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Thursday, 27 November 2014

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THOSE with good memories will recall that we once featured the unusual link between Millom and ‘Desert Rats’ military commander Field Marshall Viscount Montgomery of Alamein.

He spent many childhood holidays in the town staying with a relative at the Holy Trinity Church vicarage.

Some of the other influences on his illustrious career were described in a talk to members of the Cumbrian branch of the Western Front Association by military historian Terry Dean.

His talk on Monty’s Mentor looked at Brigadier General James Walter ‘Sandy’ Sandilands.

Born in 1874 in Scotland he was in the same school year as Sir Winston Churchill and played cricket for the school team at Lords.

His military career took him to the Sudan and the Boer War where he won the Distinguished Service Order and was dragged to safety by a Victoria Cross winner after being shot three times.

The brigadier general is best known for his service in the First World War with the London Scottish, the 44th Brigade and then with the Lancashire Brigade.

He was on the Somme from July 1916.

One of the officers under his command in 1917 was a young Bernard Law Montgomery.

The brigadier general had retired by 1933 but was not forgotten by the rising star he once commanded.

Montgomery sent a letter to him before he died in 1959 recalling those days.

He wrote: “I do indeed remember that walk we had on the Somme.”

Montgomery was seriously wounded during his service in the trenches but it did not slow his rise through the ranks.

In the Second World War he commanded the 8th Army from August 1942 in the Western Desert and became one of the key Allied leaders.

On 4 May 1945 Montgomery accepted the German surrender at Luneburg Heath in northern Germany.

After the war he became Commander-in-Chief of the British Forces of Occupation in Germany and then Chief of the Imperial General Staff.

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