Meet Sir John Monash

April 18, 2018 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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Malcolm Turnbull has laid to rest notions to promote Sir John Monash posthumously to the rank of field marshal in spite of many requests including those from Labor leader Bill Shorten, Turnbull Government minister Josh Frydenberg and  former deputy prime minister Tim Fischer.

Sir John Monash

Fairfax Media has reported 300,00 people attended the WWI hero’s funeral in Melbourne in 1931.

It also reported that Australia’s official WWI historian C.E.W. Bean described Sir John Monash as “a pushy Jew”.

Monash also frustrated millionaire Keith Murdoch because “he couldn’t manipulate him”.

Next month the Sir John Monash Centre will be opened by prime minister Malcolm Turnbull in France, named after the brilliant military leader who was knighthood was elevated on the battlegrounds of France by King George V.

Who was Sir John Monash. Historian has presented a powerpoint presentation to tell some of the story…






19 Responses to “Meet Sir John Monash”
  1. Adrian Jackson says:

    J-Wire, may I suggest that a copy of the excellent photo of Monash in dinner suit be transferred to John Monash Wikipedia

  2. Adrian Jackson says:

    While some Australian honour, like an AO, are awarded posthumously its is a different story with ADF rank. If a government was to award a higher rank to a deceased former ADF member it would logically follow that they could reduce a deceased ADF member in rank too, like Blamey. Now that would get messy.

    • David Deasey says:

      On posthumous promotions you seem to have forgotten the case of Henry Normand Maclaurin promoted to Brigadier General several months after his death in World War 1

  3. Liat Kirby says:

    Apart from anything else, reading the comments of C.E.W. Bean and Billy Hughes (of which I had no prior knowledge) regarding ‘the nature of the Jew’ as part of their distaste for Monash, was like a kick to the stomach. Even taking into account the era, this is a blow. To think it could be aired in this way, or even felt, in light of all Sir John Monash did, and stood for, is an extraordinary thing indeed. Precedent or no precedent, give him his due and promote him to the highest of ranks posthumously, ameliorate at least to an extent this stain of Australian anti-Semitism used against a great Jewish-Australian man who at that very time was using all his creative and intelligent forces on behalf of his country.

    Australia at governmental/military level has a poor record of recognising adequately the worth of its achievers, consider Nancy Wake, recognised by both France and Great Britain with the highest of awards for valour in her espionage work during World War II – she returns to Australia to nothing.

    • Adrian Jackson says:

      Billy Hughes became Australian PM shortly after Commonwealth Liberal (not the current Liberal Party) PM Joseph Cook was defeated in the election and his term as PM finished on 17 Sep 1914. Perhaps because Cook had declared war on Germany to support Great Britain.

      The Australian Labour Party won the election and Andrew Fisher became PM on 17 Sep 14 but he was deposed a year later by William “Billy” Hughes on 27 Oct 14 and Hughes remained PM until 09 Feb 1923 in Australian Labour Party, National Labour (after a falling out with the ALP) and Nationalist Party.

      He was replaced by Stanley Bruce of the Nationalist Party who unlike Hughes served as an Army officer on the Western Front. Bruce lost government whilst PM as the great depression hit the economy like PM John Howard did in 2007.

      Hughes remained in the Commonwealth Parliament until his death about 5 years after WW2 finished. Hughes was also in the United Australia Party in the 1930’s and the current Liberal party after WW2. He was in the WW2 Australian War Cabinet too.

      Hughes was originally an umbrella maker and union official prior to entering Commonwealth Parliament before WW1.

  4. Adrian Jackson says:

    Bill Shorten in an article in The Age (18 Apr 18, page 18) said that Monash in August 1918 commander the Australian Army which is incorrect; he commanded the Australian Corps.

    The Australian Army has always been commanded by the Chief of the General Staff (now Chief of Army). Monash paid attention to detail in war unlike Mr Shorten and his article writers in peace.

    Australia does not use the “star” description for senior officer rank, but abbreviations like Maj Gen, Lt Gen and Gen while US General Patton was not promoted to Field Marshal (no such thing in the US Army) but to 5 star general rank.

