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The Contribution of Sir John Monash to 20th Century Engineering in Australia.

This paper was written at two months' notice for a conference, with the intention of entertaining as well as informing; and within a limit of six A4 pages. There was little room to justify statements or provide academic references. I have taken the opportunity to include some this material on this web page. The body of the text has been left basically unchanged, apart from the system of referencing.


General Sir John Monash contributed to many fields of engineering. From 1894 to 1914 he built up, initially in partnership with J. T. N. Anderson, a thriving business specialising in reinforced concrete, mainly in Victoria. He readily met the challenges of introducing new technology: education of self and others; preparation of designs; site supervision; overcoming inertia and vested interest; surmounting financial setbacks and the vagaries of civil construction. Equipped with a degree in law, he was a formidable advocate. He took a keen interest in science, tertiary education, the well-being of the profession, and in the theory of military and public administration. His experience in engineering and law, with a parallel career in the Militia, exercised his keen intellect, tested his moral courage, and made him an excellent commander of the Australian Army Corps in France in 1918. After the war he applied his authority to providing Victoria with a unified system of power generation and distribution in the form of the State Electricity Commission (SECV).


The following review draws from the many published accounts of Monash's life [our list], and from archival research carried out by the authors into his engineering prior to the First World War [see this web site]. This first phase of his career ran from 1885 to 1914 by which time, at the age of 49, he was head of a thriving design-and-construct enterprise specialising in reinforced concrete. From 1884 he had pursued a parallel career in the militia, rising to the rank of Colonel. The second phase was his war service at Gallipoli and on the Western Front, interspersed with periods for training of troops in Egypt and England. This stage concluded with responsibility for repatriation of Australian servicemen throughout the world. From 1920 until his death in 1931, Monash headed the SECV, dominating the electricity supply industry throughout Victoria.

A number of problems confront anyone attempting to interpret Monash's contribution to twentieth century engineering. His fame as a war hero overshadowed his pre-war career. Communities were, and still are, eager to credit him with any eligible item in their built environment. Misconceptions developed as successive writers - mostly admirers unfamiliar with engineering - unwittingly embroidered earlier accounts. [More.] In the first and third phases of his career, Monash was in the vanguard of changes which led to considerable controversy: partially supplanting traditional forms of construction with reinforced concrete (through an effective monopoly in Victoria until about 1908) and after the war replacing a host of private and municipal concerns with a monolithic exemplar of State Socialism. Most of those who in peacetime were out-gunned and out-manoeuvred by Monash ruefully conceded that 'the best man won'; but some remained resentful. [Quotes.] Accounts of his actions and personality naturally vary according to their author's experiences.

Because of the breadth of Monash's accomplishments it is difficult for a single author to comment knowledgably on all of them. The present authors can only hope that, where they have ventured outside their immediate field of research, they have not added to the existing list of misconceptions. [Caveat.] Although it is obvious that Serle's summary of Monash's pre-war engineering is not that of an engineer, the authors have been greatly impressed by its competence. [Serle 1982.]

Monash's Career in Brief.

John Monash was born in Melbourne on 27 June 1865 [not 23rd.]. He entered Scotch College in 1877, and the University of Melbourne in 1882 [being not quite 17 years of age]. After two years he obtained employment and effectively studied part-time. By 1895 he had acquired experience of bridge construction, had spent two years as chief site engineer on Melbourne's Outer Circle Railway, had designed a swing bridge and sheds for the Melbourne Harbor Trust, and had represented contractors in arbitration over payments. He had passed with Honours in civil engineering (leading to MCE) and become qualified as a Municipal Surveyor, Land Surveyor, and Water Supply Engineer. He had gained degrees in Arts and Law, and had qualified as a Patent Attorney. [Dates.] In 1894, he had set up practice with J. T. N. Anderson as consultants and contractors in civil and mechanical engineering, with Monash handling most patent applications, and acting as expert witness and advocate in legal disputes.

In 1897 Anderson led negotiations giving the partners sole rights to the Monier system of reinforced concrete in Victoria, and the contracting side of the business progressed mainly in that direction. A factory making Monier pipes was established with support from David Mitchell, contractor and quarry owner, bringing contact with two key figures of the pre-war phase: John Gibson and Alex Lynch - respectively, business manager and works foreman. A number of set-backs led to financial difficulties, and in 1902 Anderson took a salaried post in New Zealand. A heavy burden fell on Monash, requiring his total involvement in all aspects of design and construction throughout Victoria. In 1905, with hopes for expansion in New Zealand disappointed, Anderson agreed to the dissolution of the partnership leaving Monash with the remaining debt, but also the full benefit of future opportunities. M&A and the Monier Pipe Company were combined to form the Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Co. (RCMPC). From 1903 onwards, Monash expanded work steadily in the form of pipes, drainage and reticulation schemes, small dams, water tanks and silos, T-girder bridges, wharves, and eventually buildings. Despite the evolution of reinforced concrete construction towards the form we now know, the firm remained the sole practitioner in Victoria for most of the first decade of the new century. In 1906 the South Australian Reinforced Concrete Company (SARCC) was formed, with Monash effectively directing the technical side, commuting between Melbourne and Adelaide.

By that year Monash had finally traded his way out of debt and by 1910 he was reasonably prosperous. He had developed two competent engineers to assist him in P. T. Fairway and J. A. Laing who, with John Gibson and Alex Lynch, were able to run the business while Monash took a sabbatical leave touring Europe and the USA. He returned convinced that Australian and British engineers were falling behind their counterparts in Germany and the USA. He was greatly impressed with developments in the use of electricity and with the drive and organisational ability of the North Americans. [Refs, texts.] In 1912 it was Gibson's turn for a sabbatical, leaving Monash to handle the business as well as the engineering side of the firm. Even so, in that year he became President of the Victorian Institute of Engineers, initiated moves to resurrect the Museum of Technology, and became a member of the University Council and Faculty of Engineering. As the firm bedded down in routine work and the challenge of innovation disappeared, Monash's interest diminished. Fairway and Laing were doing almost all the engineering and Monash was promoting the business, identifying opportunities, securing contracts, and sorting out problems. His overseas trip had convinced him that war with Germany was inevitable [Serle, 1982, p.174]. He was more than ready for his next challenge.

In December 1914 he sailed from Melbourne in command of the 4th Infantry Brigade with the rank of Brigadier General. After training in Egypt, they landed at Gallipoli on 26 April 1915 and were pulled back to Egypt in December. In mid-1916 Monash went with the 4th Brigade to France, then on to England to take charge of the 3rd Australian Division as Major General. After landing in France in November 1916, these troops spent several months in trench raiding, then became involved in full-scale operations from June 1917 onwards. In June 1918 Monash was appointed commander of the Australian Army Corps as Lieutenant General. In that capacity he planned and directed a series of determined and effective actions which breached the enemy's front, then penetrated the famous Hindenburg Line. When hostilities ceased he was sent to London, to coordinate the repatriation and demobilisation of Australian soldiers throughout the world. To the disgust of his admirers, he was not made a full General until 1929. [Query.]

