16 June 2013

General Wilhelm Ritter von Thoma Surrender to Bernard Montgomery

Image size: 1600 x 1304 pixel. 513 KB
Date: Wednesday, 4 November 1942
Place: Tel el Mampsra, El Alamein, Egypt
Photographer: Unknown

General der Panzertruppe Wilhelm Ritter von Thoma (Kommandierender General Deutsche Afrika Korps) saluting his captor following his surrender to Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery (Commander of the British Eighth Army). On 4 November 1942, von Thoma was captured by the British at the hill of Tel el Mampsra, west of El Alamein, Egypt. With his tank hit several times and on fire, von Thoma dismounted and stood quietly amongst a sea of burning tanks and the German dead scattered around the small hill where he was taken prisoner by Captain Grant Allen Singer of the 10th Royal Hussars (Prince of Wales's Own), nickname "Bakers Light Bobs". Rommel later opined that von Thoma was probably seeking his death in battle while other staff officers quietly speculated that he went to the front to deliberately surrender, though there is really no evidence on this point one way or the other (Von Thoma was captured following his command of the defence of a hill feature in which his force was reduced to a collection of smouldering scrap). Back to the picture: glum though they look, it appears that in the same evening Monty and von Thoma went on to enjoy dinner together at Monty headquarters and discuss the battle.  B.H. Liddell Hart later recorded Von Thoma's shocked reaction to Montgomery's level of knowledge of the German situation and dispositions (derived, no doubt, from Ultra intercepts!): "I was staggered at the exactness of his knowledge… He seemed to know as much about our position as I did myself." Von Thoma was then taken to the Pyramids of Giza by his captors when he expressed regret that he would leave Egypt without seeing them. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill - who apparently developed a great respect for Von Thoma during his period of captivity - is said to have commented, "I sympathise with General von Thoma... Defeated, in captivity, and dinner with Montgomery !" BTW, the captor of Von Thoma, Captain Singer (born in 1915), would died in the following day (5 November 1942) during the Second Battle of El Alamein (read the news HERE).



  1. Is Capt. Singer the nice looking young man shown in the middle in this photo?

  2. Montgomery did not return the salute of Thoma?

  3. This photo was taken by my wife's grandad, we have the original in our possession. We thought maybe it could be an unknown picture until we found this as has been in the families possession for decades, but I'm guessing it must have been published a long time ago.

  4. Actually we have just noticed that our picture was taken moments before or after this one, it is slightly different, but it must be the same photographer.