A soldier intolerant of authority
THE MEMOIRS OF FIELD MARSHAL THE VISCOUNT MONTGOMERY OF ALAMEIN, K.G. (Collins, 15s.) LORD MONTGOMERY describes the purpose of his present book as "to give future generations the impressions have gained in a life that has been full of interest, and to define the principles under which 1 have considered it my duty to think and act". Though much written in this book is of considerable interest from varying points of view, it is questionable whether its dc
thoughts on high command in war". There is much in these of interest and value, but the Field Marshal's ideas might be made clearer had he illustrated his points from his own life and experience.
This would also resolve some apparent contradictions; not only in regard to " intolerance of authority ", but how to reconcile an infinite capacity for taking pains with a refusal to be bothered with detail.
At the end of his book the Field Marshal declares: " I have tried to write the truth ". No one can question that he has written what he sincerely believes to be the truth in regard to those matters with which he has dealt; but there are authority. without disrupting essential reciprocal confidence. At the same time there is little doubt that history will support the Field Marshal's contention that the correct strategic policy for the rapid conquest of Germany was to concentrate effort in a single thrust, probably northwards on the Allied left flank, and that the dispersion of effort was an error. Not being susceptible of proof, however, this view must remain a hypothesis.
AT the battle of the Ardennes, the Field Marshal had his way, not without argument. Here there is no doubt that the unified command of the whole battlefield was correct and that Lord Montgomery's handling of a serious situation was superb
On these matters, as on others during the war, politics affected the decision or at least the rapidity of decision. The Field Marshal makes it clear that he thoroughly dislikes politics and has no love for politicians in the mass.
In one way or another politics have bedevilled strategy in all wars, save on those rare occasions where a dictator of outstanding ability has been empowered to act as supreme politician as well as supreme commander.
Whitehall and after
THERE were even greater political difficulties to he encountered on the Control Cornmission for Germany and later in Whitehall during Lord Montgomery's tenure of the office of C.I.G.S. These administrative jobs were fresh fields to the great fighter of battles, for which he was little prepared through his previous studies and experience.
Nevertheless he fought on, with undiminished zest and varying success. One cheerful chapter is headed " I make a nuisance of
myself • in Whitehall " From internal evidence. several chapters might justly have been given somefhat similar titles.
Finally we come to Lord Montgomery's service as what he calls "an international soldier" and from which he has but recently retired. His readiness to criticise men and things remains as uninhibited as ever It is yet too early to learn what others think of these criticisms, the extent to which they are justified, or what can be done about it if they are. Anyway, whether so intended by the author or not, lesser minds may derive unholy entertainment from his description of events.