bevin), that I might possibly be 
able to improve this state of affairs if I could get myself invited to 
Moscow. I planted the "birdseed," curiously enough, when I was in 
New York. I also sent a copy of my book Normandy to the Baltic to 
Marshal Vassilievsky, Chief of Staff of the armed forces of Russia. In 
due course the invitation was received and the Prime Minister agreed 
it should be accepted; he thought that I "might be able to do much to 
dissipate the cloud of suspicion with which the Russians were in 
volved." I also obtained Government approval to invite the Soviet 
Marshals to pay a return visit to England. 

I arrived in Moscow on the 6th January 1947 in a R.A.F. York 
aircraft Marshal Vassilievsky headed an ugly rush of Marshals, photog 
raphers and newspaper correspondents towards the aircraft and with 
some difficulty I made my way to the Guard of Honour. The airfield 
was decorated with Union Jacks and the Red Flag, and the whole 
atmosphere was most friendly. That evening I had a long talk with 
Vassilievsky during which we discussed the programme for my 
stay in Moscow. I asked particularly that I might visit the follow 
ing: the Voroshilov Military Academy, the Stalin Academy for 
Mechanised Troops, and the Frunze Military Academy. This was 

Every day there was a lunch party, and a banquet at night; these 
were tremendous affairs of never less than twelve courses, with 
speeches between every course. On one night we were the guests of 
the Red Army at the Bolshoi Theatre, where we witnessed a mag 
nificently staged ballet, Romeo and Juliet; the prima ballerina of 
Russia, Ulanova, gave a wonderful exhibition of graceful movement 
and dancing, and the whole evening was most enjoyable. 

I found the long meals and rich food rather trying. But I soon 
discovered that there was no need to eat any of the food unless you 
wished. On the other hand, it was necessary to be served with every 
course, since to refuse would be regarded as an insult; after an interval 
your plate would be removed whether you had eaten what was on it, 
or not Similarly with your glass, whether or not you had drunk the 
wine. Each guest had an array of glasses, all of which were filled with 
different coloured drinks; but there was no need to drink any of them. 
I noticed that the senior Russian officers never mixed their drinks; 
they would stick to red wine throughout, or vodka, or white wine. 

Overseas Tours in 1947 401 

Personally, I always asked for mineral water and this caused no 

In my speeches at these meals, I used to praise the Russian Aimy 
for their great feats and the people for their stoical endurance of many 
hardships. I said that nations which had fought together for so many 
years against aggression should not become irritated with each other 
if there were misunderstandings and delays in framing the conditions 
for a long period of peace. I added that the soldiers of our two nations, 
by themselves fostering the bonds of mutual confidence built up on the 
field of battle, could help the statesmen to overcome suspicion and so 
contribute to the development of friendly relations. 

On one morning we were taken to see the Kremlin. We began 
with an outside tour to see the great mortar which had never fired its 
two-ton cannon balls, and the biggest bell in the world which broke 
in manufacture and was never rung. It was a bitterly cold day with 
driving snow and I asked if we could see the inside of the ancient 
cathedrals; the guide explained that they were being repaired, an 
excuse which was always made to visitors. I said that my great passion 
in life was to see things being repaired as this was so much more 
interesting than seeing them whole! There were embarrassed looks 
between the various Russian officials and eventually my request was 
granted; we visited the three cathedrals, the old and new palaces, and 
the museumaltogether a most interesting morning. 

The highlight of my visit was the talk I had with Stalin, which 
took place in his office in the Kremlin at 5 p.m. on the loth January, 
die last day of my stay in Moscow. 

I began by presenting to Stalin a case of whisky, and a copy of each 
of my two books: Alamein to the River Sangro (Eighth Anny) and 
Normandy to the Baltic (21 Army Group). He thanked me with great 
warmth and said, with a twinkle in his eye: "You bring me these pres 
ents; what do you want of me?" I replied that I wanted nothing 
tangible but would like his help in a matter which I would explain. We 
were alone, except for two interpreters his and mine. 

