Montgomery

Discussion in 'North Africa & the Med' started by paulyb102, Feb 18, 2005.

  1. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    Decision in Normandy, with respect, is not a complete hatchet job. D'Este may have written some things you disagree with and gotten some things wrong, but that does not justify such sweeping condemnation of what is after all a serious if flawed work. I disagreed with some of d'Este's conclusions too, or rather felt that they should be qualified. He is nonetheless a competent military historian overall and unlike some other American writers he makes a genuine effort to understand the British Army and its problems.
     
  2. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place.... Patron

    Fine - but can I ask you which British generals could have taken over in August 1942 and how would they have fared?
     
  3. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place.... Patron

    Decision in Normandy, as the title suggests is an analysis of Allied decision making in which D'Este compared what Montgomery (and Bradley) said would happen before an operation with what actually happened - or even what Montgomery said had happened.

    His analysis ignores the tendency of the Germans to have a say in the outcome of events. He rather praises Montgomery's conduct of battles, but criticises him for pretending that it all worked out the way he said it would when it clearly had not. Montgomery demonstrated real skill in being able to recover from the setbacks to his plans. D'Este does tell this story in Normandy. But it can be traced back to El Alamein. Hamilton's biography makes it clear that his initial plan for ElAlamein did not work out. What Montgomery did was to put together new operations, which wore the Germans down.

    His casualty and duration estimates for El Alamien and the 90 day duration for the battle of Normandy seem to suggest that somewhere Montgomery much have known that the "Dog fight" would take this long and therefore whatever initial plans could never lead to a quick success - unless the enemy did something very stupid.

    PS D'este's biggest weakness is his failure to understand the Germans, At one point IRRC that he mentions that Germans shortages were such that the Germans were relying on horse transport - as if this was a retrograde step rather than the norm for 90% of the German army.
     
  4. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    Well, I may as well weigh in I suppose.

    Montgomery is one of those men who will always be controversial. He was controversial in his own time. That is not surprising, because he was not a nice man and he made no effort to even appear to be nice, a rather unusual thing in the British Army of the time. He was not clubbable. All he had going for him was ability, and it says a lot that he rose on the basis of that ability in spite of the liability of his personality.

    What impresses me most about Montgomery is his sheer professional dedication, his zeal for, knowledge, hard work, detail, and taking pains. He was absolutely intolerant of slackness and half measures, and his insistence on proper training, man-management, planning, and preparation were absolutely what the British Army required. In the wake of Dunkirk and the other early defeats the British Army had to make up in a short period of time for nearly two decades of professional neglect, and it took the ruthlessness and push of Montgomery and Brooke to do that. The proof of their work was in the army's performance in Northwest Europe, which I think was better than many care to acknowledge. I'm not going to even guess at how Montgomery would have done in a fluid battle like CRUSADER. His experience in the Great War had taught him how to combine all arms towards a single end in a set-piece battle. Those were the kinds of battles the British Army had fought in the 1918 victory campaign, and the kind it fought in 1942-45. The Germans, of course, would have liked to keep fighting the way they had in 1939-41, but the war changed and they had to fight the Allied way, which was for them the wrong way. How did Montgomery do? Well, he won nearly all of his battles, and isn't that the most important test? Normandy was his most important battle and it ended in complete disaster for the Germans.

    His operations and general conduct are, of course, open to criticism on some points. I think he was better at making a breach than he was at exploiting one. I think he probably could have crossed the Rhine sooner than he did and MARKET-GARDEN was never on. His personality often got in the way, especially as the war went on and fame went to his head. I happen to think that the British Army was capable of doing more than Montgomery did with it, but he was confined or felt himself confined to some extent by the limited manpower resources available to him. Still, while I prefer Slim as a commander and as a man, Montgomery was undoubtedly one of the British Army's two or three best and the British were fortunate to have him.
     
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  5. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    Good points. I'm not saying that d'Este is entirely correct. I just don't feel that his book can be called a hatchet job.
     
