Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Captain Evans, Monty and the Flying Fortress - an update


Monty with the crew of Theresa Leta (Bobbie Kinnear collection)

Regular readers may remember that in February 2014, I recounted some of the exploits of Captain (later Colonel) Richard E Evans USAAF and his crew when they were flying the Theresa Leta, B17 Flying Fortress which General Bernard Law Montgomery had 'won' in what was thought by General Eisenhower to be a light-hearted wager but which the deadly serious British general had insisted be 'paid out' to him.


Monty 'Learning the Ropes' (Bobbie Kinnear collection)

At the time of writing the second part of the story, I had a feeling that my crew list was incomplete but following a further meeting in London with Bobbie, her husband John and daughter Kate, I was alerted to a book called "Victory Mail of World War II; V-Mail, The Funny Mail" by Captain James W Hudson, who was heavily involved in the setting up of this vital morale boosting method of communicating with home for the boys posted overseas.

Monty at the controls (Bobbie Kinnear collection)

Although Hudson was based in Egypt running the V-Mail system, his official title was 'Senior Photographic Officer in the US Army Forces, Middle East' and thus in November 1943, he was appointed to be Photographic Censor for the Cairo Conference between Winston Churchill and President Franklin D Roosevelt  and ended up taking many of the photos of this event himself. Later still, he was at the 'Big Three' conference in Tehran, when Prime Minister and President were joined by Soviet Leader, Josef Stalin and it was during this period that Hudson got to fly in the Theresa Leta along with some illustrious passengers.

Bobbie has subsequently most kindly sent me a copy of the book, as well as some of the original photos that form part of her collection and which also appear in the book - perhaps originally taken by James Hudson.

As a result of reading Hudson's chapter on the Theresa Leta and her crew, as well as Captain Evans' as yet unpublished memoir, we can now show the complete crew list, their rank and position aboard Theresa Leta and where known, their hometown in the USA.

The Crew of the Theresa Leta:

Captain Richard E Evans (Pilot) (Tennessee)
Lieutenant Fred I Johnson (Co-Pilot) (Logansport, Indiana)
2nd Lieutenant Albert L Beringsmith (Bombardier) (Chicago, Illinois)
2nd Lieutenant Thomas Carver (Navigator) (Alameda, California)
Tech. Sergeant Dale Owens (Flight Engineer)
Staff Sergeant Francis (Frank) R Morris (Radio Operator) (Soodenow, Illinois)
Staff Sergeant Victor Kennedy (Waist Gunner) (Tylertown, Mississippi)
Tech. Sergeant Lewis (Top Turret)
Staff Sergeant Austin (Ball Turret)
Staff Sergeant Charles (Chuck) W Ward (Tail Gunner) (Albuquerque, New Mexico)

Also after writing the first series of articles, I received an email from Lee Beringsmith, the son of the Bombardier, Albert L Beringsmith. Lee spoke very highly of Captain Evans and recalled that his father felt that he was the best pilot in the squadron and gladly swapped places with another bombardier who suffered from nervous problems and wanted off Captain Evans' crew. Lee also kindly recounted an amusing story but one in which we see Monty's sometimes well hidden 'human' side which showed his insistence at nothing but the best for the men under his command:

"My Dad told me that when they reached Cairo, Monty had them check into the Cairo Hilton as part of his personal staff. As Monty left the B17, he told Captain Evans to call him if there were any problems. When they got to the front desk at the hotel, the rather rude clerk informed them that there were no rooms available. Captain Evans asked to use the phone and reached Monty. He passed the phone to the clerk and said 'General Montgomery would like to speak to you.' The desk clerk rolled his eyes, picked up the receiver and suddenly snapped to attention, saying ' Yes sir, yes sir, right away sir.' Needless to say, rooms were somehow magically found and the crew got a well deserved rest from their combat missions."

I am indebted to Bobbie Kinnear as always for her generous sharing of her family photographs and to Lee Beringsmith for his email and shared anecdotes.


