A Jewish man generally regarded as Australia’s finest military commander has received a new round of publicity 65 years after his death.
His face appears on the newly released Australian $100 bill. Sir John Monash, who led Australian forces in World War I, was a prominent military, professional and Jewish figure in the first third of this century.
Born in Melbourne in 1865, Monash excelled academically at the Scotch College before entering Melbourne University. As a student, he joined the University Company of the 4th Battalion, Victorian Rifles, and completed law, arts and engineering degrees.
During his professional life as a construction engineer, he remained involved in the military, commanding the Melbourne Battery of the Garrison Artillery in the rank of major from 1987 to 1908, when he became head of the Intelligence Corps’ Victorian Division, a remarkable achievement for a Jewish son of Prussian-born parents. He became a colonel in 1913.
His military achievements in major battles in Gallipoli, Turkey; Egypt; and France were recognized in his knighthood in 1918 and appointment as commander of Australia’s forces.
In the postwar period, he presided over employment, social and educational programs for demobilized soldiers, led the development of the State Electricity Commission of Victoria and served as Vice Chancellor of the University of Melbourne.
He always had an active interest in Jewish affairs. In 1927, he became the honorary president of the Australian Zionist Federation.
His funeral in 1931 was attended by a reported 250,000 mourners, the nation’s largest funeral crowd to that time.
Monash University, established in his home city in 1958.