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Film of Viscount Montgomery of Alamein’s Visit to the Isle of Man

Posted on 05.11.2020

“Out With The Flags and Bunting!”


Newspaper headline from Mona’s Herald, 11/05/1948

Manx National Heritage Library and Archives holds original amateur film footage of “Monty’s” 1948 visit to the Isle of Man, which is now digitally available for the first time on iMuseum. Click here to watch!

Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, leader of the Allied Armies in the 1939-45 war and Chief of the Imperial General Staff, spent two days on the Island in May 1948. The visit had been long awaited as Monty was due to visit the Island one year earlier but engagements in London had prevented him from doing so. When he eventually arrived on Island, he was made an honorary freeman of Douglas and unveiled a tablet naming the Montgomery Bed in the Ramsey Hospital.

Image of a page from Isle of Man Times, 15/05/1948

Luckily, a Manx amateur filmmaker named J. Walter Royston captured some of the key parts of Monty’s visit to the Island, and as it’s coming up to Remembrance Sunday we thought that it would be a fitting tribute to share with you Royston’s footage of the renowned war hero engaging with the Manx people, and most importantly, his visit to Douglas War Memorial.

Monty had a packed couple of days, first visiting King William’s College and inspecting the Junior Training Corps, an event which Royston managed to film closely.

Images taken from Royston’s film footage

Before leaving the school, Monty told the Head—Mr S. E. Wilson—that he would like the boys to have a whole day’s holiday to commemorate the occasion of his visit, something which the school actually granted, lucky boys!

Monty continued his trip with a visit to the Manx Regiment at the Drill Hall in Tromode, the headquarters of the 515 L.A.A. This Regiment had fought with him from El Alamein to the finish of the war in Germany. Many of the officers and men who had gathered had actually fought with General Montgomery—as he was then known —in his campaigns. Addressing the Cadet Force who had also gathered here, he talked about the possibility of a Third World War and asked the crowd

“…why in this Island of 50,000 people which sent nearly 6,000 overseas to fight—it is a tremendous number now in peacetime when the danger is there just the same, the young men of this Island don’t come and join the best club in the Island.”

“Perhaps,” he added with a twinkle in his eye and amidst laughter, “I had better have a talk to the women of this Island!”

Quote from Ramsey Courier, 14/05/1948

One of the most poignant parts of Monty’s trip that Royston managed to capture was his visit to the Cenotaph Ceremony at Douglas War Memorial. Here, Monty is presented with a poppy wreath in the shape of the Three Legs of Man, how striking!

Images taken from Royston’s film footage

I have personally never seen a poppy wreath in the shape of the Three legs before, especially not one that big, and it really shows that the contribution that the Manx people made to the World Wars was remembered and appreciated. I imagine that seeing this wreath would have really struck a chord with Manx people at the time, as it did with me today. One newspaper reported:

“A halt will be made at the War Memorial, where the man who commanded Britain’s victorious armies will lay a poppy wreath (a massive Three Legs), in memory of the Island’s sons who fell. The standard bearers of the British Legion will form a guard of honour, and trumpeters will sound the “Last Post” and “Reveille.”” 

Quote from Mona’s Herald, 11/05/1948

Looking at Royston’s footage, you can see the hundreds of people lining the streets waiting to catch a glimpse of Monty, and you can really see why the Ramsey Courier said that Monty…

“…Captures the Hearts of the Manx People…and his visit will long be remembered”

Quote from Ramsey Courier, 14/05/1948

Keep an eye on Manx National Heritage‘s Facebook page for news of when more of Royston’s film footage of the Isle of Man in the 1930s, 40s and 50s will be uploaded onto iMuseum!

 

Katie Clugston
Digital Collections Assistant
Manx National Heritage

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