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.


View Edition

From the front page

Image of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce. Images via ABC News

Morrison’s mandate

Barnaby Joyce acknowledges that a net-zero target is cabinet’s call. But what exactly is their mandate?

Image of ‘Scary Monsters’

‘Scary Monsters’ by Michelle de Kretser

Two satirical stories about fitting in, from the two-time Miles Franklin–winner

Image of Jeremy Strong as Kendall Roy in HBO’s Succession season 3. Photograph by David Russell/HBO

Ties that bind: ‘Succession’ season three

Jeremy Strong’s performance in the HBO drama’s third season is masterful

Image of a tampon and a sanitary pad viewed from above

A bloody shame: Paid period leave should be law

Australia’s workplace laws must better accommodate the reproductive body


In This Issue

An empty billboard on the road to Corinth. © John Tsiavis

Whatever happened to the working class?

The left has forgotten where it came from

At eighty

Forty years of friendship

The Academi (formerly Blackwater) camp in the Great Dismal Swamp, North Carolina. © Academi

Guns for hire

The surprising role of Australians in the rise of private security companies

George Johnston and Charmian Clift in 1948. © Fairfax Syndication

The 50th anniversary of ‘My Brother Jack’

George Johnston’s classic of Australian war literature


More in Arts & Letters

Photo: “Breakfast at Heide” (from left: Sidney Nolan, Max Harris, Sunday Reed and John Reed), circa 1945

Artful lodgers: The Heide Museum of Modern Art

The story of John and Sunday Reed’s influence on Sidney Nolan and other live-in protégés

Still from ‘The French Dispatch’

The life solipsistic: ‘The French Dispatch’

Wes Anderson’s film about a New Yorker–style magazine is simultaneously trivial and exhausting

Still from ‘Nitram’

An eye on the outlier: ‘Nitram’

Justin Kurzel’s biopic of the Port Arthur killer is a warning on suburban neglect and gun control

Detail from ‘Group IV, The Ten Largest, No. 2, Childhood’ by Hilma af Klint (1907)

A shock of renewal: ‘Hilma af Klint: The Secret Paintings’

The transcendent works of the modernist who regarded herself not an artist but a medium


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 Jeremy Strong as Kendall Roy in HBO’s Succession season 3. Photograph by David Russell/HBO

Ties that bind: ‘Succession’ season three

Jeremy Strong’s performance in the HBO drama’s third season is masterful

Image of a tampon and a sanitary pad viewed from above

A bloody shame: Paid period leave should be law

Australia’s workplace laws must better accommodate the reproductive body

Image of Gladys Berejiklian appearing before an ICAC hearing in October 2020. Image via ABC News

The cult of Gladys Berejiklian

What explains the hero-worship of the former NSW premier?

Cover image of ‘Bodies of Light’

‘Bodies of Light’ by Jennifer Down

The Australian author’s latest novel, dissecting trauma, fails to realise its epic ambitions