Belgium / Story

Bernard Montgomery's visit to Brussels




Brussels. 7 September 1944. On the way to his headquarters, the Field Marshal Montgomery made a short, unexpected stopover in Brussels. The visit was not announced in the newspapers, which had begun to circulate again since 5 September. But news of his arrival travelled quickly by word of mouth and a large crowd gathered on the Grande Place.

The man who had successfully led the Eighth British Army across North Africa after the Battle of Tobruk was in the capital to pay tribute to Colonel Piron. But the war was not yet over and his stay was rather short. He would also briefly visit Brussels several months later, in March 1945, at the time of the Allied general offensive. It was not until 11 and 12 September 1945 that the man the public had affectionately named "Monty" and who Eisenhower claimed was one of the "greatest military leaders of the present and past" made a dignified official visit to Brussels. When he arrived the Grand-Place and passed through the town’s major thoroughfares, the fervour of the crowd was at its peak and, the following week, a similarly warm and triumphant welcome was reserved by the people of Brussels for Eisenhower. Several weeks later, it was General De Gaulle's turn to visit Belgium. In honour of the British general, the houses are decorated with British and allied flags. "Monty" is welcomed as a hero. He was received with great pomp by the mayor and was, of course, made an honorary citizen of the city. In his speech from the town hall balcony, he paid tribute to the Belgian resistance and recalled the suffering endured by the liberation armies since the summer of 1944. His journey also led him to the Senate, the Congress Column and the Royal Palace, where he was hosted as a guest of the Regent. Beyond these occasional visits, the Marshal's memory was also quickly inscribed in public space. In September 1944, the municipality of Woluwe-Saint-Pierre renamed the Saint-Michel roundabout as the Montgomery roundabout. On 7 September 1980, the anniversary of Monty's first visit to Brussels, a bronze statue by the artist Oscar Nemon was installed in the heart of the square facing the roundabout.

With the help of Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles and in partnership with CEGE-SOMA.