Monash returned to Melbourne on 26 December 1919. He did some work with RCMPC [Serle, 425-7]; but his main interest was in a senior public appointment. Tentative offers included the Directorship of the Institute of Science and Industry (forerunner of CSIRO); but as nothing had come of them by mid-1920, he accepted an offer which led to a position as full-time Chairman of the proposed State Electricity Commission of Victoria [Serle, 426-7] from January 1921, and severed his formal connection with RCMPC. His campaign to entrench SECV as the sole supplier in the State required enormous energy, but was not his sole preoccupation. As Edwards put it: "Monash's energy enabled him to encompass a great variety of public duties and personal interests as well as his SEC task" [1970, p.70]. The examples he cites include: appointment as a Royal Commissioner to investigate the police strike of 1923; membership of the Commonwealth Defence Council and the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute; service as a Rhodes Scholarship selector, as a President of the Australian Association for the Advancement of Science, and as honorary Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne from 1923; and a part in the establishment of the Anzac Day ceremonies and choice of the design for the Shrine of Remembrance.

Monash's active life had placed a great strain on his health. His doctor suggested retirement, but he decided "to wear out rather than rust out" [Brasch 1959, p.204]. In 1931 he suffered a heart attack and died some ten days later, on 8 October.

Reinforced Concrete Theory and Practice.

In 1897, while Monash was in Perth, Anderson made contact with the Sydney firm Carter Gummow & Co, which held Australian rights to the Monier patent, and persuaded them to appoint M&A as sole agents for this system in Victoria. The next year, CG&Co won a contract to build the Anderson Street (Morell) Bridge across the Yarra. With technical back-up from CG&Co, M&A then went on to design and build some twenty Monier arch bridges in country Victoria. Monash gained his initial experience of the novel material on this type of structure after his return from Perth in 1898.

Despite their isolation, Australian engineers kept abreast of international developments by subscribing to overseas journals and sharing information through professional institutions. [Qualification.]

Monash had the additional advantage of familiarity with German and French, allowing him to keep abreast of the latest developments in those languages, prior to their publication in English. In addition, the Sydney link brought him into contact with Professor Warren of Sydney University (first President of I.E.Aust, 1920); with CG&Co's chief engineer, W. J. Baltzer; and with Gummow himself, who became a mentor, providing advice on engineering and business matters. The failure under test in 1901 of a highly-skewed arch (designed in accordance with Rankine's text) brought him into contact with elegant model studies by his former Professor, W. C. Kernot and the latter's brother W. N. Kernot. [Full story.]

By 1903 Monash had recognised the disadvantages of Monier arches and begun to work his way, with the aid of texts, through slabs and beams to application of the T-girder principle. He took a bold step in designing his first bridge of this type for Stawell St, Ballarat in 1903. It proved under-reinforced in shear, possibly due to ambiguity in Emperger's formula, and led Monash to conduct his own tests. In the same year he built his first reinforced concrete reservoir, an on-ground farm storage tank at Caldermeade. Starting from Baltzer's precedent, he studied overseas examples in the literature and went on to design a series of on-ground and elevated tanks, developing less cluttered forms suitable for country Australia. In designing and building reinforced concrete brewery malt silos, he moved ahead of the Sydney firm and was in turn consulted by them. Beginning about 1903 he gradually broke into the field of concrete buildings, initially with minor items - footings, safes, balconies, roofs - then with 'fire-proof' floors and, from 1906 entire buildings with reinforced concrete skeleton frame and Monier wall panels. 'Inverted syphons' to carry irrigation canals under natural streams offered a promising [financial] return until the Minister for Water Supply, George Swinburne, exercised Crown prerogative to avoid the patent. [More re this para.]

Monash's enthusiasm for innovation appeared again in his response to a request from A. B. Moncrieff, Chief Engineer of South Australia, to design and build a concrete pontoon. Major projects in that State include Australia's first reinforced-concrete railway bridge over the Hindmarsh River near Victor Harbor (1907), and a reinforced-concrete wharf at Glanville (1909). In 1908 Monash designed and tendered for the 35m dome of the State Library of Victoria, but saw both concept and contract handed to a competitor. Such reversals were the beginning of the end for RCMPC's monopoly. [More re this para.]

Monash's scientific interests naturally extended to the theory of reinforced concrete, but for business purposes he kept his feet firmly on the ground. He had a definite facility with the simpler computational methods of the time. When approached by an architect for a quotation on the frame of a large warehouse, he would compute all member sizes, quantities and costs on a single quarto sheet (comparable to A4). For the design of the tank floors of his water towers he adopted a simple model in what would now be recognised as a reasonably respectable lower-bound approach. The water authority called in A. G. M. Michell as proof engineer, who employed the classical elastic model of a circular plate rigidly fixed at the shaft of the tower. This indicated that strengthening was required post-tender and caused some disbelief and annoyance on the part of the designer-contractor. Long after leaving RCMPC, Monash reportedly took only two days to rough out a design for an awkward balcony girder for a cinema, when the firm's own engineers required two weeks to reach the same solution. [More re this para.]

Perhaps Monash's main contribution to the introduction of reinforced concrete to Australia was in using his remarkable persuasive powers and political skills to achieve change in the face of inertia, suspicion and the vested interests of industrialists, tradesmen, and municipal engineers. [Examples.] Initially with Anderson, he put much work into persuading municipalities that Monier could compete even with timber bridges when the capitalised cost of maintenance was taken into account. In the case of the tanks and silos it was necessary to educate clients to accept the initial leakage and staining suffered by the unprestressed tanks until their tension cracks were sealed by leached salts. Monash was naturally in the forefront of the battle to alter the Melbourne building regulations to allow the weight of the building to be carried by columns rather than brick walls, and permit the use of concrete partitions. In introducing a new technology far away from the original sources of information he learned many lessons the hard way, but faced these set-backs with courage and persistence. [More re this para.]

Brown Coal and Electricity.

When Monash was appointed to the SECV he was not uninformed about electricity and the use of brown coal. He and Anderson had been involved in schemes for coal mining and railways in Gippsland since the start of their partnership. They had obtained analyses of the properties of brown coal, made inquiries about briquette-making machines, and designed a factory for the Great Morwell Coal Mining Co. They had designed lighting projects for three country towns. In late 1903, Monash had been involved in a scheme to promote a Tramway for Essendon and in 1905 in a small hydro-electric scheme for Warburton. [More re above.] One of the major impressions he brought back from his 1910 overseas trip was of the potential of electricity and the need to promote its use in industry, transport and the built environment. [Text.]

Significantly, a 1913 photograph of Monash as a member of the Wallaby (walking) Club, includes F. W. Clements, managing director of the Melbourne Electric Supply Co., and H. R. Harper, chief electrical engineer of the Melbourne City Council. Both of these were appointed to the Brown Coal Advisory Committee in 1917, and when the 'Electricity Commissioners' were appointed in March 1919, Harper became their chief engineer. Monash had been associated with Clements also on the City of Melbourne building regulations committee [Edwards 1969, p.51]. It is not surprising that when the end of the war made it possible to resume investigations into German brown coal technology, Monash who was still in England should be asked to lend a hand. In mid-1919 he organised an army contingent to go to Cologne to gather information at the Fortuna mine; then assisted in its analysis on their return, learning a great deal in the process. [Edwards 1969].

