The Atomic Bomb and Japan’s Surrender; Prelude to Hiroshima and Nagasaki

There were many Allied military leaders who changed their public opinion about the dropping of the atomic bomb post war.

The death of President Roosevelt on 23 April 1945 created serious problems in the US-Russia relations. At Yalta, earlier in February 1945, Stalin and the American President Roosevelt had hit it off much to the consternation of Winston Churchill. Churchill out of power, continued to poison relations of America with Russia by his iron curtain speech in 1956 with the Missourian President looking on. President Truman who took over from President Roosevelt never honoured the pledges made over Europe at Yalta and expected that Stalin would be frightened by the new might of the atomic bomb, they now possessed. He hastened the dropping of the atomic bomb for this purpose. Churchill took part in the Potsdam Conference but later the Conservative Government was toppled in Britain and the remainder of the issues were for the new prime minister, Clement Attlee-S.M.Husain.

Winston Churchill in the last volume of his war memoirs relates how on 14 July 1945 – when he was at the Potsdam Conference with President Truman and Stalin – he was handed a sheet of paper with the cryptic message: “Babies satisfactorily born.” Mr. Stimson, the US Secretary of War, explained its meaning- that the experimental test of the atomic bomb on the previous day had proved successful. “The President invited me to confer with him forthwith. He had with him General Marshall and Admiral Leahy.”

Churchill’s account of the sequel is of such far-reaching significance that the main passage deserves to be quoted at length:

We seemed suddenly to have become possessed of a merciful abridgement of the slaughter in the East and of a far happier prospect in Europe. I have no doubt that these thoughts were present in the minds of my American friends. At any rate, there never was a moment’s discussion as to whether the atomic bomb should be used or not. To avert a vast indefinite butchery, to bring the war to an end, to give peace to the world, to lay healing hands upon its tortured peoples by a manifestation of overwhelming power at the cost of a few explosions, seemed, after, all our toils and perils, a miracle of deliverance.

British consent in principle to the use of the weapon had been given on 4 July, before the test had taken place. The final decision now lay in the main with President Truman, who had the weapon; but I never doubted what it would be, nor have I ever doubted since that he was right. The historic fact remains, and must be judged in the after- time, that the decision whether or not to use the atomic bomb to compel the surrender of Japan was never even an issue. There was unanimous, automatic, unquestioned agreement around our table; nor did I ever hear the slightest suggestion that we should do otherwise.*

*Churchill: The Second World War, vol VI, page 553

But later, Churchill himself raises doubts about the case for using the atomic bomb, when he says:

It would be a mistake to suppose that the fate of Japan was settled by the atomic bomb. Her defeat was certain before the first bomb fell, and was brought about by overwhelming maritime power. This alone had made it possible to seize the ocean bases from which to launch the final attack and force her metropolitan Army to capitulate without striking a blow. Her shipping had been destroyed.*

*Churchill: The Second World War, vol VI, page 559

Churchill also mentions that at Potsdam, three weeks before the bomb was dropped, he was told privately by Stalin of a message from the Japanese ambassador in Moscow expressing Japan’s desire for peace-and adds that in passing on this news to President Truman he suggested that the Allies’ demand for “unconditional surrender” might be somewhat modified to ease the way for the Japanese to surrender.

But these Japanese peace-seeking approaches had started much earlier, and were already better known to the American authorities than Churchill indicated or was perhaps aware. Just before Christmas 1944, the American intelligence in Washington received a report from a well-informed diplomatic agent in Japan that a peace party was emerging, and gaining ground there.

Long before the end of the struggle in Okinawa, the issue was certain. It was also evident that once the island was captured, the Americans would soon be able to intensify their air bombardment of Japan itself, as the airfields there were within less than 400 miles of Japan – barely a quarter of the distance from the Marianas.

The hopelessness of the situation was plain to any strategical mind, and particularly to a naval mind such as Suzuki’s whose anti-war views had led to his life being threatened by the military extremists as far back as 1936. But he and his peace-seeking Cabinet were entangled in a knotty problem. Eager as they were for peace, the acceptance of the Allies’ demand for “unconditional surrender” would appear like a betrayal of the forces in the field, so willing to fight to the death; these forces, who still held the lives of thousands of near-starved Allied civilian and military prisoners in pawn, might refuse to obey a ‘cease fire” order if the terms were abjectly humiliating – above all, if there was any demand for removal of the Emperor, who in their eyes was not only their sovereign but also divine.

It was the Emperor himself who moved to cut the knot. On 20 June he summoned to a conference the six members of the inner Cabinet, the Supreme War Direction Council, and there told them: “You will considerer the question of ending the war as soon as possible.” All six members of the Council were in agreement on this score, but while the prime minister, the foreign minister and the navy minister were prepared to make unconditional surrender, the other three – the army minister and army and navy chiefs of staff – argued for continued resistance until some mitigating conditions were obtained. Eventually it was decided that Prince Konoye should be sent on a mission to Moscow to negotiate for peace – and the Emperor privately gave him instructions to secure peace at any price. As a preliminary, the Japanese Foreign Office officially notified Moscow on 13 July that “the Emperor is desirous of peace.”

The message reached Stalin just as he was setting off for Potsdam Conference. He sent a chilly reply that the proposal was not definite enough for him to take action, or agree to receive the mission. This time, however, he told Churchill of the approach, and it was this that Churchill told Truman, adding his own tentative suggestion that it might be wise to modify the rigid demand for “unconditional surrender.”

A fortnight later the Japanese Government sent a further message to Stalin, trying to make still clearer the purpose of the mission but received a similar negative reply. Meantime Churchill’s Government had been defeated at the General Election in Britain, so that Attlee and Bevin had replaced Churchill and Eden at Potsdam when, on 28 July, Stalin told the Conference of this further approach.

The Americans, however, were aware of Japan’s desire to end the war, for their intelligence service had intercepted the cipher messages from the Japanese Foreign Minister to the Japanese ambassador in Moscow.

But President Truman and most of his chief advisers- particularly Mr. Stimson and General Marshall, the US Army’s Chief of Staff – were now as intent on using the atomic bomb to accelerate Japan’s collapse as Stalin was on entering the war again Japan before it ended, in order to gain an advantageous position in the Far East.

There were some who felt more doubts than Churchill records. Among them was Admiral Leahy, Chief of Staff to President Roosevelt and President Truman successively who recoiled from the idea of employing such a weapon against the civilian population: “My own feeling was that, in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Age. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.” The year before, he had protested to Roosevelt against a proposal to use bacteriological weapons.

The atomic scientists themselves were divided in their views. Dr. Vannevar Bush had played a leading part in gaining Roosevelt’s and Stimson’s support for the atomic weapon, while Lord Cherwell (formerly Professor Lindemann), Churchill’s personal adviser on scientific matters was also a leading advocate of it. It was thus not surprising that when Stimson appointed a committee under Bush in the Spring of 1945 to consider the question of using the weapon against Japan, it strongly recommended that the bomb should be used as soon as possible and, without any advance warning of its nature – for fear that the bomb might prove “a dud,” as Stimson later explained.

In contrast, another group of atomic scientists headed by Professor James Franck presented a report to Stimson soon afterwards, in the later part of June, expressing different conclusions: “The military advantages and the saving of American lives achieved by the sudden use of atomic bombs against japan may be outweighed by a wave of horror and repulsion spreading over the rest of the world . . . If the United States were to be the first to release this new means of indiscriminate destruction on mankind, she would sacrifice public support throughout the world, precipitate the race for armaments and, prejudice the possibility of reaching an international agreement on the future control of such weapons . . . We believe that these considerations make the use of nuclear bombs for an early attack against Japan inadvisable.”

But the scientists who were closest to the statesmen’s ears had a better chance of gaining attention and their eager arguments prevailed in the decision – aided by the enthusiasm which they had already excited in statesmen about the atomic bomb, as a quick and easy way of finishing the war. Five possible targets were suggested by the military advisers for the two bombs that had been produced and, of these the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were chosen, after consideration of the list by President Truman and Mr. Stimson, as combining military installations with “houses and other holdings most susceptible to damage.”

So on 6 August the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, destroying most of the city and killing some 80,000 people – a quarter of its inhabitants. Three days later the second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. The news of the dropping of the Hiroshima bomb reached President Truman as he was returning by sea from the Potsdam Conference. According to those present he exultantly exclaimed: “This is the greatest thing in history.”

The effect on the Japanese Government, however, was much less than what was imagined on the Western side at the time. It did not shake the three members of the Council of six who had been opposed to surrendering unconditionally, and they still insisted that some assurance about the future must first be obtained, particularly on the maintenance of the “Emperor’s sovereign position”. As for the people of Japan, they did not know until after the war what had happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Russia’s declaration of war on 8 August, and immediate drive into Manchuria next day, seems to have been almost as effective in hastening the issue, and the Emperor’s influence still more so. For at a meeting of the inner Cabinet in his presence, on the 9th, he pointed out the hopelessness of the situation so clearly, and declared himself so strongly in favour of immediate peace, that the three opponents of it became more inclined to yield and agreed to holding a Gozenkaigi-a meeting of “elder statesmen,” at which the Emperor himself could make the final decision. Meantime the government announced by radio its willingness to surrender provided that the Emperor’s sovereignty was respected -a point about which the Allies’ Potsdam Declaration of 26 July had been ominously silent. After some discussion President Truman agreed to this proviso, a notable modification of “unconditional surrender.”

Even then there was much division of opinion at the Gozenkajgi on 14 August, but the Emperor resolved the issue, saying decisively: “If nobody else has any opinion to express, we would express our own. We demand that you will agree to it. We see only one way left for Japan to save herself. That is the reason we have made this determination to endure the unendurable and suffer the insufferable.” Japan’s surrender was then announced by radio.

The use of the atomic bomb was not really needed to produce this result. With nine-tenths of Japan’s shipping sunk or disabled, her air and sea forces crippled, her industries wrecked, and her peoples’ food supplies shrinking fast, her collapse was already certain-as Churchill said.

The US Strategic Bombing Survey report emphasised this point, while adding: “The time lapse between military impotence and political acceptance of the inevitable might have been shorter had the political structure of Japan permitted a more rapid and decisive determination of national policies. Nevertheless, It seems clear that, even without the atomic bombing attacks, air supremacy could have exerted sufficient pressure to bring about unconditional surrender and obviate the need for invasion.” Admiral King, the US Naval Commander-in-Chief, states that the naval blockade alone would have “starved the Japanese into submission” – through lack of oil, rice, and other essential materials – “had we been willing to wait.”

Admiral Leahy’s judgement is even more emphatic about the needlessness of the atomic bomb: “The use of this barbaric weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender because of the effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons.”

Why, then, was the bomb used? Were there any impelling motives beyond the instinctive desire to cut short the loss of American and British lives at the earliest possible moment? Two reasons have emerged. One is revealed by Churchill himself in the account of his conference with President Truman on July 18, following the news of the successful trial of the atomic bomb, and the thoughts that immediately came into their minds, among these being:

. . . we should not need the Russians. The end of the Japanese war no longer depended upon the pouring of their armies . . . We had no need to ask favours of them. A few days later he minuted to Mr. Eden: “It is quite clear that the United States do not at the present time desire Russian participation in the war against Japan.”*

• Churchill: The Second World War, vol. VI, page 553.

Stalin’s demand at Potsdam to share in the occupation of Japan was very embarrassing, and the US Government was anxious to avoid such a contingency. The atomic bomb might help to solve the problem. The Russians were due to enter the war on 6 August-two days later.

The second reason for its precipitate use, at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, was revealed by Admiral Leahy: “the scientists and others wanted to make this test because of the vast sums that had been spent on the project” – two billion dollars. One of the higher officers concerned in the atomic operation, the code name of which was the ‘Manhattan District Project,” put the point still more clearly:

The bomb simply had to be a success – so much money had been expended on it. Had it failed, how would we have explained the huge expenditure? Think of the public outcry there would have been . . . As time grew shorter, certain people in Washington, tried to persuade General Groves, director of the Manhattan Project, to get out before it was too late, for he knew he would be left holding the bag if we failed. The relief to everyone concerned when the bomb was finished and dropped was enormous.

A generation later, however, it is all too clear that the hasty dropping of the atomic bomb has not been a relief to the rest of mankind,

On 2 September 1945, the representatives of Japan signed the “instrument of surrender” on board the United States’ battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay. The Second World War was thus ended six years and one day after it had been started by Hitler’s attack on Poland-and four months after Germany’s surrender. It was a formal ending, a ceremony to seal the victors’ satisfaction. For the real ending had come on 14 August, when the Emperor had announced Japan’s surrender on the terms laid down by the Allies, and fighting had ceased-a week after the dropping of the first atomic bomb. But even that frightful stroke, wiping out the city of Hiroshima to demonstrate the overwhelming power of the new weapon, had done no more than hasten the moment of surrender. The surrender was already sure, and there was no real need to use such a weapon-u dear whose dark shadow the world has lived ever since.

Courtesy

Atomic Bomb

December 1938: Fritz Strassmann and Ottoman Hahn, two German physicists succeeded in splitting the uranium atom.

1939: Leo Szilard solicited the help of Albert Einstein

September 1942: Manhattan project was turned over to the military.

• Project’s military commander was Brigadier General Leslie Groves.

• Robert Oppenheimer, a leftist and communist chosen by Groves as Manhattan Project Coordinator; He created and coordinated the most destructive weapon. Assembled were Enrico Fermi and Leo Szilard.

• First nuclear chain reaction achieved in an atomic pile.

9 March 1945 March: LeMay’s masterpiece, 300 planes sent over Tokyo. Incendiary and napalm used to kill 100,000 and 1,000,000 homeless. Stench caused vomiting in planes. American military bombed 100 cities, some with no military value taking more than an estimated 1/2 million lives; the atomic bomb can be viewed as a chilling and logical next step.

Leo Szilard and others understood that this bomb they were building was a primitive prototype of what was to follow, Szilard, Harold Urey (Nobel prize winner, chemistry), Astronomer Walter Bartky attempted to see Truman to caution him against the use of the bomb, but were re-routed to South Carolina to speak with Brynes, whose response appalled Szilard. Mr. Brynes knew at the time as the rest of the government, Japan was essentially defeated. He was much concerned about the spreading Russian influence in Europe and that possessing and demonstrating the bomb would make Russia more amenable to.

Leslie Groves also admitted that in his mind Russia was always the enemy and the project was conducted on that basis. A petition was signed by 155 project scientists for Truman, but Oppenheimer barred it and alerted Groves. Groves had recommended Szilard to be interned as an enemy alien for the duration of the war.

In May 1945 General Marshall supported Oppenheimer suggestion to share information with Soviet scientists but Brynes vetoed the idea. The Japanese war council decided to feel out the Soviets for peace terms to keep the USSR out of their war and to seek better surrender terms from the Americans. This was a delicate negotiation; the US intelligence had been intercepting Japanese cables since the start of the war. On 18 July, a cable was sent from Tokyo to Japanese ambassador in Moscow seeking surrender terms said: unconditional surrender is the only obstacle to peace.

  • Truman unambiguously categorized this: “the telegram from Jap Emperor asking for peace.”
  • Forestall noted an evident desire of the Japanese to get out of the war
  • Stimson describes this as Japanese manoeuvrings foe peace.
  • Brynes pointed to Japanese peace feelers

They all knew that the end was near, the Japanese were finished. Several of Truman’s close advisers urged him to modify the unconditional surrender to signal that Japan could keep its emperor and speed the end.

General Douglas MacArthur: the hanging of the emperor would be like the crucifixion of Christ to us. Jimmy Brynes told Truman that he would be crucified politically if the imperial system was retained. Once again, his advice prevailed.

Truman and Byrnes believed that they had a way to speed the Japanese surrender on American terms without Soviet help, thereby denying the USSR the territorial and economic concessions promised by Roosevelt.

MacArthur: considered the bomb completely unnecessary from the military point of view. He later said that the Japanese would have surrendered in May if the US had told them that they could keep the emperor.

Opposition was sufficiently known that Groves posted a requirement that US commanders in the field . . . clear all statements on the bomb with the War Department. “After three years of the highest tension we didn’t want MacArthur and others saying the war could’ve been won without the bomb.”

16 July 1945: At 0529:45 seconds: Alamogordo, New Mexico, the bomb turned the refuge of the founding fathers into a militarized state. War in Europe ended May 8. First atomic bomb dropped on Japan on August 6.

  • Iwo Jima: 7000 US Marines and sailors were killed, 18,000 wounded.
  • Okinawa: 12,000 Americans killed or missing and 36,000 wounded. 100,000 Japanese and 100,000 Okinawans were killed. Many of them committed suicide.
  • 1900 kamikaze attacks which sank 30 and damaged 360 naval vessels
  • Marshall told Truman that he expected no more than 31,000 casualties.
  • Estimated 1/2 million German, Italian and French civilians were killed because of British and US bombing.
  • 79,000 US and equal number of British aircrew members were killed
  • July 1945 Potsdam: Big three discussing the post war world. Truman had said that his primary reason for going to Potsdam was to ensure Soviet entry into the war, an assurance that Stalin was ready to give again. Truman in his diary: He will be in the Jap war on August 15.

Allied intelligence concurred: an entry of the Soviet Union into the war would finally convince the Japanese of the inevitability of complete defeat. Yet it was clear to most that the Japs were already finished. By the end of 1944, the Japanese navy had been decimated, the air force was badly weakened, railroad system was in tatters, food supply shrunk, public morale plummeting.

Truman had delayed the start of Potsdam for two weeks giving the scientists the time to ready the bomb test. It worked. Stimson gave him the news. The conference began the very next day. He later read the full report. The test was terrifying, almost beyond comprehension. Truman’s demeanour changed immediately, Churchill was stunned by the transformation.

24 July 1945 : Truman informs Stalin that the US possesses a new weapon of unusual destructive force.

Klaus E.J. Fuchs a man of ideological conviction, part of the British scientific mission at Alamogordo had delivered technical information relating to the bomb to his Soviet handlers. Stalin already knew that the test had succeeded. On return, Stalin remarked to Gromyko on return to his villa that the Americans would use the atomic monopoly now to dictate terms in Europe. But that he wouldn’t give in to that blackmail. Stalin concluded from Truman’s behaviour at Potsdam that the US wanted to end the war quickly and renege on its promised concessions in the Pacific.

25 July 1945: Truman approves directive signed by Marshall and Stimson ordering the use of the atomic bomb against Japan after August 3 asap weather permitting. He expected the Japanese government to reject the Potsdam declaration which failed to give any assurances about the Emperor.

The US even vetoed Stalin’s wish to sign the declaration adding that Stalin’s signature would have signaled Soviet entry in the Pacific war. It was an incredibly underhanded behaviour by the US both toward the Japanese and USSR.

