Monty, the Black Sheep, and his Mother

The children were educated at St. Michael’s Collegiate School in Hobart, founded in 1892 by their father. One of the schools’ houses is named Montgomery (Monty) after the family. As the boys grew older, a schoolroom was built in the grounds of their home, Bishopscourt, and they were educated with the help of tutors from England. Even in those days Monty wore a beret, a scarlet one. The famous black one came later.

Life in Tasmania was a battlefield between Monty and his mother. She was a strict and very domineering woman, and he, as strong willed as she, rebelled against her authority. There was a constant clash of wills in which young Bernard undertook a series of manoeuvres to outwit her and demonstrate his independence. Mother always won.

One of her greatest fears was that her children would acquire “a Tasmanian accent”, so at the least sign of that, the guilty child would have to stand before her repeating the offending word in “proper English” until she was satisfied. With the bishop away often for months at a time, she constantly beat the children or virtually ignored them.

Of his early years Field Marshal Montgomery wrote:

“Certainly I can say that my own childhood was unhappy. This was due to a clash of wills between my mother and myself. My early life was a series of fierce battles, from which my mother invariably emerged the victor.” He wrote of “constant defeats and the beatings with a cane.” He recalled that his mother ran all the family finances and “gave my father 10 shillings a week” and that “he was severely cross‐examined if he meekly asked for another shilling or two before the end of the week.”

Monty never fully forgave his mother and said of his time in Tasmania, “One was hemmed in…..one was opposed….one had to break out”. He refused to allow his own son any contact with his grandmother and did not attend her funeral in 1949.

Interview with Lady Montgomery at Moville House in 1943

"My son always lives up to his creed," Lady Montgomery said in an interview at Moville House in 1943. She then told of an incident that occurred in Hobart, when Bishop Montgomery one day called his five sons into his study and said to them : "Whatever profession you choose, always put God first in your lives, and strive to serve the Empire. You come from a family of gentlemen. That does not signify mere outward refinement. It speaks of a refined and noble mind, to which anything dishonourable, mean, or impure is abhorrent and unworthy."

FAMILY CREED

"That is the Montgomery creed," Lady Montgomery added, "and all five boys have lived up to it. Young Bernard was so deeply moved that later that night he confessed that he had sold his bicycle without permission to get money to buy stainps for his collection. He wasn't a namby-pamby child. He was naughty and mischievious as most children are.

"When we were watching troops marching in the street in Hobart at the time of the Boer War, Bernard turned to me, his eyes glistening, and said: "I'm going to be a soldier; and if I'm a good soldier perhaps one day I'll have my own army.'

"I said: 'Soldiering is a hard life.'

Bernard replied: 'Of course, but I'll make myself fit and do everything a soldier has to do, then my men will say I'm one of them.'

My son never forgot that. He's as hard on himself as he is on others."

NEARLY LOST LIFE

Lady Montgomery also revealed that her famous son nearly lost his life and was almost buried alive in the first World War.

"He was badly wounded early in 1914 when he was leading his company," she said. "He was lying unconscious when the body of his batman, who had been shot through the heart, fell on him. Both he and the batman were carted away to a clearing station. When he woke he heard a doctor say: 'This man has only half an hour to live.'

"Later he was believed dead, and was placed on a lorry to be driven away for burial. But the driver of the lorry thought he saw the 'corpse' move and reported the fact to the doctor, who found that Bernard was alive."