Published Sources:

Victory Mail of World War II: V-Mail, the Funny Mail - Captain James W Hudson, Xlibris Corporation 2007

Unpublished Sources:

Unpublished memoir of Colonel Richard E Evans USAF



Captain Evans, Monty and the Flying Fortress - Part Two

Richard Evans (left) and some of his crew with Monty (Bobbie Kinnear)

Having duly met King George VI and having found him to be, as Monty had predicted "A very nice chap", the time soon came for Captain Evans and his crew to start the work for which they had been selected.

This was on a flight from Tripoli to Cairo and as well as Montgomery, the B-17 carried a full party of VIPs, amongst them General Henry Maitland Wilson, known as ‘Jumbo’ due to his large size as well as the ever present ‘Freddie’ de Guingand. The atmosphere was relaxed as the crew of the bomber gave their British guests an impromptu tour of the aircraft, even allowing the British Generals the opportunity to squeeze into some of the gun positions. Whilst all this was going on, Monty was settled into his small office area that had been set up in the converted bomb bay and carried on with his paperwork. Monty seemed – and was – an austere type but ‘Freddie’ had earlier spoken to Captain Evans and reassured him that Monty’s “disinclination to smile” as he put it, was nothing to worry about and that Monty could be “a most pleasant fellow” in the right circumstances.

Gen. Sir Henry 'Jumbo' Wilson (IWM)
During the course of the flight, Evans noticed that the oil pressure indicator on the B-17’s number 3 engine was showing a very slight drop in pressure. There was nothing particularly untoward in this; the desert environment was extremely tough on aircraft engines with sand constantly being ingested into the cylinders and gradually wearing the pistons, thus allowing oil to leak slowly into the space and escape into the airstream. Although this was a slow process at first, for an older aircraft like Theresa Leta unless the engines were replaced at regular intervals, these leaks would steadily get worse.

Even so, it was nothing to worry about, the B-17 could quite easily fly on three engines if required and as a precaution Evans decided to shut down or ‘feather’ no. 3 engine to save wear and tear and then re-start it on approach to Cairo so as to have full power available for landing. Whilst this was a slightly unusual procedure, for an experienced pilot like Richard Evans it was not an issue to cause concern. Even so, when Lieut. Johnson, the co-pilot enquired whether he should inform the passengers of the developments, Evans wisely decided against it, so as not to cause them undue alarm. Despite the wisdom of this decision, it was one which was to have repercussions for Evans – and for Monty. Leaving Theresa Leta on autopilot, Evans decided to go back and speak to his passengers and passing Monty in his office, he casually invited him up to the flight deck, having completely forgotten that his bomber was flying on three engines!

Lieut. Johnson was despatched to stretch his legs and to free up the co-pilot’s seat for Monty, who settled in gingerly. Evans felt that he was making real progress with his British master, who for the first time began to relax and speak with some freedom. It was clear that he was enjoying the flight as he spoke to Evans about his time in the British Army and his exploits against Rommel.

During this conversation, the British General suddenly noticed something and rasped in a very un-Monty like voice “It’s stopped, it’s stopped! The engine’s stopped – it’s not running!” Evans had been so engrossed in his conversation with Monty that he had completely forgotten that he had feathered the engine and now Monty had embarrassed himself in front of an American officer. Captain Evans tried his hardest to reassure Monty that there was no cause for alarm and even tried a little humour in telling the great man that Boeing had deliberately given the B-17 an excess of power just so that one engine could be switched off so as to rest it!

It was all to no avail and Monty stormed from the flight deck, clearly upset and embarrassed that his legendary calm demeanour should have cracked in front of an American officer and a fairly junior one at that. Evans cursed his forgetfulness and vowed never to let this happen again.

