Monty, or the “Spartan General” as he was nicknamed, was described as a man with no diplomacy skills due to his directness. However, he remains one of the greatest British generals of his time.
Born in Kennington, South London in 1887, Bernard Law Montgomery would ultimately join the Royal Military College, Sandhurst but during his young days, he was characterized by unruliness and violence, for which he was almost expelled.
In September 1908, he became a second lieutenant of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment after graduation from military school. Two years later he became a lieutenant.
Following the outbreak of the First World War, he led troops into a number of battles including the Battle of Le Cateau, the retreat at Mons, and the counter-offensive of the Allies on 13th October 1914.
In World War I’s First Battle of Ypres, his right lung was pierced by a sniper’s bullet, and another shot got him in the knee. The injury was severe, but he survived and received an award for gallant leadership.
Three years later, he was back on the Western Front for the Battles of Arras and Passchendaele. He served until the end of the Great War, rising through the ranks until he became a Chief of Staff.
The outbreak of the Second World War saw Montgomery back on the fronts. In 1940, he was sent to Belgium alongside the 3rd Division which had joined the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). Having experienced a terrible outcome from this mission, he undertook some training on strategic retreats.
On 10th May that year, Germany’s invasion of the Low Countries began. In Operation Dynamo, Montgomery’s training came in useful as he was able to direct a retreat of the 3rd Division from the River Dijle to Dunkirk and, ultimately, to Britain.
Montgomery would openly criticize his superiors for their war philosophies and would often get into trouble for it. In particular, when he was given command of the V Corps, he began a protracted vendetta with the Lt. Gen. Claude Auchinleck who was the new Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) serving with the Southern Command.
Montgomery became the commander of the South Eastern Army. He was strict in maintaining optimal physical and mental states in his troops, and he was intolerant of any form of unfitness among his officers. His routines developed into Exercise Tiger in mid-1942, in which 100,000 soldiers participated.
In 1942 he was sent to North Africa. The successes of Erwin Rommel, a German general, had forced the British Eighth Army to retreat into Egypt. On arrival, Montgomery set to work motivating his men and, in the Second Battle of El Alamein, his troops defeated the Germans. There were about 30,000 Axis captives after this battle. Montgomery continued to fight relentlessly against German forces until May 1943.
After his success in Egypt, he commanded troops in the invasion of Sicily and Italy. During Operation Overlord, the Invasion of Normandy, he was in control of all the Allied ground forces. The success of the invasion brought about the surrender of the German northern army to the Allies.
By then, Montgomery had become a Field Marshal. He also became a Knight of the Order of the Garter. In 1946 he was made First Viscount Montgomery of Alamein.
After the war, he had a number of top positions in the army and, before his retirement, he served the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe.
His memoir was published in 1958, and following this, he released his second book entitled: “Path to Leadership.” He retired in 1958, and died at the age of 88 in 1976, having fought in many battles for his country during both the First and Second World Wars.