Brooke ‘speaks to’ Montgomery

Alan Brooke was at this time commander of II Corps in France, where Major-General Bernard Montgomery was one of his divisional commanders.

Montgomery was ‘alarmed’ by the incidence of venereal disease amongst his troops and wrote a very ‘frank’ memorandum to his subordinate commanders about the issue. By modern standards it was very sensible; urging the use of prophylactics and that troops should use recognised brothels, where there might be some measure of control over hygiene standards. However the C of E and RC senior chaplains complained about the use of “obscene language” to the Adjutant General who referred it to Lord Gort, the BEF commander. The matter was then dealt with by Brooke:

The AG originally suggested that Monty should be made to withdraw the document he had issued. I was dead against such a procedure. Monty had already sufficiendy undermined his position as a commander through the issue of the document; to make him withdraw it now would be a clear indication of superior authority disapproval which would remove any vestige of respect they might have for him. I told AG that instead I would have him up again, express the C-in-C’s [Commander-in Chief] displeasure to him and impress on him again the magnitude of his blunder.

I therefore pointed out to Monty that his position as the commander of a division had been seriously affected by this blunder and could certainly not withstand any further errors of this kind. I also informed him that I had a very high opinion of his military capabilities and an equally low one of his literary ones! He took it wonderfully well, and I think it ought to have done him good. It is a great pity that he spoils his very high military ability by a mad desire to talk or write nonsense.

Montgomery also recorded the episode:

There was the father-and-mother of a row. They were all after my blood at GHQ. But my Corps commander (Brooke) saved me by insisting on dealing with the matter himself. This he did in no uncertain manner and I received from him a proper backhander. He said, amongst other things, that he didn’t think much of my literary effort. Anyhow it achieved what I wanted, since the venereal disease ceased.

See War Diaries 1939-1945: Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke .

And see The Memoirs of Field Marshal Montgomery .

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