General George S Patton Jnr (US Army)

As well as incurring Monty’s displeasure, Evans also managed to upset the volatile American General George S Patton. This incident came when he was flying Monty and a B-17 full of distinguished British VIPs to Palermo for a conference with Patton regarding the ongoing campaign in Sicily. Apart from Montgomery himself, the passengers once again included ‘Freddie’ de Guingand and General ‘Jumbo’ Wilson, Eisenhower’s Deputy Commander.

Prior to the flight, General Patton had advised Monty that the airfield at Palermo “was satisfactory for all types of aircraft”, information that had been passed on to Evans. However, upon arrival over the airfield, it quickly became clear that Patton's aviation knowledge did not match his expertise in tank warfare. The runway looked alarmingly short for a large aircraft such as the B-17 and Evans growing apprehension could not have been helped by his then witnessing a C-47 transport aircraft, better known to the British as a Dakota and a much smaller aircraft than the B-17, run the full length of the runway before crashing in flames into the trees at one end of the airfield.

Perhaps fortunately for his passengers, they remained blissfully ignorant of affairs on the ground whilst Evans circled the field trying to assess the situation. The only positive that could be drawn was that the smoke billowing from the crashed C-47 provided an excellent indication of the wind speed and direction!

The question now for Evans was whether to attempt a landing and risk quite possible disaster, or to incur the possible displeasure of Montgomery and the certain wrath of Patton by aborting the whole operation as unsafe and returning to Gela. To add to the pressure on Captain Evans, he could already see General Patton on the ground, his polished steel helmet glistening in the Sicilian sunlight, impatiently awaiting the arrival of his British counterpart, for whom he was already developing an implacable loathing, something that would grow into an obsession by the time of the Normandy campaign a year or so later.

Against his better judgement, Evans decided to attempt a landing, confident in his own ability as a pilot to pull off a diagonal landing across the field, thus maximising the available limited space. Touching down into the brisk headwind all seemed well at first but an initial touch of the brakes revealed that the brakes on Theresa Leta had failed and that an already perilous landing on a short field was now being turned into something altogether more hazardous.

Thinking quickly, Evans decided to try to ‘ground loop’ the big bomber in an attempt to avoid meeting the same fate as the C-47 that he had seen crash earlier and indeed to avoid ploughing into it’s wreckage. This was achieved by using the engine throttles on the port wing of the aircraft to make a fast, powered turn to effectively reverse course on the ground.

Through superb skill and a little luck, Evans managed to turn a potential disaster into a very rough landing, almost a controlled crash and taxied the B-17 up to about fifty feet from where General Patton was waiting to greet his British guests. No sound could be heard from the on-board VIPs and certainly no sound was coming from General Montgomery’s makeshift office created in the bomb bay of the B-17. Outside the bomber, it quickly became clear from General Patton’s expression that he was not impressed!

Patton in fact, had a face like thunder. Notwithstanding his intense dislike of Monty and all things British, even he considered that it was bad form for an American officer and a mere Captain at that, to go endangering the life of a British general!

Patton’s ‘greeting’ to Captain Evans was brief, to the point and typical of the man – “What kind of a landing do you call that?” he asked. Evans managed to stay surprisingly calm and replied that he had executed a deliberate ground loop to avoid crashing into the burning C-47. He also added that on reflection, he should not have attempted a landing and should have returned to Gela. Captain Evans repeated his apology directly to Monty but it was quickly apparent from the British General’s expression that he too was not best pleased with his American pilot. As for Patton, his face was now crimson and for a brief moment, Captain Evans felt that the apoplectic General might actually physically strike him.

However, without any further words spoken, both of the senior officers along with their entourages piled quickly into their transport and headed for their conferences. On their next meeting, after the conference, Monty gave Evans a “slight smile” as he probably realised that the American had in fact, saved his life.

Some books, notably ‘Patton, A Genius for War’ state that the B-17 was destroyed in this incident. This was not true and after some repairs, the bomber was quickly made airworthy once more.