Truman accepted responsibility for the decision, it was Groves who drafted the final order to drop the bomb. He contended Truman didn’t really decide: “As far as I was concerned his decision was one of non-interference. Basically, a decision not to upset existing plans. Truman did not so much say ‘yes’ as not say ‘no.’ He described Truman scornfully as ‘a little boy on a toboggan.’

Six of America’s seven five-star officers who received their final star in WWII declared the bomb morally reprehensible, militarily unnecessary, or both.

  1. General Douglas MacArthur
  1. General Dwight Eisenhower
  1. General Henry Arnold
  1. Admiral William Leahy
  1. Admiral Earnest King
  1. Admiral Chester Nimitz

Eisenhower: the Japanese were ready to surrender, and it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing. I hated to see our country be the first to use such a weapon.

After the war was over, General Curtis LeMay said, “Even without the atomic bomb and the Russian entry into the war, Japan would have surrendered in two weeks. The atomic bomb had nothing to do with the end of the war.

6 August 1945: At 0245, three B-29s took off from the island of Tinian for Japan. Six and a half hours later the Enola Gay came into sight of its target (300,00 civilians, 45,000 Korean slave labourers). From 31,000 feet at 330 mph, the uranium bomb fell miles to two thousand feet and then detonated. An estimated 140,000 were dead by the end of the year, 200,000 by 1950. Officially the US reported 3243 Japanese troops killed. Japanese did not surrender

9 August 1945: Stalin honouring his pledge to Churchill now moved I 1/2 million men to the eastern front and attacked Japan on three fronts in Manchuria. 700,000 Japanese killed, wounded or captured. Also attacked in Korea, the Kurile Islands and Sakhalin Island. Later that morning on 9 August before Japan had time to react to the Soviet invasion, the US dropped a second atomic bomb (Plutonium) on Nagasaki. 40,000 died immediately.

General Masakazu Kawabe: in comparison, the Soviet entry into the war was a great shock. Because we had been in constant fear of it with a vivid imagination that the vast Red Army forces in Europe were now being turned against us.

Suzuki: Japan must surrender immediately. “There was little mention in the Japanese cabinet of the use of the atomic bomb by the US.”

  • The dropping of the bomb was the pretext seized upon . . . As a reason for ending the war. But it is almost a certainty that the Japanese would have capitulated upon the entry of Russia into the war.”
  • On 14 August five days after the second bomb was dropped at Nagasaki and with desperate fighting still raging against the Soviets, Emperor Hirohito exerted his personal power. Hirohito speaking to the Japanese people directly ordered surrender over the radio.
  • Truman’s estimate of the anticipated American casualties kept climbing as the years went by. In 1991 President George H. Bush praised Truman’s tough calculating decision which spared millions of American lives.
  • Attributing victory to the bomb insults the memory of the many men and women who gave their lives to defeat the Japanese year by year.

October 1945: Truman met Oppenheimer to inquire when the Soviets would have the bomb. Oppenheimer replied he didn’t know. Truman responded that he knew the answer never giving Oppenheimer an insight into his ignorance. He told Dean Acheson, “I don’t want that SOB in this office ever again”.

Later Oppenheimer was attacked by right wing conservatives as an agent of the Soviet Union and subjected to numerous interrogation by the FBI. Oppenheimer’s security clearance was revoked in 1954. His crime was opposing the building of the hydrogen bomb which he considered a weapon of genocide. The dropping of the atomic bombs did not make the Soviet forces any pliable. They occupied the Northern portion of Korea Peninsula face to face with US forces in the south.

  • The Japanese could keep the emperor for stability of Japan.
  • Condoleezza Rice named Truman her man of the century to Time Magazine.
  • It was a warning to the Soviet Union.

Henry Wallace: “it is obvious that the attitude of Truman, Brynes and both the war and navy department will make for war eventually.”

Robert Oppenheimer met Henry Wallace shortly after the war: he proposed international control of atomic technology to assuage Soviet fears over US intentions. In September, Stimson sent a memo to Truman saying that the Soviets should be treated as allies, saying that they should be trusted. He proposed that America should dismantle its bomb if the Soviets accepted a ban on atomic research and thus submit to an international system of control. Wallace allied himself to Stimson indicating the absurdity of trying to keep an atomic monopoly. ” I then went in some length into the scientific background describing how foreign Jewish scientists had in the first place sold the President in the fall of 1939. I indicated the degree to which the whole approach had originated in Europe and that it was impossible to bottle the thing up no matter how much we tried.” Navy Secretary Forestall argued that the Soviets could not be trusted, the Russians like the Japanese are essentially oriental in their thinking. Truman vacillated and ultimately yielded to the Byrnes/ Forestall hardline faction.

Some have spoken of the American century, I say that the century on which we are entering, century which will come out of this war can be and must be the century of the common man. If we really believe we are fighting for a people peace, all the rest becomes easy. “–Henry Wallace

In 1946 ran for president. Accused of being a Soviet sympathizer, he compromised himself during the pressures of the Korean War and the McCarthy period loudly condemning the Soviets but decried support for Vietnam. He died in 1965. He remains the unsung hero of the Second World War showing the world a kinder vision of America. Though his vision was opposed at every step it did not die.

Roosevelt: No man was more of the American soil than Wallace. In July 1944 Roosevelt acceding to the party bosses’ choice of Harry Truman committed his greatest blunder. He could have resisted and had Wallace at his back as his VP, but he was tired of defending his vision for world peace, near death. His sad moment point most clearly to the fallibility of all human history.

To fail is not tragic, to be human is.

What might this country be if Wallace had succeeded Roosevelt in April 1945 instead of Truman.

Courtesy: YouTube video

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Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery

Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery (17 November 1887-24 March 1976), 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, KG, GCB, DSO, PC, DL, was a senior British Army officer who fought in both the First World War and the Second World War.

He saw action in the First World War as a junior officer of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. At Méteren, near the Belgian border at Bailleul, he was shot through the right lung by a sniper, during the First Battle of Ypres. He returned to the Western Front as a general staff officer and took part in the Battle of Arras in April/May 1917. He also took part in the Battle of Passchendaele in late 1917 before finishing the war as chief of staff of the 47th (2nd London) Division.

In the inter-war years he commanded the 17th (Service) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers and, later, the 1st Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment before becoming commander of 9th Infantry Brigade and then General Officer Commanding (GOC) 8th Infantry Division.

5
Montgomery in a Grant tank in North Africa, November 1942.

During the Second World War he commanded the British Eighth Army from August 1942 in the Western Desert until the final Allied victory in Tunisia in May 1943. This command included the Second Battle of El Alamein. He subsequently commanded the British Eighth Army during the Allied invasion of Sicily and the Allied invasion of Italy. He was in command of all Allied ground forces during Operation Overlord from the initial landings until after the Battle of Normandy. He then continued in command of the 21st Army Group for the rest of the campaign in North West Europe. The failed airborne attempt to bridge the Rhine at Arnhem in Holland was with 21st Army Group personnel, however was successful with a subsequent Allied Rhine crossing. When German armoured forces attacked American lines in the Battle of the Bulge forcing them to retreat, Montgomery was given command of the US First Army and the US Ninth Army, stopping the German advance and sending them into reverse. On 4 May 1945 he took the German surrender at Lüneburg Heath in Northern Germany.

After the war he became Commander-in-Chief of the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) in Germany and then Chief of the Imperial General Staff (1946–1948). From 1948 to 1951 he served as Chairman of the Commanders-in-Chief Committee of the Western Union. He then served as NATO’s Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe until his retirement in 1958.

Early life

Montgomery was born in Kennington, Surrey, in 1887, the fourth child of nine, to an Ulster-Scots Church of Ireland minister, The Reverend Henry Montgomery, and his wife, Maud (née Farrar). The Montgomerys, an ‘Ascendancy’ gentry family, were the County Donegal branch of the Clan Montgomery. Henry Montgomery, at that time Vicar of St Mark’s Church, Kennington, was the second son of Sir Robert Montgomery, a native of Inishowen in County Donegal in Ulster, the noted colonial administrator in British India, who died a month after his grandson’s birth. He was probably a descendant of Colonel Alexander Montgomery(1686–1729). Bernard’s mother, Maud, was the daughter of The V. Rev. Frederic William Canon Farrar, the famous preacher, and was eighteen years younger than her husband.[11] After the death of Sir Robert Montgomery, Henry inherited the Montgomery ancestral estate of New Park in Moville in Inishowen in Ulster. There was still £13,000 to pay on a mortgage, a large debt in the 1880s, and Henry was at the time still only an Anglican vicar. Despite selling off all the farms that were at Ballynally, “there was barely enough to keep up New Park and pay for the blasted summer holiday” (i.e., at New Park).

It was a financial relief of some magnitude when, in 1889, Henry was made Bishop of Tasmania, then still a British colony and Bernard spent his formative years there. Bishop Montgomery considered it his duty to spend as much time as possible in the rural areas of Tasmania and was away for up to six months at a time. While he was away, his wife, still in her mid-twenties, gave her children “constant” beatings”, then ignored them most of the time as she performed the public duties of the bishop’s wife. Of Bernard’s siblings, Sibyl died prematurely in Tasmania, and Harold, Donald and Una all emigrated. Maud Montgomery took little active interest in the education of her young children other than to have them taught by tutors brought from Britain. The loveless environment made Bernard something of a bully, as he himself recalled, “I was a dreadful little boy. I don’t suppose anybody would put up with my sort of behaviour these days. Later in life Montgomery refused to allow his son David to have anything to do with his grandmother, and refused to attend her funeral in 1949.

The family returned to England once for a Lambeth Conference in 1897, and Bernard and his brother Harold were educated for a term at The King’s School, Canterbury. In 1901, Bishop Montgomery became secretary of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, and the family returned to London. Montgomery attended St Paul’s School and then the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, from which he was almost expelled for rowdiness and violence. On graduation in September 1908 he was commissioned into the 1st Battalion the Royal Warwickshire Regiment as a second lieutenant, and first saw overseas service later that year in India. He was promoted to lieutenant in 1910, and in 1912 became adjutant of the 1st Battalion of his regiment at Shorncliffe Army Camp.

First World War

The Great War began in August 1914 and Montgomery moved to France with his battalion that month, which was at the time part of the 10th Brigade of the 4th Division. He saw action at the Battle of Le Cateau that month and during the retreat from Mons. At Méteren, near the Belgian border at Bailleul on 13 October 1914, during an Allied counter-offensive, he was shot through the right lung by a sniper. Montgomery was hit once more, in the knee. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for gallant leadership: the citation for this award, published in the London Gazette in December 1914 reads:

Conspicuous gallant leading on 13th October, when he turned the enemy out of their trenches with the bayonet. He was severely wounded.

After recovering in early 1915, he was appointed brigade major first of 112th Brigade and then with 104th Brigade under training in Lancashire. He returned to the Western Front in early 1916 as a general staff officer in the 33rd Division and took part in the Battle of Arras in April/May 1917. He became a general staff officer with IX Corps, part of General Sir Herbert Plumer’s Second Army, in July 1917’

Montgomery served at the Battle of Passchendaele in late 1917 before finishing the war as GSO1 (effectively Chief of Staff) of the 47th (2nd London) Division, with the temporary rank of lieutenant colonel. A photograph from October 1918, reproduced in many biographies, shows the then unknown Lieutenant Colonel Montgomery standing in front of Winston Churchill (then the Minister of Munitions) at the parade following the liberation of Lille.

Between the world wars; 1920s

After the First World War Montgomery commanded the 17th (Service) Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers, a battalion in the British Army of the Rhine, before reverting to his substantive rank of captain (brevet major) in November 1919. He had not at first been selected for the Staff College in Camberley, Surrey (his only hope of ever achieving high command). But at a tennis party in Cologne, he was able to persuade the Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) of the British Army of Occupation, Field Marshal Sir William Robertson, to add his name to the list.

After graduating from the Staff College, he was appointed brigade major in the 17th Infantry Brigade in January 1921. The brigade was stationed in County Cork, Ireland, carrying out counter-insurgency operations during the final stages of the Irish War of Independence.

Montgomery came to the conclusion that the conflict could not be won without harsh measures, and that self-government for Ireland was the only feasible solution; in 1923, after the establishment of the Irish Free State and during the Irish Civil War, Montgomery wrote to Colonel Arthur Ernest Percival of the Essex Regiment:

Personally, my whole attention was given to defeating the rebels but it never bothered me a bit how many houses were burnt. I think I regarded all civilians as ‘Shinners’ and I never had any dealings with any of them. My own view is that to win a war of this sort, you must be ruthless. Oliver Cromwell, or the Germans, would have settled it in a very short time. Nowadays public opinion precludes such methods, the nation would never allow it, and the politicians would lose their jobs if they sanctioned it. That being so, I consider that Lloyd George was right in what he did, if we had gone on we could probably have squashed the rebellion as a temporary measure, but it would have broken out again like an ulcer the moment we removed the troops. I think the rebels would probably [have] refused battles, and hidden their arms etc. until we had gone.

In May 1923, Montgomery was posted to the 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division, a Territorial Army (TA) formation. He returned to the 1st Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment in 1925 as a company commander and was promoted to major in July 1925. From January 1926 to January 1929 he served as Deputy Assistant Adjutant General at the Staff College, Camberley, in the temporary rank of lieutenant colonel.

Marriage and family

In 1925, in his first known courtship of a woman, Montgomery, then in his late thirties, proposed to a 17-year-old girl, Miss Betty Anderson. His approach included drawing diagrams in the sand of how he would deploy his tanks and infantry in a future war, a contingency which seemed very remote at that time. She respected his ambition and single-mindedness, but declined his proposal of marriage.

In 1927, he met and married Elizabeth (Betty) Carver, née Hobart, widow of Oswald Carver, Olympic rowing medallist who had been killed in the First World War. Betty Carver was the sister of the future Second World War commander, Major General Sir Percy Hobart. Betty Carver had two sons in their early teens, John and Dick, from her first marriage. Dick Carver later wrote that it had been “a very brave thing” for Montgomery to take on a widow with two children. Montgomery’s son, David, was born in August 1928.

While on holiday in Burnham-on-Sea in 1937, Betty suffered an insect bite which became infected, and she died in her husband’s arms from septicaemia following amputation of her leg. The loss devastated Montgomery, who was then serving as a brigadier, but he insisted on throwing himself back into his work immediately after the funeral. Montgomery’s marriage had been extremely happy. Much of his correspondence with his wife was destroyed when his quarters at Portsmouth were bombed during the Second World War. After Montgomery’s death, John Carver wrote that his mother had arguably done the country a favour by keeping his personal oddities – his extreme single-mindedness, and his intolerance of and suspicion of the motives of others – within reasonable bounds long enough for him to have a chance of attaining high command.

Both of Montgomery’s stepsons became army officers in the 1930s (both were serving in India at the time of their mother’s death), and both served in the Second World War, each eventually attaining the rank of Colonel. While serving as a GSO2 with Eighth Army, Dick Carver was sent forward during the pursuit after El Alamein to help identify a new site for Eighth Army HQ. He was taken prisoner at Mersa Matruh on 7 November 1942. Montgomery wrote to his contacts in England asking that inquiries be made via the Red Cross as to where his stepson was being held, and that parcels be sent to him. Like many British POWs, the most famous being General Richard O’Connor, Dick Carver escaped in September 1943 during the brief hiatus between Italy’s departure from the war and the German seizure of the country. He eventually reached British lines on 5 December 1943, to the delight of his stepfather, who sent him home to Britain to recuperate.

1930s

In January 1929 Montgomery was promoted to brevet lieutenant colonel. That month he returned to the 1st Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment again, as Commander of Headquarters Company; he went to the War Office to help write the Infantry Training Manual in mid-1929. In 1931 Montgomery was promoted to substantive lieutenant colonel ]and became the Commanding Officer (CO) of the 1st Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment and saw service in Palestine and British India. He was promoted to colonel in June 1934 (seniority from January 1932). He attended and was then recommended to become an instructor at the Indian Army Staff College (now the Pakistan Army Staff College) in Quetta, British India.

On completion of his tour of duty in India, Montgomery returned to Britain in June 1937 where he took command of the 9th Infantry Brigade with the temporary rank of brigadier. His wife died that year.

In 1938, he organised an amphibious combined operations landing exercise that impressed the new C-in-C of Southern Command, General Sir Archibald Percival Wavell. He was promoted to major general on 14 October 1938 and took command of the 8th Infantry Division in Palestine. There he quashed an Arab revolt before returning in July 1939 to Britain, suffering a serious illness on the way, to command the 3rd (Iron) Infantry Division. On hearing of the rebel defeat in April 1939, Montgomery said, “I shall be sorry to leave Palestine in many ways, as I have enjoyed the war out here”.

Second World War; British Expeditionary Force; Retreat to Dunkirk and evacuation

Britain declared war on Germany on 3 September 1939. The 3rd Division was deployed to Belgium as part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). During this time, Montgomery faced serious trouble from his military superiors and the clergy for his frank attitude regarding the sexual health of his soldiers, but was defended from dismissal by his superior Alan Brooke, commander of II Corps. Montgomery’s training paid off when the Germans began their invasion of the Low Countries on 10 May 1940 and the 3rd Division advanced to the River Dijle and then withdrew to Dunkirk with great professionalism, entering the Dunkirk perimeter in a famous night-time march that placed his forces on the left flank, which had been left exposed by the Belgian surrender. The 3rd Division returned to Britain intact with minimal casualties. During Operation Dynamo — the evacuation of 330,000 BEF and French troops to Britain — Montgomery assumed command of the II Corps.

On his return Montgomery antagonised the War Office with trenchant criticisms of the command of the BEF and was briefly relegated back to divisional command of 3rd Division. 3rd Division was at that time the only fully equipped division in Britain. He was made a Companion of the Order of the Bath.

Montgomery was ordered to make ready his 3rd Division to invade the neutral Portuguese Azores. Models of the islands were prepared and detailed plans worked out for the invasion. The invasion plans did not go ahead and plans switched to invading Cape Verde island also belonging to neutral Portugal. These invasion plans also did not go ahead. Montgomery was then ordered to prepare plans for the invasion of neutral Ireland and to seize Cork, Cobh and Cork harbour. These invasion plans, like those of the Portuguese islands, also did not go ahead and in July 1940, Montgomery was appointed acting lieutenant-general, and placed in command of V Corps, responsible for the defence of Hampshire and Dorset, and started a long-running feud with the new Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) of Southern Command, Lieutenant General Claude Auchinleck.

In April 1941, he became commander of XII Corps responsible for the defence of Kent. During this period, he instituted a regime of continuous training and insisted on high levels of physical fitness for both officers and other ranks. He was ruthless in sacking officers he considered would be unfit for command in action. Promoted to temporary lieutenant-general in July, in December Montgomery was given command of South-Eastern Command overseeing the defence of Kent, Sussex and Surrey.

He renamed his command the South-Eastern Army to promote offensive spirit. During this time he further developed and rehearsed his ideas and trained his soldiers, culminating in Exercise Tiger in May 1942, a combined forces exercise involving 100,000 troops.

North Africa and Italy; Montgomery’s early command

In 1942, a new field commander was required in the Middle East, where Auchinleck was fulfilling both the role of Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) of Middle East Command and commander Eighth Army. He had stabilised the Allied position at the First Battle of El Alamein, but after a visit in August 1942, the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, replaced him as C-in-C with General Sir Harold Alexander and William Gott as commander of the Eighth Army in the Western Desert. However, after Gott was killed flying back to Cairo Churchill was persuaded by Brooke, who by this time was Chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS), to appoint Montgomery, who had only just been nominated to replace Alexander as commander of the British First Army for Operation Torch, the invasion of French North Africa.

A story, probably apocryphal but popular at the time, is that the appointment caused Montgomery to remark that “After having an easy war, things have now got much more difficult.” A colleague is supposed to have told him to cheer up – at which point Montgomery said “I’m not talking about me, I’m talking about Rommel!”

Montgomery’s assumption of command transformed the fighting spirit and abilities of the Eighth Army. Taking command on 13 August 1942, he immediately became a whirlwind of activity. He ordered the creation of the X Corps, which contained all armoured divisions, to fight alongside his XXX Corps, which was all infantry divisions. This arrangement differed from the German Panzer Corps: one of Rommel’s Panzer Corps combined infantry, armour and artillery units under one corps commander. The only common commander for Montgomery’s all-infantry and all-armour corps was the Eighth Army Commander himself. Correlli Barnett commented that Montgomery’s solution “… was in every way opposite to Auchinleck’s and in every way wrong, for it carried the existing dangerous separatism still further.” Montgomery reinforced the 30 miles (48 km) long front line at El Alamein, something that would take two months to accomplish. He asked Alexander to send him two new British divisions (51st Highland and 44th Home Counties) that were then arriving in Egypt and were scheduled to be deployed in defence of the Nile Delta. He moved his field HQ to Burg al Arab, close to the Air Force command post in order better to coordinate combined operations.

Montgomery was determined that the Army, Navy and Air Forces should fight their battles in a unified, focused manner according to a detailed plan. He ordered immediate reinforcement of the vital heights of Alam Halfa, just behind his own lines, expecting the German commander, Erwin Rommel, to attack with the heights as his objective, something that Rommel soon did. Montgomery ordered all contingency plans for retreat to be destroyed. “I have cancelled the plan for withdrawal. If we are attacked, then there will be no retreat. If we cannot stay here alive, then we will stay here dead”, he told his officers at the first meeting he held with them in the desert, though, in fact, Auchinleck had no plans to withdraw from the strong defensive position he had chosen and established at El Alamein.

Montgomery made a great effort to appear before troops as often as possible, frequently visiting various units and making himself known to the men, often arranging for cigarettes to be distributed. Although he still wore a standard British officer’s cap on arrival in the desert, he briefly wore an Australian broad-brimmed hat before switching to wearing the black beret (with the badge of the Royal Tank Regiment next to the British General Officer’s badge) for which he became notable. The black beret was offered to him by Jim Fraser while the latter was driving him on an inspection tour. Both Brooke and Alexander were astonished by the transformation in atmosphere when they visited on 19 August, less than a week after Montgomery had taken command.

First battles with Rommel

Rommel attempted to turn the left flank of the Eighth Army at the Battle of Alam el Halfa from 31 August 1942. The German/Italian armoured Corps infantry attack was stopped in very heavy fighting. Rommel’s forces had to withdraw urgently lest their retreat through the British minefields be cut off. Montgomery was criticised for not counter-attacking the retreating forces immediately, but he felt strongly that his methodical build-up of British forces was not yet ready. A hasty counter-attack risked ruining his strategy for an offensive on his own terms in late October, planning for which had begun soon after he took command. He was confirmed in the permanent rank of lieutenant-general in mid-October.

The conquest of Libya was essential for airfields to support Malta and to threaten the rear of Axis forces opposing Operation Torch. Montgomery prepared meticulously for the new offensive after convincing Churchill that the time was not being wasted. (Churchill sent a telegram to Alexander on 23 September 1942 which began, “We are in your hands and of course a victorious battle makes amends for much delay.” He was determined not to fight until he thought there had been sufficient preparation for a decisive victory, and put into action his beliefs with the gathering of resources, detailed planning, the training of troops—especially in clearing minefields and fighting at night—and in the use of 252 of the latest American-built Sherman tanks, 90 M7 Priest self-propelled howitzers, and making a personal visit to every unit involved in the offensive. By the time the offensive was ready in late October, Eighth Army had 231,000 men on its ration strength.

El Alamein

The Second Battle of El Alamein began on 23 October 1942, and ended 12 days later with one of the first large-scale, decisive Allied land victories of the war. Montgomery correctly predicted both the length of the battle and the number of casualties (13,500). Soon after Allied armoured units and infantry broke through the German and Italian lines and were pursuing the enemy forces at speed along the coast road, a violent rainstorm burst over the region, bogging down the tanks and support trucks in the desert mud. Montgomery, standing before his officers at headquarters and close to tears, announced that he was going to call off the pursuit.

Historian Corelli Barnett has pointed out that the rain also fell on the Germans, and that the weather is therefore an inadequate explanation for the failure to exploit the breakthrough, but nevertheless the Battle of El Alamein had been a great success. Over 30,000 prisoners of warwere taken, including the German second-in-command, General von Thoma, as well as eight other general officers. Rommel, having been in a hospital in Germany at the start of the battle, was forced to return on 25 October 1942 after Stumme – his replacement as German commander – died of a heart attack in the early hours of the battle.

Tunisia

Montgomery was advanced to KCB and promoted to full general. He kept the initiative, applying superior strength when it suited him, forcing Rommel out of each successive defensive position. On 6 March 1943, Rommel’s attack on the over-extended Eighth Army at Medenine (Operation Capri) with the largest concentration of German armour in North Africa was successfully repulsed. At the Mareth Line, 20 to 27 March, when Montgomery encountered fiercer frontal opposition than he had anticipated, he switched his major effort into an outflanking inland pincer, backed by low-flying RAF fighter-bomber support. For his role in North Africa he was awarded the Legion of Merit by the United States government in the rank of Chief Commander.

Sicily

The next major Allied attack was the Allied invasion of Sicily (Operation Husky). Montgomery considered the initial plans for the Allied invasion, which had been agreed in principle by General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander Mediterranean, and General Alexander, the 15th Army Group commander, to be unworkable because of the dispersion of effort. He managed to have the plans recast to concentrate the Allied forces, having Lieutenant General George Patton’s US Seventh Army land in the Gulf of Gela (on the Eighth Army’s left flank, which landed around Syracuse in the south-east of Sicily) rather than near Palermo in the west and north of Sicily. Inter-Allied tensions grew as the American commanders, Patton and Omar Bradley (then commanding US II Corps under Patton), took umbrage at what they saw as Montgomery’s attitudes and boastfulness. However, while all three were considered three of the greatest soldiers of their time, due to their competitiveness they were renowned for ‘squabbling like three schoolgirls’ thanks to their ‘bitchiness’, ‘whining to their superiors’ and ‘showing off’.

Italian campaign

During late 1943, Montgomery continued to command the Eighth Army during the landings on the mainland of Italy itself, beginning with Operation Baytown. In conjunction with the Anglo-American landings at Salerno (near Naples) by Lieutenant General Mark Clark’s US Fifth Army and seaborne landings by British paratroops in the heel of Italy (including the key port of Taranto, where they disembarked without resistance directly into the port), Montgomery led the Eighth Army up the toe of Italy. Montgomery abhorred the lack of coordination, the dispersion of effort, the strategic muddle and lack of opportunism he saw in the Allied effort in Italy and was glad to leave the “dog’s breakfast” on 23 December 1943.

Normandy

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Montgomery returned to Britain in January 1944. He was assigned to command the 21st Army Group consisting of all Allied ground forces participating in Operation Overlord, codename for the Allied invasion of Normandy. Overall direction was assigned to the Supreme Allied Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces, American General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Both Churchill and Eisenhower had found Montgomery difficult to work with in the past and wanted the position to go to the more affable General Sir Harold Alexander. However, Montgomery’s patron, General Sir Alan Brooke, firmly argued that Montgomery was a much superior general to Alexander and ensured his appointment. Without Brooke’s support, Montgomery would have remained in Italy. At St Paul’s School on 7 April and 15 May Montgomery presented his strategy for the invasion. He envisaged a ninety-day battle, with all forces reaching the Seine. The campaign would pivot on an Allied-held Caen in the east of the Normandy bridgehead, with relatively static British and Canadian armies forming a shoulder to attract and defeat German counter-attacks, relieving the US armies who would move and seize the Cotentin Peninsula and Brittany, wheeling south and then east on the right forming a pincer.

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During the ten weeks of the Battle of Normandy, unfavourable autumnal weather conditions disrupted the Normandy landing areas. Montgomery’s initial plan was for the Anglo-Canadian troops under his command to break out immediately from their beachheads on the Calvados coast towards Caen with the aim of taking the city on either D Day or two days later. Montgomery attempted to take Caen with the 3rd Infantry Division, 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division and the 3rd Canadian Division but was stopped from 6–8 June by 21st Panzer Division and 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend, who hit the advancing Anglo-Canadian troops very hard. Rommel followed up this success by ordering the 2nd Panzer Division to Caen while Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt asked for and received permission from Hitler to have the elite 1st Waffen SS Division Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler and 2nd Waffen SS Division Das Reich sent to Caen as well.[]Montgomery thus had to face what Stephen Badsey called the “most formidable” of all the German divisions in France. The 12th Waffen SS Division Hitlerjugend as its name implies was drawn entirely from the more fanatical elements of the Hitler Youth and commanded by the ruthless SS-Brigadeführer Kurt Meyer, aka “Panzer Meyer”.

The failure to take Caen immediately has been the source of an immense historiographical dispute with bitter nationalist overtones. Broadly, there has been a “British school” which accepts Montgomery’s post-war claim that he never intended to take Caen at once, and instead the Anglo-Canadian operations around Caen were a “holding operation” intended to attract the bulk of the German forces towards the Caen sector to allow the Americans to stage the “break out operation” on the left flank of the German positions, which was all part of Montgomery’s “Master Plan” that he had conceived long before the Normandy campaign. By contrast, the “American school” argued that Montgomery’s initial “master plan” was for the 21st Army Group to take Caen at once, move his tank divisions into the plains south of Caen to stage a breakout that would lead the 21st Army Group into the plains of northern France and hence into Antwerp and finally the Ruhr. Letters written by Eisenhower at the time of the battle make it clear that Eisenhower was expecting from Montgomery “the early capture of the important focal point of Caen“. Later, when this plan had clearly failed, Eisenhower wrote that Montgomery had “evolved” the plan to have the US forces achieve the break-out instead.

As the campaign progressed, Montgomery altered his initial plan for the invasion and continued the strategy of attracting and holding German counter-attacks in the area north of Caen rather than to the south, to allow the US First Army in the west to take Cherbourg. A memo summarising Montgomery’s operations written by Eisenhower’s chief of staff, General Walter Bedell Smith who met with Montgomery in late June 1944 says nothing about Montgomery conducting a “holding operation” in the Caen sector, and instead speaks of him seeking a “breakout” into the plains south of the Seine. On 12 June, Montgomery ordered the 7th Armoured Division into an attack against the Panzer Lehr Division that made good progress at first but ended when the Panzer Lehr was joined by the 2nd Panzer Division. At Villers Bocage on 14 June, the British lost twenty Cromwell tanks to five Tiger tanks led by SS Obersturmführer Michael Wittmann in about five minutes. Despite the setback at Villers Bocage, Montgomery was still optimistic as the Allies were landing more troops and supplies than they were losing in battle, and though the German lines were holding, the Wehrmacht and Waffen SS were suffering considerable attrition. Air Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder complained that it was impossible to move fighter squadrons to France until Montgomery had captured some airfields, something he asserted that Montgomery appeared incapable of doing. The first V-1 attacks on London, which started on 13 June further increased the pressure on Montgomery from Whitehall to speed up his advance.

On 18 June, Montgomery ordered Bradley to take Cherbourg while the British were to take Caen by 23 June. In Operation Epsom, the British VII Corps commanded by Sir Richard O’Connor attempted to outflank Caen from the west by breaking through the dividing line between the Panzer Lehr and the 12th SS to take the strategic Hill 112. Epsom began well with O’Connor’s assault force, the British 15th Scottish Division breaking through and with the 11th Armoured Division stopping the counter-attacks of the 12th SS Division. General Friedrich Dollmann of the 7th Army had to commit the newly arrived II SS Corps to stop the British offensive. Dollmann, fearing that Epsom would be a success, committed suicide and was replaced by SS Oberstegruppenführer Paul Hausser. O’Connor, at the cost of about 4,000 men, had won a salient 5 miles (8.0 km) deep and 2 miles (3.2 km) wide but placed the Germans into an unviable long-term position. There was a strong sense of crisis in the Allied command as the Allies had advanced only about 15 miles (24 km) inland, at a time when their plans called for them to have already taken Rennes, Alençon and St. Malo. After Epsom, Montgomery had to tell General Harry Crerar that the activation of the First Canadian Army would have to wait as there was room at present in the Caen sector only for the newly arrived XII Corps under Lieutenant General Neil Ritchie, which caused some tension with Crerar who was anxious to get into the field. Epsom had forced further German forces into Caen but all through June and the first half of July Rommel, Rundstedt, and Hitler were engaged in planning for a great offensive to drive the British into the sea; it was never launched and would have required the commitment of a large number of German forces to the Caen sector.

It was only after several failed attempts to break out in the Caen sector that Montgomery devised what he later called his “master plan” of having the 21st Army Group hold the bulk of the German forces, thus allowing the Americans to break out. The Canadian historians Terry Copp and Robert Vogel wrote about the dispute between the “American school” and “British school” after having suffered several setbacks in June 1944: thus allowing the Americans to break out. The Canadian historians Terry Copp and Robert Vogel wrote about the dispute between the “American school” and “British school” after having suffered several setbacks in June 1944:

Montgomery drew what was the indisputably correct conclusion from these events. If the British and Canadians could continue to hold the bulk of the German armoured divisions on their front through a series of limited attacks, they could wear down the Germans and create the conditions for an American breakout on the right.

This is what Montgomery proposed in his Directive of June 30th and, if he and his admirers had let the record speak for itself, there would be little debate about his conduct of the first stages of the Normandy campaign. Instead, Montgomery insisted that this Directive was a consistent part of a master plan that he had devised long before the invasion. Curiously, this view does a great disservice to ‘Monty’ for any rigid planning of operations before the German response was known would have been bad generalship indeed!”.

Hampered by stormy weather and the bocage terrain, Montgomery had to ensure Rommel focused on the British in the east rather than the Americans in the west, who had to take the Cotentin Peninsula and Brittany before the Germans could be trapped by a general swing east. Montgomery told General Sir Miles Dempsey, the commander of the 2nd British Army: “Go on hitting, drawing the German strength, especially some of the armour, on to yourself – so as to ease the way for Bradley.” The Germans had deployed 12 divisions, of which six were Panzer divisions against the British while deploying 8 divisions, of which 3 were Panzer divisions against the Americans. By the middle of July Caen had not been taken, as Rommel continued to prioritise prevention of the break-out by British forces rather than the western territories being taken by the Americans. This was broadly as Montgomery had planned, albeit not with the same speed as he outlined at St Paul’s, although as the American historian Carlo D’Este pointed out the actual situation in Normandy was “vastly different” from what was envisioned at the St. Paul’s conference as only one of four goals outlined in May had been achieved by 10 July

On 7 July, Montgomery began Operation Charnwood with a carpet bombing offensive that turned much of the French countryside and the city of Caen into a wasteland. The British and Canadians succeeded in advancing into northern Caen before the Germans who used the ruins to their advantage and stopped the offensive. On 10 July, Montgomery ordered Bradley to take Avranches, after which the 3rd US Army would be activated to drive towards Le Mans and Alençon. On 14 July 1944, Montgomery wrote to his patron Brooke, saying he had chosen on a “real show down on the eastern flanks, and to loose a Corps of three armoured divisions in the open country about the Caen-Falaise road…The possibilities are immense; with seven hundred tanks loosed to the South-east of Caen, and the armoured cars operating far ahead, anything can happen.” The French Resistance had launched Plan Violet in June 1944 to systematically destroy the telephone system of France, which forced the Germans to use their radios more and more to communicate, and as the code-breakers of Bletchley Park had broken many of the German codes, Montgomery had – via Ultra intelligence – a good idea of the German situation. Montgomery thus knew German Army Group B had lost 96,400 men while receiving 5,200 replacements and the Panzer Lehr Division now based at St. Lô was down to only 40 tanks. Montgomery later wrote that he knew he had the Normandy campaign won at this point as the Germans had almost no reserves while he had three armoured divisions in reserve.

An American break-out was achieved with Operation Cobra and the encirclement of German forces in the Falaise pocket at the cost of British losses with the diversionary Operation Goodwood. On the early morning of 18 July 1944, Operation Goodwood began with British heavy bombers beginning carpet bombing attacks that further devastated what was left of Caen and the surrounding countryside. A British tank crewman from the Guards Armoured Division later recalled: “At 0500 hours a distant thunder in the air brought all the sleepy-eyed tank crews out of their blankets. 1,000 Lancasters were flying from the sea in groups of three or four at 3,000 feet (910 m). Ahead of them the pathfinders were scattering their flares and before long the first bombs were dropping”. A German tankman from the 21st Panzer Division at the receiving end of this bombardment remembered: “We saw little dots detach themselves from the planes, so many of them that the crazy thought occurred to us: are those leaflets?…Among the thunder of the explosions, we could hear the wounded scream and the insane howling of men who had [been] driven mad”. The British bombing had badly smashed the German front-line units; e.g. tanks were thrown up on the roofs of French farmhouses. Initially, the three British armoured divisions assigned to lead the offensive, the 7th, 11th and the Guards, made rapid progress and were soon approaching the Borguebus ridge, which dominated the landscape south of Caen by noon.

