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Siir John Monash- The Great War's Premier General

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  • #16
    Next time we meet, we will follow the Great War's Greatest General at the Gallipoli Peninsula
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    • #17
      I've quoted much of this before ,but I'll quote it again.

      Taken from the ultimate (I think) resume of Australian Military Leaders:- The Commanders: Australian Military Leadership in the Twentieth Century. Edited by D.M Horner:-

      "His formation always operated as part of the Fourth Army and apart from a single instance at the end of August 1918,he was strictly bound by Rawlinson's orders.Hence his decision-making was limited and it is safe to say he did not influence the outcome of the war. THe great opportunities which fell to higher commanders....were simply beyond his reach.... Unpalatable though it may be to his admirers the strategic claims for him must be dismissed"" (P.A,Pedersen).

      Yes, he was a highly talented man in the spheres of Engineering and Administration, and was the moving spirit behind the establishment of the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne (where I act as a volunteer guide every other Sunday afternoon:-I also attended his military Alma Mater:lest it be may be thought I'm habitually anti-Monash).
      "I dogmatise and am contradicted, and in this conflict of opinions and sentiments I find delight".
      Samuel Johnson.

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      • #18
        Monash and the 4th Brigade are to land in the third wave at Anzac Cove.

        Their position on the peninsula is, possibly, the most fought after section of real-estate going, on a ridge to the center and left of the position. It see some of the most savage fighting of the campaign, and, incredibly, they are fed in piecemeal, with the 14th and 16th Battalions occupying a
        triangle of posts
        ....Quinns Post, Courtneys Post, Popes Hill. They have the Turks above them in vantage points that dump artillery on their positions constantly.
        Turkish sniper fire rarely misses..
        .
        by 30th April, 1500 of his men are still scattered in the inhospitable terrain, pinned down by Turkish gunmen
        Monash responds with an engineers mind to the problem, rotating troops more frequently, erecting stouter defences, establishing "safe" areas to rest exhausted troops, digging in deeper and seeing to sanitation.

        His instincts tell him that Turkish activity is the precursor to a major offensive. Fronting his superior, Godley with the bad news, he receives the frightful news that a general advance for the Australians is planned for the 1st of May. Objections from John and his officers are brushed aside by Birdwood, and the Australian attack goes ahead.
        The bone weary 13th and 16th battalions begin their climb towards the ridge on the right of Baby 700, singing
        But the Otago Battalion of the New Zealanders arrive late, Godley orders the attack to move forward anyway, with predictable results
        For many days afterwards on the ugly shoulder at the top of Monash Valley their dead lay like ants shrivelled by the fire
        So writes the official war correspondent, Charles Bean.
        The artillery resumes without Monash being informed of so, forcing some of John's exhausted survivors to retreat, while others cling to the hard won ground and hold on.
        The attack is a disaster, and John is forced to step aside by the Royal Marines Brigadier Gen. Charles Trotman. With a lost battle unable to be saved, Monash is happy to step down from a battle lost before it began. The Naval Division take Dead Man's Ridge at the expense of the Australians, though Birdwood has rendered them
        nearly useless
        in the fight.
        The 16th battalion land on the Peninsula with 959 men. The 637 that began this assault have been reduced to 299.
        The 15th has dropped down from 934 men at the landing to just 350.
        300 men have been killed outright.
        Monash sends a terse message to Godley
        It is imperative that the Brigade should be withdrawn for reorganization and the appointment of new staffs and leaders
        Godley ignores this request.
        4 May see the Brigade dig in for their very lives. There will be no withdrawl. The regular rest periods advocated by John are dropped by the wayside, as the flow of reinforcements drops to a trickle.

        Charles Bean writes later that Monash is
        "A pushy Jew.....the disasterous attack by his brigade...had left him unstrung...as well it might"
        For John, his baptism of fire is
        a powerful lesson, teaching him that the meticulous planning he took into business is even more important when men's lives are at stake.
        This first action will leave an impression on his mind, that only Australian officers should command Australian troops, that planning and sticking to the modifications thereof is important above all, and mostly,
        that his voice should be heard
        Last edited by Drusus Nero; 22 Oct 18, 22:32.
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        • #19
          6 May 1915-
          500 reinforcements are fed into the 4th Brigade's depleted ranks. Monash has no choice but to consolidate his hard won ground...
          He orders the 13th to hold Popes and the 14th to hold Courtney's while the savagely depleted 15th & 16th go on 48 hour shifts to hold Quinn's, where tunnels and trenches scar the already tortured landscape.
          Overall Commander Sir Ian Hamilton sees the position at Anzac as a diversion from "the main front" at Cape Helles. He orders Godley to continue his forward pressure...
          to compel the enemy to maintain a large force to your front.
          Monash and his aides are unimpressed, with John not only opposing the plan, as it is, but feeling that the attacks are nothing short of..
          suicidal
          Night trench raids on Turkish positions at Dead Man's Ridge continue to eat into the 15th Battalion. A raid on 8 May costs 200 casualties in a frontal charge from Quinn's Post, for example, with Godley more than happy with the result. A disgusted Monash confronts Birdwood, who is of no assistance in relieving Monashes exhausted survivors.