Despite these early setbacks in their relationship, Monty soon became genuinely attached to ‘his’ crew, holding a sincere concern for their well being and mentioned this in a letter written later that summer, which was transcribed in full in Part One of this article, the original of which is now a proud possession of Richard Evans’ daughter, Bobbie Kinnear.   

"The crew of my Fortress are a fine body of officers and men and their comfort and well being is one of my first considerations. It is a very great honour for a British general to be flown about by an American crew in an American aircraft and I am very conscious of this fact."

The relationship between Monty and Evan’s and his crew quickly became one of mutual respect and friendship and another proud possession of Bobbie Kinnear today is a photograph that Richard Evans subtitled ‘Friends at last’ which shows a smiling Monty along with Captain Evans standing in front of the Theresa Leta.

Friends at Last - Monty & Captain Evans (Bobbie Kinnear)

Richard Evans continued to fly on combat missions out of Sicily, whilst still being on call to Montgomery and actually flew Monty back to the UK for the British General to begin work on planning the invasion of Europe.It was at this time that Monty requested that Evans should stay on as his personal pilot for the Normandy campaign and beyond. Evans declined as he wished to return to full time combat duties and although Monty was disappointed, he greatly respected this decision and wrote Captain Evans a generous and sincere letter of thanks, which must surely have been a useful item to have had in one’s Army Air Force Curriculum Vitae!

The letter is reproduced below and is written in the typical no nonsense style beloved of Monty but is obviously sincere as well as being to the point:

"On the occasion of the departure of you and your crew I would like to thank you all, each one of you, for the good work you have done whilst with me.

It has been a great pleasure to have had you serving with me, and with the Eighth Army.

Good-bye and the best of luck to you all, always."

Evans and his crew may have departed but true to his word, General Eisenhower provided Montgomery with an aircraft and crew right through to the end of the war in Europe, although given the way Monty later strained their relationship, there must have been times when Ike was sorely tempted to abandon the arrangement and make his British subordinate walk!

Monty's 'thank you' letter to Richard Evans and his crew (Bobbie Kinnear)

Richard Evans and his crew returned to combat duties, flying out of Italy on raids to Venice, Rome, Pisa, Austria and targets in Southern Germany before completing fifty missions in 1944 and returning home to the USA. He then trained to fly the B-29 Superfortress for combat missions in the Pacific and actually flew three raids on Japan out of Tinian before being ordered to return to the USA in order to bring another wing of B-29s out to Tinian. The war ended before he could achieve this and instead he was ordered to fly a B-29 to Delhi and then return to Okinawa.

Evans left the USAAF in 1946 to become a financial planner in Pasadena, although he continued as a reservist. In 1952, he re-entered the Air Force as a Colonel and was made head of operations for the development of the new B-47 bomber at MacDill AFB, Florida. He did all of the flying scenes in the movie ‘Strategic Air Command’, starring James Stewart (himself an Air Corps veteran) and flew B-47s out of Thule, Greenland and bases in England.

Evans left the Air Force in 1959 and became a consultant for Northrop Grumman in the B-1 Bomber competition as well as working as a consultant for Douglas on the C-5A transport aircraft.

Richard Evans died on June 13th 2006 and was buried with full military honours having loyally served his country and the Allied cause as well as achieving much for Anglo-American relations in the process.

I am indebted to Bobbie Kinnear for making her late father’s papers and unpublished memoirs available to me. It is to be hoped that these can be published in the future as the exploits of the unsung heroes of World War Two such as Richard E Evans and his crew deserve to be read by a wider audience.

