FORMER deputy PM Tim Fischer has reignited his campaign to have Sir John Monash posthumously promoted to the rank of field marshal – the army’s highest rank – for his exceptional role in World War I.
“It is never too late to right a wrong and posthumously promote Sir John Monash one step in rank to field marshal,” Fischer told The AJN. “One key date would be Boxing Day 2019, 100 years to the day when Monash returned to the Port of Melbourne from World War I.”
As commander of the Australian Corps, Monash’s tactics in the 1918 Western Front battles of Hamel and Amiens – in which he introduced modern warfare doctrines that spared lives and pushed the battle front forward rapidly – helped turn the course of the war.
When General David Hurley was sworn in as Governor-General on July 1, Fischer urged Prime Minister Scott Morrison to reconsider the posthumous promotion, expressing disappointment that former PM Malcolm Turnbull refrained from supporting the move.
It is believed Turnbull, who enthused on the idea of Monash’s posthumous promotion in a speech to the Jewish Museum in Sydney in 2013, was set to announce the promotion when he opened the Sir John Monash Centre at Villers-Bretonneux, France before Anzac Day last year, but changed course after receiving strong advice against setting a precedent on posthumous military promotions.
Apart from Sir Thomas Blamey, Australia’s field marshals so far comprise only Britons – World War I commander Sir William Birdwood, King George VI and Prince Philip.
In April this year, Fischer revealed notes he made during a phone call with Turnbull the previous April, in which he claimed the then PM admitted, “This is a gotcha moment, but there was strong opposition [to Monash’s promotion].”
Fischer believes that while the decision would rest with Hurley, a former NSW governor and former Defence Force chief, Morrison, as PM, and others “have sway”.
In 2017, when Fischer – chair of the Saluting Monash Council and author of Maestro John Monash – launched Professor Roland Perry’s Monash and Chauvel, a biography of Monash and of World War I Australian Light Horse commander General Harry Chauvel, he recounted the discrimination Monash suffered as a Jew with German heritage and as an army reservist. Said Fischer, “Monash was discriminated against and we need to correct this.”
Perry told The AJN last year he is confident the campaign to have Monash promoted will eventually succeed.