Montgomery of Alamein, Bernard Law Montgomery, First Viscount (1887–1976). a British army officer who gained distinction in World War II. His victory at El Alamein over the German Afrika Korps of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel was one of the turning points of the war. Later, he commanded victorious armies in western Europe and on May 4, 1945, accepted the surrender of all German forces in the Netherlands, Denmark, and northwest Germany.
“Monty” was a popular hero during the war, but his outspoken criticism of his fellow commanders made him a center of controversy in later years. Churchill once described him as “indomitable in defeat, invincible in retreat, insufferable in victory.”
Montgomery was born in London. As a young child he went with his parents to Tasmania, where his father was bishop of the Church of England. After graduation from Sandhurst, the British military academy, he became an infantry lieutenant in 1908. He served in France for three years during World War I. He was wounded twice and received the Distinguished Service Cross and the Croix de Guerre.
At the beginning of World War II Montgomery went to France as an acting lieutenant general in command of the Third Division. He evacuated his men at Dunkirk on June 1, 1940. In August, 1942, Montgomery was given command of the British Eighth Army in Egypt, which was holding Rommel's Afrika Korps in check. In October, he attacked and defeated Rommel, beginning the drive that eventually drove the Axis out of Africa.
Montgomery took part in the invasions of Sicily and Italy and was field commander of Allied ground forces in the Normandy invasion, June, 1944. Later he commanded the 21st Army Group. On September 1, 1944, he was promoted to field marshal. Later that month, the Allies launched a major operation planned by Montgomery—Operation Market Garden, a combined airborne and armored assault in the Netherlands. The attack was a costly failure. Montgomery refused to accept responsibility for the failure and blamed the supreme command for not providing enough troops to ensure victory.
Montgomery was knighted in 1942 and was created a viscount in 1946. In April, 1946, he became chief of the imperial general staff. He resigned in 1948 to become military chairman of the Permanent Defense Organization for Western Europe, serving until it was incorporated into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). He then became deputy supreme commander of NATO forces and served until 1958.
Montgomery wrote a number of books, including: Forward to Victory (1946); Normandy to the Baltic (1947); Forward from Victory (1948); El Alamein to the River Sangro (1948); The Memoirs of Field Marshal the Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, K.G. (1958); Three Continents (1962); and A History of Warfare (1968).