In 1920 the three part-time Electricity Commissioners, with Monash in mind, proposed that a full-time Chairman be appointed to take over implementation of the plans they had made for brown-coal exploitation and the generation and distribution of electricity. The aims of this development were: to make Victoria independent of NSW black coal; to provide a reliable, cheap and convenient source of power so that Victoria could attract industries in competition with NSW; and to improve efficiency by standardisation and unification. [op. cit.]

Monash confronted a major problem because analyses of economic feasibility had assumed the moisture content of the coal to be 45%; but new fields opened to extend the scheme showed 65%. A much greater portion of the energy in the coal would thus need to be devoted to drying it prior to combustion. The figure of 65% had appeared in tests as early as 1911, but seems to have been dismissed as an aberration. When Monash was faced with it in 1920, plant designed for 45% had already been ordered. As the scheme faced strong opposition in certain quarters, he decided not to publicise the situation, but to press on in the expectation that his engineers would overcome the problem. They did solve the technological problem, but the economics of the scheme were adversely affected. [op. cit.]

A second major problem was political. There were several sizeable existing power schemes: one owned by the Melbourne City Council and others by private companies enjoying a monopoly on a sort of build-own-operate-transfer basis, reverting to local councils. There were also many small suppliers such as dairies servicing country towns. Voltages and frequencies differed and some schemes used direct current. The original plan implied the SECV would take over vacant territory, but would supply existing schemes in bulk. Monash was totally opposed to this. He saw no point in providing cheaper power so that middlemen could increase their profits. [op. cit.] Again, his forensic skills, his long experience of interacting with politicians - and, on occasions, his status as a war hero - were applied to largely achieve his vision of a unified system of power generation and distribution offering large economies of scale [Holmes 1970]. State politicians were bemused and in some cases permanently aggrieved by their inability to make him toe their line [as noted above].

Engineering and Law

We tend to see 'combined' or 'double' degrees for engineering students as something of a novelty, but Monash invented his own in the 1890s when he decided to add Law to his engineering qualifications. His first case was in support of Graham & Wadick's claims for extras [variations] on their Outer Circle Line contract. He represented Baxter & Saddler in arbitrations concerning railway contracts in Queensland and Western Australia and aggrieved land-holders in the Riverina water-rights case. After this, the magnitude and frequency of cases decreased, but his successful arguments on behalf of a Mr Kannaluik, whose property had been flooded due to rearrangement of drainage by the Hawthorn City Council, established a major precedent. [More.] The City appealed to the Privy Council in London, where a notebook containing Monash's summary of the facts and arguments greatly impressed the court. Monash's advocacy was so effective that Sir Leo Cussen expressed the view that any solicitor who failed to retain him as an expert in any patent matter was prima facie guilty of negligence [Smithers 1973, p.22].

As the technical side of his business grew, Monash let his work in the courts, particularly his patent work diminish. He wrote to a cousin: "I have myself, as agent, put through nearly 100 patents, and in no single instance has the patentee ever realised a sixpence - though some of the inventions were clever, good, useful and valuable … The whole question of patents is a rotten swindle, and no one knows it better than the patent agent of experience, who in a sense is as great a fraud as the fortune-teller - or any other business that fattens on the foibles of humanity" [Serle, p.151].

Engineering and War

Monash naturally showed an interest in the technical aspects of war from his student days. After the University Company of the Victorian Rifles was wound up, he was commissioned into the Militia Garrison Artillery in 1887, providing more scope for such interests. He gave a talk to the university Science Club on 'Implements of War' in 1892 and modified it to suit an audience of high-ranking officers in 1894. [Source.] The style of his generalship on the Western Front has been seen by military writers as characteristic of an engineer [More.] and his account of his 1918 campaign [Monash, 1920] earned him a D.Eng from the University of Melbourne. Features commonly noted are a certain way of grappling with problems; precision and attention to detail; use of all available mechanical means - machine guns, artillery, aircraft, tanks - to break the enemy's resistance, leaving the infantry to mop up and defend against counter-attack; an uncommon ability to visualise topography on the basis of maps; and an insistence that as little as possible be left to chance. An example of the latter is provided in his decision that a road through no-man's-land should be repaired immediately behind the advancing front, to permit a squadron of the on-road armoured cars of the day to break through behind enemy lines. One car was detailed to follow the sappers and test every culvert and bridge, before the rest were called up from the safety of the rear [Monash, 1920, pp.108-9]. In comparing Monash with Napoleon, the official historian of [Australia's part in] WW1, C. E. W. Bean, wrote that whereas the latter was audacious and ready to take a calculated gamble, Monash was prudent on principle: determined to avoid risks wherever possible; preparing his battle-plans "as an engineer rather than as an artist" [Edwards 1970, p.41]. Monash himself often said that running a war was much like running a business. [Callinen (1981, p.3) and Danglow in Thompson (1952).]

It is safe to say that in Monash's pre-war years both his engineering and his Militia service gained from cross-fertilisation of ideas and experience. As early as 1889, he noted that the foremen and gangers of a construction firm are similar to the non-commissioned ranks of the army [Serle, p.82]. Instructions emanating from his office have a military ring, examples being the precise lists of tasks which Lynch was given when sent to reconnoitre the site of a new bridge. These also detailed information to be acquired, with special emphasis on future means of communication. [Examples.] Military titles were commonly used in business letters as many of Monash's fellow engineers were members of the Citizen Military Forces. It is likely that this applied to many of his workmen. [Note.]


Australian surveyors are happy to claim Monash as one of their own. [Source.] Like most civil engineers of the 20th Century, he did routine setting out of structures in the early years of his career. More extensive surveys were required at the Outer Circle Line (contractor's pegs for earthworks and permanent way) and of catchment areas in legal disputes, such as the Riverina water rights case and cases of suburban flooding inadvertently caused by civil works. The well-known photograph of Monash with instruments, horse and buggy is from his Outer Circle Line days. However, his most important contribution was lending impetus to the preparation of detailed maps of Australia by the military. In 1908 he transferred from the Garrison Artillery to the Australian Intelligence Corps and was placed in charge of the Military District of Victoria with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. The Corps served as a training ground for future staff officers and an important part of its work was mapping. Monash took direct control of this aspect until, frustrated by lack of resources, he initiated its transfer to the permanent staff. [Source.]


Monash was a natural educator. He is said to have endeavoured to teach his sister French when he was only ten years old [Serle, p.10]. A glimpse of his approach is provided in his wartime 'A Hundred Hints for Company Commanders': To get men interested is the sure way of attaining an effective and intelligent performance of their duties. If you constantly tell men that they are awkward and useless they will become so … On the other hand, indiscriminate or constant praise tends to make men disregard many details which are essential in order to maintain a standard [extracts in Brasch 1959, pp.176-7]. During the M&A, RCMPC and Militia years he devoted much time and energy to coaching gangers, foremen, junior engineers and soldiers. His letters of advice and guidance to the young engineer he appointed to the ill-fated Stawell Street bridge display enormous tact and patience, even though he was at the time commuting between Melbourne and the Murray, battling a blow-out in the cofferdam of the Barham-Koondrook bridge. Generally, his pre-war training and his choice of assistants were excellent. Two of them, H. G. Jenkinson and T. H. Upton, became Presidents of I.E.Aust (1934 and 1946 respectively) and a third, J. A. Laing, was Chairman of Melbourne Division. [Sources.]

