In April 1941, Montgomery assumed command of XII Corps, which held the crucial Kent area in England. Montgomery established himself as a thorough professional soldier and had no time or patience for the amateur traditions observed by many of his colleagues. Playwright George Bernard Shaw called him "that intensely compacted hank of steel wire." He was also very much the maverick.
Montgomery helped plan the disastrous Dieppe raid of August 1942 but left to command the First Army in the planned Allied invasion of North Africa. On 13 August, following the death of General W. H. E. Gott, he took command of Eighth Army in Egypt, repulsing Field Marshal Erwin Rommel's attack at Alam Halfa between August and September 1942.
Montgomery rebuilt Eighth Army's morale. Known for his concern for his men's welfare, he was also deliberate as a commander. In the Battle of El Alamein in October and November 1942, his superior forces defeated and drove west German and Italian forces under Rommel. His less-than-rapid advance allowed the bulk of the Axis forces to escape. Montgomery was made a full general that November.
Following the Axis surrender in the Battle of Tunis of May 1943, Montgomery played an active role in planning Operation husky, the invasion of Sicily, and he led Eighth Army in the invasions of both Sicily in July and Italy in September. He returned to Britain to assist in planning Operation overlord, the Allied invasion of Normandy, then temporarily commanded its land forces in the landing until General Dwight Eisenhower moved his headquarters to France in September.
Promoted to field marshal in September 1944, Montgomery commanded the British 21st Army Group. He sought to finish the war by the end of the year with a daring invasion of Germany across the Rhine at Arnhem in Operation market-garden, a surprise from the conservative Montgomery. The plan, however, failed that same month. Montgomery's forces defended the north shoulder in the German Ardennes Offensive (the Battle of the Bulge) in December. At a later press conference, "Monty" gave the impression that he had saved the day for the Americans in the Ardennes, necessitating a statement by British Prime Minister Winston L. S. Churchill that the battle had basically been an American show. Montgomery then directed the drive into northern Germany.
Following the war, Montgomery commanded British occupation troops in Germany between May 1945 and June 1946. From 1946 to 1948, he was chief of the Imperial General Staff. He next served as chairman of the Western European commanders in chief from 1948 to 1951 and commander of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces in Europe and deputy supreme commander between 1951 and 1958. He retired in September 1958. A prolific writer, he personally drafted his memoirs that same year. Montgomery died at Isington Mill, Hampshire, England, on 24 March 1976. Colin F. Baxter and Spencer C. Tucker
Baxter, Colin F. Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, 1887–1976. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1999.; Chalfont, Alun. Montgomery of Alamein. New York: Atheneum, 1976.; Hamilton, Nigel. Monty. 3 vols. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1981–1986.; Lewin, Ronald. Montgomery as a Military Commander. New York: Stein and Day, 1972.; Montgomery, Bernard L. The Memoirs of Field-Marshal the Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, K.G. Cleveland, OH: World Publishing, 1958.
Colin F. Baxter and Spencer C. Tucker