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It’s never too late to right a wrong

John Monash of Jerilderie and Melbourne did not receive one Australian Government award after his brilliant contribution as our best citizen general in helping to win World War One, not one!

Tim Fischer.
Tim Fischer.

JOHN Monash of Jerilderie and Melbourne did not receive one Australian Government award after his brilliant contribution as our best citizen general in helping to win World War One, not one!

The Executive Australian Council of Jewry shares my deep concerns about this aspect of zero Australian Government awards since 11am on November 11, 1918 until now for Monash.

Notwithstanding PM Turnbull’s decision, it is never too late to rectify this with a symbolic salute to Monash by posthumously promoting him to Field Marshal, this would be both a salute to Monash and the AIF.

Further it would help with highlighting Monash-led successful battles, which were often downplayed. Note the 4 July 1918 Battle of Hamel was headlined initially in Australia: ’British success, Hamel captured’. It was a 93-minute exemplar AIF victory.

As I researched my recent book Maestro John Monash and revisited the Western Front in January 2018, I have to say evidence abounds of discrimination against Monash and the downplaying of his leadership achievements and that of the AIF, especially in France in 1918. Key people such as C E W Bean and Keith Murdoch initially did not like Monash.

J’accuse . . . I accuse Prime Minister W M Hughes of jealousy and an effective veto against any promotion of Monash from November 1918 until 1923, I accuse Prime Minister S M Bruce of indifference from 1923 until 1929 – Monash was not even invited to the official Government House reception for the visit of Field Marshal Sir Edmund Allenby in the 1920s.

I salute Prime Minister J Scullin for a long overdue promotion of both Monash and also Sir Harry Chauvel, from 3 star Lt General to 4 star General, on Armistice / Remembrance Day, 11 November 1929.

In particular, I salute Prime Minister R G Menzies for creating two precedents when in 1950 he appointed Sir Thomas Blamey a Field Marshal, an Australian Field Marshal retrospectively and then on 1 April 1954 made then Prince Philip an Australian Field Marshal, thus acknowledging past service and also making it a symbolic rank.

HRH Prince Charles on accession may become an Australian Field Marshal, he deserves to be head of the Commonwealth but an AFM before Monash, or before Chauvel for that matter – unreal.

Another indirect precedent was created in the USA, when in 1976 George Washington was posthumously promoted from 4-Star General to 5-star General of the Armies or Field Marshal equivalent. Washington had been dead 176 years in 1976.

The Jerilderie Proposition

John Monash was born in Melbourne in 1865 to Prussian Jewish migrant parents, Louis and Bertha Monash, whose surname was originally Monasch but anglicised by Deed Poll signed by famous Victorian Judge Redmond Barry.

Declining business around the Victorian Gold fields caused Louis Monash to take his family to Jerilderie in 1874 and open a drapery and horse trading business. Again this was not easy as drought years had descended on the small town of Jerilderie and much of the Riverina.

Young John Monash was a star student at Jerilderie Primary School and with tutors also learnt several languages, including French, German and Hebrew before his headmaster William Elliott stated he could teach Monash no more and he should go to Melbourne. In 1881 Monash became equal dux at Scotch College Melbourne and later graduated in Law, Arts and Engineering from Melbourne University.

In October 2015 the then Jerilderie Shire Council unanimously adopted the Jerilderie Proposition and as a salute to Monash and the AIF, declared:

“Following on the outstanding contribution of Sir John Monash to State and Nation before, during and after World War One and reflecting the fact that Sir John Monash received no Australian Awards or Honours post 11 November 1918, the Prime Minister approve by Government Gazette publication, the posthumous promotion of one step in rank of General Sir John Monash to the rank of Australian Field Marshal, with effect 11 November 1930, one year after Sir John Monash was eventually promoted to the rank of General.”

Josh Frydenberg MP, who wrote the foreword of Maestro John Monash, has been a consistent supporter of the promotion over many years, along with Bill Shorten and many others on both sides of the political aisle, and The AJN has covered the debate well.

It is never too late to complete history, to quote Josh: never too late to right a wrong.

There are precedents, it is deserved and there are no reasons of substance that cannot be dealt with to allow the posthumous promotion of Monash.

TIM FISCHER is a former deputy prime minister and chair of the Saluting Monash Council

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