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LAURENCE REES: Are there any other aspects that have surprised you about that whole campaign?

ANTONY BEEVOR: I think I’ve covered the main points, above all, the bitterness of the fighting and the strength of the fighting. I think that the only other thing one might really say about D Day was that all of the tensions which had been building up in the Anglo-American alliance became much worse, and this was mainly because of Montgomery’s handling of his allies. He was not frank, with the way he kept on saying 'we’re going to break through', and then he asked for huge bomber support, for example. First of all at Caen, and then in Operation Goodwood and, once again, saying 'you’ve got to punch through in this particular way'. But then it turned out that in fact he wasn’t really planning to punch all the way through. Basically he said 'my strategy is to hold down the German armoured divisions while the Americans break through on the right'. Well, he was actually making a virtue out of necessity, and then afterwards he claimed that it had been his strategy all along, and all of this exasperated the Americans. Eisenhower after the war described him as an absolute psychopath, but that was borne out of frustration. I mean, Monty’s vanity was one thing, but his lack of frankness with Eisenhower particularly over the whole question of British manpower problems was a major political element.

Now, Britain obviously wanted to be at the top table at the end of the war and Monty was well aware of that, and Churchill knew perfectly well that our power was fading rapidly at this particular point and that is one excuse for Montgomery not being franker with Eisenhower. But all the way through he was saying 'don’t tell Ike this, I don’t think we need to tell Ike this'. In fact, he hardly ever had any meetings on his own, it was only when Ike came to see him that they actually had meetings. And I think that this actually turned into the biggest diplomatic disaster in a way, in terms of British-American relations. The anger provoked amongst senior American officers was intense.

LAURENCE REES: And to a large extent that was to do with Monty’s particular personality…

ANTONY BEEVOR: It was mainly Monty’s personality. It was an element, if you like, of British politics at the time and trying to conceal British weakness, but it was Monty’s refusal to admit that anything had gone wrong or that he’d even changed his plans when it was obvious that he’d changed his plans completely.

LAURENCE REES: Is Montgomery overrated as a leader then?

ANTONY BEEVOR: Well, Montgomery, shall we say, certainly overrated himself. After the war he claimed that he should be treated on the same level as Wellington and Marlborough. I mean, that was preposterous. Monty was a very good trainer of troops, he was also good for increasing determination and the fighting spirit, but as a commander, he was very 'staff-cology' as Ismay would have said. Everything had to be done in a very coherent and logical fashion, and he was not quick. And the whole idea that Monty should lead the charge into Germany rather than Patten was a preposterous idea, and the Americans certainly felt that very much themselves. So shall we say he was the most self-overrated general of the war.