Wednesday, August 30, 2006

One post-war legacy of 'Monty'



A photograph of the Memorial stone inside Manchester YMCA Montgomery House

Going through some of my photographs recently, I cam across one I had taken inside the Manchester YMCA building known as Montgomery House, taken in 1981. Occasionally I would visit Montgomery House when I was a full-time student at the University of Salford, or afterwards when I returned to the Manchester area to run in road races.

This photograph was taken inside Montgomery House, which had been built by the YMCA with the encouragement of Field Marshall Montgomery after WW2. As well as sporting and recreational facilities, Montgomery House was built with rooms so that young people from all over the world could come to stay in a welcoming, friendly, environment. It was a fine legacy giving the opportunity for learning, sport and recreation.

Many individuals and organisations contributed funds to the construction costs, and I remember many of the bedrooms had been funded by parents of young lads who had lost their lives during WW2 serving under 'Monty'. I photographed this Memorial Stone inside the main recreation room. It was donated by the Municipality of Caen and the French Resistance in recognition of the British who had liberated them from Occupation only a few years earlier.

Some years ago I heard that the YMCA had given up the sports grounds adjacent to Montgomery House and it was sold off for housing development. However, I also heard that Montgomery House had been taken over by one of the Manchester universities and still welcomed students from many nations who wished to study in the city.

5 Comments:

Blogger Tomcann said...

Joe - many tales have been told of how Monty was - at best - a Lunatic. He was far from that and had a great deal of empathy with youth and went out of his way to see that they had some enjoyment in life. So this Montgomery House does not surprise me as this is a typical effort of his.

What his detractors - and they were legion - failed to grasp was his utter professionalism in battle and his refusal to reenact the Somme and his preservation of life was paramount.
His professionalism showed on many occasions the first one being at Alam Halfa - or second Alemein when he took on and throughly beat Rommel. He already knew of Rommels tactics and countered them - albeit with a close study of Ultra - again at Medenine and Mareth Line with his rapid change of plan for the left hook to El Hamma and his use of the DAF to create the "CabRank" system of Air Attack which was the first British Blitzkreig.
Then it was his idea to merge units of 1st Army and 8th army to finally break through at Medjez el bab - Tunis and Cap Bon, to finih that campaign.
Then he went close to madness as he could not get sensible decisions out of the new set up with Eisenhower to invade Sicily, then his torment over invading Italy - without a plan.
after his disappointment at having Ike take over full command in France he soldiered on and was pleased to learn that both Ike and Bradley told many in the USA -" that without Monty we would not have been successful"
So much for a mad general !

Thursday, 31 August, 2006  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Just about everybody I've known that served under 'Monty' thinks highly of him. Hindsight is a fine thing. Anybody can come up with some brilliant ideas that one thing or another should have been done, that this or that was wrong and the person who made the decisions had all sorts of personality defects.

I suppose this is true not just about WW2, but in all sorts of situations. It is a different matter when decisions have to be made at the time, without the benefit of this great thing called hindsight.

Whatever faults Montgomery may or may not have had, he left some positive legacies. This Manchester YMCA is one I was able to benefit from. It must be better for young people to have the chance to meet others rather than being on opposing sides in a war, as older generations did. And so thanks to 'Monty' and to the families of the young lads who died in the war whose families helped fund this place. They must have believed in the same ideals as Montgomery and for something positive to come from the death of a loved one.

Thursday, 31 August, 2006  
Anonymous Ash said...

I am the cuurent building manager of Montgomery house and would love to know more history of the building

Friday, 21 June, 2013  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Thanks for your comment and enquiry, Ash.

As I wrote in the original article about Montgomery House (or 'Mo Ho') I remember the building mainly from the time I was a student at the nearby 'Uni' at Salford. So far as I can know, it was built in the late 1950s and originally was partly used by Manchester YMCA (who also had other premises in the city centre) and Manchester University.

There used to be a file in the Common Room (the main recreation room) which gave a brief history of how it came to be built (i.e. where I took the photograph of the Caen stone). Parents of young soldiers who were killed in the war donated much of the capital money. I seem to remember many or all of the student bedrooms was dedicated to the memory of one of these young soldiers. There was a small tablet on the door with the name of the soldier whose family had presumably provided the money for the room to be fitted out. Do you know if this is still the case?

As you can see from the photograph (above) some of the capital cost for the construction of 'Mo Ho' was provided by other organisations. In this case it was people from the area around Caen (Normandy). At the time Montgomery House was built, even then the city of Caen was still rebuilding after the war. Yet, they still made a significant contribution to the building of Montgomery House, which went on to be used by young people around the age of those young Allied soldiers of Monty's army who gave their lives to liberate Caen and district.

The file I refer to would be ideal for what you are now looking for. Unfortunately, finding out where it is now is another matter. Possibly it was retained by the Manchester YMCA (now the 'Y Club, Manchester' in the Castlefield district) when they sold their interest in the building and the playing fields. Alternatively, could the history file have been taken into the care of Manchester University library? I would have thought someone would have looked after the file.

In the first instance you might try making enquiries from the 'Y Club' and Manchester University library. Failing that, perhaps if you write to the 'Manchester Evening News' requesting information about 'Mo Ho' perhaps someone who has a more complete documented history of the building will be able to fill in the gaps.

Good luck to you, Ash!
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Monday, 24 June, 2013  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

The French text on the commemorative tablet at Montgomery House ('Mo Ho'), Demesne Road, Manchester reads as follows:

"La ville de Caen et la Résistance du Calvados en souvenir reconnaissant à l'aide Britannique qui les Délivra."

This can be translated into English as follows:

"From the city of Caen and the Resistance of Calvados, in grateful remembrance of the British who delivered them."
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Monday, 24 June, 2013  

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