If the British could take the Borguebus ridge, the way to the plains of northern France would be wide open, and potentially Paris could be taken, which explains the ferocity with which the Germans defended the Borguebus ridge. One German officer, Lieutenant Baron von Rosen recalled that to motivate a Luftwaffe officer commanding a battery of four 88mm guns to fight against the British tanks that he had to hold his handgun to his head “…and asked him whether he would like to be killed immediately or get a high decoration. He decided for the latter”. The well dug-in 88mm guns around the Borguebus ridge began taking a toll of the British Sherman tanks and the countryside was soon dotted with dozens of burning Shermans. One British officer reported with worry: “I see palls of smoke and tanks brewing up with flames belching forth from their turrets. I see men climbing out, on fire like torches, rolling on the ground to try and douse the flames”.Despite Montgomery’s orders to try to press on, fierce German counter-attacks stopped the British offensive.

The objectives of Operation Goodwood were all achieved except the complete capture of the Bourgebus Ridge, which was partially taken. The operation was a strategic Allied success in drawing in the last German reserves in Normandy towards the Caen sector away from the American sector, greatly assisting the American break out in Operation Cobra. By the end of Goodwood on 25 July 1944, the Canadians had finally taken Caen while the British tanks had reached the plains south of Caen, giving Montgomery the “hinge”, he had been seeking, while forcing the Germans to commit the last of their reserves to stop the Anglo-Canadian offensive. Ultra-decrypts indicated that the Germans now facing Bradley were seriously understrength with Operation Cobra about to commence. During Operation Goodwood, the British had 400 tanks knocked out with many recovered returning to service. The casualties were 5,500 with 7 miles (11 km) of ground gained. Bradley recognised Montgomery’s plan to pin down German armour and allow US forces to break out:

The British and Canadian armies were to decoy the enemy reserves and draw them to their front on the extreme eastern edge of the Allied beachhead. Thus, while Monty taunted the enemy at Caen, the Americans were to make our break on the long roundabout road to Paris. When reckoned in terms of national pride, this British decoy mission became a sacrificial one, for while we tramped around the outside flank, the British were to sit in place and pin down the Germans. Yet strategically it fitted into a logical division of labours, for it was towards Caen that the enemy reserves would race once the alarm was sounded.

The long running dispute over what Montgomery’s “master plan” in Normandy was, led historians to differ greatly about the purpose of Goodwood. The British journalist Mark Urban, wrote that the purpose of Goodwood was to draw German troops to their left flank to allow the Americans to breakout on the right flank, arguing that Montgomery had to lie to his soldiers about the purpose of Goodwood as the average British soldier would not have understood why they were being asked to create a diversion to allow the Americans to have the glory of staging the breakout with Operation Cobra.

By contrast, the American historian Stephen Power argued that Goodwood was intended to be the “breakout” offensive and not a “holding operation”, writing: “It is unrealistic to assert that an operation which called for the use of 4,500 Allied aircraft, 700 artillery pieces and over 8,000 armoured vehicles and trucks and that cost the British over 5,500 casualties was conceived and executed for so limited an objective”. Power noted that Goodwood and Cobra were supposed to take effect on the same day, 18 July 1944, but Cobra was cancelled owing to heavy rain in the American sector, and argued that both operations were meant to be breakout operations to trap the German armies in Normandy. American military writer Drew Middleton wrote that there is no doubt that Montgomery wanted Goodwood to provide a “shield” for Bradley, but at the same time Montgomery was clearly hoping for more than merely diverting German attention away from the American sector.

British historian John Keegan pointed out that Montgomery made differing statements before Goodwood about the purpose of the operation. Keegan wrote that Montgomery engaged in what he called a “hedging of his bets” when drafting his plans for Goodwood, with a plan for a “break out if the front collapsed, if not, sound documentary evidence that all he had intended in the first place was a battle of attrition”.Again Bradley confirmed Montgomery plan and that the capture of Caen was only incidental to his mission, not critical. The American LIFE magazine quoted Bradley in 1951:

While Collins was hoisting his VII Corps flag over Cherbourg, Montgomery was spending his reputation in a bitter siege against the old university city of Caen. For three weeks he had rammed his troops against those panzer divisions he had deliberately drawn towards that city as part of our Allied strategy of diversion in the Normandy Campaign. Although Caen contained an important road junction that Montgomery would eventually need, for the moment the capture of that city was only incidental to his mission. For Monty’s primary task was to attract German troops to the British front that we might more easily secure Cherbourg and get into position for the breakout.

While this diversion of Monty’s was brilliantly achieved, he nevertheless left himself open to criticism by overemphasizing the importance of his thrust toward Caen. Had he limited himself simply to the containment without making Caen a symbol of it, he would have been credited with success instead of being charged, as he was, with failure.

With Goodwood drawing the Wehrmacht towards the British sector, the First American Army enjoyed a two to one numerical superiority with General Omar Bradley accepting Montgomery’s advice to begin the offensive by concentrating at one point instead of a “broad front” as Eisenhower would have preferred.

Operation Goodwood almost cost Montgomery his job, as Eisenhower seriously considered sacking him and only chose not to do so because to sack the popular “Monty” would have caused such a political backlash in Britain against the Americans at a critical moment in the war that the resulting strains in the Atlantic alliance were not considered worth it.  Montgomery expressed his satisfaction at the results of Goodwood when calling the operation off. Eisenhower was under the impression that Goodwood was to be a break out operation. There was a miscommunication between the two men or Eisenhower did not understand the strategy. Alan Brooke chief of the British Imperial General Staff wrote: “Ike knows nothing about strategy and is quite unsuited to the post of Supreme Commander. It is no wonder that Monty’s real high ability is not always realised” Bradley fully understood Montgomery’s intentions. Both men would not give away to the press the true intentions of their strategy.

Many American officers had found Montgomery a difficult man to work with, and after Goodwood, pressured Eisenhower to fire Montgomery. Although the Eisenhower-Montgomery dispute is sometimes depicted in nationalist terms as being an Anglo-American struggle, it was the British Air Marshal Arthur Tedder who was pressing Eisenhower most strongly after Goodwood to fire Montgomery. An American officer wrote in his diary that Tedder had come to see Eisenhower to “pursue his current favourite subject, the sacking of Monty”. With Tedder leading the “sack Monty” campaign, it encouraged Montgomery’s American enemies to press Eisenhower to fire Montgomery. Brooke was sufficiently worried about the “sack Monty” campaign to visit Montgomery at his Tactical Headquarters (TAC) in France and as he wrote in his diary; “warned [Montgomery] of a tendency in the PM [Churchill] to listen to suggestions that Monty played for safety and was not prepared to take risks”. Brooke advised Montgomery to invite Churchill to Normandy, arguing that if the “sack Monty” campaign had won the Prime Minister over, then his career would be over as having Churchill’s backing would give Eisenhower the political “cover” to fire Montgomery. On 20 July, Montgomery met Eisenhower and on 21 July Churchill at the TAC in France. One of Montgomery’s staff officers wrote afterwards that it was “common knowledge at Tac that Churchill had come to sack Monty”. No notes were taken at the Eisenhower-Montgomery and Churchill-Montgomery meetings, but Montgomery was able to persuade both men not to fire him.

With the success of Cobra, which was soon followed by unleashing the 3rd American Army under the General George S. Patton, Eisenhower wrote to Montgomery: “Am delighted that your basic plan has begun brilliantly to unfold with Bradley’s initial success”. The success of Cobra was aided by Operation Spring when the II Canadian Corps under General Guy Simonds (the only Canadian general whose skill Montgomery respected) began an offensive south of Caen that made little headway, but which the Germans regarded as the main offensive. Once the 3rd American Army arrived, Bradley was promoted to take command of the newly created 12th Army Group consisting of 1st and 3rd American Armies.

Following the American breakout, there followed the Battle of Falaise Gap as the British, Canadian and Polish soldiers of 21st Army Group commanded by Montgomery advanced south while the American and French soldiers of Bradley’s 12th Army Group advanced north to encircle the German Army Group B at Falaise as Montgomery waged what Urban called “a huge battle of annihilation” in August 1944. Montgomery began his offensive into the Suisse Normande region with Operation Bluecoat with Sir Richard O’Connor’s VIII Corps and Gerard Bucknall’s XXX Corps heading south. A dissatisfied Montgomery sacked Bucknall for being insufficiently aggressive and replaced him with General Brian Horrocks. At the same time, Montgomery ordered that Patton whose Third Army was supposed to advance into Brittany to send only minimal forces and instead ordered that Patton was to capture Nantes, which was soon taken.

Hitler waited too long to order his soldiers to retreat from Normandy, leading Montgomery to write: “He [Hitler] refused to face the only sound military course. As a result the Allies caused the enemy staggering losses in men and materials“. Knowing via Ultra that Hitler was not planning to retreat from Normandy, Montgomery, on 6 August 1944, ordered that an envelopment operation against Army Group B with the

  • First Canadian Army under Harry Crerar, which was to advance towards Falaise,
  • The Second British Army under Miles Dempsey was to advance towards Argentan and
  • The Third American Army under George S. Patton was to advance to Alençon.

On 11 August, Montgomery changed his plan with the Canadians to take Falaise and to meet the Americans at Argentan.

The First Canadian Army launched two operations,

  • Operation Totalize on 7 August which advanced only 9 miles (14 km) in four days in the face of fierce German resistance and
  • Operation Tractable on 14 August which finally took Falaise on 17 August.

In view of the slow Canadian advance, Patton requested permission to take Falaise, but was refused by Bradley on 13 August, which prompted much controversy with many historians arguing that Bradley lacked aggression and that Montgomery should have overruled Bradley.

The so-called “Falaise Gap” was closed on 22 August 1944, but several American generals, most notably Patton, accused Montgomery of being insufficiently aggressive in closing it, about 60,000 German soldiers were trapped in Normandy, but before 22 August, about 20,000 Germans had escaped through the “Falaise Gap” to fight another day. About 10,000 Germans had been killed in the Battle of the Falaise Gap, which led to a stunned Eisenhower, who viewed the battlefield on 24 August, to comment with horror that it was impossible to walk without stepping on corpses. The successful conclusion of the Normandy campaign saw the beginning of the debate between the “American school” and “British school” as both American and British generals started to advance claims about who was most responsible for this victory. Brooke wrote in defence of his protégé Montgomery: “Ike knows nothing about strategy and is quite unsuited to the post of Supreme Commander. It is no wonder that Monty’s real high ability is not always realised. Especially so when ‘national’ spectacles pervert the perspective of the strategic landscape”. About Montgomery’s conduct of the Normandy campaign, Badsey wrote:

Too much discussion on Normandy has centred on the controversial decisions of the Allied commanders. It was not good enough, apparently, to win such a complete and spectacular victory over an enemy that had conquered most of Europe unless it was done perfectly. Most of the blame for this lies with Montgomery, who was foolish enough to insist that it had been done perfectly, that Normandy – and all his other battles – had been fought accordingly to a precise master plan drawn up beforehand, from which he never deviated. It says much for his personality that Montgomery found others to agree with him, despite overwhelmingly evidence to the contrary. His handling of the Battle of Normandy was of a very high order, and as the person who would certainly have been blamed for losing the battle, he deserves the credit for winning it.

Advance to the Rhine

General Eisenhower took over Ground Forces Command on 1 September, while continuing as Supreme Commander, with Montgomery continuing to command the 21st Army Group, now consisting mainly of British and Canadian units. Montgomery bitterly resented this change, although it had been agreed before the D-Day invasion. The British journalist Mark Urban writes that Montgomery seemed unable to grasp that as the majority of the 2.2 million Allied soldiers fighting against Germany on the Western Front were now American (the ratio was 3:1) that it was politically unacceptable to American public opinion to have Montgomery remain as Land Forces Commander as: “Politics would not allow him to carry on giving orders to great armies of Americans simply because, in his view, he was better than their generals”.

Winston Churchill had Montgomery promoted to field marshal by way of compensation. In September 1944, Montgomery ordered Crerar and his First Canadian Army to take the French ports on the English Channel, namely Calais, Boulogne and Dunkirk. On 4 September, Antwerp, the third largest port in Europe was captured by Horrocks, with its harbour mostly intact. The Witte Brigade (White Brigade) of the Belgian resistance had captured the Port of Antwerp, before the Germans could destroy the port. Antwerp was a deep water inland port connected to the North Sea via the river Scheldt. The Scheldt was wide enough and dredged deep enough to allow the passage of ocean-going ships.

On 3 September 1944 Hitler ordered the 15th German Army, which had been stationed in the Pas de Calais region and was withdrawing north into the Low Countries to hold the mouth of the river Scheldt to deprive the Allies of the use of Antwerp. Thanks to ULTRA, Montgomery was aware of Hitler’s order by 5 September. Starting that same day, SHAEF’s naval commander, Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay had urged Montgomery to make clearing the mouth of the Schedlt his number one priority, arguing that as long as the mouth of the Scheldt was in German hands, it was impossible for the Royal Navy to clear the mines in the river, and as the Scheldt was mined, the port of Antwerp was useless. Alone among the senior commanders, only Ramsay saw opening Antwerp as crucial.

On 6 September 1944, Montgomery told Crerar that “I want Boulogne badly” and that city should be taken no matter what the cost. By this point, ports like Cherbourg were too far away from the front line, causing the Allies great logistical problems. The importance of ports closer to Germany was highlighted with the liberation of the city of Le Havre, which was assigned to John Crocker’s I Corps. To take Le Havre, two infantry divisions, two tank brigades, most of the artillery of the Second British Army, the specialized armoured “gadgets” of Percy Hobart’s 79th Armoured Division, the battleship HMS Warspite and the monitor HMS Erebus were all committed. On 10 September 1944, Bomber Command dropped 4,719 tons of bombs on Le Havre, which was the prelude to Operation Astonia, the assault on Le Havre by Crocker’s men, which was taken two days later  The Canadian historian Terry Copp wrote that the commitment of this much firepower and men to take only one French city might “seem excessive”, but by this point, the Allies desperately needed ports closer to the front line to sustain their advance.

On 9 September, Montgomery wrote to Brooke that “one good Pas de Calais port” would be sufficient to meet all the logistical needs of the 21st Army Group, but only the supply needs of the same formation. At the same time, Montgomery noted that “one good Pas de Calais port” would be insufficient for the American armies in France, which thus forced Eisenhower, if for no other reasons than logistics, to favour Montgomery’s plans for an invasion of northern Germany by the 21st Army Group, whereas if Antwerp were opened up, then all of the Allied armies could be supplied. Montgomery ordered that Crerar take Calais, Boulogne and Dunkirk and clear the Scheldt, a task that Crerar stated was impossible as he lacked enough troops to perform both operations at once. Montgomery refused Crerar’s request to have British XII Corps under Neil Ritchie assigned to help clear the Scheldt as Montgomery stated he needed XII Corps for Operation Market Garden. Montgomery was able to insist that Eisenhower adopt his strategy of a single thrust to the Ruhr with Operation Market Garden in September 1944. The offensive was strategically bold.

On 22 September 1944, General Guy Simonds’s II Canadian Corps took Boulogne, followed up by taking Calais on 1 October 1944. Montgomery was highly impatient with Simonds, complaining that it had taken Crocker’s I Corps only two days to take Le Havre while it took Simonds two weeks to take Boulogne and Calais, but Simonds noted that at Le Havre, three divisions and two brigades had been employed whereas as at both Boulogne and Calais, only two brigades were sent in to take both cities. After an attempt to storm the Leopold Canal by the 4th Canadian Division had been badly smashed by the German defenders, Simonds ordered a stop to further attempts to clear the river Scheldt until his mission of capturing the French ports on the English Channel had been accomplished; this allowed the German 15th Army ample time to dig into its new home on the Scheldt. The only port that was not captured by the Canadians was Dunkirk, as Montgomery ordered the 2nd Canadian Division on 15 September to hold his flank at Antwerp as a prelude for an advance up the Scheldt.

Operation Market Garden

Montgomery’s plan for Operation Market Garden (17–25 September 1944) was to outflank the Siegfried Line and cross the Rhine, setting the stage for later offensives into the Ruhr region. The 21st Army Group would attack north from Belgium, 60 miles (97 km) through the Netherlands, across the Rhine and consolidate north of Arnhem on the far side of the Rhine. The risky plan required three Airborne Divisions to capture numerous intact bridges along a single-lane road, on which an entire Corps had to attack and use as its main supply route. The offensive failed to achieve its objectives.

In the aftermath of Market Garden, Montgomery made holding the Arnhem salient his first priority, arguing that the 2nd British Army might still be able to break through and reach the wide-open plains of northern Germany, and that he might be able to take the Ruhr by the end of October. In the meantime, the First Canadian Army, which been given the task of clearing the mouth of the river Scheldt, despite the fact that in the words of Copp and Vogel “…that Montgomery’s Directive required the Canadians to continue to fight alone for almost two weeks in a battle which everyone agreed could only be won with the aid of additional divisions”.For his part, Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, the German commander of the Western Front ordered General Gustav-Adolf von Zangen, the commander of 15th Army that: “The attempt of the enemy to occupy the West Scheldt in order to obtain the free use of the harbor of Antwerp must be resisted to the utmost”.  Rundstedt argued with Hitler that as long as the Allies could not use the port of Antwerp, the Allies would lack the logistical capacity for an invasion of Germany.

Montgomery pulled away from the First Canadian Army (temporarily commanded now by Simonds as Crerar was ill), the British 51st Highland Division, 1st Polish Division, British 49th (West Riding) Division and 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade and sent all of these formations to help the 2nd British Army hold the Arnhem salient. However, Simonds seems to have regarded the Scheldt campaign as a test of his ability, and he felt he could clear the Scheldt with only three Canadian divisions, namely the 2nd, the 3rd, and the 4th, despite having to take on the entire 15th Army, which held strongly fortified positions in a landscape that favoured the defence. Simonds never complained about the lack of air support (made worse by the cloudy October weather), shortages of ammunition or having insufficient troops, regarding these problems as challenges for him to overcome, rather than a cause for complaint. As it was, Simonds made only slow progress in October 1944 during the fighting in the Battle of the Scheldt, although he was praised by Copp for imaginative and aggressive leadership who managed to achieve much, despite all of the odds against him. Montgomery had little respect for the Canadian generals, whom he dismissed as mediocre, except for Simonds, whom he consistently praised as Canada’s only “first-rate” general in the entire war.

