In August 1942 he was appointed to command the Eighth Army, facing Rommel in the Western Desert. In a war so far dominated by movement, Montgomery reverted to First World War tactics, forcing Rommel to attack a strong defensive line. With this victory behind him, Montgomery was able to stand up to Churchill, refusing to go on the offensive until he had been reinforced. When he finally went on to the offensive at El-Alamein (23 October-5 November) his army massively outnumbered the Germans and was able to inflict a crushing defeat on Rommel, one of the first suffered by the Germans. This made Montgomery a national hero in Britain, and helped to mark the turning point of the Second World War (along with the siege of Stalingrad).
In December 1943, Montgomery was recalled to Britain, where he took control of the planning for Operation Overlord. He was in direct command on D-Day (6 June 1944), but his reputation now started to decline. German resistance away from the beaches was greater than expected, and when the breakthrough came it was in the American zone. His relationships with his American colleagues were increasingly hostile, especially after Eisenhower took over direct command of the army. Montgomery was promoted to Field Marshal in the aftermath of the breakout from the beaches.
The biggest blot on Montgomery’s record is Operation Market Garden, the attempt to capture the bridge over the Rhine at Arnhem. However, bad luck played a significant part in this defeat – a crack German division was recovering from the Eastern Front in the area, and victory at Arnhem could have dramatically shortened the war.
Montgomery was a very capable general, who played a key role in the allied victory, both in Africa and on D-Day. Moreover, he was careful with the lives of his men, and won his victories without suffering huge casualties. His ability to irritate his colleagues should not be allowed to distract from his reputation.