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John Monash (1864-1931)
"General Sir John Monash, who died in Melbourne on Thursday, October 8, at the age of 67, was one of the greatest of Australia’s citizens. After a successful career as a civil engineer, he achieved considerable, and in some ways unique, distinction during the Great War as a military commander, and for the past eleven years had presided with success over the operations of the State Electricity Commission of Victoria.
John Monash was born in Melbourne on June 27, 1864, and was educated at the Scotch College and the University of that city. He graduated in science, engineering and arts, and became an Argus scholar with honours in engineering. In 1884, during the later portion of his time at the University, he was appointed assistant to Mr. George Higgins, M.Inst.C.E., and was engaged under him on the construction of New Falls Railway Bridge, the Queen’s Bridge, Melbourne, and other similar work. From 1888 to 1891, he acted as engineer-in-charge for a portion of the Outer Circle railway system in Melbourne, while subsequently he was for a time on the staff of the Melbourne Harbour Trust, where he was responsible for the design of a number of swing bridges, transit sheds, and wharves.
In 1894, he set up in practice as a consulting engineer in partnership with Mr. J. T. N. Anderson, and during the next seven years was responsible for the construction of over 200 miles of railway in Queensland and West Australia, while he also supervised the building of the Koondroor Bridge over the River Murray and of a bridge over the River Tambo. In addition, he developed a considerable reputation both as an expert witness and arbitrator, and acquired an experience in organisation and administration, which doubtless stood him in good stead during the war years. Among the Parliamentary Select Committees and Royal Commissions upon large engineering schemes with which he was connected at this time, mention may be made of the Burrinjuck Conservation, the Mildura Irrigation, and the Northern Suburbs Railway in Victoria. For a time he acted as the engineering member of the Commission upon the affairs of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works.
On Mr. Anderson being appointed chief engineer of Dunedin in 1901, General Monash continued practice on his own account, his activities, as before, being mainly concerned with railway, road, bridge and water-supply construction, while during the same period he developed the employment of reinforced concrete in Victoria, designing and carrying out a number of structures in that material. Perhaps his most important work during this period was, however, the improvement of the navigation of and the carrying out of a locking scheme on the Lower Murrumbidgee.
All these activities, however, suffered an abrupt re-orientation with the outbreak of war in 1914. For many years Monash had held a commission in the Australian Citizen Forces, and by that time had reached the rank of colonel. After a period as Chief Censor he was given the command of a brigade, serving with great success in this capacity during the Gallipoli campaign. Subsequently he was for a period responsible for the training of the Australian Division on Salisbury Plain, and led the same unit at the battles of Messines and “ Third Ypres ” in 1917. In all these positions he showed himself a capable and scientific commander, but by far his most successful operation was in August, 1918, after he had succeeded to the command of the Australian Corps, when he played a great part in breaking through the German line. On the completion of hostilities he was appointed Director-General of Demobilisation of the Australian Forces, and in 1920 became chairman of the State Electricity Commission of Victoria. This body is in many ways analogous to our own Electricity Commission. In addition, however, to administrating the statutes relating to electricity supply, it is also responsible for the generation of electrical energy, and owns the large station at Yallourn, from which Melbourne derives a considerable portion of its power.
In the course of his career, General Monash was the recipient of many military honours, both British and foreign. In addition, he was president of the Australian Association for the Advancement of Science from 1924 to 1926, and had been vice-chancellor of Melbourne University since 1923. He was elected a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1906, and had served on the council of that body. He was the holder of honorary degrees from Oxford, Cambridge, and Melbourne Universities."
1932 Obituary 
Sir JOHN MONASH, G.C.M.G., K.C.B., son of Louis Monash, of Melbourne, was born there on the 27th June, 1865. He was educated at the Scotch College, and from 1881 to 1885 at the University of Melbourne, where he took the Degree of Bachelor of Civil Engineering in 1891, and was awarded the Argus Scholarship.
He then served as an assistant to Mr. George Higgins, M.Inst.C.E., for three years, and from 1887-1891 was engaged on a variety of engineering work in Victoria.
In 1891 he joined the engineering staff of the Melbourne Harbour Trust, becoming Assistant Engineer under Mr. A. M. Alexander, M.Inst.C.E., in 1892.