I said that in order to get the best results from the British and 
American armies during the war, we had become very closely linked 
together; we had used each other s schools and equipment; we had 
integrated our two armies to a great degree and a close comradeship 
had grown up between us. Stalin said he quite understood this and he 
realised that such an integration and comradeship was very natural 
because as soldiers we spoke the same language. 

When peace came, I continued, we had automatically continued 
our close relations with the American Army; some warm friendships 
had grown up between our officers during the war, from Eisenhower 
and myself right down the chain of command to the individual man 
in the ranks. I felt that this was good. 

402 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

When the war ended, we soldiers were somewhat inclined to sit 
back and let the politicians struggle alone with the problem of winning 
a good peace; and indeed we were apt to laugh at the politicians for 
not making quicker progress at the various peace conferences. It 
seemed that this was not right. We fighting men did not win the war; 
our swords were drawn and wielded in accordance with the orders of 
our political chiefs; the war was won by great national teams, civil 
and military, directed by Heads of States. We fighting men might well 
be able to help in the matter of getting a good peace. Our contribution 
must not be a political one. But I felt that we could help our politicians 
greatly by establishing friendly relations between our respective 
armies; this would help to produce mutual confidence and good will, 
and thus would tend to eliminate suspicion and mistrust. Stalin said he 
agreed completely. 

For this reason I had come to Russia to establish friendly contact 
with the Soviet Army. I had been received with the greatest warmth 
and cordiality. We had had free and frank talks on all military sub 
jects; we had discussed the whole subject of the organisation of armies 
and the conduct of war on land. 

I had been told everything I wanted to know and I had seen every 
thing I wanted to see including the new Russian tank (which no 
foreigner had ever been allowed to examine before). And above all, 
I had met all the Marshals of the Soviet Union, and had made many 
friends. I wanted him to know this; and I wanted to thank him. 
Stalin said he already knew all this as it had been reported to him; 
for his part, he wanted to thank me. 

I then said that this was only the beginning of what I wanted to 
achieve. A close link and real comradeship between our Armies would 
not be easy, as we lived so many miles away from each other and we 
spoke different languages. Both sides would have to make a real 
effort. We British would make the effort; the Russian Army must 
do the same, and this was where I wanted his help. The Russian Army 
must now visit the British Army in England. I had invited Marshal 
Vassilievsky to come to England in June and to bring with him 
Marshal Koniev (C.-in-C. Land Armies) and Marshal Rybaltko 
(C.-in-C. Armoured Forces). I would show them our schools and 
establishments in. the ILK. Stalin said he had given his approval to 
this visit. 

I added that the next step would be to have an exchange of officers 
at our various military schools; the language difficulty would be a 
problem and would probably dictate the numbers to be exchanged. 
But we must make a start, even with only one or two officers; the 
scheme would grow and develop gradually as confidence was estab 
lished and interest awakened, and it was better so. 

What had he to say to this? 

Overseas Tours in 1947 403 

Stalin said he was much interested in my scheme. But he con 
sidered that the time had not yet come for an interchange of officers; 
such action might be misunderstood in political circles and he might 
be blackguarded in the world Press for being a warmonger. What did 
I think of that? 

I replied that I understood his point of view but did not agree. I 
said that I personally always did what I thought was right and did not 
care in the least what anybody thought or said about it We British 
were so used to being blackguarded in the Press of various countries 
that we now regarded it as normal and did not bother about it; the 
great point was to be open and frank in all matters, to have nothing 
to hide from anybody, and to go quietly forward with a clear 

Stalin said he realised we had a dose tie-up with the Americans in 
the matter of military talks about the conduct of war and of training; 
he also understood that we had a definite plan for standardisation of 
weapons and equipment He did not see how we could do these things 
unless we had a definite military alliance or agreement with the United 
States. He added that he wished to make it quite clear that he did not 
in the least object to any such alliance, provided it was not directed 
against the Soviet Union. He assumed that there was such an alliance 
or agreement. Would I care to say anything on this matter? 

