One of the First World War’s outstanding commanders, John Monash was born in West Melbourne in June 1865 AD, studied engineering at Melbourne University, married in 1891, completed his Masters in 1893, and though still in college was placed in charge of constructing a new railway. But it was his military service that brought John success. Having joined the university’s company of the 4th Battalion, Victoria Rifles in 1884, he became a lieutenant in the North Melbourne Battery in 1887, and was promoted to captain in 1895, major in 1897, a lieutenant-colonel in intelligence in 1906, and commanding officer of the 13th Infantry Brigade in 1912.
When war came and Australia followed Great Britain into the carnage, Monash was given command of the Australian 4th Infantry Brigade, landing at Gallipoli in April 1915. After that disaster, despite some criticism for his performance there, he was promoted to brigadier and took his men to the killing fields in France. He was soon promoted to major general and placed in command of the new Australian 3rd Division. In the bloody years following, his troops were involved in several “confrontations” with the Germans, including Messines, the third battle of Ypres, Broodseinde, and around Armentières. Unlike most of the butchers in command of the Allied (and German) forces, he actually enjoyed some success. So impressed was the British High Command by his meticulous planning and enthusiasm for military minutiae that in May 1918 Monash was promoted to lieutenant general and given command of the Australian Corps, at that time the largest on the Western Front.
After spending eight months in England overseeing the repatriation of the Australians home, Monash returned to Melbourne himself in early 1919. He entered civilian life, and in 1920 became the manager of Victoria’s State Electricity Commission, as well as vice-chancellor for the University of Melbourne in 1923. He died of heart disease in October 1931.