Admiral Ramsay, who proved to be a far more articulate and forceful champion of the Canadians than their own generals, starting on 9 October demanded of Eisenhower in a meeting that he either order Montgomery to make supporting the First Canadian Army in the Scheldt fighting his number one priority or sack him. Ramsay in very strong language argued to Eisenhower that the Allies could only invade Germany if Antwerp was opened, and that as long as the three Canadian divisions fighting in the Scheldt had shortages of ammunition and artillery shells because Montgomery made the Arnhem salient his first priority, then Antwerp would not be opened anytime soon. Even Brooke wrote in his diary: “I feel that Monty’s strategy for once is at fault. Instead of carrying out the advance to Arnhem he ought to have made certain of Antwerp“. Prompted by Ramsay, Eisenhower sent Montgomery later on 9 October 1944, a cable that emphasizing the “supreme importance of Antwerp”, stating that “the Canadian Army will not, repeat not, be able to attack until November unless immediately supplied with adequate ammunition”, and finally warning that the Allied advance into Germany would totally stop by mid-November unless Antwerp was opened in October. Montgomery replied by accusing Ramsay of making “wild statements” unsupported by the facts, he denied that the Canadians were having to ration ammunition, and claimed that he would soon take the Ruhr, making the Scheldt campaign a sideshow. Montgomery further issued a memo entitled “Notes on Command in Western Europe” demanding that he once again be made Land Forces Commander, which led to an exasperated Eisenhower telling Montgomery that the question was not the command arrangement, but rather his ability and willingness to obey orders, and that he either obey orders to clear the mouth of the Scheldt at once, or he would be sacked.

A chastised Montgomery told Eisenhower on 15 October 1944 that he was now making clearing the Scheldt his “top priority”, and the ammunition shortages in the First Canadian Army, a problem which he denied even existed five days earlier, were now over as supplying the Canadians was henceforth his first concern. Simonds, now reinforced with British troops and Royal Marines, cleared the Scheldt by taking Walcheren island, the last of the German “fortresses” on the Scheldt on 8 November 1944. With the Scheldt in Allied hands, Royal Navy minesweepers removed the German mines in the river, and Antwerp was finally opened to shipping on 28 November 1944.

Reflecting Antwerp’s importance, the Germans spent the winter of 1944–45 firing V-1 flying bombs and V-2 rockets at it in an attempt to shut down the port, and the German offensive in December 1944 in the Ardennes had as its ultimate objective the capture of Antwerp. Urban wrote that Montgomery’s most “serious failure” in the entire war was not the well-publicised Battle of Arnhem, but rather his lack of interest in opening up Antwerp, as without it the entire Allied advance from the North Sea to the Swiss Alps stalled in the autumn of 1944 for logistical reasons.

Battle of the Bulge

When the surprise attack on the Ardennes took place on 16 December 1944, starting the Battle of the Bulge, the front of the US 12th Army Group was split, with the bulk of the US First Army being on the northern shoulder of the German ‘bulge’. The 12th Army Group commander, General Omar Bradley, was located south of the penetration at Luxembourg and command of the US First Army became problematic. Montgomery was the nearest commander on the ground and on 20 December, Eisenhower (who was in Versailles in France) temporarily transferred Courtney Hodges’ US First Army and William Simpson’s US Ninth Army to Montgomery’s 21st Army Group until the “bulge” could be reduced and a simpler line of communications restored, despite Bradley’s vehement objections on national grounds.

When Bradley learned that Montgomery had been given command of two American armies totalling some 200,000 men, he phoned Eisenhower to say: “I cannot be responsible to the American people if you do this. I resign!” Eisenhower sharply responded that Bradley was in fact responsible to him and “Your resignation means absolutely nothing… Well, Brad, these are my orders.” Montgomery grasped the situation quickly, visiting all divisional, corps, and field army commanders himself and instituting his ‘Phantom’ network of liaison officers. He grouped the British XXX Corps as a strategic reserve behind the Meuse and reorganised the US defence of the northern shoulder, shortening and strengthening the line and ordering the evacuation of St Vith. The German commander of the 5th Panzer Army, Hasso von Manteuffel said:

The operations of the American First Army had developed into a series of individual holding actions. Montgomery’s contribution to restoring the situation was that he turned a series of isolated actions into a coherent battle fought according to a clear and definite plan. It was his refusal to engage in premature and piecemeal counter-attacks which enabled the Americans to gather their reserves and frustrate the German attempts to extend their breakthrough.

The Wehrmacht’s objectives for Betrieb Wacht am Rhein (Operation Watch on the Rhine) was to split the Allied Armies in two by attacking the centre of the allied armies through the Ardennes Forest in Belgium (during one of the worst storms in history) and then turning north to recapture the port at Antwerp. On the north-western side of the battle area was Montgomery’s 21st Army Group which anchored the northern flank of the allied lines, with Bradley’s army group on Montgomery’s right flank and Patton’s 3rd Army on the far right of Bradley’s flank.

Since SHAEF believed the Wehrmacht was no longer capable of launching a major offensive, nor that any offensive could be launched through such rugged terrain as the Ardennes Forest — particularly during winter — the Ardennes was used as an area to send US divisions, which had recently fought and sustained severe casualties, in the Battle of Hürtgen Forest to regroup and refit. It was also used as a place where new units recently from the US were sent to get some field experience in a safe place.

General Patton’s 3rd Army, which was 90 miles (140 km) to the south, switched from its mission in order to turn north and fought its way through the severe weather and German opposition and broke through to Bastogne, the bad weather cleared so that the USAAF and the RAF could resume air assault operations against Nazi armoured divisions and the Wehrmacht ran out of petrol.

It is known that the Battle of the Bulge was the largest land battle fought by the western allies during all of World War II. This battle is possibly best summed up by Winston Churchill in his speech to the House of Commons:

This is undoubtedly the greatest American battle of the war and will, I believe, be regarded as an ever-famous American victory.

Crossing the Rhine

Montgomery’s 21st Army Group (later) advanced to the Rhine with operations Veritable and Grenade in February 1945. A meticulously planned Rhine crossing occurred on 24 March. While successful, it was two weeks after the Americans had unexpectedly (sans meticulous planning) captured the (railway) Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen and crossed the river on 7 March.

Montgomery’s river crossing was followed by the encirclement of German Army Group B in the Ruhr. Initially Montgomery’s role was to guard the flank of the American advance. This was altered to forestall any chance of a Red Army advance into Denmark, and the 21st Army Group occupied Hamburg and Rostock and sealed off the Danish peninsula. On 4 May 1945, on Lüneburg Heath, Montgomery accepted the surrender of German forces in north-west Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands.

Casualty conservation policy

The British high command were not concerned only with winning the war by defeating Germany, but also with ensuring that they were still considered to be a serious power after the war, able to influence global policy. Suffering heavy losses in Normandy would diminish Britain’s Imperial influence on the post-war world, and on post-war Europe in particular. Many of Montgomery’s clashes with Eisenhower were based on his determination to pursue the war “on lines most suitable to Britain”.

The fewer the number of combat-experienced divisions the British had left at the end of the war, the smaller Britain’s influence in Europe was likely to be, compared to the emerging superpowers of the US and the USSR. Montgomery was thus caught in a dilemma – the British Army needed to be seen to be pulling at least half the weight in the liberation of Europe, but without incurring the heavy casualties that such a role would inevitably produce. The 21st Army Group scarcely possessed sufficient forces to achieve such a military prominence, and the remaining divisions had to be expended sparingly.

Britain did not possess the resources in 1944 to rebuild shattered divisions and it was imperative for Montgomery to protect the viability of the British army so that Britain could still play an important part in the final victory. It was reported to the War Office that “Montgomery has to be very careful of what he does on his eastern flank because on that flank is the only British Army there is left in this part of the world“. The context of British casualties and the shortage of reinforcements, prompted Montgomery to “excessive caution“. Dempsey wrote on 13 June, that Caen could only be taken by a “set piece assault and we did not have the men or the ammunition for that at the time”.

Montgomery’s solution to the dilemma was to attempt to remain Commander of All Land Forces until the end of the war, so that any victory attained – although achieved primarily by American formations – would accrue in part to him and thus to Britain. He would also be able to ensure that British units were spared some of the high-attrition actions, but would be most prominent when the final blows were struck. When that strategy failed, he persuaded Eisenhower to occasionally put some American formations under the control of the 21st Army Group, so as to bolster his resources while still maintaining the outward appearance of successful British effort.

Montgomery initially remained prepared to push Second (British) Army hard to capture the vital strategic town of Caen, and consequently incur heavy losses. In the original Overlord plan, Montgomery was determined to push past Caen to Falaise as quickly as possible. However, after the heavy casualties incurred in capturing Caen, he changed his mind.

Lack of tact

Montgomery was notorious for his lack of tact and diplomacy. Even his “patron”, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff Lord Alan Brooke, frequently mentions it in his war diaries: “he is liable to commit untold errors in lack of tact” and “I had to haul him over the coals for his usual lack of tact and egotistical outlook which prevented him from appreciating other people’s feelings”.

One incident that illustrated this occurred during the North African campaign when Montgomery bet Walter Bedell Smith that he could capture Sfax by the middle of April 1943. Smith jokingly replied that if Montgomery could do it he would give him a Flying Fortress complete with crew. Smith promptly forgot all about it, but Montgomery did not, and when Sfax was taken on 10 April he sent a message to Smith “claiming his winnings”. Smith tried to laugh it off, but Montgomery was having none of it and insisted on his aircraft. It got as high as Eisenhower who, with his renowned skill in diplomacy, ensured Montgomery did get his Flying Fortress, though at a great cost in ill feeling. Even Brooke thought it crass stupidity.

In August 1945, whilst Brooke, Sir Andrew Cunningham and Sir Charles Portal were discussing their possible successors as “Chiefs of Staff”, they concluded that Montgomery would be very efficient as CIGS from the Army’s point of view but that he was also very unpopular with a large proportion of the Army. Despite this, Cunningham and Portal were strongly in favour of Montgomery succeeding Brooke after his retirement. Prime Minister Winston Churchill, by all accounts a faithful friend, is quoted as saying of Montgomery, “In defeat, unbeatable; in victory, unbearable.”

Later life; Career

After the war Lord Montgomery became the Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) of the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR), the name given to the British Occupation Forces, and was the British member of the Allied Control Council. Montgomery was also President of Portsmouth Football Club between 1944 and 1961. He was created 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein in 1946. He was Chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS) from 1946 to 1948, succeeding Alan Brooke. As CIGS, Montgomery toured Africa in 1947 and in a secret 1948 report to Prime Minister Clement Attlee’s government proposed a “master plan” to exploit the raw materials of Africa, thereby counteracting the loss of British influence in Asia. Montgomery held racist views towards Africans, describing them as “complete savages” incapable of developing their own countries.  He was barely on speaking terms with his fellow chiefs, sending his VCIGS to attend their meetings and he clashed particularly with Sir Arthur Tedder, who was by now Chief of the Air Staff (CAS). When Montgomery’s term of office expired, Prime Minister Attlee appointed Sir William Slim from retirement with the rank of field marshal as his successor; when Montgomery protested that he had told his protégé, General Sir John Crocker, former commander of I Corps in the 1944–45 North-West Europe Campaign, that the job was to be his, Attlee is said to have given the memorable retort “Untell him”.

He was then appointed Chairman of the Western Union Defence Organization’s C-in-C committee. Volume 3 of Nigel Hamilton’s Life of Montgomery of Alamein gives an account of the bickering between Montgomery and his land forces chief, French General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny, which created splits through the Union headquarters. He was thus pleased to become Eisenhower’s deputy in creating the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s European forces in 1951. He would continue to serve under Eisenhower’s successors, Generals Matthew Ridgway and Al Gruenther, until his retirement, aged nearly 71, in 1958. His mother Maud, Lady Montgomery, died at New Park in Moville in Inishowen in 1949; she was buried alongside her husband in the ‘kirkyard’ behind St. Columb’s Church, the small Church of Irelandchurch beside New Park, overlooking Lough Foyle. Lord Montgomery did not attend the funeral, claiming he was “too busy”.

He was chairman of the governing body of St. John’s School in Leatherhead, Surrey, from 1951 to 1966, and a generous supporter. Lord Montgomery was an Honorary Member of the Winkle Club, a noted charity in Hastings, East Sussex, and introduced Sir Winston Churchill to the club in 1955.

Views

Montgomery’s memoirs (1958) criticised many of his wartime comrades in harsh terms, including Eisenhower. He was threatened with legal action by Field Marshal Auchinleck for suggesting that Auchinleck had intended to retreat from the Alamein position if attacked again, and had to give a radio broadcast (20 November 1958) expressing his gratitude to Auchinleck for having stabilised the front at the First Battle of Alamein.

The 1960 paperback edition of his memoirs contains a publisher’s note drawing attention to that broadcast, and stating that in the publisher’s view the reader might reasonably assume from Montgomery’s text that Auchinleck had been planning to retreat “into the Nile Delta or beyond” and pointing out that it had been Auchinleck’s intention to launch an offensive as soon as the Eighth Army was “rested and regrouped”. Montgomery was stripped of his honorary citizenship of Montgomery, Alabama, and was challenged to a duel by an Italian officer.

He twice met Israeli general Moshe Dayan. After an initial meeting in the early 1950s, Montgomery met Dayan again in the 1960s to discuss the Vietnam War, which Dayan was studying. Montgomery was harshly critical of US strategy in Vietnam, which involved deploying large numbers of combat troops, aggressive bombing attacks, and uprooting entire village populations and forcing them into strategic hamlets. Montgomery said that the Americans’ most important problem was that they had no clear-cut objective, and allowed local commanders to set military policy. At the end of their meeting, Montgomery asked Dayan to tell the Americans, in his name, that they were “insane”. In retirement he publicly supported apartheid after a visit to South Africa in 1962, and after a visit to China declared himself impressed by the Chinese leadership.

He spoke out against the legalisation of homosexuality in the United Kingdom, arguing that the Sexual Offences Act 1967 was a “charter for buggery” and that “this sort of thing may be tolerated by the French, but we’re British – thank God”.

During a visit to the Alamein battlefields in May 1967, he bluntly told high-ranking Egyptian Army officers that they would lose any war with Israel, a warning that was shown to be justified only a few weeks later in the Six-Day War.

Death

Montgomery died from unspecified causes in 1976 at his home Isington Mill in Isington, in the County of Hampshire, aged 88. After a funeral at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, his body was buried in Holy Cross churchyard, in Binsted, Hampshire.

His Garter banner, which had hung in St. George’s Chapel in Windsor during his lifetime, is now on display in St Mary’s, Warwick.

Legacy

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Statue of Montgomery in Whitehall, London, by Oscar Nemon, unveiled in 1980
  • Montgomery’s portrait by Frank O. Salisbury (1945) hangs in the National Portrait Gallery.
  • A statue of Montgomery by Oscar Nemon stands outside the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall, alongside those of Field Marshal Lord Slim and Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke.
  • Montgomery gave his name to the French commune Colleville-Montgomery in Normandy.
  • The Imperial War Museum holds a variety of material relating to Montgomery in its collections. These include Montgomery’s Grant command tank (on display in the atrium at the Museum’s London branch), his command caravans as used in North West Europe (on display at IWM Duxford), and his papers are held by the Museum’s Department of Documents. The Museum maintains a permanent exhibition about Montgomery, entitled Monty: Master of the Battlefield.
  • The World Champion Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band from Northern Ireland is named after him.
  • Montgomery’s Rolls-Royce staff car is on display at the Royal Logistic Corps Museum, Deepcut, Surrey.

Honours and awards

Garter-encircled coat of arms of Bernard Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, KG, as displayed on his Order of the Garter stall plate in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, viz. Azure two lions passant guardant between three fleur-de-lis two in chief and one in base and two trefoils in fess all or.

Viscountcy as Montgomery of Alamein (UK, January 1946)
Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter(UK, 1946)
Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath(UK, 1945) KCB – 11 November 1942, CB – 11 July 1940
Companion of the Distinguished Service Order(UK, 1914)
Mentioned in Despatches(UK, 17 February 1915, 4 January 1917, 11 December 1917, 20 May 1918, 20 December 1918, 5 July 1919, 15 July 1939, 24 June 1943, 13 January 1944
Distinguished Service Medal(US, 1947)
Chief Commander of the Legion of Merit(US, 10 August 1943)
Member of the Order of Victory(USSR, 21 June 1945)
1st class of the Order of Suvorov(USSR, 16 January 1947)
Croix de Guerre(France, 1919)
Knight of the Order of the Elephant(Denmark, 2 August 1945)
Grand Commander of the Order of George I(Greece, 20 June 1944)
Silver Cross (V Class) of the Virtuti Militari(Poland, 31 October 1944)
Grand Cross of the Military Order of the White Lion(Czechoslovakia, 1947)
Grand Cordon of the Seal of Solomon (Ethiopia, 1949)
Grand Officer with Palm of the Order of Leopold II(Belgium, 1947)
Croix de Guerre 1940 with Palm(Belgium)
Grand Cross of the Order of the Netherlands Lion(Netherlands, 16 January 1947)
Grand Cross of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav(Norway) (1951)

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4. Montgomery visits Patton in Palermo, Sicily, July 1943.

6. Wartime photograph of General Sir Bernard Montgomery with his Miles Messenger aircraft (location and date unknown).

2. Montgomery and Soviet Marshals Zhukov and Rokossovsky with General Sokolovsky leave the Brandenburg Gate on 12 July 1945 after being decorated by Montgomery.

1.Lord Montgomery as CIGS with Lord WavellViceroy of India, and Auchinleck, Commander in Chief Indian Army. Delhi 1946

3. The Supreme Commanders on 5 June 1945 in Berlin: Bernard Montgomery, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Georgy Zhukov and Jean de Lattre de Tassigny

5. Lieutenant General Bernard Montgomery, GOC V Corps, with war correspondents during a large-scale exercise in Southern Command, March 1941.

Bangladesh demographics

Year; Population; Percentage +/-

1971; 67.8; —

1980; 80.6; + 1.94%

1990; 105.3; + 2.71%

2000; 129.6; + 2.10%

2010; 148.7; + 1.38%

2012; 161.1; + 4.09%

Source: OECD/World Bank

Montage of some ethnic groups in Bangladesh. Clockwise from top left: Bengalis, Chakmas, Garos, Santhals

Estimates of the Bangladeshi population vary, but UN data suggests 162,951,560 million. The 2011 census estimated 142.3 million, much less than 2007–2010 estimates of Bangladesh’s population (150–170 million). Bangladesh is the world’s eighth-most-populous nation. In 1951, its population was 44 million. Bangladesh is the most densely-populated large country in the world, ranking 11th in population density when small countries and city-states are included.

The country’s population-growth rate was among the highest in the world in the 1960s and 1970s, when its population grew from 65 to 110 million. With the promotion of birth control in the 1980s, Bangladesh’s growth rate began to slow. Its total fertility rate is now 2.55, lower than India’s (2.58) and Pakistan’s (3.07). The population is relatively young, with 34 percent aged 15 or younger and five percent 65 or older. Life expectancy at birth was estimated at 70 years in 2012. According to the World Bank, as of 2016 14.8% of the country lives below the international poverty line on less than $1.90 per day.

Bengalis are 98 percent of the population. Of Bengalis, Muslims are the majority, followed by Hindus, Christians and Buddhists.

