Guide to the Papers of General Sir John Monash




This collection consists of 18 boxes (3.8m) of papers dating from 1914-1919 covering Monash's wartime military career and his related activities as Director-General, Repatriation and Demobilisation from 1918-1919 while still in the Australian Imperial Force. While the majority of the material relates to military operations there is a significant amount of material relating to Monash's social activities while on leave. Also of interest is the inclusion of extensive examples of sports, social and leisure programs and menus. These provide a strong record of the social life of the men during their military activities. The diverse wartime records includes Monash's authority to conduct court martials, training instructions for protection against gas attacks, the use of the Lewis gun and tactical exercises for trench warfare and assaults, recommendations for awards, commendations for promotions, codes, convoy and transportation orders, schedules of movements by foot, train and ship, published documents, standing orders, operation orders and reviews of operations, conference agendas, handwritten and typed notes, translations of enemy documents, summaries of interviews with German prisoners of war, information from scouting expeditions, reports relating to external conditions such as the moon phases, rain, terrain, presence of water, place names, signal operations, force orders and special orders, messages and signals.When planning operations and in conference with his officers, Monash initially created draft documents in extensive note form, followed by a second draft with detailed editing and finally as a document for use. Monash's thinking processes and particular emphasis are thus revealed.

SERIES 1: Letters, 1914-1918- Two volumes of typed transcripts of letters written by Monash during the First World War. The main correspondents include his wife and daughter, with others addressed to his business partner, John Gibson and his friend Dr Felix Meyer. Selected and edited versions of these letters were published in War letters of General Monash F M Cutlack, 1934.;SERIES 2: Diaries and notebooks, 1916-1918 - This series comprises typed Division diary and notebooks kept by Monash and Maj Pyke, formerly DAQMG of the 3 Australian Division in France. The diary entries record casualties, field messages and orders of movements.; SERIES 3: First World War papers, , 1914 - 1918 - Personal files organised by Monash and other family members. The files are arranged chronologically and include official war records, published material, correspondence, messages and signals, war diary fragments and military orders.; SERIES 4 : Military telegrams, 1918- Typed sheets detailing incoming and outgoing telegrams. Tabulated details include date, sender, sender's number, time read, office number and subject.;SERIES 5: Military correspondence and writings, 1917 - 1919 - Created by Monash under the heading 'Classified papers' including correspondence, writings by Monash on the history of the Australian Army Corp, and lists and tabulations of awards. Correspondents include Sir Keith Murdoch, General Birdwood, Senator Pearce and Brigadier McNicholl.; SERIES 6: Demobilisation, 1918 - 1919 - This series comprises cables, instructions, administrative details and printed material relating to the demobilization process. Other material includes Monash's typed notes of various interviews with Prime Minister Hughes. The main correspondents include Hughes, Whitham, Borwick and Pearce, covering topics such as expenditure, movement of ships and education.; SERIES 7: Brigade orders and instructions, 1914 - 1918 - Four volumes of orders produced for the 4th Australian Brigade, the Messines Brigades, 3rd Australian Division and the Australian Army Corps. Included are war telegrams, training orders, news sheets, diversion circulars, operational circulars and battle instructions.; SERIES 8: Manuscripts and printed material, 1918 - 1931 - Manuscripts written by or given to Monash after the First World War.; SERIES 9: Tributes and public documents, 1931 - 1934 - This series comprises a number of public documents compiled on Monash including his birth certificates and biographical entry for the War Records Section. Also included is a draft handwritten tribute by former Prime Minister Hughes after Monash's death in 1931.;SERIES 10: Maps, 1914 - 1918 - Coloured/plain annotated maps including tourist maps and maps of trench placements; panoramic views based on topographic maps; maps of training camps; extra-large campaign maps; maps depicting schemes of attack; general maps of the Western Front with combined forces shown and a small number of bilingual (English and Arabic) maps for Egypt and surrounding areas. Also includes maps used for planning the battle of Hamel.

