Bernard Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein

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With stout hearts, and with enthusiasm for the contest, let us go forward to victory.

Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery (17 November 188724 March 1976) was a British military commander of World War II, victor of El Alamein.


  • I want to impose on everyone that the bad times are over, they are finished! Our mandate from the Prime Minister is to destroy the Axis forces in North Africa...It can be done, and it will be done!
To us is given the honour of striking a blow for freedom which will live in history; and in the better days that lie ahead men will speak with pride of our doings.
We have a great and a righteous cause.
  • The time has come to deal the enemy a terrific blow in Western Europe.
The blow will be struck by the combined sea, land and air forces of the Allies together constituting one great Allied team, under the supreme command of General Eisenhower.
On the eve of this great adventure I send my best wishes to every soldier in the Allied team.
To us is given the honour of striking a blow for freedom which will live in history; and in the better days that lie ahead men will speak with pride of our doings. We have a great and a righteous cause.
Let us pray that " The Lord Mighty in Battle " will go forth with our armies, and that His special providence will aid us in the struggle.
I want every soldier to know that I have complete confidence in the successful outcome of the operations that we are now about to begin.
With stout hearts, and with enthusiasm for the contest, let us go forward to victory.
And, as we enter the battle, let us recall the words of a famous soldier spoken many years ago :
"He either fears his fate too much,
Or his deserts are small,
Who dare not put it to the touch,
To win or lose it all. "
Good luck to each one of you. And good hunting on the main land of Europe.
  • Personal message to troops of 21st Army Group on the eve of D-Day[1]
Good luck to each one of you. And good hunting on the main land of Europe.
  • Anyone who votes Labour ought to be locked up.
  • Rule 1, on page 1 of the book of war, is: "Do not march on Moscow". Various people have tried it, Napoleon and Hitler, and it is no good. That is the first rule. I do not know whether your Lordships will know Rule 2 of war. It is: "Do not go fighting with your land armies in China". It is a vast country, with no clearly defined objectives.
  • The United States has broken the second rule of war. That is: don't go fighting with your land army on the mainland in Asia. Rule One is, don't march on Moscow. I developed those two rules myself.
    • Interview, 2 July, 1968; quoted in New York Times, 3 July, 1968, p. 6.
  • The frightful casualties appalled me. The so-called "good fighting generals" of the war appeared to me to be those who had a complete disregard for human life. There were of course exceptions and I suppose one was Plumer; I had only once seen him and I had never spoken to him.
    • Regarding the generals of the First World War. 1
  • There were many reasons why we did not gain complete success at Arnhem. The following in my view were the main ones. First. The operation was not regarded at Supreme Headquarters as the spearhead of a major Allied movement on the northern flank designed to isolate, and finally to occupy, the Ruhr - the one objective in the West which the Germans could not afford to lose. There is no doubt in my mind that Eisenhower always wanted to give priority to the northern thrust and to scale down the southern one. He ordered this to be done, and he thought that it was being done. It was not being done. Second. The airborne forces at Arnhem were dropped too far away from the vital objective - the bridge. It was some hours before they reached it. I take the blame for this mistake. I should have ordered Second Army and 1st Airborne Corps to arrange that at least one complete Parachute Brigade was dropped quite close to the bridge, so that it could have been captured in a matter of minutes and its defence soundly organised with time to spare. I did not do so. Third. The weather. This turned against us after the first day and we could not carry out much of the later airborne programme. But weather is always an uncertain factor, in war and in peace. This uncertainty we all accepted. It could only have been offset, and the operation made a certainty, by allotting additional resources to the project, so that it became an Allied and not merely a British project. Fourth. The 2nd S.S. Panzer Corps was refitting in the Arnhem area, having limped up there after its mauling in Normandy. We knew it was there. But we were wrong in supposing that it could not fight effectively; its battle state was far beyond our expectation. It was quickly brought into action against the 1st Airborne Division.
    • Concerning Operation Market Garden in his autobiography, 'The Memoirs of Field Marshal Montgomery' (1958)
  • The British soldier is second to none in the communities of fighting men. Some may possess more élan, others may be better disciplined; but none excels him in all-round character. We require no training in bravery in Britain; we can trust to our own native manliness to see us through. So it is with the soldier. It is his natural pride which gives him his fighting qualities. How often he has stood firm before tyranny and oppression, the last hope of the free world! In the midst of the noise and confusion of the battlefield, the simple homely figure of the British soldier stands out calm and resolute—dominating all around him with his quiet courage, his humour and his cheerfulness, his unflinching acceptance of the situation. May the ideals for which he has struggled never vanish from the world! May he never be forgotten by the nation for which he has fought so nobly! I know better than most to what heights the British soldier can aspire. His greatness is a measure of the greatness of the British character, and I have seen the quality of our race proved again and again on the battlefield.