          13 May- Godley and Birdwood send the ragged 15th back into the fray, ordering yet another frontal charge on Turkish trenches. 60 men go out and only 24 come back. Monash has another problem, with Colonel Harry Chauvel's 1st Light Horse being inserted into his depleted ranks the previous day, May 12. Chauvel pesters Monash with
          undue interfearence with internal administrative matters
          but is quick to ask for Monash's advice when it comes to matters "in the field".
          In letters home, he sugar coats the hardships, the constant artillery shelling, the accurate and merciless sniper fire. He insists that his people are
          exercising reasonable caution
          John himself has dodged a bullet more than once. Birdwood is wounded by a sniper whilst studying Turkish positions through a trench periscope. Major General William Bridges is shot by a sniper on the 15th of May. Through it all, Monash talks up his Australians, marvelling at their cheerfulness, their obedience, their willingness to volunteer....

          But mid May will bring a Turkish offensive. their trials have only just begun, as Monash writes home to his wife and daughter...
          Australia seems to think that our work began and ended with that first rush ashore. Why, that was mere nothing compared to what followed....it was during the next 3 weeks when the Turks....came at us with odds of 5 to 1...hurling themselves upon us like fanatics, in their mad efforts to drive us into the sea - it was then that the real fine brave steady work was done by the Australians
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          • #20
            Belgrave....

            It matter not at what level a premier general serves...

            Facts are facts. If they'd listened to Monash earlier, more men would have come home.

            And as for those darned French generals, their record of pushing the army to breaking point speaks for itself. Lack of leave, no troop rotation except where it was thrust upon them (i.e. VERDUN). Losing as many men as they did in as short a time as the Battle of First Marne qualfies them as little more than butchers; Haig was accused of this, too, but the fact remains that the British Army was the only one in 1918 not to suffer morale problems.

            All this leads me to believe that Monty, as a junior officer in the GW, was on to something by recommending John Monash as the wars premier mind.

            You can quote Pederson all you like...the facts and the figures speak for themselves...

            Drusus
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            • #21
              BTW...responding to this sites requests from moderators, with the exception of the quotes, I wrote this all myself. The format and order were supplied by history itself, and it corresponds to the literature only briefly.
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              • #22
                The Trial of Strength to come in May begins as an idea in the mind of German General Liman von Sanders.

                Faced with an Anzac beachead that will not withdraw nor quit, he resolves to drive it into the sea, with a new offensive, and tasks Turkish Genral and commander of the 19th Division, Mustapha Kemal to finish the Australians for good.
                On the 19th of May, Kemal's offensive opens with a punishing bombardment, followed by wave after wave of screaming Turkish soldiers. Approximately 40,000 of them will be involved in these attacks, and they will target Monashes men, still clinging onto their positions.
                Possibly 3,000 of them are killed outright, and as many as 13,000 become casualties.
                Monashes Brigade, dubbed by the press by this time as "The Fighting Fourth", hold firm. They have some of the highest profile soldiers in the beachead, including VC winner Albert Jacka, and Billy Sing, the tall kangaroo shooter from Clermont, Queensland, who will 'pot', by his own count, 201 Turkish soldiers by the end of the campaign, with some estimates as high as 300.
                Colonel Harry Chauvel revises his previous low opinion of John during this period...He writes to his wife that he is...
                astounded by the coolness and grit...
                of Monash and his men, and calls him...
                ...a very fine soldier. He has been of very great assistance to me in the last few days, and very willing indeed considering I ousted him out of the command of the sector.
                The corpses piling up before 4th Brigade lines are proving to be as much a health hazard to the Turks as the Australians. Driving rain on the 22nd and 23rd of May does not improve this, so a truce is arranged for the 24th of May.

                Von Sanders is horrified, and...
                admits to a shocking error of judgement.
                For Monash, he receives a break from the line, returning on the 28th of May.
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                • #23
                  The 1st of June sees the Fighting Fourth finally relieved from their positions.

                  The greater majority of the brigade have become casualties, and Monash believes, with good reason, that no other fighting formation has had to endure for so long and without a break as his brigade.
                  Godley comes down to make a speech on 2 June, lauding the brigade for it's achievements. With five uninterrupted weeks in the trenches, they finally have a chance to rest, bathe, shave.
                  John Monash, meanwhile, attempts to publicize both his and the brigade's exploits, with the text of Godley's speech published in the Melbourne "Argus". The censors crack down, however. John feels that
                  he will be accused of "atrocious self advertisement"
                  . This turns out to be the case before the censor steps in to shut it all down.