John Monash was the eldest of three children and the only son of Louis Monash and Bertha nee Manasse. Louis Monash migrated to Melbourne in 1854 from Poland, returning to Europe in 1863 to marry. The couple returned to Melbourne the following year, and John Monash was born two years later. Monash's parents did not strictly observe their Jewish religion, however Monash celebrated his Bar Mitzvah, and throughout his life attended Jewish religious services. He included Jewish men on his military staff wherever possible and upon return to civilian life, represented Jewish interests. Monash spoke German and French. Both languages were to prove useful during his wartime career. As a child, Monash attended St Stephen's Church of England School in Richmond, Melbourne, for three years. Due to his father's business losses the family moved to Jerilderie, New South Wales; from 1875 to 1877 Monash attended the local public school. His teacher, William Elliott, noted Monash's academic abilities. Monash's mother returned to Melbourne with the children and enrolled John in Scotch College. In his final year, Monash was dux in mathematics and modern languages and equal dux of the school. Monash enrolled in Melbourne University where he completed the following degrees: a Bachelor of Civil Engineering in 1891; Master of Civil Engineering in 1893; Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws in 1895. During his university years, Monash was an avid self-educator, delving into literature and history. Monash enjoyed politics and debating and was co-founder of the Melbourne University Union, and editor of the Melbourne University Review in 1884-1885. He enjoyed theatre, concerts, opera, dances and wide-ranging social activities. Monash was, in short, a high achiever with a large capacity and intense desire for learning. These were traits that he carried into his military career. The degree of Doctor of Civil Laws was conferred upon Monash by Oxford University and the degree of LLD conferred by Cambridge University, both in 1919. After publication of The Australian Victories in France in 1918, which recounted his wartime experiences, Monash submitted this to the University of Melbourne as a thesis on the subject of engineering as applied to modern warfare and was awarded Doctor of Engineering in 1920. It was the first time a candidate qualified for this degree in any Australian university.During his university years Monash was often short of money and gave private tuition to students; he was also employed as an engineer. He was involved in the construction of the Princes Bridge over the Yarra, and showed such ability that in 1888, at the age of 22, he was placed in charge of the construction of the Outer Circle eastern suburban railway line in Melbourne. Monash began his career as a citizen soldier when he was 19 years of age. He joined the University company of the 4th Battalion, Victorian Rifles, and quickly rose to the rank of Sergeant. In 1887, he moved to the North Melbourne Battery, Metropolitan Brigade, Garrison Artillery, which he commanded from 1896 to 1903. He attained the rank of major in 1897.From 1908 Monash was Victorian commandant of the Australian Intelligence Corps (Militia) and continued to educate himself in the military field. He attended Colonel Hubert Foster's schools in military science at the University of Sydney and showed a special interest in military history. From June 1913 Monash was appointed Colonel commanding the 13th Infantry Brigade. Following his graduation with a Bachelor of Civil Engineering degree, Monash gained a position in 1891 as assistant engineer and chief draughtsman with the Melbourne Harbour Trust; in the same year he married Hannah Victoria Moss. They had one child, Bertha, born in 1893. Unfortunately the land boom, which made engineering prosper, failed and Monash lost this position in 1894. He then entered private practice as a consulting engineer and patents attorney and gradually was sought as an expert witness on engineering matters in the law courts. From 1900 Monash specialised in reinforced concrete construction and introduced reinforcing methods in Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia. By 1915, he was widely known in the Melbourne community. He was President of the Victorian Institute of Engineers, director and chairman of a number of commercial and industrial companies, and member of Melbourne University Council. Monash's organisational and leadership abilities, coupled with his expertise in engineering, were attributes which contributed substantially to his wartime military career. After the outbreak of the war, it was only a small step for Monash to be appointed to command the 4th Infantry Brigade, AIF, after having served as Deputy-Chief Censor for a brief four weeks. Military career: Monash proceeded to the Front in command of the 4th Brigade and the 2nd Expeditionary Force Convoy. He served in Gallipoli from the landing on 25 April 1915 to the evacuation on 19 December 1915. Monash then served at the Suez Canal Defence Zone in 1916, before taking the 4th Brigade to France. In July 1916 Monash was promoted to Major General and given command of the 3rd Australian Division, which fought at Messines and Passchendaele. Monash was noted for his achievements at the Albert-Amiens front after the German offensive of 1918.He assumed command of the Australian Army Corps in France in 1918. Under Monash, the Corps contributed substantially to the Allies' counter-offensive. Monash planned and commanded the highly successful battle of Hamel on 7 July 1918 and a succession of victories followed until the breaking of the Hindenburg Line. After the war ended, Monash was appointed on 1 December 1918 as Director-General, Repatriation and Demobilisation. In less than nine months Monash organised the return of 160,000 Australian servicemen to Australia, many with enhanced educational qualifications as a result of the AIF Education Scheme which he was instrumental in organising. His appointment with the AIF was terminated on 13 June 1920. Many military historians and his various biographers consider that his opportunity to high command came too late for him to fully realize his potential. He was nevertheless a military leader of considerable achievement viewing warfare as an engineering problem which could be solved. In the 1920s Monash was generally referred to as the 'greatest living Australian'. Monash's own views of his military achievements are worth noting. In the official record completed by Monash himself for the Australian War Records Section on 21 February 1919, he considered his 'most interesting' service in the AIF to be the 'stoppage of the German advance East of Amiens in the spring of 1918' and the 'most important' to be 'our counter-offensive in the summer of 1918'. Ranks held/date of appointment: Colonel and T/Brigadier, 15 September 1914 ; T/Brigadier, 9 July 1915; Major General, 10 July 1916; Lieutenant General, 1 June 1918; Return to civilian life: After the war, Monash returned to his engineering practice, taking on the directorship of the Hume Pipe Company as well as other directorships. At the same time, the Victorian government was planning to harness Gippsland's brown coal for use in Victorian industry; the government in 1920 offered Monash first the position of General Manager, and then the position of Chairman of the State Electricity Commission. He occupied this position until his death, and has been credited with providing cheap electricity throughout Victoria.Following his return to civilian life Monash was active in a number of spheres. He was a spokesperson for those of the Jewish faith and returned soldiers, led Melbourne's ANZAC Day marches, served as President of Rotary in 1922, managed the Special Constabulary Force during the police strike of 1923 and chaired the subsequent royal commission. He also acted as part time Vice-Chancellor of Melbourne University from 1923 and served as President of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science in 1924-1926. From 1927 Monash suffered with high blood pressure, but he continued a hectic pace of engagements and work. On 8 October 1931, Monash died of coronary vascular disease. He was given a state funeral, reputed to have drawn a crowd of more than 250,000. Monash was buried with Jewish rites in Brighton cemetery. The extensive commemorative tributes to Monash upon his death testified to the fact that he was widely revered by Australians.

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Correspondence; Diaries; Personal papers

First World War; First World War papers; Military Correspondance; Military telegrams

General Sir John Monash

Military service; World wars

Coverage Temporal



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2012-05-30 23:43

2011-06-08 12:32