The Adivasi population includes the Chakma, Marma, Tanchangya, Tripuri, Kuki, Khiang, Khumi, Murang, Mru, Chak, Lushei, Bawm, Bishnupriya Manipuri, Khasi, Jaintia, Garo, Santal, Munda and Oraon tribes. The Chittagong Hill Tracts region experienced unrest and an insurgency from 1975 to 1997 in an autonomy movement by its indigenous people. Although a peace accord was signed in 1997, the region remains militarised.

Bangladesh is home to a significant Ismaili community. It hosts many Urdu-speaking immigrants, who migrated there after the partition of India. Stranded Pakistanis were given citizenship by the Supreme Court in 2008.

Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh number at around 1 million, making Bangladesh one of the countries with the largest refugee populations in the world.

Dhaka

Urban centres

Dhaka is Bangladesh’s capital and largest city. There are 12 city corporations which hold mayoral elections: Dhaka South, Dhaka North, Chittagong, Comilla, Khulna, Mymensingh, Sylhet, Rajshahi, Barisal, Rangpur, Gazipur and Narayanganj. Mayors are elected for five-year terms. Altogether there are 506 urban centres in Bangladesh among which 43 cities have a population of more than 100000.

Languages

More than 98 percent of people in Bangladesh speak Bengali, sometimes called Bangla, as their native language.Dialects of Bengali are spoken in some parts of the country, which include non-standard dialects (sometimes viewed as separate languages) such as Chatgaiya, Sylheti and Rangpuri. Pakistani Biharis, stranded since 1971 and living in Bangladeshi camps, speak Urdu. Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, living in Bangladeshi camps since 1978, speak Rohingya. Several indigenous minority languages are also spoken.

Bengali is the official language. However, English is sometimes used secondarily for official purposes (especially in the legal system). Although laws were historically written in English, they were not translated into Bengali until 1987. Bangladesh’s constitution and laws now exist in English and Bengali. English is used as a second language by the middle and upper classes, and is widely used in higher education.

Religion

Montage of religions of Bangladesh. Clockwise from top left: Muslims praying in Baitul Mukarram; a Hindu monk in Dhakeshwari Temple; a Buddhist monk in Buddha Dhatu Jadi; a Bangladeshi Christian cardinal with other cardinals at the Vatican

Religions in Bangladesh in 2011

Religion Percent

Muslim. 90.4%

Hindu 8.5%

Buddhist. 0.6%

Christian. 0.4%

Islam is the largest and the official state religion of Bangladesh, followed by 90.4 percent of the population. The country is home to most Bengali Muslims, the second-largest ethnic group in the Muslim world. The vast majority of Bangladeshi Muslims are Sunni, followed by tiny minorities of Shia and Ahmadiya. About four percent are non-denominational Muslims. Bangladesh has the fourth-largest Muslim population in the world, and is the third-largest Muslim-majority country (after Indonesia and Pakistan). Sufism has a lengthy heritage in the region. The largest gathering of Muslims in Bangladesh is the Bishwa Ijtema, held annually by the Tablighi Jamaat. The Ijtema is the second-largest Muslim congregation in the world, after the Hajj.

Hinduism is followed by 8.5 percent of the population; most are Bengali Hindus, and some are members of ethnic minority groups. Bangladeshi Hindus are the country’s second-largest religious group and the third-largest Hindu community in the world, after those in India and Nepal. Hindus in Bangladesh are fairly evenly distributed, with concentrations in Gopalganj, Dinajpur, Sylhet, Sunamganj, Mymensingh, Khulna, Jessore, Chittagong and parts of the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Despite their dwindling numbers, Hindus are the second-largest religious community (after the Muslims) in Dhaka.

Buddhism is the third-largest religion, at 0.6 percent. Bangladeshi Buddhists are concentrated among ethnic groups in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (particularly the Chakma, Marma and Tanchangya peoples), and coastal Chittagong is home to a large number of Bengali Buddhists. Christianity is the fourth-largest religion, at 0.4 percent.

The Constitution of Bangladesh declares Islam the state religion, but bans religion-based politics. It proclaims equal recognition of Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and people of all faiths. In 1972, Bangladesh was South Asia’s first constitutionally-secular country.

Education

Bangladesh has a low literacy rate, which was estimated at 66.5 percent for males and 63.1 percent for females in 2014. The country’s educational system is three-tiered and heavily subsidised, with the government operating many schools at the primary, secondary and higher-secondary levels and subsidising many private schools. In the tertiary-education sector, the Bangladeshi government funds over 15 state universities through the University Grants Commission.

Literacy rates in Bangladesh districts

The education system is divided into five levels: primary (first to fifth grade), junior secondary (sixth to eighth grade), secondary (ninth and tenth grade), higher secondary (11th and 12th grade) and tertiary. Five years of secondary education end with a Secondary School Certificate (SSC) examination; since 2009, the Primary Education Closing (PEC) examination has also been given. Students who pass the PEC examination proceed to four years of secondary or matriculation training, culminating in the SSC examination.

Students who pass the PEC examination proceed to three years of junior-secondary education, culminating in the Junior School Certificate (JSC) examination. Students who pass this examination proceed to two years of secondary education, culminating in the SSC examination. Students who pass this examination proceed to two years of higher-secondary education, culminating in the Higher Secondary School Certificate (HSC) examination.

Education is primarily in Bengali, but English is commonly taught and used. Many Muslim families send their children to part-time courses or full-time religious education in Bengali and Arabic in madrasas.

Bangladesh conforms with the Education For All (EFA) objectives, the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and international declarations. Article 17 of the Bangladesh Constitution provides that all children between the ages of six and ten years receive a basic education free of charge.

Universities in Bangladesh are of three general types: public (government-owned and subsidised), private (privately owned universities) and international (operated and funded by international organisations such). Bangladesh has 34 public, 64 private and two international universities; Bangladesh National University has the largest enrolment, and the University of Dhaka (established in 1921) is the oldest.University of Chittagong (established in 1966) is the largest University (Campus: Rural, 2,100 acres (8.5 km2)) . Islamic University of Technology, commonly known as IUT, is a subsidiary of the Organisation of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC, representing 57 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe and South America). Asian University for Women in Chittagong is the preeminent South Asian liberal-arts university for women, representing 14 Asian countries; its faculty hails from notable academic institutions in North America, Europe, Asia, Australia and the Middle East. BUET, CUET, KUET and RUET are Bangladesh’s four public engineering universities. BUTex and DUET are two specialised engineering universities; BUTex specialises in textile engineering, and DUET offers higher education to diploma engineers. The NITER is a specialised public-private partnership institute which provides higher education in textile engineering. Science and technology universities include SUST, PUST, JUST and NSTU. Bangladeshi universities are accredited by and affiliated with the University Grants Commission (UGC), created by Presidential Order 10 in 1973.

Medical education is provided by 29 government and private medical colleges. All medical colleges are affiliated with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Bangladesh’s 2015 literacy rate rose to 71 percent due to education modernisation and improved funding, with 16,087 schools and 2,363 colleges receiving Monthly Pay Order (MPO) facilities. According to education minister Nurul Islam Nahid, 27,558 madrasas and technical and vocational institutions were enlisted for the facility. 6,036 educational institutions were outside MPO coverage, and the government enlisted 1,624 private schools for MPO in 2010.

Health

A typical ambulance service in Bangladesh

Health and education levels remain relatively low, although they have improved as poverty levels have decreased. In rural areas, village doctors with little or no formal training constitute 62 percent of healthcare providers practising “modern medicine”; formally-trained providers make up four percent of the total health workforce. A Future Health Systems survey indicated significant deficiencies in the treatment practices of village doctors, with widespread harmful and inappropriate drug prescribing. Receiving health care from informal providers is encouraged.

A 2007 study of 1,000 households in rural Bangladesh found that direct payments to formal and informal healthcare providers and indirect costs (loss of earnings because of illness) associated with illness were deterrents to accessing healthcare from qualified providers. A community survey of 6,183 individuals in rural Bangladesh found a gender difference in treatment-seeking behaviour, with women less likely to seek treatment than to men. The use of skilled birth attendant (SBA) services, however, rose from 2005 to 2007 among women from all socioeconomic quintiles except the highest. A health watch, a pilot community-empowerment tool, was successfully developed and implemented in south-eastern Bangladesh to improve the uptake and monitoring of public-health services.

Bangladesh’s poor health conditions are attributed to the lack of healthcare provision by the government. According to a 2010 World Bank report, 2009 healthcare spending was 3.35 percent of the country’s GDP. The number of hospital beds is 3 per 10,000 population. Government spending on healthcare that year was 7.9 percent of the total budget; out-of-pocket expenditures totalled 96.5 percent.

Malnutrition has been a persistent problem in Bangladesh, with the World Bank ranking the country first in the number of malnourished children worldwide. Twenty-six percent of the population (two-thirds of children under the age of five) are undernourished, and 46 percent of children are moderately or severely underweight. Forty-three to 60 percent of children under five are smaller than normal; one in five preschool children are vitamin-A deficient, and one in two are anaemic. More than 45 percent of rural families and 76 percent of urban families were below the acceptable caloric-intake level.

COURTESY OF WIKIPEDIA.ORG

Bengal Culture

Visual Arts

The recorded history of art in Bangladesh can be traced to the 3rd century BCE, when terracotta sculptures were made in the region. In classical antiquity, a notable school of sculptural Hindu, Jain and Buddhist art developed in the Pala Empire and the Sena dynasty. Islamic art evolved since the 14th century. The architecture of the Bengal Sultanate saw a distinct style of domed mosques with complex niche pillars that had no minarets. Mughal Bengal’s most celebrated artistic tradition was the weaving of Jamdani motifs on fine muslin, which is now classified by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage. Jamdani motifs were similar to Iranian textile art (buta motifs) and Western textile art (paisley). The Jamdani weavers in Dhaka received imperial patronage. Ivory and brass were also widely used in Mughal art. Pottery is widely used in Bengali culture.

The modern art movement in Bangladesh took shape during the 1950s, particularly with the pioneering works of Zainul Abedin. East Bengal developed its own modernist painting and sculpture traditions, which were distinct from the art movements in West Bengal. The Art Institute Dhaka has been an important centre for visual art in the region. Its annual Bengali New Year parade was enlisted as an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2016.

Modern Bangladesh has produced many of South Asia’s leading painters, including :

• SM Sultan

• Mohammad Kibria

• Shahabuddin Ahmed

• Kanak Chanpa Chakma

• Kafil Ahmed

• Saifuddin Ahmed

• Qayyum Chowdhury

• Rashid Choudhury

• Quamrul Hassan

• Rafiqun Nabi

• Syed Jahangir

among others. Novera Ahmed and Nitun Kundu were the country’s pioneers of modernist sculpture. The Chobi Mela is the largest photography festival in Asia.

Literature

Serious discussions

The oldest evidence of writing in Bangladesh is the Mahasthan Brahmi Inscription, which dates back to the 3rd century BCE in the Gupta Empire, Sanskrit literature thrived in the region. Bengali developed from Sanskrit and Magadhi Prakrit in the from the 8th to 10th century. Bengali literature is a millennium-old tradition; the Charyapadas are the earliest examples of Bengali poetry.

Sufi spiritualism inspired many Bengali Muslim writers. During the Bengal Sultanate, medieval Bengali writers were influenced by Arabic and Persian works. The Chandidas are the notable lyric poets from the early Medieval Age. Syed Alaol was a noted secular poet and translator from the Arakan region. The Bengal Renaissance shaped the emergence of modern Bengali literature, including novels, short stories and science fiction.

Rabindranath Tagore was the first non-European laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature and is described as the Bengali Shakespeare.

Kazi Nazrul Islam was a revolutionary poet who espoused political rebellion against colonialism and fascism.

Begum Rokeya is regarded as the pioneer feminist writer of Bangladesh.

Other renaissance icons included

• Michael Madhusudan Dutt

• Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay.

The writer Syed Mujtaba Ali is noted for his cosmopolitan Bengali worldview. Jasimuddin was a renowned pastoral poet. Shamsur Rahman was the poet laureate of Bangladesh for many years.

• Al Mahmud is considered one of the greatest Bengali poets to have emerged in the 20th century.

Farrukh Ahmed, Sufia Kamal, and Nirmalendu Goon are important figures of modern Bangladeshi poetry.

• Ahmed Sofa is regarded as the most important Bangladeshi intellectual in the post-independence era.

• Humayun Ahmed was a popular writer of modern Bangladeshi magical realism and science fiction.

Notable writers of Bangladeshi fictions include

• Mir Mosharraf Hossain

• Akhteruzzaman Elias

• Syed Waliullah

• Shahidullah Kaiser

• Shawkat Osman

• Selina Hossain

• Taslima Nasreen

• Haripada Datta

• Razia Khan

• Anisul Hoque

• Bipradash Barua.

Many Bangladeshi writers, such as Muhammad Zafar Iqbal, and Farah Ghuznavi are acclaimed for their short stories.

The annual Ekushey Book Fair and Dhaka Literature Festival, organised by the Bangla Academy, are among the largest literary festivals in South Asia.

Women of Bangladesh

Irene Khan, Secretary General Amnesty International 2007

Although, as of 2015, several women occupied major political office in Bangladesh, its women continue to live under a patriarchal social regime where violence is common. Whereas in India and Pakistan women participate less in the workforce as their education increases, the reverse is the case in Bangladesh.

Bengal has a long history of feminist activism dating back to the 19th century. Begum Rokeya and Faizunnessa Chowdhurani played an important role in emancipating Bengali Muslim women from purdah, prior to the country’s division, as well as promoting girls’ education. Several women were elected to the Bengal Legislative Assembly in the British Raj. The first women’s magazine, Begum, was published in 1948.

In 2008, Bangladeshi female workforce participation stood at 26%. Women dominate blue collar jobs in the Bangladeshi garment industry. Agriculture, social services, healthcare and education are also major occupations for Bangladeshi women, while their employment in white collar positions has steadily increased.

Architecture

The architectural traditions of Bangladesh have a 2,500-year-old heritage. Terracotta architecture is a distinct feature of Bengal. Pre-Islamic Bengali architecture reached its pinnacle in the Pala Empire, when the Pala School of Sculptural Art established grand structures such as the Somapura Mahavihara. Islamic architecture began developing under the Bengal Sultanate, when local terracotta styles influenced medieval mosque construction. The Adina Mosque of united Bengal was the largest mosque built on the Indian subcontinent.

The Sixty Dome Mosque was the largest medieval mosque built in Bangladesh, and is a fine example of Turkic-Bengali architecture. The Mughal style replaced indigenous architecture when Bengal became a province of the Mughal Empire and influenced the development of urban housing. The Kantajew Temple and Dhakeshwari Temple are excellent examples of late medieval Hindu temple architecture. Indo-Saracenic Revival architecture, based on Indo-Islamic styles, flourished during the British period. The zamindar gentry in Bangladesh built numerous Indo-Saracenic palaces and country mansions, such as the Ahsan Manzil, Tajhat Palace, Dighapatia Palace, Puthia Rajbari and Natore Rajbari.

The bungalow, which originated in Bengal, is a common sight. The roof style seen in the picture is common in the hilly areas of Sylhet and Chittagong

Bengali vernacular architecture is noted for pioneering the bungalow. Bangladeshi villages consist of thatched roofed houses made of natural materials like mud, straw, wood and bamboo. In modern times, village bungalows are increasingly made of tin.

Muzharul Islam was the pioneer of Bangladeshi modern architecture. His varied works set the course of modern architectural practice in the country. Islam brought leading global architects, including Louis Kahn, Richard Neutra, Stanley Tigerman, Paul Rudolph, Robert Boughey and Konstantinos Doxiadis, to work in erstwhile East Pakistan. Louis Kahn was chosen to design the National Parliament Complex in Sher-e-Bangla Nagar. Kahn’s monumental designs, combining regional red brick aesthetics, his own concrete and marble brutalism and the use of lakes to represent Bengali geography, are regarded as one of the masterpieces of the 20th century. In more recent times, award-winning architects like Rafiq Azam have set the course of contemporary architecture by adopting influences from the works of Islam and Kahn.

Performing Arts

Theatre in Bangladesh includes various forms with a history dating back to the 4th century CE. It includes narrative forms, song and dance forms, supra-personae forms, performances with scroll paintings, puppet theatre and processional forms. The Jatra is the most popular form of Bengali folk theatre. The dance traditions of Bangladesh include indigenous tribal and Bengali dance forms, as well as classical Indian dances, including the Kathak, Odissi and Manipuri dances.

The music of Bangladesh features the Baul mystical tradition, listed by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Numerous lyric-based musical traditions, varying from one region to the next, exist, including Gombhira, Bhatiali and Bhawaiya. Folk music is accompanied by a one-stringed instrument known as the ektara. Other instruments include the dotara, dhol, flute, and tabla. Bengali classical music includes Tagore songs and Nazrul geeti. Bangladesh has a rich tradition of Indian classical music, which uses instruments like the sitar, tabla, sarod and santoor. Musician Ayub Bachchu is credited with popularising Bengali rock music in Bangladesh.

Textiles

A woman wearing jamdani in 1787. Bengal has manufactured textiles for many centuries, as recorded in ancient hand-written and printed documents.

The Nakshi Kantha is a centuries-old embroidery tradition for quilts, said to be indigenous to eastern Bengal (i.e. Bangladesh). The sari is the national dress for Bangladeshi women. Mughal Dhaka was renowned for producing the finest Muslin saris, including the famed Dhakai and Jamdani, the weaving of which is listed by UNESCO as one of the masterpieces of humanity’s intangible cultural heritage. Bangladesh also produces the Rajshahi silk. The shalwar kameez is also widely worn by Bangladeshi women. In urban areas some women can be seen in western clothing. The kurta and sherwani are the national dress of Bangladeshi men; the lungi and dhoti are worn by them in informal settings. Aside from ethnic wear, domestically tailored suits and neckties are customarily worn by the country’s men in offices, in schools and at social events.

The handloom industry supplies 60–65% of the country’s clothing demand. The Bengali ethnic fashion industry has flourished in the changing environment of the fashion world. The retailer Aarong is one of the most successful ethnic wear brands in South Asia. The development of the Bangladesh textile industry, which supplies leading international brands, has promoted the production and retail of modern Western attire locally, with the country now having a number of expanding local brands like Westecs and Yellow. Bangladesh is the world’s second largest garments exporter.

Among Bangladesh’s fashion designers, Bibi Russell has received international acclaim for her “Fashion for Development” shows.

