Sir John Monash Centre to be built in France

April 27, 2015 by J-Wire Staff
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Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot has unveiled the design of the Sir John Monash Centre at the Australian National Memorial in France.

The prime minister spoke at the site at Villers-Bretonneux in the Somme area and the site of a major battle in 1918 during WWI.

Prime Minister Tony Abbot inspects a model of the new centre

Prime Minister Tony Abbot inspects a model of the new centre    Photo: Brad Hunter

Australians can now see a first glimpse of the Sir John Monash Centre and what to expect when its doors are opened ahead of Anzac Day 2018.

The winning design for the Western Front interpretive centre was unveiled today at the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux in France at a ceremony where the Mayor of Villers-Bretonneux was also honoured.

The new Centre, designed by Cox Architecture, will provide a leading-edge integrated multimedia experience.

The Centre will tell the story of the extraordinary efforts of the 290,000 Australians who served on the Western Front with such distinction. It will offer an evocative and educational experience for visitors of all nationalities and will honour Australian service and sacrifice in France and Belgium during the First World War.

The Centre will educate a new audience about Australia’s significant role on the Western Front and provide a lasting international legacy from the Centenary of Anzac.

Sir John Monash was the engineering genius and citizen soldier whose leadership broke the stalemate on the Western Front in 1918.

An innovative tactician and meticulous planner, Monash’s July 2018 victory at Le Hamel became the template for the much larger combined arms operations that followed.

The Sir John Monash Centre will be located behind the Australian National Memorial in Villers-Bretonneux.

The Mayor of Villers-Bretonneux, Dr Patrick Simon, was invested as an Honorary Officer in the Order of Australia “for service to Australian-French relations, particularly his contribution to preserving the memory of Australian World War I veterans”.

Dr Simon has strengthened the extraordinary relationship between Australia and Villers-Bretonneux, which began with the liberation of the town by Australian troops in a daring attack on Anzac Day 1918.

The Prime Minister said:

“Although we marked one hundred years since the Gallipoli landing yesterday, the centenary of Anzac has not passed.

Later this year, we will remember the Battle of Lone Pine and the Gallipoli evacuation, which was the only really successful part of that fraught campaign.

Over the next three years, we will remember the achievement of the Australian light horse in Sinai, at Beersheba and in the capture of Jerusalem and Damascus

But increasingly our attention will turn here, to the Western Front, the main focus of the war, where almost 300,000 Australians fought and 46,000 died.

Gallipoli has dominated our imagination but the Western Front was where Australia’s main war was fought.

This is where our thoughts must dwell if we are truly to remember our forebears, pay homage to their sacrifice and honour their achievements.

Gallipoli was a splendid failure; the Western Front was a terrible success and we should recall our victories as much as our defeats.

In the final months of the war, the five divisions of the Australian army, fighting together for the first time, bested 39 German divisions, took 29,000 prisoners, captured 338 guns and advanced over more than 40 miles of contested ground.

It was the commander of the Australian Army Corps, General Sir John Monash, who most thoroughly brought organisation and technology to the battlefield: to break the stalemate of trench warfare and the futility of men charging against barbed wire and machine guns.

And it was on these broad slopes to the east, that Monash and his men fought what has been acclaimed as ‘the perfect battle’ at Le Hamel.

Soon, this shrine will be more than a place to mourn and reflect; it will also be a place to learn and to understand.

A new centre, bearing Monash’s name, will tell the whole story of Australia’s part in the Allied victory here on the Western Front.

When Australian troops recaptured Villers-Bretonneux on Anzac Day 1918, they helped to turn the tide of war.

Marshal Foch said of the Australians here: You saved Amiens, you saved France; our gratitude will remain ever and always to Australia.

At the 1938 dedication of this memorial, President LeBrun declared that there is no spot on the whole of the tortured soil of France which is more associated with Australian history and the triumph of Australian soldiers than Villers-Bretonneux.

Australians should congregate here, every April 25th, no less than at Anzac Cove.

Shortly, Dr Patrick Simon, Mayor of Villers-Bretonneux, will be invested as an Officer in the Order of Australia.

The Order of Australia is our country’s civilian order of merit that Dr Simon has abundantly earned, by ensuring that the memory of Australia’s glorious dead is never forgotten in the country they helped to protect.

We salute the brave French soldiers who were our allies.

As well, we acknowledge the people of Fouilloy, of Villers-Bretonneux, of Amiens and all the towns and villages of the Somme, who likewise have cherished the memory of their protectors for the past century.

Australia suffered for freedom in the Great War, but no nation paid a higher price than France.

Together, in this centenary year, we remember the tide of events that shaped our nations and that still cast their shadow over the wider world.

We do not glorify war; we honour what’s best and noblest in human nature.

We honour what our countries fought for then and still fight for today: freedom under the law, representative democracy and the universal decencies of mankind.

The centenary of the Great War should mean that Australians, once more, are as familiar with the story of the Western Front as we are with that of Gallipoli.

This is not just France’s story, it is ours too.

It should be better known, to everyone; and thanks to our work today, it will be.

 

Comments

4 Responses to “Sir John Monash Centre to be built in France”
  1. Stephen Weingarth says:

    This Centre will be a tribute to the soldiers who gave their lives but hopefully will also remember the pilots who were above the trenches in the Australian Flying Corps. Only 410 pilot officers and 153 observers flew in WW1 and 205 died on war service. Australia was the only British Dominion to deploy its own flying corps to the War. Most,like my Uncle Jack,flew over the Front as eyes in the sky for the artillery and strafing and dropping bombs on the enemy-the first time aircraft were used in war. Jack was a fighter pilot and he died at 26. Let us remember all those gallant, brave young pilots in the Centre and hopefully make a film about them as well.

  2. Lynne Newington says:

    A great insght into the humanitarian temperament of the then General John Monash recently, [where it was noted his skills overcame prejudice due to his Jewish heritage] when he came up against the British status quo for assisting Tasmanian soldier Private George Leahy caught trying to smuggle a young boy into England who had sought refuge with the soldiers in the trenches, making it possible to bring him back to Tasmania and formally adopt him.

  3. Bruce Pryor says:

    How very fitting and deserved. With still over 3 years to go to the centenary of the conclusion of the First World War I believe there should be a movie made of General Sir John Monash, but there does not appear to be the appropriate people in the movie industry to do it justice as they are too busy championing people like Murdoch and Bean.Maybe the British will come to the rescue, as they depict earlier times in their productions with authenticity.

    • Lynne Newington says:

      I’m not sure about the British…. as stated he was a soldier of humanitarian temperament known for his liberal views. In a war, when many senior officers on both sides of the trenches seemed aristocratically indifferent to the lives of their men, Monash was promoted on merit and actually knew what he was doing. His promotion was opposed by many who were unwilling to see a man of German origin exercise such authority.
      *Source Dr Michael Cathart Historian Melbourne University; WW1 Memorials.

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