The Crew of the Theresa Leta:

Captain Richard E Evans
Lieutenant Fred I Johnson (Co-Pilot)
2nd Lieutenant Albert L Beringsmith (Bombardier)
2nd Lieutenant Thomas Carver (Navigator)
Tech. Sergeant Dale Owens (Flight Engineer)
Staff Sergeant Francis (Frank) R Morris (Radio Operator)
Staff Sergeant Victor Kennedy (Waist Gunner)
Tech. Sergeant Lewis (Top Turret)
Staff Sergeant Austin (Ball Turret)
Staff Sergeant Charles (Chuck) W Ward (Tail Gunner)

Published Sources:

The Memoirs of Field Marshal The Viscount Montgomery of Alamein - Collins 1958

Unpublished Sources:

Unpublished Memoirs of Colonel Richard E Evans, USAF

Captain Evans, Monty and the Flying Fortress - Part One

Bernard Law Montgomery (IWM)
In early November 2013, I had the pleasure of guiding Bobbie and John Kinnear from Santa Barbara, USA on a private walk around Westminster’s wartime past. One of the pleasures of guiding is that one often meets the most interesting people and it was clear during our conversations both via email in planning the tour and whilst actually walking the ground that my clients not only knew their subject but also had a fascinating family connection with one of the major figures of World War Two, Bernard Law Montgomery.

Bobbie’s late father, Richard E Evans, was born in 1919 and after graduating from the University of Tennessee in 1939, won a local contest sponsored by the Tennessee Air National Guard for free pilot training. Later that year, he joined the Army Air Corps and trained on the Boeing Spearman biplane, before commencing his training on the then new B-17, a large four engine bomber, designed to deliver a large bomb load over long ranges, whilst at the same time being able to defend itself as part of a larger formation. In 1941, Evans became an instructor on the B-17 and following the USA’s entering of the war at the end of 1941, he attempted to get himself posted to England as part of the fledgling Eighth Air Force but was turned down owing to his experience as an instructor. In January 1943 however, he was able to convince Colonel Fay Upthegrove, who was taking the 99th Bombardment Group to North Africa, into taking Evans along as one of his senior pilots and on the 20th of that month, the group flew to North Africa.

Colonel Fay Upthegrove (www.99bombgroup.org)

Captain Evans was part of 346th Bomb Squadron, 99th Bombardment Group, which formed part of the 12th Air Force in the North African Theatre of Operations, based in Algeria. At this time, 12th Air Force was operating in support of Allied land forces who were striving to eject Axis forces from North Africa. The Supreme Allied Commander was the then relatively little known Lieut-General Dwight D Eisenhower and one of his subordinate Army Commanders was the victor of El Alamein, Bernard Law Montgomery, or ‘Monty’ as he was universally known to the British, serviceman and civilian alike. Monty had given Britain her first major land victory over the Wehrmacht and had achieved this unaided, with British and Empire manpower alone.

This was an important victory, not only from a strategic point of view but also politically. The British effort in the war was now to be steadily overshadowed by the increasingly massive effort from the USA, both in manpower and industrial might, so it was vital to show our American allies that the British Army could beat the German war machine and that the British would not be ‘fighting to the last drop of American blood’ as some cynics on both sides of the Atlantic would believe. Monty, supremely confident in his own ability to the point of conceit, was just the man to provide this victory, although he was to prove almost as difficult a subordinate to Ike as he was an enemy to Rommel.

So, when Captain Evans was summoned to Colonel Upthegrove’s office, he could have had no idea that his life as an American officer was to become intertwined, for the next few months at least, with Britain’s great hero. Captain Evans had flown 27 missions out of a possible full combat tour of 50 or even 60 missions, so a return home was hardly on the agenda. Neither was a promotion to Major, so Evans must have been wondering what he had done to warrant this summons to his senior officer. The prospect of meeting his C.O. held few worries for Evans, for he knew that he had done nothing wrong and that Colonel Upthegrove, or ‘Uppie’ as he was informally known behind his back, was a decent and fair man, who would not be summoning him for petty or trivial reasons.

On arriving at his C.O.’s tent that passed as an office, Evans was soon put out of his misery and must have been astounded when he read his orders:

 “…by order of General Eisenhower’s Supreme Allied Headquarters, Algiers, through General Doolittle’s Twelfth Air Force Headquarters, Constantine, Algeria.”

