"...Before launching my troops into battle it has always been my custom to issue them a Personal Message. This is intended to define the common objective and thereby foster unity of purpose...The messages to the Eighth Army trace the journey of that great fighting force from Alamein to the halfway up Italy. Those issued to 21 Army Group trace the course of the campaign in North-West Europe from D-Day, 6 June 1944, when the Allied Force assaulted over the beaches of Normandy, to its arrival on the shores of the Baltic in May 1945. I like to think that these messages did much to foster the spirit and the will-to-win that made our forces such a great and happy family: and so formidable in battle..."
--Montgomery of Alamein, Field-Marshal
HOW THESE MESSAGES WERE WRITTEN AND PRODUCED
As far as I know, Monty wrote all of these himself and without the assistance of a copywriter or staff member. Monty valued clarity in his written and oral communication to his troops. In some ways, his Personal Messages reflected his uncompromising, harsh, yet inspiring personality. These messages were intended to build morale and excitement for the "job at hand" as well as help communicate Monty's "first rule" on leadership: that "the commander-in-chief must be sure that what is strategically desirable is technically possible with the resources at his disposal". About his literary style, he once told author Anthony Brett White that "...They must know how I write. They've got to understand that in anything I write the opening sentence is very important..." There are a couple of draft versions of messages, written in Monty's own hand, that I’ve found on the web. There is no mention in his biographies of him receiving writing or literary assistance in producing these messages.
In "Operation Victory", De Guingand wrote: "...The world has read many of Montgomery’s “Personal Messages”. They were one of the means he adopted for getting himself over to his troops. The Times Literary Supplement once published a Leader on these messages, extolling the fineness, finesse, and clarity of the style. They were very much sought after by the troops, and were most carefully prepared by the Commander himself. Some who had been with him for two or three years used to think they appeared rather too often towards the end. Familiar phrases such as “you and I together will see this thing through to the end” were smiled at. It must be remembered, however, that the forces under Montgomery were continually changing, and that these messages were welcomed by the majority, and did a lot of good..."
I have one letter by Monty to a “Money” (if the reader knows who this is, please let me know) in the Airborne forces in which Monty refers to a print run of 1,000 of the July 1944 personal message relating to his assuming the “Colonel Commandant” position of the airborne forces. Other than that, I have no idea what the typical print run was. Judging by what I have seen on eBay, it seems like more messages may have been produced of the D-day and May 1945 Victory messages, but it may also be the case that these particular messages tended to be saved as souvenirs more than the other missives.. If someone reading this knows more on this topic, please give me a shout. I had hoped that Budd’s book, “A Printer Goes to War”, would provide insight on this subject, but sadly (at least in term’s what I was hoping to glean) this book is more of a self-aggrandizing memoir by the author, a printing tradesman, of his WW2 service and subsequent career than it was a study of how his group produced Monty's Personal Messages. That being said, Budd does detail some stories of how his group commandeered stores of paper from book publishers in occupied territories and captured military stock in order to print the Personal Messages and other paper ephemera needed to run an army.
These messages were printed by Monty’s “Printing and Stationery Services” group who were charged of printing these messages as well as all the sundry forms and stationery that a modern army needed to run a campaign. During the course of Monty’s advance through Africa and Europe, this group obviously had to procure paper where they could, using British and captured supplies. That accounts for the variance in paper quality and sizes of the original versions. By 1945, they seem to have secured stocks of good quality German and UK paper, and the messages became very consistent physically.
Sadly, most of the paper used to produce these Messages is highly acidic and has subsequently browned and become fragile in the ensuring 60 years, making original messages very delicate. I currently store my examples in archival plastic sleeves produced by Gaylord Archival.
These messages are rare but (unfairly) not particularly valuable in a monetary sense. Some readers are visiting this site, having found one these messages in “grandpa’s footlocker” and wondering what it is worth financially. In my experience (and this will be borne out by the reader searching completed ebay listings), unsigned copies generally run from $15 to $40 on eBay. Exceptions to this are the Alamein and D-Day messages, which can run from $50-$200 depending on how active the bidding is. Messages that have an original ink signature by Monty run from $200 and up, depending on subject matter and whether the item is at auction and hotly contested or not. Retail dealers will charge more, as they have to make a profit to pay for their overhead and may be willing to hold out in the hopes of selling at a higher price. EBay and auctions are the best arbiter for current market value. As with all collectibles, one generally has to “pay retail, but sell at wholesale” prices.
If you have a “personal message” or other document written by Monty that you are considering selling, please let me know. I am a collector, not a dealer, and I will give your piece a good home!. I’m also interested in official war office (not press) photographs. I’m generally only interested in original (not reprint) artefacts from the 1942-1947 period. You can reach me via the "Contact" link on this site.
Scholars: Here is a catalogue raisonné, with a complete transcript of the text, of the Personal Messages that Monty wrote to his troops, 1942-46: