General Sir John Monash

General Sir John Monash

Played by Ben Mortley.

Sir John Monash, Australia’s most celebrated soldier, was born in Melbourne in 1865 into a German Jewish family. An incredibly bright child, he went on to join the militia in 1884 and quickly moved up the ranks. By 1912, he was a colonel commanding the 13th Australian Infantry Brigade and when the Great War broke out in 1914, he immediately became a full-time army officer. Throughout the war, Monash would carve a reputation not only as an innovative general, but as one who deeply cared for his men too. He helped organise the first ANZAC Day, a memorial day to remember those fallen at Gallipoli, and carefully coordinated troops and support staff to ensure fast medical collection and hot meals after battlefield successes.

Monash’s innovative tactics played an integral role in the opening battle of the Hundred Days Offensive: Amiens. Here, he revolutionised battlefield communication by having observation planes fly extremely low – just 150m – above the fighting, in order to provide movement reports on the advance. These notes were then dropped where Australian cyclists could collect and race them to Monash’s staff – a process which took just 10mins, a significant improvement from all previous battles. Monash was also the first general to ever deploy British tanks in darkness, and the Australians made excellent use of them during the 100 Days.

As the war concluded, Monash was appointed Australian Director-General of Repatriation and Demobilisation, responsible for organizing the return home of Australia’s heroes. In 1931, Monash passed away, and his life and enormous contribution to Australia were celebrated with a state funeral and over 300,000 attendees – the largest ever held in the country at that time.