- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 9 Jun 1969, p. 299-323
- de Guingand, Major General Sir Francis, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- Some introductory remarks by Lt. Col. Robert H. Hilborn, Major Edward A. Dunlop, and introduction by Mr. Edward B. Jolliffe. First, a taped message from Field Marshal Montgomery who was unable to attend. The 25th anniversary year of D-Day, June, 1944. Address by Sir Francis.
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- 9 Jun 1969
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- JUNE 9, 1969
D_Day Dinner Commemorating the 25th Anniversary of D Day
AN ADDRESS BY Major General Sir Francis de Guingand, K.B.E., C.B., D.S.O.
CHAIRMAN Lt. Col. Edward A. Royce, E.C.
LT. COL. ROBERT H. HILBORN, M.B.E.:
Mr. Chairman, Your Honour, My Lord, Mr. President, Sir Francis, distinguished head table guests, members of The Empire Club and friends.
In addition to being a forum, The Empire Club is both a tradition and a symbol and as such has a duty like all symbols to promote and maintain cultural memory. But symbols are deeply and permanently effective only when their meanings and implications are clearly understood. All men need symbols and rituals of some sort whether sacred or secular and indeed cannot do and do not do without them.
There are those who regard our honourable and traditional name as an anachronistic relic--bereft of any current validity. Granted that the word "empire" is not the current designation for the union perpetuating those strong loyalties that bind the British Commonwealth together it will continue to be an honoured and appropriate synonym as long as such a union exists.
Because the dragons are roaring with laughter at St. George being struck from the list, does this mean that England will reject his patronage as well as those societies, churches, channels and schools that bear his now unsainted name?
I suspect that the Admiral and Air Marshal present avoid referring to their proud services by the euphemistic designations decreed by our politicians. Rather than advancing the misguided cause of unification it seems to me that calling the Navy the "Sea Environment" and the Air Force the "Air Environment" tends to make fish of one and fowl of the other. Imagine referring to the Household Cavalry as "Her Majesty's Stable Environment."
While we are not a club as other clubs are and we now have a Commonwealth rather than an Empire, it would be the height of folly with our unsettled present and unpredictable future to jettison what we have found sound in our past.
I ask you, gentlemen, to charge your glasses, rise and drink with me to the continued strength of Canada's outstanding forum--The Empire Club of Canada.
MAJOR EDWARD A. DUNLOP, G.M., O.B.E., M.P.P.:
Mr. Chairman, Gen. de Guingand, My Lord, Colonel Hilborn, Gentlemen:
I am sure that the Club deeply appreciates the thoughtful, graceful and witty toast which Colonel Hilborn has proposed.
The Club is pleased, and indeed honoured to continue to furnish a forum--as it has for 60 and more years--for discussion of matters of domestic and international importance. Far from being an anachronism, the Club is as relevant to the issues of the day as is the day itself.
As the man who knows not from whence he cometh can hardly know whither he goest, so too societies and nations. The Empire Club takes the backward glances necessary for us to know where we are, and pays honour to the institutions and events which form part of our history and of our heritage.
I think, Mr. Chairman, that the Club takes particular pride in these special occasions, these special dinners which are held to mark events of particular significance. The crucial date of June 6, 1944 has already entered history. The Club is proud and honoured to be able to mark what must be considered one of the important turning points in the story of mankind's struggle against tyranny. I am sure I speak for members of the Club--certainly for what is probably the majority of us who were not there that day in paying grateful respect to that hardy band who were there, not only to those who did not return, but also to those who came back.
Our distinguished guest this evening, whom I have the honour to introduce, is Major-General Sir Francis W. de Guingand, K.B.E., D.S.O. He was born early in this century, joined the Army as a 2nd lieutenant between the two wars, and among the officers with whom he served at York during that period was Major Bernard Montgomery.
Later he saw service in India and in London on the staff of the Secretary of State for War.
Early in the Second World War it was his lot to serve in North Africa at a time when many battles were won and lost. As you all know he was the 8th Army's Chief of Staff from 1942 to 1944, and in the last two and decisive years of the war he was Chief of Staff, 21 Army Group. It would be difficult to exaggerate the importance of his work in the planning and organization of many successful undertakings in those years.
At Agincourt, five hundred and fifty-five years ago, Henry V and his lightly-armed men routed a more powerful army, four times as large in numbers. Of that battle, Drayton said:
Battles so bravely won Have ever to the sun By fame been raised.
But planning and preparation had much to do with it also and the same could be said of what happened on D-Day, 25 years ago, and the campaigning which followed.
