General Sir John Monash – Fact sheet 121
Civil engineer, soldier, public administrator (1865–1931)
John Monash was born in Melbourne on 27 June 1865 into a Prussian-Jewish family. He was educated at Scotch College and Melbourne University. By 1895 he had degrees in arts, engineering and law and had qualified as a municipal surveyor, an engineer of water supply and a patent attorney. As an engineer Monash's early career was in bridge construction working for a time with the Melbourne Harbour Trust, before becoming a partner in a bridge building firm. By the turn of the century his focus had changed to building construction.
Monash's military career began in 1884 with his membership of the Melbourne University company of the 4th Battalion, Victoria Militia, and then moving to the North Melbourne Battery of the Metropolitan Brigade of the Militia Garrison Artillery. He was commissioned in 1887. By 1913 Monash had the rank of Colonel and was appointed to command the 13th Infantry Brigade. With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Monash was transferred from the militia to active service. In 1915 he served as chief censor until taking command of the 4th Infantry Brigade (AIF). In this command he served at Gallipoli.
Promoted to Major-General, he commanded the 3rd Division, AIF in France in 1916. Monash succeeded General Birdwood as Australian Corps commander in 1918 and, in the same year, was knighted by King George V in recognition of his role in the Battle of Hamel Hill. With the conclusion of the war, Monash became Director-General of Repatriation and Demobilisation with responsibility for arranging the return of Australian troops from Europe.
Back in Australia Monash resumed his engineering career firstly as General Manager and later as Chairman of the State Electricity Commission (SEC) of Victoria. Under his leadership the SEC became an important body in developing Victoria's brown coal reserves as an electricity source and, by 1930, extending the power grid across the whole of the State.
John Monash died in Melbourne on 8 October 1931.
Records about John Monash
While the personal records of Sir John Monash and memorabilia relating to his life are held by a number of collecting institutions – the National Library of Australia, the Australian War Memorial, and the archives of the University of Melbourne and Monash University – the National Archives holds a range of official records that refer to his dealings with the Commonwealth, many relating to his military service.
Selected records, including photographs, are listed in the table below. Additional records relating to Monash can be identified by conducting searches using RecordSearch, which is available on this website and also online in all reading rooms. Searches using the keyword 'monash' will identify items of interest.