Monash's interest in education was followed through at the institutional level. He was a founding member of the undergraduate Union, President for five years of the University Club (for graduates), and from 1894 attended meetings of the University Senate (composed of all graduates with higher degrees). He helped in fund-raising, criticised the low salaries of lecturers in science and engineering, and the government's "scandalous" lack of support for higher education, fearing that an increase in fees would "make higher education only a rich man's ambition". He was an honorary co-examiner in engineering subjects, filled in for a lecturer in hydraulics, and gave lectures in reinforced concrete. [Source.]

Monash was President of the Victorian Institute of Engineers when, in 1912, it gathered support from scientific and public bodies to persuade the Museum of Victoria to resurrect and properly equip its Museum of Technology. In the same year he became a member of the Council of the University and of the Engineering Faculty, and in 1923 was elected Vice-Chancellor, then an honorary appointment. (He is said to have declared that commanding an army was much easier than running a university.) [Source.]

The Profession.

In his younger days, Monash had a poor opinion of the public service engineer. [Note.] Although he was subsequently proud of his work at the Harbour Trust he felt he had been working at much less than full capacity. In private practice he was involved in the daily routine of design and site supervision, but foresaw the coming of a new breed of engineer. In a 1908 letter to his sister, he declared that Gummow and he were bold pioneers: … the Civil Engineer of the future will be first and foremost the commercial directing head of Engineering enterprise and industry - the scientific side of him will be merely an adjunct or subordinate function … the days of the mere commercial managers, and the mere unscientific building contractors are numbered. The great Engineers of the future will not sit in offices and draw plans for others to work to - they will post themselves at the head of the actual industrial operations. He cited Hennebique, Wayss, Ransome and Mouchel as examples. [More in Serle, p.168-9.]

Following his overseas trip, Monash's Presidential Address to the VIE was a 'wake-up call' to Australian engineers whom he felt were lagging behind their counterparts abroad. [Quote.] From 1912 to 1914, he put his weight behind moves to establish an Australia-wide Institution. The idea was already current, but under his leadership the VIE prepared a draft memorandum of incorporation which included the object of amalgamating or combining "with any other society having its headquarters in the Commonwealth of Australia or the Dominion of New Zealand". In 1914 the Electrical Associations of NSW signified their willingness to amalgamate, while the VIE opted for [i.e. favoured] federation. Progress was slowed by the war, and decisive steps were taken at a time when Monash was overseas. Ironically, the VIE retained a separate existence until the 1940s. [Source.]


Monash's style of management would not gain approval from contemporary theorists. He was never afraid to immerse himself in detail, though remaining fully aware of the 'big picture'. This trait was evident at the Outer Circle Line when he was 22 years old. While handling many large and small sub-contractors, Railways engineers and inspectors - and not least his employers - and in addition setting out works of various kinds, he wrote to a foreman: "The bricklayers are to at once clean down High St and Norwood Road bridges. The jar of spirits is in the office. They will need brushes, a ladder and a plank or two". Later in M&A, between design computations, site supervision, lobbying for contracts and smoothing over differences with Shire Engineers, he would assiduously chase up gangers who had failed to signal receipt of a consignment of shovels or bolts. Pedersen notes that Monash was also praised for his willingness to delegate authority and asks how this can be reconciled with his legendary attention to detail. [Note.] The answer may lie in his insistence that, once a plan of action had been devised after thorough investigation of the minutest relevant facts and the imagination of all possible eventualities, it should be strictly adhered to by all concerned, including himself. The attention to detail seems to have largely preceded the delegation of responsibility.

His ideas on management were well developed as early as 1890 [at age 25], following his Outer Circle Line experience, when he set them out in a talk to the Engineering Students' Society. [Full text.] Throughout his pre-war career as an executive engineer certain qualities stand out. He was ready to train, coach and motivate employees, from engineers to gangers with tolerance and patience. He gave them firm loyalty if some thoughtful initiative on their part went wrong, or they came into conflict with clients and their representatives. This was true even when he felt they were in the wrong. With rare exceptions, this loyalty was returned in full. He was able to deliver a 'dressing down' in a blunt but polite manner - and was willing to cheer up a recipient who took it too hard. He placed great emphasis on a constant flow of intelligence both up and down the chain of command. All foremen were patiently coached in the submission of precise and relevant information in their daily reports, but received sharp reminders when they regressed. [More.]

Similar attitudes are evident in the 'Hundred Hints'. "All criticism must be kindly and helpful - never discouraging. Censure should not be administered in the presence of subordinates." An officer who knew his work, was firm but impartial, and expected the utmost from his men, would hold their respect and obtain the best results. "It is the men in the ranks who win the battle." An officer must be "the servant of the troops", whose constant preoccupation must be the preservation of their morale and physical condition [Brasch 1959, p.176]. He must see that orders were "understood, and rightly acted upon" and "assist in removing every kind of difficulty in their due execution". Every mistake at staff level would impose added stress on the "most subordinate and most helpless of all the components of an Army - the private soldier". [Monash 1920, p.295] A significant incident during the war was his handling of the infantry's suspicion of tanks following a disastrous experience in a combined operation at Bullecourt. Instead of condemning the men as 'unable to cope with change' he identified the problems which had existed, including "indifferent staff arrangements"; then brought his troops to the rear in batches to spend a day 'playing' with the tanks, clambering over them, talking to their crews, and conducting realistic exercises [ibid, p.49].

An unusual feature of his management style, again demonstrated in war, but probably influenced by peace-time experience, was his insistence that all participants in an action, from staff officers to privates should be well informed of the general picture (the opposite of the 'need-to-know' concept). Monash states he was the first to hold regular battle conferences at which "an exhaustive and educative interchange of views" could take place. Each Commander or Service had the advantage not only of receiving instructions regarding his own action, but also of hearing in full detail the instructions conveyed to his colleagues. He knew, not merely what his colleagues had to do, but also knew that they had been told what to do; and he had an opportunity of considering the effect of their action on his own [ibid, pp.150-1]

These principles were hammered out and applied in Monash's engineering enterprises as well as his Militia service. In [E.W.O] Perry's words: "It could reasonably be said that before August 1914 Monash was in the front rank of his contemporaries in Australasia in the study and practice of Administration". (It was not until the mid-1930s that the first chair in Public Administration was set up in Australia.) [Source.]


The breadth of Monash's accomplishments makes it difficult to summarise, rather than merely list them. Amongst the more visible memorials to his work there remain over 40 bridges and at least 18 tanks and silos. [Brief overview.] Many tanks, inverted syphons, reticulation systems and retaining walls lie underground. Other less obvious projects, such as small dams, are still to be located. Monash's structures were designed and built when understanding of reinforced concrete was in its infancy and Australian engineers, working far from the centres of research and development, were faced not only with the tasks of design and supervision, but also the training of operatives and junior engineers, and the education of clients as to the potentialities and limitations of the material. [More.] Monash's post-war period is marked by the readily identifiable feat of establishing the SECV on a solid foundation in the face of technical difficulties and intense political opposition from certain quarters. Although the concept might be contentious in today's political climate, the skill and determination with which he accomplished the task are remarkable.

