Major General Montgomery with HQ Objective
General Montgomery’s experiences in the First World War taught him the importance of proper planning, and that soldiers must be well trained in modern warfare and led by confident officers who knew and had practised their craft. Between the wars Montgomery gained a reputation as an extremely good trainer. A small, hawkish man, his singleminded professionalism marked him out as an eccentric.
At the start of the Second World War he was a 51 year-old Major-General, who had just assumed command of the 3rd (Ironsides) Division. ‘Monty’, as his troops came to call him, immediately set about training his division, weeding out officers he thought not up to the job in the process. His training on how to conduct rearguards and to march at night would be needed in the fighting ahead.
Monty’s division conducted a stout defence on the Dyle River on 15 and 16 May. When the British Expeditionary Force retreated, the 3rd Division successfully disengaged and fell back in good order to the Dendre River and then to the Escaut Canal. The 3rd Division gave their German pursuers a bloody nose at each river or canal they defended, suffering comparatively few casualties in return.
While many commanders were found wanting in the stress of the campaign, Monty exuded supreme confidence and relished the challenges that arose. When his corps commander, General Brooke was evacuated, Monty succeeded him as commander of II Corps and oversaw the embarkation of the corps from Dunkirk
Back in England, Monty immediately set to work bringing his troops back to readiness, forming one of the few divisions capable of opposing a German invasion. In 1942 he was ordered to Egypt to take command of the Eighth Army for his most famous battle at El Alamein.