I’ve been doing a lot of reading on the Battle of Normandy recently for my forthcoming book. And I have always been a big fan of Wellington.
Which got me thinking – what if Wellington had fought the battle of Waterloo in the style of Monty? And what if Wellington had been in command in the summer of 1944?
Montgomery after Waterloo:
Montgomery: ‘the battle went exactly as I planned. I fully intended to draw the French reserves onto my front, thus allowing the Prussians to arrive unhindered. Hougoumont was not important as long as I pretended to hold it. At all times I was in complete control of the situation. We will no crack-about south of Caen’.
At which point Blucher is mortally offended, and Prussian historians spend hundreds of years belittling his every move. Meanwhile, German film-makers all but obliterate Montgomery and the British from Waterloo, apart from oblique and stereotypical references.
Almost one hundred and 30 years later, at the St Pauls School Conference in May 1944…
Wellington, to the assembled crowd of Allied senior officers, politicians and King George VI: ‘what I intend to do depends on what Rommel intends to do, and as the Desert Fox has not informed me of his plans, then I cannot inform you of mine’
At Southwick House, 5 June 1944…
Eisenhower: ‘so Wellington, what are your plans?’
Wellington: ‘to beat the Germans’
Actually, were Wellington and Montgomery really that different? The only difference to me seems to be that American historians have had no reason to villify Wellington. Even so, during his lifetime Wellington was ridiculed and lambasted for both his adulterous affairs and his politics. Time, however, tends to see petty criticisms fall away and victories stand the test of time.
- Hougoumont cross that survived the Battle of Waterloo is stolen (dailymail.co.uk)