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Remembered Today:

The Monash/Currie 1919 Story


Terry
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May I add my, possibly, final contribution to this thread.

Tim Birch is correct in his view that it was the Indian Corps who commenced the practice of "raids" on the Western Front, especially the Gurkhas. My father's Division, the 51st. (Highland) were Brigaded with the Indian Corps when they first went to France in May, 1915 and he was attached to the Gurkhas for a short while. He always was a great admirer of these troops and his comments on them were about the only I ever heard him make about the Great War.

By the way I don't think it would have been advisable to plod along a Front Line Trench System claiming to be the originator of "raids". You would not have been engulfed in a horde admirers wanting your autograph !

Regards

Jim Gordon

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Thanks for the responses in connection with we Canadians naming memorials after our heroes. Also, thanks to everyone for their contributions. I think this is the first time I have ever initiated a thread which ran to fifty responses!

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I have resisted entering this topic until we finally got back on track (although fingers did go to keyboard a couple of times). I'm glad Arm came out with some quotes that directly relate to the topic at hand, written by LG himself.

I wouldn't think it at all suprising that Monash's 'skill' as a military leader was kept from the British Govt due to a couple of reasons - both of which nearly cost his being given the job of commanding the Australian Corps.

Firstly, he was Jewish, which hardly would affect his capabilities as leader, however in upper crust social circles this made him 'not really acceptable'.

Secondly was his German background. His parents were German as were their forbears before them. Which, again would cause a blot on his resume' in the eyes of Haig and staff.

If there was concern about his appointment at the beginning of the war by Australian leaders (which there was) because of these reasons then I can only imagine the thoughts of Haig and Co. in the officers club "A colonial, German-Jew, part-time soldier leading the British Army!! - what utter rot, eh what."

And once he (and/or Currie) had proved themselves do you really think Haig would commit career suicide. The relationship between himself and LG was already strained and to offer LG the perfect replacement wouldn't really be in his best interests.

Tim L.

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But surely if we are to assume that that LG wanted rid of Haig then surely he was astute enough to have his own men on the inside so to speak. He was after all a good street fighter and certainly could muck it much better than Haig.

I can not believe that LG did not have his men on the inside. He managed to out manouever Robertson and I am sure that Wilson would have been more than happy to show him some alternatives. (not that he would have been keen to foward Currie or Monash) There would also have been discontented officers and possibly newspaper reporters of high ranking that would tell the story as it was. I am not up on Murdoch but did he have any clout with LG? ( sorry only knowledge of this is distant memories from the tv series Anzacs which i know is not all acurate)

regards

Arm.

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I can only imagine the thoughts of Haig and Co. in the officers club "A colonial, German-Jew, part-time soldier leading the British Army!! - what utter rot, eh what."

Yes, this crossed my mind. As outrageous as the thought of a former Boer from the colonies being called in to revise the air force, eh what.

Robert

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I'm breaking my resolution not to contribute again but it did occur to me that LGs memoirs were written after the War. What really would have clinched the matter would have been contemporary evidence of LGs thoughts in 1918.

Regards

Jim Gordon

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I'm breaking my resolution not to contribute again but it did occur to me that LGs memoirs were written after the War. What really would have clinched the matter would have been contemporary evidence of LGs thoughts in 1918.

Arm's signature says it all

It's also reported that Monash admired Ned Kelly who he met during the seige at Jerilderie in 1879. That wouldn't have impressed the Establishment, either.

Mr Dunlop, at least there were no smuts in my contributions.

Pat

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Hi Pat,

  It appears that Monash got some form of recognition. I stand to be corrected, but I can't think of any memorial, building, bridge, park, whatever named in honour of Currie here in Canada. Lots of things named after political hacks, but nothing after war heroes.

   Please, fellow Canadian Pals, tell me I'm wrong!

Terry

Perhaps a strange co-incidence that you mention bridges.

This one in Melbourne is not named after him, but is included in many Engineering & Architectural Listings of one his engineering achievements. He was, among many things, the "Father" of Victoria's State Owned Electricity Supply Monopoly. Applications are currently being called for "The Sir John Monash Awards for Engineering Ecxellence".

