Monty and Rommel: Parallel Lives by Peter Caddick-Adams

Monty and Rommel: Parallel Lives by Peter Caddick-Adams



Two men came to personify British and German generalship in the Second World War: Bernard Montgomery and Erwin Rommel. They fought a series of extraordinary duels across several theatres of war which established them as two of the greatest captains of their age. Our understanding of leadership in battle was altered for ever by their electrifying personal qualities. Ever since, historians have assessed their outstanding leadership, personalities and skill.

Born four years apart, their lives were remarkably similar. In this groundbreaking study, Peter Caddick-Adams explores Montgomery and Rommel’s lives from their provincial upbringing, through to the trench fighting of the First World War, where both nearly died in 1914. Obsessed with fitness and training, the future field marshals emerged highly decorated and with a glowing war record. The pair taught in staff colleges, wrote infantry textbooks and fought each other as divisional commanders in 1940.

The careers of both began on the periphery of the military establishment and represent the first time military commanders proactively and systematically used (and were used by) the media as they came to prominence, first in North Africa, then in Normandy. Dynamic and forward-thinking, their lives also represent a study of pride, propaganda and nostalgia. Caddick-Adams tracks and compares their military talents and personalities in battle. Each brought something special to their commands. Rommel’s breathtaking advance in May-June 1940 was nothing less than inspired. Montgomery is a gift for leadership gurus in the way he took over a demoralised Eighth Army in August 1942 and led it to victory just two months later.

This is the first comparative biography written of the two. It explores how each was ‘made’ by their war leaders, Churchill and Hitler, and how the thoughts of both permeate down to today’s armies. Even though Rommel died in 1944, the rivalry between the two carried on after the war through their writings and other memoirs.

This compelling work is both scholarly and entertaining and marks the debut of a major new talent in historical biography.

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