“Captain Richard E Evans, AO-397378, 99th Bombardment Group, 12th Air Force, North Africa, ETO, is hereby relieved of his current duty assignment, is transferred to British 8th Army, and is directed to report without delay to The Army Commander, General Sir Bernard Law Montgomery.”

“A combat ready B-17 with full ammo and combat aircrew will be assigned to Captain Evans for the period of this duty.”

The All American - another B17E from 99th Bomb Group

Evans was astonished by these orders and this astonishment was transparent enough to assure Uppie that he had not been pulling a ‘fast one’ behind the Colonel’s back in order to escape further combat operations. Upthegrove had initially wondered whether Evans had family connections with Doolittle, Eisenhower, or even Monty, so he was as confused as Evans as to how and why his name had been pulled from the hat.

Evans next task was to select a crew. This was a simple task as he instinctively chose the men with whom he had been flying since bringing his B-17 across from the States; these were men that he trusted with his life and it would have been unthinkable for him to have chosen any other crew. Evans impressed upon his crew the nature of their assignment and also informed them what Uppie had told them – not to allow any harm to come to their illustrious passenger, otherwise none of them, Evans, his crew or Upthegrove, would ever hear the last of it!

Evans was mystified as to why Montgomery, a British General, should require the services of a B-17, an American aircraft, complete with crew and although the great man himself was to explain the reason personally to Evans in due course, perhaps now is a good time to put the record straight.

Eighth Army had captured Sfax on 10th April and at a previous meeting with Ike’s Chief of Staff, General Walter Bedell Smith, Monty had undertaken to capture this city no later than 15th April. Smith had told Monty that if this could be achieved, then General Eisenhower would give Monty anything he asked for. Monty, taking Smith to his word said that he would like the services of a B-17 aircraft, complete with crew for his personal use. Smith agreed, thinking that this was a semi-jocular remark by Monty. The British General however, was not well known for his sense of humour and was deadly serious; he realised that flying in a combat zone was a hazardous occupation and had hitherto been using a twin engine DC3 aircraft. Reliable enough, but unarmed and vulnerable to attack; a B-17 with four engines would give him greater comfort and reliability and would also be able to defend itself against any Germans who had gotten wind of Monty’s travel arrangements.

So, when Sfax was duly taken ahead of schedule, Monty insisted that the bet, however light heartedly it had been taken by Smith, be ‘paid up.’ Eisenhower, being the great and honourable man that he was, realised that Monty was being serious and supplied the aircraft on 16th April, which is where Captain Evans and his crew came in!

Monty inspects 'his' crew - Richard E Evans on left (Bobbie Kinnear)

It is possible that the seeds of Monty’s unpopularity in some American quarters were sewn with this incident. Eisenhower was beginning to recognise that in Monty he had a great General but another ‘Prima Donna’ to rank alongside Patton to cope with. Monty’s ‘bet’ also got him into hot water with his British superior officer; General Alan Brooke, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, who reminded Monty that as far as Ike was concerned, the whole thing was a joke that had gotten out of hand. Brooke also pointed out that the RAF could have supplied Monty with a modern four engine aircraft, such as a Lancaster or a Halifax, to which Monty replied that indeed the RAF could have – but hadn’t, despite his repeated requests!

Monty’s own theory on the matter was that Bedell Smith had omitted to mention to Ike his initial promise of an aircraft to Monty and that when the British General had approached Eisenhower demanding ‘his’ aircraft, this was actually the first that he had heard of the proposal. This explanation is plausible and to someone like Monty, who had little in the way of social or diplomatic skills, it was all something quite simple – a bet had been made and it was time to pay up!

All this was unknown to Captain Evans and his crew as they flew into Tripoli in the ‘new’ B-17 that had been selected for this strange assignment. The bomber was not actually new at all but rather an elderly (by B-17 standards) machine named Theresa Leta. Evans never did find out exactly after whom the bomber had been named but it seemed bad luck to change it, especially when he discovered that this was the very bomber that General James Doolittle had flown down from the UK to North Africa during the Allied invasion of that continent. Theresa Leta was a B-17E; not the latest model but still a fine aircraft for a General Officer to have as his personal transport.