                  There follows another busy period, sniping, tunnelling, trench raiding. For the 4th, it's never ending...

                  For John, an old bug-bear rears it's head...
                  Much to the angst of Monash, McCay and Chauvel, the Australian government appoints Colonel Legge, Chief of the General Staff, to replace Bridges as commander of the 1st Division and the Australian Imperial Force. Two days after Bridges death Legge is made brigadier general. Monash complains to Birdwood and Hamilton that while he and his fellow colonels have been human targets for the last few weeks, and know the Gallipoli terrain like the back of their hand, Legge is an unpopular choice. Monash is already hoping he'll be out of the war within a few months, back home with Vic and Bert, and along with McCay he threatens Birdwood that they'll go early. Governor-General Munro-Ferguson queries Legge's appointment but approves it after assurances from Prime Minister Andrew Fisher that he's the right man for the job
                  It seems that John Monsh is to stay where he is indefinately. A combination of politics and the reporting of Official War Correspondent Charles Bean has scotched yet another promotion....for the moment, as we shall see.
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                  • #24
                    June passes, with Monashes 50th birthday widely celebrated from an officer rapidly gaining a fine reputation.

                    Promotion prospects remain fixed by more politically popular officers, though...
                    A second AIF Division is being formed in Cairo...
                    McCay is offered command of the 2nd Division....but breaks his leg jumping a trench on 11 July, 1915. Birdwood has been at loggerheads with Legge over the planned August offensive, and he seizes the opportunity of McCay's injury to remove Legge from Gallipoli, sending the former Sydney High School master to Egypt as McCay's replacement. Birdwood takes over the administration of the Australian Imperial Force himself
                    Monash complains that the Australian Colonels hold lower ranks than British officers of similar responsibilities, and he finally manages to crack the defence at headquarters. On 21 July, 1915, he receives a cable informing him that, along with McCay, Chauvel and four others, he is being promoted to Brigadier-General
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                    • #25
                      General Sir Ian Hamilton is in a quandary. Cape Helles is stuck fast, with one frontal assault after another breaking like a tide on the rocks against the well entrenched Turkish positions on the high ground. He badgers Kitchener for reinforcements, and pins his hopes on 75,000 reinforcements that will turn the Turkish right flank and come down behind the triple positions facing Monash...Hill 971, Battleship Hill, and Baby 700 Hill.

                      The 4th Brigade is tasked to outflank these positions, in a route march that will travel along the Anzac left, and hook in through the valleys, and up the ridges.

                      12 July- Monash with other officers, scout the ridges as far as they dare. The following day, Monash boards a destroyer to conduct a binocular recon of the route.

                      Consulting his medics, three out of four of them tell him that his men are in no condition for the coming contest and route march....
                      ..They have been cramped up in their trenches for weeks,, starved of sleep, fresh food, proper hygiene and sanitation, and been easy prey for fly borne diseases. Most have suffered from dysentery, paratyphoid, bronchitis, heart palpitations, weight loss, and the inevitable stress and nervous tension of war
                      Monash is, nevertheless, optimistic. Boarding another destroyer for an "eyeball" of the terrain with Godley and the other brigadiers...
                      dodging shellfire for another look at the country north of the Anzac position. They believe they are gaining an understanding of the terrain but in reality they are wasting their time. The only way to know the labyrinthine landscape is to go out and walk it
                      The Turks have deep trenches on the Anzac right at Lone Pine. Monashes 4th Brigade will set out for their objectives after the Australians "jump off" at Lone Pine. It's a plan that requires precise timing, and John's men must march 4 kilometers...But their guide takes a short cut that, while saving 500 meters, sets the timetable back. Additionally, without proper photo recon for mapping, the 14th and 15th battalions reach what they think are to be their objectives, and as first light dawns, dig in at the wrong spot.

