My favourite objects
Field Marshal the Viscount Montgomery of Alamein
One of my favourite exhibits in the museum are the artefacts which belonged to Monty.
I never met the man, but while I was a child during the 1940s and 50s he was still the nation’s hero. Probably the greatest military tactician in modern history, I get the impression that he was a strong minded complex character, and somewhat eccentric. From all accounts he was loved by the troops under his command and yet quite capable of being arrogant and rubbing his superiors up the wrong way, in order to get what he wanted. I don’t think that he had much time for the American General Eisenhower, who, although Supreme Allied Commander had no experience of war time command, Where as Monty had. On the other hand, Eisenhower probably found Monty to be difficult and at times offensive, with a tendency to speak his mind.
His eccentricity is evident by the fact that he insisted on wearing two cap badges, his Generals cap badge and a Tank Corps badge. He was never in a tank regiment, he was an infantry officer, but always maintained that as far as morale was concerned his distinctive head dress was worth two divisions and refused to remove the Tank Corps badge. One of his uniforms at the museum even sports a French corporal’s stripe.
In his younger days at Sandhurst he obviously wasn’t above a bit of devilment, and was very nearly thrown out for setting fire to another cadet’s shirt, unfortunately the cadet was wearing it at the time and was badly burnt. One can’t help wondering how different the outcome of the Desert War and the D Day landings might have been, if the Commandant of Sandhurst had not listened to the pleas of Monty’s Mother to let him stay.