I said he had mentioned "standardisation 7 * and I would deal with 
that first 

During the war our officers had attended each other s schools and 
had got to know and like certain types of weapons and equipment; 
this had led to a demand for certain types of equipment, each from the 
other. Indeed, in the very early days of the war, while Russia was a 
neutral, we had had to borrow a good deal of American equipment as 
we had lost so much ourselves at Dunkirk. As the war progressed we 
often used each other s equipment. For the landing in Normandy 
three of my divisions had their artillery completely equipped with 
American guns; during the Ardennes battle in December 1944, the 
Americans lost a good deal of equipment and I lent them British 
equipment, including a number of 2$-pounder field guns. We had 
thus got to know and like certain types of American equipment, 
weapons, W/T sets and so on. When the war ended we began to 
consider the equipment of our post-war Army and we decided we 
would adopt certain American weapons that we liked making them 
in our own factories in England and altering them as necessary to suit 
our British ways and methods. That was all there was in this matter of 
standardisation. But it had been taken up by the Press of certain 
nations and tossed about the world as if there was something sinister 
about it; there was nothing sinister about it; it was all just a natural 
outcome of a very close integration in war. I said I would be delighted 

404 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

to have a similar arrangement with the Soviet Army, each examining 
each other s equipment and each adopting in his own Army anything 
he liked. Was this now clear? And did he now understand that there 
existed no plan of any sort for a sinister standardisation of equipment? 
Stalin said it was now clear and he was glad I had explained it to 
Tifm T 

Next I dealt with alliances, 

Any military alliance between two countries was a political matter 
and could not be concluded by soldiers. I was the professional head of 
the British Army and it would be quite impossible for any military 
alliance to be made between Britain and America without my knowl 
edge. I wished to assure him that there existed between Britain and 
America, or between Britain and any other country, no military alli 
ance, no military agreement, and no sinister plan for the standardisa 
tion of weapons and equipment. I hoped he would believe me. 

Stalin looked me straight in the face and said with great earnest 
ness: "I do believe you, absolutely.** He turned to his interpreter, and 
said: "Tell the Field-Marshal again that I believe him.** 

I said that he had talked a good deal about military alliances, and 
had said he had no objection to an alliance between Britain and 
America provided it was not directed against Russia. I would now like 
to ask him a question: 

"Did he think there should be a military alliance between Britain 
and Russia?" 

He said at once: 

"That is what I would like, and I think it is essential." 

I then said that I thought we already had a treaty or agreement 
between our two nations which had been signed in 1942, and I was 
under the impression that it was still in operation. He asked if I would 
let him explain his view about that treaty, and he gave the following 

The Treaty was in two parts. Part I provided for mutual co-operation 
and combined action in the war against Germany; the war against 
Germany was now over and therefore Part I of the Treaty ceased 
to apply. 

Part II provided for mutual assistance and non-aggression for a 
period of 20 years after the end of the German war, or until some 
World Organisation or League of Nations had been formed and was 
in working order. The United Nations had been formed and was 
working, and therefore Part II was, in theory, what he described as 
"suspended in the air." Therefore it could be said that the whole 
Treaty was now inoperative and in suspense. But on the other hand it 
had been provided that the Treaty was not "washed out" until an 
agreement to that effect had been signed; such an agreement had not 
been signed; therefore the situation was not clear. 

Overseas Tours in 1947 405 

I said that his explanation was quite clear. Was I to understand 
that he wished me to tell the British Prime Minister that he (Stalin) 
would like a new Treaty and a definite military alliance with Britain? 
He said he would hesitate to give me such a commission as he felt he 
would merely be accused of some sinister move and would be black 
guarded accordingly. I replied that I would hesitate to accept such a 
commission as I was not an accredited agent of my Government. I 
had come to Russia as a soldier, and I imagined that die proper person 
to be given such a commission would be the British Ambassador in 
Moscow. Stalin agreed. He added that he had no objection whatever 
to my telling anyone I liked, as a matter of interest, that he (Stalin) 
would welcome a military alliance with Britain and considered it was 
very necessary; he repeated this statement twice, and seemed anxious 
that I should understand his views. 

