Wartime records of General John Monash available online
General John Monash is considered one of the war’s outstanding commanders. Monash was an avid collector, and his papers held at the Memorial give a comprehensive view of his wartime military career: from his command of the 4th Australian Brigade on Gallipoli to the Australian Corps in 1918, and then his role as Director General of Demobilisation and Repatriation of the AIF at war’s end. His handwritten notes, diaries, letters, draft orders, maps, and cards spanning the whole war give insight into his meticulous planning and success as a commander.
Monash's collection is not only important to Australians but any research into First World War military history. 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. Monash often wrote of these activities being important for the morale of the troops and these items provide a strong record of the social life of the men during their military activities.
Monash was keenly aware of the importance of Australia’s participation in the war; he also valued record keeping and documentation, in the lead up to the Gallipoli landing he wrote:
We got the first order issued today by General Sir I.S.M. Hamilton … This is indeed a historic document, but its contents are too confidential to send along a copy. What a wonderful compliment to Australia and New Zealand to be included in this great expedition, which I feel pretty sure will exercise a decisive influence upon the whole war.
An interesting item in the collection is an unsent letter Monash wrote to his wife on the eve of the Gallipoli landing should he not survive:
In the event of my going out, you are to believe that I do so with only one regret, which is, the grief that this will bring to you and Burt and Mat. – For myself, I am prepared to take my chance … to win through safely would mean honour and achievement, on the other hand to fall would mean an honourable end. – At best I have only a few years of vigour left, and then would come decay and the chill of old age, & perhaps lingering illness.
The release online of Series 1 and 3 of the war papers of General John Monash forms part of the Memorial's major centenary web and digitisation initiative Anzac connections. The project aims to make available online the original accounts of Australians who served during the war in their own words.