H.M.S. Duke of York: British Admiralty Press Division, 1944. This striking Second World War photograph is remarkable for location, time, subject, and signature. General Bernard Law Montgomery and Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser are captured striding on the deck of the Flagship H.M.S. Duke of York on 6 May 1944, one month before the D-Day Normandy landings. In the background is one of the 14 inch guns that Fraser himself designed.
Measuring 10 x 8 inches, the photograph is annotated and signed by Montgomery in black ink in seven lines. At the top center, Montgomery wrote: “Visit to Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser | C-in-C Home Fleet | 6 May 1944.” At the lower right, adjacent to and below his own feet, Montgomery signed and wrote “B. L. Montgomery | General. | C-in-C British Group of Armies.” A final line at the bottom center between Fraser and Montgomery reads: “H.M.S. Duke of York.”
There are two British Admiralty stamps on the verso. At the upper right, stamped and bordered in purple ink, is “OFFICIAL ADMIRALTY PHOTOGRAPH | No.” and hand-inked in blue is “23232 Mas”. A second, five-line Admiralty stamp at the center reads: “Suitable for transmission | through the post not for, | publication | Press Division | Admiralty.” Pencil notation at the upper left reads: “MONTGOMERY, B. SPN9034”. Condition is excellent, with no loss, tears, apparent toning, or appreciable wear or soiling.
Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein (1887-1976) passed through Sandhurst "without distinction" to begin what became fifty years in the British Army during which he became "the outstanding British field commander of the twentieth century.” The First World War “changed Montgomery from a bumptious, querulous infantry subaltern, constantly at odds with authority, into a decorated company commander, outstanding staff officer—and trainer of men.”
Fame came in North Africa during the Second World War. In August 1942, Churchill gave Montgomery command of the Eighth Army. Montgomery famously beat Rommel and oversaw defeat of North African Axis forces. He went on to command the Eighth Army in Sicily and Italy, and Allied ground forces during Operation Overlord – launched with the Normandy landings of 6 June 1944. After the war he rose to Chief of the Imperial General Staff and was elevated to Viscount Montgomery of Alamein. He retired in 1958 as deputy commander of NATO's European forces. (ODNB)
Admiral Bruce Austin Fraser, Baron Fraser of North Cape (1888-1981) was a career naval officer who saw First World War action in the Dardanelles. By the early 1920s he was “plainly marked for high rank” and worked “close to the heart of the navy’s gunnery development”. As director of naval ordinance Fraser “devised the armament for Britain's last generation of battleships, the 14 inch King George V class” – to which class belonged the Duke of York. All five King George V class ships saw combat, two of them in the action that sank the Bismarck.
Fraser began the Second World War as controller of the navy and third sea lord. “Fraser won the confidence of Winston Churchill… and never lost it for the remainder of the war, despite periodic differences of opinion.” On 8 May 1940 Fraser was appointed commander-in-chief, Home Fleet. In late December 1943, the guns of the Duke of York – in which Fraser flew his flag – were “the decisive factor” in sinking the German capital ship Scharnhorst, “ensuring Fraser's perpetual celebrity in the annals of the Royal Navy”. Fraser ended the war as commander-in-chief, Pacific Fleet, and signed the Japanese surrender document for Britain, aboard the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay on 2 September 1945. A barony was conferred in 1946 and Fraser retired in April 1952. (ODNB) In addition to her considerable wartime action, in December 1941, H.M.S. Duke of York transported Prime Minister Winston Churchill across the Atlantic to meet with President Roosevelt and address the U.S. Congress and Canadian Parliament. Duke of York was laid up in November 1951. Item #004396