Field Marshal Bernard ‘Monty’ Montgomery was the most famous British General of the Second World War. A charismatic leader of men and popular figure amongst his soldiers, Montgomery conducted his campaign in North West Europe from three command caravans: one for his office, one for his bedroom and one for his map room.
These mobile headquarters allowed Montgomery to be close to the frontline, sometimes only a few miles away from the battle, while also allowing the Field Marshal to separate himself from the rest of Tactical Headquarters if he needed some solitude to plan his campaign.
The Map Caravan, presented to Monty on 17 April 1944, seven weeks before D-Day, was custom built by the British Trailer Company. During his campaigns in North Africa, Sicily and Italy, Monty had realised the need for a map lorry to co-ordinate his operations in the field. It became the nerve centre of Montgomery's Tactical Headquarters in North-West Europe from June 1944 until May 1945.
General Ismay first warned Churchill of General Bernard Montgomery’s “eccentricities.” Rather than delay making his acquaintance, Churchill met Monty for dinner at a Brighton hotel in summer 1940. Churchill was aghast when Montgomery refused alcohol: “Never touch the stuff. Don’t drink, don’t smoke—and I’m one hundred per cent fit!.”
Churchill stared at the general in disbelief and said: “Well, I drink as much brandy as I can get and I smoke cigars and I’m two hundred per cent fit!” But soon Churchill was delighted at Monty’s victory at the Battle of El Alamein, a Turning Point in History.
History was made in Churchill War Rooms - an underground bunker that allowed Britain's leaders to plot the allied route to victory during the Second World War.
Monty’s Office Caravan has a WW2 Italian caravan body remounted on a British Leyland Retriever 6x4 truck chassis. Its original owner was General Annibale 'Electric Whiskers' Bergonzoli, Commander of the Italian 23rd Corps. Bergonzoli was captured at Beda Fomm, south of Benghazi, in February 1941 and Montgomery took Bergonzoli’s caravan as a symbol of this victory.
When Montgomery assumed command, this caravan became his only home until the end of the North African Campaign in May 1943. It wasn’t until Montgomery acquired a second caravan that this vehicle became his office, which he used during campaigns in Sicily, Italy, and North-West Europe (1943-1945).
Monty’s Bedroom Caravan is Italian-built and mounted on a Lancia Chassis and was captured by Montgomery’s 8th Army from Field-Marshal Giovanni Messe, Commander of the 1st Italian Army, during the final stages of the North African campaign in May 1943. Messe said that it had also been used by Rommel, and Montgomery – promoted to General after the Battle of El Alamein – would use this caravan as his bedroom for the remainder of the war.
The caravans were bequeathed to IWM on Viscount Montgomery's death in 1976, and are on display at IWM Duxford, England.