A LETTER penned by Lieutenant-General Bernard 'Monty' Montgomery around a fortnight before the decisive Second World War Battle of El Alamein has been donated to the Tank Museum.

Written to his brother, Harold, the two-page letter tells how he 'thoroughly enjoyed' his first face-off with Rommel, the Nazi's Desert Fox.

Monty, who would go onto become a Field Marshal, led the Allied Eighth Army offensive at El Alamein in 1942, which defeated Rommel's forces and ultimately marked the beginning of the end of the North African campaign.

The battle, which was actually the second battle of El Alamein, left around 13,560 Allied casualties dead, wounded, captured or missing.

Wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill would later say: "Before Alamein we never had a victory. After Alamein we never had a defeat."

In the letter, dated October 6, 1942, Monty thanks Harold and his wife, Betty, for their invitation to stay, but adds 'at present it is quite out of the question'.

On the same date he sent orders to his officers and men stating if they were cut off in the next battle, which would be the Battle of El Alamein, they must fight on and not surrender.

Monty tells Harold he has already had a ‘contest against Rommel’, adding ‘he was seen off … I have never before had to face up to a Field Marshal in battle, and I thoroughly enjoyed it’.

This was the engagement on August 31 known as the Battle of Alam Halfa.

He goes on to say how much he enjoys life in the desert, adding: ‘It has the great advantage of being extremely healthy and I have never felt better in my life.

‘I have not had a bath for over a month but it seems to make very little difference. I am convinced now that we all wash too much.

'As a result, I presume, of no baths I now have no colds.

'Normally in England I have regular colds’.

The letter has been donated to the Bovington museum by Hugh Galton-Fenzi, the son of Betty Galton-Fenzi – who was married to Monty's brother Harold.

Tank Museum curator David Willey said: “We already have some important items belonging to Montgomery, including his famous black beret that appears in so many photographs. This letter is a wonderful addition and it gives some subtle insights into the man.

“Montgomery had originally been tasked with taking over the First Army for Operation Torch, the Morocco landings.

“But after General William ‘Strafer’ Gott was killed when his plane was shot down, Monty was picked to replace him as the new head of the Eighth Army.

“He was informed of his role while he was having a shave on August 8th and was hustled out to Egypt two days later.

“His orders were simple: destroy Rommel and his army.

“At the end of October the decisive Battle of El Alamein began and Monty’s newly motivated troops gained a famous victory and helped turn the tide of the war.

“To have a letter from this hugely important period is wonderful and gives a glimpse into the mind and thinking of the great field marshal and how he intended to get a ‘grip’ on the situation.

“And despite the enormous pressure on his shoulders he is able to discuss family news including mention of his other brother Colin, and he tells how he sent his son to Winchester rather than Harrow ‘because of the bombing’.

“Although he says he hadn’t had a bath in over a month other sources describe how he regularly bathed in the sea.”

He found the letter and decided it should be given to the museum for the public benefit and so it could be with Monty's other items.

It is displayed in the new WWII exhibition.