On the centenary of the First World War battle of Hamel the Australian War Memorial has dedicated a commemorative sculpture of General Sir John Monash, who planned and directed the successful action.
The sculpture depicts Monash wearing his civilian suit, medals, and Returned and Services League badge. Regarded as one of Australia’s outstanding civilian leaders, Monash is remembered for many things, but it was as a military commander that he truly excelled. As commander of the Australian Corps he led the Australians during their most successful actions of the war. Many consider Monash to be one of the greatest commanders of the First World War.
On 4 July 1918 formations of the Australian Corps, including for the first time companies of American soldiers, was victorious at the battle of Hamel. Lieutenant General Monash had meticulously planned out the action to the last detail, estimating all objectives would be taken in 90 minutes – it took 93.
Memorial Director Dr Brendan Nelson said Monash deserves to be remembered as one of the greatest Australians ever, not just for his accomplishments as a military leader but also for his efforts to rebuild a divided nation after the war.
“At le Hamel, Monash commanded an operation in which Australian and American soldiers fought beside each other for the first time. A series of stunning victories would ensue – Amiens, Mont St Quentin, and the capture of Péronne, and the breaking of the Hindenburg line.
“In the aftermath of the war, Monash was appointed Director-General of Repatriation and Demobilisation, efficiently repatriating 160,000 soldiers in eight months.
“Throughout his life he upheld the democratic ideals of his nation and the principle of equality of opportunity. When asked to lead a right-wing coup during the Great Depression, he famously wrote to the plotters, ‘The only hope for Australia is the ballot-box, and an educated electorate.’
“It is his great work as a proud former citizen-soldier and commander, combined with his passion for our nation, that inspired us to remember him as a nation-building civilian and not just as a military commander,” Dr Nelson said.
Monash’s fame and influence never diminished, and when he died of heart disease on 8 October 1931 he was given a state funeral, attended by an estimated 300,000 people from all walks of life, reflecting the esteem in which he was held by the public.
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