Thursday, June 29, 2006

Montgomery and the troops in Trieste

I recently had an e-mail from a fellow ex-4th Hussar, one Michael Bradbury,and he asked me the following:

"Your remembrances of things past in Opicina and Monfalcone brought back many memories of my time there with the regiment coincident with yours.

One of the most alarming incidents was when Field Marshal Montgomery gave a pep talk to the troops in the Fenice Theatre in Trieste asking them to sign on and was slow handclapped and then shouted down with cries of : Joe Stalin for King... Joe Stalin for King. He left shortly thereafter. Do you mention this anywhere in your submissions ?"

Has anyone else heard about this incident?


Blogger Tomcann said...

Would that lecture by Monty have been in the Fenice Theatre at Venice - which was extensively damaged a few years ago by fire as it's own "fire extinguisher" - the local canal - had been emptied for repairs ?
This would have been at the time when a great deal of work was being done by the Conservative Party to try and offset the effect of the "Beveridge Plan".
To no effect as the Labour Party of Clement Atlee then took over in the July of '45 - and very skilfully produced shortages of both coal and fish in an Island built on coal and surrounded by fish !

Thursday, 29 June, 2006  
Blogger Peter G said...

Here are the archived programmes for 1945-1946 at La Fenice.

You will see that La Fenice was open to the public in 1945. Would Montgomery interrupt a programme? And is it likely that the audience would be 100% British soldiers?

Anything is possible, but if Montgomery commandeered it to address troops, then he chose a very small venue to do so.

Thursday, 29 June, 2006  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Yes Peter -
I was wondering about the effect of size in La Fenice - I doubt if Monty made any public addresses to less than a Brigade - La Fenice might hold a battalion.
But what programmes - Beethovens 8th and 9th in the same programme, and I was too far away in Austria to attend ! Yikes !

Thursday, 29 June, 2006  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Would it be possible that if Monty had been slow handclapped and some of the audience were chanting for Stalin, as Ron's pal seems to remember, the 'official record' might well have ignored it completely? I have heard that Churchill, and even the King and Queen, were booed during visits to the East End during the war and these facts were suppressed at the time. So, would an incident like this involving 'Monty' also be kept quiet? It would be interesting to knowif their were other similar accounts.

Friday, 30 June, 2006  
Blogger Peter G said...

Anything is possible, of course. But aside from the small venue, Generals do not usually stroll on stage in the middle of an opera, or indeed after it, simply to address a section of the audience.

Civilian Italians who had both the money and the desire to attend prestigious musical recitals in 1945-1947 are not generally the sort of people who would yell out support for Stalin in such a setting. Nor can I imagine music loving British troops booing Montgomery in front of Italians and top Italian artistes. And would a Field Marshal appear alone? Would he not be accompanied by a cohort of high-ranking aids?

There is an added problem, Monty left the 8th Army and Italy in December 1943. In May 1945 he became C-in-C British Forces of occupation in Germany and in January 1946 he was raised to the peerage becoming Viscount Montgomery of Alamein. In June 1946 he succeeded Brooke as CIGS. He did tour considerably as CIGS so it is just possible that he could have been in Venice after June 1946.

In 1945 Alexander would be the more likely figure. He remained as C-in-C Mediterranean Forces until October 1945 when he too was raised to the peerage. He was appointed Governor General of Canada in April 1946.

However, it seems to me to be one of those 'urban legends' that grow and grow. Of course I may be completely wrong, but such an anecdotal story requires positive proof rather than hearsay.

Friday, 30 June, 2006  

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