In his memoirs Lord Montgomery has described his arrival at Cairo in August, 1942, to take command of the 8th Army, and his choice of our guest as Chief of Staff. On that choice Lord Montgomery years later gave his own assessment, in these words:
"I have never regretted that decision. Freddie de Guingand and I went through the rest of the war together. Wherever I went, he came as my Chief of Staff; we journeyed side by side from Alamein to Berlin. And as we went, he grew in stature and I realized how lucky I was. He was a brilliant Chief of Staff and I doubt if such a one has ever before existed in the British Army or will ever do so again."
Your honour, My Lord, distinguished guests, Mr. Chairman, and old comrades, I must say I am very touched, sir, by the very undeserved remarks you have just made. Nevertheless I thank you for them.
I also would like to thank you all for this wonderful hospitality which I have received tonight. It was a very different occasion from the one that Sir Alec Douglas Home told us about in London the other day. He apparently went to some great banquet for some organization, and the food was pretty crummy, and they could hardly get a drink (I have not noticed any problems in that respect tonight) and when an officer of this organization got up at the end of dinner to propose the toast to "absent friends" he said, "Ladies and gentlemen, will you rise and join with me in a toast to absent friends, coupled with the name of the winewaiter!"
Now, gentlemen, I am afraid tonight it is very sad that you have not got our old chief Montgomery with you. And therefore I realize very humbly that I am receiving a certain amount of reflected glory.
I went to see him the Sunday before last and asked him to record a message to you all. I thought you might like to hear it. I found him in reasonably good heart. He has had a checkup by his doctors, who refuse to let him travel very much these days. And much as he would have liked to be here with you tonight, I am afraid he was not allowed to take the journey. However, he has recorded this message.
We talked about old times and we talked about old friends. And so many of these great commanders in the war have left us. Only two days ago we heard of the death of that very lovable man, Bimbo Dempsey. And there it is.
And he is now nearly eighty-two. But he is very alert; the mind is alert. But he says he feels his age.
He asked me to explain to you how very sorry he was he could not be with you tonight. I would like now to ask you to listen to a message from our old wartime chief, Field Marshal The Viscount Montgomery of Alamein.
Taped message from Field Marshal Montgomery:
"This is the twenty-fifth anniversary year of D-Day, June, 1944, and I had hoped to attend your dinner at Toronto tonight in remembrance of the invasion of Normandy. But the doctors intervened and said, 'No.' They further said I must undergo treatment for certain things they had found wrong.
"So instead I send you my greetings and best wishes by Sir Francis de Guingand, my Chief of Staff from Alamein to Berlin. And he will be well known to many of you.
"In this message I would like to speak mainly to those Canadians who were my comrades-in-arms during those momentous days.
"In looking back at June, 1944, we must never forget certain matters. Let me indicate a few. First, the German war was won by the close co-operation between the various forces of the allies, military and civil. And this cannot be emphasized too strongly.
"Second, the mighty weapon of air power had revolutionized the strategy and tactics of war at sea and on land. The armies could not have carried out their part in the invasion plan in Normandy without mastery in the air over the area of operations. And this we had in full measure.
"Third, notwithstanding the successful activities of the allied navy and air forces, the German war had to be won finally on land by a defeat of Hitler's armies. And this we knew when the invasion of Normandy was being planned.
"Next physical fitness was going to play an important part when the soldiers reached Normandy, whether by sea or by air. The soldiers had to be imbued with that determination and that infectious optimism which comes from physical wellbeing. Tiredness, fear, appalling conditions, the virtual certainty of wounds and the probability of death all will be faced by the fighting man if he has a stout heart, knows what he is fighting for, has confidence in his officers and his comrades, and if he knows he will never be required to do anything which is not possible.
"Now, these things are important. However good the planning may be there comes a time in every battle when the issue hangs in the balance. The fog of war has descended on the battle. The power then passes from the generals and goes to the soldiers. And victory will depend on their courage, their tenacity in the battle, their refusal to admit defeat, their determination to conquer or die in the attempt.
"In fact you can say that the battle is won finally by the regimental officers and men, however good the generals may be, or however bad.
"All those who took part in the invasion of Normandy on DDay, June 6th, 1944, were quite clear about all these matters. And that is why we won."
Well, gentlemen, there you have a message straight from the old war horse's mouth.
Talking of taking the place of one's senior officer, reminds me of a story when they were celebrating the end of the war in Europe.