I told him that Marshal Vassilievsky had asked me the reasons for 
the continued existence of the Combined Chiefs of Staff organisation; 
I had explained the reasons, and he had said he was satisfied. The 
reasons were obvious. During the war, the combined effort of Britain 
and America had required the closest integration and handling; we 
had established Allied H.Q. in S.E. Asia, in the Mediterranean, and in 
N.W. Europe. The international problems were so great that a Com 
bined Chiefs o Staff organisation to handle them had grown up 
naturally. Even in 1947, we still had an Allied H.Q. in Italy and 
British forces under American command in Japan. There were a 
tremendous number of problems still to be handled which remained 
as a hang-over from the war; there were a very great many Anglo- 
American matters still to be cleaned up. All that was done through the 
Combined Chiefs of Staff organisation. 

We had now been talking for well over one hour and Stalin looked 
at the clock. I was to return at 8 p.m. to have dinner with him. I said 
I would like to raise one more question. During the war certain 
British service and civilian personnel had married Russian wives; they 
wanted their Russian wives to join them in the U.K. but could not 
get permission. There were now only seven such service people. If I 
gave him a list or nominal roll of these seven, would he look into 
the matter and see if he could help? Stalin said "Certainly," and he 
gave me his assurance that he would personally look into the matter 
and give his help* I gave linn the list. 

I then got up to leave. We parted with great friendliness. Stalin 
was in good health; his brain was very clear; he gave me the im 
pression that if you did not know your subject you would quickly 
get tangled up in argument with him. 

I returned to the Kremlin at 8 p.m. for dinner. Among the thirty 
or so at dinner were: 

Generalissimo Stalin. 

406 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

Molotov and Vyshinsky. 

ganm I ^ ^ Politburo. 

Vorosnilov J 

Marshal Vassilievsky and some seven other Marshals of the Soviet 

A number of Russian generals. 

The British Ambassador and Mr. (now Sir) Frank Roberts. 

The three Service Attaches of the British Embassy. 

Conversation was very restrained to begin with and it was clear 
that the Marshals, Ministers (including Molotov and Vyshinsky), and 
Generals were all in the greatest awe of Stalin and shut up like an 
oyster in his presence. 

I sat on Stalin s right; Molotov sat opposite Stalin, with the British 
Ambassador on his right. Bulganin sat on the left of Molotov and 
next to Vyshinsky. In the somewhat frigid atmosphere that existed at 
the table, I felt I would have to make a real effort to open up the 
battle and get some joie de vivre going; it was obvious that everyone 
was frightened of Stalin, and nervous; something must be done. So 
I decided to rag Molotov. I asked him about his f life in New York, 
and made him describe a typical day. I said it was obvious that he 
spent the mornings planning how to outflank his opponents in the 
afternoons; he spent the afternoons in developing his outflanking 
movements; and he spent the evenings in dancing and drinking. Obvi 
ously the politicians did no work. 

This promised very badly for the Moscow Conference in March 
1947; nothing would be accomplished, except to decide to have some 
more conferences; would he give me the programme of conferences 
for the next two years. 

Stalin enjoyed all this hugely. He joined in with great keenness, 
taking my side; he talked about "we soldiers * as against "you politi 
cians,** and obviously liked to be considered a soldier. He ragged the 
politicians with great enjoyment. I urged him on and said some 
dreadful things about politicians, for which I hope I may be forgiven* 
Stalin said I ought to join with him; between us we would defeat any 
combination of civilian politicians. I said I was a soldier only. He said 
that he welcomed the present world tendency for soldiers to take over 
the direction of affairs and become Ambassadors, eta, etc. He was 
delighted that General Marshall had become the American Secretary 
of State. He said that soldiers of experience made very good soldier- 
politicians, because they were much more sensible than civilian- 
politicians. I said I would give hfm my views on this matter privately; 
when no one else was about! 

