Thursday, August 7, 2008

[Image] "Monty" and THAT Slouch Hat.

Lieutenant General B.L. Montgomery, CB DSO
Commander of the Eighth British Army
Tel el Eisa, Egypt. 21st August,1942.

When Lieutenant General Bernard Law Montgomery CB DSO paid the forward positions of the 9th Division at Tel el Eisa a visit on 14th August 1942 he is reported to have requested an Australian slouch hat to wear.

Members of Headquarters, 24th Infantry Brigade quickly found "Monty" his requested hat and from that point forward Montgomery chose to wear the Slouch Hat as a part of his standard field uniform.

In the photo above Montgomery is photographed with a rare smile on his face a week after being presented with the hat. By this time word had spread that the Commander of the British Eighth Army had taken to wearing Dominion head wear as standard dress. This caused a mixed reaction amongst members of the Eighth Army.

Here Montgomery is seen wearing the hat at Tel el Eisa after having toured the forward positions for himself. As he inspected his lines he passed through positions held by different forces under his command. At each opportunity Montgomery collected the hat badges of the units and attached them to his slouch hat. A good collection of them can be seen above.

Reactions to Montgomery's choice of hat varied. Members of the Royal Australian Artillery stated that he looked like a "prize galah", whilst members of the Infantry saw it as an honour that out of all the different nationalities and units under his command that he chose an Australian Slouch Hat. In spite of all the inherent practicalities of such a hat in the Western Desert it was a real morale boost for members of the 9th Division to see Monty in their hat.

Others however were not convinced as to the suitability of their General wearing this hat and members of the Royal Tank Regiment saw to it that they presented Monty with a black beret in the hope that he would restore order and wear appropriate head dress. Someone must have had a quiet word to the General as he gave up his adored slouch hat and wore the Royal Tank Regiment's beret for the rest of the Western Desert campaign.

Lieutenant General Bernard Law Montgomery CB, DSO's slouch hat is currently in the collection of the Australian War Memorial at Canberra, Australia.

images 041980, 044866 and RELAWM30701 Australian War Memorial.

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