It is probable that the experience of design and construction - the need continually to imagine what might go wrong and plan to provide for it - combined with his experience in the Militia to hone qualities which served Monash well in wartime. The same could easily be true for his experiences as an advocate in law, exercising his ability to see a situation from the point of view of his opponents, and imagine how they might prepare their defence and counter-attack. [Note.]

The early chapters of Serle's biography reveal a young man whose need to succeed clashed with considerable self-doubt. The battle to establish and maintain his business despite constant financial and practical set-backs toughened him and his war service finished the job. The change can be seen in the progressive portraits in the biographies. But, for all his forcefulness and drive, and his willingness to grasp the nettle when employees or colleagues did not come up to the mark, he was generally seen as one of our more approachable and likeable heroes - someone from a relatively poor background who had 'made it' by dint of hard work and courage. The overwhelming reminiscences of those who knew him are of a kindly person who in his later years was seen very much as a father-figure [Thompson 1952 and 1962].

Perhaps the last word should be left to Sir Robert Menzies who in a speech in 1965 described an incident which occurred when he was a junior minister in the State government during the SECV years. "Up came a proposal … from Sir John himself … about some trifling expenditure of a million pounds or something of that kind … And we rejected it … Sir John put his hat on … arrived at the outer doors of the Cabinet Room and, if I know anything about him, demanded admittance … the Premier … said "Oh, yes, bring him in" … and we all stood up instinctively … we were all in the presence of a man we knew was a greater man than we would ever be … He looked around towards the Premier and he said "Well, Mr Premier, I gather that the Cabinet has rejected my proposal". "Well, yes, yes, I think that's right, Sir John." "Well", he said, "that can only be because they've utterly failed to understand it. I will now explain it." And he sat there, with that rock-like look, and he explained it, and one by one we shrivelled in our places, one by one we became convinced, or, at any rate, felt we were convinced, of the error of our ways. And for half an hour he went on; he explained the thing step by step. And we were left silent … And that settled it, there was no more, not another word came out - and so Sir John said, looking at the Premier, "Well, sir, I take it that your decision is reversed. Indeed, anticipating your approval of my proposal, and so that there will be no delay, I have brought with me … the Order-in-Council that will be necessary for this purpose". And he passed it around and it was signed, and he went out" [Smithers 1973, p.288].

Authorship. The paper on which this web page is based was prepared by Alan Holgate and Geoff Taplin for the Eleventh National Conference on Engineering Heritage, Canberra in October 2001, organised by the Institution of Engineers, Australia. Geoff was at the time with the Department of Civil Engineering, Monash University, Australia. He is now with AECOM Australia, in Melbourne. Alan had retired from the Department in December 1996 and is a member of The Independent Scholars Association of Australia.

Added Notes and Comments

Published accounts of Monash's life and activities identified for this study.

In chronological order. Those that were consulted are marked with a star *.

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Some misconceptions.

A common error is to ascribe to Monash projects which were built by the Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Co after he dissociated himself from it. (This occurred around the end of 1920 and into 1921, according to Serle, 1982, p.428 and corresponding endnote p.573.) Monash did maintain informal links. In 1920, with the help of P. T. Fairway, his former assistant and successor as Superintending Engineer, he unsuccessfully entered a competition for design of the Church St Bridge over the Yarra, proposing a single arch of 275 feet (84m) span. When the firm was building the Capitol Theatre, his opinion was sought on a complex reinforced concrete girder to support the balcony. However, these contacts appear to have been informal. [Engineering calculations for the Church St Bridge, as built, were carried out by J. A. Laing, another Assistant Engineer who had by that time left the firm. Construction was carried out by RCMPC, under the direction of Alex Edward Lynch.]

Confusion exists over Monash's role in assisting contractors Baxter & Saddler during arbitration of contractual disputes regarding payment for railway projects (see E.W.O. Perry's comments on this, 1961, pp.80, 81). This arose because B&S claimed Monash had been employed on construction in order to have him recognised by the court.

Smithers thought (1973, p.24) that Monash designed the Anderson Street Bridge and that it introduced reinforced concrete to Australia. As argued in our web page on this bridge it is almost certain that its shape and dimensions were determined by W. J. Baltzer of Carter Gummow & Co., Sydney, the firm which almost certainly built it. Baltzer has a strong claim to have introduced R.C. to Australia. Some of the confusion must arise from the fact that both Monash and Anderson listed the Anderson St Bridge in their CVs, along with later bridges that were designed and built by them with gradually diminishing advice from CG&Co. Its inclusion could be justified in that they must have learned a great deal from being given privileged access to the computations and drawings, and the building site.

It was also thought that Monash designed the King River Bridge in Tasmania. Examination of the files suggests that it was designed by Dorman Long & Co, but that Monash & Anderson analysed the forces in the trusses in order to design Monier bearing slabs to support its ends.

One reason that so much confusion developed was that access to Monash's personal papers was restricted for a long time by his son-in-law, Gershon Bennett. Bennett's talk in 1936 was, of course, based on them and Rabbi Brasch was obviously allowed some access. E.W.O. Perry's paper of 1961 is a cry for their general release. He criticised Bennett's talk, on which much subsequent work was based, as vague and inaccurate. It seems Serle was the first writer to be given complete access to the personal papers. Callinen (1981) saw Serle's first draft.

Monash's three grandchildren presented his personal papers to the nation in 1980 and they are divided between the National Library of Australia and the Australian War Memorial. The records of the firms with which Monash was associated are mainly in the University of Melbourne Archives.
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State Socialism.

For the story of the private and municipal electricity companies see Edwards (1969) and Holmes (1970). 'State Socialism' involved large State Government authorities such as the Country Roads Board, the SECV, and Victorian Railways. See Eggleston (1932) who was originally in favour of them, but later changed his mind. His book analyses several examples (including the SECV).
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Out-gunned and out-manoeuvred.

See e.g. Edwards (1970) p.70-1 "G. M. Prendergast, State Labor Leader, once told Parliament rather ruefully of his experience with Monash when the Labor Party was in power. "We had Sir John Monash at the Cabinet table and we bombarded him with questions", he said. "… He is adept at answering questions and too skilful for me." During a debate in 1933 on the respective powers of the Minister and the Commission, the then Minister, Ian Macfarlan, said that the situation would never have arisen if the chairman had not been Monash, who "by his exceptional ability and prestige kept Ministers from … even casting a Ministerial eye over proceedings." " See also Menzies on JM, as recounted at the end of this paper.

