An archive of photos that capture Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery in more informal moments in the final months of the Second World War has been discovered.
About 200 black and white snaps were either taken or amassed by the British army chief’s assistant who was by his side as the Allies swept towards Germany. They include one of Winston Churchill sat next to ‘Monty’ stroking his pet spaniel dog, who he named Rommel after his famous German arch-rival general.There is an image of Montgomery holding a briefing with US General Omar Bradley and British general Sir Miles Dempsey sat on stools next to a haystack in a field in northern France.Another shows the hero of El Alamein roaring with laughter as he watches a performance by wartime comedian George Formby with hundreds of troops sat alongside him.
His adjutant officer, Captain Noel Chavasse, also retained important and historic documents which make up his archive.One is what was intended to be the original surrender document to be signed by the Allied and German high command to signal the end of the war in Europe.The piece of paper had to be binned after Montgomery made a mistake with the date, which he had to cross out, and so another copy of the document was used instead.
The original should have been thrown away but was kept by Capt Chavasse.
King George VI with Monty and a friendly Fox terrier (Bosleys/BNPS)
Another item is Capt Chavasse’s pass to enter the notorious Belsen concentration camp in northern Germany days after it had been liberated. The piece of paper states that the officer had been ‘dusted’ before entering the camp.Capt Chavasse was the nephew of First World War hero Capt Noel Chavasse, one of only three people to have been awarded the Victoria Cross twice.The stunning archive has been in the Chavasse family since the adjutant officer brought it back from the war.
His daughter, who lives in Berkshire, has now put it up for sale at auction.Steven Bosley, of Bosley’s auctioneers of Marlow, Bucks, said: “This is a very important archive, one you could argue that should be in the Imperial War Museum. “Of lot of this material hasn’t been seen before, including some of the photographs. “Captain Chavasse was very close to Montgomery and being in that privileged position enabled him to get his hands on these historic documents and photos.”
Another item Capt Chavasse kept as a memento is the menu for a luxury dinner Montgomery enjoyed in an officer’s mess in February 1945. While the hundreds of thousands of soldiers had to make do with army rations, the British commander-in-chief dined on creme of tomato soup, poached bream in a hollandaise sauce, roast chicken, fruit salad and cream and coffee.
Some of the other photos that are contained in three large albums show King George VI patting Montgomery’s other pet dog during a visit of the troops. Another depicts the field marshal looking on as Sir Miles Dempsey is knighted by the King, the first person since Agincourt to be knighted on the battlefield.There is another showing Montgomery discussing battle plans with Lord Louis Mountbatten. And there is one chilling picture of Josef Kramer, the so-called Beast of Belsen, before he was led away and arrested for war crimes.
There are a selection of photographs highlighting the German surrender to Montgomery at Luneburg Heath in northern Germany.