The pennant flown from General Bernard Montgomery’s tank in north Africa has emerged after almost 80 years – and is to go on display at the Tank Museum.
The piece of material was given in 1943 to a small boy who had become the mascot of the squadron tasked with protecting the great ‘Spartan General’.
The lad’s letters sent to his serving father were read to the men and brought them fond memories of home.
Michael Green was just eight years old when he was presented with the pennant and although his grandfather thought it ought to be in a museum he insisted on flying it from his new bicycle.
The yellow and black striped pennant had been flown by Montgomery during all the major conflicts the Eight Army’s fought in, including the Battle of El Alamein. Back home the success of the north African campaign was a major boost to national morale.
After enemy forces surrendered in May 1943 Montgomery gave the pennant to the squadron who decided that their mascot ought to have it.
So it was flown back to the UK where Michael was presented with it in Oakham, Rutland, where he had been evacuated from London – and the handover drew a large crowd.
The pennant is now to go on display at the Tank Museum in Bovington along with other Montgomery items, including his iconic black beret and a recently donated letter written by him in the desert.
David Willey, Curator at the museum, said: “We are so grateful to have received this donation from Michael’s widow.
“As a small piece of history, it has a wonderful personal story attached to it.
“Michael’s father William had been assigned as part of the troop protecting General Montgomery and received regular letters and drawings from his son.
“He shared these with the men who were amused and enchanted by them because they brought back memories of home. So they decided that Michael should be their mascot.
“When the Eighth Army completed their victory in North Africa, Montgomery presented the pennant to the squadron.
“Monty was well aware of the importance of fame and his celebrity status which he was encouraged to exploit for a number of reasons.
“He knew that Rommel was a popular figure – even admired in the British press and he wanted the British public to know that they had successful generals too.
“So he regularly donated gifts and possessions to soldiers, as pop stars and modern celebs give away things to fans. It was Montgomery’s men who decided that Michael should have the memento and everything was quickly arranged.
“Incredibly, a War Office official called Michael to tell him to expect something special and the presentation was made with great ceremony by the industrialist Sir Bernard Docker during Rutland’s Wings-for-Victory week.
“Although his grandfather said it should be in a museum, Michael flew it from his bicycle for a number of years. Michael has now sadly passed away and the pennant has been gifted to us and visitors will be delighted to see it.
“Although we are a museum about tanks and have the finest collection in the world, it is often the human stories that get the best reaction, and this is a great one.”
You can find out more about Montgomery, see this Pennant and his letter detailing his victory over Rommel, at the WW2: War Stories exhibition.