Callinen (1981) says, amongst other things, "Apart from a few military associates, like Bean and Gellibrand who had reservations about Monash's qualities as a soldier, and as a man, hardly anyone emerged in the last decade of his life as a hostile critic. Eggleston was one: he did not like Monash, and, while recognizing his ability, left several references in his private papers to Monash's "ruthless egotism". The egotism was there. It was part of his strength; it was also part of his confidence in his own ability, his sensitivity to criticism, his deviousness. He could bend the truth slightly, elaborate facts or tell only part of a story to promote the most favourable impression. It was also part of his need for recognition, the limelight, honours and praise. Monash had to win, and had to keep on winning". Also, Holmes (1970) in her paper says: "Eggleston said that he [JM] had had varying success as a civil engineer, and recalled that one bridge designed by him had collapsed, and so his reputation as a civil engineer in Victoria did not stand high".
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Caveat lector.

Our serious research being confined to Monash's engineering prior to 1915, we are less confident of our facts and opinions concerning the War, the SECV period, and the general political and social context of his work.
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Date of birth.

Monash's birth certificate gives the date as 23rd, and this was repeated by early writers. The family (including JM) was convinced that the correct date was 27th and this is now generally accepted. The birth certificate also gives the address as 'Rachel' Terrace. There is no doubt that it was actually 'Richhill' Terrace.
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Monash's qualifications.

Monash enrolled for an Arts degree, as the engineering course was not introduced until 1878. Even this included Ancient Greek and Latin, the latter proving a stumbling block. He completed his BCE examinations at the end of 1890, then passed Honours early in 1891, entitling him to take out the MCE in 1893. Later in 1891 he passed the Municipal Surveyors' examination and enrolled for his LLB. He passed the Water Supply Engineers' examination in 1892 and the following year completed his exams in Law and Arts, entitling him to LLB and BA. He was qualified as a Patent Attorney by 1894. The originals of some certificates are held by the Rare Books Room, Monash University, and images may be found on their website.
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Hopes for expansion in NZ.

Anderson was appointed Chief Engineer of the Dunedin Sewerage Board. He initially did some private consulting work, but the Board objected, and this opportunity was closed to him. Its seems he and Monash had expected their Melbourne factory would obtain large orders for Monier pipes from the Board and elsewhere, but others had made concrete pipes in NZ before them, so a Monier patent could not be established.
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Defence of Patent.

Monash's firms managed to maintain an effective monopoly, until it began to crumble from about 1908, as sole Victorian representative of Carter Gummow's Australian rights to the Monier patent. In 1906 the 'Ferro-Concrete Co' of UK and NZ attempted to overthrow his claim, but it was upheld on the grounds that reinforced concrete was unknown in Victoria at the time the local patent was applied for. The letters patent for in situ work formally expired on 11 February 1910.
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Contrast: Australia vs USA and Europe.

See Monash, J. Some Impressions of Travel, Proc. Victorian Institute of Engineers, v.12, 1911, pp.28-45 and JM's Presidential Address: The engineering profession in Australia, Proc. Victorian Institute of Engineers, v.14, 1913, pp.11-24 (discussion pp. 24-).
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Diminishing interest in routine engineering.

This comment is based on a general impression gained from the archives, but see Pedersen (1985, p.36-7): "Reflecting in 1913 on his long years of hard work in so many areas, Monash yearned for a more peaceful existence, intending to withdraw gradually from public affairs. The Army and the University would be the last to go … After another world tour in 1915, he planned to liquidate his affairs and invest the resulting capital, which, with a few "easy" directorships, "would have kept us going in luxury for the rest of our lives"." (Pedersen quotes letters to Lou Rosenhain, 26 June 1913 and to Mrs Monash, 16 Mar 1917.)
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Note from A.H. - 'To the disgust of his admirers …' I wrote this with confidence, sure that I had read of it somewhere, but have been unable to find a specific example for this web site. See, however, Serle 1982, pp.514-5.
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Monash's introduction to Monier concrete.

While Monash was in Perth (1898) he was in constant and lengthy communication with Anderson. Evidence acquired so far suggests that, having seen the drawings and construction of the Morell Bridge, Anderson carried out the engineering design of the Fyansford Bridge and Wheeler's Bridge, with advice and criticism from GF&Co. (Example in the 'Anderson St Bridge' Dossier, pp.19-20). Monier arches were treated as though they were stone masonry arches, the reinforcement being neglected, so the analytical techniques were already established. Monash had tried his hand at arch design in Perth for the William St Bridge project (link), and it seems he learned the 'trade' of Monier construction after his return to Melbourne, by joining in with JTNA on Fyansford and Wheeler's, gradually taking an increasing share of site supervision, and presumably the supervision of arch calculations in the office for the Bendigo bridges.
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Knowledge of latest technology.

We were perhaps too generous here. Monash in his Presidential Address of 1913 said this applied only to a few progressive engineers.
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Emperger. Tanks and silos. Inverted syphons, patent 'infringement'.

Fritz Edler von Emperger (1862-1942) was an outstanding contributor to the theory and practice of reinforced concrete and responsible for a serial publication 'Beton und Eisen' to which Monash subscribed. Born at Beraun, near Prague, he studied at Prague, worked in the USA from 1890-96, and spent the rest of his life in Austria. (Haegermann, Huberti and Moell, 'Von Caementum zum Spannbetonbau', Bauverlag GmbH, Wiesbaden-Berlin, 1964, Part B, p.47.) See UMA File 682 and Engineering Letterbooks in MS1884 National Library (Feb-Mar 1906) for correspondence between Monash and F. M. Gummow on reinforcement against shear.

See this web site for an overview of Monash's Tanks & Silos. Baltzer's precedent was Carter Gummow & Co's on-ground tank at Kiama (1900). Baltzer supplied a table of wall thicknesses and reinforcement for various heights of tank, but JM quickly decided it was too conservative.

For the malt silos, see the Tanks & Silos dossier, Carlton Brewery Tanks, pp.26-7.
For the buildings, see Lewis, M. '200 Years of Concrete in Australia', Concrete Institute of Australia, North Sydney, 1988.

Inverted syphons: Monash was naturally not amused by Swinburne's action. When the NSW Government used day labour to build reinforced concrete, it paid a commission to GF&Co out of courtesy, even though it was not obliged to do so. Monash expected the same treatment from the Victorian Government. The Victorian Water Supply Dept employed RCMPC to build about seven subways, or 'inverted syphons', where the East Goulburn Channel crossed creeks including Muddy Creek near Moorilim, Seven Creeks, Broken River and Castle Creek (University of Melbourne Archives, 'Monier' Files 612 and 807). The Department then decided it could do the job itself, perhaps utilising workers trained by RCMPC. See UMA Monier File 708 'Victorian Water Supply Infringement'. Swinburne claimed that in any case, CG&Co's Victorian patent was invalidated by a previous patent for iron in concrete by one John Imray.
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Pontoon, Hindmarsh Bridge, Glanville Wharf, Library Dome.

Concrete Pontoon. It seems Moncrieff had an option on a second pontoon, but it was not built, so perhaps the first was not a great success. There is a photograph of it in the UMA Archives. See this web site for the story. See also, UMA Monier File 855.

Hindmarsh River Railway Bridge. See this website's Bridges Index for links to the story and photos. Also, UMA 'Monier' Files 785 and 797.

Glanville Wharf. See this website for the story. Also, UMA 'Monier' File 763.