So the Uni was probably named for the Civil rather than the War aspects. So don't feel so guilty about poor old Currie. ;)

Despite some inferences that Australia disliked the British & worshipped our own, reference to a Melbourne Street Directory reveals 19 Haigs & 19 Monashes. The Haigs are more prevalent in suburbs from the WW1 era, and its only in the more recent namings that Monash has caught up. Many newer streets are in areas under the Monash City Council, so Haig would have been a clear War Hero winner.

Not that Currie was overlooked down here. Three streets in Melbourne, and all Bass Strait mariners bless the Currie Lighthouse on King Island. :D

Regards

Pat

post-3-1095564892.jpg

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Pat,

Thanks for the picture of the bridge [prev seen by me only in B&W]

Monash’s engineering skills were significant when taken into consideration with his early adoption of new technology e.g. reinforced concrete. Many people see a connection between the innovative civil engineer and the general who was prepared to take up relatively untried technology in order to assist his infantrymen and avoid the previous slaughter. See his 1918 use of tanks, air-drops of ammunition, the mixture of gas and smoke in the preliminary bombardments etc etc etc

Regards

Michael D.R.

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I'm breaking my resolution not to contribute again but it did occur to me that LGs memoirs were written after the War. What really would have clinched the matter would have been contemporary evidence of LGs thoughts in 1918.

Regards

Jim Gordon

I read somewhere that LG's memoirs were ready for publication in the early 20's (still after the war I know) but sometime before they were eventually published in the 30's. Of course he may have rewritten certain parts before publication.

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Thanks for the picture of the bridge [prev seen by me only in B&W]

Michael.

The Bridge, as you know, is the Morell or Anderson St Bridge. It is painted White & Crosses the Yarra. Non- Victorians would argue that B & W is a correct description as the Yarra is supposed to be the only aussie river to flow upside down.

Re Hamel, on cross checking in Bean' "Anzac to Amiens" came across this:-

"For the first time ammunition was dropped to Australian troops by parachute, the invention of Captain L J Wackett of the 3rd Sqdn, AFC, which was constantly with the Australian Infantry." So for me it's a case of "learn a little every day".

Pat

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the general who was prepared to take up relatively untried technology in order to assist his infantrymen and avoid the previous slaughter.

Michael

IMHO it was not really a case of using untried technology. Of the list you provided:-

See his 1918 use of tanks, air-drops of ammunition, the mixture of gas and smoke in the preliminary bombardments etc etc etc

Use of tanks: in the manner of Hamel was definitely not untried

Air-drops: yes

Mixture of gas and smoke: was the theme of training your opposition before zero hour and varying things in your favour when the attack took place. This was not new

What I think is significantly more important was his ability to facilitate good planning. In this regard, he had had to learn the hard way. Some of his earlier efforts at Gallipoli were none-too-flash as I recall. The aspects of his planning for Hamel that I would highlight include:

i) the clear definition of the achieveable outcome. He was not always good at this, which is why I have specified Le Hamel. The attack on the Hindenberg Line was the example of the opposite.

ii) the ability to make use of the tightly integrated Australian Corps, in much the same way as the Canadians. He drew his inspiration for the formation of the Australian Corps from that example. To this end, I think it was not so much a case of Monash creating this environment. He did not achieve this when 'co-operating' with the Americans in the attack on the Hindenberg Line.

iii) the ability to plan thoroughly. Time was in his favour at this stage of the war. Some of the later efforts were less well planned but that was a general feature of the Last 100 Days. In respect of the depth and breadth of planning, these are characteristics I would expect of someone with an engineering background.

iv) a sound appreciation of the principles of war at this time (as evidenced in part by the clear achieveable outcome).

v) a willingness to consider multiple options in achieving the outcome. Very few were 'untried'. By this stage of the war, his staff and commanders were very experienced. With the right environment, one that facilitated co-operation and learning, any 'untried' options could be developed and adequately assessed in the light of the fit with the principles of offensive action. Mostly though, it was a pulling together of the known. The thread on Le Hamel versus Cambrai illustrated this.

When you look at the list I have prepared, you will find several other generals who fit these categories. Indeed, the success of Monash built on the previous achievements of people like Plumer, just as they in turn benefited from Monash's acheivements at Le Hamel.

