History in Manuscript: Letters and Documents from a Distinguished Collection

History in Manuscript: Letters and Documents from a Distinguished Collection

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 100. Field Marshal Montgomery of Alamein | Series of letters to Sir Edward Crowe, 1942-59.

Field Marshal Montgomery of Alamein | Series of letters to Sir Edward Crowe, 1942-59

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April 13, 02:39 PM GMT


30,000 - 50,000 GBP

Lot Details


Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery Of Alamein

Series of c.140 autograph letters signed (a few typed), to Sir Edward Crowe

the series commencing with 15 wartime letters updating Crowe on his progress in North Africa ("...Since 23 October we have fought some hard battles and have advanced well over 1000 miles; I am now firmly established in Tripolitamia and this time we shall NOT come back...", 17 December 1942), Italy, Normandy, and Germany, the later letters giving his political opinions, discussing his travels, his own books ("...I am glad you liked the book about the Eighth Army. It is a fascinating story. In order not to hurt peoples feelings (in certain highly placed cases) I have had to word some passages very carefully. If I told the real truth about the Italian campaign the repercussions would have been terrific...". 25 January 1946), and other subjects, c.250 pp, 4to & 8vo, 5 Mar 1942 to 4 Sept 1959

[with:] various items originally sent as enclosures, including a union flag pennant that flew on his staff car in the 8th Army, c.27 photographs (most inscribed), communiques to troops, notes, lectures, pamphlets, memoranda, and a copy of his coat of arms, c.130 pages, and a notebook labelled "Montiana" with a handwritten numbered list of the letters

"...We have now got Hamburg, and the whole shooting match as well. The British Empire part in the German war is now over; the Americans and Russians can finish it off in the south. A very historic ceremony took place at my HQ at 6.30 PM yesterday when the German delegation signed my surrender terms...." (5 May 1945)

AN EXCEPTIONAL SERIES OF LETTERS BY "MONTY" PROVIDING AN EXCEPTIONAL INSIGHT INTO THE THOUGHTS AND OPINIONS OF THE GREATEST BRITISH FIELD COMMANDER OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY. Montgomery's correspondent, Sir Edward Crowe (1877-1960) was a former diplomat and Chairman of Croda (a large chemicals company), later to be described by Montgomery as one of his oldest friends. Although it is clear from the correspondence that their friendship had its origins before the War, this series of letters begins in 1942. Crowe wrote to Montgomery about camouflage paint then followed up with his concerns about the plans for the immobilisation of factories in the event of an invasion, which Montgomery promises to pass on, although: "Actually invasion is not imminent and all my energies have been devoted recently to offensive matters" (26 March 1942).

Over the next three years Montgomery wrote from every campaign, from the heat of North Africa to "mud, and slush, and cold" of winter in Northern France (5 January 1945). He is always confident of victory, although this can make his predictions somewhat optimistic, as when he predicts a rapid victory in Italy:

"I attacked across the Straits of Messina on night 2/3 September and today I hold some 1000 square miles of Italy. I feel myself that the time is not far off when Italy will chuck it; she has had, and is now having, a terrific bombing, and she had been heavily defeated on land." (6 September 1943)

Montgomery enclosed in his letters copies of his printed messages to troops, signed photographs (including one taken just before D-Day), and other pieces of memorabilia. The wartime sequence of letters ends, fittingly enough, with two letters announcing the Allied victory on requisitioned Nazi stationery.

Montgomery continued to write to Crowe until the latter's death. He gives his opinion on geo-political issues, for example in the mid-50s he is deeply suspicious of French Prime Minister Pierre Mendès France, both over the French surrender in Indo China and his attempt to undermine the ECSC (progenitor of the EU). Montgomery's legendary vanity undoubtedly interfered with his political judgment, as when he returns from a trip to Australia and New Zealand proclaiming that he had "done a lot of good and ... knocked the Communist influence in Australia back a number of years; it was very bad. ... I came back early as I was not at all happy about the way things were going in Britain." He relishes his controversy caused by his public interventions on political subjects, explaining to Crowe why the politicians cannot sack him: "1. They know I am right. 2. They know that I would write a book about them: which I would certainly do if I were a free man."

He writes of a meeting with an elderly Churchill in 1955 ("...the old man ... wept whilst I was speaking. He is going downhill fast and his friends must now rally round him..."), of a visit to Eisenhower at the White House, and of his "most interesting time in Yugoslavia. The highlight was a long talk with Tito" - a letter accompanied by a copy of his report stamped "Nato - Top Secret" (numbered no. 5, 3 pages, folio, 21 September 1954). He discusses his own books, and also the work of historians including Liddell Hart, who is castigated as he "goes on about the German generals as if they were the cats whiskers. But ... we won the war", whilst Alan Moorehead's Montgomery elicits the comment:

"...Few people will ever know what I went through in the war: trying to keep the war on a sound basis and striving for victory in 1944. The whole truth is in my diaries of course; but they can never be disclosed. We do not want another war!!..."

Montgomery was not embarrassed in making himself the chief subject of his letters, but his affection for Crowe is evident in the correspondence, as are their shared interests. Cricket and rugby are discussed with both great passion and the strategic mindset of a general, and personal and family affairs are also touched on in many letters.


Sir Edward Crowe, thence by descent; Sotheby's, London, 24 July 1987, lot 338