From 1894 to 1901 he was in partnership with Mr. J. T. N. Anderson, M.Inst.C.E., in general consulting practice, and during that period he carried out a large amount of railway, municipal, and other work, made many reports on engineering schemes, and gave much evidence before Parliamentary Select Committees and Royal Commissions.
After 1906 he carried on this practice alone. He studied the subject of reinforced concrete and developed engineering practice in that material in Australia, and was Superintending Engineer to reinforced concrete construction companies in both Victoria and South Australia. Meanwhile, he had obtained further academical distinctions, having graduated as Master of Civil Engineering in 1893, and Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws in 1895. To these were added in later years the degrees of Doctor of Laws in 1920 and Doctor of Engineering in 1921.
These distinctions, however, were eclipsed by those which came to him as a result of his services in the war. He had joined the Victorian Military Forces in 1887, and at the outbreak of the war in 1914 he was colonel commanding the Australian Intelligence Corps.
In December, 1914, he was appointed to the command of the 4th Infantry Brigade of the Australian Imperial Force, which landed at Gallipoli in April, 1915, and was engaged in all fighting until the evacuation. He was then promoted Major-General and given command of the 3rd Australian Division when it arrived in England for training. The Division appeared on the Western Front at the end of 1916, was engaged at the battles of Messines and Ypres in 1917, and in March and April, 1918, took part in stemming the great German offensive towards Amiens. In all these operations he gained a high reputation as a capable and scientific commander, and at the end of Nay, 1918, then holding the rank of Lieut.-General, he was appointed to succeed General Sir William Birdwood in command of the Australian Corps. In the closing months of the war the Corps added to its laurels at Bapaume, Havrincourt and Epehy, Cambrai, and the Hindenburg Line, and Monash, who had been made C.B. in 1915, was created K.C.B. by the King when His Majesty was on a visit to the Front.
After the Armistice he superintended the repatriation of the Australian Imperial Force, and wrote a book entitled "The Australian Victories in France in 1918."
On his return to civil life he was appoint,ed Chairman of the Victorian State Electricity Commission, a position which he held until his death. In this capacity he organized the entire work of developing the brown coal resources of Victoria for the production of electric energy and their application to the purposes of a power scheme to serve the manufacturing and other requirements of the State-one of the greatest undertakings ever carried out in Australia. In addition to the military honours already mentioned, Sir John Monash was created G.C.M.G. in 1919; foreign Governments conferred upon him the distinctions of Grand Officier de la Legion d’Honneur and Croix de Guerre (France), Grand Officer de l’0rdre de la Couroune and Croix de Guerre (Belgium), and the Distinguished Service Medal (U.S.A.) ; and he also received the Victorian Decoration.
In 1930, on his reaching the retiring age, the Commonwealth Government promoted him to the rank of General.
He was made Vice-chancellor of the University of Melbourne in 1923, and was President of the Australian Association for the Advancement of Science in 1924-1926. In 1919 the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge conferred upon him the honorary degrees of D.C.L. and LL.D., respectively.
His influence and personality as Vice-chairman of the Victorian National War Memorial Committee played a great part in bringing the Memorial to fruition.
In 1931 he represented the Commonwealth of Australia at the inauguration of the capital of India at Delhi. He died at Toorak, Melbourne, on the 8th October, 1931.
His wife, Victoria, youngest daughter of Mr. Moton Moss, of Melbourne, whom he married in 1891, had predeceased him in 1920, and he left one daughter, Mrs. Gershon Bennett.
Sir John Monash‘s career is an outstanding example of the adaptability of the Civil Engineer to the demands of modern warfare. In reviewing his book, "The Australian Victories in France in 1918,"
The Times remarked:-
"What strike some most in Sir John Monash’s book is the great directness and simplicity of the military ideas and the ingenious elaboration of detail in their execution. He is the least romantic and the most efficient of soldiers, and military history will give him an extremely high place among the tacticians of the war . . . "
Those who knew him best will always bear in remembrance his remarkable clarity of expression and his faculty for eliminating the non-essentials in any problem brought before him. He was endowed with a wonderful memory; he was always approachable; and his invariable tact, courtesy, and kindness will be gratefully remembered by his many friends in Australia and elsewhere.
He was elected an Associate Member on the 7th February, 1893, and transferred to Membership on the 18th December, 1906. He served as a Member of Council resident in Australia from 1923 to 1926.