This short article was first published in the White Hat Melbourne Newsletter on 2nd August 2013 in Edition 595.

Nearly all Australians are aware of the significance of the 25th of April, but few are aware of the significance of 08-08, the 8th of August which will be commemorated next Thursday.

During a brief visit to Gallipoli a young journalist named Keith Murdoch (father of Rupert) came into possession of a letter that was to launch a media empire as you can find outlined at The White Hat Guide to 7 Journalists of Melbourne.

In essence the letter detailed the poor planning and lack of leadership from the British Generals.

After an inglorious retreat from Turkey, the Australians found themselves in France on the western front and at last with one of their own to lead them - John Monash. Keith Murdoch and Charles Bean the war historian lobbied against his appointment. They had been creating a ‘narrative’ around the Australian at war as a bronzed digger from the bush and a cultured intellectual Jew like Monash didn’t fit the narrative. But he certainly fitted the narrative for the troops. The Australians were volunteers who didn’t have to be there and resented the management style of the British officers whose authority was often based on ‘class’ and was exercised by a rigorous attention to often meaningless detail and drill and punishment for not saluting an officer. Monash on the other hand would tell the men what was to be achieved rather than the set of tasks to be undertaken with the result that many successful innovations made their way from the ground up. Years later, no lesser man than Robert Menzies described how Monash turned up unannounced in the cabinet room and everybody automatically stood as a mark of respect - that’s better than a salute any day - as was the welcome home to Melbourne he was to receive after the war. In today’s business language, Monash recognised that an ordinary officer/manager gets bogged down in doing things right whereas leadership is about doing the right thing.

The war on the western front had consisted mainly of Generals hurling large numbers of men over the trenches into the machine gun fire from the other side with appalling loss of life and little strategic gain to either army. Monash had a different approach. With his engineering background he planned in meticulous detail how the resources of tanks, aeroplanes, artillery could be co-ordinated for maximum effect while also managing to organise a hot meal for those at the front line. The result of careful planning was to minimise losses of Australian troops while maximising the forward thrust.

At the Battle of Hamel in July 1918 Monash was commanding not just Australians but also American troops - to our knowledge the only time Americans have been led into battle but an ‘outsider’ - and he may well have chosen the date, 4th of July, with the morale of the Americans in mind. His detailed plan calculated that the battle would last 90 minutes. It lasted 93 minutes and all objectives were achieved.

On the eighth of the eighth came the Battle of Amiens which involved larger forces and even more detailed planning. The success of this battle is seen by most as the final turning point of the war and was later acknowledged as such by the German General Ludendorff who later acknowledged that "August 8 was the blackest day of the German army in the history of the war.”

So while most Australians will commemorate Anzac Day in April, a small group will gather at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne on the eighth of the eighth to commemorate the battle which helped end the war and to pay tribute to a remarkable leader who helped bring that about.

Some forthcoming events:

PEACE - A cantata for John Monash

Let there be peace. The clarion call of Melbourne’s most famous son, John Monash, opens a new massed choral work. Composed by David Kram and written by Kevin O’Flaherty PEACE is the first musical work to tell the story of the great man’s life.

Following key themes of love of family and loyalty to country, PEACE  travels through the early years of life in Jerilderie to his student days at Melbourne University, as an engineer and business man in the heart of Melbourne, and as a soldier and leader of WWI Australian troops in Gallipoli and France.

There are poignant moments in the work where the tragedy of war and its effect on Australia are starkly juxtaposed with the innocence of children’s songs and larrikin student ditties of his days at university.

This much-anticipated premiere has seen an enthusiastic response with over 200 singers from community, schools and university choirs in Victoria participating in what promises to be a memorable concert for everyone who knows and understands the impact John Monash has had on this city.  

Book at Box Office, online or call 1300 182 183



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Ceremony - Battle of Amiens

The Battle of Amiens, 8th August 1918, was one of the most successful advances made by Allied forces during the WWI. The efforts of the ANZAC Corps were orchestrated by General John Monash and would be much lauded as an example of combined arms warfare in a conflict mostly remembered for the stalemate of trench warfare. Each year at 8am on the 8th of August a service is held at the Shrine of Remembrance to mark this battle and remember the men who fought it.




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