    • David Deasey says:

      Two points on Adrian Jackson’s post.
      Firstly whilst we do use Title abbreviations such as Maj Gen we also use the star system to designate rank equivalents in the combined service world exactly the same as Americans.
      Secondly Patton was never promoted to five star general. Or as the Americans would say General of the Army. Only Marshall, Macarthur, Eisenhower and Arnold were promoted in WW2 with Bradley in 1950. Five star rank (All Services) is an award by the President of the United States on the advice of Congress

    • David Deasey says:

      Perhaps I should draw attention to the following. The Chief of the General Staff in World War 1 did not command the Australian Army and indeed was Junior to both Monash and Chauvel. The Commander of the AIF in World War 1 was General Sir William Birdwood (later Australia’s first Field Marshal) In World War 2 the commander of the Australian Military Forces (read Australian Army Group)was General Sir Thomas Blamey senior in position and rank to the Chief of the General Staff (Vernon Sturdee and John Northcott both Lt Gens) Blamey was also Commander Allied Land Forces South West Pacific Area which included US Ground Forces.

  5. Adrian Jackson says:

    The photo of Monash in a dinner suit, sash, medals and decorations, which I have never seen before, is the best photo if him out of army uniform I have seen.

  6. Hilary Rubinstein says:

    Amid historians’ allegations of antisemitism impeding Monash’s career, it should not be forgotten that (before the rise of Hitler) anti-socialist groups fearful of what they saw as the threat of communism wanted Sir John to become a Mussolini-like dictator of Australia!

    • Adrian Jackson says:

      Hillary – Monash did not join the New Guard after he was invited to join them.

      The New Guards “greatest act” was when “Captain” De Grout cut the ribbon at the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge before the ALP Premier of NSW Jack Lang could cut it. It was replaced and Lang then cut the ribbon officially. The incident was filmed and it is on You Tube.

      The New Guard contained many WW1 veterans and communism was feared after the Russian revolution in the 1930’s as it was during the Cold War in the 1950’s.

  7. Peter Wertheim says:

    Yes Harry Chauvel was a great general, but unlike Monash, it was never suggested by anyone of stature that on merit he should have been C-in-C of all British forces.

    Sir Basil Liddell Hart, widely regarded as an outstanding military commentator and historian, said the following when writing an obituary for Monash:

    “He had probably the greatest capacity for command in modern war among all who held command…If that war had lasted another year he would almost certainly have risen from commander of the Australian corps to command of an army; he might even have risen to be Commander-in Chief. If capacity had been the determining factor he would have done so…

    His views were as large as his capacity. Perhaps the strongest testament to his capacity is the distance he went in spite of a tremendous compound handicap of prejudice…

    His grip of situations silenced all doubters and compelled the admiration of even the most critical professional soldiers.”

    Liddell Hart’s judgement was echoed by other eminent figures. In The First World War (1963), the historian A.J.P. Taylor described Monash as “the only general of creative originality produced by the First World War”. In his History of Warfare (1968) General Sir Bernard Law Montgomery, the victor at the second battle of El-Alamein, a crucial turning point in World War II, wrote:

    “I would name Sir John Monash as the best general on the western front in Europe; he possessed real creative originality, and the war might well have been over sooner, and certainly with fewer casualties, had Haig been relieved of his command and Monash appointed to command the British armies in his place”.

    Those opposing the posthumous promotion of Monash to Field Marshal have claimed that there is no precedent for posthumous promotions. Quite apart from the fact that the Prime Minister has the power to effect such a promotion and does not need a precedent, such a precedent does in fact exist, as has been pointed out by the Saluting Monash Council.

    If the concern is that promoting Monash to Field Marshal would open the flood gates to other posthumous promotions, the uniqueness of Monash’s circumstances, capacities and achievements should obviate that concern.

    • On 12 August 1918, Monash was knighted by King George V at the Chateau de Bertangles, just north of Amiens, in the heart of the Somme where Australian forces had turned the tide of battle against the German army. No other Australian military figure has been knighted in the field by a reigning British monarch during the course of a war. It is an extremely rare event. The conferral of a knighthood on Monash at Bertangles was the first time a British monarch had honoured a commander in such a way in 200 years.

    • As already noted, Monash was a citizen-soldier, who had no formal qualifications as a military leader and whose initial appointment as an officer in the First AIF was due to his having served for 30 years in the part-time citizen militia. We know of no other Australian field commander coming from such a background who came close to achieving as much as Monash achieved.

    • As Liddell Hart observed, Monash, uniquely, had to overcome “a tremendous compound handicap of prejudice”, because of both his Jewish and German background. Because he was not of “British stock” – to use the parlance of the day – Monash was considered by some influential Australians such as the historian Charles Bean, the journalist Keith Murdoch and even Prime Minister Billy Hughes to be an outsider, who was therefore not an appropriate choice to have overall command of the Australian Corps. Bean outrageously accused Monash of being a stereotypical ‘self-promoting’ Jew, even though Monash never sought recognition. (Many years later Bean retracted the charge). Bean and Murdoch were protagonists in a well-documented and thoroughly discreditable attempt to overturn Monash’s appointment as the first native-born Australian Corps Commander in May 1918. In a letter to his wife, Monash himself described their failed attempt as a “pogrom”. This circumstance too is unique to Monash’s story.

