Street Talk – Monash Street, Mowbray

May 28, 2020 | MowbrayStreet & Suburb HistoryStreet Talk

Monash Street was named after General Sir John Monash (1865-1931) of Prussian-Jewish background.

He was not a professional soldier, rather beginning his career in the engineering field. He was director of earth work on Melbourne’s new Princes Bridge in 1885 and supervised the construction of the Outer Circle Railway two years later.

He also undertook degrees in both Arts and Law at the University of Melbourne and in 1893 became assistant engineer with the Melbourne Harbour Trust. He designed bridges in Victoria and Tasmania and pioneered construction in reinforced concrete. He also worked on the old ANZ Bank in St John Street, Launceston as a structural engineer.

Monash joined the Melbourne University Rifles in 1884 and in 1913 became Colonel of the Infantry Brigade. He commanded the 4th Infantry Brigade in Egypt and throughout the Gallipoli campaign where he won a reputation as a supreme organiser. Monash believed infantry should be integrated with artillery. He came up with the idea of using gas attacks on the Germans for days before an attack, then used smoke shells on the day. He is given credit by some as the true architect of victory.

His practical worth as a fighting commander was seen in France in 1917 at the Battle of Messines and in March 1918 Monash succeeded Birdwood in command of the Australian Corps. He broke the Hindenburg Line on 1st October and was regarded by Lloyd George as one of the ablest of all commanders.

After the war, Monash joined the Victorian State Electricity Commission as General Manager and in 1921 became its Chairman. He opened up brown coal deposits at Yallourn and established lines to Melbourne.

In 1923 Monash was appointed Honorary Vice-Chancellor of Melbourne University and in the same year was Royal Commissioner into the Victoria Police strike. He was President of the Zionist Federation of Australia from 1928 and was in contention to be made Governor-General when Sir Isaac Isaacs was appointed.

He was Present of the Australasian Association for the Advancement  of Science and received Honorary Degrees from Oxford, Melbourne and Cambridge Universities.

An appropriate footnote to the life and work of this illustrious Australian was the naming in 1958 of Victoria’s second University in his honour.

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