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Object of the Week: Monty's Beret


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Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery donated his famous beret to The Tank Museum in 1945.

 

Monty was known for his eccentricity as much as his ability. Frequently adopting an unconventional style of dress, in World War Two he assumed the black beret of the Royal Tank Regiment as his standard headgear - despite being an infantryman.

 

But why?

 

Monty’s beret was presented to him before the battle of El Alamein, fought in October 1942, where he led his men to a decisive victory.

 

Douglas Shardlow, who served in B Squadron, 6th Royal Tank Regiment, explained why…

 

“…During the Western Desert Campaign… he frequently wore an Australian bush hat which was quite unsuitable when travelling in a tank.

 

At the time, the 6th Royal Tank Regiment had been taken out of the line because they had suffered very badly. It was at this time that B Squadron was allotted to act as a sort of bodyguard to Monty.

 

It was Sgt. Jock Fraser of B Squadron who gave Monty the beret which became so famous thereafter.

 

Jock was not the kind of chap that went around boasting of this but it was a part of the history of the then Squadron that one of their number had had a hand in what became the most famous piece of Army headgear in the world.”

 

In the image you can see the beret, which is the very same as the one seen worn by Monty in the photo behind (right). James `Jock` Fraser can be seen on the left.

 

With the war over, Montgomery presented his beret to the museum on 29th September 1945. On bequeathing it he said:

 

“This beret was given to me by a Sgt. in the RTR, the NCO in command of my tank during the Battle of Alamein in October 1942. It was worn by me from Alamein to Tunis when it was so dirty that I got a new one; it was the Sgt’s own beret. I added my General’s badge to it and have worn the black beret with two badges ever since...”

 

The Tank Museum knows little else about James `Jock` Fraser. Any further information would be gratefully received.

 

625468_10151075984045842_1201876168_n.jpg

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