BERNARD LAW MONTGOMERY, (1887-1976), British field marshal, who was one of the leading Allied commanders of WORLD WAR II . Of Ulster stock, he was born in London on Nov. 17, 1887. After attending St. Paul's School, London, he graduated from the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, in 1908 and received a commission as a lieutenant in the infantry. He served in France and Belgium during World War I. Rising in rank to major general, he commanded a division in Palestine and Transjordan in 1938-1939.
At the outbreak of World War II he went to France in command of a division. Having evacuated his men from Dunkirk in 1940, he was given command of the 5th Corps in Britain. In 1941 he was assigned to a key post in the defense against a possible German invasion.
On Aug. 18, 1942, Montgomery assumed command of the Eighth Army ("Army of the Nile), which had been driven back into Egypt by German Field Marshal Erwin ROMMEL. In North Africa during the ensuing months, " Monty displayed the brilliant leadership that firmly established his reputation as one of the greatest generals of the war. After meticulous preparation (a Montgomery hallmark), he launched an attack on the Axis forces entrenched at El Alamein in northern Egypt on October 23 and, when their lines broke, pursued the enemy remnants into Libya and beyond. He thus became the first of the Allied generals to inflict a decisive defeat on a German army. On November 10 he was knighted and promoted to full general.
Still leading the Eighth Army, Montgomery participated in the Allied landing in Sicily in July 1943 and led the troops invading the Italian mainland two months later. In January 1944 he returned to Britain to command all land forces under General EISENHOWER preparing for the invasion of France.
After the Allied landing in Normandy in June 1944, Montgomery directed all land operations until August, when the command was reorganized. He then took command of the Second Army Group, consisting of British and Canadian armies, which held the northern end of the Allied line. On September 1 he was made a field marshal, the highest rank in the British Army.
Montgomery suffered his worst defeat of the war in September 1944 when his planned crossing of the Rhine at the Dutch city of Arnhem was turned back with the loss of 6,000 airborne troops. Responsibility for the debacle has been the source of continuing controversy.
On Dec. 17, 1944, after a German thrust through the Ardennes had split the Allied Twelfth Army Group, Montgomery was given temporary command of all British and American forces on the north side of the bulging line. On May 4, 1945, he accepted the surrender of the German troops in the Netherlands and northwest Germany. On May 22, Montgomery became chief of British forces occupying Germany and a member of the Allied Control Commission.
Raised to the peerage as 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein in 1946, he was made chief of the imperial general staff. In 1948-1951 he served as chairman of the permanent defense organization of the Western European Union, and he was deputy supreme commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces from 1951 until his retirement in 1958. He died in Alton, Hampshire, on March 24, 1976. His writings include Memoirs (1958).
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