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Monty the Pompey Lord President

Monty Fratton Park



‘Monty’, to give him his full title - Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, KG, GCB, DSO, PC, DL - was Pompey’s honorary President from 1944 until his death in 1976.


The Pompey History Society are often asked on their sell-out Fratton Park tours about ‘Monty’ and the role he played at the club.  Society members Paul Boynton, Mick Comben and Dave Taylor have been busy researching the background including speaking to the Curator of the D Day Museum and the acquisition of numerous books. The Society has also recently been lucky enough to receive some unique photos from Jenny Eaton whose father-in-law Arthur Eaton was a butcher in New Road and was a friend of manager Jack Tinn and those pictures are published for the first time here.


Monty’s first job in the area was as commander of the Portsmouth Garrison before the war in 1938. A top job in the British Army as there were many thousands of regulars and reserves under his direct control from all branches of the Army guarding the Dockyard, the forts including those on Portsdown Hill, Gosport, Fareham, and out at sea. He and his wife, Betty, were allocated as their quarters Ravelin House, which is now part of the University of Portsmouth campus.  Sadly, his wife Betty died from sepsis following an insect bite on a Somerset beach, so they never really got to enjoy Portsmouth. In fact, Monty found his time at Portsmouth before the war quite a sad empty time.


However, that’s when he first came to see Pompey play and as the most senior Army officer in the district, a huge job in the Army at that time, the directors would have been chuffed to get him into the ground as that was a big thing for the club. However, there is no easily found record of him ever liking or playing football before that time in his memoirs. And that perhaps would fit with the fact that he never came to see Pompey regularly although to be fair he was a busy guy! The belief is he came as a ‘jolly’, enjoying the profile it afforded him. He was posted to Palestine just before the 1939 FA Cup final and he did say publicly that his great disappointment was missing out on our cup winning appearance - he would have loved sitting next to the King at Wembley.


The visit to the railway carriage pictured below was on 21st March 1944, it was the same day as the photo was put in the Evening News. From his memoirs, one of the books we purchased, and books written by his staff we know his whereabouts on many days, on this occasion visiting troops in the Portsmouth Garrison and utilising his personal carriage. One rumour was that the club directors just walked over to see him when they heard he was there but that was clearly rubbish as he’d be heavily guarded, and they wouldn’t have got near him no matter who they were without a proper appointment. He constantly visited his troops to help keep up morale and what better way to travel than a railway carriage as used by several of the top personnel of both British and German armies – Britain had not gone through the savage cuts made by Lord Beeching in the 60’s so the railway was still one of the main means of transport with carriages easy to move and easy to defend from attacks when danger threatened. 


As of 21 March 1944, he had never seen us lose a game (which is telling) so he was considered a lucky mascot and an obvious choice for the club President. It is assumed that the Pompey directors made an appointment to meet him at the Fratton Goods Yard to enable them to formally issue the invite to become Honorary President of the club.

Monty Train

The people in the photo (ignoring the soldiers!) are;


Stephen Cribb (Vice Chairman), Herbert Hiley-Jones (Director), Monty, Sidney Leverett (Chairman), Richard Vernon Stokes (Director), Jack Tinn (Manager), Harry Wain (Director).   

Rear Photo

The reverse of the photo has been personalised by Jack Tinn

Monty's car

It is believed that Monty attended his first game as President was on 29th April 1944 (the fifth anniversary of the FA Cup win) against Brentford in the League South which Pompey won 3-2 with goals from Guthrie, Barlow and McLeod in front of 8,996 fans.  We believe that the above picture of his car was taken at that game.


One rumour from an older fan is that Monty slept with his troops in tents on the Fratton pitch the night before D Day.  That was certainly not true on that night as he was recorded as visiting his son in Hindhead before returning to Southwick House to probably have a night cap with his boss Eisenhower. He embarked for Normandy the day after.  One other myth we would like to dispel concerns the red socks and his supposed request to include an Army colour in the Pompey kit. we now believe is also rubbish. Our belief is that it was simply a post war rationing clothes coupon and standardised colours thing (on the list of available clothing for clubs in 1947 black socks did not figure) and so wasn’t a Monty request thing at all.


Not a lot else can be gleaned from written sources about Monty’s involvement with Pompey but a few years ago several letters written by the great man to the club came up for auction.  Included one from October 1948 written to Chairman R Vernon Stokes which reads: 'The Portsmouth team is going great guns ... Please congratulate the whole team from me on being top of the First Division.'


Vernon Stokes often responded most notably after Pompey had clinched the title at Bolton on 23rd April 1949 – “Dear Lord President, I know you will be delighted to learn that your team has achieved its ambition and become the first, south of London to win the Championship of the Football League.  The inspiring messages you sent to the lads during the season stressed the extent of winning the league compared with the undoubted glamour of winning the FA Cup.”


The letters showed Monty tried to do his bit for the club a few years later as Pompey’s fortunes waned. A letter from August 1960 reads: “I asked Cox (Freddie Cox manager from 1958 to 1961] to lunch with me here last week and tell him about his players ... and came to the conclusion that he lacks character and power to inspire confidence in others.”  Fans of that era might heartily concur with that view!


That is our take on a little-known side of a great man.


Paul Boynton

Mick Comben

Dave Taylor

Leap Day history shows Pompey unbeaten