Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Saturday, October 3, 2015

What Was Monty Doing in the Great War?

Contributed by Matt Church

Despite being best known for his heroics in World War II, Bernard Montgomery also saw action in the First World War. Montgomery began the war as a full lieutenant in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment in August 1914. At the time Montgomery was only 26 years old. He joined the Warwickshire Regiment in 1908 at Peshawar after passing out of the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst. The Royal Warwickshire Regiment crossed over to France in August 1914 and narrowly missed the Battle of Mons. On 26 August 1914 Montgomery's regiment counterattacked a German regiment and was left behind in the confusion that would become the Retreat from Mons. The regiment marched three days between the German cavalry screen and German main column, eventually making it back to the British lines. 

Montgomery later led his platoon in an attack on the village of Meteren on 13 October 1914. During the successful attack, Montgomery was shot in the chest and knee and evacuated to an Advanced Dressing Station. The doctors thought he had little chance of survival and a grave was dug. He eventually recovered and was evacuated to a hospital in England. After recovering from his wound, Montgomery returned to the front in 1916 as a brigade major and a member of the staff. He was present at the Battle of the Somme and began to develop his views concerning the distance between staff and troops. He believed the staff should serve the commander and troops, not the troops serve the staff. He was later attached to the 47th London Division and devised a system of information relay from the front to HQ using wireless sets, which he would improve upon during the North African Campaign in WWII. Montgomery started the war as a lieutenant and ended as a chief of staff.


Montgomery, Bernard. The Memoirs of Field-Marshal the Viscount Montgomery of Alamein


  1. Monty always said after his wounding that the staff was his calling

  2. Yeah, got him off front line duty and to this day, the Yanks still have reservation.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Montgomery's best work was the battle of El Alamein, and even there he had far more resources than Wavell and Auchinleck had before him, and they were nicer human beings. Everything else he did, he screwed up, especially Arnhem.

  5. Remember hindsight is always 20/20. He fought the the DAK back from Eqypt to Tunisia, fought his way up Sicily to Messina, commanded landing forces on D-day, and tried to end the war quickly as the German's retreated from France - just a bridge too far and airborne against panzers. There never was a combat leader who did not make mistakes, the measure is what they learned from them.