Montgomery Controversy

Discussion in 'General' started by merdiolu, Dec 12, 2013.

  1. merdiolu

    merdiolu Junior Member

    Hello. Since this forum is more about British Commonwealth side of war I would like to meantion about Bernard Montgomery and controversy surrounding him. What was the big deal or outcry that surrounded him or his personality ? I understand that from all perspectives he was a self promoter of higest regards. But at the other hand this was also a war that built up public relations or propaganda as much as anything else. Even Axis generals did not escape or shrink from that (Goring , Donitz , Rommel , Yamamato etc ) Not to mention Allied ones (Patton , MacArthur , Harris ) If we go back in time much longer even Napoleon Bonaparte or Ceasar worked this way to build up their image and self confidence among their troops.

    Was it his personality towards he deemed his inferior ? I got he was usually rude , arrogant , vain and boastful towards his peers. And to US commanders who got more dominant as their resources manpower became much more overwhelming in war. That speaks some kind personality problem , a certain lack of empathy and not Allied teamwork material. Maybe his experiences in WWI trenches and unnecessary loss of life in both world wars made him bitter and unpleasant towards everyone whom he considered inexperienced , incompatant , amateur etc...He lacked diplomatic skills and needed a leash in front of press (much like Patton) It was eaqsy for him to offend anyone even without recognizing it. I think Ike's COS Bedell Smith explained best "General You are great to serve under , OK to serve with but hell to serve over !"

    Did he lack strategy or tactical skills ? He got results on battlefield. Yes he was methodic , cautious and sometimes predictable. But the army Monty inherited in 1942-44 period was also used to act this way either in command , staff or lower ranks. He knew his men , knew what they were capable of and what would break them or push them too far and break their morale. So he got their confidence. In that regard he was not a breakthough expoiter or pursuit expert like Patton or Rommel (their feats were lionized due to these kinds of cavalry pursuit , territory capturing advances. They seemed impressive to public , editor/headline/propaganda friendly. Though they also had their share of defeats too ) I don't think he would be commanding only field army Britain had fighting with Axis in 1942 if he did not have confidence of Imperial COS and Churchill. Nor would be commander of Land Forces until 1944 August then an army group commander. Ike and other commanders might have not liked him personally and could argue with him but trusted him enough to work with..

    He got close to relieved of his command twice though. Once during Battle of Caen. Second during Battle of Bulge. Both due to his personality problems ands lack of diplomatic and press skills.

    So what do you think ? Was Monty worth all the trouble to work in main NW Europe Campaign ? Or was he overpromoted and should left as an army commander at best under care of Harold Alexander in Italy ? Surely he wouldn't offend many more in Med. Theater
  2. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    You are still reading the wrong books - General Montgomery was a professional Soldier - his critics were not...

  3. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Alanbrooke rated him highly. That's good enough for me.
  4. idler

    idler GeneralList

    Mostly that he wasn't an American.
  5. Joe Brown

    Joe Brown WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Attended a meeting to brief officers at the time of the Ardennes. It was a masterly presentation and was tremendously impressed by the way he communicated to us his extensive appreciation of the situation as he expertly reviewed the enemy's intention. I thought, when he was finishing, he went over the top when he told us that when you go back to your units tell your men 'that I, Monty, am in charge and all is well.' I thought if I were to tell the Jocks that they would be wryly amused, but I was totally wrong as the information was well received and seemed to quietly reassure them.

    A good General. An excellent leader. A most able tactician.

    Good Old Monty!

    Joe Brown
    kopite, Drew5233, CL1 and 3 others like this.
  6. ritsonvaljos

    ritsonvaljos Senior Member

    This thing they call "hindsight" is a wonderful thing. In retrospect, it is fairly easy for anyone to come up with different ideas of what should (or should not) have been done.

    In WW2 General Montgomery was fighting real battles with real soldiers. There cannot have been many men who served under Montgomery who had anything less than complete confidence in him at the time.
  7. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    A wonderful strategist despite all the sniping from the Whitehall armchair generals. He took Normandy ten days to a fortnight ahead of schedule, and in the process created the Falaise pocket. Where the enemy was slaughtered, and I experienced what it looked like. We were driving them from the back of the bag. He neverwated mens lives without the need.... A great man.....
    kopite and (deleted member) like this.
  8. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place....


    Montgomery was about the best general the British had to fight the Germans in 1942. He knew how to get the best out of the British Army. My father who served as a soldier in 21 AG would not hear anything said against him. Soldiers trusted him because if he was in charge soldiers knew that everything possible would be done to ensure success and that they would not be messed about. Until he won El Alamein the army was losing faith in its commanders. The British Army's war was a long saga of defeat and disaster. There is an excellent book on NW Europe called "Colossal Cracks" which explains what he did. This also provides an explanation about why he was so insistent on claiming infallibility, which has been seen as one of the most irritating aspects of his personality. The British army was short of soldiers and had limited confidence in its generals.