There was a great lunch party in some town in Germany, and the admiral was asked, and the general commanding the troops was asked, and the chief airman was asked. And at the end of lunch the admiral got up, and he made a pretty good speech. And at the end of it he said how pleased he was to see the three services represented, particularly his sister service, the "Cinderella" of the services, the Royal Air Force; by a flight lieutenant, because the air marshal had got flu and had sent his ADC instead.
And then the general got up and made the same sort of speech. And he said precisely the same thing--how pleased he was to see the "Cinderella" of the three services there and this young officer taking the place of his master, et two bloody ugly sisters."
Well, the young officer, the flight lieutenant, had got pretty bored by then. He had had a few drinks. And he stood up to make his reply, and started off by saying: "I would like to remind you gentlemen that Cinderella had two bloddy ugly sisters."
Now, if I may be a little serious for a few minutes before I go on to reminiscing about one's experiences. I think nowadays, particularly amongst the young, it is not very popular to show patriotism or even pride in one's country's past achievements and sacrifices. Today we are here to celebrate and to remember an epic operation of which all those who took part as well as the countries that took part can feel justly proud. That is, the twenty-fifth anniversary of the landings in Normandy, in which the Canadian Army played so noble a part.
It is therefore right and I think it proper, that we should be proud of being associated with this great fight against oppression. One can just imagine, and this is a thing a lot of people forget; what might have happened if we had not gone to war and we had allowed Nazi Germany to rule the world.
Now, when the last war was ended I think most of us had high hopes that the sacrifice had not been in vain; that peace and understanding would come upon the world and this would be our reward. But how wrong we were. For today we see the world in turmoil. And even if we can avoid another world war (which I hope to heavens we can) all the experts say that unless something dramatic is done within the next 20 years then a most ghastly disaster will occur, because the world will run short of food, and there will be mass starvation.
Now, it is quite extraordinary, I think, if you look around and think how things have changed; how relations between countries have changed.
You have Germany, who was utterly and completely defeated, her country smashed, and now is an ally and not an enemy. She is also the most prosperous country in Europe.
You have Russia, who was a powerful ally, now a potential enemy.
You have France, a defeated ally, now a prosperous nation who has risen again under De Gaulle.
Japan, utterly defeated, now a potential ally of the West, exceedingly prosperous, and of course helped because she has not had heavy defence expenditure.
Italy, which was defeated during the war, now an ally, reasonably prosperous, but having major problems ahead because of the great gap between the rich and the poor.
And you have the United States, a powerful, prosperous nation, who is leading the West today and yet has the most ghastly problems facing her--problems involving race and poverty and differences between the various levels of their population.
Finally, you have the United Nations, which was launched with such high hopes and now is incapable of being able to solve any of the world's major problems, whether it be Viet Nam, Russian aggression, the crisis in the Middle East, or Nigeria. They seem to be quite helpless.
And at the United Nations you see the operation of the double standard, by an organization which should set an example in fair and honest dealing. There certainly seems to be, gentlemen, one law for the strong, and another for the weak.
This extraordinary change in relationships shows how quickly wounds are healed and injustice is forgotten. It is really quite a comforting thought. It also demonstrates the need to be prepared for ever-changing conditions in this world of ours. But certainly at the moment I think it would be very unwise for the West to lower its guard.
Now, who is to blame? Well, of course, one first goes for the politician.
I think here they have made by and large a pretty good mess of things. But one must be fair and say that their task has not been easy, and therefore one must look further.
I think one of the main causes has been the continuing struggle between the western way of life and Communism. The cold war has certainly not helped to resolve matters.
Then there is the battle that has gone on for the minds and the souls of the unaligned nations; namely, the developing nations. And then we have the problem of the rich nations becoming richer and the poor nations becoming poorer.
These developing nations are very impatient, and they forget that it has taken centuries for we older nations to reach the stage of civilization, development and prosperity which exists today.
Then finally there is the unrest and intolerance caused by differences of race, differences of colour, differences of religion, culture and education.
It is therefore, I think, not altogether surprising that youth in most countries today is protesting about the world they live in. They blame past leaders. They want peace and friendship; not war.
But God alone knows everyone of us here wants that, particularly we old soldiers and sailors and airmen who have seen the horrors of war.
I do believe in spite of all this that it is entirely wrong for the people of a free country not to be prepared to fight and spill their blood for their country's survival and for a cause, provided it is just.
I am afraid, gentlemen, we are a long way from the days of universal brotherhood.
I admit to being somewhat bewildered by the behaviour of students and other young people. Many appear to scorn discipline which has proved necessary in any country's progress. Many preach revolution and anarchy and oppose freedom of speech, and yet put forward virtually no practical solutions of their own.
