Monty’s Close Call

Bernard Law Montgomery (1887-1976), in uniform during World War I. (Photo by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery, Britain’s highly acclaimed European commander at the close of World War II, was but a junior lieutenant on 13 October 1916 when he materialized in a German sniper’s scope at Meieren, France. Seriously wounded, Lieutenant Montgomery fell in the open and lay still, in hopes he would not be shot again. “But a soldier ran to me and began to put a field dressing on my wound,” he recounted in his memoirs. “He was shot through the head by a sniper and collapsed on top of me.”

Despite lying still, the future field marshal became the sniper’s target. “The sniper continued to fire at us and I got a second wound in the knee,” he wrote. The lifeless soldier atop him, who’d died trying to save him, was shot over and over and “received many bullets intended for me.”

There was nothing more for Monty’s comrades to do but hope and wait for dark- ness. All day he lay there, hour after hour, until finally a party of stretcher bearers came for him that night. After such an ordeal the doctors did not think he would live, and a grave was dug for him. But somehow, despite his loss of blood, multiple wounds, and hours of dehydration, Lieutenant Montgomery pulled through. The rest is history.