May 2014

Encounters

Shane Maloney and Chris Grosz

John Monash & King George V

On 4 July 1918, in just 93 minutes, at a cost of a mere 1060 casualties, Australian soldiers drove German troops from their positions overlooking the British line and took the town of Le Hamel, fighting in combination with aircraft and artillery. This tactic, known as “peaceful penetration”, demonstrated how the stalemate of trench warfare could be broken. The architect of their victory was John Monash, a 53-year-old engineer from Melbourne.

The son of Prussian immigrants, Monash had done well in concrete, become a prominent citizen and joined the colonial militia. When the war broke out, he was a part-time colonel. By 1918, he was the general in charge of the Australian Corps. At Hamel, his meticulous planning and use of technology provided a template for the grand offensive launched against the Germans the following month.

As the German army collapsed, Monash was considered a potential commander-in-chief of British forces. On 12 August, at a meeting near Amiens, the king himself dubbed Monash a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath. It was the first time since 1743 that a British sovereign had conferred a knighthood on the field of battle.

George, too, had German antecedents. A Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, he was compelled by wartime public opinion to change the family name to the English-sounding Windsor. A pathological reactionary, he despised the working classes, hated the idea of female suffrage, collected stamps and shot pheasants – up to 1000 in a single afternoon. His children were terrified of him. One of them developed a bad stammer.

Monash finished the war with an outstanding reputation for energy, intellect and personal magnetism. On top of his KCB, he was made a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George, and was awarded the Croix de Guerre.

On his return to Australia, he electrified Victoria, making the State Electricity Commission a highly successful public enterprise. His stature, it was said, rendered “respectable” anti-Semitism impossible in Australia. When he died of a heart attack in 1931, more than 250,000 people turned out for his funeral.

A heavy smoker, George V died four years later. His demise was hastened by a lethal injection of morphine and cocaine, administered just before midnight so his death could be announced in the morning edition of the Times rather than one of the vulgar afternoon papers. His last words, addressed to his nurse, were “God damn you!”

In the 1990s, Monash’s legacy, the SEC, was laid waste by a former school cadet corps NCO.

Shane Maloney and Chris Grosz

Shane Maloney is a writer and the author of the award-winning Murray Whelan series of crime novels. His 'Encounters', illustrated by Chris Grosz, have been published in a collection, Australian Encounters.

Chris Grosz is a book illustrator, painter and political cartoonist. He has illustrated newspapers and magazines such as the Age, the Bulletin and Time.

May 2014

From the front page

Image of ‘Joan Didion’s “The White Album”’

Joan Didion’s eerily contemporary ‘The White Album’

The seminal essay’s ongoing resonance is explored in this interactive production coming to Sydney Festival

Ready to rumble

Crowds cheer on the destructive prowess of Pot Head and Wanda at the Robowars National Championship

Images of Aaron McGrath rehearsing as Johnny Mullagh in ‘Black Cockatoo’

A tale of triumph and exploitation: ‘Black Cockatoo’

The little-known story of history-making Aboriginal cricketer Johnny Mullagh and his team is told in this new play

Image of Cardi B

Bodak moment: Pop’s decade of superstars

Cardi B delivered the song of the decade as a new league of superstars overcame the significance of bands


In This Issue

Detail from St George and the Dragon (circa 1435), Rogier van der Weyden

Knights and the old republic

Tony Abbott's aggressive monarchism

Time and transition in Sophie Hyde’s ‘52 Tuesdays’

A new Australian film poses intriguing questions

Who is the ordinary reasonable person?

The trouble with repealing section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act

Ceridwen Dovey’s ‘Only the Animals’

Penguin; $29.99


More in Arts & Letters

Image of Cardi B

Bodak moment: Pop’s decade of superstars

Cardi B delivered the song of the decade as a new league of superstars overcame the significance of bands

Photo of Liam Gallagher

Don’t look back in anger: Liam and Noel Gallagher

As interest in Oasis resurges, talking to the combative brothers recalls their glory years as ‘dirty chancers, stealing riffs instead of Ford Fiestas’

Conversion on the way to Damascus by Caravaggio

Damascene subversion: Christos Tsiolkas’s ‘Damascus’

The literary storyteller’s latest novel wrestles with the mythology of Christianity’s founder, Paul the Apostle

Cover of Peter Pomerantsev’s ‘This Is Not Propaganda’ [detail]

Agents of chaos: Peter Pomerantsev’s ‘This is Not Propaganda’

The Russian expat journalist wonders if democracy can survive the internet, as social media is used to promote feelings over facts


More in Encounters

Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz

Rupert Murdoch & Kamahl

Mark Oliphant & J Robert Oppenheimer

John Howard & Uri Geller

Chips Rafferty & The Monkees


Read on

Image of ‘Joan Didion’s “The White Album”’

Joan Didion’s eerily contemporary ‘The White Album’

The seminal essay’s ongoing resonance is explored in this interactive production coming to Sydney Festival

Images of Aaron McGrath rehearsing as Johnny Mullagh in ‘Black Cockatoo’

A tale of triumph and exploitation: ‘Black Cockatoo’

The little-known story of history-making Aboriginal cricketer Johnny Mullagh and his team is told in this new play

Image of a woman’s hands

Is elder abuse avoidable?

Our current aged-care system makes it difficult to deliver care in its truest sense

Big in Morocco

Australian cinema finds a new audience at the Marrakech International Film Festival


×
×