I find it difficult to know what they do want. I think a lot of their muddled self-expression is really a quest for the fulfillment of ideals. The socially-just, materially-affluent society has just not worked out as far as they are concerned. They want something more.
And another point: I don't think student-faculty relationship in the universities is what it should be. There is certainly a problem in staffing universities, which are growing at such an enormous rate. It is not easy to find the right people.
I believe what is wanted is more of that type of officer-man relationship which we knew in the services, which served us so well in the stress and strain of war and has also served us well in peace.
Now, I was rather impressed by a recent article I read by General Mark Clark, a distinguished American general, in which he claimed: "In the long run there is no substitute for honour." He went on to say: "What we have to do is to make these young people more aware of the tremendous asset that a commitment to honour can be in their lives." For those of us who served in our country's armed forces I like to think that honour and honesty was something we understood and accepted.
In many ways, however, I am a great admirer of the young people of today. They are virile; they are highly educated; and attractive people, most of them.
Now, from all this can be seen that at the present time there is a crying need for bold and courageous leadership. Admittedly, this is not an easy thing in a democracy in peacetime. But I believe there are a great number of people who dislike complacency and are looking for this very type of direction.
Well, gentlemen, that gets rid of my more serious remarks. Now I turn to the lighter side of what I am going to say tonight.
Let me first recall some treasured memories from the past. In the time at hand it is rather difficult to make a choice. I could go on talking all night.
It rather reminds me of King Solomon who, one day after lunch, felt pretty good, and he said to his majordomo: "Will you parade all my wives in front of me?" And fifty beautiful girls were all paraded. They filed past very slinkily in very nice dresses, and the old man tugged at his beard and looked up and down and hesitated, and then he turned to his majordomo and said, "You know, I know exactly what to do, but bloody well don't know where to start!"
Well, gentlemen, I am rather faced with the same situation. It is very difficult to know where to start. I thought I'd recall two impressions that are indelibly engraved upon my memory--one at the very beginning and one at the very end of my association with Montgomery.
The first is at the opening of the Battle of El Alamein, a great moment for me, for it was our first major offensive.
When all preparations had been made and we could do nothing more from our battle headquarters, I remember driving out with a colleague in a jeep, and I saw him in that dim light those ghostlike figures moving up, the tanks, the guns, the troops. We found a sand dune somewhere behind the medium guns, and we waited, looking at our watches. And then suddenly at 21.40 hours, every gun flashed from right to the left as far as the eye could see. This great battle had started. And I remember the sort of hopes and fears I had in my heart wondering where it would all end.
I never dreamt that this battle would be the start of a campaign which would lead us from Alamein right to the very gates of Carthage.
At the very end of the war the big surrender at Supreme Headquarters was due to take place, and the acting Fuehrer had ordered Jodl, a distinguished German general on Hitler's personal staff, a great planner, this man, with a tremendous reputation, who had planned Norway and the Polish campaign, the campaign against France, and had enjoyed other tremendous successes. His fame had been on the lips of everyone in Europe, and there he was, having been brought to our airstrip at Luneberg Heath by one of the liaison officers.
I was waiting to receive him. He got out of his aeroplane with his ADC, dressed in the magnificent greatcoat of a member of the German general staff, with great scarlet epaulettes. We saluted, and I asked him to get into the aeroplane.
My personal staff had produced a damned good lunch a couple of bottles of champagne, and all that sort of thing. And he sat down with his ADC, and he had his cap slanted over his eyes.
We flew over the Ardennes, the scene of the recent German debacle, a campaign which no doubt Jodl had a great share in planning. I asked my ADC to go over and offer him lunch. He refused a dry martini. And I remember thinking what a terrible position to be in, having been so important a general, absolutely lauded by the German people, and now going to sign the unconditional surrender of his country.
As you know, he was strung up after the Nuremberg trials.
Well, gentlemen, I will now try to choose a few incidents involving the Canadian Army, one or two of my experiences. I will take a rather lighthearted one first.
Before D-Day, on a certain evening, I was asked by General Crerar to go to Canadian headquarters to discuss various problems of the Canadian Army. And I was in the middle of a great oration from a sort of stage, with a lot of maps behind me, when someone rushed in and said, "You are wanted urgently on the telephone."
I went to the phone and was told I was the happy father of my only daughter. It was a great moment. So I rattled through my work, and then we had a few bottles and celebrated.
Eventually I was driven back to my flat in London, and we happened to bump into a very bad air raid with the usual barrages going up, et cetera. Actually I lost three of my staff officers that night in a house near St. Paul's school, which was our temporary headquarters.