    • Memoirs (London: Collins, 1958), pp. 543-544.
The British soldier is second to none in the communities of fighting men. Some may possess more élan, others may be better disciplined; but none excels him in all-round character.
  • Leadership is the capacity and will to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence.
    • As quoted in Hearts Touched With Fire: My 500 Favorite Inspirational Quotations (2004) by Elizabeth Hanford Dole, p. 143

Quotes About Montgomery[edit]

  • One always had the curious feeling of being taught by a great master. In this connection it is interesting to note that he was privately and affectionately known by those who worked for him at TAC HQ as 'Master'.
    • Lieutenant-Colonel C P Dawney, Military Assistant to Montgomery[citation needed]
  • I had the greatest admiration for his precision of statement and lucidity as a lecturer and also for what I, as an airman, considered his ability and breadth of view as a soldier. But he appeared to me to be regarded with grave suspicion for holding what I understood were heretical, though they seemed to me very reasonable, views about the conduct of future war. As a stranger in a strange land I kept my own counsel, but I left the course with a very definite impression that in Monty we certainly had a soldier who knew his onions, no matter what the "high-ups" in the army might officially think of the smell.
    • Arthur "Bomber" Harris in his memoirs, Bomber Offensive (1947)
  • I knew him well by reputation. He was probably the most discussed general in the British Army before the war, and-except with those who had served under him - not a popular figure. Regular armies in all countries tend to produce a standard type of officer, but Monty, somehow or other, didn't fit into the British pattern. His methods of training and command were unorthodox, always a deadly crime in military circles. He was known to be ruthlessly efficient, but somewhat of a showman. I had been told sympathetically that I wouldn't last long under his command, and, to be honest, I would rather have served under any other divisional commander.
    • Brian Horrocks, commander of a machine-gun battalion and later commander of XXX Corps, in his autobiography A Full Life (1960)
  • Monty was not such a dashing, romantic figure as his opponent; nor would you find him leading a forlorn hope in person, for the simple reason that if he was in command forlorn hopes did not occur. He had an extraordinary capacity for putting his finger straight on the essentials of any problem, and of being able to explain them simply and clearly. He planned all his battles most carefully - and then put them out of his mind every night. I believe he was awakened in the night only half a dozen times during the whole war.
    • Brian Horrocks, commander of a machine-gun battalion and later commander of XXX Corps, in his autobiography A Full Life (1960), comparing Montgomery to Rommel.
  • General Montgomery is a very able, dynamic type of army commander. I personally think that the only thing he needs is a strong immediate commander. He loves the limelight but in seeking it, it is possible that he does so only because of the effect upon his own soldiers, who are certainly devoted to him. I have great confidence in him as a combat commander. He is intelligent, a good talker, and has a flair for showmanship. Like all other senior British officers, he has been most loyal - personally and officially - and has shown no disposition whatsoever to overstep the bounds imposed by allied unity of command.
  • Nevertheless, again there cropped up criticisms of Montgomery's "caution," which I had first heard among pressmen and airmen when he was conducting his long pursuit of Rommel across the desert. Criticism is easy- an unsuccessful attack brings cries of "butcher" just as every pause brings wails of "timidity." Such charges are unanswerable because proof or refutation is impossible. In war about the only criterion that can be applied to a commander is his accumulated record of victory and defeat. If regularly successful, he gets credit for his skill, his judgement as to the possible and impossible, and his leadership. Those critics of Montgomery who assert that he sometimes failed to attain the maximum must at least admit that he never once sustained a major defeat. In this particular instance I went over all details carefully, both with Montgomery and with Alexander. I believed then, and believe now, that a headlong attack against the Mount Etna position, with the resources available in the middle of July, would have been defeated. And it is well to remember that caution and timidity are not synonymous, just as boldness and rashness are not!
    • Dwight D. Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe (1948), p. 179
  • Field Marshal Montgomery, like General Patton, conformed to no type. He deliberately pursued certain eccentricities of behavior, one of which was to separate himself habitually from his staff. He lived in a trailer, surrounded by a few aides. This created difficulties in the staff work that must be performed in timely and effective fashion if any battle is to result in victory. He consistently refused to deal with a staff officer from any headquarters other than his own and, in argument, was persistent up to the point of decision.
    • Dwight D. Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe (1948), p. 286
  • Montgomery was always a master in the methodical preparation of forces for a formal, set-piece attack.
    • Dwight D. Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe (1948), p. 387
  • Much has been written about the remarkable effect Montgomery had on the troops, his appearance in peculiar hats, and so on. This was superficial. We judged him on results and his manner of achievement. Many of the troops never saw him: our first encounter was months later at Tripoli. Yet the signs of a new grip on affairs was palpable, as Churchill noticed. There was the first of those special messages to the troops. These were printed on sheets, some 11 inches by 8 inches, and were widely circulated. The first gave the gist of the famous address to the staff. We were going to fight where we stood. There would be no withdrawal, no surrender. We had to do our duty so long as we had breath in our bodies.
    • Denis Falvey, A Well-Known Excellence (2002)
  • I thought he (Montgomery) was very cautious, considering his immensely superior strength, but he is the only Field-Marshal in this war who won all his battles. In modern mobile warfare the tactics are not the main thing. The decisive factor is the organization of one's resources to maintain the momentum.
    • Wilhelm von Thoma who fought against Montgomery in North Africa. After the war he was interviewed by Basil Liddell Hart for his book The Other Side of the Hill (1948)
  • Montgomery is a first-class trainer and leader of troops on the battlefield, with a fine tactical sense. He knows how to win the loyalty of his men and has a great flair for raising morale. He rightly boasted that, after the battle of Alamein, he never suffered a defeat; and the truth is that he never intended to run the risk of a defeat; that is one reason why he was cautious and reluctant to take chances. There is, however, much to be said for his attitude when we consider that, up to October 1942, we had not won a single major battle since the start of the war - except Archie Wavell's operations against the Italians and some local victories against the Axis forces in the Western Desert. Yet I can't disguise that he was not an easy man to deal with; for example, administrative orders issued by my staff were sometimes objected to - in other words Monty wanted to have complete independence of command and to do what he liked. Still, no serious difficulties arose over these very minor disturbances, he was always reasonable when tackled.
    • General Harold Alexander in Memoirs: 1940-1945
  • In defeat, unbeatable; in victory, unbearable.
    • Winston Churchill, quoted in Ambrosia and Small Beer (1964) by Edward Marsh
  • Montgomery's problem was twofold. First, he had an inflated opinion of himself (even more than Patton's). Churchill later said that in defeat, Montgomery was unbeatable, but in victory, he became unbearable. Second, his verbal daring was not matched by his methods. As at El Alamein, he seldom commenced an offensive unless he had overwhelming superiority and could not fail. Marketgarden was the exception, and the failure stung him badly. Moreover, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Field Marshal Alan Brooke, had minimum admiration for Eisenhower and kept feeding his angst privately to Montgomery. Warren Harding once said that his enemies were no problem, he could take care of them: "It's my goddamn friends that keep me awake at nights."
    • George M. Hall, The Fifth Star: High Command in an Era of Global War (1994), p. 123
  • King greatly enjoyed a luncheon with Mr. Churchill, who had invited him to meet Field Marshal Montgomery, whom he had not previously known. King felt that what Montgomery said made very good sense, and noted that he was not only very firm in all matters of military business, but equally firm in his personal disinclination to either smoke or drink. It is true that his beret was somewhat dramatic, but hardly more so than MacArthur's gold embroidered cap and corncob pipe or Patton's two pearl-handled pistols. Within the United States Navy, Halsey and King's old friend Jonas Ingram could hardly have been considered restrained in their style. Although King's own taste did not run to such personal exuberance, he was not necessarily surprised to find it in military commanders whose chiefs were as colorful as President Roosevelt and Mr. Churchill.
    • Ernest King and Walter M. Whitehill, Fleet Admiral King: A Naval Record (1952), p. 612
  • 'Monty' was the victor of the Alamein campaign which turned the tide in North Africa; he was enormously popular with the troops under his command and with the British public. Three years older than Eisenhower, his military career was fuller. The son of a clergyman, he followed a conventional path from public school to the British army academy at Sandhurst. In 1914 he was a lieutenant in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. He saw fierce fighting on the Western front, was severely wounded, returned to the front and ended the war as a divisional chief-of-staff with the rank of major; two years later he saw combat again, against Sinn Fein in the struggle for Irish independence. Between the wars he was a successful staff officer; when war broke out again he was a major-general. As with Eisenhower, real responsibility came only in 1942 when Churchill chose him to take over the 8th Army in Egypt and turn back the Axis armies advancing on Suez. He was a good organizer and a careful strategist. His bloody baptism of fire in 1914 taught him not to gamble with the lives of his men. He suffered fools not at all, and had little respect for rank and distinction. He believed that officers should get close to their men, but with fellow commanders he could be prickly and arrogant. He possessed a strong self-belief which he communicated to those below him, but it was a quality that made him intolerant of allies and colleagues where Eisenhower was a model of appeasement. The eventual success of their awkward partnership owed more to Eisenhower's self-restraint than it did to any diffidence on the part of Montgomery.