SLV Dome. The Swanson Brothers obtained the overall contract, with a dome re-engineered by the Trussed Concrete Steel Co of London using the patent Kahn reinforcing system. According to Serle, Monash was in high dudgeon, but following an appeal from the architect N. G. Peebles he proffered advice on design issues as work proceeded. W. W. Harvey, who worked for Monash from 1905 to the end of 1909, moved to London and checked TSC drawings for the architects Bates, Peebles & Smart. A lengthy version of the story appears on this web site [link].
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JM's skills in analysis and design. Water tower, Balcony girder.

Remarks on the water tower were intended for an audience of engineers. The structure in question is the Mildura water tower (UMA 'Monier' File 1046). The floor of such towers was supported on the circular shaft wall and cantilevered beyond it. It was also supported at its centre by a 3 foot diameter pipe-column. The load on the floor was the weight of water plus the weight of the tank wall around the periphery. Monash's model was to take radial strips of constant width. The cantilever was treated as fixed at the shaft. The strip within the circumference of the shaft was treated as simply-supported, spanning from shaft wall to central column. Michell went along with the cantilever idea, but used a classical approach for the interior: a circular plate clamped at the circumference. The bending moments thus calculated were not drastically different from those derived by Monash. Michell also demanded strengthening of the foundation slab, which was circular and cantilevered beyond the shaft base.

The Balcony Girder. Source: Thompson (1952). The transcript of the radio program in Thompson's book 'On Lips of Living Men' (1962) is an edited version, and interesting details are omitted from A. E. Lynch's account. A.H.'s best effort to transcribe Lynch's actual words gives: "When we were building the Capitol picture theatre we designed the large girder that is carrying the foyer underneath on the bottom ledge of the girder, and on the top of the girder, carrying the gallery. This girder was about twelve foot deep, and about 75 foot long - and - Walter Burley Griffin designed the architectural design - the Federal Capital architect - and so that people could walk from the foyer through to the gallery on the top, on his plans he showed two large openings, about 7 feet by 7 feet right in the bearing - or in the shear portion of the girder. Our own chief engineer [P. T. Fairway?] had given the matter a lot of thought, but he thought he'd check it with Sir John Monash and ask him, with his experience, what his ideas were. In quite an informal way he went to Monash over the phone about it and Monash, in a few days' time, sent him back a pencil sketch with his complete ideas of how this [??] reinforcement and how the girder should be designed. He also put forward a formula to work out the computations for this particular kind of a girder. Our chief engineer consulted with another engineer, and he after some weeks work, with all the figures and computations, and full design, produced a design with a formula, which Monash, in a few hours, on the back of an envelope had done more or less exactly the same thing." (There is no file named 'Capitol Theatre' in the UMA 'Monier' collection, so some effort might be necessary to track this project down, if records still exist.
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Monash's promotion of r.c. in the face of caution and opposition.

Examples are:

For the last, see Jour. Royal Victorian Institute of Architects, vol.2, May 1904, 72-91 (disc. 98-101) and vol.6, May 1908, 53-62 (disc. 76-8). Back to text.

Battle to change Building Regulations. Setbacks to business.

Monash worked alongside architect/engineer Charles d'Ebro to have the Melbourne Building Regulations modernised. As in many other cities, these still required the outer walls of multi-storey buildings to be of thick load-bearing masonry, even though the use of steel and reinforced concrete framing capable of doing the job was well established. Correspondence relating to this issue is scattered throughout the RCMPC files and we have not yet made a specific study of it. But see Monash, Major J., Notes on Modern Building Construction, Proc. Victorian Institute of Engineers, vol.8, July 1906, 113-121, disc. 132-4. See also on this web site the stories of Bank Place Chambers, Mitchell's Building, and JM's intervention in the South Australian Building Acts 1911 and 1913.

Practical setbacks encountered, with implied learning, included problems with the aerial ropeway at Walhalla (Serle, p.122); collapse of King's Bridge, Bendigo, and of the Scott's Ck Culvert, Springfield; the disastrous dispute with the clients over payment for the Fyansford Bridge; problems with the spandrel walls at Wheeler's Bridge; blow-out in the cofferdam of the Barham-Koondrook Bridge; lack of shear strength in the Stawell St Bridge, Ballarat; and problems of supervision and catastrophic storm damage to the Glenelg Ocean Breakwater (UMA File 869).
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Prior knowledge of mining, railways, and electricity.

Mining and Railways: see, e.g., Serle, 1st edn, pp.121, 123, and UMA 'Monier' Files 68 'Great Gippsland Coal Mining Co.' and 96 'Toora Mine'.

The lighting schemes were for Korrumburra, Jerilderie, Healesville (also for the Mt Lyell smelter).

Essendon Tramway: UMA File 356. Warburton hydro scheme: UMA File 506.
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Riverina and Kannaluik.

Riverina Water Rights Case. Serle, 1st edn, p.128. In late 1897 and early 1898, Monash acted for country and townspeople in the Jerilderie area, against the McCaughey brothers who were damming local creeks for irrigation purposes. Monash persuaded the Land Appeal Court in Sydney to order the McCaugheys to modify their practice and later led a successful series of claims for damages.

Kannaluik Case. See e.g. Melbourne 'Herald', 1 April 1903 and Melbourne 'Age', 1 Feb 1904. Back to text.

Modified 'The Evolution of Modern Weapons'.

For the story see Pedersen (1981), p.214.
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Generalship and Engineering.

See e.g. Pedersen (1985) pp.12-14, 37-39, 125, 130, 139, 166, 169, 192, 295-6, and Perry (1957b) p. 36. Pedersen states (1981, p.221) that General Sixsmith presumed Monash's success was "due to his civil training, his ability to see the problem that had to be overcome and what methods might help in its solution" and (p.221-2) quotes General Essame: "[Monash] thus realised that fundamentally the same principles which he obeyed in his civil capacity were equally applicable to the command of a corps. In both activities there was the same need for foresight, for flexibility, for economy, for co-operation and for fitting the right man to the job; the same need for appreciation of the time factor, for co-ordination, and lastly for the delegation of authority" (quoted by Pedersen 1981, p.221-2). Pedersen comments, however (p.222), that what Essame is talking about is simply the application of common sense and logic to problems - which of course is not solely the province of the engineer. He lists other generals who were notable in this regard, and suggests that the important characteristic is the engineer's "way of looking at things": habits of analysing problems and proposing solutions.
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Typical instructions to foremen on reconnaissance.

For the Waterford Bridge: JM to Alex Lynch, 14 Nov 1907:
"Main object - can we build it for £1400. Check:
(a) cartage,
(b) availability of sand, etc.
(c) state of river bed - flood levels. Piers could be solid rubble conc. 10' × 2' × 30' high as at Kilmore, or "thin trestle piers" as Lancefield.
(d) facilities for access of men, materials.
(e) postal arrangements
(f) timber ?
(g) river diversions around pier excavations practicable? Do not want to do approaches. Do we go for strong conc. or weak conc. - minimum cartage of cement.
(h) agent in Stratford (consignee).
Try to sell pipes. Take some handbooks, i.e. catalogues."