    Monash’s biographer Geoffrey Serle concluded: “At the close of the war, Monash in reputation stood far above any other Australian general, in the eyes of both the AIF and the Australian public.” Yet even after the war Monash continued to face prejudice from certain sections of the government and Australia’s military establishment, and the promotion which was popularly seen to be his rightful due was blocked. In this regard, the attitudes of Australia’s civilian and military leaders fell shamefully short of the standards of fair-mindedness of the Australian people, even at that time.

    It would have been appropriate in this centenary year of the end of World War I, to right this historic wrong, repudiate long-outdated prejudices and confer upon Monash posthumously the well-deserved rank of Field Marshal.

    • Adrian Jackson says:

      Peter – What Monash, or Chauvel for that matter, might have been if WW1 had continued longer may be true but it is also irrelevant as it did not happen.

      Monash was a citizen officer but had been in the Colony of Victoria and later the Australian Army for a long time before WW1. Also many senior officer in both WW1 and WW2 were citizen officers, like the soldier.

      It was only after WW2 that a serious Regular Army was raised with 3 infantry battalions (1RAR, 2RAR, 3RAR and other arms and service units.

      What followed was combat in the UN (mostly US) engagement in Korea (stalemate), Malaya with the British Commonwealth (successful), South Vietnam (failure with over 500 ADF dead), Afghanistan (nothing achieved with about 40 ADF dead) and Iraq (chaos and a indirect catalyst for further instability in West Asia and North Africa).

  8. Adrian Jackson says:

    The 14 section slide show at the end of the article says Monash was not promoted to General which is inaccurate and it also referred to Murdoch as Frank not Keith. There are a few other minor errors too.

  9. Adrian Jackson says:

    Sir Harry Chauvel was the first Australian to be promoted to Lieutenant General and the first Australian to command a corps (3 mounted divisions plus) however I dont hear calls to promote Chauvel posthumously to Field Marshal.

    • David Deasey says:

      Well you have now heard it! Chauvel for Field Marshal! What else to do with someone who had such a major role in establishing conditions so that the State of Israel could be created. And while we are at it perhaps we should give equal billing if not greater billing to the Battle of Megiddo 19 Sept 1918 compared to Beersheba

  10. Hilary Rubinstein says:

    Surely anyone who reads the first-hand accounts of Sir John Monash’s funeral procession from central Melbourne to Brighton cemetery cannot fail to be deeply moved by the descriptions of the great crowds lining the route and their obvious admiration and respect for him as his cortege passed by.

  11. Adrian Jackson says:

    The correct decision by the government but this has been the government position for a few years.

    Sir John Monash was a great peace and war leader and wartime corps commander with the rank of a Lt General which is the correct rank of a corps commander. Corps are usually based on 3 divisions but in the last few months of WW1 the Australian Corps included all 5 Australia division on the Western Front.

    A General commands an Army (3 corps or 9 divisions) and Monash’s force was not that large. A Field Marshal command an number of armies in the same theatre of war. At the same time there was the Desert Mounted Corps in Palestine and Syria commanded by Sir Harry Chauvel but they were separate war theatres thousands of km apart and were not under one command. Even if they were under one command they would still only be an Army.

    Both were knighted, Monash “in the field” by the King George V, which has not happened for 2 centuries. King George V and in the long run the political leaders did not listen to historian Bean and newspaper correspondent Murdoch.

    Both Chauvel and Monash were promoted to General shortly before Monash died in 1931. In the 1920’s Chauvel remained in the Army and was the Inspector General of our shrinking Army while Monash was busy in his home state of Victoria as a civilian civil engineer creating the SEC of Vic in the Latrobe valley and Yallorn township to accommodate the brown coal power plant electricity workers . Chauvel died during WW2.

    • David Deasey says:

      Chauvel was knighted in the ‘field’ too although not by the King but in Jerusalem by Field Marshal, The Duke of Connaught the youngest son of Queen Victoria, in early 1918
      And while we are at it how do you explain the British 10th Army made up of 2 Corps each of 2 Divisions. By the by its commander was later promoted to Field Marshal (in retirement) without any further combat service. You actually do not need to command anything on operations to be made a Field Marshal-this is a furphy started by those who would deny Monash and Chauvel the ultimate accolade

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