Cuisine

White rice is the staple of Bangladeshi cuisine, along with many vegetables and lentils. Rice preparations also include Bengali biryanis, pulaos, and khichuris. Mustard sauce, ghee, sunflower oil and fruit chutneys are widely used in Bangladeshi cooking. Fish is the main source of protein in Bengali cuisine. The Hilsa is the national fish and immensely popular across Bangladesh. Other kinds of fish eaten include rohu, butterfish, catfish, tilapia and barramundi. Fish eggs are a gourmet delicacy. Seafood holds an important place in Bengali cuisine, especially lobsters, shrimps and dried fish. Meat consumption includes chicken, beef, mutton, venison, duck and squab. In Chittagong, Mezban feasts are a popular tradition featuring the serving of hot beef curry. In Sylhet, the shatkora lemons are used to marinate dishes. In the tribal Hill Tracts, bamboo shoot cooking is prevalent. Bangladesh has a vast spread of desserts, including distinctive sweets like Rôshogolla, Rôshomalai, Chomchom, Mishti Doi and Kalojaam. Pithas are traditional boiled desserts made with rice or fruits. Halwa is served during religious festivities. Naan, paratha, luchi and bakarkhani are the main local breads. Black tea is offered to guests as a gesture of welcome. Kebabs are widely popular across Bangladesh, particularly seekh kebabs, chicken tikka and shashliks.

Bangladesh shares its culinary heritage with the neighbouring Indian state of West Bengal. The two regions have several differences, however. In Muslim-majority Bangladesh, meat consumption is greater; whereas in Hindu-majority West Bengal, vegetarianism is more prevalent. The Bangladeshi diaspora dominates the South Asian restaurant industry in many Western countries, particularly in the United Kingdom.

Festivals

The annual Bengali New Year parade

Pohela Boishakh, the Bengali new year, is the major festival of Bengali culture and sees widespread festivities. Of the major holidays celebrated in Bangladesh, only Pohela Boishakh comes without any preexisting expectations (specific religious identity, culture of gift-giving, etc.). Unlike holidays like Eid al-Fitr, where dressing up in lavish clothes has become a norm, or Christmas where exchanging gifts has become an integral part of the holiday, Pohela Boishakh is really about celebrating the simpler, rural roots of the Bengal. As a result, more people can participate in the festivities together without the burden of having to reveal one’s class, religion, or financial capacity. Other cultural festivals include Nabonno, and Poush Parbon both of which are Bengali harvest festivals.

The Muslim festivals of Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha, Milad un Nabi, Muharram, Chand Raat, Shab-e-Barat; the Hindu festivals of Durga Puja, Janmashtami and Rath Yatra; the Buddhist festival of Buddha Purnima, which marks the birth of Gautama Buddha, and Christian festival of Christmas are national holidays in Bangladesh and see the most widespread celebrations in the country.

Alongside are national days like the remembrance of 21 February 1952 Language Movement Day (International Mother Language Day), Independence Day and Victory Day. On Language Movement Day, people congregate at the Shaheed Minar in Dhaka to remember the national heroes of the Bengali Language Movement, and at the Jatiyo Smriti Soudho on Independence Day and Victory Day to remember the national heroes of the Bangladesh Liberation War. These occasions are observed with public ceremonies, parades, rallies by citizens, political speeches, fairs, concerts, and various other public and private events, celebrating the history and traditions of Bangladesh. TV and radio stations broadcast special programs and patriotic songs, and many schools and colleges organise fairs, festivals, and concerts that draw the participation of citizens from all levels of Bangladeshi society.

Sports

The Bangladesh cricket team celebrating the fall of a wicket against Zimbabwe

Cricket is one of the most popular sports in Bangladesh, followed by football. The national cricket team participated in their first Cricket World Cup in 1999, and the following year was granted elite Test cricket status. They have however struggled, recording only ten test match victories: one against Australia, one against England, one against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka, five against Zimbabwe (one in 2005, one in 2013 in Zimbabwe, and three in 2014), two in a 2–0 series victory over the West Indies in the West Indies in 2009. Six of Bangladesh’s ten test match victories came in between the years 2014 to 2017.

The team has been more successful in One Day International cricket (ODI). They reached the quarter-final of the 2015 Cricket World Cup. They also reached the semi-final of the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy. They whitewashed Pakistan in a home ODI series in 2015 followed by home ODI series wins against India and South Africa. They also won home ODI series by 4–0 in 2010 against New Zealand and whitewashed them in the home ODI series in 2013. In July 2010, they celebrated their first-ever win over England in England.

In late 2012, they won a five-match home ODI series 3-2 against a full-strength West Indies National team.

In 2011, Bangladesh successfully co-hosted the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 with India and Sri Lanka. They also hosted the 2014 ICC World Twenty20 championship. Bangladesh hosted the Asia Cup on four occasions in 2000, 2012, 2014, and 2016.

In 2012 Asia Cup, Bangladesh beat India and Sri Lanka but lost the final game against Pakistan. However, it was the first time Bangladesh had advanced to the final of any top-class international cricket tournament. They reached the final again at the 2016 Asia Cup and 2018 Asia Cup. They participated at the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, defeating Afghanistan to claim their Gold Medal in the first-ever cricket tournament held in the Asian Games. Bangladeshi cricketer Sakib Al Hasan is No.1 on the ICC’s all-rounder rankings in all three formats of the cricket.

Women’s sports saw tremendous progress in the 2010s decade in Bangladesh. In 2018 the Bangladesh women’s national cricket team the 2018 Women’s Twenty20 Asia Cup defeating India women’s national cricket team in the final.

Kabaddi—very popular in Bangladesh—is the national game. Other popular sports include field hockey, tennis, badminton, handball, football, chess, shooting, angling. The National Sports Council regulates 42 different sporting federations. On 4 November 2018, Bangladesh national under-15 football team won the 2018 SAFF U-15 Championship, defeating Pakistan national under-15 football team in the final. Bangladesh has five grandmasters in chess. Among them, Niaz Murshed was the first grandmaster in South Asia. In another achievement, Margarita Mamun, a Russian rhythmic gymnast of Bangladeshi origin, won gold medal in 2016 Summer Olympics and became world champion in the years 2013 and 2014.

Media and Cinema

Anwar Hossain in the film “Nawab Sir

The Bangladeshi press is diverse, outspoken and privately owned. Over 200 newspapers are published in the country. Bangladesh Betar is the state-run radio service. The British Broadcasting Corporation operates the popular BBC Bangla news and current affairs service. Bengali broadcasts from Voice of America are also very popular. Bangladesh Television (BTV) is the state-owned television network. There more than 20 privately owned television networks, including several news channels. Freedom of the media remains a major concern, due to government attempts at censorship and the harassment of journalists.

The cinema of Bangladesh dates back to 1898, when films began screening at the Crown Theatre in Dhaka. The first bioscope on the subcontinent was established in Dhaka that year. The Dhaka Nawab Family patronized the production of several silent films in the 1920s and 30s. In 1931, the East Bengal Cinematograph Society released the first full-length feature film in Bangladesh, titled the Last Kiss. The first feature film in East Pakistan, Mukh O Mukhosh, was released in 1956. During the 1960s, 25–30 films were produced annually in Dhaka. By the 2000s, Bangladesh produced 80–100 films a year. While the Bangladeshi film industry has achieved limited commercial success, the country has produced notable independent filmmakers. Zahir Raihan was a prominent documentary-maker who was assassinated in 1971. The late Tareque Masud is regarded as one of Bangladesh’s outstanding directors due to his numerous productions on historical and social issues. Masud was honored by FIPRESCI at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival for his film The Clay Bird. Tanvir Mokammel, Mostofa Sarwar Farooki, Humayun Ahmed, Alamgir Kabir, and Chashi Nazrul Islam are some of the prominent directors of Bangladeshi cinema. Bangladesh have very active film society culture. its started in 1963 at Dhaka. Now around 40 Film Society active in all over Bangladesh. Federation of Film Societies of Bangladesh is the parent organization of the film society movement of Bangladesh. Active film societies include the Rainbow Film Society, Children’s Film Society, Moviyana Film Society & Dhaka University Film Society.

Museums and Libraries

Museum in old Dhaka

The Varendra Research Museum is the oldest museum in Bangladesh. It houses important collections from both the pre-Islamic and Islamic periods, including the sculptures of the Pala-Sena School of Art and the Indus Valley Civilization; as well as Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian manuscripts and inscriptions. The Ahsan Manzil, the former residence of the Nawab of Dhaka, is a national museum housing collections from the British Raj. It was the site of the founding conference of the All India Muslim League and hosted many British Viceroys in Dhaka.

The Tajhat Palace Museum preserves artifacts of the rich cultural heritage of North Bengal, including Hindu-Buddhist sculptures and Islamic manuscripts. The Mymensingh Museum houses the personal antique collections of Bengali aristocrats in central Bengal. The Ethnological Museum of Chittagong showcases the lifestyle of various tribes in Bangladesh. The Bangladesh National Museum is located in Ramna, Dhaka and has a rich collection of antiquities. The Liberation War Museum documents the Bangladeshi struggle for independence and the 1971 genocide.

In ancient times, manuscripts were written on palm leaves, tree barks, parchment vellum and terracotta plates and preserved at monasteries known as viharas. The Hussain Shahi dynasty established royal libraries during the Bengal Sultanate. Libraries were established in each district of Bengal by the zamindar gentry during the Bengal Renaissance in the 19th century. The trend of establishing libraries continued until the beginning of World War II. In 1854, four major public libraries were opened, including the Bogra Woodburn Library, the Rangpur Public Library, the Jessore Institute Public Library and the Barisal Public Library.

The Northbrook Hall Public Library was established in Dhaka in 1882 in honour of Lord Northbrook, the Governor-General. Other libraries established in the British period included the Victoria Public Library, Natore (1901), the Sirajganj Public Library (1882), the Rajshahi Public Library (1884), the Comilla Birchandra Library (1885), the Shah Makhdum Institute Public Library, Rajshahi (1891), the Noakhali Town Hall Public Library (1896), the Prize Memorial Library, Sylhet (1897), the Chittagong Municipality Public Library (1904) and the Varendra Research Library (1910). The Great Bengal Library Association was formed in 1925. The Central Public Library of Dhaka was established in 1959. The National Library of Bangladesh was established in 1972. The World Literature Centre founded by Ramon Magsaysay Award winner Abdullah Abu Sayeed, is noted for operating numerous mobile libraries across Bangladesh and was awarded the UNESCO Jon Amos Comenius Medal.

COURTESY OF WIKIPEDIA.ORG

Living out the legacy of his mentor

The Epoch 1990-1993/1997-1999 Going Nuclear

President

  • Ghulam Ishaq Khan 17/8/1988-18/7/1993
  • Farooq Leghari 14/11/1993-2/12/1997
  • Mohammad Rafiq Tarar 1/1/1998-20/6/2001

Prime Minister

Main Nawaz Sharif : 6/11/1990-18/4/1993; 17/2/1997-12/10/1999

Chief of Army Staff

  • General Mirza Aslam Baig 17/8/1988-16/8/1991
  • General Asif Nawaz Janjua 16/8/1991-8/1/1993
  • General Abdul Waheed Kakar 12/1/1993-12/1/1996
  • General Jahangir Karamat 12/1/1996-7/10/1998
  • General Pervez Musharraf 7/10/1998-28/11/2007

Chief Justice

  • Muhammad Afzal Zullah 1/1/1990-18/4/1993
  • Nasim Hassan Shah 18/4/1993-14/4/1994
  • Sajjad Ali Shah 5/6/1994-2/12/1997
  • Ajmal Mian 23/12/1997-30/6/1999
  • Saeed-uz-Zaman Siddiqui 1/7/1999-26/1/2000

Main Nawaz Sharif became the prime minister of the country twice within two decades of the death of General Ziaul Haq, his principal benefactor, and his two terms were like a sequel of the general’s regime. His priorities were theocratisation of the polity, promotion of free enterprise, fulfilment of nuclear ambitions, and assertion of civilian authorities’ rights through centralization of power in himself. While doing the last part, he clashed with the establishment and lost power in the first term, and both authority and freedom in the second one.

For obvious reasons the business community’s interest came first with Nawaz Sharif. Several steps were taken under the label of economic reform, including a tax holiday for some, abolition of restrictions on bringing foreign exchange into the country or taking it out and on maintaining foreign currency accounts, and no questions asked. Privatization of not only nationalized units but also other enterprises, such as PIA and WAPDA, was undertaken with extraordinary zeal. Despite allegations of irregularities these steps increased the prime minister’s popularity in the circles that mattered.

Soon after assuming power in both terms Nawaz Sharif displayed his love for special courts. In the first term, Article 212A that Zia had crafted in 1979 for setting up military courts and which was dropped in 1985. These special courts were not subject to high courts and the Supreme Court and were assailed for being a parallel judicial system.

In the second term, the special courts were rejected by the Supreme Court 10 months after their formation and this became one of the issues in the skirmishes between the prime minister and the Chief Justice. However, an already brutalized public was happy.

Nawaz Sharif also gained in popularity with the masses by using force rather indiscriminately to curb lawlessness in Karachi, and more goodwill when he decided to punish the MQM after Hakim Saeed’s murder by dropping it from the coalition and ordering a crackdown in Karachi.

He also persisted in his campaign against Benazir Bhutto in the first term in the form of President’s references, and against her husband Asif Ali Zardari in the second term through the Ehtesab Cell that he had created to the chagrin of the chief ehtesab commissioner by amending the Ehtesab Act.

Soon after becoming the prime minister in 1990, Nawaz Sharif revived Ziaul Haq’s so-called Islamization drive with a Shariat Enforcement Act, but a major effort in this direction was made in his second term in the shape of the 15th Amendment that had two objectives. First, it sought to add Article 2B to the Constitution declaring Quran and Sunnah to be the supreme law, and, secondly, it proposed that the Constitution could be amended by a simple majority of members present in either house or at a joint session of the parliament.

Countrywide protests forced the government to abandon the second part of the bill and the National Assembly only adopted the proposal to add Article 2B to the basic laws. It read: “The federal government shall be under an obligation to take all steps to enforce the Shariah, to enforce Salat, to administer Zakat, to promote amr bil ma’roof and nahi unil munkar (to prescribe what is right and to forbid what is wrong), to eradicate corruption at all levels, and to provide substantial socio economic justice in accordance with the principles of Islam as laid down in the Quran and Sunnah.”

The bill resembled the Zia sponsored 9th Amendment that was adopted by the National Assembly in 1986, but it was not sent to the Senate and lapsed. Similarly, the 15th Amendment was withheld from the Senate as the government was not sure of its majority there and it too lapsed. The text of the 9th and 15th Amendments is not found in our statute books. Thus ended Nawaz Sharif’s bid to push Zia’s Islamization further and to change the Constitution through a single enactment.

During the second term, several issues – Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions, policy towards India, and the army chief’s desire to steal a military victory over India – got intertwined and offered Nawaz Sharif a mixed bag of joy and disappointment.

He met Indian Premier Inder Kumar Gujral during the SAARC summit and they agreed to be friends. Shortly thereafter, Attal Bihari Vajpayee became the prime minister of India. Among the first things the BJP government did was to carry out five nuclear tests in May 1998 that brought Nawaz Sharif under intense pressure from the people and the military to achieve parity with India in terms of nuclear capability.

Ignoring the strong advice of the country’s main economic patrons and partners, he allowed five nuclear tests on May 28, 1998, and a sixth two days later. This made the prime minister highly popular with the military and the people, but the steps accompanying the blasts, especially freezing of foreign currency accounts that the judiciary eventually overruled, did not.

Vajpayee met Nawaz Sharif in New York and proposed the start of a friendship bus service between India and Pakistan. Nawaz Sharif, with his characteristic impulsiveness, promptly agreed. Vajpayee duly arrived in Lahore by bus in February 1999 and the event did cause a thaw in India Pakistan relations, but it did not yield Nawaz Sharif the political dividend he had expected because the people had not been prepared for the policy shift and the army had not been taken on board.

Then almost from nowhere Kargil happened. The prime minister feigned ignorance of the operation to capture a few Kargil peaks while the army chief, General Pervez Musharraf, maintained that everything had been cleared by his civilian boss. As was expected, India threw its Air Force and heavy guns into the battle and Islamabad got worried. Nawaz Sharif literally forced the US president Bill Clinton to see him on July 4, 1999, the American National Day, and agreed to pull back his troops. The people, fed on stories that Pakistan had always defeated India in armed encounters, were unhappy. Worse, the army top brass put down Nawaz Sharif as a person they could not trust, a perception that was going to cause Nawaz Sharif’s downfall more than once.

Nawaz Sharif’s desire to completely control the government brought him into conflict early in his first term with president Ghulam Ishaq who also considered himself a true inheritor of Ziaul Haq’s mantle.

Among other things he denied the Premier any say in the selection of judges and appointed General Abdul Waheed Kakar as the army chief, following the sudden death of General Asif Nawaz, without informing the prime minister. In April 1993, Nawaz Sharif denounced the president in a TV address and the next day the president dissolved the National Assembly and sent him packing.

The Supreme Court restored Nawaz Sharif in the saddle only 37 days later. His failure to oust the Punjab chief minister, Manzoor Wattoo, who was openly supported by the president, reignited the feud with Ghulam Ishaq. Eventually, the army chief intervened and both vacated their offices in July 1993.

General Kakar, the gentleman general who coveted neither power nor glory for himself, demonstrated that even if the army had to intervene in a political crisis, imposition of military rule was not the only solution, a precedent yet to be emulated.

When Nawaz Sharif regained power in February 1997, the circumstances were wholly in his favour. He had two thirds majority in the National and Punjab assemblies and his party was able to form coalition governments in Sindh and the NWFP (since renamed KP). Armed with heavy mandate, he resumed his drive to eliminate the rival centres of power.

No trouble was expected from president Farooq Leghari with whom Nawaz Sharif was reported to have struck a deal before the PPP government was sacked and who had allegedly facilitated the Sharif brothers’ election in the 1997 elections by amending the ineligibility laws related to loan defaulters. The president was paid off with a Senate ticket for a relative, appointment of a friend as Punjab governor, and obliging Zulfikar Khosa to make up with Leghari.

Having done all that, Nawaz Sharif calmly told a befuddled Leghari of his decision to remove Article 58-2 (B) from the Constitution that was to deprive him of power to sack a government. The formality was completed the next day with the adoption of the 13th Amendment, a step hailed by all democrats.

Meanwhile, the prime minister’s relations with Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah deteriorated. While sparring over the selection of five judges for the Supreme Court, both resorted to bizarre tactics; the PM reduced the Supreme Court strength from 17 judges to 12, hoping to remove the need for new appointments, and the Chief Justice suspended a constitutional amendment. Eventually, the Premier gave in. But the suspension of the 14th Amendment on legislators’ defection, which gave the party bosses the last word, annoyed the prime minister and he declared that while he had ended ‘lotacracy’ the Supreme Court had restored it.

