History Detective

$100 Note Sir John Monash

Episode Summary

Sir John Monash is the man on the $100 note and is known for his contributions during WWI.

Episode Notes

Sir John Monash is the man on the $100 note and is known for his contributions during WWI, but he was also an educated academic and an advocate of the first Boy Scouts associations in Australia.

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All theme music written and performed by Kelly Chase.

Episode Transcription

Hi, this is Kelly Chase and you are listening to History Detective, a podcast where I delve into the past to uncover the mysteries of history and this series is called All Cashed Up where I explore the historical people who have made it onto the Australian money.  Today I am taking a look at the avocado otherwise known as the $100, the biggest of all of the notes and the man whose face graces one side. A man who has a freeway, a hospital and a university named after him, General Sir John Monash.

John Monash is renowned for many things, but perhaps he is most well-known for his role in World War I. He led a brigade at Gallipoli and was the only Australian brigade commander from the original troops who was not killed or evacuated. He is also remembered for his brilliant command of the Australian Army Corps in France. And when he returned from the war, he was one of the organisers of this tradition we now know as ANZAC day. According to my calculations, Monash was almost 50 by the time that WWI started, so there was a whole lot more to him than just this part he played in The Great War. 

For starters he was incredibly intelligent and a brilliant scholar. The man had more university degrees than you can poke a stick at. He started with a Bachelor of Arts, then a Masters in Science- Civil Engineering. But he didn’t stop there, he also became a Doctor of Law from both Melbourne and Cambridge Universities, a Doctor of Engineering, and a Doctor of Civil Law. Then he lectured at the University of Melbourne before becoming the vice-chancellor. He was quoted of saying about education, “equip yourself for life, not solely for your own benefit but for the benefit of the whole community.”

But he was not just an academic, he became one of Australia's leading experts in reinforced concrete for bridges, railways and other large construction projects. Must have been that Masters degree and Doctorate in Engineering. Oh and I don’t think I even mentioned that he was knighted.

You know what my favourite thing about him was, even with all of these degrees, expertise and war accolades, he still had time to volunteer in the community. And you know what his favourite organisation was. The Boy Scouts.

But let’s go back a bit and learn a little about his childhood. John Monash was born in West Melbourne in, you guessed it the 1860s. 1865 to be exact. His German Polish parents were of the Jewish faith, and he remained a practicing Jew for his entire life and took an active part in Jewish affairs. 

His parents’ names were Louis and Bertha. I only mention this because I kind of love the name Bertha and he later called his daughter Bertha after his mother. Then his daughter Bertha would name her son John after him. Cute.

Anyway, back to the story. When he was 9, in 1874, his parents moved to Jerilderie to manage the General Store. If you are thinking that the name Jerilderie sounds familiar, it is because the infamous bush ranger Ned Kelly held up the bank of Jerilderie, in 1879. But don’t worry, Monash had moved back to Melbourne by then. But there is a weird connection to Ned Kelly, but I tell you that in a minute.

Monash went the local Jerilderie school and the Schoolmaster, one William Elliott recognised his intellectual brilliance and insisted to his parents that he go to Melbourne to complete his education. He moved with his mum back to Melbourne and went to Scotch College. It was from Scotch College that he graduated at the age of 16 and became the dux of the school. The word dux just means that he was the number one student in the entire grade.

So, here is the spooky connection to the bushranger Ned Kelly. Remember our school master William Elliott? When Ned Kelly robbed the bank, he took William Elliott as a hostage and was forced to hold the bag whilst Ned Kelly loaded it with loot.

But back to our Boy Scout enthusiast John Monash. He himself was not a scout as a boy, simply because the organisation did not exist yet. The Boy Scouts did not begin in Australia until 1908, and Monash was involved in the organisation from fairly early on. In 1911, he agreed to be the chairman of the Victorian Boy Scouts movement because there was a lot of in fighting in the organisation. As a result of this, Monash ends up becoming the Vice President of the Imperial Boy Scouts. It is said that the Boy Scouts reminded him of his time in Jerilderie as a young boy. At this stage of his life, he had already been a part of the University company’s battalion in the Victorian Rifles and quickly rose to become sergeant. He saw the Boy Scouts as preliminary training for boys to join the military.

Even when he had just returned from World War I, in 1920, he continued to be involved in the organisation. At a ball that commemorated the first ever metropolitan troop of the Victorian Boy Scouts, Monash not only attended the ball, but took on the role of ushering guests to their seats. He was a famous knighted war hero at this stage. And the paper even mentions that 2 lucky scouts managed to get the autograph of both Monash and his daughter Bertha.

A few years later, in 1923 he became the official head of the 1st Barwon troop of Boy Scouts and was elected the Vice President of the Australia Association of Boy Scouts. In 1924, when giving a speech to a group of Boy Scouts, he reiterated the connection between being a boy scout and being in the military. He was quoted as saying, “an analysis of the Australian Expeditionary Force showed clearly that very many of the best officers were recruited from Scout ranks, and that on any difficult undertaking, requiring skill and initiative, preference was always given to the man with the scout training.” The newspaper also praised him for braving the January heat to make this speech.

In 1926, he again took part in a ceremony to present 300 boy scouts with their colours. He again made a speech that echoed his sentiments from 2 years earlier. He stated that during the Great War, whenever a volunteer was required for hazardous or responsible work,

one of the first questions asked of the volunteers was whether he had any scout training.”

He continued to be involved with the scouts for the rest of his life, attending events and even handing out trophies at the Scouts’ Boxing and Wrestling Championships in Victoria.

General Sir John Monash died of coronary vascular disease or heart disease in 1931, but after his passing, there is a group of Jewish Boy Scouts that pops up called the Monash Troop and even the female equivalent, the Brownies had a Jewish troop called the Monash Troop. These Monash Troops crop up every now and then in the newspapers throughout the 1930s and 40s usually taking part in a commemorative service for World War I. In 1939, just at the onset of World War II, when Hitler was persecuting people in Germany and Poland just for being Jewish, one of the Monash Troops had recruited three refugees. Presumably Jewish refugees from Germany or Poland. 

The most recent mention that I could find of the Monash Troop of Scouts was in 1970, where the newspaper mentioned that they were trying to raise money for the Monash Troop. Aside from that, Google came up blank. I am not sure if the Monash Troop still exist in the Scouts, but if you know. Be sure to email me at historydetective9@gmail.com and let me know. 

This is Kelly Chase on the case.

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