  6. m kenny

    m kenny Senior Member

    The bogus claim that the UK was deliberately hiding 100,000 soldiers in the UK( pg 268) because Churchill thought Monty would be beaten in Normandy is an indication of just how far D'Este was down the UK/Monty-bashing rabbit hole. When I first read his book I had not been exposed to the transatlantic irrational hatred of Monty but I knew the book was heavily biased. It all depends on your starting point and if you think Monty was the cause of all the worlds ills then sure the book can come across as 'blanced. It isn't though and it shows. D'Este himself realised this and he wrote 2 follow-up articles where he tried to row back his criticisms. Does not excuse the original book in my eyes.
     
  7. m kenny

    m kenny Senior Member

    Years back I did some digging in US Newspaper articles to find out what was actually said about Montgomery in the American press. I discovered the original articles that (it is claimed) showed Monty trying to grab all the credit for the Bulge and slighting US soldiers and Generals I found the exact opposite was true. A sample Jan 7 1945 UP Headline was '' Montgomery Says Doughboy Courage, Fighting Ability Halted Nazi Drive'' The claims about him insulting anyone were totally bogus. It is a complicated tale as to how US public opinion was rattled by the Bulge reverse and the stories were twisted and inverted by a combination of an enraged Bradley (because Monty was given one of his Armies and this torch was carried forward post-war by Ralph lngersoll who was on Bradley's Staff) and German Propaganda using doctored versions of Monty's press conference but it was clear that Monty was very well liked by the newspapers and his image was overwhelmingly positive.
     
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  8. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    Yes, the press conference story was overblown and misrepresented in some quarters but the man did himself no favors. He put himself in a position where he could be misrepresented, even Bill Williams and Alan Moorehead felt that Montgomery's performance at the conference was a disaster and neither of them was an American journalist. Anyway, I don't care about any of this and I wonder why others do. At this point it is water over the damn and also a bore. These personality controversies have been gone over endlessly to no purpose. Montgomery was often his own worst enemy in his relations with others, but that is not the important thing to know about him. His military achievements were substantial all the same and his record speaks for itself, which is the point I was trying to make in my post.
     
  9. m kenny

    m kenny Senior Member

    I looked for the original articles and found them in the NY Times Archive. I can state categorically that they did not disparage any US soldier or General. As the overwhelming way anyone would get there info about this would be from the newspaper reports then there must be another version knocking about somewhere with all the insults.
    Where can I find it?
    Where can I see it referenced?
    It is telling that though many people mention Monty's 'mistakes' at his press conference not one single fact or quote has surfaced that references any of the claimed disparagement. Given there were reporters present and it could be said it would be censored then it would still exist in the original reporters notes. Why is it that no such account has surfaced anywhere?

    There was a purpose behind the Monty bashing and is naïve to pretend otherwise. Outright fabrication should not be ignored and I will not allowed it to go unchallenged. If anyone thinks Monty insulted or disparaged US soldiers in his Bulge Press Conference then they are misinformed and/or badly referenced.

    who was the best Allied general? - Page 9 - Axis History Forum
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2021
  10. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    Burnish that armor and slay that dragon.
     
  11. m kenny

    m kenny Senior Member

    Difficult to slay a Dragon that refuses come out of its lair.

    Where are the quotes showing Monty disparaged US Troops or claimed the credit for the Bulge victory?

    Can anyone point to a source that has a reference to these 'quotes'?
     
  12. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA

  13. MarkN

    MarkN Well-Known Member

    ... experience in the Great War had taught him how to combine all arms towards a single end in a set-piece battle. Those were the kinds of battles the British Army had fought in the 1918 victory campaign, and the kind it fought in 1942-45.

    Exactly!

    It is impossible to quantify the extent to which this impacted the outcome of individual battles, but the willful refusal to engage with this aspect is symptomatic of an argument or belief that nothing can be allowed to tarnish the image (myth?) of Montgomery as the supreme tactician and commander.

    The battles fought from Alamein onwards were ones that meshed with the fundamental British understanding of how to fight big wars - unlike the 'fluidity' of earlier battles fought with insufficient resources over vast tracts of open desert. Moreover, from late 1942 onwards, the tide of war in general was very much going against the Germans in direct contrast to earlier.

    All the pieces aligned for a seismic shift in the fortunes of the British in late 1942.

    Montgomery was one of a leadership group handpicked to deliver success. He performed magnificently. And never looked back. But that historical reality does not mean others did not have the military competence to achieve similar winning outcomes, nor that Montgomery had the capacity to win the earlier 'fluid battles' that others failed in.
     
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  14. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books

    I'm sorry my discussion angle does not meet with your approval. Consider that I am suitably chastised.

    All the best

    Andreas
     
  15. Quarterfinal

    Quarterfinal Well-Known Member

    At #117, I mentioned Phantom, expanded by Sheldrake at #120 and added to thereafter by Andreas, who introduced the ‘J’ Service. It is also mentioned - literally on P2 - by de Guingand in the illuminating archive brief at #130.

    Time to refresh myself on what Monty had written about them in “The Memoirs of Field- Marshal Montgomery”, then. Some extracts below. Curiously, Phantom per se doesn’t get a listed mention, which is a little surprising given that Monty pens very early on his thinking from his experiences in WW1:
    upload_2021-6-12_0-59-58.jpeg

    He later introduces how his system of liaison ties into his philosophy of command, typically in a three line, two sentence paragraph in the centre of this extract:
    upload_2021-6-12_1-0-41.jpeg

    and later on to a piece on ‘J’, giving decent and deserved credit to Hugh Mainwaring:
    upload_2021-6-12_1-1-5.jpeg

    upload_2021-6-12_1-1-38.jpeg

    Readers may also wish to scan the offering at:
    Phantom | Royal Signals Museum

    For those who have never served in a formation field HQ, Signals officers are traditionally ignored until something goes wrong; they are then shouted at by the most senior person present until it is fixed, thereafter being ignored again until the next Comms problem arises. This is, of course, mentioned tongue in cheek, but ..... Anyway, Monty appreciated what Mainwaring did, citing not just his name twice, but also acknowledging how he raised the bar.

    Phantoms efforts at Arnhem are not discussed - even around Urquhart’s desperate message of 24 September 1944 - and there is only a brief, but nuanced mention for the Ardennes:
    upload_2021-6-12_1-4-53.jpeg

    but by way of an afternote summary, we have:
    upload_2021-6-12_1-7-1.jpeg


    Moving on, at #117 I also gave a link to the National Army Museum’s pen picture of the man. I looked up what Monty himself had to say afterwards about the Bedell Smith ‘bet’:

    upload_2021-6-12_1-8-13.jpeg

    There is clearly a dig at the RAF here and I hadn’t really noted the provision of another aircraft for Freddie de Guingand as well. Whichever, I can well imagine the presentational issues of both of these personalities being flown about in US crewed airframes raising eyebrows in Whitehall. I recollect that a certain friction between Coningham and US senior staff had occurred a few weeks earlier and wonder if that might have been a factor too. But then we do have de Guingand’s advice on “The relationship with the RAF .... (being) vitally important “ etc on P4 of the Canadian Archive.

    Whichever, Bedell Smith’s transcribed letter from 22 June 1944:
    upload_2021-6-12_1-10-15.jpeg

    also adds to the complexity of forming a view of Monty.


    The late King Hussein of Jordan once described “the truth is a variable.” Indeed.
     
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  16. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place.... Patron

    Re Monty's Liaison Officers These were different to Phantom. He seems to have had a team of motor liaison officers from the time he was a corps commander. Phantom was a similar concept originally to report army locations to the RAF in France , but then found a new role for itself.

    Re the B17. There was some logic to having a B17 as a transport. Monty only becamse commander of 8th Army after Gott had been shot down and killed flying in an unafrmed Bristol Bombay Transport. A B17 was big and well armed enough to fight off almost any of the aircraft the Germans might use to intercept it in 1942-43. He might not even need an RAF escort.

    The story is sometimes told that Monty's B17 was written off at Palermo. I understand this is not so, but the Americans replaced it with a C47 and crew which served him for the rest of the war. After July 1943 the Allies had air superiority and a C47 was far more use as it could land in lots of smaller airfields inaccessible to a B17.
     
  17. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Here is the key section from Belchem's book.

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    I knew it would be Tedder's fault! ;)
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2021
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