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Push to promote Sir John Monash

Tuesday, 23rd October, 2018

General John Monash General John Monash

A new push is underway to posthumously promote World War One military commander General Sir John Monash to the Army’s highest rank of field marshal.

Independent MP Cathy McGowan yesterday presented a private bill to federal parliament in the hope politicians will clear the way to promote the man widely regarded as Australia’s greatest-ever military commander.

Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull blocked a previous campaign for the posthumous promotion in April after opposition from Australia’s military leaders.

Ms McGowan says the promotion would be rightful recognition for a “man of great courage”, who not only served his country but also set up Victoria’s electricity service.

It would also give people an opportunity to learn about sacrifice, skill, leadership, victory, returning home from war and resilience, she says.

“I believe it would give the people of Australia a wonderful role model to aspire to,” she told parliament.

“If there’s ever a time where we as a nation need role models, it’s today.”

Ms McGowan has been working with former deputy prime minister Tim Fischer to have Sir John promoted.

The former Nationals leader has long campaigned for Sir John’s promotion given his leadership at the battles of Hamel and Amiens in France which put Allied forces on the path to victory in 1918.

Mr Fischer is the chairman of the “Saluting Monash Council” which in 2016 opened the campaign to promote Sir John at a ceremony in Melbourne at the Shrine of Remembrance which he had built to honour the troops of the Australian Imperial Force in World War One. 

“The key point is Monash received zero Australian government awards after 11 November, 1918 but for one minor rank promotion,” Mr Fischer told AAP yesterday.

“It’s time this is corrected, even if it is against the wishes of sections of the Army.”

General Monash was not a professional military man but a civil engineer whose Jewish parents had emigrated from Germany. 

Former prime minister Robert Menzies in 1950 supported the elevation of the-then general Sir Thomas Blamey to field marshal for his role in commanding all Australian forces during WWII.

Sir Thomas is the only Australian to hold the rank of field marshal.

“Menzies promoted Sir Thomas Blamey to field marshal from his sick bed against the wishes of the Army at the time as a salute from the people and the parliament,” Mr Fischer said.

“If we can do it for Blamey we must do it for Sir John Monash.”

Sir John presided over a succession of victories in late 1918 commanding Australian, Canadian, American and British forces.

He was knighted in the field by the King of England. It was the first time that this had happened in 200 years.

Melbourne’s Monash University is named in his honour, as is a local government area in Melbourne, a town in South Australia, a suburb in Canberra and a new interpretive centre at Villers-Bretonneux in France.

His face also graces the $100 note, while a new statue of Sir John is being placed in the grounds of the Australian War Memorial.

Liberal MP Jane Prentice seconded the bill in the lower house yesterday, saying it would recognise a career “emblazoned with achievement”.


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