The Canadian Way of War: Serving the National Interest

By Colonel Bernd Horn | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
When Harry Met Monty: Canadian National Politics
and the Crerar-Montgomery Relationship

by Douglas Delaney

“Monty” did not think much of “Harry” as a soldier, but it had not always been that way. There was a time when Field Marshal the Viscount Montgomery of Alamein regarded General Harry Crerar with fondness and favour. In 1942, following the arduous training exercise “TIGER,” Montgomery, as commander of the Southeastern Army in England, piled praise on Crerar for his performance as commander of 1 Canadian Corps. He generously stated:

I would like to congratulate you on your handling of
the Canadian Corps in the TIGER Exercise. You did
splendidly. As you know, I always say what I mean and
generally in no uncertain voice! And when I say you did
well, I mean it…. I hope we shall have some good bat-
tles together on the other side.1

But 24 years after the end of the Second World War, Montgomery reflected that his Canadian wartime subordinate had been “unfit” to command the First Canadian Army in the field.2

So what went wrong? How did Montgomery’s opinion of Crerar degenerate from “splendid” to “unfit to command an army in the field”? As might be expected, there were several reasons. Training for wars was different from fighting them and the added stresses were difficult and wore away much goodwill. The two men also had markedly different command styles — Montgomery being decisive and resolute, Crerar being more tenuous and fastidious. And Crerar’s mediocre operational performance in Northwest Europe did not help either.3 All these things undermined the rapport between the senior Canadian combatant officer overseas and his operational superior, and all of them exerted a stronger influence at one time or other. But there was one irritant that

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