Soon enough, the chief justice hauled up the prime minister for contempt. What followed was incredible. The Supreme Court was stormed by an N-League mob that included several parliamentarians. The chief justice’s appeal for succour was heeded neither by the president nor by the army chief. Eventually, Justice Sajjad Ali Shah was dethroned by his brother judges through a process that is still mentioned in whispers, and ironically enough, he fell a victim to his own judgement in the Al-Jihad Trust case. Before the year 1997 ended, president Leghari resigned to hand Nawaz Sharif his second victory in quick time.

In October 1998, army chief General Jahangir Karamat suggested the formation of a National Security Council. This, too, was first proposed by General Zia and he had inserted an article to this effect in the Constitution, but it was deleted at the time of the bargain over the 8th Amendment on the terms and conditions for lifting martial law in 1985.

Nawaz Sharif asked the army chief to resign and the latter complied with the order (though he had the last laugh when after sometime a National Security Council indeed started functioning).

By the end of 1998, Nawaz Sharif had freed himself of all possible threats from the presidency, the judiciary and the GHQ, and has become the most powerful ruler of Pakistan ever. But he had built a castle on sand. On October 12, 1999, he ordered General Musharraf’s replacement as the army chief by the then ISI chief who had failed to warn him of the officer corps’ decision not to tolerate the ‘humiliation’ of another chief. The Musharraf plane affair was bungled and the army took over. His arrest, conviction for plane hijack and exile to Saudi Arabia for nearly eight years is another story in political wilderness.

Through courtesy:

Living out the legacy of his mentor by I A Rehman.

The writer is a senior political analyst and a human rights activist.

Dawn Nov.18, 2017

Majid Khan, Cricketer

Majid Jahangir Khan is a former cricketer, batsman and captain of the Pakistan cricket team. In his prime, Majid Khan was considered one of the best batsmen in the world, able to decimate any bowling attack, including the mighty West Indian fast bowlers of that era. It is a shame that over an 18-year Test career, he only played in 63 Test matches, primarily because Pakistan played a very limited Test match schedule. Thus, the cricketing world was deprived of the pleasure of watching one of the greatest exponents of batting in the world. Khan’s first-class career spanned 1961 to 1985. Overall, he played 63 Tests for Pakistan, scoring 3,931 runs with 8 centuries, scored over 27,000 first-class runs and made 73 first-class centuries, with 128 fifties. Majid played his last Test for Pakistan in January 1983 against India at Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore and his last One Day International (ODI) was in July 1982 against England at Old Trafford, Manchester.

Early life

Born on 28 September 1946 in Ludhiana, in the state of Punjab in India, Khan grew up in Lahore, the capital of the Punjab in Pakistan. His father, Jahangir Khan, had played Test cricket for British India before the independence of Pakistan in 1947. Majid Khan started his career as a pace bowler, but a back injury and doubts over his technique converted him into an off-spin bowler and batsman. He also played for:

  • Glamorgan and Cambridge University in Britain
  • Queensland in Australia
  • Pakistan International Airlines
  • Rawalpindi
  • Punjab

Majid’s father, Dr. Jahangir Khan, famously killed a bird in flight while bowling during an MCC vs. Cambridge University match in 1936. This bird is now part of the permanent MCC museum exhibit at Lord’s Cricket ground. Dr. Jahangir Khan was the Chief Selector of then Board of Control for Cricket in Pakistan (BCCP) when Majid Khan was close to national selection. Dr. Jahangir Khan resigned from his post to maintain the impartiality of the Cricket Board during selection.

International career

Majid’s Test career started in 1964 against Australia at National Stadium, Karachi. Khan is one of only five batsmen (the other four are Trumper, Macartney, Bradman, and Warner) to have scored a century before lunch in a test match, scoring 108 not-out off 112 balls against New Zealand in Karachi during the 1976–77 test series.

Khan made his ODI debut against New Zealand in 1973 at Lancaster Park, New Zealand. He also holds the unique honour of scoring the first one-day century for Pakistan, in an ODI against England at Trent bridge on 31 August 1974. Khan scored 109 from 93 balls with 16 fours and a six.

Majid had played for Lahore since 1961–62 and had made his Test debut against Australia in 1964–65 and toured England and Wales with the 1967 Pakistanis. During a match with Glamorgan, Majid blasted a rapid 147 in 89 minutes, hitting Roger Davis for five sixes in one over. Wilf Wooller, the club secretary, had been a close friend of Majid’s father when Dr Jahangir Khan had been up at Cambridge, and the influential Glamorgan secretary persuaded Glamorgan county to sign him as the overseas player from 1968.

In 1972 he won the Walter Lawrence Trophy for the season’s fastest century which he scored in 70 minutes for Glamorgan against Warwickshire. He captained the Welsh county between 1973 and 1976, scored over 9000 runs punctuated with 21 first-class centuries for them. Imran Khan, the legendary Pakistani ex-captain and fast bowler, and Javed Burki are his cousins. Bazid Khan, Majid’s son, has also played for Pakistan, making the family the second, after the Headleys, to have three consecutive generations of Test cricketers.

Initially, Majid Khan continued to boost Pakistan’s middle order, until he was promoted to fill the opener’s slot with Sadiq Mohammad in 1974. He was the first century scorer for Pakistan in One Day International Cricket, scoring 108 runs against England at Trent Bridge, Nottingham in the same season. Majid Khan was also a specialist slip fielder and made most catches look easy. Khan was also well known as a “walker”, maintaining the standards of the game in an era when professionalism was straining at the game’s traditional etiquette.

The 1976–77 tour of West Indies was the most remarkable period for Majid Khan, where he scored 530 Test runs against one of the most powerful bowling attacks in the history of the game. His best innings was perhaps the 167 in Pakistan’s second innings at Georgetown that saved Pakistan from likely defeat. Pakistan lost that series 2–1.

On 30 October 1976, while playing against New Zealand in Karachi, he became only the fourth cricketer to score a century before lunch on the first day of a Test match, after Victor Trumper, Charlie Macartney and Don Bradman.

After retirement from International Cricket, Khan became an administrator with the Pakistan Cricket Board, becoming the CEO of the board in mid-1990s.

He now lives in Islamabad.

Courtesy: Wikipedia.org

Admiral Graf Spee

Admiral Graf Spee was a Deutschland-class heavy cruiser which served with the Kriegsmarine during World War IL. The vessel was named after Admiral Maximilian von Spee, commander of the East Asia Squadron that fought the battles of Coronel and the Falkland Islands, where he was killed in action, in World War I.

graf_spee_fahrten

She was ordered by the Reichsmarine from the Reichsmarinewerft shipyard in Wilhelmshaven. Her keel was laid on 1 October 1932, and the ship was launched on 30 June 1934; at her launching, she was christened by the daughter of Admiral Maximilian von Spee, the ship’s namesake. The ship was completed slightly over a year and a half, and commissioned into the German fleet on 6 January 1936. She was nominally under the 10,000 long tons (10,000 t) limitation on warship size imposed by the Treaty of Versailles, though with a full load displacement of 16,020 long tons (16,280 t), this was significantly exceeded. Armed with six 28 cm (11 in) guns in two triple gun turrets, Admiral Graf Spee and her sisters were designed to outgun any cruiser fast enough to catch them. Their top speed of 28 knots (52 km/h; 32 mph) left only the few battle cruisers in the Anglo-French navies fast enough and powerful enough to sink them.

Admiral Graf Spee spent the first three months of her career conducting extensive sea trials to ready the ship for service. The ship’s first commander was Kapitän KzS Conrad Patzig; he was replaced in 1937 by Walter Warzecha. After joining the fleet, she became the flagship of the German Navy.

  • In the summer of 1936, following the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, she deployed to the Atlantic to participate in non-intervention patrols off the Republican-held coast of Spain.
  • Between August 1936 and May 1937, the ship conducted three patrols off Spain.
  • On the return voyage from Spain, Admiral Graf Spee stopped in Great Britain to represent Germany in the Coronation Review on May 20 at Spithead for King George VI.
  • After the conclusion of the Review, Admiral Graf Spee returned to Spain for a fourth non-intervention patrol.
  • Following fleet manoeuvres and a brief visit to Sweden,
  • The ship conducted a fifth and final patrol in February 1938.

In 1938, KzS Hans Langsdorff took command of the vessel; she conducted a series of goodwill visits to various foreign ports throughout the year. These included cruises into the Atlantic, where she stopped in Tangier and Vigo. She also participated in extensive fleet manoeuvres in German waters. She was part of the celebrations for the reintegration of the port of Memel into Germany, and a fleet review in honour of Admiral Miklós Horthy, the Regent of Hungary. Between 18 April and 17 May 1939, she conducted another cruise into the Atlantic, stopping in the ports of Ceuta and Lisbon. On 21 August 1939, Admiral Graf Spee departed Wilhelmshaven, bound for the South Atlantic.

World War II: following the outbreak of war between Germany and the Allies in September 1939, Adolf Hitler ordered the German Navy to begin commerce raiding against Allied merchant traffic. Hitler nevertheless delayed issuing the order until it became clear that Britain would not countenance a peace treaty following the conquest of Poland. The Admiral Graf Spee was instructed to strictly adhere to prize rules, which required raiders to stop and search ships for contraband before sinking them, and to ensure that their crews are safely evacuated. Langsdorff was ordered to avoid combat, even with inferior opponents, and to frequently change position. On 1 September, the cruiser rendezvoused with her supply ship Altmark southwest of the Canary Islands. While replenishing his fuel supplies, Langsdorff ordered superfluous equipment transferred to the Altmark; this included several of the ship’s boats, flammable paint, and two of her ten 2 cm anti-aircraft guns, which were installed on the tanker.

On 11 September, while still transferring supplies from Altmark, Admiral Graf Spee’s Arado floatplane spotted the British heavy cruiser HMS Cumberland approaching the two German ships. Langsdorff ordered both vessels to depart at high speed, successfully evading the British cruiser. On 26 September, the ship finally received orders authorizing attacks on Allied merchant shipping. Four days later Admiral Graf Spee’s Arado located Booth Steam Ship Co’s cargo ship Clement off the coast of Brazil. The cargo ship transmitted an “RRR” signal, “I am under attack by a raider” before the cruiser ordered her to stop.

Admiral Graf Spee took Clement’s captain and chief engineer prisoner but let the rest of her crew to abandon ship in the lifeboats. The cruiser then fired 30 rounds from her 28 cm and 15 cm guns and two torpedoes at the cargo ship, which broke up and sank. Langsdorff ordered a distress signal sent to the naval station in Pernambuco to ensure the rescue of the ship’s crew. The British Admiralty immediately issued a warning to merchant shipping that a German surface raider was in the area. The British crew later reached the Brazilian coast in their lifeboats.

On 5 October, the British and French navies formed eight groups to hunt down Admiral Graf Spee in the South Atlantic. The British aircraft carriers HMS Hermes, Eagle, and Ark Royal, the French aircraft carrier Béarn, the British battlecruiser Renown, and French battleships Dunkerque and Strasbourg, and 16 cruisers were committed to the hunt. Force G, commanded by Commodore Henry Harwood and assigned to the east coast of South America, comprised the cruisers Cumberland and Exeter. Force G was reinforced by the light cruisers Ajax and Achilles; Harwood detached Cumberland to patrol the area off the Falkland Islands while his other three cruisers patrolled off the River Plate.

  • On the same day as the formation of the Anglo-French hunter groups, Admiral Graf Spee captured the steamer Newton Beech. Two days later, she encountered and sank the merchant ship Ashlea.
  • On 8 October, the following day, she sank Newton Beech, which Langsdorff had been using to house prisoners. Newton Beech was too slow to keep up with Admiral Graf Spee, and so the prisoners were transferred to the cruiser.
  • On 10 October, she captured the steamer Huntsman, the captain of which had not sent a distress signal until the last minute, as he had mistakenly identified Admiral Graf Spee as a French warship. Unable to accommodate the crew from Huntsman, Admiral Graf Spee sent the ship to a rendezvous location with a prize crew.
  • On 15 October, Admiral Graf Spee rendezvoused with Altmark to refuel and transfer prisoners; the following morning, the prize Huntsman joined the two ships. The prisoners aboard Huntsman were transferred to Altmark and Langsdorff then sank Huntsman on the night of 17 October.
  • On 22 October, Admiral Graf Spee encountered and sank the steamer Trevanion. At the end of October, Langsdorff sailed his ship into the Indian Ocean south of Madagascar. The purpose of that foray was to divert Allied warships away from the South Atlantic, and to confuse the Allies about his intentions.
  • By this time, Admiral Graf Spee had cruised for almost 30,000 nautical miles (56,000 km; 35,000 mi) and needed an engine overhaul.
  • On 15 November, the ship sank the tanker Africa Shell, and the following day, she stopped an unidentified Dutch steamer, though did not sink her.
  • Admiral Graf Spee returned to the Atlantic between 17 and 26 November to refuel from Altmark. While replenishing supplies, the crew of Admiral Graf Spee built a dummy gun turret on her bridge and erected a dummy second funnel behind the aircraft catapult to alter her silhouette significantly in a bid to confuse allied shipping as to her true identity.
  • Admiral Graf Spee’s Arado floatplane located the merchant ship Doric Star: Langsdorff fired a shot across her bow to stop the ship. Doric Star was able to send out a distress signal before she was sunk, which prompted Harwood to take his three cruisers to the mouth of the River Plate, which he estimated would be Langsdorff’s next target.
  • On the night of 5 December, Admiral Graf Spee sank the steamer Tairoa. The next day, she met with Altmark and transferred 140 prisoners from Doric Star and Tairoa.
  • Admiral Graf Spee encountered her last victim on the evening of 7 December: the freighter Streonshalh. The prize crew recovered secret documents containing shipping route information.
  • Based on that information, Langsdorff decided to head for the seas off Montevideo. On 12 December, the ship’s Arado196 broke down and could not be repaired, depriving Graf Spee of her aerial reconnaissance. The ship’s disguise was removed, so it would not hinder the ship in battle.

Battle of the River Plate

  • At 05:30 on the morning of 13 December 1939, lookouts spotted a pair of masts off the ship’s starboard bow. Langsdorff assumed this to be the escort for a convoy mentioned in the documents recovered from Tairoa.
  • At 05:52, however, the ship was identified as HMS Exeter; she was accompanied by a pair of smaller warships, initially thought to be destroyers but quickly identified as Leander-class cruisers. Langsdorff decided not to flee from the British ships, and so ordered his ship to battle stations and to close at maximum speed.
  • At 06:08, the British spotted Admiral Graf Spee; Commodore Harwood divided his forces up to split the fire of Admiral Graf Spee’s 28 cm guns. The German ship opened fire with her main battery at Exeter and her secondary guns at the flagship Ajax at 06:17.
  • At 06:20, Exeter returned fire, followed by Ajax at 06:21 and Achilles at 06:24. In the span of thirty minutes, Admiral Graf Spee had hit Exeter three times, disabling her two forward turrets, destroying her bridge and her aircraft catapult, and starting major fires. Ajax and Achilles moved closer to Admiral Graf Spee to relieve the pressure on Exeter. Langsdorff thought the two light cruisers were making a torpedo attack, and turned away under a smokescreen.
  • The respite allowed Exeter to withdraw from the action; by now, only one of her gun turrets was still in action, and she had suffered 61 dead and 23 wounded crew members.
  • At around 07:00, Exeter returned to the engagement, firing from her stern turret. Admiral Graf Spee fired on her again, scored more hits, and forced Exeter to withdraw again, this time with a list to port.
  • At 07:25, Admiral Graf Spee scored a hit on Ajax that disabled her aft turrets. Both sides broke off the action, Admiral Graf Spee retreating into the River Plate estuary, while Harwood’s battered cruisers remained outside to observe any possible breakout attempts. In the course of the engagement, Admiral Graf Spee had been hit approximately 70 times; 36 men were killed and 60 more were wounded, including Langsdorff, who had been wounded twice by splinters while standing on the open bridge.

 

graf_spee_scuttled

Scuttling in Montevideo: as a result of battle damage and casualties, Langsdorff decided to put into Montevideo, where repairs could be effected and the wounded men could be evacuated from the ship. Most of the hits scored by the British cruisers caused only minor structural and superficial damage but the oil purification plant, which was required to prepare the diesel fuel for the engines, was destroyed. Her desalination plant and galley were also destroyed, which would have increased the difficulty of a return to Germany. A hit in the bow would also have negatively affected her seaworthiness in the heavy seas of the North Atlantic. Admiral Graf Spee had fired much of her ammunition in the engagement with Harwood’s cruisers. After arriving in port, the wounded crewmen were taken to local hospitals and the dead were buried with full military honours. Captive Allied seamen still aboard the ship were released. Repairs necessary to make the ship seaworthy were expected to take up to two weeks.

British naval intelligence worked to convince Langsdorff that vastly superior forces were concentrating to destroy his ship, if he attempted to break out of the harbour. The Admiralty broadcast a series of signals, on frequencies known to be intercepted by German intelligence. The closest heavy units—the carrier Ark Royal and battlecruiser Renown—were some 2,500 nm (4,600 km; 2,900 mi) away, much too far to intervene in the situation. Believing the British reports, Langsdorff discussed his options with commanders in Berlin. These were either to break out and seek refuge in Buenos Aires, where the Argentine government would intern the ship, or to scuttle the ship in the Plate estuary.

Langsdorff was unwilling to risk the lives of his crew, so he decided to scuttle the ship. He knew that although Uruguay was neutral, the government was on friendly terms with Britain and if he allowed his ship to be interned, the Uruguayan Navy would allow British intelligence officers access to the ship. Under Article 17 of the Hague Convention, neutrality restrictions limited Admiral Graf Spee to a period of 72 hours for repairs in Montevideo, before she would be interned for the duration of the war.On 17 December 1939, Langsdorff ordered the destruction of all important equipment aboard the ship. The  ship’s remaining ammunition supply was dispersed throughout the ship, in preparation for scuttling.

On 18 December, the ship, with only Langsdorff and 40 other men aboard, moved into the outer roadstead to be scuttled. A crowd of 20,000 watched as the scuttling charges were set; the crew was taken off by an Argentine tug and the ship was scuttled at 20:55. The multiple explosions from the munitions sent jets of flame high into the air and created a large cloud of smoke that obscured the ship which burned in the shallow water for the next two days.

On 20 December, in his room in a Buenos Aires hotel, Langsdorff shot himself in full dress uniform and lying on the ship’s battle ensign. In late January 1940, the neutral American cruiser USS Helena arrived in Montevideo and the crew was permitted to visit the wreck of Admiral Graf Spee. The Americans met the German crewmen, who were still in Montevideo. In the aftermath of the scuttling, the ship’s crew were taken to Argentina, where they were interned for the remainder of the war.

Photo by Imperial War Museum staff – This is photograph HU 3285 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums (collection no. 6307-02), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5097614

By S. W. Roskill – The War at Sea 1939–1945, Chapter VI, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6344759

By courtesy Wikipedia.org