D Day is a notable time at Amesbury. We reflect on our strong connections during World War II with General Sir Bernard Montgomery – a connection which is still present today.
British Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery (1887-1976) was among the most decorated military leaders of World War II. Tapped to take command of the Eighth Army, he earned renown for his part in the first major Allied land victory at El Alamein, Egypt, in 1942. Montgomery became ground commander of the Anglo-American forces under Dwight D. Eisenhower, and his insistence that invasion forces be increased from three to eight divisions was essential to the Allies’ success on D-Day in 1944. After the war, Montgomery served as chief of the Imperial General Staff, and later as deputy to Eisenhower at NATO.
“Contenders for the title are few, but “Monty” was indisputably Britain’s greatest soldier since Wellington. He was better known for his outstanding professionalism and sense of “balance” than for his talents in getting on with his contemporaries–notably the American ones.” (www.History.com)
Montgomery’s son David started school at Amesbury in 1936 and during the 1940’s the estate was ‘home’ for Montgomery and his son. By D Day in 1944, Amesbury had become Montgomery’s Rear HQ, making his final plans here for D Day. Crucially he also used the estate during the weeks before D Day to take time to quietly reflect and make notes. Montgomery understood the importance of supporting his generals, much like Churchill, and used his time at Amesbury to plan, prepare and reflect.
On 5 June 1944 Montgomery dined at Amesbury before leaving for Normandy. During that evening Montgomery visited our Hindhead estate to meet the Headmaster, Mr Reynolds, and to make final arrangements regarding his son David, making Reynolds and his wife David’s guardians.
Always keeping Amesbury close to his heart King George V1 gave Montgomery his consent to allow the Amesbury Chapel Choir to wear scarlet cassocks – a tradition proudly still upheld today.
To commemorate these links a plaque was put on the door of his room in the Head’s house with the 21st Army Group sign and it was here and in the summerhouse in the remembrance garden that he was visited by his staff and generals. The school mascot ‘Monty Bear’ is a much-loved part of the school, sitting proudly in the Headmistress’s study and happily watching the children walk by each day.