Later, Monty would write Evans a personal explanation of the reasons behind his getting hold of a B-17 which read as follows:

"The Fortress aircraft was given to me by General Eisenhower in April 1943, after I had captured SFAX. He came to visit me at my Army HQ shortly after the Battle of MARETH; it was the 2nd April and I was busy preparing to attack the AKARIT position and then to burst through the GABES Gap and out into the plain of central Tunisia.

Part of Monty's explanatory letter to Evans (Bobbie Kinnear)

I told General Eisenhower that when I had captured SFAX there would be need for considerable co-ordination between the action of the Allied Armies in Tunisia and this might mean a good deal of travelling about for me. I asked him if he would give me a Fortress (B17); the splendid armament of these aircraft makes an escort quite unnecessary and I would be able to travel at will and to deal easily with any enemy opposition. I said I would make him a present of SFAX by the middle of April and if he would then give me a Fortress it would be magnificent. I captured SFAX on 10th April and the Fortress was sent to me a few days later.

I have travelled many miles in it and it has saved me much fatigue. I have no hesitation in saying that having my own Fortress aircraft, so that I can travel about at will, has definitely contributed to the successful operations of the Eighth Army. I cannot express adequately my gratitude to General Eisenhower for giving it to me; he is a splendid man to serve under and it is a pleasure to be under his command.

The crew of my Fortress are a fine body of officers and men and their comfort and well-being is one of my first considerations.

It is a very great honour for a British general to be flown about by an American crew in an American aircraft and I am very conscious of this fact.

BL Montgomery
General
Eighth Army" 

Upon landing at Tripoli, Theresa Leta was met by a British lorry, the driver of which gestured to Evans to follow him, and guided by their British Allies, the B-17 lurched across the steel planking to it’s designated parking place, where Captain Evans and his crew were met by a moustachioed, very senior looking British General, who turned out to be the irrepressible General Francis De Guingand, known to all and sundry as “Freddie”, the immensely popular (and very able) Chief of Staff to General Montgomery himself. This was quite a welcome but the friendly British officer soon put Evans at ease and promptly invited the Captain and his crew to the following day’s victory celebrations which were to be attended by no less a dignitary than King George VI himself! 

General Francis 'Freddie' De Guingand (IWM)
 
After explaining the whereabouts of the crew’s accommodation and the arrangements for parking the B-17, Evans was whisked off to visit the great man himself outside his headquarters tent. Up until now, Evans had hardly had time to be nervous but his disposition could hardly have been improved when upon being introduced to his new pilot, Monty stared hard and uncomprehending at the Captain, before turning on his heels and walking straight into his tent without uttering a single word to the now bewildered American officer! 

With great presence of mind, Captain Evans decided to follow Monty into his tent to make certain he had taken on board his arrival and upon entering the tent, Evans found the Eighth Army Commander sitting at his desk, seemingly immersed in paperwork. Monty did not look up but gestured to Evans to sit down and upon his doing so, greeted him with a warm smile and stated how pleased he was to meet him! The ice was broken and Montgomery repeated the invite given earlier by De Guingand to attend the victory celebrations on the next day and to meet the King, before mentioning Evans’ first official mission, which would be to fly Monty to Cairo in a couple of days time. 

Monty was not an easy man to know or to work for and Evans would incur the great man’s displeasure quite early in their association, in fact on Monty’s first flight in the Theresa Leta.

In the next edition of this blog, we shall see how Captain Evans managed to unnerve the usually unflappable British General, as well as upsetting Monty's great rival, General George S Patton, during his tour as Monty's pilot.


Published Sources:

The Memoirs of Field Marshal The Viscount Montgomery of Alamein - Collins 1958

Unpublished Sources:

Unpublished Memoirs of the late Colonel Richard E Evans, USAF