Combat Leaders of World War II (The Military History of by Trevor Nevitt Dupuy

By Trevor Nevitt Dupuy

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P. Chapman, OBE, MC, author inter alia of Vain Glory, the best anthology of writing about the First World War, and A Passionate Prodigality, an account of his own experiences on the Western Front which must rank among the best half dozen of its kind. Page 8 iron will that, having decided the career of a professional soldier was his métier and a Staff College initiation essential, he tackled in person the Commander-in-Chief of the British Army of Occupation in Germany, Sir William Robertson, and successfully persuaded him to obtain a nomination.

And this would be Montgomery's persona in the years to comeunorthodox, wilful, originative, imaginative, sometimes wrong-headed, but never conventional or acquiescent. He might easily have emerged a cynic. Indeed he has said and can say Page 9 things which imply a deep bitterness of spirit about his first war. As late as June 1969, for example, he remarked in a radio interview that 'I would have said myself that Haig had a complete disregard for human life'. Two factors, I suspect, preserved him: his unshakable religious convictions and his total commitment to his trade.

And then Montgomery was returned, after eleven years' absence, to his old regiment, the Warwicks, in the rank of Company Commander. The situation was full of possibilities. A hardened warrior and military intellectual was not the most likely candidate for acceptance in a mess from which some might think he had ratted for too long. And Guy Chapman's recollections of those weeks at Cologne do not suggest the kind of 'clubbable' man whose bonhomie might ease the situation. Still, a distinguished senior officer who was a member of the regiment at the time told me, when I asked him what he particularly remembered, that it was Montgomery's kindness and helpfulness towards the younger officers which most impressed him .

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