Forgotten pieces of war history about Leeds unearthed

A REMARKABLE speech made in Leeds by legendary military leader Field Marshall Montgomery has been unearthed, decades after becoming a forgotten piece of history.

Saturday, 29th June 2019, 7:28 am
Lee Jones, of Leeds Beckett University, whose role involves working with the university's international partners, looks at the speech by Montgomery. Picture by: Tony Johnson.

Details of the speech by Montgomery - known as Monty to the troops - have been revealed today on Armed Forces Day by Leeds Beckett University.

And the university has also unearthed others war treasures that provide details of a soldiers' pageant held 75 years ago to the day - on 29 June 1944 - that was attended by the young Princess Elizabeth, aged 18, who was royal guest at the event. She later became Queen Elizabeth II in 1952.

Typed notes of the speech made in Leeds by legendary military leader Field Marshall Montgomery.

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It was during World War Two that the campus at Leeds Beckett University, formerly Leeds Metropolitan University, was used as a hospital and military base for hundreds of soldiers.

Now historic paperwork relating to the pageant and parts of Monty's speech have resurfaced.

Leeds Beckett's Lee Jones, whose role involves working with the university's international partners, said it was through his work with the British College in Nepal that he was introduced to Anthony Wieler, an advisor to the college.

Mr Jones said: “By sheer coincidence, it turns out that Anthony’s father, Colonel Leslie Wieler, was the Commandant of the Army Selection Training Unit (ASTU) at Beckett Park.

Some of the paperwork and a speech by legendary military leader Field Marshall Montgomery.

"Colonel Wieler went on to become inspector of physical training for the whole Army, of the British Empire.

“Fortunately, Anthony was able to supply us with these wonderful documents that record the role that Beckett Park played during this particular period of World War Two.

“The three-day military display and pageant would have been quite a spectacle and a huge morale booster for the men who had been injured during military service.”

Monty's emotive words were spoken to injured troops just a few months before the pageant, delivering a morale-boost message ahead of D-Day on 4 June 1944.

A document containing extracts from his speech reads: "You must not under-estimate the German soldier. He is good, but the well-trained British soldier is better and can see him off every time.

Monty went on to say: "We shall meet again and when we do meet, we shall know each other and have confidence in each other. I am afraid I shall not know all of you, but you will know me. At any rate, we are friends.”

Among the most decorated of military leaders, Monty (1887-1976) was one of the most prominent and successful British commanders of the Second World War.

He notably commanded the Allies against General Erwin Rommel in North Africa, and in the invasions of Italy and Normandy.

The powerful words he spoke in Leeds in 1944 would have made a lasting impression on the troops present at the pageant.

Leeds Beckett's collection of documents also recount the honour that Leeds paid to two regiments closely associated with the city - ‘The West Yorkshires’ and the ‘King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry Regiment’.

The archives reveal that Leeds City Council approved the proposal that the regiments could march through the city on ceremonial occasions with bayonets fixed – a privilege often associated with freedom of the city.

The documents will now be digitised and preserved in the Leeds Beckett University archive.