    • Richard Overy, Why the Allies Won (1995), p. 144-145
  • It is not surprising, however, that American generals found the British system irksome, especially as applied by Montgomery. To them his methods were the more objectionable because he was so clearly born to command and, even in his most tactful moments, he exercised his authority almost as a matter of right. Moreover, he was not as other men. He shunned the company of women; he did not smoke or drink or play poker with 'the boys.' He could never be 'slapped on the back.' Because he lived in a small tactical H.Q. with a few aides and liaison officers, he was looked upon as setting himself apart from (and therefore above) his fellow soldiers. This impression seemed to be confirmed by his practice, resented as much by other British services as it was by the Americans, of sending his Chief of Staff, de Guingand, to represent him at conferences.
    • Chester Wilmot, The Struggle for Europe (1952), p. 464
  • Unquestionably there was a marked element of professional vanity in Montgomery's make-up. He was not a man of snap judgments, but once he had made up his mind, he gave the impression of supreme confidence in the righteousness of his decision, and was frequently dogmatic in expounding his views because he had no time for cant, humbug or pomposity. The appearance of conceit was emphasized by his disregard for social graces when he was preoccupied with operations, but he was not so austere, aloof and unfriendly as many Americans thought. He was on closer and easier terms with his own troops than was any other British commander of his day, and he received unbounded loyalty from them. He was most approachable and informal with those who had operational reasons for seeing him and he freely sought advice in private discussion, but as he once said to de Guingand, "You can't run a military operation with a committee of staff officers in command. It will be nonsense!"
    • Chester Wilmot, The Struggle for Europe (1952), p. 465
  • When Montgomery held a conference of his senior commanders and advisers, it was to 'tell them the form' or to give out orders; not to collect ideas. In expounding a plan at this level, the clarity, the directness and simplicity of his presentation was most convincing, but on other occasions he frequently gave the impression that he was 'talking down' to his audience This was the result of his habit of presenting every problem in the simplest terms with the deliberate intention of inspiring confidence in his solution by making it easier to accomplish. De Guingand writes: "When tackling a problem... [Montgomery] cuts away all the frills and gets down to those factors that really matter. He simplifies everything to an extent I have not met elsewhere. Some say he over-simplifies- to some extent this is true, but the resultant dividend is enormous." Within the British Army this was certainly the case, but to many Americans who had come into direct personal contact with him all this simplification seemed to be so much condescension.
    • Chester Wilmot, The Struggle for Europe (1952), p. 465
  • The plan which Montgomery presented to Eisenhower at their meeting on August 23rd was bold enough, but it meant halting Patton and confining the Third Army to the defensive role of flank protection during the advance of the Second British and First American Armies to the Ruhr. Eisenhower's first reaction was that, even if it was militarily desirable (which he did admit), it was politically impossible to stop Patton in full cry "The American public," said Eisenhower, "would never stand for t; and public opinion wins war." To which Montgomery replied, "Victories win wars. Give people victory and they won't care who won it."
    • Chester Wilmot, The Struggle for Europe (1952), p. 468
  • Montgomery may have been right so far as the British public were concerned, but Eisenhower knew that his troops in the field and his people at home would see the issue in simple terms, almost in terms of American football. Patton was 'carrying the ball,' and was making an 'end run' with every American cheering him on. As Eisenhower saw it, there was no justification- in football or in battle- for taking the ball away from him. Patton had already proved himself to be a master of exploitation and his troops were already across the Seine. Montgomery had no such reputation and his troops had not yet reached the Seine. Neither the British nor the Canadians had yet shown a capacity for advancing with the dash and drive the Americans had demonstrated so brilliantly since the break-out. It is not surprising, therefore, that Eisenhower would have doubted at this stage whether Montgomery had the troops or the commanders to carry the northward thrust through to the Ruhr before the Germans could establish a coherent front.
    • Chester Wilmot, The Struggle for Europe (1952), p. 468
  • At the ceremony of signing the decoration I met Field-Marshal Montgomery for the first time. During the war I had closely followed the actions of British troops under his command. In 1940 the British Expeditionary Corps had sustained a disastrous setback at Dunkirk. Later, British troops under Montgomery's command had smashed the German corps under General Rommel at El Alamein. During the Normandy landing Montgomery had ably commanded the Allied forces and their advance to the banks of the Seine. Montgomery was above medium height, very agile, soldierly, trim and created an impression of a lively and intelligent man. He began to talk about the operations at El Alamein and at Stalingrad. In his view the two operations were of equal significance. I did not want to belittle the merits of the British troops, but still I had to explain to him that the El Alamein operation was carried out on an army scale, while at Stalingrad the operation engaged a group of fronts and it had a vast strategic importance- it resulted in the rout of a major enemy force in the area of the Volga and Don rivers and later, in the North Caucasus. It was an operation that actually marked a radical turning-point in the war and ensured the retreat of the German forces from our country.

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