Robert

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Robert,

We've been here before,

and I hope that I have learnt somethings along the way.

You will note my inclusion of the word "relatively" before 'untried technology'

With very best regards

Michael D.R.

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We've been here before

Michael

Yes, we covered many of the specifics in the previous thread. I have tried to expand the horizon on Monash's achievements. While at the same time giving due credit to the very competent staff that he had working for him. Not obviously, the staff officers and commanders will have done a lot of the thinking and planning. The good General brings vision, brings out the best in the staff, and keeps things focused/on-track. Within the context of the Australian Corps, these were Monash's greatest strengths, IMHO. The lure of new technologies might have caused distraction or loss of focus. It did not. They were all put to the service of the soldiers who did the fighting, as you pointed out.

Robert

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Re Monash; I will even grant that ‘air drops’ of ammunition was not entirely new and untried. The respected Dr Pedersen in his ‘Hamel’ [battleground Eurpoe series] credits the idea to the Germans at Lys and the Aisne. What Captain L. J. Wackett did was provide the allies with a mechanism they could use on their aircraft in order to drop the ammo. Monash did not invent reinforced concrete either. My point was that he was prepared to take the risk involved in using new technologies while others were it seems content in tackling the problem in the same old [very manpower expensive] way

Re Dairies as against Recollections; They should both be taken with a generous salt portion. As regards the former, it would be a mistake to believe that everything was written up before bedtime and left unaltered for ever thereafter.

e.g. Haig “an entry for 23 October 1916 quotes a German Regimental order dated 29 Ocober 1916.” Also Lady Haig’s letter to Edmonds shortly after Haig’s death stating that Haig did not have time “to correct the words of the last volumes.” She also mentioned to Edmonds that she herself had omitted certain passages “as Douglas would have done.” These details taken from Travers’ “The Killing Ground” where he concludes ‘All this is understandable, but at least future historians should recognise some potential areas of conflict.’

Regards

Michael D.R.

ROBERT: My Monash remarks above were written before I had a chance to read your post which now appears imm before

Regards

Michael D.R.

Edited by michaeldr
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To put a different perspective on the original question by Terry, the following could be considered. By 1917 it was obvious that the British Empire was being seriously bled. Lloyd George, as the political leader of the greatest empire of the world at that time, had the responsibility of getting a satisfactory conclusion to the war as quickly as possible and at the least possible cost. Haig was responsible to his political masters, and was subject to incredible pressure by LG and the government to produce results, a conclusive victory. Perhaps the suggestion that Haig could be replaced was a tactic to pressure him into greater efforts?

Neither Monash or Currie would have been welcomed, and maybe even not accepted as field marshall of the imperial forces. Both had supporters and detractors, and both had skeletons in the closet.

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Re Dairies as against Recollections; They should both be taken with a generous salt portion. As regards the former, it would be a mistake to believe that everything was written up before bedtime and left unaltered for ever thereafter.

e.g. Haig “an entry for 23 October 1916 quotes a German Regimental order dated 29 Ocober 1916.” Also Lady Haig’s letter to Edmonds shortly after Haig’s death stating that Haig did not have time “to correct the words of the last volumes.” She also mentioned to Edmonds that she herself had omitted certain passages “as Douglas would have done.” These details taken from Travers’ “The Killing Ground” where he concludes ‘All this is understandable, but at least future historians should recognise some potential areas of conflict.’

Regards

Michael D.R.

I agree that you have to take diaries with some caution, and having recently viewed a few at the IWM i can say with some degree of patience in regard to the writing. :lol:

I can say in defence of Haig and his diary, or atleast in one area you have used, Travers rightly makes much of a Diary altered as being alittle suspect, but it must be remebered that Haig left the original around and in the section Travers mentions, it is wise to remember he did not alter what he wrote but added to it to enforce what he wrote. Dr John Bourne and Gary Sheffield are in the process of finishing a book covering the diaries and if i remeber they did find certain errors but on the whole they were not corrections to Haigs betterment but to justify what he did , if that makes sense.

I have spent much time reading General Snows diary/letters home to his wife and whilst i beleive this was rewritten after wards, as it is in book form but hand written, it seems done in such away that it is verbatim and not altered as some of the things he says are 'stupid' with hindsight and he would surely have taken them out.