The next morning I got to my office and found a message from Walter Bedell-Smith, Eisenhower's Chief of Staff, a great chum of mine, possessing a great sense of humour. It read as follows: "Heartiest congratulations, but why all the gunfire? It was only a girl."
Another vivid recollection I have involving the Canadian Army was in Normandy. It was, I think, the 28th of July. I had been trying for many, many weeks to get the strategic air forces Bomber Command, and the American 8th Air Force, to assist in the land battle. I felt it was only right that we should use everything we could to help the ground troops. But of course they had many strategic targets they had to deal with.
Eventually it was agreed by the commanders of the Air Force and General Eisenhower gave his blessing.
I remember the first time: they were used in an attack on July 18th. This was a fiasco, because we used the wrong type of bombs. We so mucked up the ground that the poor old troops really could not make any progress at all.
And then the American Army 12th Group got the 8th Air Force to support them in their attack at St. Lo. But unfortunately they clobbered their own troops. So it was not very satisfactory.
Eventually, on, I think, the 28th of July, the Canadian Army was going to have a bash and capture Caen. And we had, I think, something like 2,200 heavy bombers and medium bombers to bomb for 21/2 hours from 5.45 in the morning, before the attack went in.
I remember going out with Air Marshal Cunningham, who commanded the tactical air forces in the 21st army group, and we went out together and got near where the battle was to start. We climbed up on the top of a haystack. It was a beautiful opal summer morning, and this incredible sight was before us. We saw these waves of bombers coming in, 2,200 bombers, with the Mosquitoes going first dropping their flares and marker bombs. And we witnessed the frightful devastation and it looked as if no one could ever survive. And the effect upon morale must have been terrific.
And we of course had learned our lesson and this time used fragmentary bombs, with instantaneous fuses.
And as far as I remember the attack of the Canadian Army was a success. Caen was captured.
It made a tremendous impression on me, the effect of air power in a modern war.
Gentlemen, the final example I will give you is concerning Holland. Before dinner I was talking to an old friend of mine who was intimately connected with this. This particular story I am telling is when the Dutch Resistance, which was run by Prince Bernhard, got messages to us to say the Germans would be prepared to accept food in order to help the starving Dutch.
So Eisenhower asked me whether I would represent him and meet the Germans on the Canadian front to sound them as to what they were prepared to do. He also asked me to sound them regarding surrendering.
I think it was the Canadian First Army Corps which arranged the truce. It was a fascinating experience for I had never seen one before. All was quiet and we never heard a gun fire.
We assembled at a little schoolroom in a village, and eventually two or three jeeps turned up (I met someone who was driving one last night) and there one saw these German plenipotentiaries who were blindfolded. And of course the drivers had had a wonderful time bumping them over every ditch they could find. And these poor guys arrived at the school absolutely shattered.
They got out, the scarves were removed from their eyes, and they were invited inside.
I first discussed the food problem and they seemed to be quite agreeable to accepting help; after which I gave them the message from the Supreme Commander. This was in effect that Germany was beaten and therefore the only thing they could do was to surrender. They said they would report back to their chiefs.
Then two days later Bedell-Smith, Eisenhower's Chief of Staff, came along with me and Prince Bernhard and others. And we met Seyss Inquart who was Reich Kommisar for Holland and the German Chief of Staff. It was a momentous occasion.
We had worked out plans of feeding the Dutch, which our two staffs began dealing with the details. Then BedellSmith, myself, Prince Bernhard and, I believe, the Canadian commander (I can't quite remember) moved to a separate room. We found a bottle or two of gin, and we passed this around. The Germans were not very backward in drinking their share. And then Bedell-Smith looked up and said, "Now, you have got to surrender." He continued, "It is useless to go on losing lives when you know you have lost the war."
Seyss Inquart replied, "This I cannot do for Hitler is still alive."
So we said, "Yes, but his days are over." Actually that very evening I think he shot himself.
However, I must say one could not help admiring this guy. But Bedell-Smith got tough. He said, "Look here, if you don't surrender now General Eisenhower will hold you responsible for every allied life that is lost from now onwards, and you know what that will mean; the wall and the firing squad."
And I remember Seyss Inquart, without a moment's hesitation, got up and said, "I am not afraid. I am a German."
Well, he should have been afraid, because he was strung up after Nuremberg.
If you don't mind my just going on for another two or three minutes, I thought I would say something about our old chief, Monty, and give you some examples of his strength, and possibly touch on some of his alleged weaknesses.