In this way we passed a very pleasant evening. There were no 
formal speeches. Molotov proposed all the toasts, about seven, in- 

Overseas Touts in 1947 407 

eluding The King. He made no speech with any toast; he merely got 
up and said we would now drink a certain toast 

After dinner we retired to an ante-room where we sat at small tables 
for coffee. I now asked Stalin if I could make a speech, and he called 
for silence. In my speech I referred to the great war effort of Russia, 
Britain had gone through some bad times in 1940, 1941 and 1942, and 
for a long time we fought alone against the combined might of Ger 
many and Italy. But we were lucky in that the German armies failed 
to carry the land war into England, and we were saved from having 
our homeland destroyed by the Fascist hordes. Not so with Russia. 
While Britain and America were gathering their strength, the German 
armies overran and ravished the homelands of Russia, causing terrific 
destruction and great loss of life, Britain and America in those early 
days could do little to help, except to supply equipment by sea; 
Russia had to bear, almost unaided, the full onslaught of Germany on 
land. We British would never forget what Russia went through; she 
had suffered more severely than any other nation. And then came 
peace. I referred to the need for happy relations in peace between 
armies, and thanked the Generalissimo and his Marshals for the very- 
friendly reception I had been given in Moscow. As professional head 
of the British Army I extended the right hand of friendship to the 
Soviet Army and to its great Generalissimo. I then advanced with out 
stretched hand to Stalin and we shook hands warmly. 

Earlier in the day I had been presented by Marshal Vassilievsky 
and the Soviet Army with the full dress overcoat and hat of a Marshal 
of the Soviet Union. After my speech I told Stalin that I would like to 
put on my coat and hat and, dressed as a Russian Marshal, salute the 
Generalissimo. He was delighted and said we must both be photo 
graphed. So I dressed as a Russian Marshal and was photographed 
with him. Stalin then asked what I would like to do next Would I 
like to have some music, or see a film in his private cinema, or go 
out in the city to a theatre? I replied that I would like to go home to 
bed* It was 10 p.m. and I had an early start the next day for my flight 
back to London. Stalin said: "Certainly, let s all go to bed." And I 
suppose for the first time in the history of Russia an official banquet 
in the Kremlin broke up soon after 10 pan. 

Stalin was an interesting personality. He had a keen sense of 
humour, was a good host, and was courteous to his guests. I noticed 
that he was abstemious both with food and drink, and gave the 
impression that he was dieting; he was a chain cigarette smoker. He 
showed his age, about 68 or 70, 1 thought; he seemed to have shrunk 
in size and was thinner since I had last seen him in Potsdam in July 
1945, an d was not so firm on his legs. At dinner he talked little; but 
he opened up readily if you made the running. 

408 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

The difficulty of language was overcome by each of us having his 
own interpreter; Stalin could not speak French nor any other Euro 
pean language. He asked me once, rather quickly, what I thought 
about a certain thing; without thinking I replied that it was the "cat s 
whiskers.** Stalin and I had to sit and wait while the two interpreters 
argued about how to put that expression into Russian. They finally 
decided that it was impossible, and we passed on to the next subject 