                      They are just in time to observe the Light Horse Troopers charging in at The Nek. The Nek is a tennis court sized route to Baby 700 Hill, an impossible attack, akin to...
                      trying to assault a inverted frying pan whilst charging up the handle.
                      as Charles Bean will write later. 7 August peters out as 8 August dawns. Noone has realised that they are attacking the wrong hill, the Abdel Rahmen Spur rather than Kaiajik Dere
                      a spur 650 meters to the west that looks very similar
                      Godley gives the order to attack in any case. He still believes Monash has reached hill 971. The 14th and 15th Battalions move forward, only to be thrown back by Turk counterattacks. The 4th Brigade are a spent force
                      however, Godley tells Senator Pearce that "General Monash handled his brgade excellently" and that they "made the most wonderful night march through the really desperately difficult scrub-covered country, and at the end, attacked the ridge with the greatest possible gallantry" That they were not successful, he says, is due "alone to the extraordinary difficulties of the country, and the fact that they were enormously outnumbered
                      (Charles Bean, Official Australian War Correspondent) sees it differently, though. He concedes that Monash has brilliant organisational abilities and a powerful intellect, which raises him "head and shoulders above most of his collegues" but- and it's a crucial but- Bean is adamant that Monash "is not a fighting commander" to match Walker, McCay or Chauvel. Bean says the attack on 971 called for "the touch of a Stonewall Jackson" and the recklessness of Jeb Stuart, Jackson's fellow Confederate in the /civil War. Of course, what Jackson and Stuart might have done in similar country under similar circumstances against a well entrenched enemy is anyone's guess
                      The August offensive grinds to a halt. With Monash under a cloud from the politicians and his sworn enemy the Official Correspondent, Charles Bean;
                      ... but his reputation with the men....intact
                      Last edited by Drusus Nero; 23 Oct 18, 07:47.
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                      • #26
                        [QUOTE=Drusus Nero;n5069592]All quotes from the book "Monash- The Soldier Whom Shaped Australia"

                        [/QUOTE
                        Would that be the one by Grantlee Kieza

                        I have Roland Perry's book, although 'John Monash : a biography' by Geoffrey Serle, is claimed as the definitive work, but I think it's out of print.

                        There's lot of interest in Monash lately, with Monash's Masterpiece: The Battle of Hamel by FitzSimmons, Maestro John Monash by Tim Fischer,
                        Monash and Chauvel, by Perry. ect.

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                        • #27
                          Yep thats the one...I also have Charles Beans Correspondence to back it up. Kieza is very critical of Bean's attempts to keep Monash down at the Brigade level, and to promote his Hero, Cyril Brudundell-White.

                          If we examine the tesimoniels from fellow officers, it is plain to see that Monash was, indeed, the right man for the job as the Australian Corps first commander, and that Charles Bean was little more than anti-semitic in his approach to Monash and his supporters.

                          The renewed interest in this country into Monashes career is well founded. John Monash was also the great promoter of our only Field Marshal, Tom Blamey, another controversial figure in his own day.


                          Drusus
                          Last edited by Drusus Nero; 25 Oct 18, 02:39.
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                          • #28
                            anyhow will finish this off very soon....stay tuned
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                            • #29
                              Originally posted by Drusus Nero View Post
                              Yep thats the one...I also have Charles Beans Correspondence to back it up. Kieza is very critical of Bean's attempts to keep Monash down at the Brigade level, and to promote his Hero, Cyril Brudundell-White.

                              If we examine the tesimoniels from fellow officers, it is plain to see that Monash was, indeed, the right man for the job as the Australian Corps first commander, and that Charles Bean was little more than anti-semitic in his approach to Monash and his supporters.

                              The renewed interest in this country into Monashes career is well founded. John Monash was also the great promoter of our only Field Marshal, Tom Blamey, another controversial figure in his own day.


                              Drusus
                              From time to time a push to have Monash posthumously promoted to field marshal has been put forward for all his achievements, by all accounts the last one was rejected by the Turnbull government in April.

                              Could understand it back then, with blokes like Bean and Murdoch and perhaps anti-Semitism raising it's ugly head, but can't see what the hold up is today.

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                              • #30
                                Originally posted by Drusus Nero View Post
                                Belgrave....

                                It matter not at what level a premier general serves...

                                Facts are facts. If they'd listened to Monash earlier, more men would have come home.

                                And as for those darned French generals, their record of pushing the army to breaking point speaks for itself. Lack of leave, no troop rotation except where it was thrust upon them (i.e. VERDUN). Losing as many men as they did in as short a time as the Battle of First Marne qualfies them as little more than butchers; Haig was accused of this, too, but the fact remains that the British Army was the only one in 1918 not to suffer morale problems.

                                All this leads me to believe that Monty, as a junior officer in the GW, was on to something by recommending John Monash as the wars premier mind.

                                You can quote Pederson all you like...the facts and the figures speak for themselves...

                                Drusus
                                Of course it matters at what level a General serves. There'a world of difference between the role of (say) a Brigadier-General, commanding a Brigade or Regimental Group and that of a Field Marshal responsible for an Army Group.

                                As for the better performance of the BEF in 1918, that's purely down to a wealth of accumulated bitter experience. Monash profited by this process but so did every other field commander,including Haig. To attribute this overall improvement to the influence of just one man is really stretching it. Good though Monash was.

                                As Pederson declares, no matter how good some commentators THINK Monash might have been effective at a higher level than a Corps, he was never given the opportunity to function at a higher level. .Therefore, any belief that he might have been an effective Supreme Commander can only be speculation.

                                That's fact.
                                Last edited by BELGRAVE; 26 Oct 18, 16:15.
                                "I dogmatise and am contradicted, and in this conflict of opinions and sentiments I find delight".
                                Samuel Johnson.

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