First, I think his professionalism is a thing that struck me very forcibly. He really knew his job. He trained himself for High Command in war. I will tell you a little story which bears this out.
In 1937 I was up lecturing at Catterick Camp in England, and I was invited to dine with the GOC. And poor old Monty had just lost his wife and buried her, and had come up to stay with the GOC who was an old friend of his.
At the end of dinner he said, "Freddie, would you like to come for a walk with me on the moors tomorrow morning?"
And I said, "Yes, I'd be delighted."
So we went out for a long walk on the beautiful Yorkshire moors. It was a lovely day. And all the way out climbing these moors Monty talked about his wife, getting rid of these memories. And I shall never forget at the end of the walk, we sat on a rock, and I remember him saying to me,
"Well, Freddie, that is now all behind me; that must be forgotten. It is finished. Nothing can put it right." He continued, "I know there is going to be a major war and, from now onwards, I am going to devote every moment of my time to train myself in the art of high command."
I thought that was most prophetic. And thank God he did.
I think probably his greatest asset was his ability to inspire confidence. And I don't think you could have a better example than the first day he arrived to take over command of the 8th Army. I had to go and meet him at the crossroads outside Alexandria on a very hot and sultry morning in August. We drove up in the car together, and he told me to get everyone I could find from the staff to foregather that evening on the Ruweisat Ridge, which my old colleague, Neil Ritchie, will know well. A horrible place. And he was going to talk to them. And I shall never forget that talk it was a remarkable achievement.
The 8th Army was a bit bewildered by being knocked around by Rommel. And he said, "We are going to change the atmosphere." He was quite confident we were going to hit Rommel for six right out of North Africa. And there was now only going to be one plan. At the time there were quite a number of plans--staying where we were; going forward; going south; et cetera. And he said, "The only plan now is to stay where we are; we fight where we are; and, if necessary, we die where we are." And I remember what a wonderful sort of feeling he gave us. He said, "Now it is quite simple; you know what to do."
I might say I was not very keen on sort of dying with him! However, it gave one a sort of cosy feeling that you knew exactly what you had to do.
He told us the Prime Minister had promised him reinforcements of troops and weapons and tanks and aircraft. And they were badly needed, as you well know. In those days before Monty arrived, I sometimes wondered how the 8th Army ever survived. We had frightful equipment. Our tanks were quite useless, so were the anti-tank guns, for their shells just bounced off the enemy tanks, and the enemy had virtual command of the air at that time. And some of the troops were not properly trained. And I am sure Neil Ritchie will bear me out when I say that the poor old 8th Army in those days had a most ghastly job, and that our task was very much easier when we received all the sinews of war.
Monty went on to say, "I am not going to attack until I am ready. No one is going to push me. I am going to wait." He said, "I know that Rommel is preparing to attack us. If he attacks within a fortnight, I shan't be too happy. If he attacks after a fortnight I will be delighted." He attacked eventually just after a fortnight.
And he said he would have no doubters. If there were any, they could push off. He would have no bellyaching.
In those days an extraordinary practice was to be found in the 8th Army. If an order was given, the commander concerned would often say, "I don't think that is a very good order; I am not going to carry it out."! It only required 48 hours of Monty's command and they knew they damned well had to.
Then of course there was his non-flappability. He was quite remarkable in that respect. To me he was at his really greatest when things were pretty bad; when things were pretty dicy. He never got in a flap.
And I virtually never woke him up during the night. I remember two particular occasions. One was the second night of Alamein at battle headquarters. I got some disturbing reports and I went to see some of the guys concerned, and found progress was very sticky in one of those lanes where we were trying to break through their defences. And I realized things were bogging down.
So I summoned the corps commander concerned and in addition the divisional generals and told them to report to our battle headquarters at three-thirty in the morning.
I then woke Monty up. He said, "What? What is this?" when I banged on his caravan, which was dug into the sand dunes by the sea.
I said, "I have ordered this conference at three-thirty," and explained why.
He said, "Excellent; I will be there."
And I will never forget the way he handled that situation firmly, understandingly; but those chaps when they left knew they had to get on with the job. And they did; by morning things had started moving again.
I was not quite so happy the other time I woke him up. It was when Rommel attacked us on the 31st of August, which was his last effort to get the Delta. Suddenly at about one o'clock in the morning reports came in that showed Rommel was on the march doing one of his big right hooks.
I was very new with Monty. I thought, well, this is something of great importance and the army commander would like to know. So I banged on his caravan door and, after a long time I heard a grunt, "What do you want?"