From what I saw and heard I gained the definite impression that 
Russia was in a poor state. Very great destruction had been caused 
by the German invasion of Russia. In White Russia (Minsk, Smolensk, 
and the north-west generally) the towns and villages had been 
destroyed. In the Ukraine (Odessa, Kief, Karkov, Don Basin, Dnieper) 
the fighting had been fierce and the destruction terrific. This area 
contained about 60 per cent of the Russian industrial potential and it 
was knocked out Food was scarce; the 1947 harvest had been poor. 
Housing conditions were appalling. Moscow was a drab city; it had 
been built for a population of 800,000 and the total inhabitants in 
January 1947 numbered seven million; the people looked depressed 
and miserable. I was left with the impression that the Russians were 
worn out; it was not just war weariness; I was told that the whole 
nation was tired. All-in-all, I reckoned that Russia was quite unfit to 
take part in a world war against a strong combination of allied nations, 
and that she knew this very well. She needed a long period of peace 
in which to recover. I came to the conclusion that she would watch 
the situation carefully and ensure that she did not "overstep the mark" 
anywhere by careless diplomacy and thus start another war, which 
she could not cope with. I reckoned then that it would be fifteen to 
twenty years before Russia would be in a position to fight a major 
war with a good chance of success. She would go as far as she could 
to get what she wanted, and if opposed only by weakness would be 
prepared to go a long way short of actual war. If always opposed 
by strength, or by apparent strength with robust methods, she would 
pull in her horns very quickly owing to her fear of war and her knowl 
edge that she was not fit for it After some fifteen to twenty years, if 
Russia had recovered by that time, then matters would be different; 
she would be in a position to "thump the table/ and to fight for 
what she wanted if she wished to do so. 

I reported accordingly to the British Government and the Chiefs 
of Staff. 


On the 2ist June 1947 I left London by air to visit Australia and 
New Zealand at the invitation of the Governments of those countries. 

Overseas Tours in 1947 409 

At the conference of Dominion Prime Ministers in 1946, both countries 
had declared that they wished to take on more responsibility for 
defence matters in the Pacific. My "standing" whilst on this tour there 
fore became a matter of some moment in Whitehall, and I considered 
that I must be prepared to discuss the problem with the respective 
Dominion Governments. I knew very well that both Tedder and 
Cunningham disliked my overseas tours, in which I discussed major 
problems with Governments and, in their view, acted as a sort of 
Ambassador Extraordinary. They never allowed me to "represent" 
the British Chiefs of Staff. They made it very clear that I travelled 
only as professional head of the British Army and a "member" of the 
Chiefs of Staff Committee. This suited me very well. Indeed, I 
preferred it that way, since it left me free to give my personal views 
on a wide range of subjects, often to the extreme annoyance of my 
two colleagues in London, especially when they found that my per 
sonal views, with which they mostly disagreed, often carried the day 
in the end. 

DELHI: SSRD TO 25x11 JUNE 1947 

I had arranged to visit India on the way to Australia for two reasons 
first, to settle the programme for the withdrawal of British troops 
from that sub-continent and, secondly, to get agreement in principle 
for the continued use of Gurkha troops in the British Army after India 
had gained its independence. 

I arrived in Delhi at noon on the 23rd June and began discussions 
with Nehru and Jinnah that afternoon- By that time the Partition 
Plan had been accepted. 

There was no difficulty about the first point; both Nehru and 
Jinnah agreed that the withdrawal of the British troops should begin 
on the isth August 1947 (the date of the transfer of power) and be 
completed by the end of February 1948. 

The second point was discussed with Nehru alone. He raised many 
objections and I did not get his final agreement till the evening of the 
next day, the 24th June. 

I was intensely interested in the personalities of the leaders of the 
two parties, Hindus and Moslems. Nehru I had not met before. He 
was calm and self-confident, had a marked sense of humour, and was 
easy to deal with. We became very good friends; it was impossible 
not to like him. Jinnah was totally different. He was keyed up to a 
high state of tension; he openly expressed his deadly hatred of the 
Hindus, saying he would have nothing to do with them. He was 
deeply suspicious of being asked to share anything with the Indian 

410 The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery 

Union and was determined that Pakistan should stand alone. He 
expressed his intense distrust of Auchinleck, and his hatred of Mount- 
batten (the Viceroy) who, he said, was "in the pocket" of Nehru. 
I wrote the following in my diary on the 24th June 1947: 

"The division of India into Pakistan and the Indian Union at 
such speed raises terrific problems. These can only be settled 
satisfactorily by the closest co-operation between die two new 
Dominions. Failing this, there will be the most awful chaos and 
much bloodshed. 9 * 

There was to be a terrible fulfilment of this prophecy. 


