Viscount Bernard Montgomery of El Alamein
Born in London in 1887, Bernard Montgomery was the son of an Anglo Irish priest. His mother was 18 years younger than her husband, and his father was made Bishop of Tasmania, so the family spent time there before returning to Britain.
In 1908 after attending Sandhurst he joined the 1st battalion, The Warwickshire Regiment.
Two years later he was made a Lieutenant. In 1914 on the outbreak of World War One, The Warwickshires were sent to France and Montgomery served with distinction. During the retreat from Mons half his battalion was destroyed. In October 1914 he was shot in the lung by a sniper, whilst attacking an enemy trench with bayonets, a platoon sergeant who came to his rescue was shot dead and he collapsed on top of Montgomery. The sniper continued to take shots at him until sunset, the dead sergeant on top of him took most of the bullets but he was hit once more in the knee. He was so badly injured a grave was dug for him, as he was not expected to survive. He was awarded a DSO (Distinguished Service Order) medal for gallantry.
After recovering from his serious wounds he returned to France in 1916 as a Brigade Major and was an operations staff officer during the battles of the Somme, Arras and Passchendaele .
After World War One he began to progress through the ranks, and served in Ireland, then Egypt, India and Palestine. In 1927, he married Elisabeth Carver whose first husband, an Olympic rower had been killed during WW1. They had a son in 1928. After returning from a posting in India in 1937, the family went on holiday to Burnham on Sea, tragedy struck. Elisabeth suffered an insect bite that became infected and she died of Septicaemia. A year later in 1938 Montgomery was promoted to Major General of the 8th Infantry Division and led the quashing of an Arab revolt in Palestine.
On the outbreak of WWII Montgomery was sent to France as leader of the 3rd Division. He was pessimistic about their readiness and trained his troops for retreat. His predictions were realised and he assisted with the great evacuation of Dunkirk.
Back home in Britain as it became an island fortress he was put in charge of defending the counties of Hampshire and Dorset in the event of invasion, and later become in charge of South East command, changing the name to South East Army to promote a fighting spirit.
In August 1942, Montgomery was to assume a role for which he will forever be remembered. Chief of the 8th Army, leader of the Desert Rats who fought Rommels Afrika Korp in the deserts of North Africa. Montgomery wearing his Tank Regiment black beret soon became loved for his hands on approach.
He did not rush into battle and waited for a build up of troops and tanks, and was ready to launch an all out offensive by October. On the 23rd October the 2nd battle of El Alamein began, lasting for 12 days. The Germans were forced to retreat and over 30,000 prisoners were captured. More battles took place in Tunisia, then Montgomery led the 8th Army as part of the invasion of Sicily in Autumn 1943 and then up through Italy, on the eastern front of the advancing Allies, arriving at the Gustav line by December of that year.
Montgomery then returned to Britain to take control of the 21st Army Group, the ground forces of the planned Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy. The invasion was successful but bad weather and stiff resistance slowed the advance into France, with many battles becoming ones of attrition. However, victory came eventually, and with little ceremony in a tent in Luneberg on the 4th May, 1945 he accepted the surrender of German forces in North Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands.
In 1946 he was made 1st Viscount Montgomery of El Alamein and for two years was Chief of the Imperial General staff. He served as deputy of NATO from 1951 until his retirement at aged 71 in 1958.
He was a supporter of Apartheid and against the legalisation of homosexuality and said the 1967 Sexual Offences Act was a 'charter for buggery'.
In his last few years his home was burgled and many of his personal items were taken and were never recovered.
He died in March 1976 at the age of 88, after a ceremony at St Georges Chapel, Windsor he was buried in the churchyard of Holy Cross, Binsted, Hampshire.