I went in there and told him this great news.
I said, "I thought you might be a bit interested."
And he said, "What the hell can I do? I have made my plans; don't wake me up in future, please."
So I left, my tail between my legs.
Also of course he was a very good picker of his commanders and staff. I have got to say that because he picked me as his Chief of Staff.
But I am afraid that he and I do not quite agree on the story that he tells in his memoirs of how he chose me as Chief of Staff.
In his memoirs he tells the story (we heard a bit of it tonight) of how driving up with me he was thinking, "Now, is this the guy to be my Chief of Staff? He is quite opposite to me. He likes drink; I never touch the stuff. He likes his food; I hardly eat. He likes gambling; I never gamble." I think--I am told he said, "He is rather fond of women, and I really don't think much of them." And I am told the publishers cut that out.
However, he then said, "I decided opposites were a good thing, and I therefore decided to retain Freddie de Guingand."
That is his version. My version is that one morning, about five or six days after he had taken over the 8th Army, he whistled me into his caravan and said, "Freddie, sit down, will you? Now, I don't want you to be hurt by what I say."
So I said, "All right, sir; I certainly shan't be hurt."
He said, "I had a chief of staff in England when I trained, and when I left I did say to him I would be getting him out to be my Chief of Staff of the 8th Army. Therefore, if that is my decision, I hope you won't be hurt, because any job you would like, you just tell me and you will get it."
I said, "That is all right, sir." And I left the caravan. I didn't feel at all disappointed. I remember feeling a hell of a wave of relief come over me. I was not going to have to work for this allegedly difficult chap.
But however I was saved by Rommel, because about four or five days later Rommel attacked--his last effort to get Egypt. And things went very well. And, strangely enough, neither Monty nor I ever mentioned that meeting in the caravan until about three or four years after the war.
I don't want to single out Monty's weaknesses, but this is by way of explanation.
A lot of people say he was not enterprising enough; that he didn't take enough risks; and he was too careful.
I think possibly to some extent that is justified. But on the other hand I can assure you of this: I think he sometimes may have delayed attacks and was over-cautious, but in the end he achieved the successes which he was aiming at. And he used to say, "Now, by waiting I have saved thousands of lives." He was very conscious of that.
I always had great sympathy for him when he was being pressed to do something and he said, "I am not ready; I am waiting until I am balanced and ready." And in the end he often achieved success very much more cheaply than would have been the case, in terms of human lives.
I think sometimes he was a little intolerant of those who disagreed with him, particularly my very dear friend who died not very long ago, General Eisenhower. I thought he was a magnificent man, supreme in his job, who had a wonderful career, and had such human qualities it was not true.
And then sometimes I think he over-simplified. Yet in the great complexity of war, and even in modern life today, it is quite refreshing to get someone who can face a problem and analyse it in a simple way. But possibly he did oversimplify on occasions.
But I don't hold that against him. I think he was a remarkable soldier, and one that we should thank our stars for, and I feel I was honoured to have been associated with him through so long a period.
Before I close, if I may--if I have time--I would like to tell you three short stories which demonstrated Monty's character, his determination and his confidence.
For the first one I am sorry Guy Simonds isn't here. It rather involves him. When we were landing in Sicily and the Canadian Division was going to have its baptism of fire in Sicily, and Guy Simonds was going to fight his first battle, a very distinguished Canadian general sent a signal to Monty saying he proposed to land in Malta, and see Guy fight his first battle. Monty was however very fussy about visitors on such occasions. He said, "Certainly not; I am not going to have this." So he signalled back. And he got a rocket from Churchill saying, "You can't say that sort of thing."
He then said, "Well, I will just see what Guy Simonds thinks." So he sent a signal to Guy Simonds, and he told him that this distinguished Canadian general was proposing to come and see him fight his first battle; what were his reactions to this?
And a very sharp signal came back: "For God's sake, keep him away."
So this gentleman, I am afraid, did not join us until the campaign in Sicily was more or less over. When he did join us, I think peace was more or less established.
This is a rather good story to show Monty's complete confidence in himself. This occurred after the war in South Africa, where I was living at the time. The late King and Queen were paying a visit to South Africa and had taken over the Governor-General's house in Pretoria. They had very kindly asked myself and my wife to come and spend Sunday with them and have lunch. There was just the Royal Family present.
Just at that moment I had published my first book, and it was being serialized in the Sunday papers. And this was a Sunday.
When we sat down to lunch I was sitting opposite the King and Queen, and the King said, "Look here, why didn't you send me a copy of your book?"