I left Delhi on the 15th June and flew, via Ceylon where I spent 
that night, to Singapore. I sparked off quite a lot of trouble here when 
I gave it as my opinion that the Naval Commander-in-Chief in the 
Far East should have his headquarters in Singapore with his colleagues 
of the Army and Air, and should not sit by himself in Hong Kong. 
I reported my views officially to the Chiefs of Staff in London and, 
simultaneously, the local sailors reported me to the Admiralty* The 
First Sea Lord was intensely angry and I was informed that in the 
London clubs the sailors would hardly speak to the soldiers* In 
Singapore, on the quarter-deck of the flag ship, the staff officer who 
was accompanying me (Lieut-Colonel George Cole) got ticked off 
in no uncertain voice by the wife of the Naval C.-in-C. I rode the 
storm, though somewhat uneasily, and demanded that the question 
as to where the Naval Headquarters should be located be referred to 
the Prime Minister for decision. Eventually I won my point, and the 
Naval H.Q. in the Far East was moved to Singapore. All-in-all, I was 
glad to get away from Singapore on the 3oth June. As my aircraft 
took off the Naval C.-in-C. was heard to remark: **I hope that chap 
won t come back here again; the trouble he has caused will last us 
for some time. * 

AUSTRALIA: 30x11 JUNE TO iGxn JULY 1947 

I reached Darwin on the soth June and went on to Canberra the 
next day, the ist July. I was simply delighted to see the home country 
of the magnificent Australian soldiers who had fought so well at 
Alamein. My tour included visits to every State, and of course to 
Tasmania where I had spent my boyhood. In Hobart I was presented 
to a group of oldish ladies, each of whom claimed to have been my 

Overseas Tours in 1947 411 

nannie when a baby and remembered how difficult I was in the bath. 
I did not know I had had so many nurses: or so many baths. 

In replying to an address of welcome in Hobart, I said how nice 
it was to see the place again and even the railway station looked just 
the same. This caused a tremendous laugh and was taken up at once 
by the local Press; the station was the same one I had known fifty 
years earlier, in spite of repeated representations for it to be mod 

Everywhere I went in Australia there were assembled to meet me 
the local branches of the Returned Servicemen s League; this was a 
great joy to me since so many of them were my former comrades-in- 

I had prolonged discussions with members of the Australian Gov 
ernment and made many friends; I liked particularly Sir William 
McKell (the Governor General) and Mr. Chifley (the Prime Min 
ister). Our talks were concerned with two main subjects. First was the 
degree of responsibility which Australia was prepared to accept in the 
development of defence problems relating to security in the Pacific 
region. In London it had been assumed that Australia was willing to 
undertake primary responsibility for Commonwealth strategic interests 
in the Pacific at once. But I very soon found out that this assumption 
was not correct What Australia wanted in the first instance was the 
creation of some suitable machinery, and then to use that machinery 
to develop gradually the final scope of responsibility. Personally, I 
agreed with the Australian view and reported accordingly to Whitehall. 

The second point concerned the question of British Service repre 
sentation in Australia. Here I disagreed acutely with my two colleagues 
on the British Chiefs of Staff, and the continued argument provoked 
much ill-feeling. Under the existing system the British Chiefs of Staff 
were represented in Australia by a trinity one from each of the 
Services. Each of these three received separate guidance and instruc 
tions from his own Service Ministry in Whitehall; for instance, the 
Admiralty and Air Ministry, through their representatives, had briefed 
the Australian sailors and airmen with opposite points of view regard 
ing the control of the Australian Fleet Air Arm. The Australians were 
determined that this system must cease, and instead, that the British 
Chiefs of Staff should be represented by one single joint-Service 
representative, with an integrated inter-Service staff working under 
hiTn, Furthermore, this one representative should not be a member 
of the Australian Chiefs of Staff Committee, as were the existing three 
representatives; he should attend their meetings only when matters 
affecting British interests were to be discussed. I agreed whole 
heartedly with this viewpoint and told the Australi