ALMOST 70 years ago to the day, Bolton was visited by one of Britain’s greatest war heroes.

Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, better known as Monty, commanded the British Eighth Army in the Western Desert before taking charge of the 21st Army Group for the rest of the campaign in North West Europe.

After the war he became Commander-in-Chief of the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) in Germany and then Chief of the Imperial General Staff and From 1948 to 1951 he served as Chairman of the Commanders-in-Chief Committee of the Western Union.

In November, 1949, Monty visited Bolton to be created the 10th - and then only living - Freeman of Bolton. The Honorary Freedom of Bolton is the highest honour that the town can bestow and is reserved for those individuals who have given exceptional service to the borough or to the nation.

It has also been awarded to those units of the armed forces who have had a long-standing connection with Bolton, in recognition of their service and many sacrifices with the presentation taking the form of a unique silver casket containing an illuminated scroll.

On the day of his visit Monty visited Bolton Lads’ Club, and during the Saturday afternoon he also went to Burnden Park where he watched a display of Lads’ Club activities as well as the first half of Bolton Wanderers’ match with Newcastle United.

The Mayor and the Wanderers’ chairman, Peter Duxbury, then accompanied their prestigious visitor to the Town Hall for the presentation where he stopped to talk to the crowds in Victoria Square.

Monty returned later in the month to attend Remembrance Sunday and continued to visit the town when he could.

In 1951, Monty helped create the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s (NATO) European forces and served as NATO’s Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe until his retirement in 1958.

By all accounts a difficult man, his faithful friend, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, is quoted as saying of Montgomery, “In defeat, unbeatable; in victory, unbearable.”

He died from unspecified causes in 1976 at his home in Hampshire, aged 88.