But as with all eveidence it is wise to adopt an air of caution, as even original writings can be written with a 'market' in mind.

Perhaps the man to suffer most was Wilson, whose diary when written up almost word for word did him irreperable damage, perhaps rightly so.

regards

Arm.

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Neither Monash or Currie would have been welcomed, and maybe even not accepted as field marshall of the imperial forces. Both had supporters and detractors, and both had skeletons in the closet.

Perhaps that's an indication of their true worth.

Not only did they ignore the skeleton, they built a new cupboard, house, university etc etc etc, and didn't sit about bemoaning their lot in life.

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As an indication of the accepatance of Currie/Monash there are many parallels in a later conflict (regardedby many as merely the "second innings" in that most English of games).

In 1942 BL Montgomery (in many ways regarded in the same light by historians of the at period as DH is here), appointed Corps Commanders to the Eighth Army that were inferior in both rank and senority to their ("colonial") divisional commanders. Not because of their lack of ability (though there have doubts expressed of Freyberg) but because they were not part of the "in set". In several cases they (eg Ramsden, Leese (early on)) they were sacked or looked on as very poor performers.

In the case of "Ming the Merciless" Morsehead he had commanded the garrison of Tobruk for months with a force nigh on equivalent to a Corps and had dominated the enemy for much of that time.

It also has some parallels with the case of Lavarack who was appointed to command of Western Desert Force immeadiately after the capture of O'Connor only to be replaced by Willoughby-Norrie (his junior), a week later. Unfortunately, Blamey must also take a lot of blame, as he saw Lavarack as a rival to his own position so ensured that he "white-anted" his stock with Wavell even though he (Blamey) was supposedly concerned with 1 Australian Corps in Greece....

Cheers

Edward

PS the "Curries" in various forms in Melbourne have more to do with Capt Mark John Currie RN (later Vice Admiral Sir Mark Currie) who served on the Australia Station and/or Van Dieman's land at the time of the founding of Melbourne.

The company Monier (reputed in Australia for their concrete and roof tiles) was founded by Sir John Monash at the turn of the 20th Century- the "Mon" coming from his name. It is now part of the CSR group ....

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Unfortunately, Blamey must also take a lot of blame, as he saw Lavarack as a rival to his own position so ensured that he "white-anted" his stock with Wavell even though he (Blamey) was supposedly concerned with 1 Australian Corps in Greece....

G'day Ned

What he did to Bennett after Singapore, and a couple of other

"bunnies"on Kokoda, .................. Well the moderators would really lose their cool with me.

Pat

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[but hey why should facts interfere with jingoistic back-patting? ;)

Dammenblarst.

Just tried to currie some favour with the Canadians, and get shot down by Ned Kelly!

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Unfortunately, Blamey must also take a lot of blame, as he saw Lavarack as a rival to his own position so ensured that he "white-anted" his stock with Wavell even though he (Blamey) was supposedly concerned with 1 Australian Corps in Greece....

G'day Ned

What he did to Bennett after Singapore, and a couple of other

"bunnies"on Kokoda, .................. Well the moderators would really lose their cool with me.

Pat

I wholeheartedly agree Pat. After reading Peter Brune's book I make a special point of asking about him whenever I meet a veteran who served in the Kokoda campaign. Not one of them has had a kind word to say about the man. My great uncle and a lot of his mates served in the 2/25th Battalion and were dismayed at what ocurred with Potts and some of the others. Lavarack is undoubtedly another classic example.

Regards

Tim

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Yep, I'm pretty sure there is no Blamey Fan Club.

But back to Monash or Currie, I would think that General Maxse would have given both a run for their money if Haig were to be replaced.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I have always admired Bill Rawling's book 'Surviving Trench Warfare' concerning how the Canadian Corps developed tactically and innovatively, but even he admits

1) they were fortunate to maintain a cohesive whole as a Corps and not have their units moved around within other corps, and

2) They weren't the only ones innovating.

Perhaps this should be taken into account in any discussion of Currie's and the Corps' abilities

Bryn

[PS This is an amended version of a post I made as I had a substantial section of the discussion missing at the time - my glitch or the software? MUST be user error!]

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