For Caldermeade Tank, see Instructions for Charley Savage.
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Militia titles in daily life.

I am assuming here that workmen served as non-commissioned officers and other ranks. I have not researched it outside the RCMPC files, but examples within the files include the following. A 'Sapper Beavis' is mentioned as a clerk in the Melbourne & Metropolitan Board of Works. Monash's friend and solicitor, George Farlow, was a Captain. The consulting engineer H. V. Champion was a Major, as were Thompson of the School of Mines, Bendigo; Brown, Secretary of the Mildura Water Trust; and A. Purchas, the architect/engineer. The Carlton Brewery silos were built to the orders of Colonel Ballanger and a Colonel Tunbridge figures largely in orders for structures. (I have not yet tried to track these two down - A.H.) A Colonel Owen was Inspector-General of the Commonwealth Public Works Dept and a good friend of Monash. Letters on purely civil engineering matters commenced 'Dear Captain X', 'Dear Major Y', etc.
Don Bartlett advises that some of these would have been 'courtesy titles' granted to public figures who did not take any real part in militia activities. Back to text.

JM claimed by surveyors.

Advice from Philip Meinhardt.
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Transfer of AIC.

Pedersen 1985, pp. 23-4. See also Coulthard-Clark, C. D. 'Australia's Military Map-Makers: the Royal Australian Survey Corps 1915-96', OUP, South Melbourne, 2000.
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Success amongst JM's Assistant Engineers.

For Jenkinson and Upton, see Corbett, A. H. 'The Institution of Engineers, Australia: a history of the first fifty years 1919-1969', I.E.Aust., Sydney, 1973. Laing's 'Chairman's Address' to the Victorian Division of I.E.Aust was sighted in the Institution's Journal for 1932 or so. (And P.T. Fairway succeeded Monash as Superintending Engineer of RCMPC.)
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Contribution to University.

For University Union, see Serle, 1st edn, p.38. For University Club, see Serle p.184 where he gives the period of Presidency as 1909-1912. ['Five years' looks like a simple mistake on my part - A.H.] For all other university matters mentioned here, see Serle, pp.148-9.
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Museum of Technology. Vice-Chancellor. University quote.

Museum of Technology: Serle, 1st edn, p.551, footnote re p.189; also Journal, Victorian Institute of Engineers, Vol. XIII, 1913, p.45, and Perry (1972), pp.55-62, 156-7, 178-181.

Vice-Chancellor: Serle, 1st edn, 476-481.

'Running a university': Poynter, J. and Rasmussen, C. A Place Apart: The University of Melbourne: Decades of Challenge. MUP, 1996, p.10, and Serle, p.479. Back to text.

Poor opinion of government engineers.

See Presidential Address, 1913 [Quote]. Smithers, writing of Monash's appointment to the SECV, notes that "Any of those who heard [this speech] and were still in places of authority in 1920 had the charity not to remind him of it".
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Wake-up Call.

Presidential address, V.I.E. 1913, e.g. "… I believe that the profession in Australia is, as a whole, with a few notable exceptions, passively, if not actively, insular. Nothing could be more striking than the contrast which the intelligent observer when abroad will note between the mental attitude of the Australian Engineer to the work of his confreres in Europe and America and that of the Engineers in England, or Germany, or France, or America towards each other". [Full text.]
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Moves to establish I. E. Aust.

There was insufficient time when writing this paper to properly research Monash's contribution. The VIE Presidential Address of 1913 includes a call for a professional body setting uniform high standards. [Quote.] Serle says: (1st edn, p.187) "Monash supported, through the V.I.E., the foundation of one Australia-wide body, which came about in 1919 with the foundation of the Institution of Engineers, Australia … he and Smith forced through in 1914 incorporation of the [Victorian] Institute and a change of name to 'Australian', which was intended to encourage federation of the profession". However, Corbett (1973) in his history of I. E. Aust. hardly mentions Monash (see pp.18-21 for his account of this movement).
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Pedersen quote.

The actual quotation is: "He is often represented as a general who willingly delegated responsibility and did not interfere with subordinates once he had done so. This apparently contradicts the meticulous attention to detail which was another of his well-known qualities." Pedersen (1985), p.2.
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Tolerance and Patience.

This is a general impression gained by A.H. from examples too numerous to list. They include Monash's written instructions to his assistant engineers on tackling individual projects and procedures to be adopted for engineering design and analysis; the coaching of the assistant engineer entrusted with the Stawell St Bridge, Ballarat; his coaching of gangers in technical matters and reporting procedures, and his dealings with municipal officers.

Loyalty to employees. An example is the outbreak of hostilities between Monash's irascible foreman on the Barham-Koondrook Bridge project and the NSW Government's resident engineer, J. B. A. Read. Monash wrote to Christensen telling him off and to Read diplomatically explaining why he could not sack Christensen, as Read had demanded [link]. Something similar occurred at an up-country bridge project, where a local councillor thought he knew more about concrete construction than did the ganger; and fell into the river in the ensuing scuffle. Again, Monash gave his man a severe ticking-off, and wrote to the Councillors telling them his behaviour had been reprehensible; but explained that he simply could not dispense with him at the moment.

Exceptions to loyalty of employees. There were some cases of fraud. Two clerks were found embezzling funds (in quite separate incidents) and a foreman in Adelaide placed a couple of family members on the books, but did not expect them to turn up for work. Monash preferred to keep such things quiet, but in the case of one clerk the fraud became common knowledge owing to the perpetrator's behaviour, and the police stepped in.
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E.W.O. Perry quote.

Private communication from Major E. W. O. Perry, MBE, FRHSV. He placed the date at about 1934.
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Potentialities and limitations.

Potentialities: Monash lectured to the Institutes of Engineers and Architects on reinforced concrete construction, urged government engineers to adopt it, and pressed State politicians and local councillors. He was always ready to write to the newspapers extolling its virtues.
[JM to RVIA on Concrete Const.]

Limitations: before the development of prestressing, reinforced concrete water tanks leaked for some weeks or months after construction and it was necessary to persuade councillors, municipal engineers, and the general public to accept this. The economic span of beams before prestressing was much less than that of steel beams. Once Monash had become aware of the economic and practical advantages of girders over arches, he advised against the use of arches except in rare cases. As the medium became accepted for buildings, he found it necessary to educate clients that reinforced concrete was competitive with other forms of construction only when there were difficulties of a civil engineering nature to be overcome (e.g. fire-proof floors in warehouses, buildings several storeys high).
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Legal practice and war.

Peter Collins, in an interesting comparison of architectural judgement with legal judgement (Collins, P. 'Architectural Judgement', Faber & Faber, London, 1971) points out that legal scholars consider imagination and creativity to be important components of legal judgement. Many people have linked Monash's incisive analytical mind with his training and experience as a lawyer. See Pedersen 1985, p.295 and Sir Robert Garran (Thompson 1952; also 1962, p.147): "I was always struck by his clear intellect. He could expound a difficult subject with more clarity than anyone I have ever met. I remember his telling me one day that war was a matter of engineering and psychology, for Sir John Monash was both an engineer and a qualified lawyer …"
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