Bernard Montgomery was one of the most renowned Allied generals. He gained great popularity after his victories in North Africa (El Alamein). Thereafter Montgomery led the Allied ground operations in Normandy, The Netherlands and Northern Germany. His operational choices and strong personality made him a controversial figure.
Born as the son of an Anglican pastor, Bernard Law Montgomery (1887 – 1976) was already an officer in the British army during the First World War. His personal experience of the bad habits of the British command taught him how to lead operations effectively and avoid unnecessary losses. This made him popular among his men. However, his unorthodox ideas and trenchant criticism antagonized his conservative superiors.
In 1940, Montgomery directed the successful embarkation of the 2nd Corps during the evacuation of Dunkerque. ‘Monty’ forged his legend in North Africa as commander of the 8th Army, defeating German Field Marshal Rommel’s feared Afrikakorps in the Battle of El Alamein in October 1942. Subsequently he landed in Sicily and in Italy in the summer of 1943.
He was the commander of all Allied ground forces during Operation Overlord, from the initial landings until after the Battle of Normandy. He then continued to play an important role during the rest of the campaign in Northwestern Europe.
The failure of the British and Canadian armies to pierce the German front and close the Falaise pocket in time, his disputable presentation of these events, and strategic differences lead to tensions with other Allied generals. In September 1944 Montgomery directed Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands and led his troops into Northern Germany until the final defeat of the German Reich.
On 1 September 1944 he was promoted to Field Marshal, the highest rank in the British Army. He occupied a number of important positions after the war, particularly within the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).
The Allied Rhineland Offensive comprised several large-scale military operations during the last months of the Second World War in Europe. The two main objectives of these combined British, American and Canadian operations were to clear the area west of the Rhine and to accomplish the crossing of the river itself. If successful, the offensive would mean a final blow to the last German line of defense in the West.
While preparing for Operation Overlord, the Allied strategists decided they to build two artificial, pre-fabricated ports in Normandy. These were considered essential for bringing reinforcements and equipment to the Continent. The remains of the port of Arromanches are still visible today as silent witnesses to this bold gamble and stunning technical achievement.
The Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy in Bayeux relates how the Allies fought the Germans during the first ten weeks after D-Day. A wide range of vehicles, uniforms and military equipment gives visitors an impression of the everyday life of soldiers and civilians during that crucial period.
With nearly 4.000 British soldiers buried here, the Bayeux War Cemetery is the largest British military cemetery of the Second World War in France. The adjacent memorial commemorates the unidentified Commonwealth soldiers who fell during the Battle of Normandy and recalls the close links between Normandy and Britain.
One of its kind in France, the Mémorial de Caen Museum gives the public the keys to understanding the Second World War, from its origins after the First World War to its latest consequences in 1989. It prompts the visitor to ask himself questions about this rapidly fading episode that changed the face of Europe and the world.
Fought between the iconic landings on 6 June 1944 and the liberation of Paris on 25 August, the Battle of Normandy is often overlooked. Yet this campaign decided the course of the war in Northwestern Europe. The losses were huge: more than 100.000 people were killed during the 80 days, 20.000 of them civilians.