A truly great man

Warragul & Drouin Gazette - - NEWS -

As the cen­te­nary of Armistice Day, Novem­ber 11, 1918 draws near, I’ve been read­ing Sir John Monash’s own ac­count of the fi­nal months of the Great War, ‘The Aus­tralian Vic­to­ries in France in 1918’. It was writ­ten in 1919, when Monash was still in Europe, and while the mo­men­tous events of 1918 were still fresh in his mind, and their ex­ten­sive doc­u­men­ta­tion was close at hand.

In March 1918, five Aus­tralian di­vi­sions were brought to­gether for the first time in France to form the Aus­tralian Army Corps, com­manded by Monash. The Corps joined bat­tle on March 27 in the de­fence of Amiens and the sub­se­quent ad­vance along the Somme to the breach­ing of the Hin­den­burg Line in the week of Septem­ber 29 to Oc­to­ber 5, the fi­nal Aus­tralian ac­tion on the Western Front, 100 years ago last week.

One mea­sure of the sus­tained in­ten­sity of this cam­paign is that 29 Vic­to­ria Crosses were awarded from March 28 to Oc­to­ber 5, in­clud­ing four in its last, cli­mac­tic week. The VC ci­ta­tions record al­most un­be­liev­able courage and val­our, yet those ac­tions were only the crest of a tidal wave of brav­ery oth­er­wise recog­nised, or un­recog­nised of­fi­cially, and sac­ri­fice.

Monash is un­stint­ing in praise of his troops: ‘Suc­cess de­pended first and fore­most on the mil­i­tary pro­fi­ciency of the Aus­tralian pri­vate soldier and his glo­ri­ous spirit of hero­ism.’ His con­cern for their wel­fare is al­ways ev­i­dent in mea­sures taken to pre­vent un­nec­es­sary ca­su­al­ties and min­imise in­evitable losses.

In his fore­word to the 2015 edi­tion, Bruce Haigh writes: ‘Monash un­der­stood, as few other gen­er­als did, the changed na­ture of war­fare. …. Monash the en­gi­neer saw that war was a mat­ter of ma­chines, timeta­bles, roads, rail­ways, re­sup­ply and – above all – metic­u­lous plan­ning. The ma­chin­ery of war, with its mas­sive de­struc­tive power, was best de­ployed to ad­vance and pro­tect men.’

Sir John writes lu­cidly and com­pellingly of the tri­umphant achieve­ments of the Aus­tralian Army Corps in 1918, yet: ‘Let it not be as­sumed on that ac­count that the hum­ble part which it fell my lot to per­form af­forded me any sat­is­fac­tion or prompted any en­thu­si­asm for war. Quite the con­trary.

Brick­bats by the load to the Fed­eral Govern­ment for charg­ing se­niors 80 years old and over, $300 per in­jec­tion for the preven­tion of the painful in­fec­tion, shin­gles, (pen­sion­ers in­cluded), while 70 to 79 years old get theirs free.

A big bou­quet and thanks to the kind lady who could see my wife and I were over 90-years-old and paid our $40 gro­cery bill at the su­per­mar­ket We are thank­ful there are still peo­ple around who care for older peo­ple and their strug­gle to be in­de­pen­dent. Over 70 years mar­ried is a bless­ing.

A bou­quet to the car driv­ers who stop their cars and let us cross busy roads safely on our mo­bil­ity scooters but bricks to Baw Baw Shire for the rough en­trances to road cross­ings.

Bou­quet to who­ever picked up my dropped purse in Drouin’s main street and took it to the po­lice sta­tion.

The sur­prise re­turn bright­ened a stress­ful week, es­pe­cially as it still held all the cash and cards. last week.

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