    The biggest single PR problem that Montgomery had was that he was British in a war largely reported by Americans and increasingly dominated by their military power. His appeal to British soldiers was lost in them - possibly in the same way that the British don't "get" Patton. Monty didn't do diplomacy and managed to annoy far too many people. Furthermore, the US generals who held back from criticizing each other out of concern for their own post war careers futures had no inhibitions about blaming the big headed Limey.
    kopite, stolpi and (deleted member) like this.
  9. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    One of the major problems in the Monty vs Everyone else was the difference in philosophy - Monty operated the Strategy of Alanbrooke to kill Germans and thus weaken them to be defeated

    eventually…..the American philosophy appeared to be the capture of territory…Patton being the leading contender…forgetting that when he took over 2nd Corps after Kasserine he failed to hold

    back the Afrika Korps at Gabes - thus 1st and 8th Army had to finish them off at Medjez to Tunis while 2nd Corps strolled down the main Highway to Bizerta - later in Sicily instead of strengthening

    Monty's left flank - he went off to capture Palermo and we got the idea that he was avoiding battle - confirmed when he landed three times on the North coast to be met by Bradley and Walker with

    no enemy in sight - then he was fired for bad conduct only to be reinstated..and again at the Falaise gap when he turned away to capture Paris… can't recall Monty turning away from a Battle...

    kopite likes this.
  10. Brian Smith

    Brian Smith Junior Member

    My Dad spoke very little of his time in the Army during the war to my Mum and even less to me. However I do remember my Mum saying about Montgomery and his time in N Africa that that Dad said if it was not for Montgomery they would not have come home.


    (I think the only reference he ever made to me about the war was during the film Tobruk where there is a mad dash in convoy with officers at the front with flags flying and the ranks in orderly fashion bringing up the rear - he laughed at that and said everyman for himself)
    kopite likes this.
  11. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Old Hickory Recon

    Be careful Merdiolu and whatever you do, don't let them know where you live.
    gunbunnyB/3/75FA and Drew5233 like this.
  12. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery

    Straight from the horses mouth
    kopite likes this.
  13. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran


    too late - he lives in Istanbul - that's in Turkey at the far end of the Mediterranean…we know where that is ...

    gunbunnyB/3/75FA likes this.
  14. m kenny

    m kenny Senior Member

    When I took the trouble to look for the original press reporting on Montgomery's 'Bulge' press conference (something it seems no one else has ever bothered to do) it was evident up to then Montgomery was very popular with, and highly regarded by, US reporters and the US public. This fact riled the US authorities and there was a' perfect storm' when the news finally leaked out that he had been given command of some of Bradley's troops in the press conference. The reaction of Bradley in particular was astonishing and this is the point where the relationship between them broke down forever. The whole thing was nothing more than bruised ego and the unreasonable belief that US troops should never be commanded by a foreigner.
    kopite likes this.
  15. Bernard85

    Bernard85 WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    good day merdiolu,jm, controversy.if you read joe brown'sww2.veteran.#5post,it tells you all.regards bernard85
  16. belasar

    belasar Junior Member

    No commander can escape all critizism, just or not.

    The central problem in my opinion is that British military thinking and American military thinking had distinct differences, though on the whole was surprizingly compatable compared to other alliances. Both America and Britain made compromises they did not like to achieve the collective goal, bur each tended to regard the other as more of a hinderence to a smooth victory than themselves, each sure that had they been given the reins to fight the war in their way, it would be shorter and victory more complete.

    A debate that probably can never be resolved to the full saticfaction of each faction.
    gunbunnyB/3/75FA likes this.
  17. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    M Kenny

    Don't kid yourself that you are the only one to bother to read Monty's interview after the bulge as even Churchill asked what the bother was ll about
    kopite likes this.
  18. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books

    Yeah, but try finding someone there.

    All the best

    gunbunnyB/3/75FA likes this.
  19. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Isn't that the point I make in my posting # 9 - or don't you read whole threads….it's a difference in Philosophy….in case you were unaware Marshall outlined his strategy to Alanbooke early

    on in 1942 when he stated that " the best way to win the war in nine months was to load a few divisions on the Eastern Seaboard - sail across the Atlantic - land at - say Cherbourg - then drive over

    to Berlin "

    Alanbooke gave this statement all of 5 seconds before replying - " perhaps you are right that the war would be finished in nine months - but NOT perhaps in the manner we are planning "

    kopite likes this.
  20. merdiolu

    merdiolu Junior Member

    13 million people living in Istanbul so yeah good luck finding me :) I live in Asia Minor that reduces odds to 6 million. I wouldn't mind company though but warning it is quite cold in this time of year.

    As for controversy it sounds more like popularity rivalry , national jignoism contest and misunderstanding more than anything else. Some operations Monty involved commanded might have been unsucessful or less than a sucess but his victories in battlefield are much more and he had troops confidence no matter what.
    CL1 and Wills like this.

Share This Page