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The Rise of the Legendary Desert Rat

Unique new Mentioned in Despatch Records highlights more of our heroic ancestors in the First World War...


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Bernard Law Montgomery

The Genealogist has released over 81,000 records of people Mentioned in Dispatches in The First World War. With this collection you are able to find soldiers and army nurses that had come to the notice of their superior officers for an act of gallantry, or meritorious action, in the face of the enemy. The service person's name would have appeared in an official report, written by a superior officer and then sent on to the high command.

Soldiers who were mentioned in dispatches (MiD) did not receive a medal for their action, but nevertheless were entitled to receive a certificate and wear a decoration. This decoration in WWI (and up until 10 August 1920), consisted of a spray of oak leaves in bronze. From 1920 to 1993, the design of the decoration changed to be a single bronze oak leaf and since 1993, the decoration in Britain has now become a single silver oak leaf.

The oak leaf is pinned, or sewn diagonally, on to the appropriate campaign medal ribbon and in cases where no campaign medal has been awarded, then the decoration is worn on the left breast of the dress uniform. Only one such decoration is ever worn, even when a soldier is mentioned in dispatches more than once, as was the case in the example of Captain B.L. Montgomery below.

Bernard Law Montgomery served in The First World War in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and was mentioned in dispatches on several occasions. Here we see him pictured on the right with a fellow officer in 1915.

Using the MasterSearch features, we can search for Bernard Law Montgomery in the new 'Mentioned in Dispatches' records.

Searching for Bernard Law Montgomery in the new 'Mentioned in Dispatches' records

We find Captain Montgomery no less than four times in the MiD records on TheGenealogist, the first of which is in 1915.

Bernard Law Montgomery appears four times in the 'Mentioned in Dispatches' records

With one mouse click on the link to a transcript we can see the date the citation appeared in The London Gazette and note the date and page number for our research.

Another click takes us straight to the website of the London Gazette where we can then read the various pages that cover our soldier. By using the information from the transcript we can narrow our research right down to the correct page.

Following a third link on TheGenealogist results page gives us an image of the handwritten card record, in this case showing even the military clerks corrections and crossing outs.

A further option is the link to the actual listing in the Naval and Military Despatches Publication. It's now possible to view your ancestor listed in the actual government publication of the time.

Bernard Law Montgomery in the MiD records

Original image of the handwritten card record

See the original Naval and Military Despatches publication

Awarded many medals in his time, including the DSO to which his oak leaf is pinned, he served between 1915 and 1918 ending the First World War as a Lieutenant Colonel. He was, as history tells us, to go on to become Field Marshall Montgomery and the 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, one of this country's important Second World War generals.

As a junior officer serving at Méteren near to the Border of France with Belgium he had been shot by a sniper through the right lung in October 1914. He fought in the Battle of Le Cateau and in the retreat from Mons in 1914. The War Illustrated News Collection on TheGenealogist gives details on the desperate struggle Bernard Montgomery and the British Army found themselves.

The War Illustrated cover, 19 Sept 1914

Extract from The War Illustrated

Extract from The War Illustrated

With the rich number of military records on TheGenealogist we can also find him in the casualty lists. One click will then take us to an image of a page from the Times newspaper of October 20th 1914 in which he is listed.

Montgomery was hit once more through the knee and was awarded the DSO for his gallant leadership when he turned the enemy out of their trenches with the bayonet.

Once Captain Montgomery had recovered he went back to the Western Front in 1916 as a general staff officer, where he was again wounded.

Casualty List record for 1914

Casualty List record for 1916

He was back in action the following year taking part in the Battle of Arras in spring 1917 and also the Battle of Passchendaele in the autumn of that year and ending his war as chief of staff of the 47th (2nd London) Division.

We find part of a letter written by the Mayor of Arras after the battle and published in The Great War publication found on TheGenealogist (see below right).

In World War II he assumed command of the Eight Army from 1942 in the Western Desert, the so-called 'Desert Rats' and went up against the legendary German Commander, Erwin Rommel, the 'Desert Fox' and his forces in Africa. This time was to include the Battle of El Alamein which was a turning point of the Western Desert Campaign. "Monty" went on to command the Eight Army in its part in the Allied invasion of Sicily and subsequently Italy.

As the war wound on to its close, during Operation Overlord he was in charge of all Allied ground forces and on the 4th May 1945 he took the German surrender at Lüneburg Heath in north Germany. After the war was over Field Marshal Montgomery became Commander-in-Chief of the British Army of the Rhine and then Chief of the Imperial General Staff. From 1948 until 1951 he was chairman of the permanent defence organisation of the Western European Union and in 1951 deputy commander of the Supreme Headquarters of NATO.

Known for his lack of tact, he had upset the American generals Paton and Bradley during The Second World War and after the hostilities he criticised many of his war-time colleagues, including General Eisenhower who was by now the President of the United States. Monty was, it is safe to say, a complex but brave man who served in the British Army for 50 years. He died on 24 March 1976.

The Mentioned in Dispatches records are now available to view for all Diamond Subscribers.

A letter written by the Mayor of Arras

Bernard Law Montgomery


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New Diamond Package Offer!

We'd like to offer you our new 4 monthly Diamond subscription for our introductory price of only £39.95 (saving a third off the standard price of £59.95). This is the lowest cost Diamond subscription we've ever had!

12 Month subcription to Discover Your Ancestors Online MagazineAlong with providing access to Census, BMDs, Non-Conformist Records, Wills and more, the Diamond subscription gives you access to record collections that make it easy to find so much more about your ancestors.

You'll also enjoy a free 12 month subscription to Discover Your Ancestors online magazine worth £24.95, saving you a total of £44.95!

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