Francis Stewart Montague Bates was born on February 8th 1876, the only son of Henry Montague Bates 1849 -1928, his father worked for the Commissioners of Sewers at the Guild Hall in the City of London from 1876 until 1915 and was Chairman of the Eccentric Club during the First World War and a Light Railway enthusiast and tramway entrepreneur. His Mother was Mary Montague Bates, who came from a senior Indian and British military family background. His Grandfather was Robert Makin Bates who was Chief Clerk and a junior partner at Strahan and Snows Bank and imprisoned for 3 years in Newgate, having been sentenced along with Sir John Snow and Walter Strahan to be transported for 7 years, following an Old Bailey banking fraud trial involving the share dealings of the bank and the Dean of Rochester in 1855.
Montague Bates military career commenced in 1900 as a Corporal in the ranks of Lumsdens Horse, the Mounted Infantry Force raised in India for service in South Africa and thereafter he served with distinction, honour, and no little controversy, as an Officer in the East Surrey Regiment following a lengthy deployment with the South African Police where he had initial difficulties with the Canadian troopers under his control, some of his fellow officers and the very British establishment way of doing things.
He retired from the Active List in 1934 when he became a Tomato Grower and Smallholder in Manaccan in Cornwall, trading under the name of the Myrtle Cottage Nurseries. At the outbreak of the Second World War he re-entered Military Service at the age of 64, to command the Home Guard for the Lizard Peninsula where RNAS Culdrose is now located, and the Helford estuary, which at the time, was the operational headquarters and home base of the S.O.E Secret Flotilla.
This is his story, based on published accounts, war diaries and other documents, and attempts to give an insight into a man who learnt his trade in South Africa during and after the second Boer War, who taught his scouting troops to speak German in 1913; who negotiated an unofficial truce to bury the dead in the lead up to the Christmas truce of 1914 following a failed attack on the 18th December on the western front; Fell out of favour in 1920 in Turkey, befriended Michael Collins in Dublin in 1921; kept pigs at Regimental Headquarters in London in 1923, commanded the 1st Battalion in Hong Kong in 1926 during the General Strike, and used his local Home Guard soldiers to requisition machine gun and rifle ammunition without official authorisation from a British Army Munitions depot in 1940, during the Invasion scare, to arm his defences in Gweek in Cornwall, on the grounds that said ammunition would be more use in his men's machine guns and rifles defending cornwall's coastline and (incidentally ) the cove housing the British end of the undersea telephone cable to the USA, than be held in Sothern Command Stores near Andover for use after Invasion Troops had forced British Lines 30 miles inland.
He hated incompetence in those around him and what he considered operationally unnecessary deaths, and resolutely defended his actions at times when he was called to account by authority. He believed in the use of special forces and air power long before they became official policies and had scant regard for foolhardy behaviour by either his subordinates or superiors, being variously described during his life and career, as "Prissy" "difficult" " a madman" "an excellent soldier" "the best tomato grower on the Peninsula" and an "Officer who was fair and always gave the troops he commanded a second chance".
Doijran Railway Station, Macedonia: photo taken about 2008 - the final stopping and starting point for Montague Bates and Troops deploying on the Salonica Front in 1918