The Men behind Monty, Richard Mead

The Men behind Monty, Richard Mead

Field Marshal Montgomery's style of command was famous for three elements - his insistence on commanding from a Tactical HQ that was as close to the fighting as possible, his use of a team of young liaison officers to keep him in close touch with the units under his command, and his reliance of his Chief of Staff Freddie de Guingand.

This book looks at the men who had to make Monty's system work. Freddie and the Liaison Officers are most famous, but Monty normally had three headquarters, each with their own staff. The advanced Tactical HQ was the most famous but it was also the smallest. Main HQ, where much of the key work was done, was also where Freddie was based. Rear HQ was the largest of the three, and carried out most of the work required to support an army in the field. One key criticism of Monty's system was that he very rarely visited Main HQ, and in 1944-45 the lines of communication between Main and Tac weren't as good as they should have been.

This book examines the successes and failures of this system, as well as looking at the key people involved, what they did and how they fitted into the overall picture. The study is organised chronologically - once the setup has been explained and the key figures introduced. This allows us to sea how Monty's system coped with events and changing requirements.

Freddie de Guingand emerges as a key figure, most famously helping to prevent a major breach between Montgomery and Eisenhower. The relationship between Freddie and Monty worked well in Africa, but wasn’t so effective in Europe, where the increased scale of the campaign meant that Freddie wasn't able to visit Tac HQ as often as was really necessary.

We also see the perils of failing to explain your methods to your superiors. Monty believed that a senior officer should go forward to visit his subordinates, in order to leave them free to get on with their job. In contrast Eisenhower expected his subordinates to visit his own HQ, something that Monty would have seen as an unnecessary distraction. This fundamental difference in approach never seems to have been explained, and Monty was thus often seen as aloof at Eisenhower's HQ. Much of the blame really has to go to Monty, who as the junior officer should have at least explained his system. It became a key weakness in his position, as he was rarely able to explain his ideas to Eisenhower in person.

It is nice to see a study of this topic. Monty's Liaison Officers and staff are often mentioned, but rarely in any great detail. Mead avoids the danger of getting distracted by Monty's own personality, although he is of course a dominant figure as the staff existed to serve him, but the focus remains on the staff.

1 - Prelude in the Desert
2 - Eighth Army Enters the Field
3 - Auchinleck Takes Control
4 - Freddie
5 - The Making of Monty
6 - Month the General
7 - The New Broom
8 - Alam Halfa and After
9 - Intelligence and Deception
10 - Lightfoot and Supercharge
11 - The Pursuit
12 - The End in Africa
13 - Husky
14 - To the Sangro
15 - Prelude to Overlord
16 - The Monty Men Take Charge
17 - G, Q & A
18 - Preparing for D-Day
19 - Tac Goes to War
20 - The Hinge
21 - The Phase Lines
22 - The Great Leap Forward
23 - Arnhem and Antwerp
24 - The Bulge
25 - The Rhine
26 - Triumph and Tragedy
27 - Post War
28 - Reflections

Author: Richard Mead
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 304
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2015

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