And I said, "Sorry, sir; I didn't think you really wanted one, but if you would like one I will certainly see you get one tomorrow morning."
And then the Queen said, "I am sure the King would like you to inscribe it and to autograph it."
So I said, "I will certainly do that."
And she said, "But I would suggest you don't follow the example of your illustrous chief."
Monty had published a book shortly after the war--two books on the campaigns, a sort of factual account of the campaigns. And I said, "Well, what did he say?"
She said, "He sent the book to the King without being asked, and he wrote in the flyleaf, 'Your Majesty will find this book intensely interesting'."
So when I saw Monty next I told him the story. And his face never changed. He looked rather surprised, and he said, "What the hell is wrong with that? It was interesting, wasn't it?"
And I had to explain that authors really ought to be a little bit careful about pushing their wares.
That is what one loves about Monty; he is a very human creature.
The only other story I have got is after the war when he was appointed CIGS, and when he got to the War Office, he suddenly realized that the First Sea Lord had a house and servants and the Chief of the Air Staff had a house and servants and the poor old CIGS, head of the Army, did not have a house or any servants.
So he minuted his request in one of those awful files which went to the Treasury, and he said, "I want a house and I want some servants. I am a bachelor, and I am not going to cook my own food."
So after endless delay it came back from the Treasury saying, "This is quite impossible. It has never been allowed. It has not been done in the past. There is no authority for it."
He has shown me the file (he keeps all these files) and he said, "Right; if you do not authorize a house and servants I am proposing to bring up my caravan from my house in the country, and I shall live in Hyde Park."
Well, the file came rocketing back, and they agreed to a house and servants.
Well, I must thank you again, sir, and you, gentlemen, for asking me tonight. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is wonderful to meet old comrades. And your hospitality has been terrific.
If I may just finish with a story (you have probably heard it before), Monty was a great friend of Winston Churchill after the war and often used to dine with the Prime Minister and Mrs. Churchill. They were great friends. And old Winston had several strokes. When he became ill, Clem Churchill always sent for Monty, who used to take over the running of the house. Monty once told me: "Well, you know, he is a wonderful chap. I have to admire him. Only a day or two after that stroke he was in bed and I had to go and see him about nine-thirty in the morning. I went to his bedroom and there he was propped up on several pillows wearing a nightshirt with a sort of cap on his head. And he was looking very grim and in his hand was a very strong-looking whisky and soda."
At a family dinner party--poor old Winston had to be helped with his food by a nurse on either side of him. During one such dinner he had said nothing the whole of dinner. Monty tells this story. At the end of dinner they cleared things away, and then goblets were put in front of the three people dining. And the butler came along and gave old Winston a jolly good dollop of brandy. And Monty said, "No, thank you." And then Clem had some brandy as well.
And suddenly old Winston's eyes began to sparkle, and he grabbed the goblet. He had a jolly good swig and swallowed it. Then he turned to Monty, and said, "Monty, you are not drinking brandy?"
Monty said, "Oh, Winston, you know I never touch brandy; I never drink alcohol. You know that as well as I do."
Another pause. Winston had another good swig at the brandy. His eyes cleared again, and he looked across at Monty, and said, "All good generals drink brandy."
So Monty said, in that very modest way of his, "I think I was a pretty good general. So did you, Winston, didn't you?"
Another pause. Another swig of the brandy. And then Winston focused his eyes on Monty and said, "If you had drunk brandy you would have been a better general."
The final story about Winston and Monty during the war is when the 12th Army group--I think it was the 9th Army under Simonds, had just captured the Siegfried Line. He had heard of this great defence which was supposed to be impregnable, built by Hitler, and he was very keen to have a look at it. It was March in 1945, terribly cold, with snow on the ground. And they had been driving for a long way.
When Monty, sitting next to Winston, was feeling the strain, he turned to the Prime Minister and said, "Look here, sir, don't you think you would like a sanitary halt?"
Winston said, "What did you say, Monty?"
Monty repeated what he had said about the need for a stop.
Winston said, "How far is it to the Siegfried Line?"
Monty replied, "I think about 20 miles."
So Winston said, "I'll wait."!
Well, gentlemen, that, you will be pleased to hear, is the end.
Finally, I think we ex-servicemen must keep alive those priceless lessons which we learned in war, particularly those of comradeship and self-sacrifice. I think these qualities are so badly needed today, and they should be passed down to the younger generation and not forgotten. We carry a torch which must never be allowed to be extinguished.
Thank you very much.
Thanks of the meeting were expressed by H. Ian Macdonald.