Bernard Montgomery was a career officer in the British Army and one of the major Allied military leaders during World War II. Montgomery cemented his reputation as a supreme military commander when he was given command of the Eight Army in North Africa in August 1942. He defeated Rommel and the Afrika Korps at the Second Battle of El-Alamein, putting an end to the German and Italian thrust toward Egypt and giving the Allies much-needed morale boost. Despite Montgomery’s critical role in the planning and execution of Operation Overlord (the Allied invasion of Normandy), American General Dwight D. Eisenhower was appointed Supreme Commander of the Allied forces.
Because the majority of the Allied forces on the Western Front were Americans, British and American political leaders believed that an American general should command them. Montgomery was dissatisfied with the decision because he believed he was a better general than Eisenhower, so Prime Minister Churchill appointed him Field Marshal of all British forces on September 1, 1944, as a consolation. Bernard Law Montgomery was born on November 17, 1887 in Surrey, England to Henry and Maude Montgomery. Bernard was raised by a minister, so he was instilled with strict morals and discipline at a young age.
Bernard spent the majority of his childhood on the Australian island of Tasmania before returning to England in 1897. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant after graduating from the Royal Military College in 1908.
In 1927, Montgomery married widow Elizabeth Carver. Her previous marriage resulted in two sons. They had one son, David, but had only been married for ten years. Elizabeth died in 1937 as a result of an infection.
During World War I, Montgomery fought extensively on the Western Front, being shot in the chest and knee on two separate occasions.
Between the wars, “Monty,” as he was affectionately known, rose through the ranks and was given command of the British Expeditionary Force’s 3rd Division.
His stepsons, John and Dick Carver, both served in WWII and rose to the rank of colonel. John was apprehended by the Italians but escaped in 1943.
In 1938, he was promoted to major general.
Montgomery put down an Arab revolt in British-ruled Palestine in July 1939. “I shall be sorry to leave Palestine in many ways, as I have enjoyed the war out here,” he was later quoted as saying about the experience.
Montgomery had a pet terrier named “Hitler” during WWII.
After his victory at El Alamein, Montgomery was promoted to full general.
Following the Allied invasion of Europe, he commanded the 21st Army Group.
During the Battle of the Bulge, Montgomery was given command of two American armies and is credited with helping to reorganize the Allied counteroffensive.
Montgomery’s personality was described as lacking tack and being undiplomatic. Later in life, he called American involvement in Vietnam “insane,” supported South Africa’s Apartheid system, and admired Mao Zedong and Communist China.
Montgomery passed away on March 24, 1976, at the age of 88, in Alton, England. He was laid to rest in the churchyard of the Holy Cross in Binsted, England.