Anzac Day initiated by Sir John Monash

October 15, 2010 by J-Wire
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J-Wire toured the new permanent military exhibition at the Sydney Jewish Museum…and learned that Anzac Day had been created by Sir John Monash.

Shannon Macguire is the curator of the exhibition “Serving Australia – the Jewish Involvement in Australian Military History”

The exhibition features many items donated or loaned to the museum by the families of those whose stories are told on the display panels.

Kaysor exhibit

Look out for the story of Leonard Kaysor. This enthusiastic cricketer earned a World War I Victoria Cross at Gallipoli by “fielding” grenades tossed by the Turks. Catching them before they exploded, Kaysor immediately hurled them straight back towards the enemy lines securing time and time again the ultimate in run-outs. Kaysor maintained this for 36 hours. Maguire said: “The ANZACs did not have grenades. They made rudimentary ones out of jam tins which were not effective. Kaysor was twice wounded but refused to be evacuated persisting with the “game” even joining another unit when his was withdrawn so that he could continue catching Turkish grenades in mid-air.” Replicas of Kaysor’s medals are on display.

Kaysor went to live in England after the war. His V.C. and other medals were stolen causing a public outcry. The thief responded by returning the medals by mail to Kaysor with a written apology.

Macguire told J-Wire that Monash, the Jewish general at Gallipoli who remains to this day an Australian icon had initiated the first Anzac Day. Maguire showed J-Wire the original program. She said: “It took place in Egypt in 1916. Monash wanted to do something special for his troops to mark the occasion so they got up at dawn and participated in a very solemn service. Men who were in Gallipoli wore one ribbon, men who were involved in the landing wore another. They were in the middle of a war and Monash did not want his men to be overly upset or emotional so the rest of the day was planned to develop into a carnival atmosphere.. They had swimming events, plays about Gallipoli, music and of course two-up.  Harold Collins, the last living Jewish Anzac made notes of the day.”

Shannon Maguire shows the panels

Collins had hidden a camera in his kit when he landed at Gallipoli and photographs he took of the ill-fated incursion are on display at the museum.

Another Jewish soldier Zaide Lazarus also snuck a camera into Gallippoli and recorded the famous exchange between King George V and Monash when the King said to Monash “If we win the war…” only to be quickly interrupted by the Jewish general who questioned “If?…”. The King quickly corrected himself by saying “When we win the war…”

Other items on display are maps and phrase books pilot Joe Barrington carried with him on his  sorties over enemy territory in WWII together with a photo in which he had  fashioned himself to look French.

The exhibition features drawings of the synagogue in Changi, in which  a significant number of Australian Jews had been incarcerated. On display is a siddur used for a proxy Barmitzvah. A  prisoner’s son’s Barmitzvah was scheduled in Australia. The prisoners held the Barmitzvah service so the father could “participate” in Changi prison. The Japanese permitted the ceremony.

Maguire has a soft spot for the section dealing with the Employment Company, a unit developed to change the status of German and Austrian jews interned as unfriendly aliens such as the Dunera Boys. Their status was changed to friendly aliens and they were given menial tasks in military units. Maguire said: “A lot of these men had a bone to pick so they wanted to join up. But they were not allowed guns and they were not allowed to travel overseas. They were given “schlepper” work.”

The work of military chaplains is featured. Maguire said: “The Jewish soldiers were usually scattered far and wide and

Cedric Emannuel sketch

Christian chaplains were specially-trained to be able to say Kaddish if a Jewish chaplain was not available.”

Jewish women have their place in Australian military history with sections  featuring Rose Sheppere, a nurse in the Boer war amongst others.

A sad exhibit are possessions of Greg Sher who was killed recently serving in Afghanistan including badges made by his colleagues calling him “SuperJew”.

The works of artist Cedric Emmanuel are displayed. Emmanuel wanted to be a war artist and was never incarcerated. His work shows the images of the areas in which he served…mainly Papua new Guinea.

There have been three Jewish Generals in the ADF. Sir John Monash, Paul Cullen and Jeffrey Rosenfeld who remains a general today in the ADF reserve and who served in Iraq.

The exhibition is housed in the war memorial section of the Jewish Museum. This was opened in 1923…by Sir John Monash. It will be officially opened to the  public by General Peter Cosgrove on October 19.

The exhibition has